In the latest volume of Saints, a narrative history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, little-known stories of inspiration and truth have been unearthed. One such example gives a closer glimpse into the life of Brigham Young and his daughter, Susie Young Gates, who would go on to become a women’s rights advocate and prolific writer.
Recently Saints had published a book in New York City called The Women of Mormondom to counter the depictions of Latter-day Saint women found in the books and lectures of Fanny Stenhouse, Ann Eliza Young, and other critics of the Church. The Women of Mormondom contained the testimonies of several prominent women in the Church and presented their experiences in a positive light.
To help promote the book, Susie wanted to go on a national speaking tour with two of her father’s wives, Eliza Snow and Zina Young, and her sister Zina Presendia Williams. Susie had always longed to be a great speaker and writer, and she was eager to travel the country and give lectures.
Brigham spoke favorably to Susie about the tour, but he wanted her to undertake it for the right reasons. He knew she was ambitious, and he had always tried to support her developing talents by sending her to school with some of the best teachers in the territory. But he did not want her to seek worldly acclaim at the expense of her family.
“If you were to become the greatest woman in the world,” he told her, “and you should neglect your duty as wife and mother, you would wake up on the morning of the First Resurrection and find you had failed in everything.”
As usual, her father was not mincing words. But Susie did not feel rebuked. His manner was gentle and understanding, and he seemed to see into her soul. “All that you can do after you have satisfied the righteous claims of your home and family,” he reassured her, “will redound to your credit and to the honor and glory of God.”
“I wish I knew the gospel was true,” Susie admitted as they continued to talk. She wanted to know it was true deep within her soul, the way her parents knew it.
“There is only one way, daughter, that you can get the testimony of the truth,” Brigham said simply, “and this is the way I attained my testimony and the way your mother got hers. On your knees before the Lord, go in prayer and He will hear and answer.”
A thrill swept through Susie, and she knew what her father said was true. “If it had not been for Mormonism,” he then told her, “I would be today a carpenter in a country village.”
Brigham had set aside his trade long before Susie was born, but he was still the same man of faith who had left his home in New York to shake the hand of a prophet of God in Kirtland. Before he passed away, Susie wanted him to know what he meant to her.
“How proud and grateful I am,” she said, “that I have been permitted to come upon the earth as your daughter.”