Steve Young, the former Super Bowl-winning San Francisco 49ers quarterback, treasures a childhood story about his forebear Brigham Young, a tale he will some day pass on to his own children.

When penniless newcomers came to the Salt Lake Valley from abroad and couldn't find work, the Mormon leader would invite them to his home.

Brother Brigham's Birthday


  • From Unlikely Roots Came an Uncommon Man

  • "See that pile of rocks in my backyard?" Brigham Young would reportedly tell them. "I was planning to move it myself, but I will pay you to do it for me."

    They would, and then the next visitor would be similarly hired to move the pile back.

    For Steve Young, his great-great-great grandfather's story is as instructive as it is amusing.

    "Here was a loving handout, but with the understanding that everyone needs the dignity of work," Steve Young said Thursday. "He was a great believer in giving people a sense of accomplishment.... [He was] demanding and strong and tough and loving and caring and dear.

    "He was the ultimate renaissance man," said Young, now an attorney living in Provo. "I don't think you can ever gather in all of him."

    Since earliest childhood, Brigham has always been "a source of inspiration," he said. "For better or worse, I always feel he's watching me, like a conscience that I put a face to."

    Steve Young is arguably the most famous of Brigham Young's descendants, but just one of multiple thousands. To begin with, the prophet sired nearly 60 children with his many wives, a brood which multiplied in coming generations. The Metropolitan Salt Lake City telephone directory alone lists well over 600 Youngs.

    In St. George, you can find Brigham Spencer Young, an 88-year-old direct descendant of the prophet and Mary Ann Angell, who enjoyed top wife status throughout their marriage. To avoid confusion, the retired banker -- who still plays tennis three times a week and works part-time as a Wal-Mart greeter -- goes by Spence.

    "There are a lot of Brighams out there; it can get confusing," he said.

    This particular line of Brighams seems destined to continue well into the 21st century: Spence Young's son is Brigham the Sixth, and there's also a Brigham the Seventh among 14 grandchildren.

    Brother Brigham's Birthday


  • From Unlikely Roots Came an Uncommon Man

  • While today's Brighams may take occasional ribbing, Spence Young says association with his famous forebear was tougher in his day.

    "For me it was not good at all when I went on my mission to England in 1935," he recalled. "Reporters there were always asking me, a 19-year-old kid, how many wives I had. I only had a girlfriend at the time. She was a Presbyterian, though, and married someone else."

    Brigham's ghost must have been relieved. When Spence Young returned to Utah he met a good Mormon girl. On Saturday, June 2 -- one day after his renowned progenitor's 200th birthday -- Brigham Spencer and Erla Young will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.

    The couple, who were married in the Salt Lake Temple, plan to relive their wedding reception in downtown Salt Lake City's historic Lion House, one of the original Brigham Young's many homes.

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