John Willard Young

Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001), 177–79.

John Young Portrait

Born: 1 October 1844, Nauvoo, Illinois

Ordained an apostle (not in the Quorum of the Twelve): 4 February 1864 (age 19)

Additional counselor to President Brigham Young: 8 April 1873

Assistant counselor to President Brigham Young: 9 May 1874

First counselor to President Brigham Young: 7 October 1876 to 29 August 1877

Counselor to the Twelve Apostles: 6 October 1877 to 6 October 1891 (released)

Died: 11 February 1924 (age 79), New York City, New York

"Pioneer railroad builder of Utah is dead in East”—so read a headline of the Deseret News, 12 February 1924. John W. Young, son of President Brigham Young and Mary Ann Angell, had died two decades short of his goal to live to the age of one hundred. His exemplary and productive life began in Nauvoo, Illinois, three months after the martyrdom and ended at his apartment-home on Broadway in New York City.

Growing up in the family of President Brigham Young afforded John the opportunity to become acquainted with many great men of the Church and of the world. One of these men was Colonel Thomas L. Kane, for whom the fourteen-year- old served as a messenger boy. The Colonel, whom John described as “a prince in looks, bearing and kindliness of heart,” came to Utah in 1858 to help negotiate a peace settlement between the Saints and the U.S. Government. [1]

From the close association John enjoyed with his father, the young man gained experience and vision that spurred him to pursue a career in international business. Among his undertakings were four railroads in Utah, Salt Lake’s first streetcar line, and the Deseret Museum and Menagerie. For ten years he lived in London, where he sought financial backing for a proposed fifteen-hundred-mile railroad through northern Mexico. He also spearheaded an enormous movement to combine the largest ship-building companies of America. At the time of his passing he was promoting an enterprise designed to improve the docking and shipping capacity of the New York harbor. The Deseret News reported: “John W. Young was a promoter, far-seeing, confident without fear, undertaking schemes involving hundreds of millions. . . . He will live long in the memory of men, who admired him for his optimism and courage.” [2]

While yet a boy, John was ordained an apostle by his father. This ordination was confirmed by President Young when the young man was nineteen, and although John never became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, he honored this sacred calling while serving as president of the Salt Lake Stake, as a missionary in England, and as counselor to his prophet-father in the First Presidency. For fourteen years after Brigham Young’s passing, Daniel H. Wells, who had served as second counselor to President Young, and John W. Young were sustained as “counselors to the Twelve.”

During the last thirty years of his life, John pursued his far-flung business concerns and was characterized as “a cultivated gentleman of distinction for his knowledge of men, of the arts, and of the world in which he lived.” [3] Concerning his strong faith, it was further observed at his passing that “he was an undoubting Christian believer, lover and student of the Scriptures with a testimony that Joseph Smith and his own father were prophets of God.” [4]


[1] Howard R. Driggs, “The Passing of Another Pioneer,” Juvenile Instructor, April 1924,183.

[2] “Pioneer Railroad Builder of Utah is Dead in the East,” Deseret News, 12 February 1924, 6.

[3] “Pioneer Railroad Builder,” 6.

[4] “Pioneer Railroad Builder,” 6.