Famous Meetings in History Sir Richard Burton Meets Brigham Young Part 2

About the meeting of the famous Mormon leader Brigham Young and English explorer Sir Richard Burton, history and account of the meeting.

Sir Richard Burton Meets Brigham Young

The conversation lasted an hour. Burton was curious about an unusual pistol and a rifle which hung on the wall. Brigham Young explained that the pistol was "a newly invented 12-shooter" to replace the obsolete 6-shooter. The prophet was interested in the motive behind Burton's visit. Burton told him that "having read and heard much about Utah as it is said to be, I was anxious to see Utah as it is." Pleased, Brigham Young tried to describe Utah "as it is"--dwelling mainly on the subjects of agriculture and livestock. There was a lively exchange on violence and massacres in the territory. Brigham Young referred to these as strictly "Indian wars" and complained that the wounding or death of two or three people was always exaggerated to 20 by the time the news was reported to the outside world.

At last Burton determined to speak aloud what had been on his mind throughout the interview. He told Brigham Young that he was fascinated by Mormonism and its customs and that he would like to be taken into the church and baptized inside the mysterious Endowment House. Brigham Young, who had been briefed on Burton's proclivity for collecting odd cults, was prepared. "No, Captain," he said gently, "I think you have done that sort of thing before."

Refused admittance to the church, Burton defended his sincerity. He had, he said, traveled from the Old World to the New simply to become part of a people "sensible enough to permit polygamy." Persuasive though his visitor's argument was, Brigham Young would not relent. Instead, he firmly changed the subject. Had his visitor, in his African explorations, covered the same ground as Dr. David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary? Burton replied that he had traveled 10 deg. north of Zambezi and the Victoria Falls.

Leaving Young's office, they went outdoors. The prophet pointed out the principal sights of the city, including the Lion House, where he boarded many of his multiple wives. Jokingly, Burton complained that he had come here without a wife and had found that all the available women had already been taken by Mormon men. Then Burton gestured toward the lake, saying, "Water, water, everywhere"--and then he gestured toward the city--"and not a drop to drink." Brigham Young burst into laughter, and on this note they shook hands and parted company.

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