About the Collection
by Brian A. Warburton
Brigham Johnson was born 10 December 1867 in Provo, Utah to John Peter Rasmus Johnson and Maren Paulsen. He was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) on 24 September 1876, and later attended Brigham Young Academy, in Provo graduating in 1886. He was called to serve a mission to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) on 18 April 1889 and left home on 24 May 1889. On 1 June 1889 Brigham boarded the ship Mariposa and sailed from San Francisco for Hawaii, arriving there on 8 June.
At first Brigham spent the majority of his time learning the language and attending church meetings. He expressed frustration about the difficulty of the language, “spent most of the time in studying but seemed almost impossible to learn anything as it sounded so strange to me.”1 As Brigham continued to study he began to grasp the language and was able to give short talks in church meetings. “Attended Sabbath School…spoke a little to the meeting in native. I realized the Lord was blessing me or I would not be able to say anything to them in native so soon.”2 As he learned the language Brigham began traveling around visiting the native members of the church and teaching them their duties as members. He also had the opportunity of meeting Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii when she attended a church meeting. After the meeting “the queen and her escorts numbering 4 were escorted to the house by Prest. Nuall where we all ate dinner together, this being the first time I had had the priveledge of eating with a queen.”3 This visit and the kindness of the queen helped to further the missionary work as many people felt less antagonism toward the Mormons because of the Queen’s interest. By the end of his mission Brigham had truly learned to love the Hawaiian people, “I had learned to love them for their kindness and therefore I experienced peculiar and tender feelings in parting with them”.4 When the time came to leave Hawaii he found it difficult, “I will never forget my feelings on riding away from Laie, the three years I had labored on the islands came up before me with their many pleasant recollections, I felt to rejoice before the Lord that I had been able to fulfill my mission satisfactory to myself and those placed over me”.5 Just before leaving Brigham visited the queen one last time and she continued to show kindness toward him, “she requested that I write her a letter when I got home”.6 Brigham left Hawaii a few days later on 20 July 1892 on the ship Australia.
Brigham arrived home on 30 July 1892 and five years later, on 2 June 1897 he married Sarah Elnora Peay in the Salt Lake Temple. They were the parents of seven children. In 1902 Brigham was called to serve in the bishopric of the Provo Sixth Ward and was later ordained as bishop on 29 October 1916 by Hyrum M. Smith. He served as bishop of the Sixth Ward until 1919. Brigham also served on the Provo City Council for four years and was a charter member of the Sons and Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.7 The love and interest that Brigham developed for the Hawaiian people never died. He wrote a twelve page unpublished manuscript about the origins of the Hawaiian people from the Mormon perspective.8
1 Brigham Johnson, “Journals, 1889-1892,” MSS SC 434, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. 9, 10 and 11 July 1889.
2 Ibid., 28 July 1889.
3 Ibid., 27 March 1892.
4 Ibid., 10 July 1892.
5 Ibid., 12 July 1892.
6 Ibid., 18 July 1892.
7 Deseret News (Salt Lake City), 6 September 1943.
8 Brigham Johnson, “Origin of the Hawaiian People ca. 1900,” MSS 481, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Deseret News (Salt Lake City), 6 September 1943.
Jensen, Andrew. Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Andrew nc., 1926.
Johnson, Brigham. “Journals, 1889-1892,” MSS SC 434, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
________. “Origin of the Hawaiian People, ca. 1900.” MSS 481, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham young University.