About the Collection
Levi Edgar Young
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Levi Edgar Young was born on 2 February 1874 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, to Seymour Bicknell Young and Ann Elizabeth Riter. At the age of eight he was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) by his father. While attending public schools in his youth Levi gained a love for learning and a desire to further pursue his education. He therefore enrolled at the University of Utah, and graduated from that institution with a B. S. degree in 1895. Thereafter he began a teaching career at Lowell School and L.D.S. College, both located in Salt Lake City, before obtaining a position as history instructor at his alma mater.
While engaged at the University of Utah in 1901 Levi received a call to serve a Church mission to Germany. His first year was spent primarily learning the language and adjusting to missionary work. As government persecution was harsh in those days, Levi spent some time in prison and was kept under the watchful eye of the police. On 1 June 1902, at the age of twenty-eight, Levi was appointed president of the Swiss Mission. In his journal he displays a love for missionary work and life in general; on one occasion he wrote, "In the afternoon we held a fine meeting, and I never felt so happy in my life."1 After a trip to Italy, where no LDS missionaries were serving at the time, he exclaimed, "What a work the Kingdom of God has before it….What the world is missing…is the light of Divine Truth."2
Levi also took the opportunity while in Europe to attend lectures, meet with history professors, and visit many of the important historical and cultural sites of Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. On 22 May 1904 the Swiss Mission and German Mission were combined to form the Swiss and German Mission with Hugh J. Cannon as president. Levi was therefore released from his duties and returned home to Utah; not long previously he had written to his sister, "I have done my best, and I know that is all God requires of us." 3 On this occasion one of the missionaries of the former Swiss Mission declared, "It greaved [sic] us to lose such a worthy leader."4
Levi married Valeria Erepta Brinton on 18 June 1907 and they were blessed with three daughters. An important event in Levi’s spiritual life came in October 1909, when he was called to be one of the first seven presidents of the Quorum of the Seventies. After his mission he studied history for two years at Harvard and then transferred to Columbia University, from whence he graduated with an M. A. degree in 1910. This led to his immediate appointment at the University of Utah as professor of history, and after ten years he became the head of the Department of Western History. In 1936 the university granted him the positions of head of the history and political science departments. Both of these appointments he held until his retirement in 1939.
As a general authority of the church, Levi served on the general board of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association from 1913 to 1929. From 1922 to 1934, in addition to maintaining his professorship, he took the responsibility of directing the Temple Square Mission. In 1939 another Church calling came, this time to preside over the New England Mission for three years. Levi wrote many manuals for use in Church instruction and conducted a series of spiritual broadcasts over KSL Radio in Salt Lake City. "A true scholar and faithful Latter-day Saint, Brother Young was a marvelous link between the Church and the university, which are often thought to be incompatible worlds."5 He also worked to foster friendship and mutual understanding with those from other faiths both in Salt Lake City and in New England.
Besides many articles for newspapers, Church publications, and scholarly journals, Levi’s published works include Founding of Utah (1924) and First Hundred Years (1930), both on the Mormon settlement of Utah, and Mormon Tabernacle (1918), a history of that storied building. At various times he served as president of the Pacific Coast branch of the American Historical Association, the Utah State Historical Society, and the Sons of the American Revolution, and was a member of many professional organizations, including the American Ethnological Society, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the Sigma Chi Fraternity, the Authors Club of London, England, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. A colleague from the Utah State Historical Society remarked that Levi "brings to his work those qualities which have always characterized him and endeared him to his contemporaries: breadth of vision, honesty of purpose, and complete generosity in sharing the fruits of his scholarship."6
After decades of service to the Church and a lifetime of devotion to education, Levi Edgar Young passed away on 13 December 1963 in Salt Lake City. Upon his death the Relief Society Magazine declared, "President Young has left a resplendent heritage of faith and good works to his family and to the Church."7
1 Levi Edgar Young, "Diary, 1903," 8 March 1903. MSS 561, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Ibid., 16 March 1903.
3 Levi Edgar Young to Flo, 30 April 1903. MSS 561, LTPSC.
4 Joseph S. Thurber, "Diary, 1903-1904," 26 May 1904. MSS 844, LTPSC.
5 Lawrence R. Flake, Might Men of Zion: General Authorities of the Last Dispensation (Salt Lake City: Karl D. Butler, 1974), 440.
6 "Levi Edgar Young," Utah Historical Quarterly 14, no. 1-4 (1946): ix.
7 "In Memoriam: President Levi Edgar Young," Relief Society Magazine 51, no. 2 (February 1964): 90.
Alder, J. Cecil. Utah: The Storied Domain. Vol. 2. Chicago: American Historical Society, 1932.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 29 March 2004 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm.
Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977.
Flake, Lawrence R. Mighty Men of Zion: General Authorities of the Last Dispensation. Salt Lake City: Karl D. Butler, 1974.
"In Memoriam: President Levi Edgar Young." Relief Society Magazine 51, no. 2 (February 1964): 90.
Jenson, Andrew. History of the Scandinavian Mission. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1927.
________. 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. Vol. 3. Salt Lake City: The Andrew Jenson History Co., 1901-1936.
"Levi Edgar Young." In Harvard Class of 1902 Fiftieth Anniversary Report. n.p., 1952.
"Levi Edgar Young." Utah Historical Quarterly 14, no. 1-4 (1946): ix.
Young, Levi Edgar. "Papers, 1903-1964." MSS 561, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Young, S. Dilworth. "A Scholar, A Gentle Man: President Levi Edgar Young, Senior Member of the First Council of the Seventy, Completes his Earthly Service in his Ninetieth Year." Improvement Era 67, no. 1 (January 1964): 16-20, 39-40.