This year marks the 170th anniversary of Pioneer Day. A Utah State holiday, Pioneer Day celebrates the Latter-day Saints arrival into the Salt Lake Valley after their 1,200-mile pioneer trek “out of the country” to flee religious persecution.
Brigham Young led the way, helping the Saints find religious freedom, tame a desert, and establish over 400 communities up and down the western side of the Rocky Mountains.
Amongst the Saints, there is likely no Mormon better known or least understood throughout the world than this pioneer-prophet leader.
However, a new DVD of the critically acclaimed, entertaining one-man play Here’s Brother Brigham is hoping to change that. The DVD has been released just in time for Pioneer Day to help people “discover the Brigham Young you never knew.” Brigham, reincarnated through author and actor James Arrington, answers many questions about the prophet, the least of which being, “How many wives and children do you have Brigham?”
After 40-years of theatrical performances to over 300,000 people, Arrington’s final performance of was captured to preserve “Brigham” for future generations. Arrington just retired after 17 years of service as the originating chairman of UVU’s Theatrical Arts department and is currently serving a mission with his wife Colleen in Nashville, Tennessee.
Arrington points out that Eastern newspapers of the time ridiculed Brigham in order to sell newspapers, saying, “Brigham is tough and autocratic and he was the Lion of the Lord. And that’s who I thought he was until I started researching his letters and reading his quotes.”
According to Arrington Here’s Brother Brigham is “over 80% direct quotes from Brigham’s many letters, talks, and personal records.” Arrington’s father was the famed Church Historian Leonard Arrington.
“What I found out was that he was a beloved man,” Arrington said. “People loved him. People liked to be with him. Even the children called him Brother Brigham.”
“So my job is to help people understand the side of Brigham Young that we’ve lost, which is the Brigham Young who is a loving man, a thoughtful man, a kind man, a powerful man, a solid man, but a man who enjoyed people. Brigham liked people, and people liked him.”
Like “an American Moses,” Brigham led the Mormon faithful on a pioneer trek out of the country, into the western wilderness, seeking safety and freedom of religion. They found it in the desert – where they spent 40 years building their temple, Salt Lake City, and spread their religion into the world.
Arrington points out, Brigham was feared and slandered by his enemies but loved and revered by his people. “This is why they called him Brother Brigham.”
Ken Cromar is the Producer and Director of Here’s Brother Brigham and a great-great-great grandson of Brigham’s seventh wife, Emily Dow Partridge. Cromar had seen the play 30 years earlier when a student at BYU, saying, “I never forgot it.”
Last year, Cromar called Arrington to borrow a DVD copy of the show but learned it did not exist.
“This amazing portrayal of Brigham cannot be allowed to disappear in retirement. I’m a filmmaker,” Cromar told Arrington. “We can solve this.”
Money was quickly raised in modest donations from family and friends and captured on 4K video. “Brigham is now preserved for generations to come,” Cromar proudly stated.
In 1976, James Arrington (Farley Family Reunion), wrote and starred in his entertaining one-man play Here’s Brother Brigham, which successfully played to rave reviews and packed houses for 40 years. Arrington’s final performances at the SCERA Theater in Orem, Utah were captured November 9-14th, on video surprisingly for the first time ever.
The 85-minute Here’s Brother Brigham feature production includes the full stage performance and includes DVD Bonus Video Extras:
– James Arrington’s Making of “Here’s Brother Brigham”
– “Brigham Young – An American Moses”
– “Family Reunion” – A Musical Tribute by Ross Young Cromar