Samuel Brannan - Mormonism, The Mormon Church, Beliefs, & Religion (2023)

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Samuel Brannan was best known as a publisher, American settler, and land developer. He made a fortune but later lost it and died poor and obscure. For a time, he was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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  • 1 Brannan’s Journey to Membership in the Church
  • 2 Brannan’s Journey Away from the Church
  • 3 Brannan and the Ship Brooklyn
  • 4 Brannan’s Second Journey Away from the Church
  • 5 Brannan’s Loss of Wealth
  • 6 External Sources

Brannan’s Journey to Membership in the Church

Brannan was born on March 2, 1819, in Saco, Maine. At the age of fourteen, he moved with his sister Mary Ann and her husband to Painesville, Ohio, where he was apprenticed to the printer’s trade. During their journey to Ohio, they met Orson Hyde and Heber C. Kimball, who taught them about the gospel. Brannan’s brother in law Alexander bought a copy of the Book of Mormon from them. The three were later baptized in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1833. Brannan was ordained an elder in 1838.

Brannan took the sum of money he inherited when his father died and bought himself out of the last year of his apprenticeship. He used some of the money to begin his real estate ventures by obtaining a piece of land near Cleveland, but his hopes were destroyed when the market crashed and his land became worthless. In a later trip to New Orleans to live with his brother Thomas, Brannan pooled his money with his brother to buy a printing press and type. But after his brother died from yellow fever, Brannan then moved back to Painesville. There he renewed his activity in the Church and was called to serve as a missionary in Ohio, although he served only a short time due to contracting malaria. He also married Harriet “Hattie” Hatch. His next calling in the Church was as a printer in Connecticut, where he worked with apostle William Smith, a brother to the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Brannan’s Journey Away from the Church

While relocating to Connecticut, Brannan fell in love with Ann Eliza Corwin and although intending to divorce his wife and marry Ann, he never officially did. He did marry Ann and the two traveled to New York City and he began printing a Latter-day Saint newspaper called The Prophet, which was later renamed The New-York Messenger. Later that year, Joseph and his brother Hyrum were martyred and Brigham Young became president of the Church. Brannan began advocating that Joseph’s brother William should be the prophet, and William agreed; they were both disfellowshipped from the Church. Brannan asked for reinstatement a year later, and he was granted full fellowship in May 1845.

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Brannan and the Ship Brooklyn

When the Saints began their exodus from Nauvoo, Brannan, as presiding elder, was tasked with the responsibility of helping members of the Church in the East join the Saints in the West. He chartered the ship Brooklyn with funds provided by the East Coast passengers who could not afford to travel overland. From the west coast, they would continue on land to meet the Saints, as soon as they knew where they had settled. The ship sailed from New York in February 4, 1846 (the same day the Nauvoo Saints crossed the Mississippi), with 238 Latter-day Saints.

Brannan also loaded the ship with a printing press and a flour mill. The ship’s course took them around Cape Horn, with a planned stop for supplies in Honolulu, Hawaii, where they arrived on June 20, 1846. In Hawaii, after a conversation with Commodore Stockton who told him about the United States’ planned assault on Mexicans in Monterey, Brannan planned to colonize Yerba Buena. When the ship landed there on July 31, 1846, Yerba Buena had already been taken by the United States during the war with Mexico. Brannan and his company began colonizing the San Francisco area. Brannan sent twenty members of the group to settle an area near the Sacramento River, calling it New Hope, but due to various disputes, the venture failed.

On January 9, 1847, Brannan used his press to begin printing San Francisco’s first newspaper, the California Star. Brannan joined with The Californian newspaper to form The Daily Alta California in 1848, which he later sold.

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Brannan’s Second Journey Away from the Church

In June 1847, Brannan and others met with Brigham Young in Green River, Wyoming, while Young traveled with the first group of pioneers to the Great Basin region. Brannan urged President Young to bring the Saints to California instead, which Young rejected. Brannan returned to California and continued to act as leader of the Church for the area.

Brannan began to make a fortune when he opened a store at Sutter’s Fort. It is said that he fueled his income by shouting “Gold! Gold! Gold!” on the streets. He also built many large buildings in Sacramento and San Francisco and built more stores to sell goods to the miners. He also began buying land in San Francisco. He established trade with China, Hawaii, and the East Coast. He also bought land in Honolulu. His drive was for wealth. He had many financial squabbles, but became California’s first millionaire despite them. According to Wikipedia:

Brannan continued to receive tithes of the church members, but no records have been found showing that those tithes were forwarded to the leaders of the church in Utah. Many members stopped paying him and began making their way eastward toward Salt Lake Valley known to the Mormons as Zion.
In a few accounts of Brannan's dealings with the LDS church it is said that Brigham Young sent the apostle Amasa M. Lyman to collect the tithing money that Brannan had withheld from the church's institution. When Lyman arrived Brannan was unable to account for the tithes that Brigham Young and other Mormons claimed were given to him or that he owed from his own personal income. He reportedly told them, "You go back and tell Brigham Young that I'll give up the Lord's money when he sends me a receipt signed by the Lord", although historians, such as Will Bagley have found this is likely just legend. In another account, Lyman was sent to gather $10,000 of owed tithing from Brannan (or more if he was willing). After a couple of visits all of Brannan's debts to the Mormon church were considered to be paid in full.[1]

Brannan was elected to the first town council of San Francisco as part of the new U.S. territory. He helped organize and became the first president of the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance, a de facto police force with “a propensity for hanging.”[2] After California had gained statehood in 1850, Brannan was elected as a California state senator. He bought California’s first steam locomotive and helped construct the first wharf in San Francisco.

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Church leader Parley P. Pratt visited him on July 11, 1851, when he and his mission companions came to establish the Pacific Mission of the Church. On September 1, 1851, Brannan was excommunicated from the Church for “a general course of unchristianlike conduct, neglect of duty, and for combining with lawless assemblies to commit murder and other crimes.”[3]

Brannan’s Loss of Wealth

Brannan bought land in the Napa Valley and founded the town of Calistoga and the Napa Valley Railroad. At one point, Brannan and others were shot at by residents who resented Brannan’s take-over of the area.

His wife, Ann, who lived primarily in Europe, divorced him in 1870 and Brannan was forced to liquidate his property holdings in order to pay the divorce settlement. He became a brewer and developed a drinking problem. He moved closer to the Mexican border where he married Carmelita de Llaguno and eventually received $49,000 from the Mexican government for helping them expel unwanted Frenchmen from their lands. With the money, he returned to San Francisco, paid his debts, quit drinking, but died a pauper, unable to pay for his own funeral. He died on May 5, 1889, in Escondido, California. After a year of lying unclaimed in the San Diego County receiving vault, his body was recognized by chance and he was given a burial.

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External Sources


How and why did Sam Brannan bring Mormons to California? ›

On February 4, 1846, 27-year-old Samuel Brannan sailed from New York City aboard the Brooklyn. On board were 238 fellow Mormons. They were bound for the Mexican territory of California, where they hoped to build a Mormon kingdom without the conflicts they had experienced in the United States.

How did Sam Brannan lose his money? ›

Brannan's wife divorced him and he was forced to liquidate much of his real estate to pay her one-half of their assets. He died poor and in relative obscurity.

What makes Mormonism different from other religions? ›

From this viewpoint, Mormonism can be seen to diverge from traditional Christianity in four areas: its views on scripture, the nature of God and the deification of believers; the deity of Christ and the trinity, and finally, salvation.

What is the ideology of Mormonism? ›

Mormons believe that Jesus paid for the sins of the world and that all people can be saved through his atonement. Mormons accept Christ's atonement through faith, repentance, formal covenants or ordinances such as baptism, and consistently trying to live a Christ-like life.

Is there gold in the Smith River California? ›

Most of the gold produced in Del Norte County has come from placer-mining operations along the Smith River and its tributaries. These operations include the placer mines of Hurdy Gurdy, Monkey, Myrtie, and Craigs Creeks and the French Hill area.

Who was Sam Brannan How did he make his fortune? ›

Samuel Brannan was considered the first millionaire west of the Mississippi. He became a millionaire during the California gold rush in 1849 by capitalizing on the needs of miners. He created a monopoly over mining goods and supplies in California. Sam was born in Saco, Maine in 1819.

What religion is most similar to Mormonism? ›

Islam and Mormonism have been compared to one another ever since the earliest origins of the latter in the nineteenth century, often by detractors of one religion or the other—or both.

What is the difference between the Bible and the Book of Mormon? ›

The Bible is the works of the prophets and historians based in the Middle East, and it covers ancient years of history starting from God's creation of the world until about AD100. On the other hand, the Book of Mormon was primarily written in the Americas.

What do Mormons think about Christians? ›

The Mormon view

Mormons believe that conventional Christian churches have lost the authority of God. They believe that conventional Christian beliefs are a mixture of the truth and of errors that have been added over the centuries. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose on the third day.

Who do the Mormons say Jesus is? ›

The Book of Mormon establishes clearly that “Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself to all nations” (Book of Mormon title page; 2 Nephi 26:12). At the heart of the doctrine restored through Joseph Smith is the doctrine of the Christ.

What is forbidden in Mormonism? ›

Alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee and drugs

These are all specifically banned in the Word of Wisdom, except for drugs. The prophets have made it clear that drugs, other than for medical use, are also banned. Mormons are also strongly discouraged from drinking soft drinks containing caffeine.

How many wives can a Mormon have? ›

Polygamy is condemned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Latter-day Saints believe that monogamy—the marriage of one man and one woman—is the Lord's standing law of marriage.

Who is the first millionaire in California? ›

Samuel Brannon, a pioneer, businessman, journalist, and prominent Mormon, was California's first millionaire. Brannon started life in Saco, Maine, in 1819 before moving with his family to Ohio when he was 14 years old.

How many people got rich from Gold Rush? ›

California Gold Rush
Prospectors working California gold placer deposits in 1850
DateJanuary 24, 1848–1855
LocationSierra Nevada and Northern California goldfields
Coordinates38°48′01″N 120°53′32″W
Participants300,000 prospectors
1 more row

How much gold was actually found in California? ›

Did you know? Miners extracted more than 750,000 pounds of gold during the California Gold Rush.

Can you pan for gold in the Smith River? ›

The South Fork of the Smith River is a popular spot for gold panning, particularly at the river crossing where the water flow is low. Coon Creek saw some large-scale dredging operations as well, with gold found in the gravel bars in that area.

Who discovered gold in California? ›

On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall discovered gold on the property of Johann A. Sutter near Coloma, California. A builder, Marshall was overseeing construction of a sawmill on the American River.

How did the gold rush end? ›

The Californios lived on vast ranches that had been granted by the Mexican government. After two years of fighting, the United States emerged the victor. On February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo was signed, formally ending the war and handing control of California to the United States.

Who made the largest profits during the gold rush? ›

But the largest profit was made by the U.S. government, with the expansions to the west, railroads, infrastructure - new cities blossomed and turned into metropolitan areas, everyone wanted gold so more and more people began to move over to the west.

What is the difference between Amish and Mormon? ›

A major difference in the two subcultures that seems to have resulted from their distinctive theological doctrines is that the Amish have developed a closed and introverted society, whereas the Mormons have evolved an open and extroverted society in which a real expansion and new members are desired.

Do Mormons read the Bible? ›

The Book of Mormon is at the centre of Mormon faith and belief. Mormons use the Book of Mormon alongside the Bible in teaching and study.

Do Mormons believe they can become gods? ›

In Mormonism, the concept of divinity centers around an idea of "exaltation" and "eternal progression": mortals themselves may become gods and goddesses in the afterlife, be rulers of their own heavenly kingdoms, have spirit children, and increase in power and glory forever.

What percent of the Book of Mormon is copied from the Bible? ›

In total, approximately 30 percent of the Book of Isaiah is quoted in the Book of Mormon (one source counts 478 verses in the Book of Mormon which are quoted from Isaiah). The Book of Mormon also quotes from the KJV of other books.

Is the Book of Mormon the true word of God? ›

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “we believe … the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” (A of F 1:8.) God has so declared it, so have its writers, so have its witnesses, and so do all those who have read it and received a personal revelation from God as to its truthfulness.

Which Bible do the Mormons use? ›

Since the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has used the King James Version of the Bible for English-speaking members. The Bible, as it has been transmitted over the centuries, has suffered the loss of many plain and precious parts.

Do Mormons accept other Christians? ›

However, Mormons also maintain that all other churches lack the divine authority to perform the ordinances of the gospel because of the Great Apostasy. The LDS Church and most other Latter Day Saint factions do not accept the baptisms of other Christian denominations as valid.

Are Mormons really Christians? ›

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unequivocally affirm themselves to be Christians. They worship God the Eternal Father in the name of Jesus Christ.

What do Mormons believe about heaven? ›

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that all people dwelt with God before this life and that every individual has the opportunity to dwell with God after this life in a state of eternal joy.

Do Mormons believe Jesus was crucified? ›

Mormon Beliefs

Mormons believe in the crucifixion, resurrection and divinity of Jesus Christ. Followers claim that God sent more prophets after Jesus's death. They say that the original church has been restored in modern times.

Where do Mormons think Jesus was born? ›

Joseph Smith, of course, knew well that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Do Mormons believe Jesus is God? ›

Mormons regard Jesus Christ as the central figure of their faith, and the perfect example of how they should live their lives. Jesus Christ is the second person of the Godhead and a separate being from God the Father and the Holy Ghost. Mormons believe that: Jesus Christ is the first-born spirit child of God.

What foods can't Mormons have? ›

Official doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not forbid any foods; according to current teachings, only coffee, tea and alcohol are explicitly prohibited. Many younger cooks use wine in cooking (in the belief that the alcohol is cooked off) and wine vinegar in salad dressings.

Do Mormons watch TV? ›

While on their mission, missionaries can call home only on Christmas and Mother's Day; they must be with their missionary companion 24 hours a day; they cannot come within arm's length of the opposite sex; they cannot watch television or films; and they are only allowed to listen to music and read books that are of a ...

Can Mormons get tattoos? ›

Tattoos Are Strongly Discouraged in the LDS Faith

Body art can be a way to express yourself and your personality. It can even be a way to express your faith. Other faiths may allow tattooing or take no official position. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints LDS/Mormon strongly discourages tattoos.

What is the average age for a Mormon to get married? ›

Combining those statistics, we see that the average age for marriage in America is 27, while the average age for Mormons is approximately 23–four years younger.

Do Mormons believe in birth control? ›

In keeping with the Mormon belief that heaven is full of millions of spirits awaiting an earthly body, birth control and abortion are also forbidden. Since the female body is regarded as the tabernacle of the spirit and the residence of God's spirit children, a high priority is given to prenatal care.

Can Mormons have beards? ›

There is nothing inherently wrong about long hair or beards, any more than there is anything inherently wrong with possessing an empty liquor bottle.

Who was the first millionaire in California? ›

Samuel Brannon, a pioneer, businessman, journalist, and prominent Mormon, was California's first millionaire. Brannon started life in Saco, Maine, in 1819 before moving with his family to Ohio when he was 14 years old.

Who discovered gold in California? ›

On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall discovered gold on the property of Johann A. Sutter near Coloma, California. A builder, Marshall was overseeing construction of a sawmill on the American River.

What role did James K Polk play in the California Gold Rush? ›

On this day in history, President James K. Polk, in his State of the Union address, proclaimed: It was known that mines of the precious metals existed to a considerable extent in California at the time of its acquisition [1848].

What was the result of the gold rush on the city of San Francisco? ›

Almost overnight, the gold rush transformed San Francisco into a booming city filled with makeshift tent-houses, hotels, stores, saloons, gambling halls, and shanties. By 1849, as the gold rush fever swept through the country, the city's population exploded to a staggering 25,000.

Who started the gold rush? ›

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) was a gold rush that began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The news of gold brought approximately 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad.

Did most gold miners get rich? ›

However, only a minority of miners made much money from the Californian Gold Rush. It was much more common for people to become wealthy by providing the miners with over-priced food, supplies and services. Sam Brannan was the great beneficiary of this new found wealth.

Who made the largest profits during the gold rush? ›

But the largest profit was made by the U.S. government, with the expansions to the west, railroads, infrastructure - new cities blossomed and turned into metropolitan areas, everyone wanted gold so more and more people began to move over to the west.

Where is gold naturally found? ›

Gold is primarily found as the pure, native metal. Sylvanite and calaverite are gold-bearing minerals. Gold is usually found embedded in quartz veins, or placer stream gravel. It is mined in South Africa, the USA (Nevada, Alaska), Russia, Australia and Canada.

How was gold named? ›

Gold gets its English name from the Germanic word gulþa (meaning gold). The Old English word geolu means yellow. In Latin, gold was called aurum.

Why did California have so much gold? ›

Gold became highly concentrated in California, United States as the result of global forces operating over hundreds of millions of years. Volcanoes, tectonic plates and erosion all combined to concentrate billions of dollars' worth of gold in the mountains of California.

Who found gold? ›

Gold Discovery in Egypt

An Egyptian alchemist named Zosimos was the first to find pure gold (24 centuries before Columbus reached the Americas). The discovery of gold is attributed to the ancient Egyptians, who made jewelry out of gold. It was at a time when other metals were scarce and valuable.

Where was the most gold found in California? ›

Sierra Nevada Region. California's Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is by far the top gold region in the state. With well over 10,000 gold mines and thousands of active placer claims, this region has the state's largest historical gold production totals and the most active modern placer mining districts.

Is there still gold in California? ›

Gold can still be found all over California. The most gold-rich areas are in Northern California and the Sierra Nevada mountains. While the commercial mining of gold has nearly disappeared since the peak of the gold rush, tourists and residents are still on the hunt for this elusive precious metal.

What are the symptoms of gold fever? ›

Symptoms,—The symptoms of this fever are, at first a peculiar sensation about the heart, sometimes a slight headache, great restlessness during the day, and an inability to prosecute the ordinary business of life; a great disinclination to the reading of the Bible, to secret and family prayer, and even to public ...

How did the Gold Rush affect California's population? ›

Americans soon began "rushing" to California by land and sea before the "easy" gold disappeared. Between 1850 and 1860, California's population grew from 92,597 to 379,994—a 310 percent increase!


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