In 1868 Brigham Young approached nineteen-year old Franklin S. Richards to give him some advice, if it can be called that. Young told Richards that he needed to study to be a lawyer. Richards, surprised, replied that he had always heard Brother Brigham speak ill of attorneys, and that he [Richards] intended to be a doctor. Young informed Richards that he needed to be a lawyer “because the time will come when the Latter-day Saints will need lawyers of their own to defend them in the Courts and strive with fearless inspiration to maintain their constitutional rights.” Richards, the son of Apostle Franklin D. Richards, obeyed Young, became a successful attorney and represented the Church’s leaders before the U.S. Supreme Court several times during the polygamy raids.
When my father told me this story several years ago (Richards is an ancestor), I was intrigued not only by his role in defending the Church but also by the manner in which he was put on that path by the direct counsel of the Prophet. A recent article in Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture provides a fascinating look into the wider context that produced Franklin S. Richards, general counsel to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The author, Thomas W. Simpson, is an assistant professor of Religion at Carthage College. Simpson is not a Latter-day Saint, but became interested in Mormons while in graduate school (his father was raised as a Mormon, but Simpson is a Methodist). I met Simpson over the summer when he presented a lecture to the Bushman Fellows summarizing his dissertation, from which this article is taken. Simpson’s article examines the nineteenth-century roots of the Mormon obsession with education.
Examining the beginnings of Mormon academic migration reveals that the Mormon path to modernization was neither narrow nor fixed. Mormons saw higher education as a tool in their separatist nation-building project, but it was also a proving ground in Mormon relations with outsiders (“Gentiles,” when things were heated). By the end of the 1860s, Mormons wanted to cultivate a cadre of the credentialized, not only to help build the intellectual and material infrastructures of the kingdom, but also to demonstrate the power of the Mormon mind. Emerging from the shadow of persecution and deprivation, Mormons condemned “the world” and yet craved its praise.
The article explores Brigham Young’s thought on commissioning young Latter-day Saints to go receive professional training abroad (or at home, as was the case with Richards), focusing on the years from 1867 to 1877. Simpson has done a tremendous amount of research recovering the stories of dozens male and female Mormons that left the Mormon enclave, including Brigham Young’s son, Willard, to receive training at the top universities in America.
In his conclusion, Simpson offered hints at how his story evolves after Young’s death. “The Saints who survived him believed that trained professionals in medicine, engineering, and law would help strengthen and protect their emerging civilization, which they thought would be the envy of the world.” Simpson’s dissertation, which hopefully will be published soon (it’s available through Proquest), goes through 1940, treating the increasing dissonance between secular training and commitment to the Kingdom, during the early twentieth-century battles over evolution. Given the continued Mormon obsession with education and receiving secular training, Simpson’s work is a timely contribution to Mormon historiography.
 Thomas W. Simpson,”Mormons Study ‘Abroad’: Brigham Young’s Romance with American Higher Education, 1867-1877,” Church History 76, no. 4 (December 2007): 778-98.
 Ibid., 779-80.
 Ibid., 798.