2.1 – Brig
A gaunt, middle-aging man lay napping on the carpeted floor at Salt Lake City International’s Gate 12. His long, thinning blonde hair was surrendering territory to skin, and the rest of what hair remained was turning unintentionally into dreadlocks. His head rested on a well-used gray backpack, and it appeared as though he lay spooning with a small child dressed in a Day-Glo green rain jacket. The small child was, in fact, a brand new Ortovox Trad 35 alpine pack, made for the serious mountaineer.
The clothes he wore were more appropriate for a teenager than a thirty-something. He wore a tattered pair of black-and-white checkered skateboard shoes, sans laces, and socks. His jeans were a high-end fashion brand, low cut at the waist to show off a young, fit man’s abdominal muscles. While thin enough to wear the brand, there was little definition to his stomach, and he was at least a decade removed from the market the manufacturer targeted. The jeans were stained, as was the faded red and black flannel shirt he wore open, revealing a ragged black undershirt promoting Soundgarden’s 1995 “Superunknown” tour.
His face needed a shave and some soap and water. If he had been lying outside on the street instead of inside the airport, the disheveled man might have been mistaken for a homeless person. Which he in fact now was.
Despite appearances to the contrary, the napping man at Gate 12 came from one of the wealthiest families in the world. He was Brigham Young the VIII, also known as Brig, the first-born son of Brigham Young the VII and heir to his family’s vast fortune…or rather, was the heir to his family’s vast wealth. He had been disowned, disinherited, and given explicit orders to never contact anyone in the Young family again.
2.2 – Brigham Young
Brigham Young, the first Brigham Young, was the second president, prophet, seer, and revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as “L.D.S.” or “The Mormons”). He was also the founding father of Salt Lake City, Utah. Fleeing persecution in Illinois and Missouri, he led the Mormon pioneers across the great plains of the United States to Salt Lake City in 1847, earning him the nickname the “American Moses.” As a leader, Brigham Young’s reputation was mythical. His decisions were swift and final, if not always well thought out, and his countenance stern.
Although practiced and advocated by his predecessor and many of his fellow members, Brigham Young is the historical figure most closely associated with polygamy. In his lifetime, Brigham Young married fifty-five women and fathered fifty-six children. In 1890, God, through his prophet Brigham Young, commanded the Saints to abolish polygamy. However, the American Moses had already planted many a seed in the intermountain area, and the roots of their family tree ran deep.
It is common for a modern-day L.D.S. family to have five, ten, or even fifteen or more children, as Mormon doctrine teaches that women have a moral obligation and duty to bring as many awaiting spirit children to earth through their bodies as they can bear. Brigham Young’s first wife died giving birth to Brigham Young II in 1825 soon after being married. He named his first son after himself, starting an unbroken tradition of Young patriarchs naming their firstborn sons “Brigham.” Brigham Young II proved to be as gifted an entrepreneur as his father was a leader. He opened his first hotel in 1850. As converts to the new faith began pouring into SLC, he provided them with a clean, affordable, safe place to stay. Business boomed, assisted largely by the enthusiastic support of his prophet father. Two more hotels were built in rapid succession in 1852 and 1853, and the Brigham Young International hotel dynasty was born.
2.3 – Tweedle Dumb
For those non-Utahnians waiting at Gate 12, the name Brigham Young likely meant little, but for those that were from the area, or were members of the Mormon Church, the name evoked genuine interest. The Youngs were local royalty, the first family of Utah and one of the last great dynasties in America. Travelers that were rushing to get out of the airport, or to another gate, who overheard the announcement slowed down or stopped altogether to see if they might catch a glimpse of this local celebrity. What was Brigham Young doing flying commercial? Would it be the charismatic, wealthy father, or his spoiled and reportedly drug-addicted son? Time slowed and the area became quiet as the airport paused and waited for one of them to answer the gate agent’s summons.
The United Airlines gate agent who had made the announcement was too busy to be aware of the drama she had created. She had recently transferred to Salt Lake City from Chicago and had no idea who Brigham Young was. She stared ahead at her computer screen, processing the flight’s standby list while trying to ignore the customer waiting to be recognized in the poorly defined line. Eventually, the traveler’s patience was rewarded. The agent, without looking up, asked the portly, almost senior citizen, “Are you, Brigham Young?”
“Me? Heaven’s no!” the man chuckled nervously, as did several others who were standing in line behind him. Encouraged by the positive attention, he stepped up to the podium and continued. “I wish! I wouldn’t be flying coach if I was!” and shot the agent a conspiratorial wink.
The agent, unsure of what to make of the wink, cautiously asked, “How may I help you?”
The man moved closer to the agent, trying not to be overheard, and whispered, “I was just wondering how handicapped you had to be to get one of those wheelchairs?”
“Are you having trouble? I can have somebody bring you a chair.”
“No. It’s not for me. It’s for my wife.” The man tipped his head in the direction of an obese woman sitting in a nearby chair designated for the disabled. “She fell and sprained her ankle, and we’ll need extra time boarding the airplane.”
“Those traveling with infants or those needing a little more time to get seated will be allowed to board first.” She was skeptical of the couple’s need, but in this new era of comfort animals and uber-sensitivity, she had become ambivalent to the inane requests of the people she served.
“Are you alright ma’am?” she asked, addressing the man’s wife slowly and loudly as if speaking to a dim-witted child. “Did you hurt your ankle?” The fat woman smiled, blushed, and waved her fat hand in front of her face suggesting that they shouldn’t bother. “I hope this man didn’t do this to you? Did he?” The agent stared at the husband accusingly and put her hands on her hips.
“Look. Never mind. I was just asking,” said the man. It wasn’t the way he envisioned the conversation going, and he was mortified. “Please don’t make a fuss. We can make it on the plane without the chair.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. This poor woman needs a wheelchair, and maybe some protection.” The man’s white pasty skin turned beet red, and he now wanted nothing more than to crawl away unnoticed. The agent pulled the microphone back to her mouth, “Can I get two wheelchair assists to Gate 12 for a mister and missus…what was your name, sir?”
“It’s OK. Really! There’s been a misunderstanding. She doesn’t have a broken foot. It’s only a sprain, and she’s the one that wanted the chair, not me. Please. Just forget I asked.”
“So you don’t want the chairs?”
“No ma’am,” he said, slinking away.
“Cancel the wheelchair assist at Gate 12. Will Brigham Young please approach the Gate 12 ticketing podium? Brigham Young, please come up to the Gate 12 ticketing podium,” the agent repeated.
2.4 – Seven
Throughout Mormon history, the Youngs had been the family that other Mormon families aspired to be. Young family members were expected to live their lives in strict accordance with the teachings and doctrines of their faith. It was extremely rare for a family member to stray from the fold, as the consequences were ex-communication from their church and family. For more than 200 years, every generation had succeeded in delivering a new Brigham. However, with each new generation, the pressure to live up to massive expectations grew more intense.
Charismatic, confident, and hyper-aware of his status in the community, Brigham Young VII (“Seven”) was born to be a leader. In high school, he had been an all-star, all-state quarterback for the Highland Rams, and accepted a full-ride athletic scholarship to the University which bore his name.
However, before beginning his college football career he would serve a two-year Mormon mission. Church leaders sent VII to the Philippines, where he baptized hundreds into the church. When he returned to BYU, he picked up his football career where he had left it, and during his sophomore year became the starting quarterback for the Cougars. Unfortunately for the BYU football program, but fortuitously for Brigham Young International, VII suffered a career-ending knee injury in the “Holy War” rivalry game against the University of Utah. In VII’s final year at BYU, he met the beautiful Edna Abigail Pierce.
2.5 – Prophet, Seer and Revelator
Perhaps it was the shrill voice or the volume of the speaker system, but somehow the gate announcement penetrated VIII’s drug-stupefied skull. He stretched, rubbed his eyes, shouldered his backpack, and staggered towards the podium with short, tentative steps, as if he were walking a balance beam. Some of the other travelers took notice, staring, pointing, and whispering amongst themselves about the disheveled man they started to realize was the junior Brigham Young. Brig took no notice of them, having, over the last few weeks, grown accustomed to the notoriety. The gate agent looked up just as Brigham neared the podium and asked, “Are you, Brigham Young?”
“The one and only,” Brig slurred. “Well, not the only. But I am the one you’re looking for.”
“Well, good morning Mr. Young, you’ve been upgraded to business class all the way through to Hong Kong as you requested. If I could see some identification and your old boarding passes, I’ll exchange them for your new ones.”
She isn’t unattractive, thought Brig. A little older than he liked, but cute, in a “Molly Mormon” sort of way. On a scale of one to ten, Brig ranked her a six. Ranking women based on how attractive they were had become a reflexive, albeit boorish, habit for Brig. A score of five was average. The vast majority of the earth’s women scored below five because they were “too old,” “too young,” “too fat,” “too thin,” “too butch,” “too girly,” “bad skin,” “bad hair,” “no hair,” “mole,” “mole with a hair in it,” “mustache,” etc., and fell below Brig’s level of interest. Despite his superficiality, and substance abuse issues, most women, loved Brigham. He was charming when he wanted to be, handsome in a boyish way. And of course the clincher; he had loads of money that he wasn’t afraid to spend. He’d been with, among others, a Victoria’s Secret model, a beauty pageant winner (Miss Utah 2002), a Playboy playmate (Miss March 2010), and a Dallas Cowboy’s cheerleader, but had never been in a monogamous relationship that lasted more than six months. Until a few weeks ago, he had never proposed marriage to anyone.
“I knew you were going to tell me that. I’m a prophet you know.”
“A what?” The gate agent asked as she tapped at her computer.
“A prophet. A Seer. A Revelator.” It suddenly dawned on Brig that he wasn’t dealing with a local. “A fortune teller, if you will.”
“Hmm.” Unimpressed, the agent handed the freshly printed boarding passes to Brig and gestured for him to move along. “If you don’t mind…”
“It’s true. My great, great, great, great, et cetera, et cetera, great grandfather, Brigham Young the first, was the first prophet, um, fortune teller, in our family, but not the last. The gift of seeing the future runs in my blood,” Brig explained. “For example, I know that my bags have been checked all the way through to my final destination and that we are going to miss our original departure time.”
“Wow! You’re good!” the agent said with feigned enthusiasm, “Yes, your bags have been checked through to Hong Kong, and since we have only,” she paused to look at her watch, “ five more minutes until our scheduled departure time, and we haven’t boarded yet, it is probably safe to assume that we will be a little late taking off. But we will be boarding very soon, and I’m confident you will have plenty of time to make your connecting flight in San Francisco.”
“I knew you were going to say that,” Brig smiled and moved aside.