Upon turning eighteen, all worthy young Mormon men fall under enormous social pressure to serve a “mission.” Serving a mission involved leaving home, volunteering two years of their life to teach Mormon doctrine, and attempt to convert as many non-Mormons to their religion as they could. Brig had the added burden of being the only son, in arguably the most notable modern Mormon family since The Osmonds. Brigham senior had served a mission in the Philippines, Brig’s grandfather (VI) in Mexico, and all of his great-grandfathers before him had served somewhere in the world dating all the way back to the first Brigham Young.
Brig was a neurotic mess as his eighteenth birthday approached. He needed to tell his father that he was not going to serve a mission. Not only that, Brig had developed an obsessive desire to climb Mount Everest, and needed to convince his father to pay for the expedition. While convalescing from his fall the year before, one of his friends had given him a copy of the September 1996 edition of Outside magazine. It was the edition that included the article “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, who wrote about the 1996 disaster when eight climbers died attempting to climb Everest. Although the story was a tragedy, it had planted a seed of thought in Brig’s brain that was at times all-consuming. He carried the magazine everywhere, and when the magazine began to fall apart, he made copies. When he learned that the “Into Thin Air” article had been published as a book, he paid $180 for an illustrated hardcover edition signed by the author. The book replaced the Book of Mormon as his spiritual touchstone. He marked passages that were particularly meaningful to him with a yellow highlighter, to the extent that the book became more yellow than not.
Brig decided that he would first ask his father for the money to climb Mount Everest. He anticipated that his father would reject his request, especially when he learned that it was likely to cost more than $60,000. Brig would plead, and his father would eventually point out that Brig would soon be going on a mission. At that point, Brig would promise that if his father approved the trip to Everest, he would go on a mission within a year of his return. In Brig’s mind, it was an excellent compromise.