I have heard that Brigham Young once said…. If you knew how wonderful it is on the other side you would kill yourself to get there?… IF so, what did he mean by that statement?
dh, from Idaho
I would think that any bit of information that comes your way with no more credentials than “I have heard that so-and-so once said,”should be viewed with utmost suspicion. Unless we could site a specific reference for any historical statement, we should treat it as an unsubstantiated rumor. Even specifically referenced material from the 1800s could be suspect. In our day of electronic recording and instant communication we have a hard time imagining what it was like when none of these communication aids existed. In the time of Brigham Young, when he spoke from the pulpit, a designated scribe had to listen carefully, remember what was said, and then do his best to write it down after the talk was given. And he would write it laboriously by hand with a quill pen (A quill pen is a feather from a large bird, such as a turkey, from which one of the tail feathers has been plucked, cut on an angle at the base and have a longitudinal cut up from the point for half an inch or so.) Such a pen would be dipped into a bottle of ink every few words. Brigham Young is rumored to have said on one occasion, “I only with that they would write what I said.”
And so it is with the rumored statement that forms the basis of your question. Here are some comments on the subject by Elder Truman G Madsen—
“Many of us have heard the statement made-and ascribed to either Joseph Smith or Brigham Young-to the effect that if a person could see the glory of the telestial kingdom he would commit suicide to get there. If only we could get the fundamental doctrines across to Church members as rapidly as we get across rumors, everyone would be saved. Am I saying that’s a rumor? Well, I am saying this, that over a period of many years I have combed everything Joseph Smith said and wrote, and I can’t find it. Hugh Nibley has done the same with Brigham Young’s words, and he can’t find it. It is hard to prove a negative, of course. What I can say is that we have found a statement from Joseph via Wilford Woodruff that says something else that is close, and I suspect it is the origin of the alleged statement (see Diary of Charles C. Walker, August 1837, in Church Historical Department). Elder Woodruff said the Prophet taught this, roughly: that if we could see what is beyond the veil we couldn’t stand to stay here in mortality for five minutes. And I suggest from the context that he was not talking about the telestial kingdom. He was talking about what it was like to be in the presence of God and the family” (Truman G. Madsen, The Radiant Life , p.91).