The Lion House was the main home of Brigham Young (1801-1877) in Salt Lake City for his wives and 55 children. The 2020 History of the Church - Saints Vol II gives a vivid description of family life there.
In Salt Lake City Brigham built two majestic homes just a block south from the Mormon Tabernacle, the first was called Lion House and the second was Bee Hive. In these two home would reside the vast majority of his family. The house had large social rooms downstairs to host major family communal activities.
Built in 1856 by Brigham Young, Lion House derives its name from the stone lion statue resting over the front entrance. "Lion of the Lord" was also a nickname of Brigham Young, who served as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877.
The solid construction of both buildings gives witness to Brigham's vast experience as a carpenter and cabinet-maker.
Today the bottom floor of the Lion House is a functional, cafeteria-style restaurant called "The Lion House Pantry" which is open to the public. It is located adjacent to the LDS church's main headquarters and heavily-visited Temple Square, and therefore serves many of the employees and visitors there each day.
1860s Family Life Description
The following comes from The 2020 History of the Church - Saints Vol II - Ch 23 gives a vivid description of family life there.
Susie Young had always been a sickly child. By the time she turned nine years old, in the spring of 1865, she had survived pneumonia, whooping cough, and other serious illnesses. She would wheeze when she ran too fast or played too hard. Sometimes her father, Brigham Young, would gently take her in his arms, hold her close, and softly say, “Wait a minute, daughter. Don’t get in such a hurry. Take time to breathe.”1
Susie rarely wanted to wait a minute. Something was always happening in the house she shared with many of her father’s wives and most of his younger children. The long two-story home was called the Lion House, and it stood next door to her father’s office, a block east of the temple site in Salt Lake City. The upper floor of the Lion House had many bedrooms and sitting rooms for family members. On the ground floor were more bedrooms and a large parlor for entertaining guests and holding family prayers. In the basement were storage rooms and cellars, a laundry room and kitchen, and a dining room large enough to seat the entire family.
On the front balcony of the home, keeping vigil over the street, crouched the regal statue of a lion.
Nearly thirty of Susie’s fifty-five brothers and sisters lived there at one time. Sometimes the family also took in orphans, including Ina Maybert, a girl from India. A neighborhood boy named Heber Grant often played at the house with Susie’s brothers and joined the Youngs for family prayers. He was the only child of Rachel Ivins and Brigham Young’s former counselor Jedediah Grant. In the wintertime, Heber liked to grab hold of Brigham’s sleigh and let it pull him across the ice.
The Young family tried to keep an orderly household, with a strict schedule for meals, schooling, and prayers. But that did not stop Susie and her siblings from sliding down banisters, running up the stairs, and playing hide-and-seek.4 As a small girl, Susie thought it was perfectly normal to have such a large family and for her father to live with more than a dozen wives. In fact, her family was not typical even among plural families, which were usually far smaller by comparison. Unlike her father, most men in the Church who practiced plural marriage had only two wives.5
Her own mother, Lucy Bigelow Young, was a devoted parent who showered her with care and love. Zina Huntington Young and Emily Partridge Young, two of her father’s wives who lived for a time in the Lion House, were like second mothers to her. So too was her father’s wife Clara Decker Young, who often stayed up late to chat and give advice to Susie and her sisters.
Another wife, Eliza Snow, was a poet who studied books in her spare time and encouraged Susie’s budding creativity. Eliza was intelligent, eloquent, and extremely self-disciplined. Her bedroom, sitting room, and writing table were tidy and carefully arranged. Some people thought Eliza was cold and aloof, but Susie knew her to be kind and tender—especially when nursing the sick.
The Lion House was not always free of conflict, but the family tried to make their living arrangement a success. Brigham did not like comparing plural marriage to the customs of the world. “It is from heaven,” he told the Saints. “The Lord has instituted it for an express purpose of raising up a royal nation, a holy priesthood, a nation peculiar to Himself, one that He can own and bless.”
“If I ever had a trial on the earth of my faith, it was when Joseph Smith revealed this doctrine to me,” he testified further. “I had to pray unceasingly and I had to exercise faith, and the Lord revealed to me the truth of it, and that satisfied me.”
The joy he felt in bringing his many children up in the gospel of Christ was a fruit of that faith.10 In the evening, he would ring a bell, calling everyone together for family prayers. “We thank Thee for our homes in these peaceful vales, and for these mountain fastnesses which Thou has preserved as a gathering place for Thy people,” he would often pray, speaking gently to the Lord with real love in his voice. “Bless the poor, the needy, the sick and afflicted. Comfort the hearts of those that mourn. Be a stay and a staff to the aged and a guide to the youth.”
Brigham often pondered on the Saints’ welfare. Times were changing, and construction was now underway for a railroad that would span North America. He had invested money in the venture, certain the railroad would make travel to and from Utah faster, cheaper, and less tiring for missionaries and emigrants. Yet he knew it would bring more temptations to the territory, and he wanted to prepare the Saints spiritually and economically for its arrival.
He also wanted to fortify his own family, so that spring, Susie and her siblings learned that he had hired Karl Maeser to be their private schoolteacher. Some of Susie’s brothers bristled under Professor Maeser’s instruction and dropped out of school. But Susie was captivated by his lessons.
Books, especially the scriptures, came alive in the classroom. Professor Maeser encouraged the Young children to ask questions and puzzle out solutions to problems. Though she was ever eager to learn something new, Susie sometimes became frustrated when she made mistakes in her schoolwork.
Professor Maeser was patient. “Only those who have the courage to make mistakes,” he told her, “ever learn worthwhile lessons and truths.”
- Young in Salt Lake County, Utah