Brigham Young vs. The Bureau of Internal Revenue

58 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2017

See all articles by Samuel D. Brunson

Samuel D. Brunson

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Date Written: October 10, 2017


In 1871, Brigham Young, the president and trustee-in-trust of the Mormon church, decided to end the church’s practice of tithing, a significant source of revenue for the Mormon church. This decision was the culmination of more than a year of conflict with the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which had decided that tithing was taxable under the Civil War income tax.

At the time, Mormons distrusted the federal government, and the federal government, in turn distrusted the Mormons. The question of taxation was a small part of a larger legal and existential battle between the Mormons and the government. This Article situations the question of the taxability of tithing in the broader legal and relational conflict. More important, it tells the story of how the income tax threatened to fundamentally change the Mormon church, and how Mormon leaders reacted to that threat, both with an increasingly sophisticated legal argumentation and, in the event their legal argumentation failed, with planning to take the tax law into account.

Keywords: brigham young, john taggart, O.J. Hollister, civil war income tax, assessor, collector, bureau of internal revenue, tithing, polygamy, sovereignty

Suggested Citation

Brunson, Samuel D., Brigham Young vs. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (October 10, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Samuel D. Brunson (Contact Author)

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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