Brigham Young June 8, 1856 As it often did, Brigham's preaching in this sermon combined temporal with spiritual pursuits. The legacy of working out our salvation continues to the present, leading some (both member and non) to believe Mormons must "work" their way into heaven. Working was critical to the new world the Saints founded, everyone worked, expecting to create a Zion society. This sermon is called "Irrigation—Every Saint Should Labor for the Interest of the Community—It is the Lord that Gives the Increase—Etc.":
I wish to say a few words before this meeting is dismissed, upon the subject of the Big Cottonwood Canal...He commended them for their good work and service, and then moved along:
In regard to irrigation, I will venture to say that one-half of the water is wasted; instead of being applied where and when it is needed, it runs here and there, and perhaps one-half reaches the drooping plants. If people would take a little more pains in preparing ditches, gates, and embankments for economically conducting water where it is most needed, it would be a very great advantage to them...Still talking about that temporal stuff...moving along:
If we had time we should build several reservoirs to save the waters of City Creek, each one to contain enough for once irrigating one-third of the city. If we had such reservoirs the whole of this city might be irrigated with water that now runs to waste...We're half way through the sermon now, and now it gets good:
Our preaching to you from Sabbath to Sabbath, sending the Gospel to the nations, gathering the people, opening farms, making needed improvements, and building cities, all pertain to salvation. The Gospel is designed to gather a people that will be of one heart and of one mind. Let every individual in this city feel the same interest for the public good as he does for his own, and you will at once see this community still more prosperous, and still more rapidly increasing in wealth, influence, and power. But where each one seeks to benefit himself or herself alone, and does not cherish a feeling for the prosperity and benefit of the whole, that people will be disorderly, unhappy, and poverty-stricken, and distress, animosity, and strife will reign. Let every man and woman be industrious, prudent, and economical in their acts and feelings, and while gathering to themselves, let each one strive to identify his or her interests with the interests of this community, with those of their neighbor and neighborhood, let them seek their happiness and welfare in that of all, and we will be blessed and prospered.Brigham directed the Saints through several different efforts to establish he law of consecration. These efforts included discouraging them from patronizing stores of 'gentiles,' which caused much strife in the territory. Brigham was aware he wasn't always right, even if it seemed otherwise. For example, he continues this sermon by letting people know he was aware of his shortcomings. His desire was for everyone to deal kindly with each other:
I do not wish to boast in the least, neither do I think much of myself, nor ever did, nor do I ever pause much to think, in all my labors, doings, travelings, toils, and preachings, whether I have friends or foes, but the care that I have for this community I do manifest in my works. Not that I think that I am extraordinarily praiseworthy, or that I am a very good man, for you know that I have never professed to be a very religious man; but what I wish you to do to your neighbor I do by you; but I will not ask my Father in heaven to deal any more kindly with me than I deal with my brethren.
My interest is the interest of this community; this has been characteristic of my course from the beginning. I have witnesses here to prove that, from the time I entered this kingdom until this day, this community and its welfare have been my interest.How can we expect forgiveness and love from God, knowing we are so imperfect, while at the same time denying that forgiveness and love to others? The injunction Christ makes in the Lord's Prayer," to forgive those who trespass against us as God forgives our trespasses, seems more than a suggestion. As I compare it with other scriptures, this seems to be a commandment linked to the essence of forgiveness. In an essay by Eugene England on God not being a "respecter of persons," he makes this observation:
[The demands of justice] can only be appeased by Christ's "plan of mercy," which offers intimate and unconditional love, not as a payment for repentance but as a means to empower our repentance; it provides "means unto men that they might have faith unto repentance" (Alma 34:15). But, as King Benjamin makes clear, we tend to remain caught up in justice, in deciding what others "deserve," and therefore withhold unconditional love and service to them, not- as God requires- "administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants" (Mosiah 4:26; my emphasis). And King Benjamin declares that anyone who has such respect of persons cannot "retain a remission of... sins from day to day" (v. 26) --that is, cannot enjoy the continuing blessings of the Atonement, and "except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God" (v. 18).Additionally, in view of our works, we must take caution not to rely on the "arm of flesh," by realizing that our very efforts are only possible through the opportunity God has afforded us to begin with. We are in His debt, no matter what we do; and "do" we must. We plant, and we water, but God gives the increase (see 1 Corinthians 3:6). Without God, our efforts would avail nothing. With God, our efforts are influenced, magnified, inspired by, and blessed by Jesus Christ. Brigham's words seem like a 19th century rendition of King Benjamin's sermon:
I do not wish you to deal any better by me than I do by you, neither do I wish God my Father to deal any more kindly towards me than I do towards you. How came I by what I have? We may dig water ditches, make canals, sow wheat, build mills, and labor with our mights, but if God does not give the increase we remain poor. Though we bestow much labor upon our fields, if God does not give the increase we shall have no grain. How few there are who fully understand this matter, who realize thoroughly that unless God blesses our exertions we shall have nothing. It is the Lord that gives the increase. He could send showers to water our fields, but I do not know that I have prayed for rain since I have been in these valleys until this year, during which I believe that I have prayed two or three times for rain, and then with a faint heart, for there is plenty of water flowing down these kanyons in crystal streams as pure as the breezes of Zion, and it is our business to use them.
While we see the hand of God in all things, we are also given much leeway in our personal decisions. Brigham wanted it understood that we don't expect to sit back and have God tie our shoes, so to speak. With that in mind, we should also be willing to keep our eyes heavenward, even as we earn bread by the sweat of our brow. This keeps us less hectic, realizing a failed effort isn't automatically a sign of divine displeasure:
I do not feel disposed to ask the Lord to do for me what I can do for myself. I know when I sow the wheat and water it that I cannot give the increase, for that is in the hands of the Almighty; and when it is time to worship the Lord, I will leave all and worship Him. As I said yesterday to a Bishop who was mending a breach in the canal, and expressed a wish to continue his labor on the following Sabbath, as his wheat was burning up, let it burn, when the time comes that is set apart for worship, go up and worship the Lord.
While temporal matters are important, they should not overshadow the "weightier matters" (see Matthew 23:23). This paradox of relying on God while relying on our own efforts is undergirded by the fact that even the possibility to work, our very existence in this probation, is because of the grace of God. Thus, our salvation isn't a matter of "works vs. grace," but a blending of the two, as Benjamin said:
And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? (Mosiah 2:23-24).I don't believe Benjamin reminds us that we will always [eternally!] be indebted to God in order to discourage us, but to encourage us to know that we owe God our best efforts. Rather than being grateful for God's grace and thus believing our efforts are not necessary, our gratitude for our opportunities will create a desire to worship God, to forgive others, to follow Christ:
When Bishops and the brethren can perceive and understand that it is the Lord that gives the increase, after all their exertions to sustain themselves, they will be satisfied that the glory belongs to Him, and not altogether to the exertions of man. You know Paul says that he considered himself an unprofitable servant, and so is every other man; that is, when we have done all we can to save ourselves, spiritually and temporally, it is the Lord who gave us the means.Brigham continues, much like King Benjamin, describing some of his efforts to help the poor, and saying "do thou likewise."
He opened up the way of life and salvation, organized the elements to sustain our mortal bodies, and thus afforded all the means for increase. It is all through the wisdom of Him who has created all things, who rules over and sustains all things. Have the Latter-day Saints got to learn this? Yes. And they have got to learn that the interest of their brethren is their own interest, or they never can be saved in the celestial kingdom of God.
You who have flour and meat, deal it out, and do not be afraid that you will be too much straightened, for if you will give, you will have plenty, for it is God who sustains us and we have got to learn this lesson. All I ask of you is to apply your heart to wisdom and to watch the providences of God, until you prove for yourselves that I am telling the truth, even that which I do know and have experienced. I have experienced much in my life, and I will not ask you to do any better by one another nor by me than I do by you, and I will bless you all the time. I feel to bless you continually; my life is here, my interest, my glory, my pride, my comfort, my all are here, and all I expect to have, to all eternity is wrapped up in the midst of this Church.Brigham believed by giving, we will be blessed, sometimes- though not strictly and always- even in temporal ways:
I have plenty on hand, and shall have plenty, if I keep giving away. More than two hundred persons eat from my provisions every day, besides my own family and those who work for I intend to keep doing so, that my bread may hold out, for if I do not I shall come short. Do you believe that principle? I know it is true, because I have proven it so many times. I have formerly told this community of a circumstance that occurred to brother Heber and myself, when we were on our way to England. We paid our passage to Kirtland, and to my certain knowledge we had only $13.50, but we paid out $87.00; this is but one instance among many which I could name.
You who have flour and meat, deal it out, and do not be afraid that you will be too much straightened, for if you will give, you will have plenty, for it is God who sustains us and we have got to learn this lesson.Brigham even ends his discourse with some similar thoughts to King Benjamin; basically telling them he cannot command in all things , but that the Saints will be led by the Spirit:
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8).So Brigham concluded:
All I ask of you is to apply your heart to wisdom and to watch the providences of God, until you prove for yourselves that I am telling the truth, even that which I do know and have experienced. I have experienced much in my life, and I will not ask you to do any better by one another nor by me than I do by you, and I will bless you all the time. I feel to bless you continually; my life is here, my interest, my glory, my pride, my comfort, my all are here, and all I expect to have, to all eternity is wrapped up in the midst of this Church. If I do not get it in this channel, I shall not have it at all. How do you suppose I feel? I feel as a father should feel towards his children. I have felt so for many years, even when I durst not say so; I have felt as a mother feels towards her tender offspring, and durst not express my feelings; but I have tried to carry out their expression in my life. May God bless you. Amen.