August 20, 2007

Living Your Religion 'Out of Doors'

Brigham Young June 3, 1855

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24).
In a discourse dealing with the law of consecration, President Young said he believed that law would likely be the last one the Saints would be able to live successfully:
There is another revelation...stating that it is the duty of all people who go to Zion to consecrate all their property to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...It was one of the first commandments or revelations given to this people after they had the privilege of organizing themselves as a Church, as a body, as the kingdom of God on the earth. I observed then, and I now think, that it will be one of the last revelations which the people will receive into their hearts and understandings, of their own free will and choice, and esteem it as a pleasure, a privilege, and a blessing unto them to observe and keep most holy.
Brigham talked about various reasons why the Saints didn't fulfill the Law of Consecration; among his chief reasons was covetousness. According to Brigham, many Saints saw the law as something to help take care of all their financial worries. Rather than giving all they had, some expected to give only to receive much more in return. Brigham describes the attitude here:

[One saint] says, 'Brother Brigham, I want to consecrate all I have, but you must build me a house for it, or get me my wood.'

This class will acknowledge that all is the Lord's, both out door and in. I wish to see the people acknowledge the principle of consecration in their works, as well as in their prayers. Do I, as an individual, want to see the people deed all they have to the Church? It does not concern me individually; I would not give the ashes of a rye straw for a personal deed of all the Latter-day Saints possess. Yet they are trying to acknowledge that all is the Lord's, and will say, 'Let brother Brigham come and get what he wants, but I do not believe in giving up this property, it is mine, and I may want to trade this, that, or the other article.'

I do not want one red cent from you, but the Lord would be glad to see the people practice out of doors what they hypocritically profess before Him in doors. They say they are the Lord's, and when their children are taken sick, or their wives, fathers, mothers, or husbands are taken sick, O, how humble they then are, and they will send for the Elders to pray for them, and acknowledge that all is the Lord's, and say, 'We give ourselves and all we have to thee.'

The Lord makes them well by His power, through the ordinances of His house, but will they consecrate? No. They say, 'It is mine, and I will have it myself.'

There is the treasure, and the heart is with it, and what will be the end thereof? That which they seem to have will be given to those who are faithful, and they will receive nothing at all. They will not get an inheritance upon the earth, and cannot be crowned as kings and rulers in the kingdom of God; but if they are saved at all it will be as servants, to do the drudgery of those who are faithful, and who live the religion out doors which they say they have in their hearts.

"Living our religion out of doors" means being a Latter-day Saint every day in every situation, following commandments even when they prove difficult. In 1838 a revelation on consecration and plans to build a temple at Far West was read in an open meeting Brigham attended. After it was read Brigham volunteered to go collect "surplus property" to add to the consecration supplies. He was instructed by Joseph Smith to let the Saints decide what was surplus and what they actually needed in their stewardships. Brigham describes the reaction of the Saints:

I found the people said they were willing to do about as they were counselled, but, upon asking them about their surplus property, most of the men who owned land and cattle would say, 'I have got so many hundred acres of land, and I have got so many boys, and I want each one of them to have eighty acres, therefore this is not surplus property.' Again, 'I have got so many girls, and I do not believe I shall be able to give them more than forty acres each.'

'Well, you have got two or three hundred acres left.'

'Yes, but I have a brother-in-law coming on, and he will depend on me for a living; my wife's nephew is also coming on, he is poor, and I shall have to furnish him a farm after he arrives here.'

I would go on to the next one, and he would have more land and cattle than he could make use of to advantage. It is a laughable idea, but is nevertheless true, men would tell me they were young and beginning the world, and would say, 'We have no children, but our prospects are good, and we think we shall have a family of children, and, if we do, we want to give them eighty acres of land each; we have no surplus property.'

'How many cattle have you?'

'So many.'

'How many horses, etc.?'

'So many, but I have made provisions for all these, and I have use for every thing I have got.'

Some saints discovered they had a little surplus to give; but in Brigham's humorous estimation it was often less than generous:
Some were disposed to do right with their surplus property, and once in a while you would find a man who had a cow which he considered surplus, but generally she was of the class that would kick a person's hat off, or eyes out, or the wolves had eaten off her teats. You would once in a while find a man who had a horse that he considered surplus, but at the same time he had the ringbone, was broken-winded, spavined in both legs, had the pole evil at one end of the neck and a fistula at the other, and both knees sprung.
Brigham countered this kind of consecration by telling the Saints they needed to give their best, not their worst; for all belongs to the Lord:
When a man wishes to give anything, let him give the best he has got. The Lord has given to me all I possess; I have nothing in reality, not a single dime of it is mine. You may ask, 'Do you feel as you say?' Yes, I actually do. The coat I have on my back is not mine, and never was; the Lord put it in my possession honorably, and I wear it; but if He wishes for it, and all there is under it, He is welcome to the whole. I do not own a house, or a single foot of land, a horse, mule, carriage, or wagon, nor wife, nor child, but what the Lord gave me, and if He wants them, He can take them at His pleasure, whether He speaks for them, or takes them without speaking. Should this be the feeling to animate every bosom? It should. What have you to consecrate that is actually your own? Nothing...He made the earth and all connected with it, organized it, and brought it forth, and now He intends to see what the people will do with it; whether they are disposed to do anything more than to say, "This is mine, and that is thine."
Orson Pratt held similar views, and in his unique way, counseled the Saints regarding consecration:
The Gentile god [money] has great influence even over the Saints; consequently if will take years to eradicate covetousness from our hearts; as our President has told us that the law relating to a full consecration of our property would perhaps be one of the last laws that would be fulfilled before the coming of Christ. Much patience and forbearance will need to be exercised before the Saints will get completely rid of their old traditions, Gentile notions, and whims about property, so as to come to that perfect law required of them in the revelations of Jesus Christ. But the day will come when there will be no poor in Zion, but the Lord will make them equal in earthly things, that they may be equal in heavenly things; that is, according to His notions of equality, and not according to our narrow, contracted views of the same (JD 2:259).
Brigham concluded with one of his more common themes: an admonition to avoid clinging to the things of the world. Saints ought to love the world; but should love it in the way God loves it:
If you cling to the world, and say it is hard for you to do this or that, recollect that the love of the Father is not in you. Let me love the world as He loves it, to make it beautiful, and glorify the name of my Father in heaven. It does not matter whether I or anybody else owns it, if we only work to beautify it and make it glorious, it is all right. Let me do what I am called to do, and be contented with my lot, and not worry about this, that, or the other. I have spoken long enough. May God bless you. Amen (JD 2:298-309).


Mr. Grey Spaceman said...

Yeah, and behold, the infinite people living on other worlds, did behold the words of Blair, and they did see that they were good, and they were lifted up. And it came to pass that the many races of girls and boys did rejoice and were enlightened.

LifeOnaPlate said...

I wish all the races of girls and boys would come spend a little while on earth. Spending a little while on earth turns them grey.

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