October 24, 2007

God Gives the Increase

Brigham Young October 8, 1855 In the forepart of this sermon (see yesterday's post) Brigham taught the famine-suffering Saints they were in the hands of God, and that He has the power to change their hearts. Brigham is known to have emphasized a gospel of works, especially suited for the saints of his day; they faced tremendous obstacles in establishing the Church in Utah. While emphasizing these works, he also taught the saints to remember that it is God who gives the increase. Their works would avail nothing without the divine hand of providence providing the harvest:

Man cannot control the heavens; he cannot control the earth, nor the elements; he can fertilize and prepare the ground for the reception of seed; he can plant, water, till, and reap from the ground the fruit of his toil, but, until his mind is opened by the Spirit of God, he cannot see that it is by a superior power that corn, wheat, and every kind of vegetation spring into life, and ripen for the sustenance of man and beast. Is it possible for him to arrive at this knowledge? It is, and that is what we have brought the doctrine of life and salvation to you for, that you may exchange your low, narrow, contracted, selfish dispositions for the ennobling Spirit of the Lord; for the Spirit of the Gospel, which gives joy and peace. If you enjoy that, your food will be sweet to you, your sleep will be refreshing, and your days will pass away in usefulness.
This attitude allowed Brigham to keep faith through the hard life endured by the Saints, and they looked to him for strength, which he imbued to them in sermons such as this one. He continued by warning- as he often did- against covetousness in the Church:
On the contrary, those who are covetous and greedy, anxious to grasp the whole world, are all the time uneasy, and are constantly laying their plans and contriving how to obtain this, that, and the other. Their minds are continually on the stretch to solve, "How can I obtain this farm, or that house and lot? How can I manage to get such and such teams? I want to get my lumber and adobies to build me a house, how can I manage and not pay much for them? I will deceive every man who comes nigh me; I will make him believe that my property is worth more than it is; I will sell ribbons for double their value, and I will ask forty cents a dozen for glass buttons that are worth only twenty, and in this way I will build a house for eighteen hundred dollars that will be worth four thousand." Their minds are so intent on cheating their brethren that they cannot sleep soundly, their nerves twitch and they have the jerks in their sleep, thinking, "How shall I manage with this man to-morrow? I want enough out of him to get my adobies." And they lie and think, and think, and contrive, and plan, and the devil helps them all the time to manage to cheat the Saints. If such men should get a few bushels of wheat, would they let Saints have it? No, they would sell it to our enemies and feed them, and let the Saints starve.

Brigham didn't spare some of the poor from criticism, either:
Again, it is known to all that a great many of the poor are as bad as those who have property; they are all the time in a sweat to know how to get their living without procuring it honestly. They are just as covetous and craving in their feelings as are the rich who hoard up their means and keep it from the honest poor; they are all the time scheming to get along without labor. There are many who live in this city without labor; I have neighbors near me that I do not believe get one cord of wood in the year, only as they steal it, and you have neighbors near you who steal your wood. If you want to keep your wood from the hands of these pilferers, you will have to put it in your houses, and if you want to keep your chickens, you will have to lock them up. I have often told you that we have all kinds of fish in the Gospel net; we have all kinds of poor, but after all the Lord's poor out number the poor devils.
Brigham was more concerned with problems arising in the membership of the Church than he was from "Gentiles" passing through. Brigham made an excellent point: it does not require one to be a member of the Church to be a good man. Additionally, being a member does not by default make one a good man:
A likely man is a likely man, and a good man is a good man, whether in this Church or out of it; and a poor, miserable, sinful creature who gathers as a Saint, is worse than one who gathers as a Gentile. A person who is a thief, a liar, and a murderer in his heart, but professes to be a Saint, is more odious in the sight of God, angels and good men, than a person who comes out and openly declares that he is our enemy. I know how to take such a man, but a devil with a Saint's cloak on is one of the meanest characters you can imagine. I say, blessings on the head of a wicked Gentile who is my avowed enemy, far sooner than upon an enemy cloaked with a Saint's profession.[1]
Brigham encouraged the saints to use their meager recourses to aid the poor:
Will the people still take a course to feed strangers, and let their brethren starve? They will not. I say to every man who has wheat, set the poor to building your houses, to making fences, opening farms, or doing something, and hand out your grain to them. And if those who wish to speculate in grain, in consequence of the scarcity through drought and the ravages of the grasshoppers, come and offer you money for your grain, do not sell a bushel for five, ten, or twenty dollars, but tell them, "no, our wheat is to feed the poor Saints, and no one else."
Brigham practiced what he preached. Along side the Beehive house there was an old stone wall. One saint recalled why the wall was there: Brigham had a large pile of stones in the corner of his property. When poor would come asking for help he would put them to work, saying he had some stones he needed hauled from one corner of his property to the other, for which he would pay them. The stone pile moved back and forth on his property for several years. Brigham wanted those in need to feel good about earning their keep. He was against meanness and even went as far as to threaten the saints that they would be cut off if they didn't do so likewise.
If you do not do this, I am watching you. Do you know that I have my threads strung all through the Territory, that I may know what individuals do? If you do not pursue a righteous course, we will separate you from the Church. Is that all? No, if necessary we will take your grain from your bin and distribute it among the poor and needy, and they shall be fed and supplied with work, and you shall receive what your grain is worth.
This hyperbolic threat was, to the records knowledge, never realized; it seems Brigham just wanted to get the saints moving. The important thing Brigham wanted the saints to understand was all belonged to the Lord; they were merely stewards, and had the responsibility to work together to become one. He saw the Law of Consecration as achievable, and tried many times to set it up successfully. While it seems he ultimately failed at achieving this end, the legacy of consecration continues today through tithes, fast offerings, and other donations. And perhaps as importantly, it continues through the known anticipation of the saints that the order will be fulfilled in the Millennium; it is still something to which we all look forward in anticipation. Footnotes: [1] Parley P. Pratt mentioned how God is less concerned with what Church one belongs to than what type of a person one is; the Church being the optimum vehicle to help develop that type: The question is often asked, "Are there any honest people among this sect, and the other party?" I tell you there are honest men in every sect of religionists, and if you try to classify men, you will have a difficult job, for you will find honest men in this class and the other, and, in fact, among all classes and sects of men. You need not suppose that honesty depends upon our traditions, or upon where a man was born; but there are honest people in every community, and in every sect under heaven, and there are those that hate the truth, and that would not aid in the spread of light and truth, nor lend their influence to any servant of God under the heavens (Journal of Discourses 3:177).

No comments:

Post a Comment

All views are welcome when shared respectfully. Use a name or consistent pseudonym rather than "anonymous." Deletions of inflammatory posts will be noted. Thanks for joining the conversation.