December 28, 2007

"Tell Mr. Devil to walk out of your barn"

Brigham Young June 15, 1856 A paradox as taught by Christ is that by losing one's life for Christ, one will find it (see Matthew 10:39; 16:25). Rather than "laying up treasures on earth," Brigham believed we ought not place our hearts upon the things of this world:

We are organized for the express purpose of controlling the elements, of organizing and disorganizing, of ruling over kingdoms, principalities, and powers, and yet our affections are often too highly placed upon paltry, perishable objects. We love houses, gold, silver, and various kinds of property, and all who unduly prize any object there is beneath the celestial world are idolaters. Let every man and woman bring up their children according to the law of heaven. Teach your children from their youth, never to set their hearts immoderately upon an object of this world. Should you train yourselves? Yes, you should.
Here, Brigham applied one of his colorful illustrations to encourage the Saints to "banish selfishness."
The Gospel of salvation has been revealed unto us expressly to teach our hearts understanding, and when I learn the principles of charity or righteousness I will adhere to them, and say to selfishness, you must not have that which you want; and when it urges that I have no more flour than I shall need until harvest, and that I must not give any away, not even a pound, I say, get out of my door. And when it argues that a brother will not be profited by our endeavors to benefit him, that you had better keep your money to yourselves and not let him have this ox, that farm or cow, &c., and strives to persuade you not to feed such a poor person, not to do anything for the P. E. F. Company, that you have not any more than you need, just do as the man did in Vermont; for by the report we would judge him to be a pretty good man. He had a farm, raised a large quantity of grain, and usually had some to spare. It so happened one season that a poor neighbor thrashed out his rye, and was to receive his pay in grain. The poor man came; the farmer told him to leave his bags and he would measure up the amount and have it ready when again called for. He was alone when measuring the grain, and as he put into the measure, something whispered to him, "Pour it in lightly," but instead of doing this, he gave the measure a kick. When he put on the strike something said to him, "When you take that off, take a little out, the poor man will know nothing about it." At last the farmer said, "Mr. Devil, walk out of my barn, or I will heap every half bushel I measure for the poor man." When you are tempted to do wrong, do not stop one moment to argue, but tell Mr. Devil to walk out of your barn, or you will heap up every half bushel; you can do that, I know. A drunkard can walk by a tavern, though I have heard it said that some men cannot go by, or if they do manage to get by, that they say, "Now I know I am the master, and I will go back and treat [toast] resolution."

Brigham knew we will face temptations, have evil thoughts at times, give way to the adversary, but he believed we can become master over ourselves by recalling the good instead of the evil for ourselves, as well as for others. A charitable outlook would help:
I am aware that some will argue that they cannot do good without evil being present with them; that has nothing to do with the case. Though it may be present with them, as it was with Paul, there is no necessity for any man's giving way to that evil. If we should do good, do it, and tell the evil to stand out of the way. You are privileged to be masters of yourselves; you can strengthen your memories, and by a close application you can train yourselves to remember the good instead of the evil. If anybody has injured you, forget it. Can you do so? I know you can.
As Peter said:
And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
Selfishness can and must be overcome if we are to be truly united:
I do not care what becomes of the things of this world, of the gold, of the silver, of the houses and of the lands, so we have power to gather the houses of Israel, redeem Zion, and establish the kingdom of God on the earth. I would not give a cent for all the rest.

Granted, the things of this world aren't inherently evil. Brigham taught we should enjoy things, take comfort, and use our means to spread the gospel, and find and spread good in the earth. Zion must be redeemed!
True, these things which the Lord bestows upon us are for our comfort, for our happiness and convenience, but everything must be devoted to the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth. I may say that this Gospel is to spread to the nations of the earth, Israel is to be gathered, Zion redeemed, and the land of Joseph, which is the land of Zion, is to be in the possession of the Saints, if the Lord Almighty lets me live; and if I go behind the vail somebody else must see to it. My brethren must bear it off shoulder to shoulder. We must be of one heart and one mind and roll forth this kingdom; and when we get the first Presidency, and Twelve, and so one, shoulder to shoulder to forward the kingdom, wives and children, what are you going to do? Will you pull another way? No, but let your affections, faith, and all your works be with your husbands, and be obedient to them as unto the Lord. And husbands, serve the Lord with all your hearts, and then we shall be a blessed people, and be of one heart and mind, and the Lord will withhold no good thing from us, but we shall put down the power of Satan, walk triumphantly through the world, preach the Gospel and gather the Saints. I say then, let us be faithful, and may God bless you. Amen (JD 3:357-361).