January 4, 2008

Faith like the Brother of Jared, Revelation, Concentration

Part 1 Orson Pratt April 13, 1856 Elder Pratt began his discourse by reading a selection from the Book of Ether, where the brother of Jared sees Jesus Christ. He then explained:[1]

I have read, from the Book of Ether, a portion of what is written concerning that great and wonderful vision, shown to a man in all respects just like unto ourselves, so far as his nature was concerned, all men being subjected to certain evil influences, through the transgression of our first parents... There is a great lesson of instruction given in the short history which I have read before you; it shows the privileges pertaining to our religion in some respects, and it shows how much there is to be received, and how much we have not received in mortality. We also learn from the history we have read, the principle upon which these blessings are to be received, viz. by faith in Jesus Christ. The brother of Jared did not receive these blessings without faith; he exercised faith in the Lord, in the revelations previously received, or which the Prophets had spoken in former days; he exercised faith in the promises given to the fathers.
Orson describes the great faith Jared had in his brother, their trials and travels in the wilderness, their experiences calculated to create faith in God. He described the marvelous stones the Lord touched to provide light for the Jaredite barges:
This was a miracle to those that beheld it, and why so? Because it was contrary to the general laws with which they were acquainted, though in fact it was no more of a miracle for the Lord to show His finger than to do anything else, or than the falling of a stone to the ground. The same Supreme power that causes the fall of a stone, can cause a stone to give light, and in this instance did perform that operation, and they beheld it, and had constant day until they had crossed the sea. One may inquire, “Brother Pratt, why do you refer to those old historical events, why don't you refer to that which belongs to our everyday duties?” Because there are those around me here who are better qualified to teach you in relation to your everyday duties; they are able to instruct you from Sabbath to Sabbath, and are constantly pouring forth instructions for your edification and benefit.
Orson wanted the Saints to understand they could live by the same principles and achieve the same results:
These ideas came into my mind, and are calculated, if properly understood, to be used as examples for our good; they are written for our edification and that of our children. The heed that we give to the everyday duties which are pointed out to us, will determine in a great measure our reward. It may be asked, “Do you think that it is really our privilege, as the children of God in this dispensation, to attain to the same blessings which were received by those ancient people of God?” Yes, and far greater; for you will find in this same history, in a part which I have not read, that a portion of the same things should be given to the Latter-day Saints through their faith. The Lord says, “Then will I show the great and marvelous things of my kingdom unto them, as I did to him.” But it all depends, recollect, upon the great principle of faith, and you are to obtain these things upon condition of practicing those everyday duties which you are hearing proclaimed from day to day. With such wisdom, and by continuing steadfast therein, your faith will increase in those great and heavenly principles, until you can lay hold by faith upon all the great and marvelous things that were communicated to him.
Before Orson continued on, he reminded the Saints they had a responsibility to read the scriptures, and that by so doing they would have the Spirit in greater abundance, and would better understand the counsel of the living prophets:
If you would read these things in the Spirit, and call upon God to give you His Spirit to fix the sayings of the Prophets upon your minds, you would do good and derive benefit therefrom. If the Saints will give most earnest and diligent heed unto the instructions given in those books which have been preserved, and especially to the instructions which are given by our President, they will prosper and be blessed in all things.
Orson returned to the theme of faith:
I will again read, “And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil.” Says one, “That is a curious saying; I thought the Lord could do whatever He pleased.” This was because the Lord had given His word that He would do according to the faith of the Saints—righteous sons and daughters of Adam—hence He could not restrain the brother of Jared from looking within the veil. When there is sufficient faith in the hearts of the children of men, it is impossible to withhold blessings from them, if that faith is exercised, for if the Lord should do so, He would forfeit His own word, and we read that it is impossible for God to lie.
Because of his faith, the Lord showed the brother of Jared a vision of eternity, and gave him the "holy interpreters," (which, according to Orson, were given to the prophet Joseph Smith). Moroni informs us an account of that vision was sealed up in the plates. Orson then quotes the end of Ether chapter 4:
Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.
Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.
And then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. Remember, when ye see these things, ye shall know that the time is at hand that they shall be made manifest in very deed.
Therefore, when ye shall receive this record ye may know that the work of the Father has commenced upon all the face of the land.
Therefore, repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and believe in my gospel, and be baptized in my name; for he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned; and signs shall follow them that believe in my name.
And blessed is he that is found faithful unto my name at the last day, for he shall be lifted up to dwell in the kingdom prepared for him from the foundation of the world. And behold it is I that hath spoken it. Amen (Ether 4:13-19).
Orson saw the great promises in these verses, and continued:
I have felt disposed to read these paragraphs, for I highly esteem the Book of Mormon, as I presume do all the Latter-day Saints. But many lay it upon the shelf and let it remain there for a year or two, consequently they become careless concerning the dealings of the Lord with the Former-day Saints.
Orson believed being careless would suppress the type of faith exhibited by the brother of Jared. We tend to be very impatient with the things of God. This might be warranted by hearing the experience of Joseph Smith. Not much is known of him until he considered his unworthiness and knelt in a grove of trees to pray for forgiveness, and to learn which Church he should join. We tend to want it all now:
You are not to suppose that you are going to be jumped into the midst of revelations, and by one great and grand step are to burst the veil, and to rend it from your eyes, do you think that you are to step into the celestial kingdom and see it all at once? No, these blessings are by far too precious to be attained in such a way; they are to be attained by diligence and faith from day to day, and from night to night. Hence you are to become habituated to do good in your thoughts and conduct, in all that you do, until you become perfectly initiated into the great principles of righteousness, and continue to live uprightly until it becomes a kind of second nature to be honest, to be prudent, to govern all your passions, and bring all of the influences of the flesh, of the fallen nature, into the most perfect subjection to the law of God. I know that it is necessary for you to keep the commandments of the Lord, and not only to keep those found in the written revelations, but to strictly observe all the words of wisdom, counsel, and advice that He has given through His Spirit and His servants. And when you have given diligent heed to counsel, it becomes a second nature to pay the strictest attention to the covenants made and the counsel given by the Living Oracles of God.[2]
As we seek to follow the Holy Ghost, our natures are changed, it becomes second nature to walk in obedience to God. This is not talking about salvation or redemption, but the process beyond those- sanctification:
These principles are not to be learned by one or two days', or one or two months' humility and obedience, for that would be like a child's going to school a week and being kept six weeks at home, where there is no one to instruct him. It is obvious that a person keeps retrograding, if he does not progress; you are called upon to increase and progress in knowledge and truth until they influence all your actions and doings, until your conduct is rightly influenced, not only in relation to your neighbors, but in relation to all that belongs to your neighbors. When you have learned righteous principles be careful that they never escape your minds, and that your conduct never severs you from them. This is the time and this is the day that your faith should lay hold of this great and good Spirit, and that you should strive for the rich blessings of heaven, concerning which I have read in your hearing this morning. Latter-day Saints, are not these things worthy of living for?
Orson encouraged the Saints to live for the blessings of the ancients. He cautioned the Saints to take time for the higher things, not to be too caught up in the temporal business:
You are to claim blessings by your conduct, you are so instructed; some are apt to be so neglectful and remiss in their duties that they are not able to claim them. They forget what is in store for them, and do not pray for the Spirit to impress those blessings upon their minds, but suffer their minds to be drawn out too much upon temporal business instead of the things of God, and become weary in mind and body, so that they feel like neglecting the more prominent duties, such as family prayer and many others. This is because they do not enjoy sufficient of the Spirit of the Lord, for it is able to strengthen every one of you.
We'll need that strength to fulfill what Orson called our "mission" as Latter-day Saints; to become of one heart and one mind. He told the Saints to pay attention to the things of the Spirit, pay attention in Church, set their houses in order, that they might receive the blessings God promised:
If you come to this house with your minds upon the things of this world, and hear the servants of God speak upon the great things of the kingdom, their words will go in at one ear and out at the other, your minds will be darkened, the devil will step in and tempt you, and you are liable to be prostrated in body and mind by his power, because you have given way. While we are here there is a chance for every Latter-day Saint, and I feel to say, set yourselves in order, ye heads of families, and then set your families in order; regulate your lives one towards another in your families, in your neighborhoods, and in all your communications and dealings one with another. In this way the enemy will not have power over you, and all your works of light and righteousness will be regulated by the principles which you have received, and by the order which should govern the Saints of God; showing that you are sick of your old traditions, confusion, and discord, and that you are contending for the faith once delivered to the Saints; believing that the same blessings which they enjoyed may be poured out upon your heads.
Are you prepared to see the face of God? Perhaps like ancient Israel, we tremble at the thought.
You cannot expect to live as many have lived, and then be able by one tremendous great effort to at once call down the powers of heaven into your midst. All, who will enjoy the privileges which it is the prerogative of the Latter-day Saints to enjoy, must live for them. Why not Saints have these blessings? Is it because God is partial, and willing to bestow greater blessings upon some than upon others? No, it is because you do not sufficiently prepare yourselves before Him, for you have to become sanctified; hence it is said in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, speaking of the Temple which shall be built in Jackson County, "That those that enter therein shall behold the face of God." The promise was not made to the impure, to those who had not sanctified themselves before the Lord, but to the pure in heart. It naturally follows that similar blessings are prepared to be poured out by the Most High upon the Temple that shall be built upon this Block, and upon the people who shall go therein. How many of this congregation would be prepared to receive such blessings? (JD 3:344-351).
Orson spoke of seeing angels in the temple, of having miraculous experiences, explaining "I feel anxious upon this point, my brethren and sisters, not only for your sakes but for my own." With the faith of the brother of Jared, Orson believed one could rend the veil; the opportunity is there for us as well as them. (He did not advance the idea that it is necessary, only that it is possible.) Why doesn't this happen for all of us now? Orson had some interesting things on that subject, as well, which I will post next time. Footnotes: [1] This was a rare discourse, in that it quoted extensively from the Book of Mormon. For more on Book of Mormon usage, see "The joy which filled my bosom in reading that sacred record." [2] As a boy, David O. McKay knelt in prayer on a hillside in Huntsville expecting something akin to Joseph Smith's experience in the grove. When he stood from the prayer, he said "no sir, there is no change." He still had doubts. It wasn't until several years later, while serving a mission, that assurance came, while grappling with a problem between members of a branch in Glascow, Scotland.
I heard the voice that I had prayed for on the hillside. It was not so loud as I had anticipated. The inspiration came what to do to settle those [disputes]...I heard the voice, got in touch with the Spirit, as never before, the prayer on the hillside was answered, not the way I had anticipated, but the way the Lord intended it to be answered. That was the beginning of the revelation of the Spirit to my soul.
(David O. McKay, "Great Power of Personal Influence in Missionary Work," address to the missionaries of the North British Mission, Manchester, England, March 1, 1961; as found in David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, by Greg Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, pg. 33.)

January 2, 2008

"Can you remember good?"

Brigham Young June 15, 1856 At General Conference we can usually expect to hear talks regarding personal revelation, obedience, improved family time, admonitions to read the scriptures and be prayerful. It has become an unwritten article of faith that repetition is a big part of learning. Brigham would agree:

As I have frequently remarked,[1] it seems that the people need a great deal of preaching; they require to be preached to continually to put them in mind of their duties, and to stir them up to perform the works which they know that they ought to do. This at first appears strange, and then again it is not so strange. Our organization is such, we are subject to so many spirits and influences that are in the world, that it is not strange that our minds require stirring up to remembrance, and our physical powers to diligence.
We have very little knowledge, comparatively, though we seem impatient to have it all now. Perhaps that unwritten article of faith on repetition could fit comfortably within the 9th article of faith:
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal [repeatedly], and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
Line upon line is the way we are taught:
As Saints in the last days we have much to learn; there is an eternity of knowledge before us; at most we receive but very little in this stage of our progression. The most learned men that have ever lived on the earth have only been able to obtain a small amount of knowledge, in comparison to the vast store of information that exists for the faithful Saints. It cannot be understandingly exhibited by any individual, not even by an angel, to the people any further than they are able to receive and comprehend it; consequently the Lord has to descend to our capacities and give us a little here and a little there, line upon line, and precept upon precept, as the Prophet has said [see Isaiah 28:10,13].
This should be discouraging enough to keep us humble about what we do know, and exciting enough to keep us searching for more:
But we are so organized, and it is so ordained, that we can receive that little, and still continue to receive a little and a little more, and treasure up and retain in our memories that which we have received, so that it will be ready when it is necessary to bring it forth. What we learn to day does not prevent our learning more to-morrow, and so on. This principle is inherent in the organization of all intelligent beings, so that we are capable of receiving, and receiving, and receiving from the inexhaustible fountain of knowledge and truth.
Of all the lessons, Brigham believed obedience to the will of God should be among the first learned:
It has been frequently stated to us, and is a doctrine we understand, that this people have got to become of one heart and one mind. They have to know the will of God and do it, for to know the will of God is one thing, and to bring our wills, our dispositions, into subjection to that which we do understand to be the will of God is another. We might say that this is the first lesson we have to learn and one of the easiest, one that is calculated and adapted to the capacity of the child, to learn to be submissive to our Father in heaven. Parents require this duty of their children, when they have become intelligent enough to understand that the parent is superior in point of government, and strict obedience is required by that authority. That the parent is his superior is one of the first lessons that the child learns; that he is his dictator to measure and guide his steps, as soon as he comes to an understanding of what is required.
Unity is a critical lesson; one that Christ prayed we could al learn, that we might be one with Him as He is one with the Father:
If we are obedient to the will of our Father in heaven it accomplishes one grand object, namely, our being the disciples of Christ, for he observed to his disciples: "Except ye are one ye are not mine" [D&C 38:27]. "I am in my Father and ye in me, and I in you," [John 17:21] one eternal principle governing and controlling the intelligence that dwells in the persons of the Father and the Son. I have these principles within me, Jesus has them within him, and you have them within you. I am governed and controlled by them, my elder brother, Jesus, is governed and controlled by them, and his Father is governed and controlled by them. He learned them, Jesus learned them, and we must learn them in order to receive crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives. The principle of eternal life that sustains all intelligent beings, that governs and controls all things in eternity, the principle by which matter does exist, the principle by which it is organized, by which it is redeemed and brought into celestial glory, is the principle that is in you and me, that is in our heavenly Father. It is life, it is the life of Christ and of every Saint; in this capacity they are in us and we in them. We must be possessed of the spirit that governs and controls the angels, we must have the same spirit within us that our Father in heaven is in possession of.
Godhood itself is unity with God the Father; there is no other way. Through all eternity He will be our Father, we will be His children, and never independent of Him. There will be no warfare among "gods," because unity is the principle upon which godhood exists. As we grow in this life the things of God will become second nature to us; or as Brigham says, we will return to the "first nature":
That spirit must rule you and me, it must control our actions and dictate us in life, we must cling to it and imbibe it until it becomes a second nature to us. We are accustomed to saying second nature, but in reality it is the first nature that we had, though sin has perverted it. God planted it there as the predominant principle, but our giving way to temptation has frustrated the plan and driven it from us.
The natural man, being an enemy to God, prevents us from being one with God. He has offered, through His Son, the opportunity to put that natural man off, to become...
...a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father (Mosiah 3:19).
Brigham called this "throwing off" our sinful nature:
How easy it is for people to understand and do the will of God, if they will throw off their unrighteous traditions and let truth stand for truth, light for light, and let that which is of God be received as such.
Brigham believed a large part of putting off the natural man was putting on truth; or acting on the good as we are prompted by the Holy Ghost:
When truth comes, receive it as from the Lord, and let everything be simplified to us as unto children, for the Lord has ordained that we may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the truth, and be able to receive more knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, and it is not possible for us to receive it any other way, only as we apply our hearts strictly to overcome every evil and cleave to that which is pleasing to the Lord-to that which tends to life and salvation. This is the only channel in which we can become of one heart and of one mind.

It is righteousness to desire unity, and as a result, to cast off selfishness:
All the righteous have desired to see the people governed by principles that will endure, and that will give durability to all who obey them. Their bowels of compassion yearned continually after the sons of men, and they labored to bring them under the control and government of the principles of eternal life, and to cut them loose from the little, selfish, frivolous, trifling, deathly principles that pertain to this flesh. What would be the result of this effort and desire, if accomplished among us? We should be of one heart and of one mind; we should cease to play the hypocrite; we should cease to be slothful servants; we should cease to do evil and do good continually.
Brigham suggested our imperfect ability to remember makes repetitious learning all the more important as we strive to become one; we have a "treacherous" memory, he said, though it differs from person to person. All seem to be able to remember offenses pretty well, though:
We may ask one person, can you remember anything you wish to, and the reply may be, "It is with difficulty that we remember anything." This lack of mental force is found in a large class of mankind, but to search into the causes of this would take us far back, for they pertain to parents as well as to children, to the ancient as well as to the modern inhabitants of this globe. Another peculiarity of memory is, the stronger recollection of an injury than a favor; for instance, take a person of the most treacherous memory and apply a little cayenne pepper to his eyes, and he will remember that act as long as he lives.
We forget a lot of things, why isn't it easier to forgive and forget?
It is an old saying, "That we can forgive (it is man's privilege), but we cannot forget." Can you forget an injury? No, you will always remember it. But on the other hand, suppose that a friend should come, in the hour of your distress, to relieve you from pain and suffering, and by laying his hands upon you your pain is gone; or furnish you food when you have none, and administer to your wants in everything calculated to make you happy and comfortable in body and mind, you will forget those kind acts many times quicker than the act of throwing a little cayenne pepper in your eyes.
Think of that and ask yourselves the cause; reason as to why it is that you can remember an injury better than a kindness; why you can retain hatred longer than love. Is it through your fallen nature? Is it because you were begotten and born in sin? Or is it not rather because the power of the tempter has control over you, and because the world is full of evil principles, and you have adhered to them? Yes, this is the cause, and you must acknowledge it. The whole world is contaminated with a spirit to remember evil and forget the good.
With this in view, Brigham mentioned that we are composed of eternal matter, that we are organized by God to exist eternally, and to become like our Father. We have been organized that we may organize.[2] With all this potential we are easily distracted by trifles, coveting property, becoming angry with others, destroying the unity that would unite us with God. People do wrong, indeed, but Brigham asks, "should we be so provoked about it?" Brigham wanted the Saints to reverse the trend and remember good instead of evil:
Can you remember to do good instead of evil? Do you watch the operations of the spirits upon the people, upon their affections, upon their hearts? Can you not hear some of this congregation, as they leave the meeting, and afterwards, begin to find fault and complain on this wise: "Well, I do not like this, and I do not like that, and I think I shall go back to the States. I wish I was back in England. I will not pay my money for flour, but I will beg it, and send my children to beg it, and spend my money to get away from here." Have I done you any harm since you have been here? Did my brothers who proclaimed the Gospel to you, do you anything but good? "No, O, no." If they have done the least thing to injure you, why will you not tell of it before you leave? But no, you will not, and as soon as you go away your testimony will be, "Brothers Brigham, and Heber, and Jedediah, and the Twelve, and all the brethren at Great Salt Lake are the worst people we ever saw." Can you tell of one thing wherein they have wronged you? They may have fed you, you may have lived here on their bounty and kindness, but as soon as you go away, you partake of the spirit of the world, which I am trying to contrast with the spirit of the Gospel.
Brigham regretted that those who leave tended to be the complainers, faultfinders, the backbiters, and they would act as though no good had ever come from the Church:
As soon as you are overcome by the spirit of the world, you forget every good deed and kindness that has been extended to you, and you only remember the transpiring and infliction of what you deemed to be evil. You imagine a thousand things to be evil that would have resulted in good, had you done right. Can you believe that? "O, yes." Those who have apostatized and left, cannot recollect a kindness that I have done them, but I can say to the praise of a few Gentiles, who have passed through here, they have recollected the kindnesses done to them by this people. Almost universally, after having received the greatest kindnesses they ever received, apostates and some Gentiles after they leave these valleys, vividly remember and proclaim, from Dan to Beersheba, every fancied injury.
Here is a critical point: those who love the light seek and recall the good; those who love the dark seek and recall the evil:
Those who love righteousness and possess the Spirit of God, those who delight to do good can remember good. They can remember every good principle and every good act; and when they read the Bible, the sayings of the Prophets and Apostles will be as near their hearts as lies are to the hearts of the wicked. By this you may know whether you are Saints or not. Can you remember good? If you forget good and remember evil, you may lay it down as a positive fact that you are on the highway to destruction. If you love the truth you can remember it. One may here inquire, "Can I strengthen my memory and bring it into lively exercise?" Yes, by applying your mind to the point you wish to improve upon, and you can learn and remember righteous deeds if you are full of integrity.
To seek the light, have compassion on others:
Forget the imperfections of your brethren; for often the injuries which you imagine to have been done, arise through the weakness of the flesh, and without the individual's being aware that he has done you an injury, and when no evil was designed. Judge not according to the outward appearance, but according to the intentions of the heart. If they designed to injure you, they sinned; if they have injured you without design, you are bound to forgive.
Remember the good by making it a part of yourself, and forget the evil by not allowing it to control your love for others.
Remember good principles, and when you hear the truth, if you have a love for it, you will remember it (JD 3:354-361).
Footnotes: [1] This is some sort of repetitious teaching about repetition, it would seem. [2] Brigham often thumped the tub on the subject of idolatry:
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 idolators. 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 (JD 3:357).

December 31, 2007

King Benjamin and Brother Brigham: God Giveth the Increase

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.[1] 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).[2]
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.[3]

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.

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.
Brigham continues, much like King Benjamin, describing some of his efforts to help the poor, and saying "do thou likewise."
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.
Footnotes: [1] Leonard Arrington pivotal work on the subject, see Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of Latter-Day Saints 1830-1900, University of Illinois Press. [2] Eugene England, "No Respecter of Persons," Making Peace: Personal Essays, 184-185. [3] I strongly resisted the urge to title this post "Let it Burn!"