July 25, 2008

Spoiled Elders

Brigham Young
August 31, 1856

It had been several years since Brigham Young completed his last mission abroad; he returned from England in 1841, his travels ever after confined to the Great Basin. By 1856 Brigham felt the missionaries had many advantages over their predecessors. Missionaries would collect tithing and either send it on to Salt Lake or use it in their labors. Many missionaries, according to Brigham, were too spendy. Apparently some would "credit" the tithes to the church in behalf of the payer, but keep it to use for missionary work, etc.:

...Now we do a great deal for our missionaries, for they gather money on tithing, and ask me to credit such and such a man so much on tithing; this course tends to shut up every avenue for business here.

We do not receive cash on tithing from abroad, because our missionaries are so liberal, and feel so rich, that they gather every dollar that can be scraped up, and then come here and have it credited to such and such individuals on tithing, without handing over the money. This course hedges up the work at headquarters.
Did I have that privilege? No, never; and men should not have it now.
Most missionaries, Brigham felt, had it much easier. Perhaps they would become spoiled:
I do not wish to find fault with our missionaries, but many of them now live on cream and shortcake, butter, honey, light biscuit, and sweetmeats, while we had to take the buttermilk and potatoes. That kind of fare was good enough for us, but now it is shortcake and cream, light biscuit, with butter and honey, and sweetmeats of every kind, and even then some of them think that they are abused.

I see some here who did not have as good fare as buttermilk and potatoes [when they served]; I see some of the brethren who have been to Australia, the East Indies, etc. When I returned from England, I said it is the last time I will travel as I have done, unless the Lord specially requires me to do so;[1] for if we could ride even as comfortably as brother Woodruff once rode on one of the Mississippi steamboats we considered ourselves well off. All the bed he had was the chines of barrels, with his feet hanging on a brace, and he thought himself well off to get the privilege of riding in any shape, to escape constant walking. 
How do they go now? They take the first cabins, cars, and carriages. I wish to see them cross the Plains on foot, and then have wisdom enough to preach their way to the city of New York, and there, in the same manner, to get money enough to cross the ocean [much like Brigham had done (2)]. But no, they must start from here with a full purse, and take broadcloth from here, or money to buy it in the States, and hire first cabin passages in the best ocean steamers; and after all this many think it is hard times.
Brigham wanted the elders to experience similar hardships the earlier missionaries had encountered. He was also aware that the Church had established a little credit, and some missionaries could take loans out in its name. A good reputation in the east for Mormons?:
I want to see the Elders live on buttermilk and potatoes, and when they return be more faithful. But they go as missionaries of the kingdom of God, and when they have been gone a year or two, many of them come back merchants, and how they swell, “how popular ‘Mormonism’ is, we can get trusted in St. Louis for ten thousand dollars as well as not, and in New York brother Brigham's word is so good that we can get all the goods we want; ‘Mormonism’ is becoming quite popular.” Yes, and so are hell and the works of the devil.

When “Mormonism” finds favor with the wicked in this land, it will have gone into the shade; but until the power of the Priesthood is gone, “Mormonism” will never become popular with the wicked. “Mormonism” is not one farthing better than it was in the days of Joseph (JD 4:37-38).


Brigham traveled often throughout the Great Basin, but his last mission to the United States or abroad ended when he returned from England to Nauvoo on July 1, 1841aside from his political mission to spread word about Joseph Smith's presidential candidacy in 1844). Joseph Smith, apparently pleased with what Brigham had done, visited him and delivered a revelation:
Dear and well beloved Brother Brigham Young, verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Brigham, it is no more required at your hands to leave your family as in times past, for your offering is acceptable to me; I have seen your labor and toil in journeyings for my name. I therefore command you to send my word abroad, and take special care of your family from this time, henceforth and forever. Amen. (Leonard Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, p. 96.)
As Arrington noted, the last entry in Brigham's journal for that period, January 18, 1842, was a "poignant understatement":
This evening I am with my love alone by my fireside for the first time for years. We injoi it and feele to prase the Lord." (ibid. 97).
For more on the hardships and accomplishments of Brigham during the British mission, see Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, pp. 79-96. On preaching without purse or scrip, see "Brigham's Bottomless Trunk" and "Without Purse or Pig."


Hans said...

When saying that Brigham did not serve another mission after 1841, I suppose we are not counting his trip to the Eastern States for JS's presidency. He was in the Boston area around the time of the martyrdom and preached with WW on Washington Street after they received news of the martyrdom.

LifeOnaPlate said...

Yeah, that bears mention, though, good catch. I view the 1844 trip as politics and not a mission in the traditional sense.

Edje said...

I think Ardis's recent post on pioneer food is relevant here: http://www.keepapitchinin.org/?p=119.

It really is possible that some Elders were eating better than some folks back home.

Lance & Caetie said...

Makes me feel bad for eating all those frozen pizzas and bean burritos every night while rocking out to "Homeless" by Michael McClean after a long day of seeing media referrals in Milliwokkay.


LifeOnaPlate said...

Edje: good form, good man.

Lance: Nothin' wrong with a giant keg of rootbeer in the fridge.

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