May 23, 2008

Implicit Confidence in God: Part 4

On unity and equality*
Brigham Young
August 17, 1856

The grand difficulty with this community is simply this, their interest is not one. When you will have your interests concentrated in one, then you will work jointly, and we shall not have to scold and find fault, as much as we are now required to.
In order to understand our purpose and standing before God and thus to correctly "apply the principles of eternity and exaltation," Brigham taught we must know something of our origin. This understanding of our condition will inspire the proper motive for our choices in life.

We must learn that we have not one farthing's worth of anything in heaven, earth, or hell, not even our own being. We have been brought forth on this earth, organized for the purpose of giving us an opportunity of proving ourselves worthy to possess something by and by.

We make farms, build fine houses, get possessions around us, and these we call ours, when not a dime's worth of them is either yours or mine. This is what we must learn. I have much property in my possession, and we use the terms, “my farm, my house, my cattle, my horses, my carriage,” &c., but the fact is we do not truly own anything; we never did and never will, until many long ages after this...
Every man and woman has got to feel that not one farthing of anything in their possession is rightfully theirs, in the strict sense of ownership.

When we learn this lesson, where will be my interest and my effort?
I do not own anything—it is my Father's.

How came I by my possessions? His providence has thrown them into my care; He has appointed me a steward over them, and I am His servant, His steward, His hired man, one with whom He has placed certain property in charge for the time being, that is, pertaining to the things of this world.
President Henry B. Eyring explained this tendency toward entitlement.

...we so easily forget that we came into life with nothing. Whatever we get soon seems our natural right, not a gift. And we forget the giver. Then our gaze shifts from what we have been given to what we don’t have yet.[1]
President Eyring felt this malady was caused by a lack of remembering God and what he has done to provide for His children:

[King Benjamin] taught [his people] that none of us is above another because we are all dust, to which God has given life and then sustained it. He described a fact which is true for every human being: unforgiven sin will bring us unending torment. And he described the gift we all have been offered: those whose faith in Jesus Christ leads them to repentance and forgiveness will live in never-ending happiness. King Benjamin’s teaching had a miraculous effect. Gratitude for what they had led to faith unto repentance. That led to forgiveness. That produced new gratitude. And then King Benjamin taught that, if we can remember and so remain grateful, we will retain a remission of our sins through all the losses and the gains of life.[2]
Brigham believed this understanding was vital to the Saints regarding how they distributed the means they had in blessing others. After all, Brigham might say, "are we all not beggars"(Mosiah 4:19) and "less than the dust of the earth" (Mosiah 4:2)? Brigham labored relatively unsuccessfully for years to accomplish an effective law of consecration, even a united order [3], among the Saints, knowing that "inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [God]" (Matt. 25:40).

Even so, Brigham encouraged moderation and cleared up some incorrect sentiments regarding consecration, describing his view of the law. In his commonly used rhetorical question-and-answer style, Brigham encouraged wise distribution as dictated by God:

Says one, “It was preached thirty years ago, that nothing belongs to us, and, if I have a thousand dollars, to at once give it all to the poor.”[4]

That is your enthusiasm and ignorance. Were you to make an equal distribution of property today, one year would not pass before there would be as great an inequality as now.

How could you ever get a people equal with regard to their possessions? They never can be, no more than they can be in the appearance of their faces.

Are we equal? Yes.

Wherein? We are equal in the interest of eternal things, in our God, not aside from Him. We behold Church property, and not one farthing of it is yours or mine. Of the possessions that are called mine, my individual property, not a dollar's worth is mine; and of all that you seem to possess, not a dollar's worth is yours.

Did you ever organize a tree, gold, silver, or any other kind of metal, or any other natural production? No, you have not yet attained to that power, and it will be ages before you do.

Who owns all the elements with which we are commanded and permitted to operate? The Lord, and we are stewards over them. It is not for me to take the Lord's property placed under my charge and wantonly distribute it; I must do with it as He tells me. In my stewardship I am not to be guided by the mere whims of human folly, by those who are more ignorant than I am, not by the lesser power, but by the superior and wiser.

Those who are in favor of an equality in property say that that is the doctrine taught in the New Testament. True, the Savior said to the young man, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me,” in order to try him and prove whether he had faith or not. In the days of the Apostles, the brethren sold their possessions and laid them at the Apostles' feet.

And where did many of those brethren go to? To naught, to confusion and destruction.

Could those Apostles keep the Church together, on those principles? No.

Could they build up the kingdom on those principles? No, they never could.
Many of those persons were good men, but they were filled with enthusiasm, insomuch that if they owned a little possession they would place it at the feet of the Apostles...

Such a policy would be the ruin of this people, and scatter them to the four winds. We are to be guided by superior knowledge, by a higher influence and power. The superior is not to be directed by the inferior, consequently you need not ask me to throw that which the Lord has put into my hands to the four winds.

If, by industrious habits and honorable dealings, you obtain thousands or millions, little or much, it is your duty to use all that is put in your possession, as judiciously as you have knowledge, to build up the kingdom of God on the earth. Let this people equalize their means, and it would be one of the greatest injuries that could be done to them.
Brigham felt chaotic distribution was more temporally harmful than good:

During the past season, those who lived their religion acted upon the principles thereof by extending the hand of charity and benevolence to the poor, freely distributing their flour and other provisions; yet I am fearful that that mode was an injury instead of a real good, although it was designed for good.

Many poor people who receive flour of the brethren, if they have a bushel of wheat will sell it in the stores for that which will do them no good.
My object is to accomplish the greatest good to this people. If I can by my wisdom and the wisdom of my brethren, by the wisdom that the Lord gives unto us, get this people into a situation in which they can actually sustain themselves and help their neighbors, it will be one of the greatest temporal blessings that can be conferred upon them. If you wish to place persons in a backsliding condition, make them idle and dilatory in temporal things, even though they may be good Saints in other respects.

If the whole of this people can be put in a situation to take care of themselves, individually, and collectively, it will save a great many from apostatizing, and be productive of much good. I have got to wait for the Lord to dictate from day to day, and from time to time, as to what particular course to pursue for the accomplishment of so desirable a result.
Or, to put it more succinctly, King Benjamin followed his counsel on beggars with this advice:

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order (Mosiah 4:27).
Brigham believed that people could be foolhardy in expecting God to provide and admonished the Saints not to have confidence in God or others to their hindrance:

I do not like to have the Saints, those who profess to be Saints, get such extravagant confidence in our God that they will not do one thing to provide for the body, but omit securing provision enough to sustain themselves, and say, “O, I shall have as long as there is any means, or wheat, or flour; I know that brother Brigham will not see me suffer. Mr. Storekeeper, take the little I have and give me some ribbons for it, or a nice dress, for I want the best I can get, and I know that brother Brigham will not let me suffer.”

Will this course produce good to the people, or are they ignorant that they do not know what course to pursue?
While some may give too much and others take too much, Brigham emphasized the over-riding principle that the Saints have no interest apart from God. (Brigham apparently felt some seemed to be more liberal with the possessions of others, as well.):

I again say that I do not wish any to take chastisement but those who need it, though most of the people are generally so righteous and liberal that they give over every part of it to their neighbors; they consider that none of it belongs to them. Some are so liberal that they will pick up my cattle on the range and butcher them, saying, “There is nothing here belonging to brother Brigham, nor to anybody else, it is the Lord's, and I will have a little beef.” I wish the people to understand that they have no interest apart from the Lord our God. The moment you have a divided interest, that moment you sever yourselves from eternal principles (JD 4:28-31).

*I've been troubled by this particular sermon for weeks because it is both expansive and remarkable; difficult to break into pieces to analyze without corrupting the whole or leaving something important out. (I have been attempting to make my posts smaller, as I feel the average blogger looks for a quick read.) I was half-tempted to just post the whole sermon and leave it be (you can read it here) but there is too much in it for me to not make some comments. So I'm covering the sermon in a series called "Implicit Confidence in God." See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.



Henry B. Eyring, “Remembrance and Gratitude,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 11.

Ibid. Pres. Eyring then quoted King Benjamin:

“And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel. “And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.” (Mosiah 4:11–12.)
For example, Orderville was a community forged on the principles of the United Order. President Eyring describes the downfall of Orderville in “Remembrance and Gratitude,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 11. See also Leonard Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900; University of Illinois Press.

This hypothetical saying likely refers to the law of consecration, which was first mentioned in revelation to Joseph Smith in 1831 (see Doctrine and Covenants 42). His revelation was received after discovering a group of approximately fifty people near Kirtland, Ohio who had established a communitarian society where all things would be "held in common" as mentioned in Acts 2:44-45; 4: 32. One member of the group, Levi W. Hancock, described some of the problems they encountered in their experiment. He claimed a man named Heman Basset took a pocketwatch that belonged to him and sold it and later explained “Oh, I thought it was all in the family.” Levi said he did not like such “family doing.” (See “Levi Hancock Journal,” LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City, p. 81; Church History in the Fulness of Times, Chapter Eight.) 

On Brigham Young's financial condition and distribution of goods, see Leonard Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses. A month after this sermon Brigham touched on the same principles, lamenting that though he had taught these things many times, "there is not a man or woman in this congregation that understands them in their fulness. These are simple principles that should be learned." Specifically:

Do you think the angels of the Lord lust after the things that are before them? All heaven is before us, and all this earth, the gold and the silver, all these are at our command, and shall we lust after them? They are all within our reach; they are for the Saints whom God loves, even all who fix their minds upon Him and the interests of His kingdom. Our Father possesses all the riches of eternity, and all those riches are vouchsafed unto us, and yet we lust after them...And notwithstanding all that has been taught, still the people are full of idolatry, the spirit of contention and the spirit of the world are in them, and they are full of the things of the world. (JD 4:44-45).

May 21, 2008

Implicit Confidence in God: Part 3

On becoming gods
Brigham Young
August 17, 1856

Brigham Young demonstrated great confidence in the church and people he led, but admitted that at times he too lacked confidence in God for himself:

After all that has been said and done, after He has led this people so long, do you not perceive that there is a lack of confidence in our God? Can you perceive it in yourselves? You may ask, “Brother Brigham, do you perceive it in yourself?” I do, I can see that I yet lack confidence, to some extent, in Him whom I trust. Why?

Because I have not the power, in consequence of that which the fall has brought upon me. I have just told you that I have no lack of confidence in the Lord's sustaining this people; I never had one shadow of doubt on that point. But through the power of fallen nature, something rises up within me, at times, that measurably draws a dividing line between my interest and the interest of my Father in heaven—something that makes my interest and the interest of my Father in heaven not precisely one. I know that we should feel and understand, as far as possible, as far as fallen nature will let us, as far as we can get faith and knowledge to understand ourselves, that the interest of that God whom we serve is our interest, and that we have no other, neither in time nor in eternity.
Much criticism of the LDS Church in general stems from the doctrine regarding the eternal potential of mankind, godhood. The gospel teaches that men and women are the "offspring" of Heavenly Parents (see Acts 17:28-29) composed of the same eternal substance (see D&C 93:33-35), and as such, have divine possibilities. Regardless of those possibilities, however, Brigham emphasized that our future would never surpass that of God our Heavenly Father, and the only way to fully progress was to actually become one with Him. Without an eye single to the glory of God, there will be no fulness. We have "no other interest" in time or eternity. What is God's interest? We know his work and glory "—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).

If I have an interest in any object, but should not live to enjoy that object, you can perceive that it is cut off from me, and that my interest and my hopes are gone, so far as worldly things are concerned. If anyone has an interest in an object that is changeable, in anything of an earthly nature, and is separated from it, it can be of but little use to him, and should cease to be an object of great care or desire. Any object or interest that we have, aside from our Father in heaven, will be taken from us, and though we may seem to enjoy it here, in eternity we shall be deprived of it.
Compare the words of Brigham to those of Christ:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matt. 6:19-21).
Christ prayed that his followers may be one with Him as He is one with the Father (see John 17). Otherwise, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell stated in his Conference address of October, 2000, "hearts set so much upon the things of the world may have to be broken." Elder Maxwell warned the Saints against holding the wrong interest.

For true believers, the tugs and pulls of the world--including its pleasures, power, praise, money, and preeminence--have always been there. Now, however, many once-helpful support systems are bent or broken. Furthermore, the harmful things of the world are marketed by pervasive technology and hyped by a media barrage, potentially reaching almost every home and hamlet. All this when many are already tuned out of spiritual things, saying, "I am rich, . . . increased with goods, and have need of nothing" (Rev. 3:17). Contrastingly, the perks of discipleship are such that if we see a stretch limousine pulling up, we know it is not calling for us. God's plan is not the plan of pleasure; it is the "plan of happiness."

...Many individuals preoccupied by the cares of the world are not necessarily in transgression. But they certainly are in diversion and thus waste 'the days of [their] probation' (2 Ne. 9:27).[1]
In heavenly things, as in earthly things, God's interest is the interest of His children. Without those wills becoming aligned, Brigham emphasized, there was no exaltation:

Consequently, I say that we have no true interest, only conjointly with our Father in heaven. We are His children, His sons and daughters, and this should not be a mystery to this people, even though there are many who have been gathered with us but a short time. He is the God and Father of our spirits; He devised the plan that produced our tabernacles, the houses for our spirits to dwell in.
Meek followers of Christ, destined as they believe for godhood, are not preoccupied by cosmic power. They recognize that apart from God their interests would be corrupted by moth or rust.

Typical of Brigham Young, he emphasized the necessity of the temporal; the gospel isn't to encourage passive pie-in-the-sky idealism. In pursuing the things of God, food must be placed on the table, dishes must be done. Still, in pursuing the things of God we pursue our own advancement, and vice versa:

…Still there is a feeling which has come by the fall, by transgression, in the heart of every person, that his interest is individually to himself; and that if he serves God, or does anything for Him, it is for some being for whom he has no particular concern.

This is a mistaken idea; for everything you do, every act you perform, every duty incumbent upon you, is solely for your interest in God, and nowhere else, neither can it be. When you promote His interest, you promote your own; and when you promote your own interest, you promote His.

When you gain a title of glory, or any good thing, you gain this to your Father in heaven as well as to yourself. And every object you are in pursuit of, should be that which will pertain to eternity, and let time take care of itself, only be sure to do the duties pertaining to it.
Even in encouraging "doing the duties pertaining to life," Brigham warned the Saints to overcome an attitude of strict self dependence:

If we can see and realize that our interests are hid in God, and that we can have no interest anywhere else, perhaps we can learn obedience faster than we now do. Many think, “Well, I am an independent character; I do not like to be counseled, governed, or controlled; I wish to do as I please.” That feeling, in a degree, is in every person. There is an impulse in man that separates his interest from the interest of his God, and the interest of our Father in heaven from ours. This must be learned so that you can discern it in yourselves, so that you can apply all your efforts, every act of your lives, to the interest that pertains to your eternal exaltation.

Probation, then, is calculated to test loyalties, to prove contraries, to forge a unity of will to ensure an eternal family of those progressing toward the same fulness of glory; godhood.[2] Latter-day Saints cannot rightfully be called "henotheistic" or "polytheistic,"[3] as there is belief in only one God in the ultimate sense. As Paul wrote, "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him" (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).

In becoming gods, all interests must be one in eternity. Brigham didn't teach of countless gods doing their own thing in countless universes, each out for their own concerns. According to Brigham, there will be no such separate kingdoms of personal power "to yourself, by yourself, and for yourself, regardless of every other creature."

But the truth is, you are not going to have a separate kingdom; I am not going to have a separate kingdom; it is not our prerogative to have it on this earth. If you have a kingdom and a dominion here, it must be concentrated in the head; if we are ever prepared for an eternal exaltation, we must be concentrated in the head of the eternal Godhead. Why? Because everything else is opposed to that kingdom, and the heir of that kingdom will keep up the warfare with that opposing power until death is destroyed, and him that hath the power of it; not annihilated, but sent back to native element.[4] He will never cease to contend with the opposite power, with that power that contends against the heir of this earth; consequently, if we fancy that we have an independent interest here and in the world to come, we shall fail in getting any of it.

Your interest must be concentrated in the head on the earth, and all of our interest must center in the Godhead in eternity, and there is no durable interest in any other channel.
Brigham taught in order to understand the interest of God and closely align with it one should ponder exaltation. The new ideas are like new clay added to the old harder clay. Working over the whole lump will eventually allow the clay to combine and the lump will become passive; capable of being shaped by God:

I desire the people to consider whether they have any faltering in their feelings, any misgivings, or lack of confidence in their God. If they have, they should seek, with all the spirit and power they are in possession of, until they can understand the principle of eternity and eternal exaltation, and then apply the actions of their lives to these principles, that they may be prepared to enjoy that which their hearts now anticipate and desire.

If we will learn these things correctly and advance, and advance, and continue to advance, though the new clay may be continually thrown into the mill, we will bring it to the same pliability as the old, much sooner than if it was ground alone; for the old clay soon mixes with the new and makes the whole lump passive. If we apply our hearts to these things, we shall soon learn to have our interests one here on the earth.

Still, pondering the principles is no good unless they are applied:

The principles of eternity and eternal exaltation are of no use to us, unless they are brought down to our capacities so that we practice them in our lives. We must learn the principles of government, must learn ourselves, the eternal government of our God, the interest that the Father has here on the earth and the interest that we have; then we will place our interest with the interest of our Father and God, and will have no self-interest, no interest only in His kingdom that is set up on the earth; then we will begin and apply these principles in our lives (JD 4:26-28).
In Part 3 we'll explore how Brigham Young brings in the concept of unity; how being one with God includes being one with others.

*I've been troubled by this particular sermon for weeks because it is both expansive and remarkable; difficult to break into pieces to analyze without corrupting the whole or leaving something important out. (I have been attempting to make my posts smaller, as I feel the average blogger looks for a quick read.) I was half-tempted to just post the whole sermon and leave it be (you can read it here) but there is too much in it for me to not make some comments. So I'm covering the sermon in a series called "Implicit Confidence in God." See Part 1 and Part 2.



Neal A. Maxwell, "The Tugs and Pulls of the World," Conference Report, Oct. 2000.

Heber C. Kimball emphasized focusing on "Becoming Saints before gods." Elsewhere Brigham gave more detail on godhood, the power over elements, etc. For example, he called these abilities "true riches":

Remember, that true riches—life, happiness, and salvation, is to secure for ourselves a part in the first resurrection, where we are out of the reach of death, and him that hath the power of it; then we are exalted to thrones, and have power to organize element. Yes, they that are faithful, and that overcome, shall be crowned with crowns of eternal glory. They shall see the time when their cities shall be paved with gold; for there is no end to the precious metals, they are in the native element, and there is an eternity of it. If you want a world of the most precious substance, you will have nothing to do but say the word, and it is done. You can macadamize streets with it, and beautify and make glorious the temples. We can then say to the elements, “Produce ye the best oranges, lemons, apples, figs, grapes, and every other good fruit.”

I presume we do not draw a single breath that there are not particles of these things mingled in it. But we have not the knowledge now to organize them at our pleasure. Until we have that power we are not fully in possession of the true riches, which is the affirmative of the question, and the negative of the question is no riches at all in reality (JD 1:276).
Brigham Young touched on the subject again a month later as the "Mormon Reformation" got underway. He was frustrated, feeling that Saints had not yet understood the message:
Do you think the angels of the Lord lust after the things that are before them? All heaven is before us, and all this earth, the gold and the silver, all these are at our command, and shall we lust after them? They are all within our reach; they are for the Saints whom God loves, even all who fix their minds upon Him and the interests of His kingdom. Our Father possesses all the riches of eternity, and all those riches are vouchsafed unto us, and yet we lust after them (JD 4:44-45).
For his rousing sermon, see "I will take you into the waters of baptism: Rebaptism and the Mormon Reformation," forthcoming.

Henotheism refers to the belief in many gods, but the worship of only one, polytheism refers to the belief in many gods. Latter-day Saints don't accurately fall under either category, as David Paulson argued
in "The Development of the Mormon Understanding of God: Early Mormon Modalism and Other Myths," FARMS Review of Books, Volume: 13 Issue: 2, pp. 109–69.

On a few occasions Brigham Young speculated on the "recycling" for lack of a better term of the intelligence of those sent to Outer Darkness. See "Spirit Recycling?" regarding Brigham Young's views on the topic. For an interesting debate, see Steve Evans, "Your Friday Firestorm #34," By Common Consent, February 15, 2008. For more on deification, see Robert L. Millet, Noel B. Reynolds, "Do Latter-day Saints believe that men and women can become gods?"
Latter-day Christianity: 10 Basic Issues.

May 19, 2008

Implicit Confidence in God: Part 2

On consistency regarding faith, works and miracles
Brigham Young
August 17, 1856

In seeking to inspire implicit confidence in God, Brigham Young emphasized works alongside faith. The attitude seems to be that faith the size of a seed can move a mountain, but one might best exercise that faith with shovel in hand, and see what happens. The Utah Territory provided an interesting landscape for faith; the dry desert was to "blossom as the rose," but Brigham focused on the need to do one's part in the cause. Practical Brigham wasn't advocating a foolhardy faith. Here his remarks shift to a temporal subject (wheat) while teaching spiritual principles:

A portion of our community have so much confidence in God, even men and women in this city, that if you put in their possession five bushels of wheat, they will dispose of it and trust in God for their food for a year to come. To me this is inconsistent; I know nothing about the consistency of such a confidence in God.

But to me it is consistent for the poor man, or woman, that has been gleaning wheat, and has saved five or ten bushels, to lay it up for a time of need; though I understand that some of them are trying to sell it. Poor men and women who have had to beg for the last six months, and who have had nothing but what they obtained through charity, but who have now obtained a few bushels of wheat, are ready to sell it for something of no intrinsic worth, trusting in God to provide for them. This is inconsistent to me.
With all the talk of inconsistency, Brigham now turns to what he views as consistent. He combines the two examples, heath and sustenance, and emphasizes both faith and works:

How shall I present consistent faith and religion, so that you may comprehend the subject? I will do my best, and leave the event with God.

I believe, according to my understanding of the principles of eternal truth, that I should have implicit faith in our God; and when we are where we have no help for ourselves in the case of diseases, that we have the right to ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to administer by His power and heal the sick, and I am sure it will be done to those who have implicit confidence in Him.

Again, in regard to food, implicit faith and confidence in God is for you and I to do everything we can to sustain and preserve ourselves; and the community that works together, heart and hand, to accomplish this, their efforts will be like the efforts of one man.
The past year was a hard one for us with regard to provisions, but I never had one faltering feeling in reference to this community's suffering, provided all had understood their religion and lived it.

Some few understand their religion and live it; others make a profession, without understanding their religion, and do not live it; consequently there has been a lack of union of effort to sustain ourselves, which has made it very hard for the few.
Brigham wanted to establish the Saints somewhere between fool-hardy responsibility-less faith in God and stringent graceless over-dependence on work. The paradox of trusting God and not putting faith in the "arm of flesh," while at the same time trusting oneself to do all one can is a fundamental puzzle of Mormonism. The sacred and secular begin to blend somehow like a chapel fading into a cultural hall; pulpit and benches receding into basketball hoops.[1]

Brigham wasn't advocating a gospel without miracles; he was aware of, and interested in the blessings God could provide:

Suppose that we had done our best and had not raised one bushel of grain this year, I have confidence enough in my God to believe that we could stay here, and not starve to death. If all our cattle had died through the severity of the past winter, if the insects had cut off all our crops, if we still proved faithful to our God and to our religion, I have confidence to believe that the Lord would send manna and flocks of quails to us. But He will not do this, if we murmur and are neglectful and disunited. Not having breadstuff nor manna, if we are cut off from those resources, from our provisions, the Lord can fill these mountains and valleys with antelope, mountain sheep, elk, deer, and other animals; He can cause the buffalo to take a stampede on the east side of the Rocky mountains, and fill these mountains and valleys with beef; I have just that confidence in my God.

I have confidence enough to believe that if we had not raised our own provisions this year, and had proved true and faithful to our God and to our religion, that the Lord would have given us a little bread, even though he should have to put it in the minds of the people in the States to go to California and Oregon, and to load their wagons with sugar, flour, and everything needed, more than they could consume, and cause them to leave their superabundance here, as some did a great quantity of clothing, dried fruit, tools, and various other useful articles, in 1849, the first season that large emigrating companies passed through this valley to California. I could then buy a vest for twenty-five cents, that would now sell here for two or three dollars; and coats could be bought for a dollar each, such as are now selling for fifteen dollars.[2]
The confidence in God that Brigham advocated in this sermon, then, is that things will work out; and as they do, the Saints ought to help things along as best they can:

This is my confidence in my God. I am no more concerned about this people's suffering unto death, than I am concerned about the sun's falling out of its orbit and ceasing to shine on this earth again. I know that we should have that confidence in God; this has been my experience, I have been led into this confidence by the miraculous providences of God. My implicit confidence in God causes me to husband every iota of property He gives me; I will take the best care of my farm, I will prepare my ground as well as I can, and put in the best seed I have got, and trust in God for the result, for it is the Lord that gives the increase.
Though he emphasized works, Brigham insisted God's hand was involved, and that "the Lord wishes to show this people that He is close by, that He walks in our midst daily and we know but little about him; yet He intends to train us until we find out." The relatively successful harvest was evidence:

This year, I think, gives us a positive manifestation of the hand of our God in giving the increase. I do not know that any person can cavil upon that question any more, and say that it is all in accordance with natural philosophy, as the world term it (JD 4:23-26).

But some did "cavil" on that question. Brigham admitted to times in his life when he, too, struggled to see the hand of God manifest. Brigham had his suspicions about what caused a lack of faith. Part 3 contrasts our interests with God's interests, and what it means to "become a god."

*I've been troubled by this particular sermon for weeks because it is both expansive and remarkable; difficult to break into pieces to analyze without corrupting the whole or leaving something important out. (I have been attempting to make my posts smaller, as I feel the average blogger looks for a quick read.) I was half-tempted to just post the whole sermon and leave it be (you can read it here) but there is too much in it for me to not make some comments. So I'm covering the sermon in a series called "Implicit Confidence in God." See Part 1.



Terryl Givens discusses this blending of sacred and secular in People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture. While I use the metaphor of the chapel fading into a basketball court in regards to faith and works, a better comparison is that which Givens makes in the third section, "Everlasting Burnings and Cinder Blocks: The Sacred and the Banal."

The gold rush of 1849 led scores of gold seekers through the Utah Territory. In their rush, many were prompted to sell wagons, clothes, and other goods for ridiculous prices in order to dump the ballast and get to California as fast as possible. For more, see
Fred E. Woods, “More Precious than Gold: The Journey to and through Zion in 1849–1850,” Nauvoo Journal 11, no. 1 (spring 1999): 109–24.