These sections illustrate how God wants to take care of His children in a way that if implemented, would exceed any of the various methods that man has devised. In section 37 the Lord instructed the Saints to go to Ohio, and so it is in Ohio that the Lord gives His law on how the Saints are to take care of each other. Just prior to receiving section 38, Joseph Smith learned about the City of Enoch and how Enoch established Zion. He was working on the JST of Genesis and with this on his mind, I would assume that he went to the Lord with more questions about Enoch, Zion, and how he was to proceed with the work of building the Kingdom of God on the earth.
The three main truths we discussed in class in section 38 are as follows:
1. Everything is the Lord’s -v.17
2. He wants us to treat others as we would like to be treated- v.24-27
3. He wants all of us to be made rich, but there is a caution. Most mortals struggle handling wealth due to pride- v. 39
D&C 39-40 James Covill’s mission call
These two sections deal with James Covill’s mission call and subsequent rejection of it. These sections are placed right in the middle of several sections in the D&C where the Lord is explaining how to build Zion and redeem his people. Of note is 39:16-18, where the Lord explains that preaching the gospel message will “stay (the Lord’s) hand in judgment upon the nations”. This judgment is war- the way we prevent the horrible wars described in the scriptures in relation to the Last Days is to preach the gospel. I asked the students if they ever started something that they were fired up about and then later quit due to lack of interest, being overwhelmed, or just plain laziness. They can all readily identify with James Covill. Then I ask if they ever perservered through these challenges and finished what they started. We had a good discussion on this topic, and I don’t believe it is a coincidental that this story of James is found here in the sections on consecration.
D&C 42 Consecration
When it comes to teaching section 42 on the first time through, we focused on what the Lord was working to accomplish with the Saints with respect to living the Law of Consecration. I asked the class how many already understood the concept, have heard it and pretty much knew what we were talking about. About 4-5 students did. Then I asked how many did not know anything about consecration and about 10 did not. About 10-15 students were somewhere in the middle, they had heard about this concept a little, but really did not have a handle on what we were talking about. With that in mind, I tried to utilize the kids who knew the concept to help teach it to the class.
In section 42 we looked at a couple of ideas the Lord uses to teach consecration. The first is found in verses 30-31, where he tells the Saints to “impart of (their) substance to the poor.” This is the first idea, that we are to remember the poor.
Verses 32-35 explain how we are to do this. We spent considerable time illustrating this idea on the board. I found that if I knew what some students wanted to do for a living I had better class participation. We had one student who really wants to be a police officer and so we used his supposed salary to help illustrate what the Lord is teaching in these verses. After showing about 3-4 different student salaries and life situations, we showed how this process of consecration helps the Saints and takes care of the poor.
A couple of questions posed to the students to get them thinking were: 1)What would make this system fail? This question stimulated their minds and got a good conversation going. The rich not contributing, too many people taking and not giving, selfishness- all of these were discussed, to name a few responses. 2)What would make the bishops storehouse booming with wealth? We had a great discussion on how important it is to be educated and maximize our ability to contribute. Zion is not built on laziness or ignorance. 3)How are we doing this today? Some students identified that the current missionary program is running this already. 4)How can we prepare to live this today? Many identified that we prepare to live this via our tithes/offerings, and the donation of our talents. We had a great conversation on how this system is not just economic, but that we can consecrate our talents and abilities, our time and our love to the Lord. This is not just about finances, but about taking care of each other.
We closed with a few very simple principles laid out in section 42 that drive consecration.
1. Don’t be idle- v.42
2. Do all this in love- v.45
3. Work hard- v.53
4. Play fair- v54
5. If you get extra, share it with others- v.55
I asked the students where they have already been taught this before. It took a second, but they all got it. We have all been taught this living in a family. No family can really get along and accomplish what needs to be done without adhering to these principles. What is Zion but the Lord’s attempt to get us to really believe and practice this in real life on a much larger scale?
The man who could not be broken
This story impressed me very much. It is the story of a man who saw the riches of the earth as a stewardship, as a way that he could build Zion on earth. This man was Jesse Knight.
“Uncle Jesse” was a man some of the richest and most powerful men in the country tried to break but couldn’t. He was born in Nauvoo and crossed the plains to Utah as a child. He grew up with the poverty and hardships of the pioneers. He got jobs in the mining camps and railroad camps of the West. He lost his testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Though he distanced himself from the Church, he married a good Mormon girl and had several children. One day a dead rat got in the family well. His five children became ill. Jesse began to reevaluate his life and his relationship with his Heavenly Father. four of the children lived and one o the children died, but by then Jesse had regained his testimony, an incredible faith that would follow him throughout the rest of his life.
Utah was being discovered and exploited for its mining wealth. Because of Brigham Young’s emphasis on settlement and farming, the mines were developed and capitalized by outside people. The Mormons saw none of the wealth. By the 1890’s, Jesse thought it was time for the Mormons to gain from the local resources.
Jesse was not rich, yet he gave what he could to anyone who asked. He cosigned loans for people who cheated him. He learned a lot about trust, human nature and managing finances. One day he learned of a friend’s intentions to cheat him in business. He went into the mountains to think. He was sitting under a pine tree when he heard a voice say to him, “This country is here for the Mormons.” There was no one around yet he had distinctly heard the voice and knew what it meant. He believed God was giving him a call and telling him where ore was. He was right.
He filed claims. One claim he filed was on some limestone outcrops. He asked his brother-in-law and expert miner, Jared Roundy, to evaluate the property and even offered him a partnership in the location. Jared declined, saying that he wasn’t interested in an “old humbug like this.” Jesse had faith. The vein found in the mine was one of the richest lead-silver deposits ever found in the West, with its second shipment of ore pulling in over $11,000. Jesse name it Humbug mine.
Jesse found other rich claims, as if some mystic power was leading him to them. Miners in the area referred to Jesse as “The Mormon Wizard”. At one time he became the largest owner of patented mining properties in the region.
Since Jesse had worked in the rough mining camps back when he was not religious, he knew how a mining life and atmosphere could affect men and the lives of their families. He saw men drink away their earnings, leaving their families destitute. He knew the power alcohol had over men’s lives. He saw men ruin their lives in sin and vice. He saw men persecuted by peers for trying to live a faithful life. He vowed that he would make things different. He established Knightville, the only mining camp in the West that had no saloons or brothels.
If a miner was caught neglecting his family, he was dismissed from the workplace. If a miner was found drunk on the job, he was terminated, thus bringing down the rate of accidents in the workplace. While other mines worked seven days a week, “Uncle Jesse,” as he came to be known, paid his workers more per day and gave them Sundays off. While other mines charged miners numerous fees for hospital, insurance, education, and other services, Uncle Jesse provided benefits to his employees free of charge. Soon there was great unrest in the other mining camps. It was still an era when the American worker was exploited by the excessively wealthy mine owners. Miners in other camps began demanding the type of pay and benefits that Jesse’s employees got. Labor unrest threatened other mining camps in the West. The powerful minng tycoons decided that they had to do something about Jesse’s business strategy. They had to remove the threat to their own interests. They had to break Jesse somehow.
The mining magnates banded together to destroy Uncle Jesse. Smelters that served the mines suddenly refused to smelt ore for Uncle Jesse. Uncle Jesse built his own smelters. Electrical power companies serving the mines refused to sell power to any of Jesse’s concerns. Uncle Jesse built his own power lines. Waters was cut off. Uncle Jesse built his own water lines. Coal could no longer be obtained from mines controlled by the mining barons. Uncle Jesse discovered and dug his own coal mine. The local railroads through the mining district suddenly refused to transport Uncle Jesse’s ore. Uncle Jesse built his own railroads. Instead of destroying Uncle Jesse, the mining barons forced him to create competing utilities that were more efficient and run by a better-treated, more willing labor force than their own. Instead of crushing him with their hammer of power, they hit themselves in the head with their own. Every time Uncle Jesse found a way around his competitors, he employed more people, paying them fair wages. This came at a time when jobs were scarce and was a great blessing in the lives of many saints.
To Uncle Jesse, wealth was not a reward randomly gained, it was a responsibility that was given to him. On Uncle Jesse rested the livelihood and welfare of thousands of families. He took that calling seriously.
In 1896, government confiscations and financial sanctions had combined to ruin the Church financially. But the Church could not be broken either. Uncle Jesse was there with money to save the Church in its time of need. There was a day earlier in his mining career when Jesse told his son, “Will, I want to tell you something. We are going to have all the money that we want just as soon as we are in a position to handle it properly. We will someday save the credit of the Church.” This proved prophetic. Over the years, Jesse gave the Brigham Young Academy more than five hundred acres of land, bonds, cash, and trust funds, as well as significant monetary contributions to the Church.
Uncle Jesse also created industries to improve the economy of the region and to provide fair employment opportunities to the labor force. He sponsored mills, stores, cattle ranches, irrigation companies.
Other than being a home teacher, Uncle Jesse never held a Church job. His was a different calling. His daughter, Inez, and future daughter-in-law, Jennie Brimhall, were the first sister missionaries in the Church to serve full-time missions.
Jesse Knight was revered in his lifetime, not for how much money he made but for how much he gave away. He once said, “The earth is the Lord’s bank, and no man has a right to take money out of that bank and use it extravagantly upon himself.”
The fortune of the Knight family dwindled and disappeared soon after Uncle Jesse’s death in 1921, but he had done with his wealth what he meant to do with it. He had served his calling well and he had made a difference. He was a man who could not be broken.
Adapted from Joan Oviatt, More Amazing But True Mormon Stories, Horizon Publishers, 1996, p. 144-146.
See also: William G. Hartley, “They Are My Friends”: A History of the Joseph Knight Family, 1825–1850 (Provo: Grandin Book Co., 1986), pp. 17–49.
Gary Fuller Reese, “Uncle Jesse: The Story of Jesse Knight, Miner, Industrialist, Philanthropist,” master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, June 1961, p. 22
Diane L. Mangum, Jesse Knight and the Riches of Life, Ensign, October 1993.