Prioritizing Your Religion: Head-Spinning Advice from Brigham Young in 1856

by Robert John Stevens, May 16, 2016

When I think about all the low-priority discussions I’ve heard in Sunday School and other meetings over the last fifty years, I sometimes wonder why teachers talk about niche topics while ignoring big the issues.

I’m trying not to say too many teachers teach stupid stuff: Most just follow their lesson manuals and try to avoid contention, and nothing is stupid that relates to God.

I am suggesting perhaps we spend too much time discussing minor things when there are so many high-priority items we can attend to.

Perhaps nobody prioritized better than Brigham Young. Ponder this head-spinning advice he gave in Salt Lake City at General Conference on 5 October 1856, immediately after learning hand-cart pioneers were stranded in the snow, starving and needed immediate assistance to survive:

Many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with handcarts, and probably many are now seven hundred miles from this place, and they must be brought here, we must send assistance to them. …

I shall call upon the Bishops this day. I shall not wait until tomorrow, nor until the next day, for 60 good mule teams and 12 or 15 wagons. I do not want to send oxen. I want good horses and mules. They are in this Territory, and we must have them. Also 12 tons of flour and 40 good teamsters, besides those that drive the teams. … First, 40 good young men who know how to drive teams, to take charge of the teams that are now managed by men, women and children who know nothing about driving them. Second, 60 or 65 good spans of mules, or horses, with harness, whipple trees, neck-yokes, stretchers, lead chains, &c. And thirdly, 24 thousand pounds of flour, which we have on hand. …

I will tell you all that your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one soul of you in the Celestial Kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you. Go and bring in those people now on the plains. And attend strictly to those things which we call temporal, or temporal duties. Otherwise, your faith will be in vain. The preaching you have heard will be in vain to you, and you will sink to Hell, unless you attend to the things we tell you. — as quoted in Go Bring Them In from the Plains, July 1997

Tens of thousands of missionaries schedule their days to tend to the most important things possible. That gives them great satisfaction and inner peace. For the rest of who are capable, we may feel guilty leaving church to help others in physical or service-oriented capacities unless upon arrival we are directed to by church leaders.

Maybe it is time to rethink the proper role of religion and to prioritize how we can best contribute with our remaining time.

21st Century Mormonism to 19th Century Mormonism: You’re Apocrypha

by Robert John Stevens, March 6, 2016

The Journal of Discourses were the LDS Conference Reports in the 19th Century for thirty two years from 1854-1886. Today the LDS Church does not consider them an authoritative source of Church doctrine. I disagree.

Each of these quotes below must be verified. Although mistakes surely entered into the published text of the 19th-century Journal of Discourses, weren’t church leaders in the 19th and early 20th centuries well aware of what was published and didn’t they have a voice to make corrections and retractions?

The Journal of Discourses deservedly ranks as one of the standard works of the Church, and every right-minded Saint will certainly welcome with joy every number (issue) as it comes forth. —President George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Preface, Volume 8.

Each successive Volume of these Discourses is a rich mine of wealth, containing gems of great value, and the diligent seeker will find ample reward for his labor. After the fathers and mothers of this generation have made them the study of their lives their children’s children will find that they are still unexhausted, and rejoice that this Record has been handed down from their fathers to also aid them in following the way of life.—Apostle Orson Pratt, Preface. Volume 3.

It is impossible to give monetary value to the past volumes of this publication, … Those who read the utterances of the servants of God, contained in this book, under the same influence by which the speakers were inspired, cannot fail to receive profit from the perusal.—President Joseph F. Smith, Preface, Volume 18.

We take great pleasure in presenting to the Saints and the world … the Journal of Discourses, which they will find contains rich treasures of information concerning the glorious principles of Eternal Life, as revealed through God’s anointed servants in these last days. All who read the discourses contained in this Volume are earnestly recommended to adapt them to their lives by practice, and we can confidently assure them that, in doing so, they are laying up a store of knowledge that will save and exalt them in the Celestial kingdom.—Apostle Albert Carrington, Journal of Discourses, Preface, Volume 15.

21st Century Mormonism

The Journal of Discourses is not an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a compilation of sermons and other materials from the early years of the Church, which were transcribed and then published. It included some doctrinal instruction but also practical teaching, some of which is speculative in nature and some of which is only of historical interest…Questions have been raised about the accuracy of some transcriptions. Modern technology and processes were not available for verifying the accuracy of transcriptions, and some significant mistakes have been documented. The Journal of Discourses includes interesting and insightful teachings by early Church leaders; however, by itself it is not an authoritative source of Church doctrine. — Journal of Discourses on (seen today, March 6, 2016)

Suppose Elder Bednar, Nelson, Oaks and all the rest of today’s LDS twelve apostles continue to preach that their sermons and writings are apostolic and inspired teachings; then in 140 years, using the same words as the paragraph above, the 22nd-century apostles say they were just apocrypha.


Living prophets ALWAYS supersede ancient ones. That’s God’s pattern. If not, let’s just have he ancient scriptures.

My response: That is Mormon doctrine but the 19th century living prophets knew better. They knew that truth was eternal and never changed. 21st century Mormons use the law to persecute polygamists. Many 19th conference talks justified polygamy so it was better to just invalidate the entire century of conference talks. I don’t know how to resolve this with love and warm feelings but am open to any good insights anyone has.

Mitt Romney to Address Nation on Thursday

March 1, 2016

Dear Mitt,

Before you scheduled speech on Thursday, if you are planning on speaking negatively about Donald Trump, kindly review Brigham Young’s teachings on our fellow men.

Respect one another; do not speak lightly of each other. Some, if they get a little pique against an individual, are disposed to cast him down to hell, as not worthy of a place upon earth. O fools! not to understand that those you condemn are the workmanship of God, as well as yourselves! God overlooks their weaknesses; and so far as they do good, they are as acceptable as we are. Thank God that you know better, and be full of mercy and kindness. — Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8, P. 147


Robert John Stevens

Brigham Young on Young Men and Small Homes

by Robert John Stevens, February 18, 2016

Brigham Young founded 350 to 400 settlements in Utah, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming, and established a system of land distribution later ratified by Congress.

He taught that young men should build a 10×10 home and beautify its exterior with flowers and shade trees1, and that a one-and-one-quarter-acre city lot was large enough to sustain a small family.2

Considering how difficult the U.S. Government has made it for young families to form independent households, and for innovators to start and succeed, consider how much more relevant Brigham Young’s wisdom is today.

I have a solution for U.S. public lands: Let entrepreneurs and their families homestead it so they can live and work together inexpensively, and if their efforts result in entrepreneurial success that benefits the human family then let them have it.

Here is an example of a modern 160 Sq Ft Home.

1 Discourses of Brigham Young by John A. Widtsoe. I’ll post the specifics later.

“I will give each of the young men in Israel, who have arrived at an age to marry, a mission to go straightway and get married to a good sister, fence a city lot, lay out a garden and orchard and make a home, and especially do not forget to plant a proper proportion of mulberry trees. This is the mission that I give to all the young men in Israel. And I say to you, sisters, if you do not know how to milk a cow, you can soon learn. If you do not know how to feed the cows, you can learn. If you do not know how to feed the chickens, get them and learn how, and if your husband takes you to live in ever so small and humble a cottage, make it neat and nice and clean, and set out flowers around the doors, and let the husband plant fruit trees and shade trees, and let wives help their husbands that they may be encouraged to take hold of more important business that will create an income sufficient to sustain their wives, and by economy and care become wealthy in a short time, and have your carriage to ride in. What a satisfaction it will be to you to know that what you possess is the result of your industry and economy.” — Journal of Discourses Vol 12, p. 200

2 “A central public problem was finding places to accommodate the incoming Saints. Salt Lake City was divided into ten-acre blocks, and each family head was allotted by community drawing a one-and-one-fourth-acre lot on one of the blocks in the city. There people would keep their livestock, gardens, and other “home” properties. — Leonard Arrington on Brigham Young

Brigham Young on False Theories

This is an outstanding observation by Brigham Young that reminds me of the White House lawyers who betray the U.S. Constitution to uphold the President in his unlawful constitutional breaches:

When a false theory has to be maintained, it requires to be set forth with much care; it requires study, and learning, and cunning sophistry to gild over a falsehood and give it the semblance of truth, and make it plausible and congenial to the feelings of the people; but the most simple and unlearned person can tell you the truth. A child can tell you the truth, in childlike language, while falsehood requires the lawyer and the priest to tell it to make it at all plausible; it requires a scholastic education to make falsehood pass for truth…
Men are educated to promulgate and sustain false theories to make money, and to create and uphold powerful sects.—Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:214

Brigham Young on Political Parties

The Church of Jesus Christ could not exist, and be divided up into parties. Where such disunion exists in any government, it ultimately becomes the means of the utter overthrow of that government or people, unless a timely remedy is applied. Party spirit once made its appearance in heaven, but was promptly checked.—Journal of Discourses 9:332

Brigham Young on Tithing

I love to read the humor and wisdom of Brigham Young and wish I could commit his every word to memory. I wonder if his audience burst out laughing as I did:

If the people will pay their tithing, we will go and do the work that is required of us. It is very true that the poor pay their tithing better than the rich do. If the rich would pay their tithing we should have plenty. The poor are faithful and prompt in paying their tithing, but the rich can hardly afford to pay theirs—they have too much. If a man is worth enough that he would have a thousand dollars to pay, it pinches him. If he has only ten dollars he can pay one; if he has only one dollar he can pay ten cents; it does not hurt him at all. If he has a hundred dollars he can possibly pay ten. If he has a thousand dollars he looks over it a little and says, “I guess I will pay it; it ought to be paid anyhow;” and he manages to pay his ten dollars or his hundred dollars. But suppose a man is wealthy enough to pay ten thousand, he looks that over a good many times, and says, “I guess I will wait until I get a little more, and then I will pay a good deal.” And they wait and wait, like an old gentleman in the east; he waited and waited and waited to pay his tithing until he went down, I guess, to hell, I do not know exactly; but he went to Hades, which we call hell. He went out of the world, and this is the way with a great many. They wait and continue waiting, until, finally, the character comes along who is called Death, and he slips up to them and takes away their breath, then they are gone and cannot pay their tithing, they are too late, and so it goes.—Journal of Discourses 15:163-164, and quoted in Discourses of Brigham Young, page 175