Drought and Tithing in St. George
Drought and Tithing in St. George
Note: This story is included here because of its importance in church history and it happened in St. George. According to Ann's diary, she, and presumably the rest of the family, attended the conference in the St. George Tabernacle that weekend and probably were present in the session and heard President Snow.
President Snow, after his call to the Presidency, humbly admitted that he did not know just what he would do; but he was confident that the Lord would show him, and he placed such dependence upon the promptings of God's spirit, and was so sure that he would follow those instructions that he said: "My administration will not be known as mine, but as God's administration through me."
The day after President John Taylor's funeral, proceedings for the confiscation of Church property were begun in the United States Court (because of plural marriage in the Church). All the property of the Church was seized, and for nearly ten years tedious and expensive litigation continued. Then, too, for several years the General Authorities had been compelled, by prosecution under the Edmunds-Tucker Law, to remain from home. Therefore, during this period, the business interests of the Church suffered greatly.
These are but two of the several contributing causes which brought about serious financial distress. . . . I well remember my father's approaching his personal clerk, James Jack, with the warning, "Brother Jack, we must raise some money. Go through all the securities we have and see if you can find something we can sell to make some money." . . .
One prominent businessman presented a plan to solicit contributions from the entire Church membership. He suggested a "one thousand dollar club" to include all who would contribute one thousand dollars each, a "five hundred dollar club," etc., but President Snow shook his head and said: "No, that is not the Lord's plan." The Lord had not yet shown his servant just how the problem was to be solved, but he revealed the plan a little later.
One morning my father said he was going to St. George in Southern Utah. I was much surprised at the thought of his making this long and hard trip. Mother expressed considerable surprise, but asked no questions.Upon entering the President's office, father informed Secretary George F. Gibbs of the contemplated trip to St. George. Brother Gibbs at once asked how soon President Snow expected to leave and who would be in the party. The reply was that he would leave just as soon as arrangements could be made, and that he would take as many of the General Authorities as could be spared from the important work at home. . . .
President Snow stood the trip exceptionally well, but was very tired on reaching St. George. . . .
He had the most painful and anxious expression on his face that I had ever seen, and he must have been going through intense mental suffering. After pacing up and down the floor several times, he commenced talking aloud as follows: "Why have I come to St. George, and why have I brought so many of the Church authorities, when we are so much needed at home to look after the important affairs of the Church? Haven't I made a mistake? Why have I come here?"
When the Lord instructed his servant to go to St. George, the purpose of the journey was withheld. President Snow answered the call to go, and then wondered and worried until further light was given.
He finally went to bed and rested very well during the night, appearing to feel very much better the following morning. It was Wednesday, May 17, the day on which the special conference opened in the tabernacle in St. George. It was during one of these meetings that President Snow received the revelation on tithing. I was sitting at a table on the stand, recording the proceedings, when all at once father paused in his discourse.Complete stillness filled the room. I shall never forget the thrill as long as I live. When he commenced to speak again his voice strengthened, and the inspiration of God seemed to come over him, as well as over the entire assembly. His eyes seemed to brighten and his countenance to shine. He was filled with unusual power. Then he revealed to the Latter-day Saints the vision that was before him.
God manifested to him there and then not only the purpose of the call to visit the Saints in the South, but also Lorenzo Snow's special mission, the great work for which God had prepared and preserved him. And he unveiled the vision to the people. He told them that he could see, as he had never realized before, how the law of tithing had been neglected by the people; also that the Saints, themselves, were heavily in debt, as well as the Church. And now through strict obedience to this law—the paying of a full and honest tithing—not only would the Church be relieved of its great indebtedness, but through the blessings of the Lord this would also be the means of freeing the Latter-day Saints from their individual obligations. And they would become a prosperous people.
Directly on tithing President Snow said:
"The word of the Lord is: The time has now come for every Latter-day Saint, who calculates to be prepared for the future and to hold his feet strong upon a proper foundation, to do the will of the Lord and to pay his tithing in full. That is the word of the Lord to you, and it will be the word of the Lord to every settlement throughout the land of Zion."
President Snow then referred to the terrible drought which had continued so severely for three years in the South. The Virgin River and all its tributaries were virtually dry. . . .
President Snow said . . . :
"All through Dixie we found everything dying out. The stock were dying by hundreds; we could see them as we traveled along, many of them being nothing but skin and bones, and many lying down never, I suppose, to get up again."In speaking of these serious drought conditions President Snow told the people that if they would observe the law of tithing from then on, and pay a full and honest tithing, that they might go ahead, plough their land and plant the seed. And he promised them, in the name of the Lord, that the clouds would gather, the rains from heaven descend, their lands would be drenched, and the rivers and ditches filled, and they would reap a bounteous harvest that very season.
Many of the people had become so discouraged that they were not willing to risk the seeds of another planting, and many had not even ploughed their fields. Cattle everywhere were dying, and the country was parched. It was now getting very late in the planting season in that southern country, and here the prophet of the Lord made this wonderful prediction. Everyone present in that vast congregation knew that he was speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
That evening, father, mother, and I were again in the room together and father walked up and down the floor as he had done the previous night, but there was a sweet expression of happiness and joy on his face. He talked aloud again, as he did the night before, and this is what he said:
"Now I know why I came to St. George. The Lord sent me here, and he has a great work for me to perform. There is no mistake about it. I can see the great future for the Church, and I can hardly wait to get back to Salt Lake City to commence the great work."
When the returning party reached Nephi, where we were to take train for home, President Snow called the members all together in a meeting which will never be forgotten by those who were present. He commissioned every one present to be his special witness to the fact that the Lord had given this revelation to him. He put all the party under covenant and promise not only to obey the law of tithing themselves, but also that each would bear witness to this special manifestation and would spread the tithing message at every opportunity. He made wonderful promises to those who would be faithful to these admonitions. He was filled with great power and inspiration and spoke with such feeling that Elder Francis M. Lyman says in his journal: "I was almost overcome, could hardly control my feelings. . . ."
President Snow, with his party, returned to Salt Lake City, Saturday, May 27, 1899. During his absence of eleven days, he visited sixteen settlements, held twenty-four meetings, delivered twenty-six addresses. . . .
President Snow gathered and compiled data regarding the tithes being paid by the people, but kept especially in mind the Saints in the south. He called for a daily report showing the exact amount of tithing received from those settlements. I well remember handing him one of these reports. After looking it over carefully he said, "Wonderful, wonderful. The good people in Dixie are not only paying one-tenth of their income, but they must be giving all they have to the Lord's work!"
But the rains did not come, and the drought was not broken. President Snow had the daily weather report placed on his desk, which he carefully looked over, but there was no indication of any storms moving in the direction of southern Utah. Week after week passed, and the only word was that southern Utah was burning up under the hot weather, and there seemed to be no prospect of any change.One morning, as I was going up the stairway leading to father's bedroom, I was surprised to hear him talking to someone. I did not know that anyone had preceded me to the room that morning, but not wanting to disturb him, I walked quietly up the heavily carpeted stairway leading to his room. The door was open, and as I reached it, there I saw this aged, gray-haired prophet, down on his knees before his bedside, in the manner of praying, but seeming to talk to the Lord as if he might have been right in His very presence. He was pouring out his heart and pleading for the Saints in the south. I stood at the open door for a few moments and heard him say:
"Oh Lord, why didst thou make those promises to the good people in St. George if they are not to be fulfilled? Thou didst promise them, if they would accept the command to obey the law of tithing, thou wouldst send the rains from heaven and bless them with a bounteous harvest. These good people accepted thy word and are not only paying a tenth of their income, but they are offering all they have to thee. Do keep thy promise and vindicate the words of thy servant through whom thou didst speak."
I could not bear to hear any more. I turned from the door with my heart bleeding and went down the stairs.
When father came into his office that morning, I noticed that he looked discouraged and seemed to have little interest in his work. [There was] still no report of rain in St. George. Several days passed. One day there was a knock at the door. Brother Gibbs, the secretary, being out, I answered the call. It was a messenger boy with a telegram. I signed for it, opened the telegram, and as I was approaching father's desk I could see on the face of the telegram: "Rain in St. George." I was so happy I could not wait, but cried out: "Father, they have had rain in St. George."
"Read it, my boy, read it," he said, and I read the telegram telling of a great rain that had come to the people there, filling the river and its tributaries and the canals and reaching the entire country. . . .
Father took the telegram from my hand, read it very slowly, and after a few moments, got up from his desk and left the office.
A little while afterwards I followed him into the house and asked mother where he was. When she told me she had not seen him, I knew he must have gone to his room. I walked quietly up the stairway and before reaching the top I heard him talking, as I had on the other occasion. I went to his room and there he was again, down on his knees pouring out his heart in gratitude and thanksgiving to the Lord. He said:
"Father, what can I do to show my appreciation for the blessing which thou hast given to the good people in St. George? Thou hast fulfilled thy promise to them and vindicated the words spoken through thy servant. Do show me some special thing I can do to prove my love for thee."
This faithful servant of the Lord, who had devoted all his long life in beautiful and unwavering service to God, felt that he had not done enough and wanted to do more. There he was in the presence of his Heavenly Father, overcome with joy and happiness. The last words I heard, as I was returning down the stairs, were: "Thou canst not ask anything of me that I am not willing to do, even though it be the offering of my life, to prove my love for thee."
When father returned to his office, his face was filled with happiness, and I am very sure that his heart was lightened and his difficult task made much easier. . . .
During the MIA conference in 1899, at one of the officers' meetings, President Snow spoke on tithing. At the conclusion of his address the following resolution was presented by Elder B. H. Roberts:
"Resolved: That we accept the doctrine of tithing, as now presented by President Snow, as the present word and will of the Lord unto us, and we do accept it with all our hearts; we will ourselves observe it, and we will do all in our power to get the Latter-day Saints to do likewise."
Improvement Era, July 1938, pp. 400-401, 439-42.
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