Brigham Young Story

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Hugh Nibley

In 1838 the church was given a revelation on consecration.  The brethren asked Brigham Young to go among the people and find out what surplus property the people had, with which to forward the building of the Temple they were commencing at Far West.  Before he started he asked brother Joseph, "Who shall be the judge of what is surplus property?"  Said he, "Let them be the judges themselves, for I care not if they do not give a single dime."

(As in Israel, the amount of the free-will offering was left entirely up to the giver, since it was he who was being tested.)

The results, Brigham Young reports of his journey, were laughable--nobody had any surplus property!  One "would say, 'I have got so many hundred acres of land, and I have got so many boys, and I want each one of them to have eighty acres, there is no surplus property.'...I would go on to the next one, and he would have more land and cattle than he could make use of to advantage" and he would say,  "We have no children, but our prospects are good, and we think we shall have a family of children, and if we do, we want to give them eighty acres of land each; we have no surplus property."  No matter how well-to-do, the Saints would insist, "I have use for everything I have got," therefore no surplus.

There were exceptions, "...and once in a while you would find a man who had a cow which he considered surplus, but generally she was of the class that would kick a person's hat off, or eyes out...or you would once in a while find a man who had a horse that he considered surplus, but...he had the ringbone, was 
broken-winded, spavined in both legs, had the pole evil at one end of the neck and a fistula at the other, and both knees sprung..."

Story from Hugh Nibley's book:  Approaching Zion, p. 349-50.