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We Have Answers: St. George, 1898

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 09, 2011

This document could easily serve as another “I Have a Question” post — if we supplied the questions to which the St. George High Council furnished their local answers:

Should we have adulterers confess in Fast and Testimony meetings, or somewhere else? If we don’t have any ward members receiving welfare, do we still need to donate fast offerings? I’m a bishop without a cool place to store butter and eggs — can I refuse to accept tithing donations in kind?

CIRCULAR

Saint George, Utah, February 24th, 1898.

To the Bishop and Counselors and members of __________ Ward.

Dear Brethren and Sisters:

At the priesthood meeting held in St. George on January 29th, followed by the proceedings of the High Council on February 5th, there were some matters touched upon that we feel constrained to emphasize by bringing them to your attention in this – a public letter.

First, as to tithing matters: It has come to our knowledge that in some of the wards the bishops have refused perishable produce when offered for tithing, on the plea that they had no suitable place to care for it. Now, it should be understood that the Bishops are Stewards of the Lord’s Storehouses, and as such they should receive what is offered for tithing, giving credit at a fair market value. When the prices allowed are more than a fair market value a loss necessarily occurs when the tithes are disposed of. Convenient and suitable places should be provided by the Bishops for the care and preservation of dairy products, vegetables, fruits, hay and other perishable produce. All such should be handled with care and attention and in such a way as to avoid unnecessary losses. As such perishable articles as butter, eggs, meats, etc., must be disposed of soon in order to save them, certain days could be designated by the Bishops, on which this class of tithes would be received. If you have no suitable place to care for the tithes received in your ward please report the facts to us, that steps may be taken to carry out these instructions. Credit for tithing must not be made before payment is made nor should be tithes be loaned or sold on promise to pay. Stock should not be turned out on the range, but should be sold. If there is no cash market it should be sent to the stake office or fed until a market is found for it. When in doubt, confer with the Stake office as to which is the best to do. Do not allow tithes to accumulate in your ward; but where they can be profitably sold, sell them or send them to the Storehouse at St. George. As in some instances it would be more profitable to make exchanges, you will please consult with the Stake office in these matters. Tithes reported on hand should be actually on hand. It is expected that the bishops will handle the tithing in a conscientious manner and to the best interests of the Church.

Second: It is gratifying to find that some of the wards have paid in full their quota of the Stake Fund, and it is to be hoped that wards that have not done so, will pay due attention to this matter. The allotment of the current year’s Stake Fund has now been made and will soon be forwarded to you.

Third: Some two years ago it was expressed as the sense of the Presidency of the Stake and of the High Council, that we sustain the worthy poor of this Stake, without asking any assistance from the Presiding Bishop’s office. We are pleased to find that this has met with the approval of the Saints, as is manifested by the increased amount of Fast Day offerings, but it is proper for officers and members of the wards to know that a more strict attention should be made to the making of Fast Day offerings, with which to help feed and clothe the needy. It may be thought Fast offerings need not be made where there are no persons in the ward wanting such assistance. This would be an erroneous view. All saints should esteem it a privilege to make such an offering for there is a blessing to the giver, as it is written, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth to the Lord.” If there are no needy ones in a ward, the bishop will report the amount of such offerings to the Presidency of the Stake, who will have it placed where it will do the most good to the needy in some other ward.

Fourth: In order to improve the temporal condition of our Stake, the Presidency and High Council of the Stake have thought best to provide for the appointment of committees on our productive interests, as follows: On Agriculture and Horticulture: – Thomas Judd, chairman, Edw. Bunker Jun., Jeter Snow, J.F. Langston, Geo. F. Jarvis, Jacob Frei and P.E. VanOrden. On Live Stock: – James Andrus, Chairman, Rd. Parker, H.J. Burgess, Stephen Bunker, Andrew Sorenson, John Hafen and Jos. T. Atkins. On Home Industries: – Edward H. Snow, D.H. Morris, Ann C. Woodbury, Eliza A.M. Ensign, Jos. I. Earl, James G. Duffin and Calvin Hall. These committees will make periodical reports to us of the respective interests named.

The Bishoprics in the Stake having been appointed to use their influence with the people in their respective wards, to produce cotton to be used in the Washington factory, will please send to us a written report of the names of those who will plant cotton and of the amount of land each will devote this year to its production; also use their influence with the woolgrowers to induce them to sustain the Factory by bringing their wool to it.

Fifth: As bishops and their associate officers are sometimes at a loss how to deal with some cases of sin, and the question has been asked, “At which of the meetings of the Saints should persons guilty of unchastity be required to make confession – at the general meeting of the members of the ward, at the Fast meeting or the monthly Priesthood meeting?” It is the mind of the council of the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles that the regulation of confessions in such cases should be left to the bishopric of the ward in which the wrong doing occurs, and that each case be considered on its merits, and disposed of according to the publicity which has been given to it. For instance, where people guilty of fornication or adultery confess their sin, and their transgression is known only to themselves, the confession should not be made public. But where publicity has been given to it, the confession should be made before the priesthood meeting of the ward at the regular monthly meeting, or if it be deemed advisable by the Bishopric that a still more public confession should be made, it shall mean that the confession shall be made at the monthly Fast meeting (which meetings are attended almost, if not exclusively, by Church members), and that in no case shall confessions be made at the regular Sunday services. the object of this restriction is to confine the confession as much as possible to the circle acquainted with the wrong doing, and to avoid spreading the knowledge of sin, according to the revelation which says (Doc. & Cov. Section 42, 89) that such things “shall be done in a meeting, and that not before the world.” As a rule, therefore, where the knowledge of transgression is known to but a few, the confession, (if required to be made at all) should be made at the Priesthood meeting, and only in such cases where the offense has become a public scandal and reproach to the church should the more public confession be required.

As we consider every point set forth in this circular of grave importance, we suggest that it be read in Priesthood meetings and in the general meetings of the Saints, occasionally, until the contents become reasonably familiar to the minds of officers and members of our Stake.

With brotherly love and blessing, we remain your brethren and fellow-laborers,

DANIEL D. McARTHUR,
DAVID H. CANNON,
ERASTUS B. SNOW,
Presidency of the St. George Stake of Zion.



19 Comments »

  1. Fascinating!

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 9, 2011 @ 8:34 am

  2. It would have been in the mid-to-late ’20s, based on my mother’s age. Her mother kept the kids home from Church one Sunday, and years later explained to my mother that that was the day a young female relative had to stand up in front of everyone in Sacrament Meeting, men and women, and confess to fornication. The man in the case, much, much older and with a perennial problem of preying on young girls, got away with confessing in Priesthood meeting when there were only men there.

    Things have improved since 1898, or even circa 1928.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 9, 2011 @ 8:41 am

  3. Is Erastus B. Snow a relation of the Apostle of similar name?

    This letter is a great find. The ‘support your local church enterprise” sentiment continued with sugar beet factories through WWII at least, and with Deseret Industries long after. Even in the 1980s, my dad frowned on Mormon garage sales, saying those goods should be given to support the local DI.

    The instructions regarding Bishop’s Storehouses are facsinating. When did tithing-in-kind or fast-offerings-in-kind become unacceptable?

    Comment by The Other Clark — August 9, 2011 @ 9:47 am

  4. I don’t remember any such public confessions even if I heard more than a few confidential ones in disciplinary councils. In my experience, it was infinitely less difficult to help with repentance the less public the offense (i.e., the fewer the people who knew about it).

    And things have improved even since 1970 when, at least in the unnamed ward I was in at the time, they would announce the results of disciplinary courts (the term in those days) in Priesthood meeting opening exercises. They would dismiss us Aaronic Priesthood first, while neglecting to turn off the speakers in the foyer so we heard it anyway even if we didn’t understand much at all of what was going on.

    Comment by Grant — August 9, 2011 @ 9:59 am

  5. I agree, fascinating. I’m intrigued that this letter grapples with the issue of when a public confession might be inappropriate.

    I could swear that I can recall an official public confession by a Ward member in a Fast/Sacrament Meeting circa 1970s. I wonder how much hand wringing went into that decision.

    Comment by David Y. — August 9, 2011 @ 11:43 am

  6. I love the line “Stock should not be turned out on the range”. When I started the line, I thought it was talking about an entirely different kind of stock(s), so the end was quite a shock!

    Also, the reference to feeding the tithe until it could be sold was nice. Not something most bishops (in America at least) would have to worry about, I think.

    Comment by Doug Hudson — August 9, 2011 @ 12:08 pm

  7. I can think of one case when a confession to the body of the ward would have been a helpful step in getting the entire ward past an unfortunate transgression that too many people knew about.

    Comment by John Mansfield — August 9, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

  8. I recall in the late 70′s as a Deacon being ushered out of priesthood meeting for someone who was confessing before those assembled. The Priest quorum first assistant was assigned the task of making sure none of us listened in at the doors. And, yes, he turned the speakers were off. I have not heard of this since.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — August 9, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

  9. I remember announcements of a couple of excommunications in sacrament meeting as a child (ca 1965) and wondering what the heck they were talking about. Since one of the individuals was well known to me, my folks explained as best they could. The individual I knew also made a public confession, but the issue was apostasy, not a moral one, and he came back as soon as he could satisfy the requirements of the time. The other person involved later started his own polygamous splinter group in the 70′s.

    Tithing in kind is still acceptable under some unique circumstances. A friend donated a piece of somewhat valuable art that is now on display at the Church History Museum. Just don’t show up on Sunday with a plastic tote full of freshly slaughtered chickens. This is a remote possibility in our ward, as there is a relief society activity in slaughtering and cutting up chickens this week, which has been a source of interesting reactions, some positive and some negative.

    Comment by kevinf — August 9, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

  10. kevinf, we’ll schedule a time in meeting this week for you to confess to the monstrous lie you just told. Surely there could have been no positive reactions to that planned activity!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 9, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

  11. It actually is going to be fairly well attended, just not by my wife, the RS president. I think they are, uh, correlating some 20 chickens at this point.

    Comment by kevinf — August 9, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

  12. If you want, I can always get pictures to post up here, along with a blow by blow account!

    Comment by kevinf — August 9, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

  13. Prepare to take video. Maybe some of the sisters will be chased around by chickens with their heads cut off.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 9, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

  14. Not what y’all are thinking of, surely, but the Church does maintain a Donations in Kind office. They mostly handle direct donations of stocks (company shares, not the kind that says “moo”), bonds, securities, etc.

    Comment by lindberg — August 9, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

  15. Kevinf–A blow-by blow account? very punny!

    Comment by The Other Clark — August 9, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

  16. Interesting post. It had never even crossed my mind that a bishop might not be able to handle the donations in kind. I’m so glad I never had to deal with people showing up at my door with eggs, produce and live chickens. I don’t think my HOA would have appreciated it.

    Comment by middle-aged Mormon Man — August 10, 2011 @ 7:37 am

  17. In January 1908, the Presiding Bishopric and First Presidency announced that tithing and offerings were to be on a cash basis. There may have been a transitioning period while people became used to the new system. The donations in kind that are paid now, like lindberg says are in the manner of land, company stocks, valuable art, etc. I believe there are instructions to the stake presidents and maybe bishops about handling these items and even encouraging people to designate the church to receive these items as part of wills and estates.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — August 10, 2011 @ 9:33 pm

  18. The reference to January 1908 in my last post came from Tom Alexander’s Mormonism in Transition, pp 100-101.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — August 10, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

  19. Hi Ardis,

    I think you just saved my “Tithing and Offerings” talk for Sacrament Meeting this Sunday. The paragraph with stock being turned out on the range is the perfect “humorous anecdote” for this topic.

    Comment by Matt — August 12, 2011 @ 9:42 am

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