Think Not of Thy Property
One of William E. McLellin’s five questions when he sought a revelation from the Prophet Joseph Smith—out of which came what is now Doctrine and Covenants 66—was probably about whether he should go up to the land of Zion. Joseph had recently returned to Kirtland from Missouri and only those who were specifically called to Zion were to go at that time. He undoubtedly wondered if he would be one of them. In the revelation the Lord said this to him: “Tarry not many days in this place; go not up unto the land of Zion as yet; but inasmuch as you can send, send; otherwise, think not of thy property. Go unto the eastern lands, bear testimony in every place” (v6-7). He was not to go at that time to Missouri but rather the Lord wanted him to preach the gospel in the eastern part of the United States. But he did instruct William to send money to Zion to help the Saints there start to purchase land and establish the city. I was struck by the instruction that followed: “Think not of thy property.” In other words, he was to send the money he could to help the Saints there and then in Kirtland not be focused on his own material possessions. I think that phrase is powerful counsel for us today: “Think not of thy property.” The more we focus our thoughts on our money and our property, on our cars and our homes and all our material possessions, the less we will be focused on what really matters. The more mental energy we put into thinking about the property we have and that we want, the less we will be following the first great commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37).
I believe the rich man in the parable the Savior gave in Luke 12 is a powerful warning against focusing our energies on our material possessions. The Savior recounted, “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.” His mental focus was not on helping the poor or serving the Lord or understanding the things of God; rather, it was on obtaining more property for himself: “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” The Savior continued the story this way, “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” I’m sure for many of us today who spend so much of our time and mental energy focusing on what we will obtain for ourselves—not to serve God and our fellow man but to be able to “take our ease”—the Lord looks upon us in sorrow and says, “Thou fool.” The Savior’s preface to this parable such pertinent counsel for us all today: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (v15-20). Instead of letting the things of the world dominate our thoughts, we must learn instead to apply this invitation from the Savior: “Hearken ye to these words. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds” (Doctrine and Covenants 43:34).
Shortly after William McLellin received this revelation, he was a part of the conference that decided to publish to the world the revelations that Joseph Smith had received up to that point. This conference voted that the revelations were “worth to the Church the riches of the whole Earth” (see the heading to Doctrine and Covenants 70). The words of the Lord, given in ancient and modern scripture and through His prophets today, are the real riches we should seek and give our focus. It is in pondering His words and the things of the Spirit that we will find the peace and fulfillment that we truly seek. I love this invitation of the Prophet Joseph to truly seek the Lord in our thoughts: “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! If thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.”