The spirit of Zion, of cooperation and mutual benefit, which characterized the Saints’ temporal labors upon arriving in the Great Basin in 1847, carried over in their efforts to assist others to “gather to Zion” as well.
LDS historian Leonard J. Arrington reported how in 1849 the Perpetual Emigrating Fund was established to accomplish the work of the gathering of Israel and thus fulfill the pledge made back in Nauvoo to “assist the poor in emigrating”. In its first year, $6,000 was raised in donations among the Saints. The funds were used to buy wagons and provisions back East to successfully bring 2,500 souls to the Salt Lake Valley who had remained in Winter Quarters.
The Fund’s workings and general purpose were described in a First Presidency Letter dated 6 October 1849:
“….the Funds are to be appropriated in the form of a loan, rather than a gift; and this will make the honest in heart rejoice, for they love to labor, and be independent by their labor, and not live on the charity of their friends; while the lazy idlers, if any such there be, will find fault, and want every luxury furnished them for their journey, and in the end, pay nothing. The Perpetual Emigrating Fund will help no such idlers; we have no use for them in the Valley, they had better stay where they are… these funds are designed to increase until Israel is gathered from all nations, and the poor can sit under their own vine and inhabit their own house, and worship God in Zion.”
Until the US Government destroyed it using the Edmunds-Tucker Act, in nearly 40 years the Fund spent around $12 million to gather about 100,000 Saints to the Territory.
Historian Philip A. M. Taylor described this herculean effort thus:
“The great impetus [for the immigration effort] came from a belief integral to the LDS faith in the mid-nineteenth century: ‘gathering to Zion.’ Believed literally and fervently, this tenet was nearly as fundamental as baptism. It reenacted the gathering of the Israelites to the Promised Land and was a necessary preparation for the coming of Christ in the ‘Last Days.’”
If you think that was impressive, wait until next time when we review the Zion-like efforts that happened when those immigrating Saints finally arrived in Zion.