In my search through the sermons given in Territorial Utah mentioning “building Zion”, I ran across Brigham Young’s last address. Thinking that it might be interesting to see what he had to say just before he passed, I skimmed through the talk and discovered the last paragraph was not a “keep the commandments” message, as one might expect.
Instead Brigham talks about… business. To be more specific, Brigham Young’s last sermon ends with him defining what it means to be a good businessman. In short, he says that a good businessman is not someone who is a profiteer, gaining hundreds of percentage points of profit on his sales. No, he says a good businessman is someone who helps the community by providing jobs and assisting the community to become self-sufficient.
“Brother [Lorenzo] Snow has exhibited splendid talent in what he has done towards making this people self-sustaining. Shall I give you my ideas in brief with regard to business and business transactions. Here for instance is a businessman, a merchant, comes to our neighborhood, with a stock of goods; he sells them at from two to ten hundred percent above what they cost. As a matter of course he soon becomes wealthy, and after a time he will be called a millionaire, when perhaps he was not worth a dollar when he commenced to trade. You will hear many say of such a person, what a nice man he is, and what a great financier he is! My feeling of such a man is he is a great cheat, a deceiver, a liar! He imposes on the people, he takes that which does not belong to him, and is a living monument of falsehood. Such a man is not a financier! The [good] financier is he that brings the lumber from the Canyons and shapes it for the use of his fellow man, employing mechanics and laborers to produce from the elements and the crude material everything necessary for the sustenance and comfort of man; one who builds tanneries to work up the hides instead of letting them rot and waste or be sent out of the country to be made into leather and then brought back in the shape of boots and shoes; and that can take the wool, the furs and straw and convert the same into cloth, into hats and bonnets, and that will plant out mulberry trees and raise the silk, and thus give employment to men, women and children, as you have commenced to do here, bringing the elements into successful use for the benefit of man, and reclaiming a barren wilderness, converting it into a fruitful field, making it to blossom as the rose; such a man I would call a [good] financier, a benefactor of his fellow man. But the great majority of men who have amassed great wealth have done it at the expense of their fellows, on the principle that the doctors, the lawyers and the merchants acquire theirs. Such men are impositions on the community, and they ought to be taken and put to some honorable labor such as raising potatoes, raising grain, cattle and sheep, and performing other useful and necessary labors for the good of mankind. Amen.”
Those last two sentences of Brigham Young’s last public address should really get us thinking.