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24 August 2008

I Did Not Know That

So I've been pondering Doctrine & Covenants 42:40 recently:

And again, thou shalt not be proud in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands;

And it looked to me like that verse says that we ought to be making our own clothes. But I'd never heard such a thing before. So I looked into it a bit more on scriptures.byu.edu, which is one of my favorite scripture sites. And I found this from Joseph F. Smith's Journal of Discourses:

Every Latter-day Saint should be proud to wear homemade clothes, from head to foot, and when we begin to study our best interests, and the interest of Zion we will do so though it costs us more now than to wear the stuffed, starched, glossed and glittering shoddy of the world, or even the best the world affords. Money spent in home manufactures, is money saved to the community, it is money laid up for future use and benefit at home, while money sent abroad builds up New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Lowell, and the world generally all of whom are opposed to the people and the work of God and will only return evil to us for the patronage we bestow upon them.
We should be prepared, not only to manufacture our own wearing apparel, but also to make all our mechanical and agricultural implements, our household furniture, our building materials, our wagons, carriages and equipment, with all that is necessary for the righteous and legitimate use of man, that when Babylon shall fall we may be prepared for it, and not be found among those who shall wail and lament because “no man buyeth her merchandise any more.”
I see some of the sisters wearing fine hats trimmed with silk ribbon, also silk shawls, dresses, neckties, etc., which are of their own production and make. This is as it should be—“the beauty of the work of their own hands.”

Here's another from President Woodruff's Journal of Discourses:

I have no objection to the ladies—our wives daughters and mothers—in Zion adorning themselves as much as they please, if they only make what they wear. Set out your mulberry trees and make your own silk; get straw and make your own bonnets; make your artificial flowers to adorn yourselves with, and let all be the workmanship of your own hands, and do not import these things at the expense of the means we have in the Territory. I have not any fault to find with your adorning yourselves, if you only make that which you require yourselves.

Brigham Young was saying the same thing:

I do not care how beautifully you are adorned, ladies, if you will only raise the silk and adorn yourselves with your own hands. That is the requirement of heaven. It was so almost forty years ago. The word of the Lord to his Saints then was, “Let the beauty of your apparel be the beauty of the work of your own hands.” If you will observe this, adorn yourselves as much as you please. Make your hats and bonnets, and also make hats for your brothers and sons. It is your duty to do it. Preserve that that the Lord has given you, and waste nothing.

George Albert Smith also talked about it:

The revelation given to the Church years ago to let the beauty of our garments be the workmanship of our own hands, although it has not remained a dead letter, has never been fully complied with; and it is time that we, as a people, should be thinking of some new industry by which the kinds of clothing we desire may be produced, and also have a production or staple of some kind that we can send abroad that will bring us wealth in return, instead of sending away all our money, and bringing nothing back.

There was a lot of talk of raising mulberry trees and silk worms at the time. It looks like the idea was to do the whole process of making your family's clothing (and tools & furniture & things) in house, or at least, in the faith, among the Saints. It's fascinating to read. And it's interesting to think about: if we were doing this, then we wouldn't be dependent on the fashions that are dished up in Paris or wherever else they come from. No need to dress like the latest Pop-Tart Icon. If we had these skills things like prom dresses would be ever so much more pleasant to arrange for. And the difficulties we had finding Kate's dress would have been largely done away with. We shopped for that wedding dress all day, and never found one that was didn't require some sort of modification for modesty.

Of course, the living of this particular counsel is going to be a bit more tricky. I think I'm going to have to learn some more before I can actually do anything that comes close to the homemade, head to toe, that the brethren were talking about.


JennyFife said...

Whoaaa, hold off on planting that Mulberry tree and dusting off the old sewing machine. I found the answer you need in today's R.S. lesson. Today we are learning about "Revelation and the Living Prophet." I'm going to emphasis "living" here. Which I mean we should follow the living prophet, Pres. Monson, and what he tells us and not rely on older prophets for all that we learn and do. Here is what Joseph Smith said (it is found on page 195 of the "Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith" manual): "We are differently situated from any other people that ever existed upon this earth; consequently those former revelations cannot be suited to our conditions; they were given to other people, who were before us...." We as a church are constantly being guided by revelation. The church and the world's conditions change but no need to fear because we have a living prophet who tells us what God wants us to do here and now in our changing world. These quotes that you've sited "were given to other people, who were before us." But as soon as Pres. Monson tells me to plant a Mulberry tree or start making my own clothes you better believe I will. Of course there are certain eternal truths that never change like the principles and ordinances of the gospel and each prophet will never change those, but non-eternal things will be changed by God through his living prophets. Hope that helps and that it relieves you of any unnecessary sewing burdens in your life. (-:


JennyFife said...

P.S. If you've "never heard such a thing before" and you've been a member your whole life then I think that means that a living prophet hasn't mentioned it and you have no need to worry about it. (-:

Ritsumei said...

I don't know, Jenny, it was a verse from the Standard Works that lead me to do the studying where I found these quotes. And it's not just the very early brethren. Joseph Fielding Smith, in 1945, had this to say:

"In the early days of the Church in these valleys, great stress was placed upon industry by President Brigham Young and the other brethren, and it was necessary because our forefathers came here with nothing. They had to work. They had to be industrious. It was essential that they produce the things they needed, and therefore counsel to that extent and in that direction was given to them constantly that they should be industrious. They were taught not to be proud in their hearts. They came out here where they could worship the Lord their God and keep his commandments. They were told to be humble as well as to be diligent. They were to make their own garments, and they were to be plain. Oh, I wish we could remember that. I am sorry that we have forgotten. And President Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and others of the brethren in those early days taught the people and prevailed upon them to start industries throughout this country, to raise sheep, to gather the wool, to make their own clothes out of that wool, to plant cotton that they might have cotton also to make clothing, to plant flax that they might get linen, to build tanneries that they might tan the hides and make themselves leather, and a thousand other things. We used to have some of these industries here among us, and would still have them if we had been willing to adhere to these counsels that had been given to us in those early days by the authorities of the Church, which we would not do. I used to wear suits that were made at Provo, in the woolen mills. I did that as long as I could get them. The suit I have on now was not made at Provo, nor was it made in Utah—that is the cloth—but the tailor made it here, Last week at a stake conference, I made the statement that I did not believe there was in that building an individual born in this country who knew how to make a suit of clothes. If there was one there, would he please make himself manifest, and nobody made himself manifest. Then I said, "If there's a cobbler in this room, he was not born in this country. If there is a cobbler here, let him stand up." Nobody stood. There was no cobbler. And so we might go on."

I suspect the Mulberry Trees are exactly the sort of thing that you're talking about: specific council for a specific day. I don't even know that they would grow here, or that silk worms would be happy. But the principle, the idea that we should be as little dependent on the world economy, that I think is still in force. Particularly since the most recent quote that I've found (in only a day's search) is from 1945, and is a lament that the Saints are not following the council. It's a lot harder to say that 1945 is not our day and has no bearing on the present. We still hear about food & water storage, fuel storage, and money for a rainy day. It's all following the same underlying principle.

On the one hand, I don't think that we're going to be able to fully live the principle of making the things we need within our faith: there are too many people who are not doing it. On the other hand, I am starting to think that the standard for personal preparedness is a lot higher than I previously believed.

Jeanette said...

Interesting post and comments.
The silk culture was a program that Brigham Young started and the Relief Society later took over in an attempt to bring economic stability to members of the church. The growing of Mulberry trees and silk worms seemed an easier option than cotton or wool and they could make more money. This gave the people an opportunity to grow something and sell it to make money. In doing that they were boosting the economy of the Great Basin and making the early church less dependent on outside sources. The program stopped around 1900,when it was no longer profitable. That is a very short and sweet version of the program.
The programs of the church change often. Think of Enrichment and the number of times it has changed.
Yes, we should be self-sufficient but once upon a time it was cheaper to make all your clothes and textiles yourself but that is not always the case now.
Elder Uctdorf gave a talk at conference a few years ago (2005?) about the fact that the programs change but the doctrines, the eternal truths stay the same.

Ritsumei said...

Actually, as I tried to be brief in the quotes that I chose, I did not include several comments from the Brethren that specifically addressed that the council they gave would require that folks pay more some of the time, particularly at first.

I was discussing this with my sister this afternoon, and one of her thoughts was that perhaps the "beauty of the work of thine own hands" refers not only to things that we make ourselves, but also things that we, through our work, are able to acquire.

On the other hand, there's President Joseph F. Smith's comment: "Every Latter-day Saint should be proud to wear homemade clothes, from head to foot, and when we begin to study our best interests, and the interest of Zion we will do so though it costs us more now than to wear the stuffed, starched, glossed and glittering shoddy of the world, or even the best the world affords."

And there is something special about handmade, one-of-a-kind things. My brother makes amazing glass beads. He's making some that Kate is turning into necklaces that her bridesmaids will be wearing. I'm *really* looking forward to seeing this and wearing it. It's already special to me. That's something that you can't buy. The more that I think about it, the more of that sort of benefits I see in doing for ourselves. I think back on things like the Halloween costumes that my Mom made. Even when I was a little girl, part of their value was that she made them.

After all the discussion, my question, the question that I took to the Lord earlier this week, is "Do I need to be making my family's clothing?" The original question is informed by, but not caused by all the interesting quotes from the early Prophets. The original question comes from Doctrine & Covenants 42:40: "Let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands."


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