It's a big lesson: Be careful when choosing a business partner. There are scary stories out there about those who chose unwisely — stories about personality clashes and hard feelings, overspending and underworking, crossed communication and dishonesty, lost fortunes and broken health.
Perhaps some of those who tell these stories were not exactly perfect partners themselves.
It is refreshing to hear the other stories, stories about people who chose wisely. In these cases, the rewards are not just a sound business. Transaction after transaction, year after year, acquaintance grows into lasting friendship. In the office or warehouse, at the farm or conference table, little events become something more than a livelihood. Partnership can be a higher enterprise. It is a setting for lasting friendship. Between partners, there can grow deep personal respect.
It was in Far West, Mo., that God officially invited his people into a closer acquaintance with him. He offered them a financial partnership called tithing.
Perhaps the timing, and not just the tithing, was a test. After all, this people had so little to put into the venture.
Those who had been driven farther and farther north from other counties had known what it meant to be spread out upon the open and muddy banks of the Missouri River, living there with the gnats and mosquitoes, making do with makeshift shelters. In these and other demeaning, galling situations, they surely thought back to the comfortable homes they had left behind in the East in order to go where the Lord asked them to go.
Others had not lived through these Missouri difficulties. They came to Far West directly from Ohio. But these had other tales of privation to tell. Some had lived in their own little riverbank shantytown, lining the Chagrin River in Kirtland. They, with their fellow migrants, must have looked and felt a bit like the dregs of society as they made their way across intervening states to a wilderness campground in Missouri.
This little account from Oliver Huntington gives us a feel for their situation:
"Whilst in Kirtland, hearing our folks telling about our being poor, I one day dressed up in the worst looking clothes I could muster, and went down into the village, to see how it would seem. On returning home, an old lady, … seeing my pitiful conditions, began to talk to me about being so poor, asking me a good many questions, and appeared quite sorry for me. All the while I could hardly keep from snorting out laughing but still pretending great poverty."
Then comes this comment in Oliver's writings: "I afterwards experienced a reality of the condition I feigned to be in" (Oliver B. Huntington Autobiography, p. 33).
By the time the Huntingtons and countless others reached Far West, it was no longer a prank. The "worst looking clothes" and "pitiful conditions" had become an oppressive, unremitting way of life.
Then came unexpected words from heaven. To a people wincing under scarcity, the Lord made his offer of partnership:
"This shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people … and this shall be a standing law unto them forever" (Doctrine and Covenants 119:3-4).
Before this Far West revelation in the summer of 1838, other revelations had referred to tithing. But now, principle became practice.
There would be other decisive steps in Far West. But none of them exceeds the towering importance of tithing in this dispensation.
By this blessed, timeless principle, the little events of temporal life become more than temporal. Between partners, there can grow a deep personal respect. We can become lasting friends of God.
Wayne E. Brickey, who lives in Gallatin, Mo., is a retired Church Educational System teacher and curriculum writer and has been a tour guide to Holy Land and Mormon history sites. His novel "Before His Manger: The Long Wait for Christ's First Coming" is serialized in weekly segments Fridays on MormonTimes.com.