by Ronald P. Millett
Reprinted from Meridian Magazine (8 Apr 2002)
©2002 by Ronald P. Millett. All rights Reserved.
As the Israelites prepared to enter the promised land of Canaan, the Lord revealed to Moses a plan that included storing food in preparation for Sabbath and Jubilee years. The storage of food for these sacred years of renewal and freedom also provided incidental protection from famines and other calamities. In our day these same positive principles appear to be at the foundation of the modern Church home production and storage program that is receiving renewed emphasis.
|Sabbath Year||7 Years|
|Jubilee Year||49 Years|
This religious focus was supported by the commandment to minimize the temporal concerns of life during the Sabbath time period. For the weekly Sabbath day, there was the commandment to rest from their labors, including even the stranger within their gates (Exodus 20:10, Deut. 5:14). During the seventh month of Tishri, the Lord instituted the most sacred feast days or holy days of the Jewish year. This included the ten days of preparation for the most holy of all days, the Day of Atonement. During the seventh thousand year "day" of history, it is prophesied that "the day shall come that the earth shall rest." (Moses 7:61) This renewal of the earth will be accompanied by monumental changes that will transform the earth itself back into a paradisiacal state.
The details of the temporal requirements for the celebration of the Sabbath and Jubilee years also involve the same Sabbath principles of rest from normal labors to devote attention to the service of God. The Lord commanded that "the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard." (Leviticus 25:4) After seven Sabbath years the Lord further commanded that "a jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed. For it is the jubilee; it shall be holy unto you"(Leviticus 25:11-12). Just as a rest from daily labors on the Sabbath day was key to the spiritual and temporal progress of the nation, allowing the land to rest would let the Israelites focus on the spiritual renewal and true liberty that the Lord wanted to increase during these holy years. Debts were to be forgiven and slaves were to be freed. Indeed, during the Jubilee year they were to "proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof" (Leviticus 25:10) This description of the Jubilee year is inscribed on the United States Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
For the Sabbath and Jubilee years, the Lord didn't promise a twenty or thirty percent surplus crop during each of the six years to supply their temporal needs during the holy years. Rather, he promised that the sixth year would provide an amazing three years worth of crops every time that year came around.
Notice that each sixth year was to provide three years worth of food. This would supply the sixth year itself, the Sabbath year and the Jubilee year. But only once in seven cycles would that third year's supply be needed to sustain them during the following Jubilee year. (The fiftieth (Jubilee) year was the same as the first year of the next cycle.) We might wonder why the Lord promised so much extra food during every 49-year period. Would not that supply be useful for the times of scarcity, famine and war that periodically would afflict Israel? Could it be that an automatic side effect of observing the Sabbath and Jubilee years provided Israel with a impressive nationwide preparedness program for extreme emergencies?
"And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord." (Luke 4:17-19, see Isaiah 61:1-2)
This scripture from Isaiah was universally understood to refer to the Messiah. Jesus announced that he personally was the fulfillment of this prophesy. He said: "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." (Luke 4:21)
President Joseph F. Smith saw in vision the joyous reception that the Savior received in the spirit world from the righteous spirits.
"They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful" (D&C 138:16, 18 emphasis added).
After personally liberating those who had been righteous from the power of death, the Savior also organized His disciples to preach the gospel to the dead who had not been obedient or known the fulness of the gospel. In the end all of "the dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God" (D&C 138:58). Thus the Lord truly fulfilled the mission to "proclaim liberty" to "all of the inhabitants" who live or have lived on the world (Leviticus 25:10).
Although there is a strong tradition about which year is the Sabbath year, the knowledge of which of the seven first years of the 49-year cycle is the Jubilee seems to have been lost. Using the Jewish formula for Sabbath years, the traditional LDS birthday of Christ on April 6, 1 BC would be in the middle of a first year, a possible Jubilee year, starting in September, 2 BC and ending in September, 1 BC. It is interesting to note that none of the other proposed birthday years for the Savior from 6 BC until AD 1 would fall in a first year of the cycle, and hence possible jubilee year.
The Jews in Israel in recent times have been striving to celebrate that Sabbath year with more diligence. In past years the Jewish farmers were allowed to grow crops on Jewish land during Sabbath years as long as they only sold to "non-Jews." The Arabs would, of course, simply turn around and sell the food back to the Jews, effectively short circuiting the Lord's command in Leviticus to let the land rest every seventh year.
This last Sabbath year (2000-2001) those who broke the Sabbath year laws suffered real penalties because of the growing power of the orthodox rabbis. On September 30, 2000, the first day of the seventh month of Tishri, the Jews began the celebration of the traditional Sabbath year or shmita. Grocers who would sell food grown during the Sabbath year on Jewish land could lose their kosher licenses which means that religious Jews will not buy from them:
"Yohoshua Polak, the chairman of the religious council in Jerusalem, said that the consequences of ignoring God's commandments were severe. 'One of the reasons for the people of Israel going into exile was lack of observance of shmita requirements,' he said."
The news article commented that Jewish farmers lose a lot of money during the Sabbath year. This is similar to the comments that we hear about how impossible it is to observe a Sabbath day by being closed for business on Sunday. But even a left-wing non-orthodox leader, Anat Hoffman, praised Jerusalem's observance of this holy year: "I am pleased to be living in a city that observes this ancient Jewish custom."
The longstanding practice of allowing teachers and university professors to take a periodic "sabbatical" year to rest and renew their minds and spirits comes from the Sabbath year doctrine.
"Perhaps many feel a little sober because our bread is cut off, but I am glad of it, because it will be a warning to us, and teach us to lay it up in future, as we have been told. How many times have you been told to store up your wheat against the hard times that are coming upon the nations of the earth? When we first came into these valleys our President told us to lay up stores of all kinds of grain, that the earth might rest once in seven years. The earth is determined to rest, and it is right that it should. It only requires a few grasshoppers to make the earth rest, they can soon clear it. This is the seventh year, did you ever think of it?"
The seagulls were sent to save the pioneers from starvation in 1848. President Young then gave instructions to observe the principles of the Sabbath year to allow the land to rest every seven years. Counting from the first full growing season of 1848, the year 1853 was the sixth year, the year with the plentiful harvest of a three years' supply (for 1853, 1854 and 1855). If 1854 had been observed as a Sabbath year as President Young had proposed, the land would have been left uncultivated and could have even partially interrupted the grasshoppers' proliferation cycle. Instead of having three fourths of their grain destroyed by grasshoppers in 1855 in the worst grasshopper plague in pioneer history, the insects might not have even come, being removed by the Lord and their decrease also facilitated by the natural effects of leaving the land uncultivated. Another possibility is that the clouds of "the great grasshopper invasion" might have still come in 1855, but because of the Saints' preparations and the bounteous harvests given by the Lord to prepare for the Sabbath year, this scourge might have caused the saints little more than some inconvenience. The Lord wanted them to enjoy a year of rest, to actually give them a vacation from some of their strenuous pioneer labors, if they would follow the Prophet's counsel. But instead, the saints had a terrible famine right in the middle of the rapid growth of the Church and immigration to the Salt Lake valley during the 1850's including over 3,000 that would come by handcart between 1856 and 1860.
In General Conference in October, 1999, Elder L. Tom Perry devoted his talk to applications of the spirit of the Jubilee year to modern times and a suggestion to apply these principles in the year 2000:
"Instructions are given for the year of jubilee and its observance. I believe there is a message for us in how Israel celebrated that special year.... Have we placed the opportunity for eternal blessings ahead of worldly ambitions? Are there parts of our lives that we could rest for a season in an effort to renew our souls so we can be more productive, especially in the ways that matter most to the Lord?"
The return to spiritual and temporal values exemplified by the Sabbath and Jubilee years are surely a powerful prescription for the difficulties of our modern society.
While it is very important to follow this counsel to be prepared during coming emergencies, the prophets have also consistently reminded us of a more positive approach that sounds very much like the basic principles of storing food for the Sabbath and Jubilee years. In a nationally televised interview, 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace asked President Hinckley about the year's supply program. President Hinckley responded that "we teach self-reliance as a principle of life, that we ought to provide for ourselves and take care of our own needs."
President Spencer W. Kimball said that "We have placed considerable emphasis on personal and family preparedness. ... I also hope that we are understanding and accentuating the positive and not the negative. I like the way the Relief Society teaches personal and family preparedness as 'provident living.'"
1. Lenet H. Read, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, "Joseph Smith's Receipt of the Plates and the Israelite Feast of Trumpets,"Vol 2, Number 2. 1993. p. 112. The "High Holy days" in the fall include the Feast of Tabernacles, starting on 15 Tishri.
2. Truman G. Madsen, "A Day of Rejoicing," Meridian Magazine, May 16, 2000: "We noted how they observed the Sabbath, especially Shabbat Eve. That triggered in me a great interest in searching their lore for the roots of Sabbath observance."
3. Lenet H. Read, "Symbols of the Harvest: Old Testament Holy Days and the Lord's Ministry," Ensign, January, 1975: "The fifth and holiest of all Israelite holy days is the Day of Atonement, known today as Yom Kippur, which is full of witnesses of the Savior."
4. Rodney Turner, "Prophecies and Promises of the Doctrine and Covenants," Ensign, December 1972: "When he establishes his millennial government, the Lord has promised the Saints no ruler but Christ, 'for I will be your king and watch over you.' (D&C 38:21.) It is then that the Saints 'shall be a free people, and ye shall have no laws but my laws when I come.' (D&C 38:22.) The Lord has promised the Saints that they 'shall be the richest of all people.' D&C 38:39.) They shall inherit the kingdom (D&C 38:9, 15; D&C 78:13; D&C 82:2-3; D&C 136:41) and will dwell upon this earth both in time and in eternity (D&C 38:20). When the earth receives its paradisaical glory, it will yield of its strength to the blessing of all of its inhabitants. (D&C 59:16-20.)"
5. "Frequently Asked Questions about the Liberty Bell,"Liberty Bell Museum, 1997, http://www.libertybellmuseum.com/faqs.htm.
6. Exodus 16:22, 29-30: "And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread.... See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day."
7. Jewish Web Guide: Ask the Rabbi. "I was wondering when the shemita year was?" http://www.jewishwebguide.com/askrabbi/showqa.asp?ID=38: "The current year 5761 is a shmita year. A simple rule of thumb for calculating the shmita year is that it is a year in the Jewish calendar that is a multiple of seven. Thus 5761 is a shmita year, for 7 x 823=5761. However, that is only coincidental, as the calculation of shmita really has nothing to do with calculation of years in the Jewish calendar. The calculation of shmita began after the people of Israel captured the Land of Canaan in antiquity. This has led to involved calculations and controversy as well. But the abovementioned calculation has been accepted by tradition, and therefore the shmita laws apply to the current year and all other years that are a multiple of seven."
8. Jewish Web Guide: Ask the Rabbi. "When is the next Jubilee Year?", http://www.jewish.com/askarabbi/askarabbi/askr709.htm: "Well you might be surprised to know that nobody really knows when the next Jubilee Year is going to be."
9. Searching the scriptures for Jubilee phrases "proclaim liberty" and "proclaiming liberty" yields references in Leviticus, Isaiah, D&C 138, and the following from Jeremiah: "This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people which [were] at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them." (Jeremiah 34:8) The Lord commanded the people under Zedekiah to free all their slaves as required for the celebrations of the Sabbath and Jubilee years. Zedekiah and his people at first complied with the Word of the Lord and freed their slaves but then they again made slaves of their temporarily free servants. The Lord then proclaimed that instead of destroying the Babylonians and delivering the nation "therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth." (Jeremiah 34:17 emphasis added) The final destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B. C. came not long after this episode of willful disobedience to the principles of the Sabbath and Jubilee years.
10. "Rabbis Order Fallow Land in Sabbath year," The Times, London, August 28, 2000, internet edition. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/ Access to the archive requires a subscription. http://hismercy.org/emails/00/aug00/29/14.html quotes from this article. See also: Nicole Gaouette, "THE FALLOW YEAR: One of Moses' other edicts sows discontent," Christian Science Monitor, September 12, 2000. http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/2000/09/12/p1s5.htm: "Few millennia ago, Moses picked his way down the dusty scrub of Mount Sinai to relay another of God's edicts to the children of Israel: "When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord" every seventh year. But with the beginning of Jewish year 5671 on Sept. 30 and the onset of another agricultural sabbatical, Israelis are bickering fiercely about how to honor the order not to 'sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.' The squabbling has led to death threats, denunciations, and predictions of economic woe. It has set rabbi against rabbi and roiled farmers, consumers, and politicians. But if the sabbatical year is making Israelis behave like a stiffnecked people, as Moses would say, the furor is also revealing the growing strength of religious conservatives and the difficulty of building a modern state in a land heavy with biblical history. .... An early religious leader hit on a solution. Jews would "sell" their land to a non-Jew for the year, allowing the land to continue to be worked. The land transactions are on paper only, with no money changing hands. This has become such accepted practice that the Chief Rabbinate, the national religious body, arranges the transactions and issues deeds of sale. But for ultra-Orthodox Jews, who don't recognize the secular state or the Chief Rabbinate, this compromise has always been second best. Last month, a leading Jerusalem rabbi announced that enough was enough. Israel now has the economic strength to end the "deed-of-sale" fiction and observe shmita properly by importing produce. In short order, the rabbinate of Jerusalem declared that any restaurant, hotel, or grocery store selling vegetables and fruit from Israel would lose its kosher license - a serious economic threat since most religious Jews won't eat food that doesn't adhere to kosher dietary laws."
12. www.dictionary.com entry for "sabbatical year":
13. Journal of Discourses Volume 3, page 57. (July 13, 1855).
14. Davis Bitton and Linda P.Wilcox, "Pestiferous Ironclads: The Grasshopper Problem in Pioneer Utah," Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 4, http://www.utahhistorytogo.org/ironclads.html.
"One of the most dramatic and famous moments in Mormon history occurred in 1848 when the first crop in Utah was threatened by a plague of crickets. .... Not so well known are the other attacks by crickets and far more frequent attacks by grasshoppers. Over and over again these insect invasions threatened the crops of the Mormons."
"Often the first approach of the grasshoppers was signaled when swarms of them appeared in the air overhead----an awesome sight. Settlers described them as looking like a 'heavy snowstorm' or snowflakes and so numerous as to cover the sky and darken the sun. The Deseret News reported one massive appearance in which 'the grasshoppers filled the sky for three miles deep, or as far as they could be seen without the aid of telescopes, and somewhat resembling a snow storm.'"
"Grasshoppers, rather than the more famous crickets, caused most of the insect damage in pioneer Utah. Crickets were hardly noticeable in Utah after 1850, making only minor appearances (as far as is known) in 1855, 1860, and 1864-66. The real villain was the Rocky Mountain locust, a common type of grasshopper responsible for widespread damage in the western and southern states as well as in Utah. In its infant form the Rocky Mountain locust can only hop, but after four or five moltings, when it is capable of sustained flight, it can appear in swarms and darken the sky in a frightening way. Such locust flights occurred in the 1860s and 1870S in the Plains states as well as in Utah."
15. The Journal of Discourses Volume 1 begins with a talk by Brigham Young given in the tabernacle on January 16, 1853. I am not aware of any record of these early discourses of Brigham Young referred to by Heber C. Kimball.
16. As another interesting fact, according to the standard Jewish calculations, the year 1853-54 was the Jewish year 5614 which is evenly divisible by 7, and therefore a traditional Sabbath year.
|Wheat||3,998 bu.||17,079 bu.|
18. Ibid.: It is very interesting to note that this year referred to by President Heber C. Kimball to teach a lesson about keeping the Sabbath year principles is known in pioneer history as "the great grasshopper invasion" and was unequaled in the early history of the Salt Lake valley.
19. William G. Hartley, "Handcart Companies," Utah History Encyclopedia, available online at http://www.utahhistorytogo.org/handctco.html: "... between 1856 and 1860 nearly 3,000 Latter-day Saint emigrants joined ten handcart companies----about 650 handcarts total----and walked to Utah from Iowa City, Iowa, (a distance of 1,300 miles) or from Florence, Nebraska (1,030 miles). This was, according to historian LeRoy Hafen, 'the most remarkable travel experiment in the history of Western America.'"
20. L. Tom Perry, "A Year of Jubilee," Ensign, November 1999, p. 75-77.
21. Lynn Arave, "LDS stress storage, savings," Deseret News, February 20, 2002, internet edition. http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,375010915,00.html. The contents of the letter from the First Presidency is quoted in this article as follows:
"Priesthood and Relief Society leaders should teach the importance of home storage and securing a financial reserve. These principles may be taught in ward councils or on a fifth Sunday in priesthood and Relief Society meetings.
"Church members can begin their home storage by storing the basic foods that would be required to keep them alive if they did not have anything else to eat. Depending on where members live, those basics might include water, wheat or other grains, legumes, salt, honey or sugar, powdered milk, and cooking oil. ...
"When members have stored enough of these essentials to meet the needs of their family for one year, they may decide to add other items that they are accustomed to using day to day.
"Some members do not have the money or space for such storage, and some are prohibited by law from storing a year's supply of food. These members should store as much as their circumstances allow. Families who do not have the resources to acquire a year's supply can begin their storage by obtaining supplies to last for a few months. Members should be prudent and not panic or go to extremes in this effort. Through careful planning, most church members can, over time, establish both a financial reserve and a year's supply of essentials."
Lynn Arave then adds: "The letter also lists on its reverse side the suggested amounts of basic foods in home storage, for one person for one year, though they may vary according to location. For example, it suggests 400 pounds of grain per adult; 60 pounds of legumes--beans, split peas or lentils, etc.; 16 pounds of powered milk; 10 quarts of cooking oil; 60 pounds of sugar or honey; eight pounds of salt; and 14 gallons (a two-week supply) of water."
Author's note: It is interesting that this strong reemphasis on the basics of food storage as opposed to the food that we normally eat helps to balance the advise to store a year's supply of food with the advise to save a financial reserve and stay out of debt. The current cost of this basic year's supply for one person is estimated at only $158 (wheat $72, beans $25, milk $21, cooking oil $12, sugar $23, salt $5) not including the cost of storage cans or buckets. The cost including buckets is about $200 per person.
See also: Richard P. Halverson, "Food Storage versus Financial Savings: It Really Shouldn't be Either/Or," Meridian Magazine, March 22, 2002.
22. Gordon B. Hinckley, "This Thing was not Done in a Corner," Ensign, November, 1996, p. 50.
23. Spencer W. Kimball, "Welfare Services: The Gospel in Action," Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 78.