For this week’s Come Follow Jesus scripture readings, I have a story for you about treasure! It relates to the story behind the revelation given to Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 111. The story is that Joseph Smith went to Salem, Massachusetts, in hopes of finding a bag of money, secret treasure, left in an abandoned house. According to this story, by Kim Burningham, a man named Burgess had told him about it. Joseph hoped to use it pay off the debt that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had created when building the Kirtland Temple. (Note: After I wrote this, a week later, I found a video with Hank Smith and John Bytheway interviewing Dr. Elizabeth Kuehn, a scholar who has thoroughly studied this time period. She says that this story about a man named Burgess is not a story to rely on, as it was told decades after it supposedly happened. Watch the videos below. At the 07:33 mark Dr. Kuehn talks about the story behind Jonathon Burgess and seeking treasure in Salem, Massachusetts. Then at the 37:42 mark she says that there are no existing sources to understand completely the reasoning behind the trip. So now I’m saying I don’t know who told Joseph about any treasure.)
Alas, when Joseph and his friends got there, they couldn’t find the treasure. So Joseph talked to God about that and Section 111 is God answering him. God basically told him, “Don’t worry about not finding the treasure. I have other treasures for you in this town. Don’t worry about the debt.” Then comes one of my most favorite scriptures, “Therefore, be ye as wise as serpents and yet without sin; and I will order all things for your good, as fast as ye are able to receive them. Amen.” (D&C 111:11)
I love that promise! If we are as wise as serpents, yet without sin, then we are promised a blessing that we will have “all things for our good.” ALL things! What are these things dependent on? “Our ability to receive them.” If we increase our capacity to receive good things, we will receive them. It’s up to us. That capacity involves becoming as wise as serpents, without sin.
I also love that Joseph was told, “I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion, and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality.” (D&C 111:2.)
Back to the story I linked above. It’s here. It’s about a man who prepared to teach this section for Sunday School. He thought he would skip over this section to get to the other ones that were part of the lesson. He considered Section 111 to be an “insignificant scripture” at first. Later in the week he revisited the scripture and decided to study it more. After much study, he found out that part of the “treasure” that came out of this city Salem was his ancestor, Nathaniel Ashby. Nathaniel heard the gospel preached by Erastus Snow, who visited the town years later after Joseph was there. The Ashby family got baptized, moved to Nauvoo, and then to Utah. The Ashbys were some of the treasures, gathered out in due time, for the benefit of Zion.
It just makes me wonder “When have I expected a blessing, like treasure, and then not found it, but were rewarded by a treasure of a different kind?”
If you haven’t found your expected treasure yet, don’t give up hope, your treasure will come in a different way, in God’s due time. I have seen it happen in my own life. I know it happens.