Friday, June 25, 2010
Supplement to Lesson #26 Jesse Knight, Man of Wisdom
Although he was raised in an LDS family and married an active Latter-day Saint, Jesse lost his commitment somewhere along the way. "Then in 1887 an experience forever changed his commitment to the Church. A rat fell in the family well, died, and decomposed. Jennie, his youngest daughter, was the first to become ill from drinking the contaminated water.
"Despite his professed lack of faith, Knight was finally persuaded to bring in elders to give her a blessing, and Jennie recovered, something he always considered miraculous.
"His oldest daughter Minnie, however, died of the infection, and he remembered that 17 years earlier she had nearly died of diphtheria. At that time Knight had promised that he would not forget God if the Lord would spare Minnie's life. As he described it, 'I had not kept that promise. . . . I prayed for forgiveness and help. My prayer was answered and I received a testimony'" (J. William Knight, The Jesse Knight Family [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1940], pp. 35–36, quoted on Brigham Young High School Website)
A few years before the turn of the 20th century, Jesse Knight had a manifestation that there was valuable ore in the Tintic mining district west of present-day Spanish Fork, Utah, beyond Utah Lake. While on the Godiva Mountain where he had gone to think about problems, the Spirit told him, "This land is for the Mormons." He interpreted that to mean there was treasure in the ground for the use of the Mormons and the Mormon Church. Another message he received was "that he was going to have all the money he wanted as soon as he was in a position to handle it properly, and that he would one day save the credit of the Church, which was then in debt...
"The whole manifestation came true" (Stegner, p. 201). He staked out a small mine named the Junebug near the town of Eureka, Utah (now a ghost town). He made some money off its sale and began his philanthropy.
At first helping others didn't pay off. He co-signed on loans for friends who didn't keep their end of the bargain, and ended up mortgaging his own home to pay them off. But he didn't lose his generosity--just got smarter with it--and he secured a loan to buy a mine that experts said was a humbug, thus inspiring its name: the Humbug mine.
"Uncle Jesse...took seriously the responsibilities which wealth laid upon him...His abiding sense of the group and the group's needs, his respect for the common man, and his concept of money as an instrument for social betterment were a reflection of that part of Mormonism...which was unerringly prophetic" (Stegner, p. 207).
During the last years of his life, the ore began to run out in the mines. Only a couple were operating when he died at the age of 75, and by the end of the Great Depression, Knightsville was a ghost town, and the Knight fortune was gone. But Jesse had accomplished what was needed. Perhaps the Lord stopped multiplying the wealth because He knew that there would not soon be another like Jesse Knight who would state and live a belief that "The earth is the Lord's bank and no man has a right to take money out of that bank and use it extravagantly upon himself" (Mangum).
Diane L. Mangum, "Jesse Knight and the Riches of Life," Ensign, October 1993.
Brian & Petrea Kelly, Latter-day History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Susan Easton Black, Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants
Arnold Garr, et.al, Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History
Wallace Stegner, Mormon Country, p. 201-207