When President John Taylor declared 1880 to be a Jubilee Year I WONDER if he knew what he was doing or if only the Lord, who inspired him, did. In the 19th century it became popular to celebrate "a year of jubilee" as just another way of honoring a 50th year anniversary of some significant event. For instance, on June 20, 1887, Queen Victoria commemorated her 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne, calling it the "Golden Jubilee." In 1897 the citizens of Utah celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first band of pioneers entering the valley; it was the "Pioneer Jubilee." But there was something different about the 1880 Jubilee Year, designated by a prophet of God in order to commemorate the April 6, 1830 restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth.
***For a recap of what exactly is a Jubilee Year you may visit this previous post
First of all, according to the Jewish faith, it is thought that a Jubilee year can only be designated by "rabbinic injunction" (or an authoritative directive). And what is the reason Jubilee years are not currently observed by their faith? Because according to Biblical law, a Jubilee is only observed when at least a remnant of all twelve tribes are living in Israel. The Restoration remedied the latter requirement when the authority to gather all of Israel was delivered to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by Moses himself. And just as important, the only true "rabbinic authority" was once again established on the earth in the form of the keys of the priesthood.
1880 was a Jubilee unlike any of its secular counterparts. Like the ancient Israelite practice, the Jubilee lasted the whole year, beginning in the spring of 1880. The Conference Report of April 1880 has President Taylor as stating: "It occurred to me that we ought to do something as they did in former times, to relieve those that are oppressed with debt, to assist those that are needy, to break the yoke off those that may feel themselves crowded upon, and to make it a time of general rejoicing." President Taylor then proceeded to forgive the debts owed the Church by its needy members. The Church distributed 300 cows and 2,000 sheep among "the deserving poor." The Relief Society donated 35,000 bushels of wheat to the needy, and President Taylor urged members to forgive individual debt, all in the spirit of forgiveness and joy that is true to the purposes of an ancient Israelite Jubilee. And at the height of that Jubilee Year, October 10, 1880, John Taylor, who had been acting as President of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles since the passing of Brigham Young, was sustained as President of the Church.
In the previous post about the Jubilee Year, 1978, I (at first) mistakenly assigned the first Jubilee Year of this dispensation as beginning the Fall of 1830 (thinking the years were counted from Fall to Fall, as I think they used to be before Moses was instructed they were to be spring to spring- probably in anticipation of the birth of the Savior and his Atonement both in the spring). I was never happier to be wrong. The first Jubilee Year should have been (by counting backward 49 years from the spring of 1880) the spring of 1831. What was so significant about 1831? Only this...the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the location of Zion, the New Jerusalem, in Jackson County, Missouri. Only this...the dedication of the land for gathering and the dedication of the temple sight in Independence on August 3, 1831, the first temple commanded to built in the latter-days.
When Joseph Smith's party reached Independence on July 14, 1831, he said the Lord "manifested himself unto me, and designated to me and others, the very spot upon which he designed to commence the work of the gathering, and the upbuilding of an holy city, which should be called Zion." (Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, Sept 1835, pg 179) On August 2, 1831, "a ceremony was conducted that was filled with symbolism. Twelve men, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, carried a freshly cut oak log and placed it across a stone that had been set by Oliver Cowdery, thus laying the symbolic foundation for the establishment of Zion" (lds.org - Larry C. Porter, "The Colesville Branch in Kaw Township, Jackson Co., MO 1831 to 1833). On August 3, 1831 "The Prophet Joseph Smith set in place the cornerstone for the contemplated temple and dedicated it in the name of the Lord. The central feature of the land of Zion was to be the house of the Lord" (History of the Church 1:199).
What was significant about the year 1831? Only this...the Lord revealed to the House of Israel the land of their inheritance, the center place of Zion, where Christ would come personally to rule on the earth, not to mention the beginning of an era of temple building of which the purpose was that the captive spirits imprisoned in darkness may rejoice and be set free. Who designated the year 1831 as a year of Jubilee? I believe it was the Lord Himself, the "rabbi" of our souls (talk about "rabbinic injunction").
Interestingly, each subsequent Year of Jubilee has seen a surge in activity surrounding the New Jerusalem. On April 6, 1929 (49 years from 1880), while excavating the foundation of a temple, the Church of Christ (RLDS) discovered the cornerstone markers that had been laid by the Saints. They intended to build their own temple on the site, but because of the timely onset of the Great Depression the temple was never built. In the General Conference of 1929, Anthony W. Ivins of the First Presidency referred to appeals for funds and cooperation from the RLDS church to join them in building the temple (which we, of course, did not). At that time, however, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith reminded us that God had not released the Saints from the responsibility to establish Zion and build a temple on the designated spot.
In 1978, the subsequent Year of Jubilee according to the Israelite reckoning of every 49 years, the Church purchased over 4,000 acres of land across the river in Clay County, Missouri. Many took it as a sign of the temple's imminent construction. It was to be a year full of the talk of Zion, including the General Conference address by President Spencer W. Kimball "Becoming the Pure in Heart." We have already mentioned in a previous post how the year 1978 was a great equalizer, when all worthy males became eligible for ordination to the priesthood.
What does the Lord have in store for the next Year of Jubilee, 2027? No, I don't believe it will be the year women will become eligible to hold the priesthood. If one simply follows the pattern set anciently and since the restoration of the Church in this dispensation, we can assume it will have something to do with furthering the establishment of Zion upon the earth. I anticipate that the House of Israel will be that much closer to having their feet safely planted on the lands of their inheritance. I believe it will be a year of rejoicing in Israel.
What say ye?
Read about 1782/3 - the year the promised land of America qualified for her own covenant jubilee tradition