Joseph Smith was a money digger, like others in rural upstate New York (and unsuccessful like pretty much all of them were). Obviously, there wasn’t a lot on TV back then. Was his money-digging activity a parable to teach him (and all of us) how to find the real treasures of the gospel?
Jesus frequently used parables that were familiar to all to teach gospel principles. For example, the original twelve apostles were actual fishermen, and Christ used this fact as an analogy:
Matthew 13: 47-48. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
Treasure seeking is also a common parable in the Bible. Consider the following references about the kingdom of heaven:
Matthew 13: 44: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Matthew 13: 45-46: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
Another version of the “kingdom of heaven” parable is related to planting:
Matthew 13: 24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field (Parable of Wheat & Tares)
Matthew 13: 31-32 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
And another is related to baking, although I’m not aware that any of the 12 were bakers:
Matthew 13: 33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of
heaven is like unto leaven
, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of
meal, till the whole was leavened.
Each of the above parables could be likened to the Book of Mormon coming forth. The book was planted (like a seed) or hidden (like the leaven) in a hill until a man came along who found it (a treasure or pearl; something of great worth) and sold all he had (even was martyred) to buy it (the field; the gospel).
Finding a treasure is also a common form of recurring dream. The dreamer discovers he or she has inherited or found something of great value: historical value, intrinsic value or something more personal. This may appear in the form of discovering your house has many more rooms than you thought at first, finding a family heirloom that now belongs to you, or discovering something of beauty in nature like a rock or sea shell with special properties that now belongs to you because you discovered it. These recurring dreams are also a parable for self-discovery or finding a great gift that is internally valuable to you. Was money-digging popular because people took these types of dreams literally or as divine instruction?
Is Joseph’s money digging an insurmountable stigma? Or was it an instructive parable for Joseph (and all of us) that he didn’t fully understand? Is this another example of the Lord accomplishing his work despite the flaws of men or because of them? What if Joseph had been an accountant or a cobbler? Would we have different parables?