#158: Here’s to You Mrs. Robinson

For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for naught; and ye shall be redeemed without money (3 Nephi 9:96 [3 Nephi 21:10]).

In 2003 Anna Robinson was working for the library in Anna, Illinois. She agreed to clean out a storage area in exchange for use of the area as an office. She was also allowed to keep any books she found. In the process, she discovered an original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. She kept the book in a zippered plastic bag to preserve it, taking it out only to show her children and members of her church.

Anna a mother of three earned $23,631.00 from her library job in 2012. In 2013 she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. After filing, a bankruptcy trustee sought permission to sell the book, arguing that an old Book of Mormon sold for $45,000 in 2010 even though part of its cover was missing (www.booktryst.com/2012/06/troubling-questions-in-stolen-book-of.html and   http://blogs.wsj.com/bankruptcy/2014/11/26/ruling-lets-bankrupt-woman-keep-rare-mormon-scripture). Robinson pointed to the language in the Illinois law barring the court from seizing Bibles, while the bankruptcy court argued that the book’s value should make moot its protection under the law.

After a district court ruled that the legislation concerning Bibles was not value-contingent, the case proceeded to an appeals court. Illinois law exempts “a Bible” from the items that must be sold to pay debts. A federal judge applied this Illinois statute to the Book of Mormon in Mrs. Robinson’s favor, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although she has several copies of the Book of Mormon the judge’s decision did not intend to limit her Book of Mormon to a negligible monetary value (http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1725217.html). Considering her financial circumstances, the judge saw that she needed money, but that she refrained from selling the book because of its non-monetary value.

When Joseph Smith first attempted to retrieve the plates from the hill, his angelic courier forbade him. Joseph and his family were poor, and the idea that they could find relief from their indigent circumstances presented itself to him. Oliver Cowdery in telling of this event confirmed Joseph’s lapse and its painful consequences, “The certainty of wealth and ease in this life, had so powerfully wrought upon him” that the angels injunction “had entirely gone from his recollection.” As a consequence, “On attempting to take possession of the record a shock was produced upon his system, by an invisible power which deprived him, in a measure, of his natural strength.” (Latter Day Saints Messenger and Advocate Vol. 2, No. 1 page 198, Kirtland, Ohio 1835) Four more years would pass before he was able to secure the plates from their place of deposit.

Anna Robinson not unlike Brother Joseph could also use the monetary value of this rare book to elevate some of her economic struggles, but had no desire to sell it. “So here’s to you Mrs. Robison, heaven loves you more than you will know!” (Mrs. Robinson, Simon and Garfunkel, 1967)

The early Saints had prized God’s word to be worth to the church the riches of the whole earth (). What value do we place on this authentic American Scripture? May we treasure this record, embrace it and unite around it that we jointly may witness the completion of His strange act and bring to pass a Marvelous Work and a Wonder.

But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money, they shall perish (2 Nephi 11:109 [2 Nephi 26:31]).