The other day I was reading 2 Nephi 26, and a different way of reading these verses struck me. What if all three of these verses are about priests? What if “laborer in Zion” meant a priest who was preaching? In this reading, verse 30 is reassuring the priest, saying that you shouldn’t rely on the Church for your support, but if it turns out that you find yourself needing help, the Church can help you because they should help everybody. But then comes the warning in verse 31: just because you know they can help you, doesn’t mean that’s why you’re laboring.
29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
30 Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.
31 But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.
This sounds a lot like Mosiah 18 to me:
26 And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God.
27 And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given.
28 And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul.
This way of reading these verses also sounds like D&C 24, where Joseph is told to plant his fields and then go preach, and the Church will take care of his current needs. Emma is told that the Church will watch over their family. There seems to be a big difference between watching over needs and getting paid, though it’s subtle.
24:3 Magnify thine office; and after thou hast sowed thy fields and secured them, go speedily unto the church which is in Colesville, Fayette, and Manchester, and they shall support thee; and I will bless them both spiritually and temporally;