During a recent session in the temple, I was hit with particular force that we are to study the law of consecration not in general, not in a vacuum, but specifically as it is taught in the Doctrine and Covenants. Besides the factual and motivational information I’ve found in this brief project so far, I’ve been impressed that this aspect of the gospel agrees so well with our growing emphasis on charity and service, as per President Monson (best exemplified in adding “care for the poor and needy” to the mission of the Church).
So I’ve been trying to read up on this basic celestial law, from sources that focus on its development in the D&C. First, not surprisingly, I looked it up in the index to the scriptures. This list includes all those in the Topical Guide, plus several others:
See also Common; Devote; Equal; Inheritance; Order; Poor; Property; Substance; United Order; Zion
D&C 42: 30-39 (D&C 51: 2-19; D&C 58: 35-37) principles of consecration explained.
D&C 42: 30, 39 consecrate of thy properties for support of the poor.
D&C 42: 32 consecrated properties not to be taken from church.
D&C 49: 20 one man should not possess above another.
D&C 51: 3 every man equal according to his family.
D&C 51: 5 transgressor not to have claim upon portion consecrated to bishop.
D&C 58: 36 (D&C 85: 3) a law for inheritance in Zion.
D&C 78: 5 order established that saints may be equal in bonds of heavenly and earthly things.
D&C 83: 6 storehouse kept by consecrations.
D&C 105: 5 Zion can only be built up by principles of celestial law.
D&C 105: 29 lands to be purchased according to laws of consecration.
D&C 105: 34 let commandments concerning Zion’s law be executed and fulfilled.
D&C 124: 21 bishop to receive consecrations of the Lord’s house.
The next source I thought of was the CES manual for the D&C. It has an essay in the appendix which is entirely devoted to teaching the law of consecration. This may have been the best single source for what I was studying. One of the many useful things in this section of the text was this series of self-analysis questions:
1. Are you contributing to or detracting from a spirit of unity in your home? in your ward or branch? in the Church as a whole?
2. Is your life in harmony with the Spirit of the Holy Ghost so that you will contribute to a unity of thought and action in the kingdom?
3. Do you truly have an attitude of consecration? Is your primary concern in life to consecrate everything you have or with which you will be blessed to the building up of Zion and the Church on the earth?
4. Do you have enough confidence in your commitment to truly say, “I am willing to sacrifice anything and everything for God”?
The third of the official sources I used for this study was BYU’s Scripture Citation Index, where I looked up the references given in the index, to see how they had been used in general conferences. Most of the talks that used these scriptures were about church welfare, and the most common speaker was Marion G. Romney. Some of the best quotes I’ve read in this database are:
Throughout history, the Lord has measured societies and individuals by how well they cared for the poor. He has said:
“For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
“Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment” ( D&C 104:17–18; see also D&C 56:16–17).
Furthermore, He declares, “In your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld” ( D&C 70:14; see also D&C 49:20; 78:5–7).
We control the disposition of our means and resources, but we account to God for this stewardship over earthly things. It is gratifying to witness your generosity as you contribute to fast offerings and humanitarian projects. Over the years, the suffering of millions has been alleviated, and countless others have been enabled to help themselves through the generosity of the Saints. Nevertheless, as we pursue the cause of Zion, each of us should prayerfully consider whether we are doing what we should and all that we should in the Lord’s eyes with respect to the poor and the needy.
We might ask ourselves, living as many of us do in societies that worship possessions and pleasures, whether we are remaining aloof from covetousness and the lust to acquire more and more of this world’s goods. Materialism is just one more manifestation of the idolatry and pride that characterize Babylon. Perhaps we can learn to be content with what is sufficient for our needs.
–from Elder D. Todd Christoffersen, “Come To Zion,” October 2008, which cites a few of the D&C verses about consecration
Since God has been so good to us, he has asked us to be good to our brethren who may not be so fortunate as we, for he has admonished us: “And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them. …
“And inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me; and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church. …” ( D&C 42:30–31.)
….Our brethren are with us constantly, and we must not only be mindful of them, but also of the stranger in our midst….Let us show our appreciation for these basic needs our Father in heaven has supplied by living that which we profess to believe and truly being our brother’s keeper. If we are to enter again into God’s presence, it will be by reaching out to others, for you cannot reach closer to God than you can to your fellowmen, which I testify in the name Jesus Christ. Amen.
–John H. Vandenberg, “My Brother’s Keeper,” April 1971
Scriptures teach us that the poor—especially widows, orphans, and strangers—have long been the concern of God and the godly. The poor have been especially favored by the law.
….Few, if any, of the Lord’s instructions are stated more often, or given greater emphasis, than the commandment to care for the poor and the needy. Our dispensation is no exception.
In December 1830, the very year in which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, the Lord declared that “the poor and the meek shall have the gospel preached unto them, and they shall be looking forth for the time of my coming, for it is nigh at hand.” ( D&C 35:15.)
Bishops were designated and their duties defined: “They shall look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer.” ( D&C 38:35.)
In 1831, the Lord said: “Remember the poor. … Inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me.” ( D&C 42:30–31.) A little later, he again declared, “Visit the poor and the needy and administer to their relief.” ( D&C 44:6.) Later the same year, he warned: “Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls.” ( D&C 56:16.)
With these teachings throbbing in our ears, stated and restated in accounts to all people in all days of recorded scripture, let our thoughts return to the homeless, beggars in boats, human beasts of burden, and to multitudes stricken with poverty.
–Russell M. Nelson, “In The Lord’s Own Way,” April 1986
I’ve also looked up explanations of consecration based on the way it’s taught in the Doctrine and Covenants in a few other sources. In this article by Blair J. Packard, he gives the following as an overview of what the D&C teaches about consecration:
A few of the things we can surely learn from the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants about consecration include: (See D&C 38, 42, 104, and for extra credit see Mosiah 2 and 4)
God created all things and He says they’re his – not ours.
He says that there shouldn’t be inequality among men.
He says that he created the riches of the earth and that there is enough and to spare (Mary Ellen Edmunds always says that “spare” sounds a lot like “share”).
He says that work is an eternal principle and we shouldn’t be afraid to work because that is how we will provide for family and ourselves, plus have sufficient to help others as well.
He says that we have an obligation always to care for the poor.
He says we’re going to be held accountable for the stewardship of all that we have been blessed.
Finally, he says, that if we learn to live this law, we will be blessed in ABUNDANCE and with our abundance we will certainly have even more in order to help others.
Author Larry Barkdull has also written extensively on the law of consecration, including this D&C-inspired note:
The “Law of the Church,” Section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants, lists four cornerstones of the Law of Consecration:
First, mutual assistance–the Lord expects his disciples to sustain and help one another.
Second, proper use of priesthood–the priesthood is to be used to benefit those who are physically and spiritually ill or in need.
Third, the need for faith—according to God’s will, a person can be healed [physically, emotionally and spiritually] by the power of the priesthood if that individual has faith in Jesus Christ and if he is “not appointed unto death,” information that gives confidence to the person as he realizes that the Lord has given him time to work out his exaltation.
Fourth, reciprocal love–the Lord expects his disciples to love one another and to become one.
And finally, of course, I’m rereading Hugh Nibley’s “Law of Consecration” essay from Approaching Zion:
The Lord observed to the apostles that the rich just can’t take it; nevertheless, any alternative plan, any proposal of compromise, easier payments, or tax write-offs, was out of the question. The Lord did not say, “Come back; perhaps we could make a deal.” No, he had to let the young rich man go. One does not compromise on holy things. Unless we observe every promise we make in the endowment, we put ourselves in Satan’s power. Christ’s disciples were already observing the law, for Peter on that same occasion declared, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” (Matthew 19:27). In reply he was given the most satisfying answer possible, being assured by the Lord that he was on the high road to salvation.