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Law of Consecration

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The Law of Consecration is considered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be a "celestial law." That is, people who are living lives dedicated to the service of God, such that at judgment they would be assigned to the Celestial Kingdom, should be able and expected to live the Law of Consecration. The Law of Consecration is that, if necessary or requested, a person would give everything he has for the building up of the Kingdom of God on Earth. He would be willing to wholeheartedly give of his time, talents, and resources. Thus, the person is "consecrating" all his personal resources to the Lord.
“The law of consecration,” said Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “is that we consecrate our time, our talents, and our money and property to the cause of the Church; such are to be available to the extent they are needed to further the Lord’s interests on earth.” [1]

Most Latter-day Saints live the Law of Consecration in part. They give of their time and talents to fulfill various callings in the Church, and give of their financial resources to pay tithing and fast offerings, as well as to support other church charities, such as temple funds, humanitarian aid, missionary funds, etc. Mormon missionaries consecrate their time for a number of years to the Lord, and they support themselves financially while they serve their missions. Many young men set aside money during their childhood and teenage years in preparation for their missions. Missionaries leave jobs, schooling, sports, hobbies, and loved ones behind in order to serve.

The Lord has actually established in principle a system through which the Saints can create a society and economy based on all citizens living the Law of Consecration. This system is called the United Order.

The law of consecration, and the united order revealed by the Lord as the means for implementing the law of consecration, are set out in sections 42 and 51 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
The law requires “that one transfer and convey to the Bishop, … ‘by a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken’ (Doctrine and Covenants 42:30; Doctrine and Covenants 58:35, 36), all his property.” [2]
[And] that the bishop, … shall forthwith reconvey to the donor ‘as much as is sufficient for himself and family’ (Doctrine and Covenants 42:32), each ‘according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and his needs’ (Doctrine and Covenants 51:3), ‘inasmuch as his wants are just’ (Doctrine and Covenants 82:17).
That which is reconveyed to the donor is variously called a ‘stewardship,’ a ‘portion’ or an ‘inheritance’ (Doctrine and Covenants 51:4; 70:3, 9; 82:17; 42:32; 72:3; 104:11; 57:11, 15). [3]

The purpose of the United Order is to humble the rich and elevate the poor. Since all participants are required to labor, none of the poor receive sustinence without making a contribution. In the Old Testament the Lord condemned the Israelites time and time again for either ignoring or trampling upon the poor. Caring for the poor is one of the central themes of the gospel of Christ, and the Law of Consecration and the United Order are meant to do away with poverty.

The scriptures speak of several occasions on which the law of consecration in some form has been implemented. The first was in the days of Enoch when “the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness. “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:16, 18). Another occasion occurred among the Nephites immediately following the ministry among them of the resurrected Christ, concerning whom the record says: “And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people” (4 Nephi 1:2–3, 15). [4]

The Saints who went to Missouri in the early 1830s were commissioned to live the law of consecration, but they failed to do so. In 1834 when they were being attacked by mobs and driven from their homes, Joseph Smith led a “party known as Zion’s Camp, bringing clothing and provisions. While this party was encamped on Fishing River the Prophet received [a] revelation” (Doctrine and Covenants 105 headnote) which began:

Verily I say unto you who have assembled yourselves together that you may learn my will concerning the redemption of mine afflicted people—
Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, … they might have been redeemed even now.
But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;
And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom;
And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.” (Doctrine and Covenants 105:1–5).

Since this revelation was received, Church members have not been required to live the law of consecration. There were, however, a few short-lived attempts to establish united order communities in the West. In the 1930s our present welfare program, which embodies some phases of the law of consecration, was inaugurated. [5]

The righteous members of the Church will, in time, become “united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom” and the law of consecration will be lived by them during the Millennium. The Lord has stated: “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27).

References

  1. “Obedience, Consecration, and Sacrifice,” Ensign, May 1975, 50.
  2. Albert E. Bowen, "The Church Welfare Plan," p. 7.
  3. Bowen, p. 8.
  4. Marion G. Romney, “Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, May 1979, 38–39.
  5. Ibid.

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