The Law of Consecration, As Contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants

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.



5 comments on “The Law of Consecration, As Contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants

  1. Okay, now someone should cry “socialist”! (That’s what usually happens, when you remind that the Lord has repeatedly told that it is not according to his will that there should be some, who are filthy rich, while there are some who are dirt poor — notice how both ends are considered unclean.)

    Current ideas seem to be, that everyone fares “according to the management of the creature” (remember Korihor?), and so if you’re poor you’ve obviously deserved it, just as the rich have of themselves deserved their riches.

    I have been preparing pretty much this same post for some time. I just dug a little deeper, and came up with hundreds of quotes from the Old Testament, for example, that makes no apologies to the gospel of prosperity. If you aren’t taking care of the poor, you are not pleasing the Lord.

    Thank you for this strong reminder of our obligations. As for me and my family, we have always considered ourselves under obligation to do whatever we can to alleviate the suffering and poverty we see around us. Now, in our immediate vicinity we don’t see so much lack of resources to buy food, as we see lack of understanding/education and will to learn. It’s more difficult than giving a few bucks to help those, who are truly suffering from hunger or something.

  2. Velska, good point. The most important part of the covenant of consecration may not be giving our money, but giving our time and talents. Working deeply and long term with people in need is inconvenient and makes us uncomfortable–in this, it’s like temple work in bringing us to do the most godly work possible in this life.

  3. Thanks for the great post and comments.

    An important part of the Law of Consecration was taught to us a few months ago when some folks from Welfare Square came down (to Utah County) and spoke in a Stake Priesthood Leadership Meeting. They mentioned that the law, through welfare, was not only filling the needs of those who are without, but also filling their wants.

    Doctrine and Covenants 51:3

    Wherefore, let my servant Edward Partridge, and those whom he has chosen, in whom I am well pleased, appoint unto this people their portions, every man equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs. (italics added) Isn’t it interesting that our portion isn’t just, ‘every man equal according to his family,’ but also according to his circumstances and his wants and needs.

    See also Doctrine and Covenants 42 where ‘wants’ is mentioned 5 times. Verse 33 in particular.

    And again, if there shall be properties in the hands of the church, or any individuals of it, more than is necessary for their support after this first consecration, which is a residue to be consecrated unto the bishop, it shall be kept to administer to those who have not, from time to time, that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants.

    A question was then asked the Bishops:

    “Suppose a father lost a job and has been receiving welfare to pay his household bills for a couple of months. Suppose, too, you find out that he and his wife used to take lots of ‘nature’ pictures together before their camera broke. Would you be justified in using welfare monies to buy them a camera?”

    It was hard to answer that question from the standpoint of ‘the recipient should get ONLY his basic needs until he can get back on his feet.’ The answer, however, was yes. We can justify that according to their wants.

    This has helped our family as we consider ourselves, like Velska states, “under obligation to do whatever we can to alleviate the suffering and poverty we see around us.” For us it is to try to cover their needs as best we can, but also be sensitive to their wants.

  4. I suggest that we read the word “want” from a more archaic point, which in current English would mainly be that if you want something in Bible/BofM/D&C English, you lack something.

    But then, having a little recreation is very important, and especially in a situation where a family is in a precarious situation already it is important, that there exist resources for inexpensive recreational activities.

    Money isn’t the only thing, not even the most important thing in our lives.

  5. Allan, Velska’s corect in explaining how “want” is used in the scriptures, as in the old usage, “He stood in want of basic supplies,” for example.

    However, iof resources exist, I certainly see nothing wrong with giving more to people, if they won’t abuse it and if others aren’t going without necessities so they can indulge. Charity shouldn’t be stingy.

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