Consecration: it’s not just a spiritual law

“But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin” (D&C 49:20).

Mormons, it seems to me, are uneasy with the law of consecration.  Although it is something that we covenant to live, it is also something that we struggle to understand.  When Mormons discuss the law of consecration, within moments we are typically discussing how the law of consecration is not just a temporal law, but also a spiritual one.  This law is spiritual in the sense that real financial sacrifices are required for the gospel to thrive.  But I am concerned that we shift attention to the spiritual side of the law, because this helps us rationalize our real failures to grapple with the temporal side of this commandment. 

We begin substituting spiritual things that we can do for people (pray for them, use our talents) for the financial sacrifices that the law demands.  In this case, focusing on the spiritual side of the law becomes a way of side-stepping a commandment that asks for real financial sacrifice before we can reap the spiritual benefits that can only come when we temporally care for each other.

The message in the scriptures is far stronger than simply let us give of our time, talents, and be generous.  Over and over, the scriptures tell us that it is not right before God to have poor among us.  But because this commandment to voluntarily redistribute our wealth is both difficult and challenging to many of our treasured ideologies, we tend to rationalize it away and to ignore it. 

Capitalism has proved our historically most successful system for lifting people out of poverty, and capitalism means some inequality.  However, a belief in capitalism should not be incompatible with figuring out how we can use both capitalism and the wealth it produces to aid those who are poor.  Given that we are in a financial crisis in which many people are suffering, there has never been a better time to ask how we can begin taking the temporal side of the law of consecration seriously.  Substituting spiritual activities for real financial sacrifice is not, on its own, fulfilling the law we convented to keep.

Your ideas on how we can get serious about living the law of consecration today – and on what that law means if it is more than a spiritual law – are most welcome.

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Comments

  1. I read somewhere recently that we should use more scriptures in our comments. So, 4th Nephi 1:3, right after being visited by Christ, we are told “they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor…”
    So, in a better, more Christ-like society, my friends that can’t find work and barely get by? They wouldn’t be poor. Mitt Romney wouldn’t be rich.
    Unfortunately, we’re not told a lot more about that society and how they managed to stay away from having rich or poor.
    I’m worried that we, like many others, make too much of the idea that being rich equates to being righteous.
    I’m not sure we can do anything more than be examples, and speak about it in our lessons at church.

  2. How about starting with a major increase in fast offerings for those who presently have a surplus, where “surplus” means “more than what one needs for reasonable sustenance”?

  3. StillConfused says:

    I personally cannot cme to accept this law. If everyone had the same motivations and desires, I would be okay with it. But unfortunately that is not the case. So I don’t really know how someone can make it work.

  4. #2 – In my Sunday School today, we had an excellent lesson that prompted this post. One of the GA quotations that the teacher read actually suggested that we give more fast offerings.

  5. Mark Brown says:

    “I think that when we are affluent, as many of us are, that we ought to be very, very generous…. I think we should…give, instead of the amount we saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps much, much more—ten times more where we are in a position to do it.”

    Spencer W. Kimball General conference Apr. 1974

  6. I’ve never heard of the idea of substituting “spiritual” service (such as prayer) for temporal service as a way of living the law of consecration. Interesting idea. My view is that living the law of consecration is considering everything we have, including our time and talents, as belonging to the Lord and always trying to use it to fulfill his purposes. Giving to the poor is only one part of living this law. I agree that now is a good time to consider what we can individually do to improve.

  7. Don’t give, catalyze.

    If you give a man a fish, you lower his work ethic. Even if you teach him how to fish, you are still giving him something (your time) for nothing, so his initiative is still stifled. Worse, giving tempts you into feeling superior, and even becoming resentful if your generosity is abused (i.e. your need to rescue exceeds the desire to be rescued).

    Lend or invest. Life is full of static friction, and a little push can be just what some need to get back on their feet. This is much more difficult than giving, because it obliges you to take a continuing interest in the well-being and development of your loan or investment. Because you have a potential to profit (however improbable), you are not tempted to feel proud. A gift is sometimes little more than protection money against a guilty conscience and to buy off staying engaged with others.

    I of course follow none of this advice. As a cultural Catholic with liberal leanings, I am comfortable with buying off my conscience. But LDS have a higher calling. I am surprised that no one on this thread has emphasized the spiritually edifying aspects of low-interest lending and developmental investing, especially among more affluent Mormons.

  8. The Other Brother Jones says:

    A comment was made after today’s lesson about Mr Obama and his redistrubution of wealth, compared to Robin Hood’s mision to do the same, vs the Lord’s Law of consecration. It seems that a critical difference is that the first two are less than voluntary, and the last is totally voluntary.

    #3. I think you get the idea. It needs people with the same motivations and ideals.

  9. #7 – Both are needed in differing situations. We should do both – “giving” what each person / situation requires.

  10. I don’t think its ours to argue about who deserves help and doesn’t. This is what seems to underlie claims that the system will be abused. Doesn’t matter. We are responsible to help as we can. People sit around clutching their fishes, while people starve because they only want to teach people how to fish. We fish hoarders are in deep trouble.

    I like Jim F.’s solution.

  11. Pride takes a lot of forms. One is the notion that I can somehow give a gift and yet remain in control of what I have given. I haven’t really given it, have I, if I leave claw marks on it, or if the gift is still tethered to my wrist so that I can pull it back at any time I decide I can manage it better than the one I’ve given it too.

    The Lord calls us to leave our gifts on the altar. That means laying them there, then going about our business, not standing around to give directions on how those gifts are used.

    We’ll do better about living the law of consecration when we individually stop worrying about the “worthiness” of those who benefit from our gifts, and stop pretending that the reason we don’t give more is because we’re concerned about corrupting the morals of beneficiaries. Give a gift, or don’t. Stop worrying about the recipient’s motivations or his work ethic. That’s the bishop’s call, not mine, not yours.

  12. Natalie,
    You are on a role! Nice post.

  13. I agree with #11.

    So often the thing that keeps us from understanding (and more fully embracing) the Law of Consecration is our worry that somehow someone who doesn’t deserve aid will be aided. We are scared to death that someone who didn’t work as hard as we did will get the same “reward.”

    It’s the same with the whole Grace vs. works confusion.

  14. FWIW – I quoted from Tracy M’s recent posts in our lesson today (with attribution of course). I endorse Jim F’s comment about fast offerings. We need to be more generous.

    Funniest moment from EQ was this quote: “If the Church ever reinstituted the law of consecration, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity would lead protests…”

  15. I think that the feelings behind Mosiah 4:17-18 are applicable:
    “17 Perhaps thou shalt asay: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
    18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. ”

    Perhaps we aren’t witholding because we think they deserve the situation they are in. But if we withold, simply because we think that they are not deserving, in that they will not use the gift wisely, it is still witholding our gifts out of a sense of judgement and pride.
    Years ago, my MIL rode the city bus into downtown every day to work. She didn’t have a lot to offer, but could spare $1 a day, over and above her regualar church offerings. So each morning she prayed that God would lead her to someone who needed that one dollar. And He did.
    Maybe it seems simplistic and evangelicacl, to just follow the Spirit. To sincerely pray, every time you pay the bills, every time you get a paycheck, and ask God what he wants you to do with the money. Ask to be made aware of opportunities where He wants you give. Opportunities are all around us, more than we could ever fill, for any one person. So it might be easy to get overwhelmed, and just stick with tithing and fast offerings. But God knows our budgets, our limitations. If we seek His will, His guidance, He will tell us exactly how much we should give, to whom, and in what form (direct gift, or investment/lending).
    And, of course, this is all theoretical and I am *not* the person to look to for an example of carrying this out. Thanks for the great post, and the opportunity to remind myself.
    BTW, we had this lesson last week, and it was very disappointing to here the comments. “Well, it’s a great law, but we can’t live it until we’re a celestial people.”
    I’m thinking that we will never become a celestial people until we are living it?

  16. Starfoxy says:

    I see lots of what is said in conference and taught generally as being the pre-consecration lifestyle changes that lots of us still need to make. Get out of debt, save money & live within your means.
    If I haven’t developed the skill or temperament to live simply, produce more than I use, and be happy with what I have, then I’m in no place to start living the law of consecration.
    Overcoming lifestyle inflation (I have more, therefore I consume more) is probably the hardest step.
    I would take what Ardis said even a step further- you have to mentally let go of everything whether you’ve given it away or not. If I’m at all attached to my stuff then I’m not prepared, and I can’t live the law.

  17. #2 “More than what one needs for reasonable sustenance” — I agree. I just wonder if “reasonable sustenance” includes 6 months of salary in the bank, food storage, retirement savings, some money in case my 1993 car dies. I am getting by fine right now from month to month because I have a very secure job, but I have NO savings (just some 401K) and almost no food storage. How much should I save just in case? Or should I pay lots of fast offering NOW (and not save), and trust that I’ll get the help I need if I ever need it?

  18. Bluedevil says:

    Just a reminder people. Those of us that have covenanted to live the Law of Consecration can and should be doing that.

    Living in the United Order is a totally different thing and we are not currently commanded or asked to live that.

    There is a biiiiiiig difference between the two.

  19. Thomas Parkin says:

    #11 Ardis,

    A … men!!! Spot on. ~

  20. The Saints will be living the Law of Consecration and Stewardship BEFORE Christ appears to the World. It is a matter for you and I to deside wheather we will be among those Saints. Brigham Young said we may have to be poor and pennyless before we can live this law. (paraphrased) It will not be easy but it will be required. The United Order was the method the early church used to administer the “excess” and/or property of the church. The Bishop will be the mediator for church members who participate.

  21. avisitor says:

    Natalie,

    The Church is not called to live the whole law of consecration at this time. The Lord adapted the law “to the capacities of the Saints and revealed the law of tithing as a practice to follow”. The Welfare program was added to tithing and includes fast offerings and other donations (such as the Perpetual Education Fund).

    But as far as the full Law of Consecration is/was/will be concerned, the commandment is not for us to voluntarily redistribute our wealth, it is to consecrate our surplus to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where the stewards of the Lord’s storehouse are called to redistribute it.

    This is parallel to what Ardis said in #11. I believe that one of the “treasured ideologies” that prevents us from fulfilling the covenant we made is the idea that “our” wealth is ours (rather than the Lord’s) and that “we” are better qualified to dole out our surplus as we see fit than are those He has put in place for that purpose. The greatest act of obedience for a Latter-day Saint who has been blessed with surplus during a struggling economy is increase our fast offerings to the point where they feel like a real sacrifice. When we go without some of our wants, we become “one” with those who are going without some of theirs.

    #3
    In order for Zion to be established, the full Law of Consecration will have to take effect. Zion is accomplished when the Saints are one in everything-in doctrine, in temporal things and in spiritual things. In other words, all would have the same motivations and desires.

    As long as the Saints refuse to become one in everything-from doctrine to desire, we are not ready to establish Zion and live the full Law of Consecration and until then there will always be poor among us.

  22. Steve Evans says:

    avisitor, where is the basis for saying we are not called to live the whole law of consecration at this time?

  23. Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (chapter 14) says:

    “Explain that the fulness of the law of consecration has been lived only at certain times as commanded by the Lord.”

    “As Saints of God, we must be prepared and willing to live the law of consecration in its fulness. But we do not need to wait for a future day to consecrate our lives to the Lord. As we do all we can to live the law of consecration today, we will be better prepared to live the fulness of the law when the Lord asks us to do so.”

    No particular references were given for that text.

  24. But haven’t most of us adults given that promise anyway?

    I love what Ardis said. I can’t wait until we can give again.

  25. Tracy, Yep. I clarify that I don’t mention that quote in #23 as a position paper on what we should be doing in practice on a day-to-day basis; I just saw it today in Sunday school and remembered when there was a question about whether or not we’re commanded to live the “whole” thing or not right now.

  26. avisitor: The Church is not called to live the whole law of consecration at this time.

    When you get your first temple recommend you’ll learn otherwise. (Bet wishes in your efforts to get that)

  27. William H. says:

    My family and I recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend with my wife’s cousin in a religious commune. The group’s name is called The Twelve Tribes of Israel. It was a very interesting experience to see non-Mormon people living a form of consecration. Everything they did was by common consent. They met together three times a day, which I think was one of the keys to their success. They were truly a unified people.

    I also thought it was interesting that the beehive was significant symbol in their community. They try to keep their orders small. Usually between 40 to 75 members. Once they get bigger then all the various groups help chip in to start a new colony. They likened it to when a beehive swarms.

    It strengthened my testimony of the law of consecration to see these non-LDS people successfully living basically the same thing. I kept thinking that if I could convert them to Mormonism that I could easily feel at home in their community.

  28. 24: You do give, Tracy. I saw the card you sent to someone here in SLC last week, enclosing drawings your kids had made — the drawings were posted on your friend’s refrigerator.

    Natalie is asking us to remember that consecration isn’t just a spiritual law — but let’s not forget that it *is*, in part at least, a spiritual law. Giving does take many forms.

  29. Excellent points, Ardis. I have argued this often.

  30. Everything’s in place to make it happen.

    I, too, agree with Jim F. and Mark Brown. Just pay what you can in fast offerings. I would add, though, that there are a lot of wealthy LDS for whom fast offerings cannot fully satisfy their desire to give. They find many different avenues for charitable giving.

  31. Steve,

    This nutter finds the basis in the following examples (of which there are more if you require them)

    *See post #23-and current Gospel Doctrine Manual lesson #14

    *Heading to D&C 119 states in part:
    “The Lord had previously given to the Church the law of consecration and stewardship of property, which members (chiefly the leading elders) entered into by a covenant that was to be everlasting. Because of failure on the part of many to abide by this covenant, the Lord withdrew it for a time, and gave instead the law of tithing to the whole Church.”

    Encyclopedia of Mormonism- Consecration
    “After these early failures, the Lord adapted the requirements of the law of consecration to the capacities of the Saints and revealed the law of tithing as a practice to follow (HC 3:44; D&C 119)”

    “Giving tithing for over a century, as the Saints proved their ability to live this commandment, prepared them to accept also the Welfare program, introduced in 1936 by Church President Heber J. Grant (CR [Oct. 1936]:3). Five years later, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., observed that the practices of tithing, fast offerings, and Church Welfare had brought Church members closer to the original principles of the United Order and law of consecration (CR [Oct. 1942]:57).”

    “At the proper time, the Lord’s leaders will implement the program. While it is not clear what procedures will be revealed, Latter-day Saints anticipate that the principles of stewardship, equality, agency, and accountability will eventually be subscribed to by all participants and that the goals originally envisioned will be reached (D&C 78:7, 14; 82:14).”

    Geoff J. Said:
    “When you get your first temple recommend you’ll learn otherwise. (Bet wishes in your efforts to get that)”

    Got my first one more than 20 years ago and have had a current one ever since. But thanks for your “bet” wishes nonetheless.

    Maybe when you’ve had yours for that long you’ll learn that your covenant to obey the LOC in no way affects the Lord’s ability to adapt that law any way He sees fit.

  32. avisitor: Maybe when you’ve had yours for that long you’ll learn that your covenant to obey the LOC in no way affects the Lord’s ability to adapt that law any way He sees fit.

    Well congratulations on getting that recommend amigo/a. (Oddly, I have had my recommend for almost exactly 20 years… my birthday is April 27th. I only mention it since you brought the whole 20 year thing up. And yes, I appreciate you wishing me “bet wishes” on my b-day)

    Anyhow, last I checked the language of the covenant is very clear. If the Lord wants to change it I’m sure he will. Until then I’ll assume the current covenant is not a typo. You are obviously free to assume there are typos though.

    PS – As I understand things, the united order is not the same thing as the law of consecration

  33. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff J, that’s precisely right. We’re committed 100% by covenant to live the law of consecration. We do what the Church asks us to do. That’s the law.

  34. 4th Nephi 1:3 Although there is little detail on how they achieved a Zion society, “they had all things common among them” sure does not sound like capitalism to me ;)

    I wrote a post entitled, “Can you be a Mormon and wealthy?” on LDS Cooperative about this very topic. Hint: the answer is no.

    http://ldscooperative.com/node/41

  35. Steve Evans says:

    PS avisitor, you are indeed a nutter, but mostly just whenever you talk about politics. When you avoid political discussion your nuttery is more subdued.

  36. Peter LLC says:

    I haven’t really given it, have I, if I leave claw marks on it

    It’s funny because it’s true.

  37. “I wrote a post entitled, ‘Can you be a Mormon and wealthy?’ on LDS Cooperative about this very topic. Hint: the answer is no.”

    *sigh*

  38. A comment was made after today’s lesson about Mr Obama and his redistrubution of wealth, compared to Robin Hood’s mision to do the same, vs the Lord’s Law of consecration. It seems that a critical difference is that the first two are less than voluntary, and the last is totally voluntary.

    Ananias and Sapphira might disagree with you…

  39. I do wish there was more detail in 4 Nephi. It says no poor and all things in common. If everyone had books in common…would everyone read them? should they? It says no poor, but would some people have less?

    I remember hearing in a religion class that if you pay your tithing and then give ALL of your surplus in fast offerings you can live closely to the law of consecration.

    I think troubling economic times can really help us identify necessities better.

    My husband and I could be considered poor, except I have firmly in mind an image from my mission of a little girl wrapped in a blanket next to a fire. Her mother is standing nearby stiring in a large pot on the fire..their cardboard house is behind them. The mom is washing her one dress.

    Not too long ago we had twins. When we found out we realized that instead of fitting nicely into our minivan we were now needing a new van. We hadn’t planned on that. We waited and prayed. We didn’t have a van when we brought them home from the hospital. Down the road members of our ward had raised a large family and now only had one child at home. They had a fifteen passenger van. Long story short…we traded vans. It felt very much like the Bishop in Les Mis trading his home for the hospital because he had much more room than he needed.

  40. My parents have always been an example to me of this practice; it’s one of the many areas where they far exceed me.
    They are finally thinking of getting rid of the family van they bought used over ten years ago.
    They don’t buy expensive toys. No motorized toys, no DVD collections, etc. They bought their TV over 20 years ago.
    Growing up, we hardly ever went out to eat, parents included (and usually it was on my Grandfather’s dime if we did).
    We wore hand-me downs. None of it name brand.
    My mother bargain shopped everything.
    We weren’t poor by any means, but we could’ve been rich. We weren’t, because my parents chose to donate their tithing dollars, and then a substantial amount above that, to fast offering funds and to a select variety of other charity organizations. I’m not sure of the exact amounts, but from what I’ve been able to tell their total donations come to around 20% of their income. Even in times of financial hardship, and while paying off the mortgage, they donated somewhere around 20%. My mother is a stay-at-home mom, and my father has never made six figures.
    I really think they’re doing a good job living the law of consecration. I find myself wondering when the last time was that I donated anything more than a dollar or two, tithing, or a normal fast offering, and I realize I have a lot of room for improvement.

  41. It is currently on an individual basis. We have to trust our bishops to disperse the fast offering funds in a wise manner. If I am in a giving sense of mind, I’ll do what Pres Kimball said decades ago, and give many times the cost of 2 meals for fasting.
    Our Church, however, is not ready for the United Order or a similar temporal consecration. Only 1/2 our members are active in the Church. Of those, only 1/3 pay tithes and offerings. That is 1/6 of our membership which stands a chance of living a terrestrial law. There’s no way they are ready for a celestial law.

  42. One thing that struck me in this lesson is that we have many examples in each book of scripture (save the Old Testament) in living the law of consecration. Some times it survived hundreds of years, other times it rather quickly dissolved.

    I noticed that the times it survived, it was an outgrowth of a change of heart. When it failed, it was an administration from the outside. Until there is a change of heart among the people of Zion, there will be no living the fullness of the law of consecration.

    Remember: consecrate means to make sacred, not to donate. Think of what that means, to make everything one owns sacred.

  43. Of course one of the most difficult thing in living the law of consecration is determining where our needs end and our wants begin.

    We had this lesson two weeks ago, and during the course I popped out my blackberry and started searching on my own. One of the most interesting things I found was an essay done by a Bruce Kimzey who discussed the interplay between economic theory of scarcity and the law of consecration. http://w2.byuh.edu/academics/domckay/Lectures/Kimzey1997.htm. I think this was mentioned on BCC before in passing, http://bycommonconsent.com/2008/03/25/capitalism-and-mormonism/.

    I won’t delve into the whole article here – but the conclusion Br. Kimzey reaches is that the problem with capitalism is that assumes boundless appetites, and that the only solution to this is to curb them. Thus the law of consecration can provide a solution in that it asks us to bind our appetetites.

    The most practical advice given was that of N Eldon Tanner,
    1. Pay an honest tithing,
    2. Live on less than you earn,
    3. Learn to distinguish between needs and wants,
    4. Develop and live within a budget, and
    5. Be honest in all your financial dealings.

  44. “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words,’ if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them.”

    C.S. Lewis

  45. MadChemist says:

    Why do those of you who think government sponsored stealing is ok, think it’s OK to call people names who disagree with you?
    I find it very funny when the same individuals who say it’s immoral to force people to behave the right way (in terms of religion, or sexual orientation) say it’s right to force people to pay taxes to “do the right thing.” Either it’s right to enforce the right or not, but when you selectively choose and make fun of others, you look very hypocritical.

    //Begin liberal condemnation

  46. Are you really a Chemist?

  47. Mark Brown says:

    MadChemist,

    Can you help me understand what you mean when you say government sponsored stealing?

    That is a provocative phrase, but I’m not sure how to understand it. Do you object to all income transfers, including Social Security, WIC, and medicaid for disabled people? Or do you have something else in mind?

  48. avisitor says:

    Geoff-
    Happy Birthday.

    Geoff and Steve,
    “As I understand things, the united order is not the same thing as the law of consecration”

    Let me see if I can explain it sufficiently. (I can provide references for anything you doubt).

    The Law of Consecration-when lived in its whole and basic form-REQUIRES participants to legally deed their property and money over to the Church as well as requiring a covenant from them. The Bishop of each member would then appoint an “inheritance” or stewardship back to the member in which that member would live and work and support themselves and their family.

    The United Order was given to Joseph Smith a short time after the LOC was revealed as the “government” or program which managed the Saints living under the LOC as their numbers grew, so that they could “unite” by covenant as a social group or community of those living the LOC.

    So-the LOC and UO are almost always synonymous when spoken of today because they are almost always referencing the same principles and laws-one is just on a bigger scope than the other so to speak. LOC=individual consecration and stewardship-UO=community of consecratees and their stewardships.

    #33 Steve Says:
    “Geoff J, that’s precisely right. We’re committed 100% by covenant to live the law of consecration. We do what the Church asks us to do. That’s the law.”

    RIGHT. But my point is that currently the Church is NOT asking us to live the whole/higher/fullness of the LOC or we would be deeding our property over to the Church, living on the stewardships granted back to us, and giving all of our surplus each year to our Bishops. When the early Saints attempted and failed to live it successfully, the Lord adapted it to Tithes and Offerings instead-which is the form of the LOC we live now.

    Those who are temple endowed have covenanted to live the LOC-in the current form AND in its fullness in the future AND every other form in between. And of course we can strive to live it more fully than we are expected to. But as far as I know, Bishops are not currently managing legal deeds and property inheritances.

  49. avisitor says:

    Kinda O # 17

    Since no one has responded to you yet, I thought I’d offer a thought or two. Please forgive the length.

    First, fast offerings don’t work like a religious savings account where you get back exactly what you put in. As long as you are faithful and pay your tithes and as much offering as you can afford, you can turn to the Church whenever you are in need and get help. Some people who pay fast offerings never need Church assistance and some need more than they’ll ever pay in. It all works out.

    Second, Church leaders have told us to live within our means, avoid debt whenever possible, put money in savings for “a rainy day” and have some form of food storage. We are responsible to provide for ourselves and our families FIRST.

    So in my opinion, if you have no savings and no food storage, your first course of action is to take care of those areas while paying tithing and a fast offering that reflects two meals expense. By definition, you have NO “surplus” to be donating until you have been obedient to the directives regarding your individual stewardship first.

    The plan we used to become debt free (with the exception of our mortgage) was simple and straightforward if you can commit to living ONLY on what is absolutely necessary for the duration of the process and swear off credit cards for good. (It took us approx 11 months)

    Our first step was an “emergency fund” of $1000 cash. ($500 for singles) This fund is for things like your car breaking down, or an unexpected medical expense etc. This fund keeps you from going further into debt or disrupting your plan. When you use part of it, you put the rest of the plan on hold until you replace it.

    Once your emergency fund is in place, you list your debts from smallest to largest and attack the smallest one first-paying only minimums on everything else. Once the first one is paid off, you apply whatever you have been able to throw at it to the second one, and once the second one is paid off, the $$ going to both it and the first one goes to the third and so on until all debts are gone.

    Once your “debts” were gone, you put the monthly amount you used to pay on them into a larger “Emergency Fund” until you have 3-6 months salary saved. Only after that do you focus on retirement, investing etc.

    During this process we shopped food sales, doubled recipes when we cooked entrees (and froze the second one) and bought “two” of everything we could afford to when we grocery shopped. After doing this for approx three months, we had a “cloned” reserve of the basic foods we ate and shopped for during the three months.

    I can testify with a grateful heart that once the Lord knew He could trust us to be “good stewards” with the money and surplus He had already given us, it seemed like He literally opened the windows of heaven to us. We had always been in debt (we married with debt) and were doubtful that we would ever know any degree of security, much less have the peace that we are blessed with now.

    It wasn’t easy or pleasant. We had to ignore a lot of “wants” and toys and trips, but we had no one to blame except our own stupid, past, behaviors and it was time to act responsibly. And because of it, now we are in a place where we can be so much more helpful to the Lord and those who are in need-and that’s the best part of all.

  50. avisitor: Let me see if I can explain it sufficiently. (I can provide references for anything you doubt).

    Yes, please do provide your references. There is clearly some confusion on the specific requirements of the LoC vs. the UO.

  51. This is one of the most important questions we face. I am enjoying the comments.

  52. in a surpisingly happy FHE we were talking about how many times in the scriptures people moved…my 11 year old theorized it was to help people understand the differences between wants and needs

  53. Mark Brown says:

    britt, that sounds like an interesting FHE and a great 11 year old.

  54. avisitor says:

    #50

    Geoff J.

    You’ll forgive the length I hope as I included as many references as I could find.

    “The law of consecration, also known as the United Order (not to be confused with the Orders operated between 1877 and 1884 in the West), required that the donor of property consecrate his wealth by legal title to the agent (bishop) of the Church. In return, the consecrator would receive a stewardship, also called an inheritance, by legal title or deed, which secured his inheritance by law. If he left the Order, this stewardship would be his own; thus, the law of consecration was not communistic because of the principles of free agency and private property. The surplus arising from the “working” of the stewardship, beyond the circumstances and wants and needs of the family, would be placed in the bishop’s storehouse for the care of the poor, widows, orphans, and the building up of Zion. Additional stewardships would also come, in part, from this source.” (The Doctrine and Covenant Speaks Vol. 1-Roy W. Doxey)

    “The economic order revealed on February 9 has been called the law of consecration and stewardship, the First United Order, the Order of Enoch, and the Order of Stewardships.” (Heavens Resound-History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio 1830-1838)

    “The mechanics of the law of consecration were relatively simple. To begin, each man was required to consecrate all his material wealth to God, through the bishop of the Church.” (Doctrines of the Kingdom-Hyrum Andrus)

    “They must live the Law of Consecration, or as otherwise termed, the United Order, as the children of God did in the City of Enoch or as the Nephites did following the advent of Christ.” (Gospel Through the Ages-Milton R Hunter)

    “If we were spiritually ready for the law of consecration, there would be no poor among us. (D&C 49:20.) No wonder the Church stresses the law of tithing, a law to prepare us for something higher. The world looks at the principle of tithing and sees a system of revenue; we look at it and see also a system of salvation, an anticipation of consecration.” (Deposition of a Disciple Neal A. Maxwell p. 87.)

    “Joseph Smith always referred to the plan as the Law of Consecration and Stewardship, whereas the Utah experiments established under the direction of Brigham Young were known as the United Order. For a discussion of differences between the two in principle and practice see Priesthood and Church Welfare, pp. 126-131. In the present instance, “United Order” is used as the popular term for the original plan of Consecration and Stewardship. (Improvement Era 1940)

    “In light of the fact that we are not now required to live the law of consecration and the further fact that we have the welfare program which, as President Clark said, if put “thoroughly into operation … we shall not be … far from carrying out the great fundamentals of the United Order,” I suppose the best way to live the principles of the law of consecration is to abide by the principles and practices of the welfare program.” (President Marion G. Romney- Ensign Feb.1979)

    “I refer to the law of consecration, which is lived through the united order.” (Victor L. Brown member of the Presiding Bishopric 1976)

    George Q. Cannon-“The time must come when we must obey that which has been revealed to us as the Order of Enoch, when there shall be no rich and no poor among the Latter-day Saints; when wealth will not be a temptation; when every man will love his neighbor as he does himself; when every man and woman will labor for the good of all as much as for self. That day must come, and we may as well prepare our hearts for it, brethren, for as wealth increases I see more and more a necessity for the institution of such an order. As wealth increases, luxury and extravagance have more power over us. The necessity for such an order is very great, and God, undoubtedly, in his own time and way, will inspire his servant [the prophet] to introduce it among the people.” (In Journal of Discourses, 15:207.)

    “We are not always called upon to live the whole law of consecration and give all of our time, talents, and means to the building up of the Lord’s earthly kingdom. Few of us are called upon to sacrifice much of what we possess, and at the moment there is only an occasional martyr in the cause of revealed religion.” (Bruce R McConkie General Conference April 1975)

    “The First Presidency instructed the Saints in 1882 that while there was much benefit from the existing programs, the full implementation of the law of consecration was yet in the future. After talking about the principles of the law of consecration President John Taylor and his counselors wrote: “This is a simple outline of how things will exist with regard to some of these matters, when the law of God shall be fully carried out. Our relations with the world, and our own imperfections prevent the establishment of this system at the present time, and therefore, as was stated by Joseph in an early day, it can not yet be carried out.” (In Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 2:339.)

  55. I did some digging of my own as well and I have to agree it does appear that the separation of the law of consecration from the united order is a sort of post hoc explanation for our not living the order now.

  56. Hi, I’m curious if any of the history wonks out there have some words of wisdom on the claim that “the Lord withdrew [the Law of Consecration] for a time” (as quoted by #31 in heading to D&C 119). Where did this claim come from? It is extremely common in the church and yet seems to contradict any open teaching on consecration I’ve read, i.e. it always seems to refer to some unspecified place where the Lord told the saints they no longer needed to live it (it sure isn’t in section 119), not to mention a contradiction with the teachings of Brigham Young on the subject (which I’m mainly familiar with from Nibley’s “Approaching Zion” and “Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints”). Where does this originate?

  57. Tugboater says:

    “Can you help me understand what you mean when you say government sponsored stealing?

    That is a provocative phrase, but I’m not sure how to understand it. Do you object to all income transfers, including Social Security, WIC, and medicaid for disabled people? Or do you have something else in mind?”

    Dear Br. Brown

    The shortest answer would be “go read Pres. Ezra T. Benson’s classic essay, ‘The Purpose of Government’, or Frederick Bastiat’s great booklet, ‘The Law’. Both are available free on line.” But to be brief.

    You have life, a gift from God. It is yours to use according to your judgment and conscience, that is, you have liberty, or free agency. To sustain your life you must act. By the sweat of your brow shall you eat. If one cannot act, in this world one is dead. Only an empty body acts not at all.

    You will recognize these as the rights called inalienable gifts of God, that man does not have the right to take, of life, liberty and property.

    Property? Yes. Property is the product of our actions. There are only 2 honorable ways to sustain life: To use our actions to produce the items we need to live, or use our actions to provide services to those who do produce those things, in trade for them.

    There is a 3rd way to live. We can act to defraud others or to use the threat of force to take from others. Every moral code in the world condemns theft and dishonesty. We organize to prevent such robbery. These organizations are called governments.

    Unfortunately, some would pervert government from its proper function. Governments can become excellent tools for plunder, for robbing Peter to pay Paul. A politician who takes from Peter for the benefit of Paul can always count on the support of Paul.

    An example. You and I are walking down the street. We see a beggar. I give him something. You do not. I do not have the right to force you to give to him. I do not have the right to overrule your judgment, your conscience. I do not have the right to force you to act to sustain him…to do so makes you both my and the beggar’s slave. A gift that is forced is no gift at all, and tempts you to sin of hate, the beggar to sin of envy, and me to sin of theft and pride.

    Not me, nor myself with a thousand others has the right to overrule your action. We may preach to you, but to help him is between you and God.

    When the crowd perverts government to take of Peter’s labor, his liberty, his life, that government is corrupt. That is government sponsored stealing, no matter how good a story it tells to justify forcibly taking your time, talent and effort.

    Yes, I do object to forced “charity” such as Medicare, WIC and the fraud of Social Security.Free, righteous people will take care of the sick, the homeless, the poor of their own volition. True charity cannot be forced. Nor can the law of consecration.

  58. Steve Evans says:

    LOL.

  59. Free, righteous people will take care of the sick, the homeless, the poor of their own volition.

    Until the New Deal, the US was much more “free” (i.e. libertarian). My read on history is that the Righteous did not take up the slack, and the sick, homeless, and poor were not taken care of at all.

    Perhaps you mean to imply that there are more righteous people today? Or do you hope that the persistence of poverty will call people to righteousness? Or maybe, that the Righteous will take care only of “their own”, i.e. fellow churchgoers or family members?

    Exactly what historical evidence supports the somewhat implausible assertion that “things will just work out” if the government gets out of the way?

  60. Steve L, I just saw your #56. You need a little chronological context there:

    The Law of Consecration as we know it today had not yet been given to the Church, and that wasn’t what was withdrawn. Previous to the date of Section 119, the Lord had called for a limited amount of consecrated property (community businesses like the Kirtland ashery and sawmill, but not including personal property, time, talents, etc.) and had assigned stewardships to a small group of Church leaders, who were a kind of corporate body administering those community businesses for the good of the whole Church. The obligation referred to as being withdrawn in the heading to Section 119 was that limited Kirtland corporate stewardship (see the heading to section 104, and the verses in that section which assign properties to individuals — those individuals, not the full Church, were the ones to whom the first law of consecrations and stewardships applied).

    Tithing was the first related law given to the entire Church, followed by the obligation of the full Law of Consecration laid upon the most faithful.

    I hope that’s what you needed.

  61. Tugboater says:

    As one of the founding fathers said, a society of angels needs no government, nor would we fear to be governed if the king were an angel.

    Benjamin Franklin said the Constitution was sufficient for a righteous people, and not estrong enough for any other.

    The government of Kings Benjamin and Mosiah were of the minimalist type, with the kings working for their own sustenance.

    Indeed, such a free society worked well in America for a century. Philanthropy was the mainstay of charity work. Do you not believe that the Church could take care of its own without the federal Government? Isn’t our voluntary welfare program inspired? Don’t you have the faith that it could work if the Church filled the globe?

    Do you really need someone to force you to help someone? It is an unprofitable and not a wise servant who must be commanded in all things. Take care of your family, take care of your neighbors, the people that you home teach. Do this, and government need not do it. I daresay tht you will do a better job than some bureaucrat.

    The Church, and eventually the LOC will fill the earth, and secular governments will be gone. By voluntary means, by long suffering and persuasion, not by force or theft will society be improved.

  62. ROFTL.

  63. Tugboater says:

    Dear Dan
    “Until the New Deal, the US was much more “free” (i.e. libertarian). My read on history is that the Righteous did not take up the slack, and the sick, homeless, and poor were not taken care of at all.

    Perhaps you mean to imply that there are more righteous people today? Or do you hope that the persistence of poverty will call people to righteousness? Or maybe, that the Righteous will take care only of “their own”, i.e. fellow churchgoers or family members?”

    There were relief societies, (not just ours), local organizations that did much to help the sick and poor. Even when I was growing up there was a doctor that I know who saw a lot of patients who never paid him a cent, though he might find a sack of corn or beans on his porch. I remember a Shetland pony! Nevertheless, he was not unique.
    I remember a conference talk about charity, where as the man was returning from the funerals of 2 of his children he passed his neighbors returning from the sugar beet fields. Then he realized that they had been taking care of his harvest.
    Were all of the population righteous? Of course not, and to that degree that they did (do) not obey the principles that Nephi called “living after the manner of happiness” a people will have poor. Christ said, “the poor ye have always with you.”
    Yes, good people did try to “take up the slack”. To a large extent they succeeded in making this the most prosperous, literate people ever. Of course they were not perfect, nor did they eradicate poverty. But they did better than any government has done.
    As to the rest, my brother, what I said earlier applies. We work in our corner of the vineyard, one soul at a time, precept on precept. Good luck in yours.

  64. There is a huge gap between the ideal and the real. It’s important to keep the ideal in mind, but it’s every bit as important to deal with the real.

    That’s as charitably as I can phrase it.

  65. Why don’t I ever get the feeling that the most indignant voices protesting “forced charity” are doing much in the way of voluntary charity?

  66. “Even when I was growing up there was a doctor that I know who saw a lot of patients who never paid him a cent, though he might find a sack of corn or beans on his porch. I remember a Shetland pony!”

    That’s how they rolled in 1835.

  67. nasamomdele says:

    A pony?

    I would have been pissed. One more mouth to feed.

  68. Ardis, come let’s be fair now. The tent over the those who are privately selfish stretches over many who publicly praise “forced charity,” too.

  69. The tent over the those who are privately selfish stretches over many who publicly praise “forced charity,” too.

    At least they were charged admission (taxes) to take shelter under that tent, so they aren’t complete freeloaders!

  70. Tugboater, I don’t disagree with some of the things you’re saying (in principle), but you’re not going to get very far here so long as you take the tone of exhorter and know-it-all. State your case without the questioning of people’s faith, and I might be convinced to offer some support.

  71. No doubt, Scott B. I’m referring to the feeling those rants create; obviously I have no knowledge of any particular cases.

  72. Ardis, I’m just teasing. :)

  73. Dan W. (#69), If the example of the current Treasury secretary and half a dozen other recent nominees is any example, that is not necessarily the case. Taxes for thee but not for me…

  74. Mineminemineminemineminemine. You can’t have it it’s mine. Mine. MINE.

  75. That’s the very feeling, Ann!

  76. avisitor says:

    Tugboater

    From one “nutter” to another here-gird thy loins friend, gird thy loins.

  77. avisitor says:

    #65
    Ardis,

    Forced charity is an oxymoron (oxymormon too). I think his point is that the very nature of charity as the Lord defines it is voluntary. Change that and it becomes something other than charity.

    BTW-when I was compiling references for Geoff-I followed a link to your website and the “consecration” page was empty. :-( Was glad to see you jump in here.

  78. Taxes for thee but not for me…

    Mark D.,

    I have no kids, yet I pay for others’ childrens’ public education. If some of those kids I’m paying for are yours, then verily you speak the truth.

  79. Lest my previous comment be misunderstood, I am absolutely not complaining about the taxes I pay. It is a privilege for me to pay them, because I don’t want to live in a Charles Dickens nightmare.

    We are DINKS with decent salaries and college educations. Under any tax plan, we get the shaft. Actually, a shaft and a quarter, since California gets back (according to Gov. Schwarzeneggar) only 75% of what it sends (via Washington) to pay for e.g. farm subsidies in Kansas.

    George Carlin once summarized the creed of the Baby Boomers as: “It’s mine, give it to me”. If there is some chronicle of my sins, this at least will not be its title.

  80. Sometimes the thoughtful kindhearted posts of the ‘liberal’ members of the blogosphere resonate with me, and prompt me to reconsider some of my long held more conservative views. Not so today.

    re: #58,62, and the rest of the snarky high brow condescenders…tsk tsk tsk…

    More and more, political party mantra makes me sick. I honestly do believe that if we are truly living a good life, we will be prompted to reach out and take care of those in need. I’ve seen it happen! I also think if we are in tune, regardless of our party affiliations, we will be more than willing to live the higher law of consecration. I trust myself and my family and my friends and fellow man far more than I would/could ever trust the gov’t. Shame on anyone who purports to know how charitable another is based on their political ideologies.

    Tugboat made some great points. Was it necessary to attack?

    Yuck. I need pepto.

  81. BTW-when I was compiling references for Geoff-I followed a link to your website and the “consecration” page was empty. Was glad to see you jump in here.

    I have no idea whatsoever what you’re talking about, avisitor.

  82. Members, as a whole, are not giving enough to charity. Fast offerings are not sufficient to meet the needs of members of the church. And yet there are many members that are wealthy, and some that are ridiculously wealthy.
    Why?
    I visited Sweden not too long ago. I met people there, well-educated, hard-working people. They are proud that their elected government taxes them more to provide basic needs for all their people. No one is driven to bankruptcy because they get cancer, etc. No one freezes to death because all the shelters are full. This is the system the people of Sweden, through their elected officials, chose.
    I’m not sure which system God prefers, but I do know that the one in Sweden is much closer to his “no poor and no rich” model.
    I know individual choice plays more of a role in the US system, but the majority of people in Sweden (from what I saw, the vast majority) prefer their system. They have voiced their choice through their elected government, and so individual choice has played a role there too.
    I’m fairly certain of one thing. The US, as well as the members of the LDS church, do not do nearly a good enough job in taking care of the poor.
    I hope everyone can agree that there, at least, we need some major changes.

  83. Peter LLC says:

    I trust myself and my family and my friends and fellow man far more than I would/could ever trust the gov’t.

    Which you have to admit is a little odd in a democratic society where the government = your fellow men and women.

  84. Steve Evans says:

    “re: #58,62, and the rest of the snarky high brow condescenders…tsk tsk tsk…”

    awesome. Like rain on your wedding day.

  85. Getting back to the point of Natalie’s original post, the scriptures relating to consecration can be confusing because sometimes they refer to the Law of Consecration and sometimes to the United Order. The United Order is a subset of the Law of Consecration which contemplates an extended society and economy operating under the Law of Consecration. Today we are not asked to use the United Order as the method of practicing the Law of Consecration, but every endowed member has agreed to live the Law of Consecration here and now. Clearly the Law of Consecration implies consecration of means as well as heart and mind. How we do that in our contemporary world where we do not have the benefit of living in a society and economy organized under the United Order is a subject worthy of much thought and effort. In attempting to live consecration now it is useful to look at early efforts to live the United Order form of the Law of Consecration for principles and inspiration. Particularly enlightening for us today are the efforts to implement a United Order form of consecration in 1870s Utah, where the economy was on its way to becoming the industrialized corporate economy we live in today. Then there were a wide variety of methodologies used (such as employee or consumer owned businesses) in addition to the well-known kibbutz-like agricultural communes such as Orderville.

    The key is that the Law of Consecration calls for more proactive engagement of mind, heart, time, and for those with the means, more money than just tithing and fast offerings to accomplish the Gospel purpose of helping the poor. Discussions as to whether government is a proper vehicle to achieve this are a distraction from our current and real responsibility to help the poor in accordance with the law of consecration and what principles can be abstracted from efforts by the early Saints to practice the United Order. One modern application which I find very compatible with these principles is micro-finance. Here is a nice summary from BYU of some of the many organizations that Latter-day Saints are involved in in this area:

    http://www.family-outreach.com/2005/Strengthening_Families_Trough_Global_Self_Reliance.pdf

  86. Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, and you’ve ruined a wonderful business opportunity. ;-)

  87. To all peoples, bishops and branch presidents: Live the law of consecration and the united order today/now. Prepare yourselves to recieve us, for we are coming, or else be found sealed up unto the day of the wrath of the Lord.

    1 Nephi 13:37 And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.

    Once we have passed by you will individually be required to obey it. Copy this text and give it to your leaders.

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