“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.