The Law of Consecration is the very core of the gospel, and it permeates every gospel principle. Only by living this law can we hope to obtain an inheritance in the celestial kingdom.
(This article was adapted from Pillars of Zion series. Click here to receive your free copy of the introduction to the series: Portrait of a Zion Person.)
The Law of Consecration is the very core of the gospel, and it permeates every gospel principle. This highest law defines a Zion person. Although programs of consecration have come and gone, the template of consecration remains the same. Consequently, consecration is current; it is now. Only by living this law can we hope to obtain an inheritance in the celestial kingdom.
What is Consecration?
To consecrate something is to sanctify, purify and set it apart for a sacred use, to make it holy, to dedicate it solemnly to a special service, or to give it religious sanction as with an oath or a vow.[i] When we make the covenant of consecration, we agree to consecrate our lives, including everything that we have, will have, are or will be. According to President Kimball, we consecrate “our time, talents and means to care for those in need-whether spiritually or temporally-and in building the Lord’s kingdom.” [ii]
Hugh Nibley asks, “And how much is one able to give? Exactly as much as the Lord has given him-all that which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he will bless you.”[iii] Lived properly, the covenant of consecration paves the way and lays the foundation for the establishment for Zion in a righteous person’s life.
A Brief History of Consecration
The first recorded revelation concerning consecration was April 7, 1829, when the Lord instructed Joseph Smith to “seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion.”[iv] This was no small task. Zion is the celestial order of things, for both individuals and societies.[v]
Some descriptions of consecrated Zion people include: their belief that all things belong to God and that they are stewards[vi]; their willingness to be unified by esteeming other people as themselves[vii]; their retaining and exercising their free agency[viii]; their willingness to set aside selfishness and become equal with all the saints of God, according to their wants, needs and family situations[ix] by consecrating their “time, talents, strength, properties, and monies”[x]; and their being accountable to the Lord for the discharge of their covenant and stewardships.[xi]
Anciently, Enoch managed to establish the ideal of Zion among his people, who later joined to create Zion, the city. These people exercised faith in Jesus Christ, repented of their sins, embraced the fullness of the New and Everlasting Covenant, and thereby became “of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.”[xii] The vehicle that made this condition possible, and that will make it possible in the latter-days, was the Law of Consecration.
At the beginning of 1831, “the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Fayette, New York, that anciently he had taken the Zion of Enoch to himself and then commanded him to go to Ohio to receive the law [the law of Zion].”[xiii]
A month later, February 9, 1831, the Lord revealed to the Prophet “the law,” or the law of Zion, that which the Prophet specified as “embracing the law of the Church.”[xiv] This law became known as Section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants, and in it the Lord revealed the cornerstones of the Law of Consecration.
D&C 42-The Cornerstones of Consecration
The “Law of the Church,” Section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants, lists four cornerstones of the Law of Consecration:
- Mutual assistance–the Lord expects his disciples to sustain and help one another.
- Proper use of priesthood–the priesthood is to be used to benefit those who are physically and spiritually ill or in need.
- 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.
- Reciprocal love–the Lord expects his disciples to love one another and to become one.[xv]
The Law We Must Live to Achieve the Celestial Kingdom
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The law of consecration is a law for an inheritance in the celestial kingdom. God, the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and all holy beings abide by this law. It is an eternal law.”[xvi] People whose lives are consecrated to the Lord “set their hearts on righteousness and having actually put first in their lives the things of God’s kingdom.”[xvii]
The Church Welfare Plan describes a consecrated person as one who does not seek for worldly riches; who esteems his brother as himself; who, through tithes and offerings, helps to build up the Kingdom of God by caring for the temporal needs of those General Authorities whom God has called into full-time service; who makes his worldly goods available, over and above his family’s necessities, for the Lord’s work; and who, with his time, talents and means, takes care of the temporally and spiritually poor.[xviii] Quoting the Church Welfare Plan, Bruce R. McConkie wrote,
“The practice of the law of consecration is inextricably intertwined with the development of the attributes of godliness in this life and the attainment of eternal life in the world to come. The law pertaining to material aid is so formulated that the carrying of it out necessitates practices calculated to root out human traits not in harmony with requirements for living in the celestial kingdom and replacing those inharmonious traits with the virtues and character essential to life in that abode.’ (Bowen, The Church Welfare Plan, p. 13).”[xix]
Then quoting a supporting scripture, Elder McConkie added, “For if you will that I give you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.”[xx]
Consecration’s Foundational Principles
Elsewhere in the scriptures, we learn that the Law of Consecration is built on the foundational principles of agency, stewardship, accountability and labor.
- Agency. An agent is someone who has the power and authority to act.[xxi] Therefore, agents have agency, which is the ability to “act for themselves,”[xxii] or to the ability to act for himself with respect to a given responsibility or obligation.
[xxiii] Agents have the capacity to be accountable for their actions. Whereas freedom is the power and privilege to exercise our will and act upon it, agency is the power, independence of mind and individual will to choose in the first place.
Elder McConkie wrote: “Four great principles must be in force if there is to be agency: 1. Laws must exist, laws ordained by an Omnipotent power, laws which can be obeyed or disobeyed; 2. Opposites must exist–good and evil, virtue and vice, right and wrong–that is, there must be an opposition, one force pulling one way and another pulling the other; 3. A knowledge of good and evil must be had by those who are to enjoy the agency, that is, they must know the difference between the opposites; and 4. An unfettered power of choice must prevail.”[xxiv]
Moral agency describes our ability to act upon and be accountable for spiritual matters.[xxv] Zion people exercise their God-given agency to choose to make and keep the New and Everlasting Covenant (the Covenant), and to reject the enticements of Babylon. And choose we must. Posing the choice between Zion and Babylon, Elijah asked, “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal [Babylon], then follow him.”[xxvi] Being lukewarm on the issue is not acceptable: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”[xxvii]
That these opposites (hot and cold) exist makes agency possible: “And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet.”[xxviii] Therefore, we are free to choose our destiny: Zion, to our salvation, or Babylon, to our condemnation. “Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.”[xxix]
Having chosen Zion and thus having overcome Babylon, Zion people enjoy the highest degree of moral agency and its resulting freedom. Agency and freedom flourish in Zion: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.[xxx] “And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon….”[xxxi]
Conversely, agency and freedom decrease in Babylon: “And the whole world [Babylon] lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.”[xxxii] Choosing Babylon results in fewer choices and less freedom to exercise agency, while choosing Zion results in limitless choices and unequalled freedom to exercise agency.
- Stewardship. When a person exercises his agency to live the Covenant, he makes a conscious choice to become a steward of the Lord’s property. His approach to ownership is “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof….”[xxxiii] Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Underlying this principle of stewardship is the eternal gospel truth that all things belong to the Lord. I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine …. Behold, all these properties are mine, … And if the properties are mine, then ye are stewards; otherwise ye are no stewards.’ (D&C 104:14, 55-56).”[xxxiv]
We are expressly forbidden to hoard property or claim it as our own: “I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property….”[xxxv] Therefore, a Zion person’s claim to his property is subordinate to the Lord’s claim. As Martin Harris learned, property must be consecrated for the building up of the Kingdom of God and the establishment of Zion, which provides that no poor should exist among us. Ultimately we will be held accountable for the discharge of our stewardship.[xxxvi]
A Zion person’s stewardship, sometimes referred to as “portion,”[xxxvii] or “inheritance,”[xxxviii] is to be used to support his own family, and then “conveying back to the Lord’s storehouse any surplus which accrued [for the poor]. (D&C 42:33-34, 55; 70:7-10).” Elder McConkie added, “It is by the wise use of one’s stewardship that eternal life is won.”[xxxix] Zion people do not take their covenant of stewardship lightly; they know that everything depends on their faithfulness in this responsibility: “And whoso is found a faithful, a just, and a wise steward shall enter into the joy of his Lord, and shall inherit eternal life.”[xl]
- Accountability. The Lord said, “…every man shall be made accountable unto me, a steward over his own property….”[xli] Upon the principle of moral agency, stewards are free to manage their stewardships, but they are not free from being accountable to the Lord: “…it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity. For he who is faithful and wise in time is accounted worthy to inherit the mansions prepared for him of my Father.”[xlii] Clearly, we will one day stand before God to give an accounting of our deeds, which will include the management of our stewardship. Our performance will determine the trusts and stewardships given to us in eternity.
Zion people are under covenant to account for their earthly stewardships to the Lord’s servant, the bishop: “Verily I say unto you, the elders of the church in this part of my vineyard shall render an account of their stewardship unto the bishop, who shall be appointed of me in this part of my vineyard. These things shall be had on record, to be handed over unto the bishop in Zion.”[xliii] For this reason, we report to the bishop each year regarding our tithes and offerings, and we account to him during our temple recommend interview. Elder David A. Bednar said that we account to God every night in prayer.[xliv]
- Labor. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “Work is the great basic principle which makes all things possible both in time and in eternity. Men, spirits, angels, and Gods use their physical and mental powers in work.”[xlv] Work, like other principles, exists in degrees ranging from telestial to celestial. Adam was commanded to work to support his family,[xlvi] which is a celestial endeavor, but he was not commanded to set his sights on empire building, plundering, extorting, leveraging, competing, augmenting his balance sheet or amassing personal wealth on the backs of the poor, all of which are telestial. Adam worked to create the first Zion upon the earth: Adam-ondi-Ahman. There he labored to sustain his immediate family and to bless the lives of others.
Likewise, Enoch worked to establish Zion, as did Melchizedek and Nephi: “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands.”[xlvii] They worked together for the benefit of all. They labored to establish righteousness. They worked in unity to raise crops, smelt ore to create weapons for defense, and fashion objects of beauty. Together, they built buildings and a temple. Because of their celestial level of labor they were blessed with prosperity and familial strength: “And it came to pass that we began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land.”[xlviii]
Things began to fall apart when the Nephites became selfish and began to work on a telestial level. Jacob chastised them for searching “for gold, and for silver, and for all manner of precious ores” for the purpose of obtaining riches “more abundantly than that of your brethren,” causing the errant one to be “lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and …suppose that ye are better than they.”[xlix] This kind of labor is not justified in Zion; it is condemned. President Kimball said, “As I understand these matters, Zion can be established only by those who are pure in heart, and who labor for Zion, for the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money [riches] they shall perish’ (2 Ne. 26:30).2 Ne. 26:31).“[l]
Jacob taught the celestial law of labor and its underlying motivation: “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you. But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good–to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.”[li] Clearly, we must work, but what we work for determines if the work is telestial or celestial.
Conversely, “idleness has no place [in Zion],” said President Benson, “and greed, selfishness, and covetousness are condemned. [Zion] may therefore operate only with a righteous people.”[lii]
The Law of Consecration is a subject as glorious as its Founder. It is the law of the Celestial Kingdom revealed to us in this telestial setting for our salvation and exaltation. By this law the Kingdom of God prepares the way for the establishment of Zion as a holy community and Zion as individual people. We must learn all we can about this law then live it, otherwise we cannot expect to obtain an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom.
The foundational principles and cornerstones of Consecration are equality, unity, mutual assistance, proper use of the priesthood, faith, reciprocal love (charity), agency, stewardship, accountability and labor. This is the law by which hearts are purified, and by which we are ushered into the presence of God. Only upon the Law of consecration can we become one in our marriages, families, wards, stakes, the Church, and one with the Father and the Son.
This article was adapted from Pillars of Zion series. Click here to receive your free copy of the introduction to the series: Portrait of a Zion Person. Follow our Internet missionary project: www.gospelideals.org. Please LIKE us on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/gospelideals
[xv] List adapted from Clark V. Johnson, Sperry Symposium 1989, “The Law of Consecration: The Covenant That Requires All and Gives Everything”
kenSeptember 4, 2013
Some questions please: First one has to do with "reciprocal love"? - which is like a quid pro quo based love. Shouldn't that be "unconditional love"? Also can you comment on the relationship between "tithing" and the "law of consecration"? Tithing apparently is the standing law forever according to D&C. Yet "tithing" also is only a portion (tenth?) and has evolved in meaning - and which was paid based on the "surplus" from one's stewardship in Joseph Smith's time. Secondly, therefore, is it right to say that the "law of consecration" can only be lived on an individual basis and will not be required on a church-wide basis mainly because of tithing as a "standing law ... forever" declaration? (D&C 119:4)
ShaunaAugust 29, 2013
Thank you for this article. I am reading yet again your "Three Pillars of Zion" series and am completely immersed in the beauty and simplicity of the Law of Consecration. "Those who have ears to hear...." will hear! Thank you for the sacrifices you have made personally to teach the word of God and help to build up His Kingdom here on earth. Speaking personally I am eternally grateful!