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Living the law of consecration moves us from gospel hobbyists to career disciples. It is a mark of true followers. President Benson taught us about this law:
We covenant to live the law of consecration. This law is that we consecrate our time, talents, strength, property, and money for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God on this earth and the establishment of Zion.
Until one abides by the laws of obedience, sacrifice, the gospel, and chastity, he cannot abide the law of consecration, which is the law pertaining to the celestial kingdom. “Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom” (D&C 105:5). The law of consecration is a celestial law, not an economic experiment.[i]
The law of consecration is foreign to the natural man. To such it appears as a way for the church to get rich and exercise control over us.
Those who know God and have experimented with His ways know otherwise. They know that the more they turn their lives over to God, the better their lives become. The ultimate joy is to surrender completely to God. We turn everything over to Him and life gets inexpressibly good.
Elder Maxwell underscores this irony: “Consecration is the only surrender which is also a victory. It brings release from the raucous, overpopulated cell block of selfishness and emancipation from the dark prison of pride.”[ii]
Various metaphors might be used for consecration. Only the vines connected to the roots will bear fruit. Only that part of the car driven into the carwash can be cleaned. Only those train cars hooked to the engine can be pulled up the mountain. Only that which we bring to the altar can be sanctified and perfected.
To offer everything to God requires great faith. Joseph Smith said
For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also—counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ—requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God; but actual knowledge, realizing that, when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God. A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life.[iii]
While many of us tentatively experiment with trusting God, He waits patiently. He will answer every experiment with the same result: love, joy and peace are the fruits of trusting Him.
An ancient model of consecration
As a young man, Abraham was deeply troubled when his fathers “turned from their righteousness, and from the holy commandments which the Lord their God had given unto them, unto the worshiping of the gods of the heathen [and] utterly refused to hearken to my voice; For their hearts were set to do evil . . . (Abraham 1:5-6). The people were so totally devoid of light that they turned to sacrificing their own children. They sacrificed virgins and even attempted to slay Abraham. Nevertheless, over the years Abraham grew in faith and heavenly power.
Abraham was 100 years old when he and Sarah had the yearned-for son, Isaac. How they must have cherished their boy! How they must have rejoiced that their lives had been crowned with Isaac’s miraculous birth!
According to tradition, Isaac was 30 years old when Abraham received the commandment to sacrifice his son. Imagine the soul-stretching pain of being asked to participate in a ritual he loathed, and to lose his cherished son!
The story is both poignant and instructive. There are rich details in the Book of Jasher account that may or may not be fully doctrinal but is fully instructive. My comments appear in brackets.
At that time the word of the Lord came to Abraham, and he said unto him, Abraham, and he said, Here I am. [These words are wonderfully akin to those uttered by Jehovah in answer to His call to rescue the human race!]
And he said to him, Take now thy son, thine only son whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which shall be shown to thee, for there wilt thou see a cloud and the glory of the Lord. . . .
And Abraham went with Isaac his son to bring him up as an offering before the Lord, as He had commanded him. . . .
And whilst Abraham was proceeding with his son Isaac along the road, Satan came and appeared to Abraham in the figure of a very aged man, humble and of contrite spirit, and he approached Abraham and said to him, Art thou silly or brutish, that thou goest to do this thing this day to thine only son? . . .[There are always those who will call our offerings to the Lord silly, pointless, and unnecessary!]
And Abraham rebuked him and said unto him, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, begone from us for we go by the commands of God.
And Satan was terrified at the voice of Abraham, and he went away from them, and the place again became dry land as it was at first.
And Abraham went with Isaac toward the place that God had told him. . . .
And Abraham took wood for a burnt offering and placed it upon his son Isaac, and he took the fire and the knife, and they both went to that place.
And when they were going along Isaac said to his father, Behold, I see here the fire and wood, and where then is the lamb that is to be the burnt offering before the Lord?
And Abraham answered his son Isaac, saying, The Lord has made choice of thee my son, to be a perfect burnt offering instead of the lamb (Chapter XXIII: 1-2, 20, 25, 38-40, 49-51).
Can we imagine Isaac’s shock! “God wants you to be the burnt offering.” How would you react? Many of us would suspect our fathers of being unhinged. But Isaac responded with magnificent grace. Even when his father probed his resolve, he was unflinching.
And Isaac said unto his father, I will do all that the Lord spoke to thee with joy and cheerfulness of heart.
And Abraham again said unto Isaac his son, Is there in thy heart any thought or counsel concerning this, which is not proper? tell me my son, I pray thee, O my son conceal it not from me.
And Isaac answered his father Abraham and said unto him, O my father, as the Lord liveth and as thy soul liveth, there is nothing in my heart to cause me to deviate either to the right or to the left from the word that he has spoken to thee.
Neither limb nor muscle has moved or stirred at this, nor is there in my heart any thought or evil counsel concerning this.
But I am of joyful and cheerful heart in this matter, and I say, Blessed is the Lord who has this day chosen me to be a burnt offering before Him. (v.52-56, emphasis added)
Together they built the altar through tears. Then Isaac showed the depth of his humility and resolve with his request of his father.
And Isaac said to his father, Bind me securely and then place me upon the altar lest I should turn and move, and break loose from the force of the knife upon my flesh and thereof profane the burnt offering; and Abraham did so. (v. 61, emphasis added)
Then Isaac asked his father to look after Sarah, his mother . . .
And Abraham heard the words of Isaac, and he lifted up his voice and wept when Isaac spake these words; and Abraham’s tears gushed down upon Isaac his son, and Isaac wept bitterly, and he said to his father, Hasten thou, O my father, and do with me the will of the Lord our God as He has commanded thee (v.63).
The spirit of total submission is shown in the battle between their hearts and their eyes.
And the hearts of Abraham and Isaac rejoiced at this thing which the Lord had commanded them; but the eye wept bitterly whilst the heart rejoiced.
And Abraham bound his son Isaac, and placed him on the altar upon the wood, and Isaac stretched forth his neck upon the altar before his father, and Abraham stretched forth his hand to take the knife to slay his son as a burnt offering before the Lord. . . .
At that time the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and called to him, from heaven, and said unto him, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him, for now I know that thou fearest God in performing this act, and in not withholding thy son, thine only son, from me.
And Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, a ram was caught in a thicket by his horns; that was the ram which the Lord God had created in the earth in the day that he made earth and heaven.
For the Lord had prepared this ram from that day, to be a burnt offering instead of Isaac. (v.64-65, 69-71, emphasis added)
The call to consecration in marriage
Marriage provides glorious opportunities to practice consecration. Just as Isaac was willing to give his life as the ultimate expression of commitment to God, so we are invited to dedicate our lives, our talents, our weekends, and our weaknesses to the sacred enterprise of sanctifying our marriages and ultimately perfecting our souls.
In the day-to-day struggles of marriage we may fail to see that this ultimate sacrifice qualifies us for the ultimate reward. We shall “inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths”—all that the Father hath (see D&C 132:19)!
This total willingness to sacrifice must not be misunderstood. This is not the same as becoming a gelatinous blob with no form or purpose. This ultimate sacrifice is combined with obedience and informed by the gospel of Jesus Christ to provide an appropriate sacrifice. As God would have it, our whole-soul offerings are likely to bless our partners even as they refine us.
Most of our sacrifices take a startlingly pedestrian form. I have never yet been called on to stand in traffic at risk of life and limb in order to protect Nancy. But I have been called on to make a thousand sacrifices that felt earth-shaking.
For example, I like to squeeze the toothpaste very systematically from the bottom of the tube making sure that every particle is methodically herded toward the nozzle and filling the measure of its creation. After emptying any part of the tube, I fold it so that none of the toothpaste can retreat and hide. I can easily justify my system as tidy and frugal. When Nancy grabs the tube in the middle and thoughtlessly squeezes, a shudder runs through my soul. She seems like a good person . . . how could she act in such a reckless way?
Just as a Book of Mormon king was willing to give away all his sins to know God (Alma 22:18), I must be willing to give away all my petty preferences in order to know the godliness in Nancy’s soul. I don’t lecture her or condescend to her. I may explain my method, but when it is clear that she is not going to be a conscientious paste-herder, I simply buy a clip to clamp on my tidy folds.
Of course this applies to toothpaste, dirty socks, and messy kitchen counters—and much more! Maybe nothing in the universe would hurt us more than knowing that our partners had flirted with another person. Perhaps the deepest pain we could experience in mortality was finding that our partners had been unfaithful. Perhaps name-calling and insults would injure us seemingly beyond repair. Maybe having a partner who no longer seems to appreciate us might wound us so deeply that we would think the relationship is doomed.
At that critical juncture—and all others—consecration invites us to put everything we have on the altar–to hold nothing back. We are willing to minister to a mixed-up spouse. We are willing to love a failing partner. We bless those who belittle us. We pray for those who have despitefully used us. Please note that no partner should have to tolerate physical violence. In such cases, counseling should be sought. But every married person must accept abundant limitations if they hope to have a strong relationship. Then consecration moves us from acceptance to using our spiritual energy to rescue our imperfect partners.
Consecration has everything to do with marriage. It is much more than “staying together for the kids.” It is acting to redeem our partners and our covenants with everything we have and everything we may draw from Heaven. We do all of this in order to establish Zion in our hearts and homes.
It took decades for me to realize the significance of the covenant I made with God and Nancy. On that January day more than 40 years ago, I promised God that I would always look for the good in Nancy. I promised that my attitude would always be redemptive—that no sacrifice would be too great. I promised God that I would be His partner in protecting, blessing, comforting, and saving Nancy’s precious soul. After all, there is nothing in God’s work I will ever do that will be more important than blessing my covenant partner.
I wish I had realized all that I was promising as part of my covenants on that blessed day. Maybe I would have been a better—a more consecrated—partner all along the way.
[More about consecration in marriage in the next installment]
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[i] Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft , 121.
[ii] Neal A. Maxwell, The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft , 62.
[iii] Lectures on Faith, 58, emphasis added.