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Editor’s Note: Our friend and longtime Meridian writer Larry Barkdull recently passed away. To remember and honor him this is one of a series of his past articles that we are republishing regularly.
Nearly two years after the organization of the Church, Joseph Smith received a revelation (D&C 78) from the Lord instructing him to take the next step in establishing the law of consecration.
For verily I say unto you, the time has come, and is now at hand; and behold, and lo, it must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion.
This “order” was to be considered “a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven.”
Beyond advancing the cause of Zion and providing a means of salvation for us, this “order” was to make the Saints “equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things.” Notice that equality is a constant theme in consecration literature: “For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things.”
Obeying the law of consecration cannot be overstated: “For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.”1
The Prophet learned that disobeying this law carries dire consequences: disloyalty to the truth, blindness to the Source of our blessings, and perhaps worse, the loss of our standing before God, and subjugation to Satan. The Saints must live this law, the Lord said,
Otherwise, Satan seeketh to turn their hearts away from the truth, that they become blinded and understand not the things which are prepared for them. Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, to prepare and organize yourselves by a bond or everlasting covenant that cannot be broken. And he who breaketh it shall lose his office and standing in the church, and shall be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption. 2
Conversely, the “order” of consecration is the key to our temporal and spiritual salvation. Consecration prepares us against the trials of the last days, and sets us apart as independent from this wicked world:
Behold, this is the preparation wherewith I prepare you, and the foundation, and the ensample which I give unto you, whereby you may accomplish the commandments which are given you; that through my providence, notwithstanding the tribulation which shall descend upon you, that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world. 3
The guiding principles of the law of consecration are:
By abiding by these principles, we achieve equality, which is a characteristic of the celestial kingdom. That is, we are given equal access to the stewardships, inheritances, and resources of the Lord. The “order” that this celestial system creates is to be considered “a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven.”4Additionally, these guiding principles of consecration prepare us for the trials of the last days and the coming of the Savior.
An Unbreakable Foundation
Agency, stewardship, accountability, and labor form an unbreakable foundation upon which consecration thrives. God gives us both the liberty and the capability to choose and to act. By exercising our agency, we choose to escape Babylon and flee to the safety of Zion and its covenants.
There, we choose to enter into the new and everlasting covenant and follow the path to exaltation by receiving the oath and covenant of the priesthood, then the temple covenants and ordinances, which culminate with the law of consecration, one of the final covenants that we must make in order to enter into God’s presence and thereafter receive our eternal kingdom.
Choosing to become Stewards rather than Owners
Now, individually, we are a Zion person. Now, by exercising our agency, we choose to view everything that we have and are as a stewardship, and thus we qualify to approach God so that he might make us independent and self-reliant, both temporally and spiritually.
Now we are accountable stewards, not owners. As such, we have (1) the freedom to use the proceeds of our stewardship to provide for our personal needs, and (2) the charge to consecrate the surplus of our stewardship to bless God’s needy children.
We stewards agree to apply our diligent labor to our stewardship, striving always to create a physical manifestation of our stewardship according to what God has already created spiritually. As we discharge our stewardship righteously, we enter into a system of celestial compensation; God becomes our Paymaster. Whatever becomes the means by which our living is provided, we can trace the source back to God.
The law of consecration stipulates that we be given agency to choose and act, but then we agree to consecrate our agency back to God in the form of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, allowing our will to be swallowed up in the will of the Father. In return, God agrees to take care of us and guide us as we manage the affairs of our stewardship.
Furthermore, we agree to “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God” 5and become “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love,” and “willing to submit” to the Lord. 6 Our efforts to live this way allow him to bless us –
every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just – and all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church – every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God. 7
By doing these things, we are called profitable and just stewards.
Why We Must Learn To Consecrate Now
Through choosing to live the covenant of consecration, we gain valuable skills that will benefit us in the celestial kingdom. There we “shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths.”8
Clearly, our celestial stewardships within our Father’s kingdom will be vast; therefore we must choose to learn and live the principles of stewardship here and now. This is the promise: “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.”9
Present and Eternal Accountability
Because all stewardships originate with the Lord, we are accountable to him both in time and in eternity for our performance. While we are free to choose how we manage the Lord’s resources, we are not free from being accountable to him. How we choose to handle our stewardships now will determine our receiving additional and eternal trusts. Our eventually receiving all things or forfeiting our stewardship and inheriting nothing pivot on that choice.
Stewardships and Labor
Stewardships are invigorated by our labor. Upon the principle of labor we have another accountable choice: We can either choose to labor and build up the Lord’s stewardship to ourselves, pillage its resources for our selfish benefit, claim the property as our own, and take credit for its performance – or we can choose to build up our stewardship for the support of the kingdom of God and the establishment of Zion, use the surplus resources to bless the lives of his children, acknowledge that our stewardship and all we have and are belong to the Lord, and give him all the glory.
The question before us is always this: Are we laboring for ourselves or for God? For Babylon or for Zion?
Labor augments our stewardship. “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.” 10 To achieve the celestial kingdom our labor must mirror 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. 11
Furthermore, we can augment our labor and improve our stewardship by the principle of grace: we do all we can do, then draw upon the Lord’s help to make up the difference.
The law of tithes and offerings is just such an augmenting principle: by giving a little and doing our best, this law returns us “an hundredfold” of prosperity, protection, and exaltation.
Building up the kingdom of God for the establishment of Zion is the one and only reason that a covenant Zion person labors. Seen through the lens of Zion, this attitude permeates every manifestation of his labor and his career. Everything – absolutely everything: time, talents resources, all that one is or has – is consecrated to the Lord. And that includes the reason a Zion person labors and manages the fruits of his labor.
Idleness is the Antithesis of Zion
Idleness cannot land us in the celestial realm: “Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.12 The idle poor have no claim upon the Lord’s resources; the idle rich are rebuked when they live off the efforts of the laboring poor.
But the definition of idle is scripturally broader: any covenant person who does not labor for Zion is termed “idle,” and thus is under condemnation. Only a celestial effort and attitude toward labor will transport us to where we want to be.
Consecration and the Final Judgment
These guiding principles of the law of consecration prepare us for the final judgment. “[When the Lord comes he will] recompense unto every man according to his work.”13 Within the law of consecration, God has given us all that we need to qualify for the highest reward.
1. Agency allows us to choose and to act.
2. Stewardship provides us a means of self-reliance and a way to fulfill our obligation to care for the Lord’s needy children.
3. Accountability gives us means to progress within the Lord’s kingdom, and to gain trust after trust, until we obtain exaltation.
4. Labor bestows upon us double happiness, self-respect, prosperity, the confidence of our fellowmen, and the Lord’s mighty blessing.
Such is the genius of the law of consecration and its guiding principles.
1 D&C 78:3-7.
2 D&C 78:11-12.
3 D&C 78:13-14.
4 D&C 78:4.
5 D&C 84:44.
6 Mosiah 3:19.
7 D&C 82:17-19; emphasis added.
8 D&C 132:19.
9 D&C 51:19.
10 McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 847.
11 Jacob 2:17-19.
12 D&C 42:42.
13 D&C 1:10; see also D&C 112:34.