PART 8–THE LORD'S LAW–HERE WE ARE, IN OHIO
A better term for the "law of consecration" might be the "covenant of consecration." For that is what it is. It is a covenant that is made between an individual and the Lord, in a very similar way that one would make a covenant when they are baptized. In fact, the two covenants go hand in hand more than it would initially seem. I will talk more about this later.
This covenant of consecration is not merely an "optional" higher law, or simply a law of the celestial kingdom that will be adhered to some day. In very fact, this covenant of consecration is, and always has been, a necessary requirement for establishing Zion. We will see proof of this in the remainder of this article. It is clearly recorded in the scriptures where certain groups, cities, and even entire civilizations lived under this covenant. And it appears that is was only under these circumstances that they were able to establish a truly peaceful society. I just had a thought–the next time you feel inclined to pray for world peace, perhaps pray for a return to the important covenant of consecration instead. It seems you cannot truly have one without the other.
Before we share some examples of people that were successful in living under this covenant, I want to consider what this law entails. In PART 2 of this article, I mentioned that the Lord gave the saints in New York the instruction to "let every man esteem his brother as himself." (see D&C 38:24-25) The Lord then told them:
"And that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless–
"Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high." (D&C 38:31-32)
Think of the magnificent things that had already been accomplished before this revelation was given. In addition to Joseph Smith's remarkable visions, the Book of Mormon was translated through the power of God and published, the priesthood was restored, and the church had been organized. But now the Lord was saying that they needed to receive His "law" in order to be "gathered" as a "righteous people". The reception of this law was a crucial step in the saints attempt to establish Zion. One's ability to accept the fulness of the gospel rests largely on whether they are able to abide by this law.
So what was included in this law? Before I discuss that, I would pause for a second to encourage anyone reading this to thoroughly read, study, and ponder section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants, where this law is prescribed. This is the law that the Lord gave the saints in order that they might become a "righteous people". Therefore, we might seriously consider whether we are living by the instruction given in this section, in our own lives.
In this revelation (D&C 42) the Lord tells them to "teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel". (D&C 42:12) Once he has established the source under which His gospel is to be found, he begins to instruct the saints concerning laws they are to abide by. Amongst other things, this section discusses the Lords laws regarding killing, stealing, lying, lusting, adultery, and speaking evil of ones neighbor. These instructions read similar to that which is found in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), and to some extent the "higher" law given by the Lord, as found in 3 Nephi 12-14 and Matthew 5-7 (Sermon on the Mount). But looking at this list of potential sins, one could ask, "Where are the laws regarding the 1st, 2nd, and 10th commandments?" This is where the law and covenant of consecration comes in, as established in D&C 42. For if one is to effectively abide by the covenant of consecration, then surely the sins regarding "other gods", "graven images", and "coveting" would be nonexistent.
So lets talk about this covenant of consecration. The Lord introduces this covenant by stating:
"And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken." (D&C 42:30)
Again, it is clear that the Lord is talking about a covenant they are to make, regarding helping the poor. I think we have already thoroughly established in this article how important this dictate of helping the poor and needy is in the eyes of the Lord. If you recall, the Book of Mormon talks about giving "according to that which (you) hath." Already, in the Lord's introduction of this covenant, we have a very similar phrase, "that which thou hast". The further instructions that the Lord gives regarding this law will elaborate on this idea.
The Lord then tells the saints that "inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me…" (D&C 42:31) Remember, we discussed the importance of the phrase, "impart of your substance", as seen all throughout the Book of Mormon. And in the end of PART 7, we talked about the parable of the sheep and the goats where the Lord said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40) Even here in the outset, it is already evident that this law and covenant is the way that the Lord has established for His people to prepare them to "inherit the kingdom." (Matthew 25:34) Similar to this example, as we continue to discuss the covenant of consecration, we will see the application of many of the principles we have already discussed in this article. And hopefully, through such, it will be quite clear how important this covenant was and is.
The Lord then explains the method under which they were to live the law of consecration at that time. All their substance was to be given to the "bishop of (the) church and his counselors" (D&C 42:31), who would then be responsible for dispersing this property to each man, "as much as is sufficient for himself and family." (D&C 42:32) I should mention here that just days previous to this revelation, it was revealed to Joseph Smith that Edward Partridge was the one to be appointed to this position of bishop (see D&C 41:9). And I think it is important to note that Edward Partridge was described by the Lord as follows:
"…his heart is pure before me, for he is like unto Nathanael of old, in whom there is no guile." (D&C 41:11)
What better man would you have handling your consecrated property? He sounds like a solid candidate. Regarding the law of consecration, the Lord goes on to say:
"And again, if there shall be properties in the hands of the church, or any individuals of it, more than is necessary for their support after this first consecration, which is a residue to be consecrated unto the bishop, it shall be kept to administer to those who have not, from time to time, that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants.
"Therefore, the residue shall be kept in my storehouse, to administer to the poor and the needy…" (D&C 42:33-34)
Basically, if there is leftover, among other things it is to be used to care for the poor and needy, as the need arises, so that "every man" may be "amply supplied". It seems quite evident that if a people are truly living under the covenant of consecration, then there will not be any poor among them. There are scriptures to back up this fact, as we shall see. For as soon as it becomes evident that a family or individual is in need, their needs (and even wants) would be met. And remember the Lord told the saints that "the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare." (D&C 104:17) So there is not any reason why ANYONE should have to go without or suffer temporal hardships. The only reason such want and suffering exists in this world, is because of what the Lord said after that. If you recall He said, "Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment." (D&C 104:18, emphasis added) What is the "law of my gospel" according to the Lord, as referenced in this verse? It is this covenant of consecration that we are talking about. And it is because of greed that people suffer needlessly, when people take more than their "portion", or more accurately when they do not give their required portion. And it was because of greed and selfishness that the saints ultimately failed to live by this covenant.
A few verses later, once again the Lord speaks of that which is "consecrated unto the poor and the needy…" (D&C 42:37) and declares, "For inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do it unto me." (D&C 42:38) Once more, the Lord makes reference to the parable that He gave the world, concerning the sheep and the goats. He then says:
"For it shall come to pass, that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled; for I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel." (D&C 42:39)
This amazing verse could lead to an entirely separate article, discussing the promises, obligations, and warnings regarding the Gentiles and the house of Israel. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea are just a few of the "prophets" that talked about this. Jesus Christ himself taught very plainly on this subject, as found in the New Testament and 3 Nephi. Again, we cannot go into it in depth here. But for the purposes of our discussion, I will simply say that there are clear warnings from the prophets and the Lord himself, for the Gentiles, regarding the rejection of the fulness of the Gospel and the breaking or transgressing of the true covenants of God. And who are the "Gentiles", with respect to the latter days, of which the Lord and these prophets spoke? For all intents and purposes, the Gentiles are the "members of the Lord's church". Remember the Book of Mormon was written to the Lamanites, the Jews, and the Gentiles? Ask yourself, which of the three are you? And Joseph Smith, in the Kirtland Temple dedication, said that the saints are those "who are identified with the Gentiles." (see D&C 109:60)
So the obligation to help the poor among the house of Israel rests on the heads of the Gentiles. And this obligation is given under a strict command through a covenant between the Lord and his people, even the covenant of consecration. With this in mind, does this covenant or law appear to be optional? And might the judgements of the Lord be severe were a person, or people, or a church to fail in this obligation? This is definitely something to think about when studying the words of the prophets and our Lord Jesus Christ, and something to keep in mind as we continue discussing the covenant of consecration.
There is one more verse in section 42 that I want to mention here. The Lord said:
"And if thou obtainest more than that which would be for thy support, thou shalt give it into my storehouse, that all things may be done according to that which I have said." (D&C 42:55)
Similar to verse 33 where the Lord mentioned the phrase, "more than is necessary for their support", once again He is giving the saints a good general description of how much they were to consecrate on a regular basis after their initial consecration of all their properties. This could be considered a more specific interpretation of the phrase "according to that which he hath" from the Book of Mormon that we talked about in PART 6 and PART 7. Again, the idea being that if you have more excess than your neighbor after your wants are taken care of, then you are required to give back more than your neighbor. Simple as that.