Lesson 14: The Law of Consecration

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999), 75–80


Purpose

To help class members understand the law of consecration and its eternal purposes and desire to consecrate their lives more fully to the service of God.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study the following scriptures and other materials:

    1. a.

      Doctrine and Covenants 42:30–42; 51; 78; 82; 104:11–18; and the other scriptures in this lesson.

    2. b.

      Our Heritage, page 26.

  2. 2.

    Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.

  3. 3.

    If you use the attention activity, bring a piece of paper and a pen or pencil for each class member.

Suggestions for Lesson Development

Attention Activity

As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.

Give each class member a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Ask each person to list five of his or her valued material possessions. Then read D&C 104:13–14 with class members.

  • What do we learn from these verses about the true owner of all we possess? How do you feel about the use of your possessions when you realize that all things on the earth are the Lord’s?

Explain that the principles taught in these verses are fundamental to living the law of consecration. This lesson focuses on this law and the ways in which we can more fully consecrate our lives to the Lord.

Discussion and Application

Prayerfully select the lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

1. The Lord revealed the law of consecration to the Saints.

Explain that in February 1831, soon after the Saints began to gather in Kirtland, Ohio, the Lord revealed that they should begin to live the law of consecration (D&C 42:30).

  • What does consecrate mean? (It means to set apart or dedicate something to the service of the Lord.) What is the law of consecration? (It is an organized way in which individuals consecrate their time, talents, and possessions to the Church to build the Lord’s kingdom and serve His children.)

  • What are the purposes of the law of consecration? (Have class members read the following scriptures and identify what they teach about the purposes of the law of consecration. Summarize these purposes on the chalkboard. Select some of the following questions to encourage discussion.)

    1. a.

      D&C 42:30. (To care for the poor and needy.) How is caring for the poor and needy accomplished through the law of consecration? (See D&C 42:31–34.)

    2. b.

      D&C 42:35. (To purchase lands, build houses of worship, and build the New Jerusalem.)

    3. c.

      D&C 42:40. (To help the Lord’s people overcome pride.) How can living the law of consecration help members overcome personal pride or greed?

    4. d.

      D&C 42:42. (To help the Lord’s people be industrious and avoid idleness.)

    5. e.

      D&C 51:9. (To help the Lord’s people be one.) In what ways does the Lord expect us to be one? How can the law of consecration help the Saints be one?

    6. f.

      D&C 78:3–7. (To make the Lord’s people equal in earthly things and help them receive a place in the celestial kingdom.) How does being equal in “earthly things” help us obtain “heavenly things”? (D&C 78:5).

    7. g.

      D&C 78:14. (To help the Church “stand independent above all other creatures.”)

    8. h.

      D&C 82:17–19. (To help the Lord’s people improve their talents for the good of all, seek the interest of their neighbor, and do all things with an eye single to God’s glory.) How can living the law of consecration help the Lord’s people develop greater charity?

Emphasize that from these purposes, it is clear that the law of consecration is not just a temporal or economic program. It is also a spiritual law that helps members grow spiritually and prepare for eternal life (D&C 29:34–35).

Explain that the principles of the law of consecration have not changed since it was revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. However, the application of those principles changes from time to time. The current prophet helps us understand how to apply these principles in our day.

You may want to use the following material to explain how the law of consecration was administered during the early days of the Church. The early Saints attempted to live the law for periods of time in Ohio, Missouri, and Utah. Some of the Saints lived the law well, but the Church as a whole failed to live it (see also Our Heritage, page 26).

Consecrating possessions

Under the law of consecration, Church members voluntarily consecrated their possessions to the Church by legal deed (D&C 42:30).

Receiving a stewardship

After Church members consecrated their possessions, the bishop granted them stewardships, or portions, from all the properties received. The size of the stewardship depended on the circumstances and needs of the family, as determined by the bishop in consultation with the member who received it (D&C 42:32; 51:3). The stewardship was given with a deed of ownership so each member would be fully responsible and accountable for managing it (D&C 51:4; 72:3–4; 104:11–13). The stewardship, then, was treated as private property, not common or communal property, even though all property ultimately belongs to God.

Surpluses

If members produced a surplus from their stewardships beyond what was necessary for their families, at the end of the year they gave it to the bishop to put in the bishop’s storehouse (D&C 42:33; 51:13). The bishop used the surplus to care for the poor, to build houses of worship, and for other worthy purposes (D&C 42:34–35).

United order

In March 1832, the Lord revealed that there must be an organization to regulate and administer the law of consecration among His people (D&C 78:3). He called this organization the “united order” (D&C 92:1). In subsequent revelations the Lord gave further instructions concerning the united order (see, for example, D&C 104).

2. The law of consecration is an eternal law.

The law of consecration is an eternal law that the Lord revealed again in our dispensation. Accounts of the Lord’s people living this law are included in the Pearl of Great Price, New Testament, and Book of Mormon. Read or review the following passages with class members:

  1. a.

    Moses 7:18. (The people of Enoch.)

  2. b.

    Acts 4:32, 34–35. (The Saints after the Savior’s Resurrection.)

  3. c.

    4 Nephi 1:1–3, 12–13, 15. (The Nephites after the Savior’s visit to them.)

  • What do you think would be some of the blessings of living in a community where people lived the law of consecration?

3. We can consecrate our lives to the Lord now.

As Saints of God, we must be prepared and willing to live the law of consecration in its fulness. But we do not need to wait for a future day to consecrate our lives to the Lord. As we do all we can to live the law of consecration today, we will be better prepared to live the fulness of the law when the Lord asks us to do so.

  • In what ways can we live the law of consecration in our lives today? (Use the following information to discuss or add to class members’ responses. Write the headings on the chalkboard as you discuss them.)

Realize that everything we have belongs to the Lord

  • If you used the attention activity, refer back to it. If you did not use it, read D&C 104:13–14 and Psalm 24:1 with class members. What can we learn from these verses? What does it mean to be a steward over our possessions? How should this knowledge affect our attitude toward our possessions? Why is it important to understand that everything belongs to the Lord? What does the Lord promise as we are faithful stewards over what He has given us? (See D&C 51:19; 78:22.)

    Bishop Victor L. Brown, former Presiding Bishop of the Church, said that until we “feel in total harmony” with the principle that everything we have belongs to the Lord, “it will be difficult, if not impossible, for us to accept the law of consecration. As we prepare to live this law, we will look forward with great anticipation to the day when the call will come. If, on the other hand, we hope it can be delayed so we can have the pleasure of accumulating material things, we are on the wrong path” (“The Law of Consecration,” 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [1977], 439).

  • Read D&C 19:26 with class members. What warning did the Lord give to Martin Harris in this verse? Why must we overcome covetousness if we are to consecrate our lives to the Lord? How can we overcome covetous feelings?

    President Brigham Young said: “I am more afraid of covetousness in our Elders than I am of the hordes of hell. … All our enemies … in the world, and all hell with them marshalled against us, could not do us the injury that covetousness in the hearts of this people could do us; for it is idolatry” (in Journal of Discourses, 5:353).

Make the sacrifices the Lord requires now

We must be willing to make the sacrifices that the Lord requires of us at the present time. These include sacrifices of time, talents, and possessions. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve give us direction regarding how we implement the principles of the law of consecration in our day.

  • How can we consecrate our time, talents, and possessions to help build the kingdom of God today? (Answers may include those listed below.)

    1. a.

      Pay tithing and fast offerings and give generously in other ways to those in need. By doing these things, we can help the Church care for the poor and carry on the important activities necessary to build the kingdom of God on earth. Elder Marion G. Romney asked: “What prohibits us from giving as much in fast offerings as we would have given in surpluses under the United Order? Nothing but our own limitations” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1966, 100; or Improvement Era, June 1966, 537).

    2. b.

      Serve willingly in the Church. The Lord has admonished each person to “learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99). We should fulfill the callings we receive to the best of our ability. In addition to specific Church callings, we can share the gospel with others, do temple work, and seek to strengthen the testimonies of those who are new or weak in the faith.

    3. c.

      Serve as a full-time missionary. Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve taught: “Going on a mission teaches you to live the law of consecration. It may be the only time in your life when you can give to the Lord all your time, talents, and resources. In return, the Lord will bless you with His Spirit to be with you. He will be close to you and strengthen you” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 50; or Ensign, May 1996, 36).

Develop Christlike love for others

  • Read D&C 82:19 and Jacob 2:17 with class members. What does the Lord teach in these scriptures about how we are to show our love for others? Why is developing Christlike love for others necessary if we are to live the law of consecration?

Explain that the ability to have Christlike love for others is the foundation of the law of consecration. As we grow in love, our ability to live this law will also grow. Invite class members to share experiences when they or others have sacrificed their time and resources to help others in a time of need. If appropriate, you might share the following story, told by President Thomas S. Monson:

“I have many memories of my boyhood. Anticipating Sunday dinner was one of them. Just as we children … sat anxiously at the table, with the aroma of roast beef filling the room, Mother would say to me, ‘Tommy, before we eat, take this plate I’ve prepared down the street to Old Bob and hurry back.’

“I could never understand why we couldn’t first eat and later deliver his plate of food. I never questioned aloud but would run down to his house and then wait anxiously as Bob’s aged feet brought him eventually to the door. Then I would hand him the plate of food. He would present to me the clean plate from the previous Sunday and offer me a dime as pay for my services. My answer was always the same: ‘I can’t accept the money. My mother would tan my hide.’ He would then run his wrinkled hand through my blond hair and say, ‘My boy, you have a wonderful mother. Tell her thank you.’ … Sunday dinner always seemed to taste a bit better after I had returned from my errand” (“The Long Line of the Lonely,” Ensign, Feb. 1992, 4).

Strive to consecrate all aspects of our lives to the Lord

Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve said: “We tend to think of consecration only in terms of property and money. But there are so many ways of keeping back part” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 90; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 66).

  • What are some ways in which we might be “keeping back part” when we could achieve greater consecration in the service of God and His children? (See D&C 64:34 and the following examples from Elder Maxwell of how we sometimes fall short in the consecration we should give.)

    1. a.

      An unwillingness to be completely submissive to the Lord’s will. “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar,” Elder Maxwell said. “The many other things we ‘give’ … are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 30; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 24).

    2. b.

      An unwillingness to give up selfish things, such as “our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 28).

    3. c.

      Letting hobbies and preoccupations with less important things become too consuming.

    4. d.

      Giving commendable civic service but remaining “a comparative stranger to Jesus’ holy temples and His holy scriptures” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 27).

    5. e.

      Being dutiful in family responsibilities but not emulating Jesus’ example of gentleness with some family members.

    6. f.

      Building up ourselves first rather than the kingdom of God.

    7. g.

      Sharing talents publicly while privately retaining a particular pride.

    8. h.

      Accepting a Church calling while having a heart more set on maintaining a certain role in the world.

    (See Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 88–92; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 65–67; and Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 27–30; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 22–24.)

  • How are we blessed as we strive for more complete consecration?

Conclusion

Encourage class members to examine their lives to determine how they can consecrate themselves more fully to the Lord. Explain that we can do these things by acknowledging that all we possess belongs to the Lord, by willingly making the sacrifices required of us now, and by developing Christlike love for other people.

Additional Teaching Ideas

You may want to use one or both of the following ideas to supplement the suggested lesson outline.

1. The Lord’s storehouse

The Lord’s storehouse is mentioned several times in the Doctrine and Covenants in connection with caring for the poor (D&C 42:34; 78:3; 83:5–6). To help class members understand what the Lord’s storehouse is and how it is used today, share the following information from the Church Handbook of Instructions:

“The Lord’s storehouse receives, holds in trust, and dispenses consecrated offerings of the Saints. The storehouse may be as simple or sophisticated as circumstances require. It may be a list of available services, money in an account, food in a pantry, or commodities in a building. A storehouse is established when faithful members consecrate to the bishop their time, talents, skills, compassion, materials, and financial means in caring for the poor and in building up the kingdom of God on the earth.

“The Lord’s storehouse, therefore, exists in each ward. The bishop is the agent of the storehouse. Guided by inspiration from the Lord, he distributes the Saints’ offerings to the poor and needy. He is assisted by priesthood quorums and the Relief Society. He is instructed and supported in his responsibilities by stake and area leaders” (Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders [1998], 256).

  • How can each of us contribute to the resources of the Lord’s storehouse in our ward?

2. “Equal in earthly things” (D&C 78:6)

The word equal is frequently used in the Doctrine and Covenants in relation to temporal things (D&C 51:3; 70:14; 78:6). Explain that this does not mean that all stewardships are exactly the same. Rather, they are given according to the needs of each person and family (D&C 42:32; 51:3). They are equal in the sense that all Saints have “equal claims on the properties” to meet their needs (D&C 82:17).