Lesson 48: Doctrine and Covenants 42:30–42

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

In early 1831, most of the Saints living in New York, including Joseph Smith, migrated to Ohio to join a large group of recently baptized converts there. Church leaders sought direction from the Lord concerning the growing Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation, which is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 42:1–73, in the presence of 12 elders. In this revelation, the Lord introduced temporal, economic, and spiritual laws directing Church members to help the poor, finance various Church undertakings, and assist other Saints who came to Ohio.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 42:30–42

The Lord sets forth the law of consecration

Before class begins, use tape or a marker to make a line on six clear drinking glasses. Mark the line at a different height on each glass. Bring the glasses to class. Also bring a pitcher with more than enough water in it to fill all the glasses to the lines marked on them. (You may want to put coloring in the water so students will be able to see it easily.)

At the beginning of the lesson, display the pitcher. Tell students that the water represents all the wealth and resources of a community.

Explain that in February 1831, members of the Church in Kirtland, Ohio, needed to help care for the poor, assist new settlers who were sacrificing much to gather in Ohio, and help finance Church operations.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 42:30 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord revealed regarding the poor.

  • What do you think it means to “remember the poor”?

Point out that the Lord commanded the Saints to consecrate their properties to support the poor. Write the word consecrate on the board. Ask students to ponder the following question:

  • What do you think consecrate means?

Write on the board the following definition of the word consecrate, given by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. You may want to suggest that students write this definition in the margin of their scriptures next to verse 30.

“To consecrate is to set apart or dedicate something as sacred, devoted to holy purposes” (“Reflections on a Consecrated Life,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 16).

  • How do you think this definition relates to the act of giving something to help those in need?

  • How would you summarize the Lord’s commandment in verse 30 regarding the poor? (Although students may use different words, their answers should reflect the following doctrine: The Lord commands us to care for the poor and those in need. As part of this discussion, you may want to invite students to review Doctrine and Covenants 38:16, 34–36.)

Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 42 contains principles of a law called the law of consecration. To help students understand these basic principles, invite a student to read aloud the following explanation by President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency:

President Marion G. Romney

“The basic principle and the justification for the law of consecration ‘is that everything we have belongs to the Lord; therefore, the Lord may call upon us for any and all of the property which we have, because it belongs to Him. … (D&C 104:14–17, 54–57)’ (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., in Conference Report, Oct. 1942, p. 55)” (“Living the Principles of the Law of Consecration,” Ensign, Feb. 1979, 3).

Note: The following object lesson is a simplification of the law of consecration as it existed in the Church until about 1833. After this time, the Church modified the practice. There were several phases of practicing the law of consecration and modifications to the practice in subsequent years.

Invite six students to come to the front of the room. Give each of them an empty glass. Fill the glasses with the water from the pitcher. Fill one glass to the line you made on it, fill three glasses with water above the lines you made, and fill two below the lines you have marked. Explain that each glass represents a family and that the line on each glass represents the needs and righteous desires of that family. The glasses with water below the line represent families that do not have enough money or goods to support their needs.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 42:31 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the first step these Saints were to take to live the law of consecration.

  • For these Saints, what was the first step in living the law of consecration? (Their substance was to be “laid before the bishop of [the] church and his counselors.” In other words, they were to show their willingness to consecrate their money and property to the Church.)

  • Whom does the bishop represent? (The Lord.)

To represent Church members consecrating their properties to the Church, ask the six students to pour the water from their glasses into the pitcher. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 42:32 aloud, and ask the class to look for the second step these Saints were to take to live the law of consecration.

Explain that every family worked with the bishop and received what was called a “stewardship” (D&C 42:72). This means that each family was entrusted with property and resources from the Lord. Families had private ownership of the property and resources they received, and they were to use their agency to manage their stewardship. As stewards of the Lord’s property and resources, they were accountable to Him and fully responsible for what He entrusted to them.

Pour water from the pitcher, filling each glass to its line.

To help students understand how the bishop allocated resources to families, ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 51:3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the bishop (who in this case was Edward Partridge) appointed a portion to each family. You may want to suggest that students write D&C 51:3 in their scriptures next to Doctrine and Covenants 42:33.

  • How did the bishop appoint a portion to every family? (The allocation of portions was based on each family’s circumstances, wants, and needs.)

Invite another student to read Doctrine and Covenants 82:17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord qualifies a person’s wants and needs. You may want to suggest that students write D&C 82:17 in their scriptures next to Doctrine and Covenants 42:33.

  • According to this verse, what did the Lord require of people who declared their wants and needs to the bishop? (They were to be just, or, in other words, fair and honest.)

Show students the water remaining in the pitcher. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 42:33–36 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord instructed the Saints to do with the consecrated property that was left over after the stewardships were allocated.

  • What did the Lord instruct the Saints to do with the leftover property, or the “residue”? (They were to use it to help the poor, finance Church buildings, and help members who were in need.) What do you think the pitcher represents in these verses? (The storehouse.)

  • How could consecration help to care for the poor and those in need?

  • How could the law of consecration be a blessing to the Church?

  • What might be difficult about living the law of consecration?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 42:38 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for a principle the Lord teaches regarding doing good to others.

  • What principle did the Lord teach about doing good to others? (Students should express that as we do good unto others, we do it unto the Lord. Write this principle on the board.)

  • How might this truth have helped the Saints be willing to consecrate their properties? How can remembering this truth help you?

  • When have you felt that you were serving the Lord as you did something to help others?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 42:40–42 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the characteristics a person must have in order to live the law of consecration. (To help students understand how verse 40 applies in their lives, you may need to explain that the Lord does not expect us to make our own clothing. However, He does want us to be neat and clean in our appearance.)

  • In Doctrine and Covenants 42:42, the word idle means lazy. Why might it be difficult for an idle person to live the law of consecration?

Divide students into groups of two or three students each. Explain that although we are not commanded to live the law of consecration in the same manner as the early Saints, the law is still in force today. Invite each group to read the following statement by President Spencer W. Kimball aloud, listening for what it means for us today to live the law of consecration. Then invite the members of each group to discuss their answers to the questions that follow the statement. (You may want to suggest that students write this statement in the margin of their scriptures near verse 30.)

President Spencer W. Kimball

“Consecration is the giving of one’s time, talents, and means to care for those in need—whether spiritually or temporally—and in building the Lord’s kingdom” (“Welfare Services: The Gospel in Action,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 78).

  • What are some ways in which someone around you might be in need (besides financially)?

  • What time, talents, and means do you have that you could use to help those who are in need?

  • When have you been blessed by someone else who has given up time, talents, or means to help you?

Conclude by sharing your testimony of the principles discussed in this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Doctrine and Covenants 42:30–34. The law of consecration

President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that “the United Order, or law of consecration, does not contemplate that the idler shall eat the bread of the laborer. While all shall share in common and none shall possess above another, yet all must give service and labor for the benefit of all” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. [1953], 1:205).

Doctrine and Covenants 42:30–34. The Lord’s law of consecration compared to socialistic programs

Some have suggested that the practice of the law of consecration and the system of the united order are only a religious kind of socialism or communism. Others assert that it was a development either from the economic philosophies of Joseph Smith’s day or from communal experiments within the new religion. Such assumptions are false. In more recent times President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency outlined the revealed system of the united order:

“(1) The cornerstone of the United Order is belief in God and acceptance of him as Lord of the earth and the author of the United Order. …

“(2) The United Order is implemented by the voluntary free-will actions of men, evidenced by a consecration of all their property to the Church of God. …

“(3) … The United Order is operated upon the principle of private ownership and individual management. …

“(4) The United Order is non-political. …

“(5) A righteous people is a prerequisite to the United Order. …

“The United Order exalts the poor and humbles the rich. In the process both are sanctified. The poor, released from the bondage and humiliating limitations of poverty, are enabled as free men to rise to their full potential, both temporally and spiritually. The rich, by consecration and by imparting of their surplus for the benefit of the poor, not by constraint but willingly as an act of free will, evidence that charity for their fellowmen characterized by Mormon as ‘the pure love of Christ.’ (Moro. 7:47.)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1966, 97).

President J. Reuben Clark Jr. of the First Presidency said: “The United Order has not been generally understood. … [It] was not a communal system. … The United Order and communism are not synonymous” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1943, 11).

President Romney explained that we need to take personal responsibility for caring for the poor and needy: “In this modern world plagued with counterfeits for the Lord’s plan, we must not be misled into supposing that we can discharge our obligations to the poor and the needy by shifting the responsibility to some governmental or other public agency. Only by voluntarily giving out of an abundant love for our neighbors can we develop that charity characterized by Mormon as ‘the pure love of Christ.’ (Moro. 7:47.)” (“Caring for the Poor and Needy,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 98).

President Clark made the following statements about government gratuities:

“The dispensing of these great quantities of gratuities has produced in the minds of hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people … a love for idleness, a feeling that the world owes them a living. It has made a breeding ground for some of the most destructive political doctrines that have ever found any hold, … and I think it may lead us into serious political trouble” (quoted in Marion G. Romney, “Church Welfare Services’ Basic Principles,” Ensign, May 1976, 121).

“Society owes to no man a life of idleness, no matter what his age. I have never seen one line in Holy Writ that calls for, or even sanctions this. In the past no free society has been able to support great groups in idleness and live free” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1938, 107).

Doctrine and Covenants 42:30–34, 54–55. Early communal systems that preceded the revelation of the law of consecration

During Joseph Smith’s day, some groups of people attempted to form communal systems in which the group shared ownership of all the wealth and resources. Prior to the revelation on the law of consecration, some members of the Church in Ohio had established such a group. Some of their practices were problematic:

“When [Joseph Smith] arrived in Ohio [he] discovered a group of about fifty people who had established a cooperative venture based on their interpretation of statements in the book of Acts, describing the early Saints as having all things in common (see Acts 2:44–45; 4:32). This group, known as ‘the family,’ … were members of the Church living on Isaac Morley’s farm near the village of Kirtland. When John Whitmer arrived in mid-January, he noted that what they were doing created many problems. For example, Heman Bassett took a pocket watch belonging to Levi Hancock and sold it. When asked why, Heman replied, ‘Oh, I thought it was all in the family.’ Levi responded that he did not like such ‘family doing’ and would not endure it any longer. [Levi W. Hancock, “Levi Hancock Journal,” LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City, p. 81.]”

“The Prophet Joseph … realized the need to establish a more perfect system to meet the growing economic needs of the Church. Revenue was required to finance various Church undertakings, such as publishing revelations and missionary tracts. … Money, goods, and property were needed to help the poor and to assist immigrants who were sacrificing much to gather to Ohio, so Joseph inquired of the Lord” (Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 95).

The revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 42, which revealed the Lord’s law of consecration, was one of several revelations that came in response to Joseph’s inquiry.

Doctrine and Covenants 42:34, 55. The bishop’s storehouse

“In 1831 the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that members of the Church should ‘impart of [their] substance unto the poor, … and they shall be laid before the bishop … [and] kept in my storehouse, to administer to the poor and the needy’ (D&C 42:31, 34).

“More than 180 years later, bishops’ storehouses around the world continue to support bishops in the call to ‘be faithful; stand in the office which [the Lord has] appointed unto [them]; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees’ (D&C 81:5).

“Whether it is a building containing food and other supplies or a set of resources in the ward a bishop can draw from, bishops’ storehouses are being used to care for those in need.

“The Church manual, Basic Principles of Welfare and Self-Reliance (2009), says, ‘The Lord’s storehouse is available to every bishop and exists in every ward. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Lord’s storehouse is not limited to a building or a warehouse filled with commodities awaiting distribution.’

“Where a brick and mortar storehouse is not available, bishops can purchase needed commodities from local merchants using fast offerings” (“Bishops’ Storehouse Opens the Windows of Heaven,” Church News and Events, May 20, 2011, LDS.org).