The law of consecration and stewardship is the highest manifestation of gospel living. Many view this law as only a temporal economic program, but it is a spiritual command as well (see D&C 29:35). The personal requirements for celestial living are also the foundation for the successful practice of this holy and ancient order of gospel life. It is the basis upon which Zion, the New Jerusalem, is to be built and the preparations completed for the glorious Messianic reign (see Enrichment B).
President George Q. Cannon taught: “The time must come when we must obey that which has been revealed to us as the Order of Enoch, when there shall be no rich and no poor among the Latter-day Saints; when wealth will not be a temptation; when every man will love his neighbor as he does himself; when every man and woman will labor for the good of all as much as for self. That day must come, and we may as well prepare our hearts for it, brethren, for as wealth increases I see more and more a necessity for the institution of such an order. As wealth increases, luxury and extravagance have more power over us. The necessity for such an order is very great, and God, undoubtedly, in his own time and way, will inspire his servant [the prophet] to introduce it among the people.” (In Journal of Discourses, 15:207.)
(L-2) Consecration: A Celestial Law
According to the Doctrine and Covenants, early attempts to build Zion in this dispensation failed because of transgression and because the Saints were “not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom; and Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom” (D&C 105:4–5). These principles are a part of the law of Christ to prepare the sanctified for celestial glory (see D&C 88:20–21). The development of personal righteousness is how the blessings of Zion are obtained, and, in due time, the celestial world. “For this is Zion—THE PURE IN HEART” (D&C 97:21).
The scriptures further describe some of the characteristics of those who strive to live the principles of Zion. Unity is of primary importance: “If ye are not one ye are not mine,” said the Lord (D&C 38:27). Zion requires that all be of “one heart and … one mind” (D&C 45:65).
President Spencer W. Kimball reaffirmed the importance of developing unity today (see Enrichment B; see also Conference Report, Apr. 1978, p. 123; or
Sacrifice is the principle through which the individual is able to practice the law of consecration. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “I shall now set forth some of the principles of sacrifice and consecration to which the true saints must conform if they are ever to go where God and Christ are and have an inheritance with the faithful saints of ages past.
“… The law of sacrifice is a celestial law; so is the law of consecration. …
“Sacrifice and consecration are inseparably intertwined. The law of consecration is that we consecrate our time, our talents, and our money and property to the cause of the Church; such are to be available to the extent they are needed to further the Lord’s interests on earth.
“The law of sacrifice is that we are willing to sacrifice all that we have for the truth’s sake—our character and reputation; our honor and applause; our good name among men; our houses, lands, and families; all things, even our very lives if need be.
“Joseph Smith said, ‘A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary [to lead] unto life and salvation.’ (Lectures on Faith, p. 58.)
“We are not always called upon to live the whole law of consecration and give all of our time, talents, and means to the building up of the Lord’s earthly kingdom. Few of us are called upon to sacrifice much of what we possess, and at the moment there is only an occasional martyr in the cause of revealed religion.
“But what the scriptural account means is that to gain celestial salvation we must be able to live these laws to the full if we are called upon to do so. Implicit in this is the reality that we must in fact live them to the extent we are called upon so to do. …
“Now I think it is perfectly clear that the Lord expects far more of us than we sometimes render in response. We are not as other men. We are the saints of God and have the revelations of heaven. Where much is given much is expected. We are to put first in our lives the things of his kingdom.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1975, pp. 74–76; or Ensign, May 1975, pp. 50–51.)
What you have just read should give you cause for serious reflection and self-examination. We know from the scriptures that Zion must be established again before the Savior comes. And we know from scripture that the law of consecration is the law upon which Zion will operate. You have just read about what attitudes provide the foundation for the law of consecration. Carefully ask yourself the following questions related to the statements of the Brethren cited above.
1. Are you contributing to or detracting from a spirit of unity in your home? in your ward or branch? in the Church as a whole?
2. Is your life in harmony with the Spirit of the Holy Ghost so that you will contribute to a unity of thought and action in the kingdom?
3. Do you truly have an attitude of consecration? Is your primary concern in life to consecrate everything you have or with which you will be blessed to the building up of Zion and the Church on the earth?
4. Do you have enough confidence in your commitment to truly say, “I am willing to sacrifice anything and everything for God”?
Such questions are thought-provoking, especially in light of the experience of the early Saints. They were eager to build Zion. They thought they were worthy, and yet they failed.
Do any of these problems exist among the Saints today? Or, more to the point, do you have any of these problems in your own life? If so, they might hamper your ability to live the law of consecration. If Zion is the pure in heart, where is the best place for you to begin to build Zion?
(L-3) The Fundamentals of Consecration
President Marion G. Romney said: “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, p. 3.)
This important principle is emphasized throughout the revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants: “And I have made the earth rich, and behold it is my footstool, wherefore, again I will stand upon it” (D&C 38:17). “It must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39). “And let not any among you say that it is his own; for it shall not be called his, nor any part of it” (D&C 104:70).
The unrighteous distribution of possessions causes much difficulty. The Lord has said, “It is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin” (D&C 49:20).
President Marion G. Romney noted:
“In this revelation [D&C 42], which the Prophet designated the ‘law of the Church,’ the Lord revealed the essentials of the united order, which was His program for eliminating the inequalities among men. It is based upon the underlying concept that the earth and all things therein belong to the Lord, and that men hold earthly possessions as stewards accountable to Him. …
“… ‘It must needs be done in mine own way. (D&C 104:14–16.)
“In His way, there are two cardinal principles: (1) consecration, and (2) stewardship.
“To enter the united order, one consecrated all his possessions to the Church by a ‘covenant and a deed which [could not] be broken.’ That is, he completely divested himself of all his property by conveying it to the Church.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, p. 118; or Ensign, May 1977, p. 93.)
Recognition of the Lord as the rightful owner of all things is the standard of righteous living by which to govern our temporal concerns and assist with the needs of the kingdom.
(L-4) The Fundamentals of Stewardship
Receiving a stewardship. Once consecration of all things was made to the Church, the individual was ready to receive a stewardship and accept complete accountability for it. President Romney described this process: “The consecrator received from the Church a stewardship by a [deed]. This stewardship could be more or less than the original consecration, the object being to make ‘every man equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs.’ (D&C 51:3.)” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, p. 119; or Ensign, May 1977, p. 93.)
In a later revelation the Lord said it was to be administered to “every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just” (D&C 82:17).
In the early management of this program by the Saints in Missouri, the question arose of who should determine the amount of property to be returned by the Church to the consecrator. The Prophet Joseph Smith provided the following guidelines:
“Concerning the consecration of property:—First, it is not right to condescend to very great particulars in taking inventories. The fact is this, a man is bound by the law of the Church, to consecrate to the Bishop, before he can be considered a legal heir to the kingdom of Zion; and this, too, without constraint; and unless he does this, he cannot be acknowledged before the Lord on the Church Book therefore, to condescend to particulars, I will tell you that every man must be his own judge how much he should receive and how much he should suffer to remain in the hands of the Bishop. I speak of those who consecrate more than they need for the support of themselves and their families.
“The matter of consecration must be done by the mutual consent of both parties; for to give the Bishop power to say how much every man shall have, and he be obliged to comply with the Bishop’s judgment, is giving to the Bishop more power than a king has; and upon the other hand, to let every man say how much he needs, and the Bishop be obliged to comply with his judgment, is to throw Zion into confusion, and make a slave of the Bishop. The fact is, there must be a balance or equilibrium of power, between the Bishop and the people, and thus harmony and good will may be preserved among you.
“Therefore, those persons consecrating property to the Bishop in Zion, and then receiving an inheritance back, must reasonably show to the Bishop that they need as much as they claim. But in case the two parties cannot come to a mutual agreement, the Bishop is to have nothing to do about receiving such consecrations; and the case must be laid before a council of twelve High Priests, the Bishop not being one of the council, but he is to lay the case before them.” (History of the Church, 1:364–65.)
The expressions in the revelations describing the portion or stewardship as “equal” (D&C 51:3; see also D&C 70:14) does not mean equality in the sense that all are exactly the same. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. explained: “One of the places in which some of the brethren are going astray is this: There is continuous reference in the revelations to equality among the brethren, but I think you will find only one place where that equality is really described, though it is referred to in other revelations. That revelation (D. & C. 51:3) affirms that every man is to be ‘equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs.’ (See also D. & C. 82:17; 78:5–6.) Obviously, this is not a case of ‘dead level’ equality. It is ‘equality’ that will vary as much as the man’s circumstances, his family, his wants and needs may vary.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1942, p. 55.)
Review the directions given in the Doctrine and Covenants for determining the individual’s stewardship.
D&C 42:32–33. Note particularly the expressions “sufficient for himself and family” and “every man who has need may be amply supplied … according to his wants.” Would righteous individuals need to be concerned about not having enough to care for their family?
D&C 48:6. Does the Lord allow for differences in family size and age of family members?
The Doctrine and Covenants extensively treats the principle of stewardship.
D&C 42:32. Of whom does the Lord require accountability? Should individuals consider the portion received as the Lord’s or as their own?
D&C 82:17. Who has the responsibility to manage stewardships?
D&C 104:11. How many Saints are expected to receive stewardships?
The stewardship is private, not communal, property. The consecrator, or steward, was to be given a “writing,” or deed, that would “secure unto him his portion [stewardship]” (D&C 51:4). Although it has been acknowledged that all things belong to the Lord, a stewardship represents a sacred entrustment of a portion from God to the individual. The stewardship is given with a deed of ownership so that individuals, through their agency, are fully responsible and accountable for that which is entrusted to them. The deed protects individuals if they are disqualified from participation as stewards (see D&C 51:4). For legal purposes, the stewardship was private property, even though the stewards themselves understood that it ultimately belonged to God. President Marion G. Romney explained:
“This procedure [of providing deeds] preserved in every man the right of private ownership and management of his property. Indeed, the fundamental principle of the system was the private ownership of property. Each man owned his portion, or inheritance, or stewardship, with an absolute title, which, at his option, he could alienate [transfer], keep and operate, or otherwise treat as his own. The Church did not own all of the property, and life under the united order was not, and never will be, a communal life, as the Prophet Joseph himself said.
“The intent was, however, for him to so operate his property as to produce a living for himself and his dependents.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, p. 119; or Ensign, May 1977, p. 93.)
Accountability for stewardships. “It is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity. For he who is faithful and wise in time is accounted worthy to inherit the mansions prepared for him of my Father.” (D&C 72:3–4.)
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “In the Church a stewardship is a sacred spiritual or temporal trust for which there is accountability. Because all things belong to the Lord, we are stewards over our bodies, minds, families, and properties. (See D&C 104:11–15.) A faithful steward is one who exercises righteous dominion, cares for his own, and looks to the poor and needy. (See D&C 104:15–18.)” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, pp. 124–25; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 78.)
(L-5) Administration of the Law: The United Order
The Lord commanded “that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse” (D&C 78:3), and that this organization be accompanied by all who were “joined together in this order” (D&C 78:8). The word order is used to describe the covenant organization established to administer the law of consecration and stewardship to the Saints. The jurisdictional limits were set up to coincide with those of a stake (see D&C 104:47–49). The phrase “united order” suggests that those Saints, after being organized into a covenant society (a stake), united in the practice of the law of consecration as the temporal and economic system under which they would live.
Residues and surplus: storehouses and treasuries. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. explained:
“That part of a man’s property which was not turned back to him, if he had more than was needed … became the common property of the Church, and that common property was used for the support of the poor of the Church. It is spoken of in the revelations as the ‘residue’ of property. (D. & C. 42:34–36)
“… Whatever a steward realized from the portion allotted to him over and above that which was necessary in order to keep his family under the standard provided, as already stated above, was turned over by the steward to the bishop, and this amount of surplus, plus the residues to which I have already referred, went into a bishop’s storehouse (D. & C. 51:13 …), and the materials of the storehouse were to be used in creating portions, as above indicated, for caring for the poor (D. & C. 78:3), the widows and orphans (D. & C. 83:6), and for the elders of the Church engaged in the ministry, who were to pay for what they received if they could, but if not, their faithful labors should answer their debt to the bishop. (D. & C. 72:11ff)
“… As … the system developed, the Lord created two other institutions besides the storehouse: one was known as the Sacred Treasury, into which was put ‘the avails of the sacred things in the treasury, for sacred and holy purposes.’ While it is not clear, it would seem that into this treasury were to be put the surpluses which were derived from the publication of the revelations, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and other similar things, the stewardship of which had been given to Joseph and others. (D. & C. 104:60–66)
“The Lord also provided for the creation of ‘Another Treasury,’ and into that other treasury went the general revenues which came to the Church, such as gifts of money and those revenues derived from the improvement of stewardships as distinguished from the residues of the original consecrations and the surpluses which came from the operation of their stewardships. (D. & C. 72:11ff).” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1942, pp. 56–57.)
“They had all things common.” The phrase “they had all things common” (Acts 4:32; see also Acts 2:44; 3 Nephi 26:19; 4 Nephi 1:3) is used to characterize those who lived the law of consecration in ancient times. Some have speculated that the term common suggests a type of communalism or “Christian Communism.” This interpretation is in error. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught the true nature of having all things common: “I preached on the stand about one hour on the 2nd chapter of Acts, designing to show the folly of common stock [holding property in common]. In Nauvoo every one is steward over his own [property].” (History of the Church, 6:37–38.)
Each stewardship is considered private property (see Reading L-4), and the residues and surpluses consecrated for the storehouse became the “common property of the whole church” (D&C 82:18). It is referred to as the “common property” because the covenant members of the order had access to it, according to their just “wants” and “needs,” including the need to improve their stewardship (see D&C 82:17–18).
The word equal is frequently used in the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants: “In … temporal things you shall be equal” (D&C 70:14); “for if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things” (D&C 78:6); “appoint unto this people their portions, every man equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs” (D&C 51:3). The Lord gave His definition of the term equal: “And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just” (D&C 82:17).
Equal claims by all members in the covenant were upon the common property or resources for the administering of stewardships. Through these mutually shared rights or claims all became “alike” (D&C 51:9) or, in other words, had equal standing. The procedure for determining whose claim should be satisfied was established through the approval and consent of all who participated in the order (see D&C 104:70–71).
The bishop as the administrator of the order. The bishop is the supervisor and administrator of the law of consecration and stewardship. The initial consecration and arrangement of stewardship is made to him (see D&C 42:31–33; 51:3–5; 58:33, 55). In the Zion community, the bishop appoints the inheritance (see D&C 48:6; 57:15; 85:1; 124:21). He also has the responsibility for the management of the storehouse (see D&C 42:34; 51:13; 72:9–10). One of the bishop’s most important duties is to administer to the needs of the poor (see D&C 42:33–35, 39; 78:3; 84:112), the fatherless, the widows, and the orphans (see D&C 83:6). As a judge in Israel (see D&C 107:74), the bishop also receives the account of the stewardship of each covenant member of the order (see D&C 72:5–7).
(L-6) The Lord’s Way Versus the World’s Way
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. The Prophet Joseph Smith attended a presentation on socialism in September 1843 at Nauvoo. His response was to declare that he “did not believe the doctrine” (History of the Church, 6:33). In more recent times Elder Marion G. Romney outlined the differences between the revealed system of the united order and the socialistic programs:
“(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.
“Socialism, wholly materialistic, is founded in the wisdom of men and not of God. Although all socialists may not be atheists, none of them in theory or practice seek the Lord to establish his righteousness.
“(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.
“… Socialism is implemented by external force, the power of the state.
“(3) … The United Order is operated upon the principle of private ownership and individual management.
“Thus in both implementation and ownership and management of property, the United Order preserves to men their God-given agency, while socialism deprives them of it.
“(4) The United Order is non-political.
“Socialism is political, both in theory and practice. It is thus exposed to, and riddled by, the corruption that plagues and finally destroys all political governments that undertake to abridge man’s agency.
“(5) A righteous people is a prerequisite to the United Order.
“Socialism argues that it as a system will eliminate the evils of the profit motive.
“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.’ [Moroni 7:47.]” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1966, p. 97.)
President J. Reuben Clark Jr. said: “The United Order has not been generally understood. … [It] was not a communal system. … The United Order and communism are not synonymous. Communism is Satan’s counterfeit for the United Order. There is no mistake about this and those who go about telling us otherwise either do not know or have failed to understand or are wilfully misrepresenting.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1943, p. 11.)
President Marion G. Romney warned about the continuing imitations of the adversary: “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.’ [Moroni 7:47.]” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1972, p. 115; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 98.)
President Romney noted:
“I suggest we consider what has happened to our agency with respect to … government welfare services. …
“The difference between having the means with which to administer welfare assistance taken from us and voluntarily contributing it out of our love of God and fellowman is the difference between freedom and slavery. …
“When we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, might, mind, and strength, we will love our brothers as ourselves, and we will voluntarily, in the exercise of our free agency, impart of our substance for their support. …
“President [J. Reuben] Clark, … referring to government gratuities, said:
“‘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. …
“‘… 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.’ (CR, Apr. 1938, pp. 106–7.) …
“… Both history and prophecy—and I may add, common sense—bear witness to the fact that no civilization can long endure which follows the course charted by bemused manipulators and now being implemented as government welfare programs all around the world.
“Babylon shall be destroyed, and great shall be the fall thereof. (See D&C 1:16.)
“But do not be discouraged. Zion will not go down with her, because Zion shall be built on the principles of love of God and fellowman, work, and earnest labor, as God has directed.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1976, pp. 164–66, 169; or Ensign, May 1976, pp. 120–21, 123.)
(L-7) The History of Consecration
“Whenever the Lord has had a people who would accept and live the gospel, He has established the united order. He established it among the people of Enoch, of whom the record says:
“‘The Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish.
“‘And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.’ (Moses 7:17–18.)” (Marion G. Romney, in Conference Report, Apr. 1977, p. 118; or Ensign, May 1977, p. 92.)
The scriptures record the successful practice of the law of consecration by a number of other groups since the days of Enoch. Melchizedek was “a high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch” (JST, Genesis 14:27) and “the keeper of the storehouse of God” (v. 37). In New Testament times, the order of consecration was established among the members after the ascension of the Savior. They were “of one heart and of one soul,” and “they had all things common” (Acts 4:32). The record provides additional testimony of the practice of the law in which “distribution was made unto every man according as he had need” (Acts 4:35). The people of the Book of Mormon, after the appearance of the resurrected Savior, “had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another” (3 Nephi 26:19; see also 4 Nephi 1:3).
The law of consecration was restored in the last dispensation on 9 February 1831 in a revelation known as “the law” (see D&C 42:2). Many additional instructions concerning its principles, practices, and organization were revealed during its implementation. The Lord revealed that time and circumstances would not permit its successful operation for the Saints in that day, but that their endeavors would lay the foundations for the future culmination of the work (see D&C 58:4–7). President J. Reuben Clark Jr. noted: “The United Order lasted, in theory, for some three and a quarter years, and then it was discontinued, withdrawn by the Lord, because of the greed and selfishness of men” (“Testimony of Divine Origin of Welfare Plan,” Church News, 8 Aug. 1951, p. 3).
After the Saints moved west, they established programs in the 1850s and 1870s, many of which bore the name united order. President Brigham Young encouraged these efforts based on the principles of consecration. The First Presidency instructed the Saints in 1882 that while there was much benefit from the existing programs, the full implementation of the law of consecration was yet in the future. After talking about the principles of the law of consecration President John Taylor and his counselors wrote: “This is a simple outline of how things will exist with regard to some of these matters, when the law of God shall be fully carried out. Our relations with the world, and our own imperfections prevent the establishment of this system at the present time, and therefore, as was stated by Joseph in an early day, it can not yet be carried out.” (In Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 2:339.)
(L-8) Preparing for Consecration
The united order and its attendant laws will not be fully realized until the redemption of Zion (the New Jerusalem). President J. Reuben Clark Jr. said: “In the meaning in which the Lord was using the term Zion, the ‘redemption’ [means] the reestablishment of the people in Missouri. This has not yet been accomplished.” (“The United Order and the Law of Consecration As Set Out in the Revelations of the Lord,” Church News, 15 Sept. 1945, p. 9.)
The work of the kingdom today is to prepare for that great event. The current Church programs of welfare and temporal preparation foreshadow the practice of consecration. President Marion G. Romney explained the use of the principles of consecration as a kind of schoolmaster:
“Almost from the beginning of my services in Church welfare I have had the conviction that what we are doing in this welfare work is preliminary to the reestablishment of the law of consecration and stewardship as required under the united order. If we could always remember the goal toward which we are working, we would never lose our bearings in this great work. What we are about is not new. It is as old as the gospel itself. …
“Full implementation of the united order must, according to the revelation, await the redemption of Zion. (See D&C 105:34.) In the meantime—while we are being more perfectly taught and are gaining experience—we should be strictly living the principles of the united order insofar as they are embodied in present Church requirements, such as tithing, fast offerings, welfare projects, storehouses, and other principles and practices. Through these programs we should, as individuals, implement in our own lives the bases of the united order.
“The law of tithing, for example, gives us a great opportunity to implement the principle of consecration and stewardship. When it was instituted, four years after the united order experiment was suspended, the Lord required the people to put ‘all their surplus property … into the hands of the bishop’; thereafter they were to pay one-tenth of all their interest annually.’ (D&C 119:1, 4.) This law, still in force, implements to a degree at least the united order principle of stewardship. It leaves in the hands of each person the ownership and management of the property from which he produces the needs of himself and family. To use … the words of President [J. Reuben] Clark:
“‘In lieu of residues and surpluses which were accumulated and built up under the United Order, we, today, have our fast offerings, our Welfare donations, and our tithing, all of which may be devoted to the care of the poor, as well as the carrying on of the activities and business of the Church. …
“‘Furthermore, we had under the United Order a bishop’s storehouse in which were collected the materials from which to supply the needs and the wants of the poor. We have a bishop’s storehouse under the Welfare Plan, used for the same purpose. …
“‘We have now under the Welfare Plan all over the church, … projects … farmed [or managed] for the benefit of the poor. …
“‘Thus … in many of its great essentials, we have, [in] the Welfare Plan … the broad essentials of the United Order.’ (Conference Report, Oct. 1942, pp. 57–58.)
“It is thus apparent that when the principles of tithing and the fast are properly observed and the welfare plan gets fully developed and wholly into operation, ‘we shall not be so very far from carrying out the great fundamentals of the United Order.’ (Ibid., p. 57.) The only limitation on you and me is within ourselves.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, pp. 118, 120–21; or Ensign, May 1977, pp. 92, 94–95.)
As this program is followed, the Saints will continue to develop those characteristics which will enable them again to build Zion all over the world. Elder Bruce R. McConkie showed how these principles will move the Church toward the redemption of Zion:
“As the Saints of the Most High we shall strive to ‘stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world’ (D&C 78:14). Our only hope is to free ourselves from the bondage of sin, to rid ourselves from the chains of darkness, to rise above the world, to live godly and upright lives.
“Relying always on the Lord, we must become independent of the world. We must be self-reliant. Using the agency God has given us, we must work out our own economic and temporal problems. …
“We must maintain our own health, sow our own gardens, store our own food, educate and train ourselves to handle the daily affairs of life. No one else can work out our salvation for us, either temporally or spiritually.
“We are here on earth to care for the needs of our family members. Wives have claim on their husbands for their support, children upon their parents, parents upon their children, brothers upon each other, and relatives upon their kin.
“It is the aim of the Church to help the Saints to care for themselves and, where need be, to make food and clothing and other necessities available, lest the Saints turn to the doles and evils of Babylon. To help care for the poor among them the Church must operate farms, grow vineyards, run dairies, manage factories, and ten thousand other things—all in such a way as to be independent of the powers of evil in the world.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1979, p. 132; or Ensign, May 1979, p. 93.)
(L-9) The Need for Spiritual Preparation
While the Church program is the instrument of preparation for the future Zion, its success depends on our personal preparation. President Spencer W. Kimball taught:
“So as to better visualize this process and firmly fix the specific principles that undergird this work, may I rehearse to you what I believe are its foundational truths.
“First is love. The measure of our love for our fellowman and, in a large sense, the measure of our love for the Lord, is what we do for one another and for the poor and the distressed.
“‘A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
“Second is service. To serve is to abase oneself, to succor those in need of succor, and to impart of one’s ‘substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake.’ [Alma 4:13.]
“‘Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.’ (James 1:27.)
“Third is work. Work brings happiness, self-esteem, and prosperity. It is the means of all accomplishment; it is the opposite of idleness. We are commanded to work. (See Gen. 3:19.) Attempts to obtain our temporal, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being by means of a dole violate the divine mandate that we should work for what we receive. Work should be the ruling principle in the lives of our Church membership. (See D&C 42:42; 75:29; 68:30–32; 56:17.)
“Fourth is self-reliance. The Church and its members are commanded by the Lord to be self-reliant and independent. (See D&C 78:13–14.)
“The responsibility for each person’s social, emotional, spiritual, physical, or economic well-being rests first upon himself, second upon his family, and third upon the Church if he is a faithful member thereof.
“No true Latter-day Saint, while physically or emotionally able will voluntarily shift the burden of his own or his family’s well-being to someone else. So long as he can, under the inspiration of the Lord and with his own labors, he will supply himself and his family with the spiritual and temporal necessities of life. (See 1 Timothy 5:8.)
“Fifth is consecration, which encompasses sacrifice. 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. In Welfare Services, members consecrate as they labor on production projects, donate materials to Deseret Industries, share their professional talents, give a generous fast offering, and respond to ward and quorum service projects. They consecrate their time in their home or visiting teaching. We consecrate when we give of ourselves. (See
“Sixth is stewardship. In the Church a stewardship is a sacred spiritual or temporal trust for which there is accountability. Because all things belong to the Lord, we are stewards over our bodies, minds, families, and properties. (See D&C 104:11–15.) A faithful steward is one who exercises righteous dominion, cares for his own, and looks to the poor and needy. (See D&C 104:15–18.)
“These principles govern welfare services activities. May we all learn, obey, and teach these principles. Leaders, teach them to your members; fathers, teach them to your families. Only as we apply these truths can we approach the ideal of Zion.
“Zion is a name given by the Lord to his covenant people, who are characterized by purity of heart and faithfulness in caring for the poor, the needy, and the distressed. (See D&C 97:21.)
“‘And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.’ (Moses 7:18.)
“This highest order of priesthood society is founded on the doctrines of love, service, work, self-reliance, and stewardship, all of which are circumscribed by the covenant of consecration.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, pp. 123–25; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, pp. 77–78.)
President Lorenzo Snow counseled: “Now, here is one of the first principles of the United Order, and it was made and ordained a law by every person, and every one was required to observe it, who should be privileged to go to the land of Missouri to receive an inheritance. But this, I think, will apply, not only to those who should go to the land of Missouri, but to the people of God in every land. Wherever there is a people of God, the principles of the United Order are applicable if they would receive and obey them. Some have thought that the United Order was to be kept only by the people who should go up to the land of Missouri. Now this, I believe, is incorrect. It would seem very singular that the Latter-day Saints, when they receive the Gospel, should not have the privilege of uniting themselves, according to the principles of the celestial law, and that Jackson County should be the only place where this law might be observed.” (In Journal of Discourses, 19:343; italics added.)
In a somewhat humorous but sadly true commentary, President Brigham Young recounted his early experiences in attempting to get people to live the law of consecration:
“When the revelation … was given in 1838, I was present, and recollect the feelings of the brethren. … The brethren wished me to go among the Churches, and find out what surplus property the people had, with which to forward the building of the Temple we were commencing at Far West. I accordingly went from place to place through the country. Before I started, I asked brother Joseph, ‘Who shall be the judge of what is surplus property?’ Said he, ‘Let them be the judges themselves. …’
“Then I replied, ‘I will go and ask them for their surplus property;’ and I did so; I found the people said they were willing to do about as they were counselled, but, upon asking them about their surplus property, most of the men who owned land and cattle would say, ‘I have got so many hundred acres of land, and I have got so many boys, and I want each one of them to have eighty acres, therefore this is not surplus property.’ Again, ‘I have got so many girls, and I do not believe I shall be able to give them more than forty acres each.’ ‘Well, you have got two or three hundred acres left.’ ‘Yes, but I have a brother-in-law coming on, and he will depend on me for a living; my wife’s nephew is also coming on, he is poor, and I shall have to furnish him a farm after he arrives here.’ I would go on to the next one, and he would have more land and cattle than he could make use of to advantage. It is a laughable idea, but is nevertheless true, men would tell me they were young and beginning [in] the world, and would say, ‘We have no children, but our prospects are good, and we think we shall have a family of children, and if we do, we want to give them eighty acres of land each; we have no surplus property.’ ‘How many cattle have you?’ ‘So many.’ ‘How many horses, &c?’ ‘So many, but I have made provisions for all these, and I have use for every thing I have got.’
“Some were disposed to do right with their surplus property, and once in a while you would find a man who had a cow which he considered surplus, but generally she was of the class that would kick a person’s hat off, or eyes out. … You would once in a while find a man who had a horse that he considered surplus, but at the same time he had the ringbone, was broken-winded, spavined in both legs, and had the pole evil at one end of the neck and a fistula at the other, and both knees sprung.” (In Journal of Discourses, 2:306–7.)
This is a time for self-evaluation. Are we of the kind who are willing to give and do whatever the Lord asks, or would we begin rationalizing about why we could not fully participate?
President Lorenzo Snow emphasized the importance of individual agency in moving forward the work of consecration: “In things that pertain to celestial glory there can be no forced operations. We must do according as the Spirit of the Lord operates upon our understandings and feelings. We cannot be crowded into matters, however great might be the blessing attending such procedure. We cannot be forced into living a celestial law; we must do this ourselves, of our own free will. And whatever we do in regard to the principles of the United Order, we must do it because we desire to do it. Some of us are practising in the spirit of the United Order, doing more than the law of tithing requires.” (In Journal of Discourses, 19:346.)
President Spencer W. Kimball noted: “We live in a world that largely rejects the values of Zion. Babylon has not and never will comprehend Zion.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1978, p. 122; or Ensign, May 1978, p. 81.)
“When we practice the precepts, doctrines, and programs of welfare services, the fruit of our labors is the building of Zion” (Spencer W. Kimball, in Conference Report, Oct. 1978, p. 114; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 75).
As President Marion G. Romney taught: “We’re living in the latter days. We’re living in the days the prophets have told about from the time of Enoch to the present day. We are living in the era just preceding the second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are told to so prepare and live that we can be … independent of every other creature beneath the celestial kingdom [see D&C 78:14]. That is what we are to do. …
“… The final thing that we are to do is to be able and willing to consecrate all that we have to the building up of the kingdom of God, to care for our fellow men. When we do this we’ll be ready for the coming of the Messiah.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1975, pp. 165–66).