Q&A: Questions and Answers

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    Answers are for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine

    “Will the righteous members of the Church be asked to live the law of consecration?”

    Answer/President Marion G. Romney

    I have been asked to respond to the question, “Will the righteous members of the Church be asked to live the law of consecration?”

    I shall make my response in light of the following three premises that I accept as ultimate truth.

    1. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the divine program for bringing mortals back into the presence of God where they can enjoy eternal life.

    2. The Church is the organization through which its members put into practice the principles and teachings of the gospel.

    3. Foremost among gospel teachings is unity. “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (D&C 38:27.)

    The law of consecration, and the united order revealed by the Lord as the means for implementing the law of consecration, are set out in sections 42 and 51 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

    The law requires “that one transfer and convey to the Bishop, … ‘by a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken,’ (D&C 42:30; D&C 58:35, 36) all his property.” (Albert E. Bowen, The Church Welfare Plan, p. 7.)

    “[And] that the bishop, … shall forthwith reconvey to the donor ‘as much as is sufficient for himself and family’ (D&C 42:32), each ‘according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and his needs’ (D&C 51:3), ‘inasmuch as his wants are just.’ (D&C 82:17.)

    “That which is reconveyed to the donor is variously called a ‘stewardship,’ a ‘portion’ or an ‘inheritance’ (D&C 51:4; D&C 70:3, 9; D&C 82:17; D&C 42:32; D&C 72:3; D&C 104:11; D&C 57:11, 15).” (Bowen, p. 8.)

    The scriptures speak of several occasions on which the law of consecration in some form has been implemented.

    The first was in the days of Enoch when “the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness.

    “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 7:16, 18.)

    Another occasion occurred among the Nephites immediately following the ministry among them of the resurrected Christ, concerning whom the record says:

    “And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.

    “And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.

    “And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” (4 Ne. 1:2–3, 15.)

    The Saints who went to Missouri in the early 1830s were commissioned to live the law of consecration, but they failed to do so.

    In 1834 when they were being attacked by mobs and driven from their homes, Joseph Smith led a “party known as Zion’s Camp, bringing clothing and provisions. While this party was encamped on Fishing River the Prophet received [a] revelation” (D&C 105 headnote) which began:

    “Verily I say unto you who have assembled yourselves together that you may learn my will concerning the redemption of mine afflicted people—

    “Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, … they might have been redeemed even now.

    “But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;

    “And are 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; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.” (D&C 105:1–5.)

    Since this revelation was received, Church members have not been required to live the law of consecration. There were, however, a few short-lived attempts to establish united order communities in the West.

    In the 1930s our present welfare program, which embodies some phases of the law of consecration, was inaugurated.

    As to the question, “Will the righteous members of the Church be asked to live the law of consecration?”—my answer is yes. I believe that the righteous members of the Church will, in time, become “united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom” and that the law of consecration will be lived by them during the Millennium.

    Second Counselor in the First Presidency

    “Is a mission more important than two years of college?”

    Answer/Brother Henry B. Eyring

    It’s not fair to compare a mission and going to college, because, in an important way, they are opposites. One is paying on a debt. The other is creating a debt. One is mostly giving. The other is mostly getting. When you’ve accepted the blessings of the gospel into your life, you’ve created a massive obligation. And by far the most effective way to begin paying on that debt is to qualify for a full-time mission and take the gospel, with all your energy, to other people.

    Attending college is creating a new debt. Most of the cost of your education is given you by society, even if you earned the money for your expenses and tuition. Attending college creates an obligation to pay society by added skill in your work, service in civic life, and by support of educational institutions.

    I know this may sound upside-down to many young people. At 18, I thought that a mission was an extra sacrifice some members made for the Church. I didn’t understand that it was payment on an eternal obligation I already owed. And I thought college was an investment on my part for which society should repay me in better salary and greater opportunities. I didn’t understand that society was investing in me, expecting I would return that investment, and more, in service.

    Whether you feel a mission or two years of college is more important depends on how you feel about debts. By delaying a mission you run the risk of not getting the chance to make a unique payment on the greatest debt you will ever have. By serving a mission you run little risk of failing to pay your obligations to society for college training. On the contrary, your experience in devoted service as a missionary will make it far more likely that you will be willing and able to serve society as repayment for your education.

    President Spencer W. Kimball talked about obligations this way:

    “A mission is not just a casual thing—it is not an alternative program in the Church. Neither is a mission a matter of choice any more than tithing is a choice, any more than sacrament meeting is a choice, any more than the Word of Wisdom is a choice. Of course, we have our free agency, and the Lord has given us choices. We can do as we please. We can go on a mission or we can remain home. But every normal young man is as much obligated to go on a mission as he is to pay his tithing, attend his meetings, keep the Sabbath day holy, and keep his life spotless and clean.” (“Circles of Exaltation,” p. 3. Summer School Devotional given at Brigham Young University, June 28, 1968.)

    At least part of the reason for that obligation must go back to the promises we made before we were born. It’s my belief that we were permitted to come into the world at a time when and in a place where we could hear the gospel in return for our covenant that we would then take the gospel to others. That’s how I interpret this scripture, where the Lord told Abraham,

    “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;

    “And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;

    “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.” (Abr. 2:9–11.)

    You and I have been blessed with that gospel. It’s our obligation now to try to bless all the families of the earth. A full-time mission is the best way I know to do that. I’d put opportunity to pay debts ahead of creating new ones. Of course, there’s this about a mission: the harder you work, the more the Lord blesses you, and the further you get in his debt. The happy problem in the kingdom is that the Lord keeps his blessings far ahead of our payments, as long as we keep paying.

    Assistant Commissioner of Church Education

    “How can I discern right from wrong in the present-day world?”

    Answer/Brother Dale LeCheminant

    As a boy Joseph Smith was confused by the religious rivalry for converts that inflamed the churches in his neighborhood. Though he felt a need to join a church, as some of his family had done, he remained unattached and unable to come “to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.” He watched people pressing their religions on others; he thought about this strange scene and decided that it was not true Christian behavior. Following the heartening words of James in the Bible, he left the clamor of revival for the quiet of the forest where he put his question to God. Through this simple act of faith to learn which church was right, the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the world.

    Years have passed since that day in the grove. The church has grown, and the gospel has been taken throughout much of the world. However, the same spirit of contention that troubled Joseph Smith runs rampant in today’s world. With an ever-growing multitude of ideas and life-styles, discerning right from wrong is an ever-present conflict. Persistent as this contention is, there still remains for us, as there was for the young boy in 1820, the blessing to put the question to God and also to search among the many ideas of life for those that are genuine and right. Our Heavenly Father has promised that the Holy Ghost will help us in our search.

    Many years ago men used a flintlike stone to determine the purity of gold and silver. This test was made by a streak left on the stone when it was rubbed by the metal; hence, it was called a touchstone. Today a touchstone is any test for determining genuineness. So as we look upon a world cluttered with ideas, we need touchstones to help us determine their genuineness. Let me suggest a few such touchstones.

    First, we must know what the right is. A general definition is found in the gospel philosophy of life. We believe the right is the course of action consistent with the gospel that leads man to fulfill his greatest potential as a child of his Heavenly Father and that motivates him to help others to the same realization. Whatever expands man’s eternal capabilities is surely the right for him. Whatever detracts from, discourages, or blocks eternal growth is wrong. Christ spoke of his mission as helping men to live fully: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10. Italics added.)

    We can turn to Christ for help in learning the right way to live more fully. He is a vital touchstone. He is the great exemplar of the right; his life and words are the Father’s will for us. He has said, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.” (John 8:28.) Therefore, to know Christ’s life and teachings is to know the life and will of God.

    Another touchstone is the counsel we receive from the scriptures, particularly those dealing with Christ’s life and teachings and modern revelation. Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32.) The kind of truth Christ lived and taught, as recorded in scripture, frees man from ignorance, fear, and sin—that which thwarts man’s reaching his potential. But we know that knowledge from study is often insufficient to compel one to apply gospel truths. Often one must know through personal experience. He must “experiment” upon the ideas, as Alma said, to know of their genuineness.

    Still another touchstone is man’s own personal experience and revelation. This touchstone is suggested by Christ’s words: “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

    “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:16–17. Italics added.)

    The Savior assured Peter, when the apostle proclaimed Him to be the Son of God, that it was not his personal experience with Jesus alone that had given him the conviction of the Lord’s Messiahship, but it was a personal revelation from God. We too can be assured of God’s will through a serious study of Christ’s life and teachings. A consistent effort to live by his example and precepts will enable God to confirm in our hearts which behavior and ideas will bring joy and expansive life and which will not.

    President David O. McKay commented on this process of knowing the right: “The members of the Church throughout the world find confirmation of their testimony in every performance of duty. They know that the gospel teaches them to be better individuals, that obedience to the principles of the gospel makes them stronger men and truer women. Every day such knowledge comes to them and they cannot gainsay it. … As they go through their daily activities and apply religion in their weekly vocations, the truth of the gospel becomes exemplified in their lives; thus with a testimony of the spirit, the testimony of reason, and the testimony of daily experience, members of the Church throughout the world stand impregnable.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1960, pp. 6–7.)

    Confusion, competition, and rivalry will continue with us in this world until God’s kingdom can be fully established. Until that time men have available the true touchstones of the gospel to help them realize the right course in life.

    Instructor, Institute of Religion University of Utah