I hear this a lot from members of the Church. In fact just two days ago, I had someone ask me this very question after reading some of the quotes from Nibley in Approaching Zion:
“So then are we required to live the law of concecration now?“
To that question I would pose a counter question, that might help us arrive at an appropriate answer. When God reveals a law to man, is it required of man to live it if he wishes to return to live with God? When viewed from this perspective, I think the answer can be none other than an unequivocal “Yes!“
The prophet Joseph Smith declared:
Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life. (Lectures on Faith 6:7)
Unfortunately, some of those who humbly believe that the law of consecration is a current, relevant, binding law, yes, even today, are taken to task by those who do not believe as much. Here is a comment from an individual (
I assume who is a fully active member of the Church, indeed, with alias TrueBeliever. Update: I’ve learned since then that TrueBeliever is not actually a believer, not in modern prophets, not in the modern temple endowment, not in the temple sealing, not in anything beyond the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. It’s shame when I encounter such folks, for they claim to believe in Joseph Smith and his revelations, but they don’t really, for if they did, they would believe in living prophets such as Joseph, the church as was restored by Joseph, and the temple as it was received by Joseph through revelation and given to the Brethren he ordained. We have deceivers in our midst.). It was just a day or two ago the comment was made regarding the law of consecration:
Actually, our temple endowment has replaced the original law of consecration. In the holy temple we promise all we have to the cause of Zion. This promise enables us to fulfill the law of Zion without actually having to give up our own personal income and resources. The problem with some of Nibley’s quotes is that they take the scriptures more literally than the current temple endowment and the current teachings of the brethren. All we need to do is follow the current brethren and put our trust in the current temple endowment and we are guaranteed exaltation without having to have a literal gathering or to literally consecrate our temporal substance… I personally don’t think there is a person on the face of God’s earth that is currently living consecration the way it was originally explained in the scriptures… I think that if you claim to literally be living it correctly, you are delusional. [emphasis added]
How convenient, yet entirely ineffective, would it be to live the law of consecration without having to “literally consecrate.” Furthermore, how sad it is that people would belittle those who are striving in every way possible to so live their lives, and turn their will over to that of the Father.
Some might say, “But the law has been rescinded, revoked, stopped, ended, done away with, blocked, desisted, finished, halted, replaced, paused, terminated, stayed, closed, discontinued, ceased, snuffed out, postponed, delayed, suspended, and is no longer a law of God in the Church!” As I and others have noted elsewhere, the law of consecration is still binding upon us as a people, as every temple-attending member of the Church should know, but doesn’t. President Gordon B. Hinckley, our living prophet and president from 1995-2008, taught the following in 1996:
Without the spirit of dedication, without the spirit of sacrifice, without the spirit of consecration, temples could not function. That goes without saying. The work in the temple is essential, it is a work of personal sacrifice and individual consecration… the law of sacrifice and the law of consecration were not done away with and are still in effect. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 639.)
Could our prophet be more clear? Steven C. Harper, one of the editors of the Joseph Smith Papers project, followed that up in 2010 with this insightful statement having studied the revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants more than most of us, echoing the words of Joseph Smith cited above:
No revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants rescind, suspend, or revoke the law of consecration… The law, in other words, was revealed to Joseph Smith in February 1831, but the law itself simply has been, is, and ever will be. Consecration is the law of the celestial kingdom, and section 78 teaches that no one will receive an inheritance there who has not obeyed the law (see D&C 78:7). (H. Hedges, J. Spencer Fluhman, and Alonzo L. Gaskill, eds., The Doctrine and Covenants: Revelations in Context, 213.)
Br. Harper taught about the law of consecration recently on the Church’s official Mormon Channel, “The Law of Consecration: Episode 20,” as well as “The United Order: Episode 21.” It would do well for each of us to take the time to carefully listen to these official church radio episodes, and learn what these things really are, not only for ourselves to more fully understand our duty before God, but so that we may more appropriately address each other in our desires to best live the laws of God as he has so taught through the fullness of the restoration of his gospel.
Those who want to obey the law of consecration, will. Those who don’t, won’t. But we surely won’t arrive at either without a correct understanding. What is also sure is that Zion cannot be built up, except by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom. Otherwise, God cannot and will not receive her (D&C 105:5). The law of consecration is the law of the celestial kingdom.
The problem lies in the fact that many people (i.e. likely a majority of the members of the Church) confuse the law of consecration with what was known as the “United Order” or “United Firm” in the history of the Church. Let me attempt to use plain language that cannot be misunderstood—these are not the same thing. In another place this has been called a “myth” or a “folk memory.”
Do not feel sad if you did not know this, or were not aware of it. This is an ever prevalent and promulgated folk memory in the Church, that has even reached the highest authorities. I love President Eyring as one of my favorite speakers and leaders in the Church, who is touched by the Spirit in ways I can only one day hope to emulate. But I have to respectfully disagree in one sense with the last part of his following statement:
As those blessings come, our faith is increased that God is the source of everything that is good in our lives. It becomes easier to see that consecration simply recognizes the truth that all of God’s creations are His. It makes us feel gratitude that He asks only 10 percent of what He has already given us. So we are better prepared to live the law of consecration when it will be asked of us. (The Blessings of Tithing, June 2011 First Presidency Message)
It has been “asked of us,” repeatedly, in the scriptures and by living prophets, as even President Eyring himself has taught us elsewhere (see his several quotes below, one of which was only three paragraphs before this one). I believe President Eyring is actually referring to the official institutionalization of the law of consecration, which may indeed again become an official practice in the Church in a future day. But you can see how we can so easily get confused in our terminology, and say one thing when we really mean another. (Note: President Eyring may have also meant that we start our journey in the gospel by paying a full tithe, which leads us later to the temple where we make covenants regarding the law of consecration.)
The United Order was a practice in the Church to formally and officially institutionalize the living of the law of consecration among the Saints. Its practice was ended, as have other practices. But the law of consecration lives on; President Marion G. Romney stated this eloquently in 1966:
While we await the redemption of Zion and the earth and the establishment of the United Order, we … should live strictly by the principles of the United Order insofar as they are embraced in present church practices such as the fast offering, tithing and the welfare activities. Through these practices we could as individuals, if we wished to do so, implement in our own lives all the basic principles of the United Order…. 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. (Improvement Era, June 1966, p. 537.)
To be sure, here are some additional quotes from the “current teachings of the Brethren” on the law of consecration, which some of our members have unfortunately been somewhat dull of hearing, or have altogether conveniently ignored:
Elder D. Todd Chistofferson in 2010 – “The word stewardship calls to mind the Lord’s law of consecration (see, for example, D&C 42:32, 53), which has an economic role but, more than that, is an application of celestial law to life here and now (see D&C 105:5)… True success in this life comes in consecrating our lives—that is, our time and choices—to God’s purposes (see John 17:1, 4; D&C 19:19). In so doing, we permit Him to raise us to our highest destiny.” (Reflections on a Consecrated Life – Elder D. Todd Christofferson)
Elder Neal A. Maxwell in 1995 – “Whenever Church members speak of consecration, it should be done reverently while acknowledging that each of us ‘come[s] short of the glory of God,’ some of us far short (Rom. 3:23). Even the conscientious have not arrived, but they sense the shortfall and are genuinely striving. Consolingly, God’s grace flows not only to those ‘who love [Him] and keep all [His] commandments,’ but likewise to those ‘that [seek] so to do’ (D&C 46:9). A second group of members are ‘honorable’ but not ‘valiant.’ They are not really aware of the gap nor of the importance of closing it (see D&C 76:75, 79). These ‘honorable’ individuals are certainly not miserable nor wicked, nor are they unrighteous and unhappy. It is not what they have done but what they have left undone that is amiss. For example, if valiant, they could touch others deeply instead of merely being remembered pleasantly… Consider three examples of how honorable people in the Church keep back a portion and thus prevent greater consecration (see Acts 5:1–4)… Only greater consecration can correct these omissions, which have consequences just as real as do the sins of commission… So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is not giving up self, but selfish things—like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves (see Luke 9:24). He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is not a question of one’s losing identity but of finding his true identity! Ironically, so many people already lose themselves anyway in their consuming hobbies and preoccupations but with far, far lesser things… Thus, brothers and sisters, consecration is not resignation or a mindless caving in. Rather, it is a deliberate expanding outward, making us more honest when we sing, ‘More used would I be’ (“More Holiness Give Me,” 1985, Hymns, no. 131). Consecration, likewise, is not shoulder-shrugging acceptance, but, instead, shoulder-squaring to better bear the yoke. Consecration involves pressing forward ‘with a steadfastness in Christ’ with a ‘brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men … [while] feasting upon the word of Christ’ (2 Ne. 31:20)… Along this pathway leading to consecration, stern and unsought challenges sometimes hasten this jettisoning, which is needed to achieve increased consecration (see Hel. 12:3)… Consecration is thus both a principle and a process, and it is not tied to a single moment. Instead, it is freely given, drop by drop, until the cup of consecration brims and finally runs over… God’s blessings, including those associated with consecration, come by unforced obedience to the laws upon which they are predicated (see D&C 130:20–21). Thus our deepest desires determine our degree of ‘obedience to the unenforceable.’ God seeks to have us become more consecrated by giving everything. Then, when we come home to Him, He will generously give us ‘all that [He] hath’ (D&C 84:38)… Consecration thus constitutes the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory! May we deeply desire that victory, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” (“Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father” – Elder Neal A Maxwell)
President Henry B. Eyring in 2011 – “One of the blessings that comes from paying a full tithing is developing faith to live an even higher law. To live in the celestial kingdom, we must live the law of consecration. There we must be able to feel that all we are and all we have belong to God.” (The Blessings of Tithing)
Elder Neal A. Maxwell in 1992 – “Any call for greater consecration is, of course, really a call to all of us. But these remarks are not primarily for those who are steadily striving and who genuinely seek to keep God’s commandments and yet sometimes fall short. (See D&C 46:9.) Nor is this primarily for those few in deliberate noncompliance, including some who cast off on intellectual and behavioral bungee cords in search of new sensations, only to be jerked about by the old heresies and the old sins. Instead, these comments are for the essentially ‘honorable’ members who are skimming over the surface instead of deepening their discipleship and who are casually engaged rather than ‘anxiously engaged.’ (D&C 76:75;D&C 58:27.) Though nominal in their participation, their reservations and hesitations inevitably show through. They may even pass through our holy temples, but, alas, they do not let the holy temples pass through them… In contrast, those sincerely striving for greater consecration neither cast off their commitments nor the holy garment. Likewise it is only fair to warn that any determination to seek greater consecration will soon expose what we yet lack, a painful but necessary thing. Remember the rich, righteous young man who was told by Jesus, ‘One thing thou lackest’? (Mark 10:21.) Ananias and Sapphira, otherwise good members of the Church, ‘kept back’ a portion instead of consecrating their all. (Acts 5:1–11.) Some would never sell Jesus for thirty pieces, but they would not give Him their all either! … Unfortunately, we tend to think of consecration only in terms of property and money. But there are so many ways of keeping back part… speculation seems more fun than consecration, and so is trying to soften the hard doctrines instead of submitting to them… Only greater consecration will cure ambivalence and casualness in any of us! As already noted, the tutoring challenges arising from increased consecration may be severe but reflect the divine mercy necessary to induce further consecration. (See Hel. 12:3.) If we have grown soft, hard times may be necessary. Deprivation may prepare us for further consecration, though we shudder at the thought… Consecration is the only surrender which is also a victory. It brings release from the raucous, overpopulated cell block of selfishness and emancipation from the dark prison of pride. Yet instead of striving for greater consecration, it is so easy to go on performing casually in halfhearted compliance as if hoping to ‘ride to paradise on a golf cart.’ (Henry Fairlie, The Seven Deadly Sins, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979, p. 125.)… Increased consecration is not so much a demand for more hours of Church work as it is for more awareness of Whose work this really is!… Jesus counseled His disciples, ‘Wherefore, settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you.’ (JST, Luke 14:28.) Getting thus settled precedes consecration… Finally, if we shrink from deeper consecration, then we are not worthy of Him who, for our sake, refused to ‘shrink’ in the midst of His deepening agony during the Atonement! (D&C 19:18.)… Brothers and sisters, whatever we embrace instead of Jesus and His work will keep us from qualifying to enter His kingdom and therefore from being embraced by Him. (See Morm. 6:17.)” (“Settle This In Your Hearts”)
Elder Steven B. Oveson in 2005 – “We might ask ourselves whether we are the kind of people who feel that giving an occasional egg or two toward the building of the kingdom is sufficient or whether we want to be categorized among those who consecrate their all in this endeavor… All of these worthy acts, along with almost countless others, constitute personal efforts by those who are consecrated members of the Church. Disciplining our spirits in this way prepares us for celestial living. The Lord tells us in Doctrine and Covenants 88:22 [D&C 88:22], ‘He who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.’ Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh Nibley said, ‘The main purpose of the Doctrine and Covenants, you will find, is to implement the law of consecration.‘ He further taught, ‘This law, the consummation of the laws of obedience and sacrifice, is the threshold of the celestial kingdom, the last and hardest requirement made of men [and women] in this life.’ When we discuss the subject of consecration, the first thing that often comes to mind is the consecration of our temporal means. What is currently required in this regard is to pay our tithes and offerings as a preparatory step in learning to return to the Father a portion of what He has given us. But the law of consecration goes beyond the mere payment of tithes and offerings or the consecration of monies and properties to the Lord. “The law of consecration,” said Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “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.”… Whenever scriptural reference is made to those who, as a society, have learned to live the law of consecration to the fullest, we read about a pure and peaceful people, devoid of strife and contention—a Zion people. The people of Enoch became such a people. We read in Moses 7:18, ‘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.’ Our consecration will not happen with one single act. In this endeavor, those who willingly accept calls to be nursery leaders, Cub Scout den mothers, early-morning seminary teachers, Scoutmasters, or other time-consuming but sometimes perceived low-profile callings in the Church surely are examples of what consecration is all about. In the long run, offering ourselves for sacred uses might simply mean maintaining a consistent attitude of meek willingness to offer all we are capable of giving at any given time while we help those about us do the same. Consecration seems to be a day-to-day process of dedication, humility, refinement, and purification as we follow the example of the most consecrated person of all time—our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ.” (Personal Consecration)
President Henry B. Eyring in 2011 – “Because the Lord hears their cries and feels your deep compassion for them, He has from the beginning of time provided ways for His disciples to help. He has invited His children to consecrate their time, their means, and themselves to join with Him in serving others… The names and the details of operation are changed to fit the needs and conditions of people. But always the Lord’s way to help those in temporal need requires people who out of love have consecrated themselves and what they have to God and to His work.” (Opportunities to Do Good)
Should we be antagonistic towards our brethren and sisters who desire to more fully consecrate their lives to the building up of the kingdom of God on earth, and to the Lord, and live the law of consecration which he has given to us, and which is the only way that Zion may be established in the last days? Or should we strive to learn what the law of consecration is, and more fully implement it in our own lives?
It is my humble, sincere, and solemn desire, hope, and prayer that we can end (and soon!) the “folk memory” that we as a people harbor for the law of consecration as it has been given to us, among our families and friends, neighbors and associates, colleagues and coworkers, brothers and sisters, that we might shout it from the rooftops with full breath and the strength of soul, and that we might more fully listen to the living word of God instructing us to live this supernal, eternal and unchanging law which God has given us for our temporal, spiritual, mortal and eternal benefit and blessing, and then go and so live it to the fullest extent possible in our personal lives, families, and within the Church. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Please share your thoughts in the comments.