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At this point in time, Joseph has been working furiously to gather and prepare the revelations to be printed in book form for the Saints. The revelations were to be given to Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer along with funds for building Zion. These two men were in charge of getting these revelations to Missouri where they would be printed.
The Lord then revealed Section 70. In this section, the Lord designates that a few select men will be stewards over the Book of Commandments (the original title for the Doctrine and Covenants), and these stewards would essentially be able to live off of the proceeds from the sale of the Book of Commandments. This was part of the Law of Consecration and the United Order.
Law of Consecration vs. United Order
So let’s talk just a little bit about the Law of Consecration. Something that is important to clarify is the idea that the Law of Consecration and the United Order are similar, but still separate and distinct things. The Law of Consecration is “is a divine principle whereby men and women voluntarily dedicate their time, talents, and material wealth to the establishment and building up of God’s kingdom.” The Law of Consecration is a principle; it’s a teaching. The United Order was how the church attempted to live the Law of Consecration back in Joseph Smith’s time (as well as partially in Brigham Young’s).
Law of Consecration = principle
United Order = a system put in place that was based on the Law of Consecration
The United Order failed and is no longer lived at this point because the people showed that they were not prepared to live it. The Law of Consecration is still part of our covenants in this day and age. We are still expected to live the Law of Consecration, but we do not live under the United Order.
There are many sections in the Doctrine and Covenants that speak about the Law of Consecration and the United Order. Section 70 does not lay out details for the United Order, but it does cover many of the basic principles of the Law of Consecration.
Doctrine and Covenants 70:3-4
3 I, the Lord, have appointed them, and ordained them to be stewards over the revelations and commandments which I have given unto them, and which I shall hereafter give unto them;
4 And an account of this stewardship will I require of them in the day of judgment.
The Lord ordained them to be stewards. What does it mean to be a steward? In the context that we’re speaking of, a steward is to “manage or look after another’s property.” Now here is something that is important. Whose property is it? It is the Lord’s. Everything is the Lord’s. He made it all. He can curse and bless it and prosper it and scourge it. It’s His. Regardless of whether you acknowledge this truth or not, it all belongs to the Lord.
And that’s important. It doesn’t belong to the church or a government; it belongs to the Lord. Under the United Order, people would give all of their property to the church. The bishop would then give them back what they needed, and it would legally be deeded to them. It would not legally belong to the church. The people would receive deeds for their land and be responsible for it. Personal property was still one aspect of the United Order.
But despite them holding a legal deed, it did not belong to them in the sense that it belonged to the Lord. One day, they would be required to give an accounting for the stewardship they received.
Doctrine and Covenants 70:7 Nevertheless, inasmuch as they receive more than is needful for their necessities and their wants, it shall be given into my storehouse;
So the stewards were going to be able to provide for their families from the proceeds that came from the Book of Commandments. However, they were to take whatever they didn’t need and give it to the bishop so that the bishop could provide for the poor and needy.
Now here is another interesting aspect that is different from worldly versions of the Law of Consecration. The people decided themselves. When the stewards received their commissions on the Book of Commandments, they would determine what they needed and what they wanted. The surplus (determined by the steward) would be given to the bishop.
It can sound a little scary leaning on others to adequately select according to their needs and wants and give generously enough for others. This is why the United Order ultimately failed back then. People weren’t living up to it.
They were given the lesser law of tithing. Think of the Law of Moses. Jesus Christ taught principles, and the people were expected to live their lives accordingly. When they couldn’t handle it, the Lord gave the Law of Moses with specifics. The people couldn’t live up to the United Order, and so they were given the lesser law of tithing.
But. Even with this lesser law, the principle of the Law of Consecration remains.
So how do we live the Law of Consecration in our day without living the United Order?
Living the Law of Consecration Today
The first concept included in the Law of Consecration is that everything belongs to the Lord. The rest of the Law of Consecration is very difficult to live unless we have a sure and fast testimony of this concept. We all tend to think of our lives in terms of selfishness, but even our lives belong to Him. He gave you your life. He gave you the world. It may feel like your’s, to choose what you will do with it, but it is His. Once you can experience this paradigm shift that nothing actually belongs to you, you will feel much more capable of living this law. And this paradigm shift is scary…we like to hold onto what’s our’s. This is usually for two reasons.
Reason one. We like to hold onto what’s “our’s” because it gives us a sense of security and control. We look around at our homes and food and all our material possessions. We like to feel safe in these things. We like to feel “financially secure.” Let me tell you something. It’s all an illusion. Anyone who has experienced a natural disaster destroying their homes knows that it’s an illusion. Anyone who has experienced a backhanded betrayal with a business partner and lost everything knows that this is an illusion. Anyone who is truly wise knows that everything can disappear quite literally overnight. See past this illusion. Your stuff is only as safe as the Lord wants it to be. Might as well acknowledge the facts now.
Reason two. Greed. Deep down there is a piece of you (perhaps a piece that you’re even hiding from yourself) that likes to feel better than other people. You like to have the prettiest house. You like to pull up in your nice car. You like to wear your new clothes, walking and mincing as you go. News flash. This is also an illusion. You’re no better than your brother, and anyone who is truly wise will know that these feelings of being “better” are an empty illusion that will only suck the real joy out of your life.
The second concept is that we have to give an accounting. Even though you’ve never formally sat in front of your ward bishop and deeded your house to the church and then received back the deed that your family needed, you are still a steward. We just described this. The bishop didn’t give this to you, but the Lord did. And He expects you to tell Him what you did with it.
Take an honest inventory. Look at your “everything” and not just your “extra.” Where is some of your time leaking through needless cracks? Perhaps this looks like social media. Where are you being careless regarding your energy? Perhaps this looks like devoting yourself to things that are less important than your family. Remember that you don’t have to answer these questions to anyone here on earth, but you will have to answer these questions to the Lord. You will have to account for them.
The third concept is that we dedicate all of our “everything” to building the kingdom of God. I say “everything” because the Law of Consecration extends beyond material possessions.
As I’ve mentioned previously, we are not currently living under the United Order. But even though we are not living under the United Order, we will still be determining what is needful and wanted for our families. This means that individuals will have to decide what is needed and wanted for today and this week, what is needed and wanted for food storage and financial savings. Under the United Order, people gave much more and so people could lean on each other much more. Now that we’re living the law of tithing (and the Law of Consecration!), we have to set aside enough to depend on ourselves to an extent.
Remember that this will look different for everyone, and the Lord can help you determine what you should be doing with His possessions. Is it okay for you to buy a boat for your family’s enjoyment? The Lord specifically says according to our needs and wants. However, our wants could extend forever if we really wanted them to. Only the Lord can help us determine what’s appropriate.
And we cannot determine that for anyone else.
When you’re tempted to point fingers at someone who seems to be living in excess, remember that they are accountable for their own stewardships, and you don’t know what the Lord has been telling them.
The Lord helps you determine what’s appropriate. There will be an extent that He asks you to provide for your immediate needs. There will be an amount for your wants. There will be an amount to give to the poor today and tomorrow, and there will be an amount that should be dedicated for building resources that could help more people next month. Perhaps a millionaire could donate everything they have tomorrow…or they could invest and continually donate more over time. We cannot afford to judge someone else’s stewardship.
This likewise goes beyond finances. Let the Lord help you balance your budget, but also let Him your day. How much can be dedicated to church callings? Working? Leisure? You can dedicate a portion of your money to building wealth. You can dedicate a portion of your day to resting so that you have more to give tomorrow. I am the most Type-A personality I know. I have done my best to learn balance. The Lord will not begrudge me watching a TV show with my husband even if there are things I didn’t get to on my to-do list.
That is what the Law of Consecration looks like today. Instead of sitting in front of your bishop with a list of all your possessions, you stand (or kneel) before the Lord with a list of all your “everything” and together, you and the Lord can decide which resources need to go where.
And when the day comes for us to live the Law of Consecration under the United Order again, it won’t be difficult. You’ll already know and feel that it all belongs to the Lord, and you will be free to give without fear or greed. If you die before the United Order comes back, then you will be able to stand before the Lord and give Him an account that He would be proud of.