This is a General Conference Odyssey post.
The other day I was talking with a friend who was explaining to me her view of the world. She said she liked to be open and learn from whatever was “out there” and she opened her arms wide to show how open she was. I appreciated and understood what she was saying, but the thought came to me that I personally prefer to look deep. I further explained that I’m honestly not interested in what the world has to teach me anymore. People are free to believe what they want, but I have learned that for me I like what the scriptures teach as I find meaning in their depth.
This week, we are covering the welfare session of the October 1977 General Conference. Pres. Kimball talks about consecration and what this principle asks of members of the church. He says,
“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.”
We’ve all heard that definition most of our lives and it’s familiar to us. Earlier this year, in Sunday School, we all had a lesson on consecration. I remember hearing from a few different Gospel Doctrine teachers that they really didn’t know how to teach anything new in this lesson. However, at that time, we were all still learning how to use the new supplemental material offered in the manual. And it gives an interesting additional view of this principle and has spurred me to study it further. In the article called “The Law,” we learn a few more details.
The early saints learned that for them consecration meant “communal ownership of property,” so everyone was required to give their property to the church, the church would take what was necessary to build the kingdom on the earth, return what was needed to the original owners, and reserve the remainder property amongst the destitute saints who were pouring into the community. This is how they were able to build the temple in Kirtland and manage their growing city.
The law was fully given to the saints at that time, but they were only required to live a portion of the law, according to the will of God, who understands their situation and learning curve.
Today, our church has different needs. The church is no longer in debt, but there is still great humanitarian need around us. We are no longer required to give all our property over to the church for redistribution, but we are required to give a tenth of our increase and a generous fast offering. This is all very familiar to us, but different than those early years in Kirtland and Nauvoo.
For a while now, I have been studying more deeply the Law of Consecration and I have come to understand that this law is really all about making God’s kingdom successful and available to all mankind, and most importantly, learning to sacrifice my will for His.
The law has never changed, but what the Lord requires of us modifies according to His will, our understanding, and our desire to offer ourselves to Him. This comes as we reach more deeply into the doctrine of our gospel. It is a process that we are allowed in order to pace ourselves and accept as a gradual conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Line upon line, precept upon precept.
What makes me sit back in awe at the majesty of the gospel plan is that we are given the law in its fullness from the very beginning, but God only demands what we are ready to give. Nothing changes because God doesn’t change. Yet, because of His mercy, He gives us portions of gospel principles to follow, which build and grow, and develop our hearts into eventually fully turning to Him. It is so incredibly beautiful to me.
So, in Joseph Smith’s time, Consecration was a learning process, but the law was taught.“For a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven” (D&C 78:4).
Even as Pres. Kimball taught that “our primary purpose … was to set up … a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with …”, in the same talk, he taught, “As givers gain control of their desires and properly see other needs in light of their own wants, then the powers of the gospel are released in their lives. They learn that by living the great law of consecration they insure (sic) not only temporal salvation but also spiritual sanctification.”
Today, we have an even more defined view of the Law of Consecration. Last April, Elder Hales pleaded with us to stop being “part-time disciples! We cannot be a disciple on just one point of doctrine or another.” He went on to say that if we are to live the Law of Consecration today, we need to live the gospel with full and complete intention.
Just this past conference, Elder Holland quoted from a book written by Leo Tolstoy, admonishing us to stop attacking and mocking those who have chosen to walk The Path, even when they walk drunkenly (imperfectly). “…Do not gleefully shout, ‘Look at him! … There he is crawling into a bog!’ No, do not gloat, but give … your help [to anyone trying to walk the road back to God.]” We are being asked to help one another to heaven. That is the Law of Consecration.
The Law of Consecration has always been the same. All of God’s laws are the same as from the beginning. Over time they have only been modified to emphasize different parts of the law according to the needs of the time and the understanding of the people. How beautiful to have a gospel that is unbending, yet bendable, so I can learn, grow, and drink deeply when I am ready to understand more and more.
I don’t need the world to teach me a philosophy that changes with every whim and fancy. I only need to read my scriptures and understand at the level of my own understanding, knowing it will go deeper line upon line, precept upon precept, but the truth will always hold true and be available to me when I am ready to see.
The Essence of the Gospel Nathaniel Givens
The Pleasant Pleasure Marilyn Nielson