Chapter 13: Restoring the Law of Consecration and Stewardship

Individual benefit would not then be the aim and object of men's lives and labors. . . . There are a great many evils which would be stricken out of existence were that system practiced.1

The law of consecration and stewardship is a divinely-inspired manner of living. It was this law that enabled the people of Enoch to perfect themselves until they were so righteous that they could no longer remain upon the earth.2 The lives of the Saints will be richly blessed when this law is restored in its fullness.

The Prophet Joseph Smith will be instrumental in establishing the law of consecration and stewardship among the Saints, and making certain that it operates as it should. This is a task that was assigned to him while he was here in mortality.

He will not only establish this law, which will be an essential part of the Saints’ lives prior to the Second Coming and during the Millennium, but he will strengthen the Church in many other ways. The law of consecration has often been misunderstood, and he will clarify the Saints’ understanding so that this law can be practiced correctly. Many changes must occur within the hearts of the Saints for the law of consecration to be successfully restored.

We can find evidence for this important mission of the Prophet Joseph in the scriptures and in the history of the Church. This can also help us to understand one of the great mysteries in the Doctrine and Covenants that has perplexed the Saints since 1832.

The “One Mighty and Strong” Who Will Establish the Law of Consecration

The law of consecration and stewardship was first given to the Saints in February 1831, and the leaders of the Church began to implement it among the members in Kirtland and Missouri.3 In November 1832, Joseph learned that the Saints in Missouri were not living the law of consecration and stewardship as the Lord had commanded them.

He therefore wrote a very stern letter to the Church leaders in Missouri, including Bishop Edward Partridge. This letter was written under the spirit of inspiration from the Lord, and it was later included as scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants as section 85.

It would be just a year after this letter was written that the fury of the mobs would descend upon the dilatory Saints in Missouri. In this letter, Joseph told the brethren that because they had not correctly administered the law of consecration, another leader---one mighty and strong---would someday correctly establish the law of consecration in Zion and divide the inheritances of the Saints as God had designed.4

Joseph left this prophecy for the brethren to ponder. He did not explain who would fulfill it, nor did he specifically identify the “one mighty and strong.” However, since Joseph was the President of the Church and since he was the one who had appointed Bishop Partridge to administer the law of consecration in Missouri, he obviously had the right to remove and replace him if he failed to function correctly. This would seem to indicate that Joseph was the “one mighty and strong,” but he never specifically stated this during his lifetime. However, he did strongly hint at it.

In March 1840, when the Saints were settling in Montrose, Iowa, across the river from Nauvoo, they took it upon themselves to start assigning inheritances according to the law of consecration. But none of this was done by the authority of the leaders of the Church in Nauvoo.5 When Joseph learned of this situation in Montrose, he convened a meeting with the Church leaders in the settlement. It was there that he exercised the attributes of the “one mighty and strong” by terminating the practice of the law of consecration and taking complete responsibility for this decision.

The Saints in Montrose noted that he told them that “the law of consecration could not be kept here, and it was the will of the Lord that we should desist from trying to keep it; and if persisted in, it would produce a perfect defeat of its object. He [Joseph] assumed the whole responsibility of not keeping it until proposed by himself.”6

The law of consecration was never practiced again during Joseph’s lifetime, and none of the succeeding presidents of the Church ever organized the Saints under the law of consecration. It is true that there were some cooperative business relationships set up in Utah that went by the name of the “United Order,” as well as some frontier communities that were organized in a communal fashion, but they were not a true implementation of the law of consecration.7 These United Order business cooperatives were eventually terminated by President John Taylor in 1882.8

Sadly, in the years since Joseph’s death, some individuals have risen up to claim the title of “one mighty and strong,” and they have declared that it was their right to lead the Church. But invariably, they have been exposed to be false prophets and deluded individuals who have not received the keys, the priesthood or the calling of the “one mighty and strong.”9

Other Prophecies of “One Mighty and Strong”

There is further evidence in the Book of Mormon that the Prophet Joseph is actually the “one mighty and strong.” Over two thousand years before he was born, he was given the title of “one mighty” by a prophet of the Lord. When Lehi was teaching his youngest son, Joseph, about the future rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leader, the Prophet Joseph Smith, he prophetically stated that “there shall rise up one mighty among them, who shall do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God.”10

In addition to this, when the Prophet Joseph wrote to the Church leaders in Missouri in November 1832 about sending “one mighty and strong,” he said that this person would be “clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words.”11 The phrase “clothed with light for a covering” perfectly describes a resurrected being, someone who has been clothed with glory and immortality.12

There is no doubt, therefore, that the Prophet Joseph is the “one mighty and strong” who will institute and restore the law of consecration after his resurrection and return. It will be his duty and privilege to teach the Saints how to correctly live the law of consecration, and establish this law among the faithful members of the Church.

Understanding the Law of Consecration and Stewardship

The law of consecration and stewardship has often been misunderstood, even by Biblical scholars. It is not Christian communism, where everyone is forced to share their property in common with each other.13 Instead, it is a system of personal stewardship, with private ownership and voluntary participation. It is based upon the principle of charity, where the excess and abundance with which we are blessed can be shared with others.

When the Lord first revealed the law of consecration to the Prophet Joseph Smith, He told the Saints that they first needed to faithfully obey the basic principles of the gospel in order for the law of consecration to work.14 This is the bedrock upon which the law of consecration is based. When the Saints obey the laws of the gospel, they will have a continual sensitivity for the poor, and they will be generous in giving of their excess to others.15 This is not to be done by merely giving money to the poor, but on a much larger scale.

Anyone desiring to participate in the law of consecration begins by assigning all of his property to the bishop of the Church and certifying the transfer with a sacred, legal deed that cannot be broken.16

The bishop then privately counsels with the heads of each household to determine how much they will need to make their stewardship a success in the coming year.17 The bishop can give them more than they had originally contributed, or the bishop can suggest that some of their excess consecrated property be given to a poor person who needs help in his stewardship.18 Whatever the bishop and the stewards agree upon is then sealed by a “deed that cannot be broken.”19

Any excess assets from a steward’s consecration that are retained by the bishop become the property of the Church, and they are kept in the bishop’s storehouse for later distribution to the poor and needy.20 Should the steward later decide to leave the Church, he cannot lay claim to this “surplus donation” since he has deeded it over to the Church.

At the end of the season, each steward is accountable for what he has accomplished with his stewardship during the previous year, and any surplus in excess of his needs can be given to the bishop for distribution to the poor. If a steward has fallen behind in the past year, he can petition the bishop for help at his year-end accounting and receive some of the excess from the bishop’s storehouse.21

It is a challenging task for the bishop to fairly and equitably administer the law of consecration and stewardship. In June 1833, two years after the law of consecration was first revealed, the Prophet Joseph wrote a letter to Bishop Partridge in Missouri, counseling him on how the law of consecration should be implemented there. In this letter he explained:

“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 compelled to comply with the bishop’s judgment, is giving 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 compelled 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.”22

A New Kind of Lifestyle

The establishment of the law of consecration will be the foundation upon which a new Millennial lifestyle will be built. In the current world overseen and operated by Satan, there is often much sadness, divorce, despair and selfishness. But during the time of the glorious Millennium, the earth will be ruled by Christ and the righteous, and the fruits will be wonderful. As George Q. Cannon stated:

“Under the Order of Enoch [i.e. the law of consecration] . . . individual benefit would not then be the aim and object of men’s lives and labors. God did not create us for the purpose of striving for self alone; and when we are rightly situated, under a proper system, our desires will flow naturally along, and we will find room for the exercise of every faculty of mind and body without endangering the salvation of our souls. . . .

“God has revealed the plan, and it is a very simple one; but it will require faith on the part of the Saints to enter upon it. There are a great many evils which would be stricken out of existence were that system practiced.”23

The law of consecration will bring about a new way of living that is difficult to comprehend in the current world of today. It will simply be magnificent. As the Saints learn to live the law of consecration, it will be like waking up from a very long nightmare. We will soon wonder why we have been living in Babylon for so long.

For example, in today’s world, life is often a fierce competition with others. Everyone is trying to excel above the rest, and the Lord does not approve of this.24 Men and women are often taking advantage of others so that they can “get ahead of the competition.”

But these things will be completely gone under the law of consecration in a Zion society. The drive and ambition that we see today in attempting to “get ahead” will be redirected and channeled into helping and assisting the poor.25 Those who are able to do better in their stewardship will be able to bless the lives of more people through the excess that is produced by their stewardship. Those who are poor and downtrodden will be watched over, helped and guided so that they can succeed in life too. They will be assisted, step by step, by those who love them and want to help.

In today’s world, most people are busily engaged in trying to get more riches and prestige than their neighbors. Many are incessantly concerned about keeping up their outward appearances with bigger and better homes, vehicles, boats and other recreational toys. This usually leads to the crushing pressure of debt as items are impatiently purchased using credit, instead of waiting to save up sufficient funds or simply doing without these things.

Even worse, this debt can result in bankruptcy, or, to our own condemnation, in illegal or questionable practices. The debt becomes a source of slavery as the debtor becomes imprisoned by his own greed. These earthly “treasures” will someday rust, decay and fall apart, leaving the debtor with nothing but his debt. This self-centered existence bears many bitter fruits, some of which include egotism, emptiness, divorce, despondency and depression.

In the future Zion society, everyone will work to help build each other up, to assist others in a spirit of sincere service.26 Life will no longer be a competition with our neighbors.27 In this marvelous day, our lives will be full of love, joy and happiness as a result of selfless service.28

The heavenly treasures on which we will focus will fill our lives with completeness and eternal joy. Gone will be the emptiness that we feel after squandering our money on things that don’t enrich our souls. In the Christ-like service of others we experience the gift of pure love,29 and by focusing our lives on serving others, our souls will be filled with joy that is lasting and permanent.

In today’s world, people can be cruel and uncaring. Instead of helping a person who is downtrodden, his plight is passed over with a series of self-justifying excuses: “Life was so unlucky for that guy! Wish I could help, but I guess he should have been wiser. . . .”

However, in a Zion society, the Saints will concentrate on helping others. Life will become a growing experience in which we learn to share, love and reach out to all humanity. Any difficulties that are experienced will be lessened as we share each other’s burdens and lift up those who are heavy-hearted.

We will be living like the Church did in the days of Alma when “they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the Church or in the Church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.”30

In today’s world, men and women are often ruled by the use of force, threats and intimidation. This occurs in the work place, at school, and in everyday life. These are the tools of Satan, and these things happen because we are living in a society engineered by him and his minions.
But under the principles of God’s law, the Kingdom of God will spread during the Millennium to fill the world with peace, so that all of the people will soon “become more still.”31 The people will be ruled by fairness, justice and equity. Righteous priesthood leadership will become the rule, and not the exception.

All of these marvelous things will be brought about through the law of consecration and the laws of the Kingdom of God. It will be a wonderful time to live---full of peace, love, joy and happiness.

All that is required in order for this wonderful day to commence is the preparation of the hearts of the people to live the law of consecration and stewardship.

Chapter Footnotes

1 . George Q. Cannon, June 29, 1873, Journal of Discourses 16:119.
2 . The First 2,000 Years, pp. 138-139, 145-146, 153-154.
3 . Brother Joseph, pp. 236-242, 269-271, 277, 397.
4 . D&C 85:7.
5 . Stanley B. Kimball, “Nauvoo West: The Mormons of the Iowa Shore,” BYU Studies (Winter 1978) 18:2:136-138.
6 . History of the Church 4:93; emphasis added.
7 . Melvin J. Peterson, “The Little Colorado Settlements of 1876,” Church History Regional Studies---Arizona, (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1989), p. 120; L. Dwight Israelsen, “An Economic Analysis of the United Order,” BYU Studies, 18:4:546-547.
8 . Comprehensive History of the Church 5:498.
9 . James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970) 4:107-108.
10 . 2 Nephi 3:24; emphasis added.
11 . D&C 85:7.
12 . Orson Pratt, November 1, 1879, Journal of Discourses 21:150-151.
13 . The First 2,000 Years, pp. 141-143; Brother Joseph, pp. 238-241.
14 . D&C 42:18-29, 40-60, 74-93.
15 . D&C 42:30-31.
16 . D&C 42:30-34.
17 . D&C 42:32.
18 . D&C 42:33-34.
19 . D&C 42:30.
20 . D&C 42:32, 34.
21 . D&C 42:33, 55.
22 . History of the Church 1:364-365.
23 . George Q. Cannon, June 29, 1873, Journal of Discourses 16:119.
24 . D&C 58:41.
25 . D&C 42:30-34.
26 . Mosiah 4:26.
27 . Alma 1:26-27.
28 . Matthew 22:39.
29 . Mosiah 2:17.
30 . Alma 1:30.
31 . Alma 1:33.