This is a tough lesson to address. It’s not that the law is difficult to explain, but that it is difficult to comprehend what the attitude needs to be in order to live the law completely. Evidently the kind of selflessness required to live the Law of Consecration is foreign to most of us. In this article I will attempt to make it a little easier to see the difference between what many of us feel and the kind of feelings we will need to be able to have in order to properly live this law.
Years ago, when I was much younger, if I saw some food on the table or in the fridge all I needed to do was say to myself, “It doesn’t belong to me,” and I could walk right past it and not take anything. Today, I appear to have allowed myself to be taught the ways of the world. Now when I see something in the fridge or on the table, my first thought isn’t, “It doesn’t belong to me,” but, “I deserve some of this.”
I don’t know where I picked up this sense of entitlement. I certainly wasn’t raised with it. But it is there, and now I have to learn how to overcome my sense that I should have whatever I want. I am retired now, but when I was working the thought was constantly on my mind that I needed to do those things that would bring a bigger raise. When I changed jobs it was almost always because I could make a little bit more at the next job. How much I made was the main criterion for success in life.
When I would see others literally stumble upon a great position and a great salary, it just ate me up inside. I was trying so hard and doing everything I could think of to get ahead so I could provide a better life for my family, but some kid comes along and literally trips on his face and falls into a sweet position that paid him twice my income, and he was completely untrained and unproven. I struggled with my envy. To be honest, I coveted what he had. I’m not happy to have to admit it, but I did.
What about my Church service? I was active – always have been. I have always paid my tithes and offerings, even when it hurt to do so. There were many times when it was either the rent or my tithing. I fulfilled all my callings to the best of my abilities. At least I thought I did. Sometimes I would accept so many callings that eventually I would have to sit down with the Bishop and list them off and ask if he felt it might be possible to allow someone else share the load. Eight callings can be rather daunting. Almost inevitably he would release me from most of my callings, only to have them slowly return over the next few years. Eventually it would be time for another sit-down with the Bishop.
As a priesthood holder I faced what many men do in the Church. When it was time for the Bishop to be replaced people would make inappropriate remarks like, “Well Bishop …”, to which I would reply, “Don’t even go there.” But in the back of my mind I was toying with the idea of what it would be like to be the Bishop, the most visible position in the ward. I pushed the thoughts deep down in my mind because I knew I wasn’t supposed to covet positions. Actually, the thought of being a Bishop scared the liver out of me, but I still wondered about what it would be like to be called.
One more example of my real-life feelings. There were times in my life – correction – most of my adult life I struggled to make ends meet. I was constantly poorer than a church mouse. It was humiliating and shaming. I hated having to ask for help, either for bills or for food from the Bishop’s Storehouse. I will be ever grateful for that help, but it didn’t make it any easier to have to ask for it.
Poverty is the most expensive lifestyle there is. If you don’t have insurance you don’t have the option of a discount, they charge you the full price. That would be the same price they charge the insurance companies BEFORE they apply the huge discounts because you have insurance. You can’t buy anything when it is on sale, unless it just happens to be at the same time you get a few extra dollars and have the need for that very thing. It’s like winning the lotto. Most of the time you have to pay full price for everything, and there is no option for shopping around for a better deal. You need what you need when you need it, and you have to have it now or the money will go to another bill.
Food storage seems like a dream for only rich people. New clothes are something you only see on someone else. Nice furnishings are only seen on the television, and most of the time you are hauling your own clothes down to the local laundromat in your clunker car, if it is even working. For years all our grocery shopping was done with a little red wagon. We would put the three children in the wagon and walk through the snow to the grocery store we were lucky enough to have within three blocks of our house. When we had bought enough to fill three bags of groceries we replaced the children with bags, and started the trek back home through the snow with everyone holding hands so no one got lost or hit in the intersections.
This is my point. Life as we currently know it is all about survival. For many of us life is all about us. Period. Everything we do is based on our own survival. The thought of being charitable and sharing is difficult to fathom beyond the occasional loaf of bread, or a batch of cookies, or the extra zucchini from the garden. Sometimes we feel that just doing our visiting or home teaching is a supreme act of charity. So what is it about the Law of Consecration that makes life so grand that the Lord is so anxious for all of us to live it? Why is it the best way for each of us to live in mortality?
The whole concept for the Law of Consecration is that we learn that WE don’t own anything. Everything belongs to the Lord. That is the first thing we need to learn to see and feel differently. My paycheck came from God, and it belongs to Him. My furniture, car, home, in fact, anything I use in my life doesn’t belong to me, but to God. As I have said before in another article, “The earth is His sandbox and we are just playing with His toys. When we leave mortality to go home we have to leave everything behind. All we go home with is what we came with, which is just ourselves.”
The sooner we get it through our heads, and believe that, the better. The whole point with this law is that because everything is God’s we are just stewards. A steward is a servant who takes care of the master’s things while the master is away from home. Historically, stewards may have only taken care of the master’s home, or they ran the master’s businesses in the master’s absence. They sometimes even collected taxes and revenues. The point is that a steward is not the owner, but a servant.
This is a difficult concept for many of us who have never lived in a society where there were many servants out and about. But this is what we are. Once we have made covenants with the Lord at baptism, we have promised to serve him and do his will in all things and at all times. If we are to become His sons and daughters in the spiritual sense then we need to learn to submit ourselves to His will in all things, just as a son or daughter, or servant does to a master.
Once we have consecrated ourselves to His service, we owe the Lord everything we are and have. That means that “our” time is no longer our own. What we do from hour to hour needs to be spent in doing what the Lord would have us do with our time. “Our” money, possessions, whether grand or grubby, belong to Him. In our minds we are only working with what we have been given or with what we have at our disposal. All of our efforts are to serve our master, the Lord. After all, when we die we leave it all behind anyway, so it isn’t like we are amassing our eternal dowry or anything.
When we go to the temple and covenant to serve the Lord, what part of our time, person, property, and talents do we covenant to place at His disposal, all that we have and are, or just a certain percentage? Do we take those covenants seriously? Do we comprehend what that means?
Let’s say that I want to be a doctor of some sort. In the world I slave and sacrifice for years beyond the regular college routine in order to prepare for my profession. When I get out of school I expect to make lots of money. That was one of the big reasons for going into the profession in the first place. I want to be wealthy and have a comfortable life for my family. I expect to put my children in the best schools and be able to give my spouse all the good things of this world.
But thinking along the lines of the Law of Consecration, all that training is done for the glory of God. There is no expectation of wealth that will set you apart from your neighbors. When you live the Law of Consecration all that extra money that you earn beyond what you need to live is given to the Bishop to help the poor and the needy to fulfill their needs. This doesn’t mean the poor and the needy are just sitting around doing nothing. Remember that I described how difficult my life was as one of those poor and needy people. Life is genuinely hard for the honest poor. Under the Law the poor would also be given work according to their talents and abilities, and could expect to have all their needs met as well.
This isn’t socialism, or communism, or any other kind of “ism.” This is how the Lord cares for his people. He makes his people care for each other. My mother pointed out that it is like when we go to the temple and everyone is treated the same. We all dress in white. Everyone serves and worships together without consideration of class or education. Love, respect, and dignity is the order of the day. All are on equal footing before the Lord in the temple. This is what the Law of Consecration does for the Lord’s people out in the world during their time in mortality. It puts us all on an equal footing before the Lord in a temporal sense.
This equality of station eliminates things like class envy, educational snobbery, financial inequalities, and the coveting what others have. Can you even imagine a life that sublime?
Currently, the Church doesn’t live the full Law of Consecration. The people of the Church just aren’t ready for it. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn to live the spirit of the Law. The first step is to learn to remember always that all we have belongs to someone else, not us. We will each have to answer to the Lord for how we treated our fellows in this life. We will have to answer for how we used what the Lord blessed us with. Do we give as much as we should to those in need? Are we wise with what we have under our control, or are we profligate, wasteful with our time, money, and resources?
How often do we make the sacrifices needed to spend more time in the temple, selflessly serving those on the other side of the veil? How generous are we in our Fast Offerings and other donations? Are we truly being generous? When the Bishop asks us to serve, do we remember that he is the servant, the judge in Israel we answer to? Do we turn down assignments or fill them half-heartedly? When we are asked to help clean the chapel do we slip in and do as little as possible, eat our “fair share” of any refreshments provided then run home to play for the day?
The Law of Consecration is the Lord’s way of leveling the social and financial playing field for His people. By learning to treat our neighbor as ourself we learn to be more charitable, less judgmental, and become more generous and caring about their welfare. This is how we learn what true charity is all about. The Church may not currently have an official program in place for this law, but that doesn’t mean we are free from its requirements. The Lord still expects us to become worthy of its implementation. We can fully live the spirit of this law with the help of the Holy Ghost. But we need to seek for the revelations we will need in order to see how we can be and do better than we are currently.
If you want to get a feel for how well you and your neighbors are doing with this law, listen carefully to the lesson as it is presented in class. What are the comments like by members of the class. Are they making excuses for why their things should be theirs? Are they giving suggestions on how we can be more loving and accepting of others, even those whose lifestyle we disagree with or disapprove of? Are you seeing signs that your class recognizes that everything we work with each day belongs to the Lord, and we need to be more responsible in how we use those blessings to bless the lives of others? Or are you seeing signs from the class that justify our right or even our responsibility to do what we want with what is “ours?” These questions should help you get a gage on where you, and or your neighbors are at with respect to the Law of Consecration. I’m sure that no matter what you find in your Sunday School class you will recognize that there is plenty of room for improvement all the way around.