Few things reveal the gap between godly living and our human failings as strikingly as the law of consecration. The Lord started revealing the law of consecration to the early Saints in 1831. The purpose of this law was to take care of the poor and to teach individuals how to be “… a faithful, a just, and a wise steward…” (D&C 51:19).
“Under this law, members of the [early] Church were asked to consecrate, or deed, all their property to the bishop of the Church. He then granted an inheritance, or stewardship, back to the members. Families administered their stewardships as well as they could. If at the year’s end they had a surplus, this was given to the bishop to use in caring for those in need…The law of consecration consists of principles and practices that strengthen members spiritually and bring about relative economic equality, eliminating greed and poverty. Some Saints lived it well, to the blessing of themselves and others, but other members failed to rise above selfish desires, causing the eventual withdrawal of the law from the Church. In 1838 the Lord revealed the law of tithing (see D&C 119), which continues today as the financial law of the Church.”1
Though the law was withdrawn in 1838, the covenant was not. We still covenant, today, to consecrate all that we have for the building up of the Kingdom of God. The act of consecration makes something sacred by giving it to the Lord.2
This lesson is rich with material and the details of the early Saints attempting to live the law of consecration is full of drama and intrigue, ripe for a Netflix miniseries. And yet, what’s had the strongest impact on me and has great relevance to LDS women today are these two verses:
“And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man [woman] according to his [her] wants and his [her] needs, inasmuch as his [her] wants are just—
And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man [and woman] may improve upon his [her] talent, that every man [woman] may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church—” (D&C 82:17-18)
The law of consecration is a higher law. I interpret these verses to mean that a higher way of living is knowing what your needs and wants are and having them met in healthy interdependent ways. Furthermore, having needs and wants met nourishes us, so that we may improve upon our talents, which in turn will grow abundantly. We then consecrate that abundance (anything surpassing needs and just wants) by giving to the Lord for the benefit of others. What a glorious way to live! And what a challenging way to live!
Assurance that all of God’s children have equal claim to what it is they need and want in order to manage their unique stewardship is an empowering message. Equal doesn’t mean equitable or even fair. We are taught, repeatedly, that the Father sees us, experiences and loves us as individuals. Wouldn’t He then meet our needs, our wants, individually?
But in order for those needs and wants to be met, we must first recognize them. This is where I struggle. I have a hard time doing this because I’ve spent most of my life being wantless and needless. Having needs and wants has felt too vulnerable. So, I ignored them, or I neglected them. Asking others for help is still a courageous act for me. I’m working on it.
Claiming my wants and my needs is difficult because being wantless and needless is often praised in our put-your-shoulder-to-the-wheel Mormon communities. From the outside it can look like charity or ultra-self-reliance. Charity and self-reliance require sacrifice but are nonetheless spiritually nourishing. Acting from a place of needless and wantless breeds despair, resentment, and undermines self-worth. We are unable to sustainably give to others what we are incapable or unwilling to give ourselves. In order to meet the needs and just wants of others, we have to meet our own.
Additionally, it doesn’t help that Church produced video’s like You Never Know How Much Good You Do reinforce (perhaps unintentionally) the message that a righteous woman is a needless and wantless woman. Being needless and wantless doesn’t make me righteous, it makes me boundaryless.
Studying Brene Brown’s work on shame, vulnerability and living with boundaries has been life changing for me. She defines boundaries as what’s okay and what’s not okay. Brown says that once she started living with boundaries she became a lot less sweet and a lot more loving. Brown uses B-I-G as a way to create space for her wants and needs, so that she can be more compassionate to others: “What Boundaries have to be in place for me to stay in my Integrity and make the most Generous assumptions about you.”3
I’m learning how to give myself what I need and to have courage to ask others when I need their help. I’m learning to discern between a want and a just want by asking if the want brings joy, nourishment or restorativeness OR if it only serves my natural woman?
I want to be less sweet and more loving. I want a better relationship with myself, others and the Godhead. I want…
1 Our Heritage, page 26
2 Steven C. Harper, “The Law.”, 20 May 2013
3 Brene Brown, Boundaries, Empathy and Compassion, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujtWYO0w1OM
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
In Perfect Harmony, Liz Shropshire
“Being single was not my goal, but a scripture I read soon after I started the foundation really hit me: “I consecrate unto them this land for a little season, until I, the Lord, shall provide for them otherwise… And the hour and the day is not given unto them, wherefore let them act upon this land as for years, and this shall turn unto them for their good” (D&C 51:16-17). I don’t know how long I will be in “this land” or this state of being single but I’m going to use my singleness to do as much as I possibly can. I can do stuff being single that I couldn’t do if I were in a different situation. Although it might not be what I would choose, it’s definitely what has proven to be an incredibly happy wonderful life for me. It’s because I’m single that I can do this. How can I not rejoice in that?”
Singing His Praises, Emily Spenser
“Managing a household of five people, three of them age six and under, one of them demanding great amounts of time and attention due to his special needs, a medical resident husband—yes, of course this is a very heavy load. Also, because of my children, I do not have much study time at my disposal during the day, which means many late nights. There are nights when I don’t go to bed at all. Finally, my husband and I both have demanding callings at church. So is this a heavier load than the average student? Yes, I suppose I would say so. But I don’t feel myself a martyr because of it, neither do I feel resentful or sorry. I chose my path. What keeps me going are the many affirmations that have come through prayer, priesthood blessings, and feelings of the Spirit, the obvious ways the Lord has magnified me and consecrated my efforts, the support and generosity of others stepping in when they had no idea how much I needed their help, keeping a clear vision of the end result, the ability to juggle these things and still unequivocally put my family first, and, of course, knowing that this phase is temporary!”
Other Related Women’s Voices
In Covenant with Him, Kathleen H. Hughes
“To accomplish this important work, we choose to be covenant women: women who have made sacred promises to the Lord. For those of us who have received our temple blessings, we have promised that we will consecrate our time and talents to the building up of the Lord’s kingdom. Through this covenant we can serve the Church in many roles.”