Abstract: Active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints covenant to obey the law of consecration, and although I have long felt we discuss it too little, more Saints seem to be taking notice. Various historical and doctrinal opinions have been expressed on the law and on the “united order,” including some insightful and some unusual opinions by Kent W. Huff in his book Joseph Smith’s United Order.1 Using this book along with the contributions of several other scholars and Church leaders as a basis for discussion, I explore the history, meaning, and future of the “united order” as part of the larger law of consecration. Starting as an eleven-man organization in charge of Church business and operating under consecration principles, the united order — actually called the united firm — transformed into the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to historians, most Church members did not even know of its existence, let alone participate in it. Traditional understanding is that the firm’s consecration model provided the pattern for the Saints to follow. An alternative interpretation, described by Kent Huff, is that the Saints’ only real attempt at a formal consecration effort was for disaster relief. In fact, according to Huff, the Saints in general did not deed their property to the Church as we’ve learned in Church history classes. He further argues that even the former-day Saints in the City of Enoch, the early Christians in Jerusalem, and the Nephites right after Christ’s visit didn’t really have all things in common in the way most of us have imagined. I disagree with this interpretation and provide evidence against it, but I [Page 124]appreciate the historical information and several philosophical insights that Huff provides. Other scholars and historians challenge the widely-held notions that 1) tithing is a lower law, given because the Saints failed to live the full law of consecration, and that 2) a formal form of consecration (the united order) will eventually return. I advocate instead for the traditional understanding of the law of consecration and stewardship as taught by Church leaders, believing it is the path toward both freedom and equality the world is looking for, and I explain why I believe it — or a similar program — will eventually be reinstated. Continue reading
Steven Harper points out that one of things the Revelations in Context series was designed to do was to encourage study of the history and doctrine of the LDS Church in order to get past folk doctrines.
One of the misunderstandings that has developed over time is the relationship between the law of consecration and tithing.
The law of the Lord is given in D&C 42, and it is to love God and love one’s neighbor. All are encouraged to give of their time and temporal means to relieve the suffering of others.
It is not a law governing ownership but one that asks us what we are willing to do with what we have.
Tithing didn’t replace the law of consecration but rather is one way in which we practice it. The law is eternal and does not change but the way we practice it does.
In the early days of the LDS Church, any freewill offering was considered tithing. This has changed over time.
The law is also about agency, accountability, and stewardship.
(Originally published on 16 March 2013.)
This is Scripture Roundtable 18 from The Interpreter Foundation, in which we discuss Doctrine & Covenants Gospel Doctrine Lesson #14, “The Law of Consecration,” covering scriptures in Doctrine & Covenants sections 42, 51, 78, 82, and 104, bringing in various insights to help us better understand the scriptures. These roundtables will generally follow the 2013 Gospel Doctrine schedule of scriptures, a few weeks ahead of time.
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