Sunday, April 25, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 41-44


President J. Reuben Clark Jr. said, "The basic principle of all the revelations on the United Order is that everything we have belongs to the Lord; therefore, the Lord may call upon us for any and all of the property which we have, because it belongs to Him. This, I repeat, is the basic principle" (October 3, 1942 Conference Address).  (See D&C 104:14-17, 54-57.)

Section 42 of the D&C outlines the Law of the Church, as laid forth by the Lord, including the elements of the Law of Consecration. It is contained in between two statements of the Lord’s straight from the New Testament.

Verse 29:   If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all my commandments
Verse 38:   For inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do it unto me.

So it is based upon the loftiest of Christian values, serving Christ through service to others, and the idea that everything we have is a stewardship to begin with. The key elements:

Verse 30:   A covenant, which cannot be broken
Verse 31-32:   Giving of your substance to the poor, by way of the bishop
Verse 32:  Carrying out your own stewardship to a common treasury for the future care of the poor, and for the building of churches, etc.
Verse 37:   Not being able to “take back” what you consecrated
Verse 39:  This was all in fulfillment of a prophecy.

You could say that there were four phases of the law of consecration during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.

1831-1833. Jackson County, Missouri. The vehicle used (Bruce R. McConkie’s word) was called “The United Order.” A very brief attempt was made in Kirtland, then another in Jackson County. A member would deed all to the church, having a stewardship deeded back to him, which belonged to him as long as he remained with the church. The excess went to build the kingdom and support the poor. It was a great deal of work for the bishop, who managed it all, with the help of others. Some of the deeds have survived. The least affluent of those belonged to James Lee, who consecrated to the bishop “a number of saddlers tools, one candlestick & one washbowl valued seven dollars twenty five cents,--also saddler’s stock, trunks and harness work valued twenty four dollars—also extra clothing valued three dollars” – possessions totally $34.25 in value. Among the wealthiest was George W. Pitkin, who gave “sundry articles of furniture valued forty seven dollars thirty seven cents,--also three beds, bedding and extra clothing valued sixty eight dollars,--also sundry farming tools valued eleven dollars and fifty cents,--also two horses, one harness, one wagon, two cows and one calf valued one hundred and eighty one dollars”—the total worth $307.87. (Leonard  Arrington, Building the City of God, p. 24)

1833. Jackson County, Missouri. As a result of the lawsuit of an ex-member, stewardships were now private property of the individuals, and the bishop’s authority over them was “softened.” 

1837-1838. Caldwell & Daviess Counties. Members gave voluntary contributions: initially 2% of their net worth, and more to follow. Later, all of a member’s surplus was donated, plus annual tithing of 10%. At this time in the history of the Church, most of them had, however, little or no surplus. 

1838-1844.  Nauvoo, Illinois. The quantity of the consecration was now the decision of the donor. Rather than setting specific percentages, the Prophet emphasized true generosity in giving, and freedom from all taint of self-interest. The Saints fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and comforted the afflicted, regardless of religious affiliation. In 1842, the sacred ritual of the endowment was introduced, which encompassed the Law of Consecration. Saints are promised joint inheritances with Christ, powers, knowledge, and glory, by consecrating their energy and resources to the Church and by sacrificing all things for the advancement of God’s work on the earth (Lyndon W. Cook, author of Joseph Smith and the Law of Consecration, quoted in Encyclopedia of Latter-Day Saint History, p. 241-243).

EDWARD PARTRIDGE : An Example of Consecration

The Bishop who had the responsibility of managing this complicated United Order was Edward Partridge, also the first bishop of this dispensation. Joseph Smith wrote that Edward Partridge was “a pattern of piety and one of the Lord’s great men.” (History of the Church, 1:128)

Edward Partridge was a hatter before he joined the church. Hats, of course, were vital to the genteel of the day (probably partly because they washed their hair so infrequently), and millinery was a lucrative career. Edward Partridge had a partnership in a store near Albany, and a branch store in Ohio, when he bought out his partner. Then he met those first four missionaries of the church. That was the end of his material prosperity, but it was the beginning of a great spiritual treasure.

His wife Lydia joined the church first, but he wanted to meet Joseph Smith before he made up his mind. So he journeyed to New York in 1830, listened to a discourse by the prophet, and asked to be baptized the next day. He was baptized by Joseph Smith himself. He returned to Ohio and three days after his arrival, having been a member of the church less than two months, he was called to be the first bishop.

"And again, I have called my servant Edward Partridge; and I give a commandment, that he should be appointed by the voice of the church, and ordained a bishop unto the church, to leave his merchandise and to spend all his time in the labors of the church;

"To see to all things as it shall be appointed unto him in my laws in the day that I shall give them.

"And this because his heart is pure before me, for he is like unto Nathanael of old, in whom there is no guile" (D&C 41:9-11).

This call as a Bishop involved a move to the wild frontier of Missouri to help in the establishment of Zion. His family stayed behind in Ohio for a time. Despite all the confidence of Joseph Smith, and the opinions of others around him, Bishop Partridge was humble and felt inadequate to his calling, as he expressed in a letter to his wife:

"You know I stand in an important station, and as I am occasionally chastened I sometimes feel my station is above what I can perform to the acceptance of my Heavenly Father" (Edward Partridge Jr., “Biography and Family Genealogy, Unpublished Journal,” p. 6-7, quoted in Susan Easton Black, Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants, p. 214).

As Bishop, and particularly as the bishop carrying out the United Order, Edward Partridge had great responsibility for the functioning of the entire community. Can you imagine managing this huge system, trying to keep everyone happy with their assignments? There were many more poor and destitute saints who came to Independence hoping for an “inheritance” under the United Order than there were wealthy saints consecrating of their abundance. Church leadership had to start telling people they couldn’t move there without advance permissions, there were so many poor saints showing up on Brother Partridge’s doorstep. Those who had reasonable worldly possessions and gave them to the United Order could expect, therefore, to have their economic status lowered. And some of them backed out after agreeing to consecrate. But, generally, the economical level of the church members began to rise enough because of this cooperation that they because a threat to the Missourians. Their piousness was also an annoyance to the boisterous frontiersmen who decided to threaten the leadership and insist that they take their congregation and go. Edward Partridge was number one on their hit list.

On July 20, 1833, he was dragged by an angry crowd, along with Charles Allen, to the town square. There they were told to renounce their faith in the Book of Mormon or leave the county. They consented to neither, upon which the mob attacked them. (They were going to strip them naked, but Bishop Partridge convinced them to leave his shirt and pantaloons on.) Then they dabbed them with tar and acid from the tops of their heads to their feet and threw feathers over them.

Brother Partridge said of the incident:

"I bore my abuse with so much resignation and meekness that it appeared to astound the multitude, who permitted me to return in silence, many looking very solemn, their sympathies having been touched...; and as to myself, I was so filled with the Spirit and love of God, that I had no hatred towards my persecutors or anyone else" (HC 1:391, quoted in WW, p. 215).

"The leaders of the mob were the county judge, the constables, the court clerk, and the justices of the peace. The lieutenant-governor, Lilburn W. Boggs, was watching and aiding the mob. Bishop Partridge felt it right to sue the perpetrators of the violence for $50,000, but even his lawyers conspired against him. They took his pay of $600, made a compromise with the defendants against his consent and had the case thrown out of court. He never got his money back" (Paul C. Richards, BYU Studies, Vol. 13 #4, p. 532-4).

This was only one of the trials of Bishop Partridge. The list of what his family endured is too depressing to itemize. In addition to suffering mob violence and numerous forced moves along with the rest of the saints, he was also imprisoned for the gospel’s sake.

The stirring accounts contained in Sections 121, 122, and 123 which Joseph Smith wrote from Liberty Jail on March 25, 1839, he sent to the Saints, and “to Bishop Partridge in Particular” (Susan E.  Black, Who’s Who, p. 215). He must have felt that Bishop Partridge could use the encouragement as well. These include the beautiful words, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all of thy foes;” (121:7-8), and “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (122:7).

The United Order did not succeed for long in Jackson County. Too many of the saints were not faithful to consecrate either their money on the part of many of the rich, or their industry on the part of many of the poor. Any of you who have more than one child and have ever tried to make “all things equal” between them will understand what a formidable, thankless, and possibly quite unpleasant job Bishop Partridge’s  must have been. The constant persecution of the mobs made it impossible to ever get any surplus. The courts were against the Mormons and communal-type establishments of any type. The Lord would have overcome these difficulties, however, had the saints been faithful. In June of the same year, Edward Partridge, the man in charge of the whole United Order, wrote in his journal,

"I have not at this time two dollars in the world, one dollar and forty-four cents is all. I owe for my rent, and for making clothes for some of the poor, and some other things…What is best for me to do, I hardly know" (Journal History, 13 June 1839).

He moved to Nauvoo, where he once again served as bishop. While building a home outside of town and attempting to move the furniture, he collapsed from exhaustion, and died within two weeks at age 46, less than a decade after he joined the church (WW, p. 216).

In her old age, his daughter Emily reflected upon his death: "I look and remember the great responsibility resting upon my father as bishop—his poverty and privations and hardships he had to endure, the accusations of false brethren, the grumblings of the poor, and the persecution of our enemies, I do not wonder at his early death; and when I remember his conversations with my mother, and can now comprehend in my mature years, his extreme weariness of soul, it brings to my mind a clause of his blessing, which says, 'Thou shalt stand in the office until thou shalt desire to resign it that thou mayest rest for a little season'” (Emily Partridge Smith Young, Incidents, p. 79-81),

His only son to live to maturity, Edward Partridge, Jr., was called to be bishop of Fillmore, Utah in 1869. In his diary, he wrote, “This is something that I have always had an instinctive dread of since I have had understanding sufficient to know what the office of a bishop was” (Diary, 9 Mar 1869),

“Like the merchant who sold all he had for the pearl of great price, Edward Partridge…never thought the price was too high” (Dean Jessee, "Steadfastness and Patient Endurance: The Legacy of Edward Partridge," Ensign, June 1979).

The rewards to Bishop Partridge for his service were eternal. All of his children as well as his wife remained faithful to the church. His daughters were among the very first women called upon to live the law of polygamy, wives of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Amasa Lyman. His grandson and great-grandson were the architects for the old and new church office buildings in Salt Lake City. Among his progeny is an unbroken line of bishops and church leaders, including President James E. Faust.


Does the Law of Consecration apply to us today, or is it something we are just supposed to prepare to live at some future time?

"The implementation of specific economic programs from 1831 to 1844 changed significantly in practice though not in principle. The possessions, skills, and time of the Saints were essential components in building the kingdom of God on the earth…By 1844, Joseph Smith taught that spiritual commitment and love were higher expressions of consecration than legal stewardship agreements. During this time (1838), tithing had also become established as a minimum standard of economic consecration for the faithful" (Lyndon W. Cook, author of Joseph Smith and the Law of Consecration, in Encyclopedia of LDS History, p. 241-243).

The Law of Consecration still functions in this way today. It is no longer implemented through a detailed program, such as the “United Order,” with binding legal documents and specific assignments from the bishop, but all the principles are still valid, and ever Latter-day Saint can live the Law of Consecration on his or her own initiative. The lesser law, the minimum standard, of consecration is the law of tithing. Bruce R. McConkie says that you cannot live the perfect law of consecration unless you first obey perfectly the law of tithing (Mormon Doctrine, p. 158). All church members are expected to pay tithing, and it is actually required of those who want to attend the temple. Why? Because in the temple, church members make an eternal covenant--much more binding than a legal document--to live the higher law.

J. Reuben Clark, Jr. said in 1942:

"I should like to suggest to you that perhaps, after all, when the Welfare Plan gets thoroughly into operation—it is not so yet—we shall not be so very far from carrying out the great fundamentals of the United Order....

"If the Welfare Plan is fully operative, we shall be able to care for every destitute Latter-Day Saint wherever he may be" (October 1942 Conference Address).

Haven’t we reached that point in the church? We have the opportunity for consecration with the Perpetual Education Fund. Now, with our Humanitarian Aid contributions, we can extend our “surplus” to assist the poor all over the world of any religious denomination. In addition, many church members spend their “surplus” time crocheting leper bandages, making school kits, doing medical service, etc. for people all over the world. How wonderful will be the day when we can take care of "every destitute soul" inside or outside the church, wherever he may be! That is our aim!


The bishop is no longer in charge of our consecration; we are. He may issue a calling, and if we are living the law of consecration, we will accept it and give it all we can. If our official church calling doesn’t take all our time and effort, we can give the rest of it to build up the kingdom in little ways, serving in any way that presents itself. After we pay our tithing, we can give much more, even to the point of giving all of our excess beyond our basic needs and comforts. Serving as a full-time missionary is a call to live the law of consecration; a time of your life that you can truly give all of your time and attention to the building of the kingdom.

Although the Welfare Plan may not be exactly the same as the United Order, Albert E. Bowen, who researched and wrote the book, The Church Welfare Plan, said,

"Safe it is to say that a complete living of the law governing this Plan [that is, the Welfare Plan], and the practice of the principles involved [which are the PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW OF CONSECRATION], would make transition to the organization of the United Order not too difficult" (p. 145, quoted in Mormon Doctrine, p. 814).

So, as a Church, we are heading closer and closer to actually living the Law of Consecration. But as individuals, there is nothing to prevent us from living it right now. What can we do, specifically? Well, instructions on how to live the Law of Consecration are found in Section 42, just after the principles of the law are recorded. You may want to just highlight the key words, and study this section, asking yourself how you are doing.

Verse 40:  Don’t be PROUD
Verse 41:  Stay CLEAN
Verse 42:   Don’t be IDLE
Verse 43:  CARE for the sick
Verse 45:  Live in LOVE
Verse 46:  Call upon the Priesthood to HEAL the sick
Verse 53:  Carry out your individual STEWARDSHIP in the Kingdom
Verse 54:  PAY for what you get
Verse 55:  GIVE YOUR EXCESS to the Church
Verse 56:  Seek for the WORD OF GOD


"The law pertaining to material aid is so formulated that the carrying of it out necessitates practices calculated to root out human traits not in harmony with requirements for living in the celestial kingdom and replacing those inharmonious traits with the virtues and character essential to life in that abode" (Albert E. Bowen, The Church Welfare Plan, p. 13).

A promise to those who live the Law of Consecration is found in D&C 42:60-61:

"And he that doeth according to these things shall be saved, and he that doeth them not shall be damned if he so continue.

"If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal."

The second part of that promise was fulfilled in Bishop Partridge’s life. He wrote:

"I have torn my affections from this world’s goods, from the vanities and toys of time and sense, and been willing to love and serve God, with all my heart and be led by his holy Spirit. [As a consequence] my mind has been as it were continually expanding—receiving the things of God, until glories indescribable present themselves before me" (quoted in Dean Jessee Ensign article, June 1979).

We also know that the first part of the promise was fulfilled at Brother Partridge’s death because the Lord said in D&C 124:19 that he had received Edward Partridge unto himself, along with David Patten and Joseph Smith, Sr.

As Edward Partridge lived the Law of Consecration totally throughout the 10 years of his church membership, he was refined and perfected spiritually far beyond those who struggled, refused, or grudgingly lived the law. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we each followed his example, so that when our lives are over, it can be said of us as I have found it universally said of Edward Partridge: “He gave everything he had for the building up of the Kingdom of God”  (Craig L. Foster, ELDSH, p. 897).


PoisonBlog said...

Go socialism! Marx wasn't that far off from God's chosen economy after all ;)

Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...

Well, except for the whole agency idea, without which the entire plan of salvation does not work. Forced consecration is not God's law, but sounds a lot like the alternative plan He fought against... ;)

poison said...

Well, when it's either that or the telestial kingdom, I see very little difference.

Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...

I'm not sure what you mean, but no one is truly consecrating himself unless he is doing it because of his love for God and man (the two great commandments). True consecration changes who you are, fills you with concern for others, releases you from the hold of worldly aspirations. To consecrate your earthly possessions just so you won't reap hellfire and damnation will not make you into a celestial (love-filled) person. The heart, the desires, the whole perspective must change.

And don't forget, the telestial kingdom is still a kingdom of glory. It is still heaven. The doctrine revealed to the LDS prophets is the most merciful of all, with very, very few people permanently going to what we would call hell.

Taylor said...

A few thoughts on the agency and Telestial Kingdom comments following the "Marx" comparison of the United Order, I would offer the example of an elaborate Lego Spaceship kit.

It's sold with some 1500 pieces and can be put together however you want to make nearly an infinite number of creations. Some may feel constricted and not like the fact that the kit does have an optimal design that allows the recipient to use every single piece to create what is perfectly illustrated on the box if the instructions are adhered to by putting the pieces together in the right sequence. As all budding Lego-lovers learn, to get the Spaceship, they must commit themselves to learning how to follow the manual, but that's the necessary process. Yes, if you use your agency to put them together another way you may well end up with a Telestial result, but it is simply a reflection of the desires of the heart.

poison said...

Well, threat of hellfire (or just lesser glory) makes it a very easy choice, regardless. E.G. You still have the choice of whether or not you 'consecrate' in the USSR, however you will end up in jail if that's how you choose.

It's actually a pretty great analogy. In both if you don't contribute to the great overlord and His kingdom, you end up losing your family and much of your freedoms. Lenin would be proud of this Yahweh figure.

Taylor said...

A correct understanding of the doctrine is needed to see that there is no threat. God seeks to give you everything He has and to make you a joint-heir with Christ of every good thing.

You are complaining that God is trying to make you like He is, something Lenin never even contemplated or was remotely capable of offering.

Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...

Beautifully put, Taylor. Allow me to elaborate on your thought.

Lenin was just slightly off from God's plan, in the same way that Satan was: Lenin claimed a desire to equalize the people to remove any from the possibility of poverty, but as you know, a history of Marxism will show that it caused a greater disparity. The application was different than the original ideal. The leadership prospered from the enslavement of the masses.

Even if Marxism had worked to its ideal, it would have simply brought everyone to the same level: some higher than they were, some lower than they were, for fairness' sake.

Satan sought to save everyone by removing their freedom, therefore "equalizing" all, while elevating himself as the savior. But without allowing the people to choose, to grow, to change, it would have been a pointless existence.

God does not seek to equalize, but to elevate! Everyone is given the chance to reach the very top, to be equal not with other people alone, but with Christ! Everyone is free to choose it (even Lenin in the spirit world), though no one deserves it through their own merits. If they choose to reject the atonement, they remain where they are (remember this present earth life with its beauties and joys is a telestial existence). If they choose to be basically good, kind people, they are elevated to a terrestrial existence (what most people would call "heaven"). If they choose to accept the atonement and give up anything that prevents them from becoming like Christ, they are glorified to become gods.

Why would anyone complain about that?

BJ Spurlock said...

To think that Marxism, Communism, Leninsm, and Socialism are similar to the Law of consecration and the United Order has to be a thought of one who has not looked up what the prophets of God have said about it.
I have found 3 first presidency statements from the 1930's-1960's that state marxism couldn't be any more different. Than the law of consecration. President David O. McKay said that whosoever supports such false doctrines they will prove a snare to his feet.
For the honest student, I will post links to all these articles:

"Communism and all other similar isms bear no relationship whatever to the United Order." - Marion G. Romney (1945 April GC)

"The fundamental principle of this system was the private ownership of property. Each man owned his portion, or inheritance, or stewardship, with an absolute title, which he could alienate, or hypothecate, or otherwise treat as his own. The Church did not own all of the property, and the life under the United Order was not a communal life, as the Prophet Joseph, himself said (History of the Church, Volume III, p. 28). The United Order is an individualistic system, not a communal system." - President J. Reuben Clark (1942 Oct GC)

1942 First Presidency statment, History of the Church Vol. 6 pgs 32-33 where the prophet Joseph Smith says that the doctrine of socialism he did not believe in, the whole 3rd chapter of John Taylor's book "the government of God", a Talk called "Socialism and the United Order" by President Marion G. Romney in 1966 GC, and many other resources.