3 Nephi 13:1-4 — LeGrand Baker — Law of Consecration

3 Nephi 13:1-4

1 Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven.
2 Therefore, when ye shall do your alms do not sound a trumpet before you, as will hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth;
4 That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.

When the Lord introduced the law of consecration to the Church in Missouri, its object was to enable needy Saints to become part of a prosperous community. Two main factors caused the experiment to fail. The first was that the “old citizens” (the ones that were there before the Mormons arrived) wanted to get possession of the improved lands without paying for the improvements. The second was that there were contentions among the Mormons. Even some of the leaders (like Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmers) were unwilling to share the advantages of property. The combined result was the tragic forced expulsion of the Saints from Missouri.

One of the things the experiment forcefully demonstrated was that we cannot make a Zion community by declaring it to be such, then opening it up to non-Zion type people and expecting them to live the law of consecration. Rather, Zion is a community must be made up of people who are already living the law of consecration.

As I understand it, the Church is now (and probably has always been) made up of three basic types of people: (1) Non-Zion people who are primarily concerned about what they perceive to be their own needs. (2) Those who are seeking to become a Zion people, who recognize what is really important and are personally trying to learn how to live the law of consecration. (3) People who are Zion, who quietly go about doing good because they recognize others’ needs. People in this last group are often the most difficult to identify because they would just as soon no one noticed the good they do.

The Beatitude that brings us to Zion{1} reads, “And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” and that is the way it must be. Everyone has needs and everyone has the ability to help someone.

A good way to understand the law of consecration is to liken it to the ancient temple blessings of priesthood and sacral kingship. Neither are primarily about giving or receiving. In their simplest forms, both are only a functional acknowledgment of truth—of reality. In each, there is nothing about either giving or receiving that implies subservience, superiority, or indebtedness. They are only about acknowledging and filling honest needs. The need may cost the giver his substance, his time, or a simple act of kindness, but what its cost is only partly determined by the generosity of the giver: it is always— sometimes only— determined by the needs of the recipient. Here are some examples:

(1) A family with the means learns that a single mom’s car just died a permanent death. The family conclude in council that they can afford to give her a workable car. The father goes to the bishop, tells him how much he can afford, and asks him to get with a mechanic and the single mom and buy her another car— nothing too expensive, but adequate for her needs.

(2) That mom has a next door neighbor who can’t do yard work any more. The single mom and her teenage children take it upon themselves to mow the widow’s lawn and help her keep down the weeds.

(3) The widow likes to sit in the park and watch the children play. If a child is hurt, or is picked on, she invites the child to come and sit on the bench beside her. Then she listens. A hug may be appropriate, and she always just happens to have some cookies that she can share.

As I understand it, that is what the law of consecration is. It is giving when there is a need and when one has the means to satisfy the need. In the three examples, there is no difference between the car, the lawn mowing, and the hug with cookies. Each answers the legitimate need of the recipient, and each is within the resources of the giver.

There are at least two psalms, that were enacted during the ancient Israelite Feast of Tabernacles temple drama, that represented events that took place in the Council in Heaven. One of those is Psalm 82. Its first verse reads: “God [Elohim] standeth in the congregation of the mighty [Council in Heaven]; he judgeth among the gods.” The rest of the psalm are the words spoken by the Father to the members of the Council. It appears to be instructions about how they are to perform their assignments when they come to this earth and fits perfectly within the text of Abraham 3:23 where God makes assignments to the members of the Council. The instructions he gives in Psalm 82 can easily be recognized as the law of consecration. {2}

If that is correct, then our covenants to keep the law of consecration predates our being born into this world by a very, very long time.


{1} The Beatitudes read:
. 7 And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
. 8 And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God (3 Nephi 12:7-8).
And the definition is:
. 21 Therefore, verily, thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—THE PURE IN HEART; therefore, let Zion rejoice, while all the wicked shall mourn (D&C 97:21).

{2} For a discussion of Psalm 82 and its connection with the Council in Heaven see Who Ascend into the Hill of the Lord. “Act 1, Scene 1: The Council in Heaven,” p. 159
.       “Pssalm 82, The Father’s Instructions to the Council,” p. 162
.        “Psalm 82: Instruction and Covenant,” p. 165- 74

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