Archive for November, 2007

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Do the GAs live the law of consecration?

November 30, 2007

First of all, I must apologize for being a slacker and not posting here for the past few weeks. I wish I could promise a more substantive post today, but as finals are approaching at a frightening pace and my Chinese Politics research paper is still unfinished, I’ll have to be brief.

For today, I’m going to merely pose a question: Do the General Authorities live the law of consecration? I recall being taught that they do live this “higher law,” and I always revered them for doing it. But I’ve never heard a GA claim that he or his peers can be said to live the law of consecration. So what say ye?

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Heart, Soul, Mind

November 30, 2007

While pondering the topic of consecration, I was struck by something Elder Maxwell said:

We tend to think of consecration only as yielding up, when divinely directed, our material possessions. But ultimate consecration is the yielding up of oneself to God. Heart, soul, and mind were the encompassing words of Christ in describing the first commandment, which is constantly, not periodically, operative (see Matt. 22:37) (emphasis his).

I wonder how often we really consider what it means to offer up all of our hearts, souls, and minds. Elder Maxwell reminds us that just as Ananias and Sapphira “kept back part of the price” (see Acts 5:1-11), we tend to hold back in these facets of our lives.

I’ve been tossing around some possible questions we might ask ourselves about our degree of consecration of heart, soul, and mind. (Please feel free to add questions to the list, as I imagine there are many others we could consider.)

Heart

  • Are our hearts set on any of the things of this world (riches, praise, honor, promotions, learning, earthly skills, success, appearances, philosophies, … the list is endless)? Would we be willing to give any and all of these things to the Lord? Should we give any of these things up to better follow Him?
  • Do we follow and sustain the Lord’s authorized servants with all of our hearts?
  • Do we give our whole hearts in love to our families?
  • Do we serve in our callings with all of our hearts?
  • Do we have broken hearts and contrite spirits?
  • Are our hearts hardened by grudges, resentment, judgment, hatred?
  • Is the Lord close to the “thoughts and intents of [our[ heart[s]”? (Mosiah 5:13)
  • Are our hearts pure and our hands clean?

Soul

  • Do we give deliberate and concerted effort to feed our spirits daily through scripture study, prayer, and remembering the Savior?
  • Do we strive to keep all of the covenants we have made?
  • Do we attend the temple regularly?
  • Do we seek for true conversion by being immersed in and absorbed by the gospel?

One consideration in this facet of consecration is the scripture that defines the soul as both spirit and body. Some questions to ask then are:

  • Do we live the law of chastity?
  • Do we care for our bodies as well as our spirits?
  • Do we live the dos and don’ts of the Word of Wisdom?
  • Are we modest in dress, speech, and behavior?
  • Do we allow bodily passions and appetites to drive us, or are we driven by the Spirit?
  • Are we striving to alleviate the physical suffering of those around us who are temporally poor and needy?
  • Do we show reverence for covenants physically as well as spiritually?

Mind

I like what Elder Maxwell said about this topic.

Since knees often bend long before minds, holding back this “part” deprives God’s work of some of mankind’s very best intellects. Far better to be meek like Moses, who learned things he “never had supposed” (Moses 1:10). Yet, sadly, brothers and sisters, in the subtle interplay of agency and identity, there is so much hesitation. The surrender of the mind is actually a victory, because it then introduces us to God’s stretching and “higher” ways! (see Isa. 55:9).

Whew. There is much to consider on the path to true consecration. (And this, of course, is only a small list of questions we could ask ourselves!) I find comfort in recognizing that this is all a process, and remembering the eternal blessings that will come as we truly give our whole selves and wills to God. Elder Maxwell said:

Spiritual submissiveness is not accomplished in an instant, but by the incremental improvements and by the successive use of stepping-stones. Stepping-stones are meant to be taken one at a time anyway. Eventually our wills can be “swallowed up in the will of the Father” as we are “willing to submit … even as a child doth submit to his father” (see Mosiah 15:7; Mosiah 3:19)….In striving for ultimate submission, our wills constitute all we really have to give God anyway. The usual gifts and their derivatives we give to Him could be stamped justifiably “Return to Sender,” with a capital S. Even when God receives this one gift in return, the fully faithful will receive “all that [He] hath” (D&C 84:38). What an exchange rate!

Heart, soul, mind. It all must go on the altar in order to enjoy the full blessings of the gospel, now and eternally.

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Devoted

November 28, 2007

If you look at the four scriptural/historical examples of proposed Zion societies, which are found in Acts 4:31-35, 4 Nephi 1:2-6, 10-18, Moses 7:17-21, and D&C 42:18-36, the common elements is unity. Certainly, all four societies mentioned the breakdown of class distinctions (no rich or poor, no -ites), but this is simply another element of unity. We are to be one, or we are not the Lord’s.

For whatever its worth, I don’t really know what that means, but I know how the Lord defines it. When we seek his will, we are one with him. In all known Zion societies, the members of those societies sought the Lord’s will first. Thereby, they were able to set aside their own differences. Not set aside even, but rather eliminate. The scriptural record is clear is that consecration has never been about economics, it has always been about the individual’s desire to serve God first. If every individual (or most individuals) in a society live the law of consecration, you get a Zion society. It happens organically. Those people just care about each other and others in a manner which results in unity and a lack of want.

This means, of course, that the reason we don’t have Zion today, for which we are still asked to prepare, is that we don’t want it. We are not particularly interested in it. We think ourselves happier seeking our own will, instead of seeking God’s. The continued persistence of a lack of Zion is not proof that God has altered the program; it is proof of our refusal to comply. Think about it, when does God alter his commands? As far as I know, only when the people utterly fail to keep them. Tithing, Home Teaching, the PEF; these are our Laws of Moses, which we are reminded of whenever we go to an endowment session. God isn’t interested in our money; he wants our whole heart, mind, might, and strength. God doesn’t need our funds; he needs us. So long as we refuse to devote, to consecrate ourselves to his cause, he will ask for some of that about which we care (our moolah) to remind us that it should not be our goal.

If we are to be the Lord’s holy people, shouldn’t we actually attempt to be the Lord’s holy people?

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The Four “Givers” of the Bloggernacle

November 27, 2007

by BiV

I’m going to agree with the Narrator that temple-endowed members of the Church are under covenant to obey the Law of Consecration.  As has been noted in the comments to his post, there is sometimes confusion between the Law of Consecration and the United Order, which was a 19th century religio-social practice attempted for some time among the Latter-Day Saints.  It is unclear if this particular system of living the Law of Consecration will ever be reinstated.

The Church no longer practices the United Order, but the Law of Consecration is an eternal principle which faithful followers of Christ are encouraged and expected to live.  Thus it is the United Order which was abrogated, and the Law of Consecration which continues to be in force among the faithful and which we are asked to live today.  Confusion arises when members of the Church preach that the Law of Consecration itself has been rescinded. 

In my mind, the Law of Consecration consists of several elements.  These can be most clearly seen in the City of Zion under Enoch, our best example of the achievement of a group of people living the Law of Consecration.  Moses 7:18 describes this group as being

  • of one heart and one mind
  • dwelling in righteousness
  • having no poor among them

These elements, taken together, distinguish the Law of Consecration from political experiments such as communism, communalism, and socialism.  In these structures money and goods are shared, but the other elements are lacking and abuses of the system often occur.  In constrast, any manifestation of the Law of Consecration (United Order or otherwise), provides for individual ownership, self-mastery, and deliberate unity of thought and purpose.  At this period of time, we are being given the opportunity to practice the Law of Consecration without organized direction from society or the Church.  Our giving is under the control of our own conscience.  Thus we may learn many things about ourselves by analyzing our patterns of giving. 

Within the past year I have seen several attempts to describe what the Law of Consecration might look like in practice.  The following are four types of “Givers” who frequent the Bloggernacle:

  1. Attempting to assist his fellow man to follow the path of righteousness and keep sacred resources from being used in unlawful pursuits, the first Giver withholds his money from the beggar.  Instead, the Giver contributes liberally to the coffers of the system set up by the Church for the welfare of the poor.  This Giver fasts faithfully each month and pays tithing as well as an abundant fast offering.
  2. From his reading of Mosiah, the second Giver believes that he should give to all who ask him, without judging their need.  He carries dollar bills in his wallet to hand to those who ask him for money on the streets.  Whenever friends ask to borrow money, he gives freely.  He actively looks for those he can help with a donation of his money.  At those times when he is down on his luck and his resources are strained with the effort of supporting his family, he tells those who ask him for money, “I give not because I have not, but if I had, I would give.”
  3. The third Giver is a woman who has pondered her responsibility to participate in the Law of Consecration.  She dedicates her body to the service of the Lord and has many children.  She sacrifices a career and further education so she can nurture and teach the gospel to the small spirits who enter her home.
  4. The fourth Giver interprets the Law of Consecration to apply to many aspects of his life such as his time, his energy and his talents.  Thus, rather than contribute money to individuals or institutions, he concentrates on giving to people who enter his circle in different ways.  For example, he makes the effort to talk to the bum outside the grocery store, learn his name, and encourage him to apply for a job that was recently advertised in his company.

(Please excuse my blatant oversimplification of some thoughtful ideas.)

I believe there are certain problems associated with each of these approaches.  Which do you most identify with?  What are some of the problems you see with these responses to the Law of Consecration?

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Law of Insouciance

November 26, 2007

by the narrator

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”
-Matthew 19:23-26

Every endowed Latter-day Saint has promised to live the law of consecration, and yet somehow most Latter-day Saints believe it has been revoked. The most condemned of sins in the Book of Mormon (a book written for our day) is the disparity of the rich and poor, and yet instead of condemning the rich our leaders spend their efforts (and our tithing) condemning gays. (Incidentally, the leading cause of divorce in this nation is economic difficulties, not homosexual tendencies).

For a church that often decries the excision of plain and precious things from the scriptures, how is it that our lessons, talks, and worship ignore such plain and precious teachings? Last Sunday, I noticed that our lesson on the epistle of James successfully skipped over every verse referencing the poor, transforming James’ diatribe against rich Christians into a primary children’s lesson on faith and prayer.

And of course when we cannot excise, we revise. Like an editor of Matthew’s Gospel, our lessons have the tendency of turning those ragged and embarrassing poor into poor in spirit. When the rich young man came to Jesus and asked what he must do to attain eternal life, the savior asked him to sell all he had and give to the poor. How often in Church when we come across these verses (and those like them) do we ask how we can help those who are spiritually destitute? Or how often do revise these verses so that they are only asking us to do the basics – home teaching, callings, visiting teaching, parenting, and maybe the occasional helping the neighbors (bonus points if they aren’t members!)? Heaven forbid, that we actually read it with an injunction to give up our luxuries to help those in poverty.

When pressed, Latter-day Saints admit that the Law of Consecration had not been revoked, but like our scriptures, it is ‘spiritually’ revised. Yes, we admit, we should consecrate our times, our talents, and our energies. Press us further and we might concede the money, but quickly add that there isn’t a way to do it. Mention the poverty existing throughout the world and the ease of making donations, and we’ll give another excuse. When it comes down to it, it’s just too difficult. Like the rich young man, we love our possessions too much. We love our excessively large homes, our high-definition television screens, the Lexuses (Lexi?) in our garages, sushi, DVDs, PS3s, Wiis, and XBOX 360s. We want to need our expensive clothes, computer accessories, mountain bikes (my personal favorite sin), fine cuisine, books, furniture, gear, and musical concerts. When draped with such luxuries, we are easily able to forget about those pesky starving children in Africa, the single mothers in the urban ghettos, and the destitute families resulting from exported-labor-inspired layoffs.

Communism, we’ll say, is Satan’s perversion of the Law of Consecration. The former, we’ll say, is forced, the latter is free (don’t tell this to Ananias and Sapphira though (Acts 5:1-10)). So we’ll pick Satan’s other plan: ignorance and apathy.

After hearing Jesus’ pronouncement of the difficulties for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, perhaps Peter compared the needle in his pocket to a nearby trader’s camel. But the metaphor was unnecessary. Peter had just witnessed the failings of humanity. He knew we love our possession more than those around us.

“Who then can be saved?” What person would do such a thing?

“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”

But we lack that kind of faith. I lack that faith.

And so you and I will love our possessions.

And so the poor will always be with us.

And together we will live in sin and hell. (D&C 49:20)

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Grateful for STD’s

November 21, 2007

by BiV

I have to say that it is a strange and awesome twist of fate that would put both Loyd and myself on this blog together and then start us with the topic of: “what are the good things you get from being Mormon.” You will surely get a chuckle out of that if you remember Loyd from his days as “The Narrator” and me as “Bored in Vernal.” It hasn’t been my blogstyle to “count my many blessings.” In fact, I’ve been racking my brains all week as to what I could possibly come up with. Not that it’s so hard to think about good Mormon things. It’s just that my jaded mind keeps thinking, “things I GET from being Mormon? Like, picking up STD’s or something?”

So, it is in that vein that I present to you several “Spiritually Transmitted Desirables” that I have almost unwittingly picked up as a result of being a member of this Church.

1. An Ability to Wait for Answers.

Face it, people can’t wait for anything these days. Have you seen what happens to folks in the McDonald’s line if they are forced to wait longer than 5 minutes for their Happy Meal? Modern-day churches are hard pressed to teach their members the process of becoming. We want to be saved on the spot. When I first joined the Church I thought I had found a Church that had all the answers, but I soon discovered the many questions occasioned by the interface of spirituality and the natural man. Mormonism taught me to seek the answers to ambiguities with my finite mind, to suspend my disbelief pending revelation to my questions, and to wait for the hand of the Lord to be revealed. Thankfully, it has happened just enough for me to learn to explore and inquire and wait for answers; and not to turn away in disgust when I am not immediately satisfied.

2. True Unity.

I don’t think I would have learned this one without being a member of the Church. It’s too easy in today’s world if you don’t get along with someone to find a new roommate, join a congregation or Book Club that better suits your needs, or to get a quickie divorce when the marriage is not working.

But since I was LDS, I didn’t get a transfer from that horrible companion, and I had to learn to get along for another month. I had to attend the Ward within the boundaries of which I lived, and rub shoulders with people with whom I had nothing in common for many years. I was forced to work with that YW President whose views drastically conflicted with my own. And I had to work out time and all eternity with a man I married in the Temple after dating for three months!

3. A Lot of Random Skills.

I daresay it is a spiritually transmitted desirable to have many skills that I never thought I wanted or needed picked up by virtue of being LDS. For example, I now know how to conduct a hymn that changes time signature in the middle. I can put on a dinner party by myself for up to 200 people. I know how to tie a bowline with one hand.

4. A Sense of Duty.

Last but not least, I picked up the STD of Duty from the Mormons. It is engrained in me so deeply that even though I wondered who in the heck chose such a lame topic for this week’s VSOM posts, and had no idea how I could possibly become optimistic enough to answer it, I did my Duty and completed the assignment. Oh yes, and by writing this post I’ve learned much more myself than I could possibly transmit to my readers. 🙂

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Things for which we are grateful

November 19, 2007

We are grateful in particular today for Carrie Ann and Ann, who are both great. They are taking a break from the blog for the time being and we are truly sorry to see them go. Please feel free to thank CA and Ann for the tremendous contribution they have made to this blog and to all of our lives and thoughts.

We are also very grateful to add two new voices to our website. Loyd and BiV have both agreed to spend some time with us. Please make them feel welcome.

Thank you, too!