Steven Harper: Is Consecration Still A Thing?
Most of us have the same perception of consecration that Steven Harper had when he went to the temple for the first time: The Lord “revealed the law of consecration to the early Saints. They couldn’t live it, so the Lord revoked the higher law, gave the lower law of tithing, and would someday give the higher law again.” But if someone had asked him how he knew that, he says he wouldn't have had an answer. Now after studying the topic for years, Harper has a different understanding of what consecration is and on this week’s episode he shares the answers he's found with us.
The Lord does not care about the amount of money that we consecrate. That is not the measurement but He does ask for all—all their heart, all their might, all their mind, all their strength, all their soul. But in return for that, remember that He gives all.
Let's Talk About Consecration
2:18- “A Foreign Place"
6:10- Preparing For The Temple
11:14- A Three-Legged Stool
20:15- The Oversimplification of History
23:50- Edward Partridge
30:30- Caring for the Poor
38:52- Consecration In All Seasons
45:08- Membership Mindset Vs. Consecration Approach
50:40- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones Pearson 0:00
As I prepared for this interview and read his new book, "Let's Talk About Consecration," I wondered what led Steven Harper to write this book. I planned to ask Him that very question, but he answered it before I even asked. You'll hear him share this story, but I thought it was pretty incredible to think that it was something that happened as a 19-year-old boy, that led to the writing of this book. And it struck me that the same experience was probably also the impetus for everything he has done in the years since. It struck me that Steven Harper, though he would probably be very uncomfortable with me saying this, is a great example of the very principle he's teaching. Steven C. Harper is a professor of church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University. He earned a master's degree in American history from Utah State University and a PhD in early American history from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In 2013, Steve was appointed as the managing historian and general editor of "Saints," he joined the religious education faculty at BYU in 2002. That year, he also became a volume editor of the Joseph Smith Papers. He is the author of several books, including "Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants."
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Pearson and I am so honored to have Steven Harper on the line with me today. Steven, thank you so much for being with me. Well, I like to start this interview. So we're going to be talking today all about consecration. But I want to start this interview in a bit of a unique place. You said in your book that you had a little bit of a rough first Temple experience. And I also had a little bit of a rough first Temple experience. So I was curious, but also, I think there's a reason that we should talk about this. So I wondered if you could tell me a little bit about that. And then how you ultimately came to love the temple?
Steven Harper 2:10
Yeah, I think it's common. I don't think it's unusual at all, for people to have that. And I don't know all the reasons why there's a lot of stress and anxiety associated with it. You know, we were told that this is super, super important, and then we're told that we can't be told very much. And so it's difficult to know what to expect exactly. And the biggest challenge for me was that I was really sincere about it. I, I wanted to live up to the things I said I would do. And most of them were straightforward, you know, I was I thought, Oh, well, I've heard that before. I know that I there's nothing out of the blue here about the gospel or about chastity. But then the consecration part was different than what I had assumed, you know, I assumed I knew about consecration. It was really simple. It went like this: In the early days of the church, God commanded the Saints to live the law of consecration. They couldn't do it. So He took back the higher law of consecration, gave the lower law of tithing, and someday in the future, He will have us live the higher law of consecration again. So when that did not match what the temple said about consecration, I found that to be jarring. It was disruptive to me. And I was quite worried that I had made a covenant to do something that I didn't understand, and that I was worried about my ignorance. So I came out with the desire to learn the law of consecration, study the Doctrine and Covenants, which I've never done. Prior to that, we'd read it as a family, but I didn't pay attention. So that was sort of the nature of my experience. I know that's not the same for for everyone. I know other people have different experiences, some overwhelmingly positive, some negative for other reasons. Some people expect to have the greatest spiritual experience in their life and don't and so I have found peace in the temple and returning often over the years and whereas the first time I went to receive my endowment, it seemed like a foreign place, really strange. Even in my religious experience, it seemed like a foreign experience. But now I go to the temple because it feels like home, it feels like the safest place, and the place I'm nearest to God and to the kind of society that He wants us to have. And so I hope people will give the temple a chance. I think President Nelson said something like if you're struggling with the temple go more, not less. And I can affirm that in my experience, that's been a key to, too.
Morgan Jones Pearson 5:23
Yeah, no, I completely agree. I love what you said about the temple felt like a foreign place, because I think that's what it should feel like, it's supposed to feel different than what we experience on a day to day basis. But I, like you, in going to the temple more have developed such a love for it and such a gratitude for it. But But again, like I said, My first experience was a little bit rough as well. Would you have any advice having studied especially this this covenant of consecration? Would you have any advice for those that are preparing to make covenants on how to best do that?
Steven Harper 6:01
Well, thankfully, today, the church website has got some really excellent resources for endowment preparation. In the old days, when I was getting ready to go, we had a temple prep course. But we really didn't say anything about what the endowment was like. We sort of talked around it, instead of straight to the heart of it. And we got better at that, over the years. Elder Bednar spoke in general conference about sort of modeling that candid and sacred way that we could talk about it, and the Church website has resources that reflect that now. So we can learn a whole lot more about what we're going to do. I mean, the articles on the Church website lists the covenants that we make in the temple, and I happen to be the Bishop of my ward and the young women president. And I noticed that our youth were asking anxious questions about the temple. So we planned a lesson where we brought our temple clothes, and we followed the example that President Benson said his mother did, where she would iron her sacred temple clothes, quite conspicuously in front of her children and talk to them, talk to the children about them and teach them about the temple. So in our ward, we invited the youth to ask their questions about the temple. Questions included: Why can't we know anything? And why this or why that. So we showed them that you can and we showed them our sacred ceremonial clothing. We talked about what these things represent. We talked about the covenants that are made in the temple. We talked about the nature of ritual, Latter Day Saints or it's sometimes said that Latter Day Saints are really Protestant on Sunday and then very Catholic in the temple, meaning that you know, we have bare bones ritual on Sunday, our sacrament is really scaled down and then the temple is very ritualistic clothing. Gesture is very formal and formulaic. There's no part of it where there's an informal piece, nothing like a testimony meeting or anything like that. So what we do in the temple is so different than what we do on Sunday that it can seem like a completely different church. You've heard maybe and I have people say, "When I went to the temple, I thought, what church is this? Is this even the same church I go to on Sundays?" So I know that that we can help people who are preparing to go to the temple by not thinking that we can't talk about it. There are some things we we covenant not to say or not to talk about. But that's a small percent really of everything that involves the temple. And we certainly can speak positively about making and keeping covenants and being endowed with God's power with priesthood power, both women and men, as President Nelson has taught us, as Joseph Smith taught us, are endowed with God's power in the temple. So there's so much positive to say about it. And we can demystify it in ways that I think will bless him and help people.
Morgan Jones Pearson 9:48
So well said. Thank you so much. I completely, completely agree and I think that, you know, for me at least, covenants and making and keeping covenants, I think, in our society commitments in general are a little bit of a lost art. And the joy of life, I believe is found in commitment keeping. And that's one reason I think that the gospel brings joy to people is that in that invitation to make and keep covenants with God, we have commitments that we're keeping on a daily basis. And so anyway, I could talk about this all day. But I want to talk dig a little bit more into this idea of the law of consecration, you have this whole book that is beautifully written and breaks down the law of consecration in a way that I don't think has been published previously with all of this stuff combined. You compare the law of consecration to a three-legged stool, I wondered if that might be a helpful place to start as we talk about this today and explaining what consecration is, and whether or not , you think that is a good place to start? And can we walk listeners through that?
Steven Harper 11:05
Sure, I'll try to. I remember pretty vividly an elders quorum lesson, this must have been in 1999. And the lesson somehow got on to the topic of which is God's way of doing things: free market capitalism, or sort of Soviet style communism, those were the that was way back in the old days when the world was just coming out of cold war times. You won't even remember that from your own experience, just from your history classes. But it was interesting that all of us in that elders quorum that we thought that was, those were the possibilities. Those were the options. And it was like none of us had read the scriptures, because the scriptures don't think that way. And those are not the options available in the scriptures. God's way of doing things is not any of that, it's not Adam Smith's philosophy, it's not Karl Marx's philosophy, it's none of the philosophies of men with a few scriptures thrown and descriptors are full of God's way of thinking about resources and the oldest scriptures are but the Doctrine and Covenants is the most replete with this sort of thing. And it reveals the order of Zion, and the laws of God that undergird Zion. And the law of consecration is certainly one of these. And there's an enormous amount of ignorance among Latter Day Saints, including myself, of the law of consecration. We are quite content to just internalize that folk doctrine I sort of described earlier. And I had never cared to investigate whether that was true or not, or to what extent I never even thought about it. And so when the temple invited me to make a solemn and sacred covenant to live the law as the scriptures described it, I was ignorant. I had no idea what the scripture said about consecration, and had been so pacified, by what I thought I knew that I had never done any homework on it at all. Well, I try. I've tried ever since then, to do the homework. And it turns out when you read the scriptures, especially the Doctrine and Covenants, what they say about consecration is not what I thought.
And in an effort to try to make consecration as the doctrine come to reveals it communicable, you know, accessible to folks, I have sometimes used this analogy of a three-legged stool. There are three doctrines of the law of consecration, as we find it in the doctrine of covenants that come up over and over and over, and they're connected to each other. And the idea of a three legged stool, of course, is if you take any the legs off the stool, it doesn't work, it doesn't function. Well, in the law of consecration, if you take away any of these principles, then you don't have the law of consecration anymore.
And so the principle is, in no particular order, our agency, all of God's children are endowed with the power to live the law of consecration or not, if they want to. And here you can often hear people misunderstanding this part when they say, well, when will we have to live it or when will God require us to live it? As if we're expecting something different in regard to consecration than we do in regard to chastity or Sabbath observance or anything else. Right? When Will God forced me to live the law of consecration? Never, ever, ever. When did he used to? Never. So, agency is fundamental, it's crucial. And this is true in the revelations. But it's also true in the teachings Joseph Smith gave based on the revelations. He emphasized to Bishop Partridge don't force anybody, don't compel anybody to live the law of consecration, everybody has to decide for themselves, whether they'll do it and to what extent they'll do it. And this is really fundamental, in connection with it.
Another one of the legs on the stool is stewardship. So if we think of agency as the power to act for ourselves of our own free will on God's will then stewardship is what we have to act upon. And this is really crucial to our culture, the highest value in some ways in our culture is ownership. Right? It's instilled in us early and often. We are indoctrinated to ownership. And the doctrine comes does not work that way. It tries to indoctrinate us to stewardship. The difference is that in ownership, I'm the owner, it's my stuff, I am God. Section one talks about this, everybody has their own god and goes their own way. And a dozen revelations in the book will say that's not the way the universe works. Section 104 is the most emphatic of these, where the Lord three times in a few verses says it's mine. All things are mine, I created it, it's all mine. And the sooner we get that in our head, the better off we'll be. Because we're not the owners of anything, not oxygen we breathe, not the car we drive, right? We might have a title to it, sure, we might have the deed to our house. But in the ultimate sense, Almighty God laid the foundations of the earth and he set the heavens. And he is crystal clear in his revelations, that's the way he thinks of things. And we won't be living in the law of consecration until we come around to his way of thinking about things. So I don't own anything, in any sort of ultimate sense. I'm a steward of things that God has put into my power, into my hands, that includes my physical body, my desk, I'm sitting at the computer, I'm looking at my employment, my spiritual gifts, my time, all of those things are gifts from God that He has given to me, and I have agency or have power to act upon those things. And I will be living the law of consecration when I act on the things He's given me to act upon in the ways He wants me to act.
And then the third doctrine, the third leg on the three-legged stool is accountability. The scriptures again, are emphatic about this part. We will be held accountable for the way we exercise our agency to act on the stewardship God has given us to act upon. We're not the owner, we're not unaccountable. We will be accountable to God. And the doctrine comes, he's very clear on all three of those things. And when we see them together, agency, stewardship, and accountability, and pay attention to the way the revelations link them together, well, then we start to grasp the Lord's way of thinking and explaining the way the world works. And the way consecration is fundamental to to the order of the celestial world. It is the law of the celestial world. Now, if we're going to go there, we will be living the law before we get there.
Morgan Jones Pearson 19:26
That's such a good explanation. Thank you so much. I want to ask a couple of follow-up questions based on the stuff you were just saying. First, you mentioned that there are perceptions that people in church history weren't willing to live the law of consecration so it was taken away. Can you explain to listeners how that is false?
Steven Harper 19:46
Yeah, it's it's just way overly simple and overly general. Right? History is super complex, and even all of us as individuals, we're extremely complex. And so to make it simple for us to understand things as complicated as the past. And, for example, to explain to ourselves why things are the way they are now, we come up with stories. And these are simple. We often simplify them. So we might, for example, Read section 42 in the Doctrine and Covenants or section 51. These are revelations that set forth the law of consecration and tell us some specific ways to enact it in the early 1830s. And we let's say we're reading that as part of our, our family gospel study. If we did, we would realize that's not the way we do this. Now, we don't act the same way today that section 51 tells us to act. So why is that? Right, we have this question. The question creates, potentially creates, some dissonance. And we have to come up with a resolution to that dissonance. And so one way we've often done it is to blame our ancestors for the problem, and then put the responsibility to solve the problem onto our descendants. In other words, the easiest way to resolve the problem is to absolve myself. So this is the way it works. You say, yeah, the early saints, they failed, the Lord gave them section 51. But they pretty much dropped the ball. They couldn't do it, or they wouldn't do it. So he took it away. And sometime in the future, maybe my grandchildren will have to live the law of consecration but as for me here now, I'm just gonna keep on going my own way, you know, not paying particularly close attention to the revelations that informed my covenants, and not worrying about the law of consecration. So I think it's a strategy. It's good history. It's doesn't match the historical facts. That doesn't reconcile the revelations, except in the most self-serving way of saying, Yeah, I don't need to worry about consecration now. Because those early saints, they ruined it for me. And I don't have to worry about it till the future time when the prophets tell the saints to do it again.
Morgan Jones Pearson 22:30
Right, that makes complete sense.
Steven Harper 22:34
That way of explaining things to ourself is to pick and choose a few pieces of evidence and to reject 10 times more pieces.
Morgan Jones Pearson 22:46
Yeah, absolutely. Well, it's funny. It's funny how you explain that, but also so true. And I think that you do such a good job of breaking this down in the book that I hope people will take the time to read because we're only going to hit the high notes today. But another thing that you've mentioned is you mentioned Edward Partridge, which is a name that people will recognize from the Doctrine and Covenants. I didn't know a ton about Edward Partridge, prior to reading your book. I recognized his name. I knew that he was a bishop. And technically the first presiding bishop is that right? Did they use the word presiding back then?
Steven Harper 23:27
Not for quite some time later. But yes, he was the only bishop of the whole church for a couple of years. And very much the one who led consecration under the Prophet Joseph's direction for about the first decade of the church.
Morgan Jones Pearson 23:47
Okay, and how would you say that he is such a good example of consecration the very thing that he was being asked to kind of teach, it seems like he exemplified
Steven Harper 23:59
No doubt about it. I love Edward Partridge, the Lord loved Edward Partridge. He said, in Section 41 of the Doctrine and Covenants. He said there was a man in whom there's no guile. Now, Edward Partridge was older than Joseph Smith, almost a generation older. And where Joseph Smith is full of the spiritual gifts, a prophet, a seer, a revelator. Edward Partridge has the gifts and abilities of being good with accounts and management property. He knows how to identify an excellent piece of property one that's really advantageously situated. So for example, he gets the best pieces of property in Painesville, Ohio, and he builds a hat-making factory there. This is all before the restoration the gospel. He learns how to bring in the animal furs off the great lakes that are being trapped there and turn them into hats that are in high demand in the cities on the East Coast and shipped them over the canals and through the lakes, down to New York City, Philadelphia. He's really good at figuring out how to make money, how to provide resources and turn raw materials into profitable materials and marketable materials. Well, he's good at all those things. And there's no guile in it. He's not primarily driven by money.
And that is not a common combination. So, the Lord says, that is the guy. That's the kind of combination I need for my bishop. And he he handpicks Edward Partridge as his first bishop. He says to him, when He calls him in Section 41, I want you to lay aside your merchandise, and spend all your time in the labors of the church. And Edward Partridge says, Absolutely. The next thing he does is calls Edward to go to Missouri with Joseph. And there the Lord identifies Jackson County, Missouri–Independence as the center of Zion and the place for the building of new Jerusalem, including a temple. And in the revelation that's in Section 57, the Lord says, I wanted Edward Partridge and his family to plant here, they need to be among the first few families to come here and lay the foundation for Zion. Edward had not been planning on that he had been thinking of a short term, spring trip, and then get home in time to take care of his business and his family. He's got, at this point five young daughters with his wife, Lydia, who, by the way, is every bit as consecrated and devoted as her husband is. But after the revelation in which the Lord calls Edward to buy all the land that he can, he realizes that if he's going to fulfill his calling has to stay. He has to be there for the land sales, there's no way he can go back home. You know, travel is going to take several weeks either way. So he writes these beautiful letters to Lydia where he explains what the Lord had revealed to and about them in sections 57 and 58, of the Doctrine and Covenants. He expresses his sense of terrible inadequacy, at his calling, but even as he does, so he demonstrates how he's fulfilling his calling. Because he's all in, he is totally consecrated to the church, and Lydia is not a step behind him. She is ready, she packs up the house, the goods, five little girls, and she moves, and she goes out to meet him in Independence. And his letter says, Lydia, you and I are going to have to get used to living a lot less affluently than we have been used to. And she doesn't even bat an eye. She's on her way. It's just a beautiful example of a whole family that consecrates their whole souls to the kingdom of God. And sometimes early saints are characterized as, you know, sort of crazy people, religious wackos, somebody who would follow this Joseph Smith fellow. Well, that just doesn't work for Lydia and Edward Partridge. These are these are respectable people, their neighbors respect them. They're prosperous, they're smart. They're great in every way. And this is the cream of the crop. And in many ways characteristic, though, of what early Latter Day Saints are like. So it just won't do for my 19 year old punk self, getting ready for a temple trip to think, "Boy, those early saints. They just couldn't do it. I could if God asked me to. I'd be consecrated but the early Saints ruin my chances." When we look at the facts of our history, that explanation fails, it doesn't work. It's true that there were early saints who weren't faithful to consecration, but it's not true that the early Saints weren't faithful. They were overwhelmingly faithful, they're the best people in the world doing the best they could to build the kingdom of God on the earth. And so I have decided to stop giving the explanation that puts the blame on them and absolves me of my requirement to keep covenants.
Morgan Jones Pearson 29:53
Yeah, I loved learning about Edward and Lydia and also other characters in church history. You talk about the Allen family and you write on July 1 1842, Orville Allen made a list of property that belonged to him and his wife Jane. It included a few hogs and stray cows a lot. They were buying a clock, two axes, a saw three beds and a rifle. The list said they owe $228, and some bartered goods and that they owed Missouri $25. But Missouri owed them a farm. It said that they and their children were poorly clad, but at your disposal for the building up of the kingdom. So these people would write these notes saying, This is what we have to give. And you wrote this in the book, the notes that tell the story are informal. They're simple handwritten documents that express deep convictions of consecration, one cannot read them, and then put stock in the old story that early Saints simply could not or would not keep the law of consecration they could, many of them would. I wondered, with this, you've talked about how there's this this idea that it was replaced by the law of tithing and that it can be confusing. What do you feel like are examples of what is being asked of us today by our Prophet as it relates to consecration? Because another thing really quickly that you write you say, "We will do what we have always done. The Lord's living prophets will lead us in enacting the law adapted to our circumstances and challenges, not those of the early saints. The prophets understand and teach the doctrinal basis of the law of consecration. As they're led by the Lord, they adapt it to changing circumstances by applying its pure principles." So what does the law of consecration look like for us today would you say?
Steven Harper 31:58
That's an excellent question.
Morgan Jones Pearson 31:58
Well, also a mouthful, I was just talking like five minutes, so...
Steven Harper 32:03
I should be speak less, and you should speak more, and everybody would be more edified. No, it is simply a matter of changing our mind. Right. At the end of the book, I give the example of the family on my street, who has the bumper sticker on the back of their van that says all in. Well, I live on the same street as this family. And, you know, outward observers could, could look and they could say, well, these families live in houses that are about same size, and, you know, middle class, suburban neighborhood, and they drive similar cars, and they even go to the same Ward and you could, you could miss, if you were an outward observer, you could miss it, that one person could be completely consecrated and others not. And you wouldn't be able to detect it in any sort of outward behavior. If you were the bishop, you might be able to see that some saints consecrate, really generously of their financial resources, and others who could don't. You know who could based on clear evidence that they could, and then you'd be able to see, for example, that there are proverbial widows and their consecrated mites that are simply astonishing in their faithfulness. President Hinckley told the story, I tell this in the book of the widow in Salt Lake City, who lived in a less than affluent neighborhood and less than a fancy house less much less fancy house than I live in, and how she offered an immense sum of money. And he told his students at BYU that that money had come to them. And he wanted them to understand that that widow was consecrating her life to the kingdom of God, and that they should therefore consecrate their lives to the kingdom of God. He wanted them to make the best use of those resources, take their studies seriously, be faithful and true to the trust that was placed in them, just like she was. So I'm rambling but but the idea here is there's not a list. There's not an outward description. You couldn't do a litmus test necessarily to say this person lives the law of consecration this person doesn't. But it has much more to do with a person's heart and mind than it does with any sort of amount that is donated. The Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants says I require the heart and a willing mind though that's what you consecrate, the other stuff is simply fruit. Right? Anytime you would give, or any amount of money you might give, or talent that you would consecrate, those are simply fruits from having a heart that belongs to God, and a mind with which you serve God entirely. So really consecration is nothing more or less than faithfulness to the two great commandments. When we love God with all our mind, mind, and heart, we want to do His will and His will, as he expresses it in the law of consecration section 42 is, thou shalt remember the poor. So just the act of remembering that there are poor people, and they are my people, and I am their people. And they belong to me and I belong to them. Ralph Waldo Emerson, famously and an essay about the same time, well during Joseph Smith's lifetime, and during the time the Lord was revealing these revelations, he said, Are they my poor, they're not my poor, I begrudge the dime and the dollar that the Relief Society has asked for me to believe the poor, they're not my poor. Well, that is the exact opposite ethic that the law of consecration commands and I mean, commands emphatically the commandment to live the law of consecration in Section 42 says, Thou shalt remember the poor and consecrate of thy properties for their support, that which thou has to impart to them with a covenant and a deed that cannot be broken.
So the Lord expects faithfulness, fidelity, promises made that will not be broken, promises made that you couldn't convince someone to break, right? And those promises are to look after each other, to be good to each other, take care of each other, not think of ourselves as us and them, I'm the rich, they're the poor. I'm the haves, and they're the have nots, I've worked hard for what I have, and they obviously have some defect with them, they deserve what they get. King Benjamin tells us to reject that way of thinking. And certainly the Doctrine and Covenants continues that, as well. So sorry to get a little passionate about it. But it's simply a matter of loving God enough to study his revelations enough to act on them seriously. And certainly, there are many, many, many Latter Day Saints who have done that. But there are, I would say, most of us who don't really care what the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants say, and don't really care to enact them in our own lives, even if we've solemnly covenanted that we would.
Morgan Jones Pearson 38:09
Well, and I was touched in the book by thinking about how different things are asked of different people at different seasons and history for different purposes. And that it's up to us to determine and by following the Prophet through prayer and desire to live this covenant, it's up to us to figure out what is being asked of us. And so I thought it was great the examples that you gave a different people at different times who were asked to give different things. Could you share a couple of those examples? Yeah,
Steven Harper 38:46
That's really well said, you might need to help me Morgan to think through some specific ones if you want to, but my, my students will often want specifics right? We will talk for at least two days of class about the principles of consecration as they're revealed in the Doctrine and Covenants. And it's common along the way and at the end for them to be very excited about it to have a deep desire and to want to list "Okay, give me a to do list now." And it's at that point that we say, I can't do that. I don't know for you what this means. This is the time for you to take these principles and seek and receive revelation about how you will live the law of consecration there are some things asked of all of us. We should all tithe, we should all be faithful in observing the Sabbath day, keeping it holy as a token of our love for God. We should all be valiant and mourning with those who mourn and and so forth. But the exact ways we do that and so forth. That's all individually prescribed by our loving Heavenly Father to us. And in the the book I tell about some examples of how people have enacted that in their lives. Certainly Lydia and Edward Partridge did that, Wilford Woodruff did it in a beautiful way. He marched with the camp of Israel in 1834, everybody who did that, the women and the men, were consecrating their lives to the kingdom. They didn't know if they would live, the Lord had said, in the Revelation, calling them don't be afraid to give your lives for my sake, and with the implication that it wouldn't be a surprise if, if some of them did. So when he finished that, Wilford, who was still single, decided he's going to go on a mission to the south, which is a dangerous mission field in church history, he was going to go into the south and before he did, he just took a little scrap of paper and he wrote on it, In order to be a lawful heir to the kingdom of God I Wilford Woodruff consecrate myself freely and all my property and effects unto the bishop, Edward Partridge for the church. And this I do, that I may be a lawful heir to the kingdom of God on the earth. And in this little note, Wilford tells us that He perfectly well understands the three doctrines of the law agency twice, he says, I do this freely, nobody's making me I freely do this. And he tells us that he understands stewardship. He says, I consecrate myself, I consecrate my properties, my effects, he made a little list of stuff he had, a shaving kit and things like that. And then he said, I do it little that I may be a lawful heir to the kingdom of God, even Zion on the earth. He understood accountability. And this is half a year after the Missouri mob had disrupted Bishop Partridge's effort to to fulfill the law of consecration the way section 51 told him to. And we sometimes use that as our historical marker for when the Lord took away consecration we sometimes in other words, say, well, section 105 of the Doctrine and Covenants about verse 3334, the Lord says, Let those commandments which I've given concerning Zion and her law be implemented after, we sometimes use that as our way of saying, well, there you go, the Lord just suspended the law. The first of all, the early Latter-day Saints didn't understand it that way. And that's not what the Revelation says. And certainly Willford didn't, didn't believe that, didn't act that way. Because right after that, he's sitting gives this little note to the bishop. And he doesn't wait for the bishop to call him in or give him any sort of formal paperwork. You couldn't have kept Wilford Woodruff from living the law of consecration. And if you would have told him the story that we tell ourselves of those early Saints, boy, they just weren't faithful enough. They couldn't do it. He would have said, What are you talking about? I don't know what you're talking about. But I am all in. And you can't keep me from living the law. And so that's just one of so many wonderful examples. I love the one of Jane and Orville Allen. That one makes him emotional every time I think about it. Our children are poorly clad, but we are all at your disposal for the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth. Certainly Lydia and Edward Partridge, and many others, I wrote a little bit about my own ancestors, Angelyn and Levi Jackman are in there because we have their consecration deeds still the one that the bishop, Bishop Partridge, made for them, and they pass back and forth. That's very touching to me. Are there others? You wanted to talk about that I forgot?
Morgan Jones Pearson 43:46
No, no, that was awesome. I thought it was interesting how, when a temple was being built, it's like, okay, we need you to give what you can to the temple or when they're trying to print the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, we need you to help us get this printed. And I think that if you think, you know, if you think about it, there have been times where things have been asked of us just in the past few years, where it's like, we need you to give what you have to this. And so I think it's touching to think about how are we contributing to the things that are being asked of us, Steven, in the book, you talk about what you call the membership mindset versus a consecration approach to gospel living. Can you explain the difference between those two things? And then we'll get to our last question
Steven Harper 44:37
I really appreciate this Morgan. This means a lot to me. Sometimes it's very poorly understood that the law of consecration is not the United order. When you hear Latter Day Saints say we don't live the United order today or we used to live the United order something you can tell that they don't quite understand what they're talking about. They're sincere but they don't understand it because that would be something like saying, we don't live the corporation of the Presiding Bishop, or we don't live the corporation of the President of the church. We don't have the Board of Trustees, or we don't talk like that, because it doesn't make any sense. The law of consecration is what you live. And when people live the law of consecration, the Lord organizes His Church in such a way that there are people appointed to manage properties and responsibilities, projects, like printing, the scriptures are building a temple, right. And those structures are those institutions for managing that the earliest one of those we had was called the United firm and we call it the United order. That was its nickname. And it only lasted for two years between 1832 and 1834. In the Revelation where the Lord commanded it be organized as section 78, the Revelation where the Lord built it, to section 82, he actually named the members of it, and there were never more than about a dozen members of it. In that Revelation, he says something that's so beautiful, that I would like to read it because it is the underpinning of this question you asked. He says, He wants the saints to organize this corporation really, and he wants them to live the law of consecration as they do it. And as they relate to each other in it, and then he sums up. This is Section 82, verse 18, all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, and so that everyone may improve upon his talent, and hear the Lord may be implying a double meaning of talent like to include the word we use, you know, something I do well, but he's definitely evoking the New Testament parable of talents here, too. So we should be mindful of that. So that every one may gain other talents, even a hundredfold to be cast into the Lord's storehouse to become the common property of the whole church, every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God. So to get at the point you asked about, you know, two families might live on the same street, outwardly behave in the exact same ways, and one might be completely consecrated to the kingdom of God on the earth, and the other might not. And the difference, one way of seeing a difference is that one family might be in a membership mindset. And here, we might belong to the Church and the way we might belong to a country club, right, or to some sort of a subscription service. What do they provide me? What goods and services do I get by paying my dues? That's the wrong way to belong to the kingdom of God on earth. That's not the way Edward Partridge did. That's not the way Spencer W. Kimball did. That's not the way President Nelson does. And so the right way to belong to the kingdom is to become the common property of the whole church, it's to stop saying, what does the church do for me? You know, I don't think I'll go to the youth activity because it does not what I want. I don't think I'll go to to soccer meetings, they're boring, right? That's a membership mindset. That's "I'm not getting the goods and services I'm paying for or I demand or I deserve. So I'm not all in." A person who lives the law of consecration says, What can I offer? What does the church need from me? What do I have to give? What does the Lord want from me? And I'll offer it. It's the difference of being all in compared to being partway in and it's a mind shift. It has lot more to do with the willing mind and a willing heart than it does with any kind of dollar amounts. The Lord does not care about the amount of money that we consecrate. That is not the measurement. But he does ask for all all all their heart, all their might, all their mind, all their strength, all their soul. But in in return for that, remember that he gives all he gives all and that's a pretty good to paraphrase out of Maxwell that's a pretty good exchange, right?
Morgan Jones Pearson 49:53
For sure, and I I love thinking about...as you can imagine when you host a podcast called All In, you're asked to speak a lot about being all in. And a lot of the time I'll talk about how you're making promises with someone who always keeps His promises and who has so much more to give us than we have to give to him. And so like you said, pretty good, pretty good exchange rate. And I feel almost silly asking this last question for the first time ever on this podcast, I've never felt like silly asking it before, because we've talked so much about what being all in means. But in conclusion, I guess to sum all of this up, Steven, what would you say it means to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Steven Harper 50:43
You know, it's a scary thing, to make yourself vulnerable, by even being partway in to any kind of relationship. It's scary, you might get hurt, you might get betrayed, your trust might get walked on or, you know, a lot of people, probably everyone has had that happen in some way or other and a lot of people have had had it happen to them, and very devastating ways. So to be willing to exercise the incredible depth of love and trust, to open yourself up entirely is a very difficult thing to do. And that's what God is asking us to do. He's asking us to trust him enough, and love him enough to go all in to our relationship with Him. It's essentially a covenant what we're talking about, what is it that we're being all in on? It's covenant making and keeping. And it's much more common for us to as the New Testament puts it, keep back part, right? Whether that's the last amounts of money or much more commonly, the last amounts of our whole heart, our whole devotion. It's fashionable in my, my profession to sort of fashionably critical of, maybe saints who are too, too zealously in or whatever. In other words, it's in just about every personality, or every profession, or every segment of society, they are lots of pressures, social pressures maybe and psychological reasons to not go all in. And the Lord is simply saying, I'm all in. How about you? Right? God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son and the Only Begotten Son gave all. And what they ask of us is that we give all back. And that's a scary thing to do. That requires immense faith. And it's okay if we, if we get there gradually, you know, if we're not ready to go all the way in all at once, they invite us to come just as fast as we're willing to come, but they're already all the way in, and they're inviting us to come all in. And that's the most fulfilling way to be is to be completely in, in making and keeping covenants with God. You can find this 1000 ways in the scriptures, but one of my favorites is, is section for the Doctrine and Covenants. Oh ye that embark in the service of God, see that you serve Him with all your heart, might, mind, and strength. Professor Johnson, who preceded me on the faculty of religious education at BYU, has sometimes said love and all are the key words. Love God with all you've got, and love your neighbor with all you've got. And a person who does that is also living the law of consecration.
Morgan Jones Pearson 54:13
So well said, Thank you so much, Steven. It's been such a treat to learn from you. And I appreciate the time and effort that you've put into putting this book together. I love that it kind of started with that first temple experience and that you've taken us kind of along for that ride. And thank you so much for doing that.
Steven Harper 54:33
Morgan, thanks for all the good things you're doing in the world. I really appreciate it.
Morgan Jones Pearson 54:37
We are so grateful to Steven Harper for being with us today. You can pre order Stevens new book "Let's Talk About Consecration" on DeseretBook.com now. Huge thanks to Derek Campbell of Mix at 6 Studios for his help with this episode. And thank you so much for listening. We'll be with you again next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai