Doctrine and Covenants Summary Essay #1 – Theology Essay
At the top of my mission statement, it reads, “I found my existence on the principles of integrity and excellence.” I hold this sentence very dear to my heart; it is the foundation of the purpose of my life—of my very existence. I constantly strive for the best. I continuously pursue the path that leads me highest in any endeavor—be it academic, physical, or spiritual.
And I had not always espoused this philosophy to the degree I do now—the effort to strive for the top in my early years was never quite serious or even remarkable, so I really had never come into any conflict with the principle of equality embraced by the law of consecration. No conflict, of course, until complete application of this philosophy of excellence made me realize the full power of the law and understand its potential greatness… and its danger.
In section 82 of the Doctrine and Covenants we come to a scene in the spring of 1832 where the Lord has decided to introduce a key element in the path towards creating a people worthy of Zion—worthy of living under the glory of a celestial law. This element is the law of consecration. To begin with, the Lord tells a group of his servants, Edward Partridge, Newel K. Whitney, and others that they “are to be equal, or in other words, [they] are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of [their] stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just” (D&C 82:17). The Lord is basically giving them a commandment that they are to be equal. Now, granted this verse is simply talking about the management of certain businesses, but it is a part of a great whole—the whole commandment of the Law of consecration. In this Law, the central principle dictates the saints are to be equal; they are to “be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also…” (D&C 78:5, italics added). The Lord of course mentions that they are to be equal in heavenly things, but the striking addition is that they are also to apply this equality to their worldly possessions and activities!
The law of consecration is part of the “celestial law,” meaning it is that which those who are worthy of and striving for the Celestial Kingdom embrace. Truly, a mode of living worthy to be called “celestial” falls within that category of excellence that we are striving for. However, when first examining the law of consecration and its principle of total equality for all, I couldn’t help but feel a certain tie with the equality of man promised by communism and socialism. Not that I have a problem with human beings being equal economically or in any other manner. However, although my full understanding of true excellence bloomed later in my life, the concept of compelled equality always gave me a sense of discomfort and repulsion. I now understand why—it is contrary to the very essence of excellence to force a group of people into dead-level equality; I have always, consciously or otherwise, believed that there is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people. When you force those who are striving to be great to come down to the level of those who are putting forth little effort, or worse, those putting forth only enough effort to plunder the labors from the noble individuals on top, you punish excellence. You punish ability and talent; you stifle competence and genius. This was my objection to forced equality. And for a short time, it seemed that the law of consecration was just this very thing—after all, wasn’t it a commandment?
Herein lies the paradox. It seemed that the Lord was telling the saints to strive for excellence, but simultaneously instituted a program that punished and stifled it. However, God is not a god of contradiction and confusion. The most important thing the reader must understand in examining this apparent incongruity is the very nature of the people who make up the true United Order, the Law of consecration. First, “equality” in that sense as it is spoken by the Lord in sections 78 and 82 does not mean dead-level equality. President J. Rueben Clark, Jr. stated that the equality spoken of in these sections of scripture are “not a case of ‘dead level’ equality. It is ‘equality’ that will vary as much as the man’s circumstances, his family, his wants and needs, may vary” (Conference Report, Oct 1942, p. 55). Obviously then, God is speaking here of relative equality—dependent on the circumstances and positions of His children. Furthermore, coming back to the nature of the people who comprise the celestial society of Zion—they are not the bottom-feeding, looter type. They do not hope to steal from the efforts of those who are striving to be great. They strive to be great themselves. True equality is wonderful; the equivalence that comes from an individual freely choosing excellence and then surrounding himself with similar individuals is truly celestial. But this equality cannot be forced—such a constraint is the element of Lucifer’s plan. The true follower of celestial law espouses excellence by free will and endeavors to seek “the interest of his neighbor,” and do “all things with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 82:19).
Eventually, however, as outlined primarily in section 104, the law of consecration was rescinded only two years after its introduction to the saints. This section details centrally the procedure of taking the ownership of the various businesses involved in the United Order out of the names of the order itself, and into the names of several individual servants of the Lord, including Edward Partridge and Newell K. Whitney, as mentioned above. Thus, the order was officially dissolved. Why was this celestial law revoked? Why was it taken away from the lives of the saints when the potential for greatness and progression was so imminent? The Lord mentions specifically several times that they had “broken the covenant through covetousness, and with feigned words” (D&C 104:4). They were covetous of their neighbor. In short, they were guilty of the great sin—pride.
Pride is a disease. It stifles righteous progression in every form. The most evil of all—our brother Satan, fell to his pitiful and lowly state because of his pride. The early saints, although certainly not as evil and malicious as Lucifer, nevertheless were perpetrators of the sin of pride. C.S. Lewis tells us that “Pride is essentially competitive—is competitive by its very nature—while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident” (Mere Christianity, p. 110). The “other vices” Lewis speaks of include all other sins, including greed or immorality. A greedy man may want to hoard millions of dollars for the pleasure, but a prideful man will do the same just to be above all the others. It is enmity and evil competition in its very basic form. Someone guilty of pride does not necessarily take pleasure in being rich, or smart, or handsome. They only seek to be richer, smarter, or more handsome than the next man. Thus, it is the very opposite of the law of consecration—the celestial law which advances excellence in the individual—in essence being the “best one can be.” Additionally, rather than competition, consecration encourages the care and help in advancement of one’s neighbor.
The saints were condemned for the lack of ability to stifle pride and live the Law of consecration, but Heavenly Father is forever merciful to his children. He took away the celestial law, removing further condemnation, and instituted a the new law of tithing as outlined in section 119. This incident has a glaring parallel to the children of Moses. Unable to live the higher law, the Israelites were given a law of carnal commandments, which was a “schoolmaster” to bring them to Christ (Galatians 3:24). In this same manner, the Latter-day Saints have also been given tithing, a schoolmaster to bring us to the celestial principles of consecration outlined by Christ.
It is comforting to know that our Lord will never give us greater commandments than what we are worthy of. It is equally comforting to understand that He wants us to be excellent—he has given us guidelines and commandments for us to progress in that manner. Does consecration contain danger? Does it really repress talent? In continuation of the passage from section 82, “and all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, even a hundredfold” (D&C 82:18). Truly, we have nothing to fear. I am thankful for the opportunity to progress and help my fellow man become excellent even as I strive to be.
Creation of united order Principle of excellence and “shooting for the top”living the celestial law
however, causes conflict with my own philosophy of excellence because I had thought that forced equality punishes the excellent for being excellent true followers of celestial law espouse excellence Dissolution of united order celestial law is brought down because of pride – expound on prideSimilar to children of Moses – preparatory law of tithing in place to be a schoolmaster for consecration