D&C 51 Setting up the Law of Consecration
It is right to try to figure things out “on your own” and move forward in accomplishing them. But it is also right to seek guidance from others and from the Lord. The heading for Section 51 tells us that the gathering Saints were under the direction of Bishop Edward Partridge as they settled in Ohio and began to organize themselves. Bishop Partridge also needed help, and he went to the Prophet—his direct leader—to inquire regarding his duties. Joseph Smith, in turn, sought the Lord’s help.
Verse 4 teaches the Lord’s priorities for those who are to live the law of consecration. They are to be appointed “portions” (whether it be land, homes, farms, materials, assignments, and so forth), “every man equal” (by the Lord’s definition, not man’s) according to his family, circumstances, wants, and needs. (Apparently in this case, “wants” means desires, rather than lack; see also D&C 82:17.) For the law of consecration to succeed, participants must feel comfortable receiving guidance from appointed ecclesiastical leaders regarding the circumstances of their property and livelihood. They also must recognize that they are not owners of property, but “stewards” (verse 19), meaning that all things belong to the Lord and that we are responsible to manage things in His way—as faithful, just, and wise stewards (verse 19). Would you feel comfortable with such a process?
This section also contains instructions regarding money, food, and raiment (clothing; see verses 8, 13). Also, the Lord specified the importance of honesty and unity (verse 9). Any surplus is to be managed by Bishop Partridge, and he is to take from the combined assets all that he needs for himself and his family (verses 13-14). The Lord told the Saints that they would be in Ohio only “for a little season” (verse 16), but He told them to “act upon this land as for years” (verse 17). When we embark upon any aspect of the Lord’s work, we must “unpack everything” (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) and give it our all, regardless of how long things will last. Again, would you be prepared to live under these arrangements? Remember, the Lord’s promise to those who do so successfully is to “enter into the joy of [their] Lord” (verse 19).
D&C 52 “If Ye Are Faithful, Ye Shall Assemble Yourselves Together”
An oft-repeated theme comes up once again in the section heading—“certain manifestations of false and deceiving spirits.” The adversary had not given up his attempts to destroy the restored church and its leaders and members—and he never will until he is stopped by the Lord. Also, in verses 2-5, 42 we see the Lord’s “hints” regarding Missouri as the more permanent gathering place for the Saints. And, in this section, thirty brethren are called to travel (most of them to Missouri) and to preach along the way, each with a companion and each companionship to take a different route, so as not to “build upon another’s foundation” (verse 33). Consider also the following:
- What do you learn from verses 9, 36 about how to properly share the gospel, minister to others, and fulfill Church callings? (see also D&C 53:3; 55:2-3).
- The Lord said, “I will give unto you a pattern in all things” (verse 14). What are the elements of this pattern that you see in verses 15-19? How do you think this pattern helps us “know [discern] the spirits in all cases” (whether good or evil; verse 19)?
- What are the detailed instructions the Lord gave for the brethren who were to remain in Ohio, according to verses 39-40? Do you see any differences in these verses, in comparison to what we are called upon to do today?
D&C 53 Forsake the World
This revelation was directed to Algernon Sidney Gilbert, who lived and died a faithful, stalwart member of the Church. In verse 2 the Lord calls upon Brother Gilbert to “forsake the world.” What does this mean to you? In verse 7 the Lord declares, “he only is saved who endureth to the end.” Brother Gilbert did just that.
D&C 54 Consecration Requires Humility and Obedience
Again, there are issues regarding how to organize and live by the law of consecration. The section heading highlights “selfishness and greed” among some Church members. The Lord teaches in verse 3 that we can escape our “enemies” as we repent and “become truly humble.” How does one become truly humble?
As also mentioned in the section heading, Leman Copley had covenanted to consecrate his large farm in Thompson, Ohio (about 20 miles from Kirtland), but then he withdrew his promise, leaving a number of members and their families without a place to settle. In verses 5-6 the Lord pronounces “wo” (meaning “cursed”) upon those who fail to keep covenants, and He declares “mercy” for those who keep covenants and commandments.
In verse 10 we are called upon to “be patient in tribulation until I come.” Tribulation and trials will be with us until the Second Coming. This verse also admonishes us to seek the Lord “early.” What does “early” mean to you in this context?
D&C 55 Be Baptized and then Teach Others
In this revelation for William W. Phelps (who was not yet a member of the Church), we find a gospel pattern: Verse 1—be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. Verses 2-3—Help others to do the same.
D&C 56 “Hearken, O Ye People”
The Lord’s work and glory is to save His children (Moses 1:39), and He labors to lead each of us to eternal life. What do verses 1-8 teach you about the Lord’s feelings when His children break covenants? (see also D&C 54:5). Although the language in these verses is firm, the Lord is not “losing His temper.” He is doing what Nephi described in 2 Nephi 26:24, “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world.” More examples of the Lord’s rebukes include:
- “You have many things to do and to repent of … you seek to counsel in your own ways” (verse 14).
- “Your hearts are not satisfied. And ye obey not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness (verse 15).
- “Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor” (verse 16).
- “Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite … and who will not labor with your own hands!” (verse 17).
Like these early Saints, all of us are at different levels of conversion, and we can learn from these verses by asking ourselves if we fall into any of the above behaviors or attitudes, even if only in a small degree. Note in verses 18-20 the choice blessings the Lord promises those who “are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are contrite.”
D&C 57 The Lord Shares His Wisdom
This is a significant revelation, giving us the answers to the three questions of the Prophet Joseph Smith regarding the latter-day Zion (as cited in the section heading). In revealing the exact location where the Saints were to gather and build Zion, the Lord used the word “wisdom” seven times in verses 1-12, giving them very specific instructions.
Also, find the word “plant” or “planted,” which He used five times in verses 8-15, and ponder what you can learn about how to “plant” yourself in your current residence, neighborhood, ward or branch, or Church calling; regardless of how long you have been there or how long you may remain (see also D&C 51:17). What does it mean to you to plant yourself?