Consecration Question

[ 13 ] Comments

by James Goldberg

First Confession: I’m a consecration story junkie.

I have a soft spot in my heart for my grandmother’s grandfather, Helaman Pratt, whose Salt Lake City fiancee dumped him when he accepted a call to settle the Big Muddy. I have a certain awe for the Saints in Cottbus and Wolfsgruen who spent time living in a single building with their entire branch to make it through the difficult conditions in Germany just after World War Two. I was deeply moved when the Perpetual Education Fund was announced as another concrete route for increased economic consecration, and I love to hear stories of people who save for something specific and then are unexpectedly blessed not to need as much as they’d thought and give the surplus as a thank offering instead.

Second Confession: As a consecration-story junkie, I sometimes feel disappointed with myself and with Latter-day Saints in my country today. We live with a culturally inflated sense of what our own economic needs are, tending to see lack where God likely sees surplus. We protest so much over our freedom from authority in trivial things, I wonder if we’ll ever be ready for the big practice of full economic consecration back. And though I largely respect the political positions of my Republican brothers and sisters, I worry a lot about the attitudes that can come with listening uncritically to American conservative media. Sometimes the old spirit of consecration seems a long, long ways away.

  • Have you ever felt this way?

About James Goldberg

James Goldberg's family is Jewish on one side, Sikh on the other, and Mormon in the middle. Goldberg co-edits the Everyday Mormon Writer literary website, teaches composition and creative writing courses at BYU, and blogs at Mormon Midrashim. His debut novel, The Five Books of Jesus, was published in September 2012.

13 Responses to Consecration Question

  1. Bonnie says:

    I think about this ALL the time. As a mostly small-l libertarian (sort of, I’m pretty much homeless politically) I am often shocked at the expectations of my conservative friends. While on the one hand I believe that we have the moral freedom to amass more than we need, there is no moral right to claim it as our own. I love the word stewardship because it is much more representative of reality than is ownership. On the other hand, I’m just as shocked by those who would take away everyone’s freedom to experience life by insisting that nothing bad every happen to anyone, and we have the exact situation with socialism that Satan wanted for our creation.

    What I do believe is that there is little difference between what we are consistently told are opposites. If one looks carefully, we see control vs autonomy, whether it is political, economic, or social. Consecration, truly lived, exposes both. Conspiring men, indeed.

  2. Angie says:

    My hope is that while political views are loud on both fronts (and are often reactionary bringing out what is ugliest about each position), personal consecration is quiet and ongoing at each end. I too like to collect consecration stories in my heart to warm dismal feelings about the state of humanity. Some of my favorite are children asking if all their meager hoped-for presents could go to the Angel Tree Network for Christmas, “christmas jars” collected for a family in need and that family paying it forward because they too wanted to share, several willing souls coming forward to donate organs so a beloved ward member could get a needed transplant, quiet pleas to be able to serve more in times of trial to give back for blessings both received and needed.

    Life as the spouse of an ecclesiastical leader can be trying and lonely at times, but it is a goldmine for collection of consecration stories.

    • Your thought on politics leads me to a third confession: I knew a family once that I sort of judged for some of their outspoken political views. But then as I began to notice all the good they did in individual service, I started to question the importance I’d placed on politics. People can disagree with me politically and do great work serving the needy and welcoming the stranger in. People can agree with me politically and act like total jerks (or just fail to take any responsibility for helping others) on a personal level.

      It’s easy to assume that political positions reflect our behavior in some ways, but I’m not sure they reliably do.

  3. SilverRain says:

    Sometimes consecration doesn’t change much of what we do, only changes why we’re doing it.

  4. Lisa SH says:

    I think about this too! Personally I agree with you and I think the American culture will struggle the most with consecration. I have say through many many meetings with members saying that they are living the law of consecration because they pay their tithing and fast offerings and that is all that is required.
    We need to trust God more that we will be taken care of and that our needs will be met. Until the general authorities or the prophets come out and say here is what you need to do I don’t think people will shift.
    That said I know there are many people that are ready to move closer to a consecration in certain areas but we need a system. Imagine your ward getting together and figuring out what food is needed for the entire ward. Each family can commit to growing certain things and then they can be distributed throughout the ward. In our ward we could supply everything except wheat, grains and legumes. Our ward is open to it but we need the Priesthood to step up and give us a system. We have asked and our bishopric days they are trying to figure the logistics out.
    I don’t think it is as complicated as they are making it but I am glad they are considering it.
    I’ll let you know what they come back with.
    Maybe it will be a model step forward for other wards.
    We’ll see…

    • The food idea is cool. Food is such a basic need I think we should be ready to step up and know how to provide for each other if needed.

      And even if a catastrophe doesn’t come anytime soon, there are a lot of other advantages to local food and to sharing food with neighbors.

      Hope it works out!

  5. Jendoop says:

    Yes, I definitely feel those things, and one additional: that consecration doesn’t always mean that a stranger will show up at your door with a bag of flour. Consecration means going without wants. Our needs are supplied for, but wants are balanced with the needs of others. That is most definitely not happening, although there are sweet stories of generous people, they are far too infrequent (I’m telling myself too).

    As a worldwide church I wish we could broaden our consecration gaze, we get very stuck in seeing people who are like us and marginalizing those who are different. This is one downfall of the geographic ward system, you go to church largely with people who are a lot like you, and from a similar socioeconomic status. The only time this may not be the case is in wards with a large geographic area. There are starving members of our church in foreign countries, and there are also hungry and hurt children within our own cities if we look to fill their needs.

    As for politics, I’m in a place similar to Bonnie, although I have no labels to describe it.

    • I don’t know if it’s still true (it probably is), but when my grandparents were in India in the mid-1990s, the church members there gathered more fast offerings than they used.

      India is not a rich country, but more prosperous members tend to be very willing to share and less prosperous members tend to have a modest, contained sense of their own needs.

      A year or two ago, my ward in Pleasant Grove was using more fast offering funds than it collected. Part of that is the reality of the area: struggling members have to live somewhere and even cheap housing is expensive relative to food, cars really are necessary in order to work here, etc. But I do think that if India is generating and fast offering surplus and we are not, there’s probably more that we can do.

  6. Paul says:

    I also think about this a lot. Each time I read Nibley’s Approaching Zion, I find myself re-thinking what is necessary and what is not. (Time to read it again…)

    I had seen some poverty in my ward growing up, since it included the inner-city where we lived (and plenty of less-fortunate neighborhoods as well, in our large geographic area). And i saw some on my mission in Europe, though not much that I understood as a missionary since my focus was far from meeting economic needs.

    When I served as a bishop in Venezuela, however, I came face to face with poverty I had never known. I lived a by-comparison extravagant life (provided by my employer) and we tried to be generous with our resources in many different ways (including employing a member of our ward, as well as appropriate offerings).

    It was in that environment I saw one member make a fast offering donation that was greater than the ward’s cumulative tithing contribution. And in the same ward that a sister who was by any measure in serious need refused help because “those are the Lord’s funds for someone who really needs it.” Astonishing lessons on both sides of the ledger.

    When I served as bishop in a US ward, in a tithing settlement, I asked a father about the significant generousity they showed in their fast offerings. He replied that they’d discussed it as a family and felt that if they weren’t donating enough to really have to give something up (more than the meals fasted), it wasn’t enough. I would not impose that standard on anyone else, but I was grateful for the tutoring he gave me.

  7. Liz C says:

    I think I was blessed to grow up broke enough to feel it, but not in abject poverty. Consecration is, ideally, an act of free will and a trusting heart. Having had so many temporal needs met through the generosity of others and familial industry as a child set me up to understand that God does see and consider our needs (and wants), and that it’s okay to let go of excess and trust that more blessings can be found in the future.

    A consecration-minded attitude does start at home. Looking for ways and means to consecrate our worldly goods and time and talents in God’s work can be hard, but is so worthwhile! It can even be as simple as helping a child fulfill the urges of their little hearts, even when that urge seems futile to the adult mind. A child gathering coins to donate for art supplies after a natural disaster seems ridiculously small in the face of tragedy, but who knows what other little heart will be perfectly ministered to by that act of love and consecration? I sometimes think Christ refers to this when he counseled the Apostles to “deny not the little ones”–don’t squash the consecration of all things that springs in their souls!

    In our household, we do talk about ways to consecrate our blessings back to God. My husband plays bagpipes to help support our family, but there are fairly frequent services when he feels inspired that he should not receive payment; he openly talks about it why, and it’s very cool to see our kids follow his example in listening to the Spirit to find out which bits of work are for our temporal support, and which bits are to support the work of God.

    Consecration as a jot-and-tittle commandment won’t work in the perfecting of saints. Only when consecration is an act of free will, a deliberate aligning of our wills with His, does it really perfect us.

  8. Shel says:

    I am all for consecration, but I’m a pretty die hard conservative. And it’s not because I have no sympathy for the poor and needy, as many accuse the conservatives of being. And maybe many of them are unsympathetic.

    We try to share our resources, our home when necessary, excess food, etc with people we know who are in need. We pay our tithing and a generous fast offering, we help out family members in need. I think we could live the law of consecration, although I’m sure we’d be in for a few surprises, lol.

    But, I don’t think consecration should be mandated by a very imperfect, poorly run bureaucratic government. I don’t trust governmental bureaucracy to use the money they take from me for social programs in the most efficient way. I can give $100 to the gov’t where $25 may go directly to someone in need, or I can use that $100 to buy a struggling neighbor groceries.

    When my sister’s husband became disabled, there were a few months while she looked for a job, etc, that they had to apply for food stamps. I remember her calling me and being outraged because they gave her $800 in food stamps for her family of six. It took me a minute to figure out why she thought that wasn’t enough. It turned out she was outraged because it was TWICE what she had been spending to feed her family. And as she stood in the check out line behind families using food stamps to buy junk food, soda and steak that her family never could afford when they were working, it made her even more angry. How dare the government let people waste her tax dollars on junk? Her solution is to give them less, and use the savings to teach them to cook nutritious meals without all that junk food, processed prepackaged foods. She is the busiest person I know, if she can do it, anyone can.

    So, for now, I’d rather be my own social program. When the gov’t is more perfect, say when Christ is the head, I’ll give them anything they want. In the meantime, I will vote to keep as much of my income as possible to help the people around me.

    • Liz C says:

      I think that’s my point: consecration can’t be administered and coerced by a government of man. It only works when it’s a voluntary, free-will offering from a Christ-like heart, within God’s organization.

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