My Come, Follow Me studies for this week took me to Doctrine and Covenants 51-57. As background, the Colesville (New York) Saints arrived in Ohio in May 1831, and they went to Bishop Edward Partridge for help in finding a place to live. The Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation from the Lord to guide Bishop Partridge in arranging their settlement. The revelation, now Section 51, contained the Lord’s instructions on how to organize stewardships of property and money among the Saints.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ were invited to live the law of consecration. Members living this law would sign over their property to the Church of Jesus Christ with the Bishop. The Bishop would then return property to you to manage. The property returned was usually what had been donated, in most cases, and sometimes with a little surplus. The difference is that the property became a stewardship rather than just a possession.
Bishop Partridge was told by the Lord in Section 51 to “appoint unto this people their portions, every man equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs” (verse 3). Bishop Partridge was further instructed:
4 … when he shall appoint a man his portion, give unto him a writing that shall secure unto him his portion, that he shall hold it, even this right and this inheritance in the church, until he transgresses and is not accounted worthy by the voice of the church, according to the laws and covenants of the church, to belong to the church.
5 And if he shall transgress and is not accounted worthy to belong to the church, he shall not have power to claim that portion which he has consecrated unto the bishop for the poor and needy of my church; therefore, he shall not retain the gift, but shall only have claim on that portion that is deeded unto him.
6 And thus all things shall be made sure, according to the laws of the land.
The principles of consecration and stewardship remain vital to the Lord’s work, but the procedures are different in now. Elder Quentin L. Cook explained as follows:
We live in perilous times when many believe we are not accountable to God and that we do not have personal responsibility or stewardship for ourselves or others. Many in the world are focused on self-gratification … [and] do not believe they are their brother’s keeper. In the Church, however, we believe that these stewardships are a sacred trust (“Stewardship – a Sacred Trust,” Ensign, Nov. 2009, 91).
Elder Cook explained that members of the Church of Jesus Christ are under a sacred trust to watch over other members. President Spencer W. Kimball gave further explanation:
In the Church a stewardship is a sacred spiritual or temporal trust for which there is accountability. Because all things belong to the Lord, we are stewards over our bodies, minds, families, and properties. (See Doctrine and Covenants 104:11-15.) A faithful steward is one who exercises righteous dominion, cares for his own, and looks to the poor and needy (“Welfare Services: The Gospel in Action,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 78).
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a stewardship to take care of themselves, their families, and their properties. In addition, they are responsible to look after the poor and needy. The principles of consecration are alive and well in our day. This video explains the Law of Consecration.