"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
January 25, 2013
Already Consecrated
by Orson Scott Card

Most Mormons think that the Law of Consecration is something from another time. It was something that Mormons tried to do in the past, and might someday attempt again, but for now, tithing is the lesser substitute.

Yet we who have been through the temple have made a solemn covenant of Consecration. Solemnly we promise to consecrate ourselves — our time, our talents, and everything the Lord has blessed us with — to the Church, in order to build up the Kingdom of God on Earth.

When the temple film was remade thirty years ago, revising the teachings in the Endowment and changing some of the wording, the prophets could have revised the covenant of Consecration. They did not.

Apparently the Law of Consecration is not outdated.

In my teens, I read all the scriptures that seemed to deal with consecration: Enoch’s city of Zion; the early Saints in Palestine and the New World, who had “all things in common”; the passages in the Doctrine and Covenants and King Benjamin’s sermon about how we should think of our property and how we should treat the poor; and, above all, the Parable of the Talents.

I read about Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s attempts to implement the Law of Consecration as an economic order among the Saints. I read the teachings of Lorenzo Snow, Wilford Woodruff, and Heber J. Grant about the law of tithing. I came to the conclusion that it is vital to our lives as Latter-day Saints that we learn to live consecrated lives, whether or not there is an official Church program called “consecration.”

For the past thirty years, my wife and I have attempted to live the economic aspects of the Law of Consecration as best we could, and as I spoke and wrote of Consecration (“Consecration: A Law We Can Live With,”) other Saints responded with their own stories of Consecration.

Yet I still thought of the Law of Consecration as a purely economic principle that only a relative handful of Saints were seriously trying to carry out.

On the last Sunday of December in 2012, as I prepared to give a sacrament meeting talk about the Law of Consecration, I re-examined the words of the temple covenant and thought about what they meant and how we might apply them, not just financially, but in their fulness.

That was when it dawned on me that the overwhelming majority of Latter-day Saints today are already living the Law of Consecration in its fulness.

I saw that tithing and fast offerings were an integral part of our Consecration, but they were only a portion of it. As a people, we live the law in the order in which the words are presented.

First, we consecrate our selves. This is a matter of conversion, a mighty change of heart — but it is not the conversion that leads us to baptism. For most of us it comes gradually and unconsciously, but the result is the same: We regard ourselves as belonging to the Lord, accountable to the Church.

Second, we consecrate our time. We don’t call it “consecration”; we call it “accepting a calling.” But this is a key measure of our degree of commitment to the Church. We are given callings that we did not seek or ask for, and we carry them out, spending whatever time it takes.

There is a great dividing line in the culture of the Church, between active members and the inactive or less active ones. Regardless of what our callings are, we recognize that there are members who show up when they promised they would, and do the work they said they’d do — and members who don’t.

What remains invisible or at least unspoken is this simple truth: The line between these two groups is the Law of Consecration. Those who dependably fulfill their callings are consecrating their time.

Third, we consecrate our talents. As we all know, we are often given callings for which we have no aptitude whatsoever, and we simply muddle through, do our best, pray our hearts out, and hope the Spirit and the cooperation of the other Church members will make up the difference.

But we do have talents — and, regardless of our callings, we also consecrate those talents to the Church. This is why LDS pianists and organists spend time learning hymns so that at a moment’s notice they can accompany congregational singing. Those with only a little skill serve when they’re needed, even if their mistakes embarrass them — in the service of the Lord, we are not ashamed to offer the best we have, even if it is not the best that exists.

I have also seen that those with great skill, far beyond what is ordinarily needed for church service — even those who earn their living from their musical skill — are not too proud to play for those same church meetings. At no point do they become “above” such offerings.

The same is true of people with many other talents. Whatever the Church needs of them, they will do.

Fourth, we consecrate everything the Lord has blessed us with. Tithing is not paid last, but first. In most cultures today, money represents our flocks and herds, our labor and our property; we bring the firstlings of our flock to the Lord’s house and offer our tithes.

Over and over again, I have seen that we do not stop with tithing. Our fast offerings rarely stop with the cost of the two meals we skip on the first Sunday of each month; most people give the cost of the best meals they eat during a month, not the cost of the breakfast and lunch (or supper and breakfast) they would have eaten.

Fifth, we give all this to the Church, but whether we think of it or not, we use the broadest definition of “the Church.” We submit ourselves to our local leaders in the hierarchy of the Church, accepting callings from them and giving our offerings to them, but that is only the beginning of our service.

Sometimes we speak of “the Church” as being the bureaucracy in Salt Lake City; sometimes we speak of “the Church” as the organization of the wards and stakes.

But in fact, “the Church” consists of all the members, including our own children, parents, siblings, and other relatives. When we hold family home evenings, we are having family time, yes, but it is also time that is consecrated to the Church. When we help family members financially, we don’t fill out tithing slips and report it to the bishop in tithing settlement — but it is part of our consecration.

All the service we perform for other members of the Church is consecrated. But we go even further than this in our consecration.

Sixth, we build up the Kingdom of God on Earth. When we help people who are not members of the Church, we are still following Christ, acting in his name. He went about doing good; as we emulate him, in every kind of service to the good and happiness of others, we are fulfilling our covenant of Consecration.

Consecrated Saints might seem, to the world, to have “careers” — but we know better. What we have are jobs; what we do is work; but the purpose is not to “succeed” in the sense that the world judges success.

Here is how you can tell: When the Consecrated Saint has to choose between job promotion and the needs of his or her family, the family wins. The Consecrated Saint does not look at co-workers as competitors or rivals, but rather as people engaged in a common effort, whom he will help whenever he can. The Consecrated Saint becomes a valued employee because he seeks not himself; instead, he works with others as Christ would have him work. Because all his time and talents — even his time at work, his time in the world — belong to Christ, and therefore must be used as Christ would have him use it.

Seventh, we are individually accountable to others. In the Parable of the Talents, the lord does not return to his servants and say, “I gave the three of you a total of eight talents, and now I see you have returned fifteen to me. Good job, Team!”

Instead, each individual gives an accounting: This one turned five into ten, that one turned two into four, but the last did nothing with his one, and only returns what he was given, unimproved. So the lord judges his servants — by what they do with what they are given.

The parable shows a hierarchical world, because that is what the people Jesus was talking to experienced in their economic lives. But in fact we are not just accountable to those set “over” us. What does that mean, anyway? In the Church, the person who presides today will be teaching tomorrow, or clerking; everyone takes turns with the mop and broom, and everyone stands at the pulpit or the chalkboard, as called upon.

So Primary teachers are accountable to the Primary presidency — but also to the children in their classes, and to the parents of those children. The Primary presidency are accountable to the bishopric — but also to the Primary teachers, to the children, to the parents of those children, and to each other.

Because we all stand in the place of Christ, having taken his name upon us, we are all accountable to each other. We come to Church in the expectation that others, having consecrated themselves, will fulfill their callings; we sustain them by attending the classes they teach; by listening to their talks; by accepting callings from those (temporarily) in authority; by taking the sacrament they prepared, blessed, and brought us.

Thus, the eighth step is that we accept each other’s consecration as it is given — in the name of Christ, and in his service. For we are the Church, and so in acting out the Parable of the Talents, we stand in both roles — as servants acting in the name of the lord, and as the official and unofficial stewards to whom the other servants make their offerings and give their service.

In the early days of the Church, new converts left their homes and professions, in order to gather with the Saints and do whatever work was needed.

Now we make the identical sacrifice, only we gather within our wards and stakes, and we give our time, talents, and earthly goods, not all at once, but all along the way — as much as is needful; as much as we have.

We don’t calculate our total wealth and then give some imaginary “surplus” to the Church. Instead, we give as much of our time and talents and goods as we possibly can, as we are asked to give them, as we see others need them. Only afterward do we look back and say, “Apparently that was surplus time, because I gave it to the Lord’s service.”

Every one of these points deserves elaboration, and in future essays I will elaborate on them. Here is the lesson I have learned: Consecration is not some past practice that will be restored, or some future law that will someday be given. We already live the law, we Latter-day Saints. It sets us apart from all other people. Nobody else takes part in the life of their church the way we do.

And yet we also see that it costs us nothing. All our time, talents, and goods came to us as a trust from God. We improve them as best we can, and use them to serve others in his name, and as directed by the stewards set over us.

When I look at my ward and stake, at the consecrated lives being lived by my fellow citizens, and then imagine those lives multiplied by the consecrated membership of 28,784 congregations, and I begin to see the vision of the stone cut from the mountain without hands, rolling forth and growing as it fills the Earth.

Daniel saw that stone breaking down the idols and empires of the world. But that is not its purpose, not in a historical sense. That stone knocks down the idols and empires of the world in our hearts, for they become as nothing to the Consecrated Saint. One calling at a time, one act of service, one gift to someone in need, one encouraging word, one visit, one teaching at a time, we fulfil the Law of Consecration.

And on our day of accounting to the Lord himself, these are the ones who will hear him say, “Even as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

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More by Orson Scott Card

About Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.

Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary fantasy (Magic Street, Enchantment, Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone Tables, Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series The Tales of Alvin Maker (beginning with Seventh Son), poetry (An Open Book), and many plays and scripts.

Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, he teaches occasional classes and workshops and directs plays. He also teaches writing and literature at Southern Virginia University.

Card currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine Allen Card, and their youngest child, Zina Margaret.

More about Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card currently serves as second counselor in the bishopric.

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