Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 21 (D&C 51–57)
May 15–21


The Law of Consecration Was Instituted

In February 1831, soon after the Saints began to gather in Kirtland, Ohio, the Lord revealed that they should begin to live the law of consecration. This is consistent with what the Lord has done in every dispensation where he has gathered together a group of chosen people. He immediately offers to them the opportunity to become a Zion people. He did this with Enoch’s people, and they accepted His offer and were translated. He did it again with Melchizedek’s people with the same result—they were translated. He tried it with the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, but they rejected His offer and brought upon themselves the restrictive society of the Mosaic Law. He tried it among the Nephites after His visit to them, and it worked for about 200 years (four generations), then fell apart.

The Law of Consecration Was Revoked

Now, here in February 1831, the Lord tried it again with his latter-day saints. And as in previous dispensations, the early Latter-day Saints had mixed results with this principle, and eventually, it was withdrawn from Church until a future day when it can be properly observed.

● The Lord both gives and revokes his commandments, as needed (D&C 56:4).

● The Lord’s promises are conditioned upon obedience (D&C 58:31–33). The Lord always keeps his part of our covenants. The problem is that men are not obedient. “I command and men obey not,” He said, and therefore “I revoke and they receive not the blessing” (v. 32). But then, like selfish children, “they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled” (v. 33). They fail to see the connection between keeping their covenants and receiving the blessings attached to those covenants.

● The law of consecration was revoked until the time of Zion ‘s future redemption (D&C 105:34).

● The people in Zion were not living the law of consecration nor keeping the commandments (vv (D&C 105:2–4). 3–4).

● The law of consecration is a celestial law (D&C 105:5–6). A Zion people must live by celestial laws, and consecration is one of those. Because they did not do so, they “must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer” (v. 6).

How We Can Consecrate Today

Though we do not live the law of consecration as a people, we are nonetheless asked to consecrate as individuals. We have made covenants to do so. But how can we live the law of consecration in a time when there is no organized process for us to do it as a people?

1. Make the sacrifices the Lord requires now —our time, talents, and possessions—for the building up of the Kingdom of God upon the earth, and for the establishment of Zion.

2. Pay tithing and fast offerings, and give generously in other ways to those in need. By doing this, we can help care for the poor and carry on the important activities of the Church. Thus, each of us could, individually, calculate what is “surplus” in our means and give it willingly to the Church in support of any one of its vital programs.

3. Serve willingly in the Church. The Lord has admonished each person to “learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99).

4. Serve as a full-time missionary. Robert D. Hales said: “Going on a mission teaches you to live the law of consecration. It may be the only time in your life when you can give to the Lord all your time, talents, and resources. In return, the Lord will bless you with His Spirit to be with you. He will be close to you and strengthen you.”1

5. Develop Christ-like love for others. “Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor” (D&C 82:19) is the foundation of the law of consecration.

6. Strive to consecrate willingly. We must willingly consecrate, not do so grudgingly. The revelations tell us that “the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days” (D&C 64:34). Willingness is manifested by our attitude as well as our actions.

The Underlying Principles of Consecration

● The earth is the Lord’s (D&C 104:13–14). A person’s willingness to consecrate results from the recognition that the earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord (Psalm 24:1). Persons who do not believe this will not see themselves as “stewards” over the blessings they possess, but rather as the sole owners of self-made circumstances.

● The Lord’s way is to exalt the poor and humble the rich (D&C 104:13–14). We should not misunderstand. This is not socialism, nor taxing the rich to provide handouts for the poor. The Lord’s way provides for personal growth for both the rich and poor as they come together in a covenant bond. The poor must work for what they receive, and every man must contribute his excess to the common good of the whole.

● Consecration is a spiritual law, not just a temporal or economic program (D&C 29:34–35). It helps participants prepare for eternal life in a celestial kingdom wherein the inhabitants live the law of consecration (v. 35).

● We must not “covet” our possessions (D&C 19:26). This is an interesting use of the word “covet,” since we normally think of it as unrighteous wishing that we possessed the means or circumstances of another. But we must also not covet our own possessions.

● Consecration must be done willingly, not grudgingly nor by force (D&C 64:34). This is consistent with all spiritual laws, which are voluntary, not forced. God insists that every man “should be an agent unto himself” (D&C 29:35). In consecration, “the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind” and only the “willing” and the “obedient” may participate in this celestial program among a Zion people.


Officers in an Expanding Church

● In the early months of the Church, the pastoral responsibilities of watching over the members rested mainly upon the Prophet Joseph Smith.

● At the time of the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830, four new offices were introduced:

— Melchizedek Priesthood
— Aaronic Priesthood
Priest, Teacher, Deacon

● As the Saints increased in number and, in the early months of 1831, began to move from New York to Ohio, there was need for additional leadership. Five new offices were added:

— Aaronic Priesthood
Bishop 1831, February
— Melchizedek Priesthood
High Priests 1831, June
Patriarch 1833, December
High Council 1834, January
Apostles 1835, February

Duties of the First Presiding Bishop

● D&C 41:9   In a revelation dated February 4,1831, Edward Partridge, a merchant and a recent convert to the Church, was called to be a bishop. He was directed “to leave his merchandise and to spend all his time in the labors of the church.” Such full-time service is required of those who become Presiding Bishops of the Church.

D&C 72:8   When Bishop Partridge was called to Missouri, where he continued to preside, another Bishop, Newel K. Whitney, was ordained in December 1831 to direct the affairs of the Church in Ohio.

D&C 51   Bishop Partridge sought instructions from the Prophet and received D&C 51.

D&C 51:1–15   He was “to organize this people” that they “may be one.” He was to apportion to the people their property, “every man equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs” (v. 3).

D&C 51:15–20   Ohio is a temporary stopping place. But wherever we live we are to act as if our stay there is permanent, not excusing inactivity or slothfulness because ‘we won’t be there long.”

D&C 58:13–18   Bishops are also judges in Israel.


Missionary Calls for Many Elders

● The month of June 1831 opened with a significant and spiritual conference—the first one in Kirtland.

D&C 52   Was received the day after the conference closed. 34 elders received mission calls.

D&C 52:1–2   The next conference was to be held in Missouri.

D&C 52:9–10   Briefly sets forth the missionaries’ assignment. The direction concerning how to teach (v. 9) applies not only to missionaries but to all who teach the gospel.

D&C 53:4   Sidney Gilbert’s call to be an “agent” meant that he was to assist the bishop with business affairs. Only a few months earlier, the bishop had received the weighty responsibility to administer the law of consecration.

Keys to Avoiding Deception

D&C 45:56–57   Those who have not been deceived will “abide the day of the Lord.”

D&C 52:14–19   The characteristics of those who will avoid deception, and of those who will not.
D&C 48:8–27

The Colesville Saints Sent to Missouri

D&C 54, 56   The Colesville Saints: A disagreement among Church members was the background for sections 54 and 56. The Colesville Saints had come from Colesville, New York. and arrived in Ohio in May 1831. They covenanted to live the law of consecration and were assigned stewardships on 760 acres of the Leman Copely farm. But within weeks they were thrown out by Copely (vv. 1–10).

The branch members were worried about their standing before the Lord after this failure of consecration. Branch President Newel Knight thus sought guidance through Joseph Smith. The Prophet received Doctrine and Covenants 54 for them (vv. 1–10). They were advised to move on to Missouri immediately. Despite such persecutions and forced migrations, they tended to remain together for many years.

A Revelation to William W. Phelps

D&C 55:1–6   William W. Phelps, not yet a member of the Church, was called to help Oliver Cowdery in preparing books for children in the Church (v. 4). This is the earliest revelation to specifically encourage education and schools in the Church.

The Importance of Attitude

● We must have appropriate attitudes as well as actions, neither being complete without the other.

D&C 52:15–16   He who prays and speaks, and whose spirit is contrite, is acceptable if he keeps the commandments.

D&C 52:40   Prayer is not enough. We must “remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted” if we want our prayers to be answered.

D&C 53:2   We must not permit worldly concerns to thwart our living the gospel.

D&C 54:10   We must be “patient in tribulation” even when we are hurt by others’ choices.

D&C 55:1   Remission of sins does not come to all who are baptized, only to those having “an eye single to [God’s] glory.”

D&C 55:3   Only the contrite receive the Holy Ghost.

D&C 56:16–18    Wealth or poverty as such are not condemned. The Lord condemns selfishness and laziness, but praises those who are pure in heart and contrite.

D&C 56:18-20   The importance of maintaining a good attitude.

D&C 58:24–29   Men should use their agency to do good and not always wait to be commanded.

D&C 59:16–21   God is offended when we are unthankful for our blessings

The Importance of Obedience

D&C 52:36   Righteousness is required of all Saints.

D&C 54:1–6   If we do not keep our covenants, they will be void and of none effect.

Delbert L. Stapley said, “One goal that most of us share in this life is the desire to achieve true joy and lasting happiness. There is only one way to do this, and that is by being obedient to all the commandments of God.”2

Elder George Q. Morris said, “Anything we hope for, anything we desire, anything we should have will come to us through the principle of obedience and by the same token all may be lost by disobedience. How simple the gospel is! The requirement is an obedient heart; an obedient heart.”3

D&C 56:1–10  The saints must be obedient to obtain salvation; the Lord commands and revokes, and the disobedient are cast off.

D&C 56:14–17  Note that both the rich and the poor are capable of unrighteous greed.

D&C 56:19–22   They must be obedient to both God’s and man’s laws.

D&C 58:42–43   When we repent, we are forgiven and the Lord remembers our sin no more.

D&C 59:1–4   The faithful Saints in Zion will blessed both temporally and spiritually.

D&C 59:5–8   The importance of loving and serving God, Christ, and our fellow men.

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

D&C 59:9–10  It keeps us unspotted from the world.

D&C 59:11-15  Things which are appropriate on the Sabbath Day.

D&C 59:16-21  The blessings which follow proper Sabbath Day observance.


The Importance of Establishing Zion

Isaiah 2:2–3 The early Saints had read prophecies about the city of Zion, or New Jerusalem, being established in the latter days.
3 Nephi 20:22;
Ether 13:2–12
Moses 7:61–62

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is the theme upon which prophets, priests, and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; and they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; but they died without the sight; we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring the Latter-day glory. . . . [It is] a work that God and angels have contemplated with delight for generations past; that fired the souls of the ancient patriarchs and prophets; a work that is destined to bring about the destruction of the powers of darkness, the renovation of the earth, the glory of God, and the salvation of the human family.”4

The Location of the New Jerusalem

3 Nephi 20:20–25 (Ether 13:6)   One of the first major problems of this dispensation arose from the desire to know the location where Zion would be built. This is why Hyrum Page was using a stone he claimed gave him powers of seership. Interest was high among the Saints, and the Prophet had been promised that the site of the New
Jerusalem would be revealed to him (D&C 42:62).

D&C 28:9   September 1830 (in New York): The Lord revealed that the city of Zion would be built “on the borders by the Lamanites”—the precise location identified later.

D&C 52:2–5, 42–43   June 1831 in Kirtland, after the first conference there: The Lord called Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others to go on a mission to Missouri. He also promised to consecrate the land of Missouri as the land of their inheritance.

D&C 57:1–3   July 1831 (after the Prophet had traveled to Missouri): The Lord revealed that the city of Zion would be located in Missouri, with Independence as the center place. A temple would be built in Independence.

Laying the Foundation of Zion

The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded the following after arriving in the land of Missouri:

“The meeting of our brethren [Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, Jr., Ziba Peterson, and Frederick G. Williams, all of whom had gone to Missouri as missionaries], who had long awaited our arrival, was a glorious one, and moistened with many tears. It seemed good and pleasant for brethren to meet together in unity. But our reflections were many, coming as we had from a highly cultivated state of society in the east, and standing now upon the confines or western limits of the United States, and looking into the vast wilderness of those that sat in darkness; how natural it was to observe the degradation, leanness of intellect, ferocity, and jealousy of a people that were nearly a century behind the times, and to feel for those who roamed about without the benefit of civilization, refinement, or religion; yea, and exclaim in the language of the Prophets: ‘When will the wilderness blossom as the rose? When will Zion be built up in her glory, and where will Thy temple stand, unto which all nations shall come in the last days?’ Our anxiety was soon relieved by receiving the following: [D&C 57].”5

D&C 57:4–7      July & August 1831: The saints are to purchase lands and receive inheritances in that area, but in an orderly way and
D&C 58:52–58       not in haste.

D&C 57:7–11, 14–16   Edward Partridge is to be a Bishop, Sidney Gilbert is to establish a store, W. W. Phelps is to be a printer, and Oliver Cowdery is to edit publications.

1.  In Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 50; Ensign , May 1996, 36.
2.  In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 26; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 18.
3.  In Conference Report, Apr. 1953, 112–113.
4.  History of the Church, 4:609–610.
5.  History of the Church, 1:189.