The Prophet Joseph Smith in early January 1831, informed members at Fayette, N.Y., that a new economic system would be instituted.
In The Heavens Resound, Milton V. Backman Jr. wrote: "On February 4, 1831, a few days after his arrival in Kirtland, the Prophet received a revelation [Section 41] calling Edward Partridge as the first bishop of the Church. . . . Five days later . . . Joseph Smith received another revelation that . . . outlined the basic structure of the new system."The economic order revealed [Section 42] on February 9 has been called the law of consecration. . . . An underlying basis of this new system was the concept that the earth, as well as everything on it, belongs to the Lord, and individuals, as stewards of the Lord, have a responsibility to care for the poor.
"Members of the Church were therefore told by revelation to consecrate their property to the Lord through the bishop and his counselors appointed for that purpose,
with a covenant and deed which cannot be broken.' After receiving the property, the bishop was instructed to appoint every mana steward over his own property,' or that which he (the member) had received from the bishop,
sufficient for himself and family.' The surplus was to be kept in the Lord's storehouseto administer to the poor and needy,' as determined by the bishop and the elders of the Church, for the purchase of land and for the building up of a New Jerusalem.
"The revelation provided a general outline of the law of consecration . . . but many people . . . did not at that time understand the precise meaning of such terms as
consecration,'steward,' and `storehouse.' Consequently, as the Latter-day Saints began to live this law, additional information was revealed through the Prophet; and as the months and years passed, Joseph Smith and other Church leaders continued to instruct the Saints in the law of consecration. . . .
"The Saints gained a better understanding of the meaning of [these principlesT when, in May 1831, Joseph Smith received a revelation [Section 51T regarding the temporal affairs of the Saints who had recently arrived . . . from the area of Colesville, New York. He informed these immigrants that they should settle in Thompson, Ohio, a few miles east of Kirtland, on property owned by a new convert to the Church, Leman Copley. According to the revelation, the Saints in Thompson were to consecrate their property to the Lord through Edward Partridge, after which he was to
appoint' or distribute a portion to every family according to theircircumstances and . . . wants and needs.'
"Although Bishop Partridge attempted to inaugurate the law of consecration in Thompson, conflicts developed that prevented its full implementation. While the precise reasons for the conflict are not known, selfishness and greed no doubt played a part. . . . Subsequently, the Prophet received a revelation [Section 54] in June 1831 instructing [those] living on the Copley farm to
repent of all their sins' andto journey into the regions westward, unto the land of Missouri, unto the borders of the Lamanites.' "
Several other sections in the Doctrine and Covenants pertain to the law of consecration, and one, Section 105, concerns its eventual discontinuation. The law of consecration as revealed by the Lord has yet to be fully implemented and practiced by the Church in this dispensation.
Law of tithing is stepping stone
In the October 1899 general conference, Elder Francis M. Lyman spoke of the relationship of tithing and consecration:
"Before we enter the law of consecration, which is the celestial law of God in finance, it is necessary that we should take the training that we are now having under the law of tithing.
"You may be certain . . . that any person who is not able to observe this law faithfully and well will never, worlds without end, be able to observe the law of consecration. The law of tithing is a stepping stone, and it is a law that will abide forever, because a great majority possibly of the children of God will not be able to reach the higher law."
Saints commanded to consecrate worldly goods to help poor, needy
Explaining the purpose of the law of consecration, Joseph Smith said: "When we consecrate our property to the Lord it is to administer to the wants of the poor and needy, for this is the law of God; it is not for the benefit of the rich, those who have no need. . . . Now for a man to consecrate his property . . . to the Lord is nothing more nor less than to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the widow and fatherless, the sick and afflicted, and do all he can to administer to their relief in their afflictions, and for him and his house to serve the Lord." (History of the Church 3:230-31.)
In the "Eleventh General Epistle of the Presidency of the Church," issued July 8, 1854, Brigham Young and his counselors, Heber C. Kimball and Jedediah M. Grant, explained:
"In union there is strength; but how can a people become united while their interests are diversified? How can they become united in spiritual matters, and see eye to eye, which they can only partly understand, until they become united in regard to temporal things, which they do comprehend? It was given in a revelation unto Brother Joseph Smith, in the early days of the Church, that all the Saints should consecrate their substance under the Church, and receive their inheritances at the hands of Bishop Patridge, who was then officiating in that office.
"Some years afterwards, the Lord seeing that the people had polluted their inheritances, and that they would not comply with His former commandments, directed in another revelation to Joseph, that the people should consecrate all their surplus property; which seemingly was not fully understood or practiced. After this was given, the Law of Tithing, which required that all should in the first instance pay one tenth of their entire property into the Church, and thereafter pay one tenth of all their increase; which was for the poor, to promote the spread of the Gospel among the nations of the earth, support the ministry, and building of Temples unto the Most High." (Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 2:139, compiled by James R. Clark.)