The Law Between Discipline & Consecration (Doctrine & Covenants 41-44)

Monday, April 19, 2021

 




Channing: Hi! I'm Channing,

Elise: and I’m Elise,

Channing: and this is The Faithful Feminists podcast.

Elise: But this is not just any Come Follow Me podcast. We do things a little differently here. We offer approachable feminist interpretations of the Come Follow Me manual for those who want to study and understand the scriptures in a framework of equality, social justice, and sisterhood. We are here to show you all the really good ways faith and feminism work together to eliminate and deepen the gospel experience.

Channing: We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs so join us today for a conversation about Doctrine and Covenants sections 41-44 for the dates April 19-25. We're so glad you're here.

Elise: Welcome back everyone. In today's episode, we've got four chapters and some of them are very long. Section 42 is like 90 verses. It took me a while to get through. But in these sections, the saints have moved to Ohio and the Saints that they meet in Ohio are really sincere and they're very excited.

But it seems like a lot of the members kind of have different understandings of what the gospel is like. Joseph Smith is in need of some guidance and direction about how to govern and manage and work alongside the members to make sure that things are consistent and organized and everyone's needs are supported. And so Joseph Smith asks and receives a revelation in section 42 that is called “My Law to Govern the Church;” that is, God's law to govern the church.

And in this episode, even though there are four sections, we've chosen to spend the majority of our time in section 42. We found that while this is the longest section, it feels really jam-packed with lots of information. And this is because this section was actually two different sections that were combined into an ultra section based on the different questions that Joseph Smith was asking about how to govern the church.

And this is reinforced and supported by verse 42:61, which reads “If thou shall ask, thou shall receive revelation upon revelation knowledge upon knowledge.” And we think that section 42 is a really great example or a testament of that. And so today we're spending our time in section 42, and we're going to focus on two main points as opposed to going verse by verse.We like approaching our study this way, sometimes focusing on just two or three main points, especially when there are larger sections, simply because we like being able to go deep.

Channing: Absolutely. I'm really excited to go over our content for today, but I also want to encourage our listeners to listen to other podcasts because there are so many other podcasts that focus on the Come Follow Me manual that I know will offer a different perspective and different insights to these sections. So definitely vary your podcast listening and  allow yourself to be informed by different perspectives on this section.

Elise: The two main points that we've chosen to focus on today are about the law of consecration and the role of church disciplinary councils or the role of church discipline, because we see in the kind of midway or late in section 42, lots of laws about what to do with certain sins or trespasses or crimes. And the church has a really heavy hand in the involvement of how to discipline or manage the members when they commit these crimes or sins. And I think that's actually where we want to start today's episode.

Channing: Yes! Scattered throughout this chapter we see quite a few mentions of different just like Elise said, sins or trespasses or crimes. But the one that we see pop up the most frequently is actually adultery. And we see it first pop up in 42:22.

And this says, “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart and shall cleave onto her and none else.” And it continues in the next verses to say, “And he that looks upon a woman to lust after her shell deny the faith and shall not have the spirit. And if he repents not, he shall be cast out thou shalt not commit adultery.

And he that committed the adultery and repented not shall be cast out, but he, that has committed adultery and repents with all his heart and forsake it and do with it no more, thou shalt forgive. But if he does it again, he shall not be forgiven and be cast out.”

 And again, we see mention of adultery and its treatment and attitude towards it in the church again mentioned in verses 74-77, and then again in verses 80-81. Verses 80-81 outlined the disciplinary approach that the church takes toward adultery and these verses read,

“ And if any man or woman shall commit adultery, he or she shall be tried before two elders of the church or more, and every word shall be established against him or her by two witnesses of the church and not of the enemy or the world. But if there are more than two witnesses, it is better. But he, or she shall be condemned by the mouth of two witnesses and the elder shall lay the case before the church and the church to lift up their hands against him or her that they may be dealt with according to the law of God.”

 And I don't really have a critique to offer for the way that adultery is recommended to be treated here. To me, it all sounds pretty reasonable and resonant of the New Testament. But I do notice a few things that I'd like to talk about. First off, it does seem very interesting that there's so much anxiety in the section about adultery in particular. In my research, I couldn't find much in historical accounts regarding this, with the exception that there seemed to be some who wanted to join the saints but had been previously divorced in the time that the Doctrine and Covenants was written. Divorce was still generally not kindly looked upon. Hence the very specific instruction in this section regarding times it was okay and times that it wasn't.

It makes me wonder what were the early Saints were dealing with at the time that it was so necessary to discuss adultery at length here. It gets more airtime in the text than any other sin, including murder. Secondly, it's interesting to note that the language changes from the rest of the section. Once you get toward the end, according to an essay titled “The Laws of the Church of Christ (Doctrine and Covenants Section 42): A Textual and Historical Analysis” by Brent Underwood, this section underwent editing after it was written, with some portions not being included in our modern printing of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Most of the edits were actually word additions, and most of these additions were explicit mentions of women in these verses. For example, where it would previously just say men, it was included “men and women” or “he or she,” etc. While I generally celebrate the inclusion of women in scripture, I find it interesting to note that the authors and editors found it necessary to include women only in this portion of the chapter. Why not in earlier promises, like in verse 52 that says, “and they who have not faith to do these things, but believe in me, have power to become my sons?” Why only here, when discussing the law? I think it does show some implicit bias to not include women in promises and blessings yet ensure that they are included in rules and punishment.

All of that aside, what I find most concerning is not necessarily the treatment of an attitude toward adultery, but the church's exclusive involvement in its discovery and punishment. And remember that verses 80-81 outline that two elders of the church or more should stand as witnesses against members who have committed adultery.

And I find it fascinating that all the other sins in this chapter are recommended to be dealt with according to the law of the land, but not adultery. Verse 81 specifically says that it is dealt with according to quote “the law of God.” And the first question that I wanted to ask about this is why do we think this is? Do you have any thoughts on that Elise?

Elise: Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that compared to other sins or crimes like murder or stealing or something like that, there doesn't seem to be a kind of law of the land against adultery. If your partner cheats on you, I can't really imagine reporting that anywhere and having action being taken against my partner for those things happening.

And so at least in one sense, there is no law of the land to deal with adultery. And I think the most loving and generous reading would be that the church tries to take care and care for its members by saying, “Hey, we don't want you to have to go through this alone. We want to help hold people accountable and responsible for their actions. So we need to figure out a way within the church to build some type of structure and framework so that we can handle and navigate these situations and these relationships.”

Now, does that always happen? Very healthily? No, it does not. But those are my thoughts right now, that there's not a law of the land against adultery, and it's such a grievous, both pain to bear, but also a grievous sin within our church theology and context that it, it does kind of make sense to me that the church feels like, “Ooh, we better have a hand in this.”

But what do you think, why do you think it needs to be dealt with under the law of God as opposed to the law of the land?

Channing: Well, I think that the church does a really good job of splitting sex and sexuality apart from spirituality. Right? We've discussed this before, how much of what is considered to be carnal or sensual or earthy is deemed ‘less than’ or inferior to that which is intellectual or logical or spiritual.

We talk about the ‘natural man’ being an enemy to God. And I think that this disconnect, while it's common, also creates a fear and a suspicion of our body and the inherent goodness within it. And I think that this position has been long-held by Christianity in all its forms. So it doesn't surprise me that this attitude is prevalent in the 1830s, and that it informs the early churches condemnation of sex in general, but especially adultery. I'm not even saying that it shouldn't condemn adultery because it absolutely should. It's just interesting to see all of the influences and understandings and biases kind of interplay and interweave with each other under this like umbrella of an issue.

I found a really good quote from Audre Lorde from one of her essays that I was reading, and I loved it. Something that I've noticed is that it's often the very thing that we fear and try to hide from and put away from ourselves that shows up again and again to haunt us. In her essay titled “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” Audre Lorde writes, “The fear of our desires keeps them suspect and indiscriminately powerful, for to suppress any truth is to give it strength beyond endurance.”

As I was reading this section and particularly these verses on adultery, I couldn't help but think of polygamy. It's so fascinating to me that the same author, the same elders of the church and the same churches itself that so resoundingly condemned adultery in this section would institute the practice of polygamy less than four years later.

Elise: I'm so glad that you brought that up. It's interesting to me that for a church that says you can only be married to one person right now, this is what they say. “You can only be married to one person and it has to look this particular way between a man and a woman, and you have to be loyal and have fidelity in the relationship,” to then in just a few years, turn around and say, “Well, actually God said I can have many wives and it's not adultery.”

Right? Like this is actually God's order and God's way. And it just some really harmful ideas around masculinity and sexuality come to play in that conversation. So I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sidetrack, but I think that you making the comment about polygamy is spot on.

Channing: Yeah, well, and I also think too, another thought that I had about this while I was researching for the episode… I want our listeners to know that the first resource that we always go to to check is the church website.

Elise: Right. Right.

Channing: And so I, you know, like typed in adultery, I typed in infidelity, I typed in section 42 to find all of the resources that I could for this chapter. And something really interesting happened. And Elise, this is the first time I'm telling you about it too.

In all of the articles, opinion, pieces, and Ensign essays, all of those. Yeah. Every single instance or example, with the exception of one, in all of these essays… whenever they talked about a partner cheating on their spouse or having an emotional or physical affair always featured the woman as the offending partner.

No, no. I don't know how that happened. And there's only one instance where it mentioned a man and they like were very sure to say that it explicitly did not turn sexual, but I find it so fascinating to see this bias where every time they mentioned someone having an affair, it was always the woman who was disloyal to the relationship. And I'm like, Hmm. In my experience, that's not really how it always plays out.

Elise: I really just Googled, and take this with a grain of salt because I have done no research except for just this quick Google search, “How many men versus women cheat” and this one article says “In general, men are more likely than women to cheat. 20% of men and 13% of women reported they've had sex with someone other than their spouse while married, according to data from a recent general social survey.”

And just to be clear too, like we're critical of infidelity and adultery at large. If that's not the relationship dynamic that you have set up, whether it's the man or the woman, or either partner cheating on one another, when that hasn't been the agreed upon dynamic of the relationship, that is something to be critical of. I don't want our listeners to like misunderstand and think that we only think that men cheat on their spouses. We recognize that there are other things happening here, but it is interesting to see how infidelity is portrayed in church culture and whose responsibility it is to try and maintain a loyal, committed relationship.

I feel like this responsibility and burden often gets placed on the women. Like if you were only more. Something, if you only had more sex with your husband, then he wouldn't have cheated on you. If you would have only… That's a lot of guilt and shame and burden to bear for trying to repair a relationship when your partner has made decisions that did not account for you.

Channing: Yeah. In my research too, I also came across a quote from Spencer W. Kimball that, Oh, my gosh, it actually made me sick to read it. So hopefully, okay. Anyway, I'm just going to share it. It basically offered an interpretation of this section, specifically the verse that talks about an cleaving unto your spouse.

He offered a critique of women basically saying that oftentimes he sees in marriages that women focus too much time and energy on their children. And so then leave their husbands, like essentially partner-less, lonely, and dissatisfied in their relationship. That also irritated me just a little bit. Cause I'm like, wow, that's a really a no-win situation. You're shamed for not having babies. And then you're shamed for having them and trying to take care of them.

Elise: You wouldn't have to spend your time devoting your labor to your children if perhaps your spouse showed up as an equal partner to help you raise the children. Not even, no, not “help” you raise the children, to raise the children.

Channing: Right. Right. Exactly. So as our listeners can probably hear, as we're talking about it, like, this is a very like complex issue that both Elise and I are super passionate about discussing, and it's very interwoven with lots of different facets of life. And so this is why we felt it was important, especially because  adultery popped up at least three separate times in the text, it's worth talking about.

And maybe now shifting the conversation from adultery itself to the way that. It's disciplined within the church. Like we've seen here outlined in the sections, this is when the church started to begin to establish some authority within the lives of its members.

We saw this a couple of weeks ago in the episode where we included Thomas and Elizabeth Marsh's story, where there was some disagreement about milk and cream and cheese making, and we'll likely see that this dynamic happen again where church leaders frequently deal with community or civil disputes.

So it's not surprising to me to hear that the church participated in similar ways in situations of infidelity. I think Elise, you offered a really good perspective saying that I think this was a well-meaning attempt to care for the members. And the church still has similar practices in place today, including disciplinary councils, especially for what leaders consider to be graver sins like adultery, but also for a myriad of other lesser issues that are amplified because of the threat that they pose to the authority of the church leaders.

For example, Natasha Helfer is an LDS sex therapist who is currently facing her own disciplinary council because of leadership concerns about her views on sexuality, gender, masturbation, and LGBTQ issues. Regardless of the fact that she has been a primary support to some of the most marginalized communities in the LDS faith, because she offers treatment based on research and peer reviewed best practice of therapy that contradict views and opinions currently held by church leaders, she faces discipline and possible excommunication.

My primary concern with this is that too often, we see that leaders within the church serve to protect the church institution and not its individual members. I think that there are always exceptions to this because I'm definitely part of a ward which is one of those, but generally the treatment of those who seem to stray from or oppose church opinion and practice is neither informed nor kind, especially to women.

Looking at this section 42 as a whole and then also hearing about Natasha Helfer’s council is an interesting juxtaposition of events for me. This is a section in the text where I wonder if these well-meaning attempts of the early and current church to guide or watch over the members has maybe morphed into something more harmful than helpful.

Adultery is often a very nuanced and traumatic event for both partners in a marriage. It stems from relationships that are missing foundational elements from either partner or relationships that are straining under the weight of stress, a breakdown of communication, shame, and even trauma. Instances of infidelity are treacherous in that both partners are hurting in two very different, but overlapping ways. Infidelity is a complex anomaly in marriage and deserves to be handled with care and expertise to preserve the souls of both partners and the relationship.

Unfortunately, because the church has established itself as an authority on all matters sexual, members often turn to church leaders when infidelity has occurred.

Unfortunately, because the church prides itself on having unpaid volunteer clergy, this also means that bishops and other leaders are untrained and unqualified to handle such a volatile and complex issue like adultery.

Unfortunately, it's not unusual for bishops and bishoprics to act as marriage advisers and attempts to heal the relationship.

Unfortunately, these attempts are often premature and unable to acknowledge the deep pain of betrayal both partners are carrying. Additionally, and Elise alluded to this earlier, there's a great risk that the offended partner is blamed for the infidelity and encouraged to forgive prematurely, or that the offending partner is not held accountable in any meaningful way for their indiscretion. Unfortunately often both occur.

Unfortunately what we have here in the early church and what we have today are not what I would argue are primary functions of the church. They are peripheral and they cause harm.

And I think ultimately this is a case of distraction. As members, we are often told to make choices between good and better. And I think that this is a situation where the church could take its own advice. On the surface disciplinary councils and anti-adultery advisements seem to be good and helpful, but in practice they often cause pain and heartache.

I wonder what it might be like to see the church's attitude towards its members, mature from management to trust. Trust that with the right support, reliable resources, and healthy teachings around sex and relationships, members will thrive in marriage. Trust that members truly can govern themselves. And the church return to teaching and sharing the gospel of the love of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Church for me is not a place I want to go to, to be taught what my body can and cannot do. That is something I can learn for myself. Church is not where I want to experience shame around my body and sensuality. That is also, unfortunately, something I'm perfectly capable of doing on my own. I want church to be a place where I can experience the love of God within community. And that is something that's impossible to do alone. I want church to be a place to hold space for others and hold hands when tears are shed and support and care for others in ways that I cannot do for myself.

I think that this is the promise and the potential of the section, and it's so disappointing and so unfortunate that the early church tripped on their own limited cultural opinions at the finish line and we haven't yet moved forward from that.

And that's the heartbreaking part of reading this section is we almost see it happen in real time, right? And I am looking back 200 years in the future on this section of the texts and saying like, Oh, we almost had it. Or, Oh, maybe this like turned into something that was meant to be good, but didn't quite turn out the way that we wanted it to, and I wish that it had been different.

And so I left the section feeling, um, disappointed, frustrated, and knowing that it could have been different and wishing that it had been.

So just a lot of complex thoughts and feelings toward the section, which I'm grateful for. It requires me to wrestle and sit with. A question that Elise asked me earlier was, do I think that there's anything helpful or healing about the church trying to help its members that are suffering with infidelity?

And I'm really grateful for that perspective too, because I do think again, it's right there in the text, there's a potential there for support. There's a potential for love and care that we just haven't got to yet. And I want to know, like, is there a way that we can get there Elise? Do you think that there's anything that we could do?

Elise: Yeah. Before the episode started, we had kind of thrown around some ideas and you so keenly pointed out that it would really have to start… It's such a multi-layered issue that it does have to start at kind of like our basic fundamental teachings about our understandings of sex, sexuality, like sexual attraction, how we experience pleasure in our bodies.

And then from there, we would need to move forward and then think about how we prepare people to be in long-term relationships. Are they adequately prepared to live with one another? How do we transition from our teenage and older adult years not having sex under the church framework to now being in a committed relationship where sex seems to be not only open and available, but almost  a requirement?

And then from there, we would also need to think about how can we train our leadership and our clergy in ways that are helpful. Like, can we have Jennifer Finlayson Fife be one of our sex therapist leaders that can help coach and support and lead people through these complex times of being in committed relationships where sex is involved and how can we build healthy sexuality in these relationships?

Like. Those, those were just a few things that you and I had touched on before the episode.

Channing: Yeah. And one of the other thoughts that I had too, as I was listening to you was I had seen, I wish I could remember who I saw write about this on Instagram, but a question posed where if men had to confess their sexual sins to a woman, how different would that experience be? Would it make people think twice about what they do outside of the Bishop's office? Right. And so I, I think that there's so many things that we can do and such a larger potential for caring for our communities in ways that we haven't even dared explore yet. This is just such a fascinating conversation and I'm really grateful to the text for providing us the opportunity to talk about this.

Elise: Me too. And before we move totally away from these commandments, I did want to focus on a few that really stuck out to me, especially after the week that has happened.

This week we saw Derek Chauvin on trial for the murder of George Floyd. Then we saw Daunte Wright killed by police officers. And then we saw a 13 year old Adam Toledo killed by police officers. And with that being not just the undercurrent for this week, but the continual state that we are living in, these commandments really stuck out to me.

In section 42, verses 18-19, “Thou shall not kill.”How can this be a continuous commandment but we continue to see the murder of Black, Brown, and Asian folks?

What about the commandment, “thou shalt not lie?”In what ways are we lying to ourselves about our own white privilege, our own implications in this violence, and our silence in the system? What about the commandment “thou shall not speak evil of thy neighbor nor do them any harm?”

And finally, section 42:29, “If thou lovest me, thou shall serve me and keep all of my commandments.”And I think here, I don't think it's too big of a jump to say, if we love God, we will fight against white supremacy and systems of violence and oppression.

Keeping the commandments means standing up with and for and in solidarity with Black, Brown and Asian folks.

And in section 43, verses 24 and 25. In this context, I think we can hear God's frustration come out in these verses. They say, “How often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathering her chickens under her wings, but you would not. How often have I called upon when you buy the mouse of my servants by the ministering of angels, by my own voice, by the voice of thundering, and by the voice of lightenings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of the trump, and by the great voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor, and the riches of eternal life and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but you would not.”

I think what I hear in these verses is a God pleading, pleading for the end of murder against Black, Brown, and Asian folks.

A God that says, why aren't you listening? I've called you time and time and time again. I have been kind. I have been merciful. I have been just. I have sent hailstorms. There've been protests. What aren't you getting? And if we could keep these commandments to not kill, not lie, not speak evil or do any harm to our neighbor, God promises that God would have saved us with an everlasting salvation, but it's by our own choices and our own actions or lack thereof that we are turning away from these commandments.

And it often sounds like we're doing so willfully.

Channing: Elise, I think this is an excellent way where we can take these chapters and do an internalized reading. I think we've talked about this in other episodes where we come across verses in sections like this, where it's very condemning where the Lord's voice is very, um, frustrated and angry and we tend to point it outwards and say, “okay Other People, World: look at what you're doing. You're so bad. God is so mad at you.”Instead of taking these verses within ourselves and saying, in what ways am I lying? In what ways am I speaking evil? And what ways am I killing because I refuse to see and because I refuse to hear?

It's absolutely appropriate and absolutely necessary to take these verses, look at them, sit with them, internalize them, and then act on the call to action that these verses provide. We'll talk about this in just a minute, the law of consecration and caring for the poor and caring for the needy. And I think that standing in solidarity with Black, Brown, and Asian folks is necessary. And I agree with what you said. Absolutely sanctioned and called of God in these verses. So thank you for bringing that up.

Elise: Thank you so much for that. And it really does lead us smoothly into talking about the law of consecration, which is another big theme throughout these sections, especially in section 42.

And to just give a bit of context from the Revelations In Context book, it says that Joseph Smith quote “found the saints in Ohio to be sincere, but confused about biblical teachings that the early Christians were of one heart and of one soul. Neither said any of them, that all of the things, which he possessed was his own. But they had all things in common.”

Now the recent converts in Ohio were members of what was called ‘The Family’ at the time, which was this communal group that shared the home and the farm of Lucy and Isaac Morley in an effort to be true Christians. And when Joseph and the other saints show up in Ohio, Joseph Smith's critique of these Ohio saints was that their practices undermined personal agency, stewardship and accountability, though they were striving to do the will of God so far as they knew it.

They're sincere in their efforts, but Joseph Smith thinks that they are confused in their actual practice. So Joseph shows up and he's like, we need to do something about this. And what comes from these questions from Joseph to God is the law of consecration, which was taught to the saints to make their property sacred by using it for the Lord's work, including purchasing land on which to build new Jerusalem and crowning it with a temple.

And from what I understand, the Ohio saints were already living on this one shared property, but Joseph Smith shows up, has this revelation and says, actually, you're doing it wrong. You need to give all your property to God because it's already God, but you have to give it to God through the church structure, a little fishy, but this was the commandment: you give all of your land to God through the church, and then because you have given it all, you will then receive a portion back based on the needs of you and your family.

Channing: Some other information that I came across regarding this portion of the text is that legally, property donated to the church is sanctioned and protected in a way that communally shared property is not. That might have been one reason why they decided to centralize that all in the church institution itself; to maybe offer some protection for the church.

And I do sense a little bit of anxiety too, in the section about like the church protecting itself from what they considered to be the enemy, which was like, you know, the mobs and the the world in general, and people who are very anti-LDS. And so that might be one reason why, even though to us today it sounds a little fishy because we know that the church has $700 billion in their bank account. But back then I think again, probably same as the adultery church disciplinary council stuff, it was probably done with the best of intentions.

Elise: Right, right. Yeah. That's a good point. I did not find that. So thank you for sharing that. I retract my fishiness comment. Clearly I don't fully understand what was going on, but here's my best attempt to make it happen, to make some sense out of it.

From a few more of the articles that I was reading about the law of consecration, there was this recurring theme that the law of consecration was a much about receiving as it was about giving. The Lord promised each faithful Saint that they would receive everything that they needed or all of that was sufficient to their family and their needs.

And there's this continual clarification, kind of like what you're saying, Channing, that the law of consecration did not envision communal ownership of property. And it really emphasized like agency and individual ownership and management of that property.

 I also came across this passage by president George Q. Cannon about the law of consecration in which he taught, “The time must come when we must obey that which has been revealed to us as the order of Enoch, when there shall be no rich and no poor among the Latter Day Saints, when wealth will not be a temptation, when everyone will love their neighbor as they do themselves, when every man and woman will labor for the good of all as much as for the self.

That day must come and we must as well prepare our hearts for it. For as wealth increases, I see more and more a necessity for the institution of such an order as wealth increases, luxury and extravagance have more power over us. The necessity for such an order is very great. And God undoubtedly in their own time and way will inspire their servant, the prophet, to introduce it among the people.”

I appreciate this passage because I think it really highlights both the importance of the law of consecration and some of the principles that we can pull out about the law of consecration. From this passage and from the other readings that I've done in preparation for this section, here are some things that I noticed that I would consider to be principles of consecration.

First, everything we have belongs to God. And then we are the stewards who are accountable to God for these things, for our resources, for our actions, for our labor, all of this comes from and is because of God. And we are really the stewards over this life experience we have.

The second principle is that consecration is an effort to eliminate inequalities among people. In 42:11 we read, “Purge out the iniquity which is among you. Sanctify yourselves before me.”

And so we want there to be no poor and no rich. We want to try and strip away those inequalities to make sure that everyone's needs not only are met, but that everyone has the opportunity and the access to build a life where they can flourish.

Another principle: everyone's needs are accounted and cared for, but particularly the poor and the marginalized are at the forefront. This comes from section 42:31, “And as much as you impart of your substance unto the poor, you will do it unto me.”

I also think that there's a focus on equity, not equality here, right? Equality treats everyone the exact same, where equity responds to their differences and needs and gifts, and then takes actions and makes decisions accordingly. We talked a bit earlier about the law of consecration being both about giving and receiving.

And then finally, this last principle that I identified comes from an essay titled “All Things Are the Lord’s” by Stephen C. Harper. He writes, “Consecration is keeping the two great commandments where the key words are ‘love’ and ‘all.’ They shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.

And the thing that stands out to me here is there's this kind of idealistic striving, where we would love all, all people and God. And so it would be this kind of voluntary thing that we do to enter into this covenant of consecration as if we should strive to want to live this way, because we love God and because we love our neighbors as ourselves.

And I think this is more than just empathizing with the poor and the marginalized. I think it's multiple steps past that. It's really seeing God reflected back to us through them and then treating them accordingly. I think the law of consecration is about moving from sorrow at the plight of the world to action, because we ideally again, would do everything in our power to care for others.

That there will be this kind of voluntary desire to want to reject my own riches or luxury and really share that so that everyone can have some good, so that we can all have some good instead of having the majority of the goodness. And yes, of course this is absolutely a temporal economic work.

The law of consecration is about economics. Just a few statistics from inequality.org, which talks about wealth, wealth inequality, and wealth distribution in the United States. “The U.S. shows wider disparities of wealth between rich and poor than any other major developed nation.” That means that there's a larger gap between the rich and the poor in the United States.

And I think the final kind of statistic I would want to share from that website is that the average white family has 41 times more wealth than the average black family, and 22 times more wealth than the average Latino family. So the law of consecration is absolutely temporal economics like work here, no doubt about it.

Channing: I love that you pointed this out and you brought this up because I think that there's a temptation to think that the law of consecration is something that will follow like in the millennium and like after the second coming and sometime in the future and to know that it's needed here and now.

And the early saints, even here in the texts, were trying to live it in the here and now and not necessarily later in the unforeseeable future, I think is relevant and calls us to examine our own lives and say, what can I do to live the law of consecration in my life right now?

What structural institutional and personal changes need to be made so that we can begin instituting what the early church and ultimately what I think the teachings of Jesus Christ ask us to do care for our neighbors: love them with all of our heart, all of our might all of our strength, and love them as ourselves?

I just love that you brought it to today and not ‘sometime soon.’ It's today in the pandemic, for the average family, it's all of our responsibilities. It's a shared weight and it's an immediate need. Right?

Elise: Absolutely. And alongside it being like temporal economic work, it's also hard work, like you're kind of hitting on.

It's about changing the way we see treat and interact with others, our resources, and our land. I think the law of consecration is a kind of like a moving away from meritocracy and this bootstrap ideology and recognizing that all people, especially the poor and the needy have a right to shelter, food, education, and medical care.

It's remembering that in order for the law of consecration to exist in the first place, there must be a realization that all things are from God. And that includes us too, which makes us divine and inherently worthy of a life. Not just where like our basic needs are met, although this is absolutely a great place to start. This is called ‘minimum utopia,’ where everyone's basic needs are met. No one goes without food or shelter. But I think the law of consecration is also more than that. It's basic needs plus. Everyone having their basic needs met and more to share, it's essentially…

Channing: a community of abundance then.

Elise: Ooh, I like that.

You know, it's moving from the scarcity mindset of, “Well, there's a limited amount and so I need to get mine. And if you don't get yours as well, shame on you.” to a community of, “Not only do we have enough, but we have more than enough that we can share and we all can do it.”

I think Audre Lorde offers some wisdom on this. From that same essay that I quoted earlier, she says “The principle horror of any system which defines the good in terms of profit rather than in the terms of human need, or which defines human need to the exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need, it's that it robs our work of it's erotic value, its power and life, and fulfillment. Such a system reduces work to a travesty of necessities, a duty by which we earn bread or oblivion for ourselves and those we love.”

And I think what she's saying there is that a minimum utopia like we're talking about is good, but it's not everything. And even then, it only talks about those very immediate foundational needs, but that's even still not a life fulfilled. A life fulfilled includes, like we talked about last week, freedom. Beauty. Milk. Honey. Sweetness. Pleasure. Rest. That's what she would define as the erotic.

And that is a life of abundance. That is a life lived to fulfillment. We learned in the Book of Mormon, “Woman is that she might have joy,” not just a bare minimum existence. It's fulfillment, happiness, peace, pleasure. All of those things are encompassed. And I think that's ultimately what the law of consecration is about.

It's about abundance. It's about a community, a communal abundance that we all share. Not just with our like human family, but with the earth, with our spirits and with God, it's such a beautiful potential. And I'm so excited about it. It makes me tingley and wants to be there already. You know what I mean?

Yeah.

Elise: Well, yeah, it just, like you're saying, I didn't even think of the word abundance and now I just think that's absolutely so good. But I think consecration is this daring and wildly loving vision for a better world. And isn't that what heaven is all about? It reminds me of 42:45, “thou shalt live together in love.”

And living together in love is not just an idea or an ideal. It comes with concrete, actionable items where we strive and work and labor alongside one another to make sure that not only are all of our needs met, but that we can share in abundance so that we can have joy, like you're saying. So I hope that with this discussion, you can start to see that the law of consecration is both a temporal and a spiritual law.

Like we've talked about in previous episodes, it's a vision possible reality if we can pull it off together.

Elise: So thank you for joining us on this episode. All about a really fantastic conversation about discipline, like the church's role in disciplinary items, adultery, talking a bit about how we can abide and listen to the call and commandments that God gives us, and that includes consecration.

Channing: Friends, we've loved sharing this time and this episode with you. Please, please, please reach out and listen to other podcasters and hear their perspectives on this section, because there's so much to talk about and so much to cover that we couldn't possibly get to all of it today, but we're honored to be able to have shared what we did with you. We hope that it nourishes you and encourages you to do your own deep dive into this week’s sections. We love you so much. And can't wait to talk to you again next week. Bye.

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