In April 1834 Zion’s Camp prepared to travel from Kirtland to Independence to redeem Zion and reestablish the Saints on their lands there. At that time the Church was in great financial distress. Brethren had been sent out by the Prophet to collect funds to relieve the burden on Kirtland and Zion. (A strong appeal to Orson Hyde, who was in New York, is given under the date of 7 April 1834 in History of the Church, 2:48.)
In accordance with a revelation given in March 1832, all the Latter-day Saint communities in Ohio and Missouri were trying to implement the united order under one administrative head (see D&C 78:3; Barrett, Joseph Smith, p. 198). The economic problems in Kirtland, however, made it advisable to dissolve the united order there. Accordingly, on 10 April a council of the united order was held “in which it was agreed that the Order [in Kirtland] should be dissolved, and each one have his stewardship set off to him” (History of the Church, 2:49).
On 23 April 1834 the Prophet Joseph Smith received Doctrine and Covenants 104, which has as its central theme the Lord’s instructions concerning the temporal welfare of Zion and the order of the Church for the benefit of the poor: “Assembled in Council with Elders Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, Newel K. Whitney, John Johnson, and Oliver Cowdery; and united in asking the Lord to give Elder Zebedee Coltrin influence over Brother Jacob Myres, to obtain the money which he has gone to borrow for us, or cause him to come to this place and bring it himself. I also received the following: [D&C 104].” (History of the Church, 2:54.)
The Lord explained that the united order was established for the benefit of the Church and the “salvation of men” until the Second Coming of Christ (D&C 104:1). All who entered into the order did so with a “promise immutable and unchangeable” (v. 2). To enter the united order required that an individual enter into a solemn covenant to accept the law of consecration, the principles of which are discussed in Enrichment L in the Appendix. The law of consecration is the law of the celestial kingdom, and those who entered into the order were bound by a covenant, obedience to which would bring eternal exaltation and neglect of which would bring severe judgments. The Lord described the serious consequences of breaking this law in Doctrine and Covenants 78:11–12; 82:21; 101:3–10.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote that “to be turned over to the buffetings of Satan is to be given into his hands; it is to be turned over to him with all the protective power of the priesthood, of righteousness, and of godliness removed, so that Lucifer is free to torment, persecute, and afflict such a person without let or hindrance. When the bars are down, the cuffs and curses of Satan, both in this world and in the world to come, bring indescribable anguish typified by burning fire and brimstone. The damned in hell so suffer.
“Those who broke their covenants in connection with the United Order in the early days of this dispensation were to ‘be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption.’ (D. & C. 78:12; 82:20–21; 104:9–10.) A similar fate (plus destruction in the flesh) is decreed against those who have been sealed up unto eternal life so that their callings and elections have been made sure and who thereafter turn to grievous sin. (D. & C. 131:5, 132:19–26.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 108.)
As creator of all things, the Lord has given us stewardship over the earth. Though we may buy and rent from each other, ultimately all things belong to the Lord. Elder Spencer W. Kimball gave the following account of a discussion with a friend about property:
“He drove to a grassy knoll. The sun was retiring behind the distant hills. He surveyed his vast domain. Pointing to the north, he asked, ‘Do you see that clump of trees yonder?’ I could plainly discern them in the fading day.
“He pointed to the east. ‘Do you see the lake shimmering in the sunset?’ It too was visible.
“‘Now, the bluff that’s on the south.’ We turned about to scan the distance. He identified barns, silos, the ranch house to the west. With a wide sweeping gesture, he boasted, ‘From the clump of trees, to the lake, to the bluff, and to the ranch buildings and all between—all this is mine.’ …
“And then I asked from whom he obtained it. The chain of title of his abstract went back to land grants from governments. His attorney had assured him he had an unencumbered title.
“‘From whom did the government get it?’ I asked. ‘What was paid for it?’
“There came into my mind the bold statement of Paul: ‘For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.’ [1 Cor. 10:26.] …
“And then I asked, ‘Did title come from God, Creator of the earth and the owner thereof? Did he get paid? Was it sold or leased or given to you? If gift, from whom? If sale, with what exchange or currency? If lease, do you make proper accounting?’
“And then I asked, ‘What was the price? With what treasures did you buy this farm?’
“‘Where did you get the money?’
“‘My toil, my sweat, my labor, and my strength.’
“And then I asked, ‘Where did you get your strength to toil, your power to labor, your glands to sweat?’
“He spoke of food.
“‘Where did the food originate?’
“‘From sun and atmosphere and soil and water.’
“‘And who brought those elements here?’
“I quoted the psalmist: ‘Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary.’ (Ps. 68:9.)
“‘If the land is not yours, then what accounting do you make to your landlord for his bounties?’ …
“I said again: ‘I seem to find no place in holy writ where God has said, “I give you title to this land unconditionally. It is now yours to give, to have, to hold, to sell, despoil, exploit as you see fit.”
“‘I cannot find such scripture, but I do find this from Psalms: “… those that wait upon the Lord, … shall inherit the earth.”’ (Ps. 37:9.)
“‘And I remember that our Creator covenanted in the council in heaven with us all: “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell.” (Abr. 3:24.)
“‘It seems more of a lease on which a rental is exacted than of a fee simple title.’” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1968, pp. 73–74.)
President J. Reuben Clark Jr. stated: “The basic principle of all the revelations on the United Order is that everything we have belongs to the Lord; therefore, the Lord may call upon us for any and all of the property which we have, because it belongs to him. This, I repeat, is the basic principle. (D. & C. 104:14–17, 54–57.)” (Church News, 1 Sept. 1945, p. 4.)
President Spencer W. Kimball explained:
“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 D&C 104:11–15.) A faithful steward is one who exercises righteous dominion, cares for his own, and looks to the poor and needy. (See D&C 104:15–18.)
“These principles govern welfare services activities. May we all learn, obey, and teach these principles. Leaders, teach them to your members; fathers, teach them to your families. Only as we apply these truths can we approach the ideal of Zion.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, pp. 124–25; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 78).
President Marion G. Romney taught: “The Lord claims the earth as his, that it is not yours and mine to own and manage independently of him. No matter how many stocks and bonds or how much land and other properties we possess, they are not wholly ours. They are the Lord’s. He further says that he owns and gives to us all the blessings we have and that he makes us stewards over them, responsible to him. He makes it clear that it is his purpose to provide for his Saints, but he requires that it be done in his way, which way, he explains, is for those who have to contribute to those who have not. Having made us stewards, he gives us our agency, however, and then lays down the condition that if we accept these blessings and refuse to contribute our share for the care of the poor, we shall go to—well, he tells us where we shall go.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1979, p. 136; or Ensign, May 1979, pp. 95–96.)
President Harold B. Lee explained how “the poor shall be exalted” and “the rich … made low” (D&C 104:16): “When I tell you that the poor shall be exalted, the definition we followed is, ‘to be lifted up to pride and joy to success.’ That is the definition we followed, and the rich being made low isn’t communistic, it isn’t socialistic. It means that those who have leadership, who have skills, who have means, that are willing to contribute, we put that strong man to work with the one who is in need, and we go to work on their problems.” (Church News, 8 July 1961, p. 15.)
President Ezra Taft Benson explained:
“The precepts of men would have you believe that by limiting the population of the world, we can have peace and plenty. That is the doctrine of the devil. Small numbers do not insure peace; only righteousness does. After all, there were only a handful of men on the earth when Cain interrupted the peace of Adam’s household by slaying Abel. On the other hand, the whole city of Enoch was peaceful; and it was taken into heaven because it was made up of righteous people.
“And so far as limiting the population in order to provide plenty is concerned, the Lord answered that falsehood in the Doctrine and Covenants when he said:
“‘For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.’ (D&C 104:17.)
“A major reason why there is famine in some parts of the world is because evil men have used the vehicle of government to abridge the freedom that men need to produce abundantly.
“True to form, many of the people who desire to frustrate God’s purposes of giving mortal tabernacles to his spirit children through worldwide birth control are the very same people who support the kinds of government that perpetuate famine. They advocate an evil to cure the results of the wickedness they support.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1969, p. 12.)
Smith and Sjodahl wrote: “Specific directions are here given for stewardships. Sidney Rigdon is given charge of the tannery (v. 20). He had, at one time, been engaged in the very useful business of a tanner and was competent in this stewardship. Martin Harris, who was a successful farmer, is given charge of a piece of land (v. 24). He was also to manage a publication business, under the direction of the Prophet (v. 26). Oliver Cowdery and Frederick G. Williams are given charge of the printing office (v. 30). John Johnson is to be a real estate agent (v. 36). Newel K. Whitney is assigned to the mercantile establishment (v. 39). Joseph Smith is given charge of the Temple lot (v. 43). He is also to take care of his father (v. 45), for the Lord recognizes the duty of children to provide for their parents, as well as the duty of parents to care for their children.” (Commentary, p. 673.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that the “distance was too great between [Kirtland and Jackson County] for unity of purpose in all things. Each order was to be organized in the names of the brethren residing in each place, and to do business in their own names. This separation and dissolving of the former order came about also because of transgression and covetousness on the part of some. They were to understand that all the properties were the Lord’s, otherwise their faith was vain, and therefore they were stewards before the Lord. All of this was to be done for the purpose of building up the Church and Kingdom of God on the earth, and to prepare the people for the time when the Lord should come to dwell upon the earth.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:489–90.)
The Lord commanded the members of the united order to publish His revelations and then specified why. The revelations are given “for the purpose of building up my church and kingdom on the earth, and to prepare my people for the time when I shall dwell with them” (D&C 104:59). President Joseph F. Smith, after speaking of the Bible and the Book of Mormon and how they bear witness of Jesus as the Christ, added: “But is this all? No. We have here another book, the ‘Doctrine and Covenants,’ which contains revelations from God through the Prophet Joseph Smith, who lived contemporary with ourselves. They are Christ’s words, declaring that he was the same that came to the Jews, that was lifted up on the cross, was laid in the tomb, burst the bands of death and came forth out of the grave. … Here, then is another testimony of this divine truth; hence we have three witnesses.” (In Journal of Discourses, 19:262.)
President J. Reuben Clark Jr. said:
“The Lord created two other institutions besides the storehouse: one was known as the Sacred Treasury, into which was put ‘the avails of the sacred things in the treasury, for sacred and holy purposes. While it is not clear, it would seem that into this treasury were to be put the surpluses which were derived from the publication of the revelations, the Book of Mormon, … and other similar things, the stewardship of which had been given to Joseph and others. (D. & C. 104:60–66)
“The Lord also provided for the creation of ‘Another Treasury,’ and into that other treasury went the general revenues which came to the Church, such as gifts of money and those revenues derived from the improvement of stewardships as distinguished from the residues of the original consecrations and the surpluses which came from the operation of their stewardships. (D. & C. 72:11ff)
“We have in place of the two treasuries, the ‘Sacred Treasury’ and ‘Another Treasury,’ the general funds of the Church.
“Thus you will see, brethren, that in many of its great essentials, we have, as the Welfare Plan has now developed, the broad essentials of the United Order.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1942, pp. 56–58.)
Money from the treasury was to be spent only with the common consent of the members of the order. There was to be no unrighteous dominion in the work of the Lord. If the Lord’s properties were managed properly, it was probable that the treasury would eventually have a large amount of money in it. Such funds, used for righteous purposes, could truly bless all members of the order.
“[This fund would be] equal to the most extreme emergencies,” explained President Lorenzo Snow. “Then when any misfortune befalls man, such as the burning of his property, or failure or trouble in his department of business, he could go to the treasurer and say, ‘I have need of a certain amount to assist me in my stewardship. Have I not managed the affairs of my stewardship in a wise manner? Can you not have confidence in me? Have I ever misused the means put into my hands? Has it not been wisely controlled? If so, give me means to help me in my stewardship, or to build up this industry that is needed for the general interests of the whole.’ Well, it is to be given to him. There is confidence reposed in him because of his past conduct, and the course which he has pursued. He has due right in exercising his talents according to the light of the spirit that is within him. He understands fully the circumstances in which he is placed, and governs himself according to the obligations that rest upon him. He is found to be a wise, economical manager; and he is assisted in his stewardship to the extent of the means that he should have.” (In Journal of Discourses, 20:370–71.)
Very often when individuals face a great challenge in life, they attempt to work it out through their own efforts. Such self-reliance is commendable, but there is another principle that may apply, and that is reliance on the Lord. Alma the Elder is a case in point. The angel said to Alma the Younger, when he appeared to him and the four sons of Mosiah, that he had been sent because “the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father” (Mosiah 27:14).
Alma the Elder, realizing that he had a serious problem with his rebellious son, exercised great faith and prayed with great diligence. He called on the power of God for help. The added power from God made the difference.
In Doctrine and Covenants 104:78–80, the Lord teaches the same principle. Though the debts must have seemed almost insurmountable to them, the leaders were commanded to “obtain this blessing by your diligence and humility and the prayer of faith” (v. 79). If they would do that, the Lord would keep His promise to “soften the hearts” of those to whom they were in debt (v. 80).
President N. Eldon Tanner said: “For most of us there are two kinds of financial debt—consumer debt and investment or business debt. Consumer debt refers to buying on credit those things we use or consume in daily living. Examples would include installment buying of clothes, appliances, furniture, etc. Consumer debt is secured by mortgaging our future earnings. This can be very dangerous. If we are laid off work, disabled, or encounter serious emergencies, we have difficulties meeting our obligations. Installment buying is the most expensive way to purchase. To the cost of the goods we buy must be added heavy interest and handling charges.
“I realize that young families find it necessary at times to purchase on credit. But we caution you not to buy more than is truly necessary and to pay off your debts as quickly as possible. When money is tight, avoid the extra burden of additional interest charges.
“Investment debt should be fully secured so as not to encumber a family’s security. Don’t invest in speculative ventures. The spirit of speculation can become intoxicating. Many fortunes have been wiped out by the uncontrolled appetite to accumulate more and more. Let us learn from the sorrows of the past and avoid enslaving our time, energy, and general health to a gluttonous appetite to acquire increased material goods.
“President Kimball has given this thought-provoking counsel:
“‘The Lord has blessed us as a people with a prosperity unequaled in times past. The resources that have been placed in our power are good, and necessary to our work here on the earth. But I am afraid that many of us have been surfeited with flocks and herds and acres and barns and wealth and have begun to worship them as false gods, and they have power over us. Do we have more of these good things than our faith can stand? Many people spend most of their time working in the service of a self-image that includes sufficient money, stocks, bonds, investment portfolios, property, credit cards, furnishings, automobiles, and the like to guarantee carnal security throughout, it is hoped, a long and happy life. Forgotten is the fact that our assignment is to use these many resources in our families and quorums to build up the kingdom of God’ (Ensign, June 1976, p. 4).
“By way of testimony, may I add this to President Kimball’s statement. I know of no situation where happiness and peace of mind have increased with the amassing of property beyond the reasonable wants and needs of the family.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1979, p. 120; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, pp. 81–82.)
Elder Franklin D. Richards taught:
“In getting out of debt and staying out of debt, there are certain basic principles that we, as individuals and families, can apply, such as:
Live within your income.
Prepare and use short- and long-term budgets.
Regularly save a part of your income.
Use your credit wisely, if it is necessary to use it at all. For example, a reasonable debt may be justified for the acquisition of a home or education.
Preserve and utilize your assets through appropriate tax and estate planning.
“I know that by following these simple, basic principles it is possible to get out of debt and stay out of debt.
“What will this mean to us as individuals and families?
“President Heber J. Grant said, ‘If there is any one thing that will bring peace and contentment into the human heart, and into the family, it is to live within our means, and if there is any one thing that is grinding, and discouraging and disheartening it is to have debts and obligations that one cannot meet’ (Relief Society Magazine, May 1932, p. 302).” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1979, p. 56; or Ensign, May 1979, p. 39.)