“Personal Consecration,” Liahona, Sept. 2005, 16
A story has been told about a chicken and a pig who found themselves discussing their contributions to the farmer’s breakfast table. The hen bemoaned having to donate her eggs for the breakfast. The pig replied, “Yes, but for you, it’s just a small sacrifice. For me, it’s a total commitment!”
This anecdote contains obvious lessons for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We might ask ourselves whether we are the kind of people who feel that giving an occasional egg or two toward the building of the kingdom is sufficient or whether we want to be categorized among those who consecrate their all in this endeavor.
We can assume that true conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ will have outward manifestations in the actions of members of the Church. That is to say, those who have received a spiritual witness resulting in a strong testimony normally desire to live gospel principles to the fullest. They will be found doing whatever is necessary to magnify their callings, pay a full tithe and generous fast offering, keep the Sabbath day holy, hold family home evening, study the scriptures, and so on. All of these worthy acts, along with almost countless others, constitute personal efforts by those who are consecrated members of the Church.
Disciplining our spirits in this way prepares us for celestial living. The Lord tells us in Doctrine and Covenants 88:22, “He who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.” Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh Nibley said, “The main purpose of the Doctrine and Covenants, you will find, is to implement the law of consecration.” He further taught, “This law, the consummation of the laws of obedience and sacrifice, is the threshold of the celestial kingdom, the last and hardest requirement made of men [and women] in this life.”1
When we discuss the subject of consecration, the first thing that often comes to mind is the consecration of our temporal means. What is currently required in this regard is to pay our tithes and offerings as a preparatory step in learning to return to the Father a portion of what He has given us. But the law of consecration goes beyond the mere payment of tithes and offerings or the consecration of monies and properties to the Lord. “The law of consecration,” said Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “is that we consecrate our time, our talents, and our money and property to the cause of the Church; such are to be available to the extent they are needed to further the Lord’s interests on earth.”2
In the 1820s, consecrate was defined as “to make or declare to be sacred, by certain ceremonies or rites; to appropriate to sacred uses; to set apart, dedicate, or devote, to the service and worship of God.”3 Members of the Church today, in living the law of consecration, are expected “to appropriate [themselves] to sacred uses.” Doing so requires them to dedicate their time, talents, and possessions to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its purposes. Perhaps we may never be asked to give all, but our willingness to put everything on the altar is a sign between us and God that we submit to His will in all things.
When we served in the Church in South America—first as mission president and companion in the Argentina Buenos Aires South Mission and then when Elder Oveson served in the Area Presidency in Chile—we observed many acts that we consider to be examples of consecrated service to our Heavenly Father and His children. We will share a few of these experiences.
Early in our 1996 to 1999 mission experience, we learned of a group of Cambodian immigrants who lived in Longchamps, near Buenos Aires, Argentina. One family was being taught the discussions. When it came time for the missionaries to introduce the law of the fast, they explained it in words similar to the following: “Fasting is a 24-hour period in which we do not eat or drink anything, putting our bodies in submission to our spirits. We use the time to read the scriptures, pray, and engage in other uplifting activities, culminating in attending fast and testimony meeting, where we then give to the bishop of our ward the monetary equivalent of the food from which we have abstained in order that he may distribute it among the poor and needy.”
After this explanation the missionaries suggested that because the following Sunday was the first Sunday of the month, the family might like to try fasting. The father agreed and the missionaries left the home.
The following Monday evening, the elders returned to give another discussion, at which time they asked for a report on the family’s experience with fasting. The father rather apologetically explained that they had tried and would surely try again. He said, “We began our fast in the afternoon with a prayer, followed by scripture reading and a discussion. We continued in this way until early the following morning. I regret to say that some of the younger children fell asleep during the night. We were very tired but showered in the morning and prepared to go to church, where our spirits were revived and filled with the beautiful testimonies that were given. Perhaps next time we’ll do better, and the children will be able to stay awake with us all night.”
The missionaries were astounded. “You mean you didn’t go to sleep during the whole 24-hour period?”
“No,” replied the father. “You didn’t mention sleeping.”
As you might imagine, the members of this wonderful, humble family were soon baptized members of the Church. They brought several other families to hear the missionaries, and other conversions resulted. Whenever we think of this incident, it reminds us of how much there is to learn about consecration from people who humbly seek to be obedient.
We also learned a beautiful lesson about consecration from one of the assistants to the president in our mission. A decision had been made that one of our missionaries needed to be sent home early from his mission. He had been disobedient on several occasions despite counseling, contracts, and repeated warnings. The airplane ticket had been purchased, and the appropriate approvals were obtained from the South America South Area Presidency and the Missionary Department to send this missionary home.
When the assistants brought the missionary in for his final interview, he protested loudly and tearfully that he did not want to go home. He promised to improve and said he would sign yet another contract. In desperation, President Oveson called the two assistants and Sister Oveson into his office and asked the elder to wait outside while the possible courses of action were discussed. Sister Oveson, somewhat out of patience with the situation, believed that sending him home was the only reasonable thing to do. “If he is allowed to stay,” she maintained, “the other missionaries might think that obedience is not important.”
One of the assistants said, “I have to agree with Hermana Oveson. I don’t think we really have a choice.”
When President Oveson asked the other assistant for his opinion, the assistant said, “I see much good in this elder. President, if you will let me go back out into the field, I will take him for my companion for the rest of my mission. I will take responsibility for him and help him to become a loving and obedient missionary.”
We all had tears in our eyes by the time this elder finished his remarks. We could not believe that anyone could be so loving and caring, especially a 20-year-old missionary. The decision was made to do as he requested. He found it exceedingly difficult at first, but slowly his junior companion learned a great deal from him and became a trustworthy missionary. When the senior companion went home, his companion stayed to finish his mission, becoming in time a senior companion and a trainer before he was honorably released. The follow-up to this true experience is that this once-wayward elder has since married and been sealed in the temple. He and his wife now have a son. They are active in the Church and are helping to build the kingdom. What a difference a consecrated, Christlike person made in the life of this missionary and his future family!
There are countless examples of consecration in the lives of missionary couples. Many of them serve in temples or as area welfare agents, area medical advisers, executive secretaries to Area Presidencies, or family history missionaries. Couple missionaries, in whatever capacity, are as precious as gold.
We had the great blessing of having several couple missionaries serve with us in the Argentina Buenos Aires South Mission. A typical example is one couple who activated members, taught music, helped repair homes, and gave many hours of devoted service. Their example reflects the potential value of couple missionaries who understand the law of consecration and the need to appropriate our lives to sacred purposes.
We have met many other consecrated Church members who exemplify dedication and faithfulness. Some time ago a group of Saints from Punta Arenas, Chile, went to the Santiago Chile Temple. This trip requires some 80 hours by bus and often uses up the only vacation time people have during the year. One member of the group was a woman named Hermana Álvarez, who is less than four feet (1.2 m) tall and has difficulty walking. She carried with her some 27 family names for whom she wanted to do the vicarious work. What a thrill it was to be able to help her fulfill her worthy dream and to realize the extent to which so many Saints dedicate themselves to living and defending the principles of the gospel as a reflection of the law of consecration.
For some, proving themselves truly dedicated to the Lord’s work might be demonstrated in their unfailing faithfulness in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversities. As the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “God hath said that He would have a tried people, that He would purge them as gold.”4 We have known amazing parents who have remained steadfast as they learned of the death of their missionary son or daughter. We think of those who draw ever closer to the Lord as they are faced with the loss of a spouse to death or divorce or those who must deal with unemployment or the heartbreak of a wayward child. Others may find that caring for aging parents or less-able children is the path they currently follow to give consecrated service. Certainly, there are times and seasons in our lives that permit us more or less personal time to donate to this lifelong quest. There are multitudes of ways in which we may appropriate ourselves to sacred uses.
Whenever scriptural reference is made to those who, as a society, have learned to live the law of consecration to the fullest, we read about a pure and peaceful people, devoid of strife and contention—a Zion people. The people of Enoch became such a people. We read in Moses 7:18, “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.”
Our consecration will not happen with one single act. In this endeavor, those who willingly accept calls to be nursery leaders, Cub Scout den mothers, early-morning seminary teachers, Scoutmasters, or other time-consuming but sometimes perceived low-profile callings in the Church surely are examples of what consecration is all about.
In the long run, offering ourselves for sacred uses might simply mean maintaining a consistent attitude of meek willingness to offer all we are capable of giving at any given time while we help those about us do the same. Consecration seems to be a day-to-day process of dedication, humility, refinement, and purification as we follow the example of the most consecrated person of all time—our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ.