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Consecration In Ohio And Missouri
by Karl Ricks Anderson
The principles of consecration were implemented in various forms in Ohio and Missouri in the 1830s to provide for the needs of the poor and of a financially struggling Church (see Kirtland, Ohio; Kirtland Economy). Many of the Latter-day Saints migrating to Ohio and Missouri lacked the means to support themselves, and the Church had few resources to construct buildings such as the temple or to finance publications. The various implementations of the law of consecration helped to meet these practical needs as well as to teach participants to live a celestial law.
The law of consecration was never fully practiced in Ohio but was implemented in Missouri in several forms between 1831 and 1839. In its 1831 form, the law of consecration required all participants, or "stewards," to consecrate or convey their possessions to the Church storehouse. The bishop would then give back to each individual or family a "stewardship" of land, money, and other possessions according to just wants and needs. Surplus profits generated from these stewardships were contributed to the storehouse to assist the poor and serve other general purposes. To administer the system, separate bishops and storehouses were established in the two Church centers of Kirtland and Missouri.
In 1833, the practice of consecration was modified to provide for private ownership of stewardships, and in 1838, the principle of tithing introduced another change. The law of tithing required the Saints to give "all their surplus property" to the bishop, and subsequently "one-tenth of all their interest [increase] annually" (D&C 119:1, 4).
Implementation of consecration was difficult for the early Latter-day Saints and occurred only intermittently. The impoverished Missouri Saints, were driven and persecuted by mobs, and repeatedly lost personal possessions, lands, and crops. Church property was often taken or destroyed (see Missouri Conflict). Under such circumstances, most members required more for their stewardships than they could contribute to the pool of resources. Others were reluctant to donate their surpluses, and some who left the Church pursued legal means to recover consecrated properties. In the face of such obstacles, the sincere efforts of some faithful Saints to implement the law are all the more remarkable.
The United Firm, more commonly known as the United Order, a corporate enterprise based on consecration principles, was a second and more limited implementation of consecration, which operated in Kirtland with a branch in Missouri from March 1832 to April 1834. About twelve men consecrated their possessions and received stewardships in this business venture. Surpluses were to go into the storehouse for printing the revelations and for meeting other Church needs. The firm dissolved when loan payments could not be made.
The Literary Firm, a third implementation of consecration principles, continued longer than the other two. Established in November 1831 to print the revelations and other publications for the Church, it operated in several forms until August 1837. Following the 1833 Missouri mob actions, printing operations were moved from Independence to Kirtland. Up to eight men were made stewards over the revelations and consecrated their efforts to manage publication. Although constantly beset by problems, the firm published the Doctrine and Covenants (1st ed.), the Book of Mormon (2nd ed.), and other Church books and periodicals.
(See Basic Beliefs home page; Doctrines of the Gospel home page; Consecration home page)
Arrington, Leonard J.; Feramorz Y. Fox; and Dean L. May. Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation Among the Mormons. Salt Lake City, 1976.
Cook, Lyndon W. Joseph Smith and the Law of Consecration. Salt Lake City, 1985.