We shift gears into Doctrine and Covenants section 104 and talk about the United Order and some adjustments that are going to be made and how that’s carried out in the Law of Consecration. Now, this isn’t something that we talk about a ton in the church, but the Doctrine and Covenants is concerned with it, and those are principles of Mormon church finances. Over three-quarters of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants discuss financial matters, and you might be asking yourself why is that. This is supposed to be a spiritual book. Really early on in the Doctrine and Covenants in section 29, the Lord says, “I’ve never given you a temporal commandment. They’re all spiritual commandments to him. The temporal and the spiritual are the same thing.” And so when the Lord says something like, “Build a house,” it’s a spiritual commandment to him. We might think of it as physical. Sometimes we like to separate out commandments like the Word of Wisdom and say, “That’s a physical or temporal commandment,” but the Lord’s just saying, “No, it affects your spirituality as well.”
And the reason why he speaks so much about finance is it’s really hard for a person to be spiritual unless they’re temporally well. They’re wondering where their next meal is going to come from or if their house is going to be foreclosed on. It’s difficult for them to focus on spiritual things.
So, section 104 happens right before they leave on Zion’s Camp. It’s received in April of 1834, and part of the idea here is to get the church’s financial house in order before they go on this mission to try and rescue the saints in Missouri. There’s a lot of moving parts that are going on here. For instance, the saints in Kirtland are trying to build their own house of the Lord. They’re building the Kirtland Temple. Joseph Smith, who’s leading that effort, is going to be gone for the summer trying to assist the saints in Missouri. And so, the Lord is reorganizing Mormon church finances.
In all the earliest revelations, the term that is used here is “United Firm.” Now, under Joseph Smith’s direction, when these revelations were published, the term “firm” was taken out, and the word “order” was placed in. Sometimes, the United Order is used as a synonym for just the Law of Consecration altogether. That’s generally how Brigham Young and a lot of later church leaders, even into the 20th century, referred to it. But the United Order at this point in time is a small group of church leaders that have consecrated everything that they have to build up the church in Ohio and Missouri.
What this revelation does is there was a United Firm in Missouri. That one is going to be ended in this revelation because the saints in Missouri have lost their lands. They’re in survival mode. That United Firm collapses, and the Lord instead continues the Kirtland United Firm.
Now, sprinkled throughout this revelation are a number of principles of finance. We don’t use the system that’s set up in section 104 right now in the church, but the principles that are set here are intended forever. In fact, it says right in verse 1, “I give this as an everlasting order for the benefit of my church and the salvation of men until I come with a promise immutable and unchangeable that inasmuch as those whom I’ve commanded were faithful, they should be blessed with a multiplicity of blessings.”
So, while this particular specific system of finance is not how the church is operated now, the Lord is saying the principles that I’m going to teach you here are eternal and they’re going to stay for quite a while.
So let’s walk through the revelation itself and identify some of the principles of Mormon church finances that the Lord gives to the early saints. For instance, if you look in verse 11, it is wisdom in me, and a commandment I give unto you that you shall organize yourselves and appoint every man his stewardship. So even though we tend to think of consecration as everybody sharing everything and I can come in and borrow Tyler’s tie or take Taylor’s shoes, it never worked that way. Everybody agreed to consecrate what they have to the Lord. But consecration, or consecrate, is just a term that means make holy. After it was consecrated or basically recognized by the Lord, a stewardship was given back to the individual, and that stewardship was their private property. And the individual was allowed to basically work with what they had and do what they could with it for the benefit of themselves, their family, and the larger church.
Another principle, and this is found in verse 14, is to recognize that everything belongs to God. The Savior here says, “I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens and built the earth, my very handiwork, and all things therein are mine.” So a second principle of church finance is to recognize that everything belongs to God, that what we’re working with, whether it’s our home, the money that we make from our profession, whatever blessings we’ve been given, it really ultimately belongs to God, and we need to think of it in that way, that it’s not our personal property, it’s God’s property that he’s loaning to us to help us to build up the kingdom of God.
He also asks in Doctrine and Covenants Section 104 verse 16, “It must needs be done in my own way, and this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted and the rich made low.” Now, that’s just expressing this basic idea that you help the poor, that you try and find the best way to help them. And sometimes that means that you give them a meal or you help them find clothes or furniture for their home. And sometimes it means that you help them find education to get a better job or another way to empower them, get them a higher paying job so that they can afford a little bit more.
As you continue to go through, the Lord appoints a series of stewardships to the people that are in the church and gives them responsibility. So he’s just kind of acting out what he’s explaining here that you give a person stewardship, you explain to them where their blessings come from, and then you give them a charge that if they have extra if they’re provided for themselves, that they think about what they can do to try and help and lift up those that don’t have what they have.
By Dr. Casey Paul Griffiths, Source Expert
Dr. Casey Paul Griffiths earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Brigham Young University and pursued a Master of Arts in Religious Education and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Foundations at BYU. Prior to his tenure in the Department of Religious Education at BYU, Brother Griffiths dedicated eleven years to Seminaries and Institutes, fulfilling roles as both an instructor and curriculum developer. He is happily married to Elizabeth Ottley Griffiths, and they, along with their three delightful children, make their home in Saratoga Springs.
Fact Checked by Mr. Kevin Prince, Source Expert
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