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Author Topic: Logistical details of consecration and stewardship as taught and practiced?  (Read 78 times)


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Can anyone direct me to a detailed account of exactly how consecration and stewardship (including the United Firm where relevant) operated in Joseph Smith's day?

I know there were changes and developments--I want to know the details. What's the timeline for what was practiced where?

How many people were involved in which particular implementations?

How were the instructions in the D&C connected to each particular implementation?

I'm sure someone has figured this all out before. The church website/app has some decent resources, but they still don't completely connect the various verses in the D&C with the whos, whats, whens, and hows.

Sweet William

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Re: Logistical details of consecration and stewardship as taught and practiced?
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2021, 11:43:47 am »
Here is a link to the Joseph Smith papers regarding the United Firm.

The Book "Brigham Young, American Moses" had an interesting chapter about some different attempts at implementation in Deseret.  Not every attempt had the same rules.  Some were much more "communal property" type attempts, while others were more like the "stewardship, consecrate excess" model.

I think the book "Great Basin Kingdom" will have a more detailed discussion of the Deseret era attempts, but I haven't started that yet.  I bought "Lonesome Dove" at the library for a quarter, so I'm reading that.  :)

The following users thanked this post: Enochscion, Taalcon


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Re: Logistical details of consecration and stewardship as taught and practiced?
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2021, 11:50:13 am »
Kirtland and Independence were the main places where the origins of this, and the first big adjustments to it happened. While I'm not super-well versed in the later Utah-era approaches to this,  I've been reading through the day-to-day of all of this in the Joseph Smith Papers Documents series over the past months, so I'll give a general summary of this era before I seek out links to papers that have done a better job documenting everything.

It started almost as soon as Joseph first arrived in Kirtland. Context is interesting, because at that time, the Morley Family was living a form of Christianized-Oweniteism, which was a form of common-property communalism. the Owenites put forth a form of common property and communal living that rejected religion. The Morley Family was inspired by those ideas, but also connected it to the New Testament ideas of the Church having all in common.

The problem was, the rules were - there were no rules. If all was common property, then everyone felt free to take everything. It was even questioned if spouses were included in 'common property'. It was leading, understandably, to contention. Rigdon was in favor of the general idea of Christian communal living, although his mentor, Alexander Campbell, had not been.

so Joseph Smith arrives in Kirtland, and immediately presents 'The Law', which includes rules for communal living, as well as strong re-iteration against adultery (sharing spouses not allowed in Common property, folks!). The idea, which is a fantastic innovation, was that all property would be consecrated to the Church, through the Bishop, and then the necessary property would be given back as a leased stewardship of the one doing the consecrating, with the excess or surpluss being distributed to those in need, or to the projects of the time (printing, etc).

It was AFTER this that Zion was desginated as an actual place (Independence), and that the land Church members had there would be ultimately all owned by the Church, and leased/given as a stewardship to the members. In other words, all property was literally and legally the Church's property, and it was loaned out to those who needed it.

This caused problems when Church members who moved to Missouri rejected the Church and sought to leave it, and claimed the property leased to them (or consecrated by them) was actually their own that they had rights to. It led to lawsuits, and in light of this, the policy was then changed that instead of leasing out real estate property as stewardships, the property would be deeded back to the members/would keep their deeds. It became a 'spiritual' giving of property rather than a legal one. All the 'extra' given to the poor would remain in the storehouse and the Church's property, and those it was given to, but the other property would be retained by the individual.

This latest update was presented by Joseph Smith in a letter to Bishop Partridge in May 1833 (also take a look at the Historical Introduction to that document. Very helpful!):
I will proceed to tell you my views, concerning consecration, property, and giving inheritances &c. The law of the Lord,9 binds you to receive, whatsoever property is consecrated, by deed, The consecrated property, is considered the residue kept for the Lords store house, and it is given for this consideration, for to purchase inheritaces for the poor,10 this, any man has a right to do, agreeable to all laws of our country, to donate, give or consecrate all that he feels disposed to give, and it is your duty, to see that whatsoever is given, is given legally, therefore, it must be given for the consideration of the poor saints, and in this way no man can take any advantage of you in law,11 Again, concerning inheritances, you are bound by the law of the Lord, to give a deed, secureing to him who receives inheritances, his inheritance, for an everlasting inheritance, or in other words, to be his individual prope[r]ty, his privat ste[wa]rdship, and if he is found a transgressor & should be cut off, out of the church, his inheritance is his still and he is dilivere[d] over to the buffetings of satan, till the day of redemption,12 But the property which he consecrated to the poor, for their benefit, & inheritance, & stewardship, he cannot obtain again by the law of the Lord, Thus you see the propriety of this law, that rich men cannot have power to disinherit the poor by obtaining again that which they have consecrated, which is the residue, signified in the law, that you will find in the second paragraph of the extract from the law

The United Firm was essentially the operating agency invested in the Church's monetary resources such as printing, the emigration to Zion, market supplies, building of Temple projects, etc.

The introductory contextual essays to the revelation texts in the Joseph Smith Papers that have to do with Consecration/United Firm are EXCELLENT resources, and point you towards the other documents in the series with additional info, and whose own introductory essays give greater context.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2021, 01:43:35 pm by Taalcon »
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