From D&C 78, when a storehouse for the poor was being implemented:
4 For a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven;5 That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things.6 For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;7 For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.
Plus, the purpose in becoming equal temporally is so that we can obtain heavenly things. It’s not just a “responsibility” or “one more thing we’re supposed to do.” This opens up the possibility of receiving more things from heaven. It is also to the glory of the Father, to the salvation of men, and to “advance the cause.” Not a simple matter of dividing goods and seeing how little we can work… Very different!
Part of this process then seems to be coming to understand what exactly is needful to “advance the cause” and then making sure those needs are “amply supplied” (D&C 42). That means teaching the rich and the poor that what they need is that which provides for heavenly things. Food for strong bodies, clothes for warmth and safety, homes for shelter but also for teaching and nurturing. Can we see everything we have to the glory of the Father?
And then to step beyond that, can we conceive of seeing a whole community existing to save men, advance the cause, obtain heavenly things, and glorify the Father? But we couldn’t see ourselves as trying to force others to live that way, or in the way we thought they should consecrate. That would cause problems! And it wouldn’t be trusting their equality, either.
That is an interesting thing about the set up of the Law of Consecration, especially in its early setting in the land of Zion. (I don’t think the Law of Consecration is gone now, just that there isn’t a city-wide group living it with boundaries and consequences of being “cast out” if you don’t repent, etc.!) In the land of Zion, a Bishop and individual worked together to determine the needs and donations of a family.* Joseph said this was to be the case so there wouldn’t be chaos in Zion: a Bishop did not tell the family what to consecrate, but the family could not demand that the city use funds for them or a specific purpose. But the family was trusted to use its resources, whether their own or ones given them from the storehouse, to the benefit of Zion. Everyone was working to the benefit of Zion. Imagine! To the salvation of men, etc.
So, working for the benefit of Zion, but not just temporally. All of this is to some other purpose, distracted from money and wealth to the work of the kingdom. To libraries and schools. To teaching children in our homes. To serving missions and building temples. To bringing in as many of the faithful into our Zion community as we can find (or into any of her stakes). To await the return of our Savior.
The storehouse is a “permanent and everlasting establishment.” Unfortunately we see it as only needed when someone loses their job and just can’t pull it together. For people who are in a disaster. Or someone who just can’t figure out how to live life.
But this involves all of us. For some reason this principle is to the salvation of men. I don’t think this can be excused away as just “a temporal salvation.” And it is this topic that brings this oft-used verse: “For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.” What is the link between this storehouse and the celestial world? I think it goes beyond just simple obedience- do A to get B blessing. It seems to me that there is a direct connection between taking care of the poor, and being equal, and living in the celestial glory. There, we receive all that the Father hath – but so does everyone else. 🙂 We all share it. We all live equally. We have infinite blessings, but all shared, all equal. The Father himself does not have more than us – he gives us all he has. We are equal. We are equal in temporal and spiritual things. This is the order of the celestial world.
It seems this is the order, the reality – we are all equal. On earth we try to pretend we are not, but we are. All are equal before God – both male and female, bond and free, and even rich and poor. When we choose to continue those differences, we are choosing to prolong a difference that is not really there. When we are restored to our real state (I’m thinking of Alma’s words here), then this won’t matter. If there is an assumption that the poor are poor because they are “lesser” in some way – lesser in intelligence, or in desire, or in righteousness, or in obedience, then we also must assume this distinction will be one that carries over into the next world. This is the situation King Benjamin addresses in Mosiah 4:
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just–
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.”
I find it interesting that not only does he address the exact thing that people say (or think) when they see the poor, he goes on to say that when we do this we have “no interest in the kingdom of God.” Does this mean, in a sense, that we are not interested in living there? That we actually wouldn’t find it an interesting place if we knew of the equality that was there? Do we want inequality? Is that one of our, or simply is, our greatest temptation?
* I found the quotation I was thinking of here:
“Every man must be his own judge how much he should receive and how much he should suffer to remain in the hands of the Bishop. I speak of those who consecrate more than they need for the support of themselves and their families. The matter of consecration must be don by the mutual consent of both parties for, to give the Bishop power to say how much every man shall have and he be obliged to comply with the Bishops judgment is giving to the Bishop more power than a kind has and upon the other hand to let every man say how much he needs and the Bishop obliged to comply with his judgment is to throw Zion into confusion and make a slave of the Bishop. The fact is there must be a balance or equilibrium of power between the Bishop and the people and thus harmony and good will may be preserved among you.”