In the Old Testament times Aaron and his sons were consecrated to minister unto the Lord in the priest's office (Exodus 30:30), rams, oxen and sheep were also consecrated (Leviticus 8:22; 2 Chron. 29:33), silver, gold, brass, and iron were likewise consecrated (Joshua 6:19) and even their substance was to be consecrated (Micah 4:13).
In our day the Lord told Joseph Smith that their properties were to be consecrated (D&C 42:30) and in the Book of Mormon we read that the land itself was consecrated (2 Nephi 1:7). More than that, the Lord instructed the Nephites to consecrate their performances and that He would even consecrate their afflictions (2 Nephi 2:2).
The word "consecrate" is one of those words Christians use but only have a vague understanding of what it actually means. They usually know that to consecrate something means "to set apart or to make holy" but they usually can't explain exactly what that means or what the purpose is in consecrating something.
For those who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the concept of consecration has a far deeper implication than it does for most Christians. According to the traditional Christian belief, because someone has accepted Jesus as their Savior, God allows them into heaven where they will all live a holy, sinless life forever doing little else but worshipping God. However, that is not what the LDS Church teaches.
The Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith that there are three degrees or kingdoms of heaven - the Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial (D&C 76). At another time He further revealed that all kingdoms have a law and that to inherit any kingdom a person must obey or abide by the law which governs that kingdom (D&C 88). There are some who have interpreted this to mean that when we die the Lord imposes a sentence upon each person, dictating which kingdom they'll be assigned to and that once they arrive there they will have no choice but to obey the law of that kingdom.
However, that is not what happens. When we came to earth we were allowed to decide which kingdom we wanted to inherit and the way we do that is by choosing which law we want to follow here on earth. Those who choose to do wickedly are following the law of the Telestial kingdom and therefore that's where they will go when they die. Those who live honorable lives here on earth but who choose not to accept the commandments of God are obeying the law of the Terrestrial kingdom while those who choose to faithfully follow Christ and His commandments are following the law of the Celestial Kingdom. Therefore, in the resurrection, each person will go to that place whose laws they have already chosen to obey while here on earth.
Perhaps we can illustrate this principle with an example. There are those who love to play golf and look for opportunities to be on the golf course. They not only play golf every chance they can but they talk about golf in their spare time and read articles and watch videos on how to improve their game. When they are on the golf course, they associate with others who have a similar love of the game and when they are off the golf course they talk about the sport with those who are just as interested. Should this person strike up a conversation with someone who has little interest in playing golf, the discussion doesn't last very long.
The same is true of those who love to fish. Whenever they pass by a sporting goods store, they can't resist going in and checking out the fishing rods, reels, lures, and other fishing equipment. They probably subscribe to several fishing magazines and at home they spend their spare time making lures and arranging their tackle box. And the same situation applies to those who are avid hunting fans.
When people like these die, their love of golf, fishing, or hunting doesn't suddenly disappear. They are still the same person they were before death. Although they might not be capable of physically doing the things they did on earth they still have the same desires and are drawn to those spirits who have similar attitudes. Thus, just like in this life, in the next life people will naturally associate with those who think and behave like them.
Those who choose to do wickedly in this life will continue to associate with others in the next life who hold similar views. Thus, they will find themselves living in the Telestial kingdom, not because someone commands them to go there but because that's where they feel most comfortable. And the same is true of the other two kingdoms. Therefore, it is what a person devotes their thoughts and actions to here on earth that determines which kingdom they are prepared to inhabit for the rest of eternity.
For this reason, those who want to inherit the Celestial kingdom must prepare themselves here on earth so that when they die they are already accustomed to obeying the law of that kingdom and that is the purpose of consecration.
Another word for consecrate is "devote" or "dedicate." That means, when someone consecrates themselves they are devoting or dedicating themselves to God. It also implies being submissive, loyal, and persevering in our service to God. For example, when Aaron was consecrated by Moses he was set apart "to minister unto the Lord in the priest's office." That means, he was to devote or dedicatie himself to performing the things the Lord had called him to carry out in service to the nation of Israel. When he submitted himself to God's instruction and loyally persevered in performing his divinely assigned duties, he was consecrating himself. In the same way we can consecrate, dedicate, or devote material things such as land, property, and other possessions to God's service.
But, while this kind of attitude shows our willingness to be obedient to God's laws, there is a more important reason why we consecrate ourselves. Celestial life is not just about living a holy life in heaven because once we get there we will find ourselves engaged in performing an incredible amount of labor. The reason why is because when this earth has passed away and a new heaven and earth is created God still has a marvelous and magnificent work to perform and we will be participating with Him in that work.
When we die, that's not the end of our need to dedicate ourselves to God, In fact, it's just the beginning. Those who inherit the Celestial kingdom will partner with God to help Him increase and grow His kingdom. To do that will take a dedication to His cause and a devotion to accomplishing His work beyond anything we do here on earth. The purpose of consecrating ourselves to God in this life is to prepare ourselves for living an eternally devoted life of commitment to Him once we get to heaven. This is what the Celestial law requires and those who want to live there must be willing to obey that law.
If that is so, then it is important that we understand what makes a consecrated life.
In this life, when someone wants to become a successful businessman they devote their time, money, energy, thoughts, and talents to building up their business and often lay awake at night thinking of how to improve their chances for success. They also take time to associate with other successful businessmen where they learn and share ideas on how to become more successful. While they may go out to play a round of golf or do some fishing now and then, these recreational activities are merely temporary diversions to their main goal of growing their business.
A consecrated life is no different. While we must work to earn money, take care of our homes, and take time for relaxation and fun, if our goal is to live in heaven, then our main focus needs to be on devoting ourselves to building up God's kingdom here on earth. The reason is that once we get to heaven we will continue to help God build His kingdom except on a more magnificent and a much grander scale. Those who want to spend their time and energy building their own earthly kingdom, either accumulating material possessions, gaining power, or primarily living to enjoy life will not want nor be able to do the work required of Celestial beings.
What we do here on earth is just preparation for what we will do in heaven. If we can't handle what little responsibility God asks of us now, there is no possibility of us handling the greater responsibilities that will be required of us in heaven. Therefore, in order to live a successful celestial life we have to learn how to devote our time, energy, thoughts, possessions, and talents to making God's kingdom grow and increase because those are the skills we will need to help His kingdom grow throughout all eternity. And to help us learn those skills God has given us several wondrous gifts.
The first of those is a mortal, physical body. Because we take our bodies for granted we often fail to realize what a glorious, sacred gift this is but Satan fully understands it only too well and is doing all he can to destroy it. This is why he encourages murder in all of its many forms, including wars, anger, jealousy, abortion, and suicide. If he can't get people to do that then he seeks to cause as much bodily harm as he can or foster a disrespect for that which was created in the image of God. Tattooing, body piercing, and sexual immorality along with child and spouse abuse are just some of the ways he does this.
Anyone who truly appreciates a gift treats it with respect and appreciation. Anyone who misuses a gift shows through their actions that they have little appreciation for it and have no regard for the giver of the gift. For example, suppose a father gave their sixteen year old son a brand new, shiny sports car. If the boy truly appreciated the gift he wouldn't trash the inside of it or deliberately scratch up the outside of the vehicle. Instead, he would take great care of the car to make sure it remained spotlessly clean.
If that child were to use the car to go speeding through neighborhoods, or to take him where he could buy drugs, or went cruising the streets late at night with his drinking buddies, it would show disrespect for and cast an unfavorable reflection on his father who gave him the gift. But, if the boy drove the car responsibly and used it for wise and good purposes it would honor his father.
The same is true for how we treat the body God, our Father, has given us. When we misuse or abuse our bodies we show how little respect we have for God Himself and how little value we have for what He has given us. But when we treat our bodies as though they are sacred, we show our respect and appreciation to Him from whom it came, And it is when we use that body to serve God that we then consecrate His gift to us as our gift to Him.
The second great gift God gives us is that of time. Businessmen are fond of saying that "time is money" and it has often been said that time is precious because once it's gone there's no getting it back. We only have so much time allotted to us and, like sand in an hour glass, it slips past us second by second until it is completely gone. The problem we face is that we don't know how much time we have been given.
Earth life is very similar to college life. We have left our heavenly home and came here to attend a place of learning where we are preparing ourselves to one day inherit all that our Father has. God is paying for our education here and His Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross to make that payment. When we waste time doing things that don't further our Celestial education it's no different than a child in college unwisely deciding to spend their days having fun instead of attending to their studies. Therefore, when we devote ourselves to learning the lessons necessary to live in a Celestial environment then we are consecrating our time to God.
Another gift from God is that of moral agency or the freedom to choose for ourselves what we want to do. There are many choices we must make every day but each one can be boiled down to one choice: Which law do we choose to obey - Celestial, Terrestrial, or Telestial? With each choice we make we are slowly but surely determining which kingdom we will ultimately inherit in the resurrection. Those who wish to inherit the Celestial kingdom must make sure that each choice they make is in accordance with the law of that kingdom. When they do that they are choosing to consecrate themselves to God.
It has often been said that what we think on we become or, put another way, our thoughts make us who we are. We have the freedom to think what we want, which often influences the way we behave. Those who want to live by a Celestial law must be honest in their dealings with others, act with integrity, and practice virtue in all they do.
But a Celestial law requires more than this. Like the businessman who sometimes finds them self laying awake at night thinking about how to make their company more successful, a Celestial person spends considerable time thinking about how to make God's kingdom on earth more successful. This is how we consecrate our thoughts.
But there are things we have that are not direct gifts from God. One is our possessions such as a home, car, food, money, clothes, and other material things. If our focus is on living a Celestial law we can choose to use our home to teach the gospel to our children or invite our neighbors and friends over to have the missionaries teach them the gospel. We can choose to use our home as a place of gospel study and a place where we commune with our Father in heaven to received inspiration and guidance. We can choose to use our car to help transport missionaries on exchanges or to do our home teaching and visiting teaching. We can share our food to help the poor, donate our clothing to help the needy, and use our money to help finance the growth and operation of Christ's Church.
But there are also spiritual things we possess such as our faith, testimony, and knowledge. When we use these to help strengthen the spiritually weak, guide the spiritually lost, and teach the spiritually hungry we are consecrating our possessions to building up God's kingdom on earth which will prepare us to use our eternal possessions to help expand and magnify the kingdom of God in the eternities.
Another possession each of us have are certain talents that we are either born with or have developed. Some talents are more obvious and useful than others but everyone has at least several things they are good at. At the same time, no one is capable of doing everything by them self, therefore each of us has a need for the talents of others.
God has left it up to each of us to decide what we want to do with the talents we have. Some choose to do nothing with them and so they serve no useful purpose. There are those who choose to use their talents to gain glory for themselves while others use their talents to make money. Each one of these choices have their good and bad points but it is when we donate our talents to serving the Lord that we are consecrating them to God.
The Lord summed up the principle of consecration when He said, "For thou shalt devote all thy service in Zion; and in this thou shalt have strength" (D&C 24:7). "Cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made" (D&C 25:13) and "lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better" (D&C 25:10).
However, there is another reason why we consecrate ourselves to God. When we came here to earth each of us was entrusted with a stewardship over ourselves and the things we possess. A stewardship can be defined as a responsibility, duty, or obligation that we have been given. Thus God holds us responsible for what we do with our body, our time, our choices, our thoughts, our talents as well as our material and spiritual possessions. But with that obligation comes a point when we will have to give an account for how well we carried out our stewardship (Romans 14:12). This includes giving an account for even the very words we speak and the thoughts we have (Matthew12:36).
But there is something else that will be taken into account when God reviews our stewardship which is the influence we have or could have had on others. We may be saved individually but we are responsible for each other collectively. The Lord's injunction to "love your neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:39) implies a stewardship to watch over and care for others. Thus, when we find ourselves giving an account of our stewardship, we will also have to answer for the kind of influence we had on people because a large part of what those in the Celestial kingdom will do is to influence others.
While He lived on earth, Jesus told the parable of a man going on a journey who had three servants. Before leaving he gave five talents to one servant, two talents to another and one talent to the last. In time, the man returned and required each servant to give an account of what they had done with the talents they were given.
Those who increased their talents were told, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things" (Matthew 25:21,23). Each of us has been given a physical body, the gift of time, the agency to choose, and, during our lifespan, we have also acquired possessions, and talents. There will come a day when we will be asked what we did with what we had. Those who used their gifts in the service of God will be told that because they have been faithful over a few things, they will be made ruler over many things.
But the only ones who will hear this pronouncement are those who have obeyed the law of the Celestial kingdom by showing that they were willing to live a consecrated life.