In a revelation given through Joseph Smith at Hiram, Ohio, in March 1832, the Lord promised the saints that by obedience to the law of consecration the Church would become independent above all other creatures of the earth. (D&C 78:13-14.)
This was not the first revelation regarding consecration. In February 1831, the revelation known as the "Law" (Section 42) was given that the saints might know how to build Zion upon the earth. In this revelation and subsequent instructions, the Lord said that the individual member should consecrate his belongings for the common good of all members of the Church.A major problem that prevented the success under the law of consecration given in 1831 was the fact that few members of the Church in Kirtland owned land or other forms of property that could be used for redistribution. The only large acreage owned by members was the Isaac Morley farm on which the "Family" had been living, and on which many converts who had gathered to Kirtland had settled.
Although the saints lacked sufficient land in Kirtland or personal wealth, Joseph Smith continued to receive revelations during the fall of 1831 concerning the temporal responsibilities of Latter-day Saints.
Of Section 78, Roy W. Doxey wrote: "Although the first revelation concerning the laws that would apply in the building up of Zion was received about 13 months before this time, it was necessary to re-emphasize and implement the instructions concerning the fundamental law of consecration, one of the major laws to bring Zion to fruition. Section 78 was received in response to the need to point up further the importance of this law in the establishing of Zion. Closely associated with this objective was the corollary objective of independence of the Church in this world."
Doxey pointed out that although early Church members did not obey the covenant of consecration, the promise is still in effect. "The Church is today a light unto the world, and it will continue to be a standard for the nations," wrote Doxey.
He further wrote: "Fundamental to the law of consecration is the principle that everything belongs to the Lord; therefore, whatever one possesses may be surrendered if called for to build up Zion."