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"This book is very informative and will have a great impact on the church. The chapter on faith would make a great book by itself." Cheri H.
Read here online Preparing for Zion
Preparing for Zion is a compilation of scripture and quotations from the leaders of the Church telling why Zion was not built in the past, the events leading up to, and when and by whom Zion or the New Jerusalem would be built in the future.
The Promised Kingdom of God
"Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price." 2 Nephi 9:50
Read here online the entire book without cost
I have had many questions in my own mind about the future events of the Saints, and the building of Zion, such as:
Excerpt from the book
We learn from history that on July 20, 1831, the Lord identified Independence, Jackson County as the center place of Zion, and in addition "...the land of Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints." (D&C 57:1-3) However, it is evident that the Lord knew that the early members of the church would not remain long in Missouri.
Just twelve days later the Lord hinted that the saints would not, at that time, remain upon the land: "Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those thin gs which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet but is nigh at hand. Remember this, which I tell you before, that you may lay it to heart, and receive that which is to follow. Behold, verily I say unto you for this cause I have sent you-that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come; And also that you might be honored in laying the foundation, and in bearing record of the land upon which the Zion of God shall stand;" (D&C 58:3-7)
Chapter 1: Why a need for Zion?
“And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the
principles of the law of the celestial kingdom;
otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.”
(Doctrine and Covenants 105:5)
I have had many questions in my own mind about the future events of the Saints, and the building of Zion, such as:
*Why do we need to build Zion?
*Why were the saints unable to build Zion at the time of Joseph Smith?
*What part does faith play in building Zion?
*How do we gain that charity or love that we must have to go back to God's presence?
*What are the plain and precious parts of the gospel that are contained in the Book of Mormon that are not in the Bible, and how do they pertain to Zion?
*What is our role in following the scriptures and the living Prophet?
*What trials do the Saints face in the future?
*What is the destiny of this nation?
*What will take place at Adam-ondi-Ahman?
*When, how, and by whom will Zion be built?
I have researched for many years’ answers to these questions, and hope to shed some light on these subjects. Doing this research has changed my perceptions, and has given me a greater respect for those who in times past were able to achieve this exalted society.
Before we can understand why Zion is needed we must understand what Zion is. It is thought by some that all that is necessary for Zion to exist is to organize it. However we learn from scripture and history that Zion is not an economic system that changes hearts, but an economic system that grows out of the change in hearts. It is “because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people,” that “there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.” (4 Ne. 1:15,16) It is “because of the love of God” that “they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.” (4 Ne. 1:3)
Conversely, it was because of pride, or love of self (self glory), that their Zion society was destroyed; “And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world. And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them.” (4 Ne. 1:24,25)
In order for Zion to exist it requires a people who are pure in heart (D&C 97:21).
Zion is a society built upon principles, namely "...the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom…" (D&C 105:5). Prior to Zion being established, the saints must learn and understand, and of necessity have sufficient confidence or faith in, and live by the principles of the celestial kingdom. We can observe from the record of the Book of Mormon, that when there was a departure from the principles of Christ, the Zion society of the children of Lehi was destroyed. Jesus foretold of that time: "But behold, it sorroweth me because of the fourth generation from this generation, for they are led away captive by him even as was the son of perdition; for they will sell me for silver and for gold, and for that which moth doth corrupt and which thieves can break through and steal..." (3 Ne. 27:32)
Before the city of Enoch was caught up into heaven they had to live the “principles of the law of the celestial kingdom” for as the Lord said; “otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.” (D&C 105:5)
We read of Zion of Enoch’s Day: “ And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even ZION. And it came to pass that Enoch talked with the Lord; and he said unto the Lord: Surely Zion shall dwell in safety forever. But the Lord said unto Enoch: Zion have I blessed, but the residue of the people have I cursed.” (Moses 7:18-20.) Notice that only after the people of God were instructed in righteousness that the City of Holiness was built.
What would happen if we were caught up to the Celestial Kingdom in our present understanding and compliance to the principles of Christ? Or what if we were to organize Zion under our current conformity to His words? We would destroy the Celestial Kingdom, or Zion would fall as it has in the past, for we would overthrow the peace that should abide there. “But behold, I say unto you, the kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy.” (1 Nephi 15:34.) For Enoch recorded: “…and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end…” (Moses 7:31.) Only those who follow these principles can live in Gods presence.
Perhaps that is why the City of Enoch, must come down and dwell on earth among us, to teach and instruct, to affirm to us the principles of Christ. The Lord has said: “And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem. And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other; And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest.” (Moses 7:62-64.) When we embrace the principles of the Celestial Kingdom, then Zion can exist.
Mormon wrote to his son Moroni this sad commentary of the reason for the downfall of their society: “And now, my son, I dwell no longer upon this horrible scene. Behold, thou knowest the wickedness of this people; thou knowest that they are without principle, and past feeling; and their wickedness doth exceed that of the Lamanites.” (Moroni 9:20)
President Benson said:
“The scriptures make clear that there was a war in heaven, a struggle over the principle of freedom, the right of choice (see Moses 4:1-4; D&C 29:36-38; 76:25-27; Revelation 12:7-9)”. (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.81) Pride as was well as other principles were in debate, President Benson stated: “In the premortal council, it was pride that felled Lucifer, ‘a son of the morning.’ At the end of this world, when God cleanses the earth by fire, the proud will be burned as stubble and the meek shall inherit the earth.” (CR April 1, 1989)
As we ponder differences between the Lord’s proposal and Lucifer’s scheme to take the throne of our Heavenly Father, we can see that there was conflict over many principles, and as we ponder some of the things Lucifer was proposing we will get a better understanding of this life.
Because our Heavenly Father’s plan was one of agency, whereas Satan’s plan would be one of force or coercion, let us look at some of the different aspects of the two opposing plans to see how these principles were at risk.
God’s plan would be one of punishment postponed to the spirit world after this life (D&C 70:4) so not to interfere with our agency here on earth, while the adversary’s would have to be one of immediate punishment in order to compel, and intimidate us to do what he wanted.
We see evidence of this part of God’s plan in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, here we see the evidence of punishment postponed:
“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” As the rich man was seeking relief from the torment he was now suffering in the spirit world, Abraham answered his request: “…Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.” (Luke 16:19-29)
In the spirit world true justice will be meted out, for there we will suffer for our wrong doings, our improper thoughts, our words, and our deeds. (Mosiah 4:30)
It is possible that we will also be tormented by our habits and our addictions to chemical substances that we have formed in this life, that our spirit will desire and crave those same habits and substances, such as tobacco, or drugs “…for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.” (Alma 34:34.)
To Enoch the Lord declared pertaining to the wicked at the time of the flood: “ …a prison have I prepared for them. And that which I have chosen hath pled before My face. Wherefore, He suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that My Chosen shall return unto Me, and until that day they shall be in torment;” (Moses 7:38 - 39)
No one will escape the justice of God, for we must repent or suffer as the Lord declared: “Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I.”(Doctrine and Covenants 19:15 - 17)
The Prophet Joseph taught:
“These who will not obey the gospel will go to the world of spirits, there to stay till they have paid the utmost farthing, or till some person pays their debts they owe. Now all those [who] die in the faith go to the prison of spirits to preach to the dead in body, but they are alive in the spirit. And those spirits preach to the spirits, that they may ‘live according to God in the spirit.’ And men do minister for them in the flesh. And angels bear the glad tidings to the spirits, and they are made happy by these means. Therefore, those who are baptized for their dead are the saviors on Mt. Zion, and they must receive their washings and their anointings for their dead the same as for themselves, until they are connected to the ones in the dispensation before us and trace their lineage to connect the priesthood again.” (Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible pp. 203 - 204.)
Elder Melvin J. Ballard explained further that until a person
“…learns to overcome the flesh, his temper, his tongue, his disposition to, indulge in the things God has forbidden, he cannot come into the celestial kingdom of God-he must overcome either in this life or in the life to come. But this life is the time in which men are to repent. Do not let any of us imagine that we can go down to the grave not having overcome the corruptions of the flesh and then lose in the grave all our sins and evil tendencies. They will be with us. They will be with the spirit when separated from the body. The spirit only can repent and change, and then the battle has to go forward with the flesh afterwards. It is much easier to overcome and serve the Lord when both flesh and spirit are combined as one. . .. Every man and woman who is putting off until the next life the task of correcting and overcoming the weakness of the flesh are sentencing themselves to years of bondage, for no man or woman will come forth in the resurrection until they have completed their work, until they have overcome, until they have done as much as they can do.” ("The Three Degrees of Glory," sermon delivered in Ogden, Utah, on 22 September 1922.)(Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987-1992], 3: 256.)
Unless we keep in mind our reason for being here, it can be very frustrating at times when things go wrong. In this life it appears that when we try to live the commandments and principles of the gospel, things do not always go right. Some at the day of Malachi must have been expressing their concern to the prophet about this. They forgot that the Lord has many blessings that are not for this life, but are reserved for the eternities, for the Lord responded: “Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, what have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, it is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered. Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” (Malachi 3:13-16)
When we do wrong, and suffer for it, where will be our reward? But when we live the principles of Christ and suffer wrongfully, how much greater will be our reward? Peter wrote: “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”(1 Pet. 2:19,20) The wrongful suffering of our Savior has been such a blessing to in our lives, would not also our wrongful suffering be a good thing to us? Jesus taught “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matt.5: 11,12)
There are examples from the scriptures of blessings that come when we live gospel principles, many times after much tribulation. (D&C 103:12) Joseph of old is one great example.
When he was hated by his brothers and sold into Egypt, he quickly rose to prominence in Potiphar’s house, we read of him; “Joseph was a goodly person, and well favored.” (Gen. 39:6) We see his moral courage when faced with the advances of Potiphar’s wife he told her: “There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (v. 9)
When Joseph was put in prison the keeper soon found he could be trusted, and “The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper.” (v. 23)
When Pharaoh’s butler informed him that there was a man in prison that could interpret dreams, I am sure that he must have inquired of the keeper of the prison and received a good report of Joseph because when Joseph through the Spirit of the Lord was shown the dream and given the interpretation, Pharaoh said of him, “…there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.” (Gen. 41:39,40)
Later when Joseph’s brothers came to buy food in Egypt, we view other principles that he lived by. Instead of being angry with his brothers, we see that he loved, and forgave them. “He wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence. And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.” (Gen. 45:1-5)
Living Gospel principles can have a more profound effect upon those around us than preaching. We need only to look at the example of Ammon and his brethren. We view these two different approaches to missionary work recorded in the Book of Mormon. Whereas Aaron and his brethren preached and said, “except (ye) repent (ye) shall perish,” (Alma 21:6) Ammon came to King Lamoni and said, “I will be thy servant.” (Alma 17:25)
After seeing the effect of Ammon’s approach, Aaron and his brethren went to King Lamoni’s father and said: “And now, O king, if thou wilt spare our lives, we will be thy servants.” (Alma 22:3) Aaron was then instrumental in bringing the King, and many of his kingdom to Christ.
We can witness through the scriptures the example of our Lord. Peter testified that Jesus lived as He taught: “…because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously; (1 Pet. 2:21-23)
Another important part of God’s plan of agency is the veil of forgetfulness over our minds that we would not remember our pre-existence, thus assuring no coercion, and giving us opportunity to develop faith or trust in the Lord, and He in us. God’s plan requires a Savior, to atone for our sins, that the principle of mercy can be made available through humility repentance and obedience. (Alma 42:15,16)
Under Satan’s plan there would not have been a veil, in order that we would know that there would be immediate punishment for disobedience. There would be no need for a savior to atone for any misdeeds, for they would be punished straightway. This would leave no opportunity to develop trust or faith, nor give us time to repent and receive mercy, or to develop love for our Savior.
As we ponder this Great Council in Heaven we get a glimpse of principles that must have been at the forefront. These were principles such as agency, faith, repentance, humility, love, atonement, mercy, justice, accountability, obedience, etc. These and other Gospel principles have been tried and proven throughout the eternities. Satan's argument against these principles was so convincing that he won the support of one-third the hosts of heaven, convincing them that he was right, and his followers advocated the same principles that he embraced.
It was not in the proposing of the plan that Lucifer went wrong; it was in the rebellion afterwards when his plan was rejected. “Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;” (Moses 4:3) Satan had to be removed or he would destroy the peace that existed in the Celestial Kingdom, for there would have been constant discord in Heaven. And so it will be required with Zion: “And the rebellious shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land.” (D&C 64:35) For the Lord has said: “…if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (D&C 38:27)
Here on earth we face a struggle over principles, for Satan is angry, and opposes everything that is good and has convinced many to follow incorrect principles of pride, jealousy, enmity, control, division, contention, etc. and thus has gained great power over “many men who are on the earth.”
The Prophet Joseph taught:
“...As far as we degenerate from God, we descend to the Devil and lose knowledge, and without knowledge we cannot be saved, and while our hearts are filled with evil, and we are studying evil, there is no room in our hearts for good, or studying good. Is not God good? Then you be good; if He is faithful, then you be faithful. Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, and seek for every good thing... A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth...” (Teachings p.217)
The phrase, “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge,” has been used out of context many times. Some use it to encourage seeking knowledge of obscure doctrines, or knowledge of the mysteries. Yet we hear the true prophets of God speaking of basic principles that we need to live by to return to Gods presence.
As we gain knowledge we must be careful, for the adversary will try to tempt us with pride. The prophet Joseph Smith warned:
“...if we get puffed up by thinking that we have much knowledge, we are apt to get a contentious spirit, and correct knowledge is necessary to cast out that spirit.” (Teachings p.287)
He also warned:
“The devil has no power over us only as we permit him. The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power.” (Teachings p.181)
We are commanded to study the scriptures, or “...Feast upon the words of Christ;” “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matt. 11:29) “For behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do,” they teach us the principles of eternal life. Yet Nephi mourns “...because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” (2 Ne. 32:3,7)
Why could not Zion be established at the time of Joseph Smith? The Lord revealed: “Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men; For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.” (D&C 3:3,4) What was the problem? Man “follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires.”
Lehi taught: “And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto His great commandments; and be faithful unto His words, and choose eternal life, according to the will [or desire] of His Holy Spirit; And not choose eternal death, according to the will [or our desires] of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.” (2 Ne. 2:28,29)
In a letter to a sister Vienna Jaques, at Independence, Missouri, Joseph taught the reason for the downfall of Zion. Joseph wrote:
“...I am not at all astonished at what has happened to you, neither to what has happened to Zion, and I could tell all the whys and wherefores of all these calamities. But alas, it is in vain to warn and give precepts, for all men are naturally disposed to walk in their own paths as they are pointed out by their own fingers and are not willing to consider and walk in the path which is pointed out by another, saying This is the way, walk ye in it, although he would be an unerring director, and the Lord his God sent him.” (DHC vol. 1, p. 408)
It can be observed that the Lord taught the Sermon on the Mount to two different groups of people with two totally different responses. The Savior taught the principles of the celestial kingdom to those in the Old World, where His teachings were rejected. He also taught the same principles to the descendents of Lehi, who put into practice these principles and enjoyed a Zion society for about one hundred and seventy years.
The prophet Joseph Smith taught:
“If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses.” (Teachings p.216)
So we see that while Lucifer would subject us to his whims, whereas what God wants is to have us become subject to correct principles.
What does the Lord require of us or what will “qualify us for the work”? “Faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God… Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, and diligence. Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.” (D&C 4:5-7)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Gospel of principles; principles of interaction that bring and sustain peace in a marriage, in a family, in a community, in a nation, and in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is requisite to learn and live by these principles, in order for us to bring peace to the world. All the commandments are built upon these principles, the heart and core of which is the principle of love. (Matt. 22:40)
Jesus is the prince of peace, but that peace can only come by following the principles He taught. The closer we come to the principles that He taught, the more peaceful our homes and our society will become, and the further we get away from His precepts the more destructive our society will become.
All that is necessary for Satan to win on earth is for our adversary to adhere, with greater conviction, to the mission that he embraces, than we, as followers of Christ, embrace the principles of eternal life. It will require our diligent study to gain a firm understanding, and our fixed resolve to live by those principles. We then see how important it is to have knowledge and testimony of correct principles, for that is the way that the heavens are governed, and when the saints become obedient to all these principles we will fulfill the prayer of the Savior; “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Mat. 6:10)
In addition to being “without principle,” Mormon declared that his people where “past feeling.” I wondered at that statement, what he meant of being “past feeling?” I thought that perhaps he meant that they could not feel the Spirit of the Lord. But one evening I was watching a documentary of a trial for a serial killer, when an expert witness took the stand. When asked to explain the feelings of this killer the witness said the problem was that this individual had no empathy, he was not able to put himself in the victim’s place, to feel the pain that the victim was going through, he had no compassion. As I thought about that statement, I wondered, did Jesus have empathy as he lived and set the example for us?
The Savior was full of empathy, for he knew and could feel the hearts of all men, (Jn. 2:24,25) and always displayed compassion for those around him. For example the widow of Nain, who had lost her only son. As they were taking his body to be buried, I am sure He could feel her pain, for “... when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother.” (Luke 7:11-15)
On another occasion the Savior was asked by a ruler of the temple in the country of Gadarenes, a man named Jairus, to come and heal his daughter. Surrounded by a large number of curious onlookers who had heard of Jesus’ fame, wanting to observe a miracle for themselves, crowded around Jesus as He traveled through the narrow streets on His way to Jairus’ home. Approaching from behind was a woman who had “...an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
“And Jesus said, who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And Jesus said, somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” (Luke 8:41-48)
What empathy Jesus had for that woman, that he could feel the virtue flow out as she touched him, for he must have felt her suffering.
It is evident that empathy is an important part of the pure love of Christ. Loving our neighbor as ourselves, to soften our heart, is to have empathy, or compassion towards our fellow beings. To see them as God sees them, to love as God loves. In contrast, to have apathy would be to harden our heart, or be stiff-necked, or willfully rebelling against God, and the principles of His gospel. (Mormon 1:16,17) To do evil is to offend God, or offend and hurt others; to be righteous is to do good or to bless lives, to serve and to comfort others. (Matt. 25:31-46; Mosiah 2:17)
“...Men must become harmless before the brute creation, and when men lose their viscous dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.” (Teachings p. 71)
For “...They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.” (Isa. 65:25) We must gain a disposition to be kind, gentile, loving, forgiving, helpful, and concerned over the feelings of each other.
How can we “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” or “mourn with those that mourn” or “comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” (Mosiah 18:8,9) unless we have empathy? And the greatest empathy of all was Christ’s atonement, when He suffered in our place, for our guilt, He felt our sorrows, He groaned under the weight of our sins.
Alma spoke of the Savior: “And He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith He will take upon Him the pains and the sicknesses of His people. And He will take upon Him death, that He may loose the bands of death which bind His people; and He will take upon Him their infirmities, that His bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that He may know according to the flesh how to succor His people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11,12)
Zion a refuge
The Lord in explaining the need for Zion, gave to us a glimpse of the world condition in the future: “And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God; and the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion. And it shall come to pass among the wicked; that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety. And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another. And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand. And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy.” (D&C 45:66-71)
We see that Zion shall be “...a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God.” Yet in the world there will be violence, for it is recorded: “...Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” And he thinks to destroy the saints with “water as a flood,” or a flood of wickedness and violence, (Rev.12: 12,15) for he will “rage in the hearts” of men, (2 Ne. 28:20) “...and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time." (Dan. 12:1)
Isaiah says of the gathering to Zion: “come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” (Isa. 26:20-21)
The Lord declares this to be the time of the fulfilling of the parable of the wheat and tares: “Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be; While the tares shall be bound in bundles, and their bands made strong, that they may be burned with unquenchable fire.” (D&C 101:65,66)
The Lord also declares that the saints themselves will “hardly escape”, (D&C 63:34) and that He “…will not spare any who remain in Babylon.” (D&C 64:24) Nephi prophesied of this event when he said: “For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire.” (2 Be. 30:10) “And the time cometh speedily that the righteous must be led up as calves of the stall, and the Holy One of Israel must reign in dominion, and might, and power, and great glory. And He gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and He numbereth His sheep, and they know Him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and He shall feed His sheep, and in Him they shall find pasture.” (1 Ne. 22:24,25)
We often speak of the Church as an Ensign unto the nations, yet the Lord says that Zion will be that Ensign: “For, behold, I say unto you that Zion shall flourish, and the glory of the Lord shall be upon her; and she shall be an ensign unto the people, and there shall come unto her out of every nation under heaven.” (D&C 64:41,42) “And the nations of the earth shall honor her, and shall say: Surely Zion is the city of our God, and surely Zion cannot fall, neither be moved out of her place, for God is there, and the hand of the Lord is there;” (D&C 97:19)
The Lord advises that this gathering should not be one of panic, but should be done orderly and be well prepared in advance. The Lord on many occasions has said: “...let not your gathering be in haste, nor by flight; but let all things be prepared before you.” (D&C 101:68 see also Isa. 52:12, 3Ne. 20:42, 21:29, D&C 58:56, 101:72, 133:15)
“The greatest temporal and spiritual blessings which always come from faithfulness and concerted effort, never attended individual exertion or enterprise. The history of all past ages abundantly attests this fact. In addition to all temporal blessings, there is no other way for the Saints to be saved in these last days, [than by the gathering] as the concurrent testimony of all the holy prophets clearly proves, for it is written-‘They shall come from the east, and be gathered from the west; the north shall give up, and the south shall keep not back.’ The sons of God shall be gathered from afar, and his daughters from the ends of the earth.
“It is also the concurrent testimony of all the prophets, that this gathering together of all the Saints, must take place before the Lord comes to ‘take vengeance upon the ungodly,’ and ‘to be glorified and admired by all those who obey the Gospel.’ The fiftieth Psalm, from the first to the fifth verse inclusive, describes the glory and majesty of that event.” (Teachings p. 183)
In April Conference 1948, Harold B. Lee said:
“Thus, clearly, the Lord has placed the responsibility for directing the work of gathering in the hands of the leaders of the Church to whom He will reveal His will, where and when such gatherings would take place in the future. It would be well-before the frightening events concerning the fulfillment of all God's promises and predictions are upon us, that the Saints in every land prepare themselves and look forward to the instruction that shall come to them from the First Presidency of this Church as to where they shall be gathered and not be disturbed in their feelings until such instruction is given to them as it is revealed by the Lord to the proper authority.”(Harold B. Lee, Conf. Rep. April 1948, p.55)
Prepare a people to whom Jesus may return
The Savior can only come and dwell with a people when they are prepared to live his principles, for “...Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?” (Mormon 9:3) It is of interest that Jesus did not appear to the children of Lehi immediately after His ascension into heaven, but that it was almost a year after His death and resurrection, (3 Ne. 8:5, 3 Ne. 10:18) that a great multitude were gathered at the temple conversing about Jesus, when He appeared to them. (3Ne. 11:1,2) Even after the wicked were destroyed it must have taken some time for them to prepare themselves for our Lord to appear to them.
The Lord has said: “And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into His rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.” (3Ne. 27:19)
“This is why Adam blessed his posterity; he wanted to bring them into the presence of God, They looked for a city, etc., ‘whose builder and maker is God.’ (Hebrews 11:10) Moses sought to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God, through the power of the Priesthood, but he could not. In the first ages of the world they tried to establish the same thing; and there were Eliases raised up who tried to restore these very glories, but did not obtain them; but they prophesied of a day when this glory would be revealed. Paul spoke of the dispensation of the fullness of times, when God would gather together all things in one, etc.; and those men to whom these keys have been given, will have to be there; and they without us cannot be made perfect.
“These men are in heaven, but their children are on the earth. Their bowels yearn over us. God sends down men for this reason. ‘And the Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that give offense and them that do iniquity,’ (Matthew 13:41) All these authoritative characters will come down and join hand in hand in bringing about this work.” (Teachings p.159)
Moses “...sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; But they hardened their hearts and could not endure His presence; therefore, the Lord in His wrath, for His anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into His rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fullness of His glory.” (D&C 84:23,24)
We read of Enoch: “And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant, which I made unto thy father Enoch; that, when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto Myself.” (JST Gen. 9:21)
As with Enoch, we read also of Melchizedek: “Now Melchizedek was a man of faith who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire. And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant, which God made with Enoch... And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven. And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace. And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;” (JST Gen. 14: 26,27,32-34)
We see that “Shem the great high priest” (D&C 138:41) received the title Melchizedek, meaning King of Peace, because “his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, [they] sought for the city of Enoch” and must have obtained it, for we are told they “obtained heaven.”
We know very little about the city of Enoch, but in the Book of Mormon, Alma gives an explanation of how this was accomplished with Melchizedek and the city of Salem. How did the prophets of old become great High Priests? Alma recorded: “...it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish...Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;” (Alma 13:10,17)
I have wondered what their wickedness was, that perhaps it might have been gossip, or backbiting, or finding fault, or any number of problems that we experience today? Joseph wrote:
“All the religious world is boasting of righteousness; it is the doctrine of the devil to retard the human mind, and hinder our progress, by filling us with self-righteousness. The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs. My talk is intended for all this society; if you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on one another...We are full of selfishness; the devil flatters us that we are very righteous, when we are feeding on the faults of others.” (Teachings p.241)
Hugh Nibley Quoted Brigham Young on this subject:
“An individual . . . with [an] abhorrence of evil [joins the Church]. . . . He sets himself upon the watch to detect the failings of others, deeming that he is doing God a service in being so employed, and thus he is decoyed into the occupation of the great master of evil, to be the accuser of the brethren. And during the time thus occupied by him, he considers himself actuated by the purest of motives, arising from a detestation of sin. . . . Yet mark the subtlety of Satan in thus leading men into a false position. Such a course, in the first place, probably arose from the purest of motives, and perhaps the individual was instrumental in rectifying some error; he feels a satisfaction for having done so, his self-esteem is gratified, and ere he is aware, he is seeking for another opportunity of doing the same, . . . continually set[ting] himself up as being capable of sitting in judgment upon others, and of rectifying by his own ability the affairs of the kingdom of God.” (Hugh Nibley, Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, pp. 251 - 252.)
We need to understand that Satan is our accuser, (Rev. 12:10) the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that when we accuse each other we place ourselves “...in the seat of Satan, who is emphatically called, ‘the accuser of the brethren.” (Teachings p.212) By definition the name Devil means accuser or slanderer.
We should only edify each other; “And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.” (D&C 50:23) A great example of this principle is recorded in the eighth chapter of John, when a woman was brought to the Savior, who had been caught in the act of adultery. Jesus instructed the accusers; “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her...And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” Now here was Jesus with this woman, who had many witnesses of her sin, how would he advise her? Would his words be to reprove or uplift? Then He gave this challenge; “...Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:4-11)
How was this problem, of faultfinding, of gossip, and backbiting, overcome in the days of Melchizedek? “But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father...And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest. Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek...” (Alma 13:18,13,14)
Their Zion society was brought about by teaching the people to humble themselves before God and in the words of the Book of Mormon, exercise “faith unto repentance.” (Alma 34: 15-17) This simple process would completely eliminate all the elements that cause contention in the Church.
Elder Gorge Q. Cannon instructed:
“Let any member of the Church who thinks he has plenty of time after attending to his on faults to attend to his neighbor's, examine himself; let him bow down before the Lord and ask for the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon him, so that he can see himself in his true light; and if he does not arise satisfied that it will take all his time to correct his own weaknesses and follies it will be very strange.” (Journal of Discourses, 20: 291.)
As we grow closer to the Spirit of the Lord we become aware of our own inadequacies, our faults, our weakness, and as we are aware of those shortcomings we will look upon the faults of others with compassion and mercy, instead of a condemning attitude. Paul warned the proud:
“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.” (Romans 2:1)
We become troubled at times about the actions of others, and are concerned about justice here and now, yet perhaps we should take the Prophet Joseph’s view on this subject:
“I want the innocent to go free—rather spare ten iniquitous among you, than condemn one innocent one. ‘Fret not thyself because of evildoers.’ God will see to it.”
As Alma and Amulek were taken to view the destruction by fire of all that believed the word of God, Amulek desired instant justice by Alma calling on the power of God to stop these evil men who were destroying the innocent women and children. Yet Alma declared: “The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto Himself, in glory; and He doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which He shall exercise upon them in His wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.” (Alma 14:11)
When we witness some member doing wrong among us, we should give the report to the Church leaders and then leave it totally in their hands.
The Prophet Joseph spoke of this situation among the saints trying to dictate his actions:
“…How oft have wise men and women sought to dictate Brother Joseph by saying, ‘O, if I were Brother Joseph I would do this and that;’ but if they were in Brother Joseph's shoes they would find that men or women could not be compelled into the kingdom of God, but must be dealt with in long-suffering, and at last we shall save them. The way to keep all the Saints together, and keep the work rolling, is to wait with all long-suffering, till God shall bring such characters to justice. There should be no license for sin, but mercy should go hand in hand with reproof.” (Teachings, 241)
When we exercise faith and repentance as did Enos, or as did the Brother of Jared, the Lord will say to us: “...thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.” (Enos 1:5) Then we will be “...redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.” (Ether 3:13)
Moroni continued to write the word of the Lord: “And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.” (Ether 4:7)
The Prophet Joseph Smith warned:
“The Lord will have a place whence His word will go forth, in these last days, in purity; for if Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved of in all things, in His sight, He will seek another people; for His work will go on until Israel is gathered, and they who will not hear His voice, must expect to feel His wrath. Let me say unto you, seek to purify yourselves, and also all the inhabitants of Zion, lest the Lord’s anger be kindled to fierceness. Repent, repent, is the voice of God to Zion; and strange as it may appear, yet it is true, mankind will persist in self-justification until all their iniquity is exposed, and their character past being redeemed, and that which is treasured up in their hearts be exposed to the gaze of mankind. I say to you (and what I say to you I say to all), hear the warning voice of God, lest Zion fall, and the Lord swear in His wrath the inhabitants of Zion shall not enter into His rest.” (DHC Vol.1, p.316)
Pres. Marion G. Romney spoke of the importance of the Constitution and the liberty that it assures:
“He (God) has told us that in preparation for the restoration of the gospel, He himself established the Constitution of the United States, and He has plainly told us why he established it. I hope I can get this point over to you. He said He established the Constitution to preserve to men their free agency, because the whole gospel of Jesus Christ presupposes man's untrammeled exercise of free agency. Man is in the earth to be tested. The issue as to whether he succeeds or fails will be determined by how he uses his agency. His whole future, through all eternity, is at stake. Abridge man’s agency, and the whole purpose of his mortality is thwarted. Without it, the Lord says, there is no existence. (See D&C 93:30.) The Lord so valued our agency that he designed and dictated ‘the laws and constitution’ required to guarantee it.” (Marion G. Romney, CR, April 1966)
Where freedom or moral agency exists there must be with that freedom, a self-control or self-discipline. Where freedom exists with lawlessness, only chaos, or anarchy will be the result. Those in prison must be there because they would disrupt the freedoms that we enjoy. As an example, the lawless act of a few men on September 11, 2001 which resulted in the death of thousands of lives, will necessitate the lose of freedoms to walk unrestricted through an airport to see loved ones off to their destinations. Freedom can only exist with a law-abiding people.
The Lord declared that the Constitution of the United States was written for the exercise of our moral agency, and to protect the innocent. The laws that guarantee our liberty can be abused, for the same laws that protect the innocent, can be hidden behind by the guilty.
In order for us to continue to enjoy the freedoms that the Constitution guarantees, we must be a good and moral people. When the majority begins to choose wickedness, the Constitution cannot long stand, for freedoms must be surrendered to restraints as the ethics of society erode. The Constitution can only survive with an honest and moral people, for it was “...established and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.” (D&C 101:77,78)
The Nephites, before the coming of Christ, had a similar government to ours, with the same type of problem that we face today: “For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted...they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.” (Helaman 5:2,3)
Before the Lord could establish a Zion society in Book of Mormon times, the wicked had to be destroyed and only the “more righteous” were left in order to establish that united order. (3 Nephi 9:2-13.)
Zion will be a society of expanded freedoms from what we now enjoy, there will be no coercion to pay taxes, but instead a willing consecration of our possessions. President Romney stated:
“The United Order exalts the poor and humbles the rich. In the process both are sanctified. The poor, released from the bondage and humiliating limitations of poverty, are enabled as free men to rise to their full potential, both temporally and spiritually. The rich, by consecration and by imparting of their surplus for the benefit of the poor, not by constraint but willingly as an act of free will, evidence that charity for their fellowmen characterized by Mormon as ‘the pure love of Christ." (Moro. 7:47.) (CR April 1966)
The attempt to establish Zion in our time was met with internal opposition to the principles required for its operation. The Lord warned of the saints observance: “...Zion shall escape if she observe to do all things whatsoever I have commanded her. But if she observe not to do whatsoever I have commanded her, I will visit her according to all her works, with sore affliction, with pestilence, with plague, with sword, with vengeance, with devouring fire.” (D&C 97:25,26)
The Lord named some of the problems that existed among the early saints: “Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances. They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble. In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.” (D&C 101:6-8)
As humility and obedience to correct principle give way to pride, as love of God and our fellow men give way to selfishness or desire only for self-gratification, and self-glory, we loose the only principles by which Zion can exist. Mormon tells of those who freely removed themselves from their Zion society: “…there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world. And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them.” (4 Ne. 1:24,25) Note that they were free, there was no arbitrary tax, but they gave freely until the time they decided to accumulate wealth for themselves.
We observe the agency or our God and those who inherit the Celestial Kingdom, as recorded by Abraham: “…there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.” (Abraham 3:17 see also Isa. 14:24) God is free to do everything He thinks about! How important then is it for Him to be “pure in heart”? God has revealed the immense difference between Him and us: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:8,9)
Satan had his agency in that pre earthly existence, and how did he use it? The problem did not exist with the proposal and rejection of Satan’s plan, but when he was angry and rebelled and tried to overthrow our Heavenly Father he had to be cast down. What tactic did he use? Because in the celestial kingdom there is freedom, Lucifer used that agency to accuse and defame our leaders, “which accused them before our God day and night,” (Rev. 12:10) and create animosity in heaven. He had to be cast out to preserve the peace that abides there. Using this tactic of slander and fault finding Lucifer convinced billions, and “a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency.” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:36-38.)
How can we prepare for exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom? Members should be “…anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.” (D&C 58:26-28)
When we so conduct ourselves we will be preparing ourselves for the expanded
freedoms that we will experience in Zion, for there we will practice greater autonomy than experienced by any other modern society, including that of the United States, thus giving its citizens greater “moral agency”, that our works and actions will stem from love, rather than coercion, in preparation for the ultimate exercise of agency, that of the Celestial Kingdom.