Sunday, February 9, 2014

Zion Begins With Me

Last week I talked about the city that Enoch built called Zion. Enoch’s Zion lasted 365 years on the earth before the Lord took them up to dwell with him until the second coming of Jesus Christ. During those 365 years, the people of Zion were so righteous that no one could harm them. The scriptures in Genesis and the Pearl of Great Price tell us that the faith of Enoch was so strong that rivers were turned out of their course and mountains where moved in defense of the city and everyone feared to go up against them. While wickedness surrounded the city, the people of Zion were at peace Moses 7:13).  In verse 18 of the same chapter the Lord tells us why the city was called Zion:

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. “(Moses 7:18)

Last week I also talked about the New Jerusalem that will be built prior to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The 10th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says:

“We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.”

The reference tells us that the New Jerusalem will be built here on the American continent and it will also be called Zion. So the conditions in this latter-day Zion will be similar to Enoch’s Zion; the people will dwell in righteousness because they are of one heart and one mind. So when this city is built will there be a vacancy sign at the city limits that will say: “Only the righteous shall apply”? Or will we have to live lives worthy of Zion and then we become the city of Zion? I believe that it is the latter. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said this about building Zion:

“Each one of us can build up Zion in our own lives by being pure in heart. And the promise is, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8.) Each one of us can extend the borders of Zion by gathering our friends and neighbors into the fold of Israel..” (“Come: Let Israel Build Zion”, Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, April 1977)

We each have a part of the responsibility of building Zion first in ourselves and then our family and finally in our communities. Brother Troy Dougherty gave a devotional address at BYU-Idaho where he gave some suggestions about building Zion in our apartments and homes. He said:

Think about the apartment where you live. Think about your roommates. Think about your room-roommate. For those who are married, in case you didn’t know, your room-roommate is your spouse and your roommates are any children you may have. Think about the culture of your apartment or home. How do you live? Consider the following questions:

o   What can I do now to build Zion in my apartment?
o   What can I do consistently throughout the semester to build and maintain Zion in my apartment?
o   What can my roommates and I do, collectively, to build Zion in our apartment?
o   How can my roommates and I live in a way that leads us to and places us in Zion?

(The Practical Work of Building Zion in Your Apartments and Homes”, Troy Dougherty, BYU-I Devotional Address, January 21, 2014)

Brother Dougherty then gives three things that we can do to help build Zion wherever we are. Those three things are:

Principle #1: Love
Principle #2 Shared Responsibility
Principle #3: Mutual Respect   

Concerning the first principle Brother Dougherty said:

“In the first and only chapter in the book of Fourth Nephi we read: “And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people” (emphasis added).4 As he synthesized the records, Mormon thoughtfully, purposely, and specifically attributed the societal peace the people were enjoying at that time to their love of God.

“In the next verse, Mormon continues: “And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings . . . 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.”5 This people’s love, centered in God and undoubtedly His Son, clearly had a remarkable direct effect on their interpersonal relationships.

“In today’s language, there was no resentment, jealousy, bitterness, vindictiveness, discord, dissension, friction, disorder, or turmoil—all synonyms of envyings, strifes, and tumults. There was simply love one toward another and, as a result, peace and happiness. Loving roommates, then, will be a natural extension of your love for Heavenly Father.” (The Practical Work of Building Zion in Your Apartments and Homes”, Troy Dougherty, BYU-I Devotional Address, January 21, 2014)

On the second principle of shared responsibility he said:

“Shared responsibility addresses the ever-stirring question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”9 Some feel uncomfortable by this question and even believe it carries a negative connotation. Both ancient and modern prophets, however, have collectively and consistently testified of our covenant responsibility to care for, protect, and rescue our brothers and sisters.10 Perhaps a slight modification to the question may be helpful and more intuitive: “Am I my brother’s brother?” or “Am I my sister’s sister?” The answer to these inquiries is irrefutably and emphatically “Yes!”   

“…Consider this covenant responsibility a privilege, not a burden. I know it’s not always easy. It may even be uncomfortable, awkward, or risky at times. But, through your love for God and faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ, you can truly partner with your roommates to create an apartment culture in which you look out for one another, take care of one another, lift one another, and encourage one another to stay close to the Lord and honor sacred covenants. This is the practical work of shared responsibility that, with the practical work of love, will lead you to and place you in Zion.” (The Practical Work of Building Zion in Your Apartments and Homes”, Troy Dougherty, BYU-I Devotional Address, January 21, 2014)

Regarding the third principle of mutual respect he gave this council:

“[Mutual] respect is an expression of our sense of universal brotherhood or sisterhood—a testimony of our membership in the human family. Acting disrespectfully suggests we do not esteem others as ourselves.”13 Everyday forms of disrespect include gossip, backbiting, mocking, ridiculing, fault-finding, selfishness, indifference, and the dreaded silent treatment.

“Mutual respect is naturally and inextricably linked to the principles of love and shared responsibility. It is ultimately personified as roommates treat each other the way they want to be treated and value one another as sons and daughters of God. In a day-to-day, hour-by-hour practical sense, mutual respect is manifested in the apartment in a variety of small, yet significant ways.” (The Practical Work of Building Zion in Your Apartments and Homes”, Troy Dougherty, BYU-I Devotional Address, January 21, 2014)

He concludes with this advice:

“Brothers and sisters, building Zion is a practical work characterized and established by the way we live wherever we live. Your love for God and your genuine efforts to love and respect roommates, assume responsibility for the culture in your apartment, and honor the commitments and covenants you have made while helping others do the same will lead you to and place you in Zion.” (The Practical Work of Building Zion in Your Apartments and Homes”, Troy Dougherty, BYU-I Devotional Address, January 21, 2014)

With this in mind, we all have a part to do in building Zion. First we must be converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and desire to keep the commandments of God. We must separate ourselves from the evils of the world and the doctrines of men regarding the things that the world teaches as truth. God’s truths are eternal and do not change because the world does not believe that God exists. The plan that he has for us is to come here to gain physical bodies, to prove that we will be willing to keep all his commandments and then lose ourselves in building up the lambs and feeding his sheep.

The world wants us to think that it does not matter how we live our lives or what we do to advance our own desires it is ok. The world also teaches that marriage and families are not important, that it does not matter what we call a family. Families based on gospel principles of marriage between a man and a women who welcome children into their homes and teach them to obey God’s commands is the only way to build a solid foundation that will weather the storms that will rage all around us. Any other type of marriage is not acceptable to the Lord.

There are many families that start with this foundation and then through death or divorce things change. In these situations these families must rely on the covenants that they have made with the Lord and other family members to help strengthen their family ties and rely on their priesthood leaders to help ensure the gospel standards continue. There are also individuals that are not married that choose to bring children into the world when they are not married. The children born in this situation have done no wrong and can receive all the blessings Heavenly Father has for them. Those who choose to bring children into the world outside of marriage are also entitled to all gospel blessings including the sealing ordinances of the temple through proper repentance and forgiveness.

President Brigham Young had this to say about our part in building Zion:

“Do we realize that if we enjoy a Zion in time or in eternity we must make it for ourselves? That all, who have a Zion in the eternities of the Gods, organized, framed, consolidated, and perfected it themselves, and consequently are entitled to enjoy it? (DBY, 118).

“When we conclude to make a Zion we will make it, and this work commences in the heart of each person. When the father of a family wishes to make a Zion in his own house, he must take the lead in this good work, which it is impossible for him to do unless he himself possesses the spirit of Zion. Before he can produce the work of sanctification in his family, he must sanctify himself, and by this means God can help him to sanctify his family” (DBY, 118). (Teachings: Brigham Young, Chapter 16, “Building Zion”)

So the process of building Zion begins with me; I must be willing to keep all of God’s commandments and live a Christ like life and then teach my family to do the same. I must be willing to leave Babylon and give up any of the worldly philosophies and practices and be pure of heart and of one mind with others who desire to dwell in Zion. Then we will be a people that are prepared for when the Savior comes again on the earth and we welcome the City of Enoch back to dwell in righteousness for a thousand years. We will also have the protection for ourselves and our families that the City of Enoch had where their enemies dared not come against them because the Lord dwelt with Zion.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

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