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Highlights for 3 Nephi 27 – 4 Nephi 1
Once in a very great while, the finest generation with the finest reflexes come together and a Utopia described as Zion takes place. Zion, by definition, is a group of people who are of one heart and one mind. The City of Enoch managed to do it and got translated.
“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)
The Nephites brought it about for a couple of generations and were full of miracles and joy.
Surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God…they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. (4 Nephi 1:16-17)
Where Is Our Zion?
Zion is first and foremost, a condition of the heart and mind. Zion takes place on the inside of people before it can exist outside physically. If there are contentions, strife, blame, jealousy, gossip, ill-will, selfishness, egos, begrudging, pride, greed and any number of common mortal ailments – then Zion doesn’t happen.
With these descriptions in mind, it might be obvious to some of you that your ward or stake has not arrived at Zion yet. When I grumble, I might assure you mine hasn’t either. We are currently still a band of flawed mortals practicing at eternal concepts and glorious truths. We occasionally get it right and have awesome moments. Plus, we do have some number of rather accomplished, Zion-like people. But to be truthful, as a group, Zion is a future destination.
Fair question? Does the lack of Zion at Church suggest it is currently misguided or even not true? Do flaws and failings imply that our prophet and apostles are not divinely called or guided by Christ?
What more, sometimes people in local leadership positions do uninspired things which negatively affect people. I’ve been through that trial more than once.
It helps to look at some repeating patterns. First, the Lord knew Church leaders would mess up on a regular basis and even prepares us for this in D&C 1:24-28:
24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments [meaning the book of commandments or the Doctrine & Covenants] are of me, and were given unto my servants [Joseph Smith and other leaders] in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.
25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.
Second, when Christ was mortal and established his Church – his disciples jockeyed and quarreled over position and status. One apostle made shady deals, and another pretended not to know Jesus at all when He was on trial. Doubting Thomas didn’t give his fellow apostles any credibility when they reported a visit from the resurrected Savior. On top of all that, it took some rather persistent visions and experiences to convince the apostles that people, besides the Jews, could have the gospel preached to them.
Apparently, a perfectly-administered Church and infallible leaders are not a requirement for Jesus Christ’s love, acceptance and guidance. What a relief, because we all mess up and occasionally fall short of the capacity it takes to establish Zion.
Joy in the Journey
Despite the imperfections consistently contributed by human beings to the Church – it still belongs to the Savior. It is the only kingdom on earth where we will find enough sacred teachings, the right symbolic, saving ordinances, abundant opportunities for service and ministering, a means to repentance and overall…enough divinity to help us gain celestial glory.
So what is the Savior’s advice in the meantime, as we collectively wait for Zion to come again? I love this simple directive found in the Book of Mormon:
20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;
22 Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day. (3 Nephi 27:20-22)
What does the Savior most want us to do at church? First, repent (which is an internal event), be baptized, and obtain the Holy Ghost (notice both are individual choices). Then, go to His Church and emulate His love, ministering and befriend others (again…a personal operation). Notice how every instruction which leads to the greatest prize are ones we can attain independent of the less enlightened people we may encounter. No perfected organization, structure, crowd or calling title are needed to accomplish any of them.
We follow the Savior’s lead when we love, minister to and befriend others around us at Church. While we have a ways to go as a Church before we attain true Zion, how can you make Church more Zion-like for someone else? (Zion happens one small act at a time.)