Several days ago, my Seminary journey through the Doctrine and Covenants finally reached the location of Zion. In Doctrine and Covenants 57, the Lord revealed Zion’s location as Independence, Missouri. But if that’s where the Lord revealed Zion should be, why isn’t it there?
Several sections prior to this landmark revelation, the Lord revealed the doctrine of consecration. I tried to demonstrate the essence of consecration by giving each student a plastic cup with varying amounts of water colored with green food coloring. The green water represented the students’ money and material “stuff.” As we read Section 42, learning about consecration, I asked the students to respond with their green water.
First, the Lord acknowledged everyone had “stuff.” Some people had more “stuff” than others, but everyone had something. The Lord appointed a bishop with His authority to administer the “stuff.” In order to provide for all of His saints, the Lord asked everyone to give their “stuff” to the bishop, who would then distribute the “stuff” based on individual or family needs AND wants. The “stuff” was then distributed. Any residual “stuff” remained under the administration of the bishop to use for poor and needy church members or to acquire church properties and buildings.
We read the revelation. I asked the students to pour their green water into the communal pitcher. Some didn’t hesitate. Others did. I repoured the green water based on the Lord’s revelation. Everyone had varying levels of green water. It was easy to look around and see who had more green water and who had less green water.
Coveting the “Stuff”
At that moment, I understood the difficulties of consecration and building Zion in a way I hadn’t visualized previously. Differences in the “stuff” remained visible. Despite the fact that the bishop dispersed the “stuff” according to wants and needs, visible disparity remained.
Not everyone gave freely of their “stuff” to the bishop. Martin Harris was chastised for holding onto some of his “stuff.” William W. Phelps was rebuked for using “stuff” to set himself apart. Over and over, sections in the Doctrine and Covenants warn specific, amazing people about pride and coveting and their “stuff.”
In his memorable General Conference address “Come to Zion,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson reiterated some of the reasons the early members of the Church couldn’t build Zion.
Under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith, early members of the Church attempted to establish the center place of Zion in Missouri, but they did not qualify to build the holy city. The Lord explained one of the reasons for their failure:
“They have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;
“And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom” (D&C 105:3–4).
“There were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances” (D&C 101:6).
Rather than judge these early Saints too harshly, however, we should look to ourselves to see if we are doing any better.
Heavenly Father is a God of Abundance
Our Father, the God of the Universe, lives in abundance. He creates abundance. “The earth is full,” He said.
I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.
And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
In other words, the Lord says there is more than enough “stuff” for everyone.
As we’ve continued to talk of the law of consecration, I—like a broken record (which metaphor my teenaged students can’t actually relate to)—remind them that “stuff” is more than just material things. We’ve studied about spiritual gifts and revelations. We’ve discussed relationships with others and the Lord.
We’ve talked about a worldview of abundance versus a worldview of lack, and I’ve asked them to consider what their worldview is. And so must I.
When I look at other people’s glasses of green water—generally undistributed through the law of consecration these days—I have often looked from a perspective of lack. And as I’ve testified to my students, lack often precedes envy, coveting, jarrings, contentions, and withholding of “stuff.”
If I feel lack, I compare myself to others as either greater than or lesser than I. If I feel lack, I envy others’ talents or relationships or “stuff.” If I feel lack, I seek the praise of the world or to excel without meekness to fill my insatiable lacking. If I feel lack, I cling and hoard whatever “stuff” I already have.
If I feel lack, I cannot build or enter Zion.
Again from Elder Christopherson’s talk:
Zion is Zion because of the character, attributes, and faithfulness of her citizens. Remember, “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). If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. It will be necessary (1) to become unified in one heart and one mind; (2) to become, individually and collectively, a holy people; and (3) to care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us. We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen. . . .
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 186). In our families and in our stakes and districts, let us seek to build up Zion through unity, godliness, and charity, preparing for that great day when Zion, the New Jerusalem, will arise.
As I’ve adjusted my mental habits from lack to abundance, I have a different heart. I see the possibilities of a united Zion society, where before I couldn’t even comprehend such a place. I still have failings to overcome, but I know that the Lord only commands us to do what He’ll help enable us to do through faith, repentance, and His grace.
I am grateful for a God of abundance who challenges us to test His promise of abundance.
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.