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Marriage, Mutuality, and Oneness in Zion

Diana and I have been traveling for the past month, largely visiting family. Since we moved up to North Idaho, and don’t really have money for plane tickets like we used to, we drove. A lot. Salt Lake City, LA, Phoenix, Salt Lake City.  I’ve stayed abreast of most of the goings on with the Statement of Principles. I’ve had thoughts and opinions, but have largely been pleased that most of the things I might have to say had already been said before I even got around to adding my voice. This is a good thing – a very good thing. There are so many good, talented, well-spoken, well-meaning people among us. It’s great to see.

However, there is one thought that I think is very important, and which I don’t think has been expressed among us – at least not in the way I have constructed it in my mind. I would like to share that thought today.

Zion will be like a marriage – although one without benefits except among monogamous couples joined by God. I think herein lies the secret of achieving mutual agreement. I think herein lies the secret to becoming one even while we are clearly individuals with individual personalities, talents, dreams, hopes, fears, etc.

I consider it to be the greatest blessing of my life to have the kind of marriage I have with Diana. One of the defining characteristics of this marriage is the way in which we are united – the way in which we are one. We do not always agree on matters, but we always achieve mutual agreement. Then, when we do, there is rarely any “I told you so” between us.

You see, once we have agreed (after honest and open discussion) on a course of action, even if we initially disagreed, we move forward together, in unity, trying to insure together that the agreed upon course of action results in the desired outcome.  We don’t seek to prove that one or the other of us were right, subtly seeking to sabotage the decision that we initially disagreed on.  Actually, we tend to rejoice when one of us is proven to have been correct.  Every such experience makes us stronger and more confident in our combined wisdom and ability.  And if the chosen course of action eventually is proven to not have been ideal, the other is quick to admit their error, and bow to the gained wisdom of the experience, seeking together a new course.

In our marriage, there is no fear of the others’ success, only rejoicing. There is no jealousy, only love and sacrifice. Pride – usually exhibited by me – is quickly recognized and extinguished by honoring the wisdom of, and the need for, humility between us. Anger can no longer flourish, because we so quickly recognize the pain it causes, and how quickly it can destroy our oneness – which oneness we have learned to cherish greatly.

I pray that many of you will recognize this type of relationship in your own marriage. I describe this, though, because I think this is what the Lord is leading us toward in preparation for Zion. This is the ultimate goal of all marriage covenants, whether it be between two earthly individuals (and Christ, of course); or between an individual and Christ; or between a covenant people and Christ. This type of sociality is the goal of the scripture project and its capstone, the statement of principles. If we can learn to come to an agreement, even if we initially disagree, and sincerely and energetically work together to bring about the best possible outcome of that course of action, without harboring any anticipation of an “I told you so” moment, should things not work out as desired; this is the oneness that the Lord seeks. It’s all in our hearts. It’s the difference between a faithful bride and a prideful, adulterous one. Do we seek individually to be right, or do we seek for the best possible outcome of our mutual agreement, no matter how imperfect we might initially and individually think it is?

Even a majority decision can become mutuality if we can work and live this way together. If one is participating in a council or committee meeting, and all voices have been spoken and heard, and a decision is made by majority vote – mutuality is still attained when each member of the council says to themselves, “Well, we came together to decide on a course of action. We did so. Even though I don’t think this is the optimal course of action; even though I’m in the minority; I will still do my best to bring about its success, and if we experience failure, then we will have experienced failure together, and we will all come together again, having mutually gained the wisdom of the experience, and seek a wiser course of action – and we will seek it together!”

This kind of mutuality, this kind of cooperation, this kind of love, is the key to Zion. This is what the Lord is trying to teach us. It is a simple lesson, and it is one of the lessons that I am most grateful for in my life. The opportunity to learn this lesson with such a meek and wonderful person as my wife is just an added blessing. I must grudgingly admit that she has made it infinitely easier for me just by her nature. “Yes, sweetie, I know. You told me so.”

Can we each commit ourselves to making it easy for our neighbors to learn this lesson though our humility, our honesty, our selflessness, and our charity? Can we each be an example of this type of selfless love? Can we do this so that we might become one with each other; achieving unity and mutuality; while still extolling the differences that make us each a unique and, hopefully, complementary entity in the Lord’s universe? If we can do this, I truly believe we can become the covenant people the Lord has sought since the beginning. I truly believe we can achieve the mutuality that He requires of us. I truly believe we will be able to learn and apply the lessons that will bring about the oneness, the unity, the social and spiritual perfection, that must eventually define His Zion.

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The Covenant – Doubts and Assurances

As we prepare to leave for Boise today, I’m experiencing doubt. I’ve found in my life it’s not good to run away from things, especially fears, but it is better to face them. Why the doubts? Let me count the ways:

  1. There are some who talk about secret things they know about Denver and/or the inner circle that they won’t share (c’mon guys – that’s like saying, “I know a secret, but I’m not gonna tell you. Neener, Neener, Neener!)
  2. People whose voice I have respected in the past who are so vocal against this covenant idea. What’s their reason. Is it just fear? Some deep seated ego competition with the persona that we’ve created for Denver?
  3. The idea of an inner circle period. I guess that shouldn’t bother me. I have an inner circle that I communicate with – private things that I wouldn’t share publicly. It seems like a pretty natural development in any community. Am I just jealous because I’m not included in it?
  4. This whole John Doe thing – not because of John Doe, but because of how the rumor mill just shot sky high almost immediately. I’ve seen judgment and self-righteousness shoot out of control – accusers at every turn. Lots of “shake my head” moments. “WHERE’S THE LOVE AND FORGIVENESS?”What kind of people am I joining up with? Of course, here I am judging and accusing the accusers
  5. Things I’ve heard of others within our group who are equally inappropriate in their actions – ahh, more rumors.
  6. My own knowledge that I rely much more on personal revelation than I do deep scripture study. I rely on love, not rules. This is my strength. Is it betraying me at this stage in my journey?
  7. Awareness of my own fallibility in receiving revelation. Am I being told to do only what I want to do? Well not any more, because I’m feeling like I’m doing what I’ve been told to do by the Lord in spite of the doubts. In other words, I’m braving the hurricane, kicking and screaming, trusting my first revelation before all the opposition began swirling with such force. You see, this is a perfect conundrum – one so evident in the LDS church. “If you have doubts – that’s just opposition from Satan”. Sure to keep you in line, eh?
  8. We have created a cult of Denver. It exists. He may not want it. I and others may not want it, but it has happened. Is Denver secretly soaking this up and manipulating it for his own purposes? I’ve never met the man. How do I know for sure?

So – why am I not running away, screaming at the top of my lungs?

Well, let me count the ways:

  1. Nothing as amazing as the opportunity to be part of Zion is going to be easy.
  2. What is happening here is unprecedented. It has never been done. Searching the scriptures for precedence is fruitless. There may be patterns, to be sure, but we’re breaking new ground here. The limited prophecies that we have – what are they going to look like as they unfold? How can so many be so sure that this is not EXACTLY the way it is going to look?
  3. Despite all the railing about Denver and his possible motivations – this is NOT about him. It’s about each of us and Christ – learning of His nature (guess what – His nature is LOVE – CHARITY!) Regardless of what others may be doing to elevate Denver into a role created by us – I am not doing that. I do not want to do that. I only want to stand side-by-side – all of us together, to embark on this journey.
  4. What an amazing opportunity to learn charity! We have a group of people, each with their own particular brand of weakness and insecurity, each with their own manifestation of sin – including myself – who need to experience the pure love of Christ. They need to see it, they need to receive it, they need to give it. How is Charity made manifest? Through human relationships! I can have all the charity in the world in my heart, but if I don’t manifest it through relationships, it does no good. If I’m the only man in the world, and I go around giving love, is it really love? I don’t believe we’re going to start Zion in perfection. The Lord will mold us into Zion, and we have to start somewhere. Then we have to let Him do His work.
  5. I cannot believe that, if I am moving forward with the purest of motivations, even in the face of intellectual (not spiritual) opposition such as that swirling around us, Christ is going to condemn me or abandon me. Warnings have been voiced – “You will suffer! You don’t know how hard this is going to be! There will be trials!”. My favorite – from someone unwilling to move forward with this, “Let me know how that works out for you!”.
  6. There really is nothing in this covenant that I have not already committed to. It’s not a new thing – it’s just a shared thing.
  7. This people, this community, if nothing else, manifests hope. We hope for salvation. We hope for peace. We hope for Zion. We hope for love. We hope for redemption. We hope to see the Lord’s face, each individually. We hope to experience Christ walking among us. We who accept this covenant will move forward in faith. Lots of faith. Tons of faith. Hard faith.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Well, now there’s a scriptural precedent – one I can sink my own teeth into.

So, my friends. This post has been therapeutic for me. I feel much better now. I’ve had to type it in a hurry, so please forgive any clumsiness or lack of polish. As we move forward, let us do so in love, because love is the only manifestation of human endeavor that is eternal. Everything else is a temporary illusion. Faith and hope exist only to lead us to charity – the pure love of Christ. As we exercise this faith and hope, let us not forget the ultimate goal, and I hope and pray that we will soar on its wings.

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Denver, a Covenant, and a Community of Christs

What I am about to say today is pretty bold, but I think it’s important enough that I’m going to stick my neck out anyway. For me, these thoughts opened up a lot of understanding, and cleared up a lot of confusion.

In my mind, of the four questions included in the proposed covenant being offered this weekend, the most essential one is the third one:

Do you agree to assist all others who covenant to likewise accept this standard to govern their lives to keep the Lord’s will, to succor those who stand in need, to lighten the burdens of your brothers and sisters whenever you are able, and to help care for the poor among you?

This describes what I think is the cornerstone of Zion – having no poor among us. The paragraph could be restated as “Do you agree to have no poor among you?” If we can accomplish this one requirement, everything else follows. Being of one heart and one mind? Check. Christ walking among us? Check. Leaving babylon behind? Check. Knowing the Lord? Check. I repeat that this is my opinion – that having no poor among us is the ultimate goal, and if we can do all that we need to do to make this happen, all the other characteristics of Zion are either requirements for or results of this one component of the covenant.

Before I continue to the point of this post, I want to share a few foundational thoughts. The first is that poverty, or “the poor”, referenced in the above-quoted 3rd question, is not limited to those who lack money or temporal sustenance. It very much involves spiritual as well as temporal poverty. The individual who is struggling with thoughts of divorce is perhaps just as poor as the single mother who doesn’t have money to pay this month’s rent. The child who is trying mightily to understand the significance of baptism is just as much in need as the adult whose cell-phone is broken – a cell-phone which provides their most effective form of communication with friends and family.

Some have expressed their belief that we don’t need a group covenant, that engaging in such is presumptuous at best, and a strong man’s attempt to satisfy his own ego by creating LDS 2.0 at worst. I have struggled myself with these concerns. I don’t any more, because I now understand that you can’t have “no poor among us” without having a community – a group. My wife and I can have “no poor among us” simply by sharing a single bank account, and that’s a start. This way, at least, if we’re poor, we’re equally poor. In a sense, it is Zion, but it’s not the Zion that we seek; the Zion prophesied in the scriptures; the Zion to which the city of Enoch will return and among whom Christ will dwell. No, this Zion that we seek must be a community who have learned to have no poor among them. It can be no other way.

No poor among us is the ultimate goal for a heavenly society. It’s not just that everyone has their temporal survival needs met. It’s so much more than that. It’s the manifestation of the Pure Love of Christ. It’s exactly what a society would be like if it were populated by a thousand Christs. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what we must become – a community of Christs!

Finally, I believe that this covenant is a doorway through which we must step that will lead to having no poor among us, and ultimately to Zion. I believe that this covenant will call for us to become a community of Christs. I believe that anything less will be the farce that some have predicted.

All of which brings us to the subject of Denver Snuffer – or, more accurately, to the image of Denver Snuffer that we have created among us – and ultimately to the point of this post.

It is no secret that the image of Denver that is perpetuated among us varies from him being a knowledgeable scholar who opened many eyes to an alternative understanding of the narrative of the restoration to him being the Davidic servant – the prophesied “one mighty and strong”. In truth, he might be both and everything in between or he might be something else entirely. After all, the title is only applied after the work is done. One thing I can assure you, even though I don’t know him personally, is that Denver the man is just that – a man – a man with feelings, needs, fears, loves, weaknesses and strengths. Many of us have put him on a pedestal that he has professed not to have sought. I choose to take him at his word. I also choose to appreciate the service he has offered thus far in this journey, and to believe that he has honestly done the best he knew how to do given the task that he accepted from the Lord. I choose also to think that someone needed to offer a prayer for this covenant (if it was to come about – I don’t think a committee could have done it) and to receive the covenant itself by revelation, and that Denver was a very likely candidate to do that on behalf of the group. I choose to believe that this was a simple act of service, and I have no objection to the product of his efforts.

Now – the bold part. I think Denver’s role is going to change. I think it has to if we are going to achieve no poor among us. I think he has served faithfully, and many among us have responded to his service in the way the Lord hoped we would, but now – when we step through the door of this covenant, the dynamics are going to have to change. Having no poor among us requires an incremental change in the hearts of every single individual. It requires forsaking our love for and dependence upon (worship of?) material goods. It requires overcoming jealousies and fears. It requires looking upon others and seeing the Christ within us, and treating each individual as we would treat Christ. This is dramatic! Please, don’t just pass over what I just said. Think about it. We need to treat each other the same way we would treat Christ if He were standing in front of us! If we do this, we will necessarily become the community of Christs that is Zion.

We cannot look to another man or woman to help us do this. We can only look to Christ.

There is not a person among us, including Denver, who is prepared for this. Once we have accepted this covenant, we will all be on equal footing. All the scholarship and study in the world, no matter who you are, will prepare you for the change that we must undergo as a result of this covenant, as a result of committing ourselves to having no poor among us. No matter what strengths we have, no matter what weaknesses we have, no matter what deep, dark secrets we might be harboring that nobody else knows about…the leap from where we are today to where we must rise if we are to fulfill this covenant is so great that we must all rise together, or we will all fall together. We can no longer look to Denver the way we have in the past. We must stand side by side – all of us, sharing equal responsibility, carrying as much of each others burdens as possible – or “whenever you are able”. Denver’s burdens will be just as great as those of anyone else. To the extent that he is “able”, I hope he will seek to help lighten your burden, but we must be equally eager to help lighten his. I hope it is clear at this point that what I am saying about Denver applies to any who have evolved into a perceived leadership role among this community.

Please, I do not seek to denigrate or minimize anyone by saying these things. I do not seek to predispose anyone’s future. I just hope to heighten our awareness and perhaps provide a unique viewpoint of what lies ahead. I hope to encourage all of us to look to the heavens – high in the heavens, probably higher than we’ve ever looked before – to anticipate and seek after the glory that awaits us if we live up to this covenant. Miracles – even the greatest of miracles, that of oneness with Christ and with each other – await us, but our hearts must rise to the occasion. Ask, and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. Honestly, this scripture suddenly takes on meaning far beyond anything I had understood before today.

I don’t know how all of this is going to play out. I don’t know how we will end up working together or what the mechanics will look like. The Lord will certainly lead us – if we will let Him. Some might consider these ideas to be too idealistic to become reality. To that, I respond, “Zion must be a miracle! It is a heightened state of existence. We cannot do it by ourselves. It can only be done through the hand of the Lord.” In the scenario I describe above, we must each individually seek to rise to this new level of existence. We must have this vision, and then, with the assistance of heaven, constantly compare ourselves – every thought, every action, every desire – to the standard offered – to the covenant we have entered into. Doing so will unleash the power of love, enabling each of us to ascend to Zion, and as a community of Christs, establish the heavenly society that truly has “no poor among us”.

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A Tough Confession

woman_caughtI desire to confess some things before you all, and I hope in doing so we will all look into our hearts and honestly assess whether or not we might be guilty of similar things.

I first heard about this whole John Doe affair many months ago. I was disappointed, but was also somehow, in a perverted way, lifted by knowing that someone whom I so respected was struggling with something that I personally did not struggle with (or do I?) I secretly, in my heart, thought, “Well, this needs to be remedied and he needs to be punished! He can’t be allowed to get away with this.” Even worse, I thought, “I’m sure when Denver hears of this, he will deal with it.” Of course, this was not my affair, and I didn’t say anything to anyone outside of my wife. I didn’t want to gossip, after all. But how many of my own personal sins and hypocrisy were exposed in those few thoughts?

Then, more recently, I heard about the council, and I heard more details than were publicly revealed. Again, I condemned John Doe in my heart for his transgressions. After all, here was a man who was arguably among the inner circles of this community, and I’m better than he is! (Wait, what inner circles?)

Then, I started hearing things about the council and the motives and personalities of the ladies involved. Oh, and the alleged behavior of Denver and Adrian and…Oh my – what IS going on? I began to switch my condemnation from John to the ladies on the council, especially the person who organized it. I did gossip – but only a little. The spirit of condemnation remained, even though I told myself that I was not judging, and I never said anything publicly that would suggest this spirit of condemnation that was in my heart. Even as I write this, I feel more and more condemned or ashamed of my thoughts.

During this whole time, I noticed yet another interesting phenomenon. I found myself anticipating eagerly the next development. Even though I didn’t participate publicly in the speculation, and tried to offer a voice of reason and non-judgment (“…just let it go. Nothing good can come from further discussion), I secretly was excited for all the salacious goings on. It was exciting, and it was stimulating to keep up with the latest news. I know – “get a life”. When nothing was happening, I felt oddly empty, looking for somewhere else to cast my gaze. It wasn’t long before those other opportunities were provided. It seems like there’s always some sort of soap opera going on among us.

Why am I saying all of this? First, I am truly ashamed, and painfully aware of this weakness in myself. It is hypocrisy, pure and simple. Second, I realize that this type of attitude cannot be allowed to continue if we are to be a loving, sharing, sustaining, covenant people who seek Zion.

I was recently puzzled to read that we humans will never find peace – the true peace of the spirit, the peace that passeth understanding, because we secretly don’t want it. If we have true peace, true harmony, true oneness, then we risk no longer being differentiated from each other, and we have a built in need – called the natural man – to be differentiated from each other, to be separate. I have written recently about this desire for separation, and, well, here it is popping up again. I couldn’t figure this idea out, really. What do you mean, I DON’T want peace, or that I even secretly sabotage it?

Well, now I think I see it. After observing my own thoughts and feelings in relation to this John Doe affair, I can see how I might actually be sabotaging peace, first in my own heart, and then among the community. I often share things in this blog because I think that, if I’m experiencing these things, then others likely are also, and maybe by baring my own weakness, I can help others recognize the same thing in themselves. In this case, I’m asking a particularly hard question. Do we really want peace among ourselves? Do we know what it even feels like? What if we truly had complete peace among us? Would we be happier? Or are we only happy when others are suffering or sinning more than we are, or differently than we do, or when their sins are exposed while ours remain hidden?

I have repented of this behavior, but I have no doubt that I will find myself repenting of this again and again. It is ingrained in us. It is the result of the jealousies and fears mentioned in D&C 67:10. It is the fall – characteristic of the fallen man and his separation from Christ.

I have repented of inwardly salivating over every little juicy bit of gossip that involves someone else’s failure or weakness or misstep simply because it makes me look better in my own eyes. I have repented of my tendency to agree with whoever I’m talking to and take their word as truth, and to switch my loyalties and trust with each changing of the prevailing wind of opinion or toward whoever is most recently flattering of my own ego.

Charity. The Pure Love of Christ. Without this we are nothing. Without this NOTHING that we do will be successful. Without this EVERYTHING we do will ultimately disintegrate into nothing. Paul made this so clear. Moroni made this so clear. In Charity is the power. In Charity is eternal life. Without it, everything will die. Here is the entirely of 1 Corinthians 13:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

On the other hand, WITH charity, we can access the power of eternal life.

My friends, we’ve got to step up to a new level of understanding of this if we hope to survive and not become just another flash in the pan as so many around us predict. If do not learn to eschew judgment and forgive liberally, we won’t even flame out, we will just go away with a sad whimper, leaving behind disillusionment and shattered faith, not because we tried to do the wrong thing, but because we were unable to grasp the depth and the power and the perfection of this existence that the scriptures call charity.

Now, before I get preachy (oops – too late), let me say that I do not proclaim in any way that I’m any farther along this path than anyone else. I’m just learning and learning, failing and failing, and then learning some more – every hour of every day. I see woeful failure, even hypocrisy, in myself. Still, I have this vision. I have this feeling in my bones that tells me that what I’m sharing with you is true. I recall Peter responding to Christ, upon being asked if the 12 would also leave Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” John 6:68. These words that extol charity ARE the words of eternal life (Not mine – Paul’s – or ultimately Christ’s).

I’m TIRED of carrying the burden of judgment of others. It is a heavy burden, the burden of death – one that willsurely kill me if I try to continue carrying it, because as long as I insist on carrying it, I cannot have eternal life. Reconsider Christ’s words in this context: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Matthew 11:30. The yoke Christ spoke of is the yoke of charity. His yoke is His pure love.

Without charity, we will find ourselves with a government, whether formal or informal, that will fail, or that will govern through unrighteous dominion. Without charity, we WILL have a strong man, or we will disintegrate. Without charity, we will condemn ourselves to an eternal separation from God and from each other. Without charity, we will always have poor among us, and we will be constantly pursuing, but never realizing, the concept of one heart and one mind.

With charity, we will have Zion, and we well dwell as one in the presence of the Lord.

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Polluting the Love of Christ

I have come to recognize just today that I perpetually pollute my relationship with Christ. I do that by putting conditions on His love, and as a result I put conditions on my love – my love for Him and my love for others. When I do this, I can’t receive His love unless I am “worthy”, and I can’t love Him unless I am “worthy”. I then, of course, force myself to be worthy of the love of others, and I force them to be worthy of my love. This is all a lie, and believing this lie, living this lie, will prevent us from becoming one with Him. It will ultimately rob us of our salvation.

I feel like I have to earn His love by being obedient. Intellectually, I know this isn’t true, but emotionally and spiritually, even doctrinally, I impose this condition on Him – on US – every minute of every hour of ever day. The checklists that define most churches are extreme examples of this condition, but we can reject those checklists, as I have, and still not be free of this belief, or this form of unbelief – unbelief because we do not believe HIM – because we continue to put conditions on His love. It is a great irony that I actually think that by rejecting the checklists of the churches I am somehow closer to earning His love. In rejecting the checklists of the churches, I have done nothing more than to create a new checklist – this time one of my own making, but a checklist nonetheless. It’s just a different list of conditions. I’ve still put conditions on His love that do not really exist. I will even go so far as to say that we put conditions on our salvation that do not really exist.

You say, “but baptism is required for salvation!”, and indeed it seems to be, but what does baptism really symbolize? Repentance? Repentance from what? From transgressing against a checklist? So, we’re supposedly burying the old and arising a new person? What if it really means burying this old person who insists on having to earn everything in life, including someone’s love; and who insists on distinguishing themselves from others by perpetual judgment; who insists on creating checklists that qualify us for Christ’s love? What if arising means arising a new person who truly believes; who truly believes that love and peace is the default condition of this universe, and that, like intelligence, it can neither be created nor made…nor earned – it simply is. What a brilliant plan of Satan – the deceiver, or the spirit of deceit – to plant in our hearts that we must “eat our bread by the sweat of our brow”. How does this compare to “consider the lilies”? In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ is calling us to redemption – to redemption from the fall, where we must earn our survival by the sweat of our brow. He is calling us to the redeemed state where, indeed, love just is, just as Christ is the I AM; where we can be perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect, and where we can consider the lilies.

I don’t know how I personally am going to overcome this, but I know I must. I must stop competing with others in every thought – because, think about it, to compete I must judge. To compete I must maintain separation. If I have to earn Christ’s love, is that not competition? If I’m competing with Christ, or for Christ’s love, am I not perpetuating the separation? Do you think you do not suffer from this? I encourage you to look deeply, because I assure you that 99.9999% of us do. I don’t recall meeting the person who does not.

I know this – I have been shown a key to Zion. I have been shown a key to ascending from a telestial existence to a terrestrial existence. Is it really that simple? I don’t know that yet, but it is essential. Until I can learn to just love, without conditions; to receive love, without conditions; to BE love, without conditions; I cannot be part of Zion. There may be more that I have to learn, but until I learn this, everything else will be insufficient for me to exist in Zion.

Of course, I have to ask myself…have I not just created another condition? Have I not just begun another checklist? Is it now a condition that I place no conditions on love? I suppose I have, but that condition is the one condition that defines our true existence. All other conditions are distractions and illusions. This condition is the condition of truth. It is not a distraction, it simply is. It IS real existence. It IS intelligence. It IS eternal life.

This journey – this journey to “seek to know Him”, that I began who knows how long ago – keeps getting more difficult, more strenuous, and more challenging, but it is the only journey worth taking. I might be frightened at the prospect of Zion. I AM frightened at the prospect of Zion. None of us are ready. It is going to be painful and stressful and it will test most of us beyond our ability to endure. I suspect most will fall away, broken and disillusioned. But Christ’s love will endure forever regardless of what we do or become. And if we can learn to love as Christ loves – with charity – the pure love of Christ – unconditional love – then we can do it. Any other journey we might take will only result in death. Only a life of charity can be worth living…for eternity. That life will be, must be, fueled by love without conditions – love that just IS. God bless us all that we might seek this love; that we might receive this love without seeking to earn it; and that it might flow through us unto all the world.

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)

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Separation, Salvation, and Unconditional Love

I had a wonderful prayer yesterday morning. It was one of those prayers where you just kind of receive knowledge and comfort and assurance all at the same time. They don’t happen often, but it’s really nice when they do. At the center of this prayer – kind of the anchor on which hung all of the knowledge gained before and after – was a vision or impression. I don’t want to make a big deal out of me having a “vision”. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a “vision” – but there’s a picture in my mind and the picture represents knowledge and understanding. Call it what you want; it remains a memory, with accompanying knowledge and understanding that I hope to relate to you.

This “vision” was very simple. I saw myself standing between Christ and another person. The other person wasn’t anyone in particular. It clearly represented “my neighbor” – all mankind. I was reaching out to both with my arms, but I was still separated from Christ, and I stood between Christ and my neighbor, indicating that my neighbor was even more separated from Christ than I was. The implication was that I was somehow more holy, or more advanced, or kinder, or whatever – I was somehow closer to Christ. As I took in this situation, though, I was realized that the situation, the relationship, as I viewed it is wholly unacceptable to Christ. I guess one could say it was “anti-Christ”.

What I understood during this prayer was that if I view myself, in any way, as being superior to another person, I am merely perpetuating the separation, not only between me and the other person, but also between me and Christ. In other words, I cannot be one with Christ if I am not one with my neighbor. I hope you’ll pause now and let that sink in before I proceed and attempt to relate the gravity of this concept.

SEPARATION

Before I proceed much further, I need to clarify my understanding and usage of the term “The Separation” or simply “separation”. The terms “The Fall” and “The Separation” are, in my theology and understanding, synonymous. When Adam and Eve chose knowledge over oneness, they were separated from the presence of and a oneness with god and from each other. Then, like all of us, they experienced the pain of the separation, and found themselves faced with the challenge of overcoming that separation that they had chosen. They were not only faced with the challenge of redemption for themselves, however, but I speculate that, because their choice resulted in the separation for all their children – because they “fell” together and all their posterity were born into a fallen state – they must somehow be healed of that separation, together. In other words, it is conceivable, at least to me, that Adam and Eve are responsible for bringing their children – all of them – home. I don’t mean to imply that this was all a bad thing. I really don’t understand all the Eden drama, and that is not the point of this post.

This separation from God is perpetuated and re-affirmed by our every thought, every decision, every choice, every action, every belief that is not in harmony with the nature of God. And what is the nature of God? God’s nature is love. I recently discovered a beautiful definition of “sin” in a book called, “A Course In Miracles”. This definition is very simple: Sin is to act in the absence of love. Therefore, if I do not love – if I act in the absence of love – I sin, because I have acted in opposition to the nature of God. We all know that God cannot not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. That sin, then, keeps me from being with God – from being “one” with Him.

SALVATION

I should probably also attempt to define salvation, at least for the purposes of this essay. It seems to me that there are two definitions of salvation at play in the doctrines of Christianity as understood by most of us:

  • The first is salvation from Hell – from eternal damnation.
  • The second definition of salvation is to be permitted to return to God’s presence – to again be one with Him – to no longer be separated from Him.

My observation is that most who profess Christianity throw this term salvation around without really understanding what it means – far too often without even questioning it – and that they also confuse the two definitions. Ironically, since I believe Hell, or eternal damnation, is nothing more than separation from God, the two definitions are really the same, and not different at all. Since Hell is the failure to return to a oneness with Him – to abide in Him and Him in me – my not being one with Him is indeed Hell or eternal damnation. This failure, to the extent that it is within my control, is nothing more than rebellion. The way is prepared for me to return – I just have to follow it.

Consider the parable of the prodigal son. He chose to separate from his father, but then he chose to come home. He came home and received back, by the grace and love of his father, his greatest inheritance (perhaps not the money he squandered). Nothing real (love) was withheld upon His return. The father’s love was unconditional, despite the temporary rebellion of the son. As long as the son remained separated from his father, they were not one, but as soon as the son chose to return, the oneness was given freely. The son had returned! Kill the fatted calf! Most importantly, we must take notice that there was no judgment in the father’s love.

I maintain, then, that salvation is ultimately to be one again with God. As long as I continue to openly rebel by acting in ways that contradict His nature, which is love, I cannot be one with Him. It is my choice. Another result of this choice, if made wrongly, is that I continue to reject Christ. He died in His innocence and perfect love that I might return to God’s presence, but I cannot continue to sin. I cannot continue to willfully and knowingly act in the absence of love. This sin, then, prevents me from being saved, because, despite all that Christ did for me, that I might be saved, if I continue to sin, or act in the absence of love – the very nature of the Christ, I cannot be reconciled to Him or to the Father.

That is not to say that I can do this – become one with God – on my own. The most I can do, actually, is to be willing – to seek, ask, knock – and stay out of the way.

CONTINUING TO SIN

So, what is this, that I continue to sin and willfully rebel? Might it not be said that I keep the commandments in that I do not steal, or kill, or lie, or commit adultery, or covet, or worship other gods? Might I not even say that I keep the commandments in that I am kind, and loving, and gentle? Might I not even feel like I obey the commandments because I tithe regularly and am honest in my business dealings?

Recall my definition of sin – to act in the absence of love. The obvious sins that are detailed in our current canon of scripture, and have become part of our western culture – mostly the “thou shalt nots”- certainly fall within this definition. Christ said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). It should be noted that there are many levels of commandments – culminating, similar to the integrated hierarchy of performance measures in a business organization, in the two greatest commandments:

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:35-40)

All “commandments”, however you view them, are, in my mind, subordinate to these two commandments, and none of them can be contradictory to these. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s it. If I act in the absence of love, love of God and love of my neighbor, then I sin. If I continue to sin, I must remain separated from God, in a state of damnation. I must at least sincerely desire and strive to fulfill these commandments. Might I suggest that, although I keep the letter of the law or the letter of commandments, primarily some of the subordinate commandments, if I don’t do this in the spirit of charity; if I cannot learn to love unconditionally, I cannot be one with Him, because, as I said, I am acting contrary to His nature. I must remain to some degree in a state of separation or damnation (are there really degrees of separation or damnation?).

ONE WITH GOD AND CHRIST

I have mentioned multiple times so far the importance of being one; of overcoming the separation. Why is this so important? We need only turn to the Gospel of John to find the answer to this. I will begin with John 17:3, which says, simply,

…and this is life eternal, that they may know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”.

This short scripture has become the mantra of my own life – that I might know God and Christ. I’ve become kind of a broken record on this. As I have continued to pursue this goal, as they have continued to teach me what this really means and what I must do to accomplish this, it has become very apparent that “to know” someone in this sense is synonymous with “becoming one” with them. I cannot know someone in an eternal sense while remaining separate from them.

It should be noted here that this and the following scriptures from John 17 are taken from the great intercessory prayer offered by Christ after the Last Supper and before the experience in Gethsemane. Aside from the prayers uttered in the Garden and on the cross, I am not aware of any other prayers from Christ to the Father in the Bible. From this very important prayer, then, come the following utterances:

Speaking of the apostles, Christ says in verse 11,

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

Verse 14 says, still speaking of the apostles:

I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

Then, verses 20-23:

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

To be one, the separation can no longer exist. Just before Christ goes to perform the great atonement – the agony in Gethsemane, followed by that on the cross, Christ prays “…for them also which shall believe on me through their word…all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…”. One could certainly deduce from this that at a significant goal of the at-one-ment was that all might be one; that the separation might be healed and overcome.

HEALING THE SEPARATION – BECOMING ONE WITH CHRIST AND WITH EACH OTHER

In my vision, I was not one with Christ. Why? It’s simply because I continue to perpetuate the separation through my own thoughts and actions. I continue to openly rebel against His nature. I reject the oneness that He offers. Oh, He waits. He even watches, that He might see me “…from afar off” as did the father of the prodigal son, watching for signs of willingness. My journey back into His presence has certainly begun, and in great earnest, but as long as I continue to work to maintain separation from Him and from my neighbor, I cannot know HIM! I cannot be ONE WITH HIM. I cannot be saved.

In my vision, I was not only “not one” with Christ, I was also not one with my neighbor. Why? Once again, it’s because I continue to perpetuate the separation through my own thoughts and actions. I viewed myself as superior to my neighbor because I was closer to Christ than he was. Now here is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Little did I know that by perceiving that I was closer to Christ than my neighbor – that I was somehow superior (or inferior, for that matter), and thus separate, I was in open rebellion against the nature of Christ. I can never be one with Christ unless I can adopt His nature as my own. Again what is His nature? His nature is love. Unconditional love. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE! I must learn to have unconditional love for all – for my neighbor, for myself, and for HIM!

The faithful son in the parable of the prodigal son was no closer to oneness with the father than was the prodigal son, even though he was, on the surface, the obedient one. As a matter of fact, in this sense they were both prodigal. The “faithful” son’s love for the father was no more unconditional than was that of the prodigal. Actually, once the prodigal son returned, his love for the father was indeed unconditional, because he wanted only to return as the least in the household, while the eldest son became angry and withdrew his love when the conditions of that love were violated. So, if we place conditions on Christ, such as “If I keep the commandments, I can be saved”, even our love of Christ, or His love for us, is not unconditional.

In order to become one with Christ, I must become one with my neighbor. This is the only way the separation can be healed, the only way I can be saved.

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

How can I learn to love unconditionally, as Christ does? The answer is simple, but executing it is not easy. I must not judge. It is that simple. It is also that not easy!

The world will tell us that it’s ok to judge, as long as we’re right. Even Christ says in John 7:24, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteously”. I declare here and now that it is this judgment that perpetuates the separation; that prevents us from being one with our neighbor, and thus with Christ. It is this judgment that prevents us from loving our neighbor, ourselves, and Christ unconditionally, and stands in the way of our full reconciliation with the Father. It is this idea that we can judge righteously that will damn us. News flash! We are incapable of judging righteously. We just don’t have the knowledge required to judge perfectly. Furthermore, the necessary knowledge is blocked because we judge – because we choose to carry around this poisonous burden of judgment; a poison that we cannot tolerate spiritually, and a burden that weighs us down and prevents us from ascending. We cannot love unconditionally as long as we continue putting conditions on our love in the form of judgment. Wow! What a web we weave!

As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve continued to learn. Unconditional love cannot be learned. It is just in us. It is a gift of our creator – the essence of Him given to us as we are created by Him. However, we CAN learn to reject the characteristics of the natural man which prevent us from manifesting that perfect love. Fear, guilt, and judgment not only prevent us from receiving unconditional love from Father and Christ, but they also prevent us from feeling and manifesting it toward others. This morning, I was praying for someone, and I realized that I just glossed over the prayer, like it was almost mechanical. I stopped and recognized an almost empathetic feeling for this person’s suffering, but I found that I feared to go there. I felt like my prayer was a substitute for true empathy, for true charity. I am right now in the process of trying to learn how I can jettison the fear and see if it will allow me to experience this person’s suffering just as Christ experienced our suffering in the garden.

In my vision, I viewed a separation between me and my neighbor. I saw something in my neighbor that I perceived as being less than me. Perhaps it was less knowledge. Perhaps it was less compassion. Perhaps its was less self-discipline (hard to believe). Perhaps it was less love for his neighbor. Nevertheless, I judged, and because I judged, I did not love unconditionally. I was not one with either Christ or my neighbor. Somehow, I was allowing fear, judgment, or guilt to prevent me from a perfect connection with my neighbor.

Now, my neighbor may well choose not to reciprocate my offer of unconditional love. Once I have offered, I can do little more than continue to love and be patient, without judgment. That is the position Christ finds Himself in. I cannot judge my neighbor because he is unprepared to receive my unconditional love any more than Christ judges us because we are unprepared to receive His unconditional love. The love is unconditional. That means there are no conditions placed upon it. Does Christ withdraw His love, or attach conditions to His love because we choose to put our faith in temporal things, or in culture, or all manner of false gods, or in rituals, ordinances, or scriptures instead of Him? Does He attach conditions because we wrap ourselves in thoughts motivated by jealousy, fear, and guilt? No, he waits patiently, watching for us to approach from afar off. He waits, loving unconditionally, for us to recognize that His love is perfect, and even that we, the creations of the Father, are perfect.

DID YOU SAY “PERFECT”?

What a masterful, perfect lie has been perpetuated throughout the history of God’s relationship with Man. Countless hours and thoughts have been dedicated by Christians and their ministers to attempt to reconcile this lie. Only one perfect being? Hogwash! How can Christ say, as the culmination of His great Sermon on the Mount, “Be ye therefore perfect…” if being perfect is impossible for us – the target of His sermon? How can we be one with a perfect being if we ourselves are not perfect? Are we not to believe Christ? Are we to pick and choose which of His teachings we are to adopt into our lives, obeying some while ignoring this one? Yet as long as we continue to indulge ourselves in judgment of ourselves and others; as long as we continue to entertain thoughts of fear, jealousy, and guilt, and project those feelings onto others – heck, even to project those feelings onto Christ Himself – we separate ourselves from Him and from our neighbor’s perfect self. As long as we are separated, we are not perfect, and we cannot be one with Him. If we are to believe Christ; if we are to keep His commandments (love God, love your neighbor, be ye therefore perfect), we must seek healing of this separation. We must surrender our reliance on the ego, or the natural man, with its lies and illusions, and look to the Holy Spirit for truth. We must recognize that, in eternity (in the absence of time – for time is appointed only unto man), we are already perfect – as God created us – as one with Him. Our creation is not separate from Him. He created us as part of Him – perfect and one in that perfection. Once we can realize this, it is much easier to view ourselves and our neighbor as His perfect creations who, as a result of our essential quest for knowledge, are temporarily experiencing a probationary, illusory existence which we must overcome in order to return to our naturally created state – that of perfect oneness with God and all creation.

FAITH

As a side note, but not completely, I’d like to talk briefly (well, maybe not so briefly) about what we exercise faith in. My faith is in the message that Christ teaches – by His words and by His example. This message is that love – unconditional love, without judgment – that quality which we call charity – is the essence of the universe. It is the purpose behind all commandments. It is the purpose of our existence. All ordinances, all rituals, all scriptures point to this, and that is their purpose. They have no purpose or even value in and of themselves – only in that they point to Christ’s message of charity. Any man (or woman, of course) who does not teach this does not represent Christ, and listening to their teaching may well cause you to miss the whole point of your existence.

I have observed so many who put their faith in these symbols without even understanding their purpose. This purpose – this message – is so radically contrary to our experience on this earth that few are willing to truly receive it. As a result, we receive the law; we receive the scriptures; we receive the ordinances, hoping that somehow receiving and honoring these things will save us. We seek the magic, believing that somehow Christ will elevate us into oneness with Him. I no longer have faith in these things. I don’t even have faith in the person of Christ. Oh, I believe in Him. I even believe Him. I believe His promises. I trust Him – although I must admit I do so imperfectly. But it is His truth, His message – this message of hope and goodness and righteousness, even of perfection in our creation, that I have faith in. All else is idolatry. It is this message that I am choosing to pattern my life after – as massively difficult as I am finding it to be. This message, by the way, is also the message of Zion. It is the only way Zion will be – on the basis of unconditional love without judgment, of ourselves and of others, absent guilt, fear, and jealousy. We can baptize and sacrament ourselves to death. We can revise and fine-tune, even write new scriptures from now into the eternities – all of which is good – but if we do not develop this attribute of charity, we will never realize this great promise, the fulfillment of which is to the greatest glory of Christ and the Father.

SUMMARY

I admit that I’ve rambled a bit. This vision, and the knowledge that came with it…well, it was at once a distillation of things I’ve been learning all my life – especially the last couple of years, along with some new understanding of what it all means that distilled upon me suddenly. I will attempt to summarize the point of this essay:

  • Hell, or damnation, is separation from God. Salvation is being one with God, with Christ, and with each other. Christ is the prototype of the saved man because His is no longer separated from God.
  • We are born into separation. The ego or the natural man is all about self-preservation. He seeks to validate his existence by creating separation. In order to heal this separation, we must learn to subordinate this ego – not eliminate it – to the Holy Spirit. This is done by recognizing the power that guilt, fear, and jealousy hold over us. These are tools that the ego uses to validate itself, to maintain its separation, and they can have no place in our oneness with Christ. They are not part of His nature, and can, therefore, not be part of us.
  • As long as we continue to entertain the purpose of the ego, or the natural man, we sin. Such is counter to the nature of God, the nature of Christ, and therefore is done in open rebellion to their nature. Thus, this sin – this acting in the absence of love – perpetuates the separation.
  • Unconditional love – love without judgment – charity – is the nature of God, the nature of Christ, and extending it to ourselves, our neighbor, and to Christ Himself, is the requirement for healing the separation, which in turn results in salvation.
  • Perfection is our natural state. Everything else is a lie – an illusion. Our task here on this earth is to recognize that and, in doing so, to honor and glorify God and Christ. The flowering of this perfection must be enabled by casting out guilt, fear, and jealousy. The flower exists, it just hasn’t, within the context of time, bloomed yet. However, in the context of eternity, it already exists, and it is the essence of who we are.
  • Faith in anything other than Christ’s message – the message of truth, light, hope, charity, and perfection – is idolatry. Faith in ordinances, scriptures, even doctrine is useless without understanding what they all point to – which is the message, the truth. This is the message of Zion. It is the message that is Christ’s glory. It is the message that is, ultimately, our salvation. There may be many steps leading to this – steps that represent a degree of glory, a stop by the wayside, but only charity, only unconditional love without judgment, can bring about our ultimate salvation and the fulfillment of the purpose of our existence. This salvation, by the way, is incomplete – Christ’s mission is incomplete – until all are saved – one with Him and with each other. In other words, even damnation is a temporary state – a stop by the wayside. Christ will leave no man (or woman, of course) behind, not matter how long it takes.

I believe it is essential that we understand these principles – that we apply ourselves to healing the separation between Christ, ourselves, and each other. This has become so clear to me, and it is the purpose of my life, even my existence.

FINALLY

A quote – in the words of Christ – from the book “A Course in Miracles”

I who am host to God am worthy of Him.

He Who established His dwelling place in me created it as He would have it be.

It is not needful that I make it ready for Him, but only that I do not interfere with His plan to restore to me my own awareness of my readiness, which is eternal.

I need add nothing to His plan.

But to receive it, I must be willing not to substitute my own in place of it.

And from me: Individual ascension can only be accomplished if one focuses on enabling the ascension of others.

When I apply these principles not only to myself, but to others, it is much easier to comprehend ourselves having unconditional love for everyone. I pray that the Lord will teach me – teach us – how I can lay aside those thoughts and beliefs that interfere

.with His plan for me. I pray that He will prepare us to become one with Him, and thus to glorify Him.

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Crime, Punishment, and Forgiveness in Zion

Zion, when it is established, will be revolutionary. Little about the society, the culture, perhaps even the inhabitants, will be recognizable if viewed through the lens of our 20th and 21st century experiences. For this reason, I suspect that most of us have little idea what it will truly be like. In this post, I wish to highlight some characteristics of a Zion society that I believe need to be understood today…now…because they are very pertinent as we consider individually and as a society the possibility of a Holy covenant being offered this September.

korihor before AlmaI recently re-read the story Korihor in the Book of Alma from the Book of Mormon. In Alma, chapter 16 (RE), we read:

Now there was no law against a man’s belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.

However, in the following story, we read of how the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, “…took him, and bound him, and carried him before Ammon, who was a high priest over that people.” So, even though there was no law against a man’s beliefs, and, I would assume, no law against a person verbalizing those beliefs, these stalwart people thought themselves justified in exercising force – physical force – on this individual in binding him and kidnapping him and carrying him before the high priest – who held NO civil authority whatsoever. WOW!

Now this was not, apparently, a truly Zion society (the scriptures do not claim such). This Nephite people, the people of King Benjamin, had only been living under the system of judges for 16 years, and the people of Ammon for barely one year, so it’s understandable that they might be feeling their way through this new system of government, both civil and spiritual. My intent is not to criticize, but to use this as an example of something that I see looming before us.

One of the concerns that I have heard expressed on the topic of the anticipated covenant associated with the restored scriptures swirls around the fear of the exercise of unrighteous dominion. There’s not a lot that is specific to point at, but there’s an undercurrent that I think needs to be addressed. The concern, which I personally share, is that the more rules, or principles, or words of wisdom that exist, the more likely it will be that these rules are used to judge and force people to do things against their will.

Denver Snuffer, in his talk, “Things to Keep us Awake at Night” from March, 2017, said:

No matter who it is you trust at the beginning, even so great a man as Joseph Smith– everything is susceptible to corruption and abuse. Any institution that permits inequality (emphasis mine) will lead inevitably to abuse. Therefore, we need to be equal. We need to be on the same footing. I have seen what result will follow if we organize ourselves into an institution led by a hierarchy. I would rather denounce that inevitable result than to help bring it about. I have taught for years against the gentile “strongman” model. My view has never changed and cannot be changed. I know even the mighty and strong can remain as a servant; for that is the example set by the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” If so great a One as He can remain a servant, then a mere servant can do likewise and shun the opportunity to “rule and reign”—instead teaching and serving alongside peers, friends and fellow-servants.

In the Nephite reign of the judges, as quoted above, it was stated that, “…it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.”

Yet, even these righteous Anti-Nephi-Lehis, these miracle people who would rather surrender their lives to the brutal swords of their enemies rather than stain their own swords with another’s blood, when confronted with teaching that they feared might be harmful, or which they believed was inaccurate and untrue, resorted quickly to judgment and force. It was the only way they knew, and it is the only way we know, to protect themselves (ourselves) as a society from perceived threats to the individual or social welfare.

Zion cannot be that way.

Zion will be revolutionary.

It must be. If it is not; if we choose to set up a society based on what we have done in the past; we will get what we have had in the past. We will ultimately have hierarchy, judgment, punishment, use of force, and people will be on unequal ground. Strong men will arise. The society will most certainly not be of one heart and one mind, and there will most certainly not be “no poor among them”.

Of One Heart and One Mind

How many of us are totally intimidated by the idea of being of one heart and one mind? Be honest now. Raise your hands. Oh, my…so many! Just as I thought. How can we ever be of one heart and one mind when there are so many different beliefs, experiences, and expectations? How can we be of one heart and one mind when we all carry our own set of jealousies and fears, most of which we have not even learned to recognize? Well, I believe the answer to this is in simplicity and flexibility, and, of course, being in tune with the spirit.

Churches today are built upon complex doctrine – doctrine complex enough that each church can distinguish itself from the others because of their different doctrines. 3 Nephi 5 (RE), in the context of the doctrine of Christ, reads:

And whoso shall declare more or less than this and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil and is not built upon my rock, but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation and the gates of hell standeth open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

If all churches merely declared the doctrine of Christ, the sermon on the mount, the seeking of charity – there would only be one church. There would be no disputations among us. Oh, there could be many fellowships, but there would be no need for so many individual churches. There would be nothing to distinguish one from another. Each church’s doctrinal box would be very simple, but very large at the same time, with plenty of room for individual exploration and understanding without threatening the integrity of the box. Since the church was no longer trying to protect itself, there would be little need for doctrinal discipline.

Each box would not only be large, it would also be flexible. In Isaiah 19 (RE), we read:

Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear, break forth into singing and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child, for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations, spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes, for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left, and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. (emphasis mine).

If my tent is small because I have restricted its walls, and I fear searching outside my current realm of knowledge, I will never be able to learn and understand all truth; I will be limited in my knowledge. I recently had a delightful visit with a local pastor. We had many ideas and beliefs in common, but it quickly became clear that he believed, perhaps to the point of idolatry, that the Bible is the only source for God’s word. He admitted, when challenged (gently, I might add), that the Bible does not contain all truth, but he held to the premise that if something contradicted the Bible it can’t be true. He even stated that there is only one true interpretation of the Bible. He didn’t realize it, but the length of his cords was very short, and his stakes were driven very deep. In Zion, where we theoretically have so many who are fanatically dedicated to keeping the commandments of God (this is not a bad thing), and receiving revelation from Him, there will be a great risk that we will begin to idolize the knowledge that we think we have. Whether that knowledge comes from the canon of scripture or from the traditions that will most certainly continue to develop, we will likely fall into the trap of discouraging any who might seek or teach knowledge that lies outside our tent. Of course, unless our tent already contains all knowledge, his would be a pretty damning development. We’ve seen this phenomenon before, and it will most certainly arise again unless we keep things light and simple. A glass house cannot withstand the strike of even a single stone. Rigidity is the enemy of knowledge. Such rigidity (read “correlation”) will also make it practically impossible to be of one heart and one mind, precisely because it will tend to discourage the individual quest for truth, and will not be able to tolerate the differences in individual belief. Any attempt to force a state of one heart and one mind will, ironically, have just the opposite effect.

We each learn in different ways. We each have different gaps in our knowledge, and have different needs when it comes to filling those gaps. We have each been taught by the Lord in the way we, individually, need to learn. Even in Zion…no, especially in Zion…we cannot allow ourselves to force the learning and growth process on anyone or bind the Lord’s hand in this process. Instead, we must be dedicated to the proposition that there shall be no poor among us.

No Poor Among Them

….does not only mean that we have to ensure the fulfillment of each others’ temporal needs. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those that mourn. Blessed are the meek. Learning, growth, healing, loving are all just as much part of have no poor among us as is food, clothing, and shelter. Judging someone’s behavior will make them poor – placing them,, and us, on unequal ground. Binding them over to the high priest is an exercise of force, and has no place in Zion. This is a pretty bold statement, I know. It’s pretty revolutionary. Oh wait, “Zion, when it is established, will be revolutionary”. Yes, I’m quoting myself – I realize that, but this is the premise of the paper – that we cannot continue to think the way we have thought in the past. To tell the truth, I don’t claim to know how it will work, but I can see that this is the ONLY way it can work. I trust that,, if I can claim charity unto myself, I can even help it work.

As soon as we begin to try to force people in Zion to behave in a certain way, or believe a certain way, according to certain standards, we have violated the principles of D&C 47 (formerly 121). As soon as we begin holding disciplinary councils, we open the door to unrighteous dominion. In a recent blog post, Dan Pratt proffered that if we canonize the guiding principles, then not only are they no longer flexible (for they are canonized), but we will immediately begin to open the door to enforcing them. Once we start enforcing behavior in Zion, well, then I don’t believe it can be Zion any more.

Consider this…if I enter into a Zion community, I most likely will have given all my worldly possessions, with the possible exception of personal items (essential clothing, my toothbrush, my guitar!) to the society. Under those circumstances, I have little choice but to remain in the society. If I were to leave, making a new life for myself on the outside would be very difficult. To the extent that I fear such a transition, I kind of have to stay. So, if I were to experience any disharmony within the community, whether it’s my fault or the community’s, (or, more likely both) my choices are limited. This is a form of force and control. Furthermore, if I were to be asked to leave the society, such a request would likewise constitute the exercise of force or control.

Does this mean that all behavior must be tolerated? Yeah, I know. Tough question. However, if we are to eschew the exercise of force and/or control, what choice is there? This is crazy, is it not? Revolutionary! Revolutionary, indeed! It requires a whole new mind set…the mind set of Zion; a mindset that even the miraculous Anti-Nephi-Lehi people had not discovered.

A True Miracle of Forgiveness

Can this really be brought about? Can we really conceive of a society where this is no judgment, no discipline, no enforcement? Consider with me the idea of forgiveness. If you think about it, forgiveness implies judgment. We judge, but we forego the punishment. This is the minimum definition of forgiveness required of us by the Lord.

However, there’s another possibility. What if we don’t even judge in the first place? What if we assume that an individual is doing the best they can, and that their motives are pure? What if a perceived transgression is truly viewed as an honest mistake, and thus no transgression at all. What if, as long as the person is not physically harming another or themselves, we teach only by example and encouragement? What if we refuse to be offended? What if forgiveness is simply a state of being – a person is forgiven simply because they exist and we simply forgive because God loves them as much as He loves us, and therefore they must be His perfect creation? Can we do this? I offer that, if we are to have Zion – the Zion that will invite Christ and the City of Enoch to return, this is the level of forgiveness that we must practice.

Crime and Punishment: Enforcement

As I pointed out at the beginning of this post, I have detected an undercurrent of concern about the possibility of the exercise of unrighteous dominion should there actually be a covenant people arise from this next conference in Boise. This concern is certainly based on the assumption that, if there is a covenant, there will be terms of the covenant; that such terms must be enforced within the resulting community, and that transgressors must be corrected, if not punished. If there is no punishment, there is no law, for the law must necessarily be null and void. However, if this “enforcement” of the covenant is put into the hands of men, it will most certainly be corrupted.

The laws of a civil society must be enforced by civil authority. The laws of God must be enforced by God’s authority. The laws of any covenant must be enforced by those who enter into the covenant. At this point, I see such a covenant being between me and God, and thus enforceable only by me and God, and I am personally answerable to no man or council. However, I can see that this covenant, once presented, would be not only a two way covenant, but a three-way covenant, between me, God, and you, my brothers and sisters. Honestly, such a covenant as I imagine, if I am keeping it, will include loving my brothers and sisters, so enforcement of that third dimension of the covenant should not be necessary. If I’m keeping the covenant with God, between me and God, then the relationship between me and my brothers and sisters will be filled with charity. Transgressions will be quickly recognized, repented of, and corrected.

I can also see the possibility that God’s authority will be delegated to men, or that the community will believe that God’s authority needs to be delegated to men. This, frankly, worries me. It seems to detract from the purity of the covenant, and from the purity of the Zion society…a society ruled by charity and the higher form of forgiveness described above. I fear that, if an actual enforcement vehicle exists, we will tend to rely on it rather than relying on the charity in the individual relationship between us, the lord, and our brothers and sisters. In other words, if I have a disagreement with my brother, its resolution belong strictly between me and my brother, to be resolved in the spirit of charity, meekness, and forgiveness. If I simply resort to “binding and kidnapping and bringing him before the high priest”, I have done nothing revolutionary. (I am reminded of the story of Thomas Marsh and the cream). I have, instead, built my society on a foundation of sand – the same foundation of sand that today’s babylon was built on. Just as the post-visitation Nephites prospered for a few generations, so there will be an end to our covenant society, because it is not built upon celestial, eternally sustaining principles, being built instead on telestial principles that rely on the use of force and control for their sustenance.

Traps to Ensnare Us

When I mention the use of force or control, some methods of employing such are obvious. Binding and kidnapping pretty clearly involve force. Others are not so obvious. I mentioned the fact that, just because I have consecrated my possessions to the Zion community, I have placed myself in a potential control situation. This is subtle but powerful, yet it involves no physical force. Also, just as King Benjamin said that there are innumerable ways by which we might commit sin, there are innumerable ways whereby we may exercise force or control or other forms of unrighteous dominion. Not only must we learn to recognize and reject those tendencies in ourselves, but we must also be forgiving and understanding as others learn to recognize and reject them in themselves. Even in these circumstances, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, and mercy must rule our behaviors and interactions.

Summary

Zion is described in scripture as a society where the inhabitants are of one heart and one mind, and in which there are no poor among them. If this society is to become a reality, we cannot expect to think and act upon the principles that we have been taught in babylon. Instead, such a society must be built upon revolutionary principles – principles that few of us have ever experienced, not even in our own marriage or in our own family. These principles include:

  1. We cannot resort to enforcing beliefs, no matter how true…period. Enforcement by any means at all cannot be an option. God does not use force and control, and neither can we. Persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned – these are the only methods that we can use to influence the behavior of others, and such influence can only be attempted when moved upon by the holy ghost and in the spirit of pure charity.
  2. Forgiveness without judgment is the celestial order of forgiveness. Judgment can have no place in Zion.
  3. To be of one heart and one mind, our hearts must be focused upon charity – simple charity – the pure love of Christ. The more complex and “staked-out” our tent is, the more difficult it will be for all who have the desire for Zion to be welcome underneath it.
  4. To be poor is not limited to temporal needs. To have no poor among us, we must be committed to looking after each other emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually as well as temporally. The bread and water of life are just as important as the bread and water of the table. The weight of each other’s burdens will typically not be measured in pounds or kilograms.
  5. We must be willing to seek for and welcome truth wherever it might be found. A canon of scripture cannot be used to limit the Lord’s work or our knowledge of Him. Even a canon that has been accepted by the Lord will still have imperfections, whether they be in the text or in the mind of the reader. Such a canon may serve as a foundation, but it cannot be idolized as the entire structure of the knowledge of God’s Kingdom. Such idolatry is rooted in fear. Fear is the enemy of knowledge, and it is typically a measure of a lack of trust and faith in our Savior.
  6. Perfect love casteth out fear. This perfect love is the pure love of Christ – charity. This is the ruling principle in Zion. Any time we find ourselves experiencing negative feelings toward another, we must search ourselves, fix ourselves, and pour out charity on our friend, and upon ourselves.

I have a great desire for Zion. I am reverential of the prospect of being able to harmoniously live in such a holy society. Only through Christ’s atonement will such a thing be possible. That I, that each of us, might be healed to the point where, when we enter Zion, it is still Zion for everyone else; this is the miracle…the miracle of Zion, brought about only by the pure love of Christ.

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