Do you ever get tired, just tired…..of living? Do you ever get tired of constantly striving to overcome the burdens of this world? Tired of always trying to become better than you are? Perhaps tired of aches and pains or physical challenges, or of constantly comparing yourself unfavorably to others whose bodies, faith, or talents are so obviously better than yours? Do you ever feel like you’d just like to give up, maybe hurry along to the next phase of our existence? I’m sure most of us, if we’re honest would admit to feeling this way at times. But these burdens and challenges are part of our earthly existence – part of the trials that we chose to face in this life when we kept our first estate. Pondering this topic brings up many issues in my mind, such as:
Eternity is a very, very long time, and one had better learn to enjoy existing, because if one cannot do that, it is a very, very long time to be miserable.
There are numerous scriptures that assure us that, after this mortal probation, if we endure it well, we shall have rest in the Lord. For example:
And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall give thee rest, from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou was made to serve. (2 Nephi 24:3).
Which brings us to the real point of this essay. In section 8 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we are told of John the Beloved’s desire to tarry on the earth (D&C 7:1-3). In the 28th chapter of 3rd Nephi, Mormon relates the story of the 3 Nephites, who likewise, when asked what, of anything, they would ask of the Lord, chose to stay on the earth and bring souls unto Him. (3 Nephi 28:4-9)
Now both of these stories are inspiring, “beyond remarkable” stories of love and faith – love for their fellow man and their savior; and faith in His promises of eternal salvation for all men. These servants of the Lord lived a hard existence. Life was difficult. They didn’t have the luxuries and conveniences that most of us enjoy today. They worked hard just to survive, growing their own food, building their own homes, working hard every day with their hands. If we think we have it hard now, and look forward to the promised rest upon passing through the veil, imagine how tempting it must have been to these men.
The selfless requests of John and the 3 Nephites remain an inspiration to this day. Many are the anecdotes of mysterious men appearing at a time of dire need, bringing comfort and rescue in a way that only those with supernatural power could provide. We might ask ourselves, “What would I do if the Lord offered to grant the desires of my heart?” We may or we may not measure up to the charity of these men. But further investigation adds yet another dimension to this wonderful story. We read in 3 Nephi 28:38-40 that not only would they not taste of death, but that:
…..there was a change wrought upon their bodies, that they might not suffer pain nor sorrow save it were for the sins of the world.
Now this change was not equal to that which shall take place at the last day; but there was a change wrought upon them, insomuch that Satan could have no power over them, that he could not tempt them; and they were sanctified in the flesh, that they were holy, and that the powers of the earth could not hold them.
And in this state they were to remain until the judgment day of Christ; and at that day they were to receive a greater change, and to be received into the kingdom of the Father to go no more out, but to dwell with God eternally in the heavens.
However, when they asked for this blessing, they didn’t know that the Lord was going to alter their existence in such a way that they would only be partially mortal. As far as they knew, they would continue to suffer the burdens and fears of this world. Yet they still chose, when offered anything their hearts desired…..
And it came to pass when Jesus had said these words, he spake unto his disciples, one by one, saying unto them: What is it that ye desire of me, after that I am gone to the Father? (3 Nephi 28:1)
….to stay on this earth, to labor to bring souls unto Christ. What an inspiration! What an example! What love for their Savior!
Over the past few months, I have been blessed with a changing, enhanced perspective of all things. When I first wrote this post almost 3 years ago, I said:
Even though I am not called as an Apostolic Witness of the Lord Jesus Christ; even though I will most likely live out my mortality as most do and pass unremarkably on to the next phase of my eternity, I have no less responsibility than they did. I know now that I must find it within myself, by the strength and guidance of the Holy Ghost, to do all that I can to further the Lord’s great Plan of Salvation.
while, I continue to maintain that I carry the same responsibility that they did from bringing souls to Christ, I no longer feel as if I am destined to pass “unremarkably” on to the next phase of eternity, nor do I feel as if I am “not called as an Apostolic Witness of the Lord Jesus Christ”. Such things suggest that I am somehow less, or that my responsibility is somehow less, and of course, we all know that God is no respecter of persons. The time for expecting someone else to lead me to Christ is past. The end times are here. Zion is being prepared as we speak.
It recently occurred to me that, while Joseph was clearly a remarkable prophet, the men who surrounded him were just like us. They did the best they could with the tools they had – their love, their talents, their desires – to accomplish the Lord’s great mission of re-establishing Zion on the earth. The difference is that, for them, there was no organization – they created it. There was no one standing between them and Christ, with handbooks and policies and 200 years of culture saying, “We will lead the way – follow us”. So, I ask myself, why should we not accept the responsibility, much as they did, for building Zion? 175 years later, Zion is not built. They failed. Must we? Yes, the organization, the society, that they built, as remarkable as it is, failed to build Zion. Is it not, therefore, our responsibility to learn from their mistakes and carry on the work of the restoration? If not us, then who? Whose responsibility is it? It is made abundantly clear in D&C 101:6 what prevented the early saints from having a Zion community:
Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.
If Zion is to be built, we must avoid these things. We must be grateful for those who blazed the way and showed us the pits into which we will surely fall if we have not learned from their mistakes, but we cannot continue to lie to ourselves that “all is well in Zion” or that the Brethren will lead us to Zion. We must heed scriptures such as D&C 67:10 and stop telling ourselves that our lot is to wait until after we die to obtain the promises of the fullness of the priesthood and to exercise those powers in His behalf:
And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual. (emphasis mine)
We must become people who can stand in the Lord’s presence, for if we are to approach Enoch’s Zion, we must remember:
And Enoch and all his people walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion; and it came to pass that Zion was not, for God received it up into his own bosom; and from thence went forth the saying,Zion is Fled (Moses 7:69)
Brethren and sisters, the veil is not death. The veil that separates us from Christ is masterfully woven from disbelief and unbelief; (Mormon 9); from jarring, contentions, envyings and strifes; from jealousies and fears; and from pride. These are the things that have prevented Zion from Enoch’s day to ours, and these are the things that prevent us today from preparing a New Jerusalem to which our precious Lord can return triumphant.
A few weeks ago, I attended a lecture by John Hall, a retired BYU professor. He talked for a captivating 90 minutes about John the beloved. I love John the Beloved. He has always been my favorite. At the beginning of his lecture, he talked about a division among biblical scholars between those who believed in a “High Christology” and “Low Christology”; between those who believe that Christ is the creator, the Great Jehovah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and those who believe that he was simply a highly moral man with a gift for teaching and who somehow had many miracles attributed to him. I found myself becoming at once indignant and profoundly sad, thinking to myself, “If they knew Christ as I do…” It was at that moment that I knew what the Apostle John knew and what the 3 Nephites knew. I felt this “knowledge” rise up inside me with a force that I had never before recognized. It was just simply there, and it was powerful. I knew that if Christ asked me to tarry and bring souls to Him, I would do so. As a matter of fact, I have prayed many times for this very opportunity. To know His love is to be filled with a desire to return it by sharing it. This is the kind of love that will bring about Zion.
Do we think that this blessing – this blessing of translation that we might tarry and bring souls to Him – has been or will be limited to these 4 men? Really? I certainly don’t. If we are to build Zion and reside in His presence, we will need to be “translated”, changed, our hearts and bodies purified. If we believe I Zion, we must believe in translation. One will not be without the other.
I spoke above of having been given a new perspective. I am eternal. I am my own “I AM”. My relationship with Christ is eternal – not just timeless, but eternal in scope, depth and power. We must cast aside our unbelief! We must stop accepting boundaries that tell us we are only empowered so much. We must realize that, through Him, we have the power to walk on water, to calm the seas, to heal the sick, and raise the dead. WE have the power to build Zion. We have the RESPONSIBILITY to do these things. Many will reject this message. They will do so out of fear. Enoch didn’t. Joseph didn’t. John didn’t and the 3 Nephites didn’t. The invitation is there. The commandment has been given. We have been called. Will we choose to be chosen?
I am so inspired by the story of the 3 Nephites, who chose to tarry and bring souls to Christ, even though they had no idea that He would grant their request in the way he did. They chose an eternal relationship with Christ – eternal in scope, depth and power. If we live our lives with the perspective that we need only endure to the end (death), we are effectively denying Christ, and in doing so, crucifying Him all over again. In my mind, we’re choosing the easy way out. We are denying the blessings and promises that are so central to the message of the Book of Mormon – the book of scripture written for us, for our day – because we are too lazy or too blind to do the work that is required to lay hold of them. We are thus upholding the condemnation pronounced in D&C 84:54-55:
And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
I testify of my Savior. I will stand in His presence when He decides the time is right. I will touch His face, His hands, and His feet, and we will embrace. It will be a sweet reunion – but a reunion it will certainly be. I already know and testify of His reality. Seeing His face will not increase that knowledge or testimony even one little bit. I pray that, like John and the 3 Nephites, I, too, will be given the opportunity to tarry on this earth beyond the age of man and bring souls to Him. I pray that by that time, He will be residing in the New Jerusalem built by the loving hands and pure hearts of the true believers. Will you join me?