It’s time for me to declare, for anyone who may not have already figured it out, that this blog is highly autobiographical. It is effectively a journal of my own intellectual and spiritual evolution – of my own “becoming”. You might think it egotistical for me to even speculate that others would be interested in reading about my personal journey. You might be right. I guess I think my voice might be worth listening to because:
- I am a convert to the church, being baptized at an unquestionably middle age, so I didn’t grow up being taught the doctrine of the restoration.
- I am, like many others, basically prideful and rebellious. I have a difficult time doing things just because somebody else says so – I need to understand why.
- So, I think about stuff – the gospel, scriptures, relationships, politics, liberty, love, repentance, forgiveness, etc. Sometimes I see things differently than others, but not so differently that those others can’t relate.
- The Lord told me to do this – not in a loud voice, not in a voice of thunder, but in a still, small voice that I was able to hear and respond to.
Hopefully, my struggles, my learning, my thoughts, sound familiar. Hopefully…hopefully…they strike a harmonious chord in someone else’s developing symphony. Then, hopefully, that someone will realize that this blog is simply something I can do – something I enjoy doing – to help spread the truth and joy of the gospel, and to strengthen others as they pursue their own very personal journey into the presence of the Savior.
I’ve read, thought, talked, and written a lot lately about Zion. I’ve read numerous descriptions and definitions, including that of D&C 97:21 – that Zion is the pure in heart. John Pontius, in his book “The Triumph of Zion”, said:
“Zion is a society of people who have quietly reengineered their lives to the pattern of celestial law, who have sought and found the blessings of Divine company, and while in the presence of God, have asked for the privilege of being changed to the pattern of Zion.”
But what does it mean to be “pure in heart”? What is the “Pattern of Zion”?
What I feel – yes, feel – about that is that there is a universal goodness all around us, and in us. Some might call it the Light of Christ, but for me it’s gone beyond “the conscience”. If it’s the Light of Christ, the light is aflame! Some might suggest it is a baptism by fire. It is a kind of burning, I guess – a yearning, a longing to soak up the warmth and love that I feel – but I just think this is different. Whatever it is, it manifests itself as a deep, existential recognition, an undeniable knowledge, that the true reality of our being is righteousness and love – even exaltation. There is a fullness inside of me that pushes out darkness, and replaces it with joy and light. In a previous post, I called it the “Joy of Christ”. I know that if this fullness ever went away, I would be left an empty shell. When I kneel to pray, I feel more powerfully connected to the Lord somehow because I can see, without vision, what the Lord’s plan is for all of us. I know why we were created – I sense the glory of His plan for us. Joseph Smith reportedly complained once that there were no words to describe the knowledge he was being given by revelation. I’m certainly not elevating myself to the level of the prophet Joseph, but I am saying that it’s very difficult to do justice to this knowledge with my limited language skills.
As I have learned to recognize this fullness, this Joy of Christ, and to embrace it, I’ve learned that I can summon that feeling quite easily, and I’ve started to understand what the Lord wants from us if we are to build and live in Zion. He wants us to acknowledge the perfection of our creation, the perfection that awaits us if we reject the imperfection that surrounds us as a result of the fall.. He wants us to say, “Wow, Heavenly Father, I get it! I know now what you mean! I see what you’re trying to do, and I want the same thing. I want on the bus! Can I drive? Heck, I’ll push if you want me to!!!!” This knowledge is so exciting, and yet so comforting, it feels like a warm spiritual blanket that validates every noble feeling and desire I’ve ever had, while confirming that selfishness, fear, jealousy, and covetousness are truly foreign to who we really are, and can be shunned as we journey toward the light, leaving the spirit of darkness behind us.
I’ve had occasion to question myself about my motives. I say, “Father, I want more. I want to be more obedient. I want to see my Savior and feel his love. I want to exercise the fullness of the priesthood – even the very priesthood that created the universe. I want to heal the sick, raise the dead, even move mountains if it be thy will. I want all that you offer – you promised it, didn’t you, in D&C 84:38? In short, I want to glorify thee by anxiously seeking after every gift that you have offered us, thy children. I believe in your promises, and I want to allow you to fulfill them in me. I’m afraid, though, that I want these things just because I want to be special, kind of like a little kid who needs attention. It’s not a bad thing for me to want to please you, to want your attention, to be special to you, but that’s not the right motive, is it, Father?”
Now, though, I’ve come to the confirming – and comforting – realization that wanting attention is not my real motive. My real motive for wanting these things is that I truly believe in the cause, the vision, the pattern of Zion. I truly believe, in a deep place that can only be touched by the Holy Ghost, that we are capable of rising above the self-serving behaviors that we have learned in this telestial existence. I truly believe that, through the healing power of the atonement, we can leave behind our earthly dependencies and become eternally free and powerful. (After all, God’s only dependency is on the Law, which, if he were to break it, He would cease to be God – Alma 42:25). I truly believe that I can fully realize all the goodness that is in me – goodness that I was born with – and become perfect, even as He is. And I truly believe that I can thrive in a society where all are one with each other and with God. I not only believe these things, but I feel like I have discovered knowledge that has been smothered all my life, knowledge that is, however, very, very old, very natural, and very real. I not only believe, but I’m committed to trying to help the Lord bring about this glory for all His children.
How will this knowledge and commitment be manifested though my own choices and behavior? I don’t know, but He knows, and I will find out. I have far to go and much to learn. Sometimes I get glimpses of how Nephi must have felt when he lamented in 2 Nephi 4:17:
Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities…
I fall far short of the great standard of the temple, the standard of Zion. The weaknesses of the flesh and other numerous iniquities contradict the glory that grows daily within me. Yet, I don’t sorrow. I rejoice. I have faith in the power of the atonement, and I know that the Lord loves me, and will continue to teach me, despite my imperfections, as long as I humble myself before Him. He has proven time and again that if I seek, knock and ask, He will shower me with the promised blessings. I have no doubt that, through His love and the grace of His Son, I may and will be “changed to the pattern of Zion”.