Several years ago, the general manager of one of my clients, who had just taken over the company, talked about his employees needing to be “on the bus” or he couldn’t keep them on. I now understand that the phrase “on the bus” was referencing a best-selling book called “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon. I have not read this book, but the meaning of the analogy was immediately obvious…are you going to help me get to where I’m going or not? Are you on the bus, or not? If not, then you probably have no place on this journey.
I have had a couple of occasions recently to study and ponder Alma Chapter 13, the chapter where Alma is expounding to the people of Ammonihah (following the standoff that he and Amulek had with Zeezrom) on the high priests that were ordained from “before the foundations of the world according to the foreknowledge of God. Verses 1 through 3:
And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.
And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.
And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.
As I read this, it became clear to me that these high priests were those who, through their “having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith” had demonstrated that they were “on the bus”. In other words, they got it. They understood what the Elohim were trying to do with this great universe that had been created, and they truly wanted to be part of it – even though, perhaps, they couldn’t see the end from the beginning. That, after all, is where the faith comes in, right? Verses 10-11 say:
Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;
Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
So, for their faithfulness, they were sanctified and their garments washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
Now, why did Alma even teach this sermon? He was preaching to a largely wicked and clearly unconverted people who were destined to be destroyed in short order by the Lamanite armies (chapter 16). Was he preaching a message of hope – a message that, if you exercise exceeding faith and choose good over evil, you, too, can be one of these great high priests, and have your garments washed white through the blood of the Lamb? If that’s true, does that mean that there were among these wicked people some who were fore-ordained from before the foundation of the world to this high and holy calling?
Fast forward to our day. Does this message, left for us by Mormon, suggest that there are those among us who are priests who were called and ordained after the order of the Son of God? Are there those among us today who have already demonstrated that they are on the Lord’s bus? Do they know who they are? How might their ordination and calling be revealed to them? Verse 4 says:
And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.
It seems from this that there was a point – a probationary period, if you will – where many had the opportunity to either accept or reject the Spirit of God. Some passed the test, but others didn’t. Have we been tested? Are we being tested?
I want to be on the Lord’s bus. I want to accept the Spirit of God, choose righteousness and goodness over evil, and exercise exceeding faith. If you’re reading this, I suspect that you do, too. Actually, I’d like to think I am (and you are) already on the bus, and that He knows it, but we’ll have to wait to see who’s standing once Elijah and the city of Enoch (and Salem?) have returned, the Temple has been built, and Christ has returned to dwell among us before any such things are made known publicly. I hope I’m there. You hope you’re there. I hope you’re there. Maybe we can all be on the bus together! Maybe we’ll all find out some time soon that we are indeed among those High Priests who were called and ordained, who were on the Zion bus.
But is there another possible scenario? Whether or not I passed some previous test, or even had the opportunity, doesn’t change the fact that I dearly want to be on the Lord’s bus. I know that babylon is the illusion, and that Zion is the eternal reality. So, what if, by boarding the Lord’s bus now, we are actually punching our ticket in this probation to be called and ordained before the foundation of some future world? What if THIS probation is the testing ground for us, while those who were already fore-ordained are playing their unique role in the drama of this world, while we wait to find out if we get to play a similar role in another drama to take place at another time?
What if? Either way, my choices remain the same – I want to get on the bus. Now, finally, we’re to the point of this post. Now is where I ask, “What does it take to get on the bus?” I’ve recently discovered a few clues that I think are essential if we are to move forward, whether we’re in the process of realizing our individual ordination from a previous time, or whether we’re in the process of being tested to prove ourselves for some future role in some future world. If I may:
The Lord’s checklist is very small. Believe in me. Repent. Be baptized. Keep my commandments (Love God and love your neighbor pretty much sums it up – all the rest are simply elucidating the details). To be sure, this is a mighty list, one of eternal depth and breadth…it’s just not very long. Take “Believe in me” and “Repent”, for example. In my mind, this means that we reject this fallen world, with all of its insidious teachings about competition and survival, ownership of stuff, and “God helps those who help themselves”, and truly receive (believe in) Zion, which leads us to…
The Sermon on the Mount (or at Bountiful) is not just nice advice. Actually, it pretty much sums up what it means to “believe in me and repent”. It’s crazy stuff when viewed from within babylon, but if we can’t recognize that this is the essence of His entire ministry; that it represents the framework of a Zion society; that living this way is what it means to be “on the bus”, then we’re going to miss out entirely. You want commandments? Take these! I would like to expound on just a couple –
“Consider the Lilies” (Matthew 6:28). The Lord was not kidding when he shared this. He REALLY wants us to trust Him – that He knows our needs and that if we trust Him and devote ourselves to doing the work He would have us do, He will provide for us. He is not kidding when He talks about idolatry, because the worst form of idolatry is to trust ourselves and our own efforts more than we trust in His promises.
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Zion)” Matthew 5:5. My definition of “meek”? That would be those who refuse to compromise the agency of others. The ways in which we undermine the agency of others are myriad and they can be very sneaky and underhanded – so much so that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. If we cannot learn to set aside our own jealousies and fears and allow others to follow their path back to Heaven, we will never be able to live in Zion.
I don’t think these, or for that matter, the entire Sermon on the Mount, are considered by the world to be commandments, but I am of the opinion that if we want to be on the Zion bus, we’d better start treating them as such.
We’ll never learn to consecrate until we consecrate. You can’t learn to swim until you get in the water. No amount of instruction will ever suffice. No amount of practice swimming out of the water is going to teach you to swim. It’s that simple. So, at some point, we’re all going to have to “just do it”.
In summary, studying Alma 13 prompted me to consider what it means to be on the bus. I’m pretty sure everybody who reads that chapter wonders at some level, “how does this apply to me?” I certainly asked myself, “Am I among those who were fore-ordained?”, but then I realized that, whether I was fore-ordained or not, my desire, my choices remain the same. I’m going to rise up and seek to do all that the Lord calls me to do, and I’m going to try to do it with exceeding faith, humility, and meekness. I may struggle…heck, I may fall flat on my face, but I refuse to allow babylon to convince me that miracles have ceased, that the gifts of the spirit are a things of the past, or that the Lord cannot use me to do great works simply because I am imperfect. If I’m willing, He will use me. If you’re willing, He will use you.
HOWEVER, there is one very important thing that must happen if we are to get on the Zion bus: Leaving babylon requires a whole paradigm shift. It’s not about leaving behind books and movies and the internet, or about moving to an exceeding high and remote location and learning to live off the grid, or even about building a city of refuge or a New Jerusalem. It is totally about leaving behind the idols that replace Christ – the ownership, competition, covetousness, jealousy, and fear that cause us to worship our stuff instead of Christ. We must trust HIM and the promises He has given us. Manna in the desert? Quail on the plains? Why not???!!!! The Sermon on the Mount is real! It contains the framework for Zion. It’s not metaphorical or just pretty advice. We’re actually supposed to make this part of our existence.
Zion will happen. It is happening. Now is the time. Let’s get on the bus. Let’s learn to consider the lilies; to surrender our cloak, walk the second mile, and turn the other cheek; to walk in meekness because that’s what Christ did, and He gave everything. If He is the prototype of the saved man as stated in the Lectures on Faith, can we really do anything less? Then, let us rejoice when Zion, in her beauty, rises.