I am not a scriptural scholar. I read, but I don’t really “study” except with my heart. I live with my heart. I lead with my heart. I listen closely to my heart. It rarely leads me astray. Sometimes I think it has, because I sometimes get hurt or perceive loss or betrayal, but in the end, I always recognize that such things were only perceived in the short term, while in the long term my heart, and the Lord, had led me in truth.
I turned 64 last month. You’d think that after all those years I’d be rock-solid about knowing what I think and what I believe and standing firm. Nope – no such luck. That’s not to say there aren’t MANY things about which I do not waver – because there are – but I also still recognize that I’m really bad about agreeing with the most recent convincing voice. I want to please. I crave harmony. I want my responses to be “yeah, yeah” or “nay, nay”. Unfortunately, in a world of disagreeing voices, that’s not possible. So, guess what – I end up going with my heart. I make a choice, and then I try to stick to it.
I’ve observed the arguments on facebook and in the blogosphere over the covenant that Denver is advocating should be (will be?) offered to those who will receive it at the conference in September. There are many passionate, well-studied, convincing arguments surrounding this issue. I want to believe them all!
Oh, the turmoil!
My head hurts!
Actually, the choice for me turned out to be pretty easy in this case. Why is that? It’s because I went with my heart early on. I’m going to stick with it.
That doesn’t mean I don’t use logic, though. I do, actually. A few, more logical, thoughts:
- The new scriptures are symbolic of the covenant. They contain the covenant, but not all of it. That covenant is going to be a little different for each of us, because we each have a little bit different relationship with Christ. Our knowledge and our progression is supplemented by personal revelation, to each according to his needs.
- I’m not going to be making any covenant that I haven’t already made. My primary covenant, the one offered to me in 1997, was that I would “seek to know you”, meaning Christ. That hasn’t changed. The details have become more clear, and are becoming more clear, but they all fall under this very large umbrella. I’ve been committed to Zion for years, as have most of you. I am already on the Lord’s bus.
- The thing that lends this upcoming covenant – if it is truly offered – further significance than our personal covenants is that we will be making it together. That covenant that I made in 1997 – that was by myself. This one will be different. This will bind many of us together. We are not only covenanting with the Lord, we are covenanting with each other. It’s like a marriage, only without benefits. This will hopefully lead to a concerted, coordinated work being performed. The work will be many faceted. Few, if any, of us know what that work will look like. We will be be engaging each other in faith. Been there. Done that. Didn’t really work out so well – well at least not yet. But I’m willing to try again. As a matter of fact, I’m anxious to try again. I learned a lot the first time. I hope this next time will benefit from the lessons that I learned.
There’s been a lot of fear expressed over this proposed gathering and covenant-making. Mostly – it’s some version of fear of “LDS 2.0” or the strong man, or of making the same mistakes we’ve made in the past. “Denver is starting another church”, or “there’s going to be an hierarchy and I’m going to be at the bottom” (just kidding – nobody really said that – except maybe me – ever so briefly). I get it – sort of. I say “sort of” because I’m not fearful. Not really at all. Here’s why:
- I do think that any coordinated effort is going to require direction. If there are committees that’s ok. If there’s a functional hierarchy, that’s ok. It’s ok if I’m at the mythical bottom, which I most likely will be because I’m really not an organizer or a driver or a particularly charismatic person. I’m a lover. I’m a teacher. I’m kind, and gentle, and cooperative. I’m a good soldier. The Lord is going to need soldiers. Especially kind, loving, cooperative ones who aren’t afraid to lead when the occasion calls for it. There will be a place for me.
- I’m free to walk away any time I want to. No man can take away my right to serve the Lord; or to love; or to heal. If “LDS 2.0” pops up, I can leave it, or call it out. Oh – I suppose it will appear in one form or another. All of us participants are so imperfect and we are so unprepared. There will be unimaginable trials. Those trials won’t be over food and shelter, etc. The Lord has told me, and I believe Him, that “There will be enough”. No, our trials will be of a different sort. There will be those who need to learn to be kind, loving, and cooperative because they’ve never had to be that kind, and loving, and cooperative. It will take many a long time to realize that they don’t need to…that they cannot…control others – that they must be patient, and kind, and long-suffering. These can do much damage in a short time, if their fellows aren’t even more patient, and kind, and long-suffering. No man, though, (or woman) has any authority over me that I don’t give him. One might say, “But I’ve given over all my material possessions to the cause, therefore I’m sort of held hostage. If I walk away, I walk away with nothing. My response? “…Consider the Lilies”. If I have truly served the Lord with all my heart, might, mind, and soul, he’s not going to leave me comfortless. Furthermore, those “things”, that “stuff” that I “sacrificed” is of no real value. As hard as it may be to comprehend, you have sacrificed nothing by giving away your stuff. As a matter of fact, our attachment to our stuff is a great burden to bear.
- The covenant-making is an ordinance. It is symbolic and meaningless until I act..or don’t act. It is like the famous French Revolutionary painting (circa 1830 – there were multiple revolutions) “Liberty Leading the People” by Eugene Delacroix. The lady liberty herself never existed, but the principles she represents are timeless. It’s meaningless for me, though – only an ordinance – because I have never actually fought for liberty. This ordinance that has been proposed will mean nothing until we act – until I act and until you act. There will be those who will engage, and then do nothing. Many will be overcome by fear despite their best intentions. There will be those who are not there who will nevertheless dedicate their lives to it. The Lord knows His sheep, and His sheep will hear His voice. When we act together, then, we will have power, but not until then.
- The scriptures themselves are an ordinance. They are symbols on paper, symbols that represent ideas. Those ideas in turn represent the nature of God in that they describe both His historic and His desired relationship with man. These ideas, when applied, become knowledge. That knowledge – knowledge of God Himself – leads to eternal life. Just like any other ordinance, the scriptures represent and point to the ultimate goal – knowledge of and oneness with God.
- I think the biggest assets among those of us who covenant is going to be humility and charity. I can do humility and charity. I know I can. I still need to practice, but this, however it plays out, will be a great opportunity to practice humility and charity. It’s going to be ok. I just know it in the bones of my soul. My heart tells me so.
- So, humility and charity…and forgiveness. That’s not the type of forgiveness that is born of judgment. Think about it – most of the time when you forgive someone, you are judging them. You are judging that they have committed some sort of transgression toward you. No, this forgiveness, the forgiveness that will be required of those in Zion, is forgiveness born out of compassion and perfect empathy. It is forgiveness born out of charity. The thought process is, “You are good and I am good. We, together, are doing the best we can. I know no offense was intended, because I trust that you would never deliberately do anything to hurt me or anyone else.” This type of forgiveness is the forgiveness that both comes from and leads to being of one heart and one mind. Choices and decisions are shared, no matter how they work out. There is never an “I told you so”. Ultimately, this is almost a “non-forgiveness” because forgiveness becomes totally unnecessary. This, actually, is perfect love, and perfect love casteth out fear.
Now, there is one caution that I want to throw out. It is that…we have no idea what we’re in for! No one has done this before. Heck, few of us have even tried to live a Zion-like law within our own families, and fewer still outside of that. Can you imagine the adjustments that are going to be required? No, never mind – you almost certainly cannot. Neither can I. I’ve had a small taste, and it was stunning. There will be individual adjustments, family adjustments, community adjustments. Everyone is going to be learning things that nobody in the history of the world has learned before! Enoch? Melchizedek? The post-resurrection Nephites? Sure – they learned some of it, but not under these same circumstances! We are neck deep in babylon, folks – more so than at any time in history! Satan’s hold on this world has reached epic proportions, and we don’t even realize it. The transition is going to be astounding – like getting the bends from coming up too quickly after an ocean dive! These historical examples – they’re not the same. Just not the same. And they weren’t charged with – what was that – finding the remnant of Jacob, gathering them in, and assisting in building the New Jerusalem.
Our world is going to be turned upside down and inside out, and that’s not just a metaphor! Everything we thought we knew, with very few exceptions, is going to go right out the window. Heck, the world itself might even turn upside down – literally! Just consider – the City of Enoch is going to return! An entire city – 300 years of accumulated civilization – and that was just when they left – is suddenly going to appear, probably from another dimension or something! What’s that going to be like?!! As I said – this is not a metaphor – I believe it’s really going to happen. Pain and heartache, shock and awe, wonder and joy – these will be experienced on an epic scale.
Nope – none of us really have any idea what we’re in for. At this point, though, at least in my heart, I’m willing to try. I’m willing to go through another sifting – the sifting of that which has value from that which does not have value. I’m willing to risk failure, even humiliation in the eyes of many. Why? Because either the prophecies are real or they are not. If they are not real, I have lost nothing…I’m just another crazy idealist religious fanatic who was harmless, but who at least had the courage to work for something greater than himself. If the prophecies are real – well eventually the future will be today. Someday the Lord is truly going to call people to do the work. Someday, a select few are going to become the elect, but only if they stand up. Someday fear will have to be abandoned. Jealousies will have to be set aside – even forgotten. We will need to forget how to compete and covet. I’m willing to do this because I have hope. I have hope that the universe is ruled by love. I have hope that it is possible to live by the principles of goodness and righteousness. I’m willing to do this because, somewhere deep inside me, there’s this little voice saying, “This is it – this is the time. YOU can really help save the world”. To be clear, this is never about my personal salvation. It’s never about escaping the pain of a coming holocaust. That’s all fear-driven. No – it’s about being on the Lord’s bus, because He did so much to pave the way, and I can’t bear the thought of disappointing him. I guess that’s a little bit fear-driven, but that’s a fear – fear of disappointing Christ – that I can live with.
Those other fears – the fears that I mentioned earlier, the fears that may be causing people to balk at making this covenant – they can’t hurt me. Men can’t hurt me – not really. The greatest risk I take is disappointing Christ. I choose, though, to believe in miracles and the gifts of the spirit that will be manifest when they’re needed, and when I have exercised enough belief…when we have exercised enough belief – enough faith – enough courage. I choose to believe that the Lord is capable of taking dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of imperfect and unprepared people and bringing them together to carry out that marvelous work and wonder that has been prophesied since the days of the patriarchs.
Dang – I wanna be there to see that happen!