Come Follow Me: D&c 51-57
These chapters deal primarily with the Law of Consecration and the Lord preparing saints to settle the center place of Zion in Independence Missouri, which the Lord identified in section 57.
The saints were often not saintly. They were expected to consecrate their lands and possessions for the bishops to divide, The saints, then and now, still do not understand the concept of stewardship. We focus on getting gain and keeping our own possessions. Such refusal to continue in the Law of Consecration and the covenant, forced many New York saints to be forced off of their stewardships in Kirtland. In doing so, the Lord revoked many blessings promised to those who had consecrated their possessions and reneged on their covenant. Many of the Saints were sent on to Missouri, to establish themselves in the center city of Zion.
Of the issues discussed in these sections, missionary work, publishing the Church's writings, the duties of the bishops and agents, and establishing a consecrated people in a consecrated land are foremost issues. All are related.
Missionary work would bring in converts, who would then be called on to consecrate themselves, some to go on missions, some to share their farmlands, some to move to Independence. All would have to meet with the bishop and his agent to deal with issues of the United Firm/Order.
As with the Nephite people during their time of peace in their "Millennium" of 200 years, found in 4 Nephi, there were no poor among them and no "-Ites." All were brothers and sisters, and children of God.
It would require constant reminders to get the new saints to live peacefully, humbly and righteously in a true Zion.
"Behold, thus saith the Lord unto my people—you have many things to do and to repent of; for behold, yourhave come up unto me, and are not , because you seek to in your own ways.
"And your hearts are not satisfied. And ye obey not the truth, but have in unrighteousness.
"Wo unto you men, that will not your substance to the , for your will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!
"Wo unto you men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of , and who will not with your own hands!
"But blessed are the who are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are , for they shall see the of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliverance; for the fatness of the shall be theirs." (D&C 56:14-18)
The Lord warns both the rich and poor. Greed and envy are wrong, regardless of one's status. God doesn't excuse anyone for their sins. Instead, he focuses on the inner person: pure in heart, broken hearted and contrite. The humble and those willing to serve God are the ones he is pleased with. These are what make up Zion, the pure in heart.
Yet, we find the ways of men are the same in Joseph's day and in our own. Many enjoy the blessings of being members of the Restored Church, but do not the work to become a Zion people. The day will come when those who will not truly and fully consecrate themselves, will be rejected. There is no room in Zion for the materialistic, the proud, the greedy, the selfish.
There is lots of room for those willing to repent, humble themselves, and become a consecrated people. It is a place for the pure in heart, and none other.
We shall see that due to the sins, pride and greed of the early Saints, they were driven from Kirtland and Missouri. It was most often those who were apostates that became the greatest enemies of the Church, who stirred up the Gentile non-members to anger, who caused people to fear the Latter-day Saints, to drive them to violence.
As we see today, there is no city of Zion in Independence Missouri. There are memories of violence, rape, murder, theft, and government abuse. There are stories of Saints, who failed to support the prophet in his trials, whether at the collapse of the Kirtland Savings and Loan, or as he sat in Liberty Jail after being duped by some of his closest allies.
Those who were breaking their covenants of consecration and obedience in 1831, would be the same type who would cause the failures in Missouri and Nauvoo.
Some saints understood this. Benjamin Franklin Johnson, a close friend of Joseph in Nauvoo, would note in his journal about returning to Utah after a long mission. His family barely looked at him and suggested they didn't need him and he could just keep going. He went into his house, knelt down, and prayed the Lord would take away their pride. As he finished his prayer, a twister came down out of the sky and wiped out the crop. They would have a difficult year, struggling just to feed themselves. It was what Johnson wished for his family. He realized that living a comfortable life with pride would cost their exaltation. Only in humility, even if thrust upon them, could they learn to be the pure in heart. Only then could a true Zion people be created.