Sunday, May 23, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 58-59

 Come Follow Me: D&C 58-59


In D&C 58, we continue to see the Lord discussing the Gathering. The Lord explained that the Gathering requires a righteous people, and the Lord prepares a righteous people through tribulation and challenges. 

"For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand." (vs 5).

 His/ promises here are conditional for those particular saints. But they will come to pass. There will be a center city/place of Zion established in Independence Missouri someday. 

For this, the Lord often talks about things as if they are near. We just don't live on the Lord's timeline. Moroni spoke to us as if we were present, even though we were 1500 years in the future. Alma spoke of the first coming of Christ as if it had already happened. Time, in this instance, is not viewed as linear, but cyclical. 

The Lord's time, while perhaps having a linear dimension of some sort, focuses more on cycles of time, what the scriptures call an "eternal round" (1 Nephi 10:19, Alma 7:20; 37:12, D&C 3:2; 35:1).

In some of these verses, the Lord describes his path as straight (linear) and his course as one eternal round (cyclical). So, if a prophecy does not occur in linear fashion for us, we sometimes think that it did not happen. However, in the larger cycle of life, these things are accomplished.

"For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven." (vs 2)

In other words, this life is the linear portion, where we keep on the straight path and hope for the blessings to arrive NOW. However, in God's cyclical eternal round, he sees that we will receive our reward in life or death - the bigger picture.

The Lord discusses the role of bishop and Edward Partridge's responsibilities as bishop of Zion. He and all those who go to Zion are warned to keep the commandments. They are told that those who keep the laws of God will keep the laws of the land. Clearly, there were many members not willing to be obedient to the laws of God, and damaged the reputation of the Church in Jackson County Missouri, for we shall see that mobs arose primarily because the saints were not being saints. Many bragged about building Zion and casting the Gentiles out. They openly spoke out against slavery in a land where slavery was legal. They did all their purchases within the Latter-day Saint community, setting themselves economically apart from their neighbors, and were often not friendly towards the Missourians. Later they would establish the Danites, a radical and secretive militia movement that would use violence as a means to an end in protecting the saints.

The Lord then explained to Partridge and the families in Zion:

"Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

"For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

"But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned." (vs 27-29)

The saints seemed to wait for a revelation from Joseph Smith before they would do anything. In not being "anxiously engaged in a good cause" they neglected their Missourian neighbors, making enemies of them. Here, the Lord called upon the Saints to receive personal revelation to guide themselves, and to do good things just because they sought to be good.

In today's application, we hear from our prophet at least twice a year. We hear from bishops and stake presidents more often. Yet, we often hear them with doubtful hearts. We are slothful in being obedient. We are Laman and Lemuel, whining because we are commanded to do a hard thing.

In being "anxiously engaged" we don't look at "anxious" as a negative term (as in anxiety attack). Instead, it is defined: "ardently or earnestly wishing." In the Book of Mormon, Ammon and his brethren sought to preach to the Lamanites, because they were anxious for their souls, not being able to bear the thought of anyone dying without hearing the gospel message (Mosiah 28).

How anxious are we to keep God's commandments, to build Zion, and to help the Savior redeem all of mankind? How engaged are we in the work? Are we diligent, or slothful?

Martin Harris is commanded, again, to give his wealth to the Church. This money would be used as a consecration to purchase lands in Jackson County for the building of Zion. Again, Martin is warned about being a wicked person, seeking the glory of the world. While we think we live a linear life, we can see in Martin Harris that often we also go through cycles. God continually has to give us the same command, because we forgot the previous lesson, and slouched back towards Babylon.

And so we all must seek to break our cycles of wickedness.

"Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.

"By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them." (vs 42-43)

Part of being anxiously engaged is to be anxiously engaged in saving ourselves. It is a daily thing to remember the wrongs of our past, so we do not repeat them. It is necessary to be anxiously engaged in our own salvation, otherwise our hearts become hardened, and we forget the teachings and blessings of the Savior. We become slothful.

Not all were called to go to Zion yet. For some, it would be years, according to the Lord. Instead, they were to preach the gospel and, "push the people together from the ends of the earth." (vs 45)

The Gathering is real. By this time in the Church, the missionary work had gone through the Midwest and Northeast, and entering the South. Today, We still are to push the people together from around the world. As D&C 45 and 133 tell us, the Gathering will increase until the time comes when the world is in chaos and at war with one another, Zion being the only refuge that is not at war with anyone. Millions of immigrants will flee the violence to Zion from the "north countries" and make America their home. It will be a time when we embrace the refugees of the world, as part of our blessing in Zion.

And the inheritances promised, whether in Zion, Kirtland (or elsewhere for us today) must be purchased peacefully, otherwise they will be obtained only by bloodshed.

"And let the work of the gathering be not in haste, nor by flight; but let it be done as it shall be counseled by the elders of the church at the conferences, according to the knowledge which they receive from time to time." (vs 56)
Today, We must prepare now for the Gathering. Are we ready for our part in it? Have we prepared our children? Are we ready to build Zion when asked, or will we ill prepared? Are we financially and spiritually prepared? Or will we be in flight from our creditors and demons, quickly trying to prepare ourselves to dwell there?

"And let my servant Sidney Rigdon consecrate and dedicate this land, and the spot for the temple, unto the Lord." (vs 57)

Zion, her stakes, and temples go hand in hand. Without stakes, there is no one to do the work of the temple. Without the temple, there is no way to prepare a holy people to build up Zion and her stakes.

A big part of the Gathering is to bring people to the temple. There is no Zion without the temple. There is no one endowed with power from on high without the temple. Today, we are called to build up the stakes of Zion. Temples are being built at a faster pace, so that stakes of Zion can truly be holy places with temples at the center. It is necessary to create a pure people that are anxiously engaged in the work of the Lord. One of the reasons the early saints failed is because they did not understand the importance of temples and the endowment. They sought to build Zion on their own terms, and not on God's terms. 

Why did the Utah settlement succeed when Jackson County and Nauvoo failed? Because the Saints didn't have the spiritual knowledge nor the endowment of power they received as they left Nauvoo for Utah. The endowment gave them the courage and ability to be more anxiously engaged in the work: which included traveling through the wilderness to the Great Salt Lake Basin. It helped them to become a dedicated people that God could use (as a whole). We still have work to do before Zion can be redeemed, but the time is much closer now than it was in Joseph's time.

Are we ready?

D&C 59

Given in August 1831, this revelation focused on fasting, prayer and the Sacrament. In other words, even after more than two years, there still were key issues to deal with on some of the most basic and important things in the gospel.

The Lord gives a new set of commandments, beginning with the two great commandments: Loving God with all our heart and soul, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Then God repeats some of the Ten Commandments no stealing, adultery, killing, or anything like these.

"Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things." (vs 7)

Here is something new. What does the Lord mean by "all things?" Does he mean, "all blessings?" That isn't what he said. He said, "all things." When was the last time you thanked God for a trial or tragedy? How often in the past year have you risen from the bed and thanked God for the Covid virus' benefits in your life? (more time with family, for example).

"Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit." (vs 8)

In ancient times, sacrifices were animal sacrifices. It meant giving up financial wealth to kill an animal and give it to the Lord. Today, a broken heart and contrite spirit are the primary sacrifice. It opens the door for paying tithes and consecrating ourselves and possessions and wealth, but those are not the main purpose of the sacrifice. God owns all things. The only thing we truly own is ourselves. In offering a contrite spirit and broken heart, we are offering ourselves up freely to God. We are saying to God, the only thing I possess is what I am, and I'm freely giving it to Thee.

Next, the Sabbath is discussed. It is a time to go to "the house of prayer." It is where we offer up our sacraments of a "broken heart and contrite spirit." As we partake of the Sacrament, and the symbolic elements of Christ's flesh and blood lay upon the altar of the Sacrament table, we also offer up ourselves to God.

Our Sabbath activities should be done with "singleness of heart." We are to be One with God. We give thanks for all things. We have given our free will, our own selves to God. In doing so, our prayers and fasting become "rejoicing and prayer."

In worshiping this way, the Lord promises blessings of the land, health and prosperity.

"And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion." (vs 20)

We are to use the fruits, vegetables, trees, animals and all things on earth that God has given to man to use with "judgment," or with caution. We are not to use them in "excess, neither by extortion."

When we mistreat the earth, we are using excess and extortion. When we raise animals in inhumane ways, we are using them in "extortion." As for excess, each individual must consider how much we consume and whether we can reduce our use. This not only includes how many animals we eat, but how much wood is used to make our homes, how much rare earth elements and steel is used in our automobiles, etc. Again, it is a thing to ponder for ourselves.

Joseph taught this concept. On the Zion's Army march to Missouri, he shot a squirrel and then walked off. Some of the brethren caught on to this lesson, picked up the squirrel and noted it needed to be used for food and clothing.

When we use things in excess or extortion, we are raping the earth. When we care for the earth and God's Creations, we are righteous stewards of things that belong to God.

When we give our broken hearts and contrite spirits to God, we will love Him, our neighbors, keep the commandments, and treat the world as God would treat it.






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