Come Follow Me: D&C 64-66
The Lord sent Joseph Smith to Independence, Missouri where the Lord would reveal the center city of Zion and the site for its temple complex. Many were excited, including Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery. Others, like Ezra Booth was dissatisfied with the land, insisting the saints move to more favorable farm land about 30 miles away. Joseph insisted on establishing Zion exactly where God had told him to do so.
The Colesville saints, who had moved from New York to Kirtland, where lands owned by Leman Copley were consecrated to them long enough for them to make major improvements, only to have them taken away by Copley, as he decided to leave the church and keep his farm. Again homeless, the Lord told them to accompany Joseph to Missouri, as the first saints to settle in Zion.
While there, Joseph laid a stone for the temple and they dedicated the site. The return trip in August 1831 was difficult. In moving down the Missouri River, rapids and debris became difficult. Many of the men were grumbling about Joseph's lack of leadership and vision. Finally, Joseph ordered everyone off the river and to go on foot back to Kirtland.
In Kirtland, the complaining and arguing continued. Finally, Joseph invited all to a meeting, where he apologized along with most in the meeting. Ezra Booth, refused to attend, and began to become one of Joseph's biggest critics in Kirtland.
Under these troubling conditions, the Lord gave Joseph these three revelations. Some very important concepts are taught, of which we'll touch on a few here in relation to Joseph's day and how it impacts us today.
"For verily I say unto you, I will that ye shouldthe world; wherefore I will have upon you." (vs 2)
From the arguing and complaining that occurred during the trip, we can see exactly what part of "the world" they needed to overcome. Contention is of the devil. It is his primary tool (see 3 Nephi 11) against the world. Yet, God is still wanting to show us compassion. God often delays final destruction long enough for the people to humble themselves and repent.
In our day, it seems like God is hastening some of his work, and yet abiding his time when it comes to destroying the wicked so that they perhaps will repent. And the wicked can often include the saints.
Contention in families, wards, stakes happen much more often than they should. I once lived in a stake that was divided by the bitter divorce of a couple whose families were prominent members in the stake. If a bishop was called from one family, the members of the other family would often go inactive for the term of that bishop. It would be years before the hatchet was buried in this family feud.
"Nevertheless, he [Joseph Smith] has sinned; but verily I say unto you, I, the Lord,sins unto those who their sins before me and ask forgiveness, who have not unto .
"My disciples, in days of old, sought against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this they were and sorely .
"Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to one another; for he that not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin." (vs 7-9)
There are many who become angry with a bishop, stake president or other leader, who "has sinned." Such led Ezra Booth to become a harsh critic of Joseph Smith. I've known some to openly criticize local leaders in the same way.
In 1 Samuel 24-26, we find King Saul driven to madness and diligently seeking to kill David. On several occasions, the Lord delivered Saul into David's hands, but he let him go. Why? Because David would not speak evil nor harm the "Lord's anointed." David would do what he could to protect himself, but harming the Lord's anointed was something he would not do.
Many of us get angry with our local "Lord's anointed." This is anyone who has been sustained (by us) and set apart by the priesthood to a holy calling. Whether bishop, stake president, elder's quorum or Relief Society president, etc. Those called are the "Lord's anointed." They will be judged by God for how well they perform their duties in their calling, and not by us.
The next time we become angry with a leader, remember that person did not ask for the calling. He/she is not being paid for the services they render. They often are placed in positions in which they have little training, and must begin serving from day one, hopefully receiving training and experience as they go along. Of course many of them will occasionally (or frequently) let us down.
Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the 70 once told me (in a large group) about his preparation to become a 70. He lived in a modest home with wife and children and a modest income. His bishop did not like him. When there was a lousy job to do, brother Featherstone was given the assignment. This was back in the days when wards had building assessments, to help pay for construction of chapels and temples. His bishop called him in and assessed him more than anyone else in the ward, including the several wealthy members. Brother Featherstone went home and discussed it with his wife. She agreed that the bishop was being unfair, but they prayerfully decided to obey the "Lord's anointed" without criticizing. They sold their television and other items, and paid the assessment. A few weeks later, the bishop was released and brother Featherstone was called into the First Quorum of 70. In his setting apart, he was told that because he was faithful, obedient and humble, he had passed his test of Abraham. Had he not humbly obeyed, he would not have been ready to be called a Seventy.
We will see more times, such as Zion's Camp, which tested the early brethren. From such experiences, Joseph learned whom he could trust with important tasks and responsibilities.
"I, the Lord, willwhom I will forgive, but of you it is required to all men." (vs 10)
Here, perhaps, is the one of the greatest challenges for those of us seeking to build Zion: forgiving "all." How does one forgive his/her abuser? How does one forgive people in the other "evil" political party? How do we forgive our parents for ruining our lives? How do we forgive our bishop? How do we forgive Hitler?
We turn to God in humility and a repentant attitude, just as Joseph Smith did on many occasions.
No, it isn't easy. But becoming holy and sanctified is not easy. It is a process of hard work. Without it, we cannot build Zion. There cannot be a city of Zion, a stake of Zion, or a home in Zion, without forgiving everyone. We cannot have a Zion for Democrats and another for Republicans. We cannot have a Zion for liberals and another for conservatives. There can only be one Zion: for those seeking diligently to be the pure in heart. Mercy, repentance, and forgiveness must be at the top of the list of requirements for living in Zion.
"Behold, now it is calleduntil the of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of , and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is shall not be at his coming.
"For after today cometh the —this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the and they that do wickedly shall be as ; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not any that remain in .
"Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called ." (vs 23-25)
Zion is built on the Law of Consecration/United Order. However, many members, including Leman Copley had proven they were not ready to live it. For this reason, the members in Kirtland were now commanded to pay a tithe. Tithing is a part of the law of consecration, just as the Aaronic Priesthood is a part of the Melchizedek Priesthood. It is a Terrestrial Law. To dwell in Zion, one must at least pay a full tithe - a terrestrial law. Those who will not pay a full tithe are living a telestial law, and are not ready for Zion. They will be in Babylon, the world, when it is destroyed.
Today we must labor. Labor for what? While work to provide for our families is important, the work the Lord refers to is the work of Zion. We must work now to build and establish Zion. We will see the early saints build the Kirtland temple while in their poverty. They will try to build cities, be expelled and build again. They went on multi-year missions, even when their families were in poverty.
Are we preparing to be in Zion?
"And she shall be anunto the people, and there shall come unto her out of every under heaven.
"And the day shall come when the nations of the earth shall because of her, and shall fear because of her terrible ones. The Lord hath spoken it. Amen." (vs 42-43)
Zion will only allow the obedient and humble. All others will be cast out, to live in the harshness of Babylon. Yet, there will come a day when millions shall flock to Zion as a refuge (see D&C 45, 133). Zion is built upon massive immigration from among the wicked. There will not be walls built around the city of Zion and her stakes to keep righteous immigrants out. Only the wicked will be kept out. All the righteous who immigrate will be welcomed with open arms. Regardless of whether they are rich, poor, white, black, brown, free or slave, all the humble will be welcomed and given an inheritance in Zion.
The wicked will fear Zion. It isn't because Zion has lots of AR-15s. It is because God's power and glory will reside in the city and its stakes, causing the wicked to fear and stand afar off.
"TheIn the early days of the Church, Zion was a congregation. It now would be a city in Jackson County Missouri. Here, quoting Daniel, the gospel would roll forth and become so great as to fill the entire earth. Zion will someday be the entire planet. Right now, we are to prepare for the building of Zion by wisely using the "keys of the kingdom" to strengthening its stakes, preaching the gospel, and bringing others unto Christ. The section teaches us to pray for all mankind that they may repent, embrace Christ's gospel and be prepared for the 2nd Coming of Christ. of the of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has the whole earth." (vs 2)
In the past few years, the prophets and apostles have referenced the 2nd Coming several times in General Conference talks. Many of the new programs and teachings are designed exactly for that: new goal-oriented program for youth and adults, Home centered gospel learning, more responsibility given to quorum presidents, etc.
"Seek not to be. Forsake all ." (vs 10)
William McClellan was sent on a mission with Samuel H. Smith, the prophet's brother. He was given counsel which answered several questions he had, but kept to himself.
It is easy to overlook this guidance. What does it mean to be "cumbered?" Financially? Spiritually? Emotionally? Today, we have Self Reliance classes which can help us learn to not be cumbered. Personal Finance, Emotional Self Reliance, Educational programs, etc.
Yet, we are to ensure we are not cumbered with the things that will keep us from accomplishing God's great work. God warned William to avoid adultery, one of the things that could keep him from being worthy to preach the gospel.
Joseph Smith stated, ""Immorality [will] be the source of more temptations, more buffetings, and more difficulties for the [Latter-day saints] than any other."
Today, we see this prophecy coming to fruition. Not only do bishops have to deal with fornication and adultery, but so much more. One bishop once mentioned to me during the Clinton administration that he had to teach the youth that oral sex was still sex.
With the current generation, marriage is no longer an important thing. Sex is just a common activity. Beyond sex, is the confusion many have on gender and other sexual factors. Immorality IS a key sign of the last days, as the world turns upside down regarding traditional male/female gender, and the sanctity of the traditional family.
As it is, it is not for us to judge people. It is for God to judge them. We are to love, show mercy, forgive. We are to invite people to Christ, teach them of their true nature as children of God, and let the Holy Ghost teach them what they must do to receive eternal life.