Come Follow Me: D&C 102-105
This section deals with the organization of the first stake high council in Kirtland, Ohio. It is a pattern that is still used, and it works very well. It also has become a pattern for use with the Council of Twelve Apostles, its section added about a year later to this revelation, when the Quorum of Twelve were first organized (Feb 1835).
In handling issues, such as Church Membership Councils (formerly known as Disciplinary Councils), there must always be at least seven of the high council present, and five other high priests may be brought in to fill the quorum. They take numbered lots (1-12), and are seated according to their number. Evens on side of the table, odds on the other. One group represents the Church, while the other group ensures the fairness of the proceedings for the individual brought before the council. Depending on the severity and complexity of the case, a certain number will be allowed to ask questions and openly discuss issues.
After the full discussion, the presidency retires briefly to pray about the case. They return with a decision, which must then be accepted unanimously by the council. If not, the discussion continues.
While no council involving humans can be perfect, from my experience with several of these councils, I've found how diligent they tend to be in rendering a fair decision, guided by the Holy Ghost.
The call for Zion's Camp is made by the Lord. The saints have been cast out of Jackson County, Missouri. They are now scattered in other counties north, including Clay and Ray counties. Many are destitute and without homes. All of their wealth is in the homes they've fled from.
The Lord calls for 500 men in the army, though smaller groups may be acceptable. He also calls upon the saints to send money to finance the camp.
As it is, the Lord again explains (and will explain again) the two reasons for the tribulation. First, the saints in Jackson County were being disobedient to the commandments given them. Second, the Lord allows the wicked to accomplish their evil works, so that they may be judged in the long run.
Imagine your own feelings to see some saints or other innocent people as refugees. Today, there are millions of refugees in the world, driven from their homes because of war, religion, and natural disasters. What would you be willing to do to help them?
We'll discuss more on Zion's camp.
The United Order/Firm was failing, because several members were not doing their part. They were not imparting of their wealth. In the United Order, God demands whatever is necessary. The CFM lesson includes a video of John Tanner, a wealthy man who joined the Church. He gave and gave and gave of his wealth, until he was in poverty. Then, he served a mission and considered it a privilege.
This is not how most members were dealing with their temporal and spiritual gifts and blessings.
"But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
"For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
"Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment." (vs 16-18)
While the Church today is based financially on tithes/offerings and not consecration, we still promise in the temple to consecrate our time, gifts, and material possessions to the Lord. While all pay ten percent for tithes, how much do we give for fast offerings and humanitarian efforts? How much do we give to missionary work? How much do we give for other wonderful charities?
And not just moneys, but also our time and effort. Do we freely give of these?
So how much extra should we give? Someone once asked C.S. Lewis (author of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) how much one should give. He pondered this, then answered, "until it begins to hurt."
While any donation makes a difference in the lives of others, only a real sacrifice can make a difference in our lives. How can God exalt the poor and make the rich low, if the rich refuse to be humbled financially? This does not mean giving up all their moneys, as did John Tanner. It does mean, are we living in extreme comfort, while others struggle? Do we really need a 5000 square foot home, swimming pool, and BMW? These are issues each individual must make with the Lord.
The day will come when such sacrifice will be required, as in a redeemed Zion there will be no poor nor rich. All will be equal, or they will not dwell in Zion.
The second concept in this section is that we do not own anything. We are but stewards of the Lord's riches. If we are stewards, we will then be interviewed one day and asked what did we do with our stewardship. Do we bury our talent, or use it to make more talents?
In this instance, does it mean making more money with the moneys we have? Or does it mean increasing the spiritual growth of ourselves and of Zion? If God gives me wealth and I hold onto it all and expand my own personal empire, am I doing the work for Zion? If I use the wealth as a stewardship, and use it to bless others, benefiting the poor and needy - isn't this the way of consecration?
Joseph Smith becomes an example for us in this. As president of the Church, one could envision him using tithes to pay for a comfortable life for his family. Instead, Joseph often went into debt for the Church. One winter, he chopped firewood for others, in order to buy food for his family. When he established a store in Nauvoo, it didn't make a profit, because Joseph was constantly lending and giving to others in need, rather than obtaining a nice living for his family.
all moneys that you receive in your stewardships, by improving upon the
properties which I have appointed unto you, in houses, or in lands, or
in cattle, or in all things save it be the holy and sacred writings,
which I have reserved unto myself for holy and sacred purposes, shall be
cast into the treasury as fast as you receive moneys, by hundreds, or
by fifties, or by twenties, or by tens, or by fives.
in other words, if any man among you obtain five dollars let him cast
them into the treasury; or if he obtain ten, or twenty, or fifty, or an
hundred, let him do likewise;
"And let not any among you say that it is his own; for it shall not be called his, nor any part of it." (vs 68-70)
Today, the treasury is the bishop's storehouse. Gives one pause to consider just how far we are from living the law of consecration.
Zion's Camp was a failure. Or was it?
Rather than raising an army of 500, just over 200 men gathered to serve in the militia to restore the Missouri saints back to their homes in Jackson County, Missouri. Beyond that, the Lord notes several other reasons why He disbanded the Camp prior to reaching the city of Independence.
"Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.
behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I
required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;
"And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom;
"And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself." (vs 2-5)
Zion, the pure in heart, can only be built upon the Celestial Law. God's power and miracles work dependent upon faith and righteousness of the people. Having destroyed the Egyptian army at the Red Sea, the Lord had the power to wipe out the Church's enemies in Missouri. He didn't.
Those who were called saints, for the most part, were not. They were not living the law of consecration. They were boastful and proud. The often mistreated and looked down upon the old Missouri settlers. Their sights were focused on themselves and getting gain (free land provided by the Church), rather than lifting one another up. There were rich and poor among them. There were Danites, a secret group of saints, who sought to use intimidation and force to push back at the Missouri settlers.
So, where are we today? While we have a small foothold in Independence, Missouri, it is not a stronghold of Zion. We have a visitor's center. The center city of Zion has yet to be established. The Lord still waits for us to become the Pure in Heart. He waits for us to live consecrated lives, to no longer view our stewardships as personal possessions. He awaits our turning fully to Him, filled with charity, willing to sacrifice all on the altar of Zion. While the Church has over 16 million members, we still are not spiritually strong enough to return to Jackson County and forever establish His Zion.
The sins weren't just among the members in Missouri:
"But I speak concerning my churches abroad—there are many who will say: Where is their God? Behold, he will deliver them in time of trouble, otherwise we will not go up unto Zion, and will keep our moneys."Therefore, in consequence of the transgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion." (vs 8-9)
The Lord requested 500 men for Zion's Camp. Only 200 answered the call. The Lord asked for funds to fully finance the militia. Many members did not give, causing the Camp to have insufficient food, supplies, and weapons. They expected God to miraculously wipe out all their enemies, build new homes and plant their crops for them. As with the ancient Jews, whom Jesus fed bread and fishes, they followed Christ because he fed them for free - they weren't interested in taking up his cross, or partake of His flesh and blood. And so they departed from him.
So it was with the Latter-day Saints in Kirtland, New York and other areas at this time. They wanted the blessings of the gospel without the sacrifices necessary to build Zion and to exalt the saints. Are we like this today? Again, what are we willing to sacrifice in order to live the celestial law necessary to build and establish Zion?
The Lord explained that Zion's redemption would have to wait until "mine elders are endowed with power from on high." This would partially occur at the Kirtland Temple, as it contained the initiatory ordinances that we now have in modern temples. The full endowment would have to wait for Nauvoo.
We cannot become pure in heart, Zion, without temples to endow us with greater spiritual power. The covenants of sacrifice, obedience, and consecration are a necessary part of this preparation. Why are we building so many temples right now? In part to provide saving ordinances to the living and dead. However, they are also necessary to train the saints into a new way of thinking. The more often members attend the temple and turn their focus away from the world and towards God's work, the better prepared for the day when some of us are called to return to Independence.
Meanwhile, we can prepare for the center city of Zion, by building up our stakes. Our stakes are just as much a part of Zion as Jackson County is. However, as with the city of Zion, our stakes will prosper only to the point that the saints become Saints.
There are tough, personal questions that we get from the Doctrine and Covenants. The D&C continually returns us to temples, Zion, and preparing a people for the 2nd Coming of Christ. We have to honestly ask ourselves the tough questions which the Doctrine and Covenants keeps posing to us. Are we living a celestial law? Are we pure in heart? Are we rich? If so, are we abasing ourselves, so that the poor are lifted?
As for the youth, President Nelson has invited them to join Christ's battalion. They are to prepare themselves to be the new Zion's Camp. It is very possible that many of us and our youth will be involved in returning to Independence and building the city of Zion. It's also true that we are currently building our stakes of Zion right now, which also requires an army of righteous men and women, boys and girls, who will fill the temples, serve missions, and make their own home a holy place in Zion.
Are we preparing now for that day?