Friday, October 9, 2015

Gathering a Righteous People

After Conference, I immediately turned to "ponderizing". The talk really spoke to me as something I should be doing. I opened my scriptures to find the first verse I should use for ponderizing, and the verse I chose was Doctrine & Covenants 38:31, "that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless—"

The Monday after this started, it was a really good day, but then I got hit with a panic attack at about 9:20 PM. I was able to text a good friend of mine, and he happened to be in the Library, just across the parking lot from my dorm. He and I were able to get together and talk for a little more than two hours, about life, the gospel, struggles, our families, and every other topic imaginable. Through the course of the conversation, we discussed just how improbable it was we were having that conversation: how I happened to be companions with one of his middle school friends, how we happened to be in the same major at the same university, and went to its opening social, and happened to talk to each other and grow close to one another.

As I pondered our conversation and our friendship in general, it hits me: that's how the Lord works! He brings together two people, two righteous people, who can easily get along, and he allows them to deepen a friendship naturally, until we love that person as ourselves. We then start to open to each other, and we expose our own demons, making us vulnerable, but gaining someone who can help us through our struggles. As we work together, our minds and our hearts become united with the Lord's and we begin to see, hear, and love them as the Lord sees, hears, and loves them. And "because [we are] of one heart and one mind", "the Lord call[s] his people Zion" (Moses 7:18). But remember, "Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom;" (Doctrine & Covenants 105:5).

So how do sinners who keep trying, in other words, saints establish Zion on the Celestial Kingdom's law, when none of us are perfect? Celestial Law is taught in the scriptures and the Holy Temple: "And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation" (Doctrine & Covenants 88:25). The earth lives Celestial Law by filling the measure of its creation, so too, we live Celestial Law by filling the measure of our creation. What is the measure of our creation? What is our whole purpose of being here on this earth? And how does that enable us to establish Zion?

One of  Merriam-Webster's definitions of measure is, "a step planned or taken as a means to an end." So really, what is the reason we were created? In other words, what is the purpose of life? We know that God's work and glory is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). The Lord defines, "[our] work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength" (Doctrine & Covenants 11:20). So, what does that mean in filling the measure of our creation?

If we keep the commandments, we become sanctified. If we perfectly keep the commandments, we become perfectly sanctified, in other words, we become holy men and women. But none of us perfectly keep the commandments; therefore, we have a Savior provided for us to enable us to become clean and return to God's presence. When we are washed clean in the blood of the lamb, we become holy men and women. Remember, "in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is [God's] name" (Moses 6:57). In the end, the measure of our creation is nothing short of becoming like our Father.

If we are bit by bit becoming like our Father in Heaven, of course Zion will be established! As we come to follow the Lord more closely, our minds become aligned with His mind. As our minds become like His when it comes to how we view one of His children, and they come to do the same, and we love each other as Christ loves us, that's Zion! That's how God is gathering us together. “I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion” (Jeremiah 3:14). As more and more people create Zion with individuals, communities will grow, so wards, stakes, and ultimately the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can become Zion. As we gather to Zion, and fulfill our baptismal covenant to bear one another's burdens, including the burden of sin we each carry, we slowly become more purified until that day we are "without spot and blameless".

Now, why do we need to be gathered to Zion? Read the initial verse again: "that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless—" (Doctrine & Covenants 38:31). The reason God gathers us together as a righteous people is so we can escape the power of the enemy through our ordinances and covenants, as well as the sheer strength you can obtain by simply having a friend you can turn to and say "Hey. I'm struggling with this right now." And the friend can say, "I'm here for you." Of course, results may not be immediate, but there is great power in withstanding the adversary when we stand together.

Furthermore, the devil does not seek just to hinder you or slow you down, he intends to destroy you. God knows that there is strength when we become one with the saints, because, as a whole, the saints generally seek to follow God's will, but just get distracted sometimes, and gathering together aids us in ceasing to listen to false philosophies, sometimes even false philosophies put forth by apostates within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, particularly using blogs in this day and age. When we gather to hear the prophet's words, or to the sacrament emblems, we are empowered to stand against any person whose words are upheld by the devil, seeking to destroy us.

In addition, each of us have days and times where we are down. Days when, despite our efforts to remain cheerful, a shadow seems to hang over us. Days when it seems to take our entire being to just hang on, without really being able to make any progress. Gathering together with God's saints enables us to rely on the strength of others. And there will Christ be also. "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20).  With Christ there in our midst, He bears up our burdens. With other saints helping us bear our burdens, we allow them to fulfill their baptismal covenants.

When two friends are working together to draw each other to the Savior, by inviting Him into their midst, each are cleansed by the redeeming power of Jesus Christ's Atonement. Each one becomes a savior to the other, in a sense, by bringing the other to the Savior. Christ can then redeem both of them from every spot and blame they put upon themselves. God gathers us together, so that we can better rely wholly on the merits of Christ. God gathers us together so we can make and renew our covenants before Him to become holy people.

The Prophet, Joseph Smith, once taught, "God gathers together His people in the last days, to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the [Temple] ordinances". I'm going to Utah State, and so I know this might not be possible everywhere, but I know of a ton of my friends who will get groups of people together to go to the Temple. We prepare to keep our covenants by going to the temple hear them again and again. Temple ordinances keep us clean by giving us something to hold onto, and gathering with saints at the Temple enable us to not only become clean, but also gather our dead to come to our aid, giving more strength to escape the enemy.

In the temple, we gain a deeper understanding of God's law. Thus, in the very next verse, the Lord commanded His people to gather to a place where they would build a temple, so He could "give...[His] law; and there... [we become] endowed with power from on high;" (Doctrine & Covenants 38:32). God gives us law so that we can receive power. God has all power, because He obeys all law. The better we understand the law, the better we obey it, and the greater power we have to do all things which are expedient in Christ.

So what does the doctrine of gathering mean to you and to me? It's more than just a work God has been intending to be completed for millennia; it's a promise that God will not leave you comfortless, that He will send His angels, mortal and heavenly, to your aid. Also, it is a promise to use you as an angel, to change you, as much as you will allow Him, to become angelic. He gathers His people together to strengthen each person who has taken upon themselves the promise to bear Christ's name.

He has gathered you to His covenants. Will you gather others that they may obtain the same blessings? Those who joined the church, friends of other faiths, it doesn't matter. God will gather His people to covenants. Each of us is not perfect in our covenants, so we each need to be gathered to the covenants again and again. What are you doing to gather yourself, your friends, and your family to the covenants once more?

He will gather a righteous people unto Him, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb through the covenants of His everlasting ordinances. Will you be gathered?