Thursday, March 16, 2017

"This Secret Combination...Among You" (Ether 8:24)

It's no secret to anyone who has read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ that secret combinations are incessantly discussed by the authors. While many have thought this means that a secret society is undermining the whole of society, while reading in 2 Nephi today, I had a thought of an alternative meaning to this warning.
Wherefore, for this cause, that my covenants may be fulfilled which I have made unto the children of men, that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh, I must needs destroy the secret works of darkness, and of murders, and of abominations. Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God.
These verses come in the midst of a longer discussion on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Thus, for the Atonement's covenants to be fulfilled, the Lord "must...destroy the secret works of darkness". While I do not doubt there is some very real connection to Gadianton robbers filling the judgement seats, we also know the Atonement of Jesus Christ is to work from the inside out.

What secret combinations have you established within yourself?

What secret oaths have you made with yourself? What secret signs have you made with yourself? In short, what are the things you do that keep you in the dark?

In the physical world, we understand light is more powerful than darkness. But in the spiritual world, we often bind ourselves down by false covenants to ourselves. We refuse to enter the light but sink further and further into the pits of darkness.

Obviously not every secret is an act of a secret combination. Throwing a surprise party is not going to cost you eternal salvation. But when the webs of deceit bind you from others. When you close yourself off from human interaction and become a slave to hell, you have in essence formed a secret combination. To get a false sense of "power and gain" from the secret is the issue; "when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination...among you" (Ether 8:23).

Anything done in the dark to get power or to get gain is guilty of a secret combination: Dishonesty to get gain or power; Pornography in all its devilish forms gets the gain of sexual gratification; Manipulating others by hiding  your true identity online and having them do whatever thing you desire.

I plead with all who do works in darkness, as Isaiah of old, "come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord" arm in arm to our salvation (Isaiah 2:5).

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Zion

The last couple of weeks, I've been pondering the topic of Zion. References to the holy city and God's people who dwell there fill the scriptures. The Lord again and again commands us to build up Zion, to seek for Zion, to establish Zion, and to let Zion's glory rest upon us.

We call ourselves "the Stakes of Zion", and historically called Utah "Zion" (though some missionaries from Utah lift up themselves in pride on being from "Zion"). We sing, "Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God", "Let Zion in her Beauty Rise!", "And Ephraim be crowned with his blessing in Zion". In short, the culture of the church focuses on Zion as an entity, but are we really focusing on becoming Zion? Are we focusing on preparing ourselves to receive Zion?

The "Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them."1 And so great was the faith of this people that Enoch, the prophet, was endowed with the power of the Lamb to lead "the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him."2 This people was blessed with such great power, and great strength, because they sought to receive the character of Christ in word and deed, until they became purified and made holy, "for this is Zion—the pure in heart."3

In the latter days before the Savior's return, we must prepare the earth by establishing Zion, and preparing ourselves to receive Enoch's city. God himself taught what needs to happen for this preparation to be complete: "Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments."4 

The wisdom of man cannot accomplish this feat. Man's wisdom has tried to establish a utopia again and again and has failed again and again. There is no way to establish Zion while one relies on the arm of the flesh. "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."5 Without utilizing the Atonement of Jesus Christ, it is completely impossible to establish and maintain the cause of Zion. Without earnestly applying that atoning blood to change, grow, and take upon us the image of Christ in our countenances, we cannot create Zion, yet that is precisely what the Lord commands.

Until we have been prepared in all things to become Zion, we will fail to be ready to meet our God. Until we love one another as Christ loved, we will fail to be prepared to welcome back Enoch's city. Until we help our brothers and sisters overcome challenges, the earth will fail to be prepared to receive heaven.

Let us strive to bring about Zion with each other each day, by acting with a little more love, a little more kindness, and a little more tenderness.