I Live in a Bubble

18

In case anyone noticed, I was gone last week. I rarely miss my regular Sunday post, but I did last week. My apologies. My EC and I were traveling and I was prevented from posting because of a severe bout of laziness. I am back. I missed you all terribly.

Bubbles in bubbles

My son picked us up at the airport after we returned from Seattle. I was telling him about some of the good and bad that we saw, when he made a simple observation:

“You live in a bubble.”

It is true. I can’t deny it. I do live in a bubble.  More on that later.

Seattle is a gorgeous, modern city, regarded by many as one of the great cities of the country and even the world.  I understand why. It does have a lot of things going for it. We saw the sights and enjoyed ourselves immensely. So, Seattle-lovers, pat yourselves on the back.

Of course, the “bubble” comment was not due to my pointing out the Femont Troll or the Gum Wall, it was due to three other things I noticed, and explained to my son.:

  1. This was the first time I had seen (and smelled) people openly smoking pot – at the bus stops, walking down the sidewalk, etc. I felt like I was at a rock concert in the ’70s.
  2. Huge “tent-cities” of homeless people set up in parks and beneath freeway on-ramps.It had very much a modern “Grapes of Wrath” feel to it, surrounded by wealth.
  3. A guide at the top of the Space Needle explained that the roof-top gardens, (What looked like parks on top of high-rise buildings) were not for kids, but for dogs. She seemed happy to tell us that in Seattle, the dog population recently surpassed the child population, and that apartment owners are catering to renters with dogs, and discouraging children.

That is when my son pointed out that I live in bubble. It is true, I do live in a bubble. However, I venture outside of that bubble quite often. I have seen the best and worst in the world. I have been to Thailand and Mozambique, and seen poverty that makes the tent-cities look like the Upper-West side. I have been to huge cities like London, New York and Paris and seen the good and bad. I have the devastation brought on societies by corrupt government, base instincts and dangerous addictions. I have seen much.

But I come home to my bubble.

Over the past week I have been thinking a lot about my bubble. (I live in Gilbert, Arizona, which is a pretty darn nice place to live. The crime rate is low, the economic stats are good, and there are Circle Ks on most every corner. The Church has a large, devout following. I like it, and felt good about raising our kids here.)

When someone tells me that I live in a bubble, my first response isn’t “thanks!” Instead, I almost feel a little sheepish about it. Why is that? Here are a few thoughts about living in a bubble.

In religious geography, we call living in a bubble “Zion.” It has been a hallmark of the Lord’s people all the way back to the City of Enoch. (Moses 7:19) Enoch and his people effectively became a Zion community and were taken up.  It was a much happier story than the Children of Israel, when the Lord commanded them to exterminate the entire population of Canaan when they took over. (Deuteronomy 2:34)

The Nephites were able to pull it off for a while after Christ visited them. (4 Nephi 1:2-3) But they were never taken up, and it eventually fell apart, resulting in their utter destruction.

The idea that Zion will be a geographical entity is described in one of the basic tenets of out faith, the tenth Article of Faith: We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. (link)

It was a priority in the early days of the church. Joseph Smith said, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object. … The time is soon coming, when no man will have any peace but in Zion and her stakes” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,  160–61).

We saw attempts in the early days of the restored Church to establish a geographic Zion: Most notably Jackson County , Missouri, and later, Salt Lake City. If there was ever a man who would have liked to build a dome over his city, it would be Brigham Young.

The way it worked was to try and establish a safe place where the saints could dwell, unmolested from outside forces, then, send missionaries out into the world to find new believers and bring them back to Zion, saving souls and helping Zion to grow.

As time passed, and the Church spread throughout the world, the focus on Zion as a place began to recede, and the Zion became more about people. “Please note: Zion is people; Zion is the saints of God; Zion is those who have been baptized; Zion is those who have received the Holy Ghost; Zion is those who keep the commandments; Zion is the righteous; or in other words, as our revelation recites: “This is Zion—the pure in heart.” (D&C 97:21.)(Bruce R. McConkie)

This harkens back to the original definition of Zion as described by Moses: “And 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.” (Moses 7:18) (Bruce R. McConkie taught that it wasn’t the actual City of Enoch that was lifted up, but the residents.) (link)

The “Zion” that Brigham Young worked for is no longer. There is no city or land that is portioned off for the members of the Church. There is no domed “Bubble City.”

So what is the quest now? I see it as a series of layers, much like the layers of bubbles at the top of the page.

  1. We need to be Zion people – A Zion Person. Pure in heart, and of one heart and mind. How do we do this? Be clean, and follow the Savior and His prophets: “We will become of one heart and one mind as we individually place the Savior at the center of our lives and follow those He has commissioned to lead us.” (Elder D. Todd Christofferson)
  2. Once we have an individual Zion-like purity, the next layer would be a Zion family. While this seems like a no-brainer, it is tougher than ever to achieve this. Zion requires us to be of one heart and one mind. Even within a loving family it is tough to be united and share common beliefs. Some of the most tragic divisions come inside a home.
  3. Our Zion families contribute to Zion communities. While this is not likely to happen city to city, it is more likely to happen ward-to-ward and stake-to-stake. “For 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.” (D&C 82:14.) How do you make strong stakes? Strong families.
  4. Then, to the Big Zion – the worldwide Church.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson made some excellent observations on how that can happen:

    “Zion is Zion because of the character, attributes, and faithfulness of her citizens. Remember, “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” (Moses 7:18). If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. It will be necessary (1) to become unified in one heart and one mind; (2) to become, individually and collectively, a holy people; and (3) to care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us. We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen.”

In my observations, I don’t personally recall a time in the Church (since I have been paying attention) that has been less Zion-like than right now. The are so many voices in open disagreement with the Lord’s servants, even within the Church. The idea of “one heart and one mind,” seems less plausible as time goes on. There are more dissenting and differing voices than I can ever recall – and they have louder megaphones due to technology.

I am not advocating that we all need to be of “one mind” in all things. We don’t all need to think exactly alike about everything – that would be boring. As my grampa used to say, “If everyone liked the same things, they’d all be chasing your gramma.” But when it comes to the BIG things – the doctrines, the sustaining of leaders, the humility to be led – there are many loud and dissenting voices. That is not Zion.

If we pursued unity with the passion that we extolled our differences, we might just find Zion.

Elder Christoferson:  If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. It will be necessary (1) to become unified in one heart and one mind; (2) to become, individually and collectively, a holy people; and (3) to care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us. We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen. (link)

As he mentions the care for the poor and needy, I can hear some of you putting on your boxing gloves. I will not address this part here, now. There are differences of opinion, some opinions are of more worth than others. Having spent a decade working to help alleviate poverty in the worst places on earth, I have an understanding of what principles work, and which don’t. This is not that post. Please pocket your opinions on sociology and politics while we focus on theology today, and I will, too. Thanks)

Zion happens from the inside out. It springs from the deepest part of every individual member and his or her relationship with the Savior. From there, we expand to our families, then to friends and fellow members, then to those who don’t know what they are missing.

“As important as it is to have this vision in mind, defining and describing Zion will not bring it about. That can only be done through consistent and concerted daily effort by every single member of the Church. No matter what the cost in toil or sacrifice, we must “do it.” That is one of my favorite phrases: “Do It.”  (President Spencer W. Kimball)

Oh, and my apologies to Seattle.

_______

A terrific talk about Zion: “Come to Zion.” Elder D. Todd Christofferson.

Some great thoughts on Zion from Joseph Smith. (link)

Becoming the Pure in Heart,” President Spencer W. Kimball.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry that you got a good smell of the bad of Seattle. I live in a place just outside of the South of Seattle. Our votes never get to count. Our State and County always vote for all the negative things we don’t really need or want: Marijuana, light rail, more rights and privileges for the “homeless”, “Drug Culture”. A few months ago Seattle’s Mayor wanted to turn the parks and sidewalks over to the “Homeless” and the citizens of Seattle had finally had enough and shut that down. Too little, too late. I would love to live in your “Bubble”. We all need a “Bubble” to shelter and protect us. This is one of your best columns ever.

  2. It might be the greatest city in the world to some people but I am thankful I still live in an area that is mindful of all people, not just those with the loudest voices and leaders who are not yet willing to cave to what seems popular. The pot problem they evidently have is one of the vices that can bring a city down quicker than anything, save prostitution and casinos. They kind of all go together. I am thankful for the bubble that I evidently live in. We don’t have to embrace and live in hell because we know it exists.

    I appreciate the reminder that we need to keep trying to be worthy of being a Zion people. I am going to try harder.

  3. I live in Provo, which is sometimes referred to as just “The Bubble.” I think when people use that term about it they are referring to ignorance, like we’re so caught up in our own little world that we aren’t aware of what’s going on in the rest of the world. And while that’s not true for a lot of people, I have seen many cases where it is true, which is dangerous. By only viewing your own little bubble as the entire world you lose perspective. Things that aren’t really that important, like fancy expensive clothes and hair and the like, suddenly become the most important things ever. This only happens due to lack of perspective. I think that living in a bubble, like Provo, or BYU, is fine so long as we aren’t ignorant of the world around us and as we strive to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and see things from their point of view, which puts our world into perspective.

    • Great points, Andrew. I agree with you, in that there is nothing wrong with “living in a bubble” at all, as long as that doesn’t become an excuse for our having a lack of empathy for those who may be different than us.
      Great article, as always, MMM!

  4. What’s wrong living in a bubble? I love it! The only danger is in forgetting to love and serve those outside of it, and taking it for granted. So we go outside to serve, come back home at night and fall on our knees to thank God for our blessings.

  5. Missed your Sunday post last week! This is one of those posts I have to read several times to fully understand all thats in it. Thank you.

  6. By the end of the month I will have spent half of it in Seattle. Our oldest son and his wife live there and we always enjoy being there. It is a curious place with its share of weird trends. As more geographies go through the paradigm shift of calling good “bad” and bad “good”, my sense is that the most important Zion “bubble” will be the one we put around ourselves and our families. Achieving purity in heart and alignment with our fellow saints can help us add to the surface tension of our “bubbles”.

  7. Living in Las Vegas, I also think I live a bubble. I grew up in a ward where the Strip, Las Vegas Boulevard, ran through it with casinos, massage parlors, and lots of other not nice things. Many who do not live in Vegas would say that this was the worst possible environment for families. Yet we had a wonderful ward with good people. Very good people! I noticed that youth must make their decisions early. There was and is a lot of opposition. Roots must go deep and grow quickly. I find living in Vegas a good spot to raise a family. Can you believe that! I believe we can make our own bubble. We can teach our family. We can be Zion. Sometimes people rely on others to develop an environment to be Zion. I know families that live in Gilbert and SLC where their sons have chosen not to serve missions. That dang agency! Again, we need to make our own bubble. Right in the middle of Vegas, my ward had the majority of the young men grow up to serve missions. We grew up surrounded by the rough things of the world yet we overcame them. We developed our own bubble or Zion. Thank you for your post. You give a wonderful reminder that we must do the work. Zion is our own responsibility. Ourselves, our home, our ward, our neighborhood.

  8. This reminds me of a quotation I am too lazy to look up just now, but I’m thinking President Hinckley? The gist being that the world would advocate taking people out of the slums, but Christ takes the slums out of people and they take themselves out of the slums. If we frame this in spiritual terms, the more we remove the baser tendencies of the world around us, the greater our ability to thrive regardless of our local and our circumstances.
    The cool thing about a bubble is its transparency. We can look out around us and see with clarity what is going on beyond, but the space within is our own. My bubble is not a mark of ignorance, but rather of discerning standards. Not everything without needs to be inside.
    Love the post, Brad.

    • “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”
      — Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, July 1989

  9. Great points. I noticed this quote in our RS lesson yesterday (from Pres. Hinckley): “It is the home which produces the nursery stock of new generations.” I’ve heard some people talk kind of disparagingly of people or their kids being “sheltered” (similar to the “bubble” disparagement) but I thought when I read this, “where do you start nursery stock? In a greenhouse. (Bubble) 🙂 Sheltered from the worst of the storms and weather.” Of course we don’t disengage from the world completely. But a bubble is a pretty good place to start growing strong enough to weather those storms.

  10. Very apropos topic, and well-outlined. I suppose that Zion is as Zion does. And since our social politics are intertwined with our religious beliefs, we would probably do well as a people to look less at demographic distinctions when defining ourselves in any respect. The feminist movement, regardless of any virtues or vices, is fueled by the basic notion of men vs. women. Likewise, pitting one race or nationality against another is not the right approach. The whole “us against them” mentality does not contribute to society and thus the idea of Zion, but instead tears it further apart. We should all see our identities not as man/woman or black/white/other, or even liberal/conservative, but we should see ourselves first and foremost as fellow human beings, and therefore children of God. Anything attempting to divide us into separate groups is taking away from our true identities. Until we get out of these class warfare scenarios, I fear we’ll continue to fall short of religious ideals.

  11. The pet rodent named Rhino in the animated movie ‘Bolt’ entered my mind as I read this post. He used his plastic bubble as a sort of super power, not only for protection but for speed. The wonderful power of Zion has as much value in Provo as in New York, and all other worldly places. It is not static but travels with the heart.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)