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prophets

11

Look at me balloon

It was hypnotic. The colorful mylar balloon hung suspended in the air without moving, until a sudden unseen air current swept it higher. It gently descended again, slowly meandering as if controlled by some remote pilot. I could not tear my eyes away.

Neither could the other 700 men watching the Priesthood session of General Conference at the Stake Center last Saturday evening. (It was even more distracting than the absence of lyrics for the rest hymn.)

I figure the balloon lost its string and escaped from a party or wedding celebration earlier in the week, and found its way to the ceiling of the chapel. The buoyancy had diminished to that perfect equilibrium where the ballon hung suspended in the air. It never got close enough to the screen or projector to interfere with the broadcast, but it sure did its best to interfere with our focus.

I had been able to ignore it for most of the meeting, as I busily scribbled my notes, but when the concluding speaker, President Henry B. Eyring, began to speak, I finally relented. As the balloon methodically danced in the air above the congregation, I began to “zone out.” I confess that I stopped paying attention to his talk as I stared at the unwanted guest.

As if scripted by some unseen force, the shiny balloon eventually began its final descent during the closing hymn. It dropped lower and lower until a young hero jumped up and grabbed it. Hundreds of men broke into spontaneous applause and cheers. (Really!) Everyone then quieted down for the closing prayer, and the session was over.

Seriously now, this is more than just a cute little story. Not to sound overly dramatic, but I had the opportunity to watch and listen to a PROPHET OF GOD, and instead, I was watching a silly mylar BALLOON. I’ve thought about that balloon a lot since Conference ended and realized that it was highly symbolic of what I’ll refer to as “Conference Distractions.”

There are two types of Conference Distractions: The first are those things that keep us from fully feasting at the Conference table as it is happening. Some of us push our chairs away from the table by necessity, others by choice. It isn’t hard to determine how we responded to these distractions.

The second type are the distraction that race in to fill our hearts and minds after the final “amen” is spoken. I did my very best to enjoy the feast last weekend, but these distractions are already rising up and fighting for my attention..

For example:

In his limited physical strength, President Monson implored us to do something very specific: “My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day.” (link)

Oops. I did pretty well until Saturday, when I was distracted by a snooze button and an early meeting.

President Nelson had a simple request: “I urge you to study “The Living Christ.” (link)

A few hours later, Elder Ballard gave a second witness to this direction when he said, “Place a copy where you can see it, and take time to review each of the statements found in this inspired testimony of Christ by His special witnesses who signed it.” (link)

Yeah, about that… I promise I thought about it a couple of times during this week, but it didn’t happen. It would have made for a nice FHE, in retrospect. We probably could have made time during the week to work on this, but, you know, things get busy…

Now these are merely two small, quantifiable examples of specific counsel we received last week, and there is always this week to get started. But from a larger perspective, this Conference was packed with tremendous counsel regarding how we can gain greater faith, become more Christ-like, draw on the powers of heaven, receive guidance from the Holy Ghost – along with so much more. It was full of prophetic warnings and teaching on how to become better versions of ourselves.

We leave Conference determined and focused, but how long is it before some shiny object wanders into our field of view and begins demanding our attention? Do those things cause us to “zone out” and forget to listen to what we had been taught?

“Thus we see how quick the children of men do forget the Lord their God, yea, how quick to do iniquity, and to be led away by the evil one. “ (Alma 46:8)

As we fight the semi-annual battle against “Post-Conference Let Down,” let’s remember to keep our eye on what we were taught, and try not to revert back to that earlier, pre-Conference version of ourselves. It is about moving forward with faith and determination, not ebbing away.

“And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.” (D&C 88:67)

Let’s ignore the distractions, no matter how fascinating, and keep our eyes on that prize.

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Bonus: Great talk by Elder Marlin K. Jensen, “An Eye Single to the Glory of God.”

7

Conf April Sun PM

Note:  These are the instant, mildly-filtered things that ran through my brain and heart as I watched this session of General Conference. If you are looking for deep, spiritual analysis, this is not the place. Drive on. Please check back later for that, after I have had some time to process.

…staggers back into the family room, plops down on the couch with a can of Diet Dr. Pepper.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson started by talking about Ezekiel, watchmen and dying.

“Prophets warn us to turn away from sin and choose liberty and eternal life through the great Mediator.”

Uh-Oh. He just morphed into it being our responsibility to warn our neighbor.

“Warning may take the form of reproof…but it is always from a position of love… To warn is to care. This is to be done with mildness, meekness and gentleness.”

“Sometimes those who raise a warning voice are dismissed as judgmental.”

“Paradoxically, however, those who claim truth is relative and moral standards are a matter of personal preference are often the same ones who most harshly criticize people that don’t accept the current norm of ‘correct thinking.’”

“The SHAME CULTURE.” Man, is that good. Here is a link to the David Brooks article quoted about “The Shame Culture.”

“How much better it is to know the truth than to be ‘tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.’”

Here is a link to the Deseret News article about marriage he cited.

“Do not succumb to false notions of tolerance or to fear—fear of inconvenience, disapproval, or even suffering.”

This idea of “Guilt Culture” vs. “Shame Culture” is really quite brilliant and so right for our times.

 

Elder Joaquin Costa. (Spoke at a recent youth/parent devotional here in Gilbert. He is great.)

“Once you meet the missionaries, please take them seriously; they are giving up important years of their lives just for you.”

To those just learning about the Church: “If you are feeling confused by something you don’t understand don’t worry I was clueless, too”

“If you are confused, don’t worry; remember the feelings you have experienced, they come from God.”

I love his technique of saying, “I will explain this in one sentence.”

Alma 42:29 “…I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance.”

Shout out to “My Elder Cutler,” made me teary. How cool to know you helped in the conversion of a G.A.

“If you pay the price of revelation, humble yourself, pray, and repent, the heavens will open.”

 

• MMM Critique: If I were a young, Latino man, Elder Costa’s invitations would be almost irresistible to me. His spirit, joy and enthusiasm are contagious. What a happy soul.

 

Elder S. Mark Palmer has a sweet New Zealand accent.

While listening to the Bible, he found these six words, “”Then Jesus beholding him, loved him.” (Only found in Mark. (10:21) (From the story of the rich young man.)

“The question no longer was “How does a frustrated mission president get a struggling missionary to behave better?” but “How can I be filled with Christ Like love so that I can allow them to feel the love of Christ?”’

Offered four things that happen when we look at others with the Savior’s love: (Very incomplete notes.)

1) When filled with love we won’t be afraid to speak with boldness. (Second witness)

2) Hearts will not change where love is not present. Our homes should always be safe havens for our children—not hostile environments.

3) Love should never be withdrawn.

Offered the possibility that the rich young man eventually came back. Hooray! (link)

4) Four: repeat steps one through three.

 

Elder Gary E. Stephenson asked the question: “How does the Holy Ghost help you?”

Especially relevant to kids about to be, or recently have been baptized. Converts, too.

Told a story from his childhood about hiking with his dad. Here’s a link to the story included in a bio written by Elder Robert D. Hales.

Spent time highlighting basic truths about the Holy Ghost.

Told the tragic story of a young man who lost his wife in a car accident. Here is a link to the news about the car crash.

Spoke of several ways the Holy Ghost can help us:

  • “The Holy Ghost will help you by comforting you.”
  • “As you heed promptings from the Holy Ghost, … you may be removed, without ever knowing, from spiritual and temporal danger.”
  • “The Holy Ghost will help you by testifying of the Father and the Son and of all truth.”
  • “The Holy Ghost testifies and bears witness of the truth of all things.”

 

• Multiple witnesses about the importance of having the Holy Ghost very involved in our lives, and the worthiness required.

 

Elder C. Scott Grow: Knowing your identity as a child of God, and understanding your purpose.

John 3:16 quoted yet again.

He spoke about Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s talk. “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane.”(Which I remember! Read it.)

Back to the basics again: Individual and family prayer and scripture study.

“When you pray with faith, you will feel God’s love, as His spirit speaks to your soul.”

“Scripture study becomes the channel for the Spirit to give each of us a customized tutorial.”

“You and I do the will of the Father, by honoring our covenants, keeping the commandments, and serving God.”

“Knowing God is the quest of a lifetime.”

…Singing, “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play…”

 

 

Elder Benjamin de Hoyos bears a sweet testimony of modern prophets and makes the case for letting folks speak in their native tongue at the same time.

We don’t have to imagine hearing the Savior’s voice: “It has become constant for us to hear the voice of the Lord because when we hear the voice of the servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38)

And as a second witness to Elder Clayton: “We should not be surprised by what may seem like ‘small things’ because of their simple and repetitive nature.”

…Singing, “Line upon line, precept on precept, that is how He lifts us…” Ooops, soory. Back to the talk.

“As we keep the Sabbath day holy and partake of the sacrament, we are not only cleansed, but out light also grows brighter.” Last Conference almost every talk spoke to the importance of the Sacrament. This might be the first reference this time.

“As we all teach and learn in His way and become more like Him, our light shines brighter and cannot be hid.”

Your light will shine brighter when you keep Sabbath day holy, take sacrament and find family names to the temple.

“Learning to teach as the Savior taught is another way we can rise and shine…The goal of every gospel teacher is to teach the pure doctrine of the gospel by the Spirit.” (Wish that I had his faith!)

 

• Many references to the Holy Ghost and “light” this Conference.

• Suddenly missing my missionary in Mexico so much right now that I teared up. I hope he is sharing in this with us.

 

Elder Quentin L. Cook to finish it off.

“If there is one preeminent objective of General Conference, it is to build faith in our Heavenly father and Jesus Christ.”

“Personal foundations, are usually built slowly. One challenge, one success at a time.”

…Oh-no…Line upon line is bubbling up again…

Talked about the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hour rule. Gotta put in the time to reach a level of mastery in anything. (From a book called “Outliers.” Interesting book.)

“Just as repetition and consistent effort are required to gain physical or mental capacity, the same is true in spiritual matters.”

Foundation of testimony: Is Christ my Savior? Is the Book of Mormon true? Was Joseph Smith a prophet?

Immediate second witness: “I believe weekly participation in sacred sacrament meetings has spiritual implications we do not fully understand.”

Floated the idea that the seer stones were essentially “training wheels” for the prophet Joseph to translate. Very interesting.

Talked about the financial disasters in early Church history, specifically my ancestor Parley P. Pratt, and his flirtation with opposing the prophet Joseph. Thankfully it was a short flirtation.

“Conversion to the gospel does not mean all our problems will be solved… Adversity should not be viewed as either disfavor from the Lord or a withdrawal of His blessings.”

 

  • And the choir nails it by closing with “How Firma Foundation,” immediately after Elder Cook talked about our foundations.
  • In a surprising twist, the emphasis of Conference was studying the scriptures, praying, being worthy to have the Holy Ghost. Didn’t see that coming!
  • An awesome Conference. I feel blessed to live in a time and place where we can have God’s servants teach, inspire, motivate, counsel and love us.

I feel blessed.

I also feel tired.

Please join me on Facebook for Sunday Night Check-in and you can tell us your #1 thing from today.

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12

Conf April Priesthood

Note:  These are the mildly-filtered things that ran through my brain and heart as I watched this session of General Conference. If you are looking for deep, spiritual analysis, this is not the place. Drive on. Please check back later for that, after I have had some time to process.

• I was sitting in the dark, equipped with only the most primitive devices to record my conference thoughts: A pen and notebook. I did my best, most of the time.

 

We started out being blessed by some brief remarks from our dear prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. He spoke slowly, carefully. I was surprised to see that they added subtitles to his comments, as if they were concerned if he would be able to speak clearly enough. I closed my eyes for a bit and understood him perfectly.

He spoke about eh importance too three virtues: Kindness, charity and love. He spent some time in D&C 121 talking about how if we exercise those traits, we can better call down the powers of heaven for ourselves and others.

It was sweet, and short.

 

Elder David A. Bednar then took to the stand to teach a curious subject. He lighted the difference between being called to serve vs. being assigned a field of labor. Using D&C 80:1-3 as his backing, he explained that when missionaries are serving, they are serving – regardless of where they are assigned.

Why was this important? Because he has encountered many missionaries and returned missionaries who struggle with the fact that they were unable to serve in the area where they were called – rather assigned – and they often wonder why. (Visa issues, wars, health, etc.)

He explained that when a missionary is re-assigned for whatever reason, the assignment still comes through from the Lord through an apostle, just like the original call. I’m sure there are many who needed to hear this.

He said that “noting affirms the reality of continuing revelation” as much as the process of assigning missionaries.

He then continued by talking about the importance of focusing equally on preparation for Priesthood, Temple and Mission. We too often focus on mission, when learning and gaining strength from the priesthood and temple could make for a better missionary. (Sorry, lots of paraphrasing going on here.)

Huge focus on staying worth for all three areas.

 

Presiding Bishop Gerald Causee spoke about priesthood training. He spoke of his lifetime of learning in the priesthood and made two interesting points:

-The role of the Aaronic Priesthood is to prepare the way for the Melchizedek Priesthood’s role.

-The MP should turn to our AP brothers and invite them to participate with us.

Great quote: “Two often we try to entertain our young men and relegate them to the spectator role.”  Can I get a big AMEN?

 

• Odd that we sang all four verses of the rest hymn, but they didn’t show the words on the screen. My youngest was lost after were one.

 

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was the story man tonight. He told a great story about not being invited to the Madrid, Spain Temple Open House, even though he was the European Area President at the time. He talked about how he dealt with it.

The second story was along the same lines, but I won’t retell it, other than to say he missed a perfect opportunity to level the place with a “Doody Duty” joke, but he showed great restraint.

The point of the stories? “You can’t get honor in the Kingdom of Heaven by campaigning for it.”

“God’s greatest reward goes to those who serve without expectation of reward.”

“When we inhale the praise of others, that will be our compensation.”

 

• I’ve noticed that there have been a lot of references to the Pauline Epistles today.

 

President Henry B. Eyring concluded as a second witness about Priesthood service. He started by telling us that he desired to reassure and invigorate us in our Priesthood service.

“If you are feeling a little overwhelmed, take that as a good sign.” (Further proof that men and women are different. I don’t recall that message in Women’s Conference.)

The main focus was to remind us to include Christ in our service. He told several stories from his life about how inspiration guided his service.

Three points:

  • “God will notice and support even the youngest Deacon.”
  • “The Lord’s work is not just to solve problems, but to build people. Sometimes the most effective system is not the Lord’s system.” (That is good stuff right there.)
  • “Walking with the Savior in the Priesthood will change how you look at people.”

The Savior was able to see Peter “The Rock” within Peter the impulsive fisherman.

“Develop the ability to help people see themselves the way the Savior sees them.”

 

• I will admit that I missed some parts of President Eyring’s talk because of a remarkable distraction – maybe I’ll tell the story next Sunday.

• Great Session. 90 minutes and out.

• Have a good sleep! It is all true! Every bit of it!

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9

Conf April Sat PM

Note:  These are the instant, mildly-filtered things that ran through my brain and heart as I watched this session of General Conference. If you are looking for deep, spiritual analysis, this is not the place. Drive on. Please check back later for that, after I have had some time to process.

Hang on. (Wipes BBQ sauce off face) Okay, ready.

  • The awesome pastel colors of the choir make me think of the paint sample board at Home Depot.
  • I guess rudely shouting “No” somehow means more than just raising the right hand. Following simple instruction is not some people’s forte. (Perhaps it was just a bad taste April Fools joke.)
  • Happy to raise my hand for new folks that I have never heard of. #faith Women’s Auxiliaries sure seem to like playing musical chairs.
  • I wonder what will happen to the lengthy sustaining process when the Church is 10x larger.
  • 15,882,417 – closing in on 16.

 

Elder Robert D. Hales: “Genuine discipleship is a state of being…woven into the fiber of their beings.” (He could have sat down after that and given us years of pondering.)

“Selective obedience.” I love it when that phrase is used.

“We embody Christ not only in what we say or do, but in who we are.”

….yeah, I’ find myself typing every single line. This one is going to take some studying.

 

Elder Jeffry R. Holland took one line of the hymn There is Sunshine in My Soul. “Jesus, listening can hear the songs you cannot sing.”

Somedays are difficult. (Not Sundays, SOMEdays.)

What do we do in such times? “Embrace Paul’s counsel and “hope for that which we see not, and with patience wait for it.”

(2 talks in a row mentioning patience.)

“It is by divine design that all the voices in God’s choir are not the same.” (He mentioned Sopranos, bases, altos – My tenor son said, What? No tenors?)

“DIVERSITY IS NOT CACOPHONY and choirs do require discipline.”

“Economic deprivation is a curse.” (MMM opinion: I don’t think anyone argues with this – the problem is how many want to solve the problems in ways other than ways the Lord has endorsed.)

“Guns and slurs and vitriol are not the way to deal with human conflict.” “The more excellent way will always be the gospel of Jesus Christ “ (Basically, the gospel is the answer to the problems.)

Extending love to those who struggle with emotional or mental issues has become a hallmark of Elder Holland’s talks.

“Stay permanently and faithfully in the choir… so that we can sing the song of redeeming love.”

Come as you are…but don’t plan to stay as you are. God plans to make you more than you thought you could be.” That is huge. The Church is for all of us, but we should all be working to change ourselves.

Phew! That talk was brilliant – and exhausting.

 

• I was weak and checked Twitter during the song, only to find out how quickly people are weaponizing Elder Holland’s brilliant talk to justify their political views and condemn others. You would think I’d learn.

 

Elder Gary Sabin: a.k.a. “The Man Who Gets to Follow Elder Holland.”

(Note: I used to have a GPS voice that would yell at me in a ‘Mr. T’ voice and say, “Turn around fool!”)

“The Lord requires a heart and a willing mind, the whole heart.”

“When we are lukewarm or only partially committed, we lose out on some of heaven’s choicest blessings.”

Very profound: “When we are complacent in our covenants, we are complicit in the consequences.”

“There is a lot of vain jangling in the world today.” (Can’t wait to read the next paragraph again.)

Let me rephrase: Elder Gary Sabin: a.k.a. “The Man Who Followed Elder Holland With a Tremendous Talk.)

 

• Weird to think that there are people who actually had their testimonies strengthened because Elder Sabin made a Star Wars reference.

 

Elder Valeri V. Cordon made the connection to preserving the language of his fathers to preserving the language of the gospel.

How to preserve gospel language:

1) “Be more diligent and concerned at home.”

“It is not enough to merely speak the language in the home; if parents desire to preserve the language it must be taught.”

He made a nice pitch for family scripture study. Huzzah!

2) Strong modeling in the home – bring the language alive for the children.

“It is not enough just to talk to our children about the importance of temple marriage, fasting, & keeping the Sabbath day holy.”

3) Traditions: “We must avoid any tradition that will prevent us from keeping the Sabbath holy or having daily scripture study and prayer at home.”

“No achievement in this life, important as it may be, will be relevant if we lose the language of the gospel in our homes.”

 

• Nice to hear BYU finally mentioned in a real Conference.

 

Elder Neil L. Andersen spoke about overcoming the world.

“Is it possible to overcome the world and receive these blessings? Yes, it is.”

“Overcoming the world is not one defining moment in a lifetime, but a lifetime of moments that define an eternity.”

“Overcoming the world is not a global invasion, but a private, personal battle, requiring hand-to-hand combat with our own internal foes.” (Great imagery)

(I am using the pause button too much – we are falling way behind.)

Two talks in a row about keeping the Sabbath day holy. Seems to be a trend of 2nd witnesses this Conference.

“Happiness of a spouse is more important than our own pleasure.”

Uh-oh. Elder Andersen is talking about Social Media…I guess it’s time to pack in the blog:

“A disciple of Christ is not alarmed if her post about Christ does not receive 1,000 likes.” I totally agree, and I am so glad he was referring to women.

A very nice tribute to Elder Bruce Porter.

 

• Seriously a GREAT session. Seems that Saturday P.M. consistently rocks.

 

Elder M. Russell Ballard: Those who accomplish the most in this world are those with a vision for their lives.”

“A goal is a destination or an end, while a plan is the route by which you get there.”

(A lot of this sounds vaguely like the chapter in Preach My Gospel on goal setting.)

“Our greatest and most overriding goals should fit into our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

“The simpler and more straightforward a goal is, the more power it will have.” Reduce a goal to a single image or just a few words. (Memes? Emojis?)

His choice: Return and Receive.

Have regular PPI’s with yourself. “Who knows you better than you know yourself?” (Question: Do I have to get dressed up?)

Quotes Alma 5:14, “And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?”

Assignment: “Over the coming weeks, take time to review your life goals and your plans and make sure they align with our Heavenly Father’s plans.”

Make adjustments as needed.

Elder Ballard is the second apostle (witness) to encourage us to study “The Living Christ.”

I also might want to take a harder look at recognizing Palm Sunday.

“Let us remember Him and renew our lifelong commitment to keep His commandments.”

—-

• A Child’s Prayer – a beautiful way to wrap up a perfect session. Seriously – I went back through my notes and every.single.talk. was powerful.

• Have a great afternoon. Priesthood session notes will be later tonight after we tackle some Mexican Food.

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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.

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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.