Saturday, April 22, 2006

A New Gathering

Watching such series as "Cops," "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and "Homicide: 48 Hours" on television has been an eye opener. These shows follow law enforcement around as they work to catch criminals. Some of the worst of humanity can be seen lying, cheating, stealing, fighting, and generally doing evil things. In many cases, these are daily news stories placed up close. It reminds me of the Second letter of Paul to Timothy explaining the condition of the world:

1 THIS know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,

7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.

9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

I know there are good people everywhere, but it has become hard to point them out in today's filth. We may all be born innocent, but our spirits seem over influenced by the material bodies and satanic suggestions. Many people are crying out for a better society built around the ideas of integrety, honesty, morality, and most importantly faith in God.

One of the constant themes during the foundation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the building up of Zion. This was more than simply learning to live a good Christian life. It was the concept of gathering together as a people and building up a community of believers. It was believed that the Saints could help usher in the Second Coming of Christ by forming a group worthy of God's favor. Due to negative circumstances both inside and outside the faith the dream was never realized. A new era started, as explained by Bruce R. McConkie in his .Peru Talk several years ago:

We are in the midst of a period of change and realignment where one of the basic doctrines of the Restoration is concerned.

We were directed in the day of Joseph Smith to do one thing with reference to the gathering of Israel and the building up of Zion. Today we are counseled to turn away from the past and do something entirely different. . .

. . . We are living in a new day. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is fast becoming a worldwide church. Congregations of Saints are now, or soon will be, strong enough to support and sustain their members no matter where they reside. Temples are being built wherever the need justifies. We can foresee many temples in South America in process of time.

Stakes of Zion are also being organized at the ends of the earth. In this connection, let us ponder these truths: A stake of Zion is a part of Zion. You cannot create a stake of Zion without creating a part of Zion. Zion is the pure in heart; we gain purity of heart by baptism and by obedience. A stake has geographical boundaries. To create a stake is like founding a City of Holiness. Every stake on earth is the gathering place for the lost sheep of Israel who live in its area.

The gathering place for Peruvians is in the stakes of Zion in Peru, or in the places which soon will become stakes. The gathering place for Chileans is in Chile; for Bolivians it is in Bolivia; for Koreans it is in Korea; and so it goes through all the length and breadth of the earth. Scattered Israel in every nation is called to gather to the fold of Christ, to the stakes of Zion, as such are established in their nations.

Isaiah prophesied that the Lord “shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” The Lord’s promise is: “Ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel.” (Isa. 27:6, 12.)

That is to say—Israel shall be gathered one by one, family by family, unto the stakes of Zion established in all parts of the earth so that the whole earth shall be blessed with the fruits of the gospel.

This then is the counsel of the Brethren: Build up Zion, but build it up in the area where God has given you birth and nationality. Build it up where he has given you citizenship, family, and friends. Zion is here in South America and the Saints who comprise this part of Zion are and should be a leavening influence for good in all these nations.

And know this: God will bless that nation which so orders its affairs as to further his work.

His work includes the building up of Zion in the last days. He has commissioned us to do that work for him. The foundations of Zion have already been laid in North America, in South America, in Europe, in Asia, in the South Pacific and in every place where there are stakes of Zion. But Zion is not yet perfected in any of these places. When she is perfected, it will be as it was with Zion of old—the Lord will come and dwell with his people.

The condition of the World today makes me wonder it is time to renew the idea of gathering the Saints closer together. I don't mean the almost unconscious gathering to Idaho and Utah. Rather, a commitment to gather with a goal in mind to create a particular community. I don't think it would be improbable to form gated communities with specific ideals. The days of deadly persecution, in the United States at least, are in the past. It even seems possible for LDS members to go back to Independance Missouri if they desired and bought up land. Money and the Law are more important today that they ever were in the early years.

Such a plan won't be easy, and not all problems will suddenly no longer exist. But, polygamous "Mormons" seem to be proving a new religious gathering in the middle of a pluralistic democracy can be possible in small groups. The closest modern example of a "mainstream Mormonism" built community is Provo, UT and Rexburg, ID. Both are centers of LDS learning. Like Joseph Smith's vision of the center of Zion as a large Temple University complex, these two places act as gathering areas for the Church's young and growing. It might be possible to study them and decide how to improve on the "accidental providence" of their existance as LDS communities.

Questions naturally arise. Where would such a community be built? What would be the laws and standards? What legal ramifications still exist? How ready are the Saints for such an experiment? Does it go against modern revelation as to our current mission to the world? Is it desireable?

Answers to these questions are vital to achieving any new gathering. Perhaps the online world of blogging is the closest Mormons can come these days to a seperate community of believers. Of course, the main reason for gathering in the days of Joseph Smith was to build Temples for the people. These days Temples can come to the people. Zion still remains a dream that all Saints desire to see become reality. Perhaps the most important starting point is in our hearts and homes.


Tigersue said...

Our Stake President has really been focusing on Strengthing the Saints, and our faith and commitment. It comes down to so many things, from the way we dress and speak to the willingness to serve. If we can do these little things I think the gathering can begin on the stake and ward level to be better neighbors and friends.

Jettboy said...

I have been reading "Rough Stone Rolling" and my ideas of Zion have been completely upturned. What Joseph Smith proposed, or rather God had commanded, was on a huge scale. I think we are in a better legal and social position in the United States today to try a small part of his vision. Yet, I don't think we are spiritually and culturally as prepared as the Saints were when things were fresh.

Anonymous said...

When the saints left Nauvoo, about half of them remained behind, some of them to form the Reorganized church 16 years later. I believe that those who followed Brigham Young were those who were the TBMs of their day. Otherwise they would have stayed in the east. This kind of self-sorting obviously caused a great upsurge in the faithfulness of the saints who made the trek relative to the faithfulness of the body of the saints before this event took place. And I see this same kind of self-sorting taking place again as a result of the Internet. Many saints are becoming former Mormons and are hanging out online in forums such as the one at the Recovery from Mormonism website at Large numbers of saints are voluntarily excommunicating themselves, in their hearts at least, because of the alleged "facts" they learn about Church history here online and the alleged differences of opinion among the Brethren which are grossly exaggerated by the doubters and unbelievers, in my opinion.

But as the doubters, unbelievers and dissenters separate themselves from us online, the TBMs that remain true and faithful will make up an increasingly important part of the Church for exactly the same reasons that they did after the trek west. This can only be good for the Church because it will dramatically increase the level of the faithfulness of the saints who remain with us. It is a natural development or evolution of the Church into a real Zion, in my opinion.

I think that the day will soon come if it is not already here when those who remain true and faithful to the Lord will have to have testimonies so strong that they can be maintained in the face of what seems to be insurmountable "empirical evidence" that the Church is false. Of course, if the Church is true, most of that "empirical evidence" will be bogus, but it will be bogus in a very persuasive and convincing way. The devil is so masterful in his ability to deceive. But then the Savior said in the 24th chapter of Matthew that in the last days before the Second Coming that he would be able to deceive "the very elect." The scriptures are replete with references to how difficult, indeed impossible, it will be in the last days to live on borrowed light. We either have our own testimony by the power of the Holy
Ghost, or we will lose our ability to hold fast. We will lose our moorings and become like so many of those in the Bloggernacle who seem to be primarily doubters instead of believers.

I think that Zion is going to emerge right here on the Internet before it emerges in the various geographical areas. Because it is here that the devil is doing his most effective work in leading off those who have dwindled in unbelief, as the Book of Mormon would say it.

I have started readingRough Stone Rolling and gave it as Christmas gifts to all of my family this past Christmas. But I haven't gotten into it very far simply because I spend far too much time reading and writing online to read books very much. But I anticipate that when I finally do read it, I will find it immensely enjoyable and informative. I read Bushman's earlier book Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism and liked it a lot. I understand from my reading that Rough Stone Rolling is just a substantial expansion on that work.

Thanks for blogging, Jettboy. Now that I've made my first visit, I'll come here more often. Didn't you say you also have another blog? I'm interested in learning about that one too.