On Becoming a Zion Society
by Kenneth R. Allen
High Council Address to the Valparaiso Ward
November 14, 2004
Brothers and Sisters, I come to you on assignment from the Stake Presidency with their greetings and best wishes and to express their love for you. I pray that I what I say may carry the Lord's Message through the Spirit. At the end of my remarks, we will sing one of my favorite hymns, "Lord I would Follow Thee." May we ponder the spirit of that hymn in our hearts as we leave today.
Today I shall speak about becoming a Zion Society. What is the path to becoming a Zion Society? Note that I say that this is a path, not a state. It is a process, not a being. That is why I characterize it as a becoming, and it is this insight that should provide guidance.
In an important address in the October 1977 welfare session of General Conference, the prophet President Spencer W. Kimball named the six foundational truths that undergird what is required to become a Zion Society. Those truths are:
5. Consecration, and
He stated “only as we apply these truths can we approach the ideal of Zion,” which is the “highest order of priesthood society.” (Welfare Services: The gospel in action, “(Ensign Nov. 1977, p. 78)
Brother R. Quinn Gardner, the managing director of the Church Welfare Services Department, expanded on this theme in another remarkable article in the February 1979 issue of the Ensign Magazine. It was entitled "Becoming a Zion Society," This obscure article struck me as a description of what we are to be about.
What is Zion?
Zion is the scriptural name given to the kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth. (D&C 105:32.) It is the society of Saints who have covenanted to live in righteousness, and who, through living fully the laws and ordinances of the gospel, are made "the pure in heart."(D&C 97:21). (See D&C 76:54-70.)
While the term Zion embraces many concepts—a place, a people, a quality—what makes Zion unique is the purity of heart. As covenant Israel actually becomes the pure in heart, the promises will be fulfilled and a full Zion society will be established.
Now let me share with you a scriptural secret. The Lord is waiting on us to come again. He could come tomorrow, if we wanted it to be so. In other words, how we live and conduct our personal lives has a direct impact on the future of the World. Now we should feel some great urgency to live these six truths today, because Zion will and must be built in our day in preparation for the Lord’s second coming. (D&C 105:5)
Now let's review those principles that Pres. Kimball stated:
The first is love. Quoting President Kimball: "The evidence of our love for our fellowman and, in a large sense, the evidence of our love for the Lord, is what we do for one another and for the poor and the distressed.”
Referring to the Book of John, Chapter 13:34-35, it is the Last Supper. Christ administers the sacrament and other sacred ordinances to the disciples and then he gives this familiar charge:
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
Zion cannot be established by the lower forms of love—it requires that pure love of Christ “bestowed” as a gift upon all who submit to the covenants and the powers of the atonement. (Moro. 7:44-48.)
It is this kind of love that sustained the Zion Society among the people of Nephi after the Coming of Christ for four generations. There was "no contention… because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people (4 Nephi 15). It is the principle that produced the city of Enoch whose people were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7:18-19.
And why to you think there was no poor among them? Because you cannot love without sharing. There is an old folk saying that goes, God gives, but he doesn't share. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.
Again quoting President Kimball, on Service. "To serve is to abase oneself, to succor those in need of succor, and to impart of one’s ‘substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake.’ (Alma 4:13.)”
Service is central to the entire workings of the kingdom. And by that service, you bless others and yourself. Remember, you cannot bless yourself by laying hands on your own head. You can bless yourself only by serving others.
The third principle is work. Quoting President Kimball: "Work brings happiness, self-esteem, and prosperity. It is the means of all accomplishment; and it is the opposite of idleness. We are commanded to work. (See Gen. 3:19.) Attempts to obtain our temporal, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being without working for it violates the divine mandate that we should work for what we receive. Work should be the ruling principle in the lives of our Church membership. (See D&C 42:42; D&C 75:29; D&C 68:30-32; D&C 56:17.)”
Gambling is the very antithesis of this principle of work--the pursuit of something without work. I recall a Bishop who said, "There are very good reasons why I don't play the Lottery. One is that I can see the headline now: MORMON BISHOP WINS LOTTERY."
The aim of work is not the selfish accumulation of wealth, but rather the selfless establishment of the kingdom. The Nephite example of the recurring cycle of wealth and pride and downfall of those who worked for power and authority and riches and the vain things of the world, was an example of work for self destruction. The Lord warned us: “Thou shalt not covet thine own property.” (D&C 19:26.)
President Kimball warned that many of us have begun to worship the trappings of wealth as false gods. Many people spend most of their time working in the service of a self-image that includes sufficient money, property, credit, furnishings, automobiles, and the like to guarantee carnal security throughout life. They forget that our assignment is to use these many resources in our families and quorums to build up the kingdom of God—to further the missionary effort and the genealogical and temple work; to raise our children up as fruitful servants unto the Lord; to bless others in every way that they may also be fruitful.
As the prophet Jacob counseled: "And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and to administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. (Jacob 2:19)
The fourth principle is self-reliance. The Church and its members are commanded by the Lord to be self-reliant and independent. (See D&C 78:13-14.) Each person is responsible for his own social, emotional, spiritual, physical, and economic well-being. Then, it is the family responsibility, and third it is the Church responsibility for the faithful member. Self-reliance is an essential virtue in and among Latter-day Saints. In the gospel, however, our promises to the Lord moves us past self-sufficiency to be abundantly productive. Thus, we not only meet our own needs, but have a surplus to help others in the Lord’s own way.
The fifth principle is consecration. Consecration encompasses sacrifice. Consecration is the giving of one’s time, talents, and means to care for those in need—whether spiritually or temporally—and to build the Lord’s kingdom.
In his remarkable book, The Lost Language of Symbolism,, Dr. Alonzo Gaskill acknowledged you when he dedicated that book to the members of the Menlo Park Stake. He said: You "have taught me so much about what it means to truly live the law of consecration. Your actions have forever changed my life."
When many Church members use the word consecration, they think only of the United Order or a law imposed from the outside or what is considered to be a suspended law of consecration and living. They therefore assume that none of the principles of consecration apply today. This is not true. While the formal law of consecration will be reinstated in the Lord’s own time, the Lord has never suspended or repealed the personal covenant of consecration made during the temple endowment. This covenant is in full force and effect.
Let us consider therefore some specific ways to apply consecration in our daily lives:
paying of tithes and generous fast offerings,
contributing to building and temple funds and welfare farm and facility acquisition,
donating goods to the Deseret Industries so that others may work,
financially supporting full-time missionaries and students,
accepting a foster child,
training others to upgrade their employment skills,
preparing for and accepting a part-time or fulltime service or mission call.,
teaching someone to read, write and speak English,
tutoring a school child,
helping with homework,
babysitting for a harried mother,
helping a neighbor or a home teaching family with a project,
picking up papers and trash in public places,
cleaning off graffiti from a wall,
taking meals to the housebound,
shopping and running errands for a family or shut-in,
driving someone to the doctor or other appointment
fixing someone's broken furniture,
mowing the lawn and cleaning a yard
volunteering in the many charitable organizations in the region, such as Ronald McDonald House or the hospitals and libraries, or the Bishop's Storehouse,
serving in the community in civic affairs,
working on a committee,
working as a classroom or school volunteer,
and the list goes on and on.
The Law of Consecration is a natural extension of the Law of Tithing and the Law of Moses. Under these so-called lesser laws, we are called upon to sacrifice or give things: property, wealth, increase, the firstlings of the flock, the fatted calf, the bullock, even the farthing. Thus the greatest and the least among us could live the law. However, under the law that was the fulfillment of the lesser law, we are not only called upon to give of our possessions, we are called upon to give of ourselves. And what is it that the Lord calls upon us to give? The Answer is: Love.
Since the Lord has said that “all things unto me are spiritual,” consecrating material goods is simply one way of achieving spiritual sanctification. But it is consecration and sanctification of the heart that creates a Zion Society. (See D&C 29:34.)
Finally is the principle of stewardship. As President Kimball stated: In the Church a stewardship is a sacred spiritual or temporal trust for which there is accountability. Because all things belong to the Lord, we are stewards over our bodies, our minds, our families, and our properties. (See D&C 104:11-15.) A faithful steward is one who exercises righteous dominion, cares for his own, and looks to the poor and needy. (See D&C 104:15-18)”
The assignment of stewardship is usually thought of as growing out of the formal law of consecration. where Lord appoints each man as a steward over a portion of property sufficient for himself and his family and is accountable to the Lord for how he manages his stewardship. (See D&C 42.) But the principle of stewardship also applies under covenants of baptism and consecration. Everything we possess is really a stewardship: Our time, talents, property, families, our Church callings and priesthood offices, our health, even our thoughts for good and of evil, is part of our individual stewardship for which we are held accountable.
As in the Book of Mormon, for every inspirational thought, there is a warning and an admonition. So let me touch for a moment on stewardship over thoughts and actions and their affect on your physical and moral well being. This is a topic of urgent concern today. Some of us may have further to go than others, but none of us is immune. I speak on this subject by specific assignment from the Stake President. The Prophet of the Lord, the Stake President and the Lord himself have all spoken out strongly and plainly and now I speak out and warn you against the pursuit of the thoughts and temptations of the flesh and the actions that those thoughts may lead to. We live in a society that all around us inundates us with images and substances with one intent only, and that is to addict us into a commitment of our wealth to the profit of the purveyor, even if it leads to our physical and moral destruction. There is no way to force it to go away. But there are ways to avoid it.
As the prophet Alma said: "And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd, come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things." (Alma 5:57) And again, in the teachings of Christ himself to the Nephites and from the Prophet Isaiah: "touch not that which is unclean; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord." (3 Nephi 20:41)
Dear brothers and sisters and young people, don't be deceived by the images on MTV and computers and magazines and cable of so-called happiness displayed in flaunting of flesh and frolicking with sex. The images, both visual and verbal, are just a ploy to arouse hormones and invite immersion, to sell a sound with the very real goal of getting you to buy a product even if you must sell your soul.
For many years, I have served on the board of directors of a cable television company. I have been solicited by the salespeople of so-called adult entertainment. They know there is a market, and they know how to make a profit. I have seen details in the profitability of pornography. In my law firm I have observed how businesses try to protect their interests. It has gone well beyond the mere adult entertainment industry into the so-called mainstream media. It leaks out onto nearly every computer screen and television show and popular magazine despite laws and blocking artifices. I have seen lives destroyed by mental addiction, and I know of many other tragedies from poisoned minds. You will hear of denials and scoffing of such things. But fifty years of a downward spiral of profitable "entertainment" in many media does not dilute the truth.
Ultimately your protection rests with your personal fortitude. Avoid the environment. As the scriptures say, "Turn away and depart from them." The images, particularly the most extreme are mere entertainment for the disengaged, and they can and do lead to destructive addictive behavior.
As the Prophet Moroni himself admonished in his departing words: "And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing." (Moroni 10:30)
We should strive master the principles of stewardship in this life, not only over things, but over our bodies and minds, for both the here and the hereafter. “It is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity,” as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants. (D&C 72:3)
Ultimately, how you live these six principles determines how happy you are as citizens of the kingdom. You will not only be contributing to the eventual creation of a Zion society here and now, but you will also be saving yourselves: “And whoso is found a faithful, a just, and a wise steward shall enter into the joy of his Lord, and shall inherit eternal life.” (D&C 51:19.)
The power and the purity of that example may then become an ensign to the world. For these are the Lord's words: "I have sent mine everlasting covenant into the world, to be a light to the world, and to be a standard for my people, and for the Gentiles to seek to it, and to be a messenger before my face to prepare the way before me. (D&C 64:41)
It is our calling to love, to serve, to work, to be self-reliant, to consecrate, and to be faithful stewards of ourselves and the Lord's Work. By doing do, the oath made by the Lord to Enoch will be fulfilled in our own lives. (Moses 7:62-64.)
Now I share with you a valedictory. In a few short weeks, my wife Sue and I will be joining our youngest daughter and youngest son for a season--eighteen months in full-time service as missionaries in a foreign country. We expect our call any day.
I leave you my testimony that God lives and sent his son, that this is the Lord's work led by a prophet of God today, and that the Lord loves you and wants you to return to him. He has shown us the way if we will merely follow his path and endeavor in our own way to become a Zion people.