Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Latter-Day Zion

I just finished a book, the story of which I know will stay with me for a long time--I hope forever. It's not a new book--or a new story for that matter. It's the "Fire of the Covenant - A Novel of the Willie & Martin Handcart Companies", by Gerald Lund. Using journals and historical records, the author places a few fictional characters amongst the stories of the real people to help tell the story of actual events. It is moving, disturbing, inspiring, and uplifting all at once. Don't worry, this post is not going to be a book review. I do HIGHLY recommend this book, but that's not what I wanted to write about here.

A thought occurred to me as I read about the horrendous, truly heart-breaking experiences and difficulties these early LDS immigrants endured. Beyond the obedience to the call of a prophet, beyond their desire for refuge, safety and peace. At first I questioned--WHY? Why did they forsake EVERYTHING--their homes, possessions, wealth, native countries, languages, health, protection and their very lives in many cases. Why were they willing to do it?

The author called it the "Fire of the Covenant", in reference to an explanation given by Brigham Young about the covenant we have all made to further the work of the Lord, which is to build up the Kingdom of God on earth. In those days as the Gathering of Israel commenced it required a literal gathering to a physical place. There was not the global communications and ease of travel that we enjoy today.

So, there is the answer. They were willing because it was what the Lord required of His people. He, in His wisdom and omniscience, required them to forsake all and begin anew amongst their fellow Saints. We can be assured that whenever the Lord requires sacrifice, great or small, His promised blessings far outweigh the cost. He is more than just, more than fair; for His mercy is perfect and generosity boundless.

In the case of the early Saints, those whose sacrifice included their lives, I'm sure have earned a great reward in Heaven. And those who survived, who made it to "the Valley" as they affectionately referred to it, they were blessed to see an end to persecution, to bigotry and violence. They were free to worship amongst friends and live peaceably as brethren and sisters, children of God. They could safely teach their children the Creator's Great Plan of Happiness and see them put it into practice in their daily lives. This was Zion.

After pondering these things,the thought that occurred to me was self-centered in nature.

I have not been asked to suffer for my faith. God has not required that I forsake all--some, yes, but by no means all. I think I can speak for most of us in the US, when I say He has blessed us temporally--we live in comfort, rarely know serious physical discomfort that cannot be remedied fairly quickly or easily. We are not called on to leave our homes, lands, possessions and endure physical trials that push us to our limits and beyond. What then, will He require of us that we may earn a place next to these great early Saints in Heaven? How is it that we may find our Zion? Is it in the daily struggles to endure a wicked world that we plod along? It this where we show our willingness? by not murmuring? by maintaining a grateful heart? by showing kindness when none is earned or returned?

Are our toilings, struggles, and never-ending hills to climb emotional and spiritual, rather than physical? Are we to endure and stave off the frost bite of evil influences that surround us, threatening to destroy bits of us piece by piece? Are the howling winds of deception threatening to chill our spirits to a willfull death? Are we burdened with handcarts full of sorrow for the horrors we see, fear we must live with daily for our children and others and temporal worries? Are we to trudge through the heavy snows of injustice, hate and anger until our feet fail? Are we to hunger for goodness, kindness, & wholesomeness until our strength is gone? Is this what the Lord is requiring?

I keep waiting to be called upon to do something BIG. You know, something monumental that will once and for all allow me to earn my place with the early saints and other great disciples of Christ or perish in the effort. That day may come. I certainly believe that hard times are ahead of us.

But the realization that I had tonight was that Zion is not to be found for me in one bold act of sacrifice. It is the daily struggle of life in a wicked, wicked world that wears me down, saps my energy and chinks away at my spiritual armor. And yet, for each of us in these days, Zion is not a destination, not a place. Our Zion is in the Gospel itself.

We can find rest and refuge. In the scriptures. In our homes. In our families. In our wards. In our callings. In service. In our temples. In prayer.

We do struggle on, day by day. But we also have places of safety to which we can go. Places of peace. Places of rest. The Lord in His infinite wisdom has seen fit to bring Zion to us, because He knows we can't survive without it.

I believe that, if given the choice, the early Saints would not have been willing to trade places with us in these last days of the evil of the world. I believe that they would rather have suffered again as they did, than to send their children out into the world we do each day. I believe they would be terrified to live and raise children in our reality.

That said, it says something about us that the Lord let us come at this time. I believe it means He knows we can make it. But the stakes are higher than ever. To succumb to the elements in our day means spiritual death. There will be no reward for this. So, with everything to lose and yet, "everything the Father hath" to gain--we must press forward. Day by day. Hour by hour. Supporting and caring for each other. With courage. With faith. With conviction. And grab hold of Zion at every opportunity.

"...Fresh courage take,
Our God will never us forsake
and then we'll have this tale to tell,
all is well. All is well!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Another Jefferson Quote

Thanks Melinda, for inviting me to join this blog.

I have another quote from Thomas Jefferson, on the proper role of government, that I'd like to share:

"A wise and frugal government shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government." - Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

I agree.

My Christmas wish this year is that our governmnet today would take heed to what Jefferson said then.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thomas Jefferson Quote

"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent they conquered." -Thomas Jefferson

Friday, December 5, 2008

Neal A. Maxwell

Orson Pratt Quote

I might dwell still longer on the judgments to come upon this American nation, according to modern revelation. In 1832 the Lord foretold to the Prophet Joseph Smith that there should be a great war between the Northern and Southern States. This revelation is published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, a standard work of the Church, and also in many languages, many years before the war commenced. At that early period we were told that the Southern States would rise against the Northern States, and the Northern against the Southern States in war, terminating in the deaths and misery of many souls. We were told also that this war would begin with the rebellion of South Carolina.

When I was a boy, a little over 20 years of age, I had the privilege of taking a copy of that revelation, and I carried it around with me, often times reading it to the congregations that I preached to. Its subject matter formed a text from which I many times preached, as well as a topic of conversation with strangers, whose acquaintance I would happen to make in traveling from place to place.

How do you think such information was received by the people to whom it was imparted? They would not believe it; they had no idea of its being a revelation from God to them; they considered it one of the impositions that the "Mormons" had gotten up to delude the people. To tell them that this great government would be divided and go to war with each other, was something entirely foreign to their minds; it was something to which they paid heedless regard, oft times treating it with ridicule and laughter. I preached in the New England States, and in various portions of the Union, and such was the way these things were received. The shedding of blood was then one of the remotest feelings of the American people; yet it came to pass precisely as predicted, and we all know the results of that dreadful war. That war, we must remember, was only one solitary judgment, compared with what will come, and that, too, in the near future. It has been revealed that the time will come in the history of our nation, that one State will rise against another, one city against another, even every man's hand shall be against his neighbor, until the whole Republic will be in general commotion and warfare. How and when this will take place, the Lord, in his wisdom, has not told us; but it is sufficient for us to say, that he has told us of the facts that such and such will be the case.

For aught we know, the fulfillment of this prophecy may grow out of politics. If the people are very nearly equally divided in politics, this feeling may run so high, in years to come, as to be the direct cause of war. And if this should be the case, it would very naturally spread to every neighborhood in the Union. One class of political opponents would rise up against the other class in the same city and country, and thus would arise a war of mobocracy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Interesting thought

I was reading in the Journal of Discourses a sermon that Orson Pratt gave and this particular section really struck me as significant. I thought I'd share it here:
" the examination of that great event, the second coming of Christ, to refer to some of the predictions of inspired writers in regard to the time of our Savior's revelation from the heavens. I do not mean to say the day nor the hour of his coming, for that is unknown, no man that lives on the face of the earth knows anything about the day or the hour; neither will there be any man on the earth prior to the coming of the Lord who will know the day and the hour, for it is hidden from mortal man. However, the age in which that great event will take place is very clearly revealed in both the Old and the New Testament. That age is to be characterized by certain events, predicted by the inspired writers, which are unmistakable in their nature, and which can be easily understood by all, both learned and unlearned. These events are to be so conspicuous that I presume there will not be a nation, people, kindred or tongue upon the face of the whole earth but what will know that, according to the Scriptures, some great event is about to take place, for every people in that day will be more or less enlightened in the Scriptures, for before that great day shall come, missionaries will be sent to the uttermost parts of the earth, to testify to all people concerning the Gospel of the Son of God, and they will cry in the ears of all living, saying unto them-"Prepare ye, prepare ye, for the great and coming day of the Bridegroom." They will have a preparatory message to deliver to all nations.

When the Lord, in the meridian of time, came and took upon himself a mortal body, he saw proper to send as his forerunner one of the greatest Prophets that ever was born into our world-John the Baptist, and he went, announcing, by the inspiration of the Spirit and by the power of his holy calling, that there was one to come after him who was mightier than he, whose shoe latchet he was not worthy to unloose; and that when he should come he would thoroughly purge his floor, and that he would baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost. Said John-"I merely come to prepare the way. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord and make his paths straight. I come preaching unto you repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins, but he who comes after me, holding higher authority and a greater Priesthood, shall baptize you with a baptism that is greater than that of water-the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost."

Now, if the Lord, when he came the first time, in his humility and meekness, born in a manger, of parents of low estate, saw that it was necessary to prepare the way before him by raising up one of the greatest Prophets that ever came into the world, why should it be thought unreasonable that he should also raise up a latter-day Prophet to prepare the way before one of the mightiest and grandest events that ever has taken place, or that ever will take place on our earth in its temporal condition? If the heavens are to be revealed; if the face of the Son of God is to be unvailed; if the glory of his countenance is to outshine the sun in his strength; if he is to come in flaming fire, while the very heavens themselves shall shake by his power, and the earth reel to and fro like a drunken man, the mountain themselves, feeling his power, are sunk and the valleys are raised up; if all these grand events are to attend the second advent of the Son of God, is it unreasonable that he should raise up a great Prophet in the latter days to make preparations for so great an event? Or will he let the world pass on in blindness and darkness without any signs of the times, without any warning voice, without any inspired man sent of God to wake them up from their condition, and to prepare the way for his coming? To me it looks consistent and reasonable that such a preparatory work should be sent forth among the children of men, and it looked consistent to the ancient inspired writers, hence they have left an abundance of testimony on record in this good book (the Bible) concerning this preparatory work.

One of the means which God will use to prepare the way before his second coming, is to send angels from heaven with a proclamation, not to benefit a few individuals, not for one nation alone, but to all the inhabitants of our globe, and that too before he comes. Do you want to know where this prediction is recorded? Let me refer you to the fourteenth chapter of the revelations given to St. John on Patmos. Did St. John behold, in vision, the coming of the Son of God? He did. How does he describe it in that fourteenth chapter? He said, as you will find by reading the chapter through, that he saw one sitting on a white cloud, having a sharp sickle in his hand. He had reference to the time when Jesus should come in the clouds of heaven; however, before John saw the personage sitting on the cloud, he saw a preparatory work commence, as it is declared in the sixth verse, in which the Prophet says-"I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, unto every nation and kindred and tongue and people," declaring that the hour of God's judgment was come.

Now if that angel does not come and bring the Gospel, then the Son of Man will not come; no trumpet will sound and call forth the nations of the righteous from their sleeping tombs; there will be no destroying the wicked as stubble from the face of the earth; no shaking of the heavens and causing the earth to tremble and to remove to and fro. None of these events will transpire if no angel comes, for one is just as certain as the other; and to show that one is to precede the other, there must be a time for this everlasting Gospel to be preached to every nation, kindred, tongue and people after the angel appears with it. That will take some length of time, however rapidly it may go forth, for the mere preaching of the Gospel would be of no benefit, unless there were persons authorized to administer its ordinances. The angel might preach, but who could obey it? No one. It is true that we might repent if we heard the angel proclaim it by his own voice, as he flew from nation to nation and from kingdom to kingdom; and we might also believe in Jesus Christ, but how could we be baptized for the remission of our sins? Would the angel come down from heaven and take every believing penitent person and baptize him himself? How long would it take an angel to go over all the nations and baptize all the penitent believers? It would take ages and ages for him to do it personally. But it is very evident to every one who reflects upon these passages, that when that angel comes with the everlasting Gospel, there will be authority given to man on the earth to administer the ordinances of that Gospel, to build up the Christian Church again on the earth as it was built in ancient times, a Christian Church organized according to the pattern that God has given in the New Testament; a Christian Church having Apostles inspired from heaven; a Christian Church with Prophets called of God to prophesy future events; a Christian Church possessing the gifts and graces of the ancient Gospel in all their beauty, power and fulness, as they were possessed in ancient times. These works and these ordinances must be administered by man, and not by the angel who brings the Gospel. Will that be a preparatory work?

What a magnificent privilege it is to live in this great land where the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth and to see the fulfillment of so many prophetic events. To even be a part of this "errand of angels" is so humbling.