Scriptural descriptions of these societies are brief and vague, leaving the details of their laws, monetary systems, societal structures, and communal logistics an enigma. How were they able to achieve the societal status of having "no poor among them"? What does it really mean to have one, heart, one mind, and all things common? How does justice, equality, liberty, and freedom fit into the Zion blueprint? And what kind of government, if any, did these societies have? Unfortunately, scripture is bereft of these details, but just like the prophecies about the latter-day Beast, there are clues placed throughout ancient and sacred texts that can help us gradually form the pieces of the puzzle into a picture that begins to make sense.
In addition to these clues, the writings and talks of Denver Snuffer over the last decade have shed further light on what a Zion society might look like. Think what you want about Denver, but he has written and spoke more about Zion than any other "spiritual guru" to come out of the Remnant movement. Some opine that he is a prophet, a teacher, or even the Davidic servant, but he has never claimed to be any of those titles. He has claimed, however, to have been in the presence of the Savior, which is a hard pill for many to swallow, and from those experiences he has claimed to have received a message to deliver, the crux of which is how to prepare a people for Zion. He stated once that since 2014, when he delivered his ten talks throughout the Mormon corridor, he has only really been giving one long talk, the continual theme being Zion. I have read, listened to, and/or studied almost every recorded talk that Denver has given, which you can find here, and I can tell you that everything he says about Zion is backed up in scripture. And, in my opinion, any intellectually honest discussion of Zion and its requirements should include what Denver has taught about it. The only way to know for sure if he is telling the truth is to study it out for yourself and take it to the Lord in sincere prayer. Remember, it is the message that is important and not the man. God can reveal truth through any person He wants, even a lawyer from Sandy, Utah.
With that said, let's get started... Obviously, there is no way to condense all the material on Zion into one blog post, as volumes could be written on the subject. I'm just hoping this post will pique your curiosity, and serve as a catalyst for you to do your own research, because this topic is exhilaratingly fascinating. Think for just a moment about the almost endless volumes of literature that have been written on utopia, dystopia, and idealism. As human beings, we are collectively obsessed with fantasizing about higher forms of living, idyllic societies, and grandiose ideals. It is as if there is some kind of innate seed of altruism planted deep within our souls that yearns for something more; something that transcends our current existence. Because we are the offspring of God and have experienced something much better than this mortal realm, although we don't remember it, we long to return to it.
Unfortunately, Satan has used this yearning to convince elites that such grandiose ideals for society can be accomplished by a powerful State, through the destruction of personal liberty. This idea has been called many things, but in our modern lexicon, it is known as Progressivism, and its modus operandi is to transform society from the outside in, through the legislative process. But, as many governmental experiments have proven throughout history, attempts to legislate morality and idealism have led to the misery and death of many souls. The purpose behind God's Zion is to create the ideal society from the inside out, to change individuals first, and through their own volition, work together in harmony for a higher ideal. The most detailed account in scripture that we have in regards to Zion is in 4th Nephi, and even that is short and sweet. The characteristics of their society were as follows:
And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both the Nephites and the Lamanites; and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore, there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free and partakers of the heavenly gift...
And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people; and there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor many manner of lasciviousness. And surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor no murderers, neither were there Lamanites nor no manner of -ites, but they were in one the children of Christ and heirs to the kingdom of God. And how blessed were they, for the Lord did bless them in all their doings, yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away. (4 Nephi 1:1,3, RE)
Between the lines of these versus are implications that are rich enough to cover volumes of literary commentary, but I'll do my best to touch on the major points in this post. The Book of Mormon is written in chiasmas form, the beginning and the end contain prophecies and spiritual instruction (the Doctrine of Christ), the middle is full of Christian principles of living that teach us how to govern ourselves, how to serve others, when self-defense is justified, and the proper structure of Christ's church, the most important part being that priests and teachers are unpaid, are no better than the hearer or listener, and are to labor with their own hands for their support. In addition to Christian principles, the middle of the Book of Mormon also exposes false doctrine, anti-Christian philosophy and practice (from antichrists like Nehor, Korihor, and Sherem), and secret combinations. When studied in its full context, the Book of Mormon serves as a handbook for Zion, foreshadowing every facet of the society described in 4th Nephi throughout its hundreds of pages of pretext. The principles of Christ expounded in the Book of Mormon, when lived individually, can lead to collective peace and harmony.
All Converted With No Contention
Our traditions have not and cannot bring Zion; that will require viewing God's work in a new way. Individuals may be saved individually and have been throughout history. But Zion is not about individual salvation. Zion is about covenant people of God, individually saved as a prerequisite, then gathered together to live in peace. (Transcript, p. 3)
The conversion of individuals in preparation to live in peace is in direct opposition of the progressive philosophy of legislating equality and societal bliss. It cannot be done through force, compulsion, unrighteous dominion, or legal processes. The latter method presupposes that those who write the laws are somehow superior to those who are subject to them, as if only they know what is good for society. God has stated unequivocally however, that He is no respecter of persons, and such lawmakers are assuming authority they do not possess, and are merely gratifying their vain ambitions. The elitist philosophy that some are destined to rule over others is deeply entrenched in the Mystery Schools, and has been since Cain made his first oath to Satan. If you've been following this current blog series, Zion and the Beast, you'll be familiar with the writings of Manly P. Hall, specifically his musings on the secret destiny of America. In one of the books he wrote on that subject, America's Assignment With Destiny, he graced his concluding chapter with these pretentious words:
Truth always come to man through man. The great initiate-teachers have offered their souls as channels for the distribution of cosmic truths. These teachers are not only unselfish, they are also adequate for the ministry which is their chosen task. Through long periods of discipleship, they have become learned in statescraft, in law, medicine, art, literature, and science. In their natures, philosophy and mysticism have been unfolded far beyond the understanding of the profane. Obviously, the Great Schools, functioning through their trained and appointed messengers, constitute the highest leadership available to man or required by man... (p. 114, emphasis added)
This flowery language is subtly imbibed with the aforementioned philosophy: that some men are qualified to rule over others. These "unselfish" ministers, who have advanced far down the path of initiation, "constitute the highest leadership available to man or required by man," says Hall, who asserts that truth can only come "to man through man." In other words, humanism is his god, and only humanism can bring about his philosophic utopia; ruled by men over men. Hall asserts that only:
When a sufficient number has attained this degree of true leadership, the imperishable democracy of the sages will become a fact in the mortal sphere. (p. 115)
Leadership is therefore reserved only for the illuminated, the adepts who have become gods through the obtainment of gnosis, or knowledge granted by the Great Architect of the Universe, whom they refer to as Lucifer. The Book of Mormon, through simple language, plain and precious, penetrates the flowery pomp of Hall's rhetoric, and reduces it to its logical conclusion. The philosophy is introduced by Laman and Lemuel, who surmise that the right to rule belonged to them, Nephi's elder brethren. Throughout the history and wars between the Nephites and Lamanites we can see this philosophy playing out, ultimately resulting in the Gadianton belief that they were superior and deserved to possess the rights of government, as opined by the Luciferian initiate Giddianhi. But in Helaman we learn that all the fluff of one group being "destined" to rule over another boils down to one thing: the "right" to plunder. Mormon elucidates:
And seeing the people in a state of such awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment seats, having usurped the power and authority of the land, laying aside the commandments of God and not in the least aright before him, doing no justice unto the children of men, condemning the righteous because of their righteousness, letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover, to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world; and moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills... (Helaman 3:1, RE)
As Isaiah saw in vision, this haughtiness of man shall eventually be made low, leaving individuals to govern themselves, which is the only way true peace and utopia can be brought about. Consider the following observation about the Nephite society that Denver Snuffer made in the same talk quoted above:
These people were most remarkable for what they lacked... divisions, contentions, and disputes... What were the names of their leaders? We don't know because, apparently, there were none. Who were their teachers? Again, we don't know because they were not identified. Who governed? Apparently no one. They had things in common, obeyed God's commandments, and spent time praying and hearing the word of the Lord. They were so very unlike us. (Civilization, p. 17, emphasis original)
Mormon's next line in the description of Zion practiced by the Nephites at Bountiful sounds simple, yet its implications are complex, "and there were no contentions and disputations among them." When Jesus introduced His doctrine to the surviving Nephites at Bountiful, the ones who would eventually establish a Zion society, a major tenet was that there should be no contention about those points of doctrine. The spirit of contention, He declared, is not of Him, but of the Devil, who "stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another." His doctrine consists of just a few simple concepts: believe and have faith in Him, repent, be baptized, become as a little child, etc. But surely there is more to the Gospel than that... what about principles, prophecy, dreams, visions, angels, healing, speaking in tongues, and the ineffable mysteries? What about the Holy Order, the Priesthood, the sealing power, temples, work for the dead, the Second Comforter, sealing, adoption, and on and on... After all, didn't Joseph Smith say that Mormonism embraces all truth?
It most surely does, however, the doctrine is the springboard, the starting point, the gate of entrance. We are not supposed to argue about it, or change the requirements for entering the gate. We are not supposed to include or exclude people from the Gospel merely on our own whims, or our pretended authority, like modern Pharisees do. Any concept above and beyond the doctrine declared by Christ to the Nephites comes to each individual, line upon line, precept upon precept. And when we share those higher things with others, we are to do so by the Spirit, without contention, so that all who hear and participate are edified together.
If you take any random grouping of people and put them together in a room to have a discussion about religion and politics you can count on major disagreements ensuing. It is a rare thing in this world to find any two people that agree on everything they talk about, and that is the way it is supposed to be. A world where everyone agreed on everything all the time would be mundane and boring. God created us to be vastly different from each other, all coming with our preconceived notions of truth and reality accompanied by varying personalities. There is absolute truth, but God has promised to teach us that incrementally, as we are able to handle it. In the meantime, we need to realize we don't know much of anything, and what an utterly futile and fruitless endeavor it is to attempt to force our beliefs on others. Being of one heart and one mind does NOT mean we all believe and act the same way. The point of Zion is to get people to live in harmony regardless of glaring differences of opinion in religion and politics - the two most divisive topics that exist.
In a revelation given to Denver Snuffer called the Answer to the Prayer for Covenant, the Lord explained what being of one heart looks like:
Be of one heart, and regard one with another with charity. Measure your words before giving voice to them, and consider the hearts of others. Although a man may err in understanding concerning many things, yet he can view his brother with charity and come unto me, and through me he can with patience overcome the world. I can bring him to understanding and knowledge. Therefore, if you regard one another with charity, then your brother's error in understanding will not divide you. I lead to all truth. I will lead all who come to me to the truth of all things. The fullness is to receive the truth of all things, and this too from me, in power, by my word and in very deed. For I will come unto you if you will come unto me. (T&C 157:53, emphasis added)
It doesn't matter if someone errs in understanding, because guess what? We all do. The Lord is the source of all truth, and if we will just let others be, and love them for who they are and not what they believe, He will reward us by leading us to all truth. The right of the dissemination of all truth is His, and His alone. We only have bits and pieces of it, even great prophets who have beheld the Lord like Moses or the brother of Jared have limited understanding. A man, or woman, who has been in God's presence can still err in understanding. God cannot possibly reveal all the truth to someone all at once, it would be too overwhelming, that is why we can only trust Him. Those in Zion will be in the same predicament, but He promises that if we have charity for one another, He will restore knowledge of hidden things, hidden from the foundation of the world, even unspeakable things, greater than man can utter.
In the next verse the Lord makes a fascinating statement. He reveals that the reason why Satan stirs us up to anger is to control us. It is the age-old divide and conquer stratagem, the Hegelian Dialectic, establishing order out of chaos. This is how governments and powerful religious institutions maintain their "power over the flesh." How ironic that the concepts we argue about the most, i.e., politics and religion, create the very institutions that literally control our thoughts and our actions. Here is what the Lord declared:
Study to learn how to respect your brothers and sisters and to come together by precept, reason and persuasion rather than sharply disputing and wrongly condemning each other, causing anger. Take care how you invoke my name. Mankind has been controlled by the adversary through anger and jealousy, which has led to bloodshed and the misery of many souls. Even strong disagreements should not provoke anger, nor to invoke my name as if I had part in your every dispute. Pray together in humility and together meekly present your dispute to me, and if you are contrite before me I will tell you my part. (T&C 157:54, emphasis added)
Anger and jealousy? In other words, drama. People love drama, it dominates our society, our media, our entertainment, our politics. Drama can consume us, it can destroy our agency by concentrating our energies on the vulgar and the profane. Politicians use it to control populations through fear; the opposite of love. The Book of Mormon has a phrase for this phenomenon, it consists of two words: stir up. If you do a word search with that phrase you will find over forty versus in the BOM in which it appears. It is very often used in the context of a leader endeavoring to incite anger and hatred for political gain or to start a war. Mormon tells us the lawyers also used it to make money:
Now it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore they did stir up the people to riotings and all manner of disturbances and wickedness... (Alma 8:12, RE, emphasis added)
In the case of Amalickiah, the word inspire is used in place of stir up, but its meaning is identical. He was a man skilled in political Machiavellianism, he killed all the right people and made all the right moves in order to rise to power in a very short time. The first thing he did after he became king of the Lamanites was to appoint political propagandists to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites. He needed an imperialist war to become a dictator over the entire promised land. Mormon tells us that:
...as soon as Amalickiah had obtained the kingdom, he began to inspire the hearts of the Lamanites against the people of Nephi. Yea, he did appoint men to speak unto the Lamanites unto from their towers against the Nephites...(Alma 21:31, RE)
And finally, the Jaredite example teaches us that people can be stirred up to the point where they are all-consumed with revenge, resulting in the destruction of an entire civilization:
And the people of Coriantumr were stirred up against the people of Shiz, and the people of Shiz were stirred up against the people of Coriantumr; wherefore, the people of Shiz did give battle unto the people of Coriantumr. (Ether 6:13, RE)
Getting back to what the Lord said in T&C 157, He equates anger, jealousy, bloodshed and misery with this overall concept of contention. And then He declares the true meaning of taking His name in vain. It is not just cursing His name and combining it with other profanities, it is using it as an appeal to authority to back up your side of an argument. His words should give us pause: "as if I had part in your every dispute." He doesn't spend His time arguing, He certainly didn't during His mortal ministry. So why should we? Why do we have a tendency to play the God card? "God says you're wrong, God supports our side of this war, God wants us to do it this way, God wants our team to win, God has given His authority to us," etc. This is the logical fallacy of the appeal to authority, which means that those who use this argument are so insecure in their beliefs that they need some authority outside of themselves to prove their point, and God becomes the scapegoat. Religious leaders use this argument for gain, and it's called priestcraft, politicians and kings have historically equated themselves with the divine, and it's called statecraft. Jesus is telling us that He has no part of any of it. In Zion, no one will be going around telling others that God wants them to act, believe, or live a certain way. That won't be necessary, because the scriptures reveal all those who make it there will already know Him:
Contention was the reason why the early Saints failed to establish Zion, it created the divisiveness that prevented the people from having one heart and one mind. In a revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord explained how the Saints lost their inheritances:
Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore, by these things they polluted their inheritances. (T&C 101:2, see also, T&C 156:3)
Speaking of drama, Denver made another interesting point about the scriptural societies that became Zion in the talk entitled Civilization. In our modern society, our history books are full of "great" men who are revered for the things they accomplished. Like the Greeks, we have our own lexicon of heroes with their own monuments, whether it's giant faces carved in stone mountains or statues and shrines erected in "holy" places. By not including the details of what made Enoch and Melchizedek's societies successful, the scriptures tell us more about them by implying what they were not. Denver elucidates:
Maybe the point is that nothing and no-one stood out as remarkable or different within the community. There were no heroes and no villains; no rich and no poor; no Shakespearian plot lines of betrayal, intrigue, ambition, conflict, and envy. There was no adultery, theft, robbery, murder, immorality, and drunkenness--in other words, nothing to entertain us. Because all our stories, movies, music, novels, television plots, and social media are based upon and captivated by everything that is missing from these societies. (Civilization, p. 17, emphasis original)
In other words, no crime, no drama, no idolatry, no leaders vying for power, no unrighteous dominion, and no mindless entertainment. A society that we could scarcely imagine because it so far out of our scope of reality. To accomplish such a daunting ideal, we will have to change nearly every paradigm we have.
Equality and Dealing Justly
...evil or evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish; good for that which is good, righteous for that which is righteous, just for that which is just, merciful for that which is merciful. Therefore my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren. Deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually... (Alma 19:11, RE, emphasis added)
For starters, dealing justly means treating others the way we want to be treated, or in other words, the golden rule. But for Zion the implications of dealing justly go a bit further. For instance, unlike Manly P. Hall's Atlantean utopia, in Zion there will be no paternal State parceling out public outlays to its citizenry. There will be no taxes or government at all - because all taxes are legal plunder. No tax is collected without the underlying threat of force, and money or goods taken under threat is the very definition of plunder. Mormon informs us that in the Nephite society there were no robbers or murderers, which to me, means there was no State.
My favorite libertarian philosopher, Lysander Spooner, once stated that:
All the great governments of the world--those now existing as well as those that have passed away... have been mere bands of robbers, who have associated for purposes of plunder, conquest, and the enslavement of their fellow man.
If there is no State in a society, there is no seat of power to squabble over, no abstractive vehicle for obtaining the goods of others. If an ordinary robber, acting alone, attempts to rob you, he has to confront you personally, using some weapon to threaten you to give up your wallet. But a State has no face, no corporeal body, and no substance at all. It is merely an idea, an idea that has conscripted vast resources, armies, police, and weapons of mass destruction to support that idea. Unlike the individual robber, who is lucky to get away with a few bucks, the State robs you over and over again throughout your life, demanding obedience, fealty, and loyalty, and claiming it is for your own good.
In primordial history, individual robbers were limited as to the amount of loot they could get, but some ancient group of them originally formed a band, a cartel if you will, and figured out that if they used the right words and expressed the right ideas to their victims, they could overtime create a "legitimate" organization to do their robbing for them, and thus the State was born. I believe the first robbers to accomplish this were Cain and his progeny, but that is a topic for another time. The point is, it is impossible for everyone to deal justly in a society if there is a State robbing everyone, as there will always be those who are lining up for its spoils, i.e., "benefits." This creates two classes of people: the plunderers and the plundered. Justice, equality, and having all goods in common cannot exist in such a society. So, in the coming Zion how will that really look?
The Book of Mormon offers the first clue. When Mosiah was setting up his Christian republic (system of judges) among the Nephites, he explained to them that freedom comes with a cost, and that cost is that every person be accountable for their own sins. He wasn't talking about spiritual sins, he was talking about societal sins. In other words, instead of the limited liability system we live under today with our laws forcing us to get insurance, we become fully liable for damages we cause to others' bodies or physical property. I wrote about this topic in this post, on the subject of common law and maritime law. Common law stems from Mosaic law, where restorative penalties were carried out to their fullest extent. One meaning of dealing justly is that you accept full responsibility for your actions. Here is the Nephites' response to Mosiah:
And now it came to pass, that after Mosiah sent these things forth among the people, they were convinced of the truth of his words. Therefore, they relinquished their desires for a king and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins. (Mosiah 13:9, RE)
Equality does not mean that everyone is made equal, equality means that we all have "an equal chance throughout the land." But with that equal chance comes risk, and some take larger risks than others. And with those larger risks, come heavier consequences if things go wrong. This dear readers, is what it means to be free, and Mormon said that they were all made free. However, in Zion there is even more to dealing justly than merely being accountable for one's own actions. There is a higher law, which is explained in another talk given by Denver called Equality, given in Challis, Idaho in 2021. He begins by introducing a revelation given to Joseph in 1831 that can be easily misunderstood:
Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal in all things... (T&C 61:4)
Denver explains that this verse does not mean "that we will have identical property and identical possessions and be identically situated with one another..." It means, just as Mosiah taught, that all will be given an equal chance to do one thing: labor. We will all be equal in our opportunity to labor, which labor we can mix with the resources of the earth to create food, housing, and other goods. Denver points out that the Book of Mormon defines what it means to be equal in Alma:
And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God, they are returned again diligently unto their labors, and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers; for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner, And thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength. (Alma 1:5, RE, emphasis added)
And here is Denver's commentary:
They weren't all priests. (Well, that's not equal.) There weren't all teachers. (That's not equal either.) But they were all equal. "And they did all labor..." Oh, so they have one thing in common, and the one thing that they have in common is work, "...every man according to his strength." You have to give what you have. And one man's strength may not be another man's strength, but he needs to give according to the strength that he has. And one woman's strength may not be what another woman's strength is, but she must give according to the strength that she has...
Equal (as the Lord is explaining here [Denver is quoting Ezekiel 8:7, RE]) means "accountable." Every one of us is equal in the eyes of God, meaning you're going to pay a price or you're going to receive a reward, all of this talking about after they die. The righteous (after they die) shall live. The wicked (after they die) shall be dead. Everyone is equal. (Equality, p. 5, emphasis original)
In Zion there will be no magic potion that produces all the goods that we will have in common. Those goods can only be created by individual labors and pursuits, and voluntarily distributed among the people. No governing body or overseeing agency will distribute those goods; it will be done on an individual and case by case basis. First and foremost, we are each responsible for ourselves and for our families, and then when we have "enough and to spare," we share the "to spare" with others. Denver explains this by quoting the following scripture:
For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable as stewards over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures. [For] I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens and built the earth as a very handy work, and all things therein are mine. And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine, but it must needs be done in my own way. And behold, this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints: that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low, for the earth is full and there is enough and to spare... I... prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. [So] therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall with Dives lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment. (T&C 105:4-5, as quoted by Denver in Equality, p. 15).
And here is Denver's commentary on it:
See, those words mean what those words say:
"The earth is full and there is enough..." That's one thing; that's when the labor of your hands has finally fed you. And then after you've made the ground sufficiently productive, there is not just enough, but there's also "and to spare." It is that "and to spare" that enough hard labor will eventually yield that can be used to help others. And not just the one who produces.
"If any man shall take of the abundance which I have made and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel... " Okay--of the abundance. That's not the "enough." That's the "to spare." You have to produce "enough"--and that in and of itself may be a mighty challenge in a desolate wilderness--before you get to the point that you are producing both "enough" and "to spare." And when you have enough to spare, that abundance needs to be imparted in order to allow others to come and labor alongside you. (Equality, p. 15, emphasis original)
This is what I believe is the higher law of dealing justly. The voluntary sharing of the "to spare" in the latter-day Zion will be what levels the playing field between the rich and poor. It will be the catalyst that creates the conditions where all goods will be held in common, and will be an important step in becoming one with our community and with God, who owns it all. It is this voluntary sharing of goods, beginning with simple food and housing, that will eventually result in what Isaiah prophesied about Zion millennia ago:
For the Lord shall comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and he will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of the Lord... (Isaiah 18:2, RE)
The wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, where I believe Zion will be located (See this talk for more details on Zion's location), will never turn into Eden without our labor. God's promise that the earth will "yield its increase" is contingent upon our labor. Nothing will replace good 'ole fashioned hard work; even in Zion someone has to take the garbage out, it won't walk out the door by itself.
Becoming One: Overcoming Contradiction
And he being the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fullness of the glory of the Father - possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the holy spirit that bears record of the Father and the Son, and these three constitute the great matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things, by whom all things were created and made that were created and made.
And these three constitute the Godhead and are one: the Father and the Son possessing the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power, and fullness, filling the all - the Son being filled with the fullness of the mind, glory, and power of the Father - possessing all knowledge and glory, and the same kingdom: sitting at the right hand of power, in the express image and likeness of the Father - a mediator of man - being filled with the fullness of the mind of the Father, or in other words, the spirit of the Father, which spirit is shed forth upon all those who believe on his name and keep his commandments. (Lecture 5:2, RE, emphasis added)
The Father and Son being one does not mean that they have the exact same personality, or that they have somehow morphed into the same trinitarian Being. But they do possess the same mind, which consists of wisdom, glory, power, fullness, and possessing all knowledge. So when Jesus asks us to be one with Him and the Father, He is offering those same gifts to us: wisdom, glory, power, fullness, and knowledge. Thus, being one is not some kind of relinquishment of autonomous sovereignty, but rather is an invitation to be part of a fraternity, or circle of friends that share beliefs and ideas. In other words, Jesus is asking us to fellowship with one another. He is asking us to make friends.
Joseph Smith, writing from Liberty Jail in 1839, expressed poetically what it means to have a friend:
But those who have not been enclosed in the walls of a prison without cause or provocation can have but a little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is. One token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling. It brings up in an instant everything that is passed. It seizes the present with a vivacity of lightening. It grasps after the future with the fierceness of a tiger. It retrogrades from one thing to another, until finally all enmity, malice, and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings, and mismanagements lie slain victims at the feet of hope. And when the heart is sufficiently contrite, then the voice of inspiration steals along and whispers, My son, peace be unto your soul. (T&C 138:11)
Joseph had been suffering for months on the floor of that cold, filthy, jail cell. He and his cellmates could not even stand all the way up and were not given adequate food. His statement comes from a letter that he wrote to the church in March, after spending the frigid winter in the jail. These poetic words came from the deep recesses of his soul, tempered by months of incessant suffering. It is as if he had an epiphany as he wrote, summing up with profound clarity what it really means to be one. Denver has commented on Joseph's words, making them applicable to us today:
Just like Joseph, we have perpetual conundrums and contradictions. We all face them. Some are of our own making but others are just inherent in living in this existence. When we thoughtfully consider the challenges, just like Joseph it seizes the mind, and like Joseph in Liberty Jail, makes us reflect upon so many things with the "avidity of lightning". That was Joseph's word. The mind is in this frenzied state, and with the avidity of lightning he's jumping from subject to subject, a fence to a fence, from things that console to things that outrage you. From things you know to be true to things that offend you. Back and forth, and back and forth, until, as Joseph puts it, "...finally all enmity, malice and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings and mismanagements are slain victorious at the feet of hope; and when the heart is sufficiently contrite, then the voice of inspiration steals along whispers [.]" It's almost poetry, the way Joseph describes what he went through there. But it is poetry describing the actual bona fides of Joseph receiving answers from God. (That We Might Become One, pp. 3-4)
These words are inspiring to muse upon, but can people really live together in Zion devoid of all enmity, malice, hatred, past differences, misunderstandings, and mismanagements? Enoch's people certainly did, but it took hundreds of years before God took the entire city into heaven; it took time to perfect Zion. Not only does it take time, it will take people actually living together in a society. No monk living in isolation, meditating for hours on end each day, could ever achieve Zion. Such a monk will never encounter a situation where he would have to put off enmity, malice, and strife, because there is no one else around to annoy him. Let's face it, in every social group, no matter how big or small, there is always someone that gets on someone else's nerves, especially in families. There is always someone who is a know-it-all, or so insecure that they always have to be right - even when they are wrong most of the time. There are always those who are manipulative, condescending, boisterous, or socially awkward. And let's not forget about the tight wads; those who always let others drive and never pitch in for gas, or who live to get their next free meal.
Now that I've brought you back to reality, how to we get back to Joseph's ideal, the place where "the voice of inspiration steals along and whispers...? We can start by simply letting people think they are right, even when they are wrong. We can beg God in our prayers to remove our reactions to those who reek of irritation and annoyance. We can counter manipulation and condescendence with service and unconditional love. We can choose not to be angry with our brother or sister who takes advantage of us, we can befriend the socially awkward, we can console the insecure, and we can humor the boisterous. In other words, we can have compassion on our fellow saints. The truth is, we are all broken in some way, all lost, all fallen, all laden with the baggage of mortality. We are all here on earth because of one common choice we made in the pre-existence: that choice was to follow Christ. Whether we know it or not, we are all searching for Him, all searching for something higher; transcendental of our current circumstances. That yearning, that longing for something more, creates the need for fellowship, for friendship, for acquaintance, to share in the hope for higher existence. Zion is that something more, that higher existence, and it can only come by removing our egotistical barriers, and dismantling our myopic paradigms.
Denver explained how contention is cultivated, and how our tools to change the minds of others are limited to persuasion, in talk entitled That We Might Become One, given in 2018:
The more we contend and dispute with one another the better we become at contention. We polish the rhetorical skills to oppose others. That spirit of contention can take possession of us and when it does, we are hard-pressed to be a peacemaker with others...
Our tools must be limited to persuasion, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, pure knowledge, all of them mustered "without compulsory means" to persuade others to accept truth. And if we fail to make the persuasive case then the problem is not others, the problem is that we've got to figure out how to be sufficiently knowledgeable as as to bring them aboard.
I believe every person we encounter down here, no matter who they are, wants to follow Christ. That's why we're here. The only reason they got here was because they want to follow Christ. Therefore, since they are predisposed to following Christ the reason they are not doing so at present is because no one has taken the time, no one has taken the trouble of giving sufficient cause to them to change, to turn, to repent, and to follow Christ. And by the way, at this point, none of us know enough in order to be able to truly follow Christ, because we are all riddled with half truths, part understanding, and the need for constant repentance, all of us. (p. 7, emphasis added)
That last part is paramount, "we are all riddled with half truths, part understanding, and the need for constant repentance..." No one, not even those who have been in the presence of God, know all the truth. Omniscience is reserved for God and Him alone, therefore, it is foolishness to assume we know virtually anything at all. And worse than that, it is utter folly and hubris to assume that any one of us knows more than anyone of our fellow Saints. Nephi said it this way:
Oh that cunning plan of the Evil One. Oh the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves. Wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not; and they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God. (2 Nephi 6:9, RE)
The ironic thing about the search for truth is that it is littered with contradictions. We may spend years researching some rabbit hole only to find that it leads nowhere, and we have to start again (trust me I know from experience). We may feel inspired to go down another rabbit hole, only to have the Spirit ultimately lead us in another direction. It is almost as if God requires us to endure contradictions to humble us. In fact, that is exactly the effect of experiencing them. If we already "know" something, the natural response is to file it away in a box and put it on a shelf labeled, "I have figured this out and no longer need to search." But the instant we do that, even if what we have found is actual knowledge, we leave ourselves open to deception. Satan, the great Opposer, sneaks in and whispers flattering words like, "you're so smart, it's OK to let this knowledge create a wedge (dig a pit for thy neighbor) between you and others, it makes you better than them... you did the research, you put in the effort, and they didn't because they're lazy and stupid." And if it is knowledge that does not have the effect of lifting and blessing others, we should question the source of it, reset our minds to tabula rasa, and start over again.
In the book of Abraham we learn that there will always be a level of intelligence greater than the one we have attained to, no matter how far we've progressed, or think we have progressed. Abraham writes:
And the Lord said unto me, These two facts do exist - that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they. I am the Lord, your God; I am more intelligent than they all. (Abraham 5:4, RE)
Perhaps the point of gaining knowledge in this mortal sphere, essential to salvation as Joseph Smith once opined, is to prepare us for greater contradictions in the world to come. What if part of our eternal progression is relearning how to humble ourselves as we ascend up Jacob's ladder by being confronted with conundrum after conundrum with each step? The fact of the matter is, that Jesus Christ experienced greater contradictions than any of us could ever bear, and afterward stayed true to the Father, and remained without sin. Joseph Smith mentioned this when he was explaining the relationship between the Father and the Son in the Lectures on Faith. He writes:
... the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or rather, man was formed in his likeness and in his image - he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father, possessing all the fullness of the Father, or the same fullness with the Father, being begotten of him, and was ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh - and descended in suffering below that which man can suffer, or in other words, suffered greater sufferings and was exposed to more powerful contradictions than any man can be. But notwithstanding all this, he kept the law of God and remained without sin... (Lecture 5:2, RE, emphasis added)
If Jesus Christ, the greatest of all, the most intelligent of all, "was exposed to more powerful contradictions than any man can be," how can we, mere mortals, allow our comparatively miniscule contradictions to drive wedges into our relationships with others? What a foolish thing to be divided over doctrine, precepts, tenets, creeds, or perceived knowledge, most of which are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. In Zion, there will continue to be contradiction, in fact, the further we progress up the ladder, the more powerful those contradictions become, it is all a part of our becoming like God. The point of Zion is to not let those contradictions divide us, to not let them get in the way of the two great commandments: loving God and loving our neighbor. Mormon informs us that the Nephite community that achieved Zion were "one in the children of Christ and heirs to the kingdom of God." How did they achieve this? There were "no manner of -ites," or in other words, no tribalism to divide them. No "our people verses your people," no customs and traditions to argue over, no "our ways are better than your ways." Ultimately, no contradictions worth even mentioning.
Christ set the greatest example. He could have contended with everyone He met, and He would have always been right. But, as Denver explains, He chose not to:
How much of the gospel of Christ would not have been possible for Him to preach if He'd gone about contending? He chose not to. In that respect, perhaps His most godly example was the patience with which He dealt with those around Him; kindly, patiently, correcting them when they largely came to Him with questions trying to trap Him, but affirmatively stating in the Sermon on the Mount how you could take any group of people and turn them into Zion itself, if we would live the Sermon on the Mount. (That We Might Become One, p. 8)
Having "no manner of -ites" ultimately means that people give up their propensity to insecurity by exclusively associating their identity with a clan, a race, a tribe, a nation, a state, or even a team. This doesn't mean we have to give up who we are or where we come from, it just means we cannot let such trivial matters divide us. Ultimately, we are all part of one big family of God; all spiritual brothers and sisters in the grand scheme of eternity. The things that divide us here are merely illusions, planted deliberately in our periphery to test us. As Denver asserts, if we would just live the Sermon on the Mount to its fullest extent we could achieve Zion, as it is the blueprint for such a society. In this post, I wrote about the revolutionary nature of that sermon, specifically in regard to its nonviolent threat to Roman hegemony. But much more than that, it is roadmap to personal salvation, and an instruction manual to live in peace and harmony with one another.
The Hive Mentality: A Satanic Substitute
The school is primarily a social institution. Education being a social process, the school is simply that form of community life in which all those agencies are concentrated that will be most effective in bringing the child to share in the inherited resources of the race, and to use his own powers for social ends. Education, therefore, is a process for living and not a preparation for future living. (Source)
The “social ends” he is alluding to are the ends/goals of the State, and by “process for living” Dewey means conformity, or fitting into society. Admittedly, he confesses that State education is not designed to prepare an individual for the future, but is geared toward creating in the individual a dependence upon the social group/herd, and/or the State. Public education teaches at the lowest common denominator, which relegates children into a homogenous mold, stifling the brightest and enabling the dullest. Historical narratives are varnished and squeaky clean, omitting pertinent facts that paint government or its progressive proponents in a negative light. Free markets are castigated as barbaric and archaic while socialistic movements are heralded as noble, progressive, and grandiose. Most egregiously, obedience to authority and governmental paternalism is the supreme doctrine preached in public classrooms, even if it is unspoken, it is incessantly implied. This Satanic substitute of having one mind has the effect of diminishing that mind, even to the point that those brought up in such a system entirely lose their God-given ability to reason or think for themselves, which is, of course, the goal.
In a concise little book authored by Murray Rothbard entitled, Education: Free and Compulsory, the American descent into compulsory education is laid out, and surprisingly, began in the early 1600s in Massachusetts. The theocratical Puritans set up a compulsory literacy law to reinforce Calvinism and obedience to the local magistrate. The government, according to Rothbard, was "Calvinist absolutism," or strict adherence to the church, its dogma, and its leaders. Church attendance was mandatory, even though not every citizen qualified as a member. It was not until one achieved "membership" that they could vote in elections. John Winthrop was the first governor of Massachusetts, and believed that "natural liberty" needed to be reigned in by "God's ordinances," and that "correct civil liberty means being good 'in a way of subjection to authority'." As you recall, it was the reverend Roger Williams, the dissenting rebel, who, after being forcibly expelled from Puritan tyranny, founded Rhode Island in 1638. Adrian Larsen has written a very interesting article on this man, click here to read it.
After the Revolutionary War, Massachusetts made school attendance mandatory by 1789, but it took another century before the rest of the states would follow suit. According to Rothbard:
In 1850, all the states had public schools, but only Massachusetts and Connecticut were imposing compulsion. The movement for compulsory schooling conquered all of America in the late nineteenth century. Massachusetts began the parade, and the other states followed, mainly in the 1870s and 1880s. By 1900, almost every state was enforcing compulsory attendance. (Education: Free and Compulsory, p. 41)
Prevailing in some states was the Platonic view that government should assume full control and care over children. According to the "father of the public school system in South Carolina," children were to be taught strict obedience to the State:
all children will taught in them... in these schools the precepts of morality and religion should be inculcated, and habits of subordination and obedience be formed... The state, in the warmth of her solicitude for their welfare, must take charge of those children, and place them in school where the minds can be enlightened and their hearts can be trained in virtue. (As quoted by Rothbard, in Education, p. 45)
Rothbard goes on to discuss the myriad "educational reformers" who began to appear on the scene and with "tireless propaganda... came to control the schools through positions on the state boards of education, as superintendents, etc.; through the control of teachers' training institutions, and thereby of the teachers..." The effect was to the centralization of all schools under Federal regulations, even though it is the actual states that run the schools. The system relegates the states to mere extensions of the national government, whose educational "standards" are carefully designed to curtail creativity and logical reasoning. Here is Rothbard's conclusion:
The effect of progressive education is to destroy independent thought in the child, indeed to repress any thought whatsoever. Instead, children learn to revere certain heroic symbols (Gentile), or to follow the domination of the "group" (as in Lafcadio Hearn's Japan). Thus, subjects are taught as little as possible, and the child has little chance to develop any systematic reasoning powers in the study of definite courses. (Education, p. 53)
Similarly, the LDS Church has accomplished the same phenomenon with its doctrinal centralization policy called "correlation." All Church study materials, as well as Sunday School, Relief Society, and Priesthood lessons are all approved by a the corporate "correlation" committee before being published. I have heard so many people brag about this system because for some reason they think it is a good thing that "no matter what ward or stake you walk into, on any given Sunday, throughout the entire world, the lessons are exactly the same." Yet, all the "approved" materials are coming from a central governing authority, and everyone involved in the process is a paid employee of the corporate Church. Members are strongly discouraged from studying non-Church-approved sources (in fact they are told that doing so is threatening to their salvation) when looking into Church history, and are told by the leaders that some questions won't be answered until we pass through the veil. The effect of this "oneness" of mind is to fall deeper into apostasy, and deeper into intellectual and spiritual enslavement by Church leaders. Those who celebrate correlation as some kind of sign that the "Church is true" are in effect celebrating their idiocy, their darkness of mind, and their further separation from God.
Being one does not mean that we have to give up our ability to think and reason, our cognitive independence, or our very mind. In the context of Zion, it entails allowing others to fall where they may on the cognitive and intellectual scale, and love them without judgement. No mystery or rabbit hole will be off-limits, no institution will be threatened by studying sources outside its purview, and no central authority will be in charge of parsing out "approved" study materials. God will be in charge of what is taught, and He will teach us knowledge about the universe, hidden things about the earth, and unspeakable things about the eternal world.
Perhaps the theme of this entire post can be summed up in one scripture from the Book of Mormon. After Alma and his people escaped from king Noah, he set up Christ's church among them. When he ordained priests to teach them, he "commanded' them to only teach faith in Christ and repentance. This was not because he was the president of some committee to control church approved curriculum, but rather he was following the Lord's dictum to only teach His doctrine to His church... to prepare the new converts for greater things. The greater things were not controlled by Alma, they came to the saints line upon line, precept upon precept, and individually according to their faith and diligence. But in the meantime, they were to have their hearts knit together in unity and love, they were to love and accept each other as they were, from the least to the greatest.
And it came to pass that Alma, having authority from God, ordained priests; even one priest to every fifty of their number did he ordain to preach unto them and teach them concerning the things pertaining unto the kingdom of God. And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught them and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets. Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people. And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another. And thus he commanded them to preach. And thus they became the children of God. (Mosiah 9:9, RE)
Stay tune for part VI... "All Things Common," in which we'll explore what having our goods in common might look like.