In a way, everything I have written has been to address the question, "Why have we been unable to build Zion after 200 years of trying?"
But what is my motivation? Why do I care about Zion? Why can't I just be happy with the status-quo?
I am filled with hope in the Holy One of Israel. I have hope to be numbered among the remnant of Jacob and I hold onto hope that we may yet become precious to each other as brothers and sisters, as equals, in order to preserve the Lord's fruit at the End Harvest.
Where does all this "hope" come from?
The title of this Series comes from 4th Nephi where we read about the Nephite "Zion."
My favorite verse from it is:
And there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
(4 Nephi 1:15)
Notice that this love "dwells" in us. It is not a guest. It takes up its abode. It possesses us.
Mormon said that "whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him" (Moroni 7:47).
The idea of being “possessed” by charity is interesting: it is an adjective that we usually associate with a negative connotation (such as when I say, “Are you possessed?!”).
But in this case, we are possessed not by an evil spirit, but by the spirit of love.
Are we a people possessed by love?
I think not. Else we would have already established Zion, right?
Charity and Contention Are Opposites
What is the opposite of charity? Is it contention?
True, perfect love casteth out all fear. But isn't contention the product of fear?
There is no fear in love because there is nothing love won't sacrifice.
In other words, all fear stems from anticipated loss. We fear death because it is the loss of life (when it is not); we fear divorce because it is the loss of family (when it is not); we fear change because it is the loss of things we hold dear (when it is not); we fear tomorrow because it is the loss of control (when it is not); we fear giving up our money and power because it is the loss of our status (when it is not).
Okay, we get the idea: Jesus came to show us there is NOTHING to fear. Nothing.
This was the message, the promise, declared at Christ's birth!
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
There is no fear in Christ; Christ casteth out all fear.
Because in love, or in other words, in Christ, everything is sacrificed but nothing is truly lost.
Authority and Love
I think we all understand that Leaders cannot produce unity from the pulpit. Unity cannot be socially engineered. It cannot be imposed.
Authority figures are incapable of making us "one."
Only charity has the ability to unite our hearts.
Where Does Authority Come From?
The point I want to make is subtle:
1. We do not honor those who have authority. We honor those who love us with authority.
2. Authority does not attach to an office or title because authority belongs to the people, not the leaders!
3. The people, who hold all authority, chooseto give authority to those who have demonstrated their genuine love.
4. Any authority held by leaders is only held in trust for the people who reposed it in them in the first place.
5. Any leader who assumes greater authority than that bestowed by the people has breached their trust and has become a tyrant.
6. Therefore, when any leader acts unlovingly, the people have the right to reclaim the authority which they gave to that leader, rendering that leader's authority null and void.
(This is what the Declaration of the Independence was all about. And if we hold our political leaders to this standard, imagine what a higher standard the Lord must hold the church leaders!)
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government. . . . But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.
All authority that stems from any source other than pure love is toxic to love.
This is, like, one of the most important things I've learned in life. So let me repeat it:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, all authority that stems from any source other than pure love is toxic to love.
(Gospel of Tim, Authority 101)
So what do I mean?
We love God and honor Him and obey His authority. But why?
Because He first loved us.
The only authority God has is that which is reciprocated and mutually given, born of His love.
Love cannot be held in a fist. The Father wields no power over the Son other than the love that binds Them.
But . . . there is more than one way to skin a cat.
Enter: Satan's Plan.
If a person has "authority," and their authority is not derived from pure love, then their authority relies upon something else.
Usually we associate authority with the level of control a person wields over us by force.
The authority we grant our police, our judges, governors, our church fathers . . . it all comes from their ability to exercise control or compulsion over us.
We respect and obey their authority not because they love us, but because they can put us in prison (literally or figuratively).
The typical tools that authority uses to maintain a perimeter around their power are both direct and indirect. These tools include indoctrination, pressure, guilt, guns, threats, peer-surveillance, imprisonment, ostracization, fines, penalties, shame, gas lighting, lying, and excommunication.
As George Washington said:
Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force!
But what happens to love in an environment of force? What happens in an environment where we boss each other around at the end of a bayonet?
Authority and Contention
FACT: The Devil is the "father of contention" (3 Nephi 11:29).
FACT: Jesus wants us to "lay down [our] contentions and establish peace" (2 Nephi 3:12).
But how? How do we get rid of contention?
In order to answer that question, we have to identify the source of contention (besides, you know, Satan).
What causes contention?
Here's an idea: what if contention was the friction caused by two opposed parties seeking to control the other?
Let me repeat: Contention is the friction formed when two opposing parties seek to control the other.
There is no contention in love because love is inherently uncontrolling.
You may want to control my idea of right or wrong; you may want to control how I dress; you may want to control who I marry; you may want to control what I believe; you may want to control the things I say . . . .
In a perverse way, we see that authoritarian religions cause contention(!) by practicing priestcraft.
Contention is the byproduct of control.
And we only seek to control others because we fear.
I want to suggest that the most poisonous and noxious pollution is not individual sin but our collective use of force, control and compulsion upon the souls of the children of men (which extinguishes the authority of the priesthood).
Talk about straining at a gnat but swallowing a camel! We are so worried over things like what bathroom transgendered people use that we ignore the fact that our house is on fire, being consumed in the flames of control, compulsion and unrighteous dominion!
Our efforts to enforce moral boundaries are hypocritical when we we use devices that are antithetical to Christ's gospel, which relies foremost on our protection of agency against force, control and compulsion.
Why haven't we learned that the only means at our disposal are "persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned" (D&C 121:41)? Why do we keep falling into the snare that teaches it is okay to build Christ's kingdom using the Devil's tools?
In other words, we have proven by decades of experience that we are incapable of building Zion because we're too addicted to the kind of authority that stems from force, control and compulsion.
Whenever a society is structured around priesthood "authority" that seeks to exercise control and dominion, rather than around the authority that flows freely and uncontrollingly from charity, that society is doomed.
Why haven't we built Zion? Because we have not learned this lesson: that authority is secondary to, and only a byproduct of, love.
Status is the gigantic elephant in the room. A hierarchy that jealously protects its status is the problem.
The solution? The genuine equality that can only arise from pure love.