Welcome back to our discussion of the social framework for establishing Zion's laws on earth.
Freedom vs. Equality
The great paradox of Zion that makes the whole endeavor seem impossible is to be both equal and free.
Is the following statement true or false? Please take your time.
For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies.
(Will Durant, The Lessons of History, Simon and Schuster: New York, 1968, p. 20)
I see wisdom in this statement. If a system compels equality, then personal initiative is suppressed because men and women are not free to profit from their abilities. But if you allow people to do whatever they want under laissez-faire, then inequality runs wild.
Where I Choose Sides
If you had to choose between freedom and equality, which would you choose?
It's an easy choice for me: freedom.
After all, who actually believes any -ism creates "equality"? History has shown there is just an endless revolving door of people struggling to be king of the hill.
Was Tsarist Russia under the Romanovs better or worse than under Lenin? Would you prefer Marie Antoinette or Robespierre? General Mao became "the people's ruler" of China and brought Marxist-Lenin communism to the masses, ending the Qing dynasty and a 2,000 year old empire - but let's not forget he killed tens of millions of people on his climb to the top. It should tell us something that there is a Wikipedia page devoted to "Mass Killings Under Communist Regimes."
Has religious factionalism fared any better in creating equality? Martin Luther left the Roman Catholic Church and formed basically the same church. Episcopalian? Ditto. Greek Orthodox or Gnostic? Latter-Day Saint or Methodist or Baptist or Universalist or Calvinism or Arminianism?
Did any of these result in equality between its members?
Hmm. No. Why not?
Isn't it funny that despite all the differences between these -isms they all operate on basically the same principles of hierarchy? Lord and serf; priest and parishioner; Party Chairman and proletariat; principal and pupil; admiral and ensign; Pope and deacon; aristocracy and servant; CEO and laborer; King and commoner . . . always the same no matter the system.
Since none of these -isms has produced equality, why should we sacrifice freedom for an illusion?
Does the United States Have a Hierarchy?
That was a rhetorical question. Of course the United States has a hierarchy.
"Status systems must always exist….The only possible choice for Americans is not between their status system and a perfect system of equality but between their kind of hierarchy and some other." W. Lloyd Warner, American Life: Dream and Reality, rev. ed. (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1962), pp. 127, 129.
“Yet for all the undeniable singularity of American history, the evidence is abundant that classes, class lines, and distinctions of status do exist and have always existed here, as elsewhere in the modern world.”Edward Pessen, “Status and Social Class in America,” in Luther S. Luedtke, ed. Making America: The Society and Culture of the United States (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Information Agency  1988), p. 270.
I love the noble ideals upon which this nation was founded. It began with the belief that:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
(Declaration of Independence)
We haven't lived up to those ideals yet.
A Tree and a Skyscraper
I want us to visualize something from Lehi's Dream. Picture the Tree of Life. Imagine the way the people gather underneath its branches. Do they stand in a queue? Or do they form a circle around its trunk as they all reach for the precious fruit. Isn't it interesting that a tree represents the love of God (1 Nephi 11:22).
Now contrast that with the Great and Spacious Building. What should we learn from the fact that a building represents the pride of the world (1 Nephi 12:18)? This skyscraper symbolizes the vanity of mankind, a structure built without a foundation. It "stood as it were in the air, high above the earth."
Could the Great and Spacious Building, with all of its levels and penthouses and corner offices, symbolize the foolishness of organizing God's children into worldly ranks?
Does Zion Have a Status System?
Question: Why does the Lord always remove Zion from the earth? Why not leave them here?
Ah ha! The rubber meets the road at last.
Let's investigate the status system among Enoch's people and Melchizedek's people.
We don't know much from the Old Testament about Enoch. It says: "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (Genesis 5:24). In the New Testament we learn that Enoch was "translated that he should not see death" (Hebrews 11:5) and also that he had the gift of prophecy (Jude 1:14).
I own a translation of The Book of Enoch (I Enoch manuscript). By way of background, there are three different books of Enoch. In 1773 a man named James Bruce was exploring around the Nile and discovered some manuscripts which are called I Enoch, or the Ethiopic texts. There is also another manuscript called II Enoch, or the Secrets of Enoch, in Old Slavonic. And finally there is III Enoch, which are texts in Greek. You will also find fragments in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
What's fascinating is that the New Testament quotes these apocryphal writings at least 128 times!
In one of my favorite passages, the angel Michael escorts Enoch through a vision that includes the Tree of Life, similar to what Nephi records in 1 Nephi 11 (check out 1 Nephi 11:8-11).
And amongst [the trees] was a tree such as I had never yet smelt, neither was any amongst them like it: it had a fragrance beyond all fragrance, and its leaves and blooms and wood do not wither for ever: and its fruit is beautiful, and its fruit resembles the dates of a palm.
Then I said: How beautiful is this tree, and fragrant, and its leaves are fair, and its blooms delightful.
And Michael said unto me: Enoch, why dost thou ask me regarding the fragrance of the tree, and why dost thou wish to learn the truth?
Then I answered him, saying, I wish to know about everything, but especially about this tree.
And he said, Its fruit shall be food to the elect: it shall be transplanted to the holy place to the temple of the Lord. (The Book of Enoch the Prophet, translated by R.H. Charles, Weiser Books: Boston, 2003, p. 21-22, edited for clarity)
Like Enoch, I'd like to know about everything, but especially about this tree, because it represents God's love.
Pull the Fire Alarm
Well, we know one thing: we cannot partake of the Tree's fruit while standing in the Great and Spacious Building.
Lehi wasn't able to pluck the fruit and share it with his family: they had to come and partake themselves. He couldn't throw a couple of figs towards Laman and Lemuel: like the virgins' oil, the fruit cannot be shared. Or sold.
There's just no supply chain for harvesting its fruit and applying an attractive wax to make it shine and for wrapping it in cellophane and packaging that lists the calories and sugar content and for selling it for a handsome markup in the G&S Bistro.
Pull the fire alarm, someone! Let's get out of this "Building" before it's too late.
And it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great.
(1 Nephi 11:36)
So let's summarize what we know about Enoch:
1. He walked with God; 2. He was a "preacher of righteousness" (Moses 6:23); 3. He called upon "all men, everywhere, to repent"; 4. He taught faith unto the children of men; 5. He was slow of speech (Moses 6:31); 6. "All the people hate me," he said; 7. He was viewed as a "wild man" (Moses 6:38); 8. He built a "City of Holiness, even Zion" (Moses 7:19); 9. He entered into the Enochian Covenant with God.
Doesn't sound like Enoch was the kind of guy who would have done well climbing the corporate ladder in the G&S Building.
Enoch recorded these words of Michael, who described the residents of the G&S:
And God shall put down the countenance of the strong, and fill them with shame. And darkness shall be their dwelling.
These are they who judge the stars of heaven, And their power rests upon their riches, And their faith is in the gods which they have made with their hands, And they persecute the houses of His congregations, And the faithful who hang upon the name of the Lord.
(The Book of Enoch the Prophet, translated by R.H. Charles, p. 37)
What use for gold and silver did Enoch have, seeing as he was taken from the earth into the bosom of God?
You know, maybe I've been wrong all this time. After all, Melchizedek was a king!
Melchizedek was a king over the land Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray.
But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people.
And they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.
So maybe there is a hierarchy in Zion. But let's double check. You know, measure twice, cut once.
Top Ten List
I think we need to "peer review" Melchizedek's kingship with another king. Let's use King Benjamin.
What does it mean to be a king in the "holy order of God"? What does it mean to "rule and reign" in the kingdom of heaven? How does a "prince" establish peace and righteousness?
Here's a checklist for aspiring "kings":
1. Teach your people "in the language of your fathers" (Mosiah 1:2), to "read and understand the Lord's mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes" (Mosiah 1:5).
2. Teach your people from the temple of God (Mosiah 2:7) to "keep the commandments of God, that they may prosper in the land" (Mosiah 1:7).
3. Teach your people that a king is no better than his people, for "I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people and suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people" (Mosiah 2:11).
4. A king does not seek "gold nor silver nor any manner of riches" from his people (Mosiah 2:12).
5. A king "labor[s] with [his] own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes" (Mosiah 2:14).
6. A king does not permit his people to "be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another" (Mosiah 2:13).
7. A king communes with angels (Mosiah 3:2).
8. A king views his people as family, as "friends and brethren, my kindred" (Mosiah 4:4).
9. A king "succors those that stand in need of succor" (Mosiah 4:16).
10. A king facilitates the covenant between God and his people (Mosiah 5:6-8).
Now that we have established a baseline for righteous kingship, select which crown is more appropriate for a king in Zion:
To-may-to or To-mah-to?
Unlike gentile kings, a prince of peace does not "exercise Lordship" over others. Christ showed us a righteous king is more like . . . a teacher.
Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God.
Remember what the Lord told Nephi?
Thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over they brethren.
(1 Nephi 2:22)
Now let's see if this is true of Melchizedek as well. We know he was a king of Salem as well as a high priest.
And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest.
Benjamin understood his role as king, calling his people to the temple to
declare unto you that I can no longer be your teacher, nor your king.
To rule means to teach. Kings are teachers and mentors.
Why No Tea Parties in Zion?
Guess the reaction of a people when they have this kind of ruler, or teacher, or king? Benjamin's people gave
thanks to the Lord their God, who had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla, and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.
Where can we find true kings, true teachers, true messengers to come from God? Like Mosiah II, who was a king such as Melchizedek. This describes the the status system he created:
And the people exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them.
And they did wax strong in love towards Mosiah; yea, they did esteem him more than any other man; for they did not look upon him as a tyrant who was seeking for gain, yea, for that lucre which doth corrupt the soul; for he had not exacted riches of them, neither had he delighted in the shedding of blood; but he had established peace in the land, and he had granted unto his people that they should be delivered from all manner of bondage; therefore they did esteem him, yea, exceedingly, beyond measure.
Where was the division, discord, oppression, burdensome taxes or control? Instead we see persuasion, love, sacrifice, and deliverance from "all manner" of bondage.
And what is bondage?
A status system? A hierarchy?
And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.
And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me.
For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin.
And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me.
And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now.
What keeps a person from coming unto Christ? What keeps a person from receiving His voice?
What is it about the structure of a status system that makes it harder for us to hear His voice?