Over the past week I was traveling for work in Ohio conducting a training for the attorneys in the Ohio Attorney General's Office. I made some new friends and learned that the official Ohio State Tree (and its fruit, the mascot for Ohio State University) is the Buckeye.
What's a buckeye? Well, it's a dark brown nut that grows on buckeye trees, with a distinctive tan spot.
According to legend, back in 1788 Colonel Ebenezer Sproat arrived in what would become Ohio and was greeted by some Native Americans who shouted, "Hetuck, Hetuck!" (their word for Buckeye) because, I guess, he was so tall (like the tree). The nickname stuck.
Sadly, buckeye nuts are poisonous. Not just the nuts, but also the leaves and bark of the tree. From top to bottom, the whole of it is deadly. So don't eat buckeye nuts; instead, there's a confection of peanut butter and chocolate called "buckeyes" that are made to resemble the nut ― without the lethality.
In a way, the gospel of Jesus Christ is like a buckeye. I know that sounds backwards, since the tree and its fruit are deadly. But guess what? The gospel costs our very lives (Matt. 16:25). It kills the natural man. What did we think happens when we partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life?
So Satan and his great and abominable churches called a conference, where they created a substitute: the candy version. It sorta looks the same; but theirs is sweet and fattening. But at least it won't kill us! We start craving the delicious, peanutty buckeyes, until at last we come to believe they are as good as the original, if not better.
You know the worst part? We start to warn others not to eat the real nuts. We tell them they're toxic and dangerous. "Leave Zion alone. Stop steadying the ark. Stop worrying about all that and try these yummy doctrines."
For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches. . . shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines.
(2 Nephi 28:3, 9)
Isn't it ironic to see Churches running an ambulance service for the natural man, doing everything they can to keep him alive for as long as possible? "He's going into anaphylactic shock! He must have eaten a buckeye. Quick, administer 10 cc's of carnal security. Clear!"
Great and Marvelous Things Ahead
During my trip, while eating buckeyes (the candy, not the paralysis-inducing nut), I had ample time to read and ponder (and to watch the Food Network), and to be filled with hope for 2023.
There is so much I hope to share with you; there are things I feel need saying about the priesthood, Romans 14, spiritual kinship and kingship in the Kingdom of God, contention and charity, the doctrine of Christ and the baptism of fire; about being born again and grace; the role of ordinances and covenants, both individual and collective; things that are super important, that relate to establishing Zion, and things more mundane, like why we don't serve concessions in the foyer before Sacrament Meeting.
I want to share, God willing, the whisperings of the Spirit regarding preparing for the future; how we can better include all people into our ecclesial communities, especially those who have historically been oppressed; I get excited thinking about the gifts of the Spirit and how we might grow in discernment and love for one another.
Who doesn't want to embrace Paul's teaching that "all things are lawful" in a time of division and "othering"? I want to explore the highest heavens and admire God's celestial laws as well as praise their Giver, and be done treading the murky mire of lesser laws; I want to re-write Brother Stephen Robinson's Parable of the Bicycle; I am looking forward to seeing God's work advance among the meek and outcasts; and we haven't even explored yet the rich material in comparing Big Tobacco to Big Religion. . .
. . . you see, my heart is full unto bursting and I feel as Alma did:
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.
But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.
There's so much to accomplish; and yet so little time. But . . . maybe that's just the buckeyes talking.
I am regularly asked to contribute to good causes. "Hi Tim," a promoter says, "I'm raising money for [fill-in-the-blank] foundation, who is working to end [fill-in-the-blank good cause]. Can I count on your support?"
How are we to know which causes to support? Where to donate our money? Who is deserving? (We used to answer "the Church" ― thinking it was a safe bet ― but with the SEC scandal involving Ensign Peak, I don't think we can say that anymore.)
Look, I may appear like a nice guy, but I'm not; I am highly skeptical of the motivations of organizations who ask for money.
I find it hilarious that people are suspicious of pan handlers (as if the poor beggars are going to buy cigarettes) when they give money to large companies and causes that actively seranade Nebuchadnezzar with their cornets, flutes, psalteries and dulcimers, falling down to worship, saying, "O king, live forever" (Daniel 3:9-10). And we're worried about the guy in the wheelchair holding a cardboard sign?
Whenever a cause celebre calls, "Have you any money?" I am immediately suspicious (don't get me started on the sordid history of the Sierra Club).
I wish we could say that good causes always attracted good people, but we've learned by sad experience that no matter the cause, no matter their noble mission statements, money is making the world go round. "You can buy anything in this world with money." And so we start to believe we need capital if we're to build God's kingdom. "Think of the good Jesus could have done if He had just formed LLC's to conceal his money from the Roman tax collectors! They might have been able to hire a good lawyer for Stephen!"
Ummm. Maybe I should start replying as Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego did:
Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Which Cause is the Lord's?
Perhaps we're asking the wrong question. Rather than asking what the "good causes" are, we should ask, "What is the Lord's cause?" I mean, how does God expect to lessen His tax burden? He must be a generous donor for the write-off.
Whoso layeth down his life in my cause, [ah, so the Lord does have a 501(c)(3)] for my name’s sake, shall find it again, even life eternal.
This verse contains some fascinating details. First, it introduces the idea that God does, indeed, have "a cause." He owns it; He says it is "my cause."
Well, now I'm interested. What is His cause? Because we have to identify His cause before we can "lay down our lives" for it.
So let's not be wrong about what the Lord's cause is, else we spill our blood on the wrong field.
But make no mistake: this Cause (I'm capitalizing it now) requires far more than we might expect. It must be something worthy of "life eternal." So the Cause extends into eternity; it is endless. It is a pearl of great price we would sacrifice everything for.
But hold on. Let's double check our math before we get carried away. Does the Lord mention His Cause anywhere else?
In 1830, the Lord said to Oliver Cowdery:
Continue in bearing my name before the world, and also to the Church. And he shall not suppose that he can say enough in my cause.
Wait, did you notice something funny? In both verses the Lord connects His Cause to His "name" and "name's sake."
How are His name and Cause related?
And once we answer that question, we'll begin to understand why "we cannot say enough" about it.
The Cause of Zion
By now you've probably figured out that the Lord's Cause is . . . *drum roll* . . . the "cause of Zion" (see D&C 21:7).
I hope bells are going off because we've already discussed the relationship between Zion and the Lord's "name" in Part 10 of the Series, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Charting the Course of the Church from Here to the Second Coming."
In that post, we saw that Zion is far more than a holy city; it describes a people who bear a holy name. God consecrates His people as He does their land.
Remember how King Benjamin gave his people a holy name when they entered into the covenant?
Ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters. . . . There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ.
So here we've got (1) a holy house (Israel) that is (2) gathered into a holy city (New Jerusalem) and who receive (3) a holy name, even the name of Christ.
In this context, consider the 144,000:
When the Lamb shall stand upon Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
These are the "oil" or "wine" that will be preserved (bottled) in order to survive the coming calamity and judgment. The Lord promised:
I will make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more.
We are the Lord's Constitution: but a people remain "pure" only insofar as they do not "pollute" the holy name of God.
How Do We "Establish" the Cause of Zion?
Our errand is simple.
Seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion.
That's it; just 10 words! But how are we supposed to do it?
Well, lo-and-behold, it's as if the Lord anticipated our question. In the VERY NEXT VERSE He says:
Seek not for riches
Whoops; looks like we took a wrong turn 180 years ago.
but for wisdom
Oh come on! Wouldn't it be better to be wealthy than wise? Wisdom isn't going to pay the bills and build those temples. Think of all the good we could accomplish with money, like funding missionary work from our vast wealth ― of course, that doesn't guarantee our missionaries would be wise. But at least they'll dress nice and look the part!
and, behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you
Ah, now we see the real trade-off: we can either be rich with gold and silver, or we can be rich with the mysteries of God. Clearly the Church made its choice clear, for we are told where our treasure is, there will be our heart, also.
and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.
Well, I'm not saying anything new when I paraphrase Hugh Nibley, who told us we sold our birthright, Zion, down the river for a mess of money long ago.
You see, there IS a real, great contest between God and Mammon; we think we're not literally at war, when in fact the war consumes our lives: the Cause of Zion vs. the cause of Babylon.
- In Babylon, you can buy anything in this world for money.
- In Zion, our money is worthless; there's nothing to buy.
Spiritual disarmament means we forsake the love of money for the love of one another.
This gives a whole new flavor to Jacob's words:
Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy.
(2 Nephi 9:50-51)
Don't you love how we keep building up churches that write counterfeit checks drawn from the devil's bank, pretending our savings accounts in heaven are swelling to bursting?
The bank register of the devil is a marvelous work. It is a wonder how his funds funnel cleverly offshore (whoever said Cerberus was a pass-through?)
So the rich cannot pass a needle’s test? It is for the best: you cannot have clients packing their belongings when they themselves are the collateral. Satan loves to secure his transactions for a rainy day (just ask Noah).
Wealth may be a poor liability but the devil is careful to treat his pensioners like good expenditures. Counterfeit coin? Calm now, even the devil obeys standard accounting practices.
But the ledger of the Lamb is alarming in its simplicity as though written by a child. Any financial adviser worth his salt (just ask Lot) would roll over seeing it bleed red like that. If you want my advice you must follow the profit to get in the black. Cross-out the charity ─ why, there’s not even a 501(c)(3) for heaven's sake!