I have thought more about building Zion, based somewhat on Elder Christofferson’s conference talk. He mentioned that one qualification for being a Zion society is being one. I think the potentially most expansive scripture on unity is found in Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane as recorded in John 17. He prayed “that they be one, as we are” (v. 11), and “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (v. 26). Related to that is the idea that we are not “of this world” (v. 16). The contrast between worldly self-centeredness and self-serving and the Zion ideal is radical.
Being of one heart – and pure in heart – is an essential goal, then. I think that means that we are willing and able to put aside petty disagreements in favor of magnifying the important principles we can all agree on. One only has to listen to people talk (or nowadays read blogs) to see that much time and energy can be spent arguing over marginal issues. Many theses are put forward not to create understanding but to gain a point in a perceived game of Gothca!. At least adults should perhaps see that even when we have different views about, say, politics, we’re still brothers and sisters – all of us humans, that is. If saints can not show an example to a fractious world, who can?
Relating to that is equality. In conference D&C 104:17-18 was quoted to drive home the need to help the poor. Related D&C passages can be found at D&C 70:14, 78:5-6, 82:17 (In your temporal things you should be equal) and 49:20 (not given that one posses above that another). They deal with equality in material things, which is, according to the idea, important for being equal in spiritual things. Zion has always been defined as having no poor among them. Growing income inequality has been a theme in the economic growth of the 21st century, both internationally and nationally. At the same time, giving to charitable causes has grown delightfully, so there apparently are many people who understand this idea, among the saints and others.
One aspect of Zion is that, unlike almost every utopian ideal, it is not exclusive, but inclusive. The only requirement is that one is willing to share. It isn’t based on eliminating undesired groups, but on cooperation of people who believe in it. It should be remembered, that in cities that were built under the leadership of Joseph Smith, everyone was welcome. One didn’t have to accept LDS tenets, only to be honest in dealing with others. We should not be exclusive in our public or private lives. It is true that to youth “bad company” can be harmful, but that doesn’t mean we should cut off all contact with those who don’t think like we do.
In practice, if we look at areas where there are saints in greater numbers, the saints have given not only material help to victims of natural disasters, but also hope to the communities that have suffered. When one loses home and property, it is easy to feel hopeless. To receive concrete help in a situation like that, along with empathy, gives new hope in being able to rebuild. Where the saints are fewer in number we can still do things that encourage others, too, to reach out and lift others up. Like in a recent youth conference here, the groups went out to serve where local community leaders pointed needs. I think it was important that the local leaders were asked, because it had a potential of opening their eyes to existing problems and potential solutions.
These thoughts are somewhat raw in that they are just a chain of thoughts partially prompted by conference talks, partially something that has been at the back of my mind for a while. Since this format permits it, we could flesh this idea out together. So how do we build Zion where we are?