Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

God Is Calling

                    Our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of His children - including you and I.  He calls to us through His Holy Spirit.  A hymn entitled "Israel, Israel, God Is Calling" (Hymns 7; written by Richard Smyth, music by Charles C. Converse) is one of the great classics of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and describes how our Father is always calling to His children to come to His safe place known as Zion.

                    Israel, Israel, God is calling,
                    Calling thee from lands of woe,
                    Babylon the great is falling;
                    God shall all her tow'rs o'erthrow….
                    Come to Zion, come to Zion,
                    And within her walls rejoice….
                    Come to Zion, come to Zion!
                    Zion's walls shall ring with praise.

                    The history of Israel is full of times when God called for His people to leave Babylon and move to Zion.  Whenever society became too sinful, God would speak and the children of the covenant would flee into the wilderness to reestablish Zion.

                    Father Abraham fled from Chaldea - located in Babylonia - and went to the Holy Land to find peace.  Many years later his descendents known as the children of Israel - descendents of Abraham's grandson Jacob who is also known as Israel - were in bondage in Egypt but were led out of bondage by Moses.

                    The Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ describes how another prophet named Lehi obeyed God's commandment and led his family into the wilderness and eventually came to the American continents.  Nephi, Lehi's son, led his righteous followers into the wilderness to escape the wrath of his brothers following the death of Lehi.  A later prophet named Alma led his righteous followers into the wilderness to escape the wrath of wicked King Noah.  Joseph Smith, a modern-day prophet, led his followers from New York to Pennsylvania to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois looking for peace.  His successor, Brigham Young, led the Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley in order to escape the mobs trying to destroy them.  The Mormon pioneers followed their American Moses to the valleys located in the Rocky Mountains, and they sang the following hymn written by William Clayton (Hymns, no 30, "Come, Come, Ye Saints) as they trudged across the plains.

We'll find the place which God for us prepared,
Far away in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
There the Saints will be blessed.
We'll make the air with music ring,
Shout praises to our God and King;
Above the rest these words we'll tell -
All is well!  All is well!

For more than 4,000 years the followers of God have had to flee Babylon and seek safety somewhere else.  Some of those followers seek the Promised Land in Jerusalem; others look for Zion in a New Jerusalem.  Covenant people in the past have fled to escape Babylon; the modern-day covenant people will no longer flee.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles spoke to young adults in a Church Education System (CES) devotional broadcast on September 9, 2012, and told them that "our call is to build Zion where we are.  One of the many unique characteristics of our dispensation, this the dispensation of the fulness of times - the last and greatest of all dispensations - is the changing nature of how we establish the kingdom of God on earth.  You see, one of the truly exciting things about this dispensation is that it is a time of mighty, accelerated change.  And one thing that has changed is that the Church of God will never again flee.  It will never again leave Ur in order to leave Haran, in order to leave Canaan, in order to leave Jerusalem, in order to leave England, in order to leave Kirtland, in order to leave Nauvoo, in order to go who knows where.  No, as Brigham Young said for us all, `We have been kicked out of the frying-pan into the fire, out of the fire into the middle of the floor, and here we are and here we will stay.  (Brigham Young, quoted in James S. Brown, Life of a Pioneer [1971], 121)

"Of course, that statement wasn't a comment about the Salt Lake Valley only or even the Wasatch Front generally; it became a statement for the members of the Church all over the world.  In these last days, in this our dispensation, we would become mature enough to stop running.  We would become mature enough to plant our feet and our families and our foundations in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people permanentlyZion would be everywhere - wherever the Church is.  And with that change - one of the mighty changes of the last days - we no longer think of Zion as where we are going to live; we think of it as how we are going to live."

Elder Holland shared three incidents and then proceeded to share three lessons about becoming Zion as shown in the following quotes.
"Lesson #1:  We never check our religion at the door.   We will `stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places' (Book of Mormon, Alma 18:9)….

"Lesson #2:  Show compassion, but be loyal to the commandments.  It is easy to be righteous when things are calm and life is good and everything is going smoothly.  The test is when there is real trial or temptation, when there is pressure and fatigue, anger and fear, or the possibility of real transgression.  Can we be faithful then?  That is the question because `Israel, Israel, God is calling.'  …  Whatever the situation or the provocation or the problem, no true disciple of Christ can `check his religion at the door.'  …

"Lesson #3:  Use gospel values to benefit communities and countries….  In addition to protecting our own families, we should be a source of light in protecting our communities.  The Savior said, `Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.' …
"In our increasingly unrighteous world, it is essential that values based on religious belief be [evident in] the public square.  …"

Elder Holland then quoted Elder Quentin L. Cook:  `Religious faith is a store of light, knowledge, and wisdom and benefits society in a dramatic way' ("Let There Be Light!"  Ensign, Nov. 2010, 28-29).

Then Elder Holland continued:  "If we don't take gospel blessings to our communities and our countries, the simple fact of the matter is we will never have enough policemen … to enforce moral behavior even if it were enforceable.  And it isn't…."

After discussing the above three lessons in length, Elder Holland gave this counsel:  "We aren't going to solve every personal or social problem in the world here tonight.  When we leave this evening, there will still be poverty, ignorance and transgression, unemployment and abuse, violence and heartache in our neighborhoods and cities and nations.  No, we can't do everything, but as the old saying goes, we can do something.  And in answer to God's call, the children of Israel are the ones to do it - not to flee Babylon this time but to attack it.  Without being naïve or Pollyannaish about it, we can live our religion so broadly and unfailingly that we find all kinds of opportunities to help families, bless neighbors, and protect others, including the rising generation.
"Live your life to reflect your love of Jesus Christ…."

When I remember that we will never have to flee Babylon again, I feel peace and comfort.  I am grateful to know that my responsibility is to bring Zion into my home and my community by the way I live.  I am thankful that I can put down "roots" and build up Zion wherever I may live.


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