My Come, Follow Me lesson for this week took me to Doctrine and Covenants 94-97. There are numerous principles in the revelations that now make up these sections. The introductory material for these sections is as follows:
When the Lord commanded Moses to build a tabernacle, He told Moses to “make all things according to the pattern shewed to [him] in the mount” (Hebrews 8:5; see also Exodus 25:8-9). The tabernacle was to be the center of Israel’s wilderness camp (see Numbers 2:1-2). Later, God commanded Solomon and his people to build a temple according to a pattern He revealed (see 1 Chronicles 28:12, 19).
As the Lord restored the fulness of the gospel, He commanded Joseph Smith to build temples according to a revealed pattern. “Let the house be built, not after the manner of the world,” the Lord declared. “Let it be built after the manner which I shall show” (Doctrine and Covenants 95:13-14; see also 97:10). Like the tabernacle in the wilderness, the temple was meant to be a central feature in Kirtland (see Doctrine and Covenants 94:1).
Today houses of the Lord are found around the world. Even if they are not at the center of our cities, they can be central in our lives. Though each temple differs in appearance, within them we learn the same divine pattern – a heavenly plan to bring us back into the presence of God. Sacred, eternal ordinances help us build our lives and strengthen our families “not after the manner of the world” but after the pattern God shows us. (Doctrine and Covenants Come, Follow Me – For Individuals and Families ).
One of the main reasons that the Lord commands His people to build temples is that He wants to bless them and endow them with power to overcome their tests, trials, and tribulations. He uses His temples as universities of higher education for lessons on preparing for eternity. One of those lessons is how to become the type of people who are prepared to enter the presence of God. The principle for this essay is that Zion is “the pure in heart” (Doctrine and Covenants 97:21).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 186). To the Saints in the 1830s, Zion was a place, the literal “city of our God” (Doctrine and Covenants 97:19). However, the Lord opened the eyes of the Saints and expanded their understanding when He taught them that the word Zion also describes a people who are “the pure in heart” (verse 21).
Joseph Smith also taught the Saints, “Anyplace where the Saints gather is Zion, which every righteous man [or woman] will build up for a place of safety for his [or her] children” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 186). This means that any family can experience a Zion-like atmosphere in their home even though the world outside is raging with wickedness.
The Lord told other people about Zion as being both a place and a condition of the heart. Moses 7:18 reads, “And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.”
The Lord declared that Zion is both a place and a group of people who are “pure in heart” (Doctrine and Covenants 97:21). A pure heart is one that is free from the contamination of evil and the stain of sin. Those who are pure in heart have received a remission of their sins through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the principles and ordinances of the gospel. President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) taught the role that purity of heart plays in building Zion today:
The length of time required “to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion” [Doctrine and Covenants 105:37] is strictly up to us and how we live, for creating Zion “commences in the heart of each person.” ([Brigham Young, in] Journal of Discourses, 9:283.) …
… Zion can be built up only among those who are the pure in heart, not a people torn by covetousness or greed, but a pure and selfless people. Not a people who are pure in appearance, rather a people who are pure in heart. Zion is to be in the world and not of the world, not dulled by a sense of carnal security, nor paralyzed by materialism. No, Zion is not things of the lower, but of the higher order, things that exalt the mind and sanctify the heart (“Becoming the Pure in Heart,” Ensign, May 1978, 80-81).
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a temple building and a temple loving people. They consider temples to be among the holiest places on earth. Temple attendance helps us to draw closer to God and to learn more about Him and His plan for our happiness. The temples are places where we can receive the essential ordinances for our exaltation and perform vicarious service for people who have died without the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is in the temple that families can be sealed for both time and eternity. It is in the temple that we learn how to become pure in heart and how to prepare to live in Zion.