Saturday, January 10, 2015

Of One Heart and One Mind

The concept of Zion can be difficult to grasp because it's not just one thing. The LDS Bible Dictionary provides a handful of scriptural definitions of Zion that include:
Whole tomes have been written about the meaning of Zion. True to the Faith also says that church members are to build up Zion wherever they live. Thus, Zion could (and should) be anywhere. This Encyclopedia of Mormonism article offers an expanded discussion of Zion.

I have long been fascinated by the wording in Moses 7:18 that lists being "of one heart and one mind" among the characteristics of the people of Zion. Given what I have read throughout the scriptures, I doubt this means that these people had no independent thought. Rather, I believe it means that they were completely united in their overall goals by choice.

While unity appears to be a necessary facet of Zion, it is clearly insufficient of itself. Indeed, unity can be antithetical to righteousness, which is the second feature listed in Moses 7:18. One of the dark sides of unity is called groupthink, a condition where "the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome." Very nasty things can happen when mob mentality takes hold among otherwise rational people.

Even when unity results in relatively positive outcomes, it does not necessarily turn a group of people into Zion. Tremendous unity has been documented in academia, athletic teams, military operations, work groups, volunteer organizations, etc, all without producing much in the way of divine purity. Something greater than group unity is required. The essential Zion feature of righteousness implies unity with deity.

Consider the Savior's great prayer for his followers prior to his crucifixion as recorded in John 17:9-10,20-23. He pleads that his followers will be one with each other and one with him in the same way that he is one with his Heavenly Father. Thus, it is unity with Christ that is the chief hallmark of Zion. Those that have righteous unity with God will naturally have righteous unity with each other.

This sounds like a wonderful state. But real life seldom seems to come close to that ideal. How can we approach divine unity with large numbers of our fellow beings when we give into our human frailties and engage in petty bickering and selfishness with those closest to us even on the best of days?

The lofty goal of Zion seems to remain out of the grasp of all but a very few that have lived on earth. Even when we employ all of our capacities in becoming more heavenly — something we should always do — our best efforts are doomed to fall far short of that goal.

But discouragement is the wrong response to this predicament. Only through the grace offered by Christ's Atonement can any of us become part of Zion (see Mosiah 3:17). And therein lies our hope. Indeed, our only hope. We must be humble enough to allow the Savior to turn us into Zion material.

One more note on Enoch's people. Moses 7:18 says that "the Lord called his people ZION because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness...." (I will cover the rest of this verse in a separate post.)

Enoch and his people didn't decide to call themselves Zion. Rather, Zion was the Lord's definition of these people due to their righteous unity with him and with each other. He called them Zion because their actual identity had become synonymous with Zion.

In the great scheme of things, it is not what we think of ourselves or what our peers think of us that matters. Only God's definition of us truly matters.

The scriptures seem to employ the term Zion only in reference to groups of people and never to a single individual. Regardless of one's relationship with deity, it appears that the only way to achieve Zion is as an active participant in a community of saints all working together to build each other toward a bright eternal goal.

I suppose we start by working to build Zion in our own families and branch out from there. And we must be prepared to be patient. Enoch was ordained at age 25 (D&C 107:48), led his people during wars and turmoil (Moses 7:13-17), and was finally translated at age 365 (Genesis 5:23-24). If it took him and his people nearly three and a half centuries to become Zion, maybe we can be patient when we don't see Zion happening very fast in our own lives.

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