For ages, men have pondered Zion. Enoch and his people built the great city Zion. Melchezidek ruled a Zion community that, like the City of Enoch, was taken into heaven. After the Savior left the Nephites, these people had a community very much like Zion. Joseph Smith taught the early saints about the commandment to build again Zion. And in our own time, Elder D Todd Christofferson has taught us many things that we must do to build again Zion.
As a child, reading 4th Nephi, I yearned to join the community they made. As an adult I have pondered how. How can we build Zion?
Often from the pulpit, we hear, “I love each and every one of you.” And in a way, I am sure those who say that really do. In a calling of service, I know that one cannot help love those whom they serve. And after all, we are commanded to love everyone and it is great that so many people are trying to do just that. But I just don’t feel particularly loved from the person who says, “I love you each and every one of you,” at the pulpit but doesn’t seem to know that I exist in any other circumstance.
I think my kids have similar feelings. It’s all good and grand when I say, “I love you,” to them. But it is meaningless when I find time to chat on Facebook but am too busy to sit down and read them a story. But when I do notice them and their needs regularly, we become friends. Good friends. My teenagers, who I spent their childhood serving and caring for, are my best friends today. I cherish every moment I have with them because they are my friends.
And I think, that is what needs to happen in our wards and branches in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We need to become friends in the genuine sense of the word. How can we even consider building Zion, if we can’t be friends with the people with whom we share the same beliefs?
Walking into church needs to make our hearts happy, because we are there with our friends.
The Savior expressed this when to His apostles. He said:
“14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
“15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:14-15)
Consider these words from President Boyd K Packer:
“But no matter how large the organization of the Church becomes or how many millions of members join our ranks, no matter how many continents and countries our missionaries enter or how many different languages we speak, the true success of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be measured by the spiritual strength of its individual members. We need the strength of conviction that is found in the heart of every loyal disciple of Christ… We need the recent convert and those among our numbers descended from the pioneers. We need to seek out those who have strayed and assist them to return to the fold. We need everyone’s wisdom and insight and spiritual strength. Each member of this Church as an individual is a critical element of the body of the Church.
‘For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
‘For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body. …
‘For the body is not one member, but many’ (1 Corinthians 12:12–14).” (Boyd K Packer, The Reason for Our Hope, Oct 2014)
Every member of the church has a common covenant to take upon them the name of Christ. Whether rich or poor, old or young, college educated or not, whether we come from different cultures and speak different languages, each of us has felt the redeeming love of Christ. We are all on the same team. “We need everyone’s wisdom and insight and spiritual strength.” But we cannot have everyone’s wisdom, insight, and strength if, for whatever reason, we won’t take the time to know each other and to become friends.
How do we become friends?
First, we must avoid the temptation to believe that we are better than our fellow members of the Church. Or conversely, avoid the temptation to believe that our fellow members of the Church are better than ourselves. Friendship includes rejoicing and enjoying one another’s talents.
Second, we must be willing to give of our time to talk to and serve alongside one another. No one makes friends with those to whom they are unwilling to speak. Talk openly and honestly. It’s easy to become friends with those who embrace us with open and honest dialogue.
Third, we must apologize quickly and forgive quickly.
And fourth, we must individually keep our covenants. Zion is the “pure in heart”. It is our covenants that bind us together, gives us the commonality we need for friendship, and it will be our covenants that lead us to Zion.
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