Tuesday, August 13, 2013
What an Orthodox Jew Taught Me About Zion
I think that David's perception of rebuilding the Jewish temple easily applies to the Mormon doctrine of establishing a celestial community dwelling in love: Zion. Too often, I perceive Zion as a sort of utopia: an idealistic, if not unrealistic, place. It's hard for my telestial brain to imagine a place of "one heart and one mind" with "no poor among them." However, the scriptures make clear that establishing Zion is indeed possible; it is only contingent upon the state of purity within our hearts. Like David, I would argue that every righteous action a member does adds to building Zion, and every poor action takes us further back from accomplishing this goal. Indeed Zion is a collective and not an individual endeavor. So, what do we have to do?
I find James 1:26 fascinating in answering this question, as he seeks to define "pure religion." Interestingly, when James explains this term, he does not mention prayer, reading the scriptures, or even going to church. Rather, pure religion is "to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction." Pure religion, then, is about our unselfish treatment toward others, especially those in dire need. If we work toward living a "pure religion," we move closer to achieving a "pure heart," which, as Doctrine and Covenants 97:21 explains, is the prerequisite to Zion. I would argue that "pure religion" and a "pure heart" are perhaps one and the same.
In the Book of Mormon, Alma's perception of living one's religion strongly mirrors James' description. When asking others whether or not they wish to be baptized in Mosiah 18, he reminds them that they are entering into a community of believers, and telling them to "mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort." Like James, Alma understood that a follower of Christ must contribute to the building of Zion through treating fellow community members as the Savior would. Perhaps our treatment toward others is the necessary step for a believer to "stand as a witness of God at all times, in all things, and in all places." (Mosiah 18:9).
Building Zion may seem like a distant--if not impossible--goal. But perhaps if we think of our own life as a stone that is part of "building" Zion, it may appear less lofty. Hopefully, we can progress from imagining what heaven must be like to concentrating our efforts on literally establishing a heaven on earth--right now.
Image by Amoruso.