THERE IS A HIGHER LEVEL OF ATTAINMENT TO BE ACHIEVED. IT IS THE “ZION LEVEL”. Man is a spiritual being. There is something within man which urges him to rise above himself, to control his environment, to master the body and all things physical and live in a higher and more beautiful world.
President John Taylor explained the Lord’s purposes in this regard to achieving a higher level:
Know ye not that God has called us from the world to plant among us the principles of eternal truth, to teach us correct principles, and to show us how to conduct ourselves towards one another, and towards all men? To show us also how to enjoy life, what course to pursue to elevate ourselves in the world, and to bring up others to our standards? John Taylor; JD 15:272
In commenting on how to treat those who speak evil of us, John Taylor observed that rather than retaliate, we can afford to move upon a higher plane. JD 26:93-94
Zion is not things of a lower order, but of the higher order; things which exalt the mind and sanctify the heart.
In 1861, Daniel H. Wells explains how to aspire to a higher standard:,….we have come to these distant valleys to improve, not to debase ourselves to the level of the savages around us. We have come here purposely to advance, not to take the retrograde path,–to exalt ourselves in the knowledge of God, and seek to exalt others to our standard of holiness and goodness. It is, then for us to aspire constantly to a still higher standard in the scale of human existence, exalting with us those with whom we are associated. We need everything that other people need, except sin, and no people need that. We need everything else that is necessary to build up any other kingdom, and we have to produce it from the elements with which we are surrounded. We have been brought far from the wicked world, to give us an opportunity to show that we will do it, or that we will not do it,–to prove our integrity to the cause of righteousness and to God–to prove to him that we will struggle to obtain the knowledge and the ability to create the means of our own subsistence–that we will struggle to (live the laws that will) subdue the elements, to sanctify the earth, chase unholiness from it, and beautify it by building up beautiful places, ornamenting our grounds, cultivating fruits of every variety that will flourish in our country, and thus bless ourselves with the blessings the Almighty has placed within our reach, and prove to him that we are willing to abide his high behest, acknowledging that he throws in our way all these advantages, and by our works show that we are willing to make all our efforts point to the building up of the kingdom of God, and prove to the world that we are more exalted in our attainments and more elevated in our notions than they are; and finally we will make ourselves independent of every people and nation upon the earth. Daniel H. Wells; JD 9:60-61
When a person determines to live a higher law, there should be a visible difference, a marked change in his appearance, his actions, the way he treats others, and the way he serves his fellow men and his God.
HIGHER PRINCIPLES ARE REQUIRED TO ATTAIN A HIGHER LEVEL This HIGHER ORDER or ZION LEVEL referred to by the early brethren cannot be attained however, except by adopting and living the PRINCIPLES of a HIGHER LEVEL Obedience to all the laws and principles of the Fullness of the Gospel brings us to higher realms of behavior, higher standards of living, and is a departure point that will bring development of the soul to a higher level of existence.
The Hebrew word for law in the Old Testament, Torah, is derived from a Hebrew word which is akin to the word for light. We see that God’s law is a course of instruction which causes man to see the light of God’s truth and thereby receive blessings. Thus, obedience to the the law is designed for the purpose of bringing man from the carnal, human level of thinking and existing, to the higher level.
The Lord counsels that we must learn obedience and be developed in character before He can redeem Zion. D&C 105:9-10
Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the Celestial Kingdom. D&C 105:5
George Q. Cannon said more about a higher standard being attained by living rigid laws:
I believe that there is a higher standard of life being sought after by the Latter-day Saints. I believe that the Priesthood themselves are seeking more diligently to carry out the counsels which God has given and to set examples unto the people that they shall imitate, and I know that the Spirit of God rests down upon His servants to make them more rigid in the enforcement of the laws that God has revealed unto us concerning the government of His church, so that there may be more purity, a higher standard of purity enforced and maintained among us than has been in the past. JD 24:142-143
In this same spirit President George Q. Cannon commented, that the law of God to us, when obeyed, is sufficient to lift us above petty strifes and difficulties.
We should live in a purer and higher atmosphere, in a region elevated far above that which is occupied by people of this character. JD 26:42
Lorenzo Snow said:
We must overcome the world…. Now it is designed, in the providence of God, that the Latter-day Saints should show whether they have so far advanced in the knowledge, in the wisdom and in the power of God that they cannot be overcome by the god of the world. We must come to that point. We have also got to reach another standard, a higher plane, we have got to love God more than we love the world. Teachings of Lorenzo Snow p. 130
John Taylor reveals to us:
…...unite ourselves together as the heart of one man under the influences of the Spirit of eternal truth as the family of God upon the earth, and purge out everything from us that is evil, corrupt, low and degrading, and elevate our minds and feelings to a higher standard of intelligence, morality and obedience to his laws, and thus prepare ourselves to carry out the things of God in relation to the earth whereon we dwell, and each of us take part in bringing to pass his purposes here upon the earth, not by any intelligence we may have; but by the wisdom and intelligence that God shall impart form time to time, until we shall progress in every principle that is calculated to elevate and enoble mankind, until finally we shall see as we are seen and know as we are known. John Taylor – JD 21:92-93
The end result of our labors, hopes, and aspirations, and the living of all the laws of the Fullness of the Gospel is the building of Zion; a Zion characterized by love, harmony, and peace–a Zion in which the Lord’s children are as one with the desire that each of us shall be lifted to a higher plane of thought and living.
THERE ARE THREE THINGS THAT MUST BE DONE TO ESTABLISH ZION (Or Attain the Zion Level). Three fundamental things we must do if we are to bring again Zion, are three things for which we who labor for Zion must commit ourselves.
FIRST – WE MUST ELIMINATE THE INDIVIDUAL TENDENCY TO SELFISHNESS.
Let us define selfishness and its results.
Selfish – Caring unduly or supremely for oneself; regarding one’s own comfort, advantage, etc., in disregard or at the expense of others.
Self-Interest – The interest or advantage of oneself; disposition to pursue personal advantage.
Covet – To desire; to long for; especially something belonging to another person; eagerness to possess. SYN: greedy, grasping, acquisitive.
Greed – Acquisitive desire beyond reason. Eagerly desirous, especially of wealth. (Dictionary)
The selfishness in our time, is described by the Prophet Mormon, as having a greater love for money and material possessions than we have for our fellow men. The Lord revealed our times to the Prophet Mormon and he said:
Behold, I speak unto you as if you were present and yet ye are not. But…Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. Mormon 8:35-37
Paul described this love of money as the “root of all evil”:
Love of money is the root of all evil. Timothy 6:10
Some of the damning effects of the love for material things on the saints have been described by President Brigham Young.
I know there is no man on this earth who can call around him property, be he a merchant, tradesman, or farmer with his mind continually occupied with ‘how shall I get this or that; how rich can I get; or, how much can I get out of this brother or from that brother?’ and dicker and work, and take advantage here and there – no such man ever can magnify the Priesthood nor enter the celestial kingdom. JD 11:297
When you see the saints greedy, and covetous of the things of this world, do you think their minds are in a fit condition to be written upon by the pen of revelation? JD 11:241
Brigham Young defined covetousness as IDOLATRY: I am more afraid of covetousness in our Elders than I am of the hordes of hell. I am afraid of such spirits; for they are more powerful and injurious to this people than all hell outside of our borders. All our enemies in the United States or in the world and all hell with them marshalled against us, could not do us the injury that covetousness in the hearts of this people could do us; for it is idolatry. JD 5:353
Does this congregation understand what idolatry is? The New Testament says that covetousness is idolatry; therefore, a covetous people is an idolatrous people. JD 6:196
In this vein the Lord has commanded us not to covet even our own property; and again I (Christ) command thee that thou shall not covet thine own property. D&C 19:26
Again President Young observed: Tell about houses, lands, and other property being ours, and that we have no traditions and idols! I would as soon see a man worshiping a little god made of brass or of wood as to see him worship his property. Some of you are just as much idolators as are the heathen, but you do not know it. JD 6:196
The tragic results of “seeking for gain”, and “being covetous” are recorded in history.
The tragic cycle of civilization is a cycle propelled by anyone who seeks for power and gain. Was it not this that led Cain to commit the first murder “for the sake of getting gain? ( Moses 5:50) Is not this (for the sake of getting gain) the spirit of the anti-christ in which “every man prospereth according, to his genius, and ….every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime?” (Alma 30:12) Did not Nephi single this out as the spirit which led his generation to destruction?
Do you recollect that when the children of Israel were invading the land of Canaan, to drive out the Canaanites and inherit the land, in some instances they coveted the property of their enemies? In one instance, an individual stole a wedge of gold and a babylonish garment. Because of this, God was offended and suffered Israel to be driven before their enemies. Let us not be caught in this snare, but cast out from our hearts every principle of covetousness, and let our desires be to serve the Lord. G. A. Smith JD 5:367
In a speech given at Far West, Joseph Smith describes greediness:
Brethren we are gathered to this beautiful land to build up Zion…. But since I have been here I have perceived the spirit of selfishness. Covetousness exists in the heart of the Saints…. Here are those beginning to spread out, buying up all the land they are able to (greediness)….thinking to lay a foundation for themselves, only looking at their individual families…. Now I want to tell you that Zion cannot be built up in such a way. I see signs being put out, beer signs, speculative schemes are being introduced. This is the way of the world, Babylon indeed, and I tell you in the name of the God of Israel, if there is not repentance….you will be broken up and scattered from this land. Edward Stevenson, Autobiography, p. 40F
In 1865, President Brigham Young, commenting on the Saints having been removed from the Center Stake of Zion to the west declared:
If the People neglect their duty, turn away from the Holy commandments which God has given us, seek their own individual wealth, and neglect the interests of the kingdom of God, we may expect to be here quite a time – perhaps a period that will be far longer than we anticipate. JD 11:102
If we are to avoid the fate that befell the Nephites, we must guard against the very things that caused their downfall. It is incumbent upon us to put away selfishness in our families, our business and professional pursuits, and our Church affairs.
How Do We Eliminate The Individual Tendency to Selfishness? The solution to this problem of “selfishness, greed and covetousness” is so amazingly simple: It involves two things.
FIRST: LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR BEFORE YOURSELF. When people love as God requires them to love, having full and equal regard for one another, they can form a Zion society as directed by the Lord and enjoy in this world the type of equality that defines relations between persons in the Celestial world.
Zion is “every man seeking the interest of his neighbor”. D&C 82:19
Christ put it in these terms: A new commandment give I (Christ) unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12
And how did He love them? Christ had been to the early Apostles an example of righteous love from the day of their first meeting; and He was about to give supreme proof of his affection, as for–shadowed in His words, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13
Brigham Young stated it this way: Go on until we are perfect, loving our neighbor more than we love ourselves. DBY p. 271
In these statements we see, that by taking Christ as our example, we are to love one another by putting our neighbor’s interest ahead of our own. In other words we are to love them BEFORE, or MORE than ourselves.
SECOND: DO ALL THINGS WITH “AN EYE SINGLE TO THE GLORY OF GOD”
Zion is doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God. D&C 82:19
The inhabitants of Zion are happy, but there is a condition: If they have come with an eye single to the Lord’s glory. Those who go there to get wealth and honor have something else in view than the glory of God, and they have no promise of happiness.We should use wealth to the honor and glory of God’s name, and to the building up of His Kingdom. Only by the living of these two principles will selfishness, greed, and covetousness be eliminated.
LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR BEFORE YOURSELF, and
DOING ALL THINGS WITH AN “EYE SINGLE TO THE GLORY OF GOD”,
Now let us consider the second fundamental thing we must do to “bring again Zion” or attain that higher level.
2nd – WE MUST COOPERATE COMPLETELY AND WORK IN HARMONY ONE WITH THE OTHER.
COOPERATE – To act or operate jointly with others.
HARMONY – Concord in facts, opinions, interests, etc.
UNITY – The state of being one; having harmony, accord (Dictionary)
So to accomplish this goal we must: Understand the Lord’s standard in this matter and, Know and practice the principle by which that standard can be achieved.
THE LORD’S STANDARD:
WE MUST BE AND ACT AS ONE, TO SUCCEED IN ATTAINING THE HIGHER LEVEL AND BE ACCEPTED OF THE LORD.
It is recorded in the Pearl of Great Price, that : The Lord called his people Zion because they were of one heart and one mind. Moses 7:18
We ought to see eye to eye. We ought to be united in everything.
According to President Brigham Young:
We should be as one family, our interests alike. JD 18:357
From President John Taylor we hear:
God must dictate. We must be willing to carry out his instructions, united as one body. JD 18:211
Brigham Young also observed: I can see no good occurring in maintaining a divided interest; our interest must be one in order to produce the good we desire. JD 12:376
If the Spirit of the Lord is to magnify our labors then this spirit of oneness and cooperation must be the prevailing spirit in all that we do.
Carrying that explanation further, the Prophet Joseph Smith explained:
The greatest temporal and spiritual blessings which always come from faithfulness and concentrated effort never attended individual exertion and enterprise. TPJS p. 183
President Lorenzo Snow warned of its coming necessity:
I tell you in the name of the Lord, that the time is coming when there will be no safety only in the principles of union, for therein lies the secret of our temporal and spiritual salvation. JD 18:376
From the Lord we hear: Behold I say unto you be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine. D&C 38:27
President Brigham Young also cautioned that: If we are not one, we are not the Lord’s. We can not do His will. JD 16:65
Finally, we have the statement of President Taylor:
When the Lord shall bring again Zion, the watchmen shall see eye to eye! But when men are governed by their own notions, what do they see of the things of God? Nothing. JD 18:210
If men governed by their own notions cannot see “eye to eye”, or “see of the things of God”, how then is it possible to “cooperate completely and work in harmony” with each other in the the Lord’s work?
While men depend upon their own wisdom and walk in their own way, without the guidance of the Lord they cannot live in unity. That perfect union, which must ultimately be enjoyed by the Latter-day Saints can only be brought about by everyman and woman living so as to keep their minds pure and unspotted like a piece of clean white paper, being constantly free from the love of the world, that the spirit of revelation may easily indite upon the heart whatever is the mind and will of the Lord. Brigham Young Discourses, p. 282-283
All who would understand the things of God must understand them by the Spirit of God. Brigham Young Discourses, p. 32
While in Winter Quarters, President Brigham Young had a dream in which the Prophet Joseph Smith appeared to him and said: Brother Young, exhort this people to obtain the Holy Spirit. With it they can do anything that is necessary; without it they cannot build up the kingdom of God. John Taylor, JD 23:329
In one of my dreams, I, John Taylor, had the same admonitions from President Brigham Young. I thought he was attending one of our conferences. I said to him: Can you speak to us? No, he replied, but I want you to teach the Latter-day Saints to labor to obtain the Holy Spirit. You all need this in order to build up Zion. If you have not this Spirit you cannot get along. John Taylor, JD, 23:329
We observe then, that living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is ABSOLUTELY essential to our unity, to our becoming one, and seeing “eye to eye”; without which we cannot “cooperate completely and work in harmony”. Failing this, we cannot attain the HIGHER LEVEL or “bring again Zion”.
The third fundamental thing we must do to “bring again Zion” or attain that Higher Level Is: 3rd – WE MUST SACRIFICE (GIVE UP OR GIVE) WHATEVER IS REQUIRED BY THE LORD.
WE MUST BE WILLING TO SACRIFICE (GIVE UP) ALL EARTHLY THINGS. Sacrifice involves giving up the things of this world. Righteous saints in all ages have consecrated their time, talents, strength, and properties to the establishment of the Lord’s work and kingdom.
John Taylor uses the words of Christ to help us see this:
I will take the words of Jesus. Except a man can forsake father or mother, wife, and children, houses and lands, for my sake, he cannot be my disciple. That Gospel is just as true today as it was then, that except a man is prepared to foresake his earthly interests for the sake of the Gospel of the Son of God, he is unworthy of it. John Taylor JD 21:57
In the Lectures on Faith Joseph Smith emphasizes:
It is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, p. 69
3rd: WE MUST CONSECRATE (GIVE) ALL THAT WE POSSESS TO THE LORD.
Just so far as this willingness exists in our hearts to appropriate our means that we have accumulated for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God on the earth, and that too without grudging, even as the former-day Saints laid down theirs at the feet of the Apostles, so far are we approved and accepted of God. Lorenzo Snow, JD 18:373
This consecration, or yielding our temporal interests to be directed for the work of the Lord, as being a fundamental element in the work of salvation, and in the union and perfection of the saints, is very clearly shown in the second and fourth chapters of the Acts of the Apostles: And all that believed were together and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them unto all men as every man had need. Neither was there any among them that lacked, for as many as were possessors of lands, or houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the Apostles’ feet, and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. Lorenzo Snow JD 16:274
Let us gather and accumulate the things of the earth in the manner indicated by the Lord, and then devote it to God and the building up of his kingdom, Brigham Young tells us. JD 18:356
Again Lorenzo Snow tells us: We early Latter-day Saints felt to consecrate our wives, our children, and our property, if we had any, and our time and abilities to the service of God. JD 18:373
TO SUMMARIZE: WE NEED TO REVIEW THE THREE FUNDAMENTAL THINGS WE MUST DO IF WE ARE TO “BRING AGAIN ZION”.
THREE THINGS FOR WHICH WE WHO LABOR FOR ZION MUST COMMIT OURSELVES.
1st – WE MUST ELIMINATE THE INDIVIDUAL TENDENCY TO SELFISHNESS.
2nd – WE MUST COOPERATE COMPLETELY AND WORK IN HARMONY ONE WITH THE OTHER.
3rd – WE MUST SACRIFICE WHATEVER IS REQUIRED BY THE LORD.
WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY? The attaining of the Higher (or Zion) Level through the application of these three principles requires a PERSONAL DAILY COMMITMENT “no matter what the cost in toil or sacrifice”. In other words, it requires TOTAL commitment.
TOTAL COMMITMENT IS REQUIRED TO ATTAIN THE HIGHER LEVEL AND “BRING AGAIN ZION”. As important as it is to have this vision of Zion in mind, defining and describing Zion will not bring it about. That can only be done through consistent and concerted daily effort. No matter what the cost in toil or sacrifice, we must ‘do it’!
Brigham Young has said: With us it must be the Kingdom of God all the time; it must be that or nothing. JD 5:256
These are the conquests of the soul; whether it is better to walk along the easy road to selfishness and indulgence, than to strive through self mastery and service in the realm of spirituality. You must decide. We have heard what Joshua of old has said many times: Choose you this day whom ye will serve. Joshua 24:15
Elijah thundered: How long halt ye between two opinions?
If the Lord be God, follow him. 1 Kings 18:21
Do we realize that if we enjoy a Zion in time or in eternity we must make it for ourselves? That all who have a Zion in the eternities of the Gods, organized, formed, consolidated, and perfected it themselves, and consequently are entitled to enjoy it? DBY p. 118
Brigham also said:
I know that many Latter-day Saints think when they have obeyed the Gospel, made a sacrifice in forsaking their homes, perhaps their parents, husbands, wives, children, farms, native lands, or other things they held dear, that the work is done; but it is only just commenced. The work of purifying ourselves and preparing to build up the Zion of God on this continent has only just begun with us when we have got as far as that. Are we prepared now to establish the Zion that the Lord deigns to build up? He has called upon us to do this work; and if we will let Him work by, through, and with us, He can accomplish it; otherwise we shall fall short, and shall never have the honor of building up Zion on the earth. JD 13:313
HAVING CONSIDERED THE THREE FUNDAMENTAL REQUIREMENTS NECESSARY TO “BRING AGAIN ZION” OR TO ATTAIN THAT HIGHER ZION LEVEL, AND HAVING NOTED THAT TOTAL COMMITMENT IS REQUIRED TO ATTAIN THAT LEVEL, LET US NOW PERSONALLY ASSESS OURSELVES BY GOING THROUGH THE FOLLOWING CHECK LIST.
Do you thoroughly understand that this HIGHER LEVEL is different from the level you have been accustomed to living on?
To attain this HIGHER LEVEL have you eliminated the tendency to selfishness by:
Loving your neighbor BEFORE yourself?
Doing ALL THINGS with an “eye single to the glory of God”?
Cooperating COMPLETELY and WORKING IN HARMONY one with another? Sacrificing your own desires for the unified goal or purpose?
Taking the Holy Spirit as your guide in All Things and at All Times, so as to enable you to see “eye to eye” with others who do?
Sacrificing (given up or given) all that is required by the Lord? For instance:
Have you cut (given up) your carnal ties to: PEOPLE, IDEAS and HABITS?
Have you dedicated (given) to the Lord: your time? your talents? your means?
TOTALLY COMMITTING yourself to attaining this HIGHER LEVEL?
If you do succeed in attaining this level, do you HONESTLY intend to continue,“paying the price” necessary to STAY on that level, that the UNITY required of the Lord for us to be accepted by Him, might be a reality?
THE HIGHER (ZION) LEVEL AND THE MILLENNIUM. This HIGHER or ZION LEVEL is a Terrestrial level and it will be required of all who qualify to enter into the Millennial Era.
Only those who shall be able to abide that day of destruction of the wicked, will be worthy to live on a paradisaical or Terrestrial level. Only a righteous people will continue to live on the earth during the Millennium. They will be those who have lived virtuous and honest lives. These people will inherit either the Terrestrial or Celestial Kingdom.
Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked. For the hour is nigh and the day soon at hand when the earth is ripe; and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that wickedness shall not be upon the earth; For the hour is nigh, and that which was spoken by mine apostles must be fulfilled; for as they spoke so shall it come to pass; For I will reveal myself from heaven with power and great glory, with all the hosts thereof, and dwell in righteousness with men on earth a thousand years, and the wicked shall not stand. D&C 29:8-11