I am always touched by the account in the Book of Mormon of the Savior appearing to the people of the Americas after his resurrection in the Eastern Hemisphere. He taught them about the importance of the atonement in God's plan, the blessings of the commandments, and the importance of covenants and ordinances. He ministered to them spiritually, one by one (1).
The Lord was with them only for a few days, but the impact of his visit was felt for more than two centuries. “And there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.” … “And surely there could not be happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings” (2).
What could have caused this change and have such a long-lasting effects? The answer is simple and yet, profound. The teachings of the Lord and His gospel penetrated their hearts, they put away the natural man and became disciples of Jesus Christ. They had the name of the Lord written in their hearts (3) and developed the spirit of a people of Zion, as in the days of Enoch.
Unfortunately, we live in a world that celebrates individualism, where quarreling and being opinionated are considered an expression of liveliness. Even as members of the church we are not always immune against these developments. The pandemic in particular has presented our wards and families with special challenges. In some cases, we have begun to define ourselves according to our differences, just like the people in the Book of Mormon, and have created our own -ites. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the spirit of Zion help us overcome these differences.
“Zion is Zion because of the character, attributes, and faithfulness of her citizens. Remember, ‘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’ (4). If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. … We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen” (5).
So, what does this mean for me in practical terms? Where do I start if I want to overcome differences and foster unity?
In 1872, the Prophet Brigham Young gave the Saints an important reminder that is probably more relevant today than ever. He said: “Stop! Wait! When you get up in the morning, before you suffer yourselves to eat one mouthful of food, … bow down before the Lord, ask him to forgive your sins, and protect you through the day, to preserve you from temptation and all evil, to guide your steps aright, that you may do something that day that shall be beneficial to the kingdom of God on the earth. Have you time to do this?” (6).
Positive change starts with each of us and our desire to personally contribute, to be of one heart and one mind, to live in righteousness, and to consciously care for the poor and needy. The key is to make the Lord our ally in all of this, building on faith, hope and charity. “Zion is established and flourishes because of the God-inspired lives and labors of its citizens. Zion comes not as a gift but because virtuous covenant people are drawn together and build it” (7).
1. - 3. Nephi 11 ff.
2. - 4 Nephi 2,3,16-18
3. - Mosia 5:12
4. - Moses 7:18
5. - D. Todd Christofferson, Come to Zion, General Conference October 2008
6 - Keith B. McMullin, Come to Zion! Come to Zion!, General Conference October 2002
7 - Keith B. McMullin, Come to Zion! Come to Zion!, General Conference October 2002