We live in a very exciting time. While some are wondering if there is any revelation happening in Salt Lake City, they are missing the subtle shifting of Church practices that are going to change our lives for generations to come. We have been blessed with a number of inspired changes of late, all of which offer us opportunities to become better people, happier people, and closer to becoming what we are called by the Lord to become, a Zion people.
In the first part of this article I’ll reference three Conference talks about Zion and how we can begin to make the changes needed to become a Zion people. In the last part I’ll address the changes in the Church (the councils) that are being put into place to help us facilitate becoming a Zion people.
The Conference talks I will be using as references come from Keith B. McMullin, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder David R. Stone of the Seventy. In the last section I also use a talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The positions held by each person were as of the time they gave their talk.
The promised day
With the Lord there is no such thing as a loose end. Everything is planned out in the smallest detail. Nothing is overlooked. From Adam’s day down to the last living apostle or prophet before Joseph Smith, Jr. they have all looked with longing at our day. Why? What is so special about our day and time that would cause them to write songs about our day, prophesy of our day, and to write with longing that they could have been here to see this day?
Our day is the dispensation of the fulness of times. We have a coming together of every key that made all the other dispensations special in their own way, only all the keys are here at the same time. In no other dispensation did temples exist like they exist in our day. In no other dispensation were temples able to offer all the blessings we now enjoy to their people as a whole. The ordinances of salvation in past dispensations were only available for a select few who were living. Back then there was no complete package of ordinances available to save their kindred dead. The ancient Saints would have to wait until either the last dispensation of time or for the millennial reign of the Savior to receive all their promised blessings.
First last, last first
The Lord has promised from the beginning that those who were first would be the last, and those who came last would be first. Our beloved ancestors who paved the way for our day in mortality have to wait for their blessings to be granted, and we who have had to wait until the last dispensation to come have been charged with the responsibility of offering our deceased family members the ordinances of salvation in the holy Temples of our God.
We have the blessings of the temple to give us strength, to purify our hearts, and to keep us on the right path in these days of universal wickedness. And the price of receiving those blessings is to become saviors on Mt. Zion for our ancestors.
We have been reserved to come forth in the last days to perform a special work that, without which, the whole purpose of the earth and mortality would be wasted. Christ’s work cannot be considered complete until every child of God who comes into mortality has a complete opportunity to accept every ordinance of salvation available to the children of God. They cannot be saved without us, and the Lord has made it abundantly clear that we cannot be saved without them. In short, we need each other for any of us to make it to the Celestial kingdom.
Elder Christofferson quoted Joseph Smith this way:
The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; but they died without the sight; we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the Latter-day glory. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society course of study, 2007], 186).
If any of these prophets saw our day it was only in vision. They all longed to be here with us. For whatever reason, the Lord has reserved us for this special day. With that privilege comes great responsibility.
Our day is different
The expectations God has for us are different than He has had for any other generation of time. For example, Elder Stone said that “during the days of ancient Israel, the people of the Lord were an island of the one true God, surrounded by an ocean of idolatry.” This is so true. The Lord always tried to keep the people pure of the taint of those cultures that surrounded them. Yet for all their seclusion and separation from those idolaters, they still rebelled against their prophets and sought after the evils of their day. Even separate societies wasn’t enough to protect them.
For many reasons Babylon came to represent all that was carnal in this life. In the city of Babylon was an imposing edifice dedicated to Baal, a god worshiped with many forms of sexual perversions. The Old Testament prophets referred to this god as “the Shame.”
When we are told by the prophets in our day to come out of Babylon, what do they mean? We certainly don’t live in the city of Babylon. But we do live in a society that worships anything and everything, except our Father in Heaven. We don’t have the luxury of living in a society that is separate from the practices of the world. We live in and among those who have been raised with the principles and culture associated with Babylon. All our entertainment, our politics, our social practices, everything is presented to us as Satan would have us think and act.
Our prophets tell us to separate ourselves from the influence of that which is tainted and evil and live lives of holiness and purity. Elder Stone points out that we are all very heavily influenced by the culture in which we are raised.
Our culture tends to determine what foods we like, how we dress, what constitutes polite behavior, what sports we should follow, what our taste in music should be, the importance of education, and our attitudes toward honesty. … All too often, we are like puppets on a string, as our culture determines what is “cool.”
And all of the cultures of earth are just different shades of the same set of sins offered to us by Babylon. Yet come out from Babylon we must.
How do we come out of Babylon?
Elder Stone pointed out that he was amazed when spending time in the Manhattan temple how quiet the Celestial room was. The temple resides in the middle of New York City, which is never quiet. He wondered how the temple was able to offer such peace while residing in the midst of such chaos and confusion.
The answer was in the construction of the temple. The temple was built within the walls of an existing building, and the inner walls of the temple were connected to the outer walls at only a very few junction points. That is how the temple (Zion) limited the effects of Babylon, or the world outside.
There may be a lesson here for us. We can create the real Zion among us by limiting the extent to which Babylon will influence our lives.
Remember that last sentence. We cannot be protected from the influences of Babylon, the world, if we are fully entrenched or enmeshed in it. We have to find ways of limiting our connections to Babylon. The Lord gives us the counsel that we should spend our time standing in holy places. In Doctrine and Covenants 45:32 the Lord plainly states the condition of those who do and do not choose to stand in holy places.
32 But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.
If we are not standing in holy places, our homes, wards, stakes, and the temples, then we are in Babylon, and those who dwell among the wicked will not be protected from the punishments to be poured out upon the world in the near future.
Limiting our connection to Babylon
We have all these holy places we can use to protect ourselves and that can help us to become holy people. But becoming something else than what we currently are takes conscious thought and deliberate action. Bishop McMullin quoted Brigham Young who gave this advice to the Saints.
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? This is the counsel I have for the Latter-day Saints to day. Stop, do not be in a hurry. … You are in too much of a hurry; you do not go to meeting enough, you do not pray enough, you do not read the Scriptures enough, you do not meditate enough, you are all the time on the wing, and in such a hurry that you do not know what to do first.”
Even 150 years ago, before any of our modern conveniences, they were told to meditate more, slow down, read their scriptures more, and pray more. Think of what it looks like when a bird is on the wing, most smaller birds tend to flit and zip from one place to another. It conjures up the images we have of soccer moms and many of us today. How many of us today are never without noise in our ears or a screen before our eyes? These can be good things in moderation, but too much of these things as we get an unrelenting dose of the world, of Babylon in our life can be dangerous to our soul.
What does it take to “establish Zion?”
It isn’t enough to just limit our exposure to the things of the world. If it was we could all become hermits and the problem would be solved. But the Lord wants us in Babylon, He just doesn’t want us to become citizens of Babylon. If we are not living among those of Babylon we won’t be able to call out those who are seeking the safety and blessings only available in Zion among God’s people.
It is important to remember that though we all struggle with how to manage our time and resources during this life, this life is not about managing these things. Life is about choosing between good and evil. That is all life has ever been about and ever will be about.
The Lord has told us how to establish Zion, and that is to become a citizen of Zion, even if you are the only citizen within a thousand miles of yourself. Becoming a citizen of Zion happens as a result of the choices we make. First we must become a Zion person then we can become a Zion family, a Zion ward, and a Zion stake.
We are referred to as a stake in Zion or a ward in Zion already, because we are expected to become a Zionlike people. The Lord has defined what it takes to gain citizenship in Zion, to become one who is pure in heart. Again, to quote Elder Stone:
We do not need to become as puppets in the hands of the culture of the place and time. We can be courageous and can walk in the Lord’s paths and follow His footsteps. And if we do, we will be called Zion, and we will be the people of the Lord.
We have been called to establish Zion in our day. Zion is not so much a place, though it is that as well, as it is a state of mind and a choice of behaviors. Bishop McMullin said, “The establishment of Zion should be the aim of every member of this Church.”
The Lord called the Church at the beginning of this dispensation to establish Zion, but they could not build the city of Zion because they had not yet built Zion within themselves. This is what the Lord gives as the reason for their failure.
“They have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;
“And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom” (D&C 105:3–4).
“There were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances” (D&C 101:6).
There is nothing in what the Lord lists here that was outside the control of the Saints at the time of Joseph Smith. Just so, there is nothing in what the Lord lists that are outside our control today. To become a Zionlike person takes choosing to do the things the people of Zion do. We elect ourselves to become citizens of Zion by the choices we make each day. This is how we establish Zion. Elder Christofferson puts it this way.
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” (Moses 7:18). If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. It will be necessary (1) to become unified in one heart and one mind; (2) to become, individually and collectively, a holy people; and (3) to care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us. We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen.
Note: Do you see that this expectation has not been laid upon any other dispensation as a necessity like it is laid on us? The Savior cannot return until the Saints rise to the level where they begin to truly live worthy of their privileges. If we want the Savior to get here sooner, perhaps hastening to develop as a people worthy of His presence will allow Him to shorten the time of His return, mainly because we will be ready for Him sooner.
The first of the three basic requirements for us to become a Zion people is to learn what it means to become unified. If you search the scriptures you will find that the Lord requires unity in all things. What is the result of our overcoming our “jarrings, contentions, envyings, and strifes?” We become unified. Becoming unified is not so difficult. I think part of our problem is that we see it like our end goal of perfection and it seems so lofty and far off that we often just give up on the goal, like it is impossible in this life to attain it.
But Elder Christofferson says “we will become of one heart and one mind as we individually place the Savior at the center of our lives and follow those He has commissioned to lead us.” This is doable. Here is an example of some teenagers who demonstrated what it is like to live with a united mindset.
At the end of July this year, young single adults from several countries in eastern Europe gathered outside Budapest, Hungary, for a conference. Among this group were 20 young men and women from Moldova who had spent days obtaining passports and visas and over 30 hours traveling by bus to get there. The conference program included some 15 workshops. Each person needed to select the two or three that he or she most wanted to attend. Rather than focus exclusively on their own interests, these Moldovan young adults got together and made plans so that at least one of their group would be in each class and take copious notes. Then they would share what they had learned with each other and later with the young adults in Moldova who could not attend. In its simplest form, this exemplifies the unity and love for one another that, multiplied thousands of times in different ways, will “bring again Zion” (Isaiah 52:8).
Simple kindness. These youth were more concerned about the welfare of their friends than they were about what they could personally get out of their experience. They were willing to sacrifice to attend, and were willing to put their personal agendas second so that others could be blessed. How easy is that? Isn’t this what we do when we go to the temple? Often we make sacrifices to get to the temple, but there isn’t any expectation that we will personally garner accolades or personal benefits. We go because our service to others brings us joy. There are a thousand ways we can repeat this action in our service in the Church. We can do it in our councils, in our ministering efforts, in our cleaning of the chapel, in our community service, in our families, etc.
When we have Stake or Ward fasts we experience power that rarely exists when we fast and pray on our own. The more we come to see that unity is where the gospel of Christ is trying to take us, the more we will deliberately seek it out.
Zion is established only as individuals independently become Zion people. Being a Zion people cannot be legislated or mandated. Zion consists of like-minded people who all individually seek to cooperate with others in Christlike behavior. Our efforts to keep the commandments and seek the welfare of those around us is what transforms us into the pure in heart.
Those who become holy are those who learn to hunger and thirst after being and living righteously. Notice that there is no requirement for a certain income or educational or social level in order to become holy. Anyone can become holy if that is the desire of their heart. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “let us once and for all establish our residence in Zion and give up the summer cottage in Babylon” (see Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light , 47). Holiness requires that we become fully converted to living our lives in as Christlike a manner as we know how.
Caring for the Poor
Perhaps if there is a sermon every member of the Church would do well to memorize it would be King Benjamin’s sermon to his people in the first few chapters of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon. Too many of us don’t believe that being generous to others won’t hurt us. We fear that by giving to someone else or by doing for someone else there will be less for us and we will suffer for it.
We may not put our thoughts into those words, but that is how we act when we shun the poor or avoid having to deal with the poor. And by the poor I mean anyone with a need. That need could be financial, it could be emotional, or social, or mental. The poor include anyone who has a challenge in this life and could use the resources, talents, abilities or love someone else has in enough abundance that they could share and it wouldn’t hurt them or their family.
Elder Christofferson said,
Throughout history, the Lord has measured societies and individuals by how well they cared for the poor. He has said:
“For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
“Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment” (D&C 104:17–18; see also D&C 56:16–17).
Furthermore, He declares, “In your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld” (D&C 70:14; see also D&C 49:20; 78:5–7).
Did you catch that last sentence? The Lord says that if we grudgingly give to others of the abundance with which He has blessed us then there is an “abundance” of spiritual manifestations that will be withheld from us. He doesn’t elaborate on what they are, He just tells us that there are blessings just waiting for us, but we have to develop the right attitude about our relationships with others.
Another question that comes up from that last verse is this: What does it take for us to make someone equal to us? I have always assumed that when we give we should not give in such a way that we would lose our financial advantage over the one to whom we are helping. So what does it mean that we should be equal? Does it mean I should not consider myself any better than the one whom I am helping?
Responsibilities of the Latter-day Saints
No other generation on earth has been required, for their own salvation to work for the salvation of others as we are required to work. This is the whole purpose of temples, which is the symbol of our worship. No other generation has been specifically called and expected to produce people who are worthy of living in a Zion society.
We have been preaching these principles for generations now, but still struggle with how to implement the principles of charity required of those qualified to be a Zion people. But the Brethren are not lax in their duties. They are inspired and working on behalf of the members of the Church tirelessly. As we the members can handle greater spiritual burdens, they push us to rise to the challenge.
In 2016 we were given Teacher Councils with a booklet entitled “Teaching in the Savior’s Way.” In 2018 we were given Priesthood quorum and Relief Society councils. Why? What is it about councils that will assist us in becoming more Zionlike as a people? This change didn’t happen because someone got bored in Salt Lake City and decided to stir the pot. This is an opportunity from the Lord for each of us to move past studying about Zion to having additional, yet simple opportunities to live the life of a Zion people. How we accept and approach this challenge will make all the difference in our individual eternal salvation.
Note: The talk I have based this next section on is from Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It is important to note here that what is important is our attitude and aim when we participate in a council. I am not talking about department meetings, which are more about being talked to and given assignments that we have to come to the next meeting to report on, or committees where everyone is out to serve their own self interests. I am talking about councils where everyone has a voice and is just as important as anyone else in the council. Councils assume there is a free exchange of ideas, without criticism or condemnation. They are carried out with respect and a gentle spirit. I am, of course, referring to gospel-centered councils, not worldly councils.
In his talk Elder Ballard refers only to family councils. I have chosen to quote from his talk, but the comments that follow his quotes on the family councils will be widened to include the principles behind the family council and also how these same principles can be used in other councils of the Church. The family is the basic unit of the Church, so what applies to the family council can usually be broadened to apply to any other council we create.
The power of councils
Elder Ballard says, “I know councils are the Lord’s way and that He created all things in the universe through a heavenly council, as mentioned in the holy scripture.” Wow, that must have been either a very long meeting or we must have met together often.
“I believe councils are the most effective way to get real results.” A question I would challenge you to consider is this, why do you think the Lord chose to create the universe using councils? What is it a council can offer to get “real results” that other forms of assignments or discussion can’t offer? There must be real power in a council if the creation of all that we know of was done using this method of communication. As you read further consider how the principle of unity might affect our ability to accomplish great things in our councils.
Elder Ballard goes on to state,
A family council, when conducted with love and with Christlike attributes, will counter the impact of modern technology that often distracts us from spending quality time with each other and also tends to bring evil right into our homes.
Here is another reason for pause. A family council is not a family home evening. Family home evenings are for instruction, entertainment, and togetherness. Family councils have a different purpose that Elder Ballard unfolds as his talk progresses.
Family councils, … are primarily a meeting at which parents listen–to each other and to their children.
(Based on Elder Ballard’s discussion on family councils I have listed 12 principles that can be applied to councils throughout the Church.)
Principle 1: Councils are based on the need to listen. This means listening to understand, not just listening to hear the words spoken. Those conducting the council need to listen to understand so they can weigh the opinions and thoughts expressed and use wisdom to put those things expressed alongside what they already know and understand. This is done with the desire to gain greater insight and wisdom. This whole process of speaking and listening needs to be done under the influence of the Holy Ghost. Only the Holy Ghost can help someone get past preconceived notions and perceptions so they can hear what the speaker’s true intent is, even if the speaker has difficulty expressing themself clearly.
Principle 2: The process of listening requires that we importune the Spirit to help us have soft hearts so we can listen with love as our filter. This effort is not a group thing, it is a personal thing. When we participate in any council we can get no more and contribute no more than what we personally bring to the table. If we come to a council with stubbornness in our heart or we listen with prejudice then we can’t really expect to walk away changed for the better.
Principle 3: Councils are instruments of change. When the Spirit is present in a council, and each person has come with prayers of faith to further the work of the Lord’s kingdom in some way then hearts are touched, changed, and blessings flow. But like all spiritual advancement, it has to happen on a personal basis. Councils cannot be any better or any more effective than the sum of the faith and diligence given to the process by each member of the council.
Types of councils
Elder Ballard discusses four types of councils in the family. Each of these councils has a counterpart in other types of councils, but the principles behind the power of a council remains the same from council to council. So what I talk about in the different types of family councils can more generally be applied to all other kinds of councils.
The Full Family Council
The Church pamphlet entitled Our Family states, “This council can meet to discuss family problems, work out finances, make plans, support and strengthen [each other], and pray for one another and for the family unit.”
Principle 4: The purpose of any council is to seek unity of direction and of purpose through the Spirit. Can you even imagine the Lord moving ahead with a decision without unity of thought and purpose? It goes against the very nature of the Godhead to work in a state of fractured opinion and desires. The only member of a council who can bring complete unity is the Spirit. To be successful in any council the Spirit must become an indispensable part of our roster of participants.
When parents are prepared and children listen and participate in the discussion, the family council is truly working!
Principle 5: Success as a council body requires full participation of all members. When leaders come to the council prepared for what needs to be accomplished, and the class members, quorum members, or whomever is participating feel safe enough to express themselves freely then you have the beginnings of a great council session. This brings us to the next principle of councils.
Principle 6: The purpose of the meeting needs to be clearly defined. Councils are planned by parents or leaders with specific problems needing to be solved. That intent and any needed explanations need to be made clear to all participants so part of the council isn’t spent trying to solve something that is not an issue being discussed. This is no different in a ward council than it would be in a family council. Everyone needs to clearly understand what is being talked about. Leaders/parents shouldn’t bring up an issue in a council that cannot be fully discussed by those attending and participating in the council.
Principle 7: Sometimes outside help is needed. Just because a group of people get together and discuss something doesn’t mean they can solve the problem themselves. Sometimes they need experts outside of their immediate group to help give them information or perspective that only an outside source can provide. Learn when to ask for help. If you are conducting a council and begin to see that all of you are swimming in water that is over your heads, seek a lifeline, call for help. This applies just as well in a family council as it does in any other kind of council. The Brethren are regularly bringing in experts to help them make wise choices when the question being discussed is outside of their experience.
When the bishop involves ward council members, he can solve problems and accomplish a lot of good in ways he never could do without their help.
Principle 8: Know your limits. There is no reason for the Bishop to flounder trying to figure something out to help the ward, either individually or as a ward if the ward council can help with solutions the Bishopric is not able to provide. Sometimes our family members need help that goes beyond our ability as parents to provide. In these cases we may need to suppress our pride and our desire to appear “perfect” in front of ward or family members by seeking help from someone who can give us what we need to help our family. Councils are no place to show off our pride and stubbornness. Councils are meant to produce humility and unity with the Spirit and each other.
In our quest to become a Zion people we should welcome any opportunity to share with and help others. The American example of the lone hero who overcomes all obstacles on his own does not fit the Zion’s council model. All you American’s out there recognize that our culture teaches us to fight against the Zion’s council model. You will have to fight your own culture to make councils work for you. Here is an example from Elder Ballard’s talk.
Those who are single and even students living away from home can follow the divine council pattern by gathering with friends and roommates to counsel together.
Consider how the atmosphere in an apartment would change if roommates gathered regularly to pray, listen, discuss, and plan things together.
Everyone can adapt a family council to take advantage of this divine pattern established by our loving Heavenly Father.
Considering some of the roommates I had in college, I can’t even imagine opening myself up to taking their council. They wouldn’t have taken it seriously, and we would have really struggled to have the Spirit to unite us. But imagine how wonderful it would be as a single person to have such a source of strength and support around you! Are you willing to be that source for others?
The divine pattern and the power of councils is in bringing together the hearts of God’s children in unity to solve problems and meet needs. The better we get at holding successful councils, the closer we come to becoming a Zion people.
Principle 9: Part of the power of a council is in consciously and purposefully planning to do good and enlisting the efforts for that good from everyone in the council. This takes doing good out of the realm of random goodness and moves it into the realm of being deliberately and anxiously engaged in a good cause.
The Executive Family Council
This council is comprised of just the heads of the home. “During this time together, parents can review each child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and his or her progress.” They can also use this time to discuss their own relationship.
Principle 10: Councils are about more than just a problem to be solved. For a council to be healthy the members of the council need to be fully able to spiritually, emotionally, and physically participate. It is up to the leaders of the council to determine what is appropriate for making these determinations. Remember that the council is designed by God to bring us closer together and to help us think, feel, and act as one. If a member of your quorum is having difficulties at home or at work, perhaps there is something that can be done on the council level to help. This is why it is so important that we follow the Spirit in all that we do in our councils. The Spirit can help us know what the best course of action should be.
With regards to parents holding an executive council Elder Ballard shared advice from President Harold B. Lee,
Never retire without kneeling together, holding hands, and saying your prayers. Such prayers invite Heavenly Father to counsel us by the power of the Spirit.
When holding a council of any type, if those in charge of the council sincerely seek the Spirit in behalf of those who participate in the council, their hearts and minds can be opened to the needs of those who participate. This will lead to blessings for the participants as well as help in the furtherance of the goals of the council.
The Limited Family Council
This is the council used to work with both parents (the Presidency for example) and just one member of the family, one member of the council, or one member of the class/quorum. The Lord gives commandments to all of His children, but the focus is always on the individual’s welfare.
Some issues won’t surface in a public meeting. Sometimes we have to get personal and in a more intimate environment before a person will open up.
Principle 11: Councils can address both general and specific personal needs.
The One-on-One Family Council
This is the most spontaneous of all types of family councils. Often opportunities open up for teaching moments, bonding moments, or just plain good experiences that no one saw coming. Parents need to be focused enough on their child to see when such opportunities arise.
In other types of councils there are opportunities for bonding, teaching, and having shared great experiences as well. These often come during times of joint service. When you serve others with someone you open all kinds of doors of opportunity for learning about each other, serving each other, and learning to appreciate each other. As a goal for becoming a more united and holy people, serving others together is one of the best ways to make progress.
Principle 12: Councils can, and should include the divine. There is no reason to try to solve all our problems on our own. Some of our best experiences in councils should be in our times spent with the Lord seeking His guidance. This is prayer, the most intimate form of a divine council. The prophet Alma says in Alma 37:37,
37 Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.
The purpose of councils isn’t so we can talk or gossip about each other. We council together to seek spiritual guidance for helping us all get through mortality feeling loved, directed, and valued. Councils in Zion are designed to break down our barriers that separate us from each other and open our hearts to the influence of the Holy Spirit. They have the potential to unite us as never before.
When held as they can be, councils in the Lord’s Church strengthen the faith of the members and turn all involved into true under Shepherds of the Master Shepherd. Councils can be a far more spiritually intimate experience than anything most of us have experienced in the Church before. While it is true that some of us may experience councils that might resemble committees more than the Lord’s type of councils, be patient. The members of the Church will grow into this new way of things over time. This level of councils is new to most everyone but those few who have experienced the true power of a council in Zion.
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