My mother has this thing with mice. We had lots of them in the grainery, as a kid I would go and find the baby mice there. They were tiny and cute, especially the little pink ones with no hair. I would always take them in to the house because I knew they wanted to see My mother. They would look up and squeak and she would jump, dance and squeak (scream). I’m sure it was her way of communicating with them. This form of communication was too complex for a child to understand. She would quickly send me out the door with the mice. Not sure why she wanted to spend such little time with them.
On one another occasion she got up very early in the morning to go hunting. I think she was hunting neighbor’s dogs. She had been quite successful hunting in the past. Maybe she thought they were going to eat her mice. She clamed they were after her chickens. She was a very good shot. They claim that she could shoot pennies off a picket fence. I kept hoping she would win me a turkey at the annual turkey shoot, but she never competed. I think she was afraid of showing all the men up.
That morning the dogs got away but not before she had loaded a bullet in the gun. She came in the house and as she was walking through the kitchen one of her friendly mice saw her. Wanting to get closer to her the mouse ran up her leg. She got very excited about the mouse running up her leg. She started doing the jump, dance and scream thing. She got so excited with the dance that she lost her wits and pulled the trigger on the gun. Of course the gun went off and the bullet that was meant for a dog, shot a hole in the kitchen floor.
On another occasion I was in the bathroom doing what “regular” people do several times a day. While there one of my mother’s mice friends came up and started looking at me. I thought to myself “little mouse, it’s not me that you wanted to see, it’s my mother”. I didn’t want him to get discouraged and run away, before he had a chance to see my mother, so I carefully placed the toilet plunger over him. I then went and got my mother. I brought my mother in the bathroom. Thinking they would want privacy for their little communication ritual, I closed the door to the bathroom.
After closing the door I removed the toilet plunger from off the mouse. My mother immediately did her jump, dance and scream ritual. She jumped so high that she landed on the rim of the toilet. Little boys are supposed to put the lid up and I had. I was very impressed with my mother, up until this point I never realized that she could do her mouse dance on the rim of a toilet.
Several years later while driving through Utah I stopped at a truck stop for gas. While paying for gas I looked down and they had a box with a slide lid on it. When I slid the lid a fake mouse come out and hit my had. I said to the teller “I have to get this for my mother for Mother’s day”. She said “you wouldn’t”. I don’t think she understood how much my mother likes mice. I gave it to my mother and waited to see if she would do the jump, dance and scream thing with a fake mouse. She did. I went to the back bedroom and within a few minutes heard a knock on the door. It was her visiting teachers. She said “look what my son got me for Mother’s day”. I then head a scream, then someone say “what is it”? Then I heard another scream. I was so glad she was able to share her love for mice with others.
For her 75 birthday party I thought about bringing a mouse so the grandkids could learn how to do the jump, dance and scream thing. But I decided she was probably too old to jump and dance like she used to.
After the stock market fell 777.7 points on the seventh jubilee, seven years after 9-11 and president Hinckley talk of Pharaoh’s dream of seven years of plenty and seven years of lean, I spent lot of time pondering our current state, and what was coming next. I began to realize that for Zion to be established, Babylon must fall. With this pondering, I wondered what I would tell family and friends if I had the opportunity.
The following conference Elder Christofferson gave a talk called “Come to Zion” in that talk he said exactly what I had been pondering and wished I could say. Ironically today I’ve been asked to speak on the “Gathering of Zion”. I will take much of my talk from the talk given by Elder Christofferson’s. He said.
Zion is both a place and a people. Zion was the name given to the ancient city of Enoch in the days before the Flood. “And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion” (Moses 7:19). This Zion endured for some 365 years (see Moses 7:68). The scriptural record states, “And Enoch and all his people walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion; and it came to pass that Zion was not, for God received it up into his own bosom; and from thence went forth the saying, Zion is fled” (Moses 7:69). Later, Jerusalem and its temple were called Mount Zion, and the scriptures prophesy of a future New Jerusalem where Christ shall reign as “King of Zion,” when “for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest” (Moses 7:53, 64).
The Lord called Enoch’s 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). “For this is Zion—the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “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.
The antithesis and antagonist of Zion is Babylon. It focuses on selfishness, for which it offers the world goods. Its worldliness, its worship of evil, and our captivity in it, make Babylon the symbol of decadent societies and spiritual bondage today as it was anciently.
They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.
(Doctrine and Covenants Section 1:16)
The Lord said to the members of His Church, “Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (D&C 133:7). He called for the elders of His Church to be sent forth across the world to accomplish this gathering, commencing an effort that continues in full vigor today.
And so today the Lord’s people are gathering “out from among the nations” as they gather into the congregations and stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that are scattered throughout the nations. Nephi foresaw that these “dominions” would be small but that the Lord’s power would descend “upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, … who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they [would be] armed with righteousness” (see 1 Nephi 14:12–14). The Lord calls upon us to be beacons of righteousness to guide those who seek the safety and blessings of Zion:
Joseph Smith sought to establish Zion in his day but was unsuccessful. Under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith, early members of the Church attempted to establish the center place of Zion in Missouri, but they did not qualify to build the holy city.
Why? Because he could not get the people to become a Zion people. In other words he could not get them to become pure in heart and they were greatly afflicted. The Lord said. 2 I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions;
(Doctrine and Covenants Section 101:2)
4 Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son. 5 For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified. It’s interesting that part of their chastening including traveling across a wilderness, rebuilding their lives, homes and temple. I’m sure this experience helped them be more united. Because of there transgressions they had to endure chastening and trials. We must be willing to endure chastening. The hardships we may be called to endure will be worth it, if in the end we can become a Zion people. But if we cannot endure chastening and learn to love and care for one another, we must fall with Babylon.
If it is important for us to become a Zion people perhaps its important to consider why Zion has failed in the past. The Lord explained some of the reasons for their failure:
6 Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.
(Doctrine and Covenants Section 101:4 - 6)
“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).
Because of things they were denied the privilege of becoming a Zion people.
How close are we to that wrath? Elder Christofferson’s said. 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.
I was attending a weeding in the temple and the worker asked “what is the fundamental unit of Zion?” Then he said “the family”. It made a lot of since. Zion must start with the family. Are our families Zion families?
While going through collage my wife did childcare in our home, to help keep us feed. She became what she referred to as a “motor mouth”. She would constantly praise each child for any good behavior. “Look how well John is playing, that is so nice of you to share, look Dan ate all his beans.” As soon as she would praise on kid, all the other kids would try to do the same, so she would praise them. I was amazed at how much more effective praising the good behavior was, at keeping peace and order, then harping on the negative. Positive reinforcement is also more effective at changing behavior than criticism.
My mother used to always say “if you don’t have anything good to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”
We should ask ourselves if we have overcome were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires (see D&C 101:6). Are we individually and as a family ward and stake, free from strife and contention and united “according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom”?
And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; (Doctrine and Covenants Section 105:5)
I believe that all beings of a celestial order have pure love for all others, and if they cannot develop that kind of love, they will not be there.
This doesn’t mean you need to support wickedness. It is often difficult to judge between unconditional love and supporting wickedness. For if we truly loving someone we will not and cannot support their wickedness.
Many of us have been to the temple and made convents there. We are not to speak evil of the Lords anointed. If we were sealed in the temple and we speak evil of our spouse, are we not speaking evil of the Lords anointed.
I have few memories of my dad before he passed away. But I remember him standing around with a group men who were complaining about their wives. It was clear they wanted him to join in on the wife bashing. One turned to him directly asking a question, which would have required a negative comment about my mother. He refused to answer. His silence, silenced their wife bashing. His refusal to speak ill of my mother set a lasting impression on me, one that I have tried to follow in my life.
So why must we become a Zion people and what is the purpose of the “gathering of Zion”? “And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (D&C 115:5–6).
At this point we are not called to leave the physical Babylon but we are called to spiritually leave it. The day may come to physically leave Babylon, but if we haven’t spiritually left Babylon, then we may not be able to physically leave Babylon.
It is my prayer that as Babylon falls; we will be prepared in our heart and mind to establish Zion. Our very survival my well depend on it.