I'm probably going to get in trouble with a lot of people from southeastern Idaho on this one. But I want to emphasize a point that I believe the Gospel of Christ is about basic principles that require no advanced level of sophistication in religious belief or practice.
When I came back to the States after my LDS mission in Brazil, my parents had moved from Wyoming to Pocatello, Idaho. And as strange as it may seem, that was a real step up. (Now I'm in trouble with all my friends from Wyoming - but you'll have to remember that most of my growing up years were in the Seattle suburbs. And I still have trouble understanding the Intermountain West.)
It was interesting to be in a new location as I adjusted to my reverse cultural shock. My parents had a nice house in a nice neighborhood. Actually, we were on the edge of a nice neighborhood. Up the street, we had the city mayor in our LDS Ward as well as US Congressman, George V. Hansen. I was so oblivious to my new surroundings, that in my first testimony meeting on July 4, I went up to the stand and waited as some guy I didn't know gave a long, patriotic "testimony." They told me when we got home that he was the Congressman.
I was sitting in adult Sunday School class once when they went on for some time on the theme of how blessed they were to be living in "Zion." I couldn't help thinking to myself, "Pocatello? Zion? This isn't even Utah!" I mean, the Celestial Room in the nearby Idaho Falls Temple has a mural of a wonderful, Heavenly scene or the Earth in paradisaical glory with the Salt Lake Temple in the background - not Idaho Falls - Salt Lake! Were they compensating for some inferiority complex? Now I know the doctrine that Zion is not just a place, but a state of Holiness and Community in the sense of the Pure in Heart with "no poor among them." Yet I was concerned that while there were clearly no poor among this Pocatello group, there certainly were in other LDS congregations.
It wasn't just that bothering me. I was able to see these good people in Pocatello somewhat from the outside. And they were good people, but I couldn't help contrasting the sense that they were so blessed and sophisticated in the gospel with the good people I had known in Brazil. The Brazilian Saints were not dirt poor, but even the middle-class standards were different from one place to the other. And the Brazilians certainly were as smart as Pocatellans even if they didn't have all the gospel background. Yet, what had I been doing there preaching the gospel if those good Brazilian Saints couldn't match the Zion-sophistication of the Saints in even Pocatello?
I was reminded of this recently when I found a Brazilian LDS Blog expressing concerns about why some fall away from the church. They listed a whole bunch of controversial historical or doctrinal issues generally from the past history of the church that they didn't know when they first joined. In spite of those issues, the Brazilian bloggers expressed their commitment to remain faithful, and even more importantly, to reach out in love and understanding to those who have fallen away. It made me feel bad that I couldn't inoculate those dear souls I was teaching to prevent any broken hearts down the road to Zion. But then again, maybe I was.
This really struck home with me. Because as I resolved it in my head and heart long ago in Pocatello, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has to work for all of God's children wherever they are located and whatever their condition in life. If we ever are to come together in unity and love, we would have to be able to start in the same place in doctrine and belief even for the poor to be eventually exalted and the rich to be eventually made low. And that same place where we start and eventually come together is where we find Faith, Repentance, Priesthood Ordinances, the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. And these are only effective through Hope and Charity - the Pure Love of Christ.
And that works in Pocatello, Alegrete, Salt Lake City, and even in the Bloggernacle.
Zion is the Pure in Heart.
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