Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stakes of Zion

In 1838 the Lord explained that the gathering to Zion and her stakes was to be for defense and refuge from the coming storm that will be poured out on the earth (D&C 115:5-6). These commands and promises are found also in section 45. The Saints are to gather to Zion (D&C 45:64-65), a place of safety, peace, and refuge.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “Without Zion, and a place of deliverance, we must fall”

Safety & Refuge

In late October 1838, persecution against the saints in Missouri reached a fever pitch. Once again mobs were combining and threatening the saints. Mormon leaders in outlying settlements were counseled by the prophet to gather together for safety at Far West. Some leaders followed the counsel of the prophet and gathered to Far West, but others, like Jacob Haun did not. Unfortunately, the settlement at Haun’s Mill suffered greatly because they did not gather together with the other saints for safety.

We may not currently be facing the threat of mobs, but the counsel of the prophet is still, to gather together for safety and refuge. Unlike the early days of the church, where all saints gathered to the center place of Zion, saints are encouraged to gather together in the Stakes of Zion. A stake is part of Zion. Wherever the church is organized outside the center place of Zion, a stake is organized and becomes part of Zion.

Gather Together & Prepare

Elder Bruce R. McConkie -“This then is the counsel of the Brethren: Build up Zion, but build it up in the area where God has given you birth and nationality. Build it up where he has given you citizenship, family, and friends. . . . The Saints who comprise [any] part of Zion are and should be a leavening influence for good in all these nations.”

There is great strength in being gathered together as saints, wherever we are, as we endeavor to become a Zion people. We look after each other, we strengthen each other, serve each other, we teach each other, and we are led by priesthood leaders who hold keys to direct the Lord’s work within the stakes and wards in which we live. We are taught to prepare ourselves and our families for the turmoil prophesied to come upon us. We are taught within our wards and stakes and by the prophet to prepare for things spiritually and temporally. Here are just a couple of way we have been counseled to prepare temporally.

1- get out of debt
2- maintain 1 year supply of food storage
3- prepare 72 hour kits for emergencies
4- plant a garden
5- have a reserve supply of cash

We also need to prepare spiritually for the current challenges we face as well as the challenges prophesied to come (D&C 45). This is largely what we are doing as we gather together each Sunday to worship. We are preparing and working to become a Zion people when we do our home and visiting teaching, when we care for the poor, when we study our scriptures and engage in earnest prayer, when we serve faithfully and magnify our callings, when we are unified in purpose, when we sustain our priesthood leaders, when we teach the gospel to our children, our friends and neighbors. The stakes of Zion are only strong enough to offer protection and refuge if the saints living within the stakes are striving their best to be a Zion people.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:
“The gathering of Israel and the establishment of Zion in the latter days is divided into three periods or phases. The first phase is past; we are now living in the second phase; and the third lies ahead. . . .

Phase I—From the First Vision, the setting up of the kingdom on April 6, 1830, and the coming of Moses on April 3, 1836, to the secure establishment of the Church in the United States and Canada, a period of about 125 years.

Phase II—From the creation of stakes of Zion in overseas areas, beginning in the 1950s, to the second coming of the Son of Man, a period of unknown duration.

Phase III—From our Lord’s second coming until the kingdom is perfected and the knowledge of God covers the earth as the waters cover the sea, and from then until the end of the Millennium, a period of 1,000 years.” (“Come: Let Israel Build Zion,” p. 115.)

Elder McConkie continued, “We have been commanded to lay the foundations of Zion and to get all things ready for the return of Him who shall again crown the Holy city with his presence and glory. . . ."

“Stakes of Zion are . . . being organized at the ends of the earth. . . . A stake of Zion is a part of Zion. You cannot create a stake of Zion without creating a part of Zion”

Strength, Safety & Peace

The Stakes of Zion organize a Zion people, or at least a people who desire and strive to be a Zion people. Even though we do not face the mobs, we do face many challenges which threaten our families, our nation and our way of life. Our children face cultural attacks of immorality. As we were reminded a few days ago on 9/11, as a nation we face vicious enemies who combine in their desire to destroy us. We face economic times that are increasingly difficult and uncertain.
We know times will be difficult, but as we gather together in the Stakes of Zion, sustain our priesthood leaders and follow their counsel, as we prepare ourselves temporally and spiritually, we can find strength, safety and peace in the Stakes of Zion.

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