Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Therefore hell has enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure, and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoices shall descend into it.
—Isaiah 1:15 OC
We all, collectively and individually, have a problem with ignorance. If we must point to one thing that hinders our preparation for Zion more than all else, it is our meager education in the things of God. The Glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth. (T&C 93:11). Since the Glory of the Lord will be the hallmark of Zion, (T&C 31:14) those who lack such Glory will surely not be able to come into it (Isaiah 18:6, OC). All who dwell in Zion will know the Lord (T&C 158:15) and not merely know about Him.
We claim to want Zion so badly, and yet we know almost nothing about it. We don’t even have the tools, in our present state, to begin to understand Zion’s economy (or lack thereof), social order, relationships, work ethic, infrastructure, communication, human interaction, culture, heavenly connections, manners, habits, customs, salutations, or nearly anything else about it. We have some platitudinal references to ideas like no poor, dwelling in righteousness, and being of one heart and one mind, and though we understand those words, we have little idea what they truly represent.
But before we try to understand Zion (which will take much more knowledge than we currently have) perhaps we should start with trying to understand some basics. Our greatest sin is ignorance, and it will remain so until we intentionally overcome our ignorance by faith, study, and divine tutoring. We must become competent in the things that God has already made available to us, or remain unprepared to dwell together in holiness.
In the Answer to Prayer for Covenant, the Lord said, “I desire to heal you from an awful state of blindness so that you may see clearly my will, to do it.” (T&C 157:16) This was spoken to people to whom the Lord offered His covenant. The fact that He yet describes our state as “an awful state of blindness” should give us serious reflection. Admitting and embracing our blindness will bring the humility to seek and receive truth from Him. The opposite—pridefully assuming we have superior knowledge and understanding, and are therefore prepared for Zion—will only bring condemnation.
Therefore, recognizing my own blindness, here are some questions I’m asking myself. Perhaps they will be useful to you as well:
How vigorously are you pursuing truth? Are you searching the scriptures and attempting to plumb the depths of what God has already given? Do you study with care, or merely read?
Do you hope to receive more scripture without wringing out all the truth you can from what has already been given?
Are you anxiously engaged in this good cause? Doing many things of your own free will? Bringing to pass much righteousness? (T&C 45:6) Are you seeking and receiving answers from God to questions regarding scripture?Consider this account of the Lord healing blindness:
And he came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man unto him and petitioned him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when he had spit upon his eyes and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and he said, I see men as trees walking. After that, he put his hands again upon his eyes and made him look up. And he was restored and saw every man clearly. (Mark 4:20 NC)Where can you obtain truth that will cure your blindness and allow you to see aright? Can it all be done in one step? I count at least four contacts with the Lord in this example, before the man was able to see clearly. Is there symbolism in our Lord’s ministry to the blind man that required multiple steps and multiple contacts with the Lord before the man could see properly?
What might we learn from the Lord first leading the man by the hand and taking him out of the town? What about spitting upon his eyes, and putting his hands on him before the man’s vision was even partially restored? And what about putting His hands on the man’s eyes again, and making the man “look up?” There is great symbolism here, describing the cure for blindness.
Heritage of Ignorance
(or, the Traditions of our Fathers)
All of us suffer from ignorance, and we all share an inner yearning for the Glory of God, which is light and truth. (T&C 93:11) Yet we also bear a heritage and traditions that teach us not to inquire, or to confine our inquiries to men in authority, rather than studying and inquiring of the Lord. Consequently, we tend to waste our curiosity on fruitless pursuits, uninformed teachers, online chats with similarly ignorant people, sharing unstudied opinions, and seeking truth where it can’t be found.
Our heritage of ignorance is the reason current anti-Mormon efforts are meeting such tremendous success among faithful LDS people. When confronted with information they have never studied, do not understand, and cannot put into context, the too-frequent response is to reject Joseph Smith, the restoration, the scriptures, the gospel itself, and even the Lord. Many deal with their manifest ignorance and cognitive dissonance by throwing out all religion and becoming atheists. The LDS church is of no help, even to honest seekers, as it continues to misrepresent its history, doctrine and scripture, while insisting those with questions only seek answers from “approved” sources that offer no help.
For too many of us, this is our heritage, and it needs to come to an end. If you want to overcome your ignorance, you hunger and thirst, read, pray, fast, seek and search. It is labor, to be sure. It is sacrifice. The Lord is ever willing to lead, guide and inform. He is first, and foremost, a teacher. But few are interested in His lessons, and even fewer are willing to do the homework required. Never in history has more light and truth been so readily available, with so few willing to search it out.
The Lord has been unbelievably generous in the outpouring of knowledge and truth He’s recently revealed. It’s hard to overstate the abundance of what has been given. It is, of course, undeserved on our part, but so is all grace. Just as the Book of Mormon was given to try our faith before more will be given (3 Nephi 12:1 NC), I believe our use of the current records and revelations similarly reveals our hearts and determines when, and if, more is given. Regardless of our response, we are left without excuse. Should we remain ignorant, it will be entirely our fault. None will have standing to accuse the Lord.
Palm, meet face.
I once knew a wonderful woman on my mission who was the backbone of the ward. A lifelong member of the LDS church, she faithfully served as Relief Society President and carried much of the weight in the ward, despite being in her 60’s. I thought she was a tremendous example of service.
During a lesson with an investigator in her home, I invited this lovely sister to share her testimony of the Book of Mormon. She stumbled a bit, then said, “I know the Book of Mormon is true. Though I really can’t say I’ve ever read it, I know it’s true.”
I was flabbergasted. I had to pick my jaw up from off the floor. Being young and idealistic, and full of that missionary zeal, I simply couldn’t comprehend that a lifelong church member in her sixties, the backbone of the ward, the Relief Society President, had never read the Book of Mormon. And I further couldn’t compute how she could say she “knew” it was true.
I’ve grown up a bit since then, and lost my idealism. I’ve been around enough to see that abject scriptural ignorance is more the rule than the exception, even among so-called church leaders. It is our unfortunate heritage.
But I digress.
Though only a little.
Because a similar level of ignorance yet persists among many of us who seek to labor in the Lord’s vineyard. “Awful blindness,” indeed.
In the midst of these very serious matters—truths kept hidden from the foundation of the world, now revealed—a covenant people again on the earth—a servant sent by the Lord to teach truth—a new dispensation, including an opportunity for Zion—we yet make statements like these:
“I don’t really know the scriptures very well, but I think…”
“I asked the Lord if (fill in the blank) is true, and I felt the spirit…”
“I’m not really up on church history, but it seems to me that…”
“I can’t believe in a god who…”
“Well I just feel like…”
“So…I’ve never studied (fill in the blank.) What does everybody think about it?”
Or, one of the most ridiculous:
“I don’t care what (the Lord’s servant) says; I don’t need need any man to teach me. I only need the Lord.”
Here’s the Lord’s word on that matter:
“And woe be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus and also to them whom he hath chosen and sent among them; for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom he hath sent, receiveth not him, and therefore he will not receive them at the last day. And it would be better for them if they had not been born.” (3 Nephi 13:5, NC–emphasis mine.)Consider carefully if it is logical to, in one breath, claim to believe someone is sent by the Lord, and in the next breath, claim you don’t need to receive that servant’s words. “Better to have not been born” is a pretty strong condemnation. And so is what follows in the next sentence:
“For do ye suppose that ye can get rid of the justice of an offended God who hath been trampled under feet of men, that thereby salvation might come?” (3 Nephi 13:5 NC)The Lord equates ignoring his servants with trampling Him under your feet.
We are like the blind man at Bethsaida; we need the Lord to take us by the hand, lead us out of our false paradigms, anoint us with his spirit, touch us with his power, converse with us, and convince us to look up. This process is neither easy nor quick. But it begins with admitting our blindness and seeking to be cured. We can speed the cure by responding as another blind man did:
And they came to Jericho. And as he went out of Jericho, with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus) sat by the highway side, begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! And many charged him that he should hold his peace. But he cried the more exceedingly, saying, Son of David, have mercy on me! And Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. And they called the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, arise, he calls you. And he, casting away his garment, arose and came to Jesus. And Jesus said unto him, What will you that I should do unto you? And the blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go your way, your faith has made you whole. And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus in the way. (Mark 5:29, NC)I identify especially with blind Bartimaeus, the beggar of Jericho, because I happen to live on Jericho Road, and I consider myself a blind beggar before the Lord. Just as with the blind man of Bethsaida, I find a great deal of symbolism in the process of this man’s healing. He cried out, and cried out all the more when attempts were made to silence him. He responded to the Lord’s call, cast away his garment, arose, and came unto Christ. He spoke with the Lord, implored for the ability to see, and was made whole.
Jesus, the Son of David, has mercy on us, and both the desire and power to heal us of our awful state of blindness. But we must take the steps required. He calls us and patiently waits.
The Gathering has Begun
We yearn for the day of gathering, and hope to be gathered into the Holy City. We wait on the Lord for that to take place, not realizing it is already taking place. It’s not a physical gathering—not yet. Attempts to physically gather are foolish until there are enough prepared people to gather together and not fail. The angels, not us, will appoint who participates in that gathering.
No, the gathering currently underway is one of knowledge. Those who will pay the price in study, prayer and sacrifice, to become competent in the things of God, are gathered by virtue of their understanding, into a group of those prepared for what comes next. The Lord knows who has obtained light and truth and who has not. His angels are taking careful note of those who are beginning to see.
On the next day after, John stood beside two of his followers, and noticing Jesus as he walked nearby, he said to the two others, Behold the Sacrificial Lamb of God! And these two who had followed John, when they heard that testimony, followed after Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following him, and asked, What do you want? They called him, Rabbi (which means acknowledged teacher), and asked, How can we understand the truth and advance? He replied, All men move upward by gaining light. If you advance you will learn to be like me. And these two went with him and were taught, and were his companions through that day, for it was mid-afternoon.
—Testimony of St. John 1:12