My text for this post is Acts 2:37-47
37 Now when the people heard Peter preach the word of God, they were pricked in their hearts and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
38 Then Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For this promise is to you, and to your children, and to all the Gentiles, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!”
41 Then those who gladly received the word were baptized: adding 3,000 believers that day.
42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching, in fellowship with each other, in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every one of them: and also many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 And all that believed gathered together and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and imparted them to all, according to anyone had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread at every house, they did share their meals with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 all while praising God and having favor with all the people.
And the Lord was adding those being saved to their assembly daily.
After preaching a scriptural exposition along with an eyewitness declaration of the risen Christ, Peter instructs converted hearers [those with the softened, or “pricked”, hearts]:
- Be baptized in the name of Jesus
- Receive the gift of the Holy Ghost
Those who, with gladness received the word of God as delivered by an eyewitness were baptized.
Once the heart had been softened, repentance had come, baptism had been performed, and the gift of the Holy Ghost had been received — these believers formed a community. This group was characterized by:
- Continuing steadfastly in the word of God as delivered by the eyewitnesses
- Fellowshipping one with each other
- Sharing of sacramental bread
- Being wrought upon by the fear of God
- Working of wonders and signs through the traveling eyewitnesses
- Gathering of believers
- Sharing of all things common
- Selling of material possessions to impart to all according to the needs of anyone
- Harmonious worship services to praise God
- Sharing meals
This group of believers didn’t see things in terms of an institution and meetings — but as one family under God. In the LDS context, we’d refer to this type of community as “Zion“. Among these believers, open wonders and signs were commonplace and worship services and prayer were joyful experiences that were operated according to the best gifts of the Spirit.
This abundance of spiritual manifestations was seen because this group of believers was equal in the bonds of all things — earthly first, and then heavenly:
Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.
That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things. For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;
They did not see property as something exclusive to themselves alone, but as something for all to have equal claim on to meet their needs. In such a community:
all children are alike unto [the members]; wherefore, [they] love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike [unto them].
When property rights are a concern, paternity is frantically ascertained and protected because when people own property as individuals in a money-based system — they want to project those rights for their future seed through inheritance. This is the reason why polyandry is almost always a no-go for most people [LDS or not]. Disgust for even the idea of polyandry is the one place where Mormon monogamists and Mormon polygynists will find complete agreement. Once women are allowed polyandrous marriage covenants — only maternity can be truly known, whereas paternity will always unknown. And the heart of patriarchal societies is insecurity over paternity.
The heart of a Zion society, by contrast, is charity. Zion takes the “equal in the bonds of earthly things” principle to apply not only to money-free communities — but even further to include the bonds of matrimony, applying it to multihusband-multiwife communities.
Zion requires great intimacy and connection among the members. The church lacks this intimacy and connection because we are all still strangers. The only way to achieve Zion, or even a Zion-like atmosphere at church, is for the men and women to all be connected to each other through covenants. As it stands, we are connected to Christ through covenants, but not to each other. As long as we remain unfettered by covenant relationships with each other, we will never achieve Zion and our conversations [and actions] will never approach the level of intimacy and sharing required of that ideal.
The type of community described in Acts 2 [which is Zion] is not established by groups of unrelated people. Without kinship ties, community will only be maintained by sheer effort of will. When things get difficult, people will defend family first. Most non-related groups of LDS that go off to form their own Zion community run into failure because, no matter how pure the intentions up front, when things get stressful or tough we align with family, which causes division.
The same thing is seen among other Christians who want to “get away” from the institutional church experience by starting a home church. These attempts to “do church” more scripturally just end up being slightly less controlled replications of the same dynamic that they were trying to get away from.
This is all because a sense of familial love must exist prior to gathering — it does not come as a result of gathering. Without charity pervading, such communities will only have joy in their works for a season.
The “church” are the called-out ones. It is the assembly of justified believers in Christ — and it comes as a manifestation of the communal feelings generated by virtue of their relationship as one family under God. Think about your own family. You meet together — but you don’t have meetings. You meet because of the feelings that being “family” produces — the feelings of family are not produced by your meetings.
In the church today, we invert the whole thing:
- Instead of our congregations being a natural outflow of the connectivity we share — we try to have “church” be the precondition to creating it.
- Instead of leaders who habitually serve the members, submitting to the will of the people — we have leaders who are used to being habitually obeyed by members.
- Instead of the ministry bringing a miracle and then requesting a meal — we have leaders who demand support first, the blessings to follow.
If the church actually wanted Zion, then I think most would be surprised over the number of non-LDS who would be ready to sign on for it — if it meant living for a higher purpose. But they don’t. Marching orders are to get as much education as you can, so you can make as much income as you can, so you can pay more tithes and offerings. It’s to live as normal of a life as you can — with just a bit of Mormon flare to it [e.g., serve a two-year mission, civilly marry in a temple, pay 10% of your paycheck to the church, abstain from the parts of the word of wisdom most important to Heber Grant, do hometeaching, etc.]
The current focus is on keeping many small, separate nuclear families [many small, separate Zions]. The tribal model takes this and connects the dots. It says, establish Zion by connecting the already existing separate nuclear families into a bone fide tribe of Israel. Connectivity is the key.
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