Aren’t these things from a long time ago? Or for some time way in the future?
No. They are only ever for now. Saying that we’re not ready for Zion is like telling a guy lost in the desert he’s not ready for water.
As Joseph Spencer puts it in For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope (Kofford, 2014):
The law of consecration is now, as it has always been, “the great stumbling block.” It is a rock of offense and therefore a stone that we, the builders of Zion, are as likely to reject or ignore as we are to utilize. And yet, scripture assures us, this same stone will—or at any rate must—become the head of the corner, the only sure foundation on which Zion can be built. (ix)
Consecration is our only hope. Indeed, as I aim to show over the course of this book, consecration is inseparable from hope. Consecration is the hope of the Restoration, the singular task of the last days in which Christian hope is perfectly embodied. To become quite clear about the nature of hope is to begin to see that the Restoration IS the law of consecration. In a crucial sense, there is nothing else that needs doing, nothing else on which to focus. Everything else that makes up the movement that began with Joseph Smith is meant to serve as an instrument for the fulfillment of this one law. As Hugh Nibley has put it, “the midpoint and focus of the whole operation is Zion. Zion is the great moment of transition, the bridge between the world as it is and the world as God designed it and meant it to be.” (x)
Spencer is right about this.
I’ve argued before that Mormonism is not about Mormonism.
Mormonism comes into focus as living and true only when we stop looking directly at it and, instead, aim our attention at what Mormonism is itself aiming at. If you aim directly at Mormonism, you’ll miss seeing the thing that deserves your fidelity.
If Mormonism isn’t about Mormonsim, then what is it about?
Mormonism is about Zion.
Zion isn’t Mormonism but Zion is the only justification for it. Mormonism can’t be used as its own justification. (Though if it could, that would be even worse.)
If Mormonism keeps wobbling out of view as something worth a lifetime of effort and devotion, it’s because our hearts and minds aren’t fixed on Zion.
Zion is grace—grace for grace, grace from grace, grace to grace—enacted.
Zion is the body of Christ vivified.
In For Zion, Spencer pairs a ridiculously sensitive and substantial reading of Paul’s theology of hope with a groundbreaking re-reading of D&C 42 in light of the earliest manuscripts.
As a work of scholarship, the book is first rate. As a rigorous call to a life of consecrated discipleship it’s even better.
On a weekly basis over the course of the next month or so, I’ll host a round table discussion of For Zion with a variety contributors that will engage the book chapter by chapter.
Consider this an invitation to join us.