For me, the scariest verse in all of scripture has always been D&C 103:2: “And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there…” It’s hard enough to be a shy introvert now without having to be surrounded by people throughout eternity, too! But there’s an important lesson in that truth about the nature of real spirituality, and it’s one that I’ve long been trying to learn.
Other teachings in the Doctrine and Covenants affirm that being sealed in the temple is necessary to qualify for exaltation, the highest salvation with which anyone can be blessed. For example, D&C 131:1-2 reads, “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage],” and the very next section contains this even more explicit promise: “And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant…they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things…” (D&C 132:19).
The point is that nobody can be exalted alone. This supreme gift can only be bestowed on those who have successfully grounded their lives in the service of others–a family. (I hasten to add here that the Church has clearly taught that nobody will suffer any loss of blessings because of any opportunity that they just didn’t have here on Earth–see, for example, Dallin H. Oaks: “The Lord has promised that in the eternities no blessing will be denied his sons and daughters who keep the commandments, are true tho their covenants, and desire what is right.”)
Just as exaltation cannot be achieved by a lone individual, neither can Zion be established by such. There is no such thing as a marriage of one; similarly, there is no such thing as a Zion of one. Consider this well-known description of Zion: “And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind…” (Moses 7:18). This definition presupposes a group of people: if unity is a requirement for Zion, then you must have more than one person, in order for growth towards a common mindset to be achieved. After all, reaching unity by yourself is not very impressive. For Zion, as for marriage, the goal must be to come together with others.*
I’ve learned that everything we do to build ourselves spiritually and be morally clean is just preparation–not an end in itself as much as merely developing the skills and abilities we need to really go out and do what counts–serving others. The “weightier matters of the law” (Matthew 23:23, especially judgment and mercy), the Christlike virtues of charity, patience, longsuffering, etc., and countless injunctions that show that service is the highest and greatest form of spirituality** all testify that to reach Zion, we must make a habit out of reaching beyond ourselves and getting deeply involved in the lives of others.
So I need to work on getting over my inclination to stay holed up in my little world. The path for each of us is to follow in the steps of our Savior, “who went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). Once we develop the spiritual muscles necessary from private devotions like scripture study and prayer, we need to take that strength and put it to use in the only way our Lord has told us to do so: “in the service of your fellow beings” (Mosiah 2:17). Only in this way can we make progress–together–towards preparing to receive Zion.
“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world–oh, woe is me!–and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!” –Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
* It should be noted precisely how this bringing of ourselves into conformity with each other is achieved. Do we set up an arbitrary social standard, based on current trends, prevalent fashions, dominant political positions, or some other such well-meaning but essentially man-made standard? No, such a course would be foolish. What we do is to grow closer to the Lord ourselves, each of us, by improving our worthiness and discipleship, by seeking Him out through worship, prayer, and, yes, service to others. Along the way, we all try to encourage and help each other with the same process, through our callings, through fellowshipping, through missionary work, and through home and visiting teaching. As we all draw nearer to the Lord, we naturally draw nearer to each other. It’s a beautiful way to live.
Luke 22:32: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
D&C 15:6: “The thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, and to bring souls unto me…”
Matthew 25:25: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Matthew 22:37-39: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
John 13:34: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
Mosiah 18:8-9: “Ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort….”
D&C 81:5: “Succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”
D&C 88:81: “It becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.”
Luke 10:36-37: After a lawyer asked Jesus what to do to inherit eternal life (Luke 10:25), Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan. Then Jesus asked the lawyer who had been a neighbor to the man who had been beaten and robbed. “And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”
James 1:27: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”