"Preparing for the Coming Kingdom"

One foundational hope of the Reorganization is the establishment of Zion. While the saints were driven from its appointed place in 1834, members of the Reorganization believed that Joseph Smith's successor, the one whom his father termed "Mighty and Strong" (RLDS Church History, Vol 1, p 260) would return the saints to their inheritances, allot their portion, and reorder the quorums so that Zion could properly be established and thereafter flourish. It would be like Enoch's city: "The Lord called his people, Zion, because they were of one heart and of one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there were no poor among them" (Gen 7:23).

The thought of a holy city in which Christians share what they possess was not an unusual idea in 1830. Many Christians were interested in recovering what Alexander Campbell called "the ancient order of things." How the early Christians shared what they had intrigued a number of Americans.

Luke described how the first Christians lived: "All that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need" (Acts 2:44-45). Elsewhere, he added, "The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul; neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common, Neither was there any among them that lacked; for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles'feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need" (Acts 4:32-35).

Two Christians, Ananias and his wife Sapphira, followed the example of others and sold one of their possessions, a tract of land. Then, they claimed to give all the proceeds to the apostles, but they were deceitful, keeping "back part of the price" (Acts 5:2) for themselves. The Holy Ghost exposed them and they died. Unfortunately, the Bible does not provide specific examples of those who properly consecrated their possessions.

Rabanus Maurus Magnentius, a Frankish Benedictine monk, wrote a history of Christianity in France in the first half of the 800s. France was called Gaul in apostolic times. According to him, the Bethany family of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary were among the first missionary group that came to Gaul. He reported in his second chapter, "They possessed a rich patrimony of lands, of money, and ofslaves, that a great part of the city ofJerusalem (besides the village of Bethany) belonged to them, and that they had lands in Mandala (on the left side of Lake of Galilee), and at another Bethany (of Bethabara), the scene of the preaching of John the Baptist." In his 34th & 35th chapters he added "Lazarus, Martha, and Mary sold their properties in Jerusalem, Mandala, and the Bethany's, the house at Bethany near Jerusalem alone being preserved, and brought the amount to St. Peter as chief of the apostles." They gave the Bethany estate to the apostles before leaving on their mission to Gaul, where they taught the gospel on the Southern coast of France. Lazarus, who formerly was the Bishop of Cyprus, served as Bishop of Marseille. Both Martha and Mary lived nearby, each in a cave, where they shared their testimony and imparted what little they had to the poor.

The gospels contain the account of a young man, whom Luke called a "ruler" (Luke 18:18). He asked Jesus what he needed to do to obtain eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments, which the young man said that he had done from his youth. Matthew reported Jesus' response: "If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions" (Matt 19:20-22).

Tradition says that this young man repented and did as Jesus commanded. The Greek word princeps, translated ruler in Luke, suggests his name was Maximin. According to Rabanus, "Of the twenty-four disciples (chosen by Peter to evangelize Gaul and Spain) Maximin was the first and foremost. He was one of the Seventy disciples of our Lord and Savior, illustrious both by his power of miracles and of teachings, the chief of the Christians next to the apostles. . . St Maximin, having gone to Aix, began to sow the good seed of the heavenly doctrine in the hearts of the Gentiles, giving himself, night and day, to preaching, prayer, and fasting." He is another example of how the first Christians gave all that they possessed.

Sidney Rigdon was a disciple of Alexander Campbell and the spiritual leader at Kirtland, Ohio. Before he heard the restored gospel from Parley Pratt, some of his church members tried to practice all things common at the Morley farm. After Joseph and Emma moved to Kirtland, Joseph received a revelation about how Enoch's city implemented temporal equality, also stating that the time had come for that practice to be implemented within the restored church. The revelation stated, "It must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people. . . for a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory ofyour Father who is in heaven, thatyou may be equal in the bands of heavenly; 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" (D&C 77:1c-f). The introduction of a formal way for the saints to consecrate what they possessed, as the first Christians did, and achieve temporal equality was poorly received. Few obeyed, either in Kirtland or in the land of Zion. For instance, Edward Partridge, the bishop in Jackson County, only received enough money through individual consecrations to purchase 2000 acres in Jackson County. Conditions turned violent in Kirtland, resulting in all likelihood, in the tarring and feathering of Joseph Smith, during which, his infant child took sick from the cold and subsequently died. After the failure of Zion's Camp, the Order of Enoch was disbanded. Joseph Smith Ill was unable to reimplement the Order of Enoch within the Reorganization and the church has never achieved temporal equality.

In 1885, Alfred White received a vision in which he saw Zion's redemption. He saw a ring encircle Independence and a small portion of land outside its boundaries. A voice said, "I will not suffer any person to live inside this ring except those who keep the celestial law" (Infallible Proofs, p 85). Then he saw the judgment of the Holy Ghost, like the judgment pronounced on Ananias and Sapphira. He also heard the voice say, "Many of my elders misrepresent me in regard to my judgment. They say it is storms, pestilence, earthquakes, etc., but this is not what I mean. I mean the judgment of the Holy Ghost and as you see Peter judging Ananias and Sapphire by the Holy Ghost, so shall the judgment be here ... I saw many hastening to get outside the ring. Some ran, some walked, and others went by wagon" (Infallible Proofs, p 86-87).

It is clear to me, and I hope clear to you, that God's judgments are quickly coming on the world. They not only threaten the fall of Babylon but portend the redemption of Zion and the perfect establishment of Christ's kingdom on earth. As faithful believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially as restored, we look forward to Zion's redemption, but are we ready to abide therein?

As we prepare to live in the coming kingdom of our Lord, we need to include preparation to live as the first Christians did, in particular, in holding all things common. Will we consecrate all we own when that time comes? Or will we, like some in Brother White's vision, flee?

Frankly, I believe that many of us will abide the law of the celestial kingdom. I appreciate the response many have given to feed church members in Sri Lanka. We are exceeding our goal, and your response indicates that our members are preparing to live in the Holy City as it emerges in these last days.