Spiritual vanity and redeeming Zion in D&C 84

I was reading these verses:

D&C 84:54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
 55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
 56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
 57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
 58 That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.
 59 For shall the children of the kingdom pollute my holy land? Verily, I say unto you, Nay.

I was particularly struck as I thought about our own obsession with telling each other that each of us is wonderful just because we are a child of God. That certainly fits the Lord’s accusing us of vanity. Thinking about it, I can’t think of any scripture that says that we are wonderful just for being children of God, or even just for being church members. But it has become a major theme in our teaching.

These scriptures are quite profound, but teach a very different message. The choice of the word “vanity”in verse 55 is fascinating. It obviously doesn’t mean vanity over our physical features, but spiritual vanity.

What would spiritual vanity be? It would be looking in our spiritual mirror and thinking vainly how spiritually lovely we are. We are constantly doing that these days. We enjoy internet memes and Sunday School teachers and book authors that tell us we are all wonderful just because we are children of God, or just because we are members of the true church.

But that isn’t what the Lord says about it. He states that the whole church is under condemnation for taking lightly the book of Mormon and other scriptures. He calls this misbehavior spiritual vanity. He is saying we are vain because we think we don’t need to dig into the scriptures and also really obey them because we think we are already so spiritually pretty.

Teaching that we are spiritually pretty church members without having to dig into the scriptures and then do what they teach is a major theme these days. This isn’t vanity we idly acquire. It is a major part of our current teaching.

The Lord says we can either change this ourselves, or be humbled into changing it by scourge and judgment. But the grand conclusion is that this must change because if Zion was to return right now we wouldn’t be spiritually fit to live there. That is the point of the question “For shall the children of the kingdom pollute my holy land?” The point is if Zion returned now we would be pollutions in it.

The Lord is teaching us that only way to avoid being a pollution in a Zion-like land is to repent and remember the Book of Mormon, the revelations and other scriptures, not only to say but to do what they teach. He is saying that whether of our own volition, or by scourge and judgement, the Lord will insist we change that before Zion returns. There isn’t a plan A that involves changing and a plan B that involves being scourged but not changing. The scourge will abide until we change and cease taking the scriptures lightly and start doing what they teach. It is spiritual vanity for us to think that we are ready for Zion without that crucial change.

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