No, our myriad church callings aren’t supposed to save us or build Zion

Last night I asked my children to compare the spiritual depth and breadth of their experiences searching out family names and taking them to the temple, as opposed to doing their callings. Of course, anyone who has done both of those knows that they are on completely different scales spiritually. One is a 1 where the other is 100. One is little more than spiritual busywork and the other has transformative power.

I did this to teach them about what work has power to bring an individual to Zion. There is this idea in the church, a very common idea, that we can just do our callings and we will be prepared for Zion, prepared for exaltation, etc…

But most of the callings in the church are, more or less, spiritual busy work, or spiritual work that one can engage in for literally years without the Holy Ghost coming into your life in a way that forces you to come to terms with the spiritual. We see this all the time. We see members doing their callings without making significant changes in their lives. The calling may keep some people attending, or it may not, but they can engage in it, literally for years, without making significant spiritual changes.

We must not think that our enormous bureaucracy of callings and organizations is the Lord’s plan for building Zion. It is, at best, a sort of law of Moses. But it simply lacks the spiritual transforming power in the lives of members to create Zion. Something more will be needed. We will need to graduate at some point. When we do, it will look a lot more like what is described in the scriptures.

What is more concerning is that many of our members place not just their hopes of building Zion in our bureaucracy of ward and stake callings, but their salvation and exaltation. That is a sad thing indeed, for they were never meant to have the saving power that the great spiritual work in the church does.

D&C 58: 26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

If “receiveth no reward” is not a sufficient warning that thinking our calling is the great spiritual work we need to accomplish, then I don’t know what is.

For the mothers in the church, their great spiritual work is, first and foremost, their family. We take this very lightly, because we so severely underestimate the challenge. Proverbs teaches:

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

We may want to dismiss proverbs, but Lehi testified also:

2 Nephi 4:5 But behold, my sons and my daughters, I cannot go down to my grave save I should leave a blessing upon you; for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it.

Now there you have a prophet with two very rebellious sons testifying that if a child is brought up in the way they should go, then they will not depart from it. We can think of many other rebellious children in the scriptures.The scriptures testify, and we must accept, that if a child is brought up in the way they should go they will not depart from it. Bringing up a child in the way they should go is no small task and many excellent members have failed to do it. Let us be wise enough to recognize the greatness of the task.

If we want to count on being a sunday school teacher, and a secretary in some organization, and either Relief society president or Elder’s quorum president to save us, then we are probably bound for disappointment.

The great saving work in the church is exactly what the scriptures declare:

D&C 4:3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;

4 For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;

The great spiritual work of the church is to save the souls of men. It is to save the souls of our own families, to save the souls of the nonmembers, to save the souls of our ancestors. It can even be to save the souls of our fellow members, but there is a caution to be added. It is the work of saving their souls that counts. The saving power of the work in our own lives is directly related to the saving power of the work in theirs. If the work we did for our fellow members was to take attendance, then the saving power of that work for ourselves does precisely as much for our salvation as it did for the salvation of the people in the class we enumerated the attendence, which was effectively zero. If the work we did was to be a “good example” at work, then the saving effect of that work on our own soul is exactly the degree to which it was saving work done for others, which is very small.

We have come up with a lot of very exaggerated measures of the value of work that has practically zero spiritual benefit, and we do a lot of that. Some of it is the same thing other churches do as well: youth and child programs with plenty of activities and ward activities. Honestly, I think much of the work is really around just to keep us doing something, and to keep us “involved”, rather than work that is truly designed to bring about Zion in the hearts of its members. It is “law of Moses” work at best. Work that will not make the members into prophets is work that will not make them into Zion, for Zion is a community of prophets and revelators.

There are some callings where one can do real spiritual saving work: ward missionary, temple patron, etc… Whenever that opportunity is open to us, we should take full advantage of it. We should emphasize the efforts that directly impact the salvation of others.

But it’s not like this is all some mystery. Go share the gospel with multiple neighbors instead of simply being “a good example”, research and take an a number of ancestor’s names to the temple, and see if you don’t find a spiritual depth and breadth in that that you never experienced doing your regular calling work.

D&C 4 lays out what the saving work in the church is. It even says as much quite plainly. We are saved as we strive to save other’s souls. Sure, we do our callings. But let us recognize what is plainly evident from our own experiences: the work of saving our own soul is the work of saving other’s souls, including the souls of our own families, our dead, and nonmembers. That work carries with it power over time that is on a completely different scale than doing most church callings can ever offer.

We save our souls as we reach down to others and bring them up to our level. The way we move to a higher level is by bringing others up to our current one. Even in the resurrection we read that the terrestrial are glorified by ministering to the telestial, and that the celestial are glorified by ministering to the terrestrial.

If we have desires to serve God, we are called to the work of saving the souls of his children. If we are commanded in all things, we receive no reward. The work of salvation is laid before us to harvest with as much, or as little effort as we please, but it the measure of our own soul’s salvation will be the directly saving nature of the work we have done for others.

Am I saying we should not do our callings? No. I am saying we should not expect our callings to build Zion in either our communities or ourselves. They simply lack the spiritual power to do so. Which is obvious, we have thousands of wards, but not thousands of Zions. We cannot be saved while being commanded in all things, for he that is commanded in all things “receiveth no reward”. We must find salvation by going out and doing the most saving work that we can in our own homes, for those around us, and for our dead. We must build Zion the same way.

 

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