Dwelling in Righteousness
Moses 7:18 And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.
I’ve been thinking this week about poor people in the United States, who rely in large part on market forces (including, thankfully, charitable giving) to receive medical care. There’s a new health bill going through the Senate there, that seeks to increase the power of capitalism and offers government savings through poor people dying, and so no longer needing social security – and this in order to provide tax relief to the already-wealthy.
Social Darwinism is absolutely one way to ensure there are no poor among us, and rooting out all those who think differently than we do will produce a society that’s of one mind, but I can’t help thinking that it’s not what that scripture means. Mostly because of the “dwelling in righteousness” part.
When I was very young, my favourite primary song was “I Wonder When He Comes Again”. I loved to talk about what it would be like when Jesus returned to Earth. I can remember my mum teaching me that the devil would be bound for a thousand years, but not because of Jesus trapping him, but because we would all make such good choices that he couldn’t influence our hearts.
Righteousness isn’t the absence of the possibility of making a wrong choice. Righteousness is wanting to do things that increase our love and empathy, affirm our divine nature and strengthen the bonds between us and our communities.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
This scripture, likewise, is not calling for us to no longer have gender or nationality or social status. That’s impossible for humans, who live in societies, and have bodies. It’s impossible for our Mormon, embodied Heavenly Father to not be male, our Heavenly Mother to not be female.
Much like the Moses scripture, this verse isn’t calling for us to avoid being who we are, but to embrace unity with others who do not share our characteristics, and be one in Jesus Christ, the redeemer of us all.
Part of the miracle of divinity is the ability to hold all of humanity in heart and mind. We believe that God hears our prayers, that Jesus intercedes for us with Them. This requires an individual connection with each heart and mind that exists – and that has ever existed and will exist in the future. This huge, radical empathy is something we can mimic and develop, but it’s so much easier to connect with people who are of our same income bracket, nationality, political opinion, gender, sexual orientation, neuro-typicality, and physical ability (among many others). The more similar we are to someone else, the easier to imagine how they experience the world.
Complicating things further, we don’t currently live in zion, so differences in those attributes invokes a power differential, so trying to connect with someone who is different from us needs to be handled differently when we are the lower or higher in the social hierarchy. We can’t force someone to make room for us, but we can try to invite as many as possible to the tables at which we find ourselves seated – and we can show our hunger to those at tables from which we are excluded, and pray that God will open their hearts to us.
We have been promised zion. We have been assured that Christ will come again, and we will have a thousand years of peace – and it will be because we have made it so. It will happen. In these days of despair, I look to that, and hope that I can see steps on the path that will lead us there.