Last week, I shared some basic ideas pertaining to Zion and how it can be accomplished. Some good comments ensued. When I write about Zion, I’m interested in some of the practical aspects of Zion for a reason. Practical is another word for “practice.” Ultimately, Zion is the Father’s work, and He sends His angels to do that work, as well as servants. Nothing we can do will bring Zion, economically, religiously, or politically. Only our individual salvation can qualify us to be a part of this Great and Marvelous Work. Our “practice” however, can be counted to us for righteousness. If, in our “practice” we consecrate resources to others to elevate them, will that not affect our personal righteousness? Thus we may move from grace to grace, perhaps even earn grace, if there is any grace to be earned at all.
When we think of the biggest purchase in any of our lives, the number one item is usually real estate. The next status-oriented symbol would be the automobile, then toys and clothes. But as a percentage of wealth, real estate takes the cake. It ties up most of the resources we have. It is the single largest thing that will bring us “status,” “enjoyment,” and comfort. The industry is built to play on a person’s emotions, bank account, affordability maxims, sell-able features, even neighborhood status and school boundaries. In the 1950’s, the first time in modern history where home-ownership was available to many, people would purchase homes and in 30 years, pay them off. In today’s world, we live in real-estate bubbles, waiting anxiously to see how much our home has appreciated so we can upgrade to a better home with more features, more comfort, and more status.
I find brother Heber Kimball to be a visionary man, often because the fruits of some of his visions and prophecies seemed to have born out. Said he,
“After a while the gentiles will gather by the thousands to this place, and Salt Lake City will be classed among the wicked cities of the world. A spirit of speculation and extravagance will take possession of the Saints, and the results will be financial bondage. Persecution comes next and all true Latter-day Saints will be tested to the limit. Many will apostatize and others will be still, not knowing what to do … Before that day comes, however, the Saints will be put to tests that will try the integrity of the best of them. The pressure will become so great that the more righteous among them will cry unto the Lord day and night until deliverance comes.” (Deseret News, Church Department, p. 3, May 23, 1931.)
Today in Salt Lake City and in Utah County, there is another real estate bubble intoxicating the residents there. If the first bubble breaking in 2008 did not teach them a lesson about “a spirit of speculation and extravagance,” certainly this next bubble will when it also ultimately collapses. The Saints of the Wasatch Front often seem to equate spiritual blessings, the damnable “prosperity gospel,” with a blessed increase in status. To be fair, the Brethren have taught against this at least over the pulpit from time-to-time, the most recent being Dallin Oaks in the last General Conference (April 2015). Words, however, are cheap.
The Brethren, along with Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, and Area Authorities, are often awarded such positions PRECISELY because of their prosperity and status. They have some of the most extravagant homes on the Wasatch Front in some of the nicest neighborhoods, and they also own secondary properties and cabins, some of them gifted by the Church, the higher up one is in the hierarchy. Brigham Young first modeled this as he amassed millions living in his Utah mansions from Salt Lake to Saint George. This did not set a good example for those that followed. The Saints can smell the hypocrisy over the pulpit when such things are taught, otherwise, they liken it not unto themselves, but see only the extravagance in others. To be fair again, some reject such extravagances. Thomas Monson and Gordon Hinckley lived in modest homes, as do many others, stake leaders and the like. We should honor such examples of modesty.
Brigham Young vs.
*Note: I’m aware Thomas Monson has other properties gifted him by the Church, but this is his primary home, which I’m using primarily as an example.
Why does this matter?
The obvious first reason is one of pride. Anytime we seek to gratify our lusts, vain ambitions, and cover our sins with beautiful homes, AMEN to our ability to be a tool in the hand of the Lord. We have chosen our God, and it is Babylon. But there is a more practical reason why it’s so damnable. Simply put, if one does not have expendable income, one cannot “expend” it on behalf of others. It is tied up and useless. Now . . . everyone’s situation is different. I will not wax as a Pharisee and rise up to condemn you for your beautiful home, even though it seems like I just did. Some people with beautiful homes have homeless people, families, and others living in their empty rooms. THAT is Zion-like behavior. I happen to have six rooms in my home when I only probably need three. I was ashamed of my own opulence, even though I live in a modest home. However, modesty is a relative principle. One can be just as guilty of status-worship if they are poor but sacrifice everything to look like a middle class family. I was guilty. I now allow people who are in need to live in my home with me. It is part of how I tithe and consecrate my surplus (which IS unfortunately tied up in a home). If you practice modesty, you have the freedom to do good things for others with you resources. You can consecrate, and THAT is why it matters.
What you can do
If I were in the market for a new home in Utah these days (I don’t live there now but did), feeling the call of the bubble equity in my home, I might pray to the Lord to ask him to guide when I would sell, perhaps who I would sell to, and what I would purchase, all in a way that would elevate my righteousness and help me to bring Zion. This might mean I would sell my home under-market to a family in need and consecrate that equity surplus to them. It may mean I downsize and park that profit somewhere that is more liquid and usable to Zion-like projects. It may even mean that I live in a trailer or in a van down by the river, or a small farm-house in the country. If the Lord commands it, you should listen. There is value in mobility, especially as society begins to deteriorate. A nice home in a collapsed economy is often nothing more than a gold-plated coffin. A trailer could allow you some get-out-of-Dodge space. You must be prayerful about such circumstances.
When you go to look for a home, recognize that the real estate agent is not your friend in Zion. He wants you to spend as much as you can afford. He will sell you on status. He will sell you features. He will even try to sell you value or return on investment if you are that savvy. Before you visit the agent (in fact you may even want to pray about finding the right kind of agent), go to the Lord and prayerfully ask which features you NEED in a home. That is totally up to you and the Lord. I don’t need to judge you for deciding to get that four car garage if the Lord has Zion-like plans for you. I will say as an aside, however, that I do NOT buy the “I need a large home for my family at Thanksgiving” motive unless you find a way to fill that home in the Thanksgiving off-season. Look, I’m only trying to protect you Zion seekers from asking for that which is amiss. The Lord honors agency and will often deliver according to your faith. Pay careful attention to what the Lord thinks you need and not what YOU think you need. Once you have your list of must-needs, then visit the agent and don’t allow him to up-sell you.
Now, you can apply this to all material things, be it cars, clothes, toys, recreational vehicles, other properties, etc. Let me give you a word of caution which I recognize is my own opinion, but it is probably a good guess. I’ve heard many prosperous Saints give testimonies of their material things being gifted to them through prayer in the Lord. They seemed to get confirmation for their extravagances. I suspect that they were probably asking amiss. I suspect that if one were to REALLY ask the Lord His will, they may be disappointed with His answer. They may be asked to give up their home to a family in need and move into a trailer. I believe THAT kind of behavior would be something that could stir the angels to begin gathering you for Zion. I’m not sure I’d be willing to do it, but if I’m going to ask Him, I better be prepared to accept and embrace that sort of an answer. Two very good examples, the Savior, and Joseph Smith, most likely died penniless. We know Joseph likely died bankrupt and left Emma in distress. How did a man with such power and such authority, running for President, mayor of the largest city in Illinois at the time, commander of the Nauvoo Legion place himself in such a predicament? Those kind of questions may be the kinds of questions that will help us attain Zion.
My apologies to Century 21 and the real estate industry. They are a great agency, and I bought my last home from one of their agents, who was very tuned in to my list of features and needs. There are good agents who will help you with whatever you want, and will try to sell you a home with integrity.