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From Miscellaneous Ramblings of CB Powelson - January 23, 2015

Iniquity - The Great Stumbling Block to Zion

Zion will not be brought forth without the Lord guiding the work.  It will not be realized without His stamp of approval.  It is impossible that man can bring forth a community of people who are of one heart and one mind with no poor among them, let alone an actual city, without the aid of heaven. 

That being said, there is something we can do here and now, if not only on an experimental basis.  Therefore, maybe the words that follow are informative more than anything else, because without the Lord’s hand involved we probably will not be able to implement any of the ideas I set forth, as they require a serious commitment, the like of which is not found anywhere on the earth (at least that I am aware of). 

With grief and based on my personal observations, I do not believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is interested in bringing forth Zion.  Neither is any other Christian sect.  The rest of the world is not even aware of such a concept.  The scriptures show that Zion is going to be a grass-roots effort.  It will come forth from the ground up, not the top down, so a while ago I started praying for further light and knowledge regarding Zion.  I desired with all my heart to be part of Zion, but based on what I saw in the Church, Zion was not going to be a result of the Church’s efforts.  I prayed for guidance.  The Lord started showing me books to read, and through those books I met many like-minded individuals who also wanted to be part of Zion. 

As a result of my prayers, I associate with many people whose greatest desire is to bring forth and be part of Zion.  These people for the most part are serious students of the scriptures, Church history and Israelite history.  A few of them have seen the Lord face to face.  Many others regularly converse with angels or have dreams, visions and other spiritual manifestations. 

For years, I always thought I was alone in my deep-felt desires for and commitment to studying these sorts of things, but ever since I have met and began mingling with these friends, I no longer feel as isolated in my quest to see God and bring forth Zion.  For the first time in my life, I feel like I am not the only one who reads the scriptures with a real desire to gain further light and knowledge, who reads the scriptures and studies history looking for truth and cold hard facts, not to validate something the Church proposes, but the real truth.  We meet together oft to partake of the sacrament, praise God, sing, worship, pray and study together, pay and distribute tithing according to people’s needs, etc.  Indeed it could be said that these gatherings are planting the seeds for Zion.  

In contrast, the Church does not do this.  The Church has worship services where we can pray and sing, but the Church doesn’t ever talk about Zion.  The Church collects tithing, but those funds don’t go to the poor.  I do not see that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers what I am being offered right now.  The Church is filled with members who buy everything the leaders say and do.  They give the leaders full discretion how to use their tithes, despite the fact that investing in City Creek Mall, full-featured films that extoll themselves and expensive electronic billboards in Times Square New York are all evidence that the leaders are not using the money to bring forth Zion.  Once per month members of the Church meet and bear testimony to the fact that their leaders can’t lead them astray and that the Church is true.  It is like one big Rameumptom meeting.  I just can’t do it anymore.  It seems the Church is getting farther away from Zion, not closer. 

If the Church’s purpose is NOT to bring forth Zion, then what is it?  The Church claims its purpose is expressed in the three-fold mission of the Church, which is to (1) proclaim the gospel, (2) redeem the dead and (3) perfect the saints.  If that is the purpose of the Church, then there are three huge problems:  (1) The gospel the Church Proclaims administers to the people changed ordinances, ordinances that the Lord decreed should never be altered (2) Redeeming the dead is based on the false doctrine that “the fathers” we should seal ourselves to are our ancestors, not the real “fathers,” Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, et al.  (3) Perfecting the saints is based on the idea that the leaders won’t, indeed can’t, lead us astray while it is obvious they do lead us astray.

It seems I am more interested in bringing forth Zion than the Church is.  My friends are more interested in seeking God’s face and establishing Zion than the Church is as well.  Our Church’s leaders do not seem to care about the subject of Zion, and the common lay members seem to follow suit.  There is a general ignorance that permeates the Church from the top to the bottom toward the subject of Zion, which is surprising to me because in the early days of the Church, Zion was one of the central topics of discussion.  That subject is practically non-existent today.

Moses 7:18 reads: “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.”  That succinctly describes exactly what Zion is.  Zion is a gathering of like-minded people who know the Lord and take care of each other.   Eventually the gathering of like-minded people will build an actual city called Zion.

If the inhabitants of Zion are going to dwell in righteousness then it goes without saying that sin is a hindrance to Zion, but sin is a broad word meaning many different things to different people, so for the sake of this blog post I will classify sins into four main categories.  The categories are:

1.     Sin – Sin is not the easiest thing to define because people come from many different levels of light and backgrounds, and “unto whom much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3), so what is sinful to one person might not be considered a sin to another.  However, generally speaking, sin is thinking, saying or doing anything that is contrary to what you believe is God’s will.  Therefore, a belief in God or a Higher Power makes it easier to define the word sin, because without a belief in a Higher Power, then there would be no sin to that individual, for there would be no knowledge to him of God’s will.  There would only be misbehavior according to how society defines it, but misbehavior is not the same thing as sin.  Misbehavior is the same as transgression.  You can transgress certain man-made laws, but that is not necessarily a sin, per se.  Transgressing is comparable to running a stoplight, whereas sin is committing murder, lying, adultery, stealing, etc.  We innately know when we sin.  However, just because a belief in God is beneficial to define sin, that does not mean if we discard our belief in God, we absolve ourselves of sin.  It means that if we believe in God, we are held to a higher standard of conduct.  That being said, we all have light within us, a basic knowledge from birth of right from wrong or good from evil, and it is as easy to discern between the two as discerning between day and night.  When we go against that light or knowledge and choose evil over good, then that is sin.  Therefore, even someone who does not believe in God is capable of committing sin.  King Benjamin said this about sin:  And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish” (Mosiah 4:29).

2.     Iniquity - Iniquity has to do with unfairness, injustice, partiality, or inequality in any form.  It is favoritism, prejudice, racism, exclusivity or discrimination.  It is arrogance, cockiness, self-righteousness or pride in ourselves.  It takes credit.  It is vain.  It is competitive, greedy, selfish and ambitious.  Iniquity holds a grudge and withholds forgiveness.   It is any thought, word or behavior that is designed to makes someone higher, greater or better than someone else.  When a person creates or perpetuates inequality between him and others, making himself above or better than others, then iniquity exists.  Once I read a bumper-sticker type message that expressed iniquity perfectly.  It read, “We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us, and wealth classified us.”  More often than not, iniquity relates to people who are in positions of authority over others like a powerful figure, such as a king, or a regular position, like a father.  As a matter of fact, the scriptures contain references to the iniquity of kings, priests or fathers more than any other type of person.  Hierarchies in organizations, institutions, churches, governments, etc. are iniquity.  Caste systems, whether lawfully enforced or willingly embraced, are iniquity.  Priestcrafts are a very serious type of iniquity.   Priestcrafts are when men set themselves up as a light and/or make money because of it.  It is iniquity “when we… exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness” (D&C 121:37).  When we exercise iniquity in any form, the Spirit is grieved and the powers of heaven, the angels, withdraw themselves.

3.     Abominations – the word abomination is used to describe a sin that is approved or sanctioned in the name of religion.  Abominations are sinful behaviors performed under the guise of sanctity, supported by the scriptures.  They are religious justifications of wrongdoing.  A minor example would be believing falsehoods or in embracing foolish and vain traditions as if they were God’s will, such as believing the Word of Wisdom is a commandment.  A more serious abomination is believing that it is acceptable to place a man (Thomas S. Monson), men (the First Presidency or the quorum of the Twelve) or an institution (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) between you and the Lord.  Another serious example is when the Church withheld the priesthood from men of African descent.  That was racism, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints condoned the idea in the name of religion.  Racism is not only iniquitous; it is an abomination before the Lord.  Another abomination, one closer to our day, is when the Church spent billions of dollars of the Lord’s money to build a high-end shopping mall that promotes worldliness, consumerism, materialism, credit card debt, etc., and then because of the clout the Church leaders have with its members, the leaders are able to convince their subordinates that it was done for a higher godly purpose, such as attract tourists to Salt Lake City to bring people to Zion.  City Creek Mall in Salt Lake City is an abomination.  It is literally the Babylon of today’s world. 

4.     Secret Combinations – Secret combinations are the modern equivalent to conspiracies.  It is too bad that people who believe there are conspiracies are considered whack-jobs.  I believe everyone knows there are conspiracies all around us in everything, but the topic is not discussed openly because it is taboo.  People get labeled as a “Conspiracy Theorist” if they entertain thoughts of these things.  To bring up the subject of conspiracies makes one vulnerable to being considered paranoid or delusional.  However, if we believe in the Book of Mormon then we must accept the idea of the existence of conspiracies.  The Book of Mormon is a record of two civilizations from the past that fell because of conspiracies and Moroni prophesied about our modern-day conspiracies.  In addition to the conspiracies spoken of in the Book of Mormon, God revealed the Word of Wisdom to us nowadays because "of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days” (D&C 89:4).  In light of this verse why we trust our food manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies is beyond my comprehension.   Why we think the conspiracies described in the Word of Wisdom only point a finger at the alcohol and tobacco industries also defies my ability to think straight.  Conspiracies exist in every major facet of government, religion, politics, economics, warfare, and commerce.  Our military industrial complex and the wars in which we are engaged are based on lies.  The Federal Reserve, our fiat money and our banking system are based on lies.  Our criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex are based on lies.  Big-pharma, genetic science, and other health-related industries are based on lies.  Our educational system is based on lies.  Our agriculture and food science, food manufacturing and supply are all based on lies.  Our medical science and technology are based on lies.  Our energy and transportation sectors are based on lies.  Our lives are practically controlled by behemoth and corrupt corporations driven only by filthy lucre.  There are not very many things left today that are untainted by secret combinations.  Because of the conspiracies Moroni saw that would exist in our day, he describes our situation as “Awful!” (Ether 8:22-25), and tells us we need to “Wake up!”

If we were to broadly rank the acts of offending God or behaving contrary to His will, it would be thus: (1) sin, (2) iniquity, (3) abominations, and (4) secret combinations.  Each level of sin is progressively worse than the previous one.  Sin begets iniquity, iniquity begets abominations, and abominations beget secret combinations.  I recognize there is overlap in these categories.  For example, murder is a heinous sin that far exceeds in severity the abomination of believing some false doctrines, but generally these categories are sound.

Let us analyze these four categories relative to Zion.  To make it easy in the analysis we will only determine if any of these categories will exist in Zion – Yes or No.
  • Sin – Yes.  Penitent sinners will exist in Zion.  They will not be perfect.  They will still commit sins.  Grievous sins like murder, adultery or the like will not exist in Zion, but the people will still do things that grieve the Spirit (Matthew 22:10), but they will know how to retain a remission of their sins.
  • Iniquity – No.  There will be no iniquity in Zion. 
  • Abominations – No.  Absolutely not.  There will be no traces of abominations in Zion. 
  •  Secret Combinations – No.  Absolutely not.  There will be no traces of conspiracies in Zion. 
As I stated above, sinners will live in Zion.  I do not believe a lack of sin will bring forth Zion.  Zion will come forth by people who have no iniquity among them.  I think it is iniquity that prevents Zion from coming forth.  Renouncing and eliminating iniquity is one of the main keys to bringing forth Zion.  Iniquity is the great stumbling block to Zion.

We read the well-known verse where it says, “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” (Moses 7:18).  In my opinion, righteousness as it is used in this verse is not the absence of sin.  It is the absence of iniquity.  The builders and inhabitants of Zion are considered “righteous” and are “of one heart and one mind” because they have no iniquity.  

The problem of iniquity is a bigger issue than we realize.  Generally people think iniquity is synonymous with sin, and they’d be correct, because iniquity is sinful.  However, iniquity is more grievous because it pits man against each other.  It creates enmity between men.  There is absolutely no way for Zion to exist if iniquity exists within the hearts of its people.

We live in an iniquitous world.  Our temple ceremony teaches that we are currently living in a telestial world.  In my view this is literal, not symbolic, so we should take note that the ‘The Vision” in D&C 76 teaches us that our glory is “as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore” (verse 109), and that “as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world” (verse 98).  Using the infinite variety of shades, colors and brightness of the stars to describe us and our lives on this earth is a perfect way to represent the population of this world.  There is enmity between all of us, even among church members and good people.  We are all at variance with each other, yet we live on the same globe, so we are one, thus “the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one” (verse 98).  Our world is a telestial world because we are all unequal due to iniquity.  The iniquity of the world makes the differences between the stars an apt metaphor of this world. 

Compare that with the description of the terrestrial world, where the glory is compared to that of the moon (D&C 76:71; 1 Corinthians 15:41).  There is only one moon, not many like the number of stars.  The glory of the moon is the glory of the Son of God.  Its glory waxes and wanes, but not through innumerable phases, but through a finite cycle of phases.  The phases do not testify of various degrees of glory for mankind; rather they testify that the Lord went from grace to grace, exaltation to exaltation, until he obtained the fullness, and that we are required to do the same thing, worlds without number, until we, like Him also attain unto the resurrection of the dead.  The occupants of the terrestrial kingdom, of which the glory of the moon is symbolic, are all unified.  They are of one heart and one mind, which is very different than iniquity, which is symbolized by the stars.  Terrestrial beings retain a remission of their sins and have risen above iniquity, and they have become one with Christ, thus are compared with the glory of the moon.  There is no iniquity in the terrestrial kingdom.  Likewise there is no iniquity in Zion, because Zion is patterned after the terrestrial kingdom. 

Anciently, iniquity was a serious enough offense that when a member of the church of Christ was found guilty of it and they did not repent, then their name was “blotted out” from among the list of names of the people of Christ. (Moroni 6:7)  “And those that would not confess their sins and repent of their iniquity, the same were not numbered among the people of the church, and their names were blotted out.” (Mosiah 26:36).  People were not kicked out of the true Church of Christ because of sin, but because of iniquity.  Repentance and confession for sins were required for entrance into the Church, but being guilty of iniquity was cause to have your name blotted out from the Church. (Mosiah 26:35).   The Book of Mormon shows in plain simplicity the religion Christ wants mankind to follow, and that religion is the Church of Christ described my Moroni, and the Church of the Firstborn and the Church of Enoch described in the Vision, which will descend with Him in the clouds on the last day.  It is the pure in heart, who know Christ, for they will see Him as He is and they will be like Him.  That is Zion.

The true Church of Christ where iniquity is non-existent has risen and fallen in the past.  The reason the Nephites’ Golden Era after Christ appeared to them ended after nearly two hundred years of peace was because of iniquity.  Little by little inequality began entering into their society.  Alma prophesied that it would happen too.  He said the Nephites would lose their Zion-like society because of iniquity (Alma 45:10-14).  I’ve condensed the material of the Nephites’ Golden Age to keep only the relevant information:

-       4 Nephi1:3 - And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.
-       4 Nephi 1:13 And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land
-       4 Nephi 1:15-18 - And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people… There could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God… They were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.  And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away.
-       4 Nephi1:20 - There was still peace in the land, save it were a small part of the people who had revolted from the church and taken upon them the name of Lamanites; therefore there began to be Lamanites again in the land.  (194 years after Christ appeared to them – This is the first evidence of iniquity.)
-       4 Nephi 1:24-28 - And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.  And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them.  And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain...  And it came to pass that when two hundred and ten years had passed away there were many churches in the land; yea, there were many churches which professed to know the Christ, and yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel...  And this church did multiply exceedingly because of iniquity, and because of the power of Satan who did get hold upon their hearts.  (Pride, costly apparel, fine things of the world, things not being common among them anymore, being divided into classes, supporting churches to get gain, etc. – all of these things are iniquity.)\
-       4 Nephi 1:29-35 - And again, there was another church which denied the Christ; and they did persecute the true church of Christ, because of their humility and their belief in Christ; and they did despise them because of the many miracles which were wrought among them.  Therefore they did exercise power and authority over the disciples of Jesus who did tarry with them, and they did cast them into prison; but by the power of the word of God, which was in them, the prisons were rent in twain, and they went forth doing mighty miracles among them.  Nevertheless, and notwithstanding all these miracles, the people did harden their hearts, and did seek to kill them, even as the Jews at Jerusalem sought to kill Jesus, according to his word.  And they did cast them into furnaces of fire, and they came forth receiving no harm.  And they also cast them into dens of wild beasts, and they did play with the wild beasts even as a child with a lamb; and they did come forth from among them, receiving no harm.  Nevertheless, the people did harden their hearts, for they were led by many priests and false prophets to build up many churches, and to do all manner of iniquity. And they did smite upon the people of Jesus; but the people of Jesus did not smite again. And thus they did dwindle in unbelief and wickedness, from year to year, even until two hundred and thirty years had passed away.  And now it came to pass in this year, yea, in the two hundred and thirty and first year, there was a great division among the people. (At this point in Nephite history, iniquity had taken full sway, and they were ripening for destruction.  Power and authority were exercised over, or, in other words, iniquity was exercised over the three Nephites and the humble followers of Christ.)

A little bit of iniquity creeping in is all it took to plant the seed of destruction of a whole civilization.  It does the same thing on a smaller scale within families too.  Read about when Lehi’s and Ishmael’s families were on the ship to America:

“And it came to pass that we were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea.  And after we had been driven back upon the waters for the space of four days, my brethren began to see that the judgments of God were upon them, and that they must perish save that they should repent of their iniquities; wherefore, they came unto me, and loosed the bands which were upon my wrists, and behold they had swollen exceedingly; and also mine ankles were much swollen, and great was the soreness thereof” (1 Nephi 18:15).

These are just two of many examples in the scriptures that show iniquity exists everywhere from small families to bigger civilizations.  It characterizes all of us, all of mankind.  But it doesn’t have to.  It’s one thing that has got to go before we can usher in a new way of doing things, a new world of peace, Zion.
We all live in this fallen telestial world, and as long as we do, we will be under the bondage of sin.  However, we can’t just waltz into Zion in a sinful state of being.   We still need to repent.  That is why we have a savior, to cleanse us from sin.  We gain forgiveness through repenting with faith on the Lord Jesus.  We are commanded to repent.  Repentance of our sins is mandatory, especially if we want to be part of Zion. 

But even though sinners will exist in Zion, it will only be penitent sinners, sinners who are broken and contrite, who desire nothing more than to be clean from sin.  With faith in Jesus Christ and sincerity we can confess, repent of and forsake our sins, and obtain forgiveness from God, but chances are we will still continue to sin.  We can be considered cleansed from our sins through repentance.  However, the next day, tomorrow, or whenever it happens, we will sin again. 

Therefore, we need a way to retain a remission of our sins.  We will not overcome sin in this life, but we can overcome iniquity thereby retaining a remission of our sins, and as a bonus by overcoming iniquity we completely avoid abominations and secret combinations.  Zion will not be a place of sinless people, but it will be a place where sin is in remission and it will be a place devoid of iniquity, abominations and secret combinations. 

We should not be in the practice of repenting every single day.  That implies we sin every day.  The Prophet said, “Repentance is a thing that cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God” (DHC 3:379).  That being said, we should still repent if we have sinned, but perhaps more importantly we should be retaining a remission of our sins every day.  Remission of sins is defined as the long-term efficacy of obtaining forgiveness from the Lord, where we can “walk guiltless before God” and remain clean before Him.  This is obtained by “imparting of [our] substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26).   Remission of sins is obtained by obeying the golden rule, which is to treat others the way we want to be treated.  That is the same as keeping iniquity away.

Retaining a remission of sins from day to day and consciously eliminating iniquity in this manner is part of bringing forth Zion.  King Benjamin in the previous verse was talking about people being able to retain a remission of their sins by living free of iniquity.   This was the beginning of a Zion-like community among the people of King Benjamin.  It never matured into Zion, but it tried but the next generous blew it. 

In the parable of the marriage of the King’s son we read that “both good and bad” (Matthew 22:10) people were ultimately in attendance.  This implies even sinners were there.  As the story goes it tells about a guest who is not wearing “the wedding garment” so he is kicked out of the feast (Matthew 22:11-13).  This wedding garment is placed upon “both good and bad” people in order to cover their sins so they can be part of the wedding feast, or be part of the “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 22:2), or Zion.  This wedding garment is the same as the coat of skins that were placed upon Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  It is also the same as the garment of the holy priesthood which members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wear daily underneath their clothing.  This garment symbolizes the covering of our sins through our faith in Christ.  When God looks upon us, if we are covered in a wedding garment, a coat of skins or the garment of the priesthood, then He sees the image of Christ and extends unto us a remission of sin. 

Joseph Smith said, “charity covereth a multitude of sins” (DHC 4:445).  The wedding garment, the coat of skins and our garments symbolize charity.  It is also described as a cloak of charity.  This cloak of charity is the same thing as that which is required of us to retain a remission of our sins.  Constant daily repentance seems to be a fruitless practice.  It focuses on individual sins and frustrates the sinner more than it alleviates him.  A more effective way to overcome sin is by turning to God, asking for forgiveness and thereafter retaining a remission of sins by putting on the wedding garment.  The wedding garment is put on ourselves by treating others in the same way we want to be treated.  It is by eliminating iniquity from among us.  Then we can become Zion-like.  Becoming Zion-like has less to do with being sin-free or sinless, and more to do with retaining a remission of sins. 

Living free from iniquity is the same as retaining a remission of sins.  It is the same as having a cloak of charity upon our shoulders.  It is imparting of our substance to the poor, every man according to that which he has, such as feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.  Doing those things is the very act of eliminating iniquity.  It is exactly one of the main things that we need to do in order to bring forth Zion. 

Eliminating iniquity from our midst is imperative if we are going to become a Zion-like people.  We must repent of our iniquities if we are going to be Zion.  Doing those things set forth by King Benjamin is what it means to be of one heart and one mind and to be righteous.  The inequality, the injustice, the unfairness, the vanity, the greed, the selfishness, holding onto grudges, keeping others in our debt, etc. are put away when we begin to live in such a way as to take care of every one both temporally and spiritually. 

The sin of iniquity has existed since the dawn of time.   Over time iniquitous individuals combine and without even being aware of it, they establish norms, standards and laws protecting their iniquity.  This probably happened without a formal plan, but if there was a formal plan to organize iniquity, then that is considered a secret combination, which we’re really not discussing in this blog post. 

We are all fallen and desire to compete against others and protect ourselves.  It is according to human nature to be iniquitous.  The problem is that human nature is not in accordance with God, and has been in opposition with God from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever (Mosiah 3:19).  In order to overcome our fallen nature we need to  “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and put off the natural man and become a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and become as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).  Therefore, because we don’t put off the natural man and seek to become Godlike, we always end up in societies distinguished by sin and iniquity that eventually become filled with abominations and secret combinations.

Iniquity sets the standard for the world.  Practically everything we live by is iniquitous.  The paradigm under which we all live could go by the name Iniquity.  It is secret in that no one recognizes or identifies it as iniquitous, yet it exists in plain sight everywhere.  Sure, we have made positive strides in some iniquitous things such as racism or women’s rights, so we can claim progress over these things, but these problems wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for iniquity.  The reason racism is not completely eradicated is because some people revel in iniquity and they get gain from it.  The same could be said of women’s rights.

Iniquity even permeates our Church.  Here are some basic more obvious examples:  Confession of sins to bishops and stake presidents is iniquitous.  There is not one single verse of scripture that requires members of Christ’s church to confess sins to a bishop or stake president.  When a bishop tells a sincerely contrite and penitent person to discontinue partaking of the sacrament that is iniquity on the leader's part.  It has been my experience that when I have asked the Lord for forgiveness, he gives it to me immediately on the spot.  The fact that there is a hierarchy of leaders, both on the local level and on the general authority level, is evidence of iniquity.  The fact that the Relief Society has to report to the men is iniquitous.  Tithing settlements are iniquitous.  Several of our temple recommend interview questions are iniquitous.  Home teaching statistics are iniquitous.  Salaries for Mission Presidents, Seventies, the Twelve and the First Presidency are iniquitous, let alone they manifest priestcraft.  The correlated curriculum for Sunday School classes is iniquitous.  The standardized dress code (white shirts and ties) for young men who administer the sacrament is iniquitous.  The self-righteousness in Fast and Testimony meetings where people publicly declare they know the Church is the only true and living Church on the face of the whole earth, or they express how thankful they are that they have the fulness of the gospel and the priesthood is iniquitous.  I could go on and on.  The iniquity in the Church is thick, but no one sees it or says anything about it, because to do so would be to “speak evil of the Lord’s anointed.”  After all, all of the things I described above came from the “prophets, seers and revelators” of the Church.

We need to rise above our current system of living.  We live in a world that is literally filled with sin, iniquity, abominations and secret combinations.  We are ripe for destruction.  It is of utmost importance and urgency for us to start a new way of living.  Just like as in times of old, we live in a society where iniquity is protected by laws.  Think of when King Noah and his priests “Were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity” (Mosiah 11:6).  The same can be said of our Congress.  The laws of this country are increasingly oppressive, yet the legislators are not obligated to abide by many of them.  They can vote themselves raises, while the cost of living increases and the remainder of the people suffer.

Iniquity is practiced by groups of people embracing iniquity without them even knowing it.  Such was the case when the people of King Noah were later put into bondage to the Lamanites and they were desirous to repent but had not figured how to yet: 

“And now the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage” (Mosiah 21:15). 

This verse seems to imply that even though the people were repentant, they still embraced a paradigm of inequality among themselves, undermining the Lord’s ability to forgive them.  I believe they were still placing an overemphasis on King Limhi’s position and that of others in his court.  The efficaciousness of their repentance hinged to a certain degree on the recognition and abandonment of their collective iniquity (Mosiah 21:17-18).

One of the main things real prophets do, besides testify of Jesus Christ, is they prophesy against iniquity.  The way I see it, the number one reason prophets are persecuted, kicked out or killed is because they prophesy against iniquity, abominations and secret combinations, not necessarily because they prophesy of Christ.  Speaking against those things more often than not threatens the people’s position, rank, status, comfort, income, livelihood, etc.  It reveals the inconspicuous inequalities and injustices that exist among mankind that are accepted by the masses as “just the way things are."  Secondary to testifying and teaching of Christ, it seems true prophets tell the people to repent of iniquity.  By doing that they jeopardize their standing in their society.  They are mocked, ridiculed, stoned, persecuted, excommunicated, etc. not necessarily because they testify against sin or of Jesus Christ, but because they are denouncing the normal accepted ways of society.  When someone comes along and tells you that the foundation of society is based on iniquity and that you need to repent or destruction will follow, then most people are inclined to get rid of that person.  Iniquity is the greatest stumbling Block to Zion. 

On a different note with regard to the current fellowships of Zion now forming and meeting regularly, before Zion will be brought forth, we “must wait for strength to develop in the first fellowships.”  The current fellowships can develop strength by first being baptized and then eliminating iniquity from among us.  This “challenge is an order of magnitude greater than fellowshipping, and will require much of us” (Things Now Underway).

The fellowships must put on strength as the Lord through Isaiah commanded:  Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion (Isaiah 52:1).  “Putting on strength” is to “put on the authority of the priesthood” (D&C 113:7-8).  The priesthood is inextricably linked with the absence of iniquity.  If iniquity exists then priesthood is nullified:
“The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and… the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.  That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:36-37).
Iniquity is the reason the priesthood is withdrawn from mankind.  It is not necessarily sin that causes the powers of heaven to withdraw themselves.  Rather it is iniquity.  To “put on strength” or to “put on the priesthood” requires us to forsake iniquity.  Undertaking to cover our sins, gratifying our pride, our vain ambitions, or exercising control, dominion, or compulsion are expressions of iniquity.  “Putting on strength” means we treat others with equality, fairness, respect, and love.  These are the opposites of iniquity.  In our dealings with others we should use persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love-unfeigned, kindness and pure knowledge.  

The command “Awake, Awake, put on thy strength, O Zion” (Isaiah 52:1) is telling us to awaken to our awful situation and denounce the world by rising above the iniquity that characterizes it, thereby “putting on the authority of the priesthood” of God.  Iniquity undermines the priesthood.  It renders the priesthood ineffective. 

To “put on thy strength, O Zion” pertains to both genders, not just men.  When we put on the authority of the priesthood, we gain a fellowship with the powers of heaven and the Power of Heaven.  That sort of fellowship is not contingent upon receiving a certificate from a man indicating you have been ordained.  That sort of priesthood is given by God’s voice directly to the recipient.

“Put on thy strength, O Zion; Put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem” (Isaiah 52:1) is the same as a command to put on the wedding garment, to put on the coat of skins, to wear the garment of the holy priesthood.  This command from Isaiah pertains to us right now.  We have been commanded to arise and do this.  It is the task staring us in the face. 

Let us each resolve to treat others the way we want to be treated.  Let us be generous in all of our substance.  “For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things” (D&C 78:6).   This is extremely important if we desire to progress toward Zion.  For, “it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin” (D&C 49:20).  Let us rise above our sins by placing the cloak of charity upon ourselves and others, and move one step closer to Zion.