Saturday, November 15, 2008

Zion Seekers

So today was another one of those "sequester-myself-in-my-room-until-my-homework-is-done-or-until-I-fritter-my-life-away-Saturdays". I couldn't really stand the thought of being social, eating, or anything like that. I am happy. I really am, but I am just so stressed out that I have to withdraw from everything . So I stayed in my room, took my Book of Mormon Quiz- I got a 9/10, thought about my Spanish test, Rough Stone Rolling when I woke up, avoiding tithing settlement, avoiding thinking about BYU religious culture, avoiding Prop 8 backlash- I can't avoid it. It is everywhere, and finally a visit to SarahJane. And now I am thinking that I have to avoid my LSH friends. I am just not in the mood to see them right now. I am tired. And stressed.

In my experience at BYU, I have come to realize that there are essential two motives for coming to BYU. There are those who to come to Utah hoping to find a fellowship of the Saints and hence find what they believe to be "Zion". Then there is the other type. Me. The people who don't know why they came to BYU- besides its stellar academic record and the feeling that they should be here or came here for program x or program y. Tonight I would like to blog about why people who come to Provo, or Utah to try to find Zion need to realize that Utah is Zion, but not because it is Utah, but because we make it Zion.

One of the first "Zion Seekers" I met here at BYU told me repeatedly about their patriarchal blessing and how it claimed that they would marry quickly, raise their children in the Gospel, see God and Christ, and live a cookie cutter perfect life, if they were obedient. I was impressed at first, but then quickly became disillusioned as her view of Utah in general grew to dishearten me. She thought it was perfect how Utah is the way it is, that it is so great to be around so many active Mormons, that this really is the place, along with other oddities in her Mormon belief(people have no right to turn down a calling anyone?) I often get the impression that either I am wrong or they are wrong. Or we are both wrong. But I digress.

Her "Zion Seeking" to me drove me to the point where we could no longer be friends. Had she lived through the pain of my progression from a Utah Hades to a Utah heaven, she would understand my hesitance in her statements. Let me say this straight out: Utah is just as much Zion as anywhere in America- from Oregon to Massachusetts,or from Canada to Russia, from east to west, wherever there are the pure in heart and the faithful, there Zion is. Zion, in our modern conception, is much more of a state of mind, rather than an actual place. Utah has a higher concentration of Mormons, yes. But with that higher concentration also comes a low activity rate, higher rates of disillusion with the Church, and other problems. It is not that Utah Mormons are any worse or less faithful than other Mormons, it is merely the concentration of Mormons that causes the problem. People feel the need to be diverse, different. In my opinion, however, the greatest need for Zion is diversity, not similarity. God never wants us to abandon who we are, he wants us to abandon what our carnal nature would have us be. He doesn't want people who are all the same, He wants all of His precious saints, both black and white, bound and free, straight and gay, liberal and conservative, it doesn't matter to Him. The only thing He asks is that we give our life to Him. If we give our life, our heart and our sins to Him, we have built Zion.

So how did I come to see Utah as Zion? It was a slow progression. I loved then hated and now love Utah. I don't really understand how the progression happened. But I do believe that as I tried to give up my pride and attempted to retain my individuality, I discovered that Zion is what we make of it. I needed a better attitude. I am trying to see past people's imperfections as I try to forgive myself of my own. I forgive people for things they say as I try to remember that I have said much worse. Thus, I found Zion. Or rather, I am finding Zion.

And that has made all the difference.

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