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Greater commandments accompany greater revelations. Zion is a greater revelation. We realize the importance of receiving greater commandments when we read that Elder Orson F. Whitney referred to commandments as “sacred patterns,”[i] or, in other words, what we might call God’s revelation of his celestial lifestyle.
We recall that one of the crowning blessings of becoming Zion people is to receive “commandments not a few.”[ii] The pure in heart seek and receive greater commandments that are calculated to align our lives with that of God and those who live in the celestial kingdom.
Abraham desired to become like God and to receive greater revelations and privileges. Therefore, to that end he sought for the higher commandments, which are associated with the Melchizedek Priesthood and which yield those results. These greater commandments helped to conduct Abraham, a “follower of righteousness,” into the Lord’s presence.[iii]
Likewise, when the Nephites stood in the presence of the resurrected Lord, they received greater commandments that had to do with celestial living.[iv] Their account becomes our model.
The Greater Commandment to Pray Always
Of the many commandments that the resurrected Lord gave to the Nephites on the occasion of his appearance, we will single out three that directly produce a Zionlike life. The first is the commandment to pray always. Jesus “commanded them that they should not cease to pray in their hearts.”[v]
At a minimum, praying always would mean that we should assume a reverent, prayerful attitude while we go about our daily activities. This would include continual communication, worship, awareness, gratitude, accountability to God for our actions, and recognizing our total dependence on the Lord. This prayerful attitude is the engine that drives humility and the purification of the heart; this attitude raises the antenna of revelation and flags opportunities to serve.
Continual prayer forms a shield of protection against the adversary, whose attacks are as persistent as should be our prayers. To the Nephites, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him. . . . Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name.”[vi]
Then Jesus raised the issue of light as a reason to pray. As much as he was the Light and had set a bright example, so his disciples must become lights themselves, for the purpose of drawing people to the Light by means of their prayers and actions:
Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you. . . . Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed. And ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world.
We must personalize and live this commandment; but if we neglect to live it, we will lose the protection of prayer and become vulnerable to the attacks of Satan: “And whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation.”[vii]
Constant prayer helps us to retain light. As we know, light[viii] is synonymous with truth,[ix] spirit,[x] intelligence,[xi] power,[xii] law,[xiii] life,[xiv] agency,[xv] and glory,[xvi] to name a few things. Whereas a celestially resurrected body “shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in [it],”[xvii] a telestial body must receive ongoing transfusions of light in order to progress spiritually: That which is of God is light; and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”[xviii]
The Lord has told us how we can infuse light into our systems. A few transfusion methods are participating in scripture study, partaking of the sacrament, being anointed with oil, performing charitable service, participating in temple worship, and, of course, praying. The more our bodies are filled with light, the more we can comprehend all things.[xix] Therefore, we should pray always.
Continual prayer facilitates the creation of Zion people by offering them an avenue of communication with God. But there is more. Continual prayer provides Zion people access to God’s protection and power of discernment. Continual prayer gives them a way to infuse light into their beings, thus increasing their capacity to assimilate or enjoy truth, spirit, intelligence, power, celestial law, spiritual life, and glory, and agency. Once lighted through constant prayer, a Zion person is commanded to light other people and bring them to the Light, even Jesus Christ.
Prayer fulfills the law of asking and receiving.[xx] The simple act of praying is a powerful agent to access God and draw upon his goodness, abilities, and resources. Asking the Father in the name of Jesus Christ for those things that we need is central to the law of consecration. Once we have covenanted to live that law—and indeed are striving to live it—we are forevermore entitled to ask for those things that we need and want from the higher kingdom so that we might build ours.
And what is the eternal kingdom that we are striving to build by asking and receiving? Our families. Therefore, the Lord instructed, “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.”[xxi] Continual prayer is the vehicle to ask and receive, and sincere prayer carries the Lord’s absolute promise: “And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.”[xxii]
From all indications, it seems that once the Nephites, in their interaction with the resurrected Lord, had experienced the power of prayer, they never returned to offering casual prayers. Surely they recognized prayer’s inherent power to make them Zion people, and obviously they employed it. If we wish to become Zion people with the ability to ask for and receive blessings, we must follow this same pattern.
The Greater Commandment to Have All Things in Common
Almost as an aside, Mormon noted that after the Savior’s visit, the Nephites experienced a cultural transformation that was as extraordinary as the mighty change that they had experienced in their hearts. Mormon wrote: “And they taught, and did minister one to another; and they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another.”[xxiii]
It is difficult to overstate the significance of this occurrence. The cultural change that had happened among the converted Nephites was the polar opposite to life as they had known it. Once they had made a covenant to assume this new way of life, they determined to live that new way without external legislation. That is, they managed to live a new way by individual choice.
Because of the new condition of their hearts, they determined to become stewards who were accountable to God; no longer would they see themselves as owners of the Lord’s property. Forevermore, they would labor to build up the Church and their Zion instead of selfishly pursuing individual wealth-building enterprises.
They would fully embrace the Royal Law of the gospel: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”[xxiv] The result of their transformation was that they became one and had all things in common.
Their faith in living this new cultural experiment paid off with unbelievable and unanticipated blessings. Mormon recorded that contentions and disputations ceased; “and every man did deal justly one with another;” poverty, servitude, and social stratification were eradicated; the people became equal; peace prevailed; and great and marvelous miracles became the norm. Moreover, the people experienced unequalled prosperity. Now unified, they built great cities, and “did wax strong, and did multiply exceedingly fast, and became an exceedingly fair and delightsome people.”
Continuing, we read that they married in the Covenant, “and were blessed according to the multitude of the promises which the Lord had made unto them.” They became strictly obedient and “did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord.”
The love of God dwelt in the hearts of the people. “And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but 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.”[xxv]
We might expect that our initial attempts to implement the law of Zion so that commonality could prevail would feel like a temporary cultural shock, causing us to rethink our priorities. But if we can summon courage and push through the learning curve, incredible blessings await us, which will more than compensate for the effort.
The Greater Commandment to Be “Even As the Lord Is”
For the commandments to pray always and have all things in common, Jesus is our Exemplar. When he prayed for the Nephites he focused their attention on his example: “Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye have all witnessed.”[xxvi] Jesus is our model of a celestial lifestyle: “I have set an example for you.”[xxvii]
Pertaining to the law of consecration, which produces commonality among all people, the Lord said that this law is “even as I am.” If we were to choose one word to describe Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the relationship to which we must aspire if we hope to become even as he is, that word would be oneness: “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”[xxviii]
If we are commanded to become like him, we might ask ourselves, What are the Father and the Son like? Perhaps Joseph Smith offered the best description:
God is the only supreme governor and independent being in whom all fullness and perfection dwell; who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; without beginning of days or end of life; and that in him every good gift and every good principle dwell; and that he is the Father of lights; in him the principle of faith dwells independently.[xxix]
Of course, at this stage of our existence, we can only appreciate these divine traits; for now, these traits are beyond our reach. Therefore, our efforts should be centered on developing these divine traits. As we continue to progress, we rely on the Lord’s promise that our journey will lead us to inheriting all that God has and become all that he is.[xxx]
As we strive to become even as the Father and the Son are, we remember that we have in common with them our co-eternalness; that is, our origin is the same; likewise, because we are literal children of God, our potential destiny can be the same. Our challenge, therefore, is to become co-equal with the Father and the Son,[xxxi] and that is accomplished by following their example and developing their traits and their level of oneness.
To become like God is to internalize his lifestyle so completely that we will not depart from it. Describing God, Joseph Smith said that he was the same before the creation as he is today: “He changes not, neither is there variableness with him; but that he is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and that his course is one eternal round, without variation.” For us to become even as the Father and the Son are, we must strive for a consistency of righteousness.
The Prophet continued to list a set of characteristics and attributes that the Father and the Son possess in perfection. We must develop these traits if we are to become like them. The Prophet began with the characteristics of mercy and graciousness (“indulgent, generous, displaying divine grace and compassion”).
Continuing, the Prophet said that God is “slow to anger” and “abundant in goodness.” Moreover, “He is a God of truth and cannot lie”; “He is no respecter of persons”; that is, if we work righteousness, he is obliged to accept and bless us, just as he accepted and blessed Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Brother of Jared, Joseph Smith, and all who sought his face—and if we do wickedly, he is obliged to send consequences, regardless of our previous favor.
Finally, “he is love.”[xxxii]
The Prophet went on to say that God’s character is a set of perfect attributes; that is, he possesses the following qualities in totality. These are:
Knowledge—He knows all things past, present, and future.
Faith or power—He is all powerful.
Justice—He is completely fair and equitable.
Judgment—He is perfect in both his reasoning and his rulings.
Mercy—His grace, compassion, long-suffering, pity, clemency, forgiveness, kindness, sympathy, understanding, leniency, and benevolence are infinite and unending.
Truth—Beyond being incapable of lying, he deals with things as they really are; he is accurate, genuine, precise; he is honest, loyal, devoted, and sincere; his integrity is impeccable; he deals with unimpeachable facts and certainties.[xxxiii]
When the Lord commands us to become like him, he expects us to aim for these characteristics and attributes. Our eventual goal is to become like him: that is, celestial governors in our own right; independent beings in whom all fulness and perfection dwell; gods like the supreme God, who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, without beginning of days or end of life; beings who possess every good gift and in whom every good principle dwells; celestial fathers and mothers of lights, in whom the principles of faith dwell independently.[xxxiv]
These are samples of greater commandments—to pray always, to have all things in common, and to be even as Jesus Christ is—that have power to help us become Zion, the pure in heart, and to qualify to someday stand in the presence of God.
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[i] Whitney, Saturday Night Thoughts, 133–34; Whitney, Gospel Themes, 115.
[ii] D&C 59:4.
[iii] Abraham 1:2, 15–19.
[iv] See, for example, 3 Nephi 12–14.
[v] 3 Nephi 20:1.
[vi] 3 Nephi 18:15, 18–19.
[vii] 3 Nephi 18:16, 24–25; emphasis added.
[viii] D&C 88:7–13.
[ix] 1 John 5:6; D&C 84:45; 88:66.
[x] D&C 84:45.
[xi] D&C 93:29.
[xii] D&C 88:7–10, 13.
[xiii] D&C 88:13.
[xiv] John 1:4.
[xv] D&C 93:30–31.
[xvi] D&C 93:36.
[xvii] D&C 88:67.
[xviii] D&C 50:23–24.
[xix] D&C 88:67.
[xx] John 16:24; 3 Nephi 27:29; D&C 4:7; 49:26; 88:63; 103:31.
[xxi] 3 Nephi 18:21.
[xxii] 3 Nephi 18:20; emphasis added.
[xxiii] 3 Nephi 26:19.
[xxiv] Matthew 22:37–39.
[xxv] 4 Nephi 1:3–18.
[xxvi] 3 Nephi 18:24.
[xxvii] 3 Nephi 18:16.
[xxviii] D&C 38:27.
[xxix] Smith, Lectures on Faith, 2:2.
[xxx] D&C 84:35–39; 132:19–24.
[xxxi] Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 395.
[xxxii] Smith, Lectures on Faith, 3:13–18.
[xxxiii] Smith, Lectures on Faith, 4:5–10.
[xxxiv] Smith, Lectures on Faith, 2:2.