A Healthy Society


As a mormon, I’ve often pondered on the nature of Zion. In our scriptures, it’s not what you expect it to be.

In one place, Zion is called the “Pure in heart”. In another, it’s the city that Enoch built that was taken to heaven. We are called to build Zion in our homes and in our communities no matter where we live.

Zion is not an imaginary place. As a mormon, I believe Zion is already here, in part, and Zion will physically exist on this earth at some point in time for all humanity.

Suppose that there were an ideal place or society or system of government or whatnot, where everything went exactly according to “The Plan”, as far as I understand it. In such a world we would still have death and pain and sorrow, because that’s part of “The Plan”. We would still have to work. We would struggle with sin and evil. Again, it’s all part of “The Plan”. The purpose of this earth life is not to avoid sadness and sin and other bad things, but to embrace them and learn to live with them. We don’t look to a future where they go away, but where we learn how to overcome them. We mormons are not looking for this world to go away, but instead for a way to deal with this world and exceed its limits.

In such a society, we would still have laws, and we would still have lawbreakers. Of course we would punish violations of the law, according to the law. That is, after all, what law is all about. It’s a promise to punish wrongdoing. We can debate about the nature of law and its purpose and how we should approach the act of legislation, but there is no doubt that there will be a government and there will be a law in Zion. What is the point of a government and the law if there is nothing to do?

In Zion, Christ will be king, and not just in name. He will sit at the head of a government, complete with councils and judges and officers. What form that government will take, I cannot say exactly, but the last time God set his law on earth is recorded in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and that government is harsh and brutal. Under that government, absolute obedience is required, or else harsh punishments, inflicted by the people who you have offended, are exacted. Murder, rape, false prophecy and blasphemy are rewarded with death. Other crimes are punished in kind: If you steal, you pay back and then many times more. Tort law is simple: If you hurt someone unintentionally, you repay them in kind.

And yet, the people choose their representatives. You have captains of tens, fifties, and hundreds. And the judges are made of people locally appointed as well. So it will be a representative monarchy. I think that is the ideal form of government: One where we recognize an absolute, objective power as the sole source of all government power, and where we have clearly and fairly laid out laws, which are enforced not by the government but by the people themselves. And the people elect their representatives.

What about society? In Zion, I presume that people will be free to pursue their fancies, whatever their heart desires. Obviously, they won’t be out to injure or harm each other, but given the tort law that existed in Moses’ time, it is clear that sometimes they will, and they’ll be expected to repay in kind. Those few who are broken and do pursue a course of harm will be dealt with.

Men would be expected to perfect themselves, of course, rather than being put on trial by public opinion. That means a lot. In the church, when someone goes way off the path and starts to harm others, we don’t talk about it publicly, except inasmuch as they offended us publicly. We expect them to work out their crimes with the bishop and God, and whatever the bishop says we accept because we were not in the counseling and councils that considered the matter. Our job, in such a case, is to show love and compassion, and enforce the law.

One key fact of the Zion society is that you don’t accidentally develop a Zion society. You must consciously pursue it. If there is to be a city, I fully expect that those who wish to join it must show a certain level of competence and familiarity with the laws, and then be expected to swear a solemn oath before God and witnesses to keep the law. With such a covenant, you are allowed to enter Zion, but you are expected to be punished for disobedience to the covenant. At any time, you can freely leave, but those who swear falsely, who pretend to keep the oath when they are really violating it, will be punished accordingly.

How do we get to there from here? I have a few ideas.

  1. Vigorously pursue your own life. Make yourself strong, rich, wise, educated, and noble. No one can ever do this for you.
  2. Create a Zion family by treating each other fairly and kindly, but being strict with the law. Take responsibility for your family culture, especially if you are parents. No one but you can fix your own family.
  3. Create a Zion community by treating others fairly and kindly, and being strict with the law. Pursue fair laws that punish the criminals and ignore those who are good. Find good leaders to represent you who have sworn a higher oath to righteousness rather than party loyalties. Do whatever it takes to make your community strong and wealthy.
  4. Center the attention on God and his perfection, rather than selfish pursuits. By focusing on God, don’t abandon the world. The point is not to leave this world, but to perfect it by overcoming it.

If you look at politics today, you see that there are all sorts of forces at work to make the above impossible. Identify them, neutralize them, and pursue Zion regardless. Let me list a few I have seen.

  • Sexual immorality, and a lackadaisical attitude towards sex and marriage.
  • Petty politics, the pursuit of partisan victories at the cost of the good of the whole. Rare indeed is it to find a politician willing to put his career at risk for righteousness’ sake. Some people wonder why Julius Caesar was so well-loved and truly great and inspirational: It’s because he put it all on the line, every day, to do what he believed was best, regardless of the consequences.
  • Pointless bickering over mundane points instead of focusing on what is truly important and seeking to perfect oneself before each other.
  • A lack of religious piety and reverence, demonstrated by our complete lack of education about theology and morality, as well as our unwillingness to listen to such lofty concepts.
  • A devout focus on pop-culture. As a society, we know who is playing in the superbowl or what celebrity caught the headlines in the news, but we can’t quote and religious or moral leader and their cautions and warnings against our current state.

As a final note, let me remind the reader: If we consider Zion as something “over there”, we will never achieve it. We must pursue Zion as if it is here now, and as if it is something that can be grown and achieved in our lifetimes.

4 Responses to “A Healthy Society”

  1. Jason Gardner Says:

    The problem with utopias is that so far nobody knows what works. We know what we want to work, what makes us feel good and what we wish the world was like but we really don’t know (or won’t accept) what actually works.

    I’ll give you an example. For large mammals, including humans up to the last 100 years or so, the numbers are pretty straightforwards. Somewhere around 70% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. (The vast majority the woman doesn’t know about.) Further, about 25% of mammals will die in infancy. Around 1/2 will be dead before sexual maturity. Of those that reach sexual maturity most of the women will reproduce but most of the men will not.

    In humans, the numbers are pretty clear from the genetic record. You have about twice as many female ancestors as male ancestors. Men who made it to sexual maturity had about a 40% chance of reproducing. The ones that did often were prolific but more often than not males dies without heirs.

    So… Is this good or bad? On the surface it sounds manifestly unfair. Why should so many children die? Why should most males fail to secure a mate?

    Seems pretty damn unfair and ugly, no? But, maybe that’s the way it needs to be. Maybe the world is a better place when the “worst” majority of males fail to reproduce. Perhaps a world with the weak, dull and useless reproducing (making many more weak, dull and useless children) is actually a hell?

    Same with say.. women voting. There has never been a society in human history where women made the bulk of political decision. This experiment in female franchise is only 100 years or so old.

    Now, it sounds great, doesn’t? Respect women, everyone gets a say and so on.. But the reality is that we have almost no long term data on societies run by women.

    But here is what we know.. Women appear to vote themselves a husband (the gubment). Worse, women, if left to their own devices will often pursue risky sexual strategies and fail to make children in numbers enough to maintain a population.

    So we Europeans gave our women the right to make their own decisions and they promptly grew the size of government (See figure 3), stopped having children and pursued sexual gratification.


    The rapid growth in the size of government correlates with female voting as does the drop in birth rate.

    Currently, we see that our people are not sustainable, or society and government are not sustainable. Is that because female franchise? I don’t know, it might be?

    So is female empowerment a good thing or a bad thing? I know if feels good, but is it?

    Or war. War is as old as time itself. Animals have been fighting for hundreds of millions of years. All animals fight. Just how it is.

    Is war good? On the surface, no. But maybe it is? Maybe war is how the strong eliminate the weak, thereby keeping the whole of the world strong. Maybe that’s how we as humans get rid of societies with bad ideas.

    One thing about war is that it is honest. You can’t lie about the results. If you enemy beats you in battle, the stakes are clear. You’re dead and at best your family is slaves.

    Hard? Yes. Maybe it’s good because it wipes out inferior cultures. I don’t know.

    What Europe is doing seems good. Let refugees in, show compassion, etc. However, there are soon going to be 7 billion sub-Saharan Africans***. Can they all flood in? Not without ending Europe.

    Maybe they will wipe out Europe. If so, I’ll tell you straight up that Europe’s “ideal society” was not so ideal.

    So maybe the compassionate and fair society we all imagine is actually a recipe for hell on earth. Maybe the sever and, at times cruel, society that nature prescribes is actually the better choice.

    *** This is partially due to Bill Gates, who has recently admitted the errors in his ways. He’s stopping with the life extending charity and handing out birth control. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/health/melinda-gates-birth-control-poverty.html

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      Yes. Which is why the future Zion is nothing like we imagine it to be. If we do truly live by God’s laws in Zion, then prepare for the brutal laws in the Book of Moses, where you get the death penalty for working on the Sabbath or if you say something sideways about God. Under Mosaic Law, women can’t own property, and if they inherit their husband’s property, then the first kin that comes along can claim all of it.

      Are we, so-called “modern man”, ready for this? I don’t think so.

      Maybe man is meant to live a certain way, under strict but fair rules.

      A passage from Zarathustra I can’t stop thinking about. The tightrope walker goes out on the rope, but there quickly came another tightrope walker, obviously more skilled, who leaps over the first. The first plunges to his death in the ground below. With his last breaths, he asks Zarathustra if it was the devil that did that and if he was bound for hell. Zarathustra assures him that it wasn’t the devil (at least none that he would recognize) and that there is no hell (not what he would recognize.) Indeed, by daring to go out on the tightrope at all, by putting his life at risk, he reached closer to saving humanity and compelling everyone towards Superman than anyone else in that town. It was those who were complacent and unwilling to risk and try and build new things who were the devil and their life was hell, not those who dared to try to do something better.

      Well, we’ve been experimenting for 100 years with our current system. It’s obviously broken. It’s time to experiment with something else, or perhaps reverse what we did and go back to what we know worked better, so we can get our bearings and try again.

  2. Jason Gardner Says:

    I often think that the message of the bible has been corrupted a bit. Two of the central ideas of Christianity are:

    1) Do it right and you’ll go to heaven after you die.
    2) Do it wrong and you’ll go to hell after you die.

    I think we got it wrong.

    Suppose your choices have led you to live an absolutely dreadful life. You’re addicted to drugs and work servicing men behind a dumpster for $10 a pop. Now my question for you is… Does such a person actually need to wait to die to go to hell? I would assert that they are ALREADY in hell. So I would amend the message to “If you sin, you will go to hell…. Now.”

    Alternately, suppose your choices have led you to a rewarding life. Respected by the community. Adored by your wife and children. Satisfied in your work and your life’s accomplishments. Health well maintained and your mind full of wisdom and vigor. Sooo…. Do you have to wait to die to go to heaven? Aren’t you in heaven now? I mean, how much better can it get?

    I believe that your actions lead to heaven and hell now. You don’t have to wait. Live a life according to correct principles and you will live in heaven. Live a life against the correct principles and you will live in hell. Now. Not tomorrow but now.

    I notice that in old people. Those that have lived their lives properly, having lived according to correct principles (to put it in Roman terms, having honored the Gods, their ancestors and descendants) are almost never afraid to die. They “Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.” They die in heaven, in other words.

    Those that life a life of cowardice, shirking responsibilities, failing to honor their place in the grand scheme of life (e.g. raising useless kids, chasing money, etc.) almost universally fear death. They die, for lack of a better word, in hell.

    As for immortality. I think we have a pretty weird understanding of that as well. Many an ambitions man among our pre-christian ancestors was desirous of immortality. However, they were aware that the way towards immortality is to be a hero to your people. To basically get the Medal of Honor in service to your people.

    For example, I know who Alexander the Great is. I’m sure you do to. He is immortal, for his exploits are well know to us. Caesar is immortal in the sense that I’ve read his books and this thoughts have influenced my as if he was alive today. Marcus Aurelius still influences young men today as if here were a living philosopher.

    Similarly Ragnar Lothbrook is still revered as a hero to the Viking people as is Washington and Jefferson to our people. Ditto Genghis Khan, Lord Nelson, etc. You get the point.

    In other words, you had to bust your butt to be immortal in the ancient world. You couldn’t just sit around and wait for it to happen to you. You had to earn it through your exploits and service to you people.

    If you served your people well, they would remember you as a hero and you would only perish when your people perished.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      Your two points of Christianity are fundamentally flawed. I don’t even think the Jews believe that. Sure, some people might think that’s what Christianity teaches, but I can’t think of a single sect that would put it in such simple terms. The core of Christianity, after all, is faith and repentance and redemption. After all, the basic religion is as you outlined — every culture and race of man has some sort of moral system which punishes bad and rewards good.

      The Judeo-Christian beliefs are completely different. Jews spoke about the unalterable covenant God made with them. They were “chosen”. They couldn’t be stopped. No matter what they did, they could offer the right sacrifice and they would be justified. Christians taught that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, you can always show faith in Christ, repent, and be restored as if you never broke any laws at all. How many other religions and cultures had a definite way of redemption for the sinner, accessible to all?

      You’re absolutely right: Hell is not supernatural. Hell is right here on earth. It’s a state of mind, a state of being. Heaven also.

      You’re absolutely right: The choices you make have consequences; some consequences are delayed, others are nearly instantaneous.

      And you’re right: You can tell a lot about how someone lived their life by how they die. Some go cowering, others go nobly.

      The pre-Christian notions of immortality and eternal life indeed match what you say. Although, I would daresay that Caesar and others were not just *imagined* to be immortal, or rather, to the people living in those times and places, their immortality was just as real as anything else, to them.

      However, Christ did something amazing that has yet to be replicated: Not only did he show himself in body to thousands of people, who testified, but it is recorded that the graves were opened up and many people rose back to life, and visited their families and descendants. Christ’s immortality was an indisputable fact in the ancient world, so much so that you could run around and tell people about how he was resurrected and the authorities couldn’t stop you because they knew everyone knew it was true.

      Now, as of yet, I have not seen a resurrected person, but the witness of the Bible is indisputable, meaning, I can’t find any way to dispute it. It is such a fantastic tale, but it has so many witnesses that it becomes undeniable. If you are going to accept any word of history in any book, then you’re going to have to accept the historical account of Christ’s resurrection in the Bible.

      I asked a Jewish friend once about Christ’s resurrection. *He didn’t deny it*, not even today. He said something about how maybe Jesus read the name of God and abused it to rise from the dead, or how he may have been a magician or something. But he couldn’t deny that Jesus was dead, and he became alive again. If the Jews still can’t deny the resurrection of Christ, how can we?

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