Creating a Zion Culture in the Midst of Babylon
This is a duplicate of the article I wrote for FatherThyWillBeDone.com . If you wish to comment, please do so on that site, not here.
Elder David R. Stone of the Seventy delivered a fantastic talk in the April 2006 General Conference on the Subject of “Creating Zion in the Midst of Babylon” I found particularly poignant his comments on popular culture:
I quote some specific excerpts below that stood out by their relevance to the issue of Popular Culture.
Too many of the people of the world [ and I would add even people of the church] have come to resemble the Babylon of old by walking in their own ways, and following a god “whose image is in the likeness of the world.”
One of the greatest challenges we will face is to be able to live in that world but somehow not be of that world. We have to create Zion in the midst of Babylon.
“Zion in the midst of Babylon.” What a luminous and incandescent phrase, as a light shining in the midst of spiritual darkness. What a concept to hold close to our hearts, as we see Babylon becoming more widespread. We see Babylon in our cities; we see Babylon in our communities; we see Babylon everywhere.
And with the encroachment of Babylon, we have to create Zion in the midst of it. We should not allow ourselves to be engulfed by the culture which surrounds us. We seldom realize the extent to which we are a product of the culture of our place and time.
What an insidious thing is this culture amidst which we live. It permeates our environment, and we think we are being reasonable and logical when, all too often, we have been molded by the ethos, what the Germans call the zeitgeist, or the culture of our place and time.
Because my wife and I have had the opportunity to live in 10 different countries, we have seen the effect of the ethos on behavior. Customs which are perfectly acceptable in one culture are viewed as unacceptable in another; language which is polite in some places is viewed as abhorrent in others. People in every culture move within a cocoon of self-satisfied self-deception, fully convinced that the way they see things is the way things really are.
Our culture tends to determine what foods we like, how we dress, what constitutes polite behavior, what sports we should follow, what our taste in music should be, the importance of education, and our attitudes toward honesty. It also influences men as to the importance of recreation or religion, influences women about the priority of career or childbearing, and has a powerful effect on how we approach procreation and moral issues. All too often, we are like puppets on a string, as our culture determines what is “cool.”
There is, of course, a zeitgeist to which we should pay attention, and that is the ethos of the Lord, the culture of the people of God. …
It is the ethos of those who keep the Lord’s commandments, walk in His ways, and “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God” (D&C 84:44). If that makes us peculiar, so be it.
Seduced by our culture, we often hardly recognize our idolatry, as our strings are pulled by that which is popular in the Babylonian world. Indeed, as the poet Wordsworth said: “The world is too much with us”
We do not need to adopt the standards, the mores, and the morals of Babylon. We can create Zion in the midst of Babylon. We can have our own standards for music and literature and dance and film and language. We can have our own standards for dress and deportment, for politeness and respect. We can live in accordance with the Lord’s moral laws. We can limit how much of Babylon we allow into our homes by the media of communication.
We can live as a Zion people, if we wish to. Will it be hard? Of course it will, for the waves of Babylonian culture crash incessantly against our shores. Will it take courage? Of course it will.
We have always been entranced by tales of courage of those who faced fearsome odds and overcame. Courage is the basis and foundation for all of our other virtues; the lack of courage diminishes every other virtue that we have. If we are to have Zion in the midst of Babylon, we will need courage.
I pray that we will be strengthened to resist the onslaught of Babylon and that we can create Zion in our homes and our communities—indeed, that we may have “Zion in the midst of Babylon.”
People today young and old think they are being independent, courageous and non-conformist when they rebel against the standards of the Gospel. They fail to see that those who rebel against the Lord are now in the conformist majority and to follow the Lord and his Gospel today is to be in a small non-conformist minority. But whether we are surrounded by like-minded saints or by the citizens of the Wicked City, we should not make a pride-based choice of ethos in order to be seen as independent and non-conformist. We should be courageous to embrace the truth of God, whether that means we are in conformity with the local culture we live in or standing alone as a peculiar island in a sea of digression. I do believe however that until Zion is purged, the tares separated from the wheat, and the remaining faithful gathered, we will not find ourselves in perfect conformity with even our ward or stake culture if we are truly following the Lord. Let us lead out and begin building the City of Zion, the way that Enoch built it of old, by persuading our brethren and sisters to cleave wholly to the laws of God and make every choice, I mean EVERY choice, one that we know would bring joy to Christ and Father.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen