The Ideal Society and Priorities
By David W. Allan
John Forbes Nash Jr., the 1994 Nobel Prize winner in economics and whose life story is portrayed in the movie, The Beautiful Mind, shares a meaningful insight into the “Ideal Society.” He cites that Adam Smith, the founder of the free market economic theory was “incomplete” if everyone in a group does what is best for himself.
It is the Adam Smith model that led to competition and capitalism that has been the foundation of America’s economic success. For completion, Nash said that everyone needs to do what is best for himself and for the group.
However, Nash’s brilliance is overshadowed by the Lord’s for the ideal society. Nash falls short in not addressing the specific needs of each individual in the group. It is the Savior’s first and second great commandments that brings completion with his admonition to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. (Luke 10:27)
In a complementary way the concepts above remind me of the scripture, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) I see three major parts to this paramount verse from the Sermon on the Mount.
First, seeking the kingdom of God is bringing souls to Christ; for it is the Father’s work and glory to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of His precious sons and daughters. (Moses 1:39) Helping Him in His work is truly loving God and our neighbor.
His kingdom is not about kings and castles and ruling over us; it is about souls and their eternal best interests. For as he told his Apostles, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8) In other words, the true followers of Christ share His glorious gospel message, as we build His kingdom, which is not of this world; and for me, it is on both sides of the veil. Addressing individual needs is best for the metaphysical “group” that John Nash eludes to.
Second, we seek His Righteousness (this is best for ourselves); we strive to emulate the perfect life of our Savior. In the scriptures, Jesus is called the Son of Righteousness (3 Nephi 25:2) in that He has emulated the Father’s Righteousness perfectly. He asks us to do the same (Lev. 19:2; John 13:15; Rom. 1:17; Eph. 5:1; 2 Nephi 31:12; 3 Nephi 18:16; 3 Nephi 27:27: Mormon 7:10).
Because they were walking the true Christian walk, some of the ancient Jaredites here in American were privileged to be visited by the “Son of Righteousness,” (Ether 3; and 9:22) and they had one of the greatest civilizations this world has ever known. (Ether 1:43)
It is particularly interesting that Jesus asked us to be perfect even as His Father in Heaven is perfect in the Sermon on the Mount. Since the Sermon on the Mount is the recipe for living in the ideal society, He shared it with the people in America, when He visited them after His resurrection (3 Nephi 12-14). When he repeated that sermon in America, He said, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” He had perfectly done the will of the Father in giving us His perfect atonement – opening the door for each of us to gain eternal life. The best thing we can do is to seek to know the will of the Father for us personally, and to do it. Each of our missions will be different, but it will be the best for us. Then we can reach out in love to each of our neighbors, where we have opportunity, and help them to do the same.
Third, “all these things shall be added unto you” denotes the ideal society. But yet, it is not about “things,” as we think about things, because his society is motivated by pure love. Everyone has different gifts and talents, and in this society, in loving harmony with one another, their individual gifts and talents are fully appreciated and utilized to bring a oneness to the whole. The scriptures say they will be of one heart and one mind, “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)
The Lord also defines Zion as “THE PURE IN HEART.” (D&C 97:21) And as promised in the Sermon on the Mount, the pure in heart shall see God. (Matt. 5:8). In America, they had a Zion society for over a hundred years. They internalized the sermon (seeking His Righteousness), and lived the Law of Love (of God and neighbor).
The saints in the ancient church set up by Christ in the Old World had this Zion society as well, and we have more details from apocryphal writings of how they lived than we do for those in America. In Chapter 17 of my book, It’s About Time, I address the question, “Are we a Christian Nation?” There I share details of how these early Christians lived, and one finds some surprising insights. Here, I give the headlines: they were not of this world — in it, but not of it; they loved with pure Christ-like love their friends and their enemies; they had great joy in sharing the gospel and rejoiced in the Lord regardless of tribulations; they had internalized Christ’s admonition, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 10:39) – seeking unselfishly to serve the individual needs of their neighbors, as Christ did.
C. S. Lewis taught that our goal is to become “Little Christs,” imitatio Christi (imitate the Christ). So in contrast to Nash’s perception of doing what is best for the group, in the true Christian walk, as we take upon us His Righteousness, we view each individual, in whatever group, as a true son or daughter of God with the potential to become like their Heavenly Parents. We unselfishly and lovingly address their individual needs to help them in their path. If we do so with an eye single to the glory of God, they will feel our love and they may be motivated also to imitatio Christi.
Early Christianity was highly contagious and grew rapidly because of this Christ-like love that permeated their Zion society and their personal lives. They were a light to the world, as we should be.
Zion is not about competition, but cooperation — motivated by the pure love of Christ, as everyone’s time and talents are optimally utilized in unselfishly serving their “neighbor” with an eye single to the glory of God. “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 10:39)
…charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moroni 7:47-48; here we have Mormon’s great counsel.)
And then we have Moroni’s summary counsel to us, as he concludes the Book of Mormon:
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace suffecient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye be the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32-33)
The exciting thing for us now is that a Zion society is coming again. We can be part of it, if we will set our priorities and so live. Christ will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords providing perfect temporal and spiritual conditions, respectively, to bring about our perfection that He may present us to the Father holy [and] without spot – there to receive a fullness of joy in God’s presence with our loved ones. This is eternal lives, life with God and life like God. One cannot imagine a better plan of happiness. In the midst of all our imperfections, He can bring about perfection, as we do what is best for ourselves, imitatio Christi, and as we love God and those around us; this is Zion and the ideal society.
And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be. (1 Nephi 13:37)
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