We all have things in life which cause us to seek refuge – either refuge from our troubles, or at least a place where we can endure them in relative safety and find some measure of peace, kindness, and understanding.
There is a refuge for us. Its name is Zion. It is our place of safety, our land of peace, our refuge from the storm. (See D&C 45:66-71; 115:5-6.) In the temple we promise the Lord that we will build Zion – not someday in some other place, but here and now. This place where we live must be a refuge for us and for anyone else who may come here.
You might see a problem here: this place is where our troubles are. How can it also be our refuge?
I suggest four important refuges which together constitute our Zion. It’s important that, when any of the four fails to be a proper refuge for any of us, the others are already built and functioning.
The temple is a refuge. It can provide temporary escape from worldly concerns, the things which divide us, and the trivia which distract us. But it is in our covenants, made in the temple and elsewhere, that we find permanent safety. Through our covenants we are also endowed with power to do the Lord’s work, to build Zion in the place where we live. (See D&C 109:22-23.)
Our chapel and the meetings we hold there must be a refuge. They should be places where the truth-loving children of God can find relief from falsehood and error. For some they are a weekly refuge from loneliness and from the cruelty and indifference of the crowd. They must be places where our brothers and sisters can feel a sense of belonging and importance, a sense of being part of something bigger than they are, something at once quite human and actually divine.
Our neighborhood must be a refuge. We make it so not by excluding people who are different, but by welcoming all people who desire to live in peace, whether or not they are members of the Church when they arrive or ever become such. If they desire to live in peace with their neighbors, we welcome them as our neighbors in Zion.
Above all, we build Zion at home. It is the foundation, the most crucial place to build, and in many cases the only setting over which we have much control. Our homes can be refuges from sin and temptation, if we are careful and wise, and from rejection and cruelty and fear. There are places we must go from day to day which assault our legitimate feelings of self-worth, but that assault is unknown in Zion. More than anywhere else, it must be unknown in the Zion we build at home. Every facet of Zion acknowledges that every person is a beloved child of God, with a glorious past and future – and a glorious present, if we could see things as they really are.
Our Zion will be a refuge from war for those who love peace.
It will be a refuge from loneliness for those who yearn to belong.
It will be a refuge from unjust and unnecessary judgment, for those who have been its victims elsewhere.
It will be a refuge from poverty and hunger for those who are willing to work, and for those who are unable to work.
It will be a refuge from fear for those who have known little else in their lives.
It will be a place of kindness for those who have known cruelty, of friendship for those who have known rejection or indifference.
It will be a refuge of service in a world of selfishness.
It will be a place where we can differ in race, background, politics, religion, native language, and a dozen other obvious things without being bitterly divided by them.
I propose simply this: That we each consider how we might help our homes, neighborhood, and ward to be more of a refuge for any who may seek refuge among us. How can we make these into places where, as President Monson said, “the storm stops at the door”? (Thomas S. Monson, “Looking Back and Moving Forward,” April 2008 General Conference.)
This business of building Zion, our refuge, is not just the quaint hobby of a certain group of quirky Christians. It is the project of Christianity, of becoming like Christ individually and collectively. The Savior’s part is the infinite atonement, which makes every good possible, and the infinite additional help and direction he gives us along our way. Our part is to walk with him in faith, knowledge, obedience, charity, and service. In so doing we let God make our hearts, homes, wards and stakes, and our neighborhoods places of refuge for all who seek refuge – and especially for all who seek Him.
For Zion is a refuge, but not the ultimate refuge. In every way our Zion relies on and points to our ultimate refuge, who is Jesus Christ.