When the Lord warned Nephi to flee from his brothers, he did not go alone. He took with him everyone who “believed in the warnings and the revelations of God” (1 Nephi 5:5-6). They traveled many days in the wilderness and chose a place to settle, where they constructed buildings, planted crops, and established a new community.
When the armies of King Noah threatened to destroy Alma and his people, they traveled eight days in the wilderness and built a city, which they called Helam (Mosiah 18:32-35, Mosiah 23:1-5, 20).
Jesus prophesied that, in the last days, the Gentiles would assist Israel in building a city, which would be called The New Jerusalem (3 Nephi 21:23). Ether prophesied the same thing and even implied that the building of the city was a prerequisite to the establishment of a unified society:
The remnant of the house of Joseph shall be built upon this land; and it shall be a land of their inheritance; and they shall build up a holy city unto the Lord, like unto the Jerusalem of old;…
And then cometh the New Jerusalem; and blessed are they who dwell therein, for it is they whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who are numbered among the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who were of the house of Israel.Ether 13:8, 10
In 1841, as church members struggled to recover from the trauma of being driven violently from the state of Missouri, the Lord commanded them to build new communities:
Let them gather themselves together unto the places which I shall appoint unto them by my servant Joseph, and build up cities unto my name, that they may be prepared for that which is in store for a time to come.
Let them build up a city unto my name upon the land opposite the city of Nauvoo, and let the name of Zarahemla be named upon it.Doctrine and Covenants 125:2-3
Why is city-building important? As Elder D. Todd Christofferson has taught, some “needful things…cannot be accomplished by individuals or smaller groups.” (“Why the Church?” General Conference, October 2015).
President Dallin H. Oaks explained that the collective work we do in the church helps us learn the skills necessary to collaborate with people in our communities:
Our members’ religious faith and Church service have taught them how to work in cooperative efforts to benefit the larger community. That kind of experience and development does not happen in the individualism so prevalent in the practices of our current society. In the geographic organization of our local wards, we associate and work with persons we might not otherwise have chosen, persons who teach us and test us.
In addition to helping us learn spiritual qualities like love, compassion, forgiveness, and patience, this gives us the opportunities to learn how to work with persons of very different backgrounds and preferences. This advantage has helped many of our members, and many organizations are blessed by their participation. Latter-day Saints are renowned for their ability to lead and unite in cooperative efforts. That tradition originated with our courageous pioneers who colonized the Intermountain West and established our valued tradition of unselfish cooperation for the common good.“The Need for a Church,” General Conference, April 2021
Today, I will contribute to collective efforts in my community. I will strive to collaborate effectively with others, remembering that some important goals can only be achieved when large groups of people work together.
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