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I served a mission on the other side of the world and when I returned, I went to the mountains of Ephraim to dwell. I saw Babylon bigger and brighter than ever. And I partook thereof until decades later, having been born of the Spirit and experiencing a mighty change of heart, I saw with new eyes how idolatrous I had been. Back then I thought worshiping idols, at least as depicted in scripture, meant nothing more than adoring or reverencing statues as the ancient Israelites did with the golden calf built by Aaron. But it is so much more than that.

The primary commandment given to Israel was to have no other gods before the Lord. Jehovah acknowledged the existence of other gods, though they were all fictions of imagination. If we love the Lord, truly love Him, there would be no need nor even use to go whoring after anything or anyone else. But the Lord’s covenant people did so and still do so. I like what Gileadi had to say in his essay, Twelve Diatribes of Modern Israel:

The final test in the scriptures of whether a god is true or false is whether he saves his people in the Lord’s day of judgment.

And so it was:

Judges 10: 13 Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more.
14 Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.

Isaiah 37: 18 Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries,
19 And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.
20 Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord, even thou only.

Jeremiah 11:11 ¶Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.
12 Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go, and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense: but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble.
13 For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal.
14 Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble.

And so it will be:

D&C 112:24 Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.
25 And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
26 First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.

Idolatry is the great obstacle. Babylon and her idols are alive and well among the Lord’s covenant people upon the mountains of Ephraim (as well as throughout the world). It is so difficult to not be stained by it all. I cannot help but dirty my hands as I contribute to feeding Mammon, though I weep for Zion. I hate money. I hate that I have to work for money in order to exist in a system, which has too great a hold of us all. The people of Limhi learned the hard way. Today there really are no more places of refuge in the world. Above all else, I am vexed by my own sinful and carnal state. I am truly my own worst enemy.

I recently came home from visiting my parents in Texas and as I drove north along I-15, I looked toward downtown SLC at all the tall buildings and also the construction going on. I remember a time when the temple was easily visible. Now it is shadowed and eclipsed by great and spacious buildings, which recently enticed the world to partake of glamorous materialism.

If those giant posters and billboards advertising to the world to come visit the heart of Salt Lake City are disturbing, even more disturbing are the overpriced brands advertised with very attractive models. But isn’t that how all commercials are? Everyone is smiling, all made up, wearing beautiful clothes in the happy settings of Utopian society.

I’m reminded of Hugh Nibley’s words in “What is Zion? A Distant View” where he says:

Elders of Israel are greedy after the things of this world. If you ask them if they are ready to build up the kingdom of God, their answer is prompt–”Why, to be sure we are, with our whole souls; but we want first to get so much gold, speculate and get rich, and then we can help the church considerably. We will go to California and get gold, go and buy goods and get rich, trade with the emigrants, build a mill, make a farm, get a large herd of cattle, and then we can do a great deal for Israel.

I have heard this many times from friends and relatives, but it is hokum. What they are saying is, “If God will give me a million dollars, I will let him have a generous cut of it.” And so they pray and speculate and expect the Lord to come through for them. He won’t do it: “And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property” (D&C 19:26). “Let them repent of all their sins, and of all their covetous desires, before me, saith the Lord; for what is property unto me? saith the Lord” (D&C 117:4). He does not need our property or our help.

Every rhetorician knows that his most effective weapons by far are labels. He can demolish the opposition with simple and devastating labels such as communism, socialism, or atheism, popery, militarism, or Mormonism, or give his clients’ worst crimes a religious glow with noble labels such as integrity, old-fashioned honesty, tough-mindedness, or free competitive enterprise. “You can get away with anything if you just wave the flag,” a business partner of my father once told me. He called that patriotism. But the label game reaches its all-time peak of skill and effrontery in the Madison Avenue master stroke of pasting the lovely label of Zion on all the most typical institutions of Babylon: Zion’s Loans, Zion’s Real Estate, Zion’s Used Cars, Zion’s Jewelry, Zion’s Supermart, Zion’s Auto Wrecking, Zion’s Outdoor Advertising, Zion’s Gunshop, Zion’s Land and Mining, Zion’s Development, Zion’s Securities–all that is quintessentially Babylon now masquerades as Zion.

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