When I was little I dreamed of being alive when the prophets called for people to come to Zion. The thought of leaving everything behind to go to some faraway place was uniquely appealing in my mind - even though it probably meant I'd have to make new friends, walk a thousand miles, or eat somewhat tasteless roots for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I'm sure that at least part of my fascination was a misunderstanding of the hardships that the pioneers actually faced. If I got hot on a summer day, I could walk inside, grab a glass of ice-cold water, and relax in the air-conditioned air. They didn't have air conditioning or ice in the middle of the summer - it was a totally different world. If I were called to Zion today, I'd have an air-conditioned ride, plenty of food, and constant communication with the outside world.

Another issue was my belief that Zion would be a perfect place that I could just go be a part of, without any work on my part. In reality, people are imperfect, and building Zion is a joint effort among everyone involved - gay Mormon guys included. I have my own trials and temptations to overcome, and my own abilities to build the kingdom.

As time has passed, I've realized that coming to Zion doesn't have to involve walking a thousand miles or even gathering to a physical location. Like the children's song says, "you don't have to push a handcart, leave your family dear, or walk a thousand miles or more to be a pioneer." Zion is the pure in heart, and just as I can stand in holy places by being holy, I can build Zion where I stand - whether I live among the Saints or in the middle of nowhere.

I think that's what I love best about the concept of Zion - the vested role that each member plays in its success. It's not a place I go to be among the perfect; it's an attitude of perfecting others - of reaching out and doing my part to build the people and improve my world.

Zion is the pure in heart - not the place, but the feeling of truly loving God and consecrating my life and talents to Him. Hopefully, as life passes me by, I can find my own way to be a part of Zion - to answer the call to come unto Christ - and continue to make my part of the world brighter, happier, and closer to God... and lift others who are on their own journey to Zion.
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