Please see the disclaimer.
Assumed Audience: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are curious about history, civilizations, and/or Zion.
Epistemic Status: Extremely confident in the priciples. The more general or high level things are, the more confident I am. I become less confident as things become more detailed.
Chapter 1: “Beware of Pride” 1
Tap, tap, tap.
Josiah cringed. That sound could only mean one thing: a cane and the man who used it were coming up the stairs.
“Josiah, please come with me.”
“What do you want, old man?” he spat.
The one-eyed man prodded him with his cane. “Do not talk to your father that way. And I want you to come with me.”
His father turned back, stared at him, and said, “You’ve always wanted to be a great man, right? You’re going to start learning how.”
Josiah sighed. “Yeah, right,” he mumbled, but he followed his father who walked down the stairs and out the front door.
There were streets lined with houses, all separate. Each had a large backyard and garden area. The streets were not streets at all; they were paved paths.
Josiah groaned. He would love to see a car, but no one had them, and no one drove them around here. There were no bright lights, no tall buildings, no glitz nor glamour, no noise.
Zion was boring.
Their neighbors were outside, and they all waved. Josiah’s father waved back.
“C’mon, Dad! Don’t wave!”
His dad grunted. “Even though I don’t like dealing with people, cultivating community is important.”
“Don’t lecture me!”
“I’m your dad. That’s my job.”
Josiah sighed again.
* * *
Josiah stared up at the massive stone building. “Okay, I didn’t really believe that you were going to help me become a great man, but if you’re bringing me to the seat of power, you might actually be telling the truth.”
His father grunted. “Power is not greatness,” he growled as another man rushed over, beaming.
“Samuel! I’m delighted to see you!” And Josiah could tell that he was.
“Hello, Eli.” Josiah’s father reached out a hand, and the man shook it warmly and vigorously.
Then he turned to Josiah, smiling. “Cat got your tongue, Josiah? Better close that mouth before you catch a fly.”
Josiah shut his mouth, embarrassed.
Eli only grinned and held out his hand. Josiah tentatively reached his out as well, only to be caught off guard when the other man shook his hand just as hard as he had shaken his father’s.
“Come in!” Eli whipped around and sped off with the energy of a sugar-high toddler.
“Dad!” Josiah frantically whispered. “You didn’t tell me you knew the chief judge!”
“I didn’t need to,” he replied as he began walking.
“What?!” Josiah yelped. “I would have had so much more respect for you!”
Samuel glared at his son. “I don’t need your respect. You need my respect. And if you can’t give me respect as your father without something like that, you were never going to respect me anyways; you would only try to use me to talk to him.”
Josiah stopped the heavy door of the Judgment Hall from closing and stepped through. “Well, sure. That’s all you would have been good for.”
In the distance, Eli glanced back with suprise.
* * *
“Have a seat,” Eli said as he sat behind his desk.
“Uh, why is your desk out in the middle of the hall?” asked Josiah. “Why don’t you have a private office?”
Eli glared at him. “I get to ask the first question. Why do you treat your father the way you do?”
“Umm…” Josiah glanced pleadingly at his father, who just blinked blankly. “Why does that matter?”
“Isn’t honoring your father part of the Ten Commandments?” Eli demanded. “The Ten Commandments are part of the Lesser Law; we’re supposed to be living a higher law than that, and you can’t even treat your father with respect?”
Josiah swallowed. “Well, uh, you see…”
“Enough,” Eli ordered. “It’s clear why your father, a man who asks little and gives much, would ask such a huge favor of me.”
“What favor?” Josiah demured.
Eli glowered at him. “He asked me to teach you the Law on top of my other duties, which as you know, are substantial.”
“And I’ll help as much as I can,” said Samuel.
“Oh, I know you will,” Eli replied. “But worry not; I am glad to help. However…” he pursed his lips, looking at Josiah, “he seems a little hopeless.”
“You know what my other choice would have been.”
“Of course, but don’t get your hopes up. With this one, that may still happen.”
Samuel’s eyes dropped sadly. “I know.”
Eli’s pained face turned back to Josiah and hardened again. “So Josiah, I am your teacher now. And like your father, I won’t tolerate disrespect. To me or to your father. Understood?”
Josiah cringed. “Yes, sir.”
“Good. Now, do you know why your father chose me as your teacher?”
“Because he knows I want to be chief judge?”
“Correct,” Eli replied. “So a lot of the time, you’re just going to sit there and observe my work. You are allowed to ask questions except when I tell you to be quiet. Understood?”
And with that, the chief judge shut his mouth, put on reading glasses, and booted his computer. He turned on a massive screen on the wall, and Josiah could see that it showed what he was seeing on his monitor.
“Why do you show everything you’re doing?”
Eli leaned past his monitor and looked over his glasses. “Why do you ask?”
Josiah squirmed. “Um, why are you doing all of your work so publicly? Everyone can see what you’re doing because of that,” he said, gesturing to the jumbo screen.
“And why do you think I shouldn’t?”
“Well, uh,” Josiah stumbled, “you’re the chief judge. Certainly you know better than anyone else how to govern.”
Eli raised an eyebrow. “Besides you, I presume?”
Josiah opened his mouth to retort, paused, and shut it again.
“That’s right, you’re a hypocrite,” Eli snorted, and Josiah felt red-hot shame flood his cheeks.
Eli glared at the young man for a moment. Then he picked up the scriptures on the desk, opened them, and read, “Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate.” 2
He turned the pages again and read, “And if the man like not to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband’s brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.” 3
He shut the scriptures and asked, “What’s the common thread between those two scriptures.”
“Uh, going to the elders at the gate?”
Eli nodded. “Correct.” He leaned forward. “These scriptures are from Deuteronomy, Moses’ recitation of the Law. They establish a pattern for how government business is to be conducted: in public.
“The gate of the city is the public place where business would be conducted. In our more modern times, we can build this magnificent building,” Eli spread his arms wide, “and conduct business here.
“But did you notice that not one person checked who you were before you were allowed inside? This is on purpose; no citizen of Zion will ever be prevented from entering here and watching me work.”
Eli smiled slightly. “So, to answer your question earlier, my desk is in the middle of the hall because it must be to allow citizens the privilege of watching me, to guard against me abusing the power they have given me.”
“But you have the power,” Josiah said. “Why would using it to its full extent be abuse?”
Samuel sighed as his shoulders slumped, and his head fell into his hands.
Eli glanced sadly at him and said, “Josiah, you may be smart, but you are not wise.”
Josiah started. “Dad says that to me all the time!”
“Have you considered believing it?” Eli grunted.
“Well, no, I thought he was just being grumpy and trying to put me down.”
Eli blinked. “Wow, you are so prideful. It’s both embarrassing and amusing. Well, it would be amusing if the possible consequences weren’t so dire.”
“What do you mean?”
“Never mind that,” Eli said quickly. “Just beware of pride. It will be your downfall.”
He sat back. “Anyway, please don’t ask any more questions until I’m done with accounting the budget. I must get this done.”
Josiah obediently went quiet, and soon, the only sounds were the clicking of the keyboard.
Fifteen minutes in, Josiah was feeling antsy and started to squirm.
Samuel looked at him. “It’s okay to be bored.” He turned. “Eli, when you’re done, don’t close the budget, please.”
Five minutes, and Eli pushed back from the desk. “What did you need, Samuel?”
Samuel pointed a laser at the massive screen. “This month’s amount for fusion research is…concerning.”
“It just seems like too much,” Samuel responded.
Eli smiled a little. “I understand. It is too much, and that’s why I’m headed to the research facility right now. But it’s not as bad as you think.”
He stood and walked around the desk. “If you and your son will join me, I’d be happy to explain on the train.”