The term stake is a symbolic expression. Picture in your mind a great tent held up by cords extended to many stakes that are firmly secured in the ground.
The prophets likened latter-day Zion to a great tent encompassing the earth. That tent was supported by cords fastened to stakes. Those stakes, of course, are various geographical organizations spread out over the earth. Presently, Israel is being gathered to the various stakes of Zion.
In order to impress upon you the purpose of a stake, I shall quote a few passages of scripture:
“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.
“For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized.” (D&C 68:25–26; italics added.)
Here we see one of the major purposes of stakes. They are organized to assist parents who have “children in Zion” to teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ and administer the ordinances of salvation. Stakes are formed to perfect the Saints, and that development begins in the home with effective gospel instruction.
Only after a stake is organized may the full Church program be authorized for the benefit of the members. This means priesthood quorums, for young men and adult males, and the auxiliary programs of the Church. These exist to assist families and individuals in building and strengthening testimonies of the gospel and in preparing for spiritual growth during our probation on earth.
In another revelation the Lord states: “For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.” (D&C 82:14.)
Here the Lord declares another great purpose of a stake: to be a beautiful emblem for all the world to see. The phrase “put on her beautiful garments” refers, of course, to the inner sanctity that must be attained by every member who calls himself or herself a Saint. Zion is “the pure in heart.” (D&C 97:21.)
Stakes in Zion are strengthened and Zion’s borders enlarged as members reflect the standard of holiness that the Lord expects of His chosen people.
“Put on thy strength, O Zion” is an expression of prophets through the ages. This was interpreted by the Prophet Joseph Smith in this manner:
“[This has] reference to those whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage.” (D&C 113:8; italics added.)
Yet another revelation from the Lord gives this explanation of the purpose of stakes:
“Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations;
“And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.” (D&C 115:5–6.)
In this revelation is a command to let our light shine so it becomes a standard for the nations. A standard is a rule of measure by which one determines exactness or perfection. The Saints are to be a standard of holiness for the world to see! That is the beauty of Zion.
The Lord then reveals that the stakes of Zion are to be “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.” Stakes are a defense for the Saints from enemies both seen and unseen. The defense is direction provided through priesthood channels that strengthens testimony and promotes family solidarity and individual righteousness.
In the Lord’s preface to his revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, He warned: “The day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion.” (D&C 1:35.)
Today—some 160 years after this revelation was given—we see the fulfillment of this prediction. Satan, in undiminished fury, is displaying power over “his own dominion”—the earth. Never has his influence been so great, and only those who have taken the Holy Spirit as their guide and followed counsel from priesthood leaders will be spared from the havoc of his evil influence.
The Lord also states in that prefatory revelation that He “shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst.” (D&C 1:36.)
He does this as He works through His anointed servants and stake and ward authorities.
The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi foresaw the day when the Saints would be scattered in stakes all over the world. He saw the time when the Lord would extend His protection to them when menaced by a storm of destruction that threatened their existence. Nephi prophesied:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” (1 Ne. 14:14.)
Through revelation we know that there will be perils, calamities, and persecution in the latter days, but through righteousness the Saints may be spared. The promise of the Lord in the Book of Mormon is sure: “He will preserve the righteous by his power.” (1 Ne. 22:17.)
From the revelations, we can see that a stake has at least four purposes:
Each stake, presided over by three high priests and supported by twelve men known as a high council, becomes a miniature Church to the Saints in a specific geographic area. The purpose is to unify and perfect the members who live in those boundaries by extending to them the Church programs, the ordinances, and gospel instruction.
Members of stakes are to be models, or standards, of righteousness.
Stakes are to be a defense. They do this as stake members unify under their local priesthood officers and consecrate themselves to do their duty and keep their covenants. Those covenants, if kept, become a protection from error, evil, or calamity.
We only build temples in stakes. The blessings and ordinances of the temple prepare one for exaltation. Of course, it is not possible for every stake to have a temple, but we are presently witnessing some remarkable—yes, miraculous—developments in the building of temples in different parts of the world. Such a program permits members of the Church to receive the full blessings of the Lord.
Stakes are a refuge from the storm to be poured out over the earth.
With these purposes of stakes in mind, I want to discuss the responsibility stakehood places on members. Let me summarize:
We must be a “light” of the gospel of Jesus Christ to others. The Savior commanded, “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27.)
We must seek for opportunities to share the gospel message with others. Member-missionary work is the key to the future growth of the Church, and it is one of the great keys to the individual growth of our members.
We should do all we can to help prepare our sons and grandsons to serve missions. Each boy should have a mission savings account.
Our homes should be places of refuge, love, and harmony. Under the direction of the father, each family should have prayers, gospel study, and family home evenings.
We should seek for the blessings and ordinances of the temple. This means that we are keeping the commandments of the Lord—honesty, integrity, personal chastity—and sustaining the Lord’s priesthood leadership. This also means that the brethren are worthy to be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood.
We have an obligation to do temple work for our kindred dead. This means that we will do the necessary research in order for their names to be sent to the temples. We cannot be exalted without being eternally linked to our ancestors.
As families we should strive to be self-reliant. Since 1936, members of the Church have been instructed to have in storage a one-year supply of food, clothing, and, where possible, fuel. This enables us to survive loss of employment, loss of income, or even calamity, as spoken of in the revelations.
Priesthood holders need to provide watchcare over quorum members and their families through organized home teaching. We should have an interest in every fellow member of the Church to whom we may be assigned and who does not fully participate in Church activity.
We should participate in the programs and activities of the Church—keep the Sabbath as a holy day, attend our meetings, accept callings extended to us, and magnify those callings. Give service willingly; I promise you will have great joy.
Every adult member should be a full-tithe payer and contribute a generous fast offering.
I testify to you that this is the Lord’s work, the greatest work in all the world. God bless us to be faithful and valiant in our testimony of this great work.
I close with the appeal of that great Book of Mormon prophet, Moroni:
“Put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.” (Moro. 10:31.)
Some Points of Emphasis
You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussions:
1. The Lord has instituted stakes for four major purposes:
—to unify and perfect members living within them.
—to be models of righteousness.
—to be a defense for the members.
—to be a refuge from the storm when it is poured out on the earth.
2. Stakehood places important responsibilities on members:
—to be “lights” of the gospel, to share the gospel with others, and to prepare sons and grandsons for missions.
—to make our homes places of refuge, love, and harmony.
—to seek the blessings and ordinances of the temple for ourselves and our kindred dead.
—to be self-reliant.
—to participate in the programs and activities of the Church.
—to be a full-tithe payer and generous contributor of fast offerings.
Relate your feelings about the blessings of the gospel afforded members who live in stakes or, if applicable, in districts.
Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum leader?