A little more than a year after the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ by Joseph Smith, the Lord announced, through His prophet, that there would be a place for the Saints to gather (D&C 57).

1  HEARKEN, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, who have assembled yourselves together, according to my commandments, in this land, which is the land of Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints.

2  Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.

3  And thus saith the Lord your God, if you will receive wisdom here is wisdom.  Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse.

This place was to be the center and the home of the temple. The faithful were told that they were to gather to this site and build a city (D&C 84).

2  Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem.

3  Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.

4  Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.

As the story goes, those who gathered to this sacred site were not allowed to stay and fulfill the command of the Lord in the building of a great city surrounding the temple. They were chastised for pride and selfishness and were forcibly removed from the area.. After an attempt by Zion’s Camp to recover that what was lost, the Lord informed the members that the redemption would not happen immediately (D&C 100).

13  And now I give unto you a word concerning Zion.  Zion shall be redeemed, although she is chastened for a little season.

After the Saints were exiled from Missouri, their journey to safety took them from Nauvoo, Illinois to the land of the Great Salt Lake. As the community of believers began to grow, they still did not lose sight of the need to fulfill the commandment of the Lord. It is said that some of those who settled the Provo/Orem area questioned why trees should even be planted given the imminent return to Independence. The message was clear that the Saints needed to prepare themselves if they were to accomplish the building of the New Jerusalem.

Brigham Young stated the following (J of D 9:136, 138-9).

When will Zion be redeemed? When will the Saviour make his appearance in the midst of his people? When will the vail be taken away, that we may behold the glory of God? Can any of you answer these questions? Yes, readily, when I tell you. The redemption of Zion is the first step preparatory to the two last-named events. Just as soon as the Latter-day Saints are ready and prepared to return to Independence, Jackson County, in the State of Missouri, North America, just so soon will the voice of the Lord be heard, “Arise now, Israel, and make your way to the centre Stake of Zion.” Do you think there is any danger of our being ready before the Lord prepares the other end of the route? Do you believe that we, as Latter-day Saints, are preparing our own hearts, our own lives, to return to take possession of the centre Stake of Zion, as fast as the Lord is preparing to cleanse the land from those ungodly persons who dwell there? You can read, reflect, and make your own calculations. If we are not very careful, the earth will be cleansed from wickedness before we are prepared to take possession of it. We must be pure to be prepared to build up Zion. To all appearance, the Lord is preparing that end of the route faster than we are preparing ourselves to go there.

Growing up in the Church in the 60’s, perhaps less so in the 70’s, I remember the repeated message of our need to prepare for this journey back to Missouri. As a youth, I recall the images portrayed of the reverse migration from the mountains back to the city of God to establish the kingdom forever and ever. Here is an example of the message from Orson F. Whitney from October 1919 General Conference.

The gathered Saints are up here in the Rocky Mountains, out of harm’s way, comparatively speaking, founding Stakes of Zion, as a preliminary to the establishment of Zion proper; and we shall remain here until our preparation is complete. When the right time comes, and all things are ready, the pure in heart, chosen from the midst of this people, will go down in the might of the Lord and redeem Zion.

In April 1978, President Kimball stated the following relative to this commandment:

In the earliest years of this dispensation the people faltered in attempting to live the full economic plan of Zion, the united order. Because of their transgressions, the Lord chastened them in these words:

“Behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;

And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom;

And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.” (D&C 105:3-5.)

The Lord further counsels that we must learn obedience and be developed in character before he can redeem Zion. (See D&C 105:9-10.)

A few verses later in this same revelation, the Lord repeats the law of Zion in these words and with this promise:

And let those commandments which I have given concerning Zion and her law be executed and fulfilled, after her redemption.

And inasmuch as they follow the counsel which they receive, they shall have power after many days to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion.” (D&C 105:34, 37.)

The length of time required “to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion” is strictly up to us and how we live, for creating Zion “commences in the heart of each person.” (Journal of Discourses, 9:283.) That it would take some time to learn our lessons was seen by the prophets. In 1863 Brigham Young stated:

“If the people neglect their duty, turn away from the holy commandments which God has given us, seek their own individual wealth, and neglect the interests of the kingdom of God, we may expect to be here quite a time-perhaps a period that will be far longer than we anticipate.” (Journal of Discourses, 11:102.)

On this topic, a comment from President Ezra Taft Benson delivered in the October 1988 General Conference.

We commend you leaders and teachers of the various Church organizations for your inspired use of the Book of Mormon in helping to rear a generation that can redeem Zion.

This, as far as I have been able to discover, was the last time that a Prophet and President of the Church reminded us of our need to prepare for the redemption of Zion; that we were still obligated by a commandment of God to reclaim that which was taken from us – the physical location defined by the Lord as Zion.

Perhaps my favorite conference quote on the topic comes from J. Golden Kimball in the April, 1898 General Conference:

Now I want to prophesy, as the son of a prophet, that if this people want to be blessed they must labor for Zion; for if you labor for money you shall perish. You are under covenant, and it is a demand that God makes of this people that they redeem Zion. You have got to be generous, and you have got to place all that you have and are upon the altar and learn to live the law of the celestial kingdom.

This begs the question, if this was such a central theme of the restoration – that of establishing Zion as a physical entity – why has this not been mentioned in over 20 years? Has the idea of the redemption of Zion now relegated to the shelf along with other questionable doctrines like Adam-God and polygamy? Did this commandment of God not make the cut in the correlation efforts of the Church? Have we lost our way, as a body of Saints, relative to the establishment of the city of God?

I can only assume that the conference sessions next month will again be filled with discourses on faith and tithing, home teaching and service. Have we lost sight of the goal and have satisfied ourselves that the preparation is all that is important? Should not the establishment of Zion be the core of our heart’s desire? Should we not be working to define ourselves, individually, as “pure of heart?” Can we assume that we must be ready individually before we can be ready collectively?

A number of years ago, as a bishopric, we planned a leadership session around this theme. We generated a ‘letter from Salt Lake’ that called for a new Zion’s camp beginning in Kirtland and travelling to Missouri.  We asked for volunteers from those in attendance to represent the ward in this undertaking. We were met with stunned silence and pale faces. We had effectively asked them to give up their place in Babylon for one in Zion. It is so easy to feign allegiance to such a cause until we are called upon to act.

Some day, this call will come, not as an exercise in leadership meeting but as a call for the faithful. It may come, perhaps from Salt Lake or perhaps from another people, asking us to gather with those who have been sanctified – to assist in the building up of the New Jerusalem. When will it come? Who will issue the call if those of the restoration are not prepared?

What think ye?

20 Responses to “Zion Has Fled”

  • Rob,
    Thanks for stopping by. After posting this earlier, I decided the alternate sub-title should be: Zion Has practically Fled our consciousness.

    Why has it been lost? Perhaps it is another one of those doctrines that is incompatible with our desire to be aligned with those who call themselves Christians.


  • Tom:

    Your post read: ‘Should we not be working to define ourselves, individually, as “pure of heart?”’

    My question would be, how exactly do we “define” ourselves as ‘pure in heart’?

    I was reading another website and all those posting were telling how excited they were to hear the counsel of general conference, and that they’d be listening with more intent on the counsel that would be given. I, by contrast, see general conference as something different – a little more show than substance; with regurgitated themes and lessons that we’ve heard ad nauseum. Ever learning the same things because, seemingly, we’re trying to keep together this world of ours and/or because no one knows any different and are mired in the same muck they share over the pulpit. Who knows.

    I also participated in a blessing for my father the other day (he was recently diagnosed with cancer). Maybe it was a lack of faith on my part, but as I listened to the blessing all I heard were the standard words I hear in most any blessing. I was thinking of what Parley P. Pratt stated (in his autobiography) that Joseph Smith had said (“It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal or let them cease to minister the forms without the power!”). I felt nothing, though my father stood and said to the man who gave the blessing, “You always give the best blessings … .”

    Now, both of these stories could show a couple of things: (a) either I’m completely out of whack with what the Spirit should or could be teaching me, (b) I’m entirely too skeptical or (c) something else.

  • Tom,
    I believe that we define ourselves as pure in heart by being sanctified as described in 3 Nephi 27:20. Moroni 1:4 tells us that we must be cleaned by the power of the Holy Ghost BEFORE we are to be admitted to the church of Christ.

    If I read about the church in the Bible after Pentecost and in 4th Nephi, both instances of a Zion community were preceded by an outpouring of the Holy Ghost, the second baptism. I believe that we must individually prepare for Zion by completing this second half of baptism. King Benjamin in Mosiah tells us a lot about how we are to accomplish and maintain is blessing.

    Correlation was designed to repeatedly give us dumb members of the church the same lessons over and over again because the leaders believed it would take nine times before we would get it. Repetition and rote answers are real spirit killers in my opinion.

    I am saddened when I hear of people, as in the case of your father, who think that some ritual and canned blessing using all the right words is necessary and sufficient to heal. It is faith – the kind of faith that believes in dreams, visions, and revelations that will bring the power of heaven into the mix. It is the kind of faith described in the Lectures in Faith.

    I would submit, Tom, that the Spirit is trying to teach you things that should be taught by the church but are no more.

  • I’ve had a couple experiences with giving blessings.

    One day after a long day of work, I was asked to give a blessing to an elderly man in my ward. He was on dialysis and certainly close to death when I was called to see him. His body was shaking and I wasn’t certain he would make it. However, as I was giving the blessing I felt moved to tell him that now was not his time, that his family needed him. I tend to believe the Spirit was with me. You know how you are oftentimes at your most peaceful after a hard days work? That’s how it was with me. I’d worn out the flesh and so the Spirit had the chance to work through my infirmity. This man lived several more years and died while I was away, both physically and spiritually.

    Another experience I had was with a woman who had sprained her ankle pretty badly on the ice on her way to work. In the blessing I felt inspired to tell her that she wouldn’t be healed instantly, but that it was a test of her faith, that she might learn to be grateful in all things.

    I still have not had open visions, although I have had at least one dream that was prophetic to me, although I didn’t realize it until a year later. I crave the gifts of the Spirit more now than ever. All it takes is a taste and you will want more.

  • …and no, none of my blessings have been prepackaged (except the preamble). I just give them as the Spirit speaks to me. I fear to offend the Spirit and hopefully that’s enough for God to speak through me

  • A huge part of the ability to heal is the faith of the recipient. That’s why Christ always asked the person if they had the faith to be healed. But that doesn’t discount the need for the administrator to be righteous and filled with Spirit, as all administrators of God’s power must be

  • John,
    What you described are what I would call the works of God. These are the markers of the true spiritual church as defined in 3 Nephi 27.

    “Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision”

    Lehi really didn’t discriminate between dreams and visions. I would suggest that when we are in the dream state, we reveal our true selves. I believe that dreams hold, through symbols, information for our benefit, if we are willing to seek understanding.

  • Jack:

    Over the last twenty years we’ve seen the church grow in huge ways internationally. I don’t think it would be wise to preach to the global church that all should be ready to come to Missouri, U.S.A. Nor do I think it would be wise to preach so boldly such a doctrine when communications are more transparent than ever. We don’t need to offend the good folks in independence with an American version of “Zionism.”

    That said, there is also the doctrine that Zion will be built up throughout the earth — and that’s what we’re doing right now, the increasing number of Temples being one of the most obvious signs of that effort.

  • Jack,
    Some thoughts for you.
    How many of the millions of members are truly members of the church based on Moroni 6:1-4?

    According to 3 Nephi 27, it is not a good idea to base your opinion of the church according to the temples constructed by men. The scriptures are clear that they will “have joy for a season” and then be thrust down. The ‘increasing number of temples’ simply represents the works of men and has NO relation to the building up of Zion.

  • The prophets never said all members of the Church would return to Zion. Many are called, but few are chosen. Only the chosen will return to the promised land. There will be those that are chosen who also do not return, but it definitely is an enviable calling to help build the Temple at New Jerusalem and witness the return of the Savior in his glory before he makes himself known to the world in his wrath

  • Speaking of the Gentiles, the following is found in 3 Nephi 21:

    “22 But if they will repent and hearken unto my words, and harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance;
    23 And they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem.
    24 And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem.”

    If we, Gentiles, will repent, we will be given the privilege to share in the blessings extended to the remnant of Jacob. We will be allowed to assist in the building of New Jerusalem and the gathering of the house of Israel.This land, as we read here, was promised to the remnant of Jacob – the children of Lehi.

  • “This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a man who is of the literal seed of Abraham, than one that is a Gentile, though it may not have half as much visible effect upon the body; for as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene; and his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence; while the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham (naturally) must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost. In such a case, there may be more of a powerful effect upon the body, and visible to the eye, than upon an Israelite, while the Israelite at first might be far before the Gentile in pure intelligence”
    (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p 149–50).

    If their blood has been changed, are they still Gentiles?

  • I am familiar with this quote. Brigham Young made a similar quote in that he didn’t expect the missionaries to bring in any more Gentiles, just the house of Israel.

    Whenever I come across one of the types of quotes, I use the scriptures as a lens on the topic. Does the Gentile disappear, replaced by one of the house of Israel, when they are wrought upon by the Holy Ghost?

    When 1 Nephi 15:13 speaks of the ‘fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come to the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed,’ can the Gentile really disappear? Who is supposed to carry the gospel to the remnant of Jacob?

    When Christ states “blessed are the Gentiles because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost,which witnessed unto them of me and of the Father, does that suggest that the Gentile is no longer there? Or does it support the idea that the Gentile has received a witness from the Holy Ghost?

    There is also this quote from D&C 42:39:

    “39 For it shall come to pass, that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled; for I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel”

    I take this to mean that rich Gentiles and poor Israelites will both embrace the gospel.

    As I see it, Joseph’s quote, if it is accurate, is in conflict with the scriptures. The Book of Mormon was “written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel, and also to Jew and Gentile” The Gentile plays a critical role in the plan, they are to receive an opportunity to partake of the gospel. The house of Israel according to the face page of the Book of Mormon are not involved.

    According to the Book of Mormon, a Gentile can hope for the opportunity to be ‘numbered with the house of Israel (3 Nephi 30);’ no mention of a blood transfusion.

    In speaking to the Relief Society, Joseph Smith once said, “some revelations of God, some are of man, and some are of the devil. If a quote from anyone does not have support from the scriptures, should it be accepted over scripture?

  • God uses the weak things of the earth to accomplish his goals. I would argue the Church is still composed mostly of Gentiles and so they are still the Gentile church, although the house of Israel does exists in their midst.

  • The passage I quoted was not only in the 7 volume set of the History of the Church, but also re-quoted by Joseph Fielding Smith in the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, so I have a hard time questioning its authenticity. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

  • Brigham Young also said that whenever a prophet speaks as a prophet, that is revelation to the saints and should have equal weight with all canonized scripture. The question then becomes, “How do we determine if a prophet was speaking as a prophet?” The only way I know of is by the Spirit of God. If you have a stupor of thought over something or it seems to conflict with other scriptures you’ve accepted as prophetic, the only thing you can do is pray to God for understanding and hope he will make the truth known to you. I certainly look for patterns, the two or three witnesses, etc.

  • Joseph Smith was a Gentile, although he also had Israelite blood. I find it hard to believe God still looked upon him as a Gentile after he became a Son of God.

  • Tom:

    Just wanted to add my $0.02 on this comment by John: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

    Just because 2 or 3 people say something doesn’t establish it as the Lord’s divine will, even if those people all belong to the same church, or organization, or secret combination or secret corporation or whatever it might be.

    If we took that to it’s logical conclusion without setting at least some parameters, then we’d bind ourselves to whatever flows out of the mouth of whoever is leading whatever movement. For example, if Monson, Eyring and Uchtdorf all come out and say, in separate general conference talks, “Vaccines are ordained and inspired of and by God, all members should obtain all of the vaccinations lined out in the current CDC vaccination schedule without delay. Current CDC schedules are available at your nearest health clinic or online,” or something very echoing that statement, then the logic of that scripture, taken at face value, would imply that that is God’s will. After all, that would be 2-3 witnesses. Even if the counsel is sheer inanity.

    Or, perhaps we could be a little loose in defining “witness.” Then, we’d be able to accept whatever nonsense we hear on the radio, the false priests of the TV or government. After all, we needn’t look too far to find 2 or 3 voices saying the same thing on any given topic.

    Sorry for the detour.

  • No problem Tom. I agree with what you say. I believe the word “witness” does need to be clarified. I take it to mean witness in the courtroom sense of the word. You’re looking for someone you believe is consistently honest, just like the witnesses Joseph Smith (through revelation) picked for the Book of Mormon. Men known for their integrity and honesty. Only a fool picks known liars for witnesses. I only use ordinary men for a witness when I have no revelation from God and if I’m forced to make a decision on such a basis I must accept the possibility of it being flawed. My usual source for witnesses comes from the books of witnesses I’ve come to accept as revelation from God (the four standard works). I expect the men who wrote in these books to be inspired by God for the most part

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