One of the primary markers of a true Zion community is the sharing of both spiritual and physical resources. As the title of this post suggests, the church of Christ founded after the visit of the Messiah to the Nephites treated the material possessions of the members as ‘common property.’ We read in Fourth Nephi of the establishment of this community:
…behold the disciples of Jesus had formed a church of Christ in all the lands round about. And as many as did come unto them, and did truly repent of their sins, were baptized in the name of Jesus; and they did also receive the Holy Ghost.
And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. (4 Nephi 1:1-3)
This community, more than any other in the scriptures, enjoyed the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ and the bounty of the Lords blessings. In the description of their ‘continued peace in the land’ we read of the following attributes:
- All manner of miracles…among the children of men (verse 5)
- Rebuilt the great cities that were burned (verse 7)
- No longer followed the law of Moses (verse 12)
- Continued fasting and prayer (verse 12)
- Meeting together often to pray and hear the word of the Lord (verse 12)
- No contentions among all the people (verse 16)
Perhaps the best summary of their lifestyle is found in the following verses:
And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. (4 Nephi 1:15-17)
As we read here, Nephi attributed the success of the church to the ‘love of God’ found in the ‘hearts of the people.’ This idyllic community lasted about 165 years. Its end was marked with the return of ‘mine and yours;’ as pride enveloped the community:
And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.
And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them.
And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ.
Once the people no longer kept on things in common, the true church of Christ found it was competing with another ‘church’ which apparently was very attractive to the people. These new churches were built to get gain and grew very strong even to the point of persecuting the true church.
Other examples are found in the scriptures of this people called Zion. We can read in Acts of this type of community following the Lords ministry in the land of Jerusalem:
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
These people were able to achieve and sustain their community. We do not know how long it lasted but we do know they were able to achieve the goal while embedded in the larger community.
Here is what we find in Moses 7:17-19 regarding the society of Enoch:
The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish.
And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.
And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even ZION.
Here we find more attributes necessary to establish a community of the Lord called ZION. If we are to become a ZION, we need to be of ‘one heart’ which I suggest means that we must see the value in each individual and have the godly love mentioned earlier. We need to be of ‘one mind’ suggesting that we must be unified in the doctrines of the kingdom. We must dwell in righteousness meaning we cannot be distracted by pastimes which bring no value. We, finally, must find a way to share our bounty with those who are in need. This requires an absence of pride and selfishness. From these above examples, we can now determine some glimmer of what we are required to do before we call ourselves ZION.
So… how do we stack up? In this last dispensation, the Lord once again called upon those who profess His name to establish Zion. The early saints were called to go to Independence and establish Zion through the law of consecration. For a variety of reasons, this early attempt failed.
Brigham Young attempted to establish communities following prescriptions of the United Order. Orderville, Brigham City and other communities made valiant attempts to live as ‘one’ but achieved limited success over a short period. By the time of his death in 1877, it could be said that Brigham Young had done all that he could to ‘reform’ and ‘sanctify’ the people of the church to prepare them as a Zion people but with no lasting success.
I had an acquaintance who would regularly end their correspondence with “next year in Zion.” This phrase was meant to signify the goal that we should all have in becoming the people of God. Do we still have this goal prominent among us or have we redefined ‘Zion’ to mean something more comfortable to our materialistic and prideful society of saints? Do we have the right to call ourselves ‘Zion’ when we do not meet the criteria established by the Lord to use that name?
What think ye?