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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?

11 Responses to ““They had all things common among them””

  • NEPT:

    You make an excellent, albeit subtle, point in this essay, Spek”

    “We need to be of ‘one mind’ suggesting that we must be unified in the doctrines of the kingdom.”

    Amen. But as I traverse the seemingly endless cyber array of vastly different LDS viewpoints, I can’t help but notice that we, as a group, are far from this ideal. This suggests that only one individual (or a “unified” group) among all of us loud mouths (whether “active”/”inactive”/heretical, you get my point) who espouse varying opinions is actually declaring accurate doctrine…who might that be??!! Are the rest of us off the mark?

    Or, the absence of “one doctrinal mind” may indicate that ALL OF US are partly in the dark and that the ONE TRUE DOCTRINE that can unite us has yet to be restored…again. Will it be brought by the one who is mighty and strong?

  • I would suggest that there is another way for us to be unified in doctrine. In one of my earlier posts on the Doctrine of Christ, I pointed out that 2 Nephi 31 contains “the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” I also noted that 3 Nephi 11 spoke of the doctrine of Christ and warned that we were not to add to or take away from this doctrine.

    I believe that we could come to a unity of the faith and a oneness in doctrine in accepting the gospel and doctrine as defined by Christ.

    Does this mean that we are constrained to only speak of faith, repentance, baptism and endure to the end? No, we are also told in Alma 12 that we are supposed to seek after the mysteries of God until we ‘know them in full.’

    In the context of your question, are we, active/inactive/heretical or any other label you may wish to add, willing to preach in unity on the doctrine of Christ? We would likely come very much closer alignment if that were the stipulation.

  • NEPT:

    Indeed, good point. Thanks.

  • OWIW:

    Your article stimulates lots of thoughts.

    Please get a drink and make yourself comfortable…

    First let me begin with your ending question.

    No, I don’t think they technically have the right to call themselves or their geographical headquarters Zion.

    However, according to Book of Mormon prophecy, they will be saying “all is well in Zion” even though they are not in Zion.

    Second, being a timeline fanatic, I get excited about the 165 year period that you mentioned. I have read several articles postulating that the time period of success had by the Nephites living consecration corresponds with the time period of failure that the restoration Saints have with consecration until they are successful.

    I realize you said “about 165 years”. I have scribbled at the side of those verses in my Book of Mormon “167 years”. I don’t remember how I calculated it, but whatever the correct period is, it may hold a timeline key as to when Zion will break forth.

    thirdly, you said;

    “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 wish I felt your passion about BY”s efforts for the cause of Zion. I don’t feel you can make a compelling case for that deduction. But I am open to being wrong… I hope I am.

    Fouth, I would suggest that your second example of the New Testament Saints may not meet the definition of Zion. If anyone is aware of that group ever being called Zion anywhere in the scriptures please let me know. I don’t even recall reading that they had a hope of establishing Zion in that dispensation. I think Peter, James and John were filled with the spirit of prophecy and knew that the timing for Zion was not right.

    I suspect that while Zion requires consecration, consecration does not necessarily produce Zion in every situation… possibly because geography plays into the definition of Zion or possibly because there is in fact a technical, doctrinal distinction between the two terms.

    For instance, we know that Sidney Rigdon’s ministry, prior to his baptism into the restored Church seems to be favorably acknowledged and approved by the Lord in revelation.

    His ministry included having all things in common, patterned after the New Testament church. In fact having all things in common may be the most impressive and distinguishable feature of the ministry he led.

    Yet when the Saints of the restored church merged with the followers of Sidney Rigdon, the Lord gave a specific differing protocol and also included a geographical requirement.

    It seems apparent that while God looked favorably upon the efforts of Rigdon’s group, consecration in and of itself does not produce Zion.

    Another thought I have been having lately has to do with why the restoration Saints failed while the Saints of Enoch and Nephi succeeded.

    Apparently the efforts of the Saints to live consecration had failed by the time of the dedicatory prayer in Kirtland… OR God knew they would fail. Notice the following verse in the dedicatory prayer;

    “And do thou grant, Holy Father, that all those who shall worship in this house may be taught words of wisdom out of the best books, and that they may seek learning even by study, and also by faith, as thou hast said;

    And that they may grow up in thee, and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost, and be organized according to thy laws, and be prepared to obtain every needful thing;

    And that this house may be a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of glory and of God, even thy house…”

    I would submit that the KEY to successfully establishing Zion is embedded in the above passages.

    FIRST, the group of believers must all “receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost”. SECONDLY they can successfully be organized according to his laws and become ONE.

    I would suggest that Enoch and his people and Nephi and his people received a fulness of the Holy Ghost first, then they successfully organized according to the laws of God and consecrated and established Zion.

    I believe there is compelling evidence to show that the Saints of the restoration did not receive the fulness of the Holy Ghost first, and hence their attempt failed.

    I believe that is the difference between the successes and the failure that your article addresses.

    So… what exactly does it mean to receive the fullness of the Holy Ghost? Have you received it yet? Do you know anyone who has? If not, why not?

    I noticed that when NEPT brought up the topic of deliverance by a Servant of God, you redirected the topic to how we need to be unified in doctrine.

    Is the establishment of Zion only predicated on knowledge and doctrinal unity or is there a specific endowment of power that is necessary?

    Would you agree that as a group, we need to receive the fulness of the Holy Ghost before Zion will be successful?

    Can you please do an article on that topic so that I can see you next year in Zion?

    I’ll be watching

  • Watcher,
    You bring up a lot to think about. Let me try to position my thoughts. First, I am not the timeline czar that you are. Over time I have been disenchanted by timelines because they never seem to come to fruition. I decided I would, instead of trying to predict the future, try to prepare myself and my family so that we are ready when the call comes.

    As far as Brigham Young is concerned, what I do see is that he tried to push the saints in that direction. The development of the United Order, the Reformation of 1857, and other events led me to believe he still was thinking like a millennialist. I don’t think he acknowledged that people need the spiritual commitment before the material commitment.

    I had intended to bring up the idea that the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost as a prerequisite to living as a Zion people. I decided to leave that to a later discussion. The one weakness of that idea is that the discussion of experience of the people of King Benjamin does not suggest a Zion-like experience. My current thought is that it was not possible under the law of Moses to establish Zion which was lifted after Christ visited the Nephites. Enoch was able to do it since the Mosaic law had not been established.

    Was a Zion established following Christ’s earthly ministry? I believe that the evidence, if it existed, didn’t make it into the current Bible. I don’t think the concept of Zion would have played will in the Holy Roman Church. The existence of the ‘all things common’ as a marker of the Zion community is there. That is about all we can say it this time. I am not aware of any commentary from the early church fathers that support the idea although there is some evidence that the gnostics at that time may have been living a communal law.

    I would agree that restoration saints attempt to establish Zion may have failed because of a lack of reception of the Holy Ghost. It would be interesting to see how many saints were partakers of the experience at the Kirtland Temple and also involved in the attempted establishment of Zion.

    Until I receive more knowledge, I do believe that the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (which I equate to the fulness of the Holy Ghost) is a prerequisite to living as a Zion community. As I read of the people of King Benjamin, I feel that the sanctification they received would be necessary and sufficient for making such an enterprise successful. Looking at the information that Christ gave the 12 disciples prior to his departure, there wasn’t any specific guidelines relative to establishing a zion community, much the same as what we don’t know was conveyed to Peter, James, and John.

    Where does the one mighty and strong fit in? I feel strongly that this prophecy will be fulfilled in a way we would never expect.

    Did I miss anything?

  • Bruce in Montana:

    Well, if I can interject here…

    We fundamentalists have been practicing the Law of Consecration and the United Order with varying degrees of success.
    The FLDS, of course, have been a complete travesty so please don’t equate us all with them.
    Some of us are actually working the kinks out after a generation or two but things are far from perfect. :)

    Re: the One Mighty and Strong….
    We, of course, view that as a resurected Joseph Smith returning to reunite the “father” priesthood with the “mother” Church.

  • Bruce,
    One of the markers of a Zion community is the presence of the manifestations of the Holy Ghost in the form of healings and miracles. Do you have such among you?

    I would be interested in what ‘kinks’ you have run into trying to live such a law in the middle of modern society.

  • OWIW:

    Spek

    Me thinks you pretty much covered it… I would be curious to know if you have a speculation about how you think the “one mighty and strong” prophecy might be fulfilled.

    Bruce in Montana-

    I once spoke with Ogden Kraut at a Symposium about the One Mighty and Strong doctrine.

    He shared with the audience how he had personally known about 30 people who claimed to be the one mighty and strong.

    He also shared his belief that JS would return and fill that role… I pretty much agree with Ogden although I am not convinced he will be resurrected. There is reason to believe he may be restored to his mortal condition.

    I got a kick out of a comment Sterling Allen made the other day.

    He asked the people on his forum

    “If I created a tee shirt that said ‘NO… I’m the One Mighty and Strong!’ would any of you wear it?”

    Watcher

  • LOL

    *dipping toe into water*

    Has anyone else looked at the symbolic, personal application of Zion?

    *jumping in*

    Zion is “the pure in heart”
    We are “the temple of God”
    Our center is our “heart” symbolically vs. Jackson Co. is the “heart” or center of America
    We are the temple of God, the Spirit dwells in us. We have a Holy of Holies inside us. Where will Christ come? To his temple!

    Okay, does anyone else think that perhaps we should be striving for a personal Zion in addition to watching for the literal? Is it possible to have a group Zion if we do not have Zion in our hearts first? Is that the differences in the groups we know about? Some had Zion in their heart and were ready for their literal Zion.

    Spek-I agree with you on doctrine. Distilling it down to what is outlined by Christ is the only way I see to be unified in that. It is the (old) law that divides.

    But, I do wonder if being One is more about recognizing that piece of Divinity in ourselves and each other. When we have One mind, is that what it is to be walking in the Spirit? Isn’t the Spirit the “mind of God?”
    One heart-> Pure hearts (charity)
    One mind-> Holy Ghost

    I hope I’m not too far out in left field for ya’ll. I just can’t help but see the personal application of all this.

    Can we bring about Zion by becoming pure in heart as a group?

  • TST,
    I really like your concept. I believe that we must prepare ourselves individually before we can prepare collectively. Likening our pursuit of Zion on a personal level is a very good analogy. Just as the body of Zion must be sanctified, we must be sanctified individually as a precursor.

    I still am unsure just how far to take the ‘one mind’ idea. We know from the scriptures that the Spirit of God will tell us what we are to say – that we will speak with the tongues of angels. Does all individuality cease as we become one with God?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if those who are ‘pure in heart’ are not drawn together spiritually and geographically. I have wondered if the born again concept of the ‘rapture’ would be a misdirected idea that a gathering will happen at some point as those who are called are brought together?

    Thoughts from left of left field…

  • Left field can be fun.

    I actually see the union of mind as more individual than living under the law. IOW, you walk in the Spirit and it directs you in your daily life. It really becomes liberating when the law falls away. I define the law as anything outside Christ’s doctrine. I mean, if faith, hope and charity guide our lives we will be on the straight and narrow path.

    Right now, most all of us are not very individual. We are a product of the people around us, laws, rules, codes, etc. We usually do things for egotistical reasons (fear, greed, desire). I think this keeps us from truly thinking for ourselves (our authentic self). I see each of us having a path that only we can travel. When we listen to the Light of Christ or walk in the Spirit then we are truly on our own path. It’s a paradox-he who loses his life shall find it.

    Ooh, I really like your thoughts on rapture.

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