Becoming Zion

Lesson 12

Topics: Zion, Kingdom of God, Liberty.

It seems only appropriate when discussing Zion to share what the prophet Joseph Smith said about it:

We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object.

Speaking of the Land of Zion that it consists of all North & South America but that any place where the Saints gather is Zion which every righteous man will build up for a place of safety for his children…

Zion and Jerusalem and must both be built up before the coming of Christ. (Joseph Smith, from Words of Joseph Smith)

Also, from Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

Zion … is a place of righteousness, and all who build thereon are to worship the true and living God, and all believe in one doctrine, even the doctrine of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson said:

Zion is both a place and a people.

The Lord called Enoch’s people Zion “because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). Elsewhere He said, “For this is Zion—the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21).

Under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith, early members of the Church attempted to establish the center place of Zion in Missouri, but they did not qualify to build the holy city. The Lord explained one of the reasons for their failure:

“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” (D&C 105:3–4).

“There were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances” (D&C 101:6).

(source: Come to Zion, Elder D. Todd Christofferson)

Hugh Nibley wrote a lot about this topic in his book Approaching Zion:

Modern revelation has some interesting things to say about idlers: “Let every man be diligent in all things. And the idler shall not have place in the church” (D&C 75:29). We are all to work in the kingdom and for the kingdom. “And the inhabitants of Zion also shall remember their labors, inasmuch as they are appointed to labor,…for the idler shall be had in remembrance before the Lord” (D&C 68:30). Note that it is not the withholding of lunch but the observant eye of the Lord that admonishes the idler. This refers to all of us as laborers in Zion, and “the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish” (2 Nephi 26:31). That is the theme here: “Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them;… they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of  greediness” (D&C 68:31). An idler in the Lord’s book is one who is not working for the building up of the kingdom of God on earth and the establishment of Zion, no matter how hard he may be working to satisfy his own greed.”

(source: Approaching Zion, Hugh Nibley)

Also from Approaching Zion:

There is no third way: “Those who believe and obey the Gospel of the Son of God forsake all for its interests, belong to the kingdom of God, and all the rest belong to the other kingdom.”

And so we have Zion and Babylon, and never the twain shall meet. That is, they wouldn’t if we did not take human nature into account, for how many humans have ever succeeded in renouncing the world completely? The separation of the Saints from the world was, in most cases, not a matter of choice—it was forced on them; God is constantly driving wedges between the Church and the world, or in Brigham Young’s vivid terms, there are always cats coming out of the bag to put us at odds with the world, whether we want it that way or not.

“The brethren and sisters came across the plains because they could not stay; that is the secret of the movement. Do you think we came here of our own choice? No; we would have stayed in those rich valleys and prairies back yonder.”

When the first revelation was given to prepare for Zion by the gathering of Israel,

“when the people came to Jackson county, … they were as far from believing and obeying that revelation as the east is from the west. And so we have got to continue to labor, fight, toil, counsel, exercise faith, ask God over and over, and have been praying for thirty odd years for that which we might have received and accomplished in one year.”

That complete break between the Saints and the world that must precede the coming of Zion has not yet taken place.

“They have not learned ‘a’ concerning Zion; and we have been traveling now forty-two years, and have we learned our a, b, c’s? … I will say, scarcely. Have we seen it as a people? How long shall we travel, … how long shall God wait for us to sanctify ourselves and become one in the Lord, in our actions and in our ways for the building up of the kingdom of God, that he can bless us?”

“How long, Latter-day Saints, before you will believe the Gospel as it is? The Lord has declared it to be his will that his people will enter into covenant, even as Enoch and his people did, which of necessity, must be before we shall have the privilege of building the Center Stake of Zion.”

This was one of the last public addresses of the prophet Brigham, and the people were still not ready to go all the way. They still wanted to mix Babylon and Zion; or, as he put it, “Some of the Latter-day Saints had an idea that they could take the follies of the world in one hand and the Savior in the other, and expect to get into the presence of the Lord Jesus.” Such heaping up gold and silver would prove their destruction.

Again and again the Lord had to rebuke even Joseph Smith for little concessions to the world:

“You have feared man and have not relied on me for strength as you ought” (D&C 30:1).

“Your mind has been on the things of the earth more than on the things of me, … and you … have been persuaded by those whom I have not commanded; … you shall ever open your mouth in my cause, not fearing what man can do, for I am with you” (D&C 30:2, 11).

“How oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men. For behold you should not have feared man more than God” (D&C 3:6-7).

Ezra Taft Benson, in a talk entitled A Witness and a Warning, said:

Men who are wise, good, and honest, who will uphold the Constitution of the United States in the tradition of the Founding Fathers, must be sought for diligently. This is our hope to restore government to its rightful role. I fully believe that we can turn things around in America if we have the determination, the morality, the patriotism, and the spirituality to do so. . . .

. . . I further witness that this land — the Americas — must be protected, its Constitution upheld, for this is a land foreordained to be the Zion of our God. He expects us as members of the Church and bearers of His priesthood to do all we can to preserve our liberty.

In his book The Government of God, John Taylor wrote about the coming Kingdom of God and Zion:

How will the kingdom of God be established? We have already shown very clearly, that none of the means which are now used among men are commensurate with the object designed, and that all the combined wisdom of man must, and will fail, in the accomplishment of this object; that the present forms of political and religious rule cannot effect it; that philosophy is quite as impotent; and that as these have all failed for ages, as a natural consequence they must continue to fail. We have portrayed the world broken, corrupted, fallen, degraded and ruined; and shown that nothing but a world’s God can put it right.

The question is, what course will God take for the accomplishment of this thing? and as this is a matter that requires more than human reason, and as we are left entirely to Revelation, either past, present, or to come, it is to this only that we can apply. We will enquire, therefore, what the Scriptures say on this subject. It is called the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven. If, therefore, it is the kingdom of heaven, it must receive its laws, organization, and government, from heaven; for if they were earthly, then would they be like those on the earth. The kingdom of heaven must therefore be the government, and laws of heaven, on the earth. If the government and laws of heaven are known and observed on the earth, they must be communicated, or revealed from the heavens to the earth. These things are plain and evident, if we are to have any kingdom of heaven, for it is very clear, that if it is not God’s rule, it cannot be his government, and it is as evident that if it is not revealed from heaven it cannot be the kingdom of heaven.

… For “when the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory,” and not before. But if Zion is never built up, the Lord never will come, for he must have a people, and a place to come to. The prophets hailed this day with pleasure, as the ushering in of those glorious times, which were to follow. Micah says, “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

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