Virtual RS/PH #15: Establishing the Cause of Zion

Hawkgrrrlapostasy, Asides, christ, church, Culture, faith, families, Happiness, Jesus, joseph, LDS, love, mormon, Mormon, Mormons, new order mormon, obedience, orthodox, plan of salvation, repentance, restoration, scripture, smith, spiritual progression, testimony, theology, thought 22 Comments

Okay, last week I said the death lesson was going to be tough.  Frankly, I think a Zion lesson is no picnic either.  I’m looking ahead though, and there are some better ones on the horizon, so hang in there, teachers!

On June 7, 1831, right after the Saints had finished gathering in Ohio, Joseph announced that he had received a revelation about Zion, the gathering place for the Saints (now found in D&C 52: 2):

“The next conference … shall be held in Missouri, upon the land which I will consecrate unto my people”

To which the stunned congregation probably replied something like, “What the . . . ?!”, by late 1833, they were driven out of their homes in Jackson County, Missouri (picture at right is a park in Jackson County–er, Wisconsin!  Psych!  Good catch, Raoul) and told that the establishment of Zion must “wait for a little season.”  (D&C 105: 9)  Joseph explained some reasons why this wait was necessary:

I cannot learn from any communication by the Spirit to me, that Zion has forfeited her claim to a celestial crown, notwithstanding the Lord has caused her to be thus afflicted, except it may be some individuals, who have walked in disobedience, and forsaken the new covenant; all such will be made manifest by their works in due time.  I know that Zion, in the due time of the Lord, will be redeemed; but how many will be the days of her purification, tribulation, and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes; and when I inquire concerning this subject, the voice of the Lord is: Be still, and know that I am God!  (Dec 1833)

What is Zion?

Zion is referred to 154 times in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible).  In referring repeated to Zion, JS was clearly linking the restored church with the Israelites, which gave them a sense of purpose, community and destiny.

Q:  So, what is Zion?  Is it a place?  A community?  A state of mind?

Zion as a Literal Gathering Place

Article of Faith 10, written in 1842, was still focused on a literal gathering:

We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent.

Q:  Are there any good restaurants in Missouri?  (Just seeing if you’re paying attention.  I googled it and got just a DQ and a Subway in Jackson County.  Seriously.)

Zion as a State of Mind

Joseph also made statements indicating that Zion was more conceptual than just a literal gathering-place.  Stakes of the church are also referred to as Zion.

Anyplace where the Saints gather is Zion, which every righteous man will build up for a place of safety for his children.  (1840)

There will be here and there a Stake [of Zion] for the gathering of the Saints. … There your children shall be blessed, and you in the midst of friends where you may be blessed. The Gospel net gathers of every kind. “… We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object. … The time is soon coming, when no man will have any peace but in Zion and her stakes.  (1839)

Q:  How does gathering with the Saints bless us?  Do you think it’s possible to get equally close to God independently as we do within the community of the church?  If so, isn’t that a little bit like home schooling (limited in the number of teachers & perspectives)?

Q:  How should the counsel about Zion apply to our homes, our wards, our stakes, and the church at large?  How do we make the stakes of the church and our homes places of safety & peace? Forward to Christ’s Return

One purpose of Zion was to anticipate Christ’s return as the ruler of His people:

[R]ighteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine own elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, a holy city, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming, for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem’ [Moses 7:62].  from Enoch’s prophecy

Q:  Are you looking forward to Christ’s return or not thinking much about it?  Does it kind of freak you out?

Purifying the Saints

When the Saints were kicked out of Missouri, the focus was on purifying the Saints so they would become worthy to inherit Zion:

“If Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved of in all things, in His sight, He will seek another people; for His work will go on until Israel is gathered, and they who will not hear His voice, must expect to feel His wrath. Let me say unto you, seek to purify yourselves, and also all the inhabitants of Zion, lest the Lord’s anger be kindled to fierceness. Repent, repent, is the voice of God to Zion; and strange as it may appear, yet it is true, mankind will persist in self-justification until all their iniquity is exposed, and their character past being redeemed, and that which is treasured up in their hearts be exposed to the gaze of mankind.  (1833)

“So long as unrighteous acts are suffered in the Church, it cannot be sanctified, neither can Zion be redeemed.”  (1834)

“Let every one labor to prepare himself for the vineyard, sparing a little time to comfort the mourners; to bind up the broken-hearted; to reclaim the backslider; to bring back the wanderer; to re-invite into the kingdom such as have been cut off, by encouraging them to lay to while the day lasts, and work righteousness, and, with one heart and one mind, prepare to help redeem Zion, that goodly land of promise, where the willing and the obedient shall be blessed. … [We] pray our heavenly Father that you may be very prayerful, very humble, and very charitable; working diligently, spiritually and temporally, for the redemption of Zion, that the pure in heart may return with songs of everlasting joy to build up her waste places, and meet the Lord when He comes in His glory.  (1835)

Q:  Why do individuals need to be pure before Zion will be redeemed?  By show of hands, which of you slackers are holding us back?  (Just kidding!)

Q:  How do we reconcile reclaiming the backslider, bringing back the wanderer, and re-inviting those who have been cut off with the statement that Zion can’t be redeemed so long as there are unrighteous acts suffered in the church?

This last question is the one I find the most interesting.  To elaborate, how can we establish a united people when the church is full of individuals at various levels of understanding, righteousness and self- and social awareness?  Is Zion a pipe dream or is it to be found in the striving for it only, and more at an individual level than an aggregate level?  What’s the closest you’ve ever gotten to a Zion experience?


Comments 22

  1. hawkgrrrl,

    That lake is not a picture of Jackson County, Missouri. That is a picture of Jackson County, Wisconsin.

    Joseph Smith, Jr., did want a settlement in Wisconsin, called Voree, but he was killed before he could move the Mormons there. Joseph had sent James J. Strang to settle Voree, and Strang led a his faction of the Church to that place. Voree was in Walworth County, Wisconsin, nowhere near Jackson County, Wisconsin.

    For pictures of Lake Jacomo in Jackson County, Missouri, and downtown JCMO at twilight, see Wikipedia:,_Missouri

  2. Raoul – “That lake is not a picture of Jackson County, Missouri. That is a picture of Jackson County, Wisconsin.” Rats!! Well, I did think it was rather pretty. If in Wisconsin, that explains why it looks so secluded. I find I can’t get very excited about a place like Missouri.

  3. “How can we establish a united people when the church is full of individuals at various levels of understanding, righteousness and self- and social awareness?”

    There are plenty of instances of unity of purpose within a group of people who are not identical in their thinking and living. As long as everyone is striving for the same ultimate objective, individual idiosyncrasies can exist and not destroy unity. The key, imo, is to make sure that everyone is focused on the same objective – helping everyone else without judgment and envy (putting the basic welfare of all above one’s own luxury). That’s not easy, but it’s possible.

    “Is Zion a pipe dream or is it to be found in the striving for it only, and more at an individual level than an aggregate level?”

    No; no; no. Zion is not an individual condition; it is a societal ideal. It is not possible in a society where individual growth is divorced from one’s responsibility to others.

    “What’s the closest you’ve ever gotten to a Zion experience?”

    My family, growing up – with wonderful parents; marching band and choir in high school – with wonderful teachers; my current ward, on a larger scale – with two amazing bishops. I don’t think the similarity is accidental.

  4. Q: Are there any good restaurants in Missouri? (Just seeing if you’re paying attention. I googled it and got just a DQ and a Subway in Jackson County. Seriously.)

    Don’t worry, HG. Once the migration back to Zion commences, there will be a Chuck-A-Rama and a Training Table in no time.

  5. Are there good restaurants in Zion, Jackson County, Missouri?

    Hawkgrrrl! Jackson County is one of the BBQ capitals of the world! There is an eternal supply of excellent BBQ in both Kansas City and Independence and the surrounding area. Another great place to go is Dixon’s Chili. This was apparently a diner liked by Harry Truman and it’s certainly a cool place and a great example of traditional American road food.

  6. Ray it’s so wonderful to know that such experiences are out there for us cynics!I realise that the primary place to address these questions is in our home,and that’s where my accountability lies.I can get too hooked into what the other guys are doing wrong,but this is my stewardship,and i really don’t do too well with it a lot of the time.But we’re working on it,and that feels good.I’m learning that I have little control over life,other than that which i exercise over myself.

  7. Hawkgrrrl — “I find I can’t get very excited about a place like Missouri.” — Zion’s not for everyone! For the most part, we can find what we want anywhere we go, so long as we look hard enough. There’s a lot to find here actually, if you’ll just open your eyes, ears, and heart.

    If you are impressed by rankings, then:
    Jackson County has the largest aquifer in the world;
    it has the largest underground cities in the world;
    it has the oldest exposed igneous rock in the world (evolutionary Eden as well as Mormon Eden of civilization);
    it has the largest intermodal free trade zones in the world;
    it has the strongest geomagnetic vertical intensity in the world (along with the rest of northern Missouri and southern Iowa) and among the strongest total gauss intensity in the world (second to Moscow) [these could be called “powerful ley lines”];
    it has more drive-in and residential movie theatres per-capita than anywhere in the world;
    it has brought you the cinema multiplex, the shopping cart, and also Teflon, Eskimo Pies, Rival Crock Pots, the candy coating on M&M’s, the wax coated ice cream container, Wishbone salad dressing, horror movies and haunted houses, and the McDonald’s Happy Meal;
    it has the cheapest living expenses and real estate, the largest metropolitan area, and fewest people per square mile of any major metropolis in the United States;
    it has the largest science and technology library in the world;
    it has the most efficient international airport in the world (shortest mean distance from gate to exit door);
    and those vaults under the Church at the end of the movie National Treasure, those are here, too;

    Steve — “Once the migration back to Zion commences, there will be a Chuck-A-Rama and a Training Table in no time.” — Don’t worry; at this rate the migration back to Zion won’t be happening until only wagon trains and handcarts are left, so much for you guys exporting your culture here by such humble means. We’ll have the best Bar-B-Que, Jazz, and Blues in the world ready to go for ya when y’all finally get here after pushin’ those carts across the plains and trails of Kansas.

    Ray — I am pleased to see your literal view of Zion. I too have experienced “Zion” in a highly-regimented marching band, the Platte County Pirates, under the command and direction of a certain Roderick O’Connor.

  8. Hawkgrrrl — I almost forgot: Mickey Mouse was created here! (Literally right next door to me; Walt Disney’s old home is for sale if anyone’s buyin’.)

  9. Hawkgrrrl — Sorry to flood, but I remembered another thing: Walt Whitman once commented that Jackson County possessed the purest form of the English language with the largest vocabulary he’d ever heard. Supposedly studies confirm the strength of the local dialect. I own property in the most ethnically diverse part of Jackson County, a neighborhood called Old Northeast and Independence Plaza (about the location of the original Colesville Branch), where over 90 languages are spoken — quite literally a place to which all the world’s people have been gathering.

  10. Jackson County has the only other Priory of Zion (Prieuré de Sion) facility outside of France, a specially-integrated all-scholarship co-ed private-prep school called Notre Dame de Sion, a pre-kinder Montessori, grade, and middle school. The other school run by the nuns of the Priory is a college in France. Notre Dame de Sion has a spring-fed pool and caves in its front lawn that enter into the underground river.

  11. Ople Annie — I also happen to know that Jackson County has one of the highest production value local television news markets in the world, it was so obvious traveling the country watching TV at family’s and hotels, even WGN Chicago’s “super station” was comparable to KCMO’s least-funded station. I grew up with news celebrity Phil Witt’s daughter, Blaire Witt, who happens to be the head chef at You Say Tomato, an excellent gay-men-owned restaurant in Jackson County, Missouri.

  12. Zion is a lot of things… Right now, Zion is anywhere the Stakes are organized as supports in the meeting tent and united order of Zion. In the Millennium, the entire Earth will be Zion. Zooming in from the whole earth, North and South America are Zion (HC 6:318-19; Ether 13). Zooming in further, Zion is an area of about ~1,400 square miles (Rev. 21:16), from Canada to Mexico and from west Colorado to east Indiana. Zooming further still, Zion is Missouri (D&C 62:6). Zooming in, Zion is Jackson County (D&C 58; 101:71) and the surrounding counties (D&C 84:3; 105:28). Zooming in, Zion is the lands dedicated by Joseph Smith, Newell Knight, Sidney Rigdon, Edward Partridge, and the Colesville Saints, and to be consecrated by us, Independence and Kansas City, Missouri. Zooming in as far as we can, Zion is the beating heart of any individual pure-in-mind.

    Joseph Smith said Zion in the original tongue is “Zomas” or, in his Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, “Zomar”, which he associated with the character “Beth”: “The place appointed of God for the residence of Adam; Adam ondi-Ahman, a garden made to be fruitful, by blessing or promise; great valley or plain given by promise; filled with fruit trees and precious flowers, made for the healing of man. . . . place of happiness — purity, holiness, and rest; even Zomar _____ Zion.”

  13. Hawk,

    We had the death lesson yesterday. Why are we in SLC so far behind the rest of the Church? 🙂

    As far as Zion goes, it is between North and South Temple, West Temple and State Street. Didn’t you notice the address from those First Presidency letters you get every month or so read in your wards?

  14. John, I thought these discussions were held one week in advance. In Zion proper, we too had the lesson about death yesterday.

    One of Joseph Smith’s prophecies about Zion has just been fulfilled. He said the Saints would come to Zion for the purity of its waters. Last year, Kansas City’s municipal water supply was rated “the cleanest in the nation” among the 50 largest cities in the United States, containing no detectable levels of impurities. This clean water is constantly being pumped into the air, as Kansas City has more fountains than any other city in the world except Rome (and more manicured boulevards than any city in the world except Paris).

  15. #4 I like going to Strouds, they have the best home cooked fried chicken and mashed potatoes, if you don’t mind waiting for a great meal. They are in Clay Co. just across the river, still in Kansas City proper. The restaurant is located in an old rustic home off Vivian Rd. Great desserts. Try it.

  16. Re: the schedule of lessons, we also did the death lesson yesterday (I had that great pleasure to teach it). The reason to publish these in advance is so teachers can use the notes and so participants have given it some thought before they attend the class (or based on the comments here, get on a wait list for some top notch BBQ?). Feast Upon the Word blog actually publishes much further in advance than mine.

  17. According to a recent pharmacy publication of my girlfriend’s, Missouri is also the highest in average total prescriptions per person, as opposed to Utah’s highest rate of prescriptions for anti-depressants. The article also said Missouri is highest among the states in adult tobacco use and adult arthritis.

  18. “Joseph Smith, Jr., did want a settlement in Wisconsin, called Voree, but he was killed before he could move the Mormons there. Joseph had sent James J. Strang to settle Voree, and Strang led a his faction of the Church to that place. Voree was in Walworth County, Wisconsin, nowhere near Jackson County, Wisconsin.”

    While it is true that Jackson County, Wisconsin is nowhere near Voree, it does have it’s own story to tell.
    “Jackson County was formed from Crawford County in 1853. Black River Falls became the county seat and within 20 years there were 10 townships. At present, there are 21 within the county boundaries. The earliest inhabitants of Jackson County were the Winnebago Tribe. Another early group was the Mormons, followers of Joseph Smith. The temple they constructed at Nauvoo, Illinois, was built with lumber from the Jackson County. Many later followers of James Strang, known as “Strangite Mormons”, came here to settle.”

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