The kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ. DC 102:9b
In this section, we would like to anticipate some of the questions that are regularly raised regarding the kingdom and Zion.
Question 1. Do we have Zion wherever there is a gathering of righteous people?
There are two passages in particular that have often been cited in support of this view. The first is found in the story of Enoch's city.
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and of one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. DC 36:2h-i
If ever there has been a people since the time of Enoch that fit the description of a righteous, gathered people, it was the people of the Book of Mormon following Jesus' visit. Notice, however, that the name Zion was never applied to them. Read carefully what the Book of Mormon says:
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. IV Nephi 1:17-19
The people inherited the kingdom of God! Jesus prophesied extensively to these people about Zion, but he told them that Zion would be established in the latter days as a fulfillment of His covenants. A literal reading of the record shows that they were not Zion, but they were part of the kingdom.
The second passage that is understood by some to mean that Zion can be applied to all righteous gatherings of people is the following:
Let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion, THE PURE IN HEART. DC 94:5c
I believe that this interpretation ignores both the context and the typography of the quotation. This quote is taken from DC 94:5, which says that the nations of the earth will recognize Zion as the city of God, and that Zion cannot fall because God has sworn to be her salvation. I do not believe that the nations of the earth are going to honor all the pure in heart wherever they may be found and call them the city of God. Rather than being a definition of Zion, the phrase "THE PURE IN HEART" which is written in all capital letters, is a descriptive name for the people who will be in Zion. To conclude otherwise is somewhat like reading the sign "Philadelphia, THE CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE," and claiming that Philadelphia is everywhere brotherly love is shown. This would not be a valid conclusion even if Philadelphia consisted entirely of loving brothers.
Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered, they that remain and are pure in heart shall return and come to their inheritances; they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy; to build up the waste places of Zion. And all these things, that the prophets might be fulfilled. DC 98:4g
The pure in heart will come back to Zion. It is then that Zion will be "THE PURE IN HEART." They are not Zion before they return and the prophecies are fulfilled.
Now it is customary to speak of people metaphorically as if they were the land to which they belong. Hence the name Zion is applied to the people of Zion in the same way as America is applied to citizens of the United States. Nevertheless, it is important to understand such usage to be metaphorical if we are to understand the meaning of Zion. The scriptures are somewhat more explicit that refer to the "children of Zion" (e.g. DC 98:11) or the "inhabitants of Zion" (e.g. DC 68:4).
Wherever there are righteous people gathered together, you will find the kingdom, but only when they are gathered to the place and in the time that God has designated for the fulfilling of the covenants do you find Zion.
Question 2. Will Zion eventually fill the whole earth?
Many scriptures say that the kingdom will fill the whole earth, or that the gospel will fill the whole earth, but I do not find any that claim Zion will fill the whole earth. While Zion will not be moved out of her place, we find the following affirmations about the kingdom:
Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces… and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. This is the dream, and we will tell the interpretation thereof… In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Daniel 2:34-36,44
The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth. DC 65:1b
And again, this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come, or the destruction of the wicked. Matthew 24:32 (14)
These all indicate that the kingdom will eventually fill the whole earth, but they do not say that Zion will fill the whole earth, at least not until after Jesus returns. Notice in the following scripture that the land of Zion is distinct from the ocean, the islands of the sea, and the land of Jerusalem, even though the Lord will stand in each of those places.
Behold, he shall stand upon the Mount of Olivet, and upon the mighty ocean, even the great deep, and upon the islands of the sea, and upon the land of Zion… he shall command the great deep and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land, and the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided. And the Lord even the Savior shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh. DC 108:5d-g
Question 3. Is Zion already on the earth?
Since Zion has a number of legitimate applications, the answer to this question depends on the context. We will list explicitly several uses along with a scripture reference, and the answer we would give at the time of this writing.
|1. Enoch's city||DC 36 3a,13||No|
|2. Old Jerusalem||Isaiah 52:6-9||Yes|
|3. The land of Zion, the New Jerusalem||DC 62:2a-c; 63:8a||Yes|
|4. The people of Zion||DC 36:2h-i||Some are|
|5. Zionic Conditions||DC 140:5c||See below|
The work of preparation and the perfection of my Saints go forward slowly, and Zionic conditions are no further away nor any closer than the spiritual condition of my people justifies. DC 140:5c
I identify Zionic conditions with the kingdom of God, but this is just a matter of labeling. The important point here is that whatever you call them, the spiritual condition of God's people is the key to the progress of Zion in our day.
Question 4. How do we establish or build up Zion?
First, there is a very real sense in which these activities are the Lord's responsibility. It is not our prerogative to determine when or where Zion is to be. The Lord has already done that. In addition, there are a number of scriptures that indicate that it is the Lord who will build up Zion.
When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. Psalms 102:16
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people… and he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. II Nephi 9:126,127 also Isaiah 11:11-12
On the other hand, since the place and time to build up Zion is here and now, there are two senses in which the call comes to us. Physically, the church was told to buy up land in Jackson county, Missouri, and the regions round about so that there would be inheritances there.
Gather up your riches that ye may purchase an inheritance which shall hereafter be appointed unto you, and it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the most high God…and it shall be called Zion. DC 45:12c-d
Wherefore this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion… It is wisdom that the land should be purchased by the Saints; and also every tract lying westward, even unto the line running directly between Jew and Gentile. And also every tract bordering by the prairies, inasmuch as my disciples are enabled to buy lands. Behold, this is wisdom, that they may obtain it for an everlasting inheritance. DC 57:1b,e-g
And let all those who have not families, who receive moneys, send it up unto the bishop in Zion, or unto the bishop in Ohio, that it may be consecrated for the bringing forth of the revelations and the printing thereof, and for establishing Zion. DC 83:18b
Buy lands and gather together upon them, and in this way they may establish Zion. There is even now already in store a sufficient, yea, even abundance to redeem Zion, and establish her waste places, no more to be thrown down, were the churches, who call themselves after my name, willing to hearken to my voice. DC 98:10b-c
In a spiritual sense, the call is to build up the "cause of Zion," or "the kingdom."
Behold, thou art Hyrum, my son; seek the kingdom of God, and all things shall be added according to that which is just. DC 10:11a
Now, as you have asked, behold, I say unto you, Keep my commandments, and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion. DC 11:3
Seek to bring forth and establish my Zion. Keep my commandments in all things; and if you keep my commandments and endure to the end, you shall have eternal life; which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God. DC 12: 3
And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you, will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen. DC 13:3, 14:3