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I told my children that they would have to rely on their mother’s journal to chronicle our lives. If they want to read what I believed and motivated me, they would have to read my books and articles. I consider the Pillars of Zion series my “Sistine Chapel.” I imagine that I will never create anything that so fully encompasses my beliefs and affection.
The subject of Zion has occupied my mind since my earliest memories, but my journey to Zion began in 1996 when I met Lance Richardson. I had just published The Mourning Dove and I was hoping to promote it in southeastern Idaho. I called my sister, Cheryl, who lived in Idaho Falls, and asked her if she knew anyone who could help me there. She said she had a friend, Lance Richardson, who had a radio talk show. You might be familiar with Lance’s name as the well-known author of The Message.
Meeting Lance Richardson and Ron McMillan
Lance and I became great friends. I had never known anyone quite like him. For most of his life, he had experienced terrible health, and eventually, in 2004, he died at a young age, leaving behind a wife and seven children. Intensely spiritual, he enjoyed gifts of the Spirit that astounded me, but he paid a high price battling Crohn’s Disease, diabetes, occasional bouts of pancreatitis and life-threatening staph infections. I never knew him to not be passing a kidney stone. At age 39, he died of congestive heart failure.
Lance and I loved talking about Zion, a subject that had piqued our interest for years. When he had gained my trust, Lance told me about his three near-death experiences. Lance trusted me with his sacred experiences, and he explained how during each of his visits to the spirit world, he had been met by a cousin, who had died of leukemia in his early twenties. During one of his near-death experiences, he learned that he would be involved in writing books about Zion.
We decided to write a trilogy of historical fiction books on Enoch’s ancient Zion. The first book was called Zion: Seeking the City of Enoch. To our partnership, we added Lance’s cousin, Ron McMillan, who became invaluable to our writing effort. I was the primary writer, Ron added storyline, doctrinal insights and research on historical information, and Lance contributed amazing, detailed spiritual principles. Although we were writing fiction, we gained interesting insights into how ancient Zion had begun as a fledgling idea, faced incredible adversity then blossomed into one of the most successful societies in human history.
Then the earth caved in. We had suspected, but had not fully appreciated, the adversity we might face by approaching the subject of Zion, but the results were beyond anything that we could have imagined. Each of us went through a living hell. Ron lost his business, home and income. He moved his family into a basement and started over. (Now he is co-owner of one of the most successful businesses in Utah and a best-selling author.) Lance sustained a serious accident and was in a coma for three months. I lost my income source, and my health plummeted. The attacks were many, vicious and sustained; we felt as though we were living with loaded guns to our heads.
When the second Zion book–Zion: The Long Road to Sanctification–was completed, I made a publishing arrangement with a fledging publisher, and to add insult to injury, that publisher went out of business within months. Whereas the first book had sold almost 30,000 hardback copies, the second book only sold about 3,000, because no one heard that it had been released. And just like that, the Zion project was over. Lance, Ron and I fled to our respective corners and tried to survive and recover.
I never wanted to touch the Zion subject again. I swore it off. I was afraid that if I ever came near that subject, someone in my family might die. I cannot overstate just how severe was the adversity that we experienced and how helpless it rendered us. Lance, Ron and I had planned to write a third book in the series, but I refused, and no one else was healthy enough or in a position to continue, so the project stopped.
More to Write About Zion
Then suddenly, in 2004, Lance died. Shortly thereafter, Ron and I had impressions that there was more to write about Zion. That was troubling news. I’m ashamed to admit that I looked heavenward and said no way, not me! I called Ron and said, “You write the book. I’m done writing about Zion. People lose everything when they get too close to this subject, and maybe even their lives.”
But despite my resistance, I was urged along, albeit reluctantly, and over time the idea of Zion became an obsession. I found myself gathering articles and quotes into what became a huge library of authoritative Zion material. I even began pondering and outlining a possible book. I never could get Zion off my mind.
One morning in 2007, my wife, Buffie, showed me a verse in the Doctrine and Covenants that she had been pondering. She had not been able to sleep the night before, so she had sat at the kitchen table most of the night reading the scriptures. This was one of those times when the Spirit leads you from one scripture to another. It was though the Spirit said, “Read this, now go here and read that; now think about this concept; write this down and turn to this next verse.” And that exercise went on all night!
Finally, early in the morning, she was directed to D&C 42:67. “And ye shall hereafter receive church covenants, such as shall be sufficient to establish you, both here and in the New Jerusalem.” In this verse, the Lord promises the Saints that he will soon reveal the covenants upon which Zion is established. Now the Spirit bade her to look at the footnotes, which lead to the new and everlasting covenant, the oath and covenant of the priesthood, and the law of consecration. The three pillars of Zion!
When she showed me these scriptures, I felt a powerful burst of light that brought immediate clarity and purpose. Suddenly, I could see in my mind a book series on Zion as if it were already written. I realized that Zion is not the definition that we often ascribe to it; rather, Zion is built upon covenants that are immediately available to us. To become Zion people, we simply must learn to receive these covenants, study them thoroughly, and live and pursue them to their perfect conclusion.
A Pivotal Priesthood Blessing
Over the next few weeks, I went to work outlining the Pillars of Zion series, making notes, attaching my research to the various sections and pondering questions.
Although I was now becoming excited about the project, my former experience still made me quite nervous. I suppose that the Lord was aware of my trepidation because during the ensuing month, I felt a continual urging to ask Ron McMillan for a priesthood blessing.
Ron was very busy now, and our contact had diminished. He had emerged from his financial collapse to become a New York Times best-selling author and a successful businessman. His company had become enormously prosperous, and he was traveling all over the world for speaking and consulting engagements. I had doubted that I would be able to get through to him.
One day, however, out of the blue, Ron called me and asked me to go to lunch with him. As we were talking, I told him that I had been feeling that I should ask him for a blessing. He agreed and invited Buffie and me over that night – October 30, 2007. Ron’s blessing was astonishing. Among the counsel and promises, I was told in no uncertain terms that I was to write the Zion books and that I would receive divine assistance. Obviously, I was humbled, and I could not fathom why this assignment had fallen to me.
Buffie and I were keenly aware that I had a responsibility to write about Zion, but we had no idea how we could do it and still take care of the family. We knew that the series would take months of intense focus to write, and during that time I would not be able to bring in any income. The only money we had was the inheritance that Buffie had received when her father had passed away a few months earlier, but we hadn’t wanted to touch that money because it was the only savings account we ever had.
Another Pivotal Priesthood Blessing
Over the next few months, I tried to clear my schedule and finish several projects for Deseret Book and Covenant Communications so that I would be ready to devote my full attention to Zion, but I still had no idea how to proceed. Each day, I tried to carve out a little time to outline the Zion series. Then in February 2008, over Presidents Day, Buffie and I had the opportunity to go to St. George with friends. Knowing that I needed divine intervention to begin such a massive work, I called a trusted friend, and asked if he would give me another priesthood blessing while we were in St. George.
This blessing was even more pointed than Ron’s. I was told that the inheritance money had been given to support the family while I wrote the Zion series. We were promised that when the money ran out, the Lord would bring us more income so that I could continue to write, but I was not to stop until the series was complete. I was also promised that I would receive spiritual help to write the books.
Buffie Contributes Her Inheritance
Writing about Zion requires a person to give his best effort to live a Zionlike life. Buffie and I began by literally giving all the money we had to write the series. My sweet wife donated her entire inheritance of $65,000 to the work, and the McMillans stepped forward to contribute another $50,000 to complete and publish the series. Beyond our monetary contribution, we doubled our temple attendance, recommitted to our callings and family, and I fasted every Sunday.
We had estimated that the project would take eight or nine months to compete. In fact, I worked on it eighteen months, 16-17 hours per day, six days a week! As predicted, the inheritance money ran out about mid-way through the project. When we would begin to worry, the Spirit whispered, “Just keep writing and I will bring you the money you need.” Sure enough, at the last minute, enough money would miraculously appear, but never earned a dime of it. Without soliciting anyone, the money just showed up. Buffie and I believe that the money was supplied because we were doing all we could do to follow the Lord’s counsel.
An Amazingly Fluid Writing Experience
The writing of the Zion series was a revelatory experience such as I had never had. The information flowed to me from all sorts of sources-new concepts, supporting information, scriptural connections, prophets’ explanations. I can’t tell you how many times I was stuck without an answer and Buffie would say, “Look at this scripture I just read.” Then she would present me with the answer even though I had never told her the question. I came to expect that Buffie would always have the next answer to a perplexing question.
I had other spiritual experiences. For example, when I would kneel down at night, after twelve or more hours at the computer, I was often interrupted by the Spirit before I could get out the first sentence of my prayer. Thoughts would begin to pour into my mind like a voice. I would turn on the lights, write down the thoughts until they stopped, then late into the night, I would go back to my computer and type what I had learned in prayer. I had never experienced such fluid writing. Often, I felt as though I was taking dictation, and when I would review what I had written, I was astonished that I had never been aware of the concepts.
During the writing process, I developed a skill that I called “writing by faith.” On many occasions, when I started out to write in the morning, I was tired and my mind was a blank. But I discovered that if I would just start to type, words would begin to flow into my mind and I was hard-pressed to keep up. I was helped so much during those amazing months.
Now, when I consider the volume of information in the Zion series, I acknowledge that I knew only a fraction of the details when I began this project. Although I have had a life-long love for the scriptures, I felt woefully lacking to be able to approach this difficult subject.
The Series is Finally Complete
Now the series is finished. It contains seven books:
- Portrait of a Zion Person (the introduction to the series)
- Book 1 – Zion-Our Origin and Our Destiny
- Book 2 – The First Pillar of Zion-The New and Everlasting Covenant
- Book 3 – The Second Pillar of Zion-The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood
- Book 4 – The Third Pillar of Zion-The Law of Consecration
- Book 5 – The Pure in Heart
- Book 6 – No Poor Among Them
Our Gift to the Saints
Early on, Buffie and I made a decision that the series was going to be our gift to the Saints.
For no cost, we allow you to download the PDF version of the books. Our good friends, Scot and Maurine Proctor, have championed this series from its inception. Together, we would like to give these free PDFs to you for supporting Meridian and me. Here is the link to download your free books: www.pillarsofzion.com
Just enter your email and you will be directed to the download page. And PLEASE forward this website address to your friends and family so they can also receive the free books.
I told my family that this series contains the clearest statement of Mom’s and my beliefs and philosophy of life. Our greatest desire is to teach our children the sacred principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ so that they can have eternal marriages and families and experience happiness on the scale enjoyed by celestial beings. We have dedicated our lives to bringing people to Christ with the talents and resources that God has given us.
We have an absolute knowledge, which can only be obtained by direct revelation from God, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only authorized church that can administer the covenants and ordinances that lead to eternal life. Only in this Church can the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ be found. Only in this Church can the principles of Zion be established in the lives of its covenant members and make of them a people who are pure in heart.
Click here to download your free copies of the Pillars of Zion series . These books are complementary gifts to you from Larry and Buffie Barkdull and Scot and Maurine Proctor.