Over one hundred years ago, President Lorenzo Snow issued a mandate to the Church: “It is high time to establish Zion.” What has been holding us back all these years?
Lorenzo Snow’s Call to Establish Zion
(This article was adapted from my new book, The Three Pillars of Zion. Click here to receive a free sample. Use this code in the coupon box for a 20% Christmas discount: Meridian. Good until December 15th.)
Over one hundred years ago, President Lorenzo Snow issued a mandate to the Church: “It is high time to establish Zion.”[i] What has been holding us back all these years?
To become Zion people, we must make a decision. Once and for all, we must commit to both believe and live what we have received. It is not enough to go through the motions of being a Latter-day Saint. We must thoroughly study and understand the new and everlasting covenant, which is the offspring of the Atonement. Receiving, committing to, studying, and living the Covenant are the vehicles that allow us to become Zion people. In the final analysis, it is what we have become that will determine our eternal possibilities.[ii]
If we are to become Zion people, what will be our characteristics?
- Above all, pure in heart.
- Separate from Babylon.
- Of one heart and mind—unified with God and our fellowmen.
- Equal in opportunity for and access to God’s blessings.
- Stewards, not owners, who are accountable to God.
- Having chosen God over mammon.
- Striving to labor for Zion and not to amass personal wealth.
- Having completely consecrated ourselves: our time, talents, and all that we have and are for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God and the establishment of Zion.
“How Long Halt Ye Between Two Opinions?”
If Zion is our aspiration, this description is what we must become. And it all starts with making a commitment. Well did Elijah challenge his contemporaries: “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.”[iii] As long as our commitment waits, Zion’s blessings remain unclaimed.
In a conference address entitled “Becoming the Pure in Heart,” President Spencer W. Kimball taught that we should keep uppermost in our minds the vision of who we are and what we are about. He said, “For many years we have been taught that one important end result of our labors, hopes, and aspirations in this work is the building of a latter-day Zion, a Zion characterized by love, harmony, and peace—a Zion in which the Lord’s children are as one.” Then he quoted Doctrine and Covenants 48, in which the Lord gives us a glimpse of the latter-day Zion:
Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand. . . .
Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come; and also that you might be honored in laying the foundation, and in bearing record of the land upon which the Zion of God shall stand.
And after that cometh the day of my power; then shall the poor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf, come in unto the marriage of the Lamb, and partake of the supper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come. Behold, I, the Lord, have spoken it.[iv]
With the gift of seership, President Kimball proclaimed that this scripture will be fulfilled. The day of Zion will surely come, and it is our destiny to cause it to happen. Then he asked if these promises do not inspire us to lengthen our stride and quicken our pace to do our part in this marvelous latter-day work. At that point he mourned that many of us are still mired in Babylon, uncommitted and floundering between two divergent philosophies. He said,
Unfortunately we live in a world that largely rejects the values of Zion. Babylon has not and never will comprehend Zion. . . . Zion can be built up only among those who are the pure in heart, not a people torn by covetousness or greed, but a pure and selfless people. Not a people who are pure in appearance, rather a people who are pure in heart. Zion is to be in the world and not of the world, not dulled by a sense of carnal security, nor paralyzed by materialism. No, Zion is not things of the lower, but of the higher order, things that exalt the mind and sanctify the heart. Zion is “every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.” (D&C 82:19.) As I understand these matters, Zion can be established only by those who are pure in heart, and who labor for Zion, for “the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.” (2 Nephi 26:31).[v]
Our duty and our opportunity are clear. We need only to commit.
“It Is High Time to Establish Zion”
In an address given to the Saints on May 2, 1842, Joseph Smith rejoiced in the coming day of Zion, which assumes that some individuals within the Church will have prepared themselves to become the pure in heart:
The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; but they died without the sight; we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the latter-day glory; it is left for us to see, participate in and help to roll forward the latter-day glory…. [the establishment of Zion is] a work that God and angels have contemplated with delight for generations past; that fired the souls of the ancient patriarchs and prophets; a work that is destined to bring about the destruction of the powers of darkness, the renovation of the earth, the glory of God, and the salvation of the human family.”[vi]
To establish Zion, whether in the heart of an individual, a marriage, a family, or in a priesthood community of Saints, President Lorenzo Snow admonished us to cease the destructive practice of competition and the selfish building up of our own kingdoms. We must resolve now, he said, to center our efforts on the building of God’s kingdom for the establishment of Zion:
It is high time to establish Zion. Let us try to build up Zion. Zion is the pure in heart. Zion cannot be built up except on the principles of union required by the celestial law. It is high time for us to enter into these things. It is more pleasant and agreeable for the Latter-day Saints to enter into this work and build up Zion, than to build up ourselves and have this great competition which is destroying us.
Again, calling for us to prepare for the establishment of Zion today and simultaneously denouncing the competitive practices that prohibit Zion, President Snow said,
What a lovely thing it would be if there was a Zion now, as in the days of Enoch, that there would be peace in our midst and no necessity for a man to contend and tread upon the toes of another to attain a better position, and advance himself ahead of his neighbor! And there should be no unjust competition in matters that belong to the Latter-day Saints.
That which creates division among us pertaining to our temporal interests should not be.[vii]
Let us state here that Zion, meaning the ideal of Zion, is the perfection of sanctification. That is our aim and the reason that we submit to the transforming process of being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. If Zion is the pure in heart, then we must become pure—that is to say, unalloyed, unmixed, uncontaminated, uncorrupted, unsullied—if we truly desire to qualify for the ultimate blessings of Zion. President Snow ended with this definitive statement: “So long as unrighteous acts are suffered in the Church, it cannot be sanctified, neither can Zion be redeemed.”[viii] Our call to become Zion people is a call to act now and begin to embrace the principles of Zion, “or else,” the Lord warns, our “faith is vain.”[ix]
An editorial written by Bishop Newel K. Whitney and his counselors in the Messenger and Advocate sums up the urgency to become Zion people now:
Whatever is glorious. Whatever is desirable—Whatever pertains to salvation, either temporal or spiritual. Our hopes, our expectations, our glory and our reward, all depend on our building up Zion according to the testimony of the prophets. For unless Zion is built: our hopes perish, our expectations fail, our prospects are blasted, our salvation withers, and God will come and smite the whole earth with a curse.[x]
Clearly, it is high time to establish Zion!
A Few Could Form the Foundation of Zion
If we accept the Book of Mormon to be our latter-day guide, we also accept the account in Third Nephi to be our model for the latter-day establishment of Zion. In surveying that account, we are immediately struck by the fact that even a few pure-in-heart people could anchor the principles of Zion to the earth.
Mormon makes the point that only 2,500 Nephites made up the initial group of Zion people. According to the Third Nephi model, the small group of the pure-in-heart people act as leaven by setting an example and encouraging others to become pure in heart and join with them under the organizational leadership of the priesthood. We note with interest that within a few years, the entire Nephite population had become pure in heart and was assimilated into Zion.[xi]
Are we willing to be counted among the few who have the courage to embrace the principles of Zion in our lives? Hugh Nibley quoted Brigham Young, who issued the following warning: “If we are not faithful, others will take our place.” Zion is our opportunity, but we can lose it through apathy or carelessness. President Young said that though individuals might fail, nevertheless the Church will succeed:
We may fail, if we are not faithful; but God will not fail in accomplishing his work, whether we abide it or not.” Obviously, our individual inaction will have little impact on the Lord’s global plans for Zion. His purposes will roll forth, and the prophecies and promises concerning Zion will all be fulfilled: “If we do not wake up and cease to long after the things of this earth, we will find that we as individuals will go down to hell, although the Lord will preserve a people unto himself.
Then President Young asked, “Shall we do this in our present condition as a people? No; for we must be pure and holy.” Continuing, he said, “If my brethren and sisters do not walk up to the principles of the holy Gospel . . . they will be removed out of their places, and others will be called to occupy them.” To the uncommitted, he stated that the unifying principles of Zion can be divisive and troublesome: “Of the great many who have been baptized into this Church, but few have been able to abide the word of the Lord; they have fallen out on the right and on the left . . . and a few have gathered together.”
Joseph Smith also lamented about the Saints’ lack of commitment to the cause of Zion: “I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen.”[xii]
The first latter-day opportunity to build up Zion evaporated with the contentions and jealousies of the early Saints. That will not happen again. Most certainly, the Lord, through his prophet, will call a “select” few, “who are worthy to be called” to form the foundation of latter-day Zion, and when that happens, Babylon’s fate is sealed. Elder McConkie wrote:
“There has been a day of calling,” a day in which all the elders of the kingdom were invited to come forward and build the New Jerusalem, “but the time has come for a day of choosing.” The response of his early Latter-day Saints having been inadequate, the Lord will now choose, when he will, those who are to accomplish the great work. “And let those be chosen that are worthy.” When the day comes, none but those who qualify by obedience and righteousness will participate in the work. “And it shall be manifest unto my servant”—the President of the Church who then governs the kingdom—“by the voice of the Spirit, those that are chosen; and they shall be sanctified; and inasmuch as they follow the counsel which they receive, they shall have power after many days to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion.” (D&C 105:14–37.) After many days, a designated period in which we still live, those who are called, chosen, selected, appointed, and sent forth by the voice of the Spirit, as it speaks to the President of the Church, shall build the New Jerusalem and the holy temple to which the Lord Jesus Christ shall come in power and glory as the great Millennium is ushered in. In the meantime, our work as a people is to keep the commandments and sanctify ourselves so that if the call comes in our day, we shall be worthy to respond.[xiii]
If we are waiting to become Zion people when we hear the announcement of the priesthood society of Zion, we will be sorely disappointed. Zion, the location, does not make Zion, the people. Zion is a condition of the heart. Hence, we no more wait for an announcement to become Zionlike than we wait for an announcement to live the law of consecration.
When it comes to living the laws and principles of Zion in our individual lives, nothing waits. We have covenanted and we are expected to strive to become Zion people today.
Our Duty to Individually Become Zion
Our preparation for “the upbuilding of an ‘holy city’ which shall be called Zion” is plainly an individual effort that centers on our attempts to purify our hearts. Joseph Smith said, “All who build thereon [the foundation of Zion] are to worship the true and living God, and all believe in one doctrine, even the doctrine of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”[xiv]
To this end, President Lorenzo Snow counseled, “Then let us practice honesty and diligence in our various callings, seeking unity and to cultivate the spirit of brotherhood financially as well as spiritually, that we may be in readiness, upon call, to go forth and build up the center stake of Zion and prepare a house in which to meet the Lord our Savior and Redeemer.”[xv] Until the prophetic call to Zion comes, said Joseph Smith, “the Lord wants the wheat and tares to grow together; for Zion must be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.”[xvi]
What, then, must we be about? The Prophet Joseph Smith answered, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object.”[xvii] Repeatedly the Lord has commanded us to “seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion.”[xviii] Therefore, we are to “arise and shine forth, that [our] light may be a standard for the nations.” Our safety and the safety of other good-hearted people are at stake. Only in Zion will there be temporal and spiritual protection: “And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.”[xix] Our unique latter-day calling is to prepare the earth for the coming of Christ, the great Millennium, and the vanquishing of Satan.[xx]
How shall we begin to become individual Zion persons? President Kimball offered three steps: “First, we must eliminate the individual tendency to selfishness that snares the soul, shrinks the heart, and darkens the mind. . . . Second, we must cooperate completely and work in harmony one with the other…. Third, we must lay on the altar and sacrifice whatever is required by the Lord.”[xxi] The result of living these steps, he said, is charity.
Everything about Zion comes down to love. If we are filled with charity, we will be selfless, cooperative, and willing to sacrifice all that we have and are; we truly will be Zion people. It is interesting to note that Enoch established a city called Zion after his people had been denominated Zion by the Lord.[xxii] The society of Zion is comprised of people who have first qualified as Zion in their hearts. Most assuredly, then, it is high time to establish Zion.
This article was adapted from my new book, The Three Pillars of Zion. Click here to receive a free sample. Use this code in the coupon box for a 20% Christmas discount: Meridian. Good until December 15th.)
[i] Snow, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, 181.
[ii] Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” 32–34.
[iii] 1 Kings 18:21.
[iv] D&C 58:3–12.
[v] Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 362–63.
[vi] Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 231.
[vii] Snow, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, 181.
[viii] Smith, History of the Church, 2:146.
[ix] D&C 104:54–55.
[x] Whitney, Cahoon, and Knight, Messenger and Advocate 3 (Sept. 1837): 563.
[xi] 3 Nephi 17:25; 19:1–5; 4 Nephi 1:2.
[xii] Nibley, “Educating the Saints—a Brigham Young Mosaic,” 85; quoting Young, Journal of Discourses, 8:144, 183; 18:304; 8:144; 16:26; 11:324; Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 331.
[xiii] McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 619.
[xiv] Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 79.
[xv] Snow, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, 185.
[xvi] Smith, History of the Church, 2:228.
[xvii] Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 160.
[xviii] D&C 6:6; 11:6; 12:6; 14:6.
[xix] D&C 115:5–6.
[xx] Moses 7:60–65; D&C 43:28–35.
[xxi] Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 364.
[xxii] Moses 7:18–19.