Free Books for Meridian Subscribers. The Pillars of Zion series is our gift to you for supporting Meridian. Download FREE all seven books in the series here
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.