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When we speak of Zion, sing of Zion, covenant for the establishment of Zion, long for Zion—we typically reference an ideal society. But what about the individual who becomes a citizen of a Zion society? What are his/her qualities? A I a Zion person?
Latter-day Saints ought to know. We have more scriptures and prophets’ statements about Zion than any other people. One could hardly read a page of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price without bumping into the term and its principles.
Because we Latter-day Saints have the singular charge to individually become Zion people so that we might be prepared for the collective establishment of the Lord’s Zion society and call God’s children to it. Consequently, we should understand and be more identified with Zion than any other generation—each one of us!
Becoming a Zion Person—Our Greatest Object
Hugh Nibley stated that a primary purpose of the Church [the Kingdom of God] is to prepare a people to become Zion: “[We] work for the building up the Kingdom of God on earth and the establishment of Zion. The first step makes the second possible.”[i]
At the outset of this dispensation—the dispensation of Zion—Joseph Smith said, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object.”[ii] If we were to conduct a survey, would the building up of Zion be our greatest object?
Regardless of how we answer, we nevertheless defend Zion as uniquely us, and we are not timid about claiming the blessings of Zion as our birthright. But by and large, we are hard-pressed to describe or envision Zion, let alone live its principles.
Establishing Zion in Our Lives
What can we do about this dilemma?
Brigham Young had the answer: “[Zion] commences in the heart of each person.”[iii] That is, Zion, the society, is made up of Zion, the individual people. Beyond the typical uses of the word Zion--as a location or a society--Zion is a person whose heart is pure; therefore, that person is qualified to see God[iv]—or in other words, to regain his presence.
President John Taylor said, “The Zion of God. What does it mean? The pure in heart in the first place. In the second place…the pure in heart who are governed by the law of God.”[v] Elder Matthew Cowley added, “And to you whose lives are committed to righteousness, I say unto you, You are Zion.”[vi]
If we fully embrace these statements, suddenly a vast library of Zion material opens to our view. Then, likening the scriptures to ourselves,[vii] we discover that many of the descriptions of Zion, the society, are also descriptions of Zion, the individual people.
Raising Our Sights To Becoming Zionlike
When we consider that Zion is the pure in heart,[viii] and then when we consider that the pure in heart are they who see God,[ix] we suddenly come face to face with the fact that our definition of Zion might be lacking.
While it is true that Zion is a land, the Church, a stake, a ward, a sealed marriage, an eternal family, and a covenant person, Zion, the ideal, is so much more. If we are not willing to expand the boundaries of our thinking, the most impressive blessings of Zion will remain outside of our reach.
Becoming a Zion person is the end-purpose of the new and everlasting covenant, the oath and covenant of the priesthood, and every saving covenant, ordinance and law of the gospel. Therefore, if becoming truly Zionlike is not continually forefront in our minds, the gospel plan will have limited power in our lives.
The primary aim of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to help each of us become a Zion person. Therefore, every program, every function, every activity is (or ought to be) designed with Zion in mind. Again, “We [work] for the building up the Kingdom of God on earth and the establishment of Zion. The first step makes the second possible.” If we become distracted and caught up in extraneous details, we will only postpone or forfeit the blessings of Zion.
The Three Pillars of Zion
On January 2, 1831, the Lord promised the Prophet Joseph Smith that he would reveal to him “the law of the Church,” which was the law of Zion--that law which would be made functional by an endowment of “power from on high.”[x] To be obedient to the commandment, the Prophet traveled to Ohio, and on February 9, 1831, he received Section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Within that revelation, the Lord promised to reveal “church covenants, such as shall be sufficient to establish you, both here and in the New Jerusalem.”[xi] That is, the Lord was going to give the Prophet the foundational covenants and laws of Zion. Significantly, the cross references to verse 67 lead to:
1.The New and Everlasting Covenant (D&C 132:4-7)
2.The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood (D&C 84:33-44)
3.The Law of Consecration (D&C 82:11-15).
These three covenants and laws are the pillars of Zion that arise from the foundation of the Atonement. Understanding and implementing these three pillars are “sufficient to establish [us], both here [wherever we presently live] and in the New Jerusalem.” That is, we become individually and collectively Zion people by constructing our lives on the foundation of the Atonement and the three covenantal pillars of Zion.
Building a Zion Life on These Three Pillars
Zion people take their covenants seriously. They have a feeling of urgency and longing that causes them to strive to establish Zion in their hearts. The day will come when these Zion individuals will join with other pure-hearted saints, and go and receive their inheritance in the society of Zion. But until that day, each of us is commanded to individually become a Zion person.
Each Individual has the Responsibility to Become Zionlike
President Benson handed each covenant person the responsibility of becoming a Zion person. The society of Zion, he said, can only be brought about by individual Zion people. As more and more of us decide to embrace the principles of Zion—all of the principles-- the celestial order will finally exist among us and we will be prepared, individually and collectively, to gather and receive the Lord.[xii]
We note with interest that Enoch built a city called Zion after his people had individually qualified as Zion people. In other words, the city took on the name of the people.