What does the word Zion mean? The scriptures list several definitions:
a.D&C 97:21. (The pure in heart.)
b.D&C 82:14. (The Church and its stakes.)
c.Moses 7:19. (The city of Enoch.)
d.2 Samuel 5:6-7;1 Kings 8:1. (The ancient city of Jerusalem.)
e.D&C 45:66-67;57:1-2;Articles of Faith 1:10. (The New Jerusalem, which will be built in Missouri.)
f.Hebrews 12:22-23. (The dwelling place of those who are exalted.)
First Things First
Which comes first: a Zion people or a Zion priesthood society? Read Moses 7:16-19. Notice that in the days of Enoch, the Lord called his people Zion before Enoch built the city of Zion. In fact, the city was named after the people. If we are waiting for an announcement from Salt Lake to become Zion, we will be sorely disappointed. Our pioneer forefathers discovered this sad fact: location does not make a Zion people; Zion people make a Zion location. Zion is a condition of the heart.
Pure in Heart
What does “pure in heart” mean? First, we must define terms:
- To “purify” something means to extract from it all contaminants and impurities;
- To “sanctify” something means to change its purpose or make it holy.
For example, on Sunday the priests take common bread and bless and sanctify it, whereupon the bread becomes holy. Its purpose has changed; now it is an emblem of the atonement. Likewise, when common people step into the waters of baptism and submit to that ordinance, all sin is extracted from them.
A common metaphor for this process is the making of steel. When raw ore is placed in a crucible and heated in a furnace, the substance becomes molten and the properties separate. At that point, a skilled metallurgist can divide out the impurities from the pure, refined iron. An alloying process ensues, whereby the metallurgist carefully combines select elements in perfect proportion with the pure iron.
The result is steel. But the process is not yet complete. For steel to become strong and not brittle, it must be subjected to reheating in the furnace, which is followed by pounding to align the molecules into their strongest position. The process of being thrust into the furnace and beaten is repeated multiple times until the steel is free from impurities and aligned so that it cannot be broken. At some point, the metallurgist pours the steel into a mold to change its purpose, and as a final step he polishes it. The finished product is incredibly strong and beautiful and it will remain so indefinitely.
In a similar manner, we are immersed in the crucibles attendant to the mortal experience, those fiery trials that heat, pound, mold, and polish us so that we might be purified, sanctified, and conformed to the image of God. 2 The Lord has every right to do this. We agreed to it when we entered into the new and everlasting covenant. John Taylor wrote: “I heard the Prophet Joseph say, in speaking to the Twelve on one occasion: You will have all kinds of trials to pass through.
And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God, and (said he) God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heartstrings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.'” 3
To become pure in heart, we agree to enter into the new and everlasting covenant by baptism, and then we agree to submit to the purifying efforts of the Holy Ghost. If we allow him to do his work, he will purify our hearts so that he can thereafter sanctify us and form us into the image of God. The apostle Paul said it this way: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” 4 Zion people are covenant people, who submit to the purifying crucible and emerge sanctified as new creatures.
King Benjamin’s people cried out what we might call the anthem of the pure in heart:
And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. 5
President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “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 worldand 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 exaltthe mind and sanctify the heart.” 6
Burning Out Impurities
What impurities could we allow the Holy Ghost to burn from us so that we could become pure in heart? Let us mention a few:
- Disobedience (D&C 64:34-35;105:3, 5-6). In D&C 105, the Lord cited disobedience as one of the reasons the city of Zion was not to be established at that time.
- Persecution of the poor (D&C 105:3). The word7
- Casual attitude toward the temple. (D&C 97:10-16; 105:9-12). Zion people are covenant people. They always gather for the purpose of building temples, where they can receive their eternal blessings and stand as proxy so others can receive the blessings of salvation. As proxies, they become saviors on Mount Zion in the similitude of8
- Casual attitude toward missionary work. (D&C 133:8-9). Once a person has made the decision to come out from Babylon and the Lord has delivered him into Zion, the Lord sends that person back to call other people out from Babylon (the world) and into Zion. Jesus is our example. As the Father sent him into the world, so Jesus sends us into the world to bring people out.9
- Casual attitude toward the priesthood. (D&C 82:14). “For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.” President Franklin D. Richards explained, “What are these beautiful garments? These beautiful garments are the clothing upon with the authority and power of the Holy Priesthood. It is that which makes people beautiful; it is that which makes people useful….”10Today, many priesthood holders have authority but little power, which comes through valiance and righteousness. The days of casualness towards the priesthood are over. President Eyring prophesied, “The destiny of the rising generation of priesthood holders is far more than to be ready to bring God’s power down to heal the sick. The preparation is to be ready to go and do whatever the Lord wants done as the world is preparing for His coming.”11
- Casual attitude toward gospel scholarship and duty. (D&C 105:10). Lehi plainly taught us that one-hundred percent of the people who did not hold fast to the iron rod (the word of God) were lost. Only those who “did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron” achieved the fruit of the tree.”1213
- Inequality. (D&C 82:17-19). “And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just–And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church–Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.”
Nephi said, “Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God.” 14 Equality governs God’s dealings with his children; and righteous Zion people, who also espouse equality, receive God’s greatest blessings. What are the “favored of God” supposed to do with their blessings? Clearly, they are supposed to do that which qualified them to be called “righteous” in the first place: use them to bless God’s children.
If we desire to become “righteous” Zionlike people and “the favored of God,” we cannot treat God’s children differently than he does.
Rhetorically, Nephi asked, “Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness?” Then, answering his own question, he said, “Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden. . . . He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female.” 15 Can we expect to become Zionlike if we adopt inequality?
The Lord treats his children equally, but the same is not always true of us. Nevertheless, the law of consecration stipulates that we shoulder the obligation of the covenant to lift others. It is anti-Zion to exalt ourselves while others languish in poverty. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s good.” 16 What is the divine result of seeking equality? “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” 17 Pay particular attention to the word because in this scripture. Because pure-hearted people strive to lift their neighbors and esteem all of God’s children as themselves, Zion flourishes. Zion is established because we make a choice to become Zionlike. 18 President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “If we are to build that Zion of which the prophets have spoken and of which the Lord has given mighty promise, we must set aside our consuming selfishness. We must rise above our love for comfort and ease, and in the very process of effort and struggle, even in our extremity, we shall become better acquainted with our God.” 19
- Disunity.(D&C 38:27). We are commanded to become one. The people in the city of Enoch were described as “being of one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18). Lack of unity was one of the reasons the early Saints were not able to build the city of Zion (D&C 101:6;105:4). Why is unity emphasized so much in connection with Zion? President Gordon B. Hinckley made this observation: “When you are united, your power is limitless. You can accomplish anything you wish to accomplish.”202122
Jesus taught us the power of unity anew in this dispensation: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, as I said unto my disciples, where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold, there will I be in the midst of them-even so am I in the midst of you.” 23 We see in this scripture the means by which President Hinckley’s promise is realized. Gathering into one in the name of Christ for a common purpose invites the Savior into our circle. Clearly, unity is a celestial law, and when we obey it, we enjoy its unmatched blessings.
- Contention and disputations. (Mosiah 2:32-33). After the crucifixion of the Savior, when the Nephites heard the Lord’s voice declaring the destruction of the wicked, lamenting the evils of his people, and inviting the remnant to come unto him with full purpose of heart. Later, when the Savior appeared to them, he singled out two sins that he could no longer abide if they were to come into his presence and become a Zion people. He said, “And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been. For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.”242526272829303132When the resurrected Jesus appeared to the Nephites, he commanded them to never again contend or dispute with each other. If they would obey this command, they would also impede to a great degree envy, strife, tumult, sexual sins, lying, murder, lasciviousness, secret combinations and economic and social distinctions.3334
What are the promises for the pure in heart?
The scriptures speak of the glorious promises of Zion and its people. Read D&C 97:18-25. What are some of the blessings?
- Zion will spread and become glorious and great (D&C 97:18).
- Zion will be honored by the nations of the earth (D&C 97:19).
- The Lord will be Zion’s salvation (D&C 97:20).
- Zion will rejoice (D&C 97:21).
- Zion will escape the Lord’s vengeance (D&C 97:22-25).
What must we do to enjoy these blessings? (See D&C 97:25.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “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; … we are the favored people that God has [chosen] to bring about the Latter-day glory.” 35
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I see a wonderful future in a very uncertain world. If we will cling to our values, if we will build on our inheritance, if we will walk in obedience before the Lord, if we will simply live the gospel, we will be blessed in a magnificent and wonderful way. We will be looked upon as a peculiar people who have found the key to a peculiar happiness. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord … : for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 2:3). Great has been our past, wonderful is our present, glorious can be our future.” 36
1 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 160-61.
2 Romans 8:29.
3 Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 24:197.
4 2 Corinthians 5:17.
5 Mosiah 5:2.
6 Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 363.
7 2 Nephi 9:30.
8 Moses 1:39.
9 John 17:18.
10 Journal of Discourses, 21:195.
11 Eyring,“Be Ready,” Ensign, Nov. 2009, 59
12 1 Nephi 8:30.
13 James 1:22.
14 1 Nephi 17:35.
15 2 Nephi 26:28, 33.
16 JST 1 Corinthians 10:24.
17 Moses 7:18; emphasis added.
18 McMullin, “Come to Zion! Come to Zion!” 94.
19 Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 725.
20 Hinckley, “Your Greatest Challenge, Mother,” 97-100.
21 Wells, Journal of Discourses, 24:314.
22 D&C 38:27.
23 D&C 6:32; emphasis added; see also Matthew 18:20.
24 3 Nephi 11:28-30
25 See 1 Nephi 9:4; 12:3; 19:4; 2 Nephi 26:2, 32; 28:4; Omni 1:17; Words of Mormon 1:12; Mosiah 9:13; Alma 2:5; 4:9;50:25; 51:9; Helaman 16:22; 3 Nephi 2:11
26 See Ether 11:7
27 See 3 Nephi 2:11
28 See Ether 4:8
29 See Mosiah 29:7
30 Mosiah 2:32-33
31 Mosiah 18:21
32 2 Nephi 26:2
33 See 4 Nephi 1:24-25
34 4 Nephi 1:15-18, emphasis added
35 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 231.
36 Ensign,Nov. 1997, 69.
Spencer W. Kimball, “Glimpses of Heaven,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 36.