ARTICLE 10-We believe that Zion will be built upon this [the American] continent;
Two Gathering Places-Some of the passages quoted in connection with the dispersion and the subsequent gathering of Israel make reference to Jerusalem, which is to be reestablished, and Zion, which is to be built. True, the latter name is in many cases used as a synonym of the first, owing to the fact that a certain hill within the Jerusalem of old was known specifically as Zion, or Mount Zion; and the name of a part is often used figuratively to designate the whole; but in other passages the separate and distinctive meaning of the terms is clear. The prophet Micah, “full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might” predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and its associated Zion, the former to “become heaps,” and the latter to be “plowed as a field”; and then announced a new condition that is to exist in the last days, when another “mountain of the house of the Lord” is to be established, and this is to be called Zion. The two places are mentioned separately in the prophecy: “For the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
Joel adds this testimony regarding the two places from which the Lord shall rule over His people: “The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem.” Zephaniah breaks forth into song, with the triumph of Israel as his theme, and apostrophizes the daughters of both cities: “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.” Then, the prophet predicts separately of each place: “In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.” Furthermore, Zechariah records the revealed will in this way: “And the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.”
When the people of the house of Jacob are prepared to receive the Redeemer as their rightful king, when the scattered sheep of Israel have been sufficiently humbled through suffering and sorrow to know and to follow their Shepherd, then, indeed, will He come to reign among them. Then a literal kingdom will be established, wide as the world, with the King of kings on the throne; and the two capitals of this mighty empire will be Jerusalem in the east and Zion in the west. Isaiah speaks of the glory of Christ’s kingdom in the latter days, and ascribes separately to Zion and to Jerusalem the blessings of triumph: “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!”
The Name “Zion” is used in several distinct senses. By derivation Zion, or, as written by the Greeks, Sion, probably meant bright, or sunny; but this commonplace signification is lost in the deeper and more affecting meaning that the word as a name and title came to acquire. As stated, a particular hill within the site of the city of Jerusalem was called Zion. When David gained his victory over the Jebusites he captured and occupied the “stronghold of Zion,” and named it the city of David. “Zion” then was the name of a place; and it has been applied as follows:
1. To the hill itself, or Mount Zion, and, by extension of meaning, to Jerusalem.
2. To the location of the “mountain of the house of the Lord,” which Micah predicts shall be established in the last days, distinct from Jerusalem. To these we may add another application of the name as made known through modern revelation, viz.:
3. To the City of Holiness, founded by Enoch, the seventh patriarch in descent from Adam, and called by him Zion.
4. Yet another use of the term is to be noted-a metaphorical one-by which the Church of God is called Zion, comprising, according to the Lord’s own definition, the pure in heart.
Jerusalem-As a fitting introduction to our study regarding the new Zion, yet to be built as we shall presently see on the western hemisphere, let us briefly consider the history and destiny of Jerusalem, the Zion of the eastern continent. “Jerusalem” is generally believed to mean by derivation the foundation or city of peace. We meet it for the first time as Salem, the abode of Melchizedek, high priest and king, to whom Abram paid tithes. We find a direct statement concerning the identity of Salem and Jerusalem by Josephus. As noted, the city was wrested from the Jebusites by David; this was about 1048 B.C. During the reigns of David and Solomon, the city as the capital of the kingdom of undivided Israel acquired great fame for its riches, beauty, and strength, its chief attraction being the imposing Temple of Solomon which adorned Mount Moriah. After the division of the kingdom as a unit, Jerusalem remained the capital of the smaller kingdom of Judah.
Among its many and varied vicissitudes incident to the fortunes of war, may be mentioned: the destruction of the city and the enslaving of the inhabitants by Nebuchadnezzar, 588-585 B.C.; its reestablishment at the close of the Babylonian captivity, about 515 B.C., and its final overthrow at the disruption of the Jewish nation by the Romans, 70-71 A.D. In importance and in the love of the Jews the city was the very heart of Jewry; and in the estimation of Christians it is invested with sanctity. It occupied an important place in the earthly works of the Redeemer, and was the scene of His death, resurrection, and ascension. The Savior’s high regard for the chief city of His people is beyond question. He forbade that any should swear by it, “for it is the city of the great King; ” and because of its sins, He lamented over it as a father for a wayward child. But, great as is Jerusalem’s past, a yet greater future awaits her. Again will the city become a royal seat, her throne that of the King of kings, with permanency of glory assured.
The Latter-day Zion; New Jerusalem-Biblical statements concerning the Zion of the last days, as separate from both the ancient and the reestablished Jerusalem of the east, are silent regarding the geographical location of this second and latter-day capital of Christ’s kingdom. We learn something, however, from the Bible as to the physical characteristics of the region wherein Zion is to be built. Thus, Micah, after predicting the desolation of the hill, Mount Zion, and of Jerusalem in general, describes in contrast the new Zion, at which the house of the Lord is to be built in the last days. These are his words: “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
The prophecy of Isaiah is not less explicit regarding the mountainous character of the country of modern Zion; and, furthermore, this writer assures us that the righteous man only shall be able to dwell amid the fiery splendor of this new abode; and of him the prophet says: “He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks;” and adds the statement that the land shall be very far off. In another passage he mentions a gathering place “beyond the rivers of Ethiopia,” and, “on the mountains” where the Lord is to set up an ensign to the world.
The teachings of the Book of Mormon, and the truths made known through revelation in the present dispensation, regarding the Zion of the last days, while agreeing with the Biblical record as to the general description of the situation and the glories of the city, are more explicit in regard to location. In these scriptures, the names Zion and New Jerusalem are used synonymously, the latter designation being given in honor of the Jerusalem of the east. John the Revelator saw in vision a New Jerusalem as characteristic of the latter times. Ether, writing as a prophet among the Jaredites-a people who had inhabited parts of America for centuries before Lehi and his followers came to this hemisphere-foretold the establishment of the New Jerusalem on this continent, and emphasized the distinction between that city and the Jerusalem of old.
The Nephite prophet, Moroni, in his synopsis of the writings of Ether, says: “That it was the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, and the holy sanctuary of the Lord.” And adds: “Behold, Ether saw the days of Christ, and he spake concerning a New Jerusalem upon this land. And he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come-after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord; wherefore, it could not be a new Jerusalem for it had been in a time of old; but it should be built up again, and become a holy city of the Lord; and it should be built unto the house of Israel. And that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph, for which things there has been a type. For as Joseph brought his Father down into the land of Egypt, even so he died there; wherefore, the Lord brought a remnant of the seed of Joseph out of the land of Jerusalem, that he might be merciful unto the seed of Joseph that they should perish not, even as he was merciful unto the father of Joseph that he should perish not. Wherefore, the remnant of the house of Joseph shall be built upon this land; and it shall be a land of their inheritance; and they shall build up a holy city unto the Lord, like unto the Jerusalem of old; and they shall no more be confounded, until the end come when the earth shall pass away.”
Jesus Christ visited the Nephites in America soon after His resurrection, and in the course of His teachings said: “And behold, this people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant which I made with your father Jacob; and it shall be a New Jerusalem. And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you.” He predicted further, as set forth in a previous chapter, that the Gentiles, if they would repent of their sins and not harden their hearts, should be included in the covenant and be permitted to assist in the building of a city to be called the New Jerusalem.
Ether the Jaredite, and John the Revelator, separated by more than six centuries of time and prophesying on opposite hemispheres, each saw the New Jerusalem come down from heaven, “prepared,” says the Jewish apostle, “as a bride adorned for her husband.” We have already spoken of the Zion of Enoch, whose inhabitants were so righteous that they too were called “Zion,” “because they were of one heart and one mind.” They, with their patriarchal leader, were translated from the earth, or, as we read, “it came to pass that Zion was not, for God received it up into his own bosom; and from thence went forth the saying, ‘Zion is fled.'” But before this event the Lord had revealed His purposes unto Enoch in regard to humanity, even unto the last of time. Great events are to mark the latter days; the elect are to be gathered from the four quarters of the earth to a place prepared for them; the tabernacle of the Lord is to be established there, and the place “shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.” Then Enoch and his people are to return to earth and meet the gathered elect in the holy place.
We have seen that the names Zion and New Jerusalem are used interchangeably; and, furthermore, that righteous people as well as sanctified places are called Zion; for, by the Lord’s special word, Zion to Him means “the pure in heart.” The Church in this day teaches that the New Jerusalem seen by John and by the prophet Ether, as descending from the heavens in glory, is the return of exalted Enoch and his righteous people; and that the people or Zion of Enoch, and the modern Zion, or the gathered saints on the western continent, will become one people.
The Book of Mormon foretells the establishment of Zion on the western continent; but the precise location was not revealed until after the restoration of the Priesthood in the present dispensation. In 1831 the Lord commanded the elders of His Church in this wise: “Go ye forth into the western countries, call upon the inhabitants to repent, and inasmuch as they do repent, build up churches unto me. And with one heart and with one mind, gather up your riches that ye may purchase an inheritance which shall hereafter be appointed unto you. And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God; And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion.”
Later revelations directed the elders of the Church to assemble in western Missouri, and designated that place as the land appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints: “Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.” The town of Independence was named as “the center place,” and the site for the Temple was designated, the saints being counseled to purchase land there, “that they may obtain it for an everlasting inheritance.” On August 3, 1831, the temple-site thus named was dedicated by the prophet, Joseph Smith, and his associates in the Priesthood. The region round about was also dedicated that it might be a gathering place for the people of God.
Such, then, is the belief of the Latter-day Saints; such are the teachings of the Church. But the plan of building up Zion has not yet been consummated. The saints were not permitted to enter into immediate possession of the land, which was promised them as an everlasting inheritance. Even as years elapsed between the time of the Lord’s promise to Israel of old that Canaan should be their inheritance, and the time of their entering into possession thereof-years devoted to the people’s toilsome and sorrowful preparation for the fulfilment-so in these latter days the divine purpose is held in abeyance, while the people are being sanctified for the great gift and for the responsibilities associated with it. In the meantime the honest in heart are gathering to the valleys of the Rocky Mountains; and here, in the tops of the mountains, exalted above the hills, Temples have been erected, and all nations are flowing unto this region. But Zion shall yet be established on the chosen site; she “shall not be moved out of her place,” and the pure in heart shall return “with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion.”
But gathered Israel cannot be confined to the “center place,” nor to the region immediately adjacent; other places have been and will be appointed, and these are called Stakes of Zion. Many stakes have been established in the regions inhabited by the Latter-day Saints, to be permanent possessions; and thence will go those who are appointed from among the worthy to receive possessions of their inheritances. Zion is to be chastened, but only for a little season, then will come the time of her redemption.
That time will be appointed of God, yet it is to be determined according to the faithfulness of the people. Wickedness causes the Lord to tarry; for, saith He: “Therefore, in consequence of the transgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion.” And again: “Zion shall be redeemed in mine own due time.” But the Lord’s time in giving blessings is dependent upon the prospective recipients. As long ago as 1834 came the word of the Lord unto the Church: “Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.”