An important tool in seeking to understand what Zion will be like in our day is realizing that there is only one blueprint for Zion. Every time God has brought forth Zion it was established and built using this pattern. This is the prototype of Zion, one that has been used in every dispensation, and one that will be used again to build the great and last Zion, the Heavenly City to which Jesus Christ will come in glory just prior to his taking vengeance upon a wicked world.
In order to fully understand what this prototype is we must digress for just a moment.
There is a rather intriguing principle of truth we often repeat but fail to deeply comprehend. It is that “all truth can be circumscribed into one great whole.”
President Howard W. Hunter observed:
With God our Heavenly Father, all truth, wherever found or however apprehended, is circumscribed into one great whole. Ultimately, there are no contradictions, no quarrels, no inscrutable paradoxes, no mysteries. (President’s Formal Charge of Responsibility , LDS Church News, 1994, 11/26/94 .)
In other words, all truth belongs to a greater body of truth. The words “one great whole” suggests that the collective sum of all those truths is perfect. Nothing is missing. No truth is outside of this great whole. Nothing can be added. It is simply a perfect whole. It also means that there are no isolated truths floating out there that are not perfectly fitted into this greater whole.
We further understand that all truth belongs to the gospel, or that all truth is encompassed by the gospel.
“Mormonism” embraces all truth that is revealed and that is unrevealed, whether religious, political, scientific, or philosophical. (Brigham Young, JD, 9: 149)
Since the gospel embraces all truth, there are no truths outside of the gospel. Each dispensation of the Gospel is taken from the body of all truth, and therefore the portion revealed in that dispensation is taken from the same body of truth as all other dispensations. Another way of saying this is: “There is only one gospel.”
This means that when you read about God’s dealings with ancient people you are reading about the gospel, not some temporary set of truths crafted for that dispensation. Every truth they of old were taught belonged to the great whole from which we presently dine.
For this reason, our Zion must be built up on identical principles, priesthood and powers that Enoch’s, and all other dispensations of Zion, have embraced.
We understand that the Lord dispenses His gospel according to divinely ordained law, never varying from generation to generation, except according to our willingness to believe and obey him. His course is fixed and unchanging. And, because He treats all of His children equally, He dispenses the same gospel and salvation over and over, thus His course is “one eternal round.” (Alma 7:22) He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (D&C 35:3) Hence, the pattern used by Enoch to bring forth Zion was the same that was later delivered to Melchizedek. The application of the pattern would have been tailored to the times and needs of the people, but the principles, the priesthood, the promises and power, would have been identical. By this I mean that God revealed the same knowledge, offered the same promises, ordained the same priesthood, and delivered the same privileges and glories equally upon the righteous of both Zions. This has to be true because God is no respecter of persons, and His course never varies.
Elder Orson Pratt stated it this way:
The Latter-Day Zion will resemble, in most particulars, the Zion of Enoch: it will be established upon the same celestial laws–be built upon the same gospel, and be guided by continued revelation. Its inhabitants, like those of the antediluvian Zion, will be the righteous gathered out from all nations: the glory of God will be seen upon it; and His power will be manifested there, even as in the Zion of old. All the blessings and grand characteristics which were exhibited in ancient Zion will be shown forth in the Latter-Day Zion. As the Zion of Enoch was caught up by the powers of heaven, so will the Latter-Day Zion be taken up into the cloud when the heavens are opened and the face of the Lord is unveiled at His Second Coming. (The Seer, Orson Pratt, Vol.2, No.5, p.265, italics added)
It is true that God has at times withheld portions of His gospel when his children have not been worthy of more. But, those portions which He did reveal were snug pieces from the whole, not unique, tailor-made add-ons. He didn’t invent new mini-gospels. He merely revealed portions of the greater whole.
Another way to view this is that the gospel is a perfect whole. It is like a perfect sphere made of the finest material. There are no bumps, no hollow divots, and no attachments. Everything you read about the gospel in the scriptures fits within the construct of the whole.
The point here is that what happened to Enoch is an ordained part of the gospel. It wasn’t unique to Enoch. What happened to Lehi wasn’t a one-time event. What happened to the Brother of Jared will happen again and again and again.
We are not speaking of Lehi’s calling, or of his prophetic labors. Fleeing Jerusalem and populating a new land may never become a prophetic calling again, but the principles and blessings and miracles of Lehi’s life have occurred many times before, and will continue in every generation of time forever. We are speaking of his eternal privileges, blessings and priesthood power. We’re speaking of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which never changes. If Lehi saw visions, so may we. If Enoch was translated, so may we be if we obey the same laws Enoch obeyed. Enoch went forth and built Zion in his day, as we have been commanded to do, and we can ultimately succeed as past dispensations gloriously have, because the pathway Enoch walked is clearly available to us.
As an example of what this means, we know that when the scriptures speak of faith, all instances of faith in prior generations are prototypical of that faith which we seek. There are no occurrences of faith in past generations that are not typical of the divine pattern. When the scripture speaks of Zion, we can go back and find every other instance of Zion, and each was patterned after the same divine blueprint. None of them were intended to be one-of-a-kind. The gospel and its impact upon men is always the same—because God is always the same.
[T]he gospel of Jesus Christ is eternal and unchangeable, its laws are inexorable and immutable. (Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965], 186)
19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:19)
Joseph Smith informed us that the ordinances of the priesthood have been kept the same forever and ever:
. . . therefore he set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever, and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man, or to send angels to reveal them.
(Joseph Smith, Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Alma P. Burton [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 53.)
Not all attempts to establish Zion measured up to the full glory of Enoch’s Zion, but they were all seeking the same divine stature. The gospel and the blessings and privileges it bestows upon the children of men are one eternal round, or in other words, it happens over and over in a never-ending pattern.
Of course there are unique callings. There was only one Joseph Smith. But, the gospel Joseph understood and lived was not unique. We may not experience a “first vision” experience, because that was relevant to the opening of a dispensation, and unique to becoming a prophet of a dispensation. But, everything else he experienced as a priesthood holder, we can experience. Every blessing, privilege, miracle and angelic visitation is offered to us—and even more.
© April 2011, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved for the contents of this blog and website.