By in large, Zion is much more than what we as Latter-day Saints seem to think it is. Definitions range in our minds anywhere from the geography in and around Jackson County, Missouri, to the area of Salt Lake City, Utah, to the “True Church” in general; to the New Jerusalem as it will exist in the millennium. Each of these things can be correctly called Zion in some sense of the word.
That Zion which will receive Christ when He returns, which will be the City of the Living God during the millennium and capital city of His kingdom during that era, that Zion is a little bit of each of these, and far more than any of them.
It may take most of a lifetime to understand Zion-what it is, where it is, what it has to do with the dispensation in which we live, and how we personally fit into this amazing vision. When the truths of Zion are instilled into a soul by the Holy Spirit of God, something is added beyond the mere facts of what Zion is. What is gained is a truth so astonishing that it changes souls. The truth whereof we speak is twofold. First, it is the astonishing facts of what Zion actually is, and second, it is the sure knowledge that we-you and I-can obtain a place within it, without waiting for an actual city to be built in Missouri. We will discuss these things in depth as we continue.
When one at last understands what Zion truly is, the obligation of obtaining citizenship in that great society may seem overwhelming to the humble soul-and well it should. It is a journey intended to take a lifetime, to tug at one’s heartstrings; to test to the utmost, and to purify and refine the already clean. Yet, this journey is one that millions will walk, and it is not beyond us. Even more importantly, doing so is vital to our salvation.
Why is it vital to our salvation? Because we have been tasked with building Zion prior to the Lord’s Second Advent, and as we will discuss in detail further on, the Lord will not return until Zion is here to receive Him. Can we ignore such a divine responsibility, and still hope to be counted valiant?
Though the journey to Zion may seem astronomical without the lens of great faith to bring our desires into sharp focus, there truly is a well-marked pathway to becoming a part of Zion today. This realization is startling to everyone who comes to understand it, and very life-changing.
The way into Zion has always existed. We have been upon that exact path our entire gospel lives. We are just now rediscovering our personal place upon the path, and our obligations relative to establishing Zion. As has been mentioned, the doctrine of Zion is not new. It is, in fact, as old as Adam. We are just now coming to believe what our faith has already taught us.
It may well seem paradoxical to think of having to learn to believe what our faith has already taught us. One would think if we had faith in something, we would also believe it. But a mental inventory will reveal that much of what we know by faith, we actually don’t believe applies to us. Speaking personally, I have found that I have faith that these great miracles are true, and possible, but at times have also believed that they don’t apply to me, or that they were meant for other people, or another day and age. I have had to teach myself to believe that those things which I know are true are all available to me when I follow an inspired path to obtain them.
Examples may include revelation, visions, miracles and healings. As the miracles become greater and greater our faith remains strong, but our belief becomes weaker and weaker that they apply to us. Examples of these greater miracles may include speaking in tongues, raising the dead, walking on water, building Zion, becoming translated, speaking with angels and even with God Himself, and almost all other profound blessings of the gospel. Yet, the scriptures repeatedly promise them to us. A little further on we will discuss the convergence of faith and belief in depth. For now, the point being made is that we know many details about the latter-day Zion, and have faith that it truly will be built prior to the Lord’s return, but our belief structure may not include us personally building it.
This much is astonishingly true-one cannot discover what Zion actually is without yearning to be a part of it. To catch a glimpse of Zion in its true light, and true glory, is to suddenly see the mind of God, to understand the meaning of mortality, to understand the mystery of godliness, to view the purposes of the latter-day gospel in a far brighter light, and to finally comprehend those things which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Much more than a place, or a city, or a society, Zion is a state of being. To be a part of a perfected Zion society in any dispensation, we have to become a Zion individual. It is roughly like saying, to live in the air, one must become a bird. To enter the rarified environment of the latter-day Zion, when it has reached its full potential, requires a specific and powerful change to recreate a body and soul into the Zion format.
As we continue to explore Zion throughout this book it will become apparent that to be a participant in Zion is to be become pure, to be endowed with the fullest priesthood power, to rise above the mortal sphere, to be endowed with power that transcends life and death, to have authority in heaven and on earth, and to quite literally dwell with God.
Having said all that, I am convinced that the previous paragraph is a textbook example of knowing things by faith without believing them. As we read such statements, each assertion “feels” true, so little thought is given to translating them from truisms into personal beliefs. Consider for a moment one of the statements just above. “To be a participant in Zion is to rise above the mortal sphere.” What an amazing statement! Our initial reaction is to believe the words, because the Holy Ghost accords to the soul that they are true. They were try of Zion societies past, and will be true again. But, there is raw power in those words that apply to us today. To rise above the mortal sphere is not to leave mortality, but as a mortal to no longer be subject to the trials of mortality, to live beyond pain, hunger, even death. Such privileges have belonged to past generations of Zion individuals, and will belong to this dispensation of those who seek and obtain Zion.
We are speaking of the powers of godliness, power that transcends life and death; power over personal injury, immunity to disease and sickness, and to literally have power over our own death.
Such a Zion lifestyle exceeds our present paradigm so powerfully as to make it inconceivable-not in the perception of Zion someday being like this for someone, but in the perception of Zion being like this in our day, for you and me. We can’t conceptually place ourselves in that Zion. In other words, we don’t believe what our faith actually tells us. Thus we have ceased to strive for the very thing which would bring us our greatest triumph in mortality, and our greatest joy.
What we may not also grasp is that Zion is not unlike the Celestial Kingdom in that one must meet rigorous qualifications to enter. Zion is in fact the “City of the Living God,” and Christ will live there and rule the earth from Zion during the Millennium. This makes Zion a function of the divine presence, and those who dwell there will of necessity be changed to endure-or better stated, to enjoy the presence of Christ.
Unlike the Celestial Kingdom though, Zion is not on a celestialized globe. Zion will begin on this earth in this day of wickedness, before the world is cleansed prior to the Second Coming. The Latter-day Zion is a phenomenon of mortality, and will be established among living mortals-you and I hopefully-on this earth prior to the Lord’s return in glory. We will discuss and document these assertions in detail later.
The blinding truth before us is that Zion is not beyond our reach. God does not task us with impossible assignments. Zion is a state that has been obtained in the past, and will be obtained again in this dispensation, possibly by hundreds of thousands, prior to the Lord’s return. The question before us is only whether we, meaning you and I, are willing to pay the price to be a part of it.
What can be more fantastic that this? There is in fact one truth that transcends even the glorious possibilities of Zion. We will discuss this fully later, but in brief, it is that it is within our capability to establish Zion in our lifetime. Everything we need, every doctrine, every priesthood ordinance, every truth and power and principle that is required of a mortal to personally qualify for and enter Zion exists today within the latter-day church. Nothing is missing. Nothing remains to be revealed. No statement or proclamation of the living prophets needs to be made. It is all present, now, in its complexity and completeness. All we must do is see what we already possess with an eye of faith, obtain inspired believe it is ours to claim, and then be willing to pay the price to do so. Of course, only the living Prophet can tell us when it is time to gather and build the city of Zion. But, we can, and even must, obtain a Zion stature and privilege before we would be invited to become a part of that great city of holiness.
When we as individuals enjoy the full effect of every ordinance and covenant available to us, we will become a Zion individual-not just in the millennium-but now, in this life, in this pre-millennial world. We are the seeds that the Sower has scattered upon the landscape of mortality. Those seeds who take root in this dispensation, and that weather the storms that refine and define us, and reach their divine birthright, will bring forth the full fruit, and we will become Zion.
We trouble ourselves a great deal about the timing of the Second Coming, and about making preparations to endure the rigors we assume must precede it. We want to be among the “wise virgins” whose lamps are full, so we store food like squirrels, and pay our tithing, which we humorously refer to as “fire insurance”. We often rehearse to ourselves that “no man knows the day or hour” when the Lord will return. Yet, we do know that He won’t return until Zion has been established. So we may say with certainty that we do know that as long as Zion does not exist, the time is not accomplished for His return. In this sense we do know when He will come. He will come when we have built and populated Zion.
– Brother John
— John Pontius, “The Triumph of Zion”