What Does Zion Look Like?

March 29, 2010 | 49 comments
By

007eTake a minute and review the tenth article of faith with me, if you will:

We believe…that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent.

What does this mean? How is this city different from any other city? I imagine that most church members picture this Zion as a magical, idyllic dwelling place, free from sin and suffering. But an image of what the city looks like doesn’t tell us how it came to be that way.

If Zion is a utopia, what attributes and qualities does it possess that allows it to be one? I don’t pretend to know, but here are a few possible considerations:

  • Physical Layout — Is Zion’s paradisiacal nature due to the genius of its physical planning: the architecture and design of its buildings, residences, and parks?
  • Government — Or will it be the result of some superior form of government, some kind of organization unlike any we have seen before? That its laws will be just, merciful, and effective?
  • Science – Perhaps our increased understanding of human nature, economics, and technology will allow us to provide for people’s needs so efficiently that there is no want.
  • Society — Maybe the paradise of Zion will be the result of a city that encourages and facilitates social networks. Helping all residents to have friends, family, coworkers, clubs, and other organizations provides a social support network that allows needs to be met at a personal rather than governmental level.
  • Education — A school system that provides students with the ability to identify, set, pursue, and achieve their goals might effectively eliminate much societal malaise.
  • Mystery — The methods by which Zion is to be built have not been revealed, and it’s dangerous for us to speculate on them.

So you tell me — what does Zion look like? Why do you want to live there? (Or why don’t you want to live there?) Is the wonder of Zion just the result of some incomprehensible divine intervention? or is it the natural consequence of municipal factors like the ones I’ve listed above? And if so, do you have any to add to the list?

49 Responses to What Does Zion Look Like?

  1. Dane Laverty on March 29, 2010 at 2:22 am

    One other thought — technology. Perhaps we’re only kept from building Zion by our limited technological capacity for communicating, producing, and distributing. (This thought was inspired by Brad’s comment [ http://bycommonconsent.com/2010/03/26/correlation-an-uncorrelated-history-part-8-the-rise-of-correlation/ ] on how correlation was viewed by some church leaders as what I would call a new technology, increasing the capacity of the church to realize the kingdom of God on earth.)

  2. Michael on March 29, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Dane,

    I have always found the topic of Zion and all its attendant particulars to be a fascinating discussion subject. However, in all the years I have commented upon it or reveled in Brother Nibley’s speculations in Approaching Zion, I have not found much interest amongst my fellow Latter-day Saints. I find such a lack of interest in our ultimate goal to be perplexing.

    If we take Salt Lake valley and the corresponding areas of Provo and Ogden as our guide, I am afraid that the physical creation of Zion as a city will be waylaid by the free-for-all market capitalism that is so prevalent in the State of Utah. Will the fixation on full unencumbered property rights, the fanatical fascination with gun rights, and the rampant materialism of Babylon doom construction of the city from the start? It will be very difficult for members to change their natures and dispositions as will be required for a truly sustainable city built upon beauty, consecration, and the common weal. I don’t know that most US members have it within themselves to do so. And where does Brother Beck or Brother Hannity fit into such a society? Not to mention Brother Reid or Brother Buttars.

    How will a Zion society allow for natural diversity and individualism while still creating the unity required?

  3. Mike S on March 29, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Brother Reid is working towards Zion by starting the socialization of health care in the country. And Brother Romney did the same thing in Mass. Perhaps they know something we don’t.

  4. Bob on March 29, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I don’t think a City of Zion will be built. It was a 19th C. understanding/hope, that now should be placed behind us. Plus__ I want to live in Mayberry__with Andy and Aunt Bee.

  5. Dane Laverty on March 29, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Bob, perhaps you’re right. But I love Zion and will continue to believe in its literal construction.

    Michael, your description, “a truly sustainable city built upon beauty, consecration, and the common weal,” is what I’m talking about when I say, “that most church members picture this Zion as a magical, idyllic dwelling place, free from sin and suffering. But an image of what the city looks like doesn’t tell us how it came to be that way.” Which isn’t to criticize your image, but rather to challenge you to tell me — what practical steps will be taken in order to make such a place possible? In other words, if our current cities are not “built upon beauty, consecration, and the common weal,” then in what way will Zion be different so that it can be?

  6. Michael on March 29, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Dane, good question. If we take Brother Nibley as our guide then Zion will not only be the pure in heart but will also be those that are fully committed to the law of consecration in all of their dealings with their fellow man. They will have overcome the natural man and natural woman to such an extent that they transcend politics, economic self-interest, familial loyalty and the straddling of both worlds.

    I would imagine the inhabitants of Zion will be called out of the world and receive a custom invitation to participate. Sort of like the second anointing ceremony between a husband and wife. It will be comprised of those who have the pure love of Christ to such a degree that all their efforts will be directed towards service and the pursuit of further light and knowledge.

    As for the logistics, I would have to imagine that the land will be owned directly by the Church and will be subject to use by the inhabitants through a strict stewardship agreement. Such a scenario has the potential of being full of stepford families if it is treated as an extension of current LDS culture instead of fully representing the diversity of humanity. I would also expect that unity would be required on major items but not necessarily on smaller items. I think those that have a difficult time with cultural non-conformity will not be a good fit as they will try to impose such conformity on too many aspects of the community while those that thrive on rebellious non-conformity will also find it stifling. It will be very select individuals that can demonstrate the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical maturity necessary to live in the city.

  7. Dane Laverty on March 29, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Michael, thanks for taking my question seriously enough to give it a thoughtful reply. So, if I’m reading you correctly, the key attribute that distinguishes Zion from other cities will be the type of people who live in it. In other words, a heavenly city can only be built by the congregation of a certain type of individual.

    For all I know you’re right. However, I see two major problems with this kind of Zion. The first is that it’s brittle — what happens when its inhabitants have children who are not “a good fit” for the city? Then your two options are to break up families or to allow the children to influence the city, neither of which seems like an acceptable solution for this kind of Zion.

    My second concern is that it sounds pretty “eugenics-y” — the true city can only be built by the true race. This Zion seems like a reward for the righteous (which, as I said, may very well be what happens), but I like to imagine that Zion is a place that helps us sinners to become more righteous.

  8. Bob on March 29, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Dane, this Zion sounds pretty elitist. How big is going to be 20,000? How about the other billions of people__just worker bees? Why only one city?

  9. Michael on March 29, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Dane,

    Once again, very good questions. In giving consideration to the good seed gone bad scenario, I have pondered how the Nephites and Lamanites handled such a situation in the 200 years of peace and beauty following the Saviour’s visit. The solution we come up with for Zion must also be used during the Millennium. If there will not be any telestial souls during the 1000 years, what happens when agency is used for bad choices. Does that person automatically get thrown off the planet? Could it be that by taking away the bad influences you also take away the potential for bad seeds to flourish? This is perhaps one of the most challenging questions concerning Zion and the Millennium.

    As concerns the second item, I don’t think eugenics is a risk as much as just plain old blandness if we assume that current LDS thought on acceptable community culture is carried into Zion. I think we will see how the US church membership handles and receives the upcoming transition from an all white, Scandinavian-descended leadership structure to a “remnant of the the House of Israel”, Lamanite-descended leadership structure. The change is prophesied in the Book of Mormon and appears close to being fulfilled in my mind. The day of the gentiles succouring the Lamanites is passing and the Lamanites will be fulfilling the visions seen by the Book of Mormon prophets.

  10. Dane Laverty on March 29, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Bob, which Zion are you talking about? I don’t think I’ve described any specific kind of Zion at all — I’m just broaching the subject. Or perhaps you’re referring to Michael’s vision of Zion. On the other hand, I would love to hear your vision of Zion. Please, talk to me about a vision of Zion that incorporates the billions of people in the world. Is it a literal city? A virtual online community? There are so many possibilities that it’s wonderful, and I only hope that we can sincerely begin to engage with them.

  11. Bob on March 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    MY ZION:
    Imagine there’s no heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today…

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace…

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world…

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will live as one.

  12. Sean on March 29, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    I believe that the City of Zion will be built before the second coming. I believe that the inhabitants will be summoned, and that not every LDS will belong there before the second coming. (That can include me :)) I believe that the Law of Consecration will be established throughout the entire Church by the time the City construction has begun. I believe that it will be constructed in a time of chaos and misery for the people of this world. I’m not sure I believe in the “yellow dog” prophecy, but I do believe that the land will be desolate and broken. (I also believe the whole of the U.S.A. will be like that, don’t ask me why) I believe that only the pure in heart will be able to enter and that enemies of freedom and righteousness will be unable to enter. I also believe that the architecture and art of that city will be wonderful to behold and that angels will administer openly to the inhabitants.

    Call me a crazy person if you wish, but this is my view on things for various reasons. I want the United Order reestablished. I believe that when it is, many people will apostatize because they will either think the Prophets are opportunistic, or they will know the truth and choose the love of earthly possessions over the Lord’s Church. People will have to give up most (but I’m sure not all) private property in exchange for physical and spiritual protection in those dark times in the future. How can you expect the Church to protect and provide for you, if you do not give back, and what good are earthly possessions in the end?

    Sorry I’m ranting, but this subject is close to my heart. If I have to live through pain, misery, and want for a hundred years, and I lay my eyes upon the Temple of Zion, THE Temple, I will die a happy man. I live for now, and prepare for the worst though the worst may be afar off in time, but I will all of my life desire to build the Great Temple of the Lord. I will sing “the Spirit of God” with my fellow servants on that day if it comes.

  13. Fifi on March 29, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Zion Construction Company will build everyone affordable homes. Read Isaiah. He says no more apartment living – yay! And Zion Ideological Society will run a fair and democratic government as America’s founding fathers envisioned. We’ll call “America”. It ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We just need more light so we can see eye to eye, heart to heart. Isaiah says this will happen, maybe soon!

  14. Bob on March 29, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    The leadership of the Church has picked it’s physical Zion. It’s Salt Lake City. The Church is putting every free Real Estate dollar it has there.
    But the Church long ago gave up on a gathering of Saints and a physical Zion__Zion is now a term only for “The pure of heart”.

  15. Ardis E. Parshall on March 29, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    There *will* be a City of Zion — many of them — probably beginning with the New Jerusalem in Missouri because I don’t see the world, or even members of the church, getting its act together well enough to build such a city until we’re under the direct daily leadership of the Savior. That first City will be built according to the street and zoning plans drawn by Joseph Smith, although I suspect that subsequent cities of Zion will have modifications based on experience, the way so many of Joseph’s initial utopian blueprints were altered with the next experiment. And there will be multiple cities of Zion: when one reaches capacity (I forget how many one city was designed to support, but the number is given), another city, and another, will be laid out until all who are willing to live as a Zion people have been accommodated.

    The cities will be beautiful, I think, in both architecture and landscape, although I have no idea what style will prevail. Likely there will be many, based on taste and climate. I think they will be beautiful because there will be architects and gardeners who will be willing to give of their best. Everyone there will be giving of his or her best, so everything of every kind and nature will be of the best. Even the hard work, the dirty and boring and mundane stuff that most of us dislike will be done well, in part because there are people who will be willing to do it as their offering to Zion, in part because the people who do it will have their wants and needs and desires met as well as everyone else in Zion, in part because the people who do it will be treated with the same respect and dignity as everyone else, in part because when there is work to do a Zion people will pitch in and do it (who cleans your chapel? odds are that some of the most faithful moppers and scrubbers are also the best, most intelligent, most faith people in your ward).

    Government will be by some priesthood-directed plan, and it will look like no civil government on earth — including the U.S. of A.

    I want to live there for the peace and brotherhood, and because I will there be able to make my best contribution at what I do best and what is needed most, without having to squander so much time and effort at bare survival.

  16. Dane Laverty on March 29, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Wonderful Ardis. But now let me give you the same challenge I gave Michael. In your vision of Zion, you won’t have “to squander so much time and effort at bare survival.” Why not? Or in other words, what specific attribute of Zion will reduce the amount of time you need to spend meeting your basic necessities?

  17. Dane Laverty on March 29, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Bob, #11 – I don’t know if you posted the lyrics sincerely or tongue-in-cheek, but I think that is a beautiful vision of Zion. So let me extend you the same question — how do you see us getting from where we are to the image you present?

  18. Ardis E. Parshall on March 29, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Dane, for starters, I won’t have to lose so many hours every week walking places just because I can’t see to drive and can’t afford to pay someone to drive me — either the City of Zion will be better arranged or else I’ll have access to the same transportation everybody else has. And this isn’t a utopian one-way dream: there are practical things I do faster and better than other people; why should you spend four hours doing something I can do for you in 20 minutes? If we’re neighbors, if we really do put each other’s welfare on a par with our own, we’ll be willing to relieve each other of the burdens that keep us from making our best contributions today.

  19. Bob on March 30, 2010 at 12:05 am

    #15:Ardis__ We had that Zion model in Utah and Idaho in the late 19th C.. It failed to grow. We had Nauvoo (The Beautiful), a Zion finally over run by the have-nots. We had Salt Lake City finally ran by the U.S. government. These gated/walled ( to keep out the unwashed)villages/ cities are not my vision of Zion.

  20. Tatiana on March 30, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I see Zion as the coming non-money economy, in which people contribute because of the joy of making something useful and beautiful (like open source programmers today) and for the fun of giving someone a gift. Restaurants will be run by people who love to feed people, and they’ll be free. Sort of like my feeding station for the wildlife that I run here on my back deck. Doctors will care for people because they want to heal the sick, because it gives them joy. Teachers will educate for the fun of introducing others to the things they love. There will be such abundance because we have a huge surplus anyway of everything, just from modern technological society. What people truly crave is not more things. Every only child knows that toys are no fun unless there’s someone to play with. What people want is …. for want of a better word I’ll call them blessings. Zion, then, runs on a blessing economy, an economy of abundance rather than lack.

  21. Bob on March 30, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Tatiana: Well there goes the $1 burger. Why take that when I can get a steak for free? But who is going to supply your restauants with the free steaks? Who is going to wait on your table for free and no tip?

  22. Tatiana on March 30, 2010 at 9:44 am

    People who already have everything they need who do it for fun, of course! Lots of people love to feed people. I’m sort of compulsive about it, as my friends will tell you. They complain that they gain five pounds a week when they come to visit me.

    The same answer to who will clean the meetinghouse. People who love to serve and enjoy a job well-done. Is it so difficult to believe?

    I scrape up the money to pay for my birds and animals to have nutritious food available every day. I just love them and feel responsible to them. I love to see their hunger satisfied.

  23. Michael on March 30, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Wow. Tatiana sounds like one of those idealistic youth under 30. What is the old saying?

    If you’re not liberal when you’re young, you have no heart. If you’re not conservative when you’re older, you have no brain.

  24. Adam Greenwood on March 30, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Even heartless conservatives cook burgers for their families without getting paid for it. Steaks too.

    But when you make your neighborhood or your city or your state your family, the more you have an information problem that prices currently help resolve. Contra Nibley, the free market isn’t all about greed and status, though its also about that. I don’t know how Zion deals with the information problem, especially in a very complex modern world, unless you postulate that God blesses Zion by ending scarcity, like some scriptures about the millennium suggest.

  25. Dane Laverty on March 30, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I think it’s interesting how many of the visions of Zion here are based on futuristic science and technology. Is Zion not possible until we have the technology necessary for enough production and distribution to meet everyone’s needs and wants? Is freedom from want the defining attribute of Zion? On the other hand, if we have the technological means to meet everyone’s temporal needs, then is there a place for service in Zion? Or is Zion a place where everyone is free to rest and indulge themselves freely?

    Another trend I see is the expectation that, in Zion, people will be kind and selfless, but I haven’t heard anyone speculate on how people will come to be that way. Is it that only kind and selfless people will be selected to populate Zion? Because, if that’s the case, Zion doesn’t amount to much — I suppose I could build Zion today if I were allowed to build it from just the kindest, most honest, hardest working people around. It would just be a very small city.

  26. Bob on March 30, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    ZION: “Look for it only in books, for it is no more
    than a dream remembered, a Civilization___ Gone With The Wind…”.

  27. Michael on March 30, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Since the City of Enoch was the only successful example we have of establishing Zion on this earth, it would do well to glean as much as we can from its history.

  28. liberty on March 30, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    As previously noted, Zion has been replaced with the profit motive and conservative politics by Latter-day Saints in Utah. We can interpret verses in 3 Nephi as a “hint” that latinos and Amerindians will build Zion after Anglos have botched the job.

  29. Ardis E. Parshall on March 30, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Nothing I’ve suggested depends on any greater technology than now exists. It depends, rather, on the hearts of the faithful who are willing to serve their fellows as well as themselves, and on the savings of all that is wasted now in the pursuit of more plastic toys than any of us can play with in a lifetime.

    Michael, the City of Enoch isn’t the only pattern. There are the Saints who “held all things in common” in the days immediately after the resurrection (Acts 4:32-35) and in the New World after Christ’s visit (see 4 Nephi 1-18).

    We become that kind of people by practicing unselfishness in our personal lives. We pay our tithes and exceedingly generous offerings. We forego some frivolous luxuries in order to help others, and we don’t expect glory and press coverage for it. We take our turn cleaning the chapel and filling the ward welfare assignments. We do our home and visiting teaching and genuinely look for ways we can be of service to each other, and we render that service. We fill our church callings, and we sustain others in theirs. We take part in community projects. When the Scouts do a food drive, we buy first-rate peanut butter and chile to donate, rather than scouring our shelves for outdated junk.

    That all seems to be a focus on outward action, but I don’t think you can sustain such outward action without a softening of the heart and a drawing near to God. We become a Zion people by being a Zion people, as far as we can sustain it.

  30. Michael on March 30, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Ardis,

    The examples you cite in Acts and 3 Nephi are of the law of consecration / united order being implemented. Zion, as a physical city, will be much much more than that. It will also include political governance, cultural togetherness, physical infrastructure, economic separation from Babylon’s dependence, and spiritual knowledge on a much greater scale. That is why I would continue to cite the City of Enoch as the example. They created that city in the midst of great wickedness surrounding them. The Lamanites and Nephites in 3 Nephi did not have that same challenge.

  31. Bob on March 30, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    #31: “..economic separation from Babylon’s dependence,…”. Good luck on that one (there goes your Walmart).

  32. Tatiana on March 30, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    I don’t see it as being so very starry-eyed or idealistic. We already see it today in many forms. Think freecycle meets make-a-wish meets wikipedia. There are couch surfers who travel and stay with people for free. I saw a site like that where you tell what city you plan to visit, and people there offer to put you up and entertain you for the fun of it. There are plenty of people today making large investments of time and creativity into the moneyless economy. I look for that to expand continually until money is quite optional.

    The family is the ideal unit of society, right? Well, the process could be like the adoption of larger and larger families until everyone is a member of our common family. We all know it’s the literal truth anyway. It will be so fun! The ‘nacle is a sort of extended family, isn’t it? You’re all welcome to come visit me here any time!

  33. Tatiana on March 30, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Oh, and Michael, I’m 51 and I have quite a serviceable brain by all the standard measures.

  34. Ardis E. Parshall on March 30, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Michael, I don’t understand your stange claim that the New Testament and Book of Mormon examples didn’t have the same challenges. The New Testament group, for instance, was living with the examples of Rome and Greece, for crying out loud.

    You also have a faulty understanding of the “united order.” It is not synonymous with “law of consecration,” not by a long shot.

    And obviously I’m not ready for Zion, if my irritation at your patronizing of Tatiana and me is any indication.

  35. Michael on March 30, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Ardis, I am aware of the differences between the United Order and the Law of Consecration. Thanks.

  36. Adam Greenwood on March 31, 2010 at 9:41 am

    “Another trend I see is the expectation that, in Zion, people will be kind and selfless, but I haven’t heard anyone speculate on how people will come to be that way. Is it that only kind and selfless people will be selected to populate Zion? Because, if that’s the case, Zion doesn’t amount to much — I suppose I could build Zion today if I were allowed to build it from just the kindest, most honest, hardest working people around. It would just be a very small city.”

    Isn’t that more or less how the United Order of 4 Nephi got built? And the millennial Zion is going to get built the same way. Lots of human material is going to be excluded.

    I take issue with your claim (?) that Zion, the City of the Saints, is only interesting or worthwhile if it makes non-Saints into Saints.

  37. Adam Greenwood on March 31, 2010 at 9:44 am

    However, I can see why the idea of a city so physically and socially organized that it impels goodness on its inhabitants is compelling. Indeed, I think Zion must be that way in one sense–no society is viable unless it can survive a change in generations, so Zion must be a place capable of raising children into being Zion-like. But I am extremely sceptical that the initial Zion can be set up by people who aren’t saints, which is what you seem to be wanting, unless I misinterpret you.

  38. Dane Laverty on March 31, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Adam, I appreciate you putting the question mark after “claim” — I’m not necessarily claiming that Zion needs to be a certain way to be interesting, I’m just asking if it does.

    I think you’re interpreting me correctly. However, I’m curious about your statement, “I am extremely sceptical that the initial Zion can be set up by people who aren’t saints.” What that implies, if I understand you correctly, is that you believe that the world today is a better environment for raising up the builders of Zion than an attempted proto-Zion would be. Again, perhaps you’re right, but my own opinion is that “building Zion” will be an iterative exercise, with each society building on the successes and working to fix the failures of the previous one. To me, that’s the value of striving to build a “green hill” — it’s a step toward Zion, even if it isn’t actually Zion.

  39. John Mansfield on March 31, 2010 at 10:25 am

    In our family, we have wondered about the applicability of a slight tweaking of D&C 45:70:

    “And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand [them].”

  40. Michael on March 31, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Adam,

    Good points. As I read the scriptures (especially Moses 7) and supplement it with Brother Brigham, Brother Nibley and various assorted wisdom from the restored gospel, I am convinced more than ever that Zion (and also the Celestial Kingdom) are places of exclusion. Not in the sense that they arbitrarily reject people based upon some ideal of eugenics, race or other such criteria, but in the sense that you must voluntarily be willing to live the laws of Zion and of the Celestial Kingdom in order to enter. And you must have demonstrated your ability to live those laws before you are considered for entry. Both D&C 76 and D&C 88 provide great insight into how this works. Brother Joseph also spoke of obedience to the laws being necessary (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith).

    I think most of humanity will not be willing to live the laws and that is what will lead to the separation.

  41. Michael on March 31, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Perhaps correlation will prove itself useful in defining the basic laws which will govern Zion and in rejecting cultural norms which exclude members unnecessarily.

  42. Tatiana on March 31, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    In my picture, education is pursued by all primarily online using free resources compiled by the human species in much the way wikipedia is compiled. Something like the “Hole in the Wall” computer terminals now installed in slums in India will be available to every child on the planet. There, they will have access to the very best education possible, probably something that far surpasses what we have today both in content and presentation. People educated this way will be maximally empowered, similar to what Kiran bir Sethi discusses in this TED talk.

    Then resources can be made available to them through online organizations like kiva or education generation, etc. etc. to pursue whatever goals or callings they find most important.

    In this way, society will take huge leaps forward, through the singularity and beyond. Right now the amount of sheer human capital we waste is tragic and even criminal. Imagine when society starts taking advantage of all that and building on it. It’s happening right now, already, right before our eyes. We’re building Zion. It’s going to be magnificent.

  43. Dane Laverty on March 31, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Michael and Adam, I’m open to the possibility of an exclusive, separatist Zion, but I’m not clear on what purpose it serves. Would you care to speculate on the role such a Zion would fill? Does it contribute to the growth of the people inside it? Does it contribute to the growth of the people outside it? Or is it just a nice place to live for people who are willing to abide its laws — a kind of celestial waiting room, where people pass the time until they die?

  44. Adam Greenwood on March 31, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    “Would you care to speculate on the role such a Zion would fill? Does it contribute to the growth of the people inside it? Does it contribute to the growth of the people outside it? Or is it just a nice place to live for people who are willing to abide its laws — a kind of celestial waiting room, where people pass the time until they die?”

    You’re not being fair to the 3rd option, I don’t think. The point of Zion is that it is the ideal way for men and women to live in mortality. It does not need to be justified in terms of its contributions to the growth of others or of its constituents.

    Should a couple not bother improving their marriage if they are unfortunately childless?

  45. Michael on March 31, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Dane, the traditional answer for the purpose of Zion has been the same purpose answered for the exclusionary nature of our Temples. It is a place for the Lord to reside and reveal further light and knowledge to his Saints. He will not abide in a place where there is sin, mocking, and rejection of what He provides.

    One of the consistent truths of our restored gospel is that behaviour must match knowledge. Elder Maxwell spoke many times of gospel learning and how we must implement the knowledge we receive from the Spirit in order to gain further revelation. That is why intellectualism is so disparaged without a corresponding change in behaviour. I may KNOW that I need to have more humility but if I use my knowledge to satisfy my pride then I am not entitled to greater knowledge or revelation. I must change my behaviour to be more humble FIRST and then seek further light and knowledge.

    Gaining exaltation is a progressive journey. From what I understand, Zion is meant to allow for a greater level of obedience in order to learn from the Saviour and the Spirit more fully. Same reason we have Temples and why attendance at them is urged so fervently. That is what makes Zion exclusionary by its nature. It is not meant to be for grade school. It is meant to accommodate college students.

  46. Michael on March 31, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    I heartily recommend Approaching Zion as a primer for understanding the construction of the New Jerusalem. While Brother Nibley does have interesting viewpoints, I think he was dead on in how he described the framework for Zion.

  47. Raymond Takashi Swenson on March 31, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Enoch and later Melchizedek created their cities of Zion by converting the people of their communities to live a Celestial standard of behavior and faith. When the Millenium begins, and the Savir returns, he will bring with him the people of Enoch and Melchizedek, who can demonstrate to the rest of us how to build new Zions all over the world. The Millenium is a transitional period, preparing the earth to become part of the Celestial order, and the building of Zion societies will be the schools where men and women will prepare to live on the Celestial earth in the eternities.

    Yes, there is a process of exclusion, of separation, because there is a distinction between the Celestial and Terrestrial orders and the people suited to be citizens of each. Clearly, one of the major reasons that the earth will be raised to a Terrestrial level during the Millenium will be the absence of the kind of people who keep dragging it down to a Telestial level through their behavior. The “exclusion” from Zion will not be against anyone who both wants to live there and is willing to make and live by the covenants involved in living there. Anyone who is unrepentant is not qualified to join Zion.

    The population of humanity at the beginning of the Millenium will be different from the population at the end, in terms of its behavior. As it begins, people who are basically good and honorable will be as they are, with their existing religions and national loyalties. The Zion cities will invite the mass of humanity to become part of the Lord’s program for fulfillment and eternal happiness. With the resurrection of the Just, the separation between the earth and the Spirit World will break down, and the millions and billions converted there will be able to move out and preach the Gospel to their living descendants, crossing barriers of language, nationality, and culture that make it hard in the present world.

    The fact that the people of past ages will be living among us suggests to me that the Zion cities will be eclectic in their architecture. Since divine beings who have lived in an advanced society for millennia will be citizens, I fully expect that they will contribute a major advance in scientific knowledge, in the way that science fiction stories often envision aliens bringing advanced technology to earth. A complete understanding of physics, chemistry and biology should greatly resolve the issues of feeding, clothing, and housing people, and keeping them healthy, educated and informed.

    Science Fiction author Arthur C. Clarke is known for his aphorism, that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” A corollary is that “Any technology that is not magical is insufficiently advanced.” Many of the things we do with computers and “phones” on the internet these days would be considered magical by out ancestors: Speaking to people anywhere in the world from almost anywhere in the world. Retrieving information about almost anything in a minute or two, including taking tours of museums and hearing concerts and watching performances of plays. Knowing precisely where we are on the earth’s surface. Publishing our thoughts to hundreds, thousands or millions of people at one time. Having access to powerful mathematical machines, telescopes orbiting the earth, cameras probing the deep ocean, from a small flat screen the size of a common spiral notebook. The technology of the Urim and Thummim used by Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon sounded magical at the time he first described it, but if a person in 2010 said that he looked into a small device that gave off illuminated images of text, we would say he just got a text message on his phone. As much as we might like to maintain the cachet of “magic” around the miracles performed by God’s servants, Mormon prophets like Brigham Young have long insisted that God works through what we could call advanced technology. And so I fully expect advanced technology, that looks magical to those not interested in studying the principles behind it, will be part of the operation of the Zion communities.

    As Hugh Nibley often noted, the great challenge for many of us will be to figure out how we can positively contribute to such a society when we are no longer needed in our current professions. Soldiers and lawyers (both of which I have been) will be unemployed. I suspect that advertising will no longer be a major commercial activity during the Millenium. The nature of health care will be radically transformed. And a vast army of those currently occupied in collecting taxes and telling us how to run our lives will have nothing to do. How many members of Congress and presidents and prime ministers will be needed when the rightful King of the earth has returned? For that matter, since a major aspect of modern higher education (another area I have labored in) is making it a limited and therefore expensive commodity, I suspect a lot of people in the education industry (especially those who don’t teach anything) will also be looking for new work. So a lot of the faith required in joining a Zion society for many of us will be abandoning the familiar ways of making a living that have made us secure and powerful and admired and influential. That reluctance to give up what has made us great is an impediment to even thinking about it.

  48. Michael on March 31, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Raymond, very well said.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.