I’m not ready to leave my “building Zion” discussion just yet. Where does the New Jerusalem come from? If you asked my peers, parents, seminary teachers, and Sunday school instructors, you might receive visions like these:
- Utah-style United Order Zion
“We all share equally in temporal things,” Luetta explained to the visitor. “Sometimes I miss getting special presents for my birthday — things that were just mine — but the sacrifice is worth knowing that no one goes to bed hungry.”
- The Ward/Stake Zion
Brother Anderson spoke from the pulpit, “Zion is the pure in heart. We are Zion here, in this chapel today. In the early days of the church, the saints gathered to Utah. Now we gather in our wards and stakes. This is the same organization we will see in the great city of Zion in the latter days.”
- Zion of the United States of America
“You see, my son, just as Brother Brigham prophesied, the American continents were united under the Stars and Stripes. With the annexation of Brazil to the union, and with the election of Mitt Fielding Romney Jr. to the Continental Presidency, the prophecies were fulfilled.”
- Lamanite Zion
“The Book of Mormon makes it clear that the current establishment will fail in its work of building up the kingdom of God, and they will be forcibly replaced by a new, capable Lamanite-descended leadership who will get the job done.”
- Zion Online
The internet community was surprised to see that the millions of websites slowly, inexorably, aligned themselves under either the umbrella community of zion.org or the enticing network of babylon.com…
- Trek to Missouri Zion
“Since the highways were littered with derelict cars, we put chains on the Suburban and drove straight through the mountains. We ran out of gas in Kansas, so Dad put his Eagle Scout training to work by lashing a few staves into a working handcart. That carried our few remaining supplies while we walked, until we arrived at the gates of the holy city.”
- Zionist Zion
Israel was united in a secret pact with the United States, just as so many suspected. The two powers possessed the strength to quietly oppose the conspiracies of the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Red Chinese, and (unexpectedly) the Romanians. They built a hidden temple under the Dome of the Rock, which served as a conduit to divert Gaddafi’s Great Manmade River and cleanse the Dead Sea, which allowed the prophesied city to be built on the ruins of Qumran…
- Post-apocalyptic Zion
Zan surveyed the desolate, arid plains. The war had been gruesome, but the now-vacant landscape left God’s people free to build His kingdom aright, from the ground up.
- Deus ex machina Millenial Zion
The nations and peoples of the world were hopelessly entangled in strifes, sins, and self-indulgences. Then God returned to cleanse the earth and set things right.
- Zion of the Hidden Priesthood
Sister Hunsaker stopped me after Gospel Doctrine. “The instructor did a good job, but she really had no idea what she was talking about,” she said. “Zion is already here. It happened when Adam and the Savior gathered with the priesthood in Adam-ondi-Ahman. It was a secret, but I have it on good authority that the meeting has already taken place. You see, this aligns perfectly with the Doctrine & Covenants’ depiction of the Church of the Firstborn, and with the book of Revelation’s mother and child in the wilderness…”
- Zion of Spontaneous Universal Peace
“The Savior won’t come until we’re prepared to receive him,” explained Elder Carmichael. “This means that nations will stop fighting, and there will be war no more. I expect that, in our day, we will see peace break out across the world, in preparation for the return of the Lord.”
- Zion as the City of Enoch Returned
When I first met Mahijah, I was overwhelmed by the love that radiated from his countenance. It warmed not just my heart, but my entire being. I couldn’t stop smiling.
I don’t present these visions mockingly — I believe in parts of several of them, including the grand gathering in Adam-ondi-Ahman, the temple in Jerusalem, and the city in Jackson county. What I don’t believe, however, is that Zion will be built in a single, easily identifiable, epic effort, which is what these visions depict. Some are too facile, conveniently dividing the people of the world into clearly defined camps of good and evil. Some are too anemic, resulting in Zions that don’t address the complex needs that real, three-dimensional people have. Some are too idealistic, expecting that the nature of humanity will spontaneously change in a way that makes a Zion lifestyle possible. All of them are too passive, presenting the work of building Zion as something that will be done by “someone other than me”, or postponing the work until some cataclysmic future event.
When I imagine how Zion will actually be brought to pass, I find the name “New Jerusalem” to be instructive. Why call it a “new” Jerusalem unless it will share similarities to the old Jerusalem? And so I expect it will be built in a similar fashion to the old Jerusalem — by many individuals, people with conflicting values, views, and goal, who are willing to cooperate in order to create a grand community that is greater than any of us could achieve on our own. There will be mistakes made and lessons learned in its construction.
Just as Jerusalem has its several quarters and markets, I expect that the new Jerusalem will not be a monoculture, but will be a hybrid community — even a network of cities or communities — with facilities for the scientist, the artist, the businessperson, and all the rest of us. Perhaps it will be a distributed community, connected more by technology or affiliation than by geography. But the one thing I am certain of is that the people who build Zion will look like you and me, and that the people who inhabit Zion will be indistinguishable from some of the neighbors who live on your street today.