Change and continuity create an interesting tension in the Church. I explored this in a previous post as the tension of believing in an everlasting, unchanging gospel that we have had restored to us and the belief in ongoing revelation and changes to adapt and evolve the Church to our current circumstances. Changes can be disconcerting with the first of those two beliefs in mind because it demonstrates that the Church’s beliefs and practices are not unchanging and static. One of the ways we minimize the perception of change, however, is to continue to use terminology that was important—words and phrases that were previously used—but to collectively change what we mean when we use that terminology. The concept of gathering the Elect to Zion is a case study in the process of shifting use of terminology.
The September 1830 revelation that we are studying this week (now Section 29) demonstrates how gathering was understood in the earliest days of the Church. The revelation opens with an announcement that Jesus Christ “will gether his People even as a hen gethereth her Chickens under her wings even as many as will hearken to my voice & humble themselves before me & call upon me in mighty prayer.” It discusses missionary work and prayer, then states that the elders the revelation is addressing “are called to bring to pass the gethering of mine Elect … wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the father that they shall be gethered in unto one place upon the the face of this land to prepare their Hearts & be prepared in all things against the day of tribulation & desolation is sent forth upon the wicked.” Gathering, as discussed here was focused first on missionary work to seek out the “Elect” who “will hearken” to the Lord’s voice and then to gather them “in unto one place upon the face of this land” to prepare for the dramatic and violent destruction of the wicked associated with the return of Jesus Christ prior to a millennium of peace.
That premillennial belief in an imminent return of Jesus Christ with a time of destruction beforehand was a driving force behind the idea of gathering to a physical location. The September 1830 revelation goes on to describe in great detail a variety of graphic destructions to be poured upon the wicked, including hailstorms, flies eating the flesh of the wicked, and the wicked being devoured by “the Beasts of the forest & the fowls of the air,” then affirming that while these things have not yet come to pass, they “shurely must as I live for abominations shall not reign.” There is also a lot of mentions of trumps sounding (which hopefully has more to do with the language of the Revelation of St. John than with a certain forthcoming social media platform). The focal point for the gathering became known as Zion or the New Jerusalem (drawing on terminology from the Book of Mormon and the New Translation of the Old Testament that we have in the Book of Moses). A March 1831 revelation (now Section 45), for example, drew on this theme, stating that in the end days: “My Deciples shall stand in Holy places & shall not be moved but among the wicked men shall lift up their voices & curse God & die.” After discussing the themes in greater detail, that revelation instructed the Saints to gather riches to purchase land in the place that “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,” then goes on to state that: “It shall be called Zion & it shall come to pass among the wicked that evry man that will not take his sword against his Neighbour must needs flee unto Zion for safety.” Zion was designated as a place of safety in the great and terrible day of the Lord.
While revelations initially indicated that this Zion was one specific location, the idea gradually began to expand. The revelation that is now Section 29 designated “that they shall be gethered in unto one place,” which a revelation the following summer indicated was “the land of Missorie,” specifically “the place which is now called Independence.” An April 1832 revelation, however, gave a more expansive definition to Zion beyond the focal point in Missouri. It stated that: “I have consecrated the land of Kirtland in mine own due time for the benefits of the Saints of the most high God & for a stake to Zion[.] for Zion must increase in beauty & in holy-ness her borders must increase be enlarged.” Drawing on the imagery of Isaiah 54, the revelation implied that Zion was like a great tent, with a central city or post of Zion in Missouri and outposts or satellite sites of Zion, including Kirtland, securing its curtains like tent stakes. Hence, Zion was no longer one single location, but became more elastic in concept, including other places where the Saints lived under divine law as extensions of Zion.
Even with that modification, there was a focus on creating a physical city of Zion. Joseph Smith laid out a plat for the city of Zion in 1833, giving an ideal for how the holy city should be built. He designated space for “publick buildings” in the center (including “store houses for[r] [the] Bishop” and a series of temples for use by the various quorums of the priesthood as “houses of worship [and] schools”) and houses for living in the surrounding city and then barns, stables, and farmland outside of the city in “a sufficient quanty of land to supply the whole plot.” Once filled, copies of the city would be built next to it “and so fill up the world in these last days and let every man live in the City for this is the City of Zion.” Stakes of Zion and subsequent city-building efforts would attempt to follow this plan (though expansion was often too rapid and resources too limited to effectively do so). By late 1833, however, the Saints had been driven out of Independence and every attempt to return failed. Kirtland—designated as a stake of Zion—became the primary focus of Joseph’s efforts over the next several years, but in 1838, the Church leaders and many of the Kirtland Saints fled to Far West, Missouri. Far West was spoken of in a revelation as “a holy and consecrated land,” possibly implying that it was to replace the Zion in Independence. Within a year, however, they were forced to leave their land again, shattering their dreams once more. This time, they settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. Nauvoo was set up as a stake of Zion, not the Holy City itself, while the Saints looked to return to their promised land.
After Joseph Smith’s death in 1844, Church leadership passed to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles under Brigham Young, who carried out plans to move to the Great Basin region of the American West. Many comparisons were made between these pioneers as a modern “camp of Israel” on an Egypt-like exodus to settle a promised land “in the top of the mountains” that “all nations would flow unto” and where “out of Zion [would] go forth the law.” While they looked to return to Missouri as their eventual inheritance, the land of Deseret or Utah was seen as a land of Zion to which they should gather. For example, hymns from that era proclaimed things like: “Come to Zion, / For your coming Lord is nigh,” or “O Zion! dear Zion! home of the free: / My own mountain home now to thee I have come; / All my fond hopes are centered in thee,” or warned converts to: “Think not, when you gather to Zion, / Your troubles and trials are through— / That nothing but comfort and pleasure / Are waiting in Zion for you.” It should be apparent from calls to gather and references to mountains that the authors of these hymns saw Utah as Zion. As a result of the calls to gather, tens of thousands of Saints from across America, Europe, and (to a lesser degree) the Pacific Islands immigrated to the western United States and established over 500 colonies in an area reaching across much of the American West and into Mexico and Canada in an effort to build Zion.
The concept of Zion utilized in these colonies was rooted in the ideals of Joseph Smith’s work and focused on a few central points of belief. These included the gathering of the Saints to a central area, living in the Mormon village with its roots in Joseph’s Zion plat, property as stewardship from God rather than purely personal possessions, frugality and economic independence, unity and cooperation under Church direction, and redeeming the earth from the curse of the Fall of Adam and Eve through working the land. The imminence of the millennium in the Mormon mindset continued to be a driving factor, with rhetoric about the Second Coming remaining a frequent part of sermons. And, among other things, temples were used to draw people to the Great Basin region for the gathering. Only four temples were constructed during this period, and were all in Utah. This geographical limitation was intentional: Brigham Young taught that it was necessary to restrict the performance of endowment ceremonies to Utah, believing that to do otherwise would “destroy the object of the gathering.” In many ways, the approach to Zion during the mid- to late-nineteenth century was rooted in Joseph Smith’s idea of gathering to specific locations and building communities, just on a larger scale and in a different location than originally planned.
Increased pressure from the contemporary American society around the turn of the twentieth century led to changes in the concept of Zion and the practice of gathering. For example, in 1898, President George Q. Cannon counseled against Saints being anxious to gather to Zion and other leaders, such as President Lorenzo Snow, followed suite within the next decade. Part of this was due to Utah becoming increasingly overpopulated, resulting in limiting economic opportunities for newly-gathered Saints. Attacks by the federal government intended to end the practice of polygamy, which included dissolving the Perpetual Emigration Fund, also limited the Church’s ability to finance and oversee emigration to Utah.
In addition, President Joseph F. Smith, who became president of the Church in 1901, had observed some of the difficulties gathering had on outlying regions of the Church while serving as a missionary in Hawaii. While adapting to laws that prevented native Hawaiians from immigrating, the Church there worked to create their own gathering place by calling Hawaiian Latter-day Saints to build a community on the island of Lanai. As historian R. Lanier Britsch wrote: “Even as a young man [Joseph F.] Smith … perceived the mission’s most serious problem—that the Lanai colony benefitted those who gathered there, but weakened the branches elsewhere.” It is possible that President Smith carried this experience with him throughout life, realizing that the gathering to the Great Basin was weakening the Church in England and elsewhere, and may have been part of why he came to repeatedly counsel Saints to “remain in their native lands and form congregations of a permanent character.” He also initiated the process of constructing temples outside of Utah, with the Cardston, Alberta Temple in Canada and the Laie, Hawaii Temple (the first temple to be built in an area that did not yet have a stake). With these beginnings at the turn of the century, the idea of gathering to Utah began to be discouraged within the Church.
That being said, the doctrine of gathering continued to be both an official and unofficial belief while being semi-officially discouraged for several decades until official modification to the doctrine occurred in the early 1970’s. In 1971, at the first regional conference in England, regional representative Derek A. Cuthbert stated, “There is no longer a need for British Church members to leave their homeland to partake of the blessings of Church membership.” A similar conference was held in Mexico City the following year. At this conference, Elder Bruce R. McConkie enunciated the new doctrine of gathering:
The place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. Japan is for the Japanese; Korea is for the Koreans; Australia is for the Australians; every nation is the gathering place for its own people.
These statements mark an official shift in doctrine that ended the idea of gathering to a physical location of Zion. Previous efforts to discourage emigration to the American West were done with a belief that Utah was Zion (at least until Missouri could be reclaimed). Now, things had changed—Zion was officially no longer a specific location, but a worldwide effort centered on the Church, families, and individuals. The future gathering to Missouri is still a part of the Mormon millennial eschatology, but anywhere the Church is established can be a gathering place for the Saints by this definition.
By and large, the rhetoric of general authorities has followed this line of reasoning in discussing the concept of gathering to Zion. In September 2012, for example, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated that: “In these last days, in this our dispensation… Zion would be everywhere—wherever the Church is. And with that change … we no longer think of Zion as where we are going to live; we think of it as how we are going to live.” One result of this shift is that Zion has, more or less, come to be defined as the Church as an institution rather than a physical location. Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught that: “Today the Lord’s people are gathering ‘out from among the nations’ as they gather into the congregations and stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that are scattered throughout the nations.” And President Russell M. Nelson recently defined the gathering of Israel as simply “missionary, temple, and family history work.” To fit the needs of the time, today the focus of Zion is on the Church as a spiritual institution rather than a specific geographical location.
Now, to cycle back through the evolution of gathering to Zion, in the early days of the Church, it was rooted in the concept of building a city that would be a place of safety and refuge during the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The term was expanded to allow for outposts to the holy city, called stakes. After church leadership passed to Brigham Young, the Church moved to the Great Basin and sought to create an entire region of Zion colonies as a kingdom of God in the American west. After intense social pressures necessitated change, the Church entered an era of transition that resulted in a reshaping of the Zion ideal. The belief in a physical gathering to a specific location was discouraged beginning around the turn of the twentieth century and would later be replaced by a spiritual, figurative gathering into the Church itself, wherever it is found. Zion was shifted from a utopian city to a community represented in families, church association, and individual purity and righteousness while gathering was changed from relocating to physical locations to joining a worldwide community. Throughout the process of change and adaptation, the language of gathering the Elect and building Zion has been used within the Church, keeping a form of continuity from the 1830 revelations, though the way in which we use that terminology has changed and been repurposed to match the reality of what is being done in the Church today.
- Terryl Givens, “The Prophesy of Enoch as Restoration Blueprint,” Leonard Arrington Lecture, 2012
- Kent Larsen, “Lit Come Follow Me: D&C 29 – Gathering and the Plan of Salvation,” Times and Seasons, 22 March 2021
- Book of Mormon Central, Come Follow Me 2021: Doctrine and Covenants 29
Featured image: “Plat of the City of Zion, circa Early June–25 June 1833,” p. , The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed March 25, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/plat-of-the-city-of-zion-circa-early-june-25-june-1833/1
 “Revelation, September 1830–A [D&C 29],” p. 36, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed March 24, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-september-1830-a-dc-29/1
 “Revelation, September 1830–A [D&C 29],” p. 38, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed March 24, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-september-1830-a-dc-29/3.
 “Revelation, circa 7 March 1831 [D&C 45],” p. 73, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed March 24, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-circa-7-march-1831-dc-45/3
 “Revelation, circa 7 March 1831 [D&C 45],” p. 76, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed March 24, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-circa-7-march-1831-dc-45/6
 “Revelation, September 1830–A [D&C 29],” p. 36, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed March 24, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-september-1830-a-dc-29/1, emphasis added.
 “Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57],” p. 93, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed March 24, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-20-july-1831-dc-57/1
 “Revelation, 26 April 1832 [D&C 82],” p. 128, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed March 24, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-26-april-1832-dc-82/1
 “Plat of the City of Zion, circa Early June–25 June 1833,” p. , The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed March 24, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/plat-of-the-city-of-zion-circa-early-june-25-june-1833/1
 D&C 115:7.
 D&C 136:1; Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:2. See also Joel H. Johnson’s “High on the mountain top,” in Sacred Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 13th edition (Liverpool, England, London England: Albert Carrington, 1840, 1869), 134, https://books.google.com/books?id=5XYoAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA134#v=onepage&q&f=false.
 Richard Smyth, “Israel, Israel, God is calling,” Sacred Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 13th edition (Liverpool, England, London England: Alber Carrington, 1840, 1869), 154, https://books.google.com/books?id=5XYoAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA154#v=onepage&q&f=false.
 Charles W. Penrose, “O! ye mountains high, where the clear blue sky,” Sacred Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 13th edition (Liverpool, England, London England: Alber Carrington, 1840, 1869), 376.
 Eliza R. Snow, “Think not, when you gather to Zion,” Sacred Hymns, 393.
 See Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom: An economic history of the Latter-Day Saints 1830-1900 Reprint Edition (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1993), 22-28
 Cited in D. J. Buerger, “The Development of the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 20 (Winter 1987), 33-76.
 J. B. Allen and G. M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1992), 426-27; T. G. Alexander, Mormonism in transition (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 201.
 See Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, 354.
 R. L. Britsch, Moramona: The Mormons in Hawaii (Laie, HI: Institute for Polynesian Studies, 1989), 44.
 J. R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 volumes (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft 1965-75), 4:222.
 Quoted in Church history in the fullness of times (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2001), 575-76.
 Quoted in Church history in the fullness of times, 576.
 See Church History in the Fulness of Times, 255; True to the Faith (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004), 189-190.
 Jeffrey R. Holland, “Israel, Israel God is Calling,” CES Devotional (2012), http://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/ces-devotionals/2012/01/israel-israel-god-is-calling?lang=eng.
 D. Todd Christofferson, “Come to Zion,” CR Oct. 2008, http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/10/come-to-zion?lang=eng
 Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” CR October 2020, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/10/46nelson?lang=eng
My contrary opinions are rarely appreciated, but I feel like it could be helpful to say something in response to this post. I have written five books on the general topics of church history and doctrine, so I have thought extensively about many of these topics. This post does seem to generally show some of the events from church history concerning “the gathering,” but doesn’t really say a lot about the actual reasons behind these changes. I believe much of the reasoning which is expressed and cited has more to do with after-the-fact justifications of a policy change, rather than explaining the policy change itself.
I maintain that the original call to gather to Zion ought to still be in place, and if done properly, which is extremely simple, would be a source of great strength to the church and its members. It is not too hard to comprehend that if the Saints are scattered thinly far and wide throughout 200 different countries, it is highly unlikely that they can ever have any control over the society in which they live. One can never create a Zion society with a few thousand church members in each of 200 countries that are more or less tyrannies where freedom of religion is ephemeral. On the other hand, if one had 50 million stalwart Mormons in the United States, for example, they could control the politics and morality of numerous states, and have a great influence on the entirety of the nation. Otherwise, when thinly spread, they are a politically and morally meaningless drop in the bucket, easily crushed by every wind of pagan doctrine.
Therefore, I would say the bigger question is why the central church has resisted the idea of actually building a physical Zion, which requires the massing and mutual support of believers in truth. Without being able to name every one of the important factors, I believe that the church headquarters unit has discovered through trial and error that the best way to maximize its tithing income is to keep the Saints as widely scattered as possible, which maintains a constant level of anxiety and makes the central headquarters continually very important as the means for tying together the Saints in 200 different countries. That justifies a significant diplomatic corps, large amounts of international travel, massive building programs, etc., all of which were unnecessary in the original Christian church.
In contrast, if we had all the Saints gathered together in one place so that their peaceful, quiet political power was at its maximum so that they could control the terms of their physical existence, the need for a large and expensive central headquarters unit would all but disappear. The Saints could take care of themselves without any intervention from a large central bureaucracy. We might note that the present tithing system is a relic of the discredited and disavowed law of Moses, all elements of which were terminated by Christ as he began his new church at the end of his lifetime. It started to be re-introduced about 66 years after the church was restored, and only finally cemented in place in about 1960.
Today we have the bizarre situation that our most important and controlling Scriptures come from the Old Testament concerning tithing, Malachi 3:10, rather than from the New Testament concerning charity,1 Cor. 13. A tithing tax could make sense if you have to support a tribe of professional priests to support the church under King David, or if you have to have a huge bureaucracy to oversee and coordinate the members of the church scattered in 200 different countries. (Christ intended that every man be his own priest, so that there was zero need for a professional priesthood.)
A far better solution would be to drop the Old Testament tithing controlling element of today’s church and let the church members use their impulses to charity to care for each other in ways described in the Book of Mormon which requires zero central professional bureaucracy in a gathered church community. Alma1:26-7 As far as I can tell, that is the only way the church can improve its position of influence for good in the world. Otherwise, it will remain an obscure curiosity forever, ungathered, because being scattered benefits the central bureaucracy.
And we all know how well having a voting block of Mormons played out in Missouri.
I’m hesitant to jump in again, because I’ve probably already said too much, but perhaps it would be helpful to say something about my understanding of the history of the Saints in Missouri. Missouri was a slave state, with active plantations populated with slaves, and yet it was geographically part of the northern states and was rapidly being filled up by Northerners who did not agree with slavery. Under the political arrangements of the time, Missouri would cease to be a slave state if enough Northern immigrants voted to change its status. The Missourians took on the nearly impossible task of trying to keep out everyone who was against slavery, and they attacked those people, including the Mormons, as soon as the Mormons made it clear that they were against slavery. I don’t expect that the Missourians knew or cared a thing about Mormon doctrines. All they needed to know was that the Mormons were against slavery. That was enough to issue an “extermination order.”
All this to say that I’m afraid I can’t understand the mindset behind the question in comment number two. Was it a bad thing for the Mormons to be against slavery? Should they have gone along with slavery so that they would be welcome there in Missouri? Would that passivity have helped the Mormons spread the gospel, all the while ignoring the slavery issue? Should the Mormons have continued to accept slavery even until today? Would that continued acceptance make them more popular in a culture which is now so hypersensitive to racism issues? Is standing up for what is right always a bad idea for Mormons? Would our unapologetic preaching of the gospel have us in deep trouble in America today? Is it better for the Mormons to be a tiny part of a nation without the ability to determine or affect any of the laws under which they are governed?
A few decades ago Rodney Stark projected that the Mormons might soon be 200 million in size worldwide. That didn’t happen, of course, but if it did, would that be a disaster? That might be enough to change the nature of society in several countries.
Abraham bringing his tithes to Melchizidek precedes Moses. 3 Nephi 24:8 follows the Savior’s resurrection. As does D&C 119:4. The suggestion that tithing is rooted only in the Law of Moses and is a late introduction to the Restoration won’t stand up to even superficial scrutiny. The speculations about what motivates the church’s leadership are equally unconvincing.
I hope these are seen as “Charitable Comments.”
As I see it, the most critical question in all of church history is exactly what was the church like that Christ set up during his lifetime and which continued for perhaps 200-300 years after his death before it began to be corrupted? It seems to me that, whatever that is, that should be the gold standard for an implementation of the gospel, and anyone suggesting a deviation from that program should have the burden of explaining why in rather fulsome detail.
I have spent an immense amount of time on the question, and I can find nothing which supports the idea that the paying of tithing continued under the 12 apostles as they continued the church after Christ’s death. On the contrary, all of the literature available to me indicates that tithing was indeed ended, and the Saints accepted their responsibility to act charitably toward each other, often in very dire circumstances. For a very long time, there WAS no such thing as a central church headquarters, and the Saints in their widely spread “churches” simply took care of each other and had some occasional communications with each other.
I don’t know anyone who disputes this claim that tithing was not part of Christ’s church. It seems to be the settled view of history by essentially everyone. It hardly makes sense to try to give you a thorough bibliography on this point, but one brief and simple reference might suffice: http://www.guthriememorial.org/articles/brief_history_of_tithing.htm
This reference tells us that “The Council of Macon in 585, ordered the payment of tithes…” And that “Also, everyone was forced to tithe 800 years after Christ when Charlemagne founded the Holy Roman Empire, blending church and state and making tithing a state law.” The 538-page The History of Tithes (1618) by John Selden seems to be the accepted definitive work on the topic. It is available on the Internet, but the 1618 version of English, mixed with Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, is not that easy to read for most people these days.
I agree that the important changes to doctrine and practice which have been made in our time have been poorly explained. As far as I know, no one has ever attempted to give a thorough theological explanation of why Pres. Lorenzo Snow began the central collection of tithing for the first time in 1899. These changes are simply announced and things go on. That leaves far more room then there ought to be for speculations as to what the real logic was as it relates to the gospel in its entirety.
I think the three examples you gave of historical practice are all inconclusive for our purposes today. Apparently Abraham did pay some of the spoils of war to Melchizedek as “tithing” or contributions, but that one-time event does not establish it as a regular practice for all times before and since. I don’t know of another situation where Abraham loaded up camels and sent tithing to Melchizedek, perhaps on a monthly or annual basis? Did Abraham go to war on an annual basis to provide contributions to Melchizedek? Do we ever read of Adam or Enoch or Noah paying tithing to anyone?
3 Nephi 24:8 is part of the Savior updating the Scriptures held by the Nephites and adding several missing sections. I don’t believe it is at all clear how those people treated those new Scriptures. I am going to guess that they did not reinstitute tithing.
The problem with the D&C 119:4 reference is that the Saints did not treat that at the time as a long-term commandment. They simply didn’t live it for about the next 60 years, and I don’t recall them being chastised or excommunicated for that. Otherwise, why did President Snow need to announce his great new idea to start paying tithing to the central offices in 1899, something which was never done before?
Student, they did live the law of the tithe for most of those sixty years and were encouraged to do so by Church leaders. Often it was more in the form of food stuffs, but they did it. The reason President Snow talked so much about tithing is that the Raid, when the federal government pushed to end polygamy, caused an economic stain on a lot of saints and the government seized money and assets from the Church (which discouraged people from paying tithing). By the late 1890s the Church was starting to recover and in a better position to receive and use tithing again.
And we all know how well having a voting block of (insert any religious majority) played out in (insert any location in any historical timeframe).
Totally unrealistic and unChristian.
I hope I am not causing a problem here, but I do believe there is a lot of fuzzy thinking about these particular topics, enough to make me want to jump in and “steady the ark.”.
It seems to be a matter of definitions for such terms as “tithing” and “charity.”
I perfectly agree that no society can be successful without a fairly large amount of individual and organized charitable activities to improve the status of everyone in the society, materially and educationally. However, there is an enormous difference between having individuals spontaneously seeing needs and meeting them, and having a duty to “buy one’s salvation” or “buy fire insurance” by the religiously-required channeling of huge amounts of money to a central bureaucracy who then decides what should happen to those resources. That becomes government-style taxation and appropriation, not Christian-style charity.
If a central organization like the Red Cross is willing to state a purpose and request contributions, then any freely given contributions are perfectly legitimate. However, as soon as it becomes a religious tax, a requirement of salvation, to support a central bureaucracy, then the entire nature of things changes, and it is not Christian charity anymore. Forced charity is not charity anymore. If you want to confusingly call free-will contributions “tithing,” that might still be okay, but when law of Moses-style required central payments become the rule, then charity does not exist anymore. Or at least that is how I see it.
I do recall reading about Lorenzo Snow being pleased when the “tithing” contributions to the central offices reached the level of about one dollar per church member per year. That really wasn’t a “tithing,” but did represent the beginning of the flow of resources to the central offices. It was about sixty years after that that they cut off attendance to the temples without paying the full 10% of one’s income. At that point, law of Moses-style “tithing” was firmly in place. I happen to believe that there have always been powerful forces pulling religion back towards the mechanistic Old Testament law of Moses and away from the New Testament gospel of Christ. If we can’t tell the difference, then we are probably going to make a lot of mistakes.
The comment by “the other Chad” is interesting. Again, I can’t quite understand the assumptions behind the idea that the voting of any religious majority is always a damaging thing. In these days, “identity politics” of an infinite variety, is at the center of all political discourse and all attempts to gain political power. That maximum discord seems like a good recipe for national disaster. Maybe the voting of a majority of Christian traditionalists would be a good thing.
It seems like the descendants of the Pilgrims invented a new constitution based on Christian principles, realizing that that particular nation could not even continue unless the majority believed in and practiced Christian principles. That was definitely the work of a religious majority.
Does being a good Christian mean that you have to let the atheistic pagans control every aspect of our society? That sounds suicidal to me, not good Christian behavior. Unless, of course, you’re one of the anti-Christians, who hope the Christians will completely leave the political field to other hostile groups. Building “Zion” requires a large group with mostly homogenous views on morality. Having dozens of warring tribes is not a good basis for any kind of societal advance.
Zion is cultivated, not built. Zion is an agriculture-based economy.
Zion restores the “everlasting covenant” to Mother Earth by breaking from the secular calendar. When Israel broke away from its agriculture calendar, it was understood as a breaking from the covenant. Covenant and calendar bind/seal the Creation to the Saints (Margaret Barker, Rachel Elior, Shemaryahu Talmon). Restoring the covenant requires a return to an agriculture economy.
I look forward to Zion’s Calendar, to temples founded upon the living water of artesian or intermittent springs, to the work of restoring the earth to a “higher Eden” (tikkum ‘olam). Not in my lifetime.
The current corportocracy that manages and administers the Restored Gospel seems to prefer the posture of “building” or “making” Zion: multi-level marketing, venture captial, high technology, giant shopping malls, and miles of suburban tract homes.
Ephraim is become a “builder” of Golden Calf.
Reacting to the comment of Travis, that is an interesting viewpoint. Could I summarize that by saying that we have to destroy today’s Zion in order to create the “real” Zion? Does that require largely depopulating the earth and getting rid of all technology? I would prefer to think that with our current technology, and with information flooding the earth, a gospel-based civilization, my definition of “Zion,” could be built almost at will, if people changed their attitudes and accepted the personal responsibility to do good that is embedded in the concept of New Testament charity.
Student, The christian voting block did not vote for moralty. They voted for immorality, on so many levels,trump.
One of the biggest immoralities the religious right seems not to recognise is inequality. American democracy is not being destroyed by access to abortion, or gay marriage, but by redistribution of wealth to the rich, and putting more of the poor into poverty. 1970 24m in poverty, up to 46m in 2011, and down to 40m now. In the same period china raised 700m out of poverty. This is supported by the religious right, believing they are defending their particular version of morality.
A zion society has no poor, but the religious block votes against that every time.
Travis, unless this inequality can be turned around your understanding of zion may be coming.
Geoff, you will be relieved to learn that Utah has the lowest level of wealth inequality of all U.S. states. All those Saints in the Intermountain West must be doing something right.
JG good to see but relative, Utah 40, USA 48, Canada 33.8, Aus 34.4, and Germany 31.9 France 31.6, and other western European countries in the high 20s. So Utah is good for America, but not so good by world standards.
As the Utah Saints voted for tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the poor, they are best in America, but voted to make it worse for everyone. The majority voted for there to be more poor among them.
They voted against a Zion society.
Chad: “To fit the needs of the time, today the focus of Zion is on the Church as a spiritual institution rather than a specific geographical location.”
What is a “spiritual institution”? How can one be built/cultivated/gathered/whatever without community? Except where community results from proximity — perhaps in wards that take in only a few city blocks — the Church seems since the 60s to have gradually extinguished most of the local ward community building activities. Perhaps I’m in a nostalgic/critical mood, but I am having difficulty seeing listening to GC and listening to GC rehashed for the next 6 months thereafter and emphasis on individual rather than community ordinances/rituals as “spiritual.” I wonder if there are good responses to or remedies for my Zion-malaise.
Wait, Wondering, you’re saying that listening to 10 hours generic talks in one weekend and then having them repeatedly shoved down your throat by members of your community for months afterwards isn’t your idea of heaven on earth?
Jesting asides, those are good questions and wonderings. I don’t really have a lot of great answers, since a lot of it is fair critiques–in working to reduce the demands that the Church places on people in time and energy to participate, we’ve lost a lot of the emphasis on building ward “families” or communities. My intention in using the term “spiritual institution” was to indicate that it is spiritual (incorporeal) rather than physical (corporeal) in the sense of we generally aren’t constructing cities so much as contributing to the institution known as the Church. I suppose we would need to try and find ways to build and strengthen our church communities and friendships with folks in those communities in other ways (though this past year has made anything of the sort very difficult to do).
We cannot move any closer towards Zion until the expression of our theurgy (how we do ordinances) is free from “divinization.” The nuance of theurgy is subtle. It’s as subtle as the nuance that separates faith from belief. In theurgy, the initiate is conducted either (1) by the “belief” that the performance of ordinance/ritual brings about some desired metaphysical outcome (empowerment, salvation, etc.), or, (2) by “faith” that performance of ordinance/ritual does nothing except bring us to a state of remembrance/communion.
Zion requires that the expression of ordinance emphasizes “covenant” over “commandment,” and therefore “responsibility” over “obedience.” We reverse Cain’s curse by becoming Our Brother’s Keepers.
The concept of consecration is hijacked and whitewashed by the LDS elite. Herod’s so-called “restored” temple was built the same way–by elites. The pearl of the Restored Gospel is clodded by the mud of elitism, idolatry, and false worship. If we recognize this, we might fix it.
Geoff has certainly made clear his personal political and economic philosophy, but according to my understanding of church history and doctrine (which happens to match with my personal preferences), his personal philosophy really doesn’t have anything to do with church ideology or political or economic philosophy. Setting godless Marxism as the morality standard, and then finding the LDS church lacking in comparison, just doesn’t sound right to me. Marxism implies no individual freedom and no individual property, with a centralized state owning everything, making every person a slave to that state. As I see it, that just happens to be the exact program which Satan preferred, and which Christ rejected.
The first two prophets in our dispensation, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, went out of their way to make it very clear that they wanted nothing to do with the so-called “Christian communism” that was the rage in some locations at the time, such as with a group in the Kirtland area, led by Sidney Rigdon, if I have the history all straight.
As today, there were many people outside the church and inside the church who were fascinated by the “Christian communism” concept. But that is exactly why the first two prophets went to such lengths to deny that that philosophy had anything to do with the gospel.
It takes an entire book or two to explain the whole situation, but Brigham Young summarized his position by saying “Such a policy would be the ruin of this people, and scatter them to the four winds.” Journal of Discourses 4:29 1856.
Joseph Smith had earlier made the same point in a letter which he published in the Elders Journal in 1838.
“… Sixth – “Do the Mormons believe in having all things in common?”
… Twelfth – Do the people have to give up their money when they join his church?”
No. No other requirement then to bear their proportion of the expenses of the church, and support the poor.
… I published the foregoing answers to save myself the trouble of repeating the same a thousand times over and over again.”
As Brigham Young pointed out, because of our individual interests and abilities, if we made everyone exactly the same at one particular moment, a year later the property and wealth held by individuals would be wildly different. It would obviously take a police state to enforce this system on a continuing basis, and I don’t know anyone in his right mind who would recommend that we live under a police state. The USSR and Maoist China were good examples of police states which did exactly as Geoff seems to desire, but is that really the kind of society he craves to be part of? That certainly doesn’t sound like “Zion” to me. I do believe that active individual charity can reach an approximation of the ideal society, without infringing on anyone’s personal freedom. I am quite confident that that is what Christ had in mind. The tax-and-spend “government charity” Marxist programs reach quite a different result.
I guess the government could give us all $1 billion so that we would all be approximately equal, but I assume the outcome would be simply that we had a 1 billion times inflation rate, since everyone might imagine that they could simply stop working since they were so rich. I don’t think these simple mechanical solutions are destined to work.
“Wondering” sounds like a person after my own heart. My concept of Zion is that the individual church members should be spending as much of their personal resources as they can reasonably spare to fix the individual and social problems they see around them. I believe that is the genius of the New Testament church, and is what happened for at least 200 or 300 years after the life of Christ. As I see it, the church today has regressed to being the Old Testament church (which Christ decisively rejected) which emphasizes the payment of tithing to a central set of offices, a central bureaucracy, instead of using the talents of people to apply their money locally. Obviously, it makes no sense for the central offices to receive all that money and then hire 1 million people to go around and spend that money effectively at the local level. The rational solution is simply to leave the money at the local level and let people spend it there where they can make it many times more effective than anything that can be done from a centralized bureaucracy.
I think it is fascinating that the original churches after the time of Christ operated quite independently and there WAS no such thing as a central bureaucracy or even a central office. I think there was great wisdom in that arrangement. That sort of thing allows the church to explode across the globe without any constraints from the limitations of ordinary men trying to build a grand worldwide empire when there is no way that they can know the languages or the customs or the needs of anyone who lives more than about 50 miles from their homes. The USSR failed simply because trying to run a giant nation with only a few brains making all the decisions is guaranteed to fail. Foolish decisions are made every day by people who have no idea what was happening in the real world. I don’t see why the church leaders should imagine that they are 1 million times more intelligent than these government leaders.
I think Travis is onto something, but it will take me a while to figure out how to respond to the language he uses.
Getting back to the comments by Travis, he used the terms elite and elitism. Another way to say that is to use the idea of a society with different classes. The Old Testament law of Moses society had religiously-designated classes, with the professional clergy among the Levites and the Aaronites. This class system placed a 10% tax on everyone else to pay for the livelihoods of the professional priests. That 10% tax is exactly what Christ ended, making every man his own priest so that he didn’t need to pay someone else to be his priest. That also ends the religiously required flow of money between religious classes.
(We might notice that the old priests and Levites were happy to take the tithing money, but any real exhibition of charitableness was scorned because that might damage their personal purity. The parable of the good Samaritan demonstrates to me that the Old Testament concept of tithing and the New Testament concept of charity are mutually exclusive concepts. In the long-term, you can have one or the other, but not both. There appear to always be powerful forces pulling a New Testament church back towards the original Old Testament church.)
That very wise system, which Christ set up to operate during New Testament times, has been gradually abandoned in our own time so that we again have a religiously required class system with the central priesthood elites living at the expense of everyone else. (It is not clear why bishops and stake presidents have to make their own livings, but anyone at a higher priesthood calling gets to live off the other members. That stark class difference seems to have many bad aspects.) Church history seems very clear that there was no hint of any “tithing” for at least 300 years after the life of Christ. That reversion to Old Testament thinking and practices only came later. The New Testament emphasizes individual charity, and that was the only doctrine of the times, emphasizing individual freedom, as all aspects of the gospel do.
The original “Christians” who continued on after the life of Christ had no need for the Temple of Herod or for any other such temple. They also had no need for any chapels. The entirety of the gospel could be lived fully without a single dollar being spent on architecture. When we read about Baroque architecture we realize that much of that massive expense was intended as an enticement to bring wayward Protestants back into the fold of the Catholic Church. Those cathedrals were the old version of today’s neon sign saying “come to Jesus.”
The lovely thing about that arrangement emphasizing free-will charity was that the individual church members could directly use whatever excess resources they had to help each other, without having those resources drawn off for expensive architecture, which may or may not contribute anything to a better gospel life or better society. (I recall reading that the Capitol building in Washington DC was used as a church part of the time. It is convenient to have meeting spaces for any number of important things to transpire, but that may or may not have anything to do with a proper gospel life.) [In today’s contentious world, the idea of using the Capitol building for religious purposes would send at least half the government leaders and half the nation into hysterics because of the “tainting of government with religion.”] This indicates how much atheism has replaced Christianity as our national ideology.
Student, How did you leap from advocating less financial inequality (no poor among them) to markism? Which of the countries that I listed as doing much better than Us or even Utah do you see as marksist?
I have been to each of them and the answer is none. They are better places to live, with greater freedom, because there is greater equality.
You appear to believe that there is unregulated capitalism, or marksism, with nothing in between. Both are extremes, and not healthy. You should realise that your thinking is also extreme.
The new government in US are not advocating marksism, but a more moderate, caring democracy.
Geoff — I don’t know what you’re actually thinking, of course, but what I hear you saying is that an atheistic government, guided by the precepts of carnal man is always superior to any Christian-based governmental plan that embraces the maximum amount of individual freedom. Leftist thinking, whether it might be characterized as fascist/socialist/communism or something else, always focuses on the maximum concentration of all power and ownership in a single person or in a small oligarchy. That naturally means that the individual citizens have very little freedom, and the leaders have all the freedom. I think THAT is the kind of equality I care about – equality before the law, not forced economic equality.
The article you cited which praises China as a superior system to the United States is not something I’m willing to accept. The government of China under the Chinese Communist Party is economically successful because it has enslaved many millions of its own people, including conducting genocide against the Uighurs, cutting up Falun Gong religionists for their body parts, immorally unleashing a deadly virus on the entire world, threatening Taiwan, threatening the United States with war, etc., etc. Are you really saying that you would rather live under the unlimited rule of Chinese Communists than in a republic like the United States? It really is a choice; you can’t have it both ways.
Many of the problems we are having in the United States right now are for the exact reason that over the last 40 years our leaders have sold out our country to the Chinese, facilitating the movement of millions of jobs from the United States to China, which uses its slave labor to gain advantage in the world, with those American leaders making billions of dollars as part of this sellout project.
The current US regime, which I consider illegitimate, has done some remarkably unpleasant things in its first two months. You call it a “moderate, caring democracy, ” but I call it a Leftist coup. It took only two or three days to destroy about 2 million jobs. I don’t consider that very “caring.” (The “climate change” argument is totally bogus and has absolutely nothing to do with any science. The actual physics tells us that if we had four times as much CO2 as we have now, we would all be better off.)
The Biden presidency shut down the XL pipeline, stopped gas and oil exploration on hundreds of millions of acres of land and ocean. It completely opened the southern border which, at current rates, will bring in about 2.4 million people from south of the border. The very purpose for these people to be invited into the United States is that they WILL reliably vote for Marxist programs, since that is all they know. The United States committed to spend $6 trillion last year and is expected to commit to spend another $6 trillion this year, doubling the federal debt in two years. Destroying a free-market system is what Marxists do. That is one of their main strategies. The “Black Lives Matter” group which the Democrat party so carefully supports is explicitly a Marxist organization. Among its other goals is the obliteration of the nuclear family – not exactly a religion-friendly project.
I could go on, but perhaps this is enough to let you know that I think you are living in some kind of true utopia land, which explicitly does not exist and can never exist on this earth. Apparently you have very little interest in preserving individual freedom. If the government takes care of absolutely everything, including doing all your thinking for you, I guess that is acceptable to you, but not to me. My opinions would probably get me killed overnight if I lived in China, and I don’t want to live in a country anything like China. I certainly don’t want any of their hostile influence to affect the United States.
“Uplift the downtrodden” is always the cry of the would-be tyrant, tricking people into giving away their freedom and their money for meaningless promises of a government-offered heaven on earth. It never ever ever works, except to bring poverty and death to all concerned. Some people are willing to give up their entire set of morals and traditions to save a $10 co-pay on health visits. I consider that giving up a freedom heritage for a mess of pottage.
Regarding caring for the poor, the Lord has not commanded taxation and Government programs as the way. The Lord said “It must needs be done in mine own way” (D&C 104:16). God’s promises will be fulfilled, but “it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will” (D&C 88:68). That said, I am okay with a society using taxes to establish some social safety nets — each society will approach this differently, and I am okay with that. Using the power of Government to equalize things is not a Christian precept. That said, I hope for compassion from neighbors and governments. And I hope Australian saints will be charitable to U.S. saints, and vice versa.
Alright folks, we’ve ventured into territory in discussing politics and conspiracy theories that I’m not interested in continuing. And for the record, Student, Fascism is far-right on the political spectrum, not leftist. You can get into totalitarian governments no matter what your agenda is, if you’re not careful.