This is an elaboration of a comment I left on this blog on October 17th, 2012.
Making sense of Noah
One of the most confusing aspects of the Book of Mormon is the account of king Noah and his people, all of whom went from a state of righteousness to exceedingly great wickedness seemingly overnight. This mystery, though, can be quite easily explained and cleared up if we just make two little assumptions: 1) that the land of first inheritance (the land of Nephi) given to Lehi’s descendants was the very land of Zion [see Footnote below], meaning the land upon which, and round about where, the city of New Jerusalem (Zion) would be built by the descendants of Lehi—in other words, the area known to us as Independence, Jackson County, Missouri—and 2) that the people of Nephi were aware of this fact.
This post takes that premise and runs with it, to explain the motivations behind the actions of Noah, his priests, his people and also Abinadi and Alma.
The land of Lehi-Nephi (the land Bountiful) = the land of Zion (Independence, Missouri)
Jesus told the Nephites:
but if they [the gentiles] will repent | and hearken unto my words | and harden not their hearts | i will establish my church among them | and they shall come in unto the covenant | and be numbered among this the remnant of jacob | unto whom i have given this land for their inheritance | and they [the gentiles] shall assist my people | the remnant of jacob | and also as many of the house of israel as shall come | that they may build a city | which shall be called the new jerusalem | (3 Ne. 21:22-23)
When Jesus made this statement, He was standing upon the land Bountiful, near the temple that was built there. This was the land given to the remnant of Jacob (that He was speaking to) for their inheritance. It is on that spot of land (their land of inheritance) that the remnant of Jacob will build the New Jerusalem.
Jesus also stated, while standing upon that same land:
verily | verily i say unto you | thus hath the father commanded me |
that i should give unto this people this land for their inheritance | and then the words of the prophet isaiah shall be fulfilled | which say |
thy watchmen shall lift up the voice | with the voice together shall they sing | for they shall see eye to eye | when the lord shall bring again zion |
break forth into joy | sing together | ye waste places of jerusalem | for the lord hath comforted his people | he hath redeemed jerusalem |
the lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations | and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of god | (3 Ne. 16:16-20)
This is the same scripture that the priests of Noah quoted to Abinadi. It speaks of “bringing again Zion” and deals specifically with the land of Zion and the prophecies concerning the building of the New Jerusalem or city of Zion. When the priests of Noah quoted it to Abinadi, though, they were standing upon the land of Nephi.
Prophecy: history in reverse
The Nephites desired to know what would happen to their seed upon the land of promise, so they exercised faith:
for because of faith and great anxiety | it truly had been made manifest unto us concerning our people | what things should happen unto them | (Jacob 1:5)
and, according to their desires, God told them their future history by giving new prophecies:
and now | behold | i would speak unto you | concerning things which are | and which are to come | (2 Ne. 6:4)
The prophecies about the land of Zion, its redemption, the redemption of the people who would inherit and inhabit it (the seed of Lehi), and the holy city of God that they would build there were promises (prophecies) given to Lehi’s seed that would be fulfilled literally, not just metaphorically. Jacob taught that
the promises | which we have obtained | are promises unto us according to the flesh (2 Ne. 10:2)
So, the Nephites were blessed with a very full canon of scriptures and prophecies, brought from the Old World, in the form of the plates of brass, a kind of Bible on steroids, which the Nephite prophets fully expounded from the time of Jacob onward and they also had more scripture, pronounced by these same prophets:
behold | ye know | that i have spoken unto you exceedingly many things | nevertheless | i speak unto you again | for i am desirous for the welfare of your souls | yea | mine anxiety is great for you | and ye yourselves know | that it ever has been | for i have exhorted you with all diligence | and i have taught you the words of my father | and i have spoken unto you concerning all things | which are written | from the creation of the world | (2 Ne. 6:2-3)
This means that the Nephites possessed a whole lot more information than we do about the prophecies.
The revelation, then, that God gave to Joseph Smith about the New Jerusalem and the land of Zion, was, like everything else in this dispensation, a restoration, or restored knowledge. It was had anciently among the Nephites. They knew where the land of Zion was and they knew where the city of Zion or the New Jerusalem would be built. The city of Zion would be built by them because it was going to be built on their land of inheritance.
Now, the promised land of inheritance given to the seed of Lehi has never changed, nor will it. This is why the scripture says:
zion shall not be moved out of her place | (D&C 101:17)
zion cannot fall | neither be moved out of her place | (D&C 97:19)
The New Jerusalem can and will be built only upon the land of Zion and only by the seed of Lehi (with assistance from others.) There is no other appointed spot because the Lord has made irrevocable promises to Lehi and his seed.
The land of their “first inheritance” was the land of Zion
i | zeniff | having been taught in all the language of the nephites | and having had a knowledge of the land of nephi | or of the land of our fathers’ first inheritance | (Mosiah 9:1)
The land of their first inheritance would also end up being the land of their last inheritance, according to the principle that the first shall be last and the last shall be first, in all things.
Now, this land of Nephi was the same land that Nephi escaped to after Laman and Lemuel sought to take away his life. Nephi wrote:
and it came to pass | that the lord did warn me | that i | nephi | should depart from them | and flee into the wilderness | and all those who would go with me |
wherefore | it came to pass | that i | nephi | did take my family | and also zoram | and his family | and sam | mine elder brother | and his family | and jacob | and joseph | my younger brethren | and also my sisters | and all those who would go with me | and all those | who would go with me | were those | who believed in the warnings and the revelations of god | wherefore | they did hearken unto my words |
and we did take our tents | and whatsoever things were possible for us | and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days | and after we had journeyed for the space of many days | we did pitch our tents | and my people would | that we should call the name of the place nephi | wherefore | we did call it nephi | (2 Ne. 5:5-8)
The land of Nephi, then, was the area which is now known to us as Independence, Jackson County, Missouri. The people of Nephi lived in this land from the time of Nephi until the time of the first seer Mosiah. Amaleki wrote:
behold | i am amaleki | the son of abinadom |
behold | i will speak unto you somewhat concerning mosiah | who was made king over the land of zarahemla |
for behold | he | being warned of the lord | that he should flee out of the land of nephi | and as many | as would hearken unto the voice of the lord | should also depart out of the land with him into the wilderness |
and it came to pass | that he did | according as the Lord had commanded him | and they departed out of the land into the wilderness | as many as would hearken unto the voice of the lord | and they were led by many preachings and prophesyings | and they were admonished continually by the word of god | and they were led by the power of his arm through the wilderness | until they came down into the land | which is called the land of zarahemla | (Omni 1:12-13)
From Mosiah onward, the Nephites lived in or around the land of Zarahemla, while the Lamanites took possession of the promised land (the land of Zion, which was the land of Nephi, or the land of first inheritance.) Nevertheless, it was the desire of every Nephite to return someday to that land and to redeem it, in order that the promises and prophecies be fulfilled.
Polygamy (Zarahemla) and monogamy (Nephi)
I suppose I ought to mention, at this point, that the people of Zarahemla, who were brought to the New World by Mulek, son of Zedekiah, king of Judah, had been given no monogamy restrictions by the Lord. As descendants of Jews, polygamy would have been their way of life.
After Mosiah discovered them and the two kingdoms were united under one banner, with Mosiah becoming king of both groups, they remained as a distinct group living a different set of laws. In other words, the people of Zarahemla lived the law of Moses, which allowed and even under some circumstances, commanded polygamy, whereas the people of Nephi lived the law of Moses which was modified by Lehi, their founding seer, which law allowed only monogamy, or which commanded the seed of Lehi to have only one wife and no concubines. To be even clearer, the commandment of monogamy given to Lehi’s seed was only applicable to the seed of Lehi. It had no application, whatsoever, to any other lineage. So, there were polygamists and monogamists living together under one national banner.
Much later on the people of Zarahemla would become numbered with the people of Nephi, meaning that they called themselves Nephites, or the children of Nephi, and adopted the law given to Lehi, which was monogamy. But from the time of their first landing, to the time of Mosiah discovering them, and finally to the time when they became numbered with the Nephites, polygamy was allowed for them. This is why we find that at the time of the numbering, the people of Zarahemla were more than double the population of the people of Nephi.
Now, I mention this here because if Noah, son of Zeniff, was born in Zarahemla and spent some of his childhood there, he would have grown up in that environment and would have noticed that the people of Zarahemla lived the unmodified, or more ancient form, of the law of Moses, which allowed polygamy, whereas the people of Nephi lived the modified, or more recent innovation of the law. But even if Noah did not grow up in Zarahemla, he would have been aware of these historical facts about the people living in Zarahemla.
Zeniff’s two trips to reclaim the land
Two expeditions to reclaim the land were made, as recorded by Amaleki:
and now | i would speak somewhat concerning a certain number | who went up into the wilderness to return to the land of nephi | for there was a large number | who were desirous to possess the land of their inheritance | wherefore | they went up into the wilderness | and their leader | being a strong and mighty man | and a stiffnecked man | wherefore | he caused a contention among them | and they were all slain | save fifty | in the wilderness | and they returned again to the land of zarahemla |
and it came to pass | that they also took others | to a considerable number | and took their journey again into the wilderness | and i | amaleki | had a brother | who also went with them | and i have not since known concerning them | and i am about to lie down in my grave | and these plates are full | and i make an end of my speaking | (Omni 1:27-30)
Zeniff was among both expeditions. He was the cause of the contention of the first expedition and he was the leader of the second expedition, which was successful in occupying the land.
Zeniff “redeemed” the land by bloodshed
The unnamed leader of the first expedition wanted to redeem the land of Zion by bloodshed, by attacking the Lamanites. Zeniff, though, wanted to enter into a treaty with the Lamanites and possess the land peacefully. During the second expedition, he did just that, but later the Lamanites reneged on their agreement and the Nephites who now possessed the land of their first inheritance ended up having to shed Lamanite blood anyway. It is, in this sense, that the land was “redeemed” by the shedding of blood.
Each Nephite king was (assumed to be) a prophet or seer or revelator
now | it was the custom among all the nephites to appoint for their chief captains | save it were in their times of wickedness | some one that had the spirit of revelation and also prophecy | therefore | this Gidgiddoni was a great prophet among them | as also was the chief judge | (3 Ne. 3:19)
This custom likely also applied to the time when they had kings.
Now, the Nephite king Mosiah was a seer. The Nephite king Zeniff, who led his expedition back to the land of Nephi after Mosiah had brought everyone to Zarahemla, was also a man of God, for he led his people in the strength of the Lord against Lamanite aggression and the Lord heard his prayers.
The assumption may have been, then, that each Nephite king was a man of God, capable of receiving revelations, prophecies and the like. The people of Noah would have looked at him with this same perspective.
Noah’s new revelation: the restoration and redemption of Zion
The reign and ministry of king Noah, son of Zeniff, was one of departure from what his father did. The easiest way to understand this departure is that Noah received a new revelation.
Now, it may have been a pretended revelation, thought up all by himself, for these Nephites kings were expected to be men of God, capable of receiving the word of God and that is a lot of pressure to be under. Noah may have wanted to leave a legacy behind him, as one who obtained something new from God for the people, therefore, he may have simply conceived of this himself.
Another possibility is that he got a revelation from the devil, or at least inspiration from the devil.
Whichever was the case, the result was the same. This new doctrinal idea went forth from him, first to the priests—and when the priests of his father would not accept his revelation, he interviewed other men who did accept it, and then ordained them, releasing his father’s priests from their callings—and then to the people, and it was accepted wholeheartedly by his people.
Noah also put himself out as a restorer, restoring the people to a proper worship of God, using the pure law of Moses without any of the additions of the doctrine of Christ, which was preached by Nephi and others of the Nephite prophets, nor any of the modifications made by Lehi (of monogamy.) The end result was very old school theology mixed with new school theology, with the stuff in the middle tossed out.
The gospel of Noah
The good news that Noah was giving his people was this: that the land of Zion had been redeemed by his father, by the shedding of blood, and that now they were the children of Zion, the ones who would fulfill all the prophecies of the prophets concerning this very special promised land. The land had been sanctified by the shedding of blood, and as it was redeemed, so were they, who lived upon it, redeemed, and they could now rejoice, for the great Millennial day was upon them and they would prosper in the land forever more. The promised day in which all things would come together in one was upon them and they would build and inherit and multiply in the land and be blessed by the Lord.
And so, to get on with the multiplying, a multimale-multifemale mating system was set up, where men took wives and concubines and also visited with harlots, that every available female in the land would do her part to conceive and bear redeemed children to live upon the already redeemed land of promise. Whereas the former commandments limited the number of Nephites, so that they remained small compared to the Lamanites, this new day of redemption called for a much larger population of redeemed souls, for they wanted to bring as many children as they could into their new paradise on earth.
That may have been the surface reason, given to the people, for why this new gospel of procreation was going around. Secretly, Noah may have realized that there was strength in numbers, for they were surrounded by an innumerable host of Lamanites. Therefore, this new revelation made much more practical and strategic sense than the previous ones that demanded the Nephites stick to monogamy, and thus small numbers.
As this was the land of Zion, which had the promises concerning the building of the city of Zion, Noah set about to construct many elaborate and spacious buildings, for Zion must be beautified. Again, the land of Zion was redeemed, as were the people living upon it, therefore their task was to build it up, to build up a city that would be worthy of the fulfillment of the prophecies. So, although Noah exacted a heavy tax from the people, of one-fifth of all they possessed, there wasn’t so much as a peep of a complaint from any of his people. They all saw eye to eye on this project, for they were building Zion, and Noah was the man God raised up and inspired to accomplish this task.
Now, the former priests, consecrated by his father, were not in the habit of telling people how good they were, but instead they were in the habit of admonishing the people for their sins. The new priests consecrated by Noah, though, understood his new gospel and revelation, which was quite literally good news, namely, that they were all redeemed of the Lord. “No more need to repent, just enjoy the blessings of the Lord that he has bestowed and do your part to build up the land.” In other words, everyone was now to be proud of their heritage and birthright, as heirs of the promised land. Pride was no longer a sin, but was the very gospel preached, for they were redeemed.
These priests began to practice idolatry—for whenever a people develop prideful hearts and come under the control of the devil, he introduces them to idolatry—and the priests then taught the people to also be idolatrous. In the minds of Noah, his priests and his people, they were already living the Millennial day, which was, as Joseph Smith wrote, “a time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest” (D&C 121:28.) The priests of Noah had taken the liberty to divulge the “truths” that were to be revealed, namely that there be many gods, even idols, and they flattered the people into divulging in these sinful practices.
(There was, again, a hidden practicality to their practice of idolatry. Idolatry and excessive sexuality go hand in hand and the kingdom law was to procreate, so idolatry would only increase the number of pregnancies in the land.)
Regardless of the contrariness of Noah’s gospel to former commandments, none of that applied to these people, for they were now in a new dispensation, a time of redemption of both land and people, and the former constraints and commandments did not apply. New dispensations come with new commandments and revelations, and Noah’s reign was to be noted in history as the beginning of the children of redemption. They were the ones who did what others could not, because they were not, yet, redeemed.
Noah took for patterns what he found in the scriptures. For example, to get around the Lord’s prohibition on polygamy, he turned to Jacob’s words which actually presuppose that at some point the Lord would lift the ban on multiple wives and concubines for the seed of Lehi:
for if i will |
saith the lord of hosts |
raise up seed unto me | i will command my people | otherwise | they shall hearken unto these things | (Jacob 2:30)
All he needed to say was that the time had finally and fully come, in which the Lord would lift the polygamy ban, using an Official Declaration, such as the following:
Aware of the promises made by the prophets and [kings] of the [Lord's people] who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive [a plurality of wives], and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom [multiple wives have] been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple [built by our father Nephi] supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.
He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man [of the seed of Lehi living in this blessed land] may receive [additional wives, and concubines, too.]
The prophecies concerning the building of a great tower he thought to fulfill literally and built two of them, one near the temple (for the city of Lehi-Nephi) and one on a historically significant hill (for the city of Shilom.)
He read about vineyards and so he planted vineyards. He read that there would be a temple in Zion, but since Nephi had already built a temple there, he instead restored it and beautified it with all manner of fine workmanship to make it match more precisely the Solomon temple. Everything that seemed to indicate what would happen in the day of Zion’s redemption, he sought to do, that his reign would go down in history as the fulfillment of these prophecies.
It was all about the redemption of Zion
The basis for all this iniquity was that the prophecies concerning the redemption of Zion had already taken place, for their fathers had inherited the land, then had to leave it, then had come back (with Zeniff), fulfilling the prophecies of its redemption. Since the land had been redeemed, that meant that they themselves had also been redeemed. Their redemption was tied to the redemption of the land. As evidence of such redemption, all could see that they were prospering like crazy in the land. Also, because of their victory against the Lamanites, under the leadership of king Noah, the people believed that the strength of the Lord was still with them, which was more evidence of Noah’s inspired reign.
The truth of the matter, though, was that they had achieved that victory without the Lord’s strength, for He had retained it, and so when they began to boast that a small number of them could slay thousands of Lamanites, that was the final straw for the Lord and it was time to set them straight by sending another prophet to prophesy evil against them.
Abinadi’s teaching that redemption was tied to Christ
When Abinadi started preaching, he was seen as a disturber of the peace, for everyone was enjoying the high life, and he brought everyone low again with his “repent or be brought into bondage” sayings. Then, his sayings concerning the king really got on everyone’s nerves since everyone thought of king Noah as an inspired man of God, who had done marvels in his time as king, making the people happy and prosperous. Abinadi was like the cop that knocks on the door of a midnight party to tell the people in the house the noise is too loud and everyone needs to go home and stop partying. He was a total downer.
Noah had begun a gospel (good news) celebration based upon a perversion of the doctrine of redemption, and it had the unintended consequences of making them all weak, meaning that the Lord had removed His strength from them. They were literally on their own and were very soon to be brought into unbreakable bondage by the Lamanites. Abinadi was sent to get them to repent so that they could stave off the coming captivity.
The people’s reaction to Abinadi’s words, of anger and seeking to kill him, is understandable when one considers that they truly believed that what they were doing was the will of God, that their king and priests were men of God, that these (perverse) teachings had come down the proper and approved channels, that all that Noah and priests had taught had been confirmed by signs of peace, prosperity and (supposed) strength of the Lord, that there was no indication, whatsoever, that God was not blessing the people according to His promises, etc. Abinadi had no leg to stand on, in their view, but was slandering the entire population and making people feel bad about themselves, breaking the law himself (disturbing the peace) and speaking false prophecies. They, the people, were acting in righteousness in seeking to shut the mouth of this obvious false prophet, by killing him. Had not the ancients done the same?
Now, Abinadi was countering this redemption perversion by saying that they were not redeemed, at all, for all this evil he prophesied upon them could not come to pass on a redeemed population. Such evil could only befall sinners. The fulfillment of his prophecies, then, would be proof positive that Noah and priests were liars, and their doctrine was either of men or of the devil; and that the redemption of Zion had not yet come, nor would it until some other future day; also that redemption does not come from the land, but from Christ.
This was the question posed to Abinadi by one of the priests:
what meaneth the words | which are written | and which have been taught by our fathers | saying |
how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him | that bringeth good tidings | that publisheth peace | that bringeth good tidings of good | that publisheth salvation | that saith unto zion |
thy god reigneth |
thy watchmen shall lift up the voice | with the voice together shall they sing | for they shall see eye to eye | when the lord shall bring again zion |
break forth into joy | sing together | ye waste places of jerusalem | for the lord hath comforted his people | he hath redeemed jerusalem |
the lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations | and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our god | (Mosiah 12:20-24)
In the eyes of Noah, his priests and his people, Noah was the one whose feet were beautiful, for Noah (and his priests) were bringing good tidings of good and publishing peace and salvation. Noah was the one saying to Zion—for, remember, they were living in the very land of Zion—that their God reigns. Noah had watchmen upon the tower. Noah’s people sang with the voice together and everyone saw eye to eye. Zion had been brought again, or it had been redeemed. The waste places of this new Jerusalem were being built up again. It was a time of comfort and joy and redemption, all because of Noah (and his father.) This is why the priest asked Abinadi about this scripture, for they all believed that it was fulfilled by Noah and they held it up as proof of his divine calling as their king.
If you read through Abinadi’s sermon, you will see that he mentions “redemption” 18 times, all pointing to the fact that it is God that redeems:
“…for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God.”
“For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people?”
“I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.”
“And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men…having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.”
“…all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins…are the heirs of the kingdom of God.
“For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions.”
“For O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people…”
“For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world…all mankind must have perished.”
“They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal life through Christ, who has broken the bands of death. “
“And thus the Lord bringeth about the restoration of these; and they have a part in the first resurrection, or have eternal life, being redeemed by the Lord. “
“But behold, and fear, and tremble before God, for ye ought to tremble; for the Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him and die in their sins…“
“Therefore ought ye not to tremble? For salvation cometh to none such; for the Lord hath redeemed none such; yea, neither can the Lord redeem such; for he cannot deny himself; for he cannot deny justice when it has its claim. “
“Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. “
“And then shall the wicked be cast out, and they shall have cause to howl, and weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth; and this because they would not hearken unto the voice of the Lord; therefore the Lord redeemeth them not. “
“Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state.“
“But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God. “
“Therefore, if ye teach the law of Moses, also teach that it is a shadow of those things which are to come—teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.”
Redemption through Christ is the topic of Abinadi’s sermon because these people believed they were already redeemed, through the redemption of the land of Zion, without the necessity of believing in Christ, etc.
The result: captivity
After they killed Abinadi—and sought to kill the sole convert among the priests, who was Alma—and the Lamanites came in, subjecting them to bondage, affliction and death, they were faced with the realization that they were not the redeemed children of Zion, and that they had misunderstood the prophecies, putting them in the wrong context and breaking a host of the Lord’s still-in-force commandments. Essentially, these people had their hopes completely dashed to pieces and had to start from an exceedingly humble place.
Now, this people fell into these grave errors because they put their trust in their leaders, even their king and priests, trusting that they interpreted the prophecies correctly, instead of searching the scriptures themselves and coming to their own, God-inspired conclusions. Had they done the legwork of searching the scriptures and obtaining the gift of the Holy Ghost for themselves, neither Noah nor his priests could have deceived them with false revelations. As we know, it turned out that Noah and his priests were wrong in their interpretations on the prophecies, so wrong in fact that it resulted in death, destruction of property, bondage, humiliation (the Lamanites treated them like dumb asses) and general misery. This shows that misinterpreting a prophecy can have disastrous results.
It also shows why Alma was so emphatic in the teaching that he gave to his people of trusting no one:
trust no man to be a king over you | and also trust no one to be your teacher | nor your minister | except he be a man of god | walking in his ways | and keeping his commandments | (Mosiah 23:13-14)
Don’t mess with the land of Zion
There appears to be a blessing and a curse upon that land. Those who live upon it, who have the laws of God, must live them, otherwise, captivity and destruction will be their lot. This may be one of the reasons why Mosiah left that land, and also why eventually Alma and Limhi left, to preserve their people from destruction. It requires a righteous people, otherwise, nobody can be established there as Zion.
The unconverted Lamanites, and now also the non-Mormon Gentiles, who currently live there, appear to be the temporary care-takers of the land, and it might be wise to leave it that way, until such time arrives that the Lord specifically and plainly commands and leads His people to return and redeem it.
This might be an important point to keep in mind, since what Noah and his priests did upon that land may be repeated in the future with another group of unauthorized persons, that attempts to “redeem Zion,” with the same (or even more) disastrous results.
Gentiles upon the land of Zion
Here are the Lord’s words regarding the establishment of Zion, given to the Nephites while He stood in the land Bountiful:
and verily i say unto you |
i give unto you a sign | that ye may know the time | when these things shall be about to take place | that i shall gather in | from their long dispersion | my people | o house of israel | and shall establish again among them my zion |
and behold | this is the thing | which i will give unto you for a sign | for verily I say unto you |
that when these things | which i declare unto you | and which i shall declare unto you hereafter of myself | and by the power of the holy ghost | which shall be given unto you of the father | shall be made known unto the gentiles | that they may know concerning this people | who are a remnant of the house of Jacob | and concerning this my people | who shall be scattered by them |
verily | verily i say unto you |
when these things shall be made known unto them of the father | and shall come forth of the father from them unto you |
for it is wisdom in the father | that they should be established in this land | and be set up as a free people by the power of the father | that these things might come forth from them unto a remnant of your seed | that the covenant of the father may be fulfilled | which he hath covenanted with his people | o house of israel |
therefore | when these works | and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter | shall come forth from the gentiles unto your seed | which shall dwindle in unbelief because of iniquity |
for thus it behooveth the father | that it should come forth from the gentiles | that he may show forth his power unto the gentiles | for this cause |
that the gentiles | if they will not harden their hearts | that they may repent | and come unto me | and be baptized in my name | and know of the true points of my doctrine | that they may be numbered among my people | o house of israel |
and when these things come to pass | that thy seed shall begin to know these things | it shall be a sign unto them | that they may know | that the work of the father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant | which he hath made unto the people | who are of the house of israel | (3 Ne. 21:1-7)
Now, the meaning of these words it this: when the establishment of Zion commences in the land of Zion (Independence, Jackson County, Missouri area), there will be Gentiles established upon that very land and living in anarchy, gathered there by the miraculous power of the Father. They will then receive additional records, which they will share with the remnant of Jacob. When these events occur, that will be the sign to the remnant of Jacob that the fulfillment of the covenant the Lord made with their fathers has commenced.
This true gathering of Gentiles upon the land of Zion will be attended by the miraculous works of the Father and will fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah: “The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations,” or Gentiles. However, prior to that true gathering, there may be false gatherings of Gentiles, which are not attended to by the power of the Father. Jacob prophesied:
but behold | this land |
said god |
shall be a land of thine inheritance |
and the gentiles shall be blessed upon the land |
and this land shall be a land of liberty unto the gentiles |
and there shall be no kings upon the land | who shall raise up unto the gentiles |
and i will fortify this land against all other nations |
and he that fighteth against zion shall perish |
saith god |
for he | that raiseth up a king against me | shall perish | for i | the lord | the king of heaven | will be their king | and i will be a light unto them forever | that hear my words | (2 Ne. 10:10-14)
These words are speaking of the same establishment-of-Zion event. The land in question is the land of Zion (Independence, Jackson County, Missouri area.) These prophecies have shadows, of course, but the literal and last fulfillment concerns a specific spot of land and a specific group of Gentiles. The other Gentiles, or other nations, as it is written—for the text could have also been worded this way: “and i will fortify this land against all other gentiles”—will raise up, or attempt to raise up, kings, contrary to the commandment of God, and these other groups of Gentiles will perish, for they misunderstand and misinterpret the prophecies, which brings disaster upon them.
So, there will be no kings raised up unto one group of Gentiles, while another group (or groups) will raise up king(s) and will perish. This latter group (or groups, for this prophecy may be fulfilled multiple times), will be those who gather upon the land of Zion and attempt to establish Zion and fulfill the prophecy without being authorized or directed by the Lord, just as king Noah and people did thousands of years earlier.
Mormon put the account of king Noah and his people in his book because it would be especially applicable to our times, for these same tactics inspired by Satan, of false gatherings upon the land of Zion and forcing the fulfillment of the prophecies about Zion, would be repeated.
Footnote: If Independence, Jackson County, Missouri currently does not match the pre-destruction descriptions of the land of Nephi, it does not matter, because after the death of Christ, Mormon tells us:
and there was a great and terrible destruction in the land southward |
but behold | there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward |
for behold | the whole face of the land was changed | because of the tempest | and the whirlwinds | and the thunderings | and the lightnings | and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth | (3 Ne. 8:11-12)