The Mormon Archetype of Zion:
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.
The ever-present archetype in Mormon culture of the “City of Enoch” – of that first city of Zion that was taken up into heaven:
Zion, in process of time, was taken up into heaven.
and that is promised to return at a point when there is another city of Zion on the earth to meet them:
And the Lord said unto Enoch: As I live, even so will I come in the last days, in the days of wickedness and vengeance, to fulfil the oath which I have made unto you concerning the children of Noah; And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve;
And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; […] and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.
And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other; And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest.
This romantic archetype is played out in various historical instances throughout the scriptural record.
After Alma fled into the wilderness, the community of believers that joined with him:
were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward. And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power and authority of God was added to his church.
And it came to pass that Alma, having authority from God, ordained priests; even one priest to every fifty of their number did he ordain to preach unto them, and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And he commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets. Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people.
And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.
And thus he commanded them to preach. And thus they became the children of God.
And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God.
And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given. And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul.
And this he said unto them, having been commanded of God; and they did walk uprightly before God, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants.
After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the community of believers in Judea:
continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
After Jesus’ visitation with Lehi’s descendents in the Americas, the disciples of Jesus there:
had formed a church of Christ in all the lands round about. And as many as did come unto them, and did truly repent of their sins, were baptized in the name of Jesus; and they did also receive the Holy Ghost.
And it came to pass […] the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.
Joseph Smith’s Desire for Zion:
These “Zions” where there are no rich and no poor, where all impart of their substance freely with one another, having no contentions, and having all things common [not “in common”, I think there’s a difference] have been a big part of Mormon history and collective culture.
The passion for that kind of community is behind a lot of what Joseph Smith was doing while he was alive – trying to get a united order of unrelated believers in Christ bound together by covenant into a whole new people-group. A tribal community bound by covenant, in an effort to get away from the traditional order of a “church” of unrelated believers in this-or-that set of creeds.
For verily I say unto you, the time has come, and is now at hand; and behold, and lo, it must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion — For a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven;
That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things. For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;
For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you. And now, verily thus saith the Lord, it is expedient that all things be done unto my glory, by you who are joined together in this order;
Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, to prepare and organize yourselves by a bond or everlasting covenant that cannot be broken. And he who breaketh it shall lose his office and standing in the church, and shall be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption.
But history has shown the Gentile church of God to be a hard-hearted and faithless bunch. They are content with having one man sit atop the power-pyramid and habitually obey what he says – they receive equal “experience quotient” from images and representations compared to what’s being imaged and represented.
They rejected this consecration and never really got around to plural marriage as a genuine priesthood order of joining groups of like-minded strangers into bona-fide tribes of Israel – but rather kept it only as a social convention.
Polygamy became required for polygamy’s sake alone. Polyandry was also out-right rejected, without which polygamy does not build joint-stewardships – just enlarges any one man’s single stewardship. And so:
behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them; And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom; And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.
Failed Attempts to Recapture Zion:
Mormon history is full of examples of believers going off to form “United Orders” – communal groups where they attempt to live the “higher law” of consecration, meaning to share all that they have with everyone else in the community. These endeavors have always met failure, and it’s because of one common feature that connects them all – they have always attempted to do so while keeping many small, separate families.
If they are monogamous LDS, then they’ll keep many small, separate monogamous families – and if Mormon fundamentalists, then it’ll be many, small separate polygynous ones. But the separate-family feature is always the same.
However, without a covenant-based structure in which I may bind myself as a joint-steward with another to share our all commonly with each other according to the principle of charity – such a celestial, “Zion” community will never happen. It’ll all go well so long as the circumstances go well, but by-and-by the end cometh.
For less-radical LDS, a common goal is to stay where they are and try to get their local ward to be the vehicle that produces a celestial community, or Zion. One may see sacrament meeting talks and lessons on using fast offerings to “impart of our surplus”, on reminding us that there is no prohibition from leadership against using Welfare Services to live the “higher law” of consecration at a time when we’re only required to live the “lesser law” of tithing, and on trying to come up with way to make our church experience a more open place and have more of a “Zion-like” atmosphere.
Zion requires great intimacy and connection among the members. The church lacks this intimacy and connection because we are all still strangers. The only way to achieve Zion, or even a Zion-like atmosphere at church, is for members to all be connected to each other through covenants. As it stands, the church only connects us to Christ through covenants, but not to each other. As long as we remain unfettered by covenant relationships with each other, we will never achieve Zion and our words and deeds at church will never approach the level of intimacy and sharing required of that ideal.
So we may arrive at the point where we are no longer:
strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
People desire this sense of community, connection, and intimacy – yet we are all still strangers. I received this as a revelation last week, and I’m willing to state it here as a prophecy – and it’s that:
nothing we are currently doing with church will ever produce the kind of Zion-like community we read about in the scriptures.
The gathered body of believers is supposed to be the result of these feelings of community – it can never be the means we use to achieve it.
Why does he always end-up talking about polygamy?
The level of intimacy and connection required to have the kind of community where what’s mine is yours [and yours, mine], where we all deal with each other based on the principle of charity, having no contention, imparting of our substance freely one with another, etc. – is something only arising out of kinship [or family-bonds].
For example, my entire paycheck goes into one bank account that my wife is free to spend on whatever she feels will satisfy her needs and the needs of our children. Her and I already share all things common, I impart of my substance [and my time, my attention, my affection, etc.] freely with her and our children, etc. In other words,
The family is the basic unit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the most important social unit in time and eternity…
meaning, living in such a Zion-like community starts the moment a man marries a woman. The two are gathered in Christ’s name, there He will be in the midst of them [Matthew 18:20] – and the twain shall be one flesh [D&C 49:16].
This connectivity is the key. However, if such a community starts with the basic-unit of a man marrying a woman – then how can we expect to grow the community on any different sets of principles [other than men and women marrying]?
So that– if I had two wives, then the second wife would receive just as free of access to my time, talents, resources, and love as my current wife does. If my wife receives a second husband, then I expect his entire paycheck to go into that same account – and for him to devote that same level of intimacy to my wife and her children, as I do. Because this is the covenant-obligation we place ourselves under in marriage.
While I don’t think plural marriages need to be a “hill-to-die-on” for this whole idea [I’m all for anarchy, local solutions to local problems, letting people tailor their situation to particular circumstances, etc.] – I can state declaratively that any group that would out-right and from the get-go forbid plural marriages will always be limited — will always approach but never arrive.
Admittedly, one does not just generate a new spouse out of thin-air. So I can agree that it’s good to start [perhaps] with a focus on getting people getting unplugged from wires and satellites, on getting outside more, on getting together with real human-beings more, etc. That’s approaching a real kind of community with people in a positive way – people, who can then come to know each other well enough to begin to desire courting and joining together as plural spouses.
If the church actually wanted Zion, then I think most would be surprised over the number of both LDS and non-LDS who would be ready to sign on for it — if it meant living for a higher purpose. But they don’t. Marching orders are to get as much education as you can, so you can make as much income as you can, so you can pay more in tithes and offerings. It’s to just stay where you are and live out as normal of a life as you can — but with just a bit of Mormon flare to it [e.g., serve a two-year mission, civilly marry in a temple, pay 10% of your paycheck to the church, do your home and visiting teaching, keep a current temple recommend, etc.]
Eternity is NOW, and we can make a heaven of it or we can make a hell of it:
The “idea of Zion” [just wanting to talk about Zion] is keeping us separate. We see a paradisaical, Zion community as this pie-in-the-sky utopia that we can just sit around, occupy our time, and wait for Jesus to return and have it all fall in our laps. We think our separateness is just fine to settle for here-and-now because one day we will have Zion in which to be together. Just having the “idea” of it all is what’s keeping us apart and wasting all the life that we could be living, right now.
When I think Jesus has been the one just waiting –waiting on us to get a culture of heaven established here on earth – to have things “on earth” as they are “in heaven” – so He doesn’t end-up killing us with such a culture shock. One should learn to swim before being plopped out in the ocean. It would be best to know how to drive before getting behind the wheel of a car.
Instead of thinking, “Oh, we’ll just get it all figured out after we die [or after Jesus returns, etc.]” – we’re supposed to be doing it all here, all now – otherwise we’ll drown when we’re immersed in Zion in the future.
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