12 Walks to Zion

800px-Sunrise_in_the_fog_7723I’m not ready to leave my “building Zion” discussion just yet. Where does the New Jerusalem come from? If you asked my peers, parents, seminary teachers, and Sunday school instructors, you might receive visions like these:

  1. Utah-style United Order Zion
    “We all share equally in temporal things,” Luetta explained to the visitor. “Sometimes I miss getting special presents for my birthday — things that were just mine — but the sacrifice is worth knowing that no one goes to bed hungry.”
  2. The Ward/Stake Zion
    Brother Anderson spoke from the pulpit, “Zion is the pure in heart. We are Zion here, in this chapel today. In the early days of the church, the saints gathered to Utah. Now we gather in our wards and stakes. This is the same organization we will see in the great city of Zion in the latter days.”
  3. Zion of the United States of America
    “You see, my son, just as Brother Brigham prophesied, the American continents were united under the Stars and Stripes. With the annexation of Brazil to the union, and with the election of Mitt Fielding Romney Jr. to the Continental Presidency, the prophecies were fulfilled.”
  4. Lamanite Zion
    “The Book of Mormon makes it clear that the current establishment will fail in its work of building up the kingdom of God, and they will be forcibly replaced by a new, capable Lamanite-descended leadership who will get the job done.”
  5. Zion Online
    The internet community was surprised to see that the millions of websites slowly, inexorably, aligned themselves under either the umbrella community of zion.org or the enticing network of babylon.com…
  6. Trek to Missouri Zion
    “Since the highways were littered with derelict cars, we put chains on the Suburban and drove straight through the mountains. We ran out of gas in Kansas, so Dad put his Eagle Scout training to work by lashing a few staves into a working handcart. That carried our few remaining supplies while we walked, until we arrived at the gates of the holy city.”
  7. Zionist Zion
    Israel was united in a secret pact with the United States, just as so many suspected. The two powers possessed the strength to quietly oppose the conspiracies of the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Red Chinese, and (unexpectedly) the Romanians. They built a hidden temple under the Dome of the Rock, which served as a conduit to divert Gaddafi’s Great Manmade River and cleanse the Dead Sea, which allowed the prophesied city to be built on the ruins of Qumran…
  8. Post-apocalyptic Zion
    Zan surveyed the desolate, arid plains. The war had been gruesome, but the now-vacant landscape left God’s people free to build His kingdom aright, from the ground up.
  9. Deus ex machina Millenial Zion
    The nations and peoples of the world were hopelessly entangled in strifes, sins, and self-indulgences. Then God returned to cleanse the earth and set things right.
  10. Zion of the Hidden Priesthood
    Sister Hunsaker stopped me after Gospel Doctrine. “The instructor did a good job, but she really had no idea what she was talking about,” she said. “Zion is already here. It happened when Adam and the Savior gathered with the priesthood in Adam-ondi-Ahman. It was a secret, but I have it on good authority that the meeting has already taken place. You see, this aligns perfectly with the Doctrine & Covenants’ depiction of the Church of the Firstborn, and with the book of Revelation’s mother and child in the wilderness…”
  11. Zion of Spontaneous Universal Peace
    “The Savior won’t come until we’re prepared to receive him,” explained Elder Carmichael. “This means that nations will stop fighting, and there will be war no more. I expect that, in our day, we will see peace break out across the world, in preparation for the return of the Lord.”
  12. Zion as the City of Enoch Returned
    When I first met Mahijah, I was overwhelmed by the love that radiated from his countenance. It warmed not just my heart, but my entire being. I couldn’t stop smiling.

I don’t present these visions mockingly — I believe in parts of several of them, including the grand gathering in Adam-ondi-Ahman, the temple in Jerusalem, and the city in Jackson county. What I don’t believe, however, is that Zion will be built in a single, easily identifiable, epic effort, which is what these visions depict. Some are too facile, conveniently dividing the people of the world into clearly defined camps of good and evil. Some are too anemic, resulting in Zions that don’t address the complex needs that real, three-dimensional people have. Some are too idealistic, expecting that the nature of humanity will spontaneously change in a way that makes a Zion lifestyle possible. All of them are too passive, presenting the work of building Zion as something that will be done by “someone other than me”, or postponing the work until some cataclysmic future event.

When I imagine how Zion will actually be brought to pass, I find the name “New Jerusalem” to be instructive. Why call it a “new” Jerusalem unless it will share similarities to the old Jerusalem? And so I expect it will be built in a similar fashion to the old Jerusalem — by many individuals, people with conflicting values, views, and goal, who are willing to cooperate in order to create a grand community that is greater than any of us could achieve on our own. There will be mistakes made and lessons learned in its construction.

Just as Jerusalem has its several quarters and markets, I expect that the new Jerusalem will not be a monoculture, but will be a hybrid community — even a network of cities or communities — with facilities for the scientist, the artist, the businessperson, and all the rest of us. Perhaps it will be a distributed community, connected more by technology or affiliation than by geography. But the one thing I am certain of is that the people who build Zion will look like you and me, and that the people who inhabit Zion will be indistinguishable from some of the neighbors who live on your street today.

32 comments for “12 Walks to Zion

  1. 13. Zion of the Correlated Curriculum. The lesson manuals reach their final and perfect distillation of truth and never again change. We hear their teachings word for word, lesson for lesson, forever more. Lesson manual questions and answers become completely ritualized, even liturgical. “A perfect curriculum makes for perfect people.”

  2. Actually, (and don’t hate me for saying this) correlation is the sort of thing that leads to a *real* Zion. It’s a great example of sincere people doing their best to solve real problems in a realistic way. It addressed the issues it was intended to address. It has also generated new issues, but that’s the way of progress. When we come to Zion, it will be through all we’ve learned by our failed attempts on the way.

  3. Dane, the relation between ritual, groupthink–“one mind”, groupspeak– “one voice”, and repetition, on one hand and spontaneous, individual expression on the other is an interesting question. Will Zion be “same lessons, different lives”, “same lessons, same lives”, or “different lessons, different lives”?

  4. I don’t mean to imply that correlation-as-we-know-it will exist in Zion (it may or may not, I have no idea), only that it’s been an important program for us to implement on the way there, for what it’s taught us through both its successes and its failings.

  5. ” In the Big Rock Candy Mountains there’s a land that’s fair and bright
    Where the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night
    Where the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains….”

    IMO_Zions can exist in hearts, minds, and dreams. But will always fail in a physical world.

  6. I’ve never read _Left Behind_, but I’m aware of its existence. As a general rule, I think that any vision of Zion that translates into Christian science fiction literature is probably not the way Zion will actually be brought to pass ;)

  7. Some of these Zions would make a great pulp fiction setting.

    You don’t believe that Zion will be a single, easily identifiable epic event. Well and good. Most Saints probably disagree with you. some possible common ground between you and them is that Zion probably requires precursors and attempts and perhaps failures, and that none of us knows very clearly what it looks like or how to get there.

  8. Adam, I think you’re right that most of the saints would disagree with me, but I also think that’s probably because the literal city of Zion is not a topic we reflect on often or discuss seriously in church. It gets occasionally mentioned, but we don’t make plans for getting there. That allows it to sit comfortably in the clouds and misty future. You’re also right that several of the Zions I mention here would make great pulp fiction (#8 is probably our version of _Left Behind_) — and that’s a large part of why it’s hard for me to take them seriously. I take Zion seriously, but I don’t see these visions as seriously getting us there.

  9. I’m pretty sure it will be a combination of “post-apocalyptic,” ward/stake, and United Order. A literal city as the capital of the Lord’s Kingdom before His coming, but not a place that has all 13.8 million citizens stuffed into it.

  10. I think Zion/Missouri is just the center place of Zion. Each stake is a Zion (or is supposed to be). The North/South America Zion seems to take hold step by step after some major disasters allow for enough chaos for the Church to step in with its vast organizational skills (a la correlated materials).

  11. Another option to consider: Variant of 2) The intervals between Stake Meetings (Saturday church) gets smaller and smaller and the stake meetings get longer and longer until we reach the Zion Omega Point. This leads naturally to 1) United Order Zion due to common meals fixed by the sisters for consumption by the men during breaks in the meetings.

  12. I think all these versions are part of it. Zion is broadly defined, and like most “____or____” gospel questions, the answer is probably, “yes.”

    Zion was, is, and will continue to be built line upon line, etc.

  13. Brilliant Dane. I nominate this post as best-in-series for your Zion posts. I wholeheartedly support your attempt to shake us out of our fantasy slumber when it comes to Zion. Confronting us with these, our caricatures (or perhaps “faithful depictions”) and demanded a serious, “three-dimensional” reflection on Zion, is a great way of doing so. And whether it’s established by a magical wave of the wand or not, it will only come after our long, hard, bloody struggle. If we wake up on the other side of paradise having voided the field or sat on the sidelines during that struggle to build and improve, we’ll surely find ourselves outside the city walls. And perhaps our most common way of sitting the sidelines is to (as you say) passively nurse whichever of the above is our preferred fantasy.

  14. Stephen – you’re right that left-wing libertarians have a lot to say; perhaps it’s because what they say is far more serious than 1-12 above that Dane left them out.

  15. Thanks James. It surprised me how easy it was to come up with twelve distinct visions that shared the theme of “If I just wait long enough, Zion will come of its own accord.” I’m reminded of the proverb, “The man who waits for a roast duck to fly into his mouth must wait a very, very long time.”

  16. Right on Dane. Your insights are superb. I have often said, “How do we get half way from here to there?” As Adam said, “precursors”, that is what we need. Orson Scott Card’s book, The Folk of the Fringe, has been discussed on the blogs as a kind of pattern into a misty future as you refer to it. Dane, just call it New Zionism!

  17. In my inner-eye version of Zion, the church, as an organization, goes AWAY. The rigourous, rigid framework of the world-driven LDS Church is supplanted by the righteous, individualized, and comprehensive understanding of the Gospel in action and in daily life. Those worthy of it will reap the blessings from living in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the gospel….correlation meetings and Book 1 manual be damned.

  18. Of course, “damned” in the religious sense of the word; not the vulgar, typical exclamation.

  19. Excuse me from being preoccupied with government here. I don’t like it all that much, but it may point the way to that half way point. Question – What is the rarest form of government on earth? The rarest is also the most difficut. For example, living under an autocracy, monarchy, plutocracy, theocracy, hierarchy, beaucracy, micro management are all easy; just do what you are told. But democracy, that is the tough one – the rarest thing on earth. Everyone is equal and must help come up with solutions. The average person seldom has such an opportunity. Even our western world is overwhelmingly a “do what your are told” world. If we are taught correct principles, we should be able to “govern ourselves.” Not just in the state of Utah but on the world stage.

    Well we have these problems. Having had little or no experience in the democratic dynamic (myself included), and with the uncivilized examples of democracy all around us, we may have to start from scratch. Our biggest obstacle is probably putting things off too much. Then we become forced into “lifeboat democracy” with its refiners fires. I will not underestimate the difficulties. Through the years I have been able to think of about a million things that could go wrong, but luckily, through experience, I find that only about ten percent of my fears materialze. Yet if we want to become “the pure in heart” I think our first best steps will be to learn to get along with each other in the democratic sense.

    Visualizing the mechanics of all this is another matter. The most important part is to get out and meet with each other face to face. Let us find out what we can do to make a difference, not as a group of service project hunters, but in some way to connect together for our mutual benefit. Perhaps we need to develop ways to maintain civilized life in hard times. Tough stuff, but in the end it may be our only alternative.

  20. #28:Democracy is the rarest form of government because it always fails. Zion/Mormonism is a kingdom or a theocracy. It’s all about obeying the leader and carrying out your assiged role.

  21. The Gospel is not a democracy….as a matter of fact, the only democratized part of the gospel that I can recall is when we were allowed to choose to follow God’s plan or Lucifer’s plan…after that, it’s all obedience, risk, and reward.

  22. Democracy has always failed in the past, but that doesn’t mean it can’t succeed in some future context. If the Constitution is inspired, its principles should be able to stand the ages of mankind on the earth especially if those men are “pure in heart.” It is OK to have differences of opinion in the democratic sense and still remain pure.

    There will also be two centers of administration on the earth. The Word will go forth from Jerusalem, and the Law will go forth from Zion. Why not one center? There has to be a reason. To me it indicates a continued seperation of Church and State. Perhaps not in the same way as we know it today but still similar to that suggested by the Constitution. After all, there will still be nonmembers on the earth. They will probably want to propose policies and vote.

    The Word (Church) of course will remain a Theocracy. It may not be the Church as we now know it, but a Priesthood chain of authority will continue into a family (Patriarchal) order. The Lord will reign over all of this not by force but by the power of His influence. IMO

  23. I have often wondered about the application of D&C 88: 78-9, “the perplexities of the nations” and all that stuff. Are we expected to become Henry Kissingers or what? It must have something to do with navigating the world in the last days in the effort to bring people together in peace. I can’t help but think that this will be a grass roots endeavor in the spirit of D&C 58: 26-7, “bring to pass much righteousness.” That is why I think Dane is hitting the thing square on the head.

    Conceptualizing the democratic approach to this, I am reminded of when the Saints consented to let Brigham Young be their leader. Almost all of them noticed a change in voice and/or image to that of Joseph Smith while he was speaking. This is what I would call a “collective revelation.” This was a very clear cut example, yet I think something similar can be achieved, over time, by democratic interaction. It will come more in bits and pieces as problems are tackeled. Trial and error will be prominent. Successful outcomes may not be recognized until much later. People will continue to disagree but will not wreck the system doing so. Unity, the way I see it, is not so much about people agreeing on everything but with respecting each other’s convictions and living with the outcome. The committment to “democratic consensus” may be the key to peace. IMO

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