For Zion – Part 1

For ZionWhatever happened to Zion?  Whatever happened to the law of consecration?

Aren’t these things from a long time ago? Or for some time way in the future?

No. They are only ever for now. Saying that we’re not ready for Zion is like telling a guy lost in the desert he’s not ready for water.

As Joseph Spencer puts it in For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope (Kofford, 2014):

The law of consecration is now, as it has always been, “the great stumbling block.” It is a rock of offense and therefore a stone that we, the builders of Zion, are as likely to reject or ignore as we are to utilize. And yet, scripture assures us, this same stone will—or at any rate must—become the head of the corner, the only sure foundation on which Zion can be built. (ix)


Consecration is our only hope. Indeed, as I aim to show over the course of this book, consecration is inseparable from hope. Consecration is the hope of the Restoration, the singular task of the last days in which Christian hope is perfectly embodied. To become quite clear about the nature of hope is to begin to see that the Restoration IS the law of consecration. In a crucial sense, there is nothing else that needs doing, nothing else on which to focus. Everything else that makes up the movement that began with Joseph Smith is meant to serve as an instrument for the fulfillment of this one law. As Hugh Nibley has put it, “the midpoint and focus of the whole operation is Zion. Zion is the great moment of transition, the bridge between the world as it is and the world as God designed it and meant it to be.” (x)

Spencer is right about this.

I’ve argued before that Mormonism is not about Mormonism.

Mormonism comes into focus as living and true only when we stop looking directly at it and, instead, aim our attention at what Mormonism is itself aiming at. If you aim directly at Mormonism, you’ll miss seeing the thing that deserves your fidelity.

If Mormonism isn’t about Mormonsim, then what is it about?

Mormonism is about Zion.

Zion isn’t Mormonism but Zion is the only justification for it. Mormonism can’t be used as its own justification. (Though if it could, that would be even worse.)

If Mormonism keeps wobbling out of view as something worth a lifetime of effort and devotion, it’s because our hearts and minds aren’t fixed on Zion.

Zion is grace—grace for grace, grace from grace, grace to grace—enacted.

Zion is the body of Christ vivified.

In For Zion, Spencer pairs a ridiculously sensitive and substantial reading of Paul’s theology of hope with a groundbreaking re-reading of D&C 42 in light of the earliest manuscripts.

As a work of scholarship, the book is first rate. As a rigorous call to a life of consecrated discipleship it’s even better.

On a weekly basis over the course of the next month or so, I’ll host a round table discussion of For Zion with a variety contributors that will engage the book chapter by chapter.

Consider this an invitation to join us.

15 comments for “For Zion – Part 1

  1. Great. I read ‘For Zion’ last Summer and confess I found the early philosophy chapters somewhat hard going. But persevered and was rewarded with the second half close reading of D&C 42. I’ll read again in hope that your round table can help me better understand the first half of the book. Looking forward to it.

  2. I’m very much looking forward to this series. I read ‘For Zion’ on your recommendation, loved what I saw, and am eager to get more out of the book.

  3. My experience was much the same as James’ experience. The early philosophical chapters (especially chs. 1-4) relating faith, hope, and love (and consecration) were hard for me to get through. Part 1 had some great parts (like helping me make sense of the historical context of Paul’s epistle to the Romans), so they were worth my effort. However, I was richly rewarded by pushing through them to the interlude and part 2, which were absolutely wonderful and more than worth the effort of getting through part 1. I’m very excited for this series.

  4. I’ve got a few books ahead of it in the queue (including going back through your book on OOP). But it definitely looks interesting. I always enjoy and learn from his writing.

  5. Haven’t read it yet, but will.

    We’ve clearly abandoned Zion as a goal and largely ignored the covenant of Consecration though we repeat it every temple endowment session. So will a book fix it? Do you expect (or know of now) any large groups to take actual steps to establish Zion? What would it take to gather/influence/persuade a group of saints (a ward, stake, or collection of strangers) to start implementing Zion-required practices?

  6. I don’t know why the distinction between Mormonism and Zion would be important. IMO, if there is a distinction in our minds it’s because we don’t understand Mormonism.

  7. I’ve noticed that a lot of LDS books aren’t on Kindle and even fewer are on (the superior in my opinion) iBooks. Makes me sad. Space and clutter has convinced me never to buy a paper book unless there’s no choice. In fact I wish I could digitize my library and be done with it.

  8. I’ve frequently noted that for the Nephites, it took a major destruction and the coming of the resurrected Christ in glory for them to enact Zion. I wonder if it will take such a big disaster for the saints to stop working for money and begin working for Zion.

  9. While they probably don’t make up the majority of any ward, when I consider the number of people who have dropped their busy schedule to come help me when in need or cheques under the door when they hear of financial troubles not to mention the ridiculous amount of time spent on callings I have a very hard time saying Mormons don’t follow consecration or are not trying to build of Zion. Let’s remember even in the 19th century united order projects were done on a small scale with many different experiments. The idea that Zion must be built as a top down totalizing structure seems erroneous.

    As I’ve often said we buy into the world’s criteria of status and then frequently judge the Church in terms of it. I’m convinced the basic unit of consecration in the Church isn’t the city or ward, but the companionship of a home teacher or visiting teacher or your home itself. So if Zion’s not being sought we have no one to blame but ourselves.

  10. I don’t think it needs to be top down Clark Goble. I think that if the “grassroots” started doing it then direction would come from the top. The top (God) has already given instruction/commandments and is waiting on us to take it seriously enough to at least try. We have no one to blame if we don’t, you are right.

  11. “If you aim directly at Mormonism, you’ll miss seeing the thing that deserves your fidelity.”

    Just so.

  12. Although I am not advocating that you follow Denver Snuffer, I will note that the new communities that are being formed according to his teachings sound a lot more like Zion than what I’m used to seeing in the church – e.g., using tithing to help people directly, rather than to build more buildings; having leadership be based on real common consent; giving women a say in who leads the congregations. It will be interesting to see if it all works out. If it does, maybe it will be a model for future changes in the church.

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