Book of Mormon Central Archive
Prophetic Principles for Building Zion
Prophetic Principles for Building Zion
|Title||Prophetic Principles for Building Zion|
|Publication Type||Book Chapter|
|Year of Publication||2007|
|Authors||Kramer, Neal W.|
|Editor||Strathearn, Gaye, and Charles Swift|
|Book Title||Living the Book of Mormon: Abiding by Its Precepts|
|Publisher||Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University/Deseret Book|
|City||Provo, UT/Salt Lake City|
|Keywords||4 Nephi; Covenant; Equality; Organization; Priesthood; Principle; Prophet; Unity; Zion|
When we think of the doctrine of Zion as taught in the Book of Mormon, our minds often turn to 4 Nephi. The book describes in a few verses a society organized around the principles taught by the Savior to a righteous remnant of Nephites and Lamanites at the temple in Bountiful. Some important characteristics of this community of Christians were faith, family, hope, peace, security, and happiness. Indeed, Mormon powerfully asserts that “there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God”. Imagine that! They were happier than the citizens of the city of Enoch, happier than Mechizedek’s city of Salem. This Book of Mormon Zion had been foretold from the time Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. In preparation for that great day, crucial principles about Zion were regularly taught by prophets like King Benjamin and Alma the Elder. But the Book of Mormon was written for our day to assist us in preparing for the building of our Zion. And so the Book of Mormon calls us to come unto Christ and take upon His name by building Zion, which is founded on the principles of equality, unity, covenants, and priesthood organization.
Prophetic Principles for Building Zion
Neal W. Kramer
Neal W. Kramer was a part-time instructor in the English Department at Brigham Young University when this was published.
Blessed are they who seek to bring forth my Zion—1 Nephi 13:37
When we think of the doctrine of Zion  as taught in the Book of Mormon, our minds often turn to 4 Nephi.  The book describes in a few verses a society organized around the principles taught by the Savior to a righteous remnant of Nephites and Lamanites at the temple in Bountiful. Some important characteristics of this community of Christians were faith, family, hope, peace, security, and happiness. Indeed, Mormon powerfully asserts that “there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God” (4 Nephi 1:16). Imagine that! They were happier than the citizens of the city of Enoch, happier than Mechizedek’s city of Salem. This Book of Mormon Zion had been foretold from the time Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. In preparation for that great day, crucial principles about Zion were regularly taught by prophets like King Benjamin and Alma the Elder. But the Book of Mormon was written for our day to assist us in preparing for the building of our Zion. And so the Book of Mormon calls us to come unto Christ and take upon His name by building Zion, which is founded on the principles of equality, unity, covenants, and priesthood organization.
Equality is a prerequisite for Zion. It is a formidable principle because it can be achieved only through consecration and sacrifice. Equality has a wide variety of definitions, which include parity, fairness, impartiality, and egalitarianism. Mormon offers a more specific definition of Zion: all persons in the community “imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants” (Mosiah 18:29). It suggests not so much sameness as individualism restrained by righteousness. This conception of equality begins with a fundamentally true principle: we are all children of Heavenly Father, and we may all become “the children of Christ” (4 Nephi 1:17). In turn, this principle is consistent with Nephi’s teaching that “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). In similar terms, the Apostle Peter explained that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).
Old Testament prophets also regularly taught that righteousness requires that no person be given special treatment. They taught that respect derives more from who we are than from what we have acquired. In matters of justice, the commandment is clear: “Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty” (Leviticus 19:15).
And the Apostle James teaches that “if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (James 2:9). This teaching suggests that worldly titles and all the honors and regalia associated with them are inimical to the Zion concept of equality. President Spencer W. Kimball taught that the “Lord has made a vibrant contrast between the honors of the world and the honors which can come to the soul.”  In Zion there can be no unrighteous distinctions among the children of Christ. Zion honors only heavenly accomplishments.
Mormon underlines the truth of this principle by highlighting what happens when unrighteous distinctions enter a society and some are arbitrarily respected more than others. Speaking of the people during Alma the Younger’s rule as chief judge, Mormon states, “Alma saw the wickedness of the church, and he saw also that the example of the church began to lead those who were unbelievers on from one piece of iniquity to another, thus bringing on the destruction of the people. Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted” (Alma 4:11–12). It should come as no surprise that the actions of members of the Church, supposed believers, were especially damning. Even nonbelievers were aware of the righteous standard the prophets had laid down. When people in the Church gave up their commitment to righteousness, it opened the floodgates for others to accept iniquity in the form of recognition, success, and pride as the keys to happiness.
In 3 Nephi, Mormon again assesses the causes of wickedness in Nephite society and makes a similar diagnosis. “Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world” (3 Nephi 6:15). A crucial feature of unrighteous respect for persons is the desire for power. Once power has been achieved, inequality will not be far behind. Those people are iniquitous who, under the influence of Satan, strive for power, seek for personal status, recognize their friends with dishonest honors or awards, and reward the special interests of people who enrich them while shunning those who cannot pay.
As President Kimball taught, “The enemies of faith know no God but force, no devotion but the use of force.”  Abuse of authority almost naturally follows the acquisition of power. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39). Laws may then be prejudicially enforced, with the poor and the weak often incarcerated for inconsequential acts. Such authority may then be employed to pervert the good, to “call evil good, and good evil, . . . put darkness for light, and light for darkness, . . . [and] put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (2 Nephi 15:20; see also Isaiah 5:20). And what will be their reward? The vain things of the world: mansions, luxury cars, yachts, rare books, fine art, extravagant jewels and apparel, fame, and so on.
President Marion G. Romney contrasted these desires and practices with “a willingness to forego luxuries, prayerful consideration of all major purchases, and learning to live within our means.”  The prophet Jacob added that this vanity arises because “ye suppose that ye are better than they” (Jacob 2:13).
A principle of equality parallel to the denial of unrighteous status distinctions is the erasure of a society in which some are obviously rich and others are obviously poor. The anti-Christ Nehor was a firm advocate of the belief that the rich are better than the poor. As a consequence, Alma the Younger spent much of his career fighting against the impact of Nehorism, a term I coined to name the ideology of the “order of the man who slew Gideon,” or Nehor (Alma 2:1). Nehor’s career started with beginning “to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a church after the manner of his preaching” (Alma 1:6). He founded a church based on popularity, the ability of the wealthy to give him large amounts of money, and his ability to use his own costly apparel to create the impression of superiority over the true church led by Alma the Younger.
When Alma saw “all their inequality, [he] began to be very sorrowful; nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail him” (Alma 4:15). This led to his leaving the judgment seat to combat the teachings of Nehor by “preach[ing] the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them” (Alma 4:19).
Alma and his companions later visited the Zoramites, who were by then a spiritual catastrophe. Alma’s “heart was grieved; for . . . they were a wicked and perverse people. . . . Their hearts were lifted up unto great boasting, in their pride” (Alma 31:24–25). In mighty prayer he asked the Lord for “success” in his efforts to combat the Zoramites’ commitment to “costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with.” For Alma saw that “their hearts [were] set upon them” and that they viewed their wealth as confirmation of their righteousness and their special status in God’s eyes: “They cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish” (Alma 31:32, 28).
The immediate consequence of the Zoramite perversion of Zion was the rejection of the poor. As Nehor had taught, if costly apparel and financial support for the ministry were crucial to a true church, then surely the church would not minister to the poor. It would cater solely to the rich, those who could pay the price of admission.
In fact, the Zoramites created an environment in which the poor were “despised of all men because of their poverty.” The Zoramite poor reported to Alma that they had been rejected “more especially by our priests; for they have cast us out of our synagogues which we have labored abundantly to build with our own hands; and they have cast us out because of our exceeding poverty” (Alma 32:5).
The Zoramites had decided that God’s chief blessings were gold, silver, fine clothes, and extravagant places of worship. The prophets taught otherwise: “Behold, doth he [God] cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price” (2 Nephi 26:25). There are no economic requirements for those who come to Zion.
Alma urged his people to reject Nehorism and the persecution it generated. He fostered and built a society based on principles of Zion. In this society, priests supported themselves: “And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.” Together they worked hard to erase the distinction between rich and poor: “And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely” (Alma 1:26–27). When the Book of Mormon Zion had been built after the coming of the Savior, “there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift“ (4 Nephi 1:3). They were equal.
A second principle of Zion closely related to equality is unity. Words commonly associated with unity include harmony, agreement, accord, and unanimity. A more specific definition of unity is “an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting.”  In the Book of Mormon Zion, “they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God” (4 Nephi 1:17). Their lives were characterized by singleness of purpose, deep faith in Christ and His gospel, love for family, and equality. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Savior emphasized the importance of unity: “If ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27). If we are not one, we cannot live in Zion, for a Zion people are “of one heart and one mind, and [dwell] in righteousness” (Moses 7:18).
As he did with equality, Mormon often shows us the value of unity by giving examples of the causes and effects of disunity. One especially damaging cause is contention and disputation (see 4 Nephi 1:17). When the Savior visited the Nephites, He taught that “the devil . . . is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Nephi 11:29). He also commanded the righteous that “there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been” (3 Nephi 11:28). According to Lehi, a primary purpose of scripture, especially the Book of Mormon, is stopping contention. In the patriarchal blessing Lehi gave his son Joseph, who was born in the wilderness, he promised, “That which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins . . . saith the Lord” (2 Nephi 3:12). The sowing of discord was a constant problem among the Nephites and was a vital cause of their ultimate demise.
The Book of Mormon anti-Christs and their followers were especially adept at sowing contention. The lawyer Zeezrom, for example, was a follower of Nehor, and Mormon describes him as “a man who was expert in the devices of the devil, that he might destroy that which was good” (Alma 11:21). Like other judges and lawyers in Ammonihah, he “did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money.”
Being adept at these skills, he stirred up “the people against Alma and Amulek” (Alma 11:20). He sought to intimidate, threaten, weaken, and confuse the prophets by plying the tools of his trade. His first challenge to Alma and Amulek was the temptation of money. As we have already seen, the Nehors put great stock in money, which conferred on them greater status. The essence of priestcraft is to teach false (or even true) doctrine in the pursuit of wealth and power. And so Zeezrom tempted Amulek: “Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being” (Alma 11:22).
When Amulek refused the money, Zeezrom tried false doctrine, by asking Amulek to deny the Atonement. “Shall [the Son of God] save his people in their sins?”(Alma 11:34). Amulek again demurs. Zeezrom’s question is cunning in its subtlety and chilling in its effect. Nehor had taught “that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life” (Alma 1:4). This is the false doctrine of universal salvation without repentance, a doctrine that strongly denounces the doctrine of Christ (see 3 Nephi 11:31–39).
In light of Nehor’s false teachings, Zeezrom’s temptation proclaims that men do not need a redeemer, hearkening back to the premortal Council in Heaven, where Satan sought to preempt the Atonement: “I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost” (Moses 4:1).
Amulek, understanding the temptation, undermines its cunning premise by bearing powerful, clear testimony of the Savior: “And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else” (Alma 11:40). Prophets seek to build Zion by replacing deception with testimony and contention with conversion.
A second feature of unity, as described in the Book of Mormon, comes by “following the light from above.”  This of course means simply that we follow the Savior and not another leader or teacher from the world. The prophet Nephi reveals what the Savior requires: “Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?” (2 Nephi 31:10).
In contrast, the anti-Christs reject the Zion teaching of living according to the word of God and following Christ. A strong example of rejecting the ways of God and replacing them with the ways of the world is Korihor. Korihor’s pernicious teachings reflect Nehor’s founding principle “that every priest and teacher ought to become popular“ (Alma 1:3). That is, the measure of the truth of a man’s teaching depends on how closely it coincides with what people want to hear rather than what God has commanded.
Korihor takes the principle of popularity to its logical conclusion, which is that mankind needs no redemption, and therefore, there is no God. “Why do ye look for a Christ?” he seems to ask. “Why waste your hopes on redemption, when the world and all its pleasure, goods, and power lie before you?” The question relies on the premise that “every man fare[s] in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prosper[s] according to his genius, and that every man conquer[s] according to his strength; and whatsoever a man [does is] no crime.” Korihor sought thoroughly to remove God from life. He deplored religion as something entirely produced by wicked men who seek “to usurp power and authority over [their followers], to keep them in ignorance, that they may not lift up their heads” (Alma 30:17, 23).
Korihor’s alternative was simple: reject revelation, splinter into competing groups, live for the moment. In other words, reject Zion and the revelation that is its lifeblood. President Boyd K. Packer has taught that those standing “on Zion’s hill” can “see continuing revelation, open to the Church and to each individual member.” 
Unity is also a principle of Zion because it produces peace. At the end of his reign, King Mosiah appeals to his people to reject being ruled by kings, who have too much power, and instead choose “wise men to be judges, that will judge this people according to the commandments of God” (Mosiah 29:11). The purpose of this change is straightforward: “to establish peace throughout the land, that there should be no wars nor contentions, no stealing, nor plundering, nor murdering, nor any manner of iniquity” (Mosiah 29:14). Mosiah’s teachings thus clarify what the Nephites most want and almost never achieve—peace.
In the Book of Mormon, the principles of disunity feed the ever-hungry, never-satisfied monster of war. Mormon himself is profoundly troubled by the consequences of war that he witnessed. He laments, “It is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites; and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually” (Mormon 4:11). He condemns people who cause war, such as Amalickiah, Gidgiddoni, Zarahemna, Ammoron, Amlici. He praises people who rise up against the truly wicked and defend their families even to the shedding of their own blood, like Helaman, Captain Moroni, Teancum, Lachoneus. And he introduces us to the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, a people once so immersed in the wicked traditions of their warlike ancestors that after their conversion they refuse to risk committing such sins by taking up arms. Mormon speaks of these people with deep respect: “When these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace” (Alma 24:19). The Anti-Nephi-Lehies were truly converted and chose to live for Zion. In our own day, Elder Russell M. Nelson has urged that peace will come “if leaders and citizens of nations would apply the teachings of Jesus Christ. Ours could then be an age of unparalleled peace and progress.” Unified commitment to building Zion can replace war and contention with the true peace of Christ. 
Zion cannot be built without making covenants. In fact, “‘Zion cannot be built up,’ the Lord said, ‘unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom.’ The covenant of consecration is central to this law.”  Covenants allow equality and unity to be maintained, nourished, and perpetuated. Covenant-makers are peacemakers. The covenants bind each partaker to a community of the pure in heart, dispelling feelings of isolation and loneliness and generating a profound sense of belonging.  Covenants allow us to belong to Christ and to each other. In the Book of Mormon Zion, covenants helped create a society where “the people were all converted unto the Lord,” “they had all things common among them,” “they were all made free,” “they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear,” “they did build cities,” and “they were married, and given in marriage, and were blessed according to the multitude of the promises which the Lord had made unto them” (4 Nephi 1:2, 3, 5, 7, 11). As 4 Nephi teaches, covenants place all who make them in a position to receive blessings as promised to them by God. 
King Benjamin described some specific ways in which his people, builders of Zion, were to keep the covenant (and thereby receive God’s blessings) through which they would be “called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7). These saints had “the Spirit of the Lord [come] upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ.” In that condition, they were prepared to be taught how to live after such a glorious experience. The measure of their faithfulness would be their actions: “If you believe all these things see that ye do them” (Mosiah 4:3, 10). King Benjamin then lays out what must be done. A Zion people must live in peace. They must be just and fair, their labors and transactions defined by honesty and integrity (Mosiah 14:13). They must take responsibility for happy family life, including teaching their children about Zion and the covenants that bind it together (Mosiah 4:14–15).
King Benjamin also taught, in the words of President Marion G. Romney, that “caring for the poor is a covenantal obligation.”  He does so by presenting us with a “hard saying” (John 6:60): “Ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish” (Mosiah 4:16). Because it is very difficult to know what is fair or just with regard to a beggar, a Zion people must not say, “The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just” (Mosiah 4:17).
This grand call is not simply a request to drop coins into a beggar’s cup. It requires the full extension of hospitality, sustenance, and succor to those in need. It makes Zion a place where the failed and forlorn are raised up again, where “independence, self-respect, dignity, and self-reliance will be fostered, and free agency maintained.”  Zion respects the poor by lifting them out of poverty and into the dignified world of the self-reliant, whatever the cost. This same principle requires that even the poor will carry in their hearts the willingness to give. King Benjamin’s teachings emphasize that for Zion to flourish the covenants made upon entry must be nourished and kept (see Mosiah 4:24). The intensity of such an enterprise may become so overwhelming that we find ourselves trapped in our own expectations. Therefore, King Benjamin concludes with the admonition that “all these things are [to be] done in wisdom and order“; the efforts of making and keeping covenants in Zion must be organized and administered (Mosiah 4:27).
Once the covenants have been made and Zion communities have been founded, Book of Mormon prophets follow priesthood principles to maintain Zion by putting “the priesthood of God to work.”  This means organizing quorums, defining responsibilities, and teaching priesthood holders their duty (see D&C 107). The work and the workers are bound together by covenant (see D&C 84:33–40). The priesthood is the organization and the power through which Zion principles are implemented. When the Savior visited the Nephites and Lamanites, He called men to whom He gave power to baptize in His name (see 3 Nephi 11:21). He taught them the specific manner in which to baptize and taught them the proper words and actions by which to perform the ordinance (see 3 Nephi 11:23–27). He organized them into a quorum with a designated leader (see 3 Nephi 12:1). He taught them true doctrine, from which they should not diverge. He introduced them to all present and urged the multitude to listen carefully to what they taught. He instituted the ordinance of the sacrament (see 3 Nephi 18:1–11). He prayed that the Father would allow them to receive the Holy Ghost (see 3 Nephi 19:20–21). He left them to run His Church in His absence (see 3 Nephi 27:5–12). The priesthood holders, the power, and the ordinances combined constituted the priesthood, the mortar that would hold the bricks of Zion together.
Such a conjunction of people and power cannot function as a loose collection of individuals who follow their own impulses, doing whatever they choose. President N. Eldon Tanner put it this way: “The Lord has given us instructions that we should belong to a church.”  The Savior’s Church needed structure, leadership, cooperation, and united effort in a common purpose to maintain and expand Zion. Priesthood organization encompasses all of that and more. Before the Savior’s coming, other prophets had also organized Church communities in order to build Zion. Their experience helps us to see more clearly how this is to be achieved.
After Alma the Elder and his people were baptized, they formed a fledgling Zion community. Alma baptized them all by virtue of the “authority” he had received “from the Almighty God” (Mosiah 18:13). All these people together constituted “the church of Christ” (Mosiah 18:17). Using the same authority from God that had enabled him to baptize the group, Alma then called and ordained priests. Each priest was given responsibility over fifty members of the Church of Christ. Priests were to teach their flocks “concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God,” which comprised the teachings of Alma and what “had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets” (Mosiah 18:19). They focused on the basic principles of the gospel: “Repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people” (Mosiah 18:20). They were to maintain unity by “having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” This tiny group was thereby enabled to become “the children of God” (Mosiah 18:21–22). The priesthood was the authority to baptize, organize, preach, and teach. The men who did this work were priests. The institutions and organizations auxiliary to their core callings increased their ability to do their work effectively. People thereby empowered by God were able to organize and persevere, binding their flocks together by covenants and ordinances and teaching them true and fundamental principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Mosiah 18:29). But such a community must also provide its members with incentives to continue to grow, organizing times and places for study, designing curriculum, providing opportunities for fellowship and service, and so on.  Priesthood organization allowed this to happen in wisdom and in order, as the experience of Alma the Elder demonstrates.
Once Alma the Elder had led his people back to Zarahemla, he established a church there as well. In this church strict rules were established for priests and teachers. In keeping with the practice of King Benjamin, who had “labored with [his] own hands“ rather than be supported by his people, priests were required to work to support themselves and their families (Mosiah 2:14). King Benjamin had very clearly explained his reasons for the practice. He believed that he could not serve his people if, in fact, they were “laden with taxes” in order to pay him a salary or provide him and those around him with unnecessary royal luxury.  From this, we learn that work must be central to Zion.  First of all, Zion must be built, and only organized work directed by the priesthood will achieve that. But Zion will also expand; it will never be a static and passive society (see D&C 42:42). Hard work and effort will characterize its people, because they “believe not only in the gospel of spiritual salvation, but also in the gospel of temporal salvation.”  The Book of Mormon teaches that each person worked, “every man according to his strength.” Priests seem to have organized meeting times and places around the regular work of the community. In Alma we read that “the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, [and] the people also left their labors to hear the word of God.” Beyond this, a priest was taught to maintain personal humility, “for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner” (Alma 1:26). Worldly status or wealth was not attached to the priesthood, nor was wealth or status a prerequisite for church service. In Zion, the practices and attitudes of priests and teachers along with covenants hold the community together. Therefore, priesthood organization is the backbone of Zion; without it, Zion cannot flourish.
Book of Mormon prophets convincingly teach us to desire to build and expand Zion and to “look forward with one eye” to the day of its completion (Mosiah 18:21). They explain to us what Zion is and which practices will help us work toward it. They also teach us that Zion can now be built up by living the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ and joining His Church. For Latter-day Saints, such a life must be characterized by equality, unity, covenants, and priesthood organization. Careful study of the Book of Mormon will help us to become more deeply committed to building Zion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the kingdom of God. We will learn from the example of past righteous peoples how this is to be done, step by step. If we do not understand what is required in order to seek Zion, we will never be able to labor for Zion. But if we do not go to work, our understanding will surely be antiseptic and academic. All who understand the principles taught by Book of Mormon prophets must therefore learn to work together in this greatest of all causes. As Nephi records, “Blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion” (1 Nephi 13:37). I pray that we may be among them.
1. I rely on a definition of Zion offered by Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “Be it remembered that Zion is people; Zion is the pure in heart; Zion is the saints of the living God” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982], 293). The definition he gives in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 854, is equally clear: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Zion. Joining the Church is becoming a citizen of Zion.” I am writing about Zion as the Church of Christ.
2. See Andrew C. Skinner, “Zion Gained and Lost: Fourth Nephi as the Quintessential Model,” in Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, eds., Fourth Nephi through Moroni, from Zion to Destruction (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1995), 289–302.
3. Spencer W. Kimball, “Seeking Eternal Riches,” Ensign, May 1976, 107.
4. Kimball, “Seeking Eternal Riches,” 107.
5. Marion G. Romney, “Principles of Temporal Salvation,” Ensign, April 1981, 6.
6. Dictionary.com, Princeton University, s.v. “unity,” http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/unity (accessed January 15, 2007).
7. See Dallin H. Oaks, “Why Do We Serve?” Ensign, November 1984, 13.
8. Marion G. Romney, “Unity,” Ensign, May 1983, 17.
9. Boyd K. Packer, “On Zion’s Hill,” Ensign, November 2005, 71, 73.
10. Russell M. Nelson, “‘Blessed Are the Peacemakers,’” Ensign, November 2002, 41.
11. Keith B. McMullin, “Come to Zion! Come to Zion!” Ensign, November 2002, 96.
12. See Bruce C. and Marie K. Hafen, The Belonging Heart: The Atonement and Relationships with God and Family (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994).
13. See Marion G. Romney, “Gospel Covenants,” Ensign, May 1981, 43.
14. Marion G. Romney, “Caring for the Poor—A Covenantal Obligation,” Ensign, November 1978, 87.
15. R. Quinn Gardner, in “I Have a Question,” Ensign, March 1978, 20.
16. Harold B. Lee, “Admonitions for the Priesthood of God,” Ensign, January 1973, 104.
17. N. Eldon Tanner, “The Greatest Brotherhood,” Ensign, May 1977, 46.
18. See L. Tom Perry, “What Is a Quorum?” Ensign, November 2004, 23–25.
19. In this, King Benjamin stands in direct contrast to the wicked King Noah (see Mosiah 11:24).
20. See Harold B. Lee, “Strengthen the Stakes of Zion,” Ensign, July 1973, 2–6.
21. Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978), 208.