Redemption of Zion

Of late, the redemption of Zion, or the return of Latter-day Saints to Jackson County, Missouri has been on my mind – in particular, a talk given by Orson Pratt in 1873.1

What is Zion?

To Latter-day Saints:

Zion . . . represents the perfect, just society ruled by Jesus Christ where all the inhabitants live in harmony, equally sharing all things. Zion, also spelled Sion in the New Testament, refers both to the actual place where a Zionic society exists, the people, and the spiritual quality of the culture. The Apostle Paul used the imagery of Zion to describe the righteous society existing amongst members of the early Church (Hebrews 12:22-24).2

Aerial view of Adam Ondi Ahman In the early days of the Church, the Lord directed the Prophet Joseph Smith to redeem Zion in preparation for the Lord’s Second Coming. In order to accomplish this, Joseph was told to form a group from the “strength of the [Lord's] house” (D&C 103:22). This group came to be known as Zion’s Camp – a group of a little over 200 men, women and children – and was formed to travel from Kirtland, Ohio to Jackson County, Missouri to assist the Saints there in preserving their inheritances in Zion. However, shortly before they arrived, the Lord told the Prophet that he “should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion” (see D&C 105:9-19).

Just as orthodox Jews await the return of the Temple3, Latter-day Saints await the call to return to Jackson County in preparation for the redemption of Zion and the Lord’s second coming.

As I re-read Elder Pratt’s address today, I took note of some things I had forgotten since the last time I read his discourse. The following are some excerpts of his talk along with my own personal commentary.

Redeeming Zion & Elder Orson Pratt

At the forefront of his talk, Elder Pratt made numerous references to the “classes” of society that had been created among Church members in the 26 years since the Salt Lake Valley was colonized. He said very pointedly:

A rich man can educate his daughters, and have them taught music and everything calculated to make them refined, polite and genteel. This enables the daughters to fascinate the rich, and should a poor man come along, and knock at the rich man’s door and tell him he desires to keep company with his daughters, he is told that he has no business there. Says the rich man, “My daughters must marry wealthy men, they must be exalted and be with the upper class among the Latter-day Saints.”4

Orson Pratt engravingElder Pratt also talked about why the Latter-day Saints were driven from Jackson County and how private property5 was core to the problem:

The reason why this law was revoked was because the Lord saw we would all go to destruction in consequence of our former tradition in relation to property if this law had continued to be enforced after we were driven out, hence he revoked it for the time being, as you will find recorded in one of the revelations given June 22nd, 1834, after we were driven from Jackson County. I will repeat the words—“Let those commandments which I have given concerning Zion and her law, be executed and fulfilled after her redemption.” Here you perceive that, for the salvation of this people and of the nations of the earth among the Gentiles, God saw proper to revoke this commandment and to lay it over for a future period, or until after the redemption of Zion.

Led to Zion out of Bondage

Approximately half way through his talk, Elder Pratt read the following excerpt of a revelation given to Joseph Smith:

Behold, this is the blessing which I have promised after your tribulations, and the tribulations of your brethren–your redemption, and the redemption of your brethren, even their restoration to the land of Zion, to be established, no more to be thrown down. Nevertheless, if they pollute their inheritances they shall be thrown down; for I will not spare them if they pollute their inheritances. Behold, I say unto you, the redemption of Zion must needs come by power; Therefore, I will raise up unto my people a man, who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel. For ye are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham, and ye must needs be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. And as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be. Therefore, let not your hearts faint, for I say not unto you as I said unto your fathers: Mine angel shall go up before you, but not my presence. But I say unto you: Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land. (D&C 103:13-20).

Years ago, I had wondered why the children of Israel were in apparent “bondage” in Egypt. Everything I had read by Dr. Hugh W. Nibley and others on this subject seemed to indicate that ancient Egypt was a very pluralistic society – or a society that was in some respects like the United States of America. However, when I read J. Reuben Clark’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream (see Pharaoh’s Dream – A Modern Interpretation), my perspective changed. I then realized that there are different types and causes of “bondage” – both spiritual and temporal.

Zion’s Camp

Elder Pratt then went on to discuss the latter-day “army of Israel [which must become] very great” (D&C 105:25-32) and talked about the difficulties encountered in forming the first battalion of this army:

What he meant by this, was “great” compared with the few individuals to whom this revelation was given. It will be recollected that a certain number were required as the strength of the Lord’s house to go up to redeem Zion, as they supposed. They gathered together, some one or two hundred and went up for this purpose; and the Lord said that the strength of his house did not hearken to his voice, and did not come up according to his commandment and revelation, but had said in their hearts, “If this be the work of the Lord, the Lord will redeem Zion, and we will stay at home upon our inheritances.” They made excuses and would not go up. The little handful that did go up were called the Camp of Zion. Some few of them are still living. When we arrived in the neighborhood of the Land of Zion, the strength of the Lord’s house not having hearkened to his voice, the Lord gave a revelation and said first, “Let my army become very great, and let it be sanctified before me, that it may become fair as the sun, and clear as the moon, and that her banners may be terrible unto all nations.” How do you suppose we are going to fulfill this, preparatory to the redemption of Zion? Are we now taking a course to sanctify ourselves before the Heavens? It is true that the army of Israel is very great even now when compared with that little handful that went up with the Camp of Zion, but though blessed with numbers, we are not blessed with that sanctification which the Lord has spoken of in that revelation. How much faith have we now, in our disobedience to the law of tithing, and to many other principles? Blessed are they who have faithfully paid their tithing all the time, and blessed are their children, they will receive their inheritance in the Land of Zion, when the Lord shall come. The Lord will bless them and their generations for ever. But those who have not complied with this law are not sanctifying themselves before God, neither are they preparing themselves for the redemption of Zion. Their hearts are set upon the foolish things of this world, they are grasping after riches to aggrandize themselves.

Elder Pratt also openly talked about how a “reformation” was needed among the Saints in order to obtain this new order of things:

This is plain preaching, and perhaps some of you will not like it. I can not help it, these are the things that present themselves before my mind. There must be a reformation, there will be a reformation among this people, for God will not cast off this kingdom and this people, but he will plead with the strong ones of Zion, he will plead with this people, he will plead with those in high places, he will plead with the Priesthood of this Church, until Zion shall become clean before him.

Egyptians Being Swallowed by the Red Sea A Call to Modern Israel

Then when I got to this next section of the talk, things really started to hit home:

I do not know but that it would be an utter impossibility to commence and carry out some principles pertaining to Zion right in the midst of this people. They have strayed so far that to get a people who would conform to heavenly laws it may be needful to lead some from the midst of this people and commence anew somewhere in the regions round about in these mountains. Ask this people if they are willing to abide by the law of God, and how would they vote? The hands of every one would be up almost without exception, but when it comes to the very point, when consecration in part might be required at their hands, that is the time to prove them and to see whether they would or would not be obedient. “Oh, I have such a fine house, and such a fine carriage and horses, such an abundance of merchandise and good things. It has taken me years and years to get these things, and it is hard to give one-half, three fourths or nine-tenths of them to establish another order of things, and I rather think I had better keep on the background, and see how the order flourishes. Let others try it first, and if they get on very well and become wealthy, then perhaps I will venture to give a little of my property.” These are the feelings that exist in the hearts of some individuals among the Latter-day Saints, but they have got to be rooted out, or those who give way to them will lose the Spirit of the Lord.

I remember when I first read the statement that “it may be needful to lead some from the midst of this people and commence anew somewhere in the regions round about in these mountains” that it caught me somewhat by surprise. And yet on the other hand, it didn’t. The Lord always led away those who were willing to listen to a Prophet’s voice. For even after arriving in the “promised land”, Nephi was commanded to flee into the wilderness (2 Nephi 5:5-8).

Elder Pratt then expressed this hope about the appointed sacrifice:

I do not know how many will stand up and obey the law of the Lord unto the sacrifice of all their earthly goods, or how long it will be before people will be called upon to make this sacrifice. I do not know how long it will be before this people are brought to the trying point to see who is and who is not for the Lord; but I would advise the Latter-day Saints to prepare for this, for it may come sooner than some of you expect. If the Lord should undertake to bring about an order of things different from that which now exists, and establish it not exactly in the midst of this people, but in some place where they can commence anew, I hope the people will begin to pray to the Lord, reckon up with themselves and examine their own hearts, and see whether they are willing and prepared, if called upon, to place all that they have, or as much as they are required in that order of things, and carry it out.

The Unity of Zion

As I read this next section by Elder Pratt, I was reminded of President Henry B. Eyring’s recent conference talk “Our Hearts Knit as One“. Elder Pratt said:

When we go back to Jackson County, we are to go back with power. Do you suppose that God will reveal his power among an unsanctified people, who have no regard nor respect for his laws and institutions, but who are filled with covetousness? No. When God shows forth his power among the Latter-day Saints, it will be because there is a union of feeling in regard to doctrine, and in regard to everything that God has placed in their hands; and not only a union, but a sanctification on their part, that there shall not be a spot or wrinkle as it were, but everything shall be as fair as the sun that shines in the heavens.

He then speculated about the “many chastisements” that God may have to pour out upon “the people calling themselves Latter-day Saints”, but felt sure that the “righteous need not fear”. He also recalled that if necessary, the Lord would “send down fire from heaven unto the destruction of their enemies” (1 Nephi 22:17).

Zion and a “Man Like Unto Moses”

Elder Pratt again spoke of bondage and a “man like unto Moses”:

God will shield us by his power, if we are to be led forth out of bondage as our fathers were led, at the first. This indicates that there may be bondage ahead, and that the Latter-day Saints may see severe times, and that unless we keep the commandments of God, we may be brought into circumstances that will cause our hearts to tremble within us, that is, those who are not upright before God. But if this people should be brought into bondage, as the Israelites were in ancient days, Zion must be led forth out of bondage, as Israel was at the first. In order to do this God has prophesied that he will raise up a man like unto Moses, who shall lead his people therefrom.

Over the next portion of his talk, Elder Pratt wondered about this man the Lord would raise up “like unto Moses”. He hoped that it would have been Joseph, or even Brigham Young, but was content that the Lord would at one point raise up a man “like unto Moses” to lead latter-day Israel from among the people. He described the differences between the two gospel dispensations:

But Moses was not to blame, for he sought diligently to sanctify them, but when they transgressed time after time, God became so angry with them that he finally swore in his wrath that he would not go up in the midst of that people, lest he should break forth in his anger and fury and consume them in a moment. That was the way he felt towards them because of their sinfulness, and in order that they might not be consumed, but that a remnant might be spared, and that seed might be raised up to old father Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob, he withdrew his presence from the midst of the camp of Israel. But he did not forsake them entirely. Said he, “Mine angel may go before you. You may have an angel and you may have Moses for a season, but I will not go with you.” He swore that that people, in the wilderness, should not enter into his rest, which rest is the fullness of his glory.

It is to be hoped that there will be nothing of this kind among the armies of Israel in the latter days. We have the promise of the Almighty, and I hope that it will never be revoked, that “I say not unto you as I said to your fathers, my angel shall go before you, but not my presence, but I say unto you that my angel shall go before you and also my presence.” In order for the presence of God to go with us we must retain the higher Priesthood, for without that and the ordinances thereunto pertaining, no man can behold the face of God and live; therefore if we would retain this higher Priesthood we must sanctify ourselves through obedience to the higher laws. If we do this, we can then claim the fulfillment of this promise which the Lord has made and which I have repeated, that his presence shall go with us.

Helaman's Strippling Warriors Zion’s Army

Elder Pratt also talked about the “army” that would be gathered in order to redeem Zion:

We shall go back to Jackson County. Not that all this people will leave these mountains, or all be gathered together in a camp, but when we go back there will be a very large organization consisting of thousands, and tens of thousands, and they will march forward, the glory of God overshadowing their camp by day in the form of a cloud, and a pillar of flaming fire by night, the Lord’s voice being uttered forth before his army. Such a period will come in the history of this people, and when it arrives the mountains and the hills will be ready to break forth with a loud voice before the Lord’s army, and the very trees of the field will wave to and fro by the power of God, and clap like hands. The everlasting hills will rejoice, and they will tremble before the presence of the Lord; and his people will go forth and build up Zion according to celestial law.

Will not this produce terror upon all the nations of the earth? Will not armies of this description, though they may not be as numerous as the armies of the world, cause a terror to fall upon the nations? The Lord says the banners of Zion shall be terrible. If only one or two millions of this people were to go down and build the waste places of Zion, would it strike the people of Asia and Europe with terror? Not particularly, unless there was some supernatural power made manifest. But when the Lord’s presence is there, when his voice is heard, and his angels go before the camp, it will be telegraphed to the uttermost parts of the earth and fear will seize upon all people, especially the wicked, and the knees of the ungodly will tremble in that day, and the high ones that are on high, and the great men of the earth.

The Redemption of Zion and the Temple

Then, after the “New Jerusalem” descends upon the “land of Joseph”, and after the “holy Jerusalem” descends to the land of Judah (Revelation 21), the faithful will build a temple in preparation for the return of the Lord:

When the Temple is built the sons of the two Priesthoods, that is, those who are ordained to the Priesthood of Melchizedek, that Priesthood which is after the order of the Son of God, with all its appendages; and those who have been ordained to the Priesthood of Aaron with all its appendages, the former called the sons of Moses, the latter the sons of Aaron, will enter into that Temple in this generation, or in the generation that was living in 1832, and all of them who are pure in heart will behold the face of the Lord and that too before he comes in his glory in the clouds of heaven, for he will suddenly come to his Temple, and he will purify the sons of Moses and of Aaron, until they shall be prepared to offer in that Temple an offering that shall be acceptable in the sight of the Lord. In doing this, he will purify not only the minds of the Priesthood in that Temple, but he will purify their bodies until they shall be quickened, renewed and strengthened, and they will be partially changed, not to immortality, but changed in part that they can be filled with the power of God, and they can stand in the presence of Jesus, and behold his face in the midst of that Temple.

All this will be done in preparation for “pestilence, plague and earthquake” which will be poured out upon the earth. Then, when the servants of God have been prepared, they will:

. . . stand before the nations of the earth and preach glad tidings of salvation in the midst of judgments that are to come like a whirlwind upon the wicked.

Summary

As I contemplated these things, I was reminded of what is required of the Latter-day Saints in order to be prepared for the redemption of Zion.

Sources:

  1. The parable of the redemption of Zion is found in D&C 101:43-62.
  2. Zion“. MormonWiki. 28 November 2008.
  3. See The Temple Institute; Red Heifer.
  4. Pratt, Orson. Journal of Discourses. March 9, 1873. 15:355-367.
  5. See also Nibley on the Redistribution of Wealth.

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  1. Bryce Haymond’s avatar

    That is a great talk by Elder Pratt. Thank you for sharing it. Surely Zion will be redeemed at some point, and it will be because the Saints are being obedient to the law that God has given us.

  2. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks Bryce. I couldn’t agree more. I just hope we can get prepared in time in case that call comes sooner than expected as Elder Pratt mentioned.

  3. Anthony Larson’s avatar

    Well said, Bryce. I’ve often expressed the same sentiments regarding Pratt’s talk. Imagine how much we’ve drifted as church members in the interveening years. If the spiritual condition of members in his day was bad enough to elicit such strong language, imagine what he would say to us in our day.
    One other point you didn’t mention: The return of the Saints to Zion will be and Exodus-like event, as Elder Pratt insisted. The implications for that are huge.
    Thanks, again, for such insightful work. The church needs more thoughtful students of the scriptures and history, like you.

  4. Tony Rigby’s avatar

    Thank you for your post. I appreciate reading things like this, especially amidst the troubled times that we find ourselves in. As Elder Holland so eloquently stated in this last General Conference, “the latter days are not a time to fear and tremble. They are a time to be believing and remember our covenants.” Zion will no doubt be redeemed and I hope my family and I are diligent/worthy enough to be included in its redemption.

  5. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks Tony, I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments.

  6. Greg’s avatar

    I just realized I never responded to your comments on this post about the redemption of Zion, Anthony. Specifically, the fact that the “return of the Saints to Zion will be an Exodus-like event.” I agree – the implications for such an undertaking are enormous. After rereading Elder Pratt’s talk, I began to realize how grateful I am for those who have shared with me their gifts. Truly, they are those who “wait upon the Lord” (Psalms 37:7, 9, 34).

  7. Michael’s avatar

    I need to point out that “private property” is still part of the United Order.

  8. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks for pointing that out. How long private property will be constitutional is probably questionable though – for example, see Participatory Fascism.

  9. Michael’s avatar

    Yeah, I totally agree with you on that. Private property laws have been under judicial and executive attack for quite some time, and the legislative power has rolled over and let it happen. Collusion I suppose.

  10. charles’s avatar

    I just saw your web page on the Redemption of Zion and wanted to share a testimony. As a convert of 33 years I have studied last day prophecies and was unable to understand The Book of Revelations, Isaiah, Daniel, and others. I would pray but never obtained a witness of the spirit until the last few months. It started with our living Prophet Thomas S. Monson and other church leaders of how we are living in dangerous times and how we need to prepare every needful things to stand in holy places. This motivated me to search further and I read a humble testimony and recommendation of Avraham Gileadi and the Book of Isaiah the spirit almost knocked me out of my chair. I would explain more but I leave it to others to seek out for themselves what it might mean but much of Elder Pratts address is there plus much more.

  11. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks for your comments charles. That is a beautiful testimony.

  12. Tony’s avatar

    Charles,

    Are you referring to Gileadi’s book, “Isaiah Decoded: Ascending the Ladder to Heaven”?

  13. ReaderX’s avatar

    Outsider here.

    Your faith requires total obedience and specifically offers up the theoretical situation of happily surrendering 90% of income. Did I understand that?

    Also, the army sounds like an army. But you’ve got quotes around the term, why? The other wording seemed quite literal. No need for codes.

    Lastly, once the army is gathered… what exactly happens? Due to my infamiliarity, it read a bit cryptic to me.

    Glad you’re online for the rest of us to see.

  14. Greg’s avatar

    Hi ReaderX. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you. Let me try to answer your queries.

    I have a little difficulty answering the first question only because of the phrasing “Your faith requires total obedience…”. One of the fundamental teachings of the gospel is the concept of “agency” (Moses 7:32) wherein every individual is given this gift in order to choose good or evil. Corollary to that is the idea that all covenants – baptismal, temple, etc. – are entered into voluntarily. Viewed in this context, the law of tithing (see Malachi 3:8-12) and The Law of Consecration are entered into voluntarily and are seen as fulfilling the Lord’s two great commandments in Matthew 22:36-40.

    The reason there are quotes around the term “army” is because it is direct quote from the Lord’s revelation to Joseph Smith in 1834 in which he stated:

    Now, behold, I say unto you, my friends, in this way you may find favor in the eyes of the people, until the army of Israel becomes very great. And I will soften the hearts of the people, as I did the heart of Pharaoh, from time to time, until my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and mine elders, whom I have appointed, shall have time to gather up the strength of my house, And to have sent wise men, to fulfil that which I have commanded concerning the purchasing of all the lands in Jackson county that can be purchased, and in the adjoining counties round about. For it is my will that these lands should be purchased; and after they are purchased that my saints should possess them according to the laws of consecration which I have given. And after these lands are purchased, I will hold the armies of Israel guiltless in taking possession of their own lands, which they have previously purchased with their moneys, and of throwing down the towers of mine enemies that may be upon them, and scattering their watchmen, and avenging me of mine enemies unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. But first let my army become very great, and let it be sanctified before me, that it may become fair as the sun, and clear as the moon, and that her banners may be terrible unto all nations; That the kingdoms of this world may be constrained to acknowledge that the kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ; therefore, let us become subject unto her laws. (D&C 105:26-32).

    However, this is not a conventional “army” as that term is used today. As mentioned in the revelation above, it must be “sanctified”. The process of sanctification is a personal quest and “is the process of becoming a saint, holy and spiritually clean and pure, by purging all sin from the soul . . . Thus, the sanctification that Latter-day Saints seek is more than a physical or moral state; it is a perpetual spiritual life – an ongoing effort to be worthy and pure to live with God – to overcome the evils of one’s life and lose ‘every desire for sin’.” (Ott, C. Eric. “Sanctification“. 1992. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. 7 Jan 2009.)

    Only after this sanctification process will this “army” “have power after many days to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion” (D&C 105:37). The first “army” that was formed – and what is commonly referred to as Zion’s Camp – carried “muskets, pistols, swords, and knives” but did not fight any battle. It appears that Zion’s Camp was intended as a test of faith in determining those who would be “chosen” to receive these blessings.

    Ultimately, one of the purposes of this army is to help build up Zion:

    Scripture also refers to Zion as a “City of Holiness” (Moses 7:19), because the “sanctified” or “pure” live there (Moro. 10:31-33; Alma 13:11-12), and a “city of refuge” where the Lord protects them from the peril of the world (D&C 45:66-67). (Sorensen, A. Don. “Zion“. 1992. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. 7 Jan 2009.)

    I hope this clarifies what is meant by the word “army” in this context.

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