By Elder Frederick T. Williams, Kent, WA
"Blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost."
1 Nephi 3:187
As an admirer of The Witness in its efforts to promote the Book of Mormon, an article in a recent issue raised two interesting questions to me: What truly is the "cause" of Zion and does that "cause" include any building of Zion's foundation? As I pondered upon these, I began to think that perhaps a brief review of Zion's history would be helpful for us at this juncture.
The day of Adam, as the "Ancient of Days," perhaps is a fitting starting point. Man's desire to return to the Garden and into Christ's presence has, down through the ages of time, provided the initiative and the desire to obtain this Zion the Scriptures speak of so fondly. It can be said that Enoch and his ministry have come the closest to fully building Zion. Not knowing how the genesis of his city fully came into being, it comes to my mind that perhaps the cause of Zion and the building of Zion likely came together as a singular package. Sociologists could state that no building effort could progress far without a cause or desire of the people to sustain it. In more modern times within the Restored Church, we have the experience of the Saints at Kirtland, OH as our background story. The Kingdom cause was linked to many phases of developing a unique city, eventually finding its major effort in the completion of the House of the Lord.
Our consideration regarding the "cause" of Zion does not stop with those pioneering efforts. Our present day is challenged, requiring us to have a prophetic understanding of the future:
"And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and said unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?...He said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right ye shall receive" (Matthew 20:6, 8)
This scripture calls for a cure, or an action, not for dreams idly wasted. Over the past several years, the Aaronic Priesthood have been identified as the "polishers of the stone," those men who place the preparatory touch upon the Saints. However, they cannot prepare or lift the people toward a meeting with a returning Christ unless the people's physical and emotional needs are met. Likewise, the Melchisedec Priesthood cannot give heavenly direction toward Celestial Glory to a disorganized and unresponsive people.
As grafted branches of Israel's tribes, do we gather toward a planned effort of union? Is the First Presidency and the Bishopric going to call people home to a Zion comprised of an empty land without adequate resources and sustainability? Is Enoch's city, with its planned effort, going to be placed down in an empty meadow surrounded by what our culture would identify as "looky-loos," a people untrained and unwilling to associate with it?
The Bishopric is called to be a judge in Israel:
"A high priest that is after the order of Melchisedec, may be set apart unto the ministering of temporal things, having a knowledge of them by the Spirit of truth, and also to be a judge in Israel, to do the business of the church..." (D&C 104:32c). This appears to be a monumental responsibility, to judge over Israel and its children. But with the last part of that scripture resounding in our thoughts, we understand the Bishopric has an even further responsibility in the establishment of Zion – to do the business of the Church! and continuing to read from the Doctrine and Covenants, we find this admonition for each Saint: "Thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church of Zion, for the building of mine house, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion..." (D&C 106:1).
Perilous times are coming in many forms, as voiced in this verse of scripture:
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come"
(2 Timothy 3:1). But if we will allow our eyes to travel to the Book of Mormon, we find that a kingdom call is found in Jacob: "Think of your brethren, like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all, and free with your substance, that they may be rich like you. But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ, ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them, for the intent to do good; to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick, and the afflicted" (Jacob 2:22-24).
With a planned order of procedure
"...thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support, that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken;" (D&C 42:8).
The responsibility of the Aaronic Order through the leadership of the Bishop is found in Matthew 13:42:
"For in that day, before the son of man shall come, he shall send forth his angels and messengers of heaven."
It appears that the men of this order will be working through the direction and strength of Christ, with and through His angelic ministry. What a wonderful promise and opportunity!
Through apostolic ministry, the gospel causes them to be sent upon their various ministries.
"Then said he to his servants, The wedding is ready; but they who were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage" (Matthew 22:8, 9)
The day is yet to come for the people and the priesthood to turn openly to each other. Elijah has yet to be sent; how long do we have to wait?
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord;" (Malachi 4:5).
Many have heard of Native American elders designating the Center Place in Independence by periodically "checking it out," as it were. Do we think of the movie "Dances With Wolves" in how it portrays them when we let our minds reflect upon our native brothers and sisters in their several nations? What of our efforts can be found in 1 Nephi 4:16 and in 3 Nephi 10:1, 2, 4)
"...then shall the fullness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed."..."But if they (the Gentiles) will repent, and hearken unto my words, and harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant, and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob...they shall assist my people, that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem. And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst..."
These words, and the promises embedded within them, seem to call for a partnership in city building. Who more than those written of in the previous scriptures can qualify in the present time as needing the direction of Zion's song versus scrambling for the limited wealth of the casinos aimed at just a few fortunate individuals? Based on past experiences, some folks say the world will not listen. We understand that only the Holy Spirit can reach anyone's heart, not our fancy words and gifts. But is that not how we came into the baptismal covenant contract, most likely through the witness and testimony of someone else?
If the cause of Zion seems misrepresented here, consider the electronic age we live in where everything seems to come to us in rapid succession. Perhaps the Scriptures also indicate that there will be a time when God will move with equally great rapidity:
"And righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine own 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 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 shall the earth rest" (Genesis 7:70, 72).
It is with these few words we understand and realize how important the creation is to the Creator. With all that lies ahead of the Church in this last dispensation of time, how our eyes yearn for the vision of Zion's banner unfurled. This banner will include the word "Peace" and will shine to a dark world of seeking people who want to hear the inner voice of the Shepherd. For He is inviting us all to join the greatest peace-time effort ever: Zion, the cause for all who will hear and obey.