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Question: Where is Zion located since the Mormons were driven out of Missouri?
Question: Where is Zion located since the Mormons were driven out of Missouri?
The Church still looks forward to the time when the prophecies will be fulfilled concerning Missouri as it pertains to Zion
For those who want to argue that Zion is now in Salt Lake City, they would be wrong. There has been no other place appointed. Salt Lake City has not ever been appointed as the "center place" of Zion, or as Zion itself, and the Church still looks forward to the time when the prophecies will be fulfilled concerning Missouri as it pertains to Zion.
Since the Saints were driven out of Missouri, does that mean that Zion fell? However, the answer to this important question can be found in the Doctrine and Covenants.
And the nations of the earth shall honor her, and shall say: surely zion is the city of our God, and surely Zion cannot fall, neither be moved out of her place, for God is there, and the hand of the Lord is there. (D&C 97:19)
Remember that the Lord said a year before section 84 was given that the land of Zion would be an inheritance, (D&C 38:18-19) and later said that only the foundation was to be laid at that time. (D&C 58:7) D&C 97 of the Doctrine and Covenants tells more about Zion and the conditions of its establishment.
VERILY I say unto you my friends, I speak unto you with my voice, even the voice of my Spirit, that I may show unto you my will concerning your brethren in the land of Zion, many of whom are truly humble and are seeking diligently to learn wisdom and to find truth. (D&C 97:1)
Critics often ignore the first rule of interpretation: the fact that prophecies can be conditional. The principle of obedience is stressed by the Lord in D&C 97:18, but the promise is definite: "if zion do these things, she shall prosper."
In not reading the entire account of Zion in the Doctrine and Covenants, proper context cannot be understood. Obedience is the basis upon which all blessings are received. The Saints in Missouri were promised that they would prosper, become great, and not be moved out of their place if they would be obedient unto that which the Lord required of them in this revelation. Unfortunately, the Saints did not act as they should have, and as a result, were driven from Missouri. This is also what the Bible teaches us about people as they obey the Lord. (Jeremiah 26:4-6) Parley P. Pratt, in his autobiography, writes:
This Revelation was not complied with by the leaders of the Church in Missouri as a whole, notwithstanding many were humble and faithful; therefore, the threatened judgment was poured out to the uttermost, as the history of the five following years shows.
The disobedience of the Saints at the time resulted in the chastisement from the Lord: "And now I give unto you a word concerning Zion. Zion shall be redeemed, although she is chastened for a little season." (D&C 100:13) This chastisement was the removal from Missouri until such time as the Saints deserve to inhabit Zion. The Lord did the same thing to peoples in the past as the Bible tells us.
Joseph Smith's thoughts were continually on Zion, and at this time he must have felt very anxious about the Saints. The Lord, therefore, gives him the assurance that Zion will be redeemed (v. 13), and that all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly; and to the sanctification of the Church (v. 15). The Church will come out of the fire of persecution, purified, for God will raise up unto Himself a pure people (v. 16). How long a time it will take to raise up a people willing to serve God in righteousness, He does not say. But it will be done. Israel was in Egypt 400 years, and the Babylonian captivity lasted 70 years, does that make the Bible false? It does not, for the purposes of God were accomplished.
Joseph Smith knew what was going to transpire concerning Missouri
One more item on this subject: Joseph Smith wrote a letter in which we can gain an understanding of just what the prophet actually thought about Zion and the Saints. This letter is a response from the prophet after learning that members of the Church had been killed and driven from their homes by mobs.
Kirtland Mills, Ohio
December 10, 1833.
Edward Partridge, W. W. Phelps, John Whitmer, A. S. Gilbert, John Corrill, Isaac Morley, and all the Saints whom it may concern:
This morning's mail brought letters from Bishop Partridge, and Elders Corrill and Phelps, all mailed at Liberty, November 19th, which gave us the melancholy intelligence of your flight from the land of your inheritance, having been driven before the face of your enemies in that place.
From previous letters we learned that a number of our brethren had been slain, but we could not learn from the letters referred to above, that there had been more than one killed, and that one Brother Barber; and that Brother Dibble was wounded in the bowels. We were thankful to learn that no more had been slain, and our daily prayers are that the Lord will not suffer his Saints, who have gone up to His land to keep His commandments, to stain His holy mountain with their blood.
I cannot learn from any communication by the Spirit to me, that Zion has forfeited her claim to a celestial crown, notwithstanding the Lord has caused her to be thus afflicted, except it may be some individuals, who have walked in disobedience, and forsaken the new covenant; all such will be made manifest by their works in due time. I have always expected that Zion would suffer some affliction, from what I could learn from the commandments which have been given. But I would remind you of a certain clause in one which says, that after much tribulation cometh the blessing. By this, and also others, and also one received of late, I know that Zion, in the due time of the lord, will be redeemed; but how many will be the days of purification, tribulation, and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes; and when I inquire concerning this subject, the voice of the Lord is: Be still, and know that I am God; all those who suffer for my name shall reign with me, and he that layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again.
Now, there are two things of which I am ignorant; and the Lord will not show them unto me, perhaps for a wise purpose in Himself I mean in some respects and they are these: Why God has suffered so great a calamity to come upon Zion, and what the great moving cause of this great affliction is; and again, by what means he will return her back to her inheritance, with songs of everlasting joy upon her head. These two things, brethren, are in part kept back that they are not plainly shown unto me; but there are some things that are plainly manifest which have incurred the displeasure of the Almighty.
When I contemplate upon all things that have been manifested, I am aware that I ought not to murmur, and do not murmur, only in this, that those who are innocent are compelled to suffer for the iniquities of the guilty; and I cannot account for this, only on this wise, that the saying of the Savior has not been strictly observed: "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; or if thy right arm offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee." Now the fact is, if any of the members of our body is disordered, the rest of our body will be affected with it, and then all are brought into bondage together; and yet, notwithstanding all this, it is with difficulty that I can restrain my feelings when I know that you, my brethren, with whom I have had so many happy hours sitting, as it were, in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; and also, having the witness which I feel, and ever have felt, of the purity of your motives are cast out, and are as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, exposed to hunger, cold, nakedness, peril, sword I say when I contemplate this, it is with difficulty that I can keep from complaining and murmuring against this dispensation; but I am sensible that this is not right, and may God grant that notwithstanding your great afflictions and sufferings, there may not anything separate us from the love of Christ.
Brethren, when we learn your sufferings, it awakens every sympathy of our hearts; it weighs us down; we cannot refrain from tears, yet, we are not able to realize, only in part, your sufferings: and I often hear the brethren saying, they wish they were with you, that they might bear a part of your sufferings; and I myself should have been with you, had not God prevented it in the order of His provident, that the yoke of affliction might be less grievous upon you, God having forewarned me, concerning these things, for your sake; and also, Elder Cowdery could not lighten your afflictions by tarrying longer with you, for his presence would have so much the more enraged your enemies; therefore God hath dealt mercifully with us. O brethren, let us be thankful that it is as well with us as it is, and we are yet alive and peradventure, God hath laid up in store great good for us in this generation, and may grant that we may yet glorify His name.
I feel thankful that there have no more denied the faith; I pray God in the name of Jesus that you all may be kept in the faith unto the end: let your sufferings be what they may, it is better in the eyes of God that you should die, than that you should give up the land of Zion, the inheritances which you have purchased with your moneys; for every man that giveth not up his inheritance, though he should die, yet, when the Lord shall come, he shall stand upon it, and with Job, in his flesh he shall see God. Therefore, this is my counsel, that you retain your lands, even unto the uttermost, and employ every lawful means to seek redress of your enemies; and pray to god, day and night, to return you in peace and in safety to the lands of your inheritance: and when the judge fail you, appeal unto the executive; and when the executive fail you, appeal unto the president; and when the president fail you, and all laws fail you, and the humanity of the people fail you, and all things else fail you but god alone, and you continue to weary him with your importunings, as the poor woman did the unjust judge, he will not fail to execute judgment upon your enemies, and to avenge his own elect that cry unto him day and night.
Behold, he will not fail you! he will come with ten thousand of his saints, and all his adversaries shall be destroyed with the breath of his lips! all those who keep their inheritances, notwithstanding they should be beaten and driven, shall be likened unto the wise virgins who took oil in their lamps. But all those who are unbelieving and fearful, will be likened unto the foolish virgins, who took no oil in their lamps: and when they shall return and say unto the Saints, Give us of your lands behold, there will be no room found for them. As respects giving deeds, I would advise you to give deeds as far as the brethren have legal and just claims for them, and then let every man answer to God for the disposal of them.
But, perhaps, the people in Liberty may feel willing, God having power to soften the hearts of all men, to have a press established there; and if not, in some other place; any place where it can be the most convenient, and it is possible to get to it; God will be willing to have it in any place where it can be established in safety. We must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Again, I desire that Elder Phelps should collect all the information, and give us a true history of the beginning and rise of Zion, and her calamities.
Now hear the prayer of your unworthy brother in the new and everlasting covenant: O my God! Thou who hast called and chosen a few, through Thy weak instrument by commandment, and sent them to Missouri, a place which Thou didst call Zion, and commanded Thy servants to consecrate it unto Thyself for a place of refuge and safety for the gathering of Thy Saints, to be built up a holy city unto Thyself; and as thou hast said that no other place should be appointed like unto this, therefore, I ask Thee in the name of Jesus Christ, to return Thy people unto their houses and their inheritances, to enjoy the fruit of their labors; that all the waste places may be built up; that all the enemies of Thy people, who will not repent and turn unto Thee, may be destroyed from off the face of the land; and let a house be built and established unto Thy name; and let all the losses that Thy people have sustained, be rewarded unto them, even more than four-fold, that the borders of Zion may be enlarged forever; and let her be established no more to be thrown down; and let all Thy Saints, when they are scattered as sheep, and are persecuted, flee unto Zion, and be established in the midst of her; and let her be organized according to Thy law; and let this prayer ever be recorded before Thy face. Give Thy Holy Spirit unto my brethren, unto whom I write; send Thine angels to guard them, and deliver them from all evil; and when they turn their faces toward Zion, and bow down before Thee and pray, may their sins never come up before Thy face; neither have place in the book of Thy remembrance; and may they depart from all their iniquities. Provide food for them as Thou doest for the ravens; provide clothing to cover their nakedness, and houses that they may dwell therein; give unto them friends in abundance, and let their names be recorded in the Lamb's book of life, eternally before Thy face. Amen.
Finally, brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all until His coming in His kingdom. Amen.
JOSEPH SMITH, JUN.
This letter clearly shows that Joseph Smith knew what was going to transpire concerning Missouri. He knew the people would suffer ("I have always expected that Zion would suffer some affliction," and "after much tribulation cometh the blessing."), he did not think Zion would be redeemed any time soon ("Zion, in the due time of the Lord, will be redeemed," and "how many will be the days of purification, tribulation, and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes."), he encouraged the Saints to remain within the law ("employ every lawful means to seek redress of your enemies."), he knew legal redress would not be successful ("when the judge fail you," "when the executive fail you," "when the president fail you," and "and all things else fail you."), and he understood that the enemies of the Lord might not be destroyed until the judgement ("he will come with ten thousand of his saints," and "all his adversaries shall be destroyed with the breath of his lips.")
History has proven that Joseph Smith was 100% correct in what he said in this letter. Legal means of redress were not successful. The Saints remained within the law. Final judgement has not yet happened for those who are enemies of the Lord. What Joseph Smith had to say concerning Zion, even the timing, came true, thus Joseph Smith must be a true prophet of God.
Critics usually start out with the assumption of false prophecy, and then attempt, by not presenting any evidence, to assert that the lack of evidence is evidence of a false prophecy. The actual evidence, often from the very same source they are using (in this case the Doctrine and Covenants), brings more light to the picture.
There is plenty of evidence that Joseph knew the Saints would not stay in Missouri; thus he knew that Zion would not be built up in his day. In fact, he knew the Saints would be moving to the Rocky Mountains. This particular movement was even prophesied of in the Bible.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3)
It is evident that Joseph knew this prophecy concerned the church he had restored. In March of 1831, which was before section 84 was given, the Lord revealed to Joseph an event that would take place before the Second Coming: "Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed." (D&C 49:25) Better yet, it has been demonstrated that Joseph Smith knew, and correctly prophesied, the events that would take place. Why don't we look at some of the statements of others who also knew, and which bear witness of the validity of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith, Jr.
- In 1832, Joseph Smith gave a blessing to Paulina Eliza Phelps who recalled, "In blessing me Joseph said that I should live to go to the Rocky Mountains. I did not know at the time what the term 'Rocky Mountains' meant, but I supposed it to be something connected with the Indians. This frightened me for the reason that I dreaded the very sight of an Indian."
- "The Prophet [Joseph] came to our home (in Nauvoo) and stopped in our carpenter shop and stood by the turning lathe. I went and got my map for him 'Now' he said, 'I will show you the travels of this people.' He then showed our travels through Iowa, and said, 'Here you will make a place for the winter; and here you will travel west until you come to the valley of the Great Salt Lake! You will build cities to the North and to the South, and to the East and to the West; and you will become a great and wealthy people in that land.'"
- "I want to say to you before the Lord [said Joseph] that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and Kingdom than a babe upon its mother's lap. You don't comprehend it. It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America- it will fill the world. It will fill the Rocky Mountains. There will be tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints who will be gathered in the Rocky Mountains, and there they will open the door for the establishing of the Gospel among the Lamanites.... This people will go into the Rocky Mountains; they will there build temples to the Most High. They will raise up a posterity there, and the Latter-day Saints who dwell in these mountains will stand in the flesh until the coming of the Son of Man. The Son of Man will come to them while in the Rocky Mountains."
- "In late August 1842 while at Montrose Iowa Joseph prophesied saying, "I prophesied that the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction and would be driven to the Rocky Mountains. Many would apostatize; others would be put to death by our persecutors or lose their lives in consequence of exposure or disease, and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements, and build cities, and see the Saints become a mighty people, in the midst of the Rockv Mountains."":85-86
- "I had before seen him in a vision and now saw while he was talking his countenance change to white; not the deadly white of a bloodless face, but a living, brilliant white. He seemed absorbed in gazing at something at a great distance, and said: 'I am gazing upon the valleys of those mountains.... Oh the beauty of those snow-capped mountains! The cool refreshing streams that are running down through those mountain gorges!' Then, `gazing in another direction, as if there was a change in locality Joseph said 'Oh the scenes that this people will pass through! The dead that will lie between here and there!' Then turning in another direction as if the scene had again changed Joseph said, 'Oh the apostasy that will take place before my brethren reach that land! But the priesthood shall prevail over all its enemies, triumph over the devil and be established upon the earth, never more to be thrown down!'… It is impossible to represent in words the grandeur of Joseph's appearance. his beautiful descriptions of this land, and his wonderful prophetic utterances as they emanated from that glorious inspirations that overshadowed him. There was a force and power in his exclamations."
- "After the death of Joseph Smith, when it seemed as if every trouble and calamity had come upon the Saints, Brigham Young . . . sought the Lord to know what they should do, and where they should lead the people for safety, and while they were fasting and praying daily on this subject. President Young had a vision of Joseph Smith, who showed him the mountain that we now call Ensign Peak, immediately north of Salt Lake City, and there . . . an ensign [flag] fell upon that peak, and Joseph said, 'Build under the point where the colors fall and you will prosper and have peace.' "
Remember that the Lord has declared that His word will be established in the mouth of two or more witnesses. (Matthew 18:16,2 Corinthians 13:1) Joseph Smith said, concerning being driven from Missouri:
- They would be driven even by bloodshed
- They would go to the Rocky Mountains
- They would first lay the foundation of Zion (buying land)
- They would return to accept Zion as an inheritance
- He did not know the time of their return
- Parley P. Pratt, The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book Company, 1985), 77.
- Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, The Doctrine and Covenants Commentary (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book Company, 1954), 634.
- Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 33. off-site
- McKeever and Johnson use only two verses of D&C 84 in their argument. However, to adequately understand the LDS view of Zion, one must also read D&C sections 38:, 49:, 58:, 63:, 84:, 87:, 88:, 94:, 95:, 97:, 100:, 101:, 105:, 124:, and 128:. To leave out all of this information misleads readers about what Joseph Smith really said.
- Photocopy of a signed affidavit by Paulina Elizabeth Phelps Lyman, witnessed on 31 July 1903 by James Jack, notary.
- Mosiah Hancock Autobiography, Typescript, BYU Library, Special Collections, 28-29.
- Wilford Woodruff, Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, compiled by G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1946), 38-39.
- History of the Church. Volume 5 link
- Autobiography of Anson Call, BYU Library, Special Collections, 6-7, 18-19.
- George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 13:85. (12 August 1866).