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At the same conference in which the Lord gave his preface to the Doctrine and Covenants (section 1), he also gave a revelation which was added to the Book of Commandments as the appendix. It is now section 133. The section begins with a warning to the church and the world:
“Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the Lord your God, and hear the word of the Lord concerning you—The Lord who shall suddenly come to his temple; the Lord who shall come down upon the world with a curse to judgment; yea, upon all the nations that forget God, and upon all the ungodly among you. For he shall make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of their God” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:1-3).
The solution to this looming calamity is also given.
“Gather ye together, O ye people of my church, upon the land of Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:4).
“Go ye out from Babylon. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:5).
We must go to Zion and get out of Babylon, but not in that order. The Lord gives this instruction several times in section 133:
“Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:7).
“Go ye forth unto the land of Zion, that the borders of my people may be enlarged, and that her stakes may be strengthened, and that Zion may go forth unto the regions round about” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:9).
“Let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:12).
“Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:14).
“Wherefore, prepare ye for the coming of the Bridegroom; go ye, go ye out to meet him” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:19).
In this section, the Lord emphasizes the need for preparation to leave Babylon. He begins by saying “Prepare ye, prepare ye, o my O my people” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:4). A bit later he adds this: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight, for the hour of his coming is nigh” ((Doctrine and Covenants 133:17).
Elder Holland spoke of this matter of preparation. He said:
“There is a line from Dante that says, ‘The arrow seen before cometh less rudely’ (Divine Comedy, ‘Paradise,’ canto 17, line 24). President John F. Kennedy put the same thought into one of his state of the union messages this way: ‘The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining’ (U.S. News and World Report, Jan. 22, 1962, p. 90). The Boy Scouts say it best of all: ‘Be prepared.’ That isn’t just cracker‑barrel wisdom with us; it is theology.
“And angels shall fly through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, “Prepare ye, prepare ye (D&C 88:92).
“’And if ye are prepared ye shall not fear’” (D&C 38:30) (Jeffrey R. Holland, “For Times of Trouble,” New Era, Oct. 1980, 8).
The language of 133:17 even suggests a way to accomplish this: “prepare ye the way of the Lord and make his paths straight . . .” We must do all we can to provide a pathway to our hearts that is free of detours and construction delays. It is in preparing our own lives to receive him, in making the pathway the Savior must follow to our hearts and homes smooth and straight that we prepare ourselves for Zion. Elder Oaks taught:
“Given in the 25th chapter of Matthew, this parable contrasts the circumstances of the five foolish and the five wise virgins. All ten were invited to the wedding feast, but only half of them were prepared with oil in their lamps when the bridegroom came. The five who were prepared went into the marriage feast, and the door was shut. The five who had delayed their preparations came late. The door had been closed, and the Lord denied them entrance, saying, ‘I know you not’ (v. 12). ‘Watch therefore,’ the Savior concluded, ‘for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh’ (v. 13).
“The arithmetic of this parable is chilling. The ten virgins obviously represent members of Christ’s Church, for all were invited to the wedding feast and all knew what was required to be admitted when the bridegroom came. But only half were ready when he came” (April Conference 2004 “Preparation for the Second Coming,” Saturday Morning session).
Another part of journeying to Zion is in 133:15.
“And he that goeth [out of Babylon], let him not look back lest sudden destruction come upon him”
The allusion here is to Lot’s wife, who looked back (see Gen. 19:26) at what she had left behind in Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt. I have a photograph of pillars of salt rising from the southern end of the Dead Sea where some think Sodom was located. Luke 17:31,32 suggests that she went back. At least her heart was not where her body was on the journey out of Sodom (Babylon).
In Luke 9, Jesus taught this: “No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (vs. 62). The whole book of Numbers is the story of a nation, invited to flee from Egypt (Babylon), that kept looking back, and that longed for the “fish, which [they] did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick . . .” (Numbers 11:5). It will always be hard to see where we are going if we keep looking over our shoulders at where we have been.
And one final part of the process comes from Doctrine and Covenants 133:16.
“Hearken and hear, O ye inhabitants of the earth. Listen, ye elders of my church together, and hear the voice of the Lord; for he calleth upon all men, and he commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:16).
In the April 1997 Conference, Elder Packer explained how repentance can get us out of Babylon.
“In the universal battle for human souls, the adversary takes enormous numbers of prisoners. Many, knowing of no way to escape, are pressed into his service. Every soul confined in a concentration camp of sin and guilt has a key to the gate. The key is labeled Repentance. The adversary cannot hold them, if they know how to use it. The twin principles of repentance and forgiveness exceed in strength the awesome power of the tempter” (“The Things of the Soul” 114).
This section, like all the rest, is drenched in doctrine and light. In later verses, the Lord gives important reasons for our preparation. When the Savior begins to describe the events of the second coming he mentions things that will certainly get our attention.
“The presence of the Lord shall be as the melting fire that burneth, and as the fire which causeth the waters to boil” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:41).”All nations shall tremble at thy presence” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:42).
“Yea, when thou comest down, and the mountains flow down at thy presence . . .”(Doctrine and Covenants 133:44).
“And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame, and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:49).
But in the midst of this divine demonstration of power, what will the righteous remember? His loving kindness.
“And now the year of my redeemed is come; and they shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord, and all that he has bestowed upon them according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:52).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught this:
“Alma revealed that Jesus knows how to succor us in the midst of our griefs and sicknesses precisely because Jesus has already borne our griefs and sicknesses (see Alma 7:11B12). He knows them firsthand; thus His empathy is earned. Of course, we do not comprehend it fully any more than we understand how He bore all mortal sins, but His Atonement remains the rescuing and reassuring reality.
“No wonder, of all the things for which we might praise Jesus when He comes again in majesty and power, we will praise Him for His ‘loving kindness’ and His ‘goodness’; moreover, we will go on praising Him for ever and ever! (D&C 133:52; see also Mosiah 4:6, 11; Alma 7:23). We will never need to be coaxed” (Neal A. Maxwell, “From Whom All Blessings Flow,” Ensign, May 1997, 12).
As I contemplated the need to prepare for the journey to Zion in my own life, to repent and to keep my focus on where I am going rather than where I have been, I thought about my own ancestors and their experiences in Missouri as they contemplated and dreamed of the establishment of Zion.
Those who moved to Missouri or who joined the Kingdom while the church was there, knew that they were dwelling in what was the location of Zion and the New Jerusalem. They knew some of the wonders and blessings awaiting those who could qualify to live in such a community. But they did not qualify. Like the ancient Israelites sent to wander in the wilderness while the Lord raised up a generation willing and worthy to claim an inheritance in the Promised Land, our ancestors were sent to wander in the wilderness of the Great Basin, the wilderness of Utah, while the Lord waited for a generation prepared and able to build Zion. Apparently, he is still waiting. No one has sent any of us instructions to load up and move east.
The most recent General Conference (April 2018) suggested some significant progress toward our becoming a Zion people, with the restructuring of Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Home and Visiting Teaching. And there are many Zion-ready people among us. But most of the work in Missouri remains to be done
I suppose at some point, perhaps in a General Conference, the prophet might say to some of us what was prophesied by Jeremiah: “For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God” (Jeremiah 31:6).
I pray that we will be prepared to go.