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We can only attain to the ideal of Zion by understanding and living the New and Everlasting Covenant—the holy covenant of Zion. To achieve that ideal, we must transition from Babylon to Zion, which admittedly is challenging. But we have little to fear. The Lord will lead us by the hand and clear away all obstacles. Then we, like the Nephites, will experience for ourselves the safety, abundance and joy of Zion, for “surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”[i]

Zion is the habitation of the Lord.[ii] A Zion person harbors the hope that one day the Father and the Son will make their abode with him. That is the ideal of Zion. To regain and enjoy God’s presence is a primary reason why a person enters into the New and Everlasting Covenant. To regain and enjoy God’s presence are the promised results and the supernal blessings for abiding in the Covenant. Joseph Smith said,

‘If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.’ Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions–Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.[iii]

The Ideal of Zion

This, then, is the ideal to which we should aspire. We may not achieve the ultimate expression of perfection of Zion in this life, but we must “relentlessly chase perfection,” as Vince Lombardi is quoted as saying, “knowing full well we will not catch it, but…in the process we will catch excellence.”[iv]

To achieve Zionlike attributes in our lives requires no new revelation. The Prophet Joseph Smith, whose mission it was to restore the fullness of the gospel, received every revelation, covenant and power regarding the establishment of Zion. Therefore, we have everything that we need to become individually pure in heart and Zionlike. While the Churchwide implementation of the specific “law”[v] of Zion might still be futuristic, our individual living of the law is not. We have made covenants; we simply need to live them.

And live them we must. Everything of eternal consequence hinges on our obedience and diligence to the New and Everlasting Covenant.

Eternal Marriage—the Crowning Order of Zion

Prefacing the eternal law of marriage, which is the crowning order of the New and Everlasting Covenant and the gate to Zion[vi] (The Church of the Firstborn and the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom),[vii] the Lord revealed the following essential information regarding the Covenant:

Prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.  For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world. And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.[viii]

Apathy Toward the Covenant

In vision, Nephi saw the latter-day members of the Church, who had made the New and Everlasting Covenant. To his dismay, he saw widespread apathy; we had neglected the Covenant in favor of carnal security. We had been lulled away from the Covenant by Satan, and we were ignorantly under the impression that “All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well.”[ix]

While it is possible that all might be well with the Church, it is not necessarily “well” with many of its members. Nephi saw that our carnal appetites had allowed the devil to “cheat our souls” with the purpose of “leading us away carefully down to hell.”[x] According to Brigham Young, carnal security, materialism, and wealth seeking are the devil’s clever “decoys” that drive a wedge between Zion and us.

The metaphor is chilling. A decoy is something that looks like the real thing but is meant to trap its victim. A decoy is cleverly disguised, but it is deadly if you get too close to it. President Young said, “It is a fearful deception which all the world labors under, and many of this people too, who profess to be not of the world, that gold is wealth.”[xi]

The only solution is the one that Nephi offered when confronted by the people in the great and spacious building: “We heeded them not.”[xii] That is, “we did not allow ourselves to become distracted. We were determined to abide in the Covenant, regardless of what Babylon said or offered us.” Only abiding in the Covenant provides real security.

Safety in the Covenant

Of course, this is a tall order. You might ask, “What will become of me, if I attempt to step away from Babylon and fully embrace the principles of Zion?” The answer is always the same: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”[xiii] The solution is imbedded in the Covenant; it is God’s promise. He will support you, sustain you, stand beside you, and keep you safe: “Surely Zion shall dwell in safety forever.”[xiv]

Safe in the Covenant, you no longer have to worry like you did in Babylon: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”[xv]

This is not to say that we cease laboring. Labor is essential to Zion. But labor, like other principles, exists in varying degrees that range from telestial to celestial. What we labor for defines our labor as of Babylon or of Zion. To make the mental leap takes faith–lots of faith. Only the Atonement of Jesus Christ can make the transition to Zion possible.

The Atonement has the power to purify our hearts, make of us celestial people, secure for us a celestial resurrection, make us heirs of God’s kingdom, and bind to us our spouse and family forever.

The Establishment of Zion is the Goal of the Gospel

“The prophets always labor to prepare people to become a people of Zion. Sometimes people embrace Zion; most often they do not.”[xvi] If the prophets cannot persuade the Church as a whole to become Zion, then they will continue to preach Zion principles and convert us one by one.

Considering the blessings of Zion, why would we choose otherwise? Perhaps because of fear.

We might say, “Zion and consecration are well and good, but I don’t want to be the first to live them. Therefore, I will wait for the president of the Church to reveal a program.” This is a dangerous attitude that is fraught with folly. We might ask ourselves: “Which of our covenants is waiting for a program from Church headquarters? Baptism? Sabbath day observance? Temple worship? Eternal marriage? Why, then, do we consider parts of the New and Everlasting Covenant, especially the Law of Consecration, futuristic?

We know the principles of Zion, so what stops us from living them? Clearly, Babylon has a hold on us that we fear to break. But we need not fear. We have evidence that the principles of Zion hold safety and prosperity. For example, who has ever made themselves poor by paying tithes and offerings? It is impossible. With confidence in tithes and offerings alone, we are equipped to press through our fear and embrace Zion in its entirety, as we have covenanted to do. Perhaps to that end the Lord encouraged us to consider the lilies of the field.[xvii] Most certainly, he will take care of his covenant people. The Book of Mormon is a textbook on the subject.”

Why Are Ye So Fearful?

During the ministry of Christ, a fierce storm arose that threatened to capsize the apostles’ boat. Panicked, they awakened the Savior and cried, “Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” [xviii] In other words, “How could you be afaid, knowing that I was with you? Where is your faith?” Wherever Zion is, there is the Lord; wherever a Zion person is, there is the Lord.

If he is with us, if we know that he commanded us to live the fullness of the New and Everlasting Covenant, if we really believe that he will stand beside us while we struggle to live the Covenant, what have we to fear? We will not be disappointed. We, like the Nephites, will experience for ourselves the safety, abundance and joy of Zion, for “surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”[xix] 

The Ultimate Blessing

If we intend to become Zion people, we might consider changing the paradigm of our belief, if it is lacking. In too many instances, we do not believe what our faith tells us. We believe in a convenient gospel with the expectation that God, if he wants to, will move us along and eventually rewards us with the extraordinary blessings of Zion.

But Zion cannot be established either in an individual’s life or in a society on such a philosophy. Zion has always been established by people’s believing all that their faith tells them. When we back away from our responsibility to live the entirety of the Covenant, and when we shift the burden of preparing for the establishment of Zion to the prophet, we are stepping into dangerous territory: the same that Moses’ people stepped into.

If we want to become Zion people, we must first believe what our faith tells us Zion people are – the pure in heart, those who are striving to achieve the presence of God. Will that happen without seeking and asking? Of course not. No blessings arrive unbidden. We must work for them. “Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.”[xx]

Elder McConkie said,

Those who attain this state of cleanliness and perfection are able, as occasion may require, to see God and view the things of his kingdom. (D. & C. 84:23; 88:68; Ether 4:7).[xxi] Indeed, the ultimate privileges of God’s holy authority are spoken of as follows: ‘The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church-to have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant’ (D&C 107:18-19).[xxii]

 “While in the flesh,” Zion people can qualify for the “privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves.”[xxiii] The Father and the Son will come and make their abode with that person, as the Prophet said, and because they have made their hearts pure by abiding the Covenant, “they shall see God.”[xxiv] This is the ideal and the privilege of seeking to become a Zion person.

 Author’s Note

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[i] 4 Nephi 1:17.

[ii] Psalms 132:13; Moses 7:21; see also Psalms 9:11; 76:2; Isaiah 24:23; 59:20; 60:14; Jeremiah 8:19; Joel 3:16; Micah 4:7:D&C 97:19; 105:32

[iii] Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., p.150, emphasis added

[iv] Jeremy Schaap, Parade Magazine, “We Will Catch Excellence,” February 3, 2008

[v] See D&C 42

[vi] See Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol 3:231

[vii] See D&C 131:1-4

[viii] D&C 132:3-6, emphasis added

[ix] 2 Nephi 28:21

[x] See 2 Nephi 28:21

[xi] Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol 10:271, emphasis added

[xii] 1 Nephi 8:33

[xiii] Matthew 6:33; 3 Nephi 13:33

[xiv] Moses 7:20

[xv] 3 Nephi 13:31-32

[xvi] Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Zion,” p.1625

[xvii] Matthew 6:28-29; 3 Nephi 13:28-29

[xviii] Mark 4:38-40

[xix] 4 Nephi 1:16

[xx] D&C 93:1

[xxi] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., “Sanctification,” p.675

[xxii] Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol 3:231

[xxiii] D&C 76:117

[xxiv] JST Matthew 5:10; 3 Nephi 12:8