Dr. D. Kelly Ogden is a professor ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.
Do you love Meridian and the refreshing, inspiring stories and insights we bring you reach day? Now is our annual voluntary subscription drive. Please click here to donate to Meridian. Thank you for your generous support.
Meridian publishes this article today in celebration of Joseph Smith’s birthday on December 23.
Note: In a paper that treats the word of the Lord regarding future events, it is wise to present that which has been spoken by Him and by his appointed prophets only. Nearly all the quotations in this paper come directly from the Prophet Joseph Smith—from what he learned and taught from the revelations of the Lord he helped to bring forth (The Book of Mormon, the Book of Moses, and the Doctrine and Covenants), and from his own personal writings and discourses.
Though the world in general has no knowledge of or belief in more than one place called Jerusalem, the Latter-day Saints have been taught that there are two places indicated: the Old Jerusalem in the Holy Land, and the New Jerusalem in America.
The two Jerusalems are actually identified with remarkable clarity even in the writings of the biblical prophets. For example, Isaiah wrote:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established . . . 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).
Isaiah also specified that “the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 24:23), and Isaiah 64:10 refers to the “holy cities.”
Later, in the 6th century B. C., Zechariah prophesied: “My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (Zechariah 1:17).
The Lord in modern revelation also speaks of two holy cities: “And he shall utter his voice out of Zion, and he shall speak from Jerusalem, and his voice shall be heard among all people” (D&C 133:21).
All of these references contain not just synonymous parallelism (mere repetition of the same idea or toponym) but synthetic or complementary parallelism, where the second phrase is an extension or an amplification of the first. Two different places are clearly identified.
Note the plurality of sites specified in this comment by the Lord: “And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided” (D&C 133:24).
Joseph Smith explained the point in unmistakable terms: “Many will feel disposed to say, that this New Jerusalem spoken of, is the Jerusalem that was built by the Jews on the eastern continent. But you will see, from Revelation xxi:2, there was a New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, adorned as a bride for her husband; that after this, the Revelator was caught away in the Spirit, to a great and high mountain, and saw the great and holy city descending out of heaven from God. Now there are two cities spoken of here. As everything cannot be had in so narrow a compass as a letter, I shall say with brevity, that there is a New Jerusalem to be established on this continent, and also Jerusalem shall be rebuilt on the eastern continent (see Book of Mormon, Ether xiii:1-12)” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 86).
The New Jerusalem
There is considerable comment in ancient and modern scripture about the New Jerusalem that will yet be established on the American continent.
In the earliest times we have a people who were able to establish Zion, the prototype of the New Jerusalem in the last days, and, as we shall see, actually become part of the millennial City of Holiness.
Moses wrote about the people of Enoch: “And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness . . .
“And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even ZION.
“And it came to pass that Enoch talked with the Lord; and he said unto the Lord: Surely Zion shall dwell in safety forever. . . .
“And it came to pass that the Lord showed unto Enoch all the inhabitants of the earth; and he beheld, and lo, Zion, in process of time, was taken up into heaven” (Moses 7:18-21).
Enoch’s people are already in a translated or terrestrial condition, awaiting the time of the earth’s translation to a terrestrial condition, so they can return and join the people of God who will establish the earthly Zion, the two groups prepared as a bride for the coming of the Bridegroom.
The Savior explained in ancient America how others, in the last days “shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem. And then shall they 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” (3 Nephi 21:22-25).
Centuries earlier, another prophet saw these same events: “Behold, Ether saw the days of Christ, and he spake concerning a New Jerusalem upon this land.
“And he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come—after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord; wherefore, it could not be a new Jerusalem for it had been in a time of old; but it should be built up again, and become a holy city of the Lord; and it should be built unto the house of Israel.
“And that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph . . .
“Wherefore, the remnant of the house of Joseph shall be built upon this land; and it shall be a land of their inheritance; and they shall build up a holy city unto the Lord, like unto the Jerusalem of old . . .
“And then cometh the New Jerusalem; and blessed are they who dwell therein, for it is they whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who are numbered among the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who were of the house of Israel” (Ether 13:4-8, 10).
Early in the latter-day history of the Church the Lord began hinting about, then revealing, details of the future New Jerusalem:
“. . . the time shall come when it shall be revealed unto you from on high, when the city of the New Jerusalem shall be prepared, that ye may be gathered in one, that ye may be my people and I will be your God .
“Thou shalt ask, and it shall be revealed unto you in mine own due time where the New Jerusalem shall be built . . .” (D&C 42:9, 62).
The Lord described the purposes and conditions of the latter-day Zion:
“It shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God;
“And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion.
“And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.
“And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another.
“And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand.
“And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy” (D&C 45:66-71).
“Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem” (D&C 84:2).
The Lord also explained something about the initial leadership of the long-awaited Zion:
“I will raise up unto my people a man, who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel.
“And as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be” (D&C 103:16, 18).
The righteous of old will join the mortal Saints and the people of Enoch in the new City of the Lord:
“And the graves of the saints shall be opened; and they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb, when he shall stand upon Mount Zion, and upon the holy city, the New Jerusalem” (D&C 133:56).
The Location of New Jerusalem
Writing out the basic beliefs of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith penned the following: “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory” (Articles of Faith 1:10).
At first the Lord simply hinted at the specific venue for the New Jerusalem, preparing the minds of the Saints for that which lay ahead. In a revelation given through Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery in September of 1830, he said: “No man knoweth where the city Zion shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter. Behold, I say unto you that it shall be on the borders by the Lamanites” (D&C 28:9; see also 42:9, 35).
Over the succeeding months the Lord continued to remind his people of important future events. Speaking to Joseph Smith in February of 1831 the Lord said: “It shall be revealed unto you in mine own due time where the New Jerusalem shall be built” (D&C 42:62).
In July of 1831 the word came: “The land of Missouri . . . is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints. Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion” (D&C 57:1-2).
Why at Independence, Missouri?
Everything comes full circle. This is the place where it all began (in Eden, the earth’s first Temple). And here is where it all ends. The course of the Lord really is “one eternal round.”
Brigham Young exclaimed: “It is a pleasant thing to think of and to know where the garden of Eden was . . . In Jackson County was the garden of Eden. Joseph has declared this, and I am as much bound to believe that as to believe that Joseph was a prophet of God” (Journal History of the Church, March 15, 1857, 1; Church Archives).
So the Western Hemisphere is really the Old World, not the New World! And some day the old will become new once again.
The people of the Lord must be prepared for the Messiah’s Coming in glory. One great conference, a priesthood meeting/council meeting/sacrament meeting, involving the first man, Adam, will be convened at Adam-ondi-Ahman, to help with temporal and spiritual preparations for the Second Coming.
Joseph Fielding Smith wrote in the 20th century: “In accord with the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we teach that the Garden of Eden was on the American continent located where the City Zion, or the New Jerusalem, will be built. When Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden, they eventually dwelt at a place called Adam-ondi-Ahman, situated in what is now Daviess County, Missouri. Three years before the death of Adam he called the righteous of his posterity at this place and blessed them and it is at this place where Adam, or Michael, will sit as we read in the 7th chapter of Daniel” (Doctrines of Salvation 3:74).
Characteristics of Zion
In a letter to the elders of the Church at Kirtland on September 1, 1835, the Prophet Joseph Smith detailed his vision for what was coming in the establishment of Zion:
“I received, by a heavenly vision, a commandment in June following, to take my journey to the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and there designate the very spot which was to be the central place for the commencement of the gathering together of those who embrace the fullness of the everlasting Gospel. Accordingly I undertook the journey, with certain ones of my brethren, and after a long and tedious journey, suffering many privations and hardships, arrived in Jackson County, Missouri, and after viewing the country, seeking diligently at the hand of God, He manifested Himself unto us, and designated, to me and others, the very spot upon which He designed to commence the work of the gathering, and the upbuilding of an ‘holy city,’ which should be called Zion—Zion, because it is a place of righteousness, and all who build thereon are to worship the true and living God, and all believe in one doctrine, even the doctrine of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“First, I shall begin by quoting from the prophecy of Enoch, speaking of the last days: ‘Righteousness will I send down out of heaven, and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten, His resurrection from the dead . . .; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; 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, a holy city, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming, for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a new Jerusalem’ [see Moses 7:62].
“Now I understand by this quotation, that God clearly manifested to Enoch the redemption which He prepared, by offering the Messiah as a Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world; and by virtue of the same, the glorious resurrection of the Savior, and the resurrection of all the human family . . . ; and also righteousness and truth are to sweep the earth as with a flood. And now, I ask, how righteousness and truth are going to sweep the earth as with a flood? I will answer. Men and angels are to be co-workers in bringing to pass this great work, and Zion is to be prepared, even a new Jerusalem, for the elect that are to be gathered from the four quarters of the earth, and to be established an holy city, for the tabernacle of the Lord shall be with them” (History of the Church [HC] 2:254, 260).
New Jerusalem, a series of moderately-sized cities, to fill the world
Elder B. H. Roberts, writing his Comprehensive History of the Church, explained that “The ‘City of Zion’ . . . contemplates not so much one immense city as a succession of cities of moderate size, throughout the land, and together considered as one city: ‘It is supposed,’ said Joseph Smith, . . . ‘that such a plat when built up will contain fifteen or twenty thousand population . . . When this square is thus laid off and supplied,’ said the Prophet, ‘lay off another in the same way, and so fill up the world in these last days, and let every man live in the city, for this is the city of Zion’—that is, a succession of cities of moderate size of which the one to be erected at Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, is to be the center place” (A Comprehensive History of the Church 3:282-283, note).
The concept of Zion as a center place for the Lord’s millennial reign is based on the image of a tent that is pitched with its stakes extended and firmly planted to provide stability and strength to the center structure (see Isaiah 33:20). Two early leaders of the Restored Church explain the proper terminology to be used: “Let me here take the liberty to say to this congregation,” Elder Orson Pratt wrote, “that the City of Zion, when it is built in Jackson County, will not be called a Stake. We can find no mention in all the revelations that God has given, that the City of Zion is to be the Centre Stake of Zion; the Lord never called it a Stake in any revelation that has been given. It is to be the head quarters, it is to be the place where the Son of Man will come and dwell, where He will have a Temple, in which Temple there will be a throne prepared where Jesus will dwell in the midst of His people; it will be the great central city, and the outward branches will be called Stakes wherever they shall be organized as such” (Journal of Discourses 22:35).
Elder Orson F. Whitney further elaborated: “Jackson County, Missouri, is the chosen site for the City of Zion. No other place has been or will be appointed for that purpose. All other gathering places of God’s people are Stakes of Zion, holding the outside cords and curtains of the spiritual Tabernacle of the Lord. Zion’s first Stake was at Kirtland, Ohio; and other stakes were organized in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa. All these have been abandoned; but many others, since established, now flourish. . . . Zion is greater than any of her stakes” (Saturday Night Thoughts, 183).
click here to read the next part of this article