When Zion will be redeemed
“Joseph tried to develop them,” President Lorenzo Snow explained more than a hundred years ago, “so that they would conform to the law of consecration, which is in advance of the law of tithing, and is a principle which, as sure as I am speaking, you and I will one day have to conform to. When that day comes we will be prepared to go to Zion. . . . Do you suppose that the Lord would ever send you and me back to Jackson county until He could feel perfectly assured that we would do those things which the people of Jackson county failed to do for lack of experience and faith? Jackson County is the place, the point that we should have continually in view” (Conference Report, October 1900, 61-62).
The Prophet Joseph Smith described his feelings about the painful transition inherent in the preparation of the people of God to establish, once and for all, Zion, the City of Holiness: “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 her 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!” (HC 1:453-54).
The Great Temple in New Jerusalem
The first Temple commanded to be built in this final dispensation was to be in Jackson County, Missouri. This follows the ancient pattern established at the foundation of the world for the Saints to gather and build a place for the God of heaven to visit and instruct them.
“What was the object of gathering the Jews, or the people of God in any age of the world?” queried Joseph Smith. And he answered: “The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose” (HC 5:423).
We may conclude, then, that Adam built a Temple wherever he lived. Enoch had a Temple in his City of Holiness. Melchizedek had a Temple in Salem, the City of Peace. And all others—there is always a Temple wherever the Saints are gathered.
Written in everyone’s Bible—all Jews and all Christians—is the declaration that the God of all the earth will come to his Temple: “the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple” (Malachi 3:1). The declaration is repeated in modern scripture: “I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God; wherefore, gird up your loins and I will suddenly come to my temple” (D&C 36:8; see also D&C 133:2). The themes of gathering and Temple are inextricably connected with the salvation of God’s children: “That my covenant people may be gathered in one in that day when I shall come to my temple. And this I do for the salvation of my people” (D&C 42:36).
Site for the Temple
After many months (September 1830 to July 1831) of hinting and then openly declaring that a new Zion, the New Jerusalem, with its accompanying Temple, would be designated and commenced, the Lord then gave specific details: “Thus saith the Lord your God . . . the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse” (D&C 57:3).
The following year, in September of 1832, the Lord described further—step by step—how the gathering and the City and the Temple would all lead to the salvation of his people: “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.
“Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.
“Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning as this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.
“For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house.
“. . . the sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed” (D&C 84:2-5, 31).
The Lord indicated that his House would definitely be built in this generation. We often use the term “generation” to mean a twenty-year period, but that definition does not necessarily fit God’s timetable. Any dictionary shows various definitions for the term: race, kind, class, new establishment, dispensation, etc. The Lord will definitely establish his City of Holiness and its Temple before closing out this final dispensation of the fullness of times.
And “when he comes again,” Brigham Young taught, “he will not come as he did when the Jews rejected him; neither will he appear first at Jerusalem when he makes his second appearance on the earth; but he will appear first on the land where he commenced his work in the beginning, and planted the garden of Eden, and that was done in the land of America” (Journal of Discourses 11:279).
A Unique Temple
Orson Pratt reflected back on what was taught about the Temple of the New Jerusalem in the days of Joseph the Prophet: “There [in Independence, Missouri] we expect to build a temple different from all other temples in some respects. It will be much larger, cover a larger area of ground . . . Will it be built in one large room, like this [Salt Lake] tabernacle? No; there will be 24 different compartments in the Temple that will be built in Jackson County. The names of these compartments were given to us 45 or 46 years ago” [in 1833; for a detailed description of the 24 buildings, see HC 1:359-62] (Journal of Discourses 24:24).
Dr. Richard O. Cowan appends an explanation to plans for the Great Temple: “These buildings described by Joseph Smith were suited to the needs of the Saints in the 1830s and to construction methods common at the time. That these descriptions and plans were not the last word concerning the appearance of the ultimate New Jerusalem Temple would become evident in later years” (“The Great Temple of the New Jerusalem,” in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History—Missouri, published by the Department of Church History and Doctrine, Provo, Utah, 1994, 143).
Building up Zion, a City of Holiness
New Jerusalem will be built up and become a holy city unto the Lord. It is called a “Holy City,” but the true meaning of the title is revealed in the Hebrew terms. “The holy city” in Hebrew is HaIr HaKdosha, but the scriptural phrase is Ir HaKodesh, which is translated literally “the city of holiness.” The phrases “the holy city” and “the city of holiness” have profoundly different connotations. Not only will the city be designated “holy,” but it will be full of holy structures and objects, and especially holy people.
Enoch’s city was also called “the City of Holiness” (Moses 7:19). The Old and New Jerusalems, currently positioned on the two sides of the world, will become Cities of Holiness unto the Lord, and the uniting of continents will bring them closer together.
“The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age” Joseph Smith observed. “It is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; but they died without the sight; we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the Latter-day glory; it is left for us to see, participate in and help to roll forward the Latter-day glory, ‘the dispensation of the fullness of times, when God will gather together all things that are in heaven, and all things that are upon the earth, even in one,’ when the Saints of God will be gathered in one from every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue, when the Jews will be gathered together into one, the wicked will also be gathered together to be destroyed, as spoken of by the prophets; the Spirit of God will also dwell with His people, and be withdrawn from the rest of the nations, and all things whether in heaven or on earth will be in one, even in Christ. The heavenly Priesthood will unite with the earthly, to bring about those great purposes; and whilst we are thus united in one common cause, to roll forth the kingdom of God, the heavenly Priesthood are not idle spectators, the Spirit of God will be showered down from above, and it will dwell in our midst” (HC 4:609-10).
The Prophet also declared: “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object” (HC 3:390).
And he prophesied: “I now deliver it as a prophecy, if the inhabitants of this state, with the people of the surrounding country, will turn unto the Lord with all their hearts, ten years will not roll round before the kings and queens of the earth will come unto Zion, and pay their respects to the leaders of this people; they shall come with their millions, and shall contribute of their abundance for the relief of the poor, and the building up and beautifying of Zion” (HC 4:605-6).
It did not happen within ten years. Nevertheless, it is probable that the prophecy still stands: when Zion is rebuilt and redeemed, the leaders of nations will likely come, and with their millions, and pay their respects to the leaders of God’s people, and help build up and beautify Zion.
“In speaking of the gathering,” said Joseph Smith, “we mean to be understood as speaking of it according to scripture, the gathering of the elect of the Lord out of every nation on earth, and bringing them to the place of the Lord of Hosts, when the city of righteousness shall be built, and where the people shall be of one heart and one mind [note that the Lord talks less about diversity and more about unity in the future, glorious world of Zion] when the Savior comes; yea, where the people shall walk with God like Enoch, and be free from sin. The word of the Lord is precious; and when we read that the vail [sic] spread over all nations will be destroyed, and the pure in heart see God, and reign with Him a thousand years on earth, we want all honest men to have a chance to gather and build up a city of righteousness, where even upon the bells of the horses shall be written Holiness to the Lord” (HC 2:357-58).
Future Glory of Zion
It is clear in the revelations that the future Zion, the New Jerusalem, will be a place of splendor and glory. We may conclude, then (in a light-hearted spirit), that there will be no outrageous humidity and no chiggers, as in present-day Missouri!
Rabbi Wenger of the Kol Ami synagogue in Salt Lake City and I spoke on the same program in March of 1996 before a large group of Jews and Latter-day Saints. He spoke of the Jewish concept of Messiah and I of the Latter-day Saint concept of Messiah. Referring to the LDS belief that there is another holy city besides Jerusalem, Rabbi Wenger remonstrated, “. . . but when I drive through Missouri I just don’t get the same kind of buzz!” Indeed, some things have to change before the glory of Zion will appear.
“All these impediments [the disadvantages of the site of Zion] vanish when it is recollected what the Prophets have said concerning Zion in the last days,” explained Joseph Smith; “how the glory of Lebanon is to come upon her; the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box tree together, to beautify the place of His sanctuary, that He may make the place of His feet glorious. Where for brass, He will bring gold; and for iron, He will bring silver; and for wood, brass, and for stones, iron; and where the feast of fat things will be given to the just; yea, when the splendor of the Lord is brought to our consideration for the good of His people, the calculations of men and the vain glory of the world vanish, and we exclaim, ‘Out of Zion the perfection of beauty, God hath shined’” (Joseph Smith at the Dedication of Zion, Kaw Township, Missouri, 2 August 1831; HC 1:198).
God will rescue his people from the sicknesses and ravages of a wicked world. Joseph the Prophet noted that “the city of Zion spoken of by David, in the one hundred and second Psalm, will be built upon the land of America, ‘And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads’ (Isaiah xxxv:10); and then they will be delivered from the overflowing scourge that shall pass through the land. . . . the Good Shepherd will put forth His own sheep, and lead them out from all nations where they have been scattered in a cloudy and dark day, to Zion, and to Jerusalem” (HC 1:315).
“Notwithstanding [Zion’s] present affliction,” continued the Prophet, “she shall yet arise and put on her beautiful garments, and be the joy and glory of the whole earth” (HC 1:408).
Elder Merrill J. Bateman, then president of Brigham Young University, spoke on August 21, 2000, in a pre-school conference with faculty and staff. During his erudite remarks he commented, with some emotion, on that institution’s role in the future Zion. Said President Bateman: “Brigham Young University will be a crowning jewel in the New Jerusalem!”)
Ten Tribes Return
The tribes of Israel who were scattered northward from the land of Israel in the 8th century B.C. will be gathered back to their ancient inheritance, but first they will stop in to the New Jerusalem to be blessed at the hands of Ephraim, the leadership tribe in the last days. Said the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.
“And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.
“Their enemies shall become a prey unto them,
“And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land.
“And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.
“And the boundaries of the everlasting hills [that phrase appears in the blessing of Joseph, referring to the double land inheritance—the Americas—inhabited by his descendants; see Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:15] shall tremble at their presence.
“And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim.
“And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy.
“Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows” (D&C 133:26-34).
City of Enoch Returns
Enoch’s City of Holiness, or Zion, was taken up in ancient times, but it will return, along with Melchizedek and his people and others who were taken up to join them (see JST Gen. 14:34; Moses 7:27), and they will all be part of the Zion established in what is now Jackson County, Missouri.
Various passages of scripture refer to the New Jerusalem that comes down from God out of heaven, meaning the City of Enoch and the others who joined them in ancient times. For example, the last Jaredite prophet, Ether, spoke of “the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, and the holy sanctuary of the Lord” (Ether 13:3).
The Lord spoke anciently of a time “when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself.
“And this is mine everlasting covenant, that when thy posterity shall embrace the truth, and look upward, then shall Zion look downward, and all the heavens shall shake with gladness, and the earth shall tremble with joy;
“And the general assembly of the church of the first-born shall come down out of heaven, and possess the earth, and shall have place until the end come” (JST Genesis 9:21-23).
John the Revelator also wrote of a “new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God” (Revelation 3:12).
“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband . . .
“And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:2, 10).
The Lord further described to Enoch the scene of him and his people meeting the mortals in the great City:
“And 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; . . . and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine 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 my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.
“And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other [Latin Americans are already prepared for this kind of affection; that verse perfectly describes their abrazo and kiss!];
“And 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 the earth shall rest” (Moses 7:62-64).
Two Jerusalems or four?
We began with a discussion of two Jerusalems in two hemispheres. But are there two Jerusalems or more?
From what we have seen in all these teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, there are actually four Jerusalems—or at least four stages of the two Jerusalems, one in the past and three in the future: (1) Old Jerusalem in the Holy Land, (2) Zion, the New Jerusalem, built by the Saints in a land now called Independence, Missouri, joined by (3) Zion, the New Jerusalem, Enoch’s City, coming down from heaven for the terrestrial/millennial period, and finally, (4) the celestial City of Jerusalem, the Eternal City of God
For those who like literary devices such as chiasmus (introverted parallelism), we may diagram the sequence in God’s “eternal round” for this world in the following fashion:
Along with sacred places in Caldwell and Daviess counties, with their designated Temple cities, the county of Jackson, in the state of Missouri, has a great destiny!
There the conditions of Eden will be revived and expanded. There the Zion of old will return. The God of heaven himself will return and reside on the renewed earth, in the paradisiacal Zion. He will later establish a new, Celestial Jerusalem that will live on in glory forever.