Zion, to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, represents the perfect, just society ruled by Jesus Christ where all the inhabitants live in harmony, equally sharing all things. Zion, also spelled Sion in the New Testament, refers both to the actual place where a Zionic society exists, the people, and the spiritual quality of the culture. The Apostle Paul used the imagery of Zion to describe the righteous society existing amongst members of the early Church (Hebrews 12:22-24).
As a Place Name in Israel
In the Old Testament, Mount Zion was a hill in southeastern Jerusalem (see 1 Kings 8:1). The city of David, or Jerusalem, was called Zion (see 2 Samuel 5:6-7). More specifically, the fortress that was on Mount Zion was called Zion, but as David built up his kingdom, the people began to call all of the area Zion. After David’s death, Zion was used to refer to the hill that was the site of Solomon’s Temple. In 1 Kings 8:1, the term Zion is used to refer to Jerusalem. This same city was often called the temple on Mount Zion.
As a Millennial City
According to modern day revelation, Zion is a city that will be built near Jackson County, Missouri (see Doctrine and Covenants 45:66-67). This Zion in Missouri, also referred to as the New Jerusalem, will be the gathering place of the tribe of Ephraim before Christ’s second coming. The "Ten Lost Tribes" will gather to New Jerusalem; many from those tribes will then return to Israel. Some from the tribe of Manasseh, where it is found among Native Americans, will help establish Zion at New Jerusalem. The tenth Article of Faith, which outlines some of the basic beliefs of Mormonism, states,
- 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 paradisaical glory.
During Christ’s millennial reign there will be two seats of government, one in Jerusalem, Israel, and one in New Jerusalem on the American Continent:
- And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Micah 4:2).
Joseph Smith declared that ultimately all of North and South American would become Zion (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 362). At one time in the history of the Mormon Church the Lord counseled his people to gather together in Zion. The relative unrighteousness of the Saints, and the mob-rule which existed in Jackson County, thwarted early attempts to establish Zion in its God-identified location—"Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness" (Doctrine and Covenants 68:31). The Latter-day Saints crossed the plains to Utah so that they could gather in safety and try to build a just society. Mormons are now counseled to "build up Zion" wherever they are living in the world by increasing in righteousness, and this, in preparation for times to come when Zion will be established with its center at Missouri. When Zion is finally established, before the millennium begins, its citizens will be expected to live the highest laws of the gospel, including the Law of Consecration.
- And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself (Doctrine and Covenants 105:5).
Zion in Ancient Times
The City of Enoch was an ancient antediluvian city which was known as Zion. In Moses 7:69 we read, "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." The abundant information that is available in the scriptures regarding this ancient city makes it the great archetype of the Zion society. It has inspired both modern and ancient prophets and informs much of our understanding of what the New Jerusalem is to be. The city of Enoch was taken up by the Lord before the flood and it is expected that it will return to meet the New Jerusalem.
- And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of bone heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.
- 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. But the Lord said unto Enoch: Zion have I blessed, but the residue of the people have I cursed.
- 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. And the Lord said unto Enoch: Behold mine abode forever.
- And after that Zion was taken up into heaven, Enoch beheld, and lo, call the nations of the earth were before him;
- And Enoch beheld angels descending out of heaven, bearing testimony of the Father and Son; and the Holy Ghost fell on many, and they were caught up by the powers of heaven into Zion (Moses 7:18-21, 23, 27).
Another ancient Zion society was the city of Salem, ruled by the great patriarch Melchizedek. Unlike the city of Enoch, which was established by Enoch and his righteous followers, the city of Salem appears to have been an unrighteous city (Alma 13:17-18) which was brought to repentance under the influence of Melchizedek's preaching.
A Zion society was established again among the peoples of the Book of Mormon. Their prophets had prophesied of the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Upon the death of Christ terrible calamities (earthquakes, floods, fire, storms) afflicted the Book of Mormon peoples, killing the more wicked of them. Three days of "thick darkness" followed the cataclysmic events, after which appeared the resurrected Christ. He taught them His gospel, ordained twelve disciples, and established His Church among them.
- And it came to pass that the thirty and fourth year passed away, and also the thirty and fifth, and behold the disciples of Jesus had formed a church of Christ in all the lands round about. And as many as did come unto them, and did truly repent of their sins, were baptized in the name of Jesus; and they did also receive the Holy Ghost.
- And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
- And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift
- And they did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses; but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord.
- And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land; but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus (4 Nephi 1-3, 12, 13).
The Pure in Heart
Zion also refers to the pure in heart (see Doctrine and Covenants 97: 21). This is often referred to as the cause of Zion: to establish a people who are of one heart and one mind. One of the most salient characteristics of a zion city is unity. The people must work together and put aside petty differences. Men see eye to eye, because they are filled with the Holy Ghost; their perceptions and opinions all come from one source.
- Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion (Isaiah 52:8, emphasis added).