In the posts on Apostasy parts 1 and 2 we documented that previous apostasies have taken place in all gospel dispensations.
We also discussed the vision of Daniel in which he saw a last day’s kingdom of God established upon the earth which would never fail, but would roll forth throughout the earth, like a stone cut out of the mountains without hands, breaking in pieces the kingdoms of this world.
Additionally we established that although the church teaches that this last kingdom has already been established during the restoration of Joseph Smith and can therefore never fail, the scriptures do not actually make this guarantee. In fact the scriptures suggests that although the kingdom of God was given to the saints in the 1830s, it was given to them conditionally. If they faithfully kept their covenants the kingdom would be there’s forever, but if they didn’t it would be taken from them.
Joseph Smith made a statement to this effect in a letter to W. W. Phelps and the saints who were attempting to establish Zion in Jackson County Missouri. Joseph stated:
“…the Lord will have a place whence His word will go forth, in these last days, in purity ; for if Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved of in all things, in His sight, He will seek another people; for His work will go on until Israel is gathered, and they who will not hear His voice, must expect to feel His wrath. Let me say unto you, seek to purify yourselves, and also the inhabitants of Zion, lest the Lord’s anger be kindled to fierceness .
Repent, repent, is the voice of God to Zion; and strange as it may appear, yet it is true, mankind will persist in self-justification until all their iniquity is exposed, and their character past being redeemed, and that which is treasured up in their hearts be exposed to the gaze of mankind. I say to you (and what I say to you I say to all), hear the warning voice of God, lest Zion fall, and the Lord swear in His wrath the inhabitants of Zion shall not enter into His rest .” (TPJS, pg 18)
This is yet another witness that the saints could collectively fall. In fact Joseph was calling on them to repent lest God’s judgments came upon them and they were cut off from the presence of the Lord and would not enter into His rest. He stated that if the inhabitants of Zion did not purify themselves sufficiently that God would seek another people to do His work in gathering Israel.
So where are we as a church and as a people? Has Zion been established? Has the promised gathering of the 12 tribes of Israel home to Zion, the New Jerusalem, happened or is it currently happening? Are we in as a church currently fulfilling a preparatory work for the promised gathering of Israel to Zion? Or have we fallen or are in the process of falling? These are hard questions, but important ones.
It is impossible to claim that Zion has been established in the fullest sense, let alone redeemed by the Lord. In fact the Lord tells us in the D&C that the redemption of Zion would have to wait because of the transgressions of the saints.
1 Verily I say unto you, concerning your brethren who have been afflicted, and persecuted, and cast out from the land of their inheritance—
2 I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions;
3 Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall come to make up my jewels.
4 Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.
5 For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.
6 Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.
7 They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.
8 In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.
9 Verily I say unto you, notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath I will remember mercy.
10 I have sworn, and the decree hath gone forth by a former commandment which I have given unto you, that I would let fall the sword of mine indignation in behalf of my people; and even as I have said, it shall come to pass.
11 Mine indignation is soon to be poured out without measure upon all nations; and this will I do when the cup of their iniquity is full.
12 And in that day all who are found upon the watch-tower, or in other words, all mine Israel, shall be saved.
13 And they that have been scattered shall be gathered.
14 And all they who have mourned shall be comforted.
15 And all they who have given their lives for my name shall be crowned.
16 Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.
17 Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.
18 They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion—
19 And all these things that the prophets might be fulfilled.
20 And, behold, there is none other place appointed than that which I have appointed; neither shall there be any other place appointed than that which I have appointed, for the work of the gathering of my saints—
21 Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.
22 Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places;
23 And prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together.
The Lord says some very important things here. He stated that the reason that the saints in Missouri (Zion) were driven and scattered and abused, was because of their sins. The Lord said that not everyone had sinned, but collectively they had sinned and polluted their inheritances in Zion.
The Lord stated that His people were now in a scattered condition. He also makes a promise that they will not be utterly cut off and will be shown mercy. He also promises that Zion will not be moved out of its place, but that it will one day be established and built up in the place He had revealed (Missouri).
The Lord stated that all of this had happened that the “prophets might be fulfilled.”
This gives us a clue as to why Zion was not to be redeemed in Joseph’s Smith’s day. The scriptures from the ancient prophets regarding the establishment of Zion, the gathering of Israel, and the millennium needed to be fulfilled. There were things that needed to happen with Israel and the world before the final gathering could take place. These things were prophesied in the scriptures and need to be fulfilled. We will address some of these things in future posts.
A little bit later in D&C 101 the Lord states,
39 When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men;
40 They are called to be the savor of men; therefore, if that salt of the earth lose its savor, behold, it is thenceforth good for nothing only to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.
41 Behold, here is wisdom concerning the children of Zion, even many, but not all; they were found transgressors, therefore they must needs be chastened—
The Lord is saying that the saints who had entered into a covenant to keep all of the Lord’s commandments, including the law of consecration, were found transgressors and were now as the salt of the earth, and henceforth good for nothing only to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.
This theme is continued in D&C 102-105.
D&C 105 was given to Joseph Smith at Fishing River as Zion’s Camp was about to arrive in Jackson County in the hopes of aiding the suffering saints and bringing about the redemption of Zion. The Lord tells them that the redemption of Zion would have to wait for a “little season” even “many days.”
1 Verily I say unto you who have assembled yourselves together that you may learn my will concerning the redemption of mine afflicted people—
2 Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.
3 But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;
4 And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom;
5 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.
6 And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer.
7 I speak not concerning those who are appointed to lead my people, who are the first elders of my church, for they are not all under this condemnation;
8 But I speak concerning my churches abroad—there are many who will say: Where is their God? Behold, he will deliver them in time of trouble, otherwise we will not go up unto Zion, and will keep our moneys.
9 Therefore, in consequence of the transgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion—
10 That they themselves may be prepared, and that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands.
11 And this cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high.
12 For behold, I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them, inasmuch as they are faithful and continue in humility before me.
13 Therefore it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season, for the redemption of Zion.
14 For behold, I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion; for, as I said in a former commandment, even so will I fulfil—I will fight your battles.
15 Behold, the destroyer I have sent forth to destroy and lay waste mine enemies; and not many years hence they shall not be left to pollute mine heritage, and to blaspheme my name upon the lands which I have consecrated for the gathering together of my saints.
16 Behold, I have commanded my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., to say unto the strength of my house, even my warriors, my young men, and middle-aged, to gather together for the redemption of my people, and throw down the towers of mine enemies, and scatter their watchmen;
17 But the strength of mine house have not hearkened unto my words.
From the Lord’s words in this revelation it is clear that the saints had collectively failed to bring about the redemption of Zion, because of their sins. Even those whom the Lord had called to go with Joseph Smith from Kirtland to redeem Zion (the strength of the Lord’s house) did not hearken unto the words of the Lord. In fact Joseph was only able to raise a much smaller group of volunteers to join Zion’s camp than the one the Lord had called for. Then among those brethren who did go on the trek, there was a great deal of disunity.
Not all of the brethren in Zion’s camp, the inhabitants of Zion in Missouri, or those saints who made up the strength of the Lord’s house in Kirtland had sinned, as the Lord makes clear in verse 7 quoted above and in the next few verses.
18 But inasmuch as there are those who have hearkened unto my words, I have prepared a blessing and an endowment for them, if they continue faithful.
19 I have heard their prayers, and will accept their offering; and it is expedient in me that they should be brought thus far for a trial of their faith.
The blessing and endowment which the Lord had prepared for the faithful was to be poured out upon the completion and dedication of the Lord’s house (temple) in Kirtland.
The Lord continues in the next few verses by given the saints instructions to regroup as best as they could, make peace with their enemies, and purchase more land in Jackson County and surrounding areas, that they might yet live the principles of the celestial kingdom including the law of consecration.
The Lord then states:
29 For it is my will that these lands should be purchased; and after they are purchased that my saints should possess them according to the laws of consecration which I have given.
30 And after these lands are purchased, I will hold the armies of Israel guiltless in taking possession of their own lands, which they have previously purchased with their moneys, and of throwing down the towers of mine enemies that may be upon them, and scattering their watchmen, and avenging me of mine enemies unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.
31 But first let my army become very great, and let it be sanctified before me, that it may become fair as the sun, and clear as the moon, and that her banners may be terrible unto all nations;
32 That the kingdoms of this world may be constrained to acknowledge that the kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ; therefore, let us become subject unto her laws.
The Lord promises that the armies of Israel will possess this land, but they are commanded to wait until the army of Israel has “become very great, and sanctified, before [the Lord], that it may become fair as the sun, clear as the moon, and that her banners may be terrible until all nation; that the kingdoms of this world may be constrained to acknowledge that the kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ, let us become subject to her laws.”
So the redemption of Zion would have to wait until the time was right and the host of Israel was sufficiently strong to bring it about. The Lord’s statement that at the time that the host of Israel was sufficiently strong the kingdoms of the world would acknowledge that the kingdom of Zion is the very kingdom of God and Christ. This is obviously a direct reference to the kingdom of God which Daniel saw.
The kingdom of Zion as described by the Lord here has not yet been established. There is also no indication that the saints as a whole would bring about this kingdom.
The Lord states:
33 Verily I say unto you, it is expedient in me that the first elders of my church should receive their endowment from on high in my house, which I have commanded to be built unto my name in the land of Kirtland.
34 And let those commandments which I have given concerning Zion and her law be executed and fulfilled, after her redemption.
35 There has been a day of calling, but the time has come for a day of choosing; and let those be chosen that are worthy.
36 And it shall be manifest unto my servant, by the voice of the Spirit, those that are chosen; and they shall be sanctified;
37 And inasmuch as they follow the counsel which they receive, they shall have power after many days to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion.
The Lord declared that the redemption of Zion would have to wait until at least after the faithful elders of the church would be endowed with power in the Lord’s house in Kirtland (which was not yet complete).
There was to be a time of choosing among those who had been called, based on their worthiness. Those who were called were to be sanctified.
Then the Lord makes the conditional promise that those who were chosen would after many days have power to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion, inasmuch as they follow council.
It is clear that the redemption of Zion and promised gathering of Israel would have to wait for “many days” and then only those who are chosen and have been sanctified will be given power to bring it about.
So who are those who will be called, sanctified, and given power to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion?
Does this pertain to the saints currently?
If so is it referring to all those who are active at church and hold a temple recommend and follow the prophet (current church president) and the rest of the brethren (councilors in the first presidency and quorum of the 12) without question in all that they do?
Or is it referring to those who can see that there are problems in the church and are trying to repent by grasping onto the iron rod (word of God in the scriptures) and taking the Holy Ghost for their guide rather than trusting in the arm of flesh?
Could it be a combination of the two?
Who will be chosen, sanctified, and given power to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion?
Who will make up the army of Israel which will become fair as the sun, clear as the moon, that her banners may be terrible until all nations?
This is a very important question, one that is not easily answered. It is easy to assume that we will be part of this army so long as we stay in the old ship Zion (the church) and follow along no matter which course the church takes.
But is this true? Is this what is expected of us, to blindly follow the church and our leaders even if many of the things that are going on contradict the scriptures and past teachings of the church? Can the church change and become more like the world in nearly every respect and we are simply to follow along and we’ll reach our desired destination in the celestial kingdom? Will blindly following the brethren in all things guarantee that we will be among the saints who build up the New Jerusalem or who return in the clouds to meet those who are?
What work has the church and the saints collectively performed in bringing about all things pertaining to Zion since these revelations were given in 1833 and 1844? What is yet to be done?
These are questions that each of us must ask ourselves?
Who will build up Zion or be part of the New Jerusalem? If we desire to be a part of this, what does the Lord expect of us to qualify for this great blessing?
Where can we find these answers? I believe we can find these answers in two places. First in the scriptures and secondly by the power of the Holy Ghost.
In upcoming posts we will explore these questions and hopefully find the answers.