In recent articles here, we’ve seen how building Zion was a central doctrine of the LDS Church. Actually, the early Saints were actively building a Zion society here in Utah from the very start, and not just spiritually.
LDS historian Leonard J. Arrington reported how the advance company set the pattern of central planning and united labor for the entire colonization of the West by the Mormons at their first camp meeting held in the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847. “Leaders and followers reached a consensus that they would not ‘scatter’ their labors—that they would combine and concentrate their efforts and work cooperatively—that a Kingdom built in any other way was a fraud….”
So, they broke up into teams and got to work cooperatively providing the group with food, land, homes, protection, and building materials. One group plowed and planted 35 acres of land with garden vegetables and grains. Another group tried their hand at hunting and fishing, which did not go so well. Another committee produced an abundant supply of salt from the lake. One group laid out the grid system of streets and home lots for Salt Lake City. A large group of 92 people were assigned to build a fort and temporary log cabins inside. They built 29 log houses, sixteen feet long by fourteen feet wide. The timber committee located trees in a nearby canyon, constructed a road, and extracted logs used for the cabins.
This unity of purpose and labor characterized the next 40 years as modern Israel labored to carve out an ideal society in the wilderness. During this time, the Church leaders “uncompromisingly held to self-sufficiency as the official policy” of the Church–they were determined that the Saints as a people would work together to become economically independent of Babylon.
That drive for an economically independent Zion society led to the Church to establish the Perpetual Immigration Company, The Public Works Department, numerous industrial development “missions”, railroad companies, cooperative merchandizing institutions, and finally, United Orders in every stake.
Even after the rapid and widespread failure of the Church’s second attempt to implement United Orders, and, after the death of Brigham Young, enormous efforts were made under President John Taylor through the instrumentality of his Zions Central Boards of Trade. For four decades the central focus of the LDS Church was to build a Zion society to prepare for Christ’s return.