While gathering hundreds of quotes by early LDS apostles and prophets, I was surprised to discover 92, of the over 500 found, made it clear that building of Zion was considered a central part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Last time, we reviewed the first subset of the 92 quotes; they made it clear that the early LDS missionaries were preaching that the Church was actively working to build Zion. According to another subset, building Zion was apparently one of the primary missions of the Church during Utah’s early years.
Remember back in 1981, President Spencer W. Kimball outlined very succinctly the three-fold mission of the LDS Church (Preach the Gospel, Redeem the Dead, and Perfect the Saints)? Unfortunately, no leader in the early days of the church sat down and took the time to outline it’s mission is such a clear and succinct way as President Kimball. However, in reading these 17 quotes, it became very clear what that mission included. Here’s four that are representative:
In 1857 Brother Brigham said, “There is no time allotted to us to use outside of the limits of duty. But in doing our duty, in serving our God, in living our religion, in using every possible means to  send forth the Gospel of salvation to the inhabitants of the earth,  to gather Israel, and  establish Zion, and  build up the kingdom of heaven upon the earth are incorporated all blessings, all comforts that men can desire.” (numbering added).
Five years later, Apostle Daniel H. Wells said, “Here is the Mission of the Saints to go and aid in the gathering of the poor, to labor here for the building of the Temple… and prepare to redeem Zion and to build up the waste places thereof, and to establish the principles of righteousness and truth upon the earth.”
In 1873, Apostle Erastus Snow said, “We are called to set our hearts upon the living God, who has called us to be his people, and to worship him with full purpose of heart. If he gives us houses and lands… gold and silver and the precious things of the earth, receive them with thanksgiving, and hallow and sanctify them and dedicate and consecrate them to the building up of Zion, the house of our God, the gathering together of his Saints, the preaching of his Gospel to the ends of the earth, and the accomplishment of the great work, whereunto God has called us in the latter days.”
In 1878, within a year of Brigham’s death, President John Taylor reiterated the Church’s mission and building Zion’s role in that mission. He said, “…we have a mission to perform, and that is to preach the Gospel…, to build up his Zion upon the earth, and to prepare a people for the time when the bursting heavens will reveal the Son of God….”
After reading all 17 quotes, it becomes clear that the Church’s mission at that time included four major elements:
1. Preach the gospel,
2. Gather the Saints,
3. Build Zion, and
4. Erect Temples
Today’s “Perfect the Saints”, though not having its own distinct program as the other two do, is perhaps intended to prepare us to build Zion — eventually.