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In a recent Facebook conversation, some active LDS members and I were discussing the idea of building Zion organizations and communities prior to Christ’s coming. I was struck by what appears to be a common belief, that when people hear the phrase “building Zion”, they only seem to think about when the Saints will be building the New Jerusalem. To many, apparently, building Zion is synonymous with building the New Jerusalem.
Of course, the New Jerusalem will definitely be a Zion society, no question. And we were all in agreement that Christ and his prophets will be heading up that effort, and appropriately so. But my sense was that those discussing the matter with me had an underlying assumption that since Christ is in charge of it, there’s really nothing we can do ahead of time to prepare, other than repenting and purifying our hearts, which of course is a crucial preparation. It felt almost as if they assumed a stance of powerlessness in building Zion, as if there was nothing tangible they could be doing to prepare themselves to live successfully in a Zion community.
One friend, an earnest Tongan, mentioned that the best way to prepare to be selected to participate in the building of the New Jerusalem Zion society is to repent of our sins and purify our hearts. And he mentioned how important it was that we as married people become a Zion couple by repenting of our sins as well.
Seeing an opening there, here’s how the conversation followed:
Me: So, is it easier for a single person, or a married person to identify and repent of their sins (or weaknesses)
that prevent them from being happily married?
Him: A married person of course.
Me: So, where is it easier for a person to identify and repent of their sins that would prevent them
from successfully living in a Zion society, inside a Zion society or in Babylon?
Him: That’s different…
Me: [rolls eyes]
It’s the same! If I want to overcome my shortcomings that would hamper me at getting along with a spouse then the best place to do that is in a marriage. And the best place to learn to get along with others in a Zion society is in a Zion society.
And here’s my supporting evidence. Did Enoch’s Zion get translated right after they set up their Zion society? No, it took them 300 years to repent of all their sins and to work out all the bugs! So, I’m thinking, we had better better get started on that 300 year process!
Here’s my proposal:
Let’s find a group of people determined to establish and live in a pre-New Jerusalem Zion society as a way to prepare for the real thing. We would do it under the “many-good-things-of-their-own-free-will-and-choice” clause (D&C 58:27). We would work as a council to study out and make a solid plan for carefully moving in the direction of establishing a community. Figure out how we would sustain ourselves, where we might set up such a community, establish decision-making and conflict-resolution strategies, and how we could create steppingstones to help us achieve the goal.
If they did it, why can’t we?
Brigham Young and John Taylor spent 40 years, from 1847 to 1887 trying to build a Zion society in Territorial Utah. They made some amazing progress in spite of having to drag many of the Saints kicking and screaming towards the realization of the ideal society. I believe we can learn from both their successes and their failures and establish one or more communities that will be “Zion Learning Laboratories”.