In addition to the attention each Mormon gives to his own personal salvation, there is a duty we shoulder to build up the kingdom of God on Earth. This is a mission of social justice that may have interest to many on this forum.
Most Christians might associate the term Zion with Jerusalem and most modern observers associate the term with the political movement to establish a home for the descendants of Israel. To Mormons, Zion has deep meanings that are rooted in modern-day revelations.
The Mormon scriptures refer to an ancient prophet Enoch who founded the antediluvian city of Zion. Two generations before the great flood in Noah’s day, Enoch was a mighty prophet. He lived in a time of great violence upon the earth. Through his preaching, he gathered followers from among the various city-states of the known world into a community. This community lived in a system of social equality that involved redistribution of wealth and a system of private stewardships over properties consecrated to the community. In this manner, they were able to successfully eliminate poverty among them. Although the ancient city of Zion was targeted for military conquest by those around it, it was protected by divine power.
Eventually, the righteousness and unity of this people became so great that Zion was taken up from the earth. Its inhabitants were “translated,” meaning that they were transformed from a mortal state to one of intermediate immortality. They passed from life into immortality without tasting of death.
Our scriptures also speak of Melchizedek who was an ancient high priest, to whom even Abraham paid tithes. Very little is known of him other than that he was a figure similar to Enoch. Melchizedek was the king of Salem, who converted a hardened people by his preaching and organized them similarly to Enoch’s people. For this, he became known as the King of Peace, and is considered to be an archetype of Christ before the Savior’s birth.
In the first century after the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ, the apostles organized the Church according to these principles and had “all things in common” (Acts 2:44). It appears to be a characteristic that, whenever God bestows keys of authority among mortals, calls prophets, and ordains apostles, that this economic effort becomes a priority along with evangelization.
Following the restoration of the gospel in modern times through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the early latter-day saints organized themselves with limited success into “united orders” in which consecrated properties were redistributed into “stewardships” which were administered by individuals and families. The communal principles were observed voluntarily from the late 1830s into the 1870s. It is anticipated that, at some future time, the Church will transition into this economic model in a time of great need. It will be associated with a period of extensive gathering and migration, during which the city of New Jerusalem will be constructed by saints and a “remnant of Jacob” near what is present-day Independence, Missouri (3 Nephi 21:23).
Thus, to us Zion is not only the city of Jerusalem. It is a prototype of a righteous society, one which can successfully address the effects of poverty and need. Every Mormon who has received the covenants of the temple is committed to laboring for the eventual advent of this society. This belief engages us in humanitarian efforts, efforts to address issues of social justice, and to be devoted members of the Church.
Zion cannot be legislated into existence, but its conditions will emerge as humanity experiences a mighty change of heart (Mosiah 5:2, Alma 5:13-14) and turns from evil. It will be a gradual process until a tipping point occurs, and then its influence will expand naturally and rapidly. The process is a peaceful one that come as men and women sanctify themselves and yield their hearts unto God (Helaman 3:35). The ultimate definition of Zion is defined in our scriptures as “the pure in heart” (Doctrine and Covenants 97:21). Zion will be established at some point prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, but its influence in the world will expand primarily during a thousand-year period of peace following that event.
Zion will be built one individual, one family, one city, and one nation at a time. It is the dream of every latter-day saint to see the day when the Zion of God will stand established upon the earth again. It is an ideal we seek to achieve in our homes and within our personal lives.