1. The word Zion has several meanings.
D&C 97:21 The pure in heart
‘God has given us the perfect definition: Zion is the pure in heart-the pure in heart, not merely the pure in appearance. It is not a society or religion of forms and observances, of pious gestures and precious mannerisms: it is strictly a condition of the heart. Above all, Zion is pure, which means “not mixed with any impurities, unalloyed”; it is all Zion and nothing else. It is not achieved wherever a heart is pure or where two or three are pure, because it is all pure-it is a society, a community, and an environment into which no unclean thing can enter. “Henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean” (3 Nephi 20:36). It is not even pure people in a dirty environment, or pure people with a few impure ones among them; it is the perfectly pure in a perfectly pure environment. “I . . . will contend with Zion . . . and chasten her until she overcomes and is clean before me” (D&C 90:36).
This makes it so different from our world that it almost begins to sound distasteful. But a moment’s reflection will show that Zion cannot possibly be other than wholly pure. For Zion is the eternal order; it has existed elsewhere from the eternities and will someday be permanently established on this earth. Even the smallest impurity or flaw in anything designed to continue forever would, in the course of an infinite stretching of time, become a thing of infinite mischief. The most perfect structures men have been able to erect have been short-lived because of tiny, all-but-imperceptible flaws. Hence, any flaw, no matter how small, must be removed from a system designed to be timeless; otherwise, there will be no end of trouble.’ (Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, edited by Don E. Norton [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989], 27)
D&C 82:14 Stakes
‘Zion is to increase in size, beauty, and holiness. Think upon that challenge as if we spoke of a tent. Stakes must be added, but this is not to be a common tent. The curtains must be more beautiful. The activities within this tent are not to be common or profane. A larger, more beautiful, and holier tent sounds like a description of the ancient tabernacle. Reflect upon the words of President Howard W. Hunter, who invited the Church to “look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership.”
Why the call for beauty? Perhaps Zion will need to expand because its beauty will serve as an attraction to those it seeks to gather. Similarly, the call for increased holiness may be to ensure the Lord’s protecting hand upon the Church. Just as each component in a tent interacts with the other components to accomplish its purposes, perhaps the growth, beauty, and holiness of Zion interact to fulfill its destiny.’ (Richard W Hall, Her Stakes Must Be Strengthened)
D&C 45:66-67 The New Jerusalem
‘The city has yet to be built, and it will not be built and cannot be built except by a people who are living a celestial law. And after it is built, the fear and dread of the Lord will rest upon the wicked as they see how and in what manner the Lord preserves its righteous inhabitants.’ (Bruce R McConkie, The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 303.)
2. Zion has existed in previous dispensations.
Watch or read: Israel, Israel, God is Calling Jeffrey R Holland CES Broadcast
3. The Saints of our dispensation have been commanded to establish Zion.
D&C 6:6 Establish the cause of Zion
“The commandment to reestablish Zion became for the Saints of Joseph Smith’s day the central goal of the Church. But it was a goal the Church did not realize because its people were not fully prepared. In the wisdom of God, who comprehends the end from the beginning, the redemption of Zion will assuredly come as promised, but not until he has a prepared people who can live by Zion’s laws.” (William O. Nelson, “To Prepare a People,” Ensign, Jan. 1979, 18)
D&C 57:1-3 Independence
‘Let Israel gather to the stakes of Zion in all nations. Let every land be a Zion to those appointed to dwell there. Let the fullness of the gospel be for all the saints in all nations. Let no blessing be denied them. Let temples arise wherein the fullness of the ordinances of the Lord’s house may be administered….
But still there is a center place, a place where the chief temple shall stand, a place to which the Lord shall come, a place whence the law shall go forth to govern all the earth in that day when [Christ] reigns personally upon the earth. And that center place is what men now call Independence in Jackson County, Missouri, but which in a day to come will be the Zion of our God and the City of Holiness of his people. The site is selected; the place is known; the decree has gone forth; and the promised destiny is assured.’ (Bruce R McConkie, New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 595)
D&C 105:9 Wait for a little season
‘We must live God’s laws if we desire to reap his promises. The Latter-day Saints of Jackson County were a far better people than those who mobbed them and drove them from their homes; but a lack of preparedness hindered them from playing their full part in the great work that God had designed. The mighty event, however, was only postponed. Zion, in due time, will be redeemed; Israel will be gathered; and the preparation made that is necessary to precede the advent of the King of kings.’ (Orson F Whitney, Conference Report, October 1919, Afternoon Session 73.)
D&C 101:6-8 They polluted their inheritances
‘This great tribulation would not have come upon Zion had it not been for rebellion: Firstly, there were rebellions against the one to whom were entrusted the keys, & from thence it has spread down to the lowest & least member! not this alone, but those who were void of understanding were continually telling that which was not true, & putting false coloring to the things of God! I mean those whose mouths are continually open, & whose tongues cannot be stayed from tatling! & the church will never have peace while such remain in her, therefore, brethren purge them out, & have no confidence in any except such as will lay down their lives for this sacred cause for none others are worthy of it. It was necessary that these things should come upon us: not only justice demands it, but there was no other way to cleanse the church.’ (Oliver Cowdery, Letter to Missouri, 10 August 1833; josephsmithpapers.org)
D&C 38:27 If ye are not one ye are not mine
“If we are not united, we are not his. Here unity is the test of divine ownership as thus expressed. If we would be united in love and fellowship and harmony, this Church would convert the world, who would see in us the shining example of these qualities which evidence that divine ownership. Likewise, if in that Latter-day Saint home the husband and wife are in disharmony, bickering, and divorce is threatened, there is an evidence that one or both are not keeping the commandments of God.
“If we, in our wards and our branches, are divided, and there are factions not in harmony, it is but an evidence that there is something wrong. If two persons are at variance, arguing on different points of doctrine, no reasonable, thinking persons would say that both were speaking their different opinions by the Spirit of the Lord. …
“If it is so important, then, that this people be a united people, we might well expect that upon this principle the powers of Satan would descend for their greatest attack. We might well expect, also, that if there be those of apostate mind among us, they would be inclined to ridicule and to scorn this principle of oneness and unity as being narrow-minded or as being unprogressive. We would likewise expect that those who are enemies would also seek to fight against that principle.” (Harold B Lee, In Conference Report, Apr. 1950, pp. 97–98.)
D&C 64:34 The Lord requires the heart and a willing mind
‘It doesn’t say that the Lord requires competence, or a Ph.D. or immaculate housekeeping, or professional success. But it doesn’t say that he’ll be satisfied with a half-hearted you, either. He wants your whole heart, and for good reason. Real power does not lie in external forces, but in the heart’. (Chieko Okazaki, Lighten Up! [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 69.)
D&C 105:3 They have not learned to be obedient
‘In the early 1830’s, the Lord directed the Saints to implement the “royal law” by living the United Order. In this they failed. Because they did not learn to impart of their substance as becometh Saints to the poor and afflicted among them D&C 105:3 the Lord permitted them to be driven from Missouri, and the requirement that they live the United Order was withdrawn. But the “royal law” was not withdrawn. It remained in full force. At least partially to fulfil it, the Saints, since then, have been bound by the law of tithing and the “fast.”‘ (Marion G Romney, General Conference, October 1954)
D&C 97:13-14 A place of instruction
“Temple work … gives a wonderful opportunity for keeping alive our spiritual knowledge and strength. … The mighty perspective of eternity is unraveled before us in the holy temples; we see time from its infinite beginning to its endless end; and the drama of eternal life is unfolded before us. Then I see more clearly my place amidst the things of the universe, my place among the purposes of God; I am better able to place myself where I belong, and I am better able to value and to weigh, to separate and to organize the common, ordinary duties of my life, so that the little things shall not oppress me or take away my vision of the greater things that God has given us.” (John A Widtsoe, In Conference Report, Apr. 1922, pp. 97–98.)
D&C 105:10 That my people may be taught more perfectly
‘The modern Church even today is instructed to “wait for a little season” to build up central Zion. Why? So that we “may be prepared … and have experience.” (D&C 105:9-10.) We gain knowledge through particular experiences, but only incrementally, “in that thing.” (Alma 32:34.) Hence the ongoingness of it all, and perhaps we can be forgiven for wondering, “Is there no other way?” Personal, spiritual symmetry emerges only from the shaping of prolonged obedience. Twigs are bent, not snapped, into shape.
Without patient and meek endurance we will learn less, see less, feel less, and hear less. We who are egocentric and impatient shut down so much of our receiving capacity.
In any case, brothers and sisters, how could there be refining fires without enduring some heat? Or greater patience without enduring some instructive waiting? Or more empathy without bearing one another’s burdens-not only that others’ burdens may be lightened, but that we may be enlightened through greater empathy? How can there be later magnification without enduring some present deprivation?
The enlarging of the soul requires not only some remodeling, but some excavating. Hypocrisy, guile, and other imbedded traits do not go gladly or easily, but if we “endure it well” (D&C 121:8), we will not grow testy while being tested.
Moreover, we find that sorrow can actually enlarge the mind and heart in order to “give place,” expanded space for later joy.
Thus, enduring is one of the cardinal attributes; it simply cannot be developed without the laboratory time in this second estate. Even the best lectures about the theory of enduring are not enough. All the other cardinal virtues-love, patience, humility, mercy, purity, submissiveness, justice-they all require endurance for their full development.’ (Neal A Maxwell, “Endure It Well,” Ensign, May 1990, 34)
4. The scriptures include glorious promises about the future of Zion.
D&C 97:18 If Zion do these things she shall prosper
“The Saints did not build the temple in Jackson County. The command to build one ‘speedily’ must have sounded to them like a strange demand in light of their situation. Their leaders had been tarred and feathered. Their press had been destroyed and their homes ransacked and burned. Yet the Lord was counseling them to walk into the center of Independence and start laying the foundation of a temple.
“I have often wondered what would have happened if all the Saints in Missouri had dropped whatever they were doing, picked up their tools, and marched, en masse, to Independence and started digging foundations. It would have taken tremendous courage, but the history of the Church might have been much different. Let us never underestimate the protective power of the temple. ‘Every time a temple is dedicated to the Lord,’ Spencer W. Kimball said, ‘the darkness pushes farther back, . . . and light comes into the world.’ (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 534.)” (S. Michael Wilcox, House of Glory: Finding Personal Meaning in the Temple[Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 65 – 66)
D&C 97:25 Zion shall escape
‘My brethren and sisters, why should we hope to escape, who have been baptized into this Church, yet ignore the commandments of the Lord? For there are among us those who do not keep the Word of Wisdom, some of us do not pay our tithing; we do not sanctify ourselves by adding unto our faith, virtue: to virtue, knowledge, to knowledge, temperance, and patience, and godliness, and brotherly kindness. Why should we claim exemption-we who know the truth, we who have been warned, we who will testify that we believe God has spoken-why should we escape if we do not keep the commandments of the Lord? And I say this with a feeling in my heart of deep appreciation that the Latter-day Saints are, notwithstanding all this, the best people in the world… The Lord is speaking… to the whole Church, crying repentance unto us, calling us to set our houses in order, to keep the commandments of the Lord.’ (Melvin J Ballard, Conference Report, June 1919, Second Day-Morning Session 89.)