Summary: The prophet Micah prophesied that “in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and… the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” In our day the Lord has said that Zion is defined as the pure in heart, and he has commanded us to build up Zion. In this sense, the name Zion more specifically refers to a place where the righteous will live, but what is the Lord’s definition of what it means to be righteous, and how exactly do we build up Zion? This article examines this question.
The prophet Micah prophesied that “in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1,2).
Most Christian churches understand this scripture as referring to when Christ comes again in power and glory to rule and reign on the earth for a thousand years. At that time the city of Jerusalem will become the place where God’s throne will be located and it is from there that he will govern the entire world.
The scriptures refer to the place where God lives as a temple and so it is said that in the days when Christ returns, his throne will be located in the temple that will be built in Jerusalem. Since a king is a lawgiver, meaning that he is the one who decrees what the laws of his kingdom will be, Micah is saying that all the nations of the earth will flock to Jerusalem to learn the word of the Lord, and it is from Jerusalem that the king will send forth his law.
Throughout the Old Testament, the city of Jerusalem has been referred to as “the holy city,” “the city of God,” or “Zion.” However, throughout its history, Jerusalem has not always been a holy city, nor has it been a city that has worshipped God as they should. Quite frequently, iniquity, wickedness, idolatry, and corruption have been more the norm for those who lived there than it has been the exception, and it was for this very reason that God has destroyed it on several occasions.
However, the scriptures prophecy that when Christ returns to the earth, Jerusalem will once more become a holy city, where the people who dwell there will do so in righteousness and where “the uncircumcised and defiled (spiritually unclean) will not enter again” (Isaiah 52:1). In that day “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).
But the scriptures also describe Zion as being “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22), as well as the church of God, with Jesus “as the cornerstone of Zion” (1 Peter 2:6). Thus, the term Zion can also have a spiritual meaning that refers to the righteous who worship God.
When Christ comes again in glory, the city of Jerusalem will truly become the city of God and will be known more by the name of Zion. In this sense, the name Zion more specifically refers to a place where the righteous will live. And because there will be no more wickedness on the earth during Christ’s thousand-year reign, (because it’s assumed that all those who are wicked will have perished by then), only the righteous will remain alive on the earth. And if that is true then it would seem that everyone will be welcome to live in city of God.
The commonly accepted idea of what it means to be righteous is simply to believe in Christ. Thus, it is said that when Christ comes in glory, those who profess a belief in him will be caught up in the clouds while all those who rejected Christ as their Savior will be destroyed. But if Christ will rule over the righteous, and will be their lawgiver, then it’s obvious that the righteous will be expected to follow God’s word that will come forth out of Jerusalem. And that also means that those who don’t follow his law can’t be numbered among righteous.
But God has already given us his law as contained in his word, the Bible. Those who say that we are saved without needing to do any “works” (i.e., keeping his commandments) are already choosing not to obey the king they say they believe in. Therefore, it’s clear that those who will live with Christ during his millennial reign are those who are willing to obey his laws now! What that further implies is that we need to become a people who are worthy of living in Zion before Christ comes again, so that we are righteous enough to be worthy of living with him when he personally reigns on the earth. Therefore, it’s important that we understand what we need to do in order to be prepared and ready to live under Christ’s rule.
In the book of Moses we read, “And the Lord called his people Zion because they were of one heart and one mind and dwelt in righteousness and there were no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18). In our day the Lord has said that Zion is defined as the pure in heart (D&C 97:21).
There are several things we learn from these verses of scripture. One is that we must “dwell in righteousness.” It’s not enough just to be righteous, but in addition to that we must “dwell” in righteousness, meaning that we must be living a righteous life. But to understand what that means we first need to define what it means to be “righteous.”
In its simplest meaning, to be righteous is to do what is right. But that then raises the question of what is “right” and what is “wrong” and who determines that? Since God is totally righteous, therefore when we keep his commandments and follow his word then we can be sure that what we are doing is always right.
The word “dwell” means to live in a certain location. All of us have homes we live in but we also live on the earth therefore, to dwell in righteousness means to do that which is right and avoid doing that which is wrong as we dwell or live our life here on earth. It means that wherever we are and whatever we’re doing we are constantly and continually living according to the commandments God has given us.
To put this in its proper perspective, as Christians we proclaim that Jesus is our Lord and Master, and that we are his servants. As such, when we worship Christ, we are acknowledging that he is our King and that we are his loyal subjects. When Christ comes back to take his rightful place as king over the entire earth, we will all be his subjects and at that time his word will be our law and we will all be required to obey his every command.
But if we who call ourselves believers in Christ are not willing to do that now when Christ is not on the earth, then why would we think that we would be any different when he comes back? If we believe that the righteous will be caught up in the clouds to be with him as he descends to earth in glory, then it appears that “the righteous” will be those who have already been striving to keep his word.
But the people of Zion must not only be righteous but they must also be “of one heart and one mind.” The Lord has told us “I say unto you, be one, and if ye are not one, ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27). That not only means being one with God but with each other as well.
To be one with God means to love what he loves and to despise what he hates. It means thinking like he thinks and doing what he does. In short, to be one with God means being just like him, and the way we do that is by keeping his law, which are the commandments he gives us. When we do that, we are showing how much we truly love and respect him. And the opposite is just as true. When we say that we love God but then refuse to do as he says, we are a liar, and the truth is not in us (1 John 2:4).
However, being a Zion people also includes being one with each other. In many of his epistles Paul stressed the importance of unity and even taught that the purpose of the church was to bring us to a unity of the faith (Ephesian 4:12). When the resurrected Jesus visited the Nephites, he gave them a strong commandment that there should be no contention among them (3 Nephi 11:22) and during his mortal ministry Jesus taught, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, [even] as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
To be one with God and with each other fulfills the two greatest commandments to love God with all of our heart, mind, and soul, and to love our neighbor as our we love ourselves, which takes us to the third thing we learn from the definition of Zion, which is that there are to be “no poor among them.”
In his great sermon, King Benjamin talked about all that God does for his children, and Jesus likewise taught how God provides for both the righteous and the wicked. If God provides for our needs out of love, then when we care for the poor, we’re not only loving our neighbor but we’re emulating what God does out of love for his children. Thus, by caring for the poor and the needy we’re behaving like our Father in heaven. In essence, we’re doing God’s work here on earth.
But when Christ comes to rule on the earth, will we no longer need to care about the poor? Will the earth be so full of food that no one will ever go hungry? Will everyone become so prosperous that no one will ever want for anything?
The United States of America is unarguably the wealthiest, most prosperous nation in the world today, and yet, there are “poor” people living here, and there are many reasons why, such as sickness, disability, lack of skills or job opportunities, personal family circumstances, and a host of other reasons. If this is true in the most prosperous nation in the world, it can certainly be the case during the millennium.
If there must be a Zion-like people on the earth before Christ comes again, then Zion has to be established on the earth first, and in Zion there can be “no poor among them.” In other words, one of the things we have to do to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ is to take good care of the poor. Without doing that, Zion can’t be fully established.
The Lord has explained, “Behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them; And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom; And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself” (D&C 105:4-5).
If Zion is made up of a righteous people who are pure in heart and who love their neighbor as themselves, especially the poor, then how do we become a Zion people? The Lord gave us the answer when he said, “And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (D&C 115:6).
The way we build up Zion is first, in our homes. Our Church leaders have said that our homes should be as sacred as the temple. That means the spirit, atmosphere, environment, or attitude that should exist in our home should be like that found in the temple, where love, kindness, and Christ-like behavior abounds. Of course, that’s the ideal, but while most homes fall far short of that, yet that’s what we should be striving to create.
But how does gathering in our wards, branches, and stakes help us to become more Zion-like, especially during times of great wickedness?
There are two ways. The first is by mingling with other saints. As we go about our daily lives, we are constantly bombarded with a multitude of unrighteous influences that weaken us spiritually. They 0can come at us through television, radio, newspaper, and even in our workplace. The world is swimming in a lake of toxic spiritual negativity that is getting worse every year. And because we live in the world, we can’t help but be affected by what is going on around us.
When we attend our ward and stake meetings, we associate with people who hold the same values we do and we come together in an atmosphere of uplifting spiritual feelings of love. Most wards members are noted for their talkativeness before sacrament meetings begin and when church has ended because they are glad to see and be with one another. As such, when we enter our wards, branches, and stakes it’s like leaving a smoke-filled room and entering a place where we can breathe fresh air, or it’s like taking a spiritual shower that washes away at least some of the filth we’ve picked up from being in the world.
But the second way gathering at our wards, branches, and stakes is important to becoming a Zion people is to learn more about the gospel and to worship God. If mingling with the saints can refresh and revive our drooping spirits, image the strength we can gain from mingling with the Holy Ghost? The sacrament prayer reminds us that when we do as God asks, we are promised to have his Spirit to be with us always. As we worship God, He endows us with his power to resist temptations and to overcome evil.
But if we come to church just to enjoy being with other saints but neglect to truly worship God, then we are denying ourselves the spiritual tools we’ll need to resist the ways of the world. The scriptures described the church as being “a defense and a refuge.” In the past, people built forts that protected them from outside attacks, and one of the important features of a fort is its armory, which is where the ammunition and weapons are stored.
Throughout the week, as we battle the influences of evil in our life, our weapons can become dull, and our ammunition can run a little low. When we gather together to worship God, it’s like having our swords sharpened, our ammunition resupplied, and the chinks in our armor repaired. But when we gather at church just for the purpose of fellowshipping with our friends, without taking the time to draw closer to Christ through worship, that’s like walking into the armory, talking with the people there, and then going back out into the battle without arming ourselves with new weapons.
However, when Christ comes again, it won’t be just the living righteous who will greet the Lord. The apostle Paul taught, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). As member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that the gospel is being preached to those who have died who have not had the opportunity to hear it when they lived on earth, and those who accept it will also rise from the grave to meet Christ upon his return
The prophet Malachi declared, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6). In our day, the prophet Joseph F. Smith explained, “The Prophet Elijah was to plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to their fathers, Foreshadowing the great work to be done in the temples of the Lord in the dispensation of the fulness of times, for the redemption of the dead, and the sealing of the children to their parents, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse and utterly wasted at his coming” (D&C 138:47-48).
The question we need to ask ourselves is, what are the promises God made to our fathers and why would the earth be utterly wasted if these promises aren’t kept?
The answer to both of these questions goes back to the grand council in heaven where God, our Father, presented a plan whereby we could become just like him. That plan wasn’t about just gaining a physical body and learning about good and evil. It wasn’t just about returning back to live in the celestial kingdom. It was about becoming like God!
God is an exalted being who is able to create spirit children and whom he then helps to become exalted like him. That’s what brings him glory, and that’s what his work is all about. But to do that we have to make certain covenants and have experiences that will prepare us for that greatest of all blessings.
That was the promise our Father, God, gave to us before the earth was ever created, and this was the promise made to Abraham. The apostle Paul taught: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians. 3:29). In speaking of that promise, the Lord has said, “Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved. But if ye enter not into my law ye cannot receive the promise of my Father, which he made unto Abraham” (D&C 132:32-33). When the scriptures talk about being “saved” it is specifically referring to exaltation. Anything less than that damns or stops our progression. Therefore, part of the Abrahamic covenant, or promise God made to our father Abraham was that he and his seed would be heirs of exaltation, and Paul taught that even those Gentiles who accepted the gospel would be counted as “heirs according to the promise” God made to Abraham” (Galatians 3:29).
There are an untold number of spirits who came to this earth knowing there was no chance for them to hear the gospel and to make the necessary covenants, or who have not had the opportunity to accept the gospel when it was upon the earth. If we don’t bring the gospel to them, or fail to do the work for them once they’ve left mortality then their time here on earth will have been for nothing and the plan of our Father will have been frustrated and the purpose of earth life will have been wasted.
Just before he ascended into heaven Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world and then the shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).
Christ cannot dwell in an unrighteous place, therefore, righteousness must first cover the earth as the waters cover the seas before Christ can return. This is why the Lord has said, “Behold, I say unto you, keep my commandments, and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion” (D&C 6:6).
When Christ returns in glory there must be a Zion people who are prepared and ready to receive him as their king and ruler, and they are those who are already willing to obey his word, care for the poor and work to bring people to Christ. When that is the desire of our heart, we are not only showing our love and devotion to Christ but are more fully preparing ourselves to receive him.
Related articles can be found at The Nature of Spiritual Growth