How Can Zion Be Established Today?
For the average member today the building of the New Jerusalem seems far away and when we speak of the literal gathering of Israel this is what his mind reflects on. It is an amazing thing the commandment to gather the Saints saturates the scriptures more than any other doctrine, yet it is the most greatly ignored. It is truly the irony of the age. Still the leaders today must find some way to rationalize away the fact that they are not keeping this commandment which is so important that the earth would be “utterly wasted” without it.
In the scriptures when the Lord talks about Zion he speaks of coming “out of Babylon” but today when Zion is spoken of… what comes to mind? Let us quote Spencer W. Kimball: “As we speak of Zion, WE THINK OF THE WORLD, since this has become a worldwide church.” (Taken from Stockholm Area Conference Report, Page 5 Reprinted in 1979 Church History Sunday School Manual – MY KINGDOM, page 163)).
The authorities dare not come straight out and declare that we no longer believe in the literal gathering of Israel, for this would upset too many people. A much better idea is to change the meaning of the literal gathering of Israel. Today President Kimball equates Zion with the world so the members can live anywhere On the earth and still be literally gathered. This broad interpretation is nice and comfortable; for it erases all responsibility to live in harmony with the scriptures we have been given.
Bruce R. McConkie gives us a very comfortable definition of the gathering of Israel: “The gathering of Israel consists of joining the true church; of coming to a knowledge of the true God and of his saving truths; and of worshipping him in the congregations of the Saints IN ALL NATIONS AND AMONG ALL PEOPLES.” (Mexico City Area Conference August 1972)
According to this nebulous definition you can be “among” any other group of people and still be gathered. That may be a metaphysical gathering of sorts, but only the most foolish of the “workmen” could call it a literal gathering. When I used to discuss faith and works with individuals of different religions I thought that their definitions of “salvation” and “faith” was quite nebulous, but I must now admit that the current Latter-Day belief on a literal gathering takes the cake. I have come to understand the warning that if we are not faithful that we will lose the little we have. We have lost the entire concept which is the springboard to the kingdom of God… The literal gathering of Israel.
When one reads the scriptures and sees plainly that the commandment to literally gather is not being obeyed today one may find himself in somewhat of a dilemma. How can one literally gather when the Church does not even believe in it at present? Do LDS people even have authority to gather together without the sanction of the church? If then, the brethren are astray, are members therefore released from responsibility because it was originally placed upon the brethren?
Let us put it this way. Moroni said that if the promises (the gathering) made to the fathers is not planted “in the hearts of the children (you and me)… the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.” D&C 2:2-3 If you knew that the earth would be wasted if this commandment is not lived do you suppose that God would be happy to see you placing all the responsibility upon others and doing nothing yourself? Since God cannot interfere with man’s free agency don’t you suppose he would be happy to see some of his children step forth and attempt to do his will? Doesn’t it seem logical that he would lend his support to such a righteous endeavor?
“But,” says one, “We have no authority to gather God would not be pleased if we attempted it!”
On the contrary, I ask where do you get such an idea? It is true that Joseph Smith had the keys of the gathering of Israel delivered to him, but where does it say that you have to have the keys to be obedient to a commandment of God.
O ye of little faith! Can you not consider the words of Nephi that “the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” I Nephi 3:7. Has not the Lord commanded the literal gathering of Israel? If he has then has not the way been prepared?
The best way to figure out what to do in a certain circumstance in the present is to examine a similar circumstance in the past and see there how the prophets handled the situation. Thus if we proceed on our present circumstance according to the same pattern that God inspired in a similar circumstance in the past, then we will not go astray or be out of order.
When the Kingdom went astray in the days of Saul and Saul was the “anointed of the Lord” what did David do? He gathered out the righteous from among them and prepared for the day when the Lord’s house would be set in order.
When the kingdom was astray in the days of wicked King Noah what did Alma do when he was converted by the testimony of Abinidi? Did he wait around for King Noah, who was supposed to hold the keys of power in that area, to tell him what to do? No! If he did that he would still be waiting. Instead he received personal revelation to teach the righteous among them and then gather them out for the Lord had told his people that except they repent he “will lead away the righteous from among you.” Jacob 3:4.
In the days of the restoration of the Gospel there were several groups of people who had received revelation that the Lord was going to do a great work and they gathered together to prepare for such an event and they were in no way held under any condemnation. In one such instance Wilford Woodruff received a revelation to go and visit one such group of three hundred individuals and all of them save one accepted his message. All of the leaders acknowledged the hand of God in preparing groups such as these and not even the least of the saints considered them out of order because they did not have the keys.
But on the other hand, in a sense, they did have the keys as they are defined in the doctrine and covenants: “And as are the records on the earth in relation to your dead, which are truly made out, so also are the records in heaven. This therefore, is the sealing and binding power, and, in one sense of the word, the keys of the kingdom, WHICH CONSISTS IN THE KEY OF KNOWLEDGE.” D&C 128:14
Isn’t this interesting? In a sense the keys of the kingdom consists of “the key of knowledge.” This is why that even though the Jews had the right to the keys of the kingdom by ordination they had lost the “key of knowledge.” which key of knowledge John the Baptist had. Joseph Smith said that this was why John the Baptist was considered the greatest prophet – because he “wrested the KEYS, the kingdom, power, the glory FROM THE JEWS.” TPJS Pg 276 Why was John able to take the keys away from the Jews? Because he had the keys of knowledge.
When Joseph Smith imparted knowledge as to how to detect a true Spirit he said: “These are three grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God.” D&C 129:9 These “grand keys” consisted of knowledge only.
The only keys we have on record that Alma possessed is that he received knowledge or keys by revelation from God that enabled him to gather out the righteous.
Do we not have the key of knowledge of the literal gathering of Israel given to us by God today by revelation? God has appointed to us areas which will be places of refuge and this knowledge in itself is a “key” to survival. Can there then be any condemnation in gathering together in places that the Lord has appointed and being as the faithful workmen and building the strange structures the Master Builder has commanded, which structures are symbolic of the gathering places of the Lord. If we are then faithful workmen we will be blessed by our Lord and if a literal ordination of some kind is needed he will then take away the talent from the unfaithful servant and give it unto him who was faithful.
A question now naturally arises: “How are we to gather today? Circumstances are much different now than in the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. It was practical then to gather together, but not today.”
This may be what the authorities today would have you believe, but it is not true. In many ways it was just as impractical from the standpoint of the world to gather in the days of Joseph as it is today. We forget that this was the main reason the world fought against the Saints of that day. In that time the saints gathered by selling all they had and buying new lands all in the same area and built cities to the Lord. Many had to leave their homes and travel thousands of miles to Nauvoo and later to Salt Lake, and their transportation was not nearly as convenient as it is today. How then can you say that it was more practical in the days of Joseph Smith? How can one say this when many groups are successfully gathering today? The Amish, the Mennonites, and many Indian tribes are successfully gathered today, not to mention the gathering of millions of Jews in Israel. With all of this evidence in view how can the saints claim that it cannot be done today? In actuality the gathering of the saints in the early days was as much of an anomaly as it would be today. The whole world wondered at them at that day and they would wonder anew at a gathering today.
The big question is how are we to gather today when there is no place to flee to? Again that is answered from the scriptures: “Verily, thus saith the Lord, I say unto you, if those who call themselves by my name and are essaying to be my saints, if they will DO MY WILL AND KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS CONCERNING THEM, LET THEM GATHER THEMSELVES TOGETHER UNTO THE PLACES WHICH I SHALL APPOINT UNTO THEM BY MY SERVANT JOSEPH (And others) AND BUILD UP CITIES UNTO MY NAME,. that they may be prepared for that which is in store for a time to come.” D&C 125:2
As mentioned earlier these cities were to be called stakes and were to reach a population of from 15-20,000 and were to be presided over temporally by a stake Bishop. In the meeting in which the city of Nauvoo was contemplated and presided over by Joseph Smith they “wanted to know the views of the brethren, whether they wished to appoint this a stake of Zion or not; stating that he believed it to be a good place, and suited for the saints. It was then unanimously agreed upon that it should be appointed a stake and A PLACE OF GATHERING FOR THE SAINTS.” DHC 4:12
One will notice as he reads church history that the early stakes were appointed when there were virtually no saints living there yet. Today this process has been reversed whereas there has to be several thousand saints living in an area before the stake is created. This would not be done if the saints realized exactly what a stake is. A stake as taught by Joseph Smith is created by marking off a section of land for the building of a city of Zion by the gathering of the Saints. When the stake is designated it may at that time have zero inhabitants as Salt Lake Stake did, but from that time forth the Saints were to gather upon it until such time as it reaches a maximum population of 20,000. When this population limit is reached the excess leave and plot out another stake and gather there.
This is what the Lord was referring to when he said: “And behold, there is none other place appointed than that which I have appointed; neither shall there be any other place appointed than that which I have appointed, for the work of the gathering of my saints Until the day cometh WHEN THERE IS FOUND NO MORE ROOM FOR THEM; and then I have OTHER PLACES which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called STAKES, for the curtains or the strength of Zion. Behold it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, Should gather together and STAND IN HOLY PLACES.” D&C 101:20-22
God is commanding here as clear as the word can be to physically (not metaphysically as is taught today) gather together on Holy Places which are the Stakes of Zion. We are to create the first stake and when there is found no more room, or in other words, the population limit is reached, then the Lord will have us gather in other stakes. Stakes were not designed to be congregations of Saints blended in and living with Babylon, but Stakes were designed to be the method by which the Saints were to “come out of Babylon.” The stakes are to be for the “curtains or the strength of Zion.”
Heber C. Kimball said: “We have witnessed the flowing of the saints towards Zion; the stream has begun, and we expect to see it continue running until it shall have DRAINED THE SALT. OR THE LIGHT FROM BABYLON.” DHC 4:132 Thus the salt, the light, or the wheat is to be separated from the tares and gathered into barns (or stakes) whereas the wicked are bound in bundles to be burned. We are to gather upon a land “upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh; and I will give it unto you for the land of your inheritance, if you seek it with all your hearts.” D&C 38:18- 19. Where is there a land today that the Saints possess upon which there is no curse? There is none because we have not obeyed the commandment to gather the saints. The Lord’s advice to the Saints after they were expelled from Jackson County is still applicable today: “Carefully gather together, AS MUCH IN ONE REGION AS CAN BE, consistently with the feelings of the people. And behold I will give unto you favor and grace in their eyes, that you may rest in peace and safety, while you are saying unto the people: Execute judgment and justice for us according to the law, and redress us of our wrongs. Now, behold, I say unto you, my friends, in this way you may find favor in the eyes of the people, until the army of Israel becomes very great.” D&C 105;24-26
This was the advice the saints tried to follow after they were expelled; however, we must admit that their gathering places were not always consistent with the feelings of the people, for Babylon has no love for the saints.
If then, we are to obey the commandment to gather what are we to do? Can the commandment be obeyed today? The answer is solidly yes. There is no law of the church, the scriptures or man that prohibits any group from buying lands and gathering upon them. And since all are entitled to revelation all one has to do is to get an inner confirmation through payer that the gathering place is approve by the Spirit.
New places of refuge will be created until the central stake in Missouri can be redeemed. Today it is just as practical to buy “lands and gathering together upon them” and build cities to the name of the Lord as it was in the days of Joseph Smith. All that needs done is to find a group of people favorable to the idea. Once new cities or stakes are brought into existence there will be at last places of safety for the saints of the Most High God.
The Lord will bless these stakes or cities with an abundance of wealth so that the saints can gather up the wheat of the world and then when the desolation and the famine hits and wheat becomes worth its weight in gold the Saints will then be given dominion and people will be converted to the cause of Zion by the multitudes, and “they who have laughed will see their folly.” All of this was in Joseph Smith’s mind as evidenced in the words of Brigham Young while Joseph was yet alive: “Yet he (Joseph) will lay a plan to speculate as large as ancient Joseph did; he will have power to buy up all the rest of the world.” DHC 6:16
The time will come when the dollar will collapse and their will be famines and great tribulation and since we know these things in advance we have a chance to prepare as ancient Joseph did for when the famine came in his day he was given power over all his enemies because he had seven years supply of food. It is interesting to note that almost every story in the old Testament is a type or symbol of events which will transpire in the latter-days and the story of Joseph of Egypt will be repeated on a grand scale.
This final gathering is prophesied of in the scriptures: “Turn O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you ONE OF A CITY AND TWO OF A FAMILY, and will bring you unto Zion: And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jer 3:14-15 The Saints are so blinded by the craftiness of men today that very few will see the light and gather to places of refuge.
The gathering will not be for the members of the Church of Jesus Christ only, but for all lovers of freedom for all true lovers of freedom have the laws of God written in their hearts. Joseph Smith invited “all lovers of truth and correct principles to gather as well as the saints.” DHC 4:178. This type of people will be the inhabitants of the kingdom of God for the kingdom of God does not belong to any one church, but the saints of God will bring the kingdom.
Today numerous small groups are attempting to gather, some of them motivated by the Holy Ghost, but Joseph Smith said the gathering “has to be done by the council of Jehovah, by the revelations of heaven.” DHC 5:65. One of the reasons the gathering has to be done by the revelations of heaven is that great tribulation is going to be poured out and the only way to gain a knowledge of the safe locations is by revelation. Also, it will take the spirit of revelation and the approval of God to cause the Holy Ghost to motivate a large enough group of people to make the gathering successful.
Through the still small voice we have learned that the parable of the leaven will be fulfilled: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” Matt 13:33. Joseph Smith said that the parable referred to the last days when there would be little faith upon the earth. These people with this little faith are the leaven that will leaven the whole loaf after the period of tribulation. The grain which is to be leavened is the wheat which will be separated from the tares through the gathering of Israel.
Copyright 1979 by J J Dewey
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