Early saints were eager to see site of 'City of Zion'

To see the site for the city of Zion, the Prophet Joseph Smith and a few associates eagerly walked "across the entire state of Missouri to Independence, Jackson County, a distance of nearly 300 miles as traveled . . . through the blazing heat of June and July," wrote George Q. Cannon in his Life of Joseph Smith.

"There was a charm about it which lightened toil. The pain and burdens were unworthy of notice in the delightful anticipation of seeing the land for which the Lord, as had been shown to him [Joseph SmithT by vision and prophecy, had reserved so glorious a future."The eagerness of the Prophet to reach the site was the expectation of receiving the revelation now known as the 57th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, which specified "the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion. . . . Behold the place that is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot not far from the courthouse." (D&C 57:3-3.)

At the time, Independence, now a suburb of Kansas City, was a four-year-old village. A description of the area later included in History of the Church 1:197-98, includes these passages:

"As far as the eye can reach the beautiful rolling prairies lie spread out like a sea of meadows; and are decorated with a growth of flowers so gorgeous and grand as to exceed description. . . .

"The soil is rich and fertile; from three to ten feet deep, and generally composed of a rich black mould, intermingled with clay and sand. It yields in abundance, wheat, corn, sweet potatoes, cotton and many other common agricultural products. . . . The wild game is less plentiful of course where man has commenced the cultivation of the soil, than in the wild prairies. Buffalo, elk deer, bear, wolves, beaver, and many smaller animals here roam at pleasure. Turkeys, geese, swans, ducks, yea, a variety of the feathered tribe, are among the rich abundance that grace the delightful regions of this goodly land."

Yet even as the Lord defined the center of Zion, He warned in a revelation 11 days later that "after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet but is nigh at hand." (D&C 58:4.)

Later in that revelation, the Lord reiterated: "The time has not yet come, for many years, for them to receive their inheritance in this land, except they desire it through the prayer of faith, only as it shall be appointed unto them of the Lord." (D&C 58:44.)

Looking back on the turbulent and trying experience the Saints eventually had in Missouri, Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote: "The All-knowing one knew in advance what those Zion-builders would do, or leave undone, and He shaped His plans accordingly. Evidently the time was not ripe for Zion's redemption. The Saints were not ready to build the New Jerusalem. The proof is in the trespasses committed by them against the divine law ordained for their government."

`Easy to fall' when seeking praise of men

The praise of the world is a gratification of the flesh to which many have succumbed. In the 58th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, Martin Harris is warned to "repent of his sins, for he seeketh the praise of the world." (D&C 58:39.)

"Everything is given by God," said Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Council of the Twelve in his April 1990 general conference address. "All talent, creativity, ability, insight and strength comes from Him. In our own strength we can do nothing. . . . When we seek the praise of man more than the praise of God, it will become easy to fall. . . ."

"God help us to humbly accept His blessings of strength and guidance. The wise and committed will praise His name forever and will avoid the very appearance of any attitudes that feature personal accomplishments or boastings."

President Spencer W. Kimball, in the April 1980 general conference, remarked: "The Savior urged us to put our hand to the plow without loooking back. In that spirit we are being asked to have humility and a deep and abiding faith in the Lord and to move forward - trusting in Him, refusing to be diverted from our course, either by the ways of the world or the praise of the world."

Contrast between slothful,'anxiously engaged' is vivid

"For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

"Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness. (D&C 58: 26-27.)

The scriptural contrast between "slothful" and "anxiously engaged" is particularly vivid. The adjective "slothful" is derived from the slow movements of the South American sloth, an odd animal about two feet long that hangs upside down from hooklike claws on tree limbs. It feeds slowly on leaves and buds. The sloth may fall asleep in its upside down position, and can continue to hang in this position for some time after it dies. Scientists say the sloth moves so slowly because of its extremely low body temperature.

In contrast to the scriptural description of "slothful" are people referred to by President Ezra Taft Benson as "spiritually alert."

"Usually the Lord gives us the overall objective to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but He expects us to work out most of the details and methods. The methods and procedures are usually developed through study and prayer and by living so that we can obtain and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Less spiritually advanced people, such as those in the days of Moses, had to be commanded in many things. Today those spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord and His prophets, and then prayerfully act - without having to be be commanded `in all things.' This attitude prepares men for godhood. . . .

"Sometimes the Lord hopefully waits on His children to act on their own, and when they do not, they lose the greater prize, and the Lord will either drop the entire matter and let them suffer the consequences or else He will have to spell it out in greater detail. Usually, I fear, the more He has to spell it out, the smaller is our reward." (Conference Report, April 1965.)


Articles on this page may be used in conjunction with the Gospel Doctrine course of study.

Information compiled by John L. Hart

Sources: A Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 1, by Daniel H. Ludlow; The Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, published by the Church Educational System; Conference Reports, April 1990; Conference Reports, April 1980; Conference Reports, April 1965; and World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 17, published by World Book-Childcraft International Inc.

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