|Current Condition ....|
One central effort of the Restoration is the establishment of Zion -- the holy city to which the righteous could gather and the Savior descend -- a place of equality where there are no poor and each is a partaker of the heavenly gifts. Establishment of this righteous city became an early goal of the church. Before its official organization, the Lord spoke to David Whitmer and said, "Seek to bring forth and establish my Zion" (D&C 12:3a).
Zion is not merely a philosophical or social concept designed to enlighten or transform cultures and communities, but a real city in a specific place. A year after the church was organized, God revealed Zion's location, saying first that Missouri was "the land which I will consecrate unto my people, which are a remnant of Jacob, and those who are heirs according to the covenant" (D&C 52:1b). A month later he spoke more definitely about the "land of Missouri," saying that it "is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the Saints: wherefore this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion. . . The place which is now called Independence, is the Center Place, and the spot for the Temple; . . . wherefore it is wisdom that the land should be purchased by the Saints" (D&C 57:1).
Once Zion's location was identified, church members began flocking to its spot. They gathered to Independence and vicinity, founding businesses and purchasing lands. Many tracts were bought directly from the federal government, making the church and the saints the first owners of record. The residents of Independence tolerated the Saints for only a short period of time. Political differences and religious intolerance created a hotbed of hostility. Most earlier Independence residents came from Virginia, a slave state at the time, but the saints came from New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, all free states. In addition, when the Indians requested that only missionaries who were elders of the restored church be permitted in Indian territory -- a request made after the first mission to the Indians distributed the Book of Mormon among them -- missionaries from other denominations, being barred from completing their assignments, spread animosity against Mormonism throughout Western Missouri. The malice finally motivated Independence residents to forcibly drive the saints from Jackson County in late 1833. In 1837 they were banned from Missouri by Governor Boggs' infamous extermination order.
God blamed the saints for their expulsion, placing the cause directly on their collective disobedience. He said, "There were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances" (D&C 98:3a).
Despite their forced exile, God promised that the faithful would return. He said, "They that remain and are pure in heart shall return and come to their inheritances; they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy; to build up the waste places of Zion" (D&C 98:4g). Among those driven from Missouri were Emma, Joseph III and Alexander Smith. They and their children, David Smith, Vida Smith and Audentia Anderson returned to the land of Zion, writing hymns of joy, some of which are still fervently sung by the saints. The promise to reinhabit Zion was fulfilled in the Reorganization.
When announcing that the faithful would return to the land of Zion, God promised that once they returned, they would not be driven away again. He said, "I have decreed that your brethren, which have been scattered, shall return to the land of their inheritances and build up the waste places of Zion; for after much tribulation, as I said in a former commandment, cometh the blessing. Behold, this is the blessing which I have promised after your tribulations, and the tribulations of your brethren; your redemption, and the redemption of your brethren, even their restoration to the land of Zion, to be established, no more to be thrown down" (D&C 100:3a-b). Once the Reorganization returned the faithful to the land of Zion, God's promise assured the saints that all of them would not be driven away anymore.
Couched within the promise of the saints' return is a warning. After vowing that the faithful would not be overthrown again, he added, "Nevertheless, if they pollute their inheritances, they shall be thrown down; for I will not spare them if they pollute their inheritances" (D&C 100:3c). Individual saints who pollute themselves with the same jarrings, contentions, envyings, strifes and lustful and covetous desires that polluted earlier saints would not always be tolerated in the land that would eventually serve as the site of the holy city. They would be removed. Latter-day revelation specifies, "The rebellious shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land; for verily, I say that the rebellious are not of the blood of Ephraim, wherefore they shall be plucked out" (D&C 64:7b).
Some might conclude that the prophecies predicting the expulsion of the disobedient were fulfilled in 1833 when the saints were driven from Jackson County. If that conclusion is true, then every saint must have been rebellious and all other residents of Independence obedient. People who drive women and children from hearth and home in the middle of a winter night, such as those who attacked the saints in Independence, are not righteous. The revelation promising the removal of the disobedient from the land of Zion was not fulfilled in 1833, but awaits completion at a time after the Reorganization returned the faithful to Independence. Since the same revelation that promises the return of the faithful, "no more to be thrown down," raises the possibility that some would later "pollute their inheritances," the cleansing of the land of Zion must also occur after individual members of the Reorganization begin polluting their inheritances.
Jesus described the cleansing of his kingdom. He told his disciples when he was personally on earth, "Before the Son of Man shall come, he shall send forth his angels and messengers of heaven. And they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them out among the wicked" (Matt 13:42-43). Prior to the Lord's glorious return, but evidently a precursor to it, Jesus will purify his kingdom by removing the disobedient from it.
When divinely commissioned men preach the gospel in truth and simplicity, they attract converts. Some of those believers prove at a later date to be unfaithful, returning to their former tenets and conduct, or embracing new but deviant doctrines and actions. Jesus revealed that tendency and indicated his response to it. He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels; but cast the bad away. So it shall be at the end of the world. The angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them out into the world to be burned" (Matt 13:48,49,51).
God established his kingdom on earth again through Joseph Smith. He said, "The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth" (D&C 65:1b). The Reorganization, as the successor to the original church, became Christ's kingdom on earth in our era. As it preached the gospel during the last century and a half, it has gathered many into its organization, both good and bad. The scriptures imply that the bad in Christ's kingdom will pollute their inheritances and that the Lord will both separate the good from the bad and remove the bad from his kingdom before his descent. The removal of unfaithful, or rebellious, saints from the land of Zion is the meaning of the prophetic words, "They shall be thrown down; for I will not spare them if they pollute their inheritances" (D&C 100:3d).
Some believe that the Reorganization as a church will be cast down if it pollutes itself. The cited scripture never refers to an organization. It speaks of brethren who after tribulation are restored to the land of Zion. These as individuals are the ones that will be overthrown if they prove unfaithful. The Reorganization may become contaminated, but, if it does, it is contaminated by people. These people are those who will be thrown down, severed and cast out. The church will not be removed, but cleansed. According to the promises, it will not be rejected, but will remain.
The removal of the wicked from the kingdom, or "the cleansing of the church," will occur under the following circumstances:
1 - It must happen after the Reorganization returns the faithful saints of the original church, along with their children, to the land of Zion (a condition that is now fulfilled);
2 - after the saints have polluted themselves with false tenets and unsaintly behavior; and
3 - near the time of the Savior's glorious descent from heaven.
The Bible prophesies that in the last days, immediately before Zion's cleansing, wantonness would increase among the faithful in Zion. Through Isaiah, the Holy Ghost said, "The daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet" (Is 3:16). As affluence increased after World War II, many saints, enticed by the growing materialism about them, sought the benefits wealth provides. They adopted worldly goals and standards until they no longer appeared different than their surrounding culture. Zachariah predicted this condition when he lamented, "Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon" (Zech 3:7). Too many saints placed their attention, concerns and hopes on temporal matters, weaving worldliness with gospel principles, until they polluted their spiritual inheritances.
The Lord specifically warned the saints of this development, saying, "Behold, houses have been builded unto me and have been, nevertheless, reserved for pleasures which do not enrich the soul. Altars have been dedicated unto me and have been shared with other gods. The mammon of this world hath been sought by guile and oppression and unseemly desire by some; and because a portion thereof has been given as a tithe or an offering unto me, it hath been imagined that I will wink at these things. . . Behold and consider: if my weapons are not sufficient for your faith, shall these things give them increase? Or shall ye add that which is carnal to make effective the work for which my spirit hath been given? Shall I be content while this evil doth pollute my estate?(1)
Divine warnings always include a call to repentance. While the Lord continued to warn the Reorganization, he invited the saints to prepare for the time in which he would hasten his work (D&C 85:20a). He said, "I admonish the church, and particularly those of the priesthood, that the hastening time being upon us there is great necessity for confidence in the men of the church chosen for positions of great responsibility" (D&C 132:3a), adding later, "The hastening time is here and greater unity than ever before is necessary if the forces of opposition are to be met" (D&C 135:2b). In a later revelation, the Lord told the saints that the unity to which he was inviting them was necessary for them to successfully confront a coming crisis. Elbert A. Smith, acting in his office as Presiding Patriarch and following the request of the General Conference, brought a revelation from the Lord to the 1946 conference. Part of it designated Israel A. Smith to succeed Fred M. Smith. Another part carried this ominous warning, "Let the ministers of the Lord in every grade and station stand before the people in a demonstration that the law of reconciliation is observed among them, that their admonitions to the Saints to dwell together in peace may have weight. This counsel is of great importance because there remain other times of change and a time of crisis difficult to meet; and the men of the ministry should be prepared to meet such a time with wisdom, patience, faith, and under divine guidance which will be given to a united people -- united in righteousness."(2)
That time of crisis came. Not only did many church members begin to turn their attention to the world, but they began revising their beliefs and doctrines. At the 1966 conference, the First Presidency announced in a report entitled Statement on Objectives for the Church a new plan to reinterpret some beliefs. Since that time, the Reorganization has reassessed its mission, reinterpreted its history, and revised its tenets. Some specific changes include permitting abortion for reasons of health, viewing homosexuality as acceptable behavior, ordaining women to priesthood offices, and serving the communion emblems to nonmembers. Not all church members have endorsed the changes. Disagreement and fragmentation accompanied the modifications until the saints were divided by conservative and liberal views. Meanwhile, various members have judged others and accused them of wrongdoing. Their conduct fulfills one of the prophecies that Jesus gave. While describing the last days, he said, "If that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the Lord of the servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and shall appoint him his portion with the hypocrites" (Matt 24:55). The division means that some saints worship in independent settings, others formed new churches, and many no longer attend at all. The once long-established harmony that pervaded church fellowship lies shattered. Now, thirty-five years after the revision process was announced, many saints remain wounded from the conflict, leaving the church unable to find the peace it advocates from its pulpits.
God promised to purge his church of members who had polluted themselves and, in the process, perhaps contaminated the Reorganization. He warned, "Behold the brick that is not burned and the mortar which is not tempered--yea, and the material which I have not selected--shall not find permanent place with that of my choosing; for my fires shall consume and my floods shall overwhelm, and men within and without my church shall yet learn that but one pattern hath been given by which ye shall build, if I shall accept your labor."(3) God promised that when the saints would corrupt his pattern with their own wisdom, he would bring a divine judgment that would leave only holy residents in Zion. He said, "It shall come to pass, they that are left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even everyone that is written among the living in Jerusalem; when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning." (Is 4:2-3). This judgment will send the rebellious out of the land of Zion and sever the wicked from the kingdom of God.
The current condition of the church fulfills latter-day revelation. The Reorganization has returned faithful saints from the original church to the land of Zion and built up its "waste-places." More recently, many saints have turned their attention and their desires to the possessions and philosophies of the world, even altering some basic teachings and practices of the church. They have contaminated the kingdom of God with their wantonness, accusations and disbelief. They are fast approaching the time when the Lord who moved heaven and earth to restore his church in these last days will bring judgment to cleanse his church and redeem Zion.
If recent events fulfill two of three things prophesied to befall the saints, we can reasonably believe that the third will occur as promised. God returned the faithful. Some of their descendants polluted their inheritances. The fulfillment of these prophecies as given testifies that the third -- divine judgment to remove the offenders -- will occur. Latter-day revelation warned, "Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth--a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation--and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord. First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord" (D&C 105:9b-10b).
Zion will be redeemed, but with judgment. Isaiah revealed, "I will turn
my hand upon thee; and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin .
. . Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with
righteousness" (Is 1:25, 27). God calls individual saints to prepare for
the coming judgment, telling them, "Trouble not yourselves concerning the
affairs of my church in this place, saith the Lord; but purify your hearts
before me" (D&C 105:11a-b). He wants his people to live in
righteousness, seek reconciliation and pursue peace, particularly with fellow
saints. He commands that the law of reconciliation be observed and promises
divine guidance to a people united in righteousness. Those who obey will witness
the cleansing of the church and participate in the redemption of Zion.
1. Received by Joseph Luff on March 31, 1906 and declared by Joseph III to be a revelation to the church.
2. (Church History, Vol 8; P 358-359)
3. Joseph Luff; March 31, 1906