Our Glory or Our Condemnation
If I thought this really was my last lecture, it would be to an empty hall. Because it would be at least ten hours long and I would be the only auditor, inured to boredom by a lifelong habit of talking to myself. The subject would certainly be the Tenth Article of Faith. That is why the lecture would have to be so long, because Article Ten has at least five distinct parts, and this talk will be only a brief outline of one of them.
If there’s anything that sets the gospel of Jesus Christ apart from all other religions of the world (and this could be demonstrated in detail), it’s the literal, matter-of-fact view it takes of realities in this life and beyond this life, the view resting on the experience of very real and vivid contacts between men upon the earth and beings from higher spheres. This sense of literal reality is most clearly set forth in our Tenth Article of Faith. The other articles have to do with our beliefs, principles, ordinances, and divine gifts: they are timeless in their application and could belong to any dispensation. But Article Ten deals explicitly with our time and our space and sets forth the steps by which God intends to consummate this great latter-day work.
There are five such steps: (1) the literal gathering of Israel (note the word literal); (2) the restoration of the Ten Tribes; (3) the building of Zion (the New Jerusalem) upon the American continent (is that specific enough?); (4) Christ’s personal reign upon the earth (not spiritual, in some undefined realm); and (5) the renewal of the earth in its paradisiacal glory. In each of these steps earthly time and place are implicit. The statement does not pinpoint either, but it leaves no doubt at all that things are going to happen in a definite temporal order and involve people living in definite places on this particular planet.
The Latter-day Saints have often become confused about the “game plan” of unfolding processes in these latter days by giving undue priority to one event over another or by arbitrarily shifting the order of events to suit some preconceived plans of their own. But one thing is clear: the Lord has given us here an outline of the whole plan as far as it concerns us.
It behooves us, therefore, to keep the whole plan in mind and, as in all great projects, never to lose sight of the ultimate goal while we are working toward the necessary intermediate goals or steps. Here the final step in the whole progression is that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. Quite literally, “heaven is our destination.” This idea is clearly brought forward in our new home evening manual with its theme “A Bit of Heaven.” That is more than a sentimental Irish tag (though we in the Church today do seem to have an incurable appetite for trite and sentimental “kitsch”); it is an invitation actually to model our domestic life on the celestial order, as God commanded the Saints to do from the first: “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 105:5).
A bit of heaven? What is heaven like? What will Zion be like? We Mormons do not believe with Descartes that God is the self-thinking thinker who thinks only of thought.1 We think of the mind as reacting to other minds and to its own physical surroundings. We think of its operations as affecting others and also affecting those surroundings. The spirit of man, as it were, projects itself into the surrounding world and leaves its mark. We believe that heaven is not only a state of mind but an actual environment. Brother and Sister DeHoyos have written about a “celestial culture.”2 There is most certainly a “celestial environment.”
Every way of life produces its own environment and in turn is influenced by that environment. It is possible for a powerful mind to have joy amidst vile surroundings, but it can have greater joy in pleasant surroundings. There are degrees of joy, and God wants our joy to be full, that is, with every possible factor contributing. Milton’s Satan declares when he is cast out of heaven, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”3 But that same Satan misses his heavenly home, and when he sees the glories of God’s earth, he covets them, lusts after them, and yearns to possess them. The story of the Garden of Eden teaches us that environment is important. It was not a matter of indifference to Adam whether he was inside the Garden or outside, whether he was living in a world most glorious and beautiful or in a dark and dreary world. And our Article Ten assures us that God intends that the paradisiacal conditions of Eden shall be restored again to this earth. Again we repeat: “the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.”
What, then, is heaven like? Paul tells us, “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart [that is, the imagination] of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). But paradise is its earthly counterpart, the nearest earthly approach to heaven. This state is going to be restored to earth, but in a series of steps. If it were brought all at once, right now, the “culture shock” would kill us. Indeed, we have been given the challenge, “Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?” (Malachi 3:2). Only those who have prepared for the new environmental change by adapting themselves to it through a rigorous course of training. First must come the “literal gathering of Israel” in which we are now engaged. Then the return of the Ten Tribes, which we hope is soon to come. Then the building up of the kingdom of God on earth preparatory to the establishment of Zion, Zion in turn preparing the earth to receive the Lord, after whose coming it will be possible to achieve the final state in which the earth is renewed and given its former glory. The midpoint and focus of the whole operation is Zion. Zion is the great moment of transition, the bridge between the world as it is and the world as God designed it and meant it to be.
We’d better say a few things about Zion here. Zion is a code word denoting a very real thing. Zion is any community in which the celestial order prevails. Zion is “the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21), but Zion is also a real city or any number of real cities. It is a constant; it is unchanging. There are Zions among all the worlds, and there are Zions that come and go.4 Zion is a constant in time and place—it belongs to the order of the eternities. We’re not making Zion here, but we’re preparing the ground to receive it. As the Lord says, “My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom” (D&C 136:31). We must be prepared to receive this glory; we don’t produce it ourselves. We must be ready, so that we won’t die of shock when we get it.
In every dispensation, we are told, there has been a Zion on the earth; first of all in the time of Adam, when “the Holy One of Zion . . . established the foundations of Adam-ondi-Ahman” (D&C 78:15). After Adam, Enoch had his Zion when “the Lord called his people ZION” and Enoch “built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even ZION” (Moses 7:18-19). But then “it came to pass that Zion was not, for God received it up into his own bosom; and from thence went forth the saying, ZION IS FLED” (Moses 7:69).
Zion comes and goes. When the world cannot support Zion, Zion is not destroyed but taken back home. “And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations,” says Moses 7:31. And when the world is qualified to receive Zion, “there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made” (Moses 7:64). Accordingly, the ancient prophets of Israel yearned for the time when Zion would be restored again. Jeremiah and Isaiah hoped to see Zion restored in their time. They certainly knew it would come in a later day. Typical of their attitude is the prophecy of the Psalmist: “My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass. But thou, O Lord, . . . shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come. . . . When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.” And then he adds, “This shall be written for the generation to come” (Psalm 102:11-18). After all the calamities, said Jeremiah, “there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God” (Jeremiah 31:6). And of course we all know the prophecy of Micah 4:1-2: “But in the last days . . . 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. . . . For the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” This was the hope of the prophets. It was also anticipated in the days of the ancient apostles that “ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,” as Paul describes the Church (Hebrews 12:22).
But it’s in the last days that the fulfillment will really get underway with the restoration and the steps approaching the establishment of Zion. In every age, though, as the Doctrine and Covenants tells us, the saints are “they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all, . . . the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the First-born” (D&C 76:66-67). That is the eternal order of Zion, and the saints have been at work for many years, supposedly preparing to receive it.
What is this ideal Zion like? In the last days, we are told, it will be a place of refuge in a doomed world. “It shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God; . . . and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, . . . and it shall be called Zion” (D&C 45:66-67). At that time, “every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety” (D&C 45:68). And the wicked shall say that Zion is terrible. Terrible because it is indestructible. Her invulnerability makes her an object of awe and terror. As Enoch said, “Surely Zion shall dwell in safety forever. But the Lord said unto Enoch: Zion have I blessed, but the residue of the people have I cursed” (Moses 7:20). So Zion was taken away and the rest destroyed. Zion itself is never in danger; on the contrary, it alone offers safety to the world, “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). It would seem that Zion enjoys the complete security of a bit of the celestial world and that nothing can touch it as long as it retains the character. But celestial order it must be. As we have seen, Zion cannot be built up “unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom” (D&C 105:5). It must at all times be holy enough to receive the Lord himself in person. “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation” (Psalm 132:13); “Behold mine abode forever” (Moses 7:21). Zion is heaven. It is where God lives. A bit of heaven indeed.
The two words most commonly used to describe Zion are beauty and joy, and the same two words most often relate to heaven and paradise. Beauty comes first, for beauty is whatever gives joy. Now we approach the question of what Zion looks like: “The city of our God. . . . Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion. . . . Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad. . . . Walk about Zion and go round about her” (Psalm 48:1-2, 11-12). An eminently delightful place. “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined” (Psalm 50:2). “For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; . . . Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments” (D&C 82:14). “And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day; . . . and whoso shall publish peace, . . . how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be” (1 Nephi 13:37). These are more than figures of speech. As President Joseph F. Smith put it, “Things upon the earth, so far as they have not been perverted by wickedness, are typical of things in heaven. Heaven was the prototype of this beautiful creation when it came from the hand of the Creator, and was pronounced ‘good.'”5 There you have the environment of Zion; and for a foretaste of it, all we have to do is go to the canyons and look around us. For the earth comes from the hand of the Creator most glorious and beautiful, with great rivers, small streams, and mountains and hills to give variety and beauty to the scene, designed by God as a place of beauty and delight. That is the way we must keep it.
The order of Zion is such as will leave the earth as near its primordial, paradisiacal condition as possible. The paradise of Eden is called in the scriptures “the garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10), and we are told that God and his holy angels delighted to come to it and commune with Adam in its delightful surroundings. This earth has been compared by many—most recently by a Latter-day Saint pharmacologist, Dr. A. B. Morrison—to “an exquisitely equipped spaceship.”6 It is enormously productive and contains an unlimited supply for all who come to live on it, as long as they use its bounty “with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion,” the Lord has said (D&C 59:20), that is, properly distributed, without waste or inequality. It contains “all things . . . made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul” (D&C 59:18-19). Notice here that the eye and the heart have priority over the stomach, that taste and smell have claims equal to appetite, that the enlivening of the soul is as important as the strengthening of the body. “And out of the ground made I, the Lord God, to grow every tree, naturally, that is pleasant to the sight of man; and man could behold it” (Moses 3:9). Here the value of trees as a crop is not even mentioned, and God plainly does not share the belief of another august personage that “once you’ve seen one redwood you’ve seen them all.” “All the creations are His work,” said Brigham Young, “and they are for His glory and for the benefit of the children of men; and all things are put into the possession of man for his comfort, improvement and consolation, and for his health, wealth, beauty and excellency.”7
But if the earth is perfectly adapted and completely outfitted for all our physical and spiritual needs, what is there left for us to do? Won’t it weaken our character to have everything handed to us ready and prepared for our use? That question, the most natural one in the world to ask in our society, shows how far removed we are from the celestial order of things. It’s the same question that is asked by the small boy who comes to visit you for summer vacation: “If a guy can’t break everything around the house and yard, drown kittens, shoot birds, cut down the apple tree, take the baby buggy apart, stick things in the piano, throw rocks at bottles, what can a guy do?” If we advise the little fellow to acquire more sophisticated tastes and follow our example, to seek his diversions more constructively as we do, watching westerns on TV, going hunting, playing golf, going to football games, attending X-rated movies, or driving a car, he can protest that such activities differ from his own only in being more passive and less imaginative, but really they are quite as trivial and immature and unproductive as his. We might then admonish him to hard work. Pope Gregory VII wrote a letter to the bishop of Rheims in the eleventh century in which he told how the barons of the time were literally destroying Europe in thousands of private wars and feuds and raids on each others’ castles and lands and serfs, and how, when he protested what they were doing, they asked him in all seriousness, If we don’t do this, what else is there for us to do? For what other purpose were gentlemen placed upon the earth? What else can a normal man possibly want to do? The activities of the modern world that go by the name of work may not have been as spectacularly destructive as those of the barons of the middle ages, yet we are beginning to find out now that they are destructive. And it is high time that we begin to ask ourselves, as we ask the little fellow who’s spending the summer with us, whether what we are doing is really what we ought to be doing. There is full-time employment for all simply in exploring the world without destroying it, and by the time we begin to understand something of its marvelous richness and complexity, we’ll also begin to see that it does have uses that we never suspected and that its main value is what comes to us directly from mere coexistence with living things—the impact on our minds and bodies, subtle and powerful, that goes far beyond the advantages of converting all things into cash or calories.
Now we all know that Adam could not stay in the Garden. He was expelled and told to get his living by the sweat of his brow. In return for hard physical labor, the earth would yield him of her abundance (Moses 4:23-25). It was a fair exchange—he was to put hard work into the soil, and in return the soil would sustain him. He was to live by work, though, not by plunder. I spent my mission among the fields of Europe, which had been under the plow for literally thousands of years and were still yielding their abundance. After my mission I visited a glorious redwood grove near Santa Cruz, California. Only there was no grove there; the two-thousand-year-old trees were all gone: not one of them was left standing. My own grandfather had converted them all into cash. It wasn’t hard to do in those days. You looked up the right people, you got your name on some pieces of paper, and presto! you were rich for a short while and the earth was impoverished forever. I’m pleased to state that my grandfather recognized that there was something wrong with this, that he was not fulfilling the commandment given to Adam, that it was not the kind of work Adam was assigned to do. There was no proportion whatever between the amount of work and the return, between what man took from the earth and what he gave to it. Grandfather took something priceless and irreplaceable and gave in return a few miles of railroad ties. He not only broke the cycle of life so beautifully exemplified in those all but immortal groves, he destroyed it for quick wealth, which served only to corrupt his children and lead them out of the Church. In those days, we enjoyed a feeling of immense prosperity through the simple device of using up in twenty or thirty years those reserves of nature’s treasury that were meant to last for a thousand years. With such prodigal waste, of course, we were living high. There’s no permanency in economy that takes a hundred from nature and gives back one. There’s no survival value in such an operation, which is certainly the business of systematic and organized looting—the very opposite of making a fair exchange with the earth. Above all, it ignores the ancient doctrine of man’s obligation to “quicken” the earth that bears for him. The old Jewish teaching is that Adam had a right only to that portion of the earth that he “quickened,” on which he labored with the sweat of his brow.8 Let us not confuse the ethic of work with the ethic of plunder.
Granted that when Adam was turned out of the Garden, he immediately got to work, as instructed, to render the new region in which he found himself as much like his former paradise as possible. And angels came and showed him how he could work his way back to the type of paradise he had left. The order of Zion already established that Adam was to prepare the earth to resume its paradisiacal glory as soon as possible. Zion is a return to a former state of excellence. The gospel message today is that we must prepare ourselves to return to the Garden again, by the wisdom of hard experience. But he was to return. It is in that state and in those paradisiacal surroundings that he is to spend the eternities. The saints in every dispensation have always worked and prayed for the day when God “shall open the gates of paradise, and [he] shall remove the threatening sword against Adam, and he shall give to the saints to eat from the tree of life, . . . and all the saints shall clothe themselves with joy.”9 Zion is to be the headquarters for God’s reconquest of the earth. “For the land of Zion shall be a seat and a place to receive and do all these things” (D&C 69:6).
“And again, verily I say unto you, my friends, a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall commence a work of laying out and preparing a beginning and foundation of the city of the stake of Zion, here in the land of Kirtland, beginning at my house” (D&C 94:1). Here we are dealing with the first steps only, not the culmination. The Church is a trial run for Zion, just as Zion is for paradise, and as paradise is for the heaven of God. It is a place of gathering. All things there shall be gathered together in one; they shall be “of one heart and one mind, and there are no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). In every dispensation that it has been upon the earth, Zion is described in the same terms.
The early saints took the physical appearance of Zion very seriously. “Can we preach to the world by practice?” asked Brigham Young. “Yes, we are preaching to them by setting out these shade trees. When they come here from north, south, east, or west, they say, ‘Your city is a perfect paradise, with its streams of water and beautiful shade trees down every street.'”10 The idea, according to Brigham Young, is to beautify the face of the earth until it becomes like the Garden of Eden. Again, Brigham says, “The city looks beautiful, . . . the appearance of a huge flower garden.”11 The “shade trees, fountains of water, crystal streams, and every tree, shrub, and flower that will flourish in this climate to make our mountain home a paradise and our hearts wells of gratitude to the God of Joseph.”12 Recently Thor Heyerdahl testified, before a Senate subcommittee, that “clearly, the time has passed when ocean pollution was a mere offense to human aesthetics.”13 Brigham Young knew, however, that a feeling for beauty was the surest guardian of survival. He said, “You watch your own feelings when you hear delightful sounds, for instance, or when you see anything beautiful. Are those feelings productive of misery? No, they produce happiness, peace and joy.”14 These feelings, according to Brigham, can be trusted, and without them we would soon destroy ourselves. “Man’s machinery makes things alike,” he says. “God’s machinery gives to things which appear alike a pleasing difference.”15 “Now let us . . . prove to the heavens that our minds are set on beauty and true excellence, so that we can become worthy to enjoy the society of angels.”16
In Paradise, as everybody knows, all creatures lived together in peace. So too, in Zion when it is restored to the earth, the lion shall lie down with the lamb. God’s other creatures are an important part of the picture of heaven. A marvelous statement by Joseph Smith on this subject gives us a flash of insight into an amazing future: “John learned that God glorified Himself by saving all that His hands had made, whether beasts, fowls, fishes or men; and He will glorify Himself with them.”17 Brigham Young said: “The millennium consists in this, every heart in the Church and kingdom of God being united in one. . . . All things else will be as they are now, we shall eat, drink, and wear clothing. Let the people be holy . . . and filled with the Spirit of God, and every animal and creeping thing will be filled with peace; the soil of the earth will bring forth in its strength, and the fruits thereof will be meat for man.”18
The Garden of Eden is not a one-crop enterprise—everything grows there. “Every living creature that moveth, . . . and every winged fowl after its kind; . . . all things which I had created were good. And I, God, blessed them, saying: Be fruitful and multiply. . . . And I, God, saw that all these things were good” (Moses 2:21-24). It is significant that in the oldest traditions and records of the human race all those men who turned against God and man are represented at the same time as making war against the animals, the birds, and the fishes, and destroying the forests and defiling the pure waters. This is told of Satan in the beginning, of Cain, of Ham, of Nimrod, of the Egyptian Seth, of the mad huntsmen of the steppes, of Nebuchadnezzar, of Esau, of Caesar, of Assurbanipal, and so on, all of whom sought dominion over others, over all others, and to achieve it in only one way—by force.19 The code name for such an order of things and such a program is Babylon.
We can’t discuss Zion very long without running into Babylon, because Babylon is, in all things, the counterpart of Zion. It is described just as fully, clearly, and vividly in the scriptures as Zion is and usually in direct relationship to it. “By the rivers of Babylon . . . we wept, when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). “They shall ask the way to Zion” when word comes to “remove out of the midst of Babylon” (Jeremiah 50:5, 8). “There will be the voice of them that flee out of the land of Babylon to declare in Zion the vengeance of the Lord,” and, “Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon” (Zechariah 2:7). So it goes on: Just as surely as Zion is to be established, Babylon is to be destroyed. “The burden of Babylon. . . . Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty” (Isaiah 13:1, 6). Babylon is not to be converted, she’s to be destroyed. “We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her” (Jeremiah 51:9). Today’s world is the “substance . . . of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall” (D&C 1:16). “For after today cometh the burning . . . and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon” (D&C 64:24). I could quote a hundred scriptures to show that Babylon is nothing but the inverse image of Zion. Babylon is a state of mind, as Zion is, with its appropriate environment. Just like Zion, Babylon is a city. “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen” (Revelation 18:2). The great world center of commerce and business, “the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies” (Revelation 18:3). Indeed, “thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived” (Revelation 18:23). Babylon’s economy is built on deceptions. Babylon is described fully in Revelation 18: She is rich, luxurious, immoral, full of fornications, merchants, riches, delicacies, sins, merchandise, gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linens, purples, silks, scarlets, thyine wood, all manner of vessels, ivory, precious wood, brass, iron, marble, and so on. She is a giant delicatessen, full of wine, oil, fine flour, wheat; a perfume counter with cinnamon, odors, ointments, and frankincense; a market with beasts and sheep. It reads like a savings stamp catalog or a guide to a modern supermarket or department store. Horses and chariots and all manner of services are available; slaves in the souls of men. These are “the fruits thy soul lusted after . . . and all things which were dainty and goodly” (Revelation 18:14). And it is all for sale. “O virgin daughter of Babylon, . . . thou hast labored . . . [with] thy merchants, from thy youth” (Isaiah 47:1, 15). In her power and affluence she is unchallenged. “For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me” (Isaiah 47:10). Babylon is number one. She dominates the world. Her king is equated to Lucifer, who says, “I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14). And all the nations are weakened at her expense. He was the man that “made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; that made the world as a wilderness” (Isaiah 14:16-17). The “lady of kingdoms” who rules over polluted lands and says, “I shall be a lady forever” (Isaiah 47:5, 7)—she leads the world. “The nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad” (Jeremiah (51:7). “Babylon the great, all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Revelation 18:3). And when Babylon falls, all the world is involved: “At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth is moved, and the cry is heard among the nations” (Jeremiah 50:46). And “at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth” (Jeremiah 51:49). Her clever, experienced, and unscrupulous men will be helpless. She thinks she can get away with anything, and says, “None seeth me.” But “thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee” (Isaiah 47:10). “And I will make drunk her men; and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep” (Jeremiah 51:57). Her military might is helpless: “A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction. How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken!” (Jeremiah 50:22-23).
Babylon then, like Zion, is a type. If Zion is wherever the celestial order prevails, Babylon is the culmination of the worldly power wherever it happens. Through the ages, that power has actually culminated in just such world centers as ancient Babylon. Rome itself was entirely eligible for the name. The church of Rome called itself “the church that is at Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13). Rome was Babylon the great in every respect. And in the last days we must have a Babylon, too. For the call has gone forth, “Go ye out of Babylon. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations” (D&C 133:7). “Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon” (D&C 133:14).
It is important in building up Zion and preparing for Paradise to keep an eye on Babylon, because the saints have always had a habit of subsiding into the ways of Babylon. Joseph Smith stood up on the framework of a new school building that was being erected in Far West, Missouri, and told the brethren, “Brethren, we are gathering to this buitiful [sic] land, to build up Zion.” But instead he says, “I see signs put out Beer signs, speculative scheems are being introduced this is the ways of the world—Babylon indeed, and I tell you in the name of the God of Israel, if thare is no repentance . . . and a turning from such ungodliness, covetousness and self will, you will be Broken up and scattered from this choice land to the four winds of Heaven.”20 Saints start out building up Zion and end up building Babylon. Brigham Young said exactly the same thing in language just as strong when the Saints got to the valley: “Have we not brought Babylon with us? Are we not promoting Babylon here in our midst? Are we not fostering the spirit of Babylon that is now abroad on the face of the whole earth? I ask myself this question, and I answer, Yes, yes, . . . we have too much of Babylon in our midst.”21 It is hard for us to envisage the concept of Zion, let alone Paradise, when we have been so long accustomed to living in Babylon. We are disquieted by vague images of people wandering around in gardens apparently with nothing to do. Far more appealing to us are the vigor and give-and-take and drama of the marketplace. We are still like the little boy who likes to break the bottles. The world today is about as different from Zion as any world possibly can be. In fact, it has reached the point, the Lord has told us in emphatic terms, where he is about to remove the whole thing—sweep the slate clean, that Zion may be established.
Just as the order of Zion began with Adam in the garden, the rival system is just as old. It, too, was proposed to Adam, and he rejected it, while his son Cain accepted it. The plan Satan proposed to Adam was to put everything in this glorious and beautiful world up for sale. You could have anything in this world for money, but you had to have money. This launched a scramble that has gone on ever since Cain slew Abel, his brother, for gain; and he, says the Pearl of Great Price, “gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands” (Moses 5:33). And this vigorous competition has imparted an air of dynamism and excitement to the scene that some find most attractive. What would the human drama be to us without an element of conflict and competition? We would find it insufferably dull. Who would exchange this for the pale and bloodless activities of Eden? In the Book of Mormon, the Nephites, the Jaredites, and the Jews at Jerusalem all walked straight to their certain destruction because they were helpless to conceive of acting in any other way. They were so completely captivated by one way of life that they could not conceive of any other. Laman and Lemuel saw nothing but visionary insanity in the teachings of their father and of their brother Nephi (1 Nephi 2:11). When Mormon suggested wisdom and restraint to the Nephites, they became hysterical and furious with him (Moroni 9:4-5). They were so hypnotized by the necessity of what they were doing that they didn’t even let the fear of death deter them, he says. The Jaredites fought to the last man for nothing, rather than change their ways. They were reduced to the nightmare of private shelters and total insecurity, and finally total destruction. This is what the Greeks called ate, the point of no return, beyond which it becomes impossible to change, and only one solution to a problem remains possible. You simply have to play out the play to the end the way you’ve been doing it.
Whether or not this is the state of the present world, it is important before it is too late to point out that there are alternatives to Babylon. We should not be condemned because they are so different from what we’ve been accustomed to. There is an unbridgeable gap between Zion and Babylon. We cannot compromise on the two ways, because the two ways lead in opposite directions. In recent years, the course of the whole world has suddenly and dramatically vindicated the position taken by the early saints and largely forgotten by their descendants. We are discovering that there really are two worlds; that the one leads to sure destruction written in capital letters on everything we behold, as Joseph Smith put it,22 and only the other offers salvation. This is the ancient doctrine of the “Two Ways” taught in the early church—the way of darkness and the way of light.23 It was impossible to try to compromise between them because they led in opposite directions. Yet in the ancient church, it was the compromisers, the dyophysites, who won.24 When we try to mix Zion and Babylon, Babylon has already won the game. It is amazing that any teaching so fundamental and so clear-cut could be so effectively silenced today among people professing to preach and to practice the restored gospel. Here is an example from President Joseph F. Smith of what I mean:
Our innocent little birds, natives of our country, who live upon the vermin, . . . are indeed enemies to the farmer and to mankind. It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is abominable, in my opinion. I think that this principle should extend, not only to the bird life, but to the life of all animals. . . . I never could see why a man should be imbued with a blood-thirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life. I have known men—and they still exist among us—who enjoy what is, to them, the “sport” of hunting birds. . . . I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood. They go off hunting deer, antelope, elk, anything they can find, and what for? “Just for the fun of it.”25
Here is a practice designated by the President and Prophet of the Church as abominable, the ancient sport of the masters of Babylon—the descendants of Cain, of Ham, of Nimrod, all of whom were mighty hunters. And yet there are men today engaging in such practices who at the same time speak piously of building up Zion. How is this possible? It is the old word game of the early Christians and of others. In the newly discovered gospel of Philip, there is a wonderful passage describing how Satan rules this world by the skillful manipulation of labels. In this world we communicate through symbols, through labels, it explains. Therefore, in this Satan possesses a powerful tool to comfort the wicked, enabling them to discredit the righteous and to brand the righteous with whatever epithets suit them and to unload their own guilt on others.26
Today, as in the ancient church, those who embrace Babylon in its stark reality do not renounce Zion. They don’t need to. As the Great Apostasy progressed, the Christian world got ever more mileage out of the name of Christianity. As the apostolic fathers and the early apologists observed, the farther they fall away from real Christianity, the more loudly they proclaim and the more enthusiastically they display the name and the banner of Christ. Christianity became an impressive pompa, a military parade rallying the righteous against the wicked. Finally, all you had to do to be righteous was to wave the flag of Christianity. As these early church fathers say, the word Christian completely lost its meaning.27 Today the beautiful word Zion, with all its emotional and historical associations, is used as the name Christian was formerly used, to put the stamp of sanctity on whatever men chose to do. The Hebrew word for financial activity of any kind is mamonut, and the financier is a mamonai; that is, financing is, quite frankly, in that honest language, the business of Mammon. From the very first there were Latter-day Saints who thought to promote the cause of Zion by using the methods of Babylon. Indeed, once the Saints were told to make friends with the Mammon of unrighteousness (D&C 82:22), but that was only to save their lives in an emergency. We have the word of the Prophet Joseph that Zion is not to be built up by using the methods of Babylon. He says, “Here are those who begin to spread out buying up all the land they are able to do, to the exclusion of the poorer ones who are not so much blessed with this worlds goods, thinking to ley foundations for themselves only, looking to their own individual familys and those who are to follow them. . . . Now I want to tell you that Zion cannot be built up in eny such way [sic].”28
What do we find today? Zion’s Investment, Zion Used Cars, Zion Construction, Zion Development, Zion Bank, Zion Leasing, Zion Insurance, Zion Securities, Zion Trust, and so on. The institutions of Mammon are made respectable by the beautiful name of Zion. Zion and Babylon both have their appeal, but the voice of latter-day revelation makes one thing perfectly clear as it tells us over and over again that we cannot have them both.
Let us go back to the beginning of this latter-day work. When the youthful Joseph Smith began to think about those things, he went to his knees in the Sacred Grove. He said,
This was a grief to my Soul thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divions [divisions], the wickedness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind my mind become excedingly distressed. . . . [He found himself in a wicked world, yet the natural world surrounding him was one of heavenly beauty.] I looked upon the sun, the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their majesty through the heavens and also the Stars Shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood and the beast of the field, and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in majesty and in the Strength of beauty whose power and intiligence in governing the things which are so exceding great and marvelous even in the likeness of him who created them and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath the wise man Said, it is a fool that Saith in his heart there is no God my heart exclained all all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipreasant power [sic].29
What was young Joseph’s problem when he compared the world that God had made to the world that man had made? One is the world as it should be; the other the world as it should not be. The boy’s feelings in the matter were confirmed from the mouth of the Lord himself, who spoke to him in the grove (and note well, it was in a grove of trees that the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph), saying, “Behold the world lieth in sin at this time, and none doeth good, no not one. And mine anger is kindled against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them according to their ungodliness.”30
Well, here we have it: the world we have made and are making is not the world God meant us to have, and the world he made for us in the beginning is the world we must have. With our present limited knowledge we could devise a perfectly practical order of things in which there would be no need for doctors, lawyers, insurance men, dentists, auto mechanics, beauticians, generals, real estate men, prostitutes, garbage men, and used-car salesmen. Their work is justified as an unpleasant necessity, yet there have been successful human societies in which none of those professions existed, any more than dukes, earls, and kings need to exist in our society. Nature around us, such of it as has remained, admonishes us that paradise is a reality. Through modern revelations we have learned that Zion also is a reality. Paradise is the proper environment of Zion. Here we are faced with a clear-cut proposition that recent developments of world history, if nothing else, admonish us we can no longer afford to ignore. The Tenth Article of Faith contains our future: our glory or our condemnation.
1. A. Boyce Gibson, The Philosophy of Descartes (New York: Russell and Russell, 1969), 108-9.
2. Arturo and Genevieve DeHoyos, “The Universality of the Gospel,” Ensign 1 (August 1971): 9-14.
3. John Milton, “Paradise Lost,” The Poetical Works of John Milton, comp. James Montogomery, 2 vols. (London: Bohn, 1861), 1:12.
4. JD 23:175.
6. A. B. Morrison, “Our Deteriorating Environment,” Ensign 1 (August 1971): 65.
7. JD 13:151.
8. Jacob Neusner, Genesis Rabbah, 3 vols. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985), 1:224; Philip B. Gove, ed., Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (Springfield, MA: Merriam, 1971), 1864, defines quickened as follows: “to come to life: become alive: become charged with life (seed that [quicken]s and becomes ripe grain).”
9. Testament of Levi 18:10-14.
10. JD 12:271-72.
11. MS 27:415.
12. JD 10:4.
13. Thor Heyerdahl, Hearings before the Subcommitte on Oceans and Atmosphere of the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, Ninety-Second Congress; Second Session on International Conference on Ocean Pollution, October 18 and November 8, 1971 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972), 50-51.
14. JD 12:314.
15. Ibid., 9:370.
16. Ibid., 11:305.
17. TPJS 291.
18. JD 1:203.
19. Regarding Nimrod, see MS 17:674.
20. Edward Stevenson, The Life and History of Elder Edward Stevenson (n.d.), 40-41.
21. JD 17:38.
22. TPJS 16.
23. Epistle of Barnabas 18-20; for English translation, see “The Epistle of Barnabas,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 1:148-49.
24. James L. Barker, Apostasy from The Divine Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1960), 369-74.
25. Gospel Doctrine, vol. 1: A Course of Study for Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums, 1971-1972, 371-72; selections from the sermons and writings of Joseph F. Smith.
26. Gospel of Philip, 53:25-54:5; for English translation, see Nag Hammadi Library, tr. James M. Robinson (New York: Harper and Row, 1977).
27. Louis Duchesne, Early History of the Christian Church, 3 vols. (London: Murray, 1948), 3:4.
28. Stevenson, The Life and History of Elder Edward Stevenson, 40-41.
29. The 1832 recital of the First Vision as dictated by Joseph Smith to Frederick G. Williams. See Milton V. Backman, Joseph Smith’s First Vision (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971), appendix A; cf. Dean C. Jessee, ed., “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” BYU Studies 9 (1969): 280.
30. Ibid., 157.