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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Where Is Zion, and When Will Jesus Christ Return?

             My Come, Follow Me lesson took me to Doctrine and Covenants 63 this week. When the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders returned to Ohio from Missouri on August 27, 1831, they told the waiting Church members that the Lord had identified Jackson County, Missouri, as the location for the city of Zion.

The revelation contained in Doctrine and Covenants 63 was given through the Prophet Joseph Smith at Kirtland, Ohio, on August 30, 1831. When Joseph returned to Kirtland from his visit to Missouri, he discovered that dissension and apostasy had entered the Church in his absence. This was the setting for the revelation now contained in Doctrine and Covenants 63.

The section heading quotes from Joseph Smith’s history this description of this revelation:

In these infant days of the Church, there was a great anxiety to obtain the word of the Lord upon every subject that in any way concerned our salvation; and as the land of Zion was now the most important temporal object in view, I enquired of the Lord for further information upon the gathering of the Saint, and the purchase of the land, and other matters (in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. A-1, page 146,

            The Prophet received an answer to his inquiry on August 30. He recorded the information, and it later became Doctrine and Covenants 63. The “other matters” that the Prophet took to the Lord may have been concern for several members of the Church who had committed serious sins and fallen away while he was in Missouri.

            The site for the city of Zion had been selected, and it had been dedicated as a place of gathering for the Saints when Church leaders visited Missouri. However, members of the Church of Jesus Christ had mixed views on Zion. Many of the Saints were eager to start gathering in Missouri, while others – such as Ezra Booth – were disappointed with the land of Zion.

            The Lord addressed the purchase of lands in Missouri and gave counsel of how to move the Saints to Zion. However, He also gave this timely reminder: “I, the Lord, utter my voice, and it shall be obeyed” (verse 5). His voice, His will, His command all “[come] from above,” and they should be treated as sacred information. In fact, the Lord said that it “is sacred, and must be spoken with care” (verse 64). The revelation declared that only those who were faithful followers of Jesus Christ were to go and help establish Zion in Missouri.

            The revelation contains information on many topics, and one of those topics is the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord said in verse 53 that the events of the Second Coming are “nigh at hand.” While no one but Heavenly Father knows the hour of the Second Coming, the Lord gave valuable information to help us prepare when He taught the parable of the foolish and wise virgins (see Matthew 25:1-13).

            If the Second Coming was “nigh at hand” in 1831, it is much closer now. We should view it as imminent and prepare according. The Lord clarified in Doctrine and Covenants 63 what He meant in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. This clarification is found in verse 54: “until that hour there will be foolish virgins among the wise.”

Even among the Latter-day Saints, there will be those who will be found wicked and who will be separated and cast out from among the righteous, as in the parable of the wheat and tares (see Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). This is the reason why the Lord commanded the Saints to repent of their sins and to prepare for His coming. Then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained this need for Church members to repent.

While we are powerless to alter the fact of the Second Coming and unable to know its exact time, we can accelerate our own preparation and try to influence the preparation of those around us.

A parable that contains an important and challenging teaching on this subject is the parable of the ten virgins. Of this parable, the Lord said, “And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:56).

Given in the 25 chapter of Matthew, this parable contrasts the circumstances of the five foolish and the five wise virgins. All ten were invited to the wedding feast, but only half of them were prepared with oil in their lamps when the bridegroom came. The five who were prepared went into the marriage feast, and the door was shut. The five who had delayed their preparations came later. The door had been closed, and the Lord denied them entrance, saying, “I know you not” (v. 12). “Watch therefore,” the Savior concluded, “for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (v. 13).

The arithmetic of this parable is chilling. The ten virgins obviously represent members of Christ’s Church, for all were invited to the wedding feast and all knew what was required to be admitted when the bridegroom came. But only half were ready when he came” (“Preparation for the Second Coming,” Ensign, May 2004, 8).

            We do not know when the Savior will come, but we have been commanded to prepare for His Second Coming. We can prepare for that sacred experience by bringing to pass Zion in our individual lives, in our homes, and in our communities. Anyone who is capable of living in a Zion-like atmosphere will be prepared to meet the Savior.

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