My Come, Follow Me studies for this week took me to Moses 7 where I learned more about the story of Enoch. This chapter tells how Enoch and his people achieved something that no other group of individuals has been able to do. They built a society where there was no poverty and no violence – the ideal society.
A term that is often used to define such effort is “building Zion.” Building Zion includes caring for the poor, promoting peace, making covenants, living together in righteousness, and becoming one in heart and mind with Jesus Christ (Moses 7:53). Enoch’s Zion existed on earth for 365 years before it was taken into heaven. We learn the following about Enoch’s city of Zion from the book of Moses 7:18-19, 68-69:
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.
And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion….
And all the days of Zion, in the days of Enoch, were three hundred and sixty-five years.
And Enoch and all his people walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion; and 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. [Emphasis added.]
The scriptures teach of two other groups of people who created Zion-like societies for shorter periods of time before becoming unrighteous. The first such society existed in New Testament times and is discussed in Acts 4:31-32.
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. [Emphasis added.]
The New Testament saints were “all filled with the Holy Ghost,” were of “one heart and of one soul,” and “had all things common.” This means that everyone shared in whatever the society owned. We do not know how long this society existed.
The second group lived in Book of Mormon times. We read in Fourth Nephi 1 that the “people were all converted unto the Lord,” there were “no contentions and disputations among them,” and “they had all things common among them.” In fact, “there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift” (4 Nephi 1:2-3). [Emphasis added.]
We read further in Fourth Nephi 1 that thirty-seven years passed, and “there still continued to be peace in the land” (4 Nephi 1:4). A few verses later, we read that fifty-nine years passed, and “there was no contention among all the people” (4 Nephi 1:13). The next verse tells us that one hundred years passed (4 Nephi 1:14). Then we learned why there was no contention.
And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, or murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God (4 Nephi 1:15-17).
This Zion-like society was created because the people loved God. They maintained peace in the land for eighty-four years before wickedness began to divide and separate them. By the end of four hundred years, they were had totally destroyed themselves.
Nearly 250 years have passed since the Declaration of Independence was signed and Americans fought for a new government. Nearly two hundred years have passed since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established. Neither Americans nor the members of the Church of Jesus Christ have established Zion.
So, how did Enoch and his people build Zion and keep it righteous when they were surrounded by wickedness? We need to learn their secret because the work of establishing Zion continues in our day even as wickedness increases in the world around us. One lesson that Enoch taught is that Zion is more than a city – it is a condition of the heart and spirit. The Lord taught the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that “Zion [is] the pure in heart” (Doctrine and Covenants 97:21).
The simple truth of the matter is that we can develop a Zion-like society one person, one family, one community at a time. Zion is built on principles, such as love, service, work, self-reliance, consecration, and stewardship. (See R. Quinn Gardner, “Becoming a Zion Society,” Ensign, February 1979.)
Creating a Zion society is not an easy thing to do. In every dispensation from the time of Adam to the current one, prophets have called people to have faith in Jesus Christ and to repent of their sins. The fact that there has been only one true Zion in more than six thousand years attests to the difficulty for people becoming of one heart and one mind. However, we are not excused because the task is difficult.
We are tasked with the responsibility to prepare society to be ready to welcome Jesus Christ when He returns to earth. Such a society must be pure in heart. A society is composed of many individuals and families, and it is within those individuals and families that Zion must first be created. When individuals and families are pure in heart, they will have a powerful effect on society as a whole. Enoch showed us that people can live righteous lives even while surrounded by wickedness, and we have his example to help us create Zion in our own day.