Zion and Sacred Space
Zion is the people and the place where Heaven and Earth meet. Establishing this connection gives meaning to everything. It is the key to oneness of heart and mind. It is the foundation upon which we may erect our temples and dwell in righteousness. It is the where and when the poor shall see God.
As mortal beings our bodies are created from and connected to this fallen world. We exist in a mixed or "unclean" state of good and evil. For thousands of years the flesh connected to this world has warred against the spirit within us that is connected to another or higher world. The result is that our hearts long to return to Eden and the Presence of God while our bodies keep us firmly rooted to this fallen world with all its opposites and vices. The goal then that exists before us is to raise the fallen conditions to the conditions that exist in Heaven. To do this we must create a point of contact--a place within and without where Heaven and Earth can connect.
But can a people truly achieve Heaven on Earth? Is there such a place? Or is it just a story we tell ourselves of legendary heroes of ages past like Enoch who established the first recorded Zion?
In every Age God has sought to restore his people and establish a place where Heaven and Earth Connect. In some ways the idea of such a place and condition seems so foreign and distant. In contrast to the world around us, the idea of establishing such a place and condition seems almost insurmountable.
Two Witness of the Reality of Zion! Oh! And Don't Forget a Third?!
All things are established in the mouths of two or more witnesses. That the condition and place of Zion can be established in this fallen world is born out in the Testimony of Three Separate Groups of People of which we have record. The first two you will readily recognize, but the third may actually come as very pleasant surprise to you.
1. ENOCH'S ZION - WITNESS NUMBER 1
"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 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." (Moses 7:18, 68-69)
Our first witness of Zion is the City or People of Enoch. This should really come as no surprise to anyone because it is to Enoch and his Zion that we look to as the source of all our Zion desires and theology.
While Enoch and his Zion is the prime example all our aspirations of establishing a modern Zion, we usually tend to give his testimony the silent wink and nod as we say something to the effect, "Well of course he established Zion! If we lived for 365 years, I bet we could establish Zion too! In fact I think Enoch had an unfair advantage because of his extreme longevity!"
There is only one problem with this course of thinking. If we examine the Hebraic nature of the text we are presented in the Book of Moses it actually does not say that it took Enoch 365 year to establish Zion! In fact if we read it carefully it states that All the Days of Zion (i.e. the length of time from when it was established to when it was taken) was 365 years. During the time it/they existed on this sphere, God walked among his people and dwelt in their midst, and then it came to pass that God took it/them from this sphere. In truth we are not actually given the total length of time from when Enoch commenced his mission of declaring repentance to the establishment of the City of Zion, but we can say that the message that was declared was one of repentance and baptism, "And the Lord said unto me: Go to this people, and say unto them—Repent, lest I come out and smite them with a curse, and they die. And he gave unto me a commandment that I should baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, which is full of grace and truth, and of the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son." (Moses 7:10-11)
Here are some points we need to clarify regarding Enoch's Zion:
A. The establishment of Zion was precipitated by a message of Repentance and Baptism.
B. There is no actual length of time given from when the people repented, Zion (people or place) was established, to when God dwelt among them, but HE ZION EXISTED ON THIS SPHERE FOR 365 YEARS AND DURING THAT TIME GOD DWELT AMONG THEM BEFORE CONDITIONS AROSE THAT CAUSED GOD TO TAKE THEM FROM THIS SPHERE!
C. The people DWELT IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
2. MELCHIZEDEK AND THE PEOPLE OF SALEM - WITNESS NUMBER 2
The second witness that I would like to present for your consideration is Melchizedek and the people of the city of Salem (the same place where King David later established Jerusalem- the Foundation of Peace).
"Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness; but Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father." (Alma 13: 17-18)
"And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace. And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world..." (JST Genesis 14:3-34)
Here are some things that also need to be pointed out:
A. The establishment of Covenant Peace (Shalom) was precipitated by a message of Repentance (of which Baptism/ Ritual Immersion was an outward sign even in many Middle Eastern Cultures).
B. There is no actual length of time from when the people repented to when they obtained heaven ( a Hebraic expression that can mean God Dwelt Among them) to when they sought for the city of Enoch Which God had before separated it/them from this sphere.
C. The people WROUGHT RIGHTEOUSNESS.
3. THE PLEASANT SURPRISE
- THE PEOPLE OF NEPHI - WITNESS NUMBER 3
A. PRECIPITATION BY A MESSAGE OF REPENTANCE AND BAPTISM:
I now would like to present to you a Third Witness to the reality and establishment of Zion. Similar to the first two witnesses, God calls a prophet named Nephi, visits him, and authorizes him to declare a message of repentance and baptism to his people who had also turned from righteousness to wickedness and abominations:
"And it came to pass that Nephi—having been visited by angels and also the voice of the Lord, therefore having seen angels, and being eye-witness, and having had power given unto him that he might know concerning the ministry of Christ, and also being eye-witness to their quick return from righteousness unto their wickedness and abominations; Therefore, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds—went forth among them in that same year, and began to testify, boldly, repentance and remission of sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ." (3 Nephi 7:15-17)
"Thus passed away the thirty and second year also. And Nephi did cry unto the people in the commencement of the thirty and third year; and he did preach unto them repentance and remission of sins. Now I would have you to remember also, that there were none who were brought unto repentance who were not baptized with water." (3 Nephi 7:23-24)
During a time of political corruption and upheaval where Gadianton Robbers had gotten control of the government and even infiltrated the church, God called and sent a messenger after the Holy Order to declare repentance and baptism in the Lord Jesus Christ. While few hearkened to the message of salvation it was sent prior to a cataclysmic event or Day of the Lord (i.e. the day of visitation or judgment) upon the people of this continent exhibited in Chapter 8 of 3 Nephi.
The concept of "obtaining Heaven" and "Dwelling with God" from a Hebraic context really has nothing to do with having your local temple, family, and 2000 square foot MC Mansion beamed from this earth by the Starship Kolob to the new colony of Enoch on Planet X.
The Book of 3 Nephi is more important than many Mormons know. To understand it's importance and central role in our covenant relationship, we need to understand that from the context of establishing and maintaining a covenant relationship with God, the Book of 3 Nephi is quite possibly the most important Book in the Record that we call the Book of Mormon.
In the covenant sequence of the Torah (First Five Books of Moses- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) the Book of Leviticus is the Heart of the Covenant because strangely enough it contained God's instructions to the Israelites on how to create and maintain the sacred space- the place where Heaven and Earth Connect. It was considered THE BOOK OF LOVE and contained God's instructions for establishing and maintaining a Holy People. (Now stick with me here).
The Book of Mormon is the Covenant Treaty on this Land of Promise. While it is inextricably connected with the The Covenant God Made with Israel, the Book itself serves much the same function. To make a long story short, in terms of establishing Zion - THE SACRED SPACE WE SEEK TO CREATE- THE RECORD OF 3 NEPHI IS YOUR BOOK OF LEVITICUS. It is the Heart of the Book of Mormon and The Heart of our covenant relationship with God. It is our manual of discipline, our book of love, and the instructions on how to create the sacred space of Zion.
So Let's Break this Down:
The Tabernacle of God Dwelling in the Midst of the People:
7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.
8 And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.
9 And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:
10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning...
Just as God had Moses originally establish the tabernacle in the wilderness in the midst (middle/center point) of all the tribes of Israel, Jesus Christ the tabernacle of God descended from Heaven stood in the midst of this Remnant of Jacob. (3 Nephi: 11)
Christ Reiterates His Doctrine of Repentance and Baptism - ONE HEART AND MIND
32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
41 Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth. (3 Nephi 11)
THE SERMON AT THE TEMPLE/MOUNT = DWELLING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
3 NEPHI 12 - 17 is our Manual in the Discipline of Love. I would commend you to go read, study, and commit to walking this Discipline of Love in your heart and daily life because by these instructions is the sacred space of Zion established and maintained. Walking in these instructions is what is meant by the expressions "Dwelt/dwelling in Righteousness", and is what is meant by "the people wrought righteousness". The instructions in this Sermon at the Temple is THE manual for living, working, and dwelling in righteousness.
"Prayer is not a discourse. It is a form of life, the life with God. That is why it is not confined to the moment of verbal statement." -Jaques Ellul
(Next: 3 Nephi 18 -21: God's Enabling Power and Promises for the Realization of Zion)