Saturday, March 28, 2009

Isaiah's prophecies about Zion

5 And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.
6 And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain. (Isaiah 4:5-6)
I really like these verses, because they describe how the Lord will protect His people in the last days.

The imagery that Isaiah uses is very beautiful, especially that of creating a cloud by day and a flaming fire by night over mount Zion’s dwellings and assemblies, but I have to point out that Isaiah doesn’t use this just because it sounds pretty. He uses it to teach a lesson. He wasn’t making this up out of his head; he was drawing from the history of Israel in Exodus when they were led out of Egypt by Moses the prophet.
21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:
22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. (Exodus 13:21-22)
Isaiah was using this imagery of the obvious sign of the Lord’s presence and guidance to show that in the last days it would be perfectly obvious that the Lord is with His people and protecting them.

Also, in verse 6 it talks about a tabernacle. This we know is the temple. Isaiah uses the imagery of a shadow on a hot day, a refuge, and a hiding place to show how the temple provides an temporary escape for righteous people from the heat of temptation and opposition, from war against evil, and from the storm of upheaval.

I know this is fulfilled when I attend the temple. I go in feeling weighed down with care, sometimes wondering if I really have the time to go. I walk out feeling like my inner soul has been fortified, my moral levies have been shored up against the flood with an additional wall of sandbags.

If Isaiah’s prophecy about the temple is fulfilled, his prophecy about the glory of the Lord resting upon the dwellings and assemblies of Zion will be fulfilled too, but we need to do our part. It lies in the definition of Zion.

Zion is the pure in heart.
Therefore, verily, thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—THE PURE IN HEART; therefore, let Zion rejoice, while all the wicked shall mourn. (Doctrine & Covenants 97:21)
Zion is the peaceful, where safety can be found.
68 And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.
69 And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another. (Doctrine & Covenants 45:68-69)
Zion is the obedient to God.
Nevertheless, Zion shall escape if she observe to do all things whatsoever I have commanded her. (Doctrine & Covenants 97:25)
In Zion is stability, happiness, productivity.
17 Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.
18 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— (Doctrine & Covenants 101:17-18)
Zion is the holy, the city of the higher law, the practice ground for living in heaven.
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. (Doctrine & Covenants 105:5)
Zion has the power of God, manifested by the priesthood keys and righteous exercise of priesthood authority.
7 Questions by Elias Higbee: What is meant by the command in Isaiah, 52d chapter, 1st verse, which saith: Put on thy strength, O Zion—and what people had Isaiah reference to?
8 He had reference to those whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost. (Doctrine & Covenants 113:7-8)
Zion is the unified, the righteous, the charitable.
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. (Moses 7:18)
Is it hard to believe that the Lord would make His favor and presence known with a cloud and a pillar of fire to this Zion people? After considering the above scriptures, it isn’t hard to believe it at all.

When will this happen? How do we become a Zion people?
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. (Isaiah 4:4)
This washing away the filth refers to baptism, which washes away our sins. The purging by the spirit of judgment and burning means receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, which acts like a purifying fire. Over the course of our faithful lives, the Holy Ghost works upon us to refine our dispositions and desires. I know this is real, because I have felt it in my life. I have noticed characteristics of myself that have become better than they were before because of the influence of the Holy Ghost.

Here's some examples of people working toward Zion-type communities.

Some have built a bit of Zion in New York City’s Harlem. (BYU Magazine, Fall 2008 issue)

Or take this section from a BYU Magazine article “Standing in Holy Places” from the Summer 2000 issue about the Jerusalem Center community:
On a typical evening at the center, some of the students are squirreled away in their rooms or in the library; some are writing e-mail. But others gather for a game of Trivial Pursuit on a landing, a study group in a classroom, or a trip by sherut (taxi van) to buy ice cream on Ben Yehuda street in the "new" city. There may be swing dancing instruction on the stage and aerobics, folk dancing classes, or basketball tournaments in the gym. Anyone is welcome at any activity, and a passerby never lacks an invitation to join the fun.

"It's been very interesting being a part of this group," says Adam P. Ash, a BYU zoology major from Mesa, Ariz. "They throw you together, and you don't have any choice of who you're going to be with. Yet sometimes I feel this is what God wants us to learn—He wants us to be able to get along with every kind of person."

Whatever else it might be, the Jerusalem Center is a laboratory for building Zion, in the "of one heart and one mind" sense (see Moses 7:18). For all their diversity in age and experience, and for all their simple human faults, the students are fundamentally of one heart and one mind. Seemingly without exception they want to be good. They come to Jerusalem desiring to know more of Christ, and they help each other know Him.

"As I watch people in my classes, I see attributes and characteristics that I strive for," says Shawn G. DuBravac, a BYU international development major from Alexandria, Va. "I think that's one of the great advantages to living with so many people, so close. I live next door to my role model when it comes to love. And I live across the hall from my example of humility. And so as I'm in the city learning about Jesus Christ, I'm also witnessing all those miracles that He performed, in each one of us. I'm witnessing people who have humility like the child Christ talked about. And I'm witnessing people who live that new commandment and love one another and show that they are His disciples."

It may be relatively easy to imitate Christ in the center's setting. For one thing, the program eliminates many of the variables that typically divide people. Everyone's meals and living conditions are identical. No one, typically, is fluent in the dominant local languages. Everyone has a calling in the LDS branch or a responsibility in the student government. Everyone travels to the same places and has roughly the same opportunities.

The program also eliminates many of the social distractions that might interfere with opportunities for service and growth. Though students sometimes come with a sibling or a best friend, no one has a pre-set clique. No one, except sometimes the children of faculty, has a parent to go home to. Though plenty of sweethearts get left at home and some people do, therefore, receive affectionate correspondence, no one ever has a "date." Dating of any kind is forbidden, though groups often produce several eventual marriages.

Program policies definitely encourage group-mindedness—the students' little apartments are shared by four people, and no one can leave the center without at least two companions. Concern for each other soon becomes instinctive. Whether sloshing through Hezekiah's Tunnel, clambering in predawn darkness up the steps of Mount Sinai, or trudging up the Mount of Olives toward the center, someone always waits for the straggler.

"You're never alone, and I think this is an amazing experience because of that," says Audrey A. Bastian, a BYU history major from Provo. "I think, in the end, I changed because of the people around me." Bastian came to Jerusalem for a semester in 1997 and returned in 1999 for the intensive Arabic program. On her first trip "we bonded so tightly that I was not only able to learn about this land and the Bible and religion, but I was able to put it into practice in a very close-range setting," she says. "That was the magic of the program for me." (
Or how about this section of the article “New Life in Old Nauvoo” from BYU Magazine’s Spring 2002 issue?
It is Friday afternoon, and after a morning visit to Winter Quarters and a few hours on the bus, students kick through fallen leaves on Spring Hill in Adam-ondi-Ahman, Mo. Scraggly tree branches cast shadows across the leaves and grasses and a light breeze comes from the direction of the sun and the Grand River on the other side of the valley. At the crest of the hill, students study a plaque, survey the landscape, and talk about Adam-ondi-Ahman. A few gather around Jerry C. Roundy, '60, one of their professors, and ask questions about what happened here and what will happen here. Others laugh and joke. Cameras come out and someone pulls Roundy into their photo.

Cameras are well used in the Nauvoo program. Students photograph historical sites, displays in museums, sculptures, and—mostly—each other. "We've become family," says Jessica D. Smith, '03, from Meridian, Idaho. "We do everything together: we study together, we eat together, we go outside and play together. We've become really close—even the teachers."

The structure and facilities of the program, combined with the social environment of a small town, foster such a tight-knit community. One building houses student and faculty dormitories, the cafeteria, classrooms, the game room, the library, and computer labs. And everyone is studying the same thing. All students take Church history and the Nauvoo teachings of Joseph Smith. With only half a dozen other classes to choose from, students share homework woes, test agony, and study groups.

Through skills learned in the Nauvoo Pioneer Life class, students also share a new hobby. In front of TVs, at firesides, and on the bus, students—both male and female—pull out needles and yarn and knit or crochet scarves, mittens, blankets, caps, and leper bandages. They call it the Grandma Club.

"Basically we don't want any of our friends back home to see what we do here on Friday nights," says Melissa Horsley, '03, from Burley, Idaho, of the Grandma Club activities.

The wives of a couple of the professors have become valuable resources for Grandma Club projects, and all of the faculty and their spouses regularly offer counsel, friendship, and listening ears.

"It's fun to be on a personal relationship with the professors," says Mark N. Stevenson, from Orem, Utah. "They're not afraid to give you a hug or sit with you at lunch and talk. I feel like they're a part of my life, not just professors."

"Going to Joseph Smith Academy is like going to school with your grandparents—really cool grandparents," says Melanie D. Lenehan, '03, a math education major from Cameron Park, Calif. Those grandparents include professors and the missionaries that work in the academy cafeteria as well as some 100 other senior couples that serve missions in Nauvoo. (
What can you do to help build Zion?


In The Doghouse said...

My Friend,
Zion really must be on our minds a lot. I just posted about Zion as answers your question at the end. Great post again!