Chapter 16: Building Zion

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 110–17


President Brigham Young’s whole soul was dedicated to establishing Zion. He oversaw the gathering of nearly one hundred thousand Latter-day Saints to the valleys of the Rocky Mountains and colonized some four hundred cities and towns. He built temples and tabernacles, organized stakes and wards throughout the western United States, and sent missionaries to nearly every corner of the earth. No one understood better the sacrifice and effort required, but, as he said, “we are not going to wait for angels, … we are going to build [Zion ourselves]” (DBY, 443).

Teachings of Brigham Young

Zion is the pure in heart.

Let me say a few words with regard to Zion. We profess to be Zion. If we are the pure in heart we are so, for “Zion is the pure in heart” [see D&C 97:21] (DBY, 118). Where is Zion? Where the organization of the Church of God is. And may it dwell spiritually in every heart; and may we so live as to enjoy the spirit of Zion always! (DBY, 118).

This is the Gospel; this is the plan of salvation; this is the Kingdom of God; this is the Zion that has been spoken and written of by all the Prophets since the world began. This is the work of Zion which the Lord has promised to bring forth (DBY, 118).

Zion will extend, eventually, all over this earth. There will be no nook or corner upon the earth but what will be in Zion. It will all be Zion (DBY, 120).

Salt Lake Temple construction

Photograph of the Salt Lake Temple under construction. President Young dedicated his life to establishing Zion and taught that “the purpose of our life should be to build up the Zion of our God” (DBY, 88).

Our purpose in life should be to sanctify ourselves and build the Zion of our God.

The purpose of our life should be to build up the Zion of our God, to gather the House of Israel, bring in the fulness of the Gentiles, restore and bless the earth with our ability and make it as the Garden of Eden, store up treasures of knowledge and wisdom in our own understandings, purify our own hearts and prepare a people to meet the Lord when he comes (DBY, 88).

We have no business here other than to build up and establish the Zion of God. It must be done according to the will and law of God [see D&C 105:5], after that pattern and order by which Enoch built up and perfected the former-day Zion, which was taken away to heaven, hence the saying went abroad that Zion had fled [see Moses 7:69]. By and by it will come back again, and as Enoch prepared his people to be worthy of translation, so we, through our faithfulness, must prepare ourselves to meet Zion from above when it shall return to earth, and to abide the brightness and glory of its coming (DBY, 443).

We look forward to the day when the Lord will prepare for the building of the New Jerusalem, preparatory to the City of Enoch’s going to be joined with it when it is built upon this earth [see Moses 7:62–64]. We are anticipating to enjoy that day, whether we sleep in death previous to that, or not. We look forward, with all the anticipation and confidence that children can possess in a parent, that we shall be there when Jesus comes; and if we are not there, we will come with him: in either case we shall be there when he comes (DBY, 120).

The purpose of building Zion is to sanctify the children of God through the ordinances of salvation.

We have been gathered … for the express purpose of purifying ourselves, that we may become polished stones in the temple of God. We are here for the purpose of establishing the Kingdom of God on the earth. To be prepared for this work it has been necessary to gather us out from the nations and countries of the world [to receive] the ordinances of the holy Priesthood of the Son of God, which are necessary for the perfection of the Saints preparatory to his coming (DBY, 121).

The ordinance of sealing must be performed here [son] to [father], and woman to man, and children to parents, etc, until the chain of generation is made perfect in the sealing ordinances back to Father Adam; hence, we have been commanded to gather ourselves together, to come out of Babylon [see D&C 133:5, 7, 14], and sanctify ourselves, and build up the Zion of our God, by building cities and temples, redeeming countries from the solitude of nature, until the earth is sanctified and prepared for the residence of God and angels (DBY, 407).

The Lord has provided the means for the Saints to build Zion.

Do we realize that if we enjoy a Zion in time or in eternity we must make it for ourselves? That all, who have a Zion in the eternities of the Gods, organized, framed, consolidated, and perfected it themselves, and consequently are entitled to enjoy it? (DBY, 118).

When we conclude to make a Zion we will make it, and this work commences in the heart of each person. When the father of a family wishes to make a Zion in his own house, he must take the lead in this good work, which it is impossible for him to do unless he himself possesses the spirit of Zion. Before he can produce the work of sanctification in his family, he must sanctify himself, and by this means God can help him to sanctify his family (DBY, 118).

The Lord has done his share of the work; he has surrounded us with elements containing wheat, meat, flax, wool, silk, fruit, and everything with which to build up, beautify and glorify the Zion of the last days, and it is our business to mould these elements to our wants and necessities, according to the knowledge we now have and the wisdom we can obtain from the heavens through our faithfulness. In this way will the Lord bring again Zion upon the earth, and in no other (DBY, 294).

There is not one thing wanting in all the works of God’s hands to make a Zion upon the earth when the people conclude to make it. We can make a Zion of God on earth at our pleasure, upon the same principle that we can raise a field of wheat, or build and inhabit. There has been no time when the material has not been here from which to produce corn, wheat, etc, and by the judicious management and arrangement of this ever-existing material a Zion of God can always be built on the earth (DBY, 118).

Building Zion requires sacrifice and great effort.

We want all the Latter-day Saints to understand how to build up Zion. The City of Zion, in beauty and magnificence, will outstrip anything that is now known upon the earth. The curse will be taken from the earth and sin and corruption will be swept from its face. Who will do this great work? Is the Lord going to convince the people that he will redeem the center Stake of Zion, beautify it and then place them there without an exertion on their part? No. He will not come here to build a Temple, a Tabernacle, a Bowery, or to set out fruit trees, make aprons of fig leaves or coats of skins, or work in brass and iron, for we already know how to do these things. … We have to build up Zion, if we do our duty (DBY, 120).

I see men and women in this congregation—only a few of them—who were driven from the central Stake of Zion [in Jackson County, Missouri; see D&C 57:2–3]. Ask them if they had any sorrow or trouble; then let them look at the beautiful land that the Lord would have given them if all had been faithful in keeping his commandments, and had walked before him as they should; and then ask them with regard to the blessings they would have received. If they tell you the sentiments of their minds, they will tell you that the yoke of Jesus would have been easy and his burden would have been light, and that it would have been a delightful task to have walked in obedience to his commandments and to have been of one heart and one mind; but through the selfishness of some, which is idolatry, through their covetousness, which is the same, and the lustful desire of their minds, they were cast out and driven from their homes (DBY, 113–14).

Let us train our minds until we delight in that which is good, lovely and holy, seeking continually after that intelligence which will enable us effectually to build up Zion, which consists in building houses, tabernacles, temples, streets, and every convenience and necessity to embellish and beautify, seeking to do the will of the Lord all the days of our lives, improving our minds in all scientific and mechanical knowledge, seeking diligently to understand the great design and plan of all created things, that we may know what to do with our lives and how to improve upon the facilities placed within our reach (DBY, 247).

We have come here to build up Zion. How shall we do it? … We have got to be united in our efforts. We should go to work with a united faith like the heart of one man; and whatever we do should be performed in the name of the Lord, and we will then be blessed and prospered in all we do. We have a work on hand whose magnitude can hardly be told (DBY, 284).

Many Latter-day Saints think when they have obeyed the Gospel, made a sacrifice in forsaking their homes, perhaps their parents, husbands, wives, children, farms, native lands, or other things held dear, that the work is done; but it is only just commenced. The work of purifying ourselves and preparing to build up the Zion of God … has only just begun with us when we have got as far as that (DBY, 444).

Everything connected with building up Zion requires actual, severe labor. It is nonsense to talk about building up any kingdom except by labor; it requires the labor of every part of our organization, whether it be mental, physical, or spiritual, and that is the only way to build up the Kingdom of God (DBY, 291).

If we are to build up the Kingdom of God, or establish Zion upon the earth, we have to labor with our hands, plan with our minds, and devise ways and means to accomplish that object (DBY, 291).

I have Zion in my view constantly. We are not going to wait for angels, or for Enoch and his company to come and build up Zion, but we are going to build it. We will raise our wheat, build our houses, fence our farms, plant our vineyards and orchards, and produce everything that will make our bodies comfortable and happy, and in this manner we intend to build up Zion on the earth and purify it and cleanse it from all pollutions. Let there be an hallowed influence go from us over all things over which we have any power; over the soil we cultivate, over the houses we build, and over everything we possess; and if we cease to hold fellowship with that which is corrupt and establish the Zion of God in our hearts, in our own houses, in our cities, and throughout our country, we shall ultimately overcome the earth, for we are the lords of the earth; and, instead of thorns and thistles, every useful plant that is good for the food of man and to beautify and adorn will spring from its bosom (DBY, 443–44).

The Lord has blessed me; he has always blessed me; from the time I commenced to build up Zion, I have been extremely blessed. I could relate circumstances of so extraordinary a character in regard to the providences of God to me, that my brethren and sisters would say in their hearts, “I can hardly give credence to this” (DBY, 452).

My spiritual enjoyment must be obtained by my own life, but it would add much to the comfort of the community, and to my happiness, as one with them, if every man and woman would live their religion, and enjoy the light and glory of the Gospel for themselves, be passive, humble and faithful; rejoice continually before the Lord, attend to the business they are called to do, and be sure never to do anything wrong (DBY, 119).

All would then be peace, joy, and tranquility, in our streets and in our houses. Litigation would cease, there would be no difficulties before the High Council and Bishops’ Courts, and courts, turmoil, and strife would not be known (DBY, 119).

Then we would have Zion, for all would be pure in heart (DBY, 119).

My heart has been set in me to do the will of God, to build up his Kingdom on the earth, to establish Zion and its laws, and to save the people; and I can say, truly and honestly, that the thought never came into my mind, in all my labors, what my reward will be, or whether my crown would be large or small, or any crown at all, a small possession, a large possession, or no possession. I have never had any thoughts or reflections upon this, or cared the first thing about it. All that I have had in my mind has been that it was my duty to do the will of God, and to labor to establish his Kingdom on the earth … because the principles which God has revealed for the salvation of the inhabitants of the earth are pure, holy and exalting in their nature. In them there is honor and eternal increase, they lead on from light to light, strength to strength, glory to glory, knowledge to knowledge, and power to power (DBY, 452).

Suggestions for Study

Zion is the pure in heart.

Our purpose in life should be to sanctify ourselves and build the Zion of our God.

  • President Young taught, “The purpose of our life should be to build up the Zion of our God.” As a Church, what must we do to build up Zion? How can you as an individual help in this work?

  • What is the “pattern and order” that Enoch used to build and perfect the former-day Zion? (See also Moses 7:10–11, 17–21.) How can we follow that same pattern in our families and wards or branches today?

  • How can families create Zion in their own homes?

The purpose of building Zion is to sanctify the children of God through the ordinances of salvation.

  • How can we sanctify ourselves and our families?

  • Why have we been “commanded to gather ourselves together, to come out of Babylon” to Zion? (See also D&C 44:4–6; 133:14.) What is spiritual Babylon and how do we come out of it?

  • What is the relationship between building Zion and the ordinances of the holy priesthood?

The Lord has provided the means for the Saints to build Zion.

  • What has the Lord provided for us so we can contribute to the establishment of Zion?

  • Zion begins in “the heart of each person.” What gifts or talents do you have that can help you build Zion?

Building Zion requires sacrifice and great effort.

  • In the early days of the Church, the location of the center stake of Zion was revealed (see also D&C 57:2–3). According to President Young, what prevented the Saints from entering into their inheritance and establishing Zion at that time?

  • How will the Lord bring about the establishment of Zion? (See also D&C 105:5–6.)

  • Why is it important that we “train our minds” as we strive to build Zion?

  • President Young taught that to build Zion we must be united in our efforts. How can we achieve this unity in our families, quorums, and wards or branches?

  • Why does the Lord require “actual, severe labor” from us in establishing Zion?

  • President Young stated, “The Lord has blessed me; … from the time I commenced to build up Zion, I have been extremely blessed.” What blessings are in store for those who keep their covenant to establish Zion? (See also Isaiah 51:11.)