In the book of Second Nephi, in chapters 26-33, Nephi has left us a stunning prophecy – oft quoted, oft twisted and, in my opinion, far too often ignored by the saints to whom he was speaking, but who think it refers to everyone but them. While I’ve read it many times, my most recent reading left me with an astounding realization that he is talking about us – the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In chapter 28, verse 21, speaking of “the devil” (verse 19), Nephi writes:
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
Then, in verses 24-25 he writes:
Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!
The question recently occurred to me, “Why does he use the term “Zion”, and what is the significance”.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably read over this many times, and it just rolled right past. If you’re like me, it never occurred to you to question the use of the term “Zion”. However, let’s consider the following:
- It is a given that Nephi used a term or character in the Reformed Egyptian that represented a concept that Joseph was prompted to translate as “Zion”.
- Joseph himself was probably not even familiar with the term “Zion” in the way we use it today, and most certainly was not referencing Enoch’s Zion – a concept that was unknown to most of the world until he translated the Book of Moses. Even the Book of Enoch itself was known only to scholars until the 1900’s. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Enoch)
- Biblical references to “Zion” (153 of them in the Old Testament) seem to vaguely refer to God’s Kingdom, Jerusalem, even the Jews themselves, but any definition must be inferred by the context surrounding its usage.
- Nephi may well have been aware of Enoch’s Zion, and certainly of the biblical usage of the term Zion, but the only way he would have been aware of today’s colloquial usage of the term “Zion” among Latter-Day Saints is through pure prophecy.
- Nephi could not have been referring to Enoch’s Zion – because in Enoch’s Zion, by its very definition, all IS well.
After pondering these things, I concluded that Nephi’s term “Zion” was referring to the Jews in the land of Jerusalem, and then that he was projecting that into our day. This should be alarming to all who call themselves Latter-Day Saints. Here’s why…
- The Zion of Jerusalem when Lehi and his family left it were fully ripe in their iniquity, only a few years away from being destroyed by Babylon with the few survivors being carried away into the Babylonian captivity.
- In projecting this concept of Zion in iniquity onto our day, he is most certainly not referring to the world in general – he is particularly pointing at the Latter-Day Saints. He is equating the Jews of Jerusalem with the Saints of our day. Therefore, Nephi is basically equating his image of the Jerusalem of 600 B.C. with the 20th century “Zion” of the Latter-Day Saints.
I know of no Latter-Day Saint who would truly say that all is well in Zion. We all admit that “all is NOT well in Zion”, but do our actions show that we believe that? Again, if you’re like me, you’ve read this over and over, and we lull ourselves into thinking, “Well – that’s not me”. Really?! I repeat verses 24-25:
Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!
Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!
What does it mean to be at ease in Zion? Perhaps a clue is contained in verses 26-29:
Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!
Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!
And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.
Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!
I have made an interesting observation about the world in general, including Latter-Day Saints. It is that we are really good (sometimes too good) at believing the truth of things that happened in the past (the parting of the Red Sea), and we’re really good at believing in things that are prophesied in the future (the building of the New Jerusalem, the Second Coming), but we’re not so good at believing in miracles in the present. At some time, of course, the future becomes the present. Will we believe the prophecies then, or will we remain “at ease in Zion”?
Nephi’s prophecies are damning to whomever he is speaking . Most of us choose to believe, largely without thinking, that they apply to the world in general, or to the world of traditional, trinity preaching, Nicene Creed believing Christians. I, frankly, disagree. I, on the other hand, think they apply to us – to the readers of the Book of Mormon. I’m not going to go into detail of each prophecy he makes. I’ll let you do that for yourselves. Besides, if I were to do that, then I would be perceived as calling the church and its members to repentance. That is not my place. I would encourage you, though, to read these chapters in the context of their speaking to us – to the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I would remind all that the whole church has been placed under condemnation:
And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion. (D&C 84:54-58)
Nephi’s prophecies go hand in hand with Moroni’s prophecies in Mormon chapter 9, Ether chapter 4 and Moroni chapter 10. We are cautioned repeatedly in the Book of Mormon against “unbelief”, and then the Lord, in the above scriptures from section 84, places us all under condemnation for our “unbelief” in the Book of Mormon itself. That seems like a pretty potent combination to me – kind of a double whammy, if you will.
Brethren and Sisters – next to testifying of the Savior, the great promise and message of the Book of Mormon is Zion. King Benjamin and his son Mosiah preserved a Zion-like society for decades. Alma started a Zion society at the waters of Mormon. Every one of the pride cycles peaked in a Zion-like society before pride and the love of riches brought it down. When Nephi pronounces “Woes” against those who proclaim that “all is well in Zion”, he is speaking to us! Perhaps more than any of the other prophecies in these 8 chapters, this one clearly applies to us…we are the only ones who could remotely be referred to as “Zion”. He is cautioning us against thinking that things are ok – against being satisfied with anything less than Zion. He is cautioning us against waiting for someone else to build it. He is calling damnation upon those who love their riches more than they love the Lord and His vision of Zion. In invoking the term Zion, he is clearly pointing to us – the Latter-Day Saints – and comparing us to his only frame of reference for such things – the Jews of Jerusalem – who were within years of destruction and captivity.
I testify that someone will need to lay the first stones in building the New Jerusalem! This will only be done by those who have prepared their hearts to receive Him and His kingdom. The day will come when tomorrow will be today! We cannot continue to think “All is well” and that someone else has the responsibility to build it! The responsibility is ours! We cannot continue to be satisfied with anything less than Zion. This is the very reason we are under condemnation. It is the very reason the Lord told us that:
Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld. (D&C 70:14)
The changes required to overcome our unbelief are beyond challenging. We must reject the values of babylon – values with which we have been imbued from childhood. We must learn to recognize the philosophies of men, from whatever source they might come, that we can discern truth from error. After all, even the few, the humble followers of Christ, will be fooled by the precepts of men.
They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men. (2 Nephi 28:14)
The Lord will build Zion. He will build it with very real hands and very real hearts. The day will soon come when tomorrow is today – if it is not already. I, personally, am just beginning to realize what it is going to take to overcome the unbelief that has brought us under condemnation. It scares me to death, but I cannot turn away – such would be my own personal condemnation. Now is the time of prophecy fulfilled. Those who would be on the Zion bus must prepare themselves, and they must settle for nothing less. Nephi truly saw our day and he has warned us – the Latter-Day Saints – to whom he was writing, that the only way all will be well in Zion; the only way we can be at ease in Zion; is when we are Zion. To settle for less is to wallow in unbelief and to remain under condemnation. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.