Thoughts on Zion

Build­ing Zion Com­mu­ni­ties

Serve Daily - - NEWS - By Jesse Fisher

The same spirit of Zion, of co­op­er­a­tion and mu­tual ben­e­fit, shown in how the Saints es­tab­lished Salt Lake City in 1847, and in their ef­forts to “gather the poor to Zion”, was then ex­pressed in how the waves of im­mi­grat­ing Saints founded the Mor­mon com­mu­ni­ties along the Rocky Moun­tains.

In his book “Great Basin King­dom”, Leonard J. Ar­ring­ton re­ported the process the Mor­mon colonists would follow to es­tab­lish their var­i­ous set­tle­ments. That process looks more like an­cient Is­rael un­der God’s di­rec­tion than mod­ern Americans di­rected by the profit mo­tive.

First, a lo­ca­tion for a set­tle­ment was ded­i­cated by prayer when the set­tlers ar­rived. Then they all worked to­gether to build a fort or stock­ade. Each day or­ga­nized groups would ven­ture forth and co­op­er­a­tively build the town’s in­fra­struc­ture - lay out roads and land parcels, build fences, dams, and dig ir­ri­ga­tion canals. Then the 1-acre lots in town and the larger parcels on the out­skirts of town were dis­trib­uted in two ran­dom draw­ings. The rule that no fam­ily was al­lowed to draw more than once for ei­ther set of parcels pre­vented in­equal­ity in land hold­ings. In fact, parcels that weren’t dis­trib­uted were re­served for late-com­ing colonists to the com­mu­nity. And in some com­mu­ni­ties hold­ers of 25 acre lots al­lowed their parcels to be re­duced so that new­com­ers could have land to farm as well.

Hun­dreds of com­mu­ni­ties from Canada to Mex­ico were es­tab­lished in this man­ner with­out a sin­gle de­vel­oper or build­ing con­trac­tor profit­ing from get­ting there first as cus­tom­ary in the United States then and now.

They were build­ing real live Zion com­mu­ni­ties. There were “no poor among them” be­cause ev­ery fam­ily re­ceived suf­fi­cient land to support them­selves. The co­op­er­a­tive man­ner in which they worked and lived un­der Priest­hood di­rec­tion could prop­erly be de­scribed as “liv­ing in right­eous­ness”. Their ac­tions in­di­cated their mo­tives were for the ben­e­fit of all, not self-ag­gran­dize­ment through in­di­vid­ual profit -- this qual­i­fied them as “pure in heart”.

Cer­tainly, the Saints weren’t per­fect at be­ing Zion-like. There are ac­counts of a few new­com­ers to th­ese fledg­ling Zion com­mu­ni­ties be­ing stonewalled by early ar­rivers. Th­ese new­com­ers, who were promised an in­her­i­tance in Zion, had to ap­peal to the lo­cal bishop or some­times to the prophet to get the old-timers to re­lin­quish their con­trol of lands they had been given.

If th­ese im­per­fect Saints could build Zion com­mu­ni­ties, couldn’t groups of Zion-minded peo­ple do the same to­day? “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Dis­cuss this ar­ti­cle at Build­ ©2014 by Jesse Fisher.

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