Thoughts on Zion
Building Zion Communities
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 BuildingZion.org. ©2014 by Jesse Fisher.