Note: This classic essay by Alma Don Sorensen was originally published as the last chapter of the 2004 book, Women in Eternity, Women of Zion (Cedar Fort Publishing). We reprint it here to inaugurate an occasional series of current and classic essays by this important LDS political philosopher, who taught many years at BYU before retiring several years ago, and who influenced a generation of young LDS scholars in political science and philosophy.



The Latter-day Saints have not yet become a people of Zion.  We are not yet a people pure in heart who live by celestial law.  But it is our destiny to become so, and we prepare even now for it.  To better anticipate that future, we turn to the Book of Mormon, a sacred record prepared specifically for the people of God in the last days, a record preeminently about Zion--about the pursuit of Zion, obstacles that hindered that pursuit, and the final tragic loss of it by an ancient people.  It was a hope of Moroni, the last known prophet among those people, that the Saints in the last days might “learn” from the book “to be more wise” than his people had been (Mormon 9:31).  We review the history of the pursuit of Zion in the Book of Mormon in search of some of that wisdom.  In view of that history and its lessons, we conclude with some general observations about what the future of Zion may hold for Latter-day Saint women and the roles they might play in regard to that future.

The Pursuit of Zion: A Brief Overview of Past Dispensations

In every great dispensation of the gospel, prophets of God have labored to establish Zion among their people.  They have sought to purify their people’s hearts and motivate them to live by celestial law.  We know the reasons why: the purpose of the gospel is always to prepare a people for eternal life, which requires them to live by celestial law and be purified--to live as a people of Zion--during their time of probation (D&C 97:21, 105:4-5; Alma 42:4, 10, 13).  Accordingly, Adam, who headed the first gospel dispensation as well as all dispensations since then, taught his posterity that they could be “born of the Spirit” and “sanctified from all sin” through Christ and, consequently, could “enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (Moses 6:59-68).  Persons who “enjoy the words of eternal life in this world,” because they have been “born of the Spirit” and “sanctified from all sin,” are persons whose hearts have been made pure and who abide by celestial law.  They are they who enjoy “eternal life in the world to come” (see D&C 105:4-5, 32).  Adam and, we must assume, Eve also were “born of the Spirit” and lived according to the eternal “order” in this world (Moses 6:64-68), as did many of their posterity (Moses 7:1).

The second great gospel dispensation saw the people of Enoch become a people of Zion.  We read that “the Lord” called them “Zion” because “they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18).  Enoch brought his people to Zion by teaching them the gospel given to Adam so that they, too, could be “sanctified” and enjoy “the words of eternal life in this world” and “eternal life” itself in “the world to come” (Moses 6:32-68; 7:1). 

Noah, head of the third great dispensation of the gospel, declared the “Gospel unto the children of men, even as it was given unto Enoch” (Moses 8:19).  But the people “hearkened not unto his words” (Moses 8:20).  We know the rest of the story as far as the people were concerned.  However, Noah himself was “perfect in his generation; and he walked with God, as did his three sons” (Moses 8:27).  This means that Noah and his family must have themselves accepted the gospel as “it was given unto Enoch,” meaning that they were also purified by being born of the Spirit and lived by celestial law, as did Enoch and his people.

Father Abraham, who stands at the head of the fourth gospel dispensation, received the keys to preside over it from the great high priest Melchizedek, after whom the higher priesthood itself has been named (D&C 84:14; 107:2).  We read nothing from scripture about whether the people who followed Abraham became a pure-in-heart people.  But from the prophet Alma we learn that “the people in the days of Melchizedek,” whose time overlapped the days of Abraham, were “made pure” by being “sanctified by the Holy Ghost” and “entered into the rest of the Lord their God” (Alma 13:10-14; Moroni 7:3), which is to say that the people of Melchizedek enjoyed the words of eternal life in this world--they became a people of Zion--and inherited eternal life in the world to come.  Because Melchizedek “was such a great high priest,” the “Holy Priesthood” now has his name.  We suppose it was partly because his people became a pure-in-heart people and entered God’s rest that he was judged such a great high priest (Alma 13:12-19; D&C 107:2).

Moses initiated the fifth gospel dispensation, but without the success of Enoch or Melchizedek.  Moses “sought diligently to sanctify his people” through the power and ordinances of the “priesthood,” so that they might enter into God’s “rest” and enjoy “the fullness of his glory.” But as we know, the people “hardened their hearts,” which seems to indicate they were able but unwilling to live according to the order of the higher priesthood, whose purpose is always to sanctify God’s people so they can live by celestial law here and in the world to come (D&C 84:19-24; 88:21-22).  As a consequence of their unwillingness, God took Moses out of their midst and the “Holy Priesthood” also, leaving them with only “the lesser priesthood” and “the preparatory gospel” (D&C 84:25-26).

The sixth dispensation of the gospel began with the apostles of Christ in the meridian of time (Matthew 16:18-19).  They became, or at least tried to become, a people of Zion, for they received instructions in living the law of consecration, which requires the people of the Lord to live together as equals (1 Corinthians 10:24-26; 2 Corinthians 8:9-16), and for at least a short time they had “all things in common” among them (Acts 2:44; 4:32).

That brings us to the last great dispensation of the gospel--our own dispensation--established by God through the Prophet Joseph (D&C 27:13).  The message of Zion in latter-day revelations, which lay down the doctrinal foundations and aims of our dispensation, is clear: the Saints in the last times must become a people of Zion, if they want to realize the purpose of their dispensation and prepare for and receive eternal life (see, for example, D&C 6:6; 11:6; 12:6; 14:6; 88:74-75; 97:21; 105:4-5; 113:8; 133:62; Moses 7:62-67).  Indeed, because we live during the final gospel dispensation--the dispensation “for the fullness of times” which enjoys “a restitution of all things” (D&C 27:13; Acts 3:19-21), a dispensation called to prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ (D&C 1:12; 34:6) and to whom the city of Enoch will return and “receive them” unto their “bosom” (Moses 7:63; D&C 45:12; 84:100)--because we live in this dispensation, we, even more than the peoples of past dispensations, must become a people of Zion.  One primary reason the Book of Mormon was compiled and preserved for our time is so the latter-day people of God might learn the wisdom they need to establish Zion among them and fulfill the purpose of the final gospel dispensation.  As we will now see, the prophets of the Book of Mormon, like prophets in all gospel dispensations, labored diligently to establish and preserve the ways of Zion among their people, and a record of their successes and failures was preserved for our time.

The Pursuit of Zion: The Book of Mormon Story

We begin our review of the pursuit of Zion among the peoples of ancient America with those who lived under the leadership of the first Nephi and his brother Jacob.  From the Book of Jacob we learn that he and his brother Joseph “labored diligently among the people” to persuade them to “come unto Christ,” “partake of the goodness of God,” and “enter into his rest” (Jacob 1:7).  Their immediate purpose was to preserve and restore purity of heart among their people, implying that prior to that time the people had become “pure in heart” (Jacob 1-2), probably under the leadership of Nephi. As prophets always do as they labor to establish or preserve the ways of Zion among their people, Jacob and Joseph gave attention to how a people of God should “seek for riches.” Before endeavoring to obtain riches, they admonished their people to first “seek ye the kingdom of God” (Jacob 2:18).  A people successfully seek the kingdom of God by becoming or remaining a purified people who live by celestial law, for “Zion” thus defined “is in very deed the kingdom of our God” (D&C 105:4-5; 32: 88:21).  Then they may pursue riches, but only “for the intent to do good” (Jacob 2:19), meaning among other things that riches must be used and distributed according to the law of consecration.

We say Jacob intended his people to live the law of consecration in seeking riches after obtaining the kingdom because one of the first requirements of the law of consecration among a pure-in-heart people is to “impart of your substance” unto “the poor” and “needy” (D&C 42:31-34), and a notable consequence of doing so is that there will soon be “no rich and poor” among them (Moses 7:18; 4 Nephi 1:3).  So when Jacob admonished his people to seek riches with “the intent to do good,” he exhorted them to provide for the poor and needy--“clothe the naked,” “feed the hungry,” “administer relief to the sick and afflicted”--reminding them that “one being is as precious” in God’s “sight as the other” (Jacob 2:19, 21).  Indeed, he taught them that in the overall distribution of wealth they must “think of your brethren like unto yourselves” and be “free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you”--in other words, so there would be no “rich and poor” among them (Jacob 2:17; 4 Nephi 1:3).  That is how a people whose hearts have been made pure, or who want to remain pure in heart, always live together: they live as equals, the law of consecration governs their endeavors to obtain riches, and no rich and poor exist among them.

After Jacob’s time, for a period well over two hundred years, no mention is made of a people becoming pure in heart and living by celestial law in order to become a people of Zion.  Perhaps that is why the record is exceedingly brief, telling us precious little about God’s dealings with his people, even though prophets continued to labor among them.  For when we come to the Book of Mosiah, where the record becomes very detailed again, we learn that “the people of God” (Mosiah 1:8; 8:17; 25:24) in two separate places became pure in heart by being born of the Spirit and lived the law of consecration’s requirement to raise up the poor and care for the needy.  One group was the people of King Benjamin.  They lived in the land of Zarahemla and began to live the law of consecration after being born of the Spirit, about 130 years before the coming of Christ (Mosiah 4:2; 5:2, 7; 4:26).  But about 20 years earlier in the “land of Mormon,” the first Alma, “having received authority from God,” formed “the church of God” and taught his people the gospel of Christ.  Alma’s people also underwent a purification of heart by being born of the Spirit, and they began living the law of consecration (Mosiah 23:16-17; 21:30; 18:17).

We learn about the spiritual transformation of the first Alma and his people from his son Alma.  He tells us that his father himself was first “spiritually born of God,” experienced a “mighty change of heart,” and then “preached the word” unto his people (Alma 5:12, 14).  Their “souls,” we read, “were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word,” and “a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts” (Alma 5:7, 13).  They, too, were spiritually “born of God” (Alma 5:13-14).  Having had their hearts purified by the word, the “hearts” of the people of Alma were “knit together in unity and in love towards one another,” and they lived the law of consecration (Mosiah 18:21, 27-29).  As latter-day revelation makes plain, a requirement of the law of consecration is to “impart” one’s “substance” unto “the poor” so that “every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants” (D&C 42:30-33).  Using much the same terms, Alma the Elder taught his people that they must live that very same law.  We read that he “commanded that the people of the church should impart their substance, everyone according to that which he had,” so that all received “according to their needs and wants” (Mosiah 18:27-29).  If Zion means a people pure in heart who live by celestial law (D&C 97:21; 105:4-5), then those in “the church of God” (Mosiah 18:17), founded by the first Alma, were well on their way to becoming a people of Zion.  “And behold, they were faithful unto the end; therefore they were saved” (Alma 5:13).

Alma led his people from the land of Mormon into the land of Zarahemla, where he received authority from Mosiah to establish for the first time “the church of God” among the people in that land (Mosiah 25:18-24, 26; 26:8, 17).  The people of Mosiah, under the leadership of his father King Benjamin, had themselves been born of Christ and lived the law of consecration about 10 years before Alma formed the Church among them (Mosiah 5:2; 4:2, 26).  Except for Christ’s personal ministry among the people of the Book of Mormon, nowhere in sacred text can we find a more detailed account of a people’s purification under the leadership of a prophet of God than the one found in the book of Mosiah about King Benjamin’s people. 

As prophet, Benjamin, along with other servants of the Lord, labored many years in the hope that his people might undergo purification and become a people of Zion (Words of Mormon 1:12-18; Mosiah 1:1).  Consequently, there was much about the gospel the people, as Benjamin himself said, had “been taught” and “knew” (Mosiah 2:34-36).  His ministry was not without success, for just three years before he died as a very old man, King Benjamin describes his people as “a diligent people in obeying the commandments” and a “highly favored people of the Lord” (Mosiah 1:11-13).  He tells them that because of their diligent obedience they “prospered,” and their “enemies” had “no power” over them (Mosiah 2:31).  When the people gathered to her King Benjamin’s last address to them, they gave “thanks to the Lord their God” for a king who “had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might be filled with love towards God and all men” (Mosiah 2:4). 

Think of that: we have here a people who diligently kept the commandments and for that reason were highly favored of the Lord--a people who thanked God for a prophet who taughtt then about being obedient to God and being filled with his love!  Yet, as Benjamin knew and his people needed to discover, they had not yet undergone the rebirth as men and women that marks the passage from their carnal state to spiritual life as part of their probationary experience; they had not yet been “filled with love towards God and all men,” even though they had been taught much about love and in their way had diligently obeyed the commandments comprehended by love (Mosiah 2:4).  Before the word could transform them as women and men and fill then with divine love, they had to reach a new healing awareness of it and be purified by the power of the Spirit, a change that filled their hearts with the love of God and neighbor (Mosiah 4:2, 11-12), something their continued diligent obedience could not by itself bring about.

Their new awareness began when they discovered that they were still in a carnal state despite their knowledge of the gospel, their diligence in obeying God’s commandments, and the prosperity that resulted from their  obedience.  As Mormon tells us, after hearing King Benjamin’s words to them, his people “viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth” (Mosiah 4:2).  Discovering that they were still in a “carnal state” despite their diligent obedience, the people “cried aloud with one voice” that their “hearts may be purified.” The “Spirit of the Lord” then “wrought a might change” in their “hearts,” so that they had “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 4:2; 5:2), which is to say they were “filled with the love of God” (Mosiah 4:12; 5:2).  If Zion means “THE PURE IN HEART,” as it does (D&C 97:21), then it appears that King Benjamin’s people also were well on their way to becoming a people of Zion (Mosiah 4:2; 5:2).

Like all peoples whose heart become pure by being obedient to God and undergoing spiritual rebirth, King Benjamin’s people were required to begin living the law of consecration.  In the first days of any Zion society, a major requirement of that law is that members lift up the poor and care for the needy among them.  In the words of modern revelation, they “impart” of their “substance,” according to that which they have, to “the poor” so that “every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants” (D&C 42:30-33).  As a result of providing for the poor, the time soon arrives when there are no “rich and poor” among God’s people (4 Nephi 1:3; Moses 7:18; D&C 104:11-17).  In terms much the same as those found in modern revelation, King Benjamin instructed his people, after their hearts were made pure, that they “should impart of [their] substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath,” so their needs could be fulfilleed and they could “receive according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26).  Decades later, many church members were still following this requirement of the law of consecration (Alma 1:27-31; 4:31; 5:55; 34:28).

When a people become pure in heart, every person esteems and respects others as her or his equal, and one does not “possess that which is above another” as a result of living the law of consecration (D&C 88:24-27; 49:20; 51:9; 38:16, 24-27).  Accordingly, Jacob taught the people that persons are equally precious in God’s sight and that among his people there should be no rich and poor (Jacob 2:17-21).  King Benjamin taught his people that they were equally nothing before the power and goodness of God and yet equally everything in the eyes of His love; and he told them they must care for the poor as required by the law of consecration to remain a pure-in-heart people (Mosiah 4:11-13, 26).  When Mosiah became king, succeeding his father, Benjamin, he also taught the people “that every man should esteem his brother as himself” and that “there should be an equality among all men” (Mosiah 27:3-4; D&C 42:30-33).  Under his reign the people of God continued to live the law of consecration’s requirement that the people care for the poor  and those in need among them (Alma 1:27; D&C 42:30-33).  The prophet Alma, who founded the church among the Nephites, taught his people “that every man should love his neighbor as himself” (Mosiah 23:15) and commanded them to keep the law of consecration by imparting of their substance to the poor and needy  (Mosiah 18:27-29; D&C 42:30-33).

What especially impresses us is how these three great leaders held themselves strictly to the requirement that there should be equality among the people of God.  All were men of great talent and high calling, but they held no illusions that they were better than others or their superiors.  What is more, they were particularly anxious that the people themselves learn and accept the truth that the people should hold themselves and their leaders in equal esteem. 

Accordingly, in his final address to his people, King Benjamin insisted that they were his equals, saying to them, “And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I also am of the dust” (Mosiah 2:26).  For reasons we can appreciate, Alma was “beloved of his people,” and they were “desirous that Alma should be their king” (Mosiah 23:6).  Alma refused them, citing as his primary reason the Lord’s will that the people consider one another as equals: “Behold, it is not expedient that we should have a king; for thus saith the Lord: Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another; therefore I say unto you it is not expedient that ye should have a king” (Mosiah 23:7).  This brings us to King Mosiah.  Because of his strong belief in equality, he brought to an end kingship among his people, telling them “that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people” (Mosiah 29:32; 27:3-4).  Could it be that these three righteous men, who themselves had undergone spiritual birth and who presided over a people many of whose hearts had been purified, understood that they and their people were preparing themselves to be joint heirs with Christ and as gods to share all power as equals in the world to come (D&C 76:94-95; 50:27-29)?  We think they did.

It was about fifty years after King Benjamin’s people embraced the ways of Zion, and over sixty years since Alma the elder’s people also had done so, that the younger Alma, having received authority from his father to be prophet and head of the Church (Alma 5:3), began to labor in earnest to uphold the ways of Zion among his people.  He composed one of the great sermons in all scripture about being spiritually born of God and becoming pure in heart.  Flowing as they do from the mind and heart of one who himself was born of God (Alma 36:5), his words are truly memorable and beautifully expressed so they might transform the hearts of all who hear or read them.  He first reminded his people of the spiritual birth and purification of an earlier generation in the land of Mormon.  He rehearsed how God “changed their hearts”; how “their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word”; and how “their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love” (Alma 5:7, 9).  Furthermore, he said they “were faithful unto the end” and “were saved” (Alma 5:13).  He then asked the present generation of his people: Have “ye been spiritually born of God”?  Has “the image of God” been engraven “upon your countenances”?  “Have ye experienced a mighty change of heart?” Can “ye look up to God” with “a pure heart and clean hands”?  Have ye felt to sing the “song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:14, 19, 26)?  Mormon informs us that “these are the words” Alma delivered “throughout all the land” as prophet and head of the Church (Alma 5:1-3).

In another equally remarkable sermon, Alma beautifully and simply described the experience of being born of God and becoming pure in heart by likening “the word” found “in the Son of God” to the “seed” that grows into “the tree” of “everlasting life” when “planted in the heart” through “faith” and given proper “nourishment” (Alma 32:27-39). The tree of life represents the fullness without end that only those who have the image of God engraven upon their countenance through spiritual birth and have been filled with his redeeming love can enjoy (Alma 32:40-41).  “The word” found in Christ alone contains the “seed” that grows into “the tree of life”; it alone can give fullness to our lives by awakening us to the goodness of God and filling us with his love.  When we finally embrace the word through faith, it will, says Alma, “swell within your breast,” “enlarge [your] souls,” and “expand your mind” with that fullness until “ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst” any more for that which gives purpose or brings happiness (Alma 32:28-42; 34:4-5).

As we have said, both of Alma’s great sermons are about becoming and remaining a people pure in heart--in other words, a people of Zion.  For they are they whose souls have been illuminated by the light of the everlasting word, who have experienced a mighty change of heart and felt to sing the song of redeeming love, whose souls have been enlarged and minds expanded with the fullness promised by the word, and who are partakers of the tree of life in this world and in the world to come.

Alma and others called to assist him in the works of the ministry traveled “throughout all the land” among the Nephites, laboring to establish or secure the ways of Zion among the people (Alma 5:1 (1-62)).  They taught the people that they must be “born again” if they wished to “inherit the kingdom of heaven” (Alma 7:14; 5:49) and (among other things) that they must live the law of consecration introduced by Benjamin and the elder Alma, which required them to “impart of their substance” unto “those who stand in need” so that one would not possess that which is above another (Mosiah 4:26; 18:27; Alma 1:27; 4:13; 5:55; 34:28).  All in all, Alma and those who traveled with him enjoyed much success, for Alma confided in his son Helaman that “many” had been “born of God” and “tasted” as he had “tasted” because of “the word,” which had been “imparted” unto him (Alma 36:26).

Meanwhile, the sons of Mosiah proselytized among the Lamanites to purify their hearts with much success.  Lamoni, the Lamanite king, received “the marvelous light” of God’s “goodness” into his “soul,” and the “light of everlasting life,” and he saw his “Redeemer” (Alma 19:6).  His heart and “the hearts” of many of his people were “changed” so that like King Benjamin’s people “they had no more disposition to do evil” (Alma 19:33, 35; Mosiah 5:2).  Lamoni’s father, also a Lamanite king, and his household were “born of God,” as were many of his people (Alma 22:1, 15-26; 23:9). In all, the Lamanites in seven lands and cities (Alma 23:7-15) were “brought to sing redeeming love” because of “the power of God” (Alma 26:13, 33), and they, like Alma the Elder’s people, remained “firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end” (Alma 27:27; 5:13).

The ministry of Alma the Younger ended with his somewhat mysterious disappearance around 73 B.C. (Alma 45:18-19).  His departure marked the end of an era in which many came unto God through Christ and became pure in heart.  From that time until Christ manifested himself to the Nephites and Lamanites shortly after his resurrection, the work to bring people to Zion continued with great devotion, but apparently with much less success.  However, under the leadership of the prophet Nephi, the great-grandson of Alma the Younger, some members of “the church of God” grew “firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ,” unto “the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts” (Helaman 3:35).  Also, through his devoted preaching and that of his brother Lehi, thousands of Lamanites came into the church (Helaman 5:19), and on one occasion “the Holy Spirit” entered into “the hearts” of 300 Lamanites, filling them “as if with fire,” and angels “ministered unto them” (Helaman 5:45-48).  Nephi’s ministry ended with his disappearance near the time of Christ’s birth (3 Nephi 1:2; 2:9).

That brings us to the high point in the pursuit of Zion by the people of the Book of Mormon--or by any people, for that matter--which is the establishment of Zion among them through the personal ministry of the Savior himself.  We cannot begin to describe, not in the space we have here, the wonderful ministry of Jesus Christ among the Nephites and Lamanites when he visited them after his resurrection.  It was an event unequalled in all sacred history as measured by the manner in which souls were brought unto God and the spiritual blessings poured out upon them.  The great purpose in the Savior’s ministry among that ancient people was to establish Zion among them, which he did indeed accomplish.  Through a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit their hearts were purified, and they lived by celestial law.  We read that the “love of God” did “dwell in the hearts of the people,” “they had all things common among them,” “there were not rich and poor,” and “there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God” (3 Nephi 11-28; 4 Nephi 1:1-17).  When Jesus beheld the people’s hearts after their purification, he exclaimed, “And now my joy is great, even unto fullness,” and “even the Father rejoiceth, and also his holy angels, because of you and this generation; for none of them is lost” (3 Nephi 27:30-31).  For 170 years the people of the Book of Mormon remained a people of Zion and lived by celestial law (4 Nephi 1:24-25).

We know that a fuller account was made of Christ’s ministry among that ancient people and his founding Zion among them, and we suppose a detailed history exists of life in Zion during its duration.  Marvelous will be the day when these sacred records come forth among the Latter-day Saints!  But they have been held back until after a trial of faith (3 Nephi 26:11, 18)--presumably a trial of our willingness to become a people of Zion.

Before proceeding to the next section of the chapter, let us underscore something that should be plain from our review of the pursuit of Zion in the Book of Mormon times and other gospel dispensations: God always establishes Zion among his people through the inspired leadership of the prophet called by him to preside over his work.  For example, that is how the pursuit of Zion was undertaken among Enoch’s people, the people of Melchizedek, Alma the Elder’s people, the people of King Benjamin, even the people visited and converted by Christ himself (3 Nephi 20:23).  There is no other way.

Obstacles to the Pursuit of Zion: Lessons from the Book of Mormon

Though many things about Zion have been held back from us, the sacred record makes plain that becoming a people of Zion and living by celestial law is within our reach--given the successes the Book of Mormon peoples had in becoming pure in heart and attempting to live by celestial law, not to mention “the many, the exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God” in other times (Alma 13:12).  Even so, if we are to be wiser than those ancient people of America (Mormon 3:31), then we must study, besides their successes, the obstacles they faced in establishing and preserving Zion among them, especially within the Church membership itself, for the obstacles that stood in the way of Zion existed for the most part in their own midst and not solely in the world around them.

When the people of God failed to attain or even pursue Zion, it was because they chose the way of death over the way of life.  This does not mean they were unrepentant liars, thieves, adulterers, or murderers.  The way of death they typically lived, or at least the one most often described in the Book of Mormon for our learning, seemed right and good to many of them and would seem so to mainly honorable persons today.  We must bear in mind that the way of spiritual death has many ways, and most of them in their earlier stages do not seem grossly wicked or reprehensible to most decent people.  Recall that King Benjamin’s people were, according to him, “a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord” (Mosiah 1:11), and yet upon hearing his last address to them concerning the principles of Zion they discovered they were still in a “carnal state” (Mosiah 4:2).  As Jacob tells us, “to be carnally minded is death” (2 Nephi 9:39), even when it is accompanied by or issues in a certain kind of diligent obedience (Mosiah 1:11; 4:2: 5:2,5).  The carnal state the people found in themselves was one that plagued the Church throughout most of its history, as we shall see, and when it fully realized itself it brought destruction to the Nephites as a people.

We want to identify the carnal state Benjamin’s people were in, bring out somewhat its nature, and trace its path as it hindered and undermined the pursuit of Zion, led to the collapse of the church at one point, and finally resulted in the destruction of the Nephite nation.  As should become clear, the way of death characteristic of people of the church in that ancient time is deeply rooted in our own times.  Because all humankind have become fallen in nature, all are carnal (Alma 22:13), and all seek happiness in ways that eventually bring death (Heleman 13:38; Alma 41:10; 2 Nephi 9:39).  Essentially, the carnal mind is one that seeks its own life according to its own will and desires and, consequently, loses its life (Matthew 10:39; Mosiah 16:11-12; Alma 40:26; D&C 88:35).  It is opposite the spiritual mind that loses its life in following God’s will and receives life as one alive to his goodness (Mosiah 27:25; 5:2; Alma 19:6; JST Luke 9:24-25).

The “carnal state” of King Benjamin’s people infected how they lived their whole lives, as we shall see.  For until a people are “born of God,” thereby becoming “new creatures,” their “carnal and fallen state” continues to affect their overall way of being, and King Benjamin’s people had not yet been born of God despite their diligent obedience (Mosiah 4:2; 1:11).  Accordingly, when any person or people are in a carnal state, it gives form to how they produce and distribute wealth.  How they think about power and the forms it takes spring from their carnal mindedness, as does the esteem in which they actually hold one another as persons and as members of society.  It even shapes how they obey God, for nothing escapes the influence of their desire to seek their own lives and live according to their own wills.  Of course, not all carnal states are equal in their degree of wickedness, although all involve seeking one’s own life.  King Benjamin’s people sought their own lives in how they lived, but they did not do so by lying, robbing, committing adultery, or the like.  Bear in mind they were a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord, and King Benjamin acknowledged them for that (Mosiah 1:11).

Certain precepts organized the carnal mind of King Benjamin’s people, including how they obeyed God, and functioned as major obstacles in their becoming a people of Zion.  Indeed, these precepts worked as major obstacles in the pursuit of Zion throughout the Book of Mormon times.  They can be found in King Benjamin’s address when he brings out the principles of Zion in his successful effort to open the hearts of his people to the message of Christ and to the purifying power of the Spirit.  But one of the most explicit and articulate defenses of these carnal precepts recorded in the Book of Mormon can be found in the teachings of Korihor, a devoted opponent of Zion.   Apparently he had a copy of King Benjamin’s address (Mosiah 2:8), for he counters point by point the principles of Zion found in it by advocating opposing carnal precepts that the Nephites so often found reasonable and appealing.

The first precept concerns the status and power of the human agent himself.  Human agency is the power to choose and act in making a difference in the world, and no normative concept is more basic to how a people live.  Indeed, we may say that any way to live, carnal or spiritual, is primarily a formula for defining and organizing human agency so that life might turn out well rather than poorly.   Recall that King Benjamin taught his people that all a people have, all they are, all they can become that is good depends on the goodness and power of God.  The dust out of which their bodies are made, the air they breathe, their riches of every kind, their very lives--all come from God (Mosiah 2:20-25; 4:19-22).  Without God’s power in their lives, the human being is “nothing”; he could not exist or continue to exist (Mosiah 4:5, 11).  This is not to say that persons have no power and can make no difference in the world.  Rather it means that their power to do good and help make life turn out well come from the gifts and power of God (Moroni 7:16; 10:24-25).  As King Benjamin’s grandson Ammon later explained, “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things” (Alma 26:12; See Moroni 7:16; 10:24-35).  To have faith in God--the faith that purifies a people and enables them to live by celestial law, including having all things common and living the law of consecration--a people must believe that all they have, all they are, and all they can become that is good issues from God’s power and goodness.

Korihor attacked this view of the human agent by offering a contrary view, one deeply rooted in much of Nephite history.  It is a view of individualism and self-reliance, which teaches a people to have a mistaken faith in their own abilities to make things happen in their personal and collective lives.  It makes much of human efficacy in the larger cause-and-effect world, promoting the belief that whether life turns out well for anyone depends primarily on his or her own efforts.  In words notable for their fluency, Korihor said that “every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength” (Alma 30:17).  Such a view seems very attractive, and we can appreciate why even the people of God might accept it.  It fits well with the carnal mind’s desire to seek its own life and live according to its own will.  But again, it is deeply at odds with true faith, wherein God’s power and goodness ground and permeate a people’s whole understanding of individual and collective agency.

The second precept that helped form the carnal mind of King Benjamin’s people before their spiritual transformation is also fundamental to a way of life.  It has to do with how a people own their lives and define the right to possess and control material and nonmaterial goods on which they rely to satisfy various needs and wants.  King Benjamin found it necessary to convert his people to the fact that all good things they may possess--the fact of their existence, their food and shelter, their substance and riches of every kind, even the dust from which their bodies were made, and their very lives--belong not to them but to God (Mosiah 2:20, 25; 4:19, 21-22).  Believing that all good things belong to God is also essential to having a saving faith in him, and that belief provides the basis for having all things common and living the law of consecration, resulting (among other things) in there being no rich and poor among a people of God.

Korihor defended a contrary belief concerning ownership, one familiar to the Nephite people before as well as after his time--a belief that played a large part in hindering and defeating their pursuit of Zion.  Korihor reminded and assured the Nephite people that they were “a free people” who possessed “rights and privileges” that justified them in enjoying the fruits of their labors--to “make use of that which is their own” (Alma 30:26-28).  He upheld a version of private ownership that fits well with the belief in individual efficacy--that “every man” fares and prospers in this life “according to the management of the creature” (Alma 30:17)--considered just a moment ago. 

A key idea in the view of economic freedom and rights expounded by Korihor is that those who privately own and control the factors of production have a right to possess and enjoy individually the income generated by their use of those factors.  This idea is contrary to the principles of Zion, which require a people to have all things in common and live the law of consecration.  According to these celestial precepts, all good things belong to God, he bestows all things upon all his followers in common, they define control over factors and income of production strictly in stewardship terms, and they separate control over these factors by a steward from control over income generated by the steward’s employment (D&C 104:55-56, 67-71; 42:33-34). [1]

When a people live by the carnal precepts upheld by Korihor--when they seek their own lives, having a belief in their own individual efficacy and their rights of personal ownership--inequalities of power, wealth, and status seem justified and desirable, and they inevitably occur.  Many come to believe that the good life includes being a successful person as measured by these inequalities.  Consequently, those who gain more of these “vain things of the world” become “puffed up in the pride of their hearts,” esteeming themselves above others because they have “riches” or “power” and think themselves “wise” or “learned” (see, for example, 2 Nephi 28:15; Alma 4:8; Helaman 7:20-21; 3 Nephi 6:15).  Among the Nephites the source of pride resided in the carnal precepts defended by Korihor: they believed they fared well according to their own management or strength and deserved what they gained, and some possesed more and esteemed themselves better than others. 

Fundamental to Korihor’s attack on Zion and its promise of eternal life was his desire to persuade people that there is no need for an atonement and, indeed, that there is no Christ and no God (Alma 30:12, 17, 28, 36-37).  Eventually such beliefs--that there is a God and a Christ--conflict with the carnal mind and stand in the way of its full expression.  Indeed, even though it may not know or admit it, the carnal mind is “an enemy of God” and in “rebellion” against him from its inception (Mosiah 3:19; 16:5; Alma 10:4-6).  If it persists in its wickedness, it comes out in “willful” and “open rebellion against God” in the pursuit of happiness through iniquity (Mosiah 2:34-37; 3 Nephi 6:18; Mormon 1:16; Moses 4:3).  Denying God’s existence is the form that rebellion eventually will take.  Accordingly, having debunked the existence of God and mission of Christ (Alma 12-16), Korihor opened the way for the carnal mind to fully realize itself by declaring that “whatever a man did was no crime” and “that when a man was dead, that was the end thereof” (Alma 30:17-18). 

So we see that Korihor took to their natural conclusion the carnal principles he defended, and it takes no genius to anticipate the misery and destruction that await any people who live by them.  We can find in Korihor’s teachings the formula for the final decline and destruction of the Nephite people.

Though still in a “carnal state” (Mosiah 4:2), King Benjamin’s people did not deny the existence of God and did not believe that whatever a person does is no sin.  Their carnal mindedness had not reached this extreme. But  they did believe that persons fare in the world according to the management of the creature and their own strength, and because they saw themselves as a free people with certain rights and privileges, they believed they deserved to enjoy individually the economic fruits of their labors.  Consider the reason they gave themselves for not imparting their substance to the poor, a reason that stood in the way of their living the law of consecration.  In the words of King Benjamin: “Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I shall stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, not impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just” (Mosiah 4:17).  If “punishments” thus understood are just, then so are rewards.  If a person works hard and is a wise manager of his affairs, then most likely he will prosper, and if he is not industrious or wise, then he will reap accordingly.  So however life turns out, persons usually get what they deserve.  This is vintage Korihor, and to disabuse them of these beliefs, King Benjamin made clear to them that all they are or may become that is good are blessings from God and that all they now possess or will yet possess that is of value belongs to him (Mosiah 2:23-24; 4:19, 21-22).

It seems that the people also obeyed God under the influence of canal precepts.  They sought their own lives through their obedience while presuming too much that they would fare in eternity according to their strength and management, deserving whatever reward they earned.  To discourage them of this false belief, King Benjamin informed them that however diligent they were in keeping the commandments of God, they could not save themselves and, as measured by works alone, would be forever unworthy of salvation (Mosiah 4:11).  He said to them that even if they served God “with all your own souls” and “render all the thanks which your whole soul has power to possess,” they would remain “unprofitable servants” and be “indebted” to Him “forever and ever” (Mosiah 2:20-21). 

After they were “spiritually begotten of Christ,”, King Benjamin warned his people that as they had “tasted of [God’s] love” and “known of his goodness,” they must now “remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility” and stand “steadfastly in the faith” (Mosiah 4:11).  By always remembering these things, the people would not turn back to seeking their own lives according to those carnal precepts.   Those precepts caused them to rely too much on their own strength and genius, justify worldly inequalities in terms of their rights and freedoms, and lift up their heads in pride.  By remembering these things, they would “always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God” (Mosiah 4:2, 6, 12; 5:2, 5, 7).

Just over a half century after Lehi brought his family to the American continent, the carnal precepts later promoted by Korihor were already at work undermining Zion among the people of the Lord.  In an effort to preserve purity of heart among the people (Jacob 2:10; 3:1-3), Jacob preached against the growing disposition among them to obtain riches “more abundantly than that of your brethren” and to “suppose that ye are better than they” (Jacob 2:13).  He reminded those who would become rich that “one being is as precious in [God’s] sight as the other” and that they must impart of their riches so all “may be rich like unto you” (Jacob 2:17-21), in other words, so there would be no “rich and poor” among them (4 Nephi 1:2; Moses 7:18).  Unlike King Benjamin’s people, some men among Jacob’s people were also guilty of a “grosser crime” because they desired “concubines” and more than “one wife,” using as scriptural justification the practices of David and Solomon (Jacob 2:21-22).  These men had become carnal minded, as indicated by their desire for riches and love of inequality, and it is the nature of the carnal mind to increase in iniquity unless checked by the precepts of righteousness.

It was about 60 years after the first Alma founded “the church of God” in the land of Mormon (Mosiah 18:17) and about forty years after he established it in the land of Zarahemla (Mosiah 25:19) that “great inequality” began to grow up in “the church” (Alma 4:12, 15).  Bear in mind that the church was first established among a people whose hearts had been made pure and lived the law of consecration (Alma 5:3-13; Mosiah 4:2, 26; 5:2; 18:27).  Alma tells us that those who had been “spiritually born of God” in the land of Mormon “were faithful unto the end; therefore they were saved” (Alma 5:13).  So when Mormon tells us that a “great inequality” began to grow up in “the church,” he presumes that for about sixty years many members for the most part lived by the principle of equality as a pure-in-heart people.  In fact, “the people” of the church were still living the law of consecration at the time inequality appeared once more among them, for they “did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor and needy,” as they were commanded to do by Benjamin and the elder Alma (Mosiah 4:26; 18:27), presumably with the result that as a people they tried to establish and preserve equality among themselves, so that one did not possess that which was above another (Alma 1:24-28; 4:13).  Indeed, because they lived that law they had become “prosperous” and “far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church” (Alma 1:30-31).

But then some among the second and third generations began keeping for themselves the “riches” that “they had obtained by their industry,” thinking themselves above others and turning “their backs upon the needy” (Alma 4:6, 12).  This was the cause of the “great inequality” that began to appear among the church members that troubled Alma the younger so much (Alma 4:12, 15).  It seems that the industrious rich made a concerted effort to justify personal ownership and inequality of riches ot other members--presumably by evoking the same carnal precepts of earlier generations, precepts Korihor would promote a decade later partly in defense of those with riches--for “they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure” (Alma 4:18).  The “contentions among the people of the church” over matters concerning riches and inequality became “a great stumbling block to those that did not belong to the church, and thus the church began to fail in its progress” (Alma 4:10-13).  It was at this time that Alma the Younger, “seeing all this inequality” and being “very sorrowful” because of it, resigned his office as “chief judge” and devoted himself fully to his calling as “high priest over the church” (Alma 4:15-18).  As we observed earlier, he dedicated himself to preserving and renewing  among his people the ways of Zion, ways established during the ministry of his father and King Benjamin (Alma 5:1-14).

Compared to the time between the beginning of the ministry of the first Alma and the end of the ministry of his son Alma, a period of about eighty years, the next hundred years the work of Zion is noticeably less successful.  There were those in the Church whose hearts were sanctified and purified, who remained humble and penitent before God, and who died firmly believing that their souls were redeemed (Alma 46:39; Helaman 3:35; 15:4-8; 3 Nephi 6:13). 

But others turn away from Zion, pursuing their own lives according to their own wills, seeking power and riches, lifting themselves one above another, and withholding their substance from the poor--all according to carnal precepts by now familiar (see, for example, Alma 45:23-24; Helaman 3:33-34; 4:11-13; 13:27-28; 3 Nephi 6:12-14).  As is always the case when a people of the Church live by these carnal precepts, they became “distinguished by ranks” according to their “riches” and “chances for learning” made possible by their “riches,” which caused divisions and dissensions among them.  This “inequality” reached the point where the “church” itself “was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith, and they would not depart from it,” and were “willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord” (3 Nephi 6:14).  Apparently, at least some Lamanite church members did not distinguish themselves according to ranks and inequality had not grown up among them as it had among Nephite members.  As Mormon tells us, “the cause of this iniquity of the people was this--Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world” (3 Nephi 6:15).

The last time Zion existed among the people of the Book of Mormon, it endured about 170 years.  It was established by Jesus himself, and it is written that “surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God” (4 Nephi 1:16).  The end of Zion came when the people “began to deny the true church of Christ,” held “their goods and substance no more common among them,” and “began to be divided into classes” (4 Nephi 1:25-26).  But unlike times before, the growth of carnal mindedness could not be reversed or contained by the precepts of righteousness and the labors of the prophets of God.  It developed until it reached its full natural growth, inherent in it from the beginning, and the people pursued evil for evil’s sake despite the suffering and destruction it brought upon them.  We read that the people were “without order and without mercy,” “without principle and past feeling,” and did “delight in everything save that which is good” (Moroni 9:18-20).  They did not “dwindle in unbelief” but “did wilfully rebel against the gospel of Christ” or did come out in “open rebellion against God” (4 Nephi 1:38; Mormon 1:16; 2:15).  They became one with “the devil and his angels,” who “abideth not by law” and “willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin” (3 Nephi 27:32; 2 Nephi 9:9, 16; D&C 88:35).

Mormon tells us “it is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for a man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people” (Mormon 4:11).  Their overriding aim, the aim of the fully ripened carnal mind, is to destroy life itself--as Mormon says, “They delighted in the shedding of blood continually” (Mormon 4:11)--and in the cruelest manner possible.  Despite the revulsion he felt in reporting the terrible evils he saw all around him, Mormon singled out what he judged to be the greatest abomination.  First he describes how Lamanite men fed the Nephite “women upon the flesh of their husbands and the children upon the flesh of their fathers” (Moroni 9:8).  But “notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites,” he went on to write that it “does not exceed that of our own people.” For they took prisoner “many of the daughters of the Lamanites,” and after “depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue,” they “did murder them in the most cruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death”; and having done this, “they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts” as “a token of their bravery” (Moroni 9:8-10).

The violent nature of the carnal mind is deeply rooted within it and present from its inception.  Its less extreme forms can be observed, for example, when persons compete for gain and glory, when they divide into classes and distinguish themselves by ranks, when the rich turn their backs on the poor, and when the poor envy the rich.  It exists among church members when divisions and dissensions occur among them because of inequalities of power, wealth, and status. 

Notably, violence is covert as well as overt in the inequalities between men and women that characterize most carnal societies and cultures and enable men to exercise dominion over women.  How men treat women in the carnal world represents a prominent part of that world’s rebellion against the gospel of Christ and God himself.  It is a principal barometer in measuring the spiritual health of the church itself. [2]   For the purpose of the gospel of Christ is above all else to prepare women and men to be joint heirs and equals with one another in Christ by purifying their hearts and enabling them to live by celestial law.  That is why Satan’s work to destroy the work of God consists above much else in turning the man against the woman--a turning against that can finally result, if left unchecked, in the rape, torture, and murder of women, and even in the eating of their flesh, as a token of male superiority and bravery.

Zion in the Last Days: Warnings from the Book of Mormon

The time will come in the last gospel dispensation when the people of the church will become pure in heart and live by celestial law; they will become a people of Zion.  About this there can be no question (see, for example, 3 Nephi 16:18; Moses 7:62-64).  The question is, What path will take them to Zion?  Will the latter-day people of God learn from the mistakes as well as the successes of the peoples of the Book of Mormon and follow the easier path under the leadership of their prophets, as did Benjamin’s people, or will they repeat their mistakes and go down the harder path, as did the people of the church immediately preceding Christ’s personal ministry among them?  Which path they take depends on how they overcome the obstacles in their own midst and face the opposition around them to becoming a people of Zion. 

In the world around them, people will be hostile to the building up of Zion, for Satan will “rage in the hearts of the children of men” and “stir them up to anger against that which is good,” leading them to say “that it is of no worth” (2 Nephi 28:16-17, 20).  Some among the people of the church may themselves believe that in light of the “wisdom of the world,” the precepts of Zion are unworkable.  In the face of the world’s “scoffing” and “mocking,” some may even become “ashamed” of the gospel and its promise of Zion and fall “away into forbidden paths,” after tasting the fruit of the tree of life (1 Nephi 8:25-28; 11:35-36).   Hopefully, the latter-day people of God will avoid the divisions that sometimes plagued the Nephite church between those who embraced the precepts of Zion and those that would not (see, for example, Alma 4; 3 Nephi 6:10-16). The Lord warns that those who “fighteth against Zion” in the last days “shall perish” or “be cut off” (1 Nephi 22:14, 19; 2 Nephi 10:13).

What the people of the church in the latter days should fear more than opposition to Zion is an apathy that comes from believing all is well in Zion while they are still in a carnal state.  Nephi forewarns members of the latter-day church that Satan will “pacify and lull them away into carnal security” by persuading them that “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” (2 Nephi 28:21, 24).  From the lessons of the Book of Mormon, we can anticipate the “carnal security” and kind of “prosperity” that would “lull away” members of the church in the latter days, hindering them from becoming pure in heart and living by celestial law.  It is a carnal security informed by the carnal precepts that so often hampered the pursuit of Zion among the Nephites, the very precepts defended by Korihor “because they were pleasing to the carnal mind” (Alma 30:53)--precepts that can lead to material prosperity, though not for all, at least for a time.

As we have observed earlier, these precepts justify and motivate a people to live as a “free people” with “rights and privileges” [3] to pursue their own lives according to their own wills, while believing that they prosper according to their own “strength” and “management” and that they deserve to possess and enjoy individually “that which is their own” (Alma 30:17, 24, 27-28).  While living by these precepts can result in material prosperity for a majority for a time, it also inevitably creates and sanctions inequalities of power, wealth, and status among the people of the church.  These inequalities stand entrenched against the equal respect and esteem required by the pure love of Christ, having all things common, living the law of consecration, and there being no rich and poor among them.  When this is so, all is not well in Zion, even for those who prosper because of their freedom and industry.

Nephi warns that in the world of the latter days, when people will “wear stiff necks and high heads,” presumably because of inequalities among them, even “the humble followers of Christ” in “many instances” do “err because they are taught by the precepts of men” (2 Nephi 28:14).  What are these “precepts of men” that may cause even “the humble followers of Christ” to “err” in “many instances”?  We should not be surprised to learn, in view of what so often hampered the attainment of Zion by the Nephites, that among these precepts are those who “put trust in man” and “make flesh [their] arm,” and those who “deny the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 28:26, 31). 

Recall how King Benjamin’s people, despite their diligent obedience, put their “trust in man” by behaving as though they prospered according to their own strength and deserved to make use of that which they thought was their own.  They denied the “power of God” by failing to live the truth that all a people have and are and all they may become and possess that is good comes from and belongs to God.  They made “flesh” their “arm” by acting as though they make themselves “profitable servants” of God who are “worthy” of salvation through their “diligent obedience” while still in a “carnal state.”  And for a time they denied “the power of the Holy Ghost” by not turning to him through Christ with their whole souls so he could purify their hearts (Mosiah 1-5).  As Nephi said, Satan “cheateth the souls” of all who live by the precepts of men, including the “humble followers of Christ” who do “err,” because those precepts promise happiness but eventually bring sorrow, misery, and eventually even destruction (2 Nephi 28:21-24; 26:31).

The only way latter-day church members can be “changed” from their “carnal state” to a “state of righteousness” is to be “born of God” and be spiritually obedient to His commandments (Mosiah 27:25-26; 5:2, 5-7).  They cannot save themselves from their carnal state through carnal obedience, however diligent.  To be born of God, a people must recognize their carnal state; be brought down to the depths of humility; undergo a mighty change of heart through faith in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit; and be spiritually obedient to God’s commandments in all things, including living by celestial law (Mosiah 3:19; 4:2, 11; 5:2, 5, 7; D&C 105:4-5).  All episodes of spiritual birth and purification recorded by Mormon involve these things. 

Refusing to Know

When King Benjamin gave his final address to his people and converted them to the principles of Zion, he told them that “there are not any among you, except it be our little children that have not been taught these things before” (Mosiah 2:34).  Even so, the principles of Zion had not yet changed their hearts and replaced the carnal precepts that ordered their lives. 

In asking how it can be that a people who diligently obeyed God and who had been taught the principles of Zion still failed to exercise true faith in him and embrace those principles, we are reminded of Amulek’s confession in which he explains why he just recently in his life had not lived those principles even though he knew them. 

To understand his explanation we must first place it in its proper context.  Recall that Amulek joined Alma in the work of the ministry about one year after Alma resigned his position as chief judge to devote himself as prophet of the church to upholding the ways of Zion that had been successfully taught by his father and King Benjamin, doing so because “he saw great inequality among the people” and thus became “very sorrowful” (Alma 4:12-20; 8:19-32).  As we indicated earlier, Alma began laboring full-time among the people to uphold the principles of Zion “throughout all the land” (Alma 5:1-14).  Amulek became Alma’s companion when Alma began preaching “unto the people in the land of Ammonihah” (Alma 9:1).  In administering the word to these people, he taught them how “many, exceedingly great many,” had been “made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God” through His “holy order” (Alma 13; see Alma 5:1-2, 3-14).

Amulek’s first sermon as Alma’s companion was to the people of Ammonihah, where he lived.  He began his address by telling them that he was “a man of no small reputation” and had “acquired much riches by the hand of my industry” (Alma 10:4). Also, he said he had “known much of the ways of the Lord” (Alma 10:5), but even so, he confessed, he “harden[ed] his heart” and “was called many times” and “would not hear” (Alma 10:5).  What he was “called” to do but would not “hear” was to live the very principles he and Alma came among the people of Ammonihah to teach: the principles of Zion.  He wanted to help prepare the minds of the people to accept these principles by using himself as an example of one who did not live that which he knew.  As he said, “I knew concerning these things” (he knew concerning “the ways of the Lord” and “his marvelous power”) and “yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God” (Alma 10:6).  But as we know, Amulek ceased “rebelling against God” and pretending “not” to “know.” For he forsook “all his gold, and silver, and his precious things” for “the word of God” (Alma 10:4-6; 15:16).  Having done this, he could more convincingly teach others to live one of the law of consecration’s first requirements--in his words, to “impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need” (Alma 34:28). 

He knew but he would not know--this we think was the state of mind that initially kept King Benjamin’s people from becoming pure in heart despite their knowledge of the gospel and diligent obedience in keeping God’s commandments.  Unless we learn wisdom from the Book of Mormon, this state of mind could hinder even the “humble followers of Christ” among the latter-day people of God from becoming a people of Zion (2 Nephi 28:14). 

To know and yet not to know seems to be an instance of self-deception, a way of thinking or behaving in which a people of God deceive themselves by wilfully holding some false belief or illusion in an attempt to excuse or hide from themselves their carnal ways and their refusal to become a people of Zion.  In the case of King Benjamin’s people, the false beliefs with which they deceived themselves had to do with the justifications they adopted for living according to carnal precepts in the face of the principles of Zion they had been taught.  Perhaps they misconstrued the nature of Zion; told themselves they presently were not yet able or prepared to live its lofty principles; or were actually on their way to living them through their diligent obedience while in a carnal state, or in fact were already living them.  Whatever their false beliefs may have been, those beliefs could have served to disguise or excuse their desires to pursue carnal ends according to carnal precepts, permitting them, as they supposed, to seek for riches, power, and honor, to turn their backs on the poor and the needy, and to accept worldly inequalities even among themselves.  Perhaps their diligent obedience itself helped them not know what they knew.  All seems “well” when a people are a “diligent people” in keeping the commandments and “prosper” because of their industry (Mosiah 1:7, 11-12; 2 Nephi 28:21) while at the same time they know and yet will not know the call from God through his prophet to become a people of Zion.

The central truth a people of the church refuse to know so they can continue in their carnal ways while trying to be good members--members who may even diligently obey the commandments while in their carnal state (Mosiah 1:11;; 4:2)--is the truth about the power and goodness of God (Mosiah 4:5-6, 11).   Before an angel appeared to him, it seems that Amulek was a good man, as measured by most standards.  He confessed that he had “seen” much of “the marvelous power of God,” and yet he “would not know,” which apparently permitted him to enjoy living as a person of “no small reputation” and “much riches” (Alma 10:1-6) while refusing to embrace the ways of Zion that he, as Alma’s companion, would be called on to teach (Alma 5; 10:4-6; 15:16; 34:28).  It seems that by refusing to acknowledge God’s power and goodness, members of the church can justify themselves in not becoming a people of Zion by both affirming and denying their own powers; by, on the one hand, telling themselves that they fare in this world according to their own strength and, on the other hand, by believing they are yet unable to become a people of Zion and live by celestial law.  Like King Benjamin’s people, they rationalize, for example, some possessing that which is above others and esteeming themselves superior to others by claiming that those who prosper do so according to their own management and deserve to enjoy as their own the fruits of their industry (Mosiah 4:17-22).  At the same time, they can rationalize not living by celestial principles by saying that they must first become a people pure in heart, a transformation which they believe will certainly occur in the indefinite future, but which seems to be perpetually beyond their present capacity. 

By affirming and denying their own powers in these and other ways, members of the church can refuse to open their hearts to the marvelous powers of God.  For if they truly believed in that power, they could no longer believe in their own efficacy the way they do and in possessing more and esteeming themselves better than others.  If they truly believe in that power, they would accept with glad hearts that God can do what they by themselves cannot do--that he can and will transform their hearts and enable them to live by celestial law as soon as they stop refusing to know and become willing for him to do so.  Recall that Melchizedek’s people “waxed strong in iniquity” and “were full of all manner of wickedness” before he “did preach repentance” unto them and they were “made pure” and “entered into [God’s] rest” (Alma 13:10-19). Though King Benjamin’s people were in a “carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth,” once they acknowledged fully God’s “power and goodness” and “cried with one voice” that their “hearts” might be “purified,” the “Lord Omnipotent . . . wrought a mighty change” in their hearts, and they began to live by celestial law (Mosiah 4:2, 11, 26; 5:2, 5; emphasis ours).  God through his Son and the Holy Spirit made it possible for them to do what they could not do left to themselves however diligent their obedience. 

It was through the power of the word preached by King Benjamin that his people forsook their carnal state and opened their hearts to the healing power of God.  But preaching the word does not have, by itself, the power to change the hearts of a people who persist in refusing to know the things of God.  Consequently, God may withdraw the “Holy Priesthood” from among them and with it their opportunity to enter his rest by becoming a people of Zion, as he did in the days of Moses (D&C 84:23-26).  But when his plan requires that Zion be established among his people and they persist in withholding their hearts from him, God may manifest his marvelous power in a physically forceful manner to prepare them for Zion.

This was the situation of the Book of Mormon people just before Christ visited them soon after his resurrection.  The people of that time, including many church members, were doing “all manner of iniquity,” such as “puffing [themselves] up with pride,” seeking for “power,” “authority,” and “riches,” “distinguishing themselves according to ranks” and “their chances for learning,” and pursuing “the vain things of the world” (3 Nephi 6:12-15).  Mormon tells us that the people “did not sin ignorantly, for they knew the will of God concerning them; therefore they did willfully rebel against God” (3 Nephi 6:18).  They knew but would not know him.

After giving the people ample opportunity to be healed by him and become a people of Zion, the Lord finally caused a great destruction to fall upon them in the form of earthquakes and physical upheavals.  The whole infrastructure that supported their carnal world collapsed around them, and much suffering resulted, so that the “howlings of the people” were “great and terrible” (3 Nephi 8:25).  The purpose of the Lord was to separate “the more righteous”--those “who received the prophets”--from the wicked and to prepare them to receive him and his Zion (3 Nephi 9:13; 10:12).  So that the more righteous would understand the reasons for their suffering, the Lord reminded them of how “oft” he “gathered” some of them and “would have gathered” others to himself to be healed and to become a people of Zion, but they “would not” (3 Nephi 8:1-12).  So that they would know the source of their destruction, he proclaimed to the more righteous that he, the Lord, “caused” the “great city Moroni” to sink into “the depths of the sea”; that he “caused” the “great city of Moronihah” to be “covered with earth”; that he “caused” the “waters” to cover the cities of “Onihah” and “Mocum”; and much more did he “cause” so that the “whole earth became deformed” (3 Nephi 8:17; 9:4-12).   Then the Lord asked the more righteous who had “received the prophets” if they would now finally let him heal them and pour out upon them the great blessings he had been holding in store for them.  “O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?  Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life.  Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me” (3 Nephi 9:13-14).

After all the destructions they had suffered and after being administered to by Christ himself, how could the more righteous refuse to be healed and to receive the great blessings that await all who become a people of Zion?  How could they now refuse to know the marvelous power and goodness of God and to receive the wonderful blessings he desired to give them?  The record says they did indeed become a pure in heart people, the love of God dwelled in their midst, they had all things in common, there were no rich and poor among them, and “there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God” (3 Nephi 26:17-19; 4 Nephi 1:3, 15-16).   The happiness they now enjoyed was far greater than any happiness they might have imagined they could achieve by continuing in their carnal ways and refusing to know him.

The plan of God also requires that Zion be established in the last gospel dispensation among the Latter-day Saints.  As a warning voice out of the dust (2 Nephi 26:16; Moroni 10:27), the Book of Mormon asks us whether we will learn wisdom from it and become a people of Zion by hearkening to the words of our prophets, or will we refuse to know so that we might continue in our carnal state and bring down upon us the testimony of calamity in order to fulfill the will of the Lord and to establish Zion in the last days.  As modern revelation reminds us, the people of the Church in the latter days can “escape” the “scourge” that will inflict the “ungodly” and enjoy a “multiplicity of blessings” if they will “do all things” commanded them, which include the commandment to establish Zion.  But if they fail to do as commanded, they also will suffer “sore affliction” (D&C 97:22-27).  One way or the other, whether we choose the hard path or the easy one, the Latter-day Saints are destined to become a people of Zion and to receive the great blessings God holds in store for us.  Once we become a people of Zion in this the last gospel dispensation, we will remain so for a millennium, and beyond.

Women and the Future of Zion

First among the lessons the Book of Mormon offers us about what hinders and destroys being a people of Zion are warnings concerning worldly inequalities, particularly among the people of the church.  The carnal world is always deeply infected by inequalities of status, power, and wealth, whereas in a Zion society the people of God esteem and respect each other as equals, share as equals all power, possess all things common, and have no poor among them.  We believe the central contrast between Zion and the carnal world involves the relations between women and men.  We say this contrast is central because, as we continue to observe, the first purpose of earth existence is to prepare a people for eternal life, and eternal life centers on the relationships between exalted men and women, who live and serve together as gods, joined together into an eternal family by everlasting covenants of marriage, and who possess all things, including all power, as joint heirs.  Becoming a people of Zion is how a people prepare for godhood and eternal life, so Zion also centers on the relations between purified women and men who possess all things, including all power, as if they were joint heirs.  This contrasts with the carnal world, where women typically have much less power, less wealth, and less esteem than men do.  So we believe that more than any other inequalities between persons in the carnal world, those between men and women prevent or hinder the coming forth of Zion.  This is notably true when the inequalities of the world become entrenched in the lives of the people of God.

Because women typically are subordinate to men and treated as inferior to them in the carnal world, women have much to gain from the coming forth of Zion as measured by the standard of equality alone, not to mention that degree of fullness of life which comes from being filled with God’s love and being alive to good.  Whereas in the carnal world women generally are unequal to men in wealth, in Zion they have all things common with men.  Whereas in the world women typically are unequal to men in power, they share with them all power as equals in Zion.  And inasmuch as women enjoy less value or less respect and esteem than men do in the carnal world, women and men esteem and respect each other as equals in Zion.  Consequently, in Zion women will have greater opportunity to develop and exercise their gifts and talents than they typically do in the carnal world.  Their opportunities as agents of the light and the word to make and execute decisions involved in carrying out common stewardships with men and performing their individual stewardships as women will also be greater than in the carnal world. [4]   Unlike in much of the world, in Zion women will not be under the economic domination of men, women and their children will not constitute so much of the poor, for there will be no rich and poor, and one woman’s child will not have less opportunity than the child of another woman because of inequality of power and wealth.

Because women typically are subordinate and treated as inferior to men in much of the carnal world, men also have much to gain from the establishment of Zion, perhaps more than women do.  For so long as men exercise dominion over women in an order of unequal power, so long as  men receive greater esteem and respect than women, and so long as men enjoy greater wealth than women, men will suffer darkness in their lives and their lives will be impoverished.  Indeed, it seems that often those who dominate suffer more spiritually than those dominated, those who esteem themselves better than those esteemed less, the oppressors more than the oppressed.

We do not mean to say that the only inequalities the members of the church must put aside to become a people of Zion are those between men and women.  Obviously, this is not so.  Inequalities exist among women of the church themselves, some women enjoying more esteem, wealth, and power than their sisters in Christ.  And of course, the same is true among the men of the church.  These inequalities, too, will melt away when the people of the church experience that healing awareness of God’s love for all his children which causes them to live and serve together as equals in power, wealth, and status.  But still, because the relations between men and women are absolutely central in the celestial world and in Zion as it prepares us for that world, carnal inequalities between women and men comprise the most critical ones we must overcome on the path to Zion.

Worldly inequalities are not without their rationalizations that help shape the mind and heart so that those inequalities seem right and natural to women as well as men.  As we have seen, such false beliefs can constitute a serious obstacle to the establishment of Zion, and only when freed from them can men and women come into full awareness of God’s purifying love and live in Zion as equals.  Because the inequalities of the carnal world favor men over women, we think that women may be initially in a better position than men to recognize the possibility of Zion and to embrace its precepts.  As the Book of Mormon indicates, those most successful in gaining power, wealth, and status are often the least likely to welcome the establishment of Zion and the most likely to turn from it once it has been established.  It does seem that women today, especially women of God, are more disposed to the ways of Zion than many men; for example, they experience social life more in terms of love than rights, they are less likely to let some worldly view of justice stand in the way of compassion, they pursue ends more in the spirit of cooperation than competition, they seem less inclined to war and the destruction of life.  These traits go with their natures and roles as caretakers of the light in the tradition of Eve; indeed, they are traits all agents of the light should possess regardless of gender, but the less favored position in the carnal world may help preserve and perpetuate those traits, making women more Zion disposed than men.

Of course, the women and men of God must bring forth Zion together.  The one cannot move forward without the other.  They must undergo rebirth and live by celestial law as one.  But whether serving as helpmeets in the works of the word or laboring in other ways as stewards of the light, the women of God can and should exercise initiative and leadership in preparing the way for Zion and making it a reality in the last gospel dispensation.  They have a divine calling to help establish Zion, for they are stewards of the light, and the purpose of the light is that persons lay hold upon that which is good by becoming pure in heart and living by celestial law.  So the women of God can and should be anxiously engaged in the cause of Zion, doing many things of their own free will and bringing forth much righteousness in making Zion possible.  To perform such works it is not necessary that they always be set apart or receive specific callings from the priesthood.  They already are called and have the gifts and powers, by virtue of being women of God and agents of the light, to help establish Zion. [5]

However, because we live in the times we do, when people in many places seek to remedy the inequalities from which women suffer, some among the Saints may promote the pursuit of carnal ends and uphold carnal precepts as they try to help achieve equality for women.  So that we will not be misunderstood here, let us say up front that we applaud many of the advances women have made, most notably in recent years, in overcoming the inequalities that continue to empower men to exercise unrighteous dominion over women.  In our own country women recently acquired recognition from government of their right to vote, and have begun to gain recognition of such rights as the right to be protected from serious abuses inside and outside the home and to participate on equal terms with men in the job market.  Latter-day scripture clearly affirms that certain “rights” are “inherent and inalienable,” belonging as they do to all humankind.  Without trying to be exhaustive, these rights include the right to “life,” the “free exercise of conscience” and “religious belief,” the right to “control property,” and the right to be free from “personal abuse” (D&C 98:4-5; 101:76-80; 134; Mosiah 29:32, 38; Alma 30:11; 46:10).  To stress the obvious, the inherent and inalienable freedoms belong to women as well as men. [6]  

But in any debate over fundamental freedoms, the people of the church should bear in mind two things.  One is that such freedoms were established in particular by “the power of the Father” so that he might “gather in” a people of God and establish “among them” his “Zion” (3 Nephi 21:1, 4).  Another is that, as the Book of Mormon makes plain, these same freedoms, when construed as Korihor interpreted them, can justify and motivate people of the church to seek carnal ends and uphold carnal precepts, thereby hindering the establishment of Zion among them--which is to say that the enjoyment of rights and freedoms can become an obstacle to Zion rather than a means to Zion.  In demanding equal “rights and privileges,” people in the church may feel further justified and motivated to seek their own lives and live according to their own wills, behaving as through they fare in this world according to their own “strengths” and “management,” believing they should individually “make use of that which is their own,” possessing that which is above another, or esteeming themselves above others (see again Alma 30:17-18, 23-24, 27-28). 

The Saints should not ignore the fact that the pursuit of equality in the carnal world, whether by men or women, typically means seeking equal access to a world deeply infected by inequalities of power, wealth, and status--a world deeply at odds with the ways of Zion.  Unless a people undergo that mighty change of heart caused by spiritual birth, worldly inequalities will continue to infect a people, including probably the inequalities that enable men to exercise dominion over women.

Needless to say, to pursue the equality of Zion itself by means of carnal precepts--for persons to seek equality within the community of the Saints itself by lifting up their heads in boldness, demanding their rights and privileges, trying to conquer according to their own strength (Alma 30:17-18, 23-24, 27-28)--can only be self-defeating and set back the cause of Zion.  Whenever there were some among the people of God in ancient America who lived by these precepts, they caused dissension and persecution to exist among them which hindered their progress as a people.  To promote Zion and the equality it promises, a people must not be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, must not return railing for railing, and must not cause contention or persecute those who do not believe as they do.  Rather they--men as well as women--must humble themselves exceedingly before God, be submissive and gentle, be easy to be entreated, be full of patience and long-suffering, be diligent in keeping the commandments of God, always returning thanks unto him for whatever blessing they receive, succoring those who stand in need of succoring, and living so the light of God’s goodness can manifest itself through the work of the ministry.  Only such can be a voice in bringing forth Zion.  Let us stress that these virtues give that voice its authentic and effective expression; they should not be construed so as to silence that voice.

We would do well to recall here the “command” that was given to the people of the church during the reign of King Mosiah which concerned the equality that should exist among them--a command given incidentally at a time when the church was being “inflicted” with great “persecutions” by “unbelievers” (Mosiah 27:2): “And there was a strict command throughout all the churches that there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men; that they should let no pride nor haughtiness disturb their peace; that every man should esteem his neighbour as himself, laboring with their own hands for their support” (Mosiah 27:3-4).

Concluding Remarks

What we set out to do was to search latter-day scripture for further understanding concerning the status and power of women, and therefore of men, in eternal life and among the people of God as they prepare for eternal life.  Having the growing debate over so-called women’s issues in mind, we wanted to offer scriptural answers to some of those issues to members of the church who simply might have an interest in such matters; or who might be troubled by the questions being raised by that debate or by the variety of conflicting, largely secular voices that can be heard addressing those questions; or who might be suffering from the inequalities or abuses that infect the carnal world, of which we remain a part.  Hopefully, what we have written will help further elevate the relations between men and women of the church and help move us along the path toward being a people of Zion.

We recognize that there are alternative viewpoints in the church on these matters, all of which claim scriptural support.  We hope our thoughts on this subject may contribute to the work of reconciling these apparently divergent views. However, we reaffirm our thesis--that alternative visions inconsistent with the equality of men and women before God are inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Saints have learned through the revelation giving the priesthood to worthy Black members that the church is not a whites-are-first church, and we have learned through the exhilarating internationalization of the Church and its leadership that it is not an Americans-are-first church. These steps of loving change, guided by our leaders, have only increased our prospects of successfully building a Zion community, as many who thought themselves first begin to see that those whom they saw as last are not so in the eyes of God (see Luke 13:29-30).  The next transformation preceding Zion may be to learn with our whole beings and to an extent we currently cannot conceive that the church is not a males-are-first church.

If we are near that transformation, a period of great introspection and some pain and some change is before us.  We should not shrink from it, but should rather embrace it as a refiner’s fire.  If we have faith in God and really want to be like him, we must listen to the voices of the women.  As with male voices, not all that is said or recommended by female voices will be right, but without hearing those voices, without speaking and listening in righteousness, there will be inadequate emotional impetus for the Saints to become Zion.

Why should women be hopeful or joyful? Why should women feel they are truly equal in God’s eyes and his plan, when current practice and language can be interpreted by some as suggesting that they are not?  Why should women look forward to heavenly life with great expectation? Why should women have faith that the things they now suffer as women will finally be overcome?  Why should women be as happy to bring daughters into the world as sons? In a time when women appear to be coming into their own, unless questions such as these are answered in a gospel context many of our women may turn to the “world and the wisdom thereof” to learn what to think and to feel about who and what they are, can be, and should be.

If we have the fullness of the gospel, then we as a people have the means to obtain the fullness of the answers to such questions and to confound the hope-destroying wisdom of the world.   Every man and woman in the church should actively yearn for the greater light and knowledge God promises to all who seek for the same without doubting his goodness and fairness.


[1] Of course, being a “free people” and enjoying fundamental “rights and privileges” are not in themselves carnal precepts.  Indeed, such is “just and holy” and belongs to “all mankind” (see, for example, D&C 98:4-5; 101:76-80; 134; Mosiah 29:32, 38; Alma 30:11; 46:10). But the very same rights and freedoms that help make possible the works of God (see 3 Nephi 21:1, 4) can also be construed so that they hinder that work, as the history of the Nephite church shows.  As defended by Korihor and others like him, rights and freedoms become carnal precepts that function as especially powerful obstacles to the establishment and preservation of Zion among a people. [Back to manuscript].

[2] “[In the Book of Mormon], the behavior and treatment of women were seen as an index of social and spiritual health” (Daniel H. Ludlow, ed. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed., [New York: Macmillan Publishers, 1992], s.v. “Women in the Book of Mormon,” by Donna Lee Bowen and Camille S. Williams). [Back to manuscript].

[3] See footnote 1 this chapter. [Back to manuscript].

[4] Righteous women of Zion can have a great impact on their families and on society in general.  As President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “The righteous woman’s strength and influence today can be tenfold what it might be in more tranquil times.  She has been placed here to help to enrich, to protect, and to guard the home--which is society’s basic and most noble institution.  Other institutions in society may falter and even fail, but the righteous woman can help save the home, which may be the last and only sanctuary some mortals know in the midst of storm and strife” (My Beloved Sisters [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979], 17). [Back to manuscript].

[5] The leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have taught that women can and should do much to build up Zion: Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the Church, organized the women’s organization known as Relief Society and told the sisters that their work was “not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Press] Section 5 1842-43, 242); the prophet Brigham Young taught that women should “develop the powers with which they are endowed,” “that they should stand behind the counter, study law or physic, or become good bookkeepers and be able to do the business in any counting house, and all this to enlarge their sphere of usefulness for the benefit of society at large” (Discourses of Brigham Young, comp. John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book], 216); modern Church authorities such as President Howard W. Hunter entreated women “to minister with your powerful influence for good in strengthening our families, our church, and our communities” (“Stand Firm in the Faith,” Ensign 24 [November 1994]: 97); President James E. Faust told the women of the Church that their work included “building faith by testimony and example,” “teaching the doctrines of salvation,” “following the Savior’s example of love for all mankind,” and “ministering to others” (“The Grand Key-Words For the Relief Society,” Ensign 26 [November 1996]: 94-96); and President Gordon B. Hinckley singled out the women of the Church, telling them to “become anxiously engaged in other activities,” to “reach out,” and “to serve, to help,” because the Lord had given them “capabilities to round out this great and marvelous organization, which is the Church and kingdom of God” (“Women of the Church,” Ensign 26 [November 1996]: 67-70). [Back to manuscript].

[6] President Gordon B. Hinckley has emphasized the need to move beyond discussions of rights for women and focus more on women’s, and men’s, responsibilities to build up Zion: “Legislation should provide equality of opportunity, equality of compensation, equality of political privilege.  But any legislation which is designed to create neuter gender of that which God created male and female will bring more problems than benefits.  Of that I am convinced.  I wish with all my heart we would spend less of our time talking about rights and more talking about responsibilities.  God has given the women of this church a work to do in building his kingdom” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997],  690). [Back to manuscript].

Full Citation for this Article: Sorensen, A. Don (2013) "The Pursuit of Zion: Wisdom from the Book of Mormon," SquareTwo, Vol. 6 No. 1 (Spring), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleSorensenZion.html, <give access date>

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