“Lesson 8: The Place for the City of Zion,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material (2018)
“Lesson 8,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material
In the Book of Mormon and through revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord imparted truths concerning the city of Zion in the last days. During the summer of 1831, Joseph Smith and other Saints traveled from Ohio to Jackson County, Missouri, which the Lord designated the “center place” for the city of Zion and its temple (D&C 57:3). After the land for the city of Zion and the place for the temple site were dedicated, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, and some of the elders returned to Ohio while others, such as Bishop Edward Partridge, remained in Missouri to help establish Zion.
Joseph Smith and other Saints traveled from Ohio to Jackson County, Missouri.
July 20, 1831
The Lord designated Independence, Missouri, as the center place of Zion where a temple will be built.
August 2, 1831
The land of Zion was consecrated and dedicated for the gathering of the Saints.
August 3, 1831
A temple site in Independence, Missouri, was dedicated.
August 9, 1831
Joseph Smith and others departed Missouri to return to Ohio.
Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 (2018), chapter 12
Write the following question on the board: What is Zion?
Invite students to discuss their responses to this question in groups of two or three. Then ask one or more students to report their responses to the entire class. If necessary, help students understand that Zion refers to “the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21). Zion also refers to “a place where the pure in heart live” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Zion,” scriptures.ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
Ask a student to read the following paragraph aloud:
Even before the Church was organized, the Prophet Joseph Smith received several revelations in which the Lord instructed individuals to “seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion” (D&C 6:6; 11:6; 12:6; see also D&C 14:6). Because prophecies about Zion (also called the New Jerusalem) are found in the Bible, the concept of Zion was not new to these individuals (see Isaiah 33:20; 52:1, 8; Revelation 21:1–4). After the Book of Mormon was published, the Saints discovered additional prophecies about Zion. They learned that the righteous would gather together and build the city of Zion and that the Lord would be in their midst. They also learned that the city of New Jerusalem would be built upon the American continent. (See 3 Nephi 21:20–25; Ether 13:1–11.) Joseph Smith received a revelation in September 1830 in which the Lord directed Oliver Cowdery to “go unto the Lamanites, and preach my gospel unto them; and … cause my church to be established among them” (D&C 28:8). The Lord also indicated in this revelation that the site for the city of Zion would be “among the Lamanites” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, ed. Michael Hubbard MacKay and others , 186).
Remind students that in February 1831, Joseph and Emma Smith moved from New York to Kirtland, Ohio. In March 1831, the Prophet received another revelation regarding Zion. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 45:64–71. Ask the class to look for what the Saints learned about the city of Zion.
What stands out to you in these verses?
What truth can we learn from these verses about what the city of Zion will be like? (Summarize students’ responses by writing the following truth on the board: The city of Zion will be a place of peace and safety, and the glory of the Lord will be there.)
Why might these details about the city of Zion have increased the excitement and anticipation of the early Saints?
Invite a student to read the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) aloud. Ask the class to listen for what he taught about the establishment of Zion in the latter days.
“The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; but they died without the sight; we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the Latter-day glory; it is left for us to see, participate in and help to roll forward the Latter-day glory.
“Anyplace where the Saints gather is Zion, which every righteous man will build up for a place of safety for his children.
“There will be here and there a Stake [of Zion] for the gathering of the Saints. … There your children shall be blessed, and you in the midst of friends where you may be blessed. …
“… The time is soon coming, when no man will have any peace but in Zion and her stakes” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 186).
According to this statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith, where will individuals be able to enjoy the blessings of Zion? (Be sure students understand that the blessings of Zion, including peace and safety, will be available not only in the city of Zion but also in the stakes of Zion established throughout the world.)
Explain that in a Church conference held in June 1831, the Lord revealed more information about the city of Zion. In this revelation, now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 52, the Lord commanded Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Bishop Edward Partridge, and 25 other missionaries to travel to Missouri, where the next Church conference would be held and the site for the city of Zion would be revealed (see D&C 52:1–5; see also Matthew McBride, “Ezra Booth and Isaac Morley,” in Revelations in Context, ed. Matthew McBride and James Goldberg , 130–31, or history.ChurchofJesusChrist.org). In subsequent revelations, three additional missionaries were also called to travel to Missouri (see D&C 53:5; 55:5–6).
Display the map “Some Important Locations in Early Church History.”
Invite students to locate Colesville, New York, and Kirtland, Ohio, on the map.
Based on your reading of chapter 12 of Saints: Volume 1, what happened to the Saints from Colesville after they arrived in Ohio? (They lived for a short time on Leman Copley’s farm in Thompson, Ohio, until Leman evicted them. The Lord then revealed that the Colesville Saints were to journey to the land of Zion in Missouri and settle there.)
Invite students to locate Independence, Missouri, on the map “Some Important Locations in Early Church History.”
Ask a student to read aloud the following account by Newel Knight, one of the Colesville Saints, concerning the condition of his mother, Polly Knight, during their journey to Missouri:
“[We] took passage on [a steamer] … for Independence. My mother’s health was very poor and had been for a considerable length of time. Yet she would not consent to stop traveling; her only or her greatest desire was to set her feet upon the land of Zion and to have her body interred in that land. I went on shore and bought lumber to make a coffin in case she should die before we arrived at our place of destination, so fast did she fail” (Newel Knight, Newel Knight autobiography and journal, circa 1846–1847, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling, capitalization, and punctuation standardized).
What do we learn about Polly Knight’s faith from this account?
Ask students to locate chapter 12 of Saints: Volume 1. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from page 128, starting with the paragraph that begins “Shortly after the Colesville Saints …” and concluding with the paragraph on page 129 that begins “But when they reached the town …” Ask the class to follow along, looking for how some of the Saints reacted when they arrived in Independence, Missouri.
Why were some of the Saints discouraged when they arrived in Independence, Missouri?
How might you have reacted if you had anticipated a large settlement of converts and instead found a frontier village with few members?
What did the Lord reveal about Zion?
How might this revelation have helped those who were discouraged by what they found in Independence?
Display the accompanying image of Bishop Edward Partridge.
Ask a student to read the following paragraph aloud:
Bishop Edward Partridge made the journey to Missouri assuming that he would soon return to his family in Ohio. However, on July 20, Joseph Smith received a revelation that instructed Bishop Partridge to remain and settle in Independence to fulfill his role as bishop (see D&C 57:7, 14–15). Shortly after this revelation, Edward Partridge and the Prophet Joseph Smith had a disagreement regarding the land to be purchased for the Saints in Missouri. Bishop Partridge felt that other parcels of land were better. On August 1, 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 58. In this revelation, the Lord instructed Edward to repent and stand in his office as bishop in Missouri (see D&C 58:14–18).
Based on your reading of chapter 12 of Saints: Volume 1, how did Edward Partridge ultimately respond to the Lord’s direction that he and his family settle in Missouri? (Edward Partridge faithfully obeyed this commandment, even though it required his family to make significant sacrifices to join him in Missouri.)
Explain that in the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 58, the Lord gave additional instructions and promises to those who would help build Zion. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 58:2–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for some of the Lord’s promises.
What truths can we learn from these verses? (Students may identify several truths, including the following: If we remain faithful in tribulation, then blessings will follow. We cannot behold with our natural eyes the design of God in bringing forth the glory of Zion. Write these truths on the board.)
How do you think these truths may have helped the Saints in their efforts to build Zion in Jackson County, Missouri?
Divide students into pairs or small groups, and give each student a copy of the accompanying handout, “‘After Much Tribulation Come the Blessings’ (D&C 58:4).” Invite students to read the handout aloud in their pairs or groups and then discuss their answers to the questions at the end of the handout.
After students have had sufficient time to complete the handout activity, display the accompanying image. Explain that it is a picture of the Missouri River and that the Prophet Joseph Smith and others camped on the banks of this river at a place called McIlwaine’s Bend while traveling back to Ohio in August 1831.
Based on your reading of chapter 12 of Saints: Volume 1, what challenges did Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and other elders experience during their journey back to Ohio? (Some canoes nearly capsized because of the powerful currents and submerged trees within the Missouri River.)
How did Ezra Booth and some of the other elders react to these challenges? (They initially criticized their leaders. Later, as they camped on the banks of the river, most of the men were reconciled through discussion and apologies, but Ezra Booth remained critical of Joseph Smith and others.)
You may want to conclude by reviewing the truths discussed in this lesson. Share your testimony that as members of the Lord’s Church today, we have the opportunity and responsibility to establish Zion wherever we live and that the Lord will bless us as we remain faithful in tribulation. Invite students to act on these truths.
Encourage students to prepare for the next class by reading chapters 13–14 of Saints: Volume 1.