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Zion Shall Flourish

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 30, 2010

Zion Shall Flourish


David O. McKay
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

Address delivered at the Leadership Assembly of the Brigham Young University, Jan. 29, 1935

Text: “Zion shall flourish and the glory of the Lord shall be upon her.”

Zion means literally a “sunny place,” or “sunny mountain.” It first designated an eminence in Palestine on which Jerusalem is built. In the Doctrine and Covenants Zion has three designations, first, the land of America; second a specific place of gathering; and third, the pure in heart.

As the Zion in Jerusalem was distinct as it stood wrapped in the clear sunshine, so I like to think of modern Zion as enveloped in heavenly light, because of merited divine favor. In considering how best to build Zion today let us, as wise and able architects do, see clearly first what we are going to build. Let us draw some plans and specifications.

If we have in mind the physical Zion, then we must strive for more fertile acres; bring from the mountains gold and silver in abundance; found factories to furnish more employment; extend in length and width our concrete public highways; build banks to protect, or to dissipate, as has been the case recently, the wealth we accumulate; transform our vast coal fields into electricity that will furnish light, heat and power to every family; improve the means of communication until with radio in our pockets we may communicate with friends and loved ones from any point at any given moment.

Is it these physical phases of Zion which we are to build? Certainly it is difficult to picture the City of Zion without at least some – if not all – such modern necessities and luxuries. On the other hand, it is possible to have all these things and instead of reaping the blessings of Zion, suffer the very torments of hell. If the wealth, for example, from the wide acres is obtained by the oppression of the poor; if the gold and silver be obtained at the expense of human happiness and even of life itself; if in the palatial offices men sit and scheme how to prey upon their fellows, plan to extort money by kidnaping, or other unholy efforts, then all of these advantages will be but a means of making life miserable and unhappy.

I is well, therefore, for us to realize at the outset that “the greatness of a nation is measured, not by its fruitful acres, but by the men who cultivate those acres; not by great forests, but by the men who use those forests; not by its mines, but by the men who work them.” America was a great land “choice above all other lands” when Columbus discovered it. Men of America have made it a great nation.

In the editorial review of the Reader’s Digest, we find this pertinent comment:

The fact that some of our tall buildings are gloomy and half occupied becomes really tragic only as the minds of those who use them become gloomy and half occupied, too. Not the number of new buildings that go up but what goes on in them is the vital standard. Do new buildings connote better working conditions and larger opportunity?

Let us not be deceived by the production of our farms and factories. The supreme question is – Did we grow in mental, moral and physical stature? Not how fast the wheels turned in 1934, but “how slow and firm were the feet of thoughtful men upon the earth.” Not how much improvement in motor design, but how much we improved the motor of men – the knowledge, the understanding, the purpose.”

Stratosphere flights were made in 1934, but what of the aspirations of those who remained below? “In 1935, perhaps,” Dr. Millikan writes, “if we are thoughtful and honest and kind and courageous, we may ascend a little way toward our own stratosphere – the mysterious altitudes of ourselves.”

Zion, the Pure in Heart

The Zion we build will pattern after the ideals of its inhabitants. To change men and the world we must change their thinking, for the thing which a man really believes is the thing which he has really thought; that which he actually thinks is the thing which he lives. Men do not go beyond their ideals; they often fall short of them, but they never go beyond them.

Victor Hugo said: “The future of any nation can be determined by the thoughts of its young men between the ages of 18 and 25.” Thus it is easy to understand why the Lord designates Zion as the “Pure in heart”; and only when we are such, and only when we have such shall Zion “flourish and the glory of the Lord be upon her.”

The foundation of Zion then will be laid in the hearts of men; broad acres, mines, forests, factories, beautiful buildings, modern conveniences, will be but means and accessories to the building of the human soul and the securing of happiness.

Let us then as we draw our plans for Zion today, choose what we may call the “Four cornerstones of Zion’s inhabitants.”

Belief in a Supreme Being

First: A firm belief and acceptance of the truth that this universe is governed by intelligence and wisdom, and, as Plato said, “is not left to the guidance of an irrational and random chance.”

Religion, standing on the known heights of experience, makes one bold and glorious affirmation. She asserts that this power that makes for truth, for beauty, for goodness, is no less personal than we. This leap of faith is justified because God can not be less than the greatest of His works. The Cause must be adequate to the effect. When therefore we call God personal we have interpreted Him by the loftiest symbol we have. He may be infinitely more; He cannot be less. When we call God a spirit we use the clearest lens we have to look at the Everlasting.

As Herbert Spencer has well said, “The choice is not between a personal God and something lower, but between a personal God and something higher.”

The Perfecting of the Individual

The second cornerstone is that the ultimate purpose in God’s great plan is the perfecting of the individual.

It is his desire that men and women become like himself. He has said: “This is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

Free Agency

The third cornerstone is a realization that the first and most essential thing in man’s progress is freedom – Free Agency. Man can choose the highest good, or choose the lowest good and fall short of what he was intended to be. The scale of human existence – starting from the lowest depths of degradation and rising to the heights of the sublime – indicates how men make use of their power of choice. Carlyle in commenting upon it says: “There are heights in men which reach the highest heaven, as there are depths which sink to the lowest hell, for are not heaven and hell made out of him, eternal, everlasting mystery that he is?”

Speaking upon the responsibility of religious institutions one writer says: “You will not end wars and make this world a safe place by merely external arrangements. I reiterate, it is not so much a matter of external arrangements and agreements as it is of the internal attitudes and motives, which change and release the superhuman love and power within the lives of men that the world is to be made safe.”

A Sense of Group Responsibility

Fourth cornerstone: A sense of responsibility toward other individuals and the social group.

There is a destiny which makes us brothers.
None can live by himself alone;
All that we send into the hearts of others
Comes back into our own.

Newton D. Baker, in The Atlantic Monthly, among other things, says:

Our children studied the biographies of men, who, like Daniel Boone, faced savage Nature alone and unafraid. Nor was it our belief that the pioneer spirit could flourish only on an unconquered continent. It was, rather, that every age afforded opportunities for imagination. It was the individual who counted, whether in Balboa when pressing onward to the Pacific or in Edison when circling the world with his thoughts from a laboratory in New Jersey. Somehow we all felt there was something intrinsically more noble and useful in being an individual than in being a member of anything whatsoever.

He gives an illustration of how prone people are today to think of themselves rather than the group, indeed to take advantage of the group for their own selfish ends:

This past autumn, a woman who has long served as a domestic in the family of one of my friends resigned, explaining that she and her husband had decided to visit the world’s Fair and on their return to go on relief!

With every progressive age of the world intellectual, noble-minded leaders have sought for a better way of living than that which was current. The good life, a social Utopia, has been the quest of the ages. To sense the need of reform has been easy; to achieve it has been difficult and often well-night impossible. Ideas and suggestions proposed by the wisest of men have seldom been practical, often fantastical; yet in most cases the world in general has been made better by the disseminating of new ideas, even though the experiments proved failures at the time. In this respect the century just past, as the present one, was no exception.

The first half of the 19th century was marked by a general feeling of social unrest. Observant people became dissatisfied with social and economic conditions, and thinking men sought for remedial changes. In France, early in the century the fanciful theories of Charles Fourier were circulated. He attempted to outline the future history of our globe and of the human race for 80 thousand years. Today his books aren’t even read.

Robert Owen founded a commercial society at New Harmony, Indiana. Although supported by a fortune that he had amassed by intelligent and frugal efforts, and although he was encouraged by the Duke of Kent who became his patron, his scheme for the betterment of mankind came to naught in 1827. He returned to England where he tried several similar experiments with the same result.

George Ripley, a Unitarian minister, conceived a plan of “plain living and high thinking.” He had as his associates such able men as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles A. Dana, afterward Assistant Secretary of War in the United States, John S. Dwight. Ripley’s impulse was really religious rather than economic, and “was due to a kind of monastic desire for withdrawal from a sordid world rather than a desire for a new society.” He and his associates became the founders of what was known as the Brook Farm, a “Great Experiment” as it was called, to make the world an agreeable places to live in. It came to an end in 1846.

“Some of these colonies,” writes Phillip Russell, “were religious in purpose, others educational, and still others economic, but all, including Brook Farm, were social symptoms, rashes, and growths indicating a sick and strained America.”

Considered politically the world is upset at the present time in its opinion as to the best form of government. We are just witnessing the downfall of monarchies. Rising from these monarchial ruins have come the dictatorship of the proletariat in Soviet Russia, the Fascist regime in Italy, the Nazis of Germany and Democracy as exemplified chiefly in Great Britain and her dominions and in the United States. It is apparent that men are seeking for a better form of government than most nations now have. Will they find it? In government by the people, in dictatorship, or in a combination of the two?

“Efficiency and progress are favored,” says Edwin A. Kirkpatrick in Fundamentals of Sociology, “when the government is such that the local community has a good deal of responsibility for its own affairs, and the central government has final authority to legalize those institutions and rules of procedure that have been shown to be permanently useful.”

The Church of Jesus Christ – Ideal

A careful analysis of the organization of the Church reveals the fact that it embodies all the strength of a strong central government, and every virtue and necessary safeguard of a democracy. 1. It has the authority of Priesthood without the vice of priestcraft, every worthy man being entitled to a place and a voice in the governing quorums. 2. It offers a system of education, universal and free in its application, the safety valve, and the very heart and strength of a true democracy. 3. It offers a judicial system that extends justice and equal privileges to all alike, applicable to the poor and the millionaire. 4. In its ecclesiastical groupings, efficiency and progress are enhanced because every local group attends to its own affairs, and yet each is so closely united with the central government that every mode of procedure proved useful and beneficial to the people can be adopted without delay for the good of the entire group.

Truly from the standpoint of enhancing efficiency and progress the Church of Christ has that form of government for which the nations today are seeking.

This is because it is patterned after that order which Christ himself established. Charles A. Ellwood, Ph.D., LL.D., author of Man’s Social Destiny (1929) declares that “The religion of the future cannot be based upon historical Christianity, but must, in order to avoid misunderstanding, go back to the teachings of Christ, as recorded in the Gospels.”

Is it not significant that a young man only 24 years of age, unlearned in regards to social systems of his age or of any age, should have realized over one hundred years ago just what this leading thinker realizes today as the great need in religious government and instruction! “The religion of the future must go back to the teachings of Christ as recorded in the gospels,” says the sociologist of 1930. “The Church of Jesus Christ was organized in accordance with the order of the Church as recorded in the New Testament,” said Joseph Smith one hundred years ago. And the practical and beneficent working of the organization proves its divine authenticity!

In a masterful effort to picture the religious ideal, a modern writer. Mr. A. Euston Haydon, looks forward to a “Great Society in which all individuals will have a fair chance for the joy of living, and personal satisfactions will blend with social responsibility and creative power.”

In the Church of Jesus Christ I see just such a Great Society.

O Zion! bright region of plenty and peace,
Where the homeless find refuge, the burdened release,
Where manhood is king, and the stars as they roll
Whisper courage and hope to the lowliest soul –
O Zion! whose story the angels record,
Fair dawn of that glorious day of the Lord
When men shall be brothers, and love like the sun
Illumine the earth till the nations are one!


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