Denver on the Nature of Zion
“The Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart, and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7: 18.) There were no poor among them physically; there were no poor among them spiritually. They did not compete, they cooperated. They did not envy, they shared. They did not pass a zoning law. I will tell you how to ruin Zion, how to keep it from coming, pass a zoning law. Decide you’re going to “police the neighborhood.” Start thinking you should have restrictive covenants so you can enforce views upon one another. The instant you start to regulate one another, Zion is gone. It slips right between your fingers. No man needs to say to another: “know ye the Lord; for they all are going to know him who dwell in Zion.” The new song to be sung presupposes the residents of Zion will know the Lord.
I thought about writing a fictional account of this curious city where those people who have several children live in big houses, while those who have no children live in small houses. In the place, no one has a job or schedule, but everyone works. One day the lead character gets up, walks outside, and notices that the lawn needs to be mowed. So he goes and finds a lawn mower and starts mowing. He mows at his house, then the next, then finds he has spent days mowing grass and is across the city to the other side. Everywhere he has been he found grass needing mowing, and he took care of it. He finishes after a couple of weeks, then returns to his house and says, “Hey, look at that the grass has grown again.” So he starts mowing again. He does this because he feels like mowing the grass at the time. He just wants to.
Then after the season, he notices there is only one person working in the local bakery. He had never worked in a bakery, but he decides to go see what it is like to work in a bakery—and he rather likes that. So he spends the next seasons in the bakery doing that. The following year he wonders whatever happened to the lawns. They have been cut since the spring, but he doesn‘t know who has been cutting them. He goes on his way to find out who has been cutting the lawn because he liked doing that and he has something in common with whoever is now mowing the grass. He would like to know how they like it and what their pattern for taking care of the work has become. He wants to ask them: “How did you do that?” On his way, he gets distracted by the orchard needing harvesting, so he spends that fall harvesting there.
So the story just ends, with what appears to be total chaos. A completely ungoverned society, where oddly enough everyone is at peace, but no one is in control. No one has a job, but everyone works, and the only thing that motivates any resident is what needs to be done. “Hey, let‘s take care of this” is the only motivation. And they do it for as long as they feel like doing it, and then they do something else. It is a story I‘ve considered writing, but have never done so. But now the idea for the story is in this talk, so you can write it in your own mind.
Our vision of Zion is regimented, regulated. We’re Mormons after all! We want to be controlled. A man cannot be saved unless there‘s a boss at the top. “This is your assignment.” “We are going to call you; we are going to sustain you.” “We are going to put your conscripted ass in this position and park it there and you must magnify that job!”—I am not sure anyone knows what “magnify” means, but I tell you, you better be calling attention to yourself so that everyone notices. We can‘t have the invisible lawn mower. We can‘t have the invisible baker. We can‘t have the invisible in harmony with everyone around them harvesting the orchard when it needs doing. Because this is the Zion Reich!—As soon as you do that, it is gone. It has slipped through your fingers. Zion is without compulsion. Zion will occur when the Lord brings again Zion. And it will happen perfectly naturally. But only among those who are fit to participate.