When New Jerusalem is finished being built, will all of the saints be called to gather there for the second coming?
The city of New Jerusalem (or Zion (Article of Faith 10)) is but one city in the expanding land of Zion. Independence, Missouri, rather than being labeled Zion, is “the center place”, “the place for the city of Zion” (D&C 57:1-3). From there the Zion expands like a massive tent with “stakes” scattered around the world (see D&C 133:9 and Moroni 10:31). Note that one of these early stakes was the city of Kirtland, so we are dealing with the community and culture of Zion and not simply a single city. Each of these stakes are embassy cities of Zion where the citizens are subject to Zion law (D&C 68:26) and in return receive Zion protection and blessings (D&C 115:6). All this to say, that the principles to building up Zion are the same for the city of New Jerusalem and the stakes. As Elder McConkie says:
“A stake of Zion is a part of Zion. You cannot create a stake of Zion without creating a part of Zion. Zion is the pure in heart; we gain purity of heart by baptism and by obedience. A stake has geographical boundaries. To create a stake is like founding a City of Holiness. Every stake on earth is the gathering place for the lost sheep of Israel who live in its area” (Come, Let Israel Build Zion. Ensign April 1977).
As the Lord revealed more to the prophet Joseph about establishing the foundations of Zion, He explained that “the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints” (D&C 84:4). This principle of gathering serves two purposes, as explained by Elder McConkie.
“Two things are accomplished by the gathering of Israel: First, those who have thus chosen Christ as their Shepherd; those who have taken upon themselves his name in the waters of baptism; those who are seeking to enjoy his Spirit here and now and to be inheritors of eternal life hereafter—such people need to be gathered together to strengthen each other and to help one another perfect their lives.
“And second, those who are seeking the highest rewards in eternity need to be where they can receive the blessings of the house of the Lord, both for themselves and for their ancestors in Israel who died without a knowledge of the gospel, but who would have received it with all their heart had opportunity afforded” (Come, Let Israel Build Zion. Ensign April 1977).
While the early saints enjoyed physical proximity, they struggled to live other principles of gathering. For instance, the Kirtland temple was the 2nd temple announced (after Independence) and the Nauvoo temple was the 5th temple announced (after Far West and Adam-ondi-Ahman). This was rectified after the journey west when the saints were unmolested and able to build the necessary temple culture.
Today, we live in a period where the saints are encouraged to gather to their local Zion stakes and build a Zion culture there. This, then, brings us back to your question. When the time comes to build New Jerusalem, will it be the place of gathering, leaving periphery stakes abandoned, or will it be one of many places of gathering – and extension of the direction the Lord’s servants have given us today? I don’t know, and I suspect that it will remain unrevealed until we are called upon redeem Zion and build the city. The good news is that we don’t have to remain ignorant long. The Lord has mercifully given us instructions on what to do while we await that redemption:
- We must prepare ourselves to redeem Zion: “That they themselves may be prepared, and that
- my people may be taught more perfectly,
- and have experience,
- and know more perfectly concerning their duty,
- and the things which I require at their hands.
- And we must receive the ordinances and covenants of the temple:And this cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high.
- For behold, I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them, inasmuch as they are faithful and continue in humility before me.” (D&C 105:9-13).
Many saints, eager to assist in this work, have covenanted to establish Zion. There is no need to wait for the Church to be gathered in Missouri or for some great new revelation. Zion can be established in her growing stakes and receive the promised blessing while we await the redemption of the center place.