Zion Pioneer Home

LDS Pioneer home in 1831 (1881 engraving, artist unknown)


Joseph Smith (1805-1844) wrote of Zion even before the organization of the Latter Day Saint church. In April 1829, he dictated a revelation which urged him and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery (1806-1850), to "seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion."[1] The attempt to reach that goal became a driving force in early Latter Day Saint history, and remains a powerful influence among Latter Day Saints today.

In its broadest sense, Zion is regarded by Latter Day Saints as an association of the "pure in heart."[2] Central to Zion's philosophical underpinnings was a sense of community cohesiveness and unity, a concept which seemed to be unraveling in the world of Jacksonian Democracy. Smith taught that the people of Zion would have all things in common, and would not allow others in their community to suffer because of the principles of love, unselfishness, and work for the common good which would be imbued in the individuals capable of maintaining such a society. Zion therefore stands in contrast to proverbial Babylon, where wickedness, disunity, and poverty prevail.

Soon after the founding of the Latter Day Saint church in April 1830, Smith designated a physical location for the Saints to start to build Zion, which he taught would be the future New Jerusalem. On July 20, 1831, Smith stated that he had received a revelation that designated Missouri as the "land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints."[3] The revelation further stated, "Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and the spot for the temple is lying westward..."[4] Smith later envisioned the temple as being the starting point for the creation of a New Jerusalem: "Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation."[5]

However, mob violence forced the Latter Day Saints from the environs of Missouri by the end of 1833. The local Missourians objected to the Saints' political views (including Mormon support of abolition), their religious beliefs, and their growing population which would soon wrest political power in Jackson County from the "old settlers'" hands.


Tower Hill at Adam-ondi-Ahman, Missouri USA

However, a later revelation through Smith states the belief that the Latter Day Saints were unable to establish Zion in "consequence of their transgressions."[6] The revelation says that among the Saints there were "jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances."[7] Zion could only be established by those who had spiritually prepared themselves to do so.

The Latter Day Saints were finally driven from Missouri in 1838 as a consequence of the Mormon War and Governor Lilburn Boggs' Extermination Order. After this time, Zion maintained its general definition of a society of the righteous, but the concept of Zion as a specific piece of geography (Jackson County, Missouri) began to lose its importance. Zion also became a euphemism for wherever the Saints were gathered, be it Nauvoo, Illinois; Utah; or in many congregations throughout the world.[8]

Today, Latter Day Saints are still counseled by their leaders to build up the cause of Zion,[9] and prepare themselves to be worthy of such a society.

Missouri Politics Edit

The state of Missouri was organized as a slave state from the major federal legislation passed in 1830 known as the Missouri Compromise. Many of the settlers there were active pro-slavers who would progressively become very hostile to those arrivals from New England who shared abolitionist views. This hostility was first manifest towards the Mormons in the 1830s and then in the Missouri-Kansas wars of the 1850s which then became a trigger point for the US Civil War (1861-1865).

First Arrivals Edit

The first Latter-day Saints to arrive in Missouri were four missionaries of the church on a mission to preach the gospel to the indian tribes to the west. Unsuccessful there, they stopped for a time in Independence, Missouri and preached to the settlers already there and in many surrounding communities. Section 28 and 30], given in September 1830, gives instructions to these missionaries. [10] They left soon after the church general conference of Sept 26, 1830, arriving in Missouri later the next month.

These missionaries were:

Plat of ZionEdit


This one page Plat written in June 1833 by Joseph Smith defines a comprehensive multiple city plan.

A comprehensive city plat was devised by Smith in 1833, describing the planned city as an organized grid system of blocks and streets, a type of city plan that saw widespread use in Western United States communities. Designed around Latter Day Saint principles of agrarianism order and community, the plan called for 24 temples at the city's center, reflecting the central role played by the church in the community. The temples were to be used for education, administration, cultural events and worship. The plan called for a city of 15,000 to 20,000 people living in a one‑mile square city with agricultural land to be reserved on all sides of the city, enough to supply the city "without going too great of a distance". The plan did not allow a city to become too large; once a city had reached the 20,000 limit it was envisaged that other cities would be built: "When this square is thus laid off and supplied, lay off another in the same way, and so fill up the world."[11] While never utilized, the plat ultimately served as a blueprint for subsequent Mormon settlements in the Utah.

Zions Camp 1834 Edit


This Judith Mehr rendition depicts struggles endured by members of Zion's Camp, an expeditionary force to help Church members in Jackson County redeem their brethren.

One of the most interesting episodes in the early history of LDS Church was the march of Zion's Camp (1834). The members of the Church in Missouri were being persecuted, and the Prophet Joseph made it a matter of prayer and received a revelation on February 24, 1834. The Lord instructed the Prophet to assemble at least one hundred young and middle-aged men and to go to the land of Zion, or Missouri. (See D&C 130:19–34.)

Zion’s Camp, a group of approximately one hundred and fifty men, gathered at Kirtland, Ohio, in the spring of 1834 and marched to Jackson County, Missouri. By the time they reached Missouri, the camp had increased to approximately two hundred men.

Latter-day Saint usage of "Zion"Edit

Depending on context, "Zion" can have multiple meanings in the Latter Day Saint movement. Examples include:

  1. Zion retains its Biblical meaning and refers to Jerusalem. (See Zion)
  2. Zion is the name of a physical city founded by the prophet [1], also known as the City of Enoch.
  3. Zion refers to the New Jerusalem, a physical, Millennial city expected to be located in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri.
  4. Zion metaphorically refers to any group of people that are unified and "pure in heart". The City of Enoch is one example of "a Zion people", and the people described in Fourth Nephi is another. For Zion to be fully realized, the society must be willing to live the law of consecration based on mutual feelings of charity, which is the pure love of Christ.
  5. Zion is the central physical location to which Latter Day Saints have gathered. The term has been applied to: Kirtland, Ohio; Jackson County, Missouri; Nauvoo, Illinois; Zarahemla, Iowa; and the Salt Lake Valley.
  6. Zion is also, according to Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the entirety of the Americas. Joseph Smith stated that "the whole of America is Zion itself from north to south".
  7. Zion is a metaphor for a unified society of Latter Day Saints, metaphorically gathered as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In this sense any stake of the church may be referred to as a "stake of Zion."[12]

1833 Census Edit

Jackson County Edit

  1. Sidney Gilbert Family - cousins to the Rollins Family (below) who were also living in their home at this time.
    1. Algernon Sidney Gilbert (1789-1834) - Operator the village store, an bishop's agent for the church in Missouri. Store was destroyed by the mobs and Sidney died from the cholera that afflicted Zions Camp.
    2. Elizabeth Van Benthusen (1800-1891) - wife, no living children.
  2. Ziba Peterson Family
    1. Richard Ziba Peterson (1805-1849) - "Ziba" was one of the four missionaries that came west in late 1830 to preach to the Native Americans near here. He married a girl who family was one of the early converts from nearby Lafayette County, Missouri and stayed to settle here. Together they had 8 children. Stayed behind and left Mormonism when the mobs drove the settlers out of Jackson County. He eventually went to the gold rush in 1849 California where he became a hanging sheriff and then he died.
    2. Rebecca Hopper (1808-1896) - followed husband to California during the Gold Rush.
    3. Emily C Peterson (1832-1897) - first child of family.
  3. Rollins Family - Cousins to the Gilbert Family
    1. Keziah Keturah van Benthuysen (1795-1877) - after her first husband, Mr Rollins, died in a shipwreck, Keziah and her three small children moved in with her sister and brother-in-law, Algernon Sidney Gilbert (1789-1834).
    2. James Henry Rollins (1816-1899) - helped bury the cholera victims from Zion's Camp (1834).
    3. Mary Elizabeth Rollins (1818-1913) - teenage Mary and her sister Caroline, were famous for their efforts to save the manuscript pages of The Book of Commandements when the mobs destroyed the printing press. Later a plural wife of first Joseph Smith (1805-1844) and then Brigham Young (1801-1877).
    4. Caroline Amelia Rollins (1820-1856) -

Lafayette County Edit

In Sept 1831, the four missionaries baptized several families remained living in Lafayette County, Missouri (immediately to the east of Jackson Co, probably in Wellington, Missouri.

  1. Hopper Family - At least two daughters and some cousins in the McClure family joined the church. (see Ziba Peterson family and John Killian family.)
  2. Killian Family
    1. John Killian (1796-1858) - After Lydia's death he married her cousin, Sarah McClure and they settled first in Caldwell County, Missouri where he was the captain of the militia, then Nauvoo and eventually in Utah.
    2. Lydia Ann Hopper (1795-1834) -
    3. Mary Killian (1819-)
    4. George Killian (1819-1882)
    5. Thomas Killian (1820-1862)
    6. Letha Jane Killian (1822-1898)
    7. Nancy Elizabeth Killian (1824-1898)
    8. Franklin Killian (1825-1866)
    9. Josephine Almira Killian (1827-1887)
    10. Jacob Killian (1828-1901)
  3. McClure Family

References Edit

  1. ^ LDS Scriptures D&C 6:6
  2. ^ LDS Scriptures D&C 6:6
  3. ^ LDS Scriptures D&C 57:1
  4. ^ LDS Scriptures D&C 57:3
  5. ^ LDS Scriptures D&C 84:4
  6. ^ LDS Scriptures D&C 101:2
  7. ^ LDS Scriptures D&C 101:6
  8. ^ "In Missouri and Illinois, Zion had been a city; in Utah, it was a landscape of villages; in the urban diaspora, it was the ward with its extensive programs." Bushman (2008, p. 107)
  9. ^ LDS Scriptures D&C 6:6
  10. ^ Saints:History of the LDS Church Ch 9 Come Life or Come Death (and Ch 10)
  11. ^ Taysom, Stephen C. (2010). "Imagination and Reality in the Mormon Zion". Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds: Conflicting Visions, Contested Boundaries. Religion in North America. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-253-35540-9. 
  12. ^ The name "stake" comes from a passage in Isaiah that compares Zion to a tent that will enlarge as new stakes are planted. Bushman (2008, p. 53) See Isaiah 33:20 and Isaiah 54:2.

Further Reading Edit