Zion consists of people living in harmony with God. It is defined in revelation as “the pure in heart.” (D&C 97:21.) But prophecy also confirms it will be an actual location, and a place of gathering. The events of the last days have been known since the time of Enoch. The Lord explained to him:
great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve; And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem. And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other; (Moses 7:61-63, emphasis added.)
It is a mistake to think of Zion as ONLY the “pure in heart.” It is more. All God’s covenants with the patriarchal fathers will be fulfilled.
Zion will begin with a single seed, but it will eventually fill the whole of North and South America. (See Words of Joseph Smith, p. 362-363; “The Whole of North and South American is Zion”; Wilford Woodruff Journal, April 8, 1844; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 362.)
The kingdom of God will “grind to dust” through persuasion, example and overcoming the world. If there is no need for financial, legal, administrative, or social assistance from the governments of men then the New Jerusalem can break free of man’s corrupt governments.
The way Zion will “grind to dust” the kingdoms of man will not be by force. The “kingdom of God” will progress “by faith & revolutionize the world, not by power, nor by might, but by pure intelligence.” (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 157.)
Not all the wicked will be persuaded, and there will be violence because of corruption in the coming days. In the future, it will be with the gentiles as it was with the Nephites: the wicked will destroy the wicked:
But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed. (Emphasis added.)
Modern revelation speaks of the coming distress among the wicked:
I have sworn in my wrath, and decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man; (D&C 63:33, emphasis added.)
Zion must exist independent of Babylon:
Behold, this is the preparation wherewith I prepare you, and the foundation, and the ensample which I give unto you, whereby you may accomplish the commandments which are given you; That through my providence, notwithstanding the tribulation which shall descend upon you, that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world; That you may come up unto the crown prepared for you, and be made rulers over many kingdoms, saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Zion, who hath established the foundations of Adam-ondi-Ahman; Who hath appointed Michael your prince, and established his feet, and set him upon high, and given unto him the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One, who is without beginning of days or end of life. (D&C 78:13-16, emphasis added.)
Buying and selling is how men are controlled by Babylon. In the New Jerusalem, exchange will be without money, without price. (Isaiah 55:1–quoted in 2 Ne. 9:50; 26:25.) There will be no commerce to tax, no business to license or regulate in Zion. Because it is independent of everything else under heaven, it will not matter to Zion if Babylon the great falls. (Rev. 18:2.) Zion will not miss her abundant delicacies. (Rev. 18:3.) Zion will not weep over her fall. (Rev. 18:9-11, 15-17.) Zion will not cast dirt on their heads and bewail the loss of riches. (Rev. 18:19.)
The strength of Zion will come from men who are taught correct principles and are able to govern themselves according to the plan of happiness. God will be their protection:
And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God; And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion. And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety. And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another. And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand. And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy. (D&C 45:66-71.)
Covenants established with Adam by God will be returned and offered again to bind men and make them accountable only to Him. Those in Zion will live in peace with one another because of their relationship to God.
Like the Nephites after the visit by the resurrected Christ, the people of Zion will live without contentions and disputations, dealing “justly with one another. (4 Nephi 1:2.) They will live according to a higher law which will remove all contention. (4 Nephi 1:13.) This defeat of contention will eventually spread to “all the land.” (4 Nephi 1:15.) When there has been “no contention” for a generation, God will “bless mankind in all their doings.” (4 Nephi 1:18.)
The kingdoms of men, ancient and modern, have and do control how men think, engage in commerce, regulate property, tax, govern, make war and interact. Zion will make a complete overthrow of these systems. Other societies will be “ground to dust” because the way of life in Zion will appeal to all peaceful men. Men of peace will abandon the other false systems and join Zion.
It would do little good to teach the religion of Adam to men if they are not willing to live like Adam. Adam did not question, doubt or rebel against God. He intended to live by every word of the Lord, even when he did not understand “why” something was commanded by the Lord. Adam suspended judgment, and obeyed. Few men are like father Adam. It is doubtful many living today will find it appealing to suspend judgment about a commandment if the Lord does not explain “why” something is to be done.
Adam followed direction for years, not knowing why he was given the direction. He trusted God:
And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore. (Moses 5:5-8, emphasis added.)
When the Lord establishes the foundation of the New Jerusalem, it will require the sacrifice and obedience of the residents. Even if the foundation for that city is laid, if mankind is unwilling to be governed by God, learn from Him and trust His guidance, it is doubtful it will become Zion.