This thesis discusses the role that the idea of Zion has played in the first three centuries of American religion. Millenarian themes, such as building New Jerusalem, were common religious themes in seventeenth- to nineteenth-century America. Understanding the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding this vital subject will be helpful for historians, scholars, and teachers.
When the Puritan colonists came to the New World in the early seventeenth century, they sought not only a land of religious liberty, but also a land of ultimate religious achievement: the establishment of Zion and/or New Jerusalem. Many of them hoped to demonstrate that an ideal theocratic society was possible and would solve the world's governmental dilemmas. They paved the way for a long-standing Zion tradition in America.
During the eighteenth century, the dream for Zion faded due to the growing concern for individual salvation. The banner of revolution and independence also superseded the interest in the "ensign for the nations" (see Isaiah 11:10-12). Unfortunately, during this era Zion and New Jerusalem became the watchwords for dissident charismatic truth-seekers with small congregations.
Antebellum America presented a completely new environment. As America forged westward, more and more settlers became dissatisfied with mainstream organized religions. Primitivism and restorationism made Zion and New Jerusalem an inevitable desire for many religious enthusiasts, though opinions varied on when, where, how, and by whom the "city of God" (Psalm 46:4; see also Psalm 48) could be established.
Within this historical context rose The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members were intent on building the New Jerusalem on the American continent and establishing Zion throughout the earth (see Articles of Faith 1:10). It is my ardent hope that this attempt to put the Latter-day Saint concept of Zion and New Jerusalem in its early American millenarian context will be a useful resource in helping to "put all inquirers after truth in possession of the facts" (JS-H 1:1).
College and Department
Religious Education; Church History and Doctrine
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Gardner, Ryan S., "A History of the Concepts of Zion and New Jerusalem in America From Early Colonialism to 1835 With A Comparison to the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith" (2002). Theses and Dissertations. 4706.
Zion, Mormon Church, History of doctrines, New Jerusalem, Mormon theology, Theology, Doctrinal, United States, History, 18th century, 19th century, Joseph Smith, 1805-1844, Teachings