Monday, February 21, 2011

Where is Zion?

"It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.' For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isa. 2:2-3).

Being a native Utahn and having grown up LDS, we were always taught that the above passage from Isaiah was an ancient prophecy referring to my home state in general and Salt Lake City in particular. Utahns refer to our state as Zion both jokingly, as in "Life behind the Zion curtain," and seriously. Of course, those who do so in a more serious vein see Utah as a kind of promised land, even if a provisional one. Why provisional, you may ask? Because the LDS faithful believe that the New Jerusalem will be established in Jackson County, Missouri, which they also believe to be the location of the biblical Garden of Eden.

Over the long history of its written use, going back over three millenia, Zion eventually came to refer to the Promised Land to come, where God dwells with His people. For Christians, Zion can be anywhere in the world because, as we were reminded at Mass yesterday in our reading from the letter in which St. Paul tells the Christians of ancient Corinth, "you are the temple of God" because "the Spirit of God dwells in you" (1 Cor. 3:16).

What brought these verses from Isaiah to mind this morning was that today's canticle for Morning Prayer, as it is every Monday when we pray the third week of the psalter, begins with this passage. On this glorious winter morning in the mountains of my Zion, I am reminded of a lovely hymn I grew up singing:

"O ye mountains high, where the clear blue sky
Arches over the vales of the free,
Where the pure breezes blow and the clear streamlets flow,
How I’ve longed to your bosom to flee!
O Zion! dear Zion! land of the free,
Now my own mountain home, unto thee I have come;
All my fond hopes are centered in thee."


  1. I've never been to Jackson County, but I have to say that Utah isn't the worst choice for Zion - I've never lived anyplace more beautiful and miss it very much. Lottery tickets and easily accessible hard liquor are pretty sad consolations for not living there :).

  2. You're right, it bothers me not one whit that we don't have package liquor stores all over, a state lottery, or any form of gambling. As I wrote, it is my Zion, at least provisionally, too- though Missouri is not a future destination for me.


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