I suspect that most of our readers are not familiar with this hymn. Let’s start by reading the lyrics. Please don’t just skim over them; take the time to really read them. There’s something to learn here.
Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He whose word cannot be broken
Chose thee for his own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake our sure repose?
With salvation’s wall surrounded,
Thou may’st smile on all thy foes.
The opening phrase of this hymn comes from Psalms 87:3, which reads simply “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.” The city here mentioned is Zion, the city of God. During the millennium, Christ will reign personally upon the earth, and Zion, the New Jerusalem, will be the seat of his government. Christ will literally “choose [Zion] for his abode.” With such power resident, who could question the stability and glory of Zion?
And yet, as with many messianic prophecies, the physical fulfillment of the prophecy is not the only one—nor perhaps even the most important one for us to consider. Most of us—in fact, the vast majority of God’s children—will never dwell in the New Jerusalem while in mortality. So while there is a physical reality that will fulfill this prophecy, that physical city is also a symbol for us, a metaphor for what our own relationship with God should be.
Just as Christ will come and abide within the city of Zion, we also invite the Holy Ghost to abide within us—and if we are faithful, that welcome may one day to Christ himself. (See John 14:23 and D&C 130:3.) Just as Christ brings stability and glory to the City of Zion, so too can his Gospel bring stability and eventual glory to our own lives.
As we continue reading the lyrics, consider the parallels between our own lives and the millennial city of Zion. “Like it unto yourself”, as Nephi would admonish.
See! the streams of living waters,
Springing from celestial love,
Well supply thy sons and daughters
And all fear of drought remove.
Round each habitation hov’ring,
See the cloud and fire appear
For a glory and a cov’ring,
Showing that the Lord is near.
The Revelation of John teaches that “the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” A cloud by day and pillar of fire by night led the ancient Israelites, and is recognized as a sign of God’s presence. Zion will have God within it, and his presence will be apparent. To what extent is God’s presence apparent in your own life?
Blest inhabitants of Zion,
Purchased by the Savior’s blood;
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them kings and priests to God.
While in love his Saints he raises,
With himself to reign as King,
All, as priests, his solemn praises
For thank-off’rings freely bring.
The connection to our own lives becomes more apparent here in the third verse. We are all purchased by the Savior’s blood, not just those who will live in the physical city of Zion. We all can claim the promise of becoming joint-heirs with Christ. We are all invited to be his Saints, his children. Zion is for all of us, right now.
Of course, the millennial New Jerusalem will be unique and full of a Celestial glory that may seem far distant to us right now. It provides a metaphor for our bright future, a symbol of Hope. The contrast between our present imperfect state and the perfection represented therein is stark and bright. But God’s plan of Salvation and his work of Exaltation is powerful, even to the transforming of you and I, his fallen children. Consider this statement from Spencer W. Kimball:
“When Satan is bound in a single home—when Satan is bound in a single life—the Millennium has already begun in that home, in that life.”
(The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , 172).
Pause for a moment. Read that again, and consider what it means.
God is real. We are his children. He wants to bless us, and will do so in abundance just as quickly as we will allow him to do so. We all have a long way to go, no doubt. But the journey is sweet and the burden is light, so let’s pick up and carry forward, going as far as we possibly can.