Hymn text by William W. Phelps, 1792-1872. View the full text of this hymn.

zion

The word “Zion” is used prolifically in modern LDS vernacular. Zion had come to mean the church in general, the people of the church, the church in Utah, the heaven on earth prophesied regarding the Second Coming, and so on. Zion is even used as a name for new places, especially prolific during the pioneers’ journey to the Salt Lake valley. However, Zion originally referred to the city of Enoch which was taken up to heaven. This hymn, “Glorious Things Are Sung of Zion,” is a retelling of that story.

Let’s quickly recap the story. Enoch was a prophet of the Lord, living before the time of Noah. He was called by God to cry repentance unto the people, which he did. Many of them followed him, and they founded a city. Historically, the founding of a city by any group of people was often seen as an act of hostility towards the pre-established centers of population. This being the case, the armies of those cities got together and came to attack Enoch’s city.

When they got there, however, they were thwarted in their efforts by the power of God.

The earth trembled. The mountains fled. The rivers turned their course. The roar of lions was heard. The enemies of Zion were frightened and ran away because they “feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him” (Moses 7:13).

God was present with them, and not just in spirit. The scriptures say that “the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness” (Moses 7:16). How righteous must these people have been for God to physically reside with them and to defend them by means of moving the earth!

When we sing this hymn, we are retelling this great story of a city so holy and so righteous that it was protected, blessed, and eventually “received it up into his own bosom” (Moses 7:69). This city, Zion, or “mine abode” (Moses 7:64) was a place where people “of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there were no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). This city was a place where the inhabitants lived all of the commandments perfectly. Why do we sing the tale of Zion? Because that is what we are trying to be!

No wonder we often talk of Zion today! No wonder we refer to our stakes, or organizations, our very church as Zion. We don’t say it as if to indicate that we are ready for the Savior to dwell with us, but to remind ourselves of what we are trying to be and what we are working to become. We strive to be a society where “we will receive [each other] 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; And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion” (Moses 7:63). We sing to remind ourselves that this is possible if we all, both individually and as a group, strive to be what the Lord wants us to be.

So here’s my question: What do you need to do to be a member of Zion? What commandments do you need to live more fully? What sins are you needing to rectify, what wrongs do you need to right? What carnal desire can you put away? What can you do to be ready to really be an inhabitant of the “City of Holiness” (Moses 7:19)? As we sing of what has been, let us be inspired to be what we can become. Let us truly strive to be a part of something that is “glorious” to sing about.

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