Tag Archives: Millennium

Hymn #51 – Sons of Michael, He Approaches

This is a really unique hymn, which is probably why I have never heard it sung or performed anywhere, ever. It deals with a very specific doctrine–that is, the return of Adam (Michael) to Adam-ondi-Ahman to head a great gathering in which the keys of the Priesthood throughout history will be accounted for and returned unto Christ prior to the establishment of His Millennial Reign.

The story, though, starts a long time before that; specifically, in the twilight of Father Adam’s mortal life:

Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing.

And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.

And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.

And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.

This was an incredible event in the history of the young human race. It was the crowning event of the life of Adam, father of us all, and confirmation of his dedication and righteousness. He delivered unto his posterity a blessing of faith and righteousness. His calling and election were, if they had not been already, made certain. He was promised power, glory, and a princely role in the next life. His righteous generations surrounding him, I imagine it was quite possibly the happiest day of Father Adam’s mortal life.

Three years after this glorious council, Adam died, having been faithful in all the Lord asked of him. Elder Mark E. Peterson taught, “After [Adam’s] mortal death he resumed his position as an angel in the heavens, once again serving as the chief angel, or archangel, and took again his former name of Michael. In his capacity as archangel, Adam, or Michael, will yet perform a mighty mission in the coming years.”

This mighty mission is described in prophecies both ancient and modern. The first mission* given to Michael is that of once again gathering the holders of the Priesthood of God at Adam-ondi-Ahman (the same site as his last great council) prior to the Second Coming of Christ. The biblical prophet Daniel foresaw this event, referring to Adam/Michael as “The Ancient of Days”:

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.

A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him:thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened….

[B]ehold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Regarding this ancient prophecy, the Prophet Joseph Smith was told, “Spring Hill [Missouri] is named by the Lord Adam-ondi-Ahman, because, said he, it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet.”

To bring it all together, let’s turn to Joseph Fielding Smith talking about this council:

“This gathering of the children of Adam, where the thousands, and the tens of thousands are assembled in the judgment, will be one of the greatest events this troubled earth has ever known. At this conference, or council, all who have held keys of dispensations will render a report of their stewardship. Adam will do likewise, and then he will [surrender] to Christ all authority. Then Adam will be confirmed in his calling as the prince over his posterity and will be officially installed and crowned eternally in this presiding calling. Then Christ will be received as King of kings, and Lord of lords….[I]t is a gathering of the Priesthood of God from the beginning of this earth down to the present, in which reports will be made and all who have been given dispensations (talents) will declare their keys and ministry and make report of their stewardship according to the parable….When all things are prepared and every key and power set in order with a full and perfect report of each man’s stewardship, then Christ will receive these reports and be installed as rightful Ruler of this earth. At this grand council he will take his place by the united voice of the thousands who by right of Priesthood are there assembled. This will precede the great day of destruction of the wicked and will be the preparation for the Millennial Reign”

The sheer scope of this boggles the mind. All men who have ever or will ever hold keys of the Priesthood will be summoned to this event, in which they will stand accountable for their use of these keys. All keys will be returned unto their source, even Christ. Michael will be crowned with his promised blessings and Christ will return as King and Lord of Earth.

Now that we’ve gotten all THAT understood, the text of the hymn becomes significantly clearer. The preparation for the return of Christ is culminated in the return of Michael, and this hymn recognizes the joy and majesty inherent in this event.

One interesting thing here (and maybe it’s just me that never really thought about it) is the degree of reverence, almost worshipfulness, that will be extended to Michael. The hymn suggests we will bow low before him, hail his reign, raise aloft our voices in a torrent power of song, break forth in dancing, and, again, raise a chorus that will rebound through space.

And, on reflection, why not? This man is the starting point of everything Our Father set in motion on the earth. He, by the side of Jehovah, aided in creating the planet and all things in it. He was the First Man, our spirit brother choice enough to be the first human on Earth. He and his glorious wife, Eve, Mother of our generations, made the bold and essential choice to fall that man may be. They lived the Gospel of Christ throughout their mortal lives, through joys and sorrows. They demonstrated faith and righteousness second to none.

Adam gets a bad rap in the Bible and throughout most of Christendom (though not as bad as Eve, whose treatment at the hand of her children is often egregiously offensive). He is regarded as the source of original sin and the great failure of mankind. He is considered the weakling who couldn’t keep from eating that one fruit and thus damned us all to a life in the lone and dreary world. Though these ideas are loosely based in truth, the restored gospel shows that they barely glimpse the great scope of Adam’s role. Adam, the Man, was declared a prince in his lifetime and will be a prince eternally. Michael, the Archangel, will usher in the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ on the earth. As far as I can tell, Michael is second in Priesthood only to the Lord. He is, literally, the patriarch of our race.

There is some debate about this event’s breadth. It is suggested that any who have held priesthood keys will account for them. “Today the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles hold those keys. Priesthood keys are also given to the Presidency of the Seventy; presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents—including Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidents.” That’s quite a lot of people. The hymn (and the prophesy of Daniel) talk about thousands of people, even “ten thousand times ten thousand,” which would not be a small, quiet gathering. On the other hand, Joseph Fielding Smith said:

When this gathering is held, the world will not know of it; the members of the Church at large will not know of it, yet it shall be preparatory to the coming in the clouds of glory of our Savior Jesus Christ as the Prophet Joseph Smith has said. The world cannot know of it. The Saints cannot know of it—except those who officially shall be called into this council—for it shall precede the coming of Jesus Christ as a thief in the night, unbeknown to all the world.

Whatever its size, whoever its attendees, it will be a glorious day. But it will herald greater days yet, as Christ returns in triumph. Whether I will (in the flesh) participate in either of these events is unknown to me. I hope I can. Either way, the return of Michael is an event to be greatly anticipated, when “the ancient one [shall] reign in his Father’s house again.”

*The other missions of Michael, beyond the scope of this hymn, include calling forth the resurrection of the dead (D&C 29:26) and commanding the forces of God’s armies at the last great battle with Satan (D&C 88:110-115).

Hymn #42: Hail to the Brightness of Zion’s Glad Morning!

Note: Today’s essay is by Tyler Severson, who is a new contributor here at the Beesley Project. We’re pretty excited about having him on board, and we hope you will be, too.

Today’s hymn deals with the shift of darkness to light, the dawning of the “glad reign” of Zion. The light of this new day pushes back the shadows of sorrow and mourning, and the hymnist rejoices in this, praising the morning for doing nothing more than arriving.

Morning always shows up. It’s not a surprise to anyone. The morning in question here was, in fact, “long by the prophets of Israel foretold.” The information was there. Anyone who wanted to see the morning just had to wait long enough. It was going to come the whole time.

That’s why, I think, mornings make for a pretty easy analogy. One of the first things in the natural world that we notice and come to rely on is the fact that, without fail, it will get light in the morning. Some days are brighter than others, but the sun is there, and it will always show up when it should.

This is especially fertile ground for gospel metaphors. Morning, dawn, new beginnings. Think of the morning of the resurrection, or the day dawn breaking of the beautiful, bright Millennial day. Consider the morning breaking, the shadows fleeing before the dawning of the Restoration’s brighter day.

It’s easy, then, for us to take morning–the literal end of darkness–and extrapolate it into our lives. We associate our hard times, sadness, depression, anger, loneliness, and every other negative thing with darkness, and we hope that just like it does in the natural world, every dark night is guaranteed its ending with the breaking of the dawn.

Think of the last horrible period in your life. Think of the misery and pain, the suffering emotional, physical, spiritual, or a sordid combination of them all. It probably seemed endless. Think of our lives, the trials and daily hardships, and how easy it is to become discouraged, coming to the conclusion that the sun will never rise again.

Our Redeemer promised us that this would not ever be the case. “I will not leave you comfortless,” he assured us. But how are we to trust that, when we’re all so desperately familiar with sorrow, grief, pain, and darkness? Many times comfort simply does not exist and cannot be found. We’re sure of this, convinced. Christ then explains the source of the comfort: “I will come to you.”

We’re not promised that he’ll be hovering over us, waiting for a bad thing to happen so he can snatch us up. In fact, he never promises the absence of discomfort. He seems to be promising that it will happen, that we will all be comfortless at some point. His promise is not that nighttime will not come; it is that the dawn will always break. Our Savior is the sun to our blackest nighttimes. He promises comfort, warmth, and–taking the long term view–an end to darkness for all time. And he promises that we can count on him to bring it.

And what with it? What does the Rising of the Son have to offer us? Flowers of joy and righteousness from deserts of sorrow and sin. Places of waste–wasted time, wasted virtue, wasted opportunities–rising in verdure and mingling in the song of redeeming love. Most importantly, the return for bondage for millions of people lost in the darkness of sin. Christ’s light and warmth let us see just how lost we are and let us find our way back to the right path. It makes so much sense that his birth, the dawn of salvation, would be marked by a day and a night and a day with no darkness.

Hail to the brightness of Jesus’ morning; joy to the hearts that in darkness have lain. Hushed be the accents of sorrow and mourning. Jesus, our Savior, begins his glad reign.

Hymn #59: Come, O Thou King of Kings

Come, O thou King of Kings!
We’ve waited long for thee,
With healing in thy wings,
To set thy people free.
Come, thou desire of nations, come;
Let Israel now be gathered home.

We touched briefly on the subject of enduring to the end yesterday. It’s a substantial part of our doctrine. It’s not enough to have a moment of clarity and declare our conversion, only to return to our regular lives moments earlier. Our conversion has to be lasting, our actions sustained, and our faith deepened. But to what end are we to endure? How long is long enough?

This hymn gives us an idea. We ask the Lord to come again, as He has promised us. “We’ve waited long for thee,” we sing, and for those of us patiently enduring to the end, we truly have. We continue in the path, waiting for the return of He who is the author and finisher of our faith. It is in Him that our faith has an end when we see Him. We no longer need faith, having a full knowledge of Him. He will come and deliver His promised blessings to those who have waited for Him, coming with “healing in [His] wings.”

He also comes to “set [His] people free,” however you’d like to interpret that. He will certainly deliver His people from oppression as He comes to personally reign on the earth, yes, but I like to think of it as deliverance from sin. He has already given His life as a sacrifice for sin. He prepared a way for us to return to our Father when we fall from the path, and it’s in this sense that He is the author of our faith, having written the book (not literally, of course, although the scriptures are filled with His words) on how to follow that path. (The fact that the word “author” shares a common root with “authority” cannot be an accident.) As we follow that path, we are brought nearer to His presence, and when He comes again to earth, we can be drawn literally into His presence, as Israel is “gathered home.”

It’s a time to look forward to. The earth will be cleansed from sin, and our adversary will be bound for a season as we have the chance to live in love and peace. We will hear hosannas from “all the ransomed throng,” a group in which we might find ourselves if we’ve worked toward this day. He comes unto His own, and those are they who will find redemption. We make and keep covenants so that we can find ourselves worthy to stand with Him in that day. We soldier on, one day at a time so that we can “the wide expanse of heaven fill with anthems sweet from Zion’s hill.” We eagerly look to the day when He will rule as our Lord here among us, and we can “welcome in [His] peaceful reign.”

That day is still a ways off, though. It would be one thing if we knew the day He would come again. We would know how much time we had left. We could put off repentance, knowing that if the Lord wasn’t coming for six months, we could make amends in five months’ time. That’s not how it works, of course. No one knows when He will come again, and so we live in constant readiness, keeping ourselves worthy and prepared for that day when He comes again. We endure, remaining faithful to our covenants to to His commandments each day. And as we do, we look forward to that day when He comes again “with healing in [His] wings to set [His] people free.”

Hymn #283: The Glorious Gospel Light Has Shone

Sometimes the scope of the Gospel and the breadth of its reach astounds me. At baptism we covenant to follow Christ’s teachings and obey his commandments. As we begin to follow him, he invites us to join in his mission, to take His yoke upon ourselves. Where we started out seeking baptism in order to receive forgiveness for our own sins, it’s not long before we are serving and consoling and teaching those around us as Christ would do.

It doesn’t stop there, though. When we are able to enter the temple, we have the opportunity to participate in baptism for the dead, offering the same covenants and blessings to our own ancestors and others. Later, we can even help extend the blessings of the endowment and the sealing ordinances to those who have passed into the Spirit World.

Think of it! Just as Christ offers salvation and exaltation to all mankind, we offer these ordinances to our own ancestors, one by one. No longer are we simply seeking our own salvation through the grace of Christ; now we are actively taking part in extending it to others. We are participating in God’s work and his glory: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

What a blessing and an honor it is to participate in this work.

Today’s hymn is The Glorious Gospel Light Has Shone. Its lyrics rejoice in this exact thing: the opportunity we have to participate with Christ in the salvation of the dead. Consider these passages from the hymn:

As Christ to spirits went to preach
Who were to prison led,
So many Saints have gone to teach
The gospel to the dead.

And we for them can be baptized,
Yes, for our friends most dear,
That they can with the just be raised
When Gabriel’s trump they hear;

Now, O ye Saints, rejoice today
That you can saviors be
Of all your dead who will obey
The gospel and be free.

There is an excitement in this hymn, an eagerness to participate in the work of the Lord. I hope we’ll partake of that eagerness and seek to apply it in our own lives.

Hymn #58: Come, Ye Children of the Lord

The stereotypical representation of a Christian heaven usually involves angels on a cloud plucking their harps in eternal praise of God. That imagery has never really resonated with me—I believe we’ll have plenty of meaningful work to keep us busy throughout eternity, so the idea of lazily sitting around on a cloud in lazy praise of our God just doesn’t seem right.

And yet, the scriptures do speak of angels who shall “worship him forever and ever.” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:21). While we may not be toting harps everywhere we go, worship and veneration of our Heavenly Father is an eternal principle. I do not believe it will not be our only heavenly occupation, any more than scripture study is all we are expected to do here on earth. Nevertheless, songs of Heavenly praise are probably not a rare sight in the eternities.

Come, Ye Children of the Lord extends this concept even further, referencing the songs of praise we might sing during the millennial reign of Christ. It draws from passages like this one in the Doctrine and Covenants:

And the graves of the saints shall be opened; and they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb, when he shall stand upon Mount Zion, and upon the holy city, the New Jerusalem; and they shall sing the song of the Lamb, day and night forever and ever. (D&C 133:56)

The millennium will be a time of rejoicing and peace, a time long anticipated by prophets both ancient and modern. Though it often seems distant, we should recall that the Lord named this church The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for a reason. This church is intended to prepare the world for the second coming of the Messiah, inviting all to come unto him and to receive him.

We preach and sing about the millennium often, but I don’t know if there’s any hymn that speaks more directly to the joy and happiness that will prevail on the earth at that time. Consider these passages:

Oh, how joyful it will be
When our Savior we shall see!
When in splendor he’ll descend,
Then all wickedness will end. (verse 2)

All arrayed in spotless white,
We will dwell ‘mid truth and light.
We will sing the songs of praise;
We will shout in joyous lays. (verse 3)

Earth shall then be cleansed from sin.
Ev’ry living thing therein
Shall in love and beauty dwell;
Then with joy each heart will swell. (verse 3)

As we consider this hymn, it’s important to remember that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just intended to bring us individual peace and comfort. The gospel is meant to bring peace to the entire world. It is, in no uncertain terms, a world-changing doctrine. It will make of this world a paradise, where all can live in happiness and harmony.

And yet, take note of the first phrase of this song:

Come, ye children of the Lord,
Let us sing with one accord.
Let us raise a joyful strain
To our Lord who *soon will reign*

We are not supposed to defer our praise until the millennium arrives. Rather. We sing now, joyously, in anticipation of the blessings our Father has promised us in the future. We do not need to delay our rejoicing; whether the promise is fulfilled for us, our children, or our grandchildren, the promise is still rich and full. If a parents’ greatest ambition is to provide a better world for their children and their children’s children, then should we not rejoice in the coming millennium?

I think it sounds pretty great.

Hymn #54: Behold, the Mountain of the Lord

We are often reminded of Mormon’s admonition that we should seek Faith, Hope, and Charity. Faith and Charity are easily understood, but I’ve found that many people don’t have a solid understanding of what “Hope” means.

During my teenage years, I thought that maybe Hope referred to a stronger faith in the Gospel. If Faith is not to have a certain knowledge of things, then I thought perhaps Hope meant that not only did we believe it was true, but we really wanted it to be true. We “hoped” it was true. While it’s nice to hope that the gospel is true, this is not the Hope that the scriptures urge us to seek.

Hope is the feeling of anticipation we have for future promised blessings. Hope is the opposite of despair—it is the belief that things will be wonderful in the future, and the excitement we have for arriving at that future time. Mormon taught us to seek Hope because God has made lots of promises about the future, and some of these are conditional upon our obedience. As we gain greater understanding of the blessings to come, we will have greater strength to resist temptation and overcome difficult times.

God has promised us resurrection. He has promised us eternal life, if we will make and keep the covenants he has set out for us. He has promised guidance through the Spirit. He has promised forgiveness, and strength in overcoming our weaknesses. He has promised us peace in this life. The gospel is full of promises. This makes sense, of course; why would someone choose to follow the guidelines and restrictions imposed by a religion if there were not some promised benefit for doing so? Hope grows as we begin to understand how much God loves us, and how much he desires to bless us.

So what does all of this have to do with Behold, the Mountain of the Lord, today’s hymn?

This hymn describes the conditions that will exist during Christ’s Millennial Reign. While many people seem to be afraid of the calamity preceding the Second Coming, I’ve never felt that way. I figure that if it’s going to happen while I’m around, being afraid isn’t going to change anything. Instead, I choose to look forward with Hope at the prophesied conditions during the millennium. Here are just a few of them, mentioned in this hymn:

Behold, the mountain of the Lord
In latter days shall rise (verse 1)

The rays that shine from Zion’s hill
Shall lighten ev’ry land (verse 2)

[Christ's] judgments truth shall guide;
His scepter shall protect the just
And quell the sinner’s pride. (verse 2)

No strife shall rage, nor hostile feuds
Disturb those peaceful years (verse 3)

They’ll hang the trumpet in the hall
And study war no more. (verse 3)

These promises give me hope—hope that the increasingly perilous conditions that exist now will not continue forever. Hope that if the destruction preceding the Second Coming does come in my lifetime, it is not the end. Hope that if it does not come in my lifetime, my descendants will someday see a time when these promises will be fulfilled. There is yet glory and peace and justice ahead, and there is reason to rejoice.

We really do believe the Christ will reign personally upon the earth. We really do believe that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory. We do not know when it will happen, but we know that “the world is being prepared for the Second Coming of the Savior in large measure because of the Lord’s work through His missionaries.” (Elder Neil L. Anderson, April 2011). Our work right now is in preparation for that exciting event, so how important for us to have Hope in that time. We are not preparing the world for destruction; we are preparing it for the peace and joy and beauty that follows.

The final verse is a fitting conclusion to this hymn. It repeats the same words twice, a reminder that gospel-oriented hope should inspire not daydreaming but action.

Come, then, O house of Jacob, come,
To worship at His shrine,
And, walking in the light of God,
With holy beauties shine.

Hymn #55: Lo, the Mighty God Appearing!

Even if you didn’t see the direction to sing energetically, or even if you didn’t see the exclamation points littered throughout the song (a whopping twenty of them in four verses), this is a hymn that you almost can’t help but sing with vigor. The melody almost begs to be played as a fanfare with trumpets. In other hymns, we sing praise to our Lord for His goodness, His kindness, and His mercy; here, we hail Him as our ruler and king.

Consider the words we use to describe Him in the first verse:

Lo, the mighty God appearing!
From on high Jehovah speaks!
Eastern lands the summons hearing,
O’er the west his thunder breaks.
Earth behold him! Earth behold him!
Universal nature shakes.
Earth behold him! Earth behold him!
Universal nature shakes.

He is mighty. He speaks from on high. He sends forth thunder, and all nature shakes at His presence. We feel of His power and majesty in this hymn, and the tune reflects both that power and majesty. It’s a tune befitting the announcement and arrival of a king.

It’s interesting that the response of nature is mentioned so often in this hymn. It begins by announcing His presence to us, but it goes on to mention the awed reaction of the earth and sky to that arrival. In the first verse, we hear that the land hears the summons and “universal nature shakes.” The whole earth trembles at His coming. He created the earth and all things in and on it; surely it recognizes its creator. The second verse continues, mentioning that fire, clouds, and tempests will accompany Him at His arrival.

It’s His second coming, of course. He will come in power and majesty, and there will be no mistaking the response of nature at that time. In fact, there will be only one group whose reaction won’t be sure, and that’s ours. We, as humans, have the ability to choose for ourselves how to react in any situation. That agency is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, perhaps second only to life itself. And so while the earth and skies will shake at His coming, we may not. We may choose to recognize the arrival of our King. We may not. It is given to us to choose.

The phrase “less than the dust of the earth” occasionally appears in scripture to describe the state of man. That’s not to say that mankind is somehow worth less than dust. Of God’s creations, only humans are created in His image, so surely we carry more intrinsic value than dust. But dust obeys God’s every command without question. If He commands it to move, it moves. If He commands a mountain to move, it moves, and if He commands a sea to be dry, it dries. But when He commands us, we often question Him. We ask if He really needs us to do that right now, or if it could maybe wait until this afternoon, or even just until the next commercial break. Our agency is a tremendous gift, but when it comes to pure obedience, that gift makes us less than the dust of the earth.

Of course, we will be accountable for those choices. In the fourth verse, we are reminded that His judgments are just, and that at the second coming, “God, himself the judge, is there.” He knows us, and He knows what we have done with His gift of agency. He will judge, and judge perfectly and justly. And so as we sing, we are reminded of that day. We are reminded that we will stand before Him and will answer for our actions. And as we are so reminded, hopefully we take a moment to consider those actions, and whether we could be a little quicker to heed His call now rather than waiting until the last day. Perhaps we could lend a hand to someone in need, or offer a kind word. And as we do so, we can, along with the heavens in the final verse, “adore him, and his righteousness declare.”

Hymn #3: Now Let Us Rejoice

Now Let Us Rejoice was included in the original LDS hymnbook, only five years after the church was organized. It was a time of great excitement within the church; significant new doctrines were being revealed frequently, and many had great spiritual manifestations. If you were a member of the Church at that time, you likely had a fairly strong belief that God was actively working in the world, and that revelation, visions, miracles, and so forth were not just things out of scripture. These were things happening last week, and happening now, and happening again soon.

Sometimes I wonder if we’ve lost some of that faith today. It may seem easier to just focus on the things that affect us today, and let the future take care of itself. There are many wonderful things we teach and preach and discuss, of course—things that can help us become better people and draw closer to Christ. These are all very appropriate to discuss, and important for our salvation. We talk about how Christ’s Atonement can bring peace and healing to us now. We talk about service to others, and how we should strive to become Christ-like people. These are wonderful topics, and I’m glad we discuss them often. These are the things that will change us into the people God wants us to become. They will lighten our burdens and enrich our lives, and those are things we all need.

I wonder, though, if we get so caught up in the potter’s wheel or the refiner’s fire that we forget to have hope in the promises God has made. We are living in the long-prophesied last days before Christ’s return! His millennial reign, full of peace and happiness and glory, is close at hand! Shouldn’t that get us at least a little bit excited?

This hymn is excited about the millennium, and has no qualms about it. Here’s the chorus of the first two verses:

Then all that was promised the Saints will be given,
And none will molest them from morn until ev’n,
And earth will appear as the Garden of Eden,
And Jesus will say to all Israel, “Come home.”

Considering the persecution that early church members endured, the notion that “none will molest them” must have seemed pretty nice. We generally don’t face the same opposition they did, but it’s still not always easy to stand for faith and revealed truth in a world that has largely abandoned both.  Further, the millennium will be a time when “Christ will reign personally upon the earth, and the Earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” (Article of Faith 10)  How could we not be excited for that?

And yet, sometimes it seems so distant. It’s easy to believe that God has acted in the past, and that he will probably act sometime in the future, but it’s sometimes hard to believe that it could actually happen now, during our own lives. I don’t know if Christ’s second coming will be in my lifetime. I hope that it is—I look forward to it. But whether it is or not, I have hope in these and all the other blessings promised in the revelations. God has exciting things planned for the Saints, and it is appropriate to anticipate them and to be excited about them. The third verse has a different chorus, one that applies not just to those who live to see the millennium, but to every one who will accept the covenants God offers us:

Then all that was promised the Saints will be given,
And they will be crown’d with the angels of heav’n,
And earth will appear as the Garden of Eden,
And Christ and his people will ever be one.

Let’s keep hope in the promised blessings. When life is hard, let’s rely with faith on the arm of Jehovah, and trust that the end will be glorious. Whether in the millennium or after this life, there is a wonderful world in store for us. Now let us rejoice!

Hymn #47: We Will Sing of Zion

The title says it all, really. We spend three verses singing of Zion. It’s a simple sentiment, and its simplicity speaks volumes. Each line only has from five to seven syllables (6 5 7 7 6, to be precise), and not a syllable is wasted in telling us what Zion is, who makes it up, and where it will go.

So what is Zion, exactly? We find out right off the bat: Zion is the pure in heart, those who seek the Savior’s part. The phrase “the pure in heart” is a stock answer in LDS culture to define Zion, but it’s a stock answer for a reason. The pure in heart are those without any, well, impurities in their hearts. They don’t have anything that distracts them or prevents them from giving themselves fully to their Savior. They are filled with His love, and as we sing, they seek the Savior’s part. They keep Him in their hearts and minds as best as they can.

As we purify our hearts and listen to the “revelations giv’n by God to men,” we learn one of Zion’s main functions. Zion readies us to see the Savior come again. It certainly helps us to prepare to meet Him at His second coming. We learn the signs, we learn His teachings, and we learn how to become more like Him. The prophets teach us by revelation, and we can receive those revelations, too, as we follow those teachings and keep ourselves pure. But I think Zion also helps us prepare for the second coming by getting us excited to see Him when He comes again. We look forward to that day. We are directed to sing resolutely. There is nothing holding us back, no lingering doubts, no unresolved spiritual hangups, no impurities (there’s that word again) preventing us from looking forward to that day with joy. And when we see Him again, we will feel that joy together with our fellow citizens in Zion.

We don’t know when that day will come. We won’t know until it happens. But in the meantime, we can help to build a community that looks forward to it right now, where we stand. We can keep His law in truth, and when we do so, the hymn promises that “hate and war and strife will cease; men will live in love and peace.” It reminds me of the beautiful passage in Revelation where John describes, well, I’ll let him tell you what he describes:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

This is where Zion is headed. We look forward not only to the day when our Savior will come again, but to the day when we will live with Him and the Father, and when they will wipe the tears from our eyes, removing all of our sorrows and burdens, just as we are commanded to do in building Zion here. We look forward to seeing the Zion in heaven joined with our Zion on earth and made one, both in borders and in heart. And this is why at the end of the hymn, we sing (resolutely!), “Heav’nly Zion, come once more and cover all the earth,” because we want this not only for our friends, not only for our neighbors, but for everyone. We want to see everyone accept the outstretched arms and hands of our Savior, not just those we know.

We’ll get there, as we start building Zion here. And as we build it, we will sing of Zion, the kingdom of our God.