A Young Folks' History of the Church by Nephi Anderson - HTML preview
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The Book of Mormon (13th chapter of Ether) tells us that this land of America is a "choice land above all other lands;" and the Lord has said that the people who lived here must serve him or in time be destroyed. This you will remember was proved so often in the history of the Nephites.
Strictly speaking, the whole of America is the land of Zion, but the Lord revealed to Joseph that there should be a "center place," where a great city should be build which should be called the city of Zion, or the New Jerusalem. This city will be the capital or in the center of a large district of country full of people who serve the Lord. A grand temple will be built in the central city, and the glory of the Lord will rest upon it by day and by night. Then shall there be peace in the earth for a thousand years, and the Saints will be busy working to save all the people who live or have ever lived on the earth. Jesus with his angels will no doubt visit the earth from time to time to look after his work at this glorious period.
Now all this was to have a beginning, one of these small beginnings we have spoken about.
June 7th, 1831, the Prophet Joseph received a revelation instructing him and twenty-eight other elders to go on missions. They were to travel two and two by different routes through the Western states, preaching the gospel and building up the Church on the way. They were to meet in the state of Missouri about a thousand miles from Kirtland and there hold a conference. At this time, if they were faithful, the Lord would reveal to them the location of the central place and the spot where the temple should sometime stand.
The brethren went on their missions as they had been instructed, and Joseph and his party arrived at Independence, Missouri, about the middle of July, 1831. Oliver Cowdery and the other brethren who had been sent on the mission to the Indians, you will recollect, stopped at Independence. They were very glad to meet Joseph and his companions again.
Shortly after the prophet's arrival, the Lord made known the exact spot for the city of Zion. It is where the town of Independence is located, in Jackson County, Missouri, and the site for the temple was pointed out as lying westward on a lot not far from the court house.
Some of the Saints now moved to Jackson county, the first to arrive being what was called the Colesville Branch of the Church. These Saints had come from Colesville, State of New York, having stopped but a short time near Kirtland.
The first step towards the founding of Zion was taken on the 2nd day of August, 1831. On that day twelve men, of which Joseph was one, carried and placed the first log for the first house. This was in Kaw township, twelve miles west of Independence, where the Colesville branch was locating. Sidney Rigdon then dedicated the land. The next day eight of the brethren went to the temple lot, and Joseph dedicated that sacred spot.
Shortly after, Joseph with some of the other brethren went to Kirtland.The Saints were now instructed to buy land in the region around that they might possess it for an inheritance. At that time Missouri was not thickly settled. There was much government land which could be bought for one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre. Sidney Gilbert was appointed an agent to receive money and purchase land, and Bishop Edward Partridge was chosen to divide the land among the Saints. The rich were told to divide with the poor that all might have land.
The Saints were especially warned that they must keep all the commandments which the Lord gave to them or they would not be allowed to remain and build up Zion at that time, but they first would have to go through much tribulation, and be "scourged from city to city." You will see presently how this prediction was fulfilled.
The first winter the Saints were not very comfortably housed, as they had arrived too late to raise crops or build good houses. The next spring, however, many Saints arrived, and they soon had growing fields and gardens. The Prophet visited them again early in the spring, held meetings, and greatly encouraged the Saints. In June, 1832, the first paper published by the Latter-day Saints was begun at Independence. It was called The Evening and Morning Star, and was the only paper in that part of the country.
Thus the Saints prospered; but a time of persecution, long and fierce, was before them.
Topics.—1. The center place of Zion. 2. Gathering to Missouri.
Questions and Review.—1. Where is the land of Zion? 2. What is said in the Book of Mormon about this land? 3. Where is Jackson county? 4. What place is now nearly the center of the United States? 5. What river flows by Jackson county? 6. Where will the New Jerusalem be built? 7. What kind of city will it be? 8. When, where, and how was the foundation of Zion laid? 9. Where is the temple lot? 10. Who dedicated it? 11. What was the Colesville Branch? 12. How were the Saints to obtain the land of Zion? 13. What were the duties of Sidney Gilbert and Edward Partridge? 14. When did Joseph visit Jackson county the second time?