Relief Society Lesson 15: Establishing the Cause of Zion

By Deborah

Zion is a word we bandy about, but I wouldn’t assume that sisters in your class have a comfortable working definition of the term. For one thing, it is used to describe physical geography, people, the church, God’s kingdom, and ways of interacting with one another.

To draw people into the lesson, I’d begin by asking people to share their understanding of the word. Are there any close synonyms? Should we understand it literally or figuratively? What does this word mean for us as Latter-Day Saints?Then, introduce the following scriptures (perhaps have them pre-written so that you can post them):

“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” –Moses 7:18

“Therefore, verily, thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—THE PURE IN HEART.” –D&C 97:21

Give the class time to ponder these, and return to these scriptures later in the lesson.

Zion as a Physical Location:

The Saints were intensely interested in establishing Zion—a holy city, a peaceful refuge for the righteous fleeing the wickedness of the world. To prepare the Saints, the Lord had repeatedly counseled them to “seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion” (D&C 6:6; 11:6; 12:6; see also 14:6). Now Church leaders would be leaving immediately to determine the location of Zion. Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others started the 900-mile journey to Jackson County, Missouri, on June 19, traveling by water, by coach, and for many miles on foot. The journey was difficult and strenuous, but the Prophet felt the Lord’s protecting care: “Notwithstanding the corruptions and abominations of the times, and the evil spirit manifested towards us on account of our belief in the Book of Mormon, at many places and among various persons, yet the Lord continued His watchful care and loving kindness to us day by day; and we made it a rule wherever there was an opportunity, to read a chapter in the Bible, and pray; and these seasons of worship gave us great consolation.”In mid-July, the Prophet arrived in western Missouri, a beautiful area of rolling, fertile prairie, thick with flowers. There, in reply to his pleading to know Zion’s specific location, the Lord revealed that “the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse” (D&C 57:3) and that tracts of land should be purchased

  • What strikes you about this passage? Clearly, we most of us aren’t living in Independence, MO, so what can we take from it? What were the saints looking for and how does this apply to us?
  • Are there tangible Zions – sacred spaces or refuges – for us? How do we reconcile wanting to protect ourselves “from the world” with living and serving “the world”?
  • What does the phrase “establish the cause of Zion” mean?

We build up the cause of Zion by becoming a people who are pure in heart and by working diligently with one heart and mind.

“Anyplace where the Saints gather is Zion, which every righteous man will build up for a place of safety for his children.”“… We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object. … The time is soon coming, when no man will have any peace but in Zion and her stakes.”

“Let every one labor to prepare himself for the vineyard, sparing a little time to comfort the mourners; to bind up the broken-hearted; to reclaim the backslider; to bring back the wanderer; to re-invite into the kingdom such as have been cut off, by encouraging them to lay to while the day lasts, and work righteousness, and, with one heart and one mind, prepare to help redeem Zion, that goodly land of promise, where the willing and the obedient shall be blessed.

Read these quotes and return to the posted scriptures from the beginning of the lesson. Ask for reflections.

  • Other questions to prompt discussion: Both scriptures use the word “heart” – “one heart” and “pure in heart.” What practical insights does this give us about Zion?
  • Thought questions: To what extent do you feel “of one heart” with this Relief Society?
    Response question: What can we do to take one more step to “build Zion” in this room?
  • Does “Zion-building” extend beyond our ward and families? The scriptures and Joseph Smith talk about Zion as a place with “no poor” where people “bind up the broken-hearted” . . .

Supplementary Material

Mother Teresa strove to create a “Zion” in the slums of Calcutta – to allow the poorest of God’s children to experience love and kindness through the instrument of her Sisters of Charity. Many of her statements make me reflect and reaching out and in to establish the cause of Zion:

There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them.If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

We can do no great things; only small things with great love.

When Mother Teresa was awarded the Noble Peace Prize, she was asked: “What can we do to promote world peace?” She answered “Go home and love your family.”

Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.


Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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9 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Deborah, this is wonderful. I love your section on Mother T.

  2. MD says:

    this is an answer to my prayers. great insight. thanks for the help.

  3. Deborah says:

    I’m so glad! Good luck with your lesson.

  4. Natalie says:

    Oh, I love you. Thank you for doing this. I am in charge of Lesson 15 this Sunday, and I just didn’t know what I was suppose to teach, you know? What point do they want me to get across? I have read and re-read the lesson and was just at a standstill. My husband suggested I google it. It took 3 or 4 other sites before I came to yours. Thank you!!!
    Cottonwood Heights, UT

  5. AJ says:

    Thank you so much for the help with this lesson. You have such insightful questions to ask and I really needed this help for this week. Thank you

  6. Tanya says:

    As I was preparing this lesson I came to realize that it is full of progression. Starting with the revelation on where Zion would be located, to Zion becoming Stakes around the world, and eventually back to where New Jerusalem would be built. This allows us to realize that Zion is Established by our hearts, and how willing we are to turn away from the world. There must be something to why Peace will only be found in Zion, and that is because Zion is not part of the World. I am focusing my Lesson on the Question, “What does it mean to Establish the cause of Zion?”
    I also liked the imagery of Nets, When you think of every Stake connecting to the Center of the church, giving continuity, and strength to the new areas, and new life, and courage to long term areas that may need reminder of how blessed we really are, and how much we have to offer.

  7. Amanda says:

    Thank you so much for your insight. I have to teach this week and have been struggling with some ideas on how to apply this lesson in our lives. I was thinking about how Joseph Smith said they would read a chapter of the bible and I think we can apply that today and in our lives commit to reading a chapter of scripture to bring the Holy Ghost in our homes.

  8. steve says:

    haha you are helping us all out with our lessons, thank you much 🙂

  9. andrew h says:

    So I fully realize that this is a 9 year old post and Deborah might not even blog here anymore, but if you are and if you see this, can you share with me the source of the Mother Teresa quote please?


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