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*To learn more about the history of Mormonism visit: http://mormontopics.org/eng/christ
The quotations used in this post, unless otherwise stated, come from the journal of Elder Heber C. Kimball.
At the time of Zion's Camp the main body of the Church was in Jackson County, Missouri. This place was the appointed place for Zion to be built on the earth. While living in Missouri, those that were not members of the Church persecuted those that did to such a degree that many were forced to flee and others lost their possessions and homes. The prophet Joseph Smith asked the Lord what to do concerning this and received the answer to go and redeem Zion. Elder Kimball wrote:
"Brother Joseph received a revelation concerning the redemption of Zion...He sent messengers to the east and to the west and to the north and to the south, to gather up the Elders..."
At the beginning of their march there were few Elders, approximately 100, but more joined on the way. The way was challenging, as those traveling often lived on johnnycake and other such foods, and walked many miles every day for weeks. Many times on the way contentions arose with the Elders in the camp. One of these contentions was recorded by Elder Kimball as follows:
"This evening there was quite a difficulty between some of the brethren and Sylvester Smith, on occasion of which Brother Joseph was called to decide the matter. Finding quite a rebellious spirit in Sylvester Smith, and to some extent in others, he said they would meet with misfortunes, difficulties and hindrances, 'and you will know it before you leave this place;' exhorting them to humble themselves before the Lord, and become united, that they might not be scourged."
As is stated in the Doctrine and Covenants - "For this is Zion - THE PURE IN HEART" (D&C 97:21). Joseph Smith knew this and did his best throughout the journey to emphasize this.
The misfortune that was seen before they left the place came upon them the following day. All of the horses of the camp were had exceeding poor health when the camp woke in the morning. The brethren were told by the Prophet that all those that repented of their contentions would find that their horses would be healed that day.
Again contentions and arguments took place in Zion's Camp. Heber wrote:
"Brother Joseph called the camp together, and told us that in consequence of the disobedience of some who had not been willing to listen to his words, but had been rebellious, God had decreed that sickness should come upon us, and we should die like sheep with the rot; and said he, 'I am sorry, but I cannot help it.'"
The sickness came. It was the dreaded cholera. Many were stricken and a few died at the hands of this sickness.
The word of the Lord came to the Elders of Zion's Camp through Joseph Smith, as is now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 105:
"Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.
"But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;
"And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom;"
- D&C 105:2-4 -
Because of this new word the Camp turned back toward Kirtland.
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"This night we camped on an elevated piece of land between two branches of the Fishing River. Just as we halted and were making preparations for the night, five men rode into the camp... They told us that sixty men were coming from Richmond, who had sworn to destroy us, also seventy more were coming from Clay County, to assist in our destruction... All this time the weather was pleasant. Soon after these men left we discovered a small black cloud rising in the west, and not more than twenty minutes passed away before it began to rain and hail; but we had very little hail in our camp. All around us the hail was heavy...The earth quaked and trembled, and there being no cessation it seemed as though the Almighty had issued forth His mandate of vengeance. The wind was so terrible that many of our tents were blown down...
"The mob came to the river two miles from us, but the river had risen to that height that they were obliged to stop without crossing over. The hail fell so heavily upon them that it beat holes into their hats, and in some instances even broke the stocks off their guns; their horses, being frightened, fled, leaving the riders on the ground. Their powder was wet, and it was evident that the Almighty fought in our defense. This night the river raised forty feet."
What can be learned from Zion's Camp? Clearly shown is that Zion is and always will be the pure in heart, those that are united. When the Saints were united miracles happened on their behalf, they were protected from their enemies. When the Saints were not united as a people then sickness and other problems came upon them, leaving when they have repented.
Joseph Smith has said that "those who went to Zion with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, it was the will of God that they should be ordained to the ministry and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh" (DHC, Vol. II, p. 192). Those who were soon after called to be members of the Quorums of the Twelve and Seventy were men that went through this trial of Zion's Camp.
Coming to my mind is the scripture found in the Book of Mormon - "For ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." (Ether 12:6) Those who dealt with the trial in faith were then rewarded.
Let us remember the Lord as we go through our own trials, that the Lord may bless us as we show our faith.