Erroneous Doctrine and Covenants Teachings Regarding the New Jerusalem

(Note to reader:  The following four paragraphs are an excerpt from a long letter written by M. S. Brothers to seven LDS apostles in early 2015 covering four separate doctrinal matters.  No response to the letter was ever received. However, fifteen years earlier, Scott Mitchell, a chief contributor to this website, had written an essay in the form of a letter to the two LDS apostles who had each previously served as the president of Brigham Young University.  His letter/essay expressed the view, set forth below, that history and scripture demonstrate Salt Lake City to be the home of the New Jerusalem.  This hypothesis was warmly received, and one of said apostles responded with a letter on behalf of both of them thanking and complimenting Mitchell on his thoughts and research and claiming both men had been benefitted thereby.  In 2002, days before the Salt Lake City Olympics began, Henry B. Eyring, in an interview with Associated Press correspondent Hanna Wolfson, declared Salt Lake City the New Jerusalem.)

Joseph Smith also claimed God revealed in several revelations that the New Jerusalem, or the city of Zion, was to be built in Independence, Missouri. See primarily D&C 57: 1-5 and 84: 2-5; see also 28: 9; 42: 9, 35; 45: 65-67 and 58: 7, 44-58. The words of these purported revelations were unequivocal, and didn’t say that the location for the city might change, depending on human cooperation. But as history shows, Independence and Jackson County didn’t become the place of the New Jerusalem, and objective observation tells us that it won’t happen in the future, either. To establish the city there today would require the displacing of some 2.3 million people who currently live in its metropolitan area. It would also entail the migration to that place of millions of saints who’d thereby lose their employment, the expenditure of many billions of dollars currently being used to run the church around the world, the moving of church headquarters from their current location in Salt Lake City, and most importantly, a reason to do all of this.

A neutral observer would identify four factors that indicate the church itself has given up on Joseph’s claimed Independence-is-New Jerusalem claim: the amount of money the church has spent in building up Salt Lake City, the building of a new temple a few miles from, but not on, the temple lot designated by Joseph Smith as the center of the New Jerusalem, the failure of the LDS Church to acquire ownership of the designated temple lot, and the lack of any plans to move the church’s headquarters back to Missouri. An even bolder commentator might note that more than 170 years have passed since anyone leading the church has claimed the Lord wanted the old western Missouri model to be actualized. Joseph Smith tried very hard to establish the New Jerusalem in western Missouri, but those efforts only resulted in the church being driven from that area and many lives being lost.

Furthermore, Jesus taught in 3rd Nephi 21:5-25 that the Gentiles who would bring the Book of Mormon to the Lamanites would also assist the house of Israel by building the New Jerusalem. The Books of Mormon that went to the Lamanites throughout Latin America were printed while Salt Lake City, not Independence, was being built up as a religiously-founded city to which the world could gather. And if we believe the land in the “top of the mountains” described as the Lord’s dwelling place in Isaiah 2: 2-3 provides physical descriptors of Zion/New Jerusalem, it’s immediately apparent that Jackson County, Missouri never did fit the bill. But the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants unequivocally declaring it such, though now apparently in error, remain canonized LDS scripture.

Questions about why the New Jerusalem was never established in western Missouri, despite the tremendous effort expended by the early saints to bring it to pass, are difficult for the church to answer today. The answer is provided by some verses of canonized Mormon scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 124: 49-53, but it isn’t hard to see why Mormons are extremely reluctant to quote those verses.  Therein, the Lord purportedly explains that Independence failed to become the New Jerusalem because it was hindered by unrighteous enemies of the Church. [M. S. Brothers doesn’t accept this explanation as having come from the Lord.]  In other words, the Lord’s ancient prophecies can be foiled by unrighteous men despite the righteousness of the Saints in attempting to bring them to pass.  Obviously, this proposition flies in the face of all other Mormon teachings about the immutability and certain fulfillment of the prophecies of God.  But this difficulty diminishes considerably if Mormons are willing to contemplate and accept that Joseph Smith was human enough to represent the New-Jerusalem-in-Independence as a “revelation” when God hadn’t actually revealed it to him. Rather, the idea was simply something Joseph much desired.

As mentioned above, the author believes another city seems to be the probable candidate for the New Jerusalem.  This view, set forth in the following paragraph, is more fully stated at Footnote 20 of the essay “How Scritpure and History Show the Pre-Millennial Gathering of the Lost Tribes of Israel is Mostly Complete,” elsewhere on this website here.

LDS readers are likely to believe that the New Jerusalem, which they have been taught will be built in Jackson County, Missouri, has not yet been built, just as they don’t believe the lost tribes have already been gathered.  However, the author theorizes that the New Jerusalem has been built, and that it, like its Old World counterpart, is known worldwide as the headquarters of a well-known religion whose most prominent symbol is a famous temple.  Also like the old Jerusalem, from which Christ’s disciples dispersed to carry the gospel message, the New Jerusalem is the city from which missionaries were first sent to take the Book of Mormon to the descendants of Lehi, a branch of the house of Israel living in the Americas, and to all people everywhere.  And if those similarities were not clues enough, this city, like Jerusalem in Israel, is also found in the desert, not far from a freshwater river running into a large body of salt water.  The author believes the role this city shall play in the future is yet to be realized, but that it has been built.  Ironically, those who occupy it, and gather to it, have been unable to see its significance, believing that the New Jerusalem is elsewhere.

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