First of all, I appreciate Elder McConkie when he says that when every stake of the Church is built, we are building Zion. He said:
Stakes of Zion are also being organized at the ends of the earth. In this connection, let us ponder these truths: A stake of Zion is a part of Zion. You cannot create a stake of Zion without creating a part of Zion. Zion is the pure in heart; we gain purity of heart by baptism and by obedience. A stake has geographical boundaries. To create a stake is like founding a City of Holiness. Every stake on earth is the gathering place for the lost sheep of Israel who live in its area. 1
That being said, to me the following quotes have more to do with the building of the Center Stake or City of Zion before the Lord comes to the earth in glory. That is how I interpret the following quotations.
Zion Built Before Christ Comes
As the place for the New Jerusalem was revealed and the Saints began to gather in Missouri, what must have been their anticipation, not just of building up Zion, but of the Savior’s second coming? The bishopric of Kirtland issued this decree: “…it is after the Lord has built up Zion that He will appear in His glory. We all look for the appearing of…our Savior Jesus Christ, but we shall look in vain until Zion is built, for Zion is to be [his] dwelling place…when He comes… How then is the Lord to dwell in Zion, if Zion is not built up? This question we leave the Saints to answer. – The salvation of the saints one and all depends on the building up of Zion; for without this there is no salvation; for the deliverance in the last days is found in Zion, and in Jerusalem” ( Joseph Smith, Messenger and Advocate, 3, no. 36 (Oct. 1836-Sept. 1837), p. 563. See also: History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 516).
Somebody or other has got to build up Zion; somebody has got to build Temples, and to go into them and attend to the ordinances therein. The Lord has said that he will come and visit the earth, but before he does come the people have got to be pure. The Lord Jesus has declared that he will come and reign on the earth, and if you read the Book of Doctrine and Covenants you will find numerous predictions in regard to his coming, such as—“I come quickly,” “I come at an hour ye think not,” “My coming is at the door,” “I come as a thief in the night,” “I come in an hour when you are not looking for me,” and “Blessed is he who is looking for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” I say that throughout the whole of the Scriptures— the Old and New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, the second coming of the Lord is frequently referred to; and has the Lord promised these things without intending to fulfill them? No, he has not, they will be fulfilled. But before Christ comes, a people have got to be prepared by being sanctified before the Lord. Temples have got to be built; Zion has got to be built up; there must be a place of safety for the people of God while his judgments are abroad in the earth, for the judgments of God will visit the earth, there is no mistake about that, the revelations are full of promises to this effect, and as the Lord has declared it, he will not fail in keeping his word. 2
In another discourse Joseph taught the Saints: “Zion and Jerusalem must both be built up before the coming of Christ… and when these cities are built up then shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” 3
- Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Come: Let Israel Build Zion, April 1977 Ensign.
- Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 18:192; emphasis added.
- Joseph Smith, Words of Joseph Smith by Ehat and Cook, p. 417.