I arrived in Jackson County, Missouri, and after viewing the country, seeking diligently at the hand of God, he manifested himself unto me and designated to me and others the very spot upon which he designed to commence the work of the gathering and the upbuilding of a holy city which should be called Zion – Zion, because it is to be a place of righteousness, and all who build thereon are to worship the true and living God and all believe in one doctrine, even the doctrine of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (See Isaiah 52:8.) — Joseph Smith’s Commentary on the Bible, p. 53
The Lord said that the redemption of modern Zion will resemble the deliverance of ancient Israel from Egypt (see vv. 18–20). The biblical account describes how the Lord attended Israel in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. In 1873 Elder Orson Pratt taught that the return to Jackson County may be accompanied by similar manifestations:
“I expect that when the Lord leads forth his people to build up the city of Zion, his presence will be visible. When we speak of the presence of the Lord we speak of an exhibition of power. . . .
“We shall go back to Jackson County. Not that all this people will leave these mountains, or all be gathered together in a camp, but when we go back there will be a very large organization consisting of thousands, and tens of thousands, and they will march forward, the glory of God overshadowing their camp by day in the form of a cloud, and a pillar of flaming fire by night, the Lord’s voice being uttered forth before his army. Such a period will come in the history of this people. . . . And his people will go forth and build up Zion according to celestial law.
“Will not this produce terror upon all the nations of the earth? Will not armies of this description, though they may not be as numerous as the armies of the world, cause a terror to fall upon the nations? The Lord says the banners of Zion shall be terrible. . . . When the Lord’s presence is there, when his voice is heard, and his angels go before the camp, it will be telegraphed to the uttermost parts of the earth and fear will seize upon all people, especially the wicked, and the knees of the ungodly will tremble in that day, and the high ones that are on high, and the great men of the earth.” (In Journal of Discourses, 15:364.)
This great army of the Lord will not be like the armies of the world. They will not take possession of the land of Zion by force but will go forth under the protection and guidance of the Almighty God to take possession of that which will be rightfully theirs by purchase. (Notes and Commentary on D&C 105:28–32.) The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded that his scribe “saw, in a vision, the armies of heaven protecting the Saints in their return to Zion” (History of the Church, 2:381).
The Lord knows in advance what is in store for the Saints. President Brigham Young noted: “Before we were driven out of Missouri I had a vision, . . . and saw that the people would go to the east, to the north and to the west; but we should go back to Jackson County from the west. When this people return to the Centre Stake of Zion, they will go from the west.”
Some members of the Church in early Utah were so anxious to return to Jackson County they were reluctant to make improvements to homes and lands they assumed they would abandon.
President Young said: “Remarks have been made as to our staying here. I will tell you how long we shall stay here. If we live our religion, we shall stay here in these mountains forever and forever, worlds without end, and a portion of the Priesthood will go and redeem and build up the centre Stake of Zion.” (In Journal of Discourses, 6:16-17)
While it is important to look forward to building up Zion in Jackson County, Missouri, we must at the same time labor to build up Zion wherever we are. — Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, pp. 249-50
Elder Orson Pratt spoke of the need to become a sanctified people. “When we go back to Jackson County, we are to go back with power. Do you suppose that God will reveal his power among an unsanctified people, who have no regard nor respect for his laws and institutions, but who are filled with covetousness? No. When God shows forth his power among the Latter-day Saints, it will be because there is a union of feeling in regard to doctrine, and in regard to everything that God has placed in their hands; and not only a union, but a sanctification on their part, that there shall not be a spot or wrinkle as it were, but everything shall be as fair as the sun that shines in the heavens.” (In Journal of Discourses, 15:361.) — Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, p. 250