Thursday, July 2, 2009

Elise Yumi and Zion -- D&C 28:9

"And now, behold, I say unto you that it is not revealed, and no man knoweth where the city Zion shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter. Behold, I say unto you that it shall be on the borders by the Lamanites."

Because the Saints left the subsequently revealed location for the city of Zion in Jackson County, Missouri, over 170 years ago, it's easy to dismiss this passage as strictly historical in interest. Today we tend to focus on Zion as a people rather than a city, and with the exception of some predictions that large numbers the Saints will return to Missouri just prior to Christ's second coming, the sense of precise location for Zion has faded from our interest.

And yet the idea of Zion as a border place, neither in one world or the other, continues to occupy my mind. Zion should be built, says the Lord, at this intersection of two cultures. Zion should be built at a certain distance from the heart of any given order of the world. Is this so that in Zion different traditions can meet and merge, that all knowledge and truth may be gathered into one? Is it so that by its very marginality Zion will be more accessible for all?

In March, the only other Mormon from my old college theatre program gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She and her husband gave the child the first name Elise, meaning "from God" and the middle name "Yumi", Japanese for "the reason for beauty." I thought of my own sister Judith Shandiin, whose middle name is Navajo, of my brother Mattathias Singh, a staunch Mormon named for Jewish and Sikh heroes, of Haruka Louisa and Nanika Basant, and wondered how many Latter-day Saints have multiculturalism written so clearly in their very names.

If Zion is to be built on the borders, perhaps we are doing more to build it than we sometimes believe.

1 comment:

  1. I also think it's interesting that it's on the border of the Lamanites, because the word Lamanite comes to mean so many different things throughout the Book of Mormon.

    First, there's the common literal interpretation that Lamanite just means any of the indigenous (or not so indigenous) peoples of the Americas.

    At times, especially after 4th Nephi, Lamanite becomes a catch-all term for those who combat against the church-- in fact, at that time the name loses any geneological significance, since the people have become completely mixed.

    But there's also no better people in the book of Mormon for overcoming expectations. The Lamanites are at many times more righteous than the Nephites, and also show themselves to be superior at defeating the Gadianton robbers. Samuel, every young boy's favorite Book of Mormon prophet, is know as "the Lamanite". The stripling warriors and their famous mothers were also Lamanites (or Anti-Nephi Lehites).

    So perhaps the prophecy that Zion will be built "on the borders by the Lamanites" is meant to serve as a statement similar to the instruction to be Zion in the midst of Babylon, but with a built-in reminder that the people of Babylon are often as good or better at living in Zion than we are.



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