|When he arrived in Missouri, Joseph Smith reflected on the condition of Missouri at the time, which was the frontier of the United States. The land seemed like a wilderness, and the people of Missouri were living in horrible conditions and seemed to have no refinement, civilization or religion. (In fact, modern textbooks still report that Missouri seemed to attract lawless rabble-rousers.) In thinking about these things, Joseph Smith stated, “When will the wilderness blossom as the rose? When will Zion be built up in her glory, and where will Thy temple stand, unto which all nations shall come in the last days?” In response to this Joseph was given a revelation from God, which can now be found in Doctrine and Covenants Section 57.In this revelation God said,
“Hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, who have assembled yourselves together, according to my commandments, in this land, which is the land of Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints. Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.”1
Joseph Smith was then told that the members of the Church should buy as much land as possible west from Independence up to the line that designated the land of the Native Americans. Learning that Jackson County Missouri was Zion meant much to Joseph Smith and the members of the Mormon Church. According to Mormon belief, Zion is a place where the pure in heart live. This can mean that Zion can be anywhere, but when God referred to Jackson County as Zion he also told Joseph that this land would be the New Jerusalem. This means that it is the gathering place where the ten tribes of Israel will gather before the second coming of Christ. The saints were eager to begin building up Zion so that they could further the preparations for the coming of Christ.
After receiving this revelation, Joseph began making arrangements to build up a city. On August 2, 1831, he helped lay the logs for the first house built in Zion. The first log was carried and placed by twelve men to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Sidney Rigdon also was asked to dedicate and consecrate the land for the gathering of the Saints. Also while in Missouri, Joseph kept notes of what the land was like and sent a description back to the Saints in Kirtland. He described the area as a prairie filled with beautiful flowers and said that where there was any running water such as streams, lush forests were growing. The soil was described as rich and fertile and good for agriculture.
1 Section 57: 1-2. Doctrine and Covenants.