February 3, 2023

What is Zions Camp?

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In 1834, the idea of Zion’s Camp was first discussed by the prophet Joseph Smith in his home in Kirtland. Zions Camp was a group of men from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints gathered by the prophet Joseph Smith. Their objective was to defend the members of the Church from persecutions in Missouri. Although, the purpose was to help restore the land of the Saints in Missouri, it ended up being a refining process for those involved, and not what they planned.

Reports of Missouri Mob

Zions camp started when two Elders from Missouri, Elder Parley P. Pratt and Lyman White left their families, under sever mob persecution and threats, to get help from Church leadership. They left their families thinking they may never see them again, to get the help they needed to survive.

Joseph Smith had received a revelations regarding Missouri three years earlier on July 20, 1831. The revelation stated: “The land of Missouri. . . 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. . . Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place.” (D&C 57:1-3)

When the revelation was given members of the Church started migrating to Missouri. In only a couple years about 1,000 members of the Church had gathered in Independence, Missouri.

The people of Missouri hated that so many members of this new religion showing up in such great numbers. The people of Independence were a hard group of people, they had lived on the outskirts of the country for a long time, and were not known for their politeness or education. This, combined with the members of the Church being very excited about knowing where the Lord will establish Zion, making plans for a large community to welcome in Jesus Christ. It caused all sorts of problems.

Missouri Mob

The older members of the Missouri community banded together and force the members of the Church out of Jackson County. Local authorities sided with the Missouri mob and forced the Churches newspapers and printing offices to discontinue. The stores and other business operated by members of the Church were forced to closed. Everything was stacked against the members of the Church, and the governments and law enforcement were a major part of the problem. It was a lawless state, and they trashed the members of the Church.

One of the favorite abuses of the Missouri Mob was burning. They threaten and actually burned many houses of members of the Church. (Two accounts of this are Mary Fielding Smith and Isaac Morley both were victims of the crazy Missouri Mobs burnings.)

The burnings occurred when the Saints did not obey the mob rule(and kept living in their houses they bought, and didn’t leave when the mob got crazy). One mobber boasted that 203 Mormon homes had been burned! Among that number were the homes of Sidney Gilbert homes, W.W. Phelps, the Gilbert and Whitney Store, a dozen homes near Big Blue River.

The members were forced to surrender their arms by the Missourians and thus had no way to defend themselves. They were driven from Jackson County. During this time immigrants lined both sides of the Missouri River.

Joseph’s Response to Mob Persecution

The persecution of the Saints in Missouri deeply effected the Prophet Joseph Smith. These were his friends and family being hurt, hunted and abused for their belief in God. When Joseph heard what was happening in Missouri “he bust into tears, and sobbed aloud, ‘Oh my brethren. . . Would that I had been with you, to have shared your fate.” These words were recorded by his mother Lucy Mack Smith.

This brings us to Zions Camp

When Joseph received the news on what was happening the his friends and fellow Saints in Missouri he inquired of the Lord on what should be done. The Lord answered and said he should organize “Zions Camp.”(D&C 103:32-33). The Lord told Joseph he should get 500 men and march and redeem the land. The Lord said he they couldn’t get 500 men they should do it with as many as were willing to go. When Joseph presented the revelation to the men of the High Council “forty or fifty men volunteered immediately.”

They were able to get 207 men to help defend the Saints in Missouri. They split into two groups of men, Joseph Smith was in charge of the second group.

Organization of Zions Camp

Joseph had left with the second group and on May 7 they got back together and this is what he wrote:

”I continued to organized the company, appoint such other officers as were required, and gave such instruction as were necessary for the discipline, order, comfort, and safely of all concerned. I also divided the whole band into companies of twelve, leaving each company to elect its own captain, who assigned each man in his respective company his post and duty, generally in the following order: Two cooks, two firemen; two tent men, two watermen, one runner, two wagoners and horsemen, and one commissary. We purchased flour and meal, baked our own bread, and cooked our own food, generally, which was good, though sometimes scanty; and sometimes we had johnny-cake or corn-dodger, instead of flour bread. Every night before retiring to rest, at the sound of the trumpet, we bowed before the Lord in the several tents, and presented our thank-offerings with prayer and supplication; and at the sound of the morning trumpet, about four o’clock, every man was again on his knees before the Lord imploring His blessings or the day.”(p.140)

Zions Camp March

The group was organized and ready to redeem Zion and their brothers and sister that were kicked out of their homes. The knew the Lord was on their side and they were ready to fight the battle. The Lord had a different idea for Zions camp and this group of men never ended up fighting anyone!

More Blog Posts:

Get to know Wilford Woodruff

Get to know the Prophet Brigham Young

Who is Sidney Gilbert

Places to Visit:

Jackson County Missouri

Historic Kirtland


”Joseph Smith Kirtland, Eye Witness Accounts” By Karl Ricks Andersen (p. 135-140)

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