Abstract: In Doctrine and Covenants 132:8 we read: “Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.” I propose that the words “order” and “confusion” in this passage are literary allusions to the ideals, constructs, and outcomes that embody Zion and Babylon, respectively. In other words, God’s house is a house of Zion and not a house of Babylon.
Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants was dictated by Joseph Smith on 12 July 1843 in Nauvoo, Illinois, but not published until 1852. The Joseph Smith Papers website includes the following concerning the historical background of this revelation:
According to JS [Joseph Smith], biblical and divine teachings provided the impetus for the revelation. In June 1844 JS stated that he received the revelation “on enquiry” about Matthew 22:30 in the New Testament, which reads, “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” The revelation featured here begins by acknowledging questions JS had about the Old Testament practice of polygamy. In addition to citing biblical precedent, the featured revelation foregrounds several theological explanations for the practice, including the ultimate authority of God’s law; the blessings and eternal rewards for those entering into the practice; and the consequences of not following God’s law for those who had it “revealed unto them” but did not obey it.1
[Page 314]A key passage in this revelation reads:
And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead. (D&C 132:7)
In this verse we are given a fairly comprehensive list of agreements and pledges, including “covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations.” We are told that all these must be authorized and administered in the Lord’s way and that “contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.” In short, the Lord has established an orderly system in which covenants, contracts, etc., may be “entered into.” This verse is immediately followed by: “Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion” (v. 8). I propose that the Lord’s use of the words order and confusion in this verse can be understood as allusive references to Zion and Babylon, respectively.
A House of Order
It is apparent from the scriptures that order is important to God. Reflective of Paul’s teaching to the Saints in Corinth to “let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40), the Lord repeatedly instructed the Saints that all church matters were to “be done in order” (see D&C 20:68, 28:13, 58:55). Twice in the Doctrine and Covenants we find the following counsel:
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, [Page 315]a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God. (D&C 88:119 and 109:8)
Paralleling this message, the Lord also instructed the church to “set in order the churches” (D&C 90:15) and to “set in order all the affairs of this church and kingdom” (D&C 90:16). If the message was not yet clear, the Lord also stated that “mine house is a house of order” (D&C 132:18).
We also encounter this message of order within the church in the Book of Mormon. We are told that Alma2 ordained priests and elders in the church in Zarahemla “according to the order of God, to preside and watch over the church” (Alma 6:1). While this “order” could be a reference to the “priesthood of the holy order of God” (Alma 13:6), based on its context it may refer to a general sense of orderliness within the church itself.2 In verse 4, we read, “And thus they began to establish the order of the church in the city of Zarahemla” (Alma 6:4).3 In this passage, the phrase “the order of the church” likely applies to orderliness within the organization and operation of the church. We know that soon after Alma1’s arrival in the land of Zarahemla, “king Mosiah granted unto Alma that he might establish churches throughout all the land of Zarahemla; and gave him power to ordain priests and teachers over every church” (Mosiah 25:19). Since priesthood authority was fundamental to the proper operation of the church in Zarahemla, we cannot infer that “the order” that Alma2 “began to establish” represented the implementation [Page 316]of a new or different “order” of the priesthood within the church. Rather, it appears from context that the “order” that Alma2 “began to establish” was greater orderliness within the church that most likely resulted from improved organizational structure and doctrinal understanding. Along the same vein, Elder Hyrum G. Smith related the following in a General Conference talk:
We have in the Church a number of men who have been called and ordained to administer blessings unto the people, blessings of comfort, blessings of prophecy, when they are directed so to do. These men are given an office in the priesthood, and just because they have this office, it does not mean that they can bless everywhere and everybody, but, like the bishops, elders, and other officers in the priesthood, they are given their particular field of labor. So we would have the Latter-day Saints understand that in the Church, which is a part of the kingdom of God, there is order, and the officers of the priesthood are the men who should establish and maintain this order in the Church, that the work of the Lord may go on with his blessings upon it. There are a number of members of the Church who go about from place to place, from one ward and from one stake to another, seeking their blessings, which may be permissible if done in strict accordance with the established order of the Church; otherwise they are out of order.”4
Just as Alma2 established “the order of the church in the city of Zarahemla,” Elder Smith explained that “the officers of the priesthood” have a responsibility to “establish and maintain this order in the Church” today. After preaching and working with the church in Zarahemla, Alma2 moved on to the land of Gideon. Mormon informs us that while in the land of Gideon, Alma2 “established the order of the church, according as he had before done in the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 8:1). Later, as Elder Smith would no doubt approve, we are told that “Helaman and the high priests did also maintain order in the church” (Alma 46:38).
President Boyd K. Packer wrote the following regarding the interrelatedness of the words ordinance and ordain and how they are associated with the principle of order, especially in the house of the Lord:
[Page 317]The word ordinance means, “a religious or ceremonial observance”; “an established rite.” The Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford, England, 1970) gives as the first definition of the word order, “arrangement in ranks or rows,” and as the second definition, “arrangement in sequence or proper relative position.” At first glance that may not strike a person as having much religious significance, but indeed it has.
Among the ordinances we perform in the Church are these: baptism, sacrament, naming and blessing of infants, administering to the sick, setting apart to callings in the Church, ordaining to offices. In addition there are higher ordinances, performed in the temples. These include washings, anointings, the endowment, and the sealing ordinance, spoken of generally as temple marriage. The word ordinance comes from the word order, which means, “a rank, a row, a series.” The word order appears frequently in the scriptures. Some examples are: “… established the order of the Church” (Alma 8:1); “… all things should be restored to their proper order” (Alma 41:2); “… all things may be done in order” (D&C 20:68); “mine house is a house of order” (D&C 132:8). Mormon even defined depravity as being “without order” (Moroni 9:18).
The word ordain, a close relative to the other two words, has, as its first definition, “to put in order, arrange, make ready, prepare”; also, “to appoint or admit to the ministry of the Christian church… by the laying on of hands or other symbolic action.” From all of this dictionary work there comes the impression that an ordinance, to be valid, must be done in proper order.5
In addition to the etymological connection, order and ordinances are also linked in a cause-and-effect relationship: faithful participation in ordinances helps create order in our lives. President Packer added that an ordinance is “the ceremony by which things are put in proper order,”6 with the accompanying counsel to “make sure, in other words, that valid [Page 318]ordinances become a part of your life; that everything in this regard, for you, is in proper order.”7
Orson Pratt explained that the New Jerusalem, the latter-day Zion, is to be built differently from other cities on this earth. Rather than decaying and wasting away, the Lord will protect, preserve, and sanctify latter-day Zion to prepare it to join a higher, “perfect order”:
It is intended that it will be taken up to heaven, when the earth passes away. It is intended to be one of those choice and holy places, where the Lord will dwell, when he shall visit from time to time, in the midst of the great latter-day Zion, after it shall be connected with the city of Enoch. That then is the difference.
The Lord our God will command his servants to build that Temple, in the most perfect order, differing very much from the Temples that are now being built. You are engaged in building Temples after a certain order, approximating only to a celestial order; you are doing this in Salt Lake City. One already has been erected in St. George, after a pattern in part, of a celestial order. But by and bye [sic], when we build a Temple that is never to be destroyed, it will be constructed, after the most perfect order of the celestial worlds. And when God shall take it up into heaven it will be found to be just as perfect as the cities of more ancient, celestial worlds which have been made pure and holy and immortal. So it will be with other Temples.8
Set Thine House in Order
The Lord instructed the members of the church individually to “set in order your houses; keep slothfulness and uncleanness far from you” (D&C 90:18). In addition, some leaders of the church were given specific counsel. For example, Fredrick G. Williams was told to “set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house” (D&C 93:43). Likewise, Sidney Rigdon was counseled to “set in order thy house” (D&C 93:44), and Newel K. Whitney was instructed to “set in order his family” (D&C 93:50). These instructions echo those given to king Hezekiah by the prophet Isaiah:
[Page 319]In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order [צו לביתך, tsav le’beitekha]; for thou shalt die, and not live. (2 Kings 20:1 KJV, see also Isaiah 38:1)9
In this passage, Hezekiah was told to set his house in order — צו לביתך, tsav le’beitekha — or perhaps more literally, “order your house.” The verb translated as order (צו, tsav) in this verse is derived from the root צ-ו-ה (ts-v-h) which can carry the connotation of to command, to order, or to instruct.10 The counsel to Hezekiah to set his house in order (or to order or instruct his house) came by way of command from the Lord. It is interesting to note that the noun מצוה (mitsvah, or commandment) is also derived from the root צ-ו-ה (ts-v-h). So, setting one’s house in order can be related to the concept of issuing and obeying commands and to the idea of commandments themselves.11 In the Metzudat David — a work published by Rabbi David Altschuler of Prague in the 18th century — the phrase צו לביתך (tsav le’beitekha) in 2 Kings 20:1 is described as meaning היה מצוה על עניני ביתך (“There was a mitsvah [commandment] about the affairs of your home”).12
In 2 Samuel 17 is related the story of Ahithopel, a counselor to king David. During Absolom’s revolt against his father, Ahithopel betrayed king David and sided with Absolom. Following the discovery of Ahithopel’s treachery, we are told that he “gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order [va’yetsav el-beito ויצו אל־ביתו], and hanged himself, and died” (2 Samuel 17:23 KJV).13 The verb יצו (yetsav, rendered put in order in the KJV) is the same verb that is used in 2 Kings 20:1 (צו tsav, translated as set in order in the KJV). Both passages help us connect the verb לצות (letsavot) — the infinitive of צו (tsav) and יצו (yetsav), and typically related to the idea of commanding [Page 320](see Genesis 49:33) — with the concept of setting or putting something in order.14
Although mentioned more than 150 times in the Hebrew Bible, the word Zion [ציון, tsiyon] does not appear until 2 Samuel 5:7: “Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion — which is the City of David” (NIV). In this verse, as well as in 1 Kings 8:1, Zion is identified as being synonymous with the City of David. Isaiah idealized the concept of Zion, identifying it as the location of the “mountain of the Lord,” or “the house of the God of Jacob”:
A And many peoples will come [הלכו, halekhu] and say, A’ “Come [לכו, lekhu], let us go up B to the mountain of the Lord [הר־יהוה, har-Yahweh], B’ To the house of the God of Jacob [בית אלהי יעקב, beit Elohei Yaaqov]; C That He may teach us concerning His ways [דרכיו, derakhav] C’ And that we may walk in His paths [ארחתיו, orchotav].” D For the law [תורה, torah] will go forth from Zion [ציון, tsiyon] D’ and the word of the LORD [דבר־יהוה, devar-Yahweh] from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3 NASB 1995).
Although Jerusalem and Zion were once historically co-located in the City of David, they are not precisely the same thing. Sol Liptzin explained that while Zion is eternal and incorruptible, Jerusalem — Zion’s earthly substitute — is subject to corruption and ruin:
Zion is eternal. God will reign there forever and those who trust in God will be as eternal as Mt. Zion ([Psalm] 125:1; 146:10). Jerusalem, on the other hand, experiences ups-and-downs, a great many changes of fortune. At times, it is victorious, kings bring gifts to it, and it is good to stand within its gates (68:30; 122:2). At other times, strangers come to Jerusalem, defile it, and convert it to a heap of ruins (79:1). When the Psalmist speaks of ruins, he prefers the designation Jerusalem [Page 321]and avoids the name Zion (79:3). When he mentions the city in which blood is poured out as water, it is again Jerusalem, the political capital, which is associated with such a tragic event, while the more hallowed name of Zion is reserved for happier occasions (79:3). A person who longs for holiness wants to come up to be seen before God in Zion rather than in Jerusalem, since Jerusalem carries a more secular thought-association (84:8).15
The prophet Jeremiah spoke of a future day when the children of Israel would seek the Lord in Zion: “They will ask for the way to Zion, turning their faces in its direction; they will come that they may join themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten” (Jeremiah 50:5 NASB 1995). A passage in the Doctrine and Covenants parallels this message from Jeremiah: “And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy” (D&C 45:71). Both passages likely reference a spiritual Zion — wherever the pure in heart are gathered (see D&C 97:21) — rather than a physical Zion in the City of David.
In addition, in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord counsels his people to “go ye forth unto the land of Zion, that the borders of my people may be enlarged, and that her stakes may be strengthened, and that Zion may go forth unto the regions round about” (D&C 133:9). As the Lord’s people go forth to Zion, Zion expands and goes forth to the world. Hence, the call for those “who are among the Gentiles” to “flee to Zion” (D&C 133:12). Concerning Zion, Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught:
Zion is Zion because of the character, attributes, and faithfulness of her citizens. Remember, “the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. It will be necessary (1) to become unified in one heart and one mind; (2) to become, individually and collectively, a holy people; and (3) to care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us. We cannot [Page 322]wait until Zion comes for these things to happen — Zion will come only as they happen.16
In other words, spiritual Zion can be established only when individuals and communities unify, practice holiness, and care for their poor and needy. King Benjamin taught his people that they were to “impart of [their] substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants [i.e., deficiencies17]” (Mosiah 4:26). However, he also cautioned that “all these things are done in wisdom and order” (Mosiah 4:27). Not only is order required in administering relief to the poor, but greater order is also a likely by-product of these actions.
Hugh Nibley succinctly stated that “Zion is the eternal order.”18 Adding to this idea, Philip L. Barlow wrote:
Expanding on what the Bible only hints at, Smith’s revelation says that Enoch’s people were called “Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and [Page 323]there was no poor among them.” “Zion,” a divinely organized utopia, was thus evermore distinguished in Mormon conceptions from the ancient or typological nation “Israel.”19
Paralleling Orson Pratt’s teaching that the temple to be built in the New Jerusalem, the latter-day Zion, would be after a perfect, celestial order, Nibley explained that Zion is “any community in which the celestial order prevails”:
Zion is a code word denoting a very real thing. Zion is any community in which the celestial order prevails. Zion is “the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21), but Zion is also a real city or any number of real cities. It is a constant; it is unchanging. There are Zions among all the worlds, and there are Zions that come and go. Zion is a constant in time and place — it belongs to the order of the eternities.20
The author of Hebrews wrote, “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22 NASB 1995). Regarding this verse, Nibley added:
It’s the “heavenly Jerusalem,” the eternal order; if we are to go on forever, there has to be a perfect order. It can’t be defective. Any building, any structure, will be destroyed by time if there is any defect in it at all. Time will work on that. And in our human relationships in the order that exists here, a perfect order is practically impossible. Human order is a day-to-day, makeshift sort of thing, not the sort of thing that can go from eternity to eternity.21
Eternal, perfect order is only to be found in Zion. Human order is transitory and corruptible; it is defective. But heavenly order, which can only exist in Zion and is synonymous with it, is of the incorruptible sort. Order and harmony are the natural results of obedience to God’s laws and commandments (מצות, mitsvot), and they also define Zion (ציון, [Page 324]tsiyon). Disobedience, on the other hand, is the domain of Babylon and leads to chaos and confusion:22
”Order is heaven’s first law,”23 says the poet. It is not so. Order is not heaven’s first law but the result of heaven’s first law — obedience. Once in that happy realm of our pre-existence did ugly disobedience raise his discordant head, and for a time banished chaos re-entered the heavenly portals, leaving her hideous tracks of ruin and confusion where peace and union had reigned as supreme and universal as the light of eternal day. But only for a brief season.24
The Order of Zion
In a revelation to the prophet Joseph fewer than two years after the church was organized, the Lord instructed the church to establish a new economic, social, and religious order, the United Order (D&C 78).25 Soon after, Joseph received additional instructions concerning this Order:
For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments. Therefore, I give unto you this commandment, that ye bind yourselves by this covenant, and it shall be done according to the laws of the Lord. Behold, here is wisdom also in me for your good. And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just — And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred [Page 325]fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church — Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God. This order I have appointed to be an everlasting order unto you, and unto your successors, inasmuch as you sin not. (D&C 82:14–20)
Rather than a worldly order in which “everyone looks out for their own interests” (Philippians 2:21 NIV), this order was to be a heavenly order — the Order of Zion. Following the death of his son, Joseph, Brigham Young wrote the following regarding his son’s efforts to establish the United Order among the Saints:
I have had much comfort and satisfaction in the last days of Joseph’s mortal sojourn upon the earth. He had labored with great zeal, diligence, and wisdom in establishing the United Order in the midst of the Saints in Sevier Co. by whom he was highly respected as a president and greatly beloved as a brother. His labors in establishing the order of Zion amongst the Saints under his watchcare were greatly blessed of the Lord.26
Like the Nephites following the resurrection of Christ (see 4 Nephi 1:3), the early Old World Christians also practiced a type of United Order: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common” (Acts 4:32 KJV). Nibley also referred to the United Order, or Order of Zion, as the Order of Enoch or Order of Adam:
In all of this, the early Christians conscientiously followed the ancient order of Enoch. The order was constantly on their lips. And it, in turn, went back to the order of Adam. (We find many references to these things now that we didn’t even know twenty years ago. The only person who knew was Joseph Smith.) The order was not invented by the apostles; the Dead Sea Scrolls show us that. The sectaries of the desert — the people out in the desert trying to live the old law of [Page 326]Israel — always followed these rules and always identified themselves with the order of Zion or Enoch (see Moses 7:18).27
The basic idea of the United Order was that “every man [would seek] the interest of his neighbor” rather than “look[ing] out for their own interests.” More specifically, members of the church were to follow the example of Christ: “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30 KJV). President Wilford Woodruff stated:
It has been promised that the New Jerusalem will be built up in our day and generation, and it will have to be done by the United Order of Zion and according to celestial law. And not only so, but we have to keep that law ourselves if we ever inherit that kingdom, for no man will receive a celestial glory unless he abides a celestial law.28
Don Sorenson wrote, “The prophets always labor to prepare people to become a people of Zion. Sometimes people embrace Zion; most often they do not.”29 While the early Saints were not successful in firmly establishing the United Order of Zion “according to celestial law,” the hope and expectation is that one day the Lord’s people will come to reject flawed and corruptible human attempts at creating order and embrace the celestial, perfect, and eternal Order of Zion.
Nibley accurately observed, “We can’t discuss Zion very long without running into Babylon, because Babylon is, in all things, the counterpart of Zion. It is described just as fully, clearly, and vividly in the scriptures as Zion is and usually in direct relationship to it.”30 Just as Zion, the Way of Light and Life, is synonymous with righteousness and order, Babylon, the Way of Darkness and Death, stands for wickedness and confusion:
Throughout the scriptures, Zion is brought into the clearest focus by placing it against a dark background; and like Zion, that background world is given a code name: Babylon. Babylon, like Zion, is a real society — a type, place, and environment of human existence, described in the scriptures with great clarity and precision. (The word Babylon is not just [Page 327]a general term to indicate anything that is not Zion; it is the designation of a very particular and specific type of society.) Though Babylon is vividly described by the prophets, the best way to define her is as the exact opposite of Zion in all things. Babylon is just as pure in its way as is Zion; it is pure evil — for even good, when it becomes contaminated and perverted, becomes an evil. The main thing is that Babylon and Zion cannot mix in any degree; a Zion that makes concessions is no longer Zion.
One may well ask if it is necessary to choose between such absolute extremes, and wonder if there is not some more moderate approach to the problems. By the very nature of things, there is no third way — as the early Jewish and Christian writers remind us repeatedly in their doctrine of the Two Ways. According to this oldest and best-established of teachings (though quite unpopular with the conventional Christianity and Judaism of our time), there are Two Ways lying before every person in this life, the Way of Light and the Way of Darkness, the Way of Life and the Way of Death; and every mortal every day of his life is required to make a choice between them. Unfortunately for our peace of mind, any compromise between the Two Ways is out of the question, since they lead in opposite directions.31
While the scriptures are replete with the Lord’s pleading counsel to come to Zion, they also instruct us to escape from Babylon:
Go ye out from Babylon. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. (D&C 133:5)
Yea, verily I say unto you again, the time has come when the voice of the Lord is unto you: Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (D&C 133:7)
Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon. (D&C 133:14)
Ho, Zion! Escape, you who are living with the daughter of Babylon [בת־בבל, bat-bavel]. (Zechariah 2:7, NASB 1995)
[Page 328]Jeremiah prophesied that “the vengeance of the Lord our God” would come out against physical and spiritual Babylon, resulting in her destruction:
There is a sound of fugitives and refugees from the land of Babylon, To declare in Zion the vengeance of the Lord our God, Vengeance for His temple. Summon many against Babylon, all those who bend the bow: Encamp against her on every side, Let there be no escape. Repay her according to her work; According to all that she has done, so do to her; For she has become arrogant against the Lord, Against the Holy One of Israel. (Jeremiah 50:28–29 NASB 1995)
A Hebrew Etymology of Babylon
In the account of the Tower of Babel in the book of Genesis, we are given a Hebrew etymology for the name Babel, or Babylon:
Therefore its name was called Babel [בבל, bavel], because there the LORD confused [בלל, balal] the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:9 NASB 1995)
As can be observed from the two Hebrew words above, Babel (בבל, bavel) is not an exact match for confused (בלל, balal), but for the author of Genesis the two words were close enough to create a literary connection. Immanuel Casanowicz clarified that the relationship between Babel (or Babylon) and confused is not actually an etymology but a paronomasia, or wordplay:
בבל [bavel] is derived from בלל [balal], mix, confuse, as if it were a contraction of בלבל [balbel, meaning confused]; but it is known from the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions that Bâbilu, the corresponding Assyrian name of the city, is a compound of bâb, gate, and ilu, god, the gate of god. But in many cases it is quite apparent that it is not an etymology which is intended, but a paronomasia.32
This linguistic wordplay in Genesis has led Jewish and Christian scholars and commentators to inextricably connect Babylon with the [Page 329]idea of confusion and chaos.33 The Babylonians, of course, did not name their city Confused. Rather, as Casanowicz stated, they called it Babilu (sometimes the plural Babilim), or Gate of God. Ron Bigalke wrote that “although the name ‘Babylon’ is derived from the Akkadian word babilu meaning ‘gate of god,’ it is an evident counterfeit of God’s eternal city [Zion].”34 Hayyim Angel added the very likely possibility that the Hebrew connection of Babel (בבל, bavel) with confusion (בלל, balal) was simply a sarcastic midrash on the original Akkadian name:
We now can understand the Torah’s explanation for the city name, Bavel, confusion. The Babylonians called their city Babel, from the Akkadian bab-ilim, “the gate of the god.” They considered their city to be the religious center of the world. The Hebrew etymology, then, is a “midrash” of the Torah to mock the Babylonians. You think you are the gate of the god, but in fact you are completely confused!35
The Confusion of Babylon
If Zion represents order, Babylon — as the antithesis of Zion — appropriately stands for confusion and chaos. In the initial chapter of Genesis we read that God created order out of chaos or confusion: “And the earth was without form [תהו, tohu],36 and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2 KJV). While the KJV renders the word תהו (tohu) as without form, it can also be understood as chaos37 or confusion.38 Bigalke added:
[Page 330]The city founded by Nimrod [Babylon] was renowned for its pride and rebellion; its pagan worship of false gods was the beginning of the degeneration from monotheism to polytheism (Rom. 1:18–32), and reached a climax when its inhabitants sought equality with God (Gen. 11:1–9). God turned human ambition and ingenuity against him at Babel into chaos and confusion.39
Speaking of the “condition of the religious world to-day,” President John Taylor said: “It is Babylon or confusion; confusion in ideas, confusion in regard to doctrine, confusion in regard to ordinances, etc.”40 President Lorenzo Snow added:
What did we come here for? We came to build up Zion, not to build up Babylon. The voice of the Almighty called us out from the midst of confusion, which is Babylon, to form a union and a lovely brotherhood, in which we should love one another as we love ourselves. When we depart from this purpose, the Spirit of God withdraws from us to the extent of that departure. But if we continue in the extent of those covenants which we made when we received the gospel, there is a corresponding increase of light and intelligence, and there is a powerful preparation for that which is to come. And because of our faithfulness and our adherence to the covenants we have made, the foundation upon which we stand becomes like the pillars of heaven-immovable.41
Paul taught that “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33, NASB 1995). While a prisoner in Liberty Jail, Joseph explained that the devil, the founder of Babylon and the author of confusion, has “filled the world with confusion,” resulting in corruption and iniquity:
It is an imperative duty that we owe to God, to angels, with whom we shall be brought to stand, and also to ourselves, to our wives and children, who have been made to bow down with grief, sorrow, and care, under the most damning hand of murder, tyranny, and oppression, supported and urged [Page 331]on and upheld by the influence of that spirit which hath so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies, upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion, and has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very mainspring of all corruption, and the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity (D&C 123:7).
So what is the cause of this confusion, and how to we get out from under it? When we abandon the way of Zion, the way of order, and follow the way of Babylon, confusion and disorder are the natural results. President John Taylor taught that when we follow our own “theories, ideas and opinions,” Babylon — confusion and disorder — prevails:
We have come out of Babylon. We have come out of confusion. There is confusion in the world everywhere. … Men teach their own theories, ideas and opinions, and hence confusion and disorder prevail in the world.42
President Taylor’s teaching echoes the Lord’s words in the introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants:
They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall. (D&C 1:16)
Satan, as the founder of Babylon, intentionally sows tares among the wheat to create confusion and disorder in an attempt to “choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness”:
And after they have fallen asleep the great persecutor of the church, the apostate, the whore, even Babylon, that maketh all nations to drink of her cup, in whose hearts the enemy, even Satan, sitteth to reign — behold he soweth the tares; wherefore, the tares choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness. (D&C 86:3)
It is interesting to note that one of the reasons for the issuance of the Manifesto, which officially ended the practice of plural marriage in the church, was to keep confusion, or Babylon, out of Zion. If the church [Page 332]had not stopped the practice, “confusion would reign throughout Israel” (Official Declaration 1).
The solution to removing ourselves from Babylon, from confusion, is to live our lives individually and collectively following the path of Zion, the way of order. The Lord commanded the Saints to gather “unto the land of Zion,” but he also cautioned them:
And now, behold, this is the will of the Lord your God concerning his saints, that they should assemble themselves together unto the land of Zion, not in haste, lest there should be confusion, which bringeth pestilence. (D&C 63:24)
Just as king Benjamin counseled his people that providing for the poor and needy must be “done in wisdom and order” (Mosiah 4:27), assembling to spiritual Zion must also be an orderly process. Babylon, or confusion, will find its way into our lives and into the body of the church unless we conduct our affairs according to the celestial, heavenly order which is Zion.
Richard Smyth wrote the lyrics to the favorite hymn “Israel, Israel, God is Calling.” The first stanza of that hymn reads:
Israel, Israel, God is calling, Calling thee from lands of woe.
Babylon the great is falling; God shall all her tow’rs o’er-throw.
Come to Zion, come to Zion, Ere his floods of anger flow.
Come to Zion, come to Zion, Ere his floods of anger flow.43
The fall of Babylon is a certainty, as is the establishment of Zion in the last days. What is not certain is whether we, as individuals, will heed the call to flee from Babylon and come to Zion. While Zion represents the celestial, perfect, eternal order of heaven, Babylon typifies the chaos, confusion, and corruption of the world. Like oil and water, Zion and Babylon cannot mix; the oil of Zion must triumphantly rise above the water of “the rivers of Babylon.”44 The Lord will not tolerate the confusion and chaos of Babylon to be mingled with the order and perfection of Zion. Perhaps as a cautionary metaphor against attempts to mix Zion with Babylon, the Lord instructed the Israelites: “You are to keep My statutes. You shall not cross-breed two kinds of your cattle; you shall not [Page 333]sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment of two kinds of material mixed together” (Leviticus 19:19 NASB 1995). Nibley added:
This, then, is how things stand: (1) We know what Zion is, (2) we know what Babylon is, (3) we know that the two can never mix,45 and (4) we know that the Latter-day Saints, against the admonitions of their leaders, have always tried to mix them.46
Elder George F. Richards taught that of all of God’s handiwork, we are the only disobedient elements of his creation. Through the improper exercise of agency, our disobedience to God’s commandments attempts to replace the order and organization of Zion with the confusion and conflict of Babylon:
Order, then, follows obedience unto the commands and the laws of God. The law by which the universe is governed, is the law of God. We may call it the law of nature, but the law of nature is the law of God, and all His creations excepting man are obedient, hence the beautiful order which we see in all nature. If they were disobedient, as man is disobedient, there would be universal confusion, disorder and annihilation. Man only of all the creatures of God disobeys His command, and disregards the law which He has framed for our guidance and government, that order and perfection might be established. This, because of man’s agency. This is the point which I desire to call to your attention, that the law which God has given to us for our government is a divine law, and just as perfect as are the laws by which the universe is governed. And if we would be as obedient as are the elements, and His other creations, we would be perfect, and all would be in harmony and order.47
Finally, President Joseph F. Smith taught that the gospel of Jesus Christ involves “obedience to the truth, submission to the order that God has established in His house, for the house of God is a house of order and not a house of confusion.”48 Or, in other words, God’s house is a house of Zion, and not a house of Babylon!
[Page 334]Appendix 1
Classic and Contemporary English Bible Translations for 2 Kings 20:1 and 2 Samuel 17:23
|#||Year||Bible||2 Kings 20:1||2 Samuel 17:23|
|Hebrew Masoretic Text||צו לביתך (tsav lebeitekha)||ויצו אל־ביתו (vayestav el-beito)|
|1||1560||Geneva||Put thine house in an order||and put his houshold in order|
|2||1568||Bishops’||Put thine houshold in an order||& put his housholde in order|
|3||1582||Douay-Rheims||Give charge concerning thy house||and putting his house in order|
|4||1611||King James||Set thine house in order||and put his household in order|
|5||1844||Brenton Septuagint||Give charge to thy household||and he gave orders to his household|
|6||1862||Young’s Literal Translation||Give a charge to thy house||and giveth charge unto his household|
|7||1876||Smith’s Literal Translation||Command to thy house||and command his house|
|8||1881||English Revised Version||Set thine house in order||and set his house in order|
|9||1890||Darby Bible Translation||Set thy house in order||and gave charge to his household|
|10||1901||American Standard Version||Set thy house in order||and set his house in order|
|11||1917||Hebrew Names Version||Set your house in order||and set his house in order|
|12||1917||JPS Tanakh||Set thy house in order||and set his house in order|
|13||1933||Lamsa Bible||Set your house in order||and he put his household in order|
|14||1965||Amplified Bible||Set your house in order||Then he put his household in order|
|[Page 335]15||1976||Good News Translation||you are to put everything in order||After putting his affairs in order|
|16||1978||New International Version||Put your house in order||he put his house in order|
|17||1985||The New Jerusalem Bible||Put your affairs in order||Then, having set his house in order|
|18||1995||God’s Word Translation||Give final instructions to your household||He gave instructions to his family|
|19||1995||New American Standard Bible||Set your house in order||and set his house in order|
|20||1996||New International Reader’s Version||Put everything in order. Make out your will.||He put everything in order. He made out his will.|
|21||1998||Complete Jewish Bible||Put your house in order||After setting his house in order|
|22||1998||Third Millennium Bible||Set thine house in order||and put his household in order|
|23||2000||Jubilee Bible||Set thy house in order||and put his household in order|
|24||2000||World English Bible||Set your house in order||and set his house in order|
|25||2001||English Standard Version||Set your house in order||He set his house in order|
|26||2002||The Message Bible||Put your affairs in order||After making out his will and putting his house in order|
|27||2002||Orthodox Jewish Bible||Set thine bais [house] in order||and put his bais (household) in order|
|28||2004||The Jewish Study Bible||Set your affairs in order||He set his affairs in order|
|29||2004||Holman Christian Standard Bible||Put your affairs in order||He set his affairs in order|
|30||2005||New English Translation||Give your household instructions||After setting his household in order|
|31||2009||A Faithful Version||Set your house in order||and put his household in order|
|32||2011||International Standard Version||Put your household in order||Leaving behind a set of orders for his household|
|33||2011||Lexham English Bible||Command your house||After he set his house in order|
|34||2016||Berean Study Bible||Put your house in order||He put his affairs in order|
|35||2017||Christian Standard Bible||Set your house in order||He set his house in order|
|36||2018||New Heart English Bible||Set your house in order||and set his house in order|
[Page 336]Appendix 2
Additional Hugh Nibley Quotes on the Eternal Order and Zion
What are the things of the eternities that we should consider even now? They are the things that no one ever tires of doing, things in themselves lovely and desirable. Surprisingly, the things of the eternities are the very things to which the university is supposed to be dedicated. In the Zion of God, in the celestial and eternal order, where there is no death, there will be no morticians; where there is no sickness, there will be no more doctors; where there is no decay, there will be no dentists; where there is no litigation, there will be no lawyers; where there is no buying and selling, there will be no merchants; where there is no insecurity, there will be no insurance; where there is no money, there will be no banks; where there is no crime, there will be no jails, no police; where there are no excess goods, there will be no advertising, no wars, no armies, and so on and so on.49
But it’s in the last days that the fulfillment will really get underway with the restoration and the steps approaching the establishment of Zion. In every age, though, as the Doctrine and Covenants tells us, the Saints are “they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all, … the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the First-born” (D&C 76:66–67). That is the eternal order of Zion, and the Saints have been at work for many years, supposedly preparing to receive it.50
Temple ordinances … put you into an eternal … order of things, which the world will not understand. And if you try to make them vulgarized down here and treat them as if they belong to this universe of discourse, then you spoil them.51
The words temple and cosmos appear together in the title of this volume because the “temple is a scale model of the universe” (p. 15). Participation in the instruction and ordinances of the temple enables “one to get one’s bearings from the universe.” The temple is the link between the seeming chaos and dissolution of this temporal world and [Page 337]the beautiful configuration (cosmos) and permanence of the eternal order. “The mystique of the temple lies in its extension to other worlds; it is the reflection on earth of the heavenly order, and the power that fills it comes from above.”52
Verse 2: “And they all cried out with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ [notice, atonement is mentioned quite a number of times in this chapter] that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, … for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men. … And the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy [it was a joyful celebration, a great time, you see; they could all hardly stand it, they were so joyful here] … because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come.” This is a marvelously happy event, you see. He is ready to bring us back into the great eternal order of things. But how is he to do it? You see, this is what they are talking about here. Even if we could make up for our sins here, it is that other life that they are thinking of. Now they have had a glimpse of it, they are filled with joy. They are filled with the spirit. These times come because of exceeding faith. We think of the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. That’s the sort of thing that happened when the marvelous manifestations were received and everybody had revelation, or the day of Pentecost, those days. Under normal conditions they would be normal, but the earth is a bad place.53
This about the resurrection is quoted by Paul, and it’s elsewhere. Verse 9: “He is the light and the life of the world [there’s much more to it; there’s more light where this came from, he is telling us]; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.” He comes as the Light into the world-not just in a special role or something like that. This comes from the eternal order of things. He is the Light and Life that has always been there and always will be there, “that is endless, that can never be darkened [whether it’s on this earth or anywhere else]; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death. Even this mortal shall [Page 338]put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption, and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God, to be judged of him according to their works whether they be good or whether they be evil.”54
What do the other civilizations leave behind, those I call the stable ones? Those after the manner of the old people. They leave themselves behind. Their next generation takes over and carries on. Time means nothing to them. It’s an eternal order of the law. The law of consecration is an eternal order. We will just leave ourselves, the culture, behind, without any loss of product. People will have plenty to do and plenty to think of.55
The first reply to complaints when the mill reopened was, “If you don’t like it, then why don’t you just move out?” Again we have Brigham’s reply, “This is our home.” “This earth is the home he has prepared for us, and we are to prepare ourselves and our habitations for the celestial glory in store for the faithful.” “This is the habitation of the Saints; this is the earth that will be given to the Saints.” Again we have the support of the ancients. The earth, says Aristotle, was made to be a home for man, permanently, and for that he must achieve a stable balance with nature, harmonious and pleasant to all. Cicero echoes this sentiment when he says that the earth is a fit home for both gods and men, and man has his part to play in taking good care of the garden. This must be a stable, eternal order with man at the top of the animal scale, held most responsible if things go wrong.56