Enoch and Zion

By September 18, 2012

MARK ASHURST-MCGEE is a historian and documentary editor with the Joseph Smith Papers Project, where he specializes in document analysis and documentary editing methodology. He holds a PhD in history from Arizona State University and has trained at the Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents. He is a coeditor of the first volume in the Journals series and of the first volume of the Histories series of the Joseph Smith Papers. He is an author of peer-reviewed articles on Joseph Smith and early Mormon history. The following selection is taken from his 2008 dissertation: “Zion Rising: Joseph Smith’s Early Social and Political Thought.” Other works growing out of his dissertation are published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Mormon History (“Zion in America: The Origins of Mormon Constitutionalism” [vol. 38, no. 3 – Summer 2012]: 90-101) and in the just recently released anthology War and Peace in Our Time: Mormon Perspectives (Kofford Books, 2012). Selections from his dissertation have also appeared here at the Juvenile Instructor, here and here. Ashurst-McGee is currently working on articles on political restorationism and Zion nationalism along the path of turning the dissertation into a monograph.

Joseph Smith’s Enoch expansion built on that for Enoch’s grandfather Enos, the grandson of Adam. Due to the “secret works of darkness” that had pervaded the land, Enos led “the residue of the people of God . . . out from the land which was called Shulon and dwelt in a land of promise, which he called after his own son whom he had named Cainan.”[1] Here was the original exodus of the righteous from among the wicked. Earlier, before Shulon’s corruption, Cain and the brethren of his secret combination had left Shulon for the land of Nod. Now Enos led God’s people from corrupt Shulon to the promised land of Cainan. As in the Book of Mormon, whether the righteous emigrate from a wicked nation or the wicked emigrate from a righteous nation, Smith’s scriptural narratives tend toward the territorial separation of the two. When the people of God left Shulon, they took with them the “book of remembrance” that had been kept by the prophets since the days of Adam.[2] Here was the archetypal civic text on which to found a new civilization. Enoch grew to manhood in the “land of righteousness” established by his grandfather Enos.[3]

Joseph Smith’s dramatic expansion of Genesis 5:24: “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him”–is by far the longest of his many revisions–adding over 4,000 words to the biblical account. The narrative of Enoch’s walk with God was apparently one of the “plain and precious parts” removed from the Bible.[4] Enoch’s history, as restored by Smith, began with a prophetic calling. The Lord commanded Enoch to leave Cainan and cry repentance to all men. Like Moses, Enoch complained of his slow speech. The Lord encouraged him: “Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled. . . . Behold, my Spirit is upon you. Wherefore, all thy words will I justify. And the mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course.”[5] When Enoch began preaching and prophesying, people exclaimed “there is a strange thing in the land, a wild man hath come among us.” However, when Enoch testified against the evil in society, “all men were offended because of him.” Yet “no man laid his hands on him. For fear came on all them that heard him, for he walked with God.”[6] As with the Book of Mormon prophets protected from imprisonment and murder, the Lord protected Enoch. He received such divine power in preaching that no one dared to lay hands on him or pierce him.

When Enoch returned to land of Cainan, he became the leader of the people of God and infused the entire land with the same protective power by which he had preached abroad. Enoch thereby protected Cainan when enemy nations came to war against them:

And he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled and the mountains fled, even according to his command, and the rivers of water were turned out of their course, and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness. And all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch and so great was the power of the language which God had given him. There also came up a land out of the depths of the sea. And so great was the fear of the enemies of the people of God that they fled and stood afar off and went upon the land which came up out of the depths of the sea. And the giants of the land also stood afar off.

Formerly threatening nations and races feared Enoch to the point that they abandoned their own homelands in order to distance themselves from Cainan. The Lord thus protected Cainan, increasing the territorial distance between the righteous and the wicked.[7] He furthermore “blessed the land” of Cainan and sent a curse of “wars and bloodsheds” among their enemies. Finally, the Lord “came and dwelt with his people.” Now, more than ever, “the fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord which was upon his people.” The Lord named his people “Zion” and assumed his rightful reign as “Messiah, the King of Zion.” Zion’s borders needed no defense. The fear of God’s glory kept enemy powers at bay and his curse occupied them with wars among themselves. As Enoch exclaimed: “Surely, Zion shall dwell in safety forever.”

While enjoying this peaceful safety from the threat of invading foreign powers, Zion also abounded in domestic peace and tranquility: “they were of one heart, and of one mind, and dwelt in righteousness, and there were no poor among them.” Economic equality fostered social harmony. The communitarian economy of the primitive church found its perfection and erased all class-based enmity. Zion existed as the peaceful refuge from the contention and violence of the world.[8]

In Zion, the Lord showed Enoch a vision of the future history of the world. “And he beheld, and lo, Zion in process of time was taken up into heaven. And the Lord said unto Enoch: “Behold mine abode forever.”[9] Here was the ultimate exodus of the righteous from among the wicked. Enoch’s city left the world of man behind to live with God in heaven. Decades later, Smith’s early disciple Orson Pratt stated that when the Lord exalted Zion, he took “the whole city, the people and their habitations.”[10] Brigham Young, another early disciple of Smith and later his successor, taught that Enoch and his people were taken up with “their houses, gardens, fields, cattle, and all their possessions”–even the city’s adjoining “land, rivers, and everything pertaining to it, were taken away.”[11] Pratt agreed that “all the region of country occupied by them was translated, or taken away from the earth.”[12] Young even characterized Zion’s territory as a “portion of the earth.”[13] In his journal, early Mormon apostle Wilford Woodruff recounted “the opinion of the Prophet Joseph” that “when the City of Enoch fled & was translated it was whare the gulf of Mexico now is. It left that gulf a body of water.”[14] If these later teachings and reminiscences embellished Smith’s Enoch narrative, they only fleshed out the earthy materiality of the event already present in Smith’s bible expansion. The Lord’s removal of Enoch’s city from the earth to “mine abode” embodied the theoretically extremities of territorial separation of the righteous from the wicked. The world of men was now ready to be destroyed in the flood.

Enoch’s Zion provided the model for the Zion Joseph Smith meant to build. While the history of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon conveyed the “fullness of the gospel,” it was, in the final analysis, “a Record of a fallen people.”[15] The book began with the sack of Jerusalem. It charted the rise but also the ruin of the Nephite and Jaredite nations. Like the history of ancient Israel or even the Roman republic, the Book of Mormon served as a cautionary tale. For any ancient civilization to serve as a perfect model to emulate, it would have had to have overcome any external enemy and internal weakness. It would still be in existence. Yet no such government could be found on the earth. The “translation” of Zion from the earth opened the possibility for another kind of usable past. Enoch’s Zion–a civilization that rose and never fell–offered an ideal model for Smith’s Zion.

Joseph Smith’s next major biblical expansion would center on the character of Melchizedek, the priest-king who had blessed Israel’s grandfather Abraham.[16] Melchizedek held the same priesthood as Enoch, and therefore had power “to put at defiance the armies of nations.” As the king of Salem, a predecessor of Jerusalem, Melchizedek apparently had the power to protect his people as Enoch had. He was also “the keeper of the storehouse of God; Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor. Wherefore Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.”[17] As with Enoch’s classless society of one heart and one mind, Melchizedek’s program for economic redistribution fostered domestic peace. Melchizedek was “called the King of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace”–equating heaven and peace.[18]

Smith’s expansion of Genesis 14 added that from the time of Enoch to that of Melchizedek, “men having this faith coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven”:

And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem . . . . And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth.[19]

Melchizedek’s Salem proved that Enoch’s Zion was not unique in world history. It was a model that could be followed.

In the New Testament, Jesus had taught the doctrine of rapture. He explained that the last days would be days of great wickedness as it was in the days of Noe.” In the glory of Christ’s second coming, the earth would be destroyed by a baptism of fire just as it had been destroyed by a baptism of water in the days of Noah. But, he explained, just before the great and dreadful day of his return, “there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”[20] The Lord would remove the elect from the earth before purifying it with fire. Smith’s expansion of Genesis 14 recognized the possibility of individual rapture. Men having faith and priesthood like Enoch “were translated and taken up into heaven.” Yet the ideal rapture was a community, even a national, event. The trajectory of the communitarian programs in Enoch’s Zion and Melchizedek’s Salem ended in heaven with the Lord. Not only primitive Christian discipleship but salvation itself was a social affair. Smith’s theology veered away not only from the social and economic individualism of Jacksonian America but from the salvation theology of Protestantism. Smith turned away from the New Testament focus on individual and otherworldly salvation to the Old Testament notions of national salvation.

Although Melchizedek’s Salem showed that Enoch’s model could be followed, it also signaled the importance of geography. Salem, associated with the Old Jerusalem of the Old World, existed as a sister city to Enoch’s Zion, associated with the New Jerusalem in the New World. While the Jaredite and Nephite nations had faltered in the New World, Zion had not. While the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judea had met their end in the Old World, Salem had survived. These were societies that never came to ruin and therefore left no ruins behind. They no longer existed not because they had gone the way of all kingdoms but because the Lord had taken them up into heaven. While individuals could be taken up, the ultimate ideal of collective rapture therefore had occurred only in Enoch’s Zion and Melchizedek’s Salem, the primitive counterparts to end-times Jerusalem and New Jerusalem. Collective rapture did not immediately follow from community holiness, it required the right place. Smith’s narratives of Zion and Salem thus connected communitarian soteriology with sacred geography.

In his vision of the history of the world, Enoch saw not only the flood, but the life and atonement of Jesus Christ in the meridian of time and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in the last days. The Lord explained that the Book of Mormon would serve to “gather out mine own elect from the four quarters of the earth unto a place which I shall prepare…an holy city…that my people may gird up their loins and be looking forth for the time of my coming. For there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.” The Lord further explained, “Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there.”[21] Enoch’s Zion would return to earth with the Lord and join the latter-day Zion. His city therefore was much more than a model for the latter-day Zion; their destinies intertwined. Enoch had seen the rise of Smith’s Zion in the last days. Smith now foresaw the return of Enoch’s Zion at the end of the world. The two Zions were actually two halves of the same history. Smith thus grounded his utopian vision of the future in a mythological narrative of the past. In Smith’s later expansion of the Noah story, the Lord revealed that the City of Enoch would some day “come down out of heaven, and possess the earth.”[22] With the Lord, the “King of Zion,” Enoch and Joseph would reclaim the world for God’s people. This was the ultimate territorial restoration. The meek would truly inherit the earth.


1 Moses 6:12-17, in Jackson, ed., The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 159.

2 Moses 6:46, in Jackson, ed., The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 161.

3 Moses 6:41, in Jackson, ed., The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 161.

4 1 Nephi 13:26, 32, 34.

5 Moses 6:32-39, in Jackson, ed., The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 161.

6 Moses 6:37-39, in Jackson, ed., The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 161.

7 Moses 7:13-15, in Jackson, ed., The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 164-65.

8 Moses 7:15-20; 7:53, in Jackson, ed., The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 164-69.

9 Moses 7:18-20, in Jackson, ed., The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 165.

10 Orson Pratt, Sermon, 19 July 1874, in Journal of Discourses 17 (1875):147 (145-54).

11Brigham Young, Sermon, 20 April 1856 and 3 June 1860, in Journal of Discourses 3 (1856):320 (316-27); 8 (1861):279 (277-80).

12 Orson Pratt, Sermon, 19 July 1874, in Journal of Discourses 17 (1875):147 (145-54).

13 Brigham Young, Sermon, 20 April 1856, in Journal of Discourses, 3 (1856):320 (316-27).

14 Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal 6:482, 7:129.

15 Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ, June 1830, in Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations, 62-68.

16 Genesis 14:18-20.

17 Smith, expansion of Genesis 14, in Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible, 78-79.

18 Smith, expansion of Genesis 14, in Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible, 78; compare Alma 13:17-18.

19 Smith, expansion of Genesis 14, in Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible, 78.

20 Luke 17:26-36; compare Matthew 24:37-42.

21 Moses 7:61-64, in Jackson, ed., The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts, 168-69.

22 Smith, expansion of Genesis 9, in Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible, 67; compare Smith’s expansion of Genesis 14 (78).

Article filed under Categories of Periodization: Origins Intellectual History Politics Theology


  1. Thanks, Mark. Your work recovering the early intellectual history of Zion/New Jerusalem is groundbreaking and deserves wide distribution. I really think that the failure of the first mission to the Lamanites, coupled with the later expulsion from Jackson County, had a “traumatic” impact on how later Mormons remembered JS’s earliest Zion project. Rather than seeing these texts as blueprints for a new society that the Saints were about to build on the American frontier, the texts instead became obscure prophecies of events that would happen far in the future.

    Comment by David G. — September 18, 2012 @ 11:37 am

  2. I really enjoyed the dissy. And great insight, David.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 18, 2012 @ 11:53 am

  3. David (#1): The 1833 December 16-17 revelation (now D&C 101) regarding the redemption of Zion–with its sketched out ladder of appeal–does seem to recalibrate the millenarian timeline.

    Comment by Mark Ashurst-McGee — September 18, 2012 @ 11:58 am

  4. thanks for this. I’m always interested in anything enoch or zion related.

    Comment by jtb — September 18, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

  5. Thanks for posting this excerpt, Mark. I particularly like how you situate Zion as a point of transition from emphasis on the NT to interest in the OT. It seems to me that the shift from common NT Protestant salvation theology to OT conceptions of collective salvation was only one of many ways that OT influence helped Mormonism take a distinctive shape.

    Comment by Ryan T. — September 18, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

  6. Fascinating, Mark. Thanks.

    Comment by Christopher — September 18, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

  7. Thanks all.

    Ryan T (#5): To clarify, I see Zion as reaffirming an OT model more than as a point of transition of emphasis from NT to OT. I also think the Book of Mormon performed some important work of revitalizing the Old Testament, most especially when the resurrected Christ informed the Lehites that whereas he had fulfilled the law of Moses he had not yet fulfilled his covenant with the House of Israel. But even at the beginning, with the now missing or destroyed initial BoM manuscript, you have a story that starts with an Old Testament-era prophet who is going to start a branch (and later remnant) of the House of Israel that will figure prominently in the last days. I see OT revitalization, particularly in the form of Israelite restorationism, from the beginning.

    Comment by Mark Ashurst-McGee — September 18, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

  8. An important clarification.

    Comment by Ryan T. — September 18, 2012 @ 8:08 pm

  9. Thanks Mark. I found it thought provoking the first time, and still do.

    Comment by WVS — September 19, 2012 @ 1:52 am

  10. Thanks Mark. Do you see any trends in the additions JS’s revelations made to the biblical stories?

    Comment by Steve Fleming — September 23, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

  11. Aside from the visions of Moses (now Moses 1)–which I see as JS providing an epistemological introduction to the entire Bible–his major expansions–on Adam, Enoch, Melchizedek, and Abraham–are on the Genesis text. They trend primordial. m2c.

    Comment by Mark Ashurst-McGee — September 24, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

  12. I guess I meant, do you see any patterns in the way those text were expanded?

    Comment by Steve Fleming — September 24, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

  13. Sorry, I’ve never thought about that. I would love to hear people’s ideas on this.

    Comment by Mark Ashurst-McGee — September 25, 2012 @ 12:18 pm


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