(This article is adapted from The Three Pillars of Zion. You can download a free Sampler of this new Zion series at www.PillarsOfZion.com.)
We cannot understand Zion without understanding her opposite: Babylon. A look back at Babylon’s founders in action gives us a template of what we should be avoiding today. Babylon was and is the antithesis of Zion.
Zion and Babylon are reverse orders, contrary programs, opposed and inverse in every way. They are like day and night or opposite poles on a compass. The king of Zion is Jesus Christ; the king of Babylon is the anti-Christ, Satan. The work of the king of Zion is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” that we might have “fulness of joy.” The work of the king of Babylon is captivity and death that we might become miserable like him.
There can be no greater fall than from Zion to Babylon. An example is the Nephites. Within two hundred years of the coming of Christ, they plummeted from Zion (no contentions or disputations, every man dealing justly one with another, having all things common among them, no rich or poor, widespread freedom, great and marvelous spiritual outpourings and miracles, incredible prosperity, the love of God felt in the hearts of the people, no envyings, strifes, tumults, whoredoms, lyings, murders, or any manner of lasciviousness, no robbers, murderers, any classes of people, equality and oneness, qualifying as the children of Christ, heirs to the kingdom of God, the happiest people ever created by God, and blessed in all their doings) to Babylon (lifted up in pride, hearts set upon costly apparel, expensive jewelry, and the fine things of the world, ceased to have all things in common, divided into classes, built up churches and man-made philosophies to get gain, denied the true church of Christ and the more parts of his gospel, participated in all manner of wickedness, exercised power and authority over each other, hardened their hearts against God, willfully rebelled against the gospel, taught their children to not believe, reestablished secret combinations, sought after and horded gold and silver, and did traffic in all manner of merchandising-the economy became their preoccupation and their god).
The downfall of the Nephite nation can be traced back to their abandoning Zion and embracing Babylon.
According to Blaine Yorgason, Satan’s first two articles of faith are “we can buy anything in this world with money, and…we can buy it now and pay for it later on.” The philosophy of Babylon is anti-Christ. Godlessness, selfishness and competition are its hallmarks. The anti-Christ doctrine states that people fare “according to the management of the creature,” prosper according to their genius, and conquer according to their strength. Because they assume no accountability to God, they believe that they can act without moral consequences. In Babylon, people succeed or fail on their own merits; they are totally alone. They pretend a form of godliness, but deny the power that comes from and makes godliness possible. They eschew hope in and dependency upon Jesus Christ; they trample the plan of salvation, reject the holy priesthood and the gifts of the Spirit; they judge the humble followers of Christ as having frenzied minds and being held captive by what they call the false traditions of the gospel.
In a General Conference address, Elder Mark E. Peterson said,
Every force now corrupting America is a form of anti-Christ. Criminality is anti-Christ. Immorality is anti-Christ. Drunkenness is anti-Christ. Rioting, pillaging, and anarchy likewise are anti-Christ. Robbery, assault, and murder are all anti-Christ. Deception, duplicity, perjury, and covetousness are anti-Christ. The distribution of pornographic material that corrupts the morals of young and old alike is anti-Christ. And so is every other force destructive of the high principles that have made America great…. Oh, America-wake up to the peril that confronts you. Arouse yourself from this delirium in which you find yourself. Realize that this Christian nation can never survive on the principles of anti-Christ.
Frighteningly, the anti-Christ philosophy forms a type of sinister worship. Hugh Nibley writes: “This is the great voice of the economy of Babylon. It does not renounce its religious pretensions for a minute. Many in it think they are identical with a pious life.” Suffice it to say that the anti-Christ philosophy always results in the downfall of those who subscribe to any part of it. We recall the dismal demises of Sherem and Korihor, and we have the testimonies of the once-mighty Jaredite and Nephite nations. Clearly, there is no safety in Babylon. Satan will not support his children; his only aim is to captivate them, make them miserable, and destroy them.
We can thank Cain and his descendant Nimrod for creating Babylon and perpetuating the anti-Christ philosophy that has enslaved the world and engulfed it in incarcerating misery.
From the dawn of history, Satan, the “father of lies” and the would-be usurper of the Father and the Son’s power, glory and missions, endeavored to gain a foothold in this world and build a kingdom here. He devised a “cunning plan” to make men miserable by means of deceptions and false revelations, which things would be “particularly effective against those who struggle with vanity and pride (2 Nephi 9:28)…. His goal is to destroy the world (Moses 4:6)…[and] to separate what God has joined together and unite what God has separated (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.103).”
Failing to indoctrinate Adam and Eve with the anti-Christ doctrine, he found a willing apprentice in Cain. The two became inseparable, literally the inverse of the Father and the Son. Moses reports: “And Cain loved Satan more than God.” This perverted affection allowed Satan to drive a wedge between Cain and God. To bring Cain to the point of decision, he told him to “make an offering unto the Lord.” Of course offerings ordered by Satan are rejected out of hand by God. It is God alone who mandates offerings; such offerings must be accomplished by proper priesthood authority through a specific ordinance. No wonder, then that the Lord had no respect for Cain’s offering. “Now Satan knew this, and it pleased him. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” We know the result. The Lord warned Cain of the consequences of following his course of action, but Cain had made his choice. Thereafter, the Lord would call him “Perdition,” which means entirely lost or ruined.
On the other hand, Satan called Cain “Master Mahan,” which suggests that Satan had given Cain a “new name” within the order of his priestcraft (not priesthood), which name suggests a high level of authority in the demonic craft and extraordinary expertise. Now fully willing to establish the foundation of Satan’s benighted kingdom, which would become known as Babylon, Cain learned from Satan the signs, tokens and oaths of the devil’s priestcraft, which were calculated to deliver power into his hands so that he could gain control and dominate the people of the earth. The success of this diabolical father-and-son team was so great that their religion soon enslaved and degraded the whole world until the Lord had no choice except to destroy it by flood.
Hugh Nibley explains:
[Satan] boasts just how he plans to put the world under his bloody and horrible misrule: He will control the world economy by claiming possession of the earth’s resources; and by manipulation of its currency-gold and silver-he will buy up the political, military, and ecclesiastical complex and run everything his way. We see him putting his plan into operation when he lays legal claim to the whole earth as his estate, accusing others of trespass, but putting everything up for sale to anyone who has the money. And how will they get the money? By going to work for him. He not only offers employment but a course of instruction in how the whole thing works, teaching the ultimate secret: ‘That great secret’ (Moses 5:49-50) of converting life into property. Cain got the degree of Master Mahan, tried the system out on his brother, and gloried in its brilliant success, declaring that at last he could be free, as only property makes free, and that Abel had been a loser in a free competition.
The discipline was handed down through Lamech and finally became the pattern of the world’s economy (Moses 5:55-56)…. Cain slew ‘his brother Abel for the sake of getting gain’ (Moses 5:50)-not in a fit of pique but by careful business planning, ‘by the conspiracy’ (D&C 84:16). The great secret he learned from Satan was the art of converting life into property-all life, even eternal life! The exchange of eternal life for worldly success is in fact the essence of the classic Pact with the Devil, in which the hero (Faust, Jabez Stone, even Jesus) is offered everything that the wealth of the earth can buy in return for subjection to Satan hereafter. There is no question of having some of both-’You cannot serve two masters’ (see Matthew 6:24), the one being Mammon; if you try to have it both ways by putting off the final settlement, says Amulek, ‘the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and has no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you’ (Alma 34:35).
The Flood decimated the followers of Cain, but Satan was not to be denied. The principles of Babylon are as eternal as the principles of Zion; they only need revealing to a new Babylonian “prophet” in a new Babylonian “dispensation.” Satan’s new prophet was Nimrod, a descendant of Cain through Ham’s son, Cush. The irony that Nimrod was Cain’s direct descendant and therefore that he possessed the right by bloodline to Cain’s priestcraft cannot be overlooked. Nimrod, Cain’s legal heir, who is identified with Pharaoh, was the one who tried to take the life of Abraham, the rightful heir to the legitimate priesthood. David H. Yarn writes:
One of the earliest and most influential apostates in the dispensation of Noah was named Nimrod, who was the son of Cush, who was the son of Ham. He was a mighty hunter and hero. He began a kingdom in Babel, Erech, and Accad (Shinar). Josephus tells us Nimrod excited the people to a contempt of God. He persuaded the people to ascribe their well-being to himself instead of God. ‘He also changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning man from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power.’ He also said ‘…he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers.’ Furthermore, Josephus reports that Nimrod established his kingdom through rapine, murder, and tyranny. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, chap. 4.) He urged the people to depart from the religion of Shem and cleave to the institutes of Nimrod. (Clarke, Bible Commentary, Vol. I, p. 84.) He tried to get men to worship great conquerors and in time the deification of humans became a chief characteristic of heathen religions in Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Rome, China, and India. He also introduced animal worship. Idolatry and adultery (‘institutionalized immorality’) became common religious rites. Even human sacrifices were instituted.
The philosophies of Babylon were championed by Cain, but Babylon became an institution under Nimrod. Adjacent to the Euphrates River, Nimrod built a city (Babel), which over time became “one of the wonders of the ancient world, with its ziggurat and many miles of hanging (terraced) gardens.” Babel (later Babylon) became known for supplying its citizens every luxury that the world had to offer. Later, under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon grew into an enormous city with massive walls, 56 miles in circumference, elegant parks and gardens. We can immediately see the trappings and dangers of Babylon. From Cain to Nimrod to Nebuchadnezzar to Caesar to the latter days, Babylon has been a place or state of mind defined by excesses, self-indulgence, wanton sin and contempt of God. Babylon has always been the nemesis of Zion. Elder McConkie writes:
As the seat of world empire, Babylon was the persistent persecutor and enemy of the Lord’s people…. To the Lord’s people anciently, Babylon was known as the center of iniquity, carnality, and worldliness. Everything connected with it was in opposition to all righteousness and had the effect of leading men downward to the destruction of their souls. It was natural, therefore, for the apostles and inspired men of New Testament times to apply the name Babylon to the forces organized to spread confusion and darkness in the realm of spiritual things. (Rev. 17; 18; D&C 29:21; Ezek. 38; 39.) In a general sense, the wickedness of the world generally is Babylon. (D&C 1:16; 35:11; 64:24; 133:14).
Nimrod sought to dominate the world from his capital city, Babel, and, according to M. Catherine Thomas, Nimrod, like his spiritual father, Satan, “sought to dethrone God by bringing men into constant dependence on his, Nimrod’s, power.” Nimrod was very successful. “A multitude followed Nimrod, persuaded that it was cowardice to submit to God. The people began to build the tower, apparently some type of temple, as their objective was to reach heaven by means of the tower. God’s response was to break up their evil combination by scrambling their languages, thus depriving them of the powerful Adamic language. The name babel means, in Akkadian, ‘gate of God’ and is a play on the Hebrew balal, meaning ‘to mix or confound.’ It is apparent then that the tower of Babel was a counterfeit gate of God, or temple, that Ham’s priesthood-deprived descendants built in rebellion against God. Jared and his family and friends rejected this temple and were spared the Lord’s punishments.”
Nimrod’s Babel became Babylon, the world order, philosophy and religion that would dominate the hearts of people throughout the millennia. Elder McConkie writes:
The name Babylon means many things to many people. The Hebrew word (bbel) goes back to a kingdom Nimrod founded, where the ancients built the tower of Babel, or Babylon (Genesis 10:9-10; 11:1-9). This kingdom evolved into an idolatrous materialistic civilization that reached a zenith in the powerful neo-Babylonian empire of Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Daniel 2:37-38). The prophet Isaiah identifies Babylon typologically as both a people and a place: the sinners and the wicked; the earth and the world (Isaiah 13:1, 9, 11). He predicts latter-day Babylon will suffer the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, thus likening the world’s desolation to a fiery cataclysm falling upon the wicked (Isaiah 13:4-19).
Nimrod and his people rebelled against God, and their religion of choice became idolatry, the worship of nature, images or false gods-all defined by covetousness. E. Douglas Clark writes: “An early Christ source reported… ‘The whole world was again overspread with errors, and…for the hideousness of its crimes destruction was ready for it, this time not by water, but fire, and…already the scourge was hanging over the whole earth.’ Never in the troubled history of mankind had there been greater darkness and depravity. It was a world as far from Zion as possible.”
Clark continues by quoting from the book of Jubilees:
“Noah’s children began to fight one another, to take captive, and to kill one another; to shed human blood on the earth, to consume blood; to build fortified cities, walls, and towers; men to elevate themselves over peoples, to set up the first kingdoms; to go to war-people against people, nations against nations, city against city; and everyone to do evil, to acquire weapons, and to teach warfare to their sons. City began to capture city and to sell male and female slaves…. They made molten images for themselves. Each one would worship the idol which he had made as his own molten image. They began to make statues, images, and unclean things; the spirits of the savage ones were helping and misleading them so that they would commit sins, impurities, and transgressions. Prince Mastema [Satan] was exerting his power in effecting all these actions and, by means of the spirits, he was sending to those who were placed in his control the ability to commit every kind of error and sin and every kind of transgression; to corrupt, to destroy, and to shed blood on the earth.”
This description reads like a how-to book for Babylon or the morning newspaper! Nimrod succeeded in contaminating the entire world with his Babylonian practices. Thereafter, Satan’s great chain once again veiled the earth in darkness, as it had in the days preceding the Flood. “And he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced.” That same chain binds down the people of the latter days. Enoch foresaw our day and recorded that “a veil of darkness shall cover the earth.”
Sodom and Gomorrah
President Spencer W. Kimball spoke of “the rise and fall of great civilizations, such as Babylon, Ninevah, Jerusalem, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and numerous others which have flared like an arc-light, then dimmed even to candlelight proportions, or to be extinguished.” Sodom and Gomorrah, too, had their day and likewise perished. These communities, now covered by the Dead Sea, were contemporary models of Babylon. Because the latter days have been compared to Sodom and Gomorrah, we would do well to examine the characteristics that brought about their downfall.
Quoting Rabbi Eliezer, Hugh Nibley writes:
The men of Sodom were the wealthy men of prosperity, on account of the good and fruitful land whereon they dwelt. For every need which the world requires, they obtained therefrom…. But they did not trust in the shadow of their Creator, but [they trusted] in the multitude of their wealth, for wealth thrusts aside its owners from the fear of Heaven…. The men of Sodom had no consideration for the honour of their Owner by (not) distributing food to the wayfarer and the stranger…. They [even] fenced in all their trees on top above their fruit so that they should not be seized; [not] even by the bird of heaven…. These were the crimes of Sodom and Gomorrah. At the time of Abraham, the people elected leaders ‘of falsehood and wickedness, who mocked justice and equity and committed evil deeds’…the wicked oppressed the weak and gave power to the strong. Inside the city was tyranny and the receiving of bribes. Every day, without fail, they plundered each others’ goods. The son cursed his father in the streets, the slave his master. They put an end to the offerings and entered into conspiracy…. It’s not surprising, the records tell, that travelers and birds alike learned to avoid the rich cities of the plain, while the poor emigrated to other parts. ‘If a stranger merchant passed through their territory, he was besieged by them all, big and little alike, and robbed of whatever he possessed’…. This was a world in which every man was for himself. What a terrible state of things.
Elsewhere, Ezekiel and Jude describe Sodom and Gomorrah’s sins as:
- “fullness of bread” (luxuriant living)
- abundant idleness
- failure to care for poor and needy
- idolatry (worshipping anything else instead of God)
- contempt for others
- “going after strange flesh” (homosexuality)
Our leaders have compared the conditions of the last days to the evils of Sodom and Gomorrah. They have stated that they know of no time in the history of the earth when there was greater spiritual danger from evil that permeates the world in epidemic proportions, not even in the time of Sodom and Gomorrah. At no time has wickedness been so widely accepted. Whereas evil was localized in Sodom and Gomorrah, he pointed out, now it has spread across the world.
See Moses 7:53