The Plat of Zion

“The details of the Plat of Zion were drafted by Joseph Smith as early as 1833 (LDS archives) this was roughly fifteen years prior to the arrival of the Mormons in the Salt Lake Valley. The original plat was drafted in June 25th, 1833. when Joseph Smith was 27 years old.  Joseph finally settled on one that captured the essence of what he was trying to accomplish while accommodating local variation to fit the environment in which these cities would develop. Two months later in August 1833, he produced the official Plat of Zion which would become the blueprint for future Zion cities. A third design and revisions were in progress but due to the Mormons volatile relationship with their neighbors it was never completed. Some of its highlights included: a greenbelt surrounding the city, grid patterns, central blocks with public buildings, location of heavy industry outside city limits, population caps, setbacks and equal lot sizes.

The Plat of Zion is best summarized by Charles L. Sellers in his study of early Mormon City Planning (Sellers, p. 24-30)

-The City was to be divided into a square grid pattern.
-Central blocks were reserved for ecclesiastical buildings.
-Specific blocks were reserved for public buildings—storehouses, schools and parks.
-The city was divided into ecclesiastical districts called wards resulting in the possible creating of social units or neighborhoods.
-Individual family lots were regulated relative to the sitting of dwellings and the enhancement of the community.
-The farmers and ranchers lived within the boundaries of the city in order to be part of the larger community.
-An agricultural greenbelt was to be created.
-Barns, corrals and heavy industry were to be located on the periphery of the city.”

Original Plat of Zion, June 25th 1833


Revised Plat of Zion, August 1833 as preserved by the LDS Church Archives.  This Plat will be the one used in discussions in this blog.



The Plat of Zion as explained by the Prophet Joseph Smith

During my research I came across this text, it was dictated by the Prophet and written along the margins of the Plat which was sent to Missouri for the Saints to implement. In this book excerpt, the design elements of the Plat of Zion are divided by categories.

“An Explanation of the Plat of the City of Zion, Sent to the Brethren in Zion, the 25th of June, 1833: History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Period I. History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet by Himself. Volume I (Salt Lake City: Desert Book Co., 2ed. rev., 1961)

The General Plan of the City of Zion.

The plat contains one mile square; all the squares in the plat contain ten acres each, being forty rods square. You will observe that the lots are laid off alternately in the squares; in one square running from the south and north to the line through the center of the square; and in the next, the lots run from the east and west to the center line. Each lot is four perches in front and twenty back, making one half of an acre in each lot, so that no one street will be built on entirely through the street; but on one square the houses will stand on one street, and on the next one, another, except the middle range of squares, which runs north and south, in which range are the painted squares. The lots are laid off in these squares, north and south, all of them; because these squares are forty perches by sixty, being twenty perches longer than the others, their greatest length being east and west, and by running all these squares, north and south, it makes all the lots in the city of one size.

The Blocks Set Aside for Temples.
The painted squares in the middle are for public buildings. The one without any figures is for store-houses for the Bishop, and to be devoted to his use. Figure first is for temples for the use of the presidency; the circles inside of the squares, are the places for the temples. You will see it contains twelve figures, two are for the temples of the lesser Priesthood. It is also to contain
twelve temples. The whole plot is supposed to contain from fifteen to twenty thousand people: you will therefore see that it will require twenty-four buildings to supply them with houses of worship, schools, etc.; and none of these temples are to be smaller than the one of which we send you a draft. This temple is to be built in the square marked figure 1; and to be built where the circle is which has a cross on it on the north end.

Location of Lands for the Agriculturist.
South of the plot where the line is drawn, is to be laid off for barns, stables, etc., for the use of the city; so that no barns or stables will be in the city among the houses; the ground to be occupied for these must be laid off according to wisdom. On the north and south are to be laid off the farms for the agriculturist, and sufficient quantity of land to supply the whole plot; and if it cannot be laid off without going too great a distance from the city, there must also be some laid off on the east and west.

Zion a Group of Cities.
When this square is thus laid off and supplied, lay off another in the same way, and so fill up the world in these last days; and let every man live in the city, for this is the city of Zion. All the streets are of one width, being eight perches wide. Also, the space round the outer edge of the painted squares, is to be eight perches between the temple and the street on every side. No one lot, in this city, is to contain more than one house, and that to be built twenty-five feet back from the street, leaving a small yard in front, to be planted in a grove, according to the taste of the builder; the rest of the lot for gardens; all the houses are to be built of brick and stone. The scale of the plot is forty perches to the inch.

Names of the Temples.
The names of the temples to be built on the painted squares as represented on the plot of the city of Zion, which is now about to be forwarded thither:-numbers 10, 11, and 12, are to be called, House of the Lord, for the Presidency of the High and most Holy Priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of the Son of God, upon Mount Zion, City of the New Jerusalem. Numbers 7, 8, and 9, the Sacred Apostolic Repository, for the use of the Bishop. Numbers 4, 5, and 6, the Holy Evangelical House, for the High Priesthood of the Holy Order of God. Numbers 1, 2, and 3, the House of the Lord, for the Elders of Zion, an Ensign to the Nations. Numbers 22, 23, and 24, House of the Lord for the Presidency of the High Priesthood, after the Order of Aaron, a Standard for the People. Numbers 19, 20, and 21, House of the Lord, the Law of the Kingdom of Heaven, and Messenger to the People; for the Highest Priesthood after the Order of Aaron. Numbers 16, 17, and 18, House of the Lord for the Teachers in Zion, Messenger to the Church. Numbers 13, 14, and 15, House of the Lord for the Deacons in Zion, Helps in Government. Underneath must be written on each house Holiness to the Lord.


What is Zion?

One of the most common scriptures used in our Sunday School classes is Moses 7:18, there are a hundred more that discuss Zion in the present and latter days, however this scripture is the most concise that I can find.

Moses 7:18 “And 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.”

I’d like to propose that the covenants we make in Latter Day Saint Temples cover ALL of these Zion characteristics. The Temple is a sacred place and what you learn there will teach you how to be a Zion individual. I invite you to attend the Temple often and when you do so think, pray and listen to what the Spirit will teach you! I promise you that if you do this, you will learn something new every time you go and your testimony will increase. If you are not able to attend the Temple at the present moment, please do everything in your power to be worthy to have a recommend. Please work with your Bishop and Stake President if needed. There is nothing more important in this life than for you to make these sacred covenants with our Father in Heaven and for you to receive the blessings that come from obeying those covenants.

This is what I think about when I hear these words of Moses 7:18

One Heart – as a people are we one in purpose like Christ and Heavenly Father are? Are we one in purpose with our spouses, brothers and sisters? Do we feel joy or pain when our brothers and sisters experience those feelings?

One Mind – do we chose to obey the voice of the Lord? Do we want the things God wants for us? Is our eye single to his glory?

Dwelt in Righteousness – are we loving our neighbors and strangers as ourselves? Are we being good Christians by treating others as Christ would treat them? Do we constantly strive to do better and through Christ’s grace and mercy strive to improve?

No Poor Among Them – do we freely share of our time, resources and talents with our brothers and sisters? Do we visit the sick and the afflicted? Are we feeding the hungry and clothing the naked?

There are many more layers to this scripture but this is enough for now. Only one man lived a perfect life, his name is Jesus. We can strive to be pure through his Atonement and do much good in our time in this life. I think that as we grow closer to Christ and follow his example we will be closer to becoming a Zion person.

God Bless!