“All is Well” in Zion, or Not?

I was a student at BYU from 1999-2007.  During that time, I often remember walking across campus and hearing the Carillon Bell Tower toll it’s hourly chime to the tune of “Come, Come Ye Saints.”  Of course, the lyrics always came swiftly to mind – “All is Well! All is Well!”  Sometimes, if I was going to take a tough test, such a thought brought comfort.  At other times, it would unsettle me to think we didn’t do more in “happy valley.”

This foundational church hymn conveys the hope that no matter the trouble we may run into, all will be well in the end.  In fact, the original title to the hymn was “All is Well,”  penned by William Clayton on April 15, 1846, as he sat near his campsite in Locus Creek, Iowa, on a Mormon pioneer caravan.  He had just received word of the birth of his baby boy back in Nauvoo.  The hymn became a symbol of the Mormon migration west, sung by the pioneers as they made the arduous journey, burying loved ones by the wayside.

But I have also wondered at what has been said in opposition to the “all is well” attitude.  The Book of Mormon contains this strong warning:

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell…

Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!

Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well! (2 Ne. 28:21, 24-25)

Just this morning I was reading some notes about a talk Elder Ballard gave at BYU-Idaho on Saturday:

Ballard concluded his remarks by urging students not to have an “all is well in Zion,” attitude.

He told students to fortify their testimonies of the restoration of the gospel.

“You must be prepared to stand for that — and in loving, kind, gentle terms, be able to defend it and teach it. That’s what the Lord expects of you and what he expects of me.”

Clearly, there are times when an “all is well” attitude is appropriate, and others when it is not, and can do us damage.  Perhaps it is not only the times, but the situations and the subject matters which come into play when evaluating our “all is well” attitudes.

I come from a background of someone who has read a lot of Hugh Nibley, and tend to agree with him generally that the Saints have a lot of work to do.  He seemed to have advocated a “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” mentality, rather than a complacent “All is Well,” which tends to not motivate us to change for the better.  If all is well, then what work is there to do?

But I want to know your thoughts.  In what ways do we mean “all is well” when we sing our hymn?  In what ways might having that attitude become our detriment rather than our hope?

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About Bryce Haymond

Bryce grew up in Sandy, Utah, where he attended Jordan High School. He served a mission to the El Salvador San Salvador East mission, including eight months as mission financial secretary. Bryce graduated from Brigham Young University in 2007 in Industrial Design and a minor in Ballroom Dance. He loves all things Nibley and the temple, and is the founder of TempleStudy.com, and also blogs at BlackpoolCreative.com. Recently Bryce joined the Executive Board of The Interpreter Foundation, where he serves as a designer and technologist. Bryce has served in numerous Church callings including ward sunday school president, first counselor in the bishopric, and currently as temple and family history instructor. He is a Product Manager and Design Director at HandStands in Salt Lake City, and lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah, with his beautiful wife, three children, and another on the way!

14 thoughts on ““All is Well” in Zion, or Not?

  1. I don’t think the two viewpoints are incompatible (not that you are claiming they are). I think “All is Well” is meant to comfort people who are suffering, which all of us are in one way or another. You may be going through rough times now, but remember that all will be well in the end and remember that all is well because the Savior has atoned for your sins. Also, remember the Savior will return to the Earth and clean things up, so all will be well. Just be patient and keep on doing the right thing, enduring to the end.

    That’s where the Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel part comes in. Doing the right thing and enduring to the end involve work on our part. So, all is well in that you will turn out OK, but you will feel better and doing what you should if you don’t “shirk.”

  2. We just had this discussion in our stake priesthood meeting. Convert baptisms are growing in every nation but the U.S. Members are not doing missionary work and they (we) need to be.

  3. I look at the “all is well” attitude from the point of the Lord is in control. To use another phrase from the scriptures, “But if not”…it’s what Shadrach, Meeshach and Abendego said before being cast into the firey furnace…”we hope the Lord will preserve us, but if not…all will be well.”

    I do agree with you and am of the mindset of “put your shoulder to the wheel” as well.

  4. I agree with all the above statements “All is Well” is meant for those times when it is a comfort to know you and your loved ones are held in the palm of God’s hand, no matter the outcome.

  5. We just had this discussion in our stake priesthood meeting. Convert baptisms are growing in every nation but the U.S. Members are not doing missionary work and they (we) need to be.

    Brian–
    I find it odd that the one true church with the plan of happiness needs to do missionary work. Shouldn’t the blessings of the gospel be so evident in our lives that non-members are beating on our doors begging for the secret of our well-being?

  6. there is a difference between All is Well and All is Well in Zion. As has been pointed out All is Well is a call to have faith inspite of the hardships. but the All is Well in Zion is an excuse not to do the work the Lord has called us to do. If we look over out responsibilities and say “It’s not so bad, there is nothing to worry about” then we are taking an All is Well in Zion attitude and it will be our doom. All is not well in Zion and, as Paul taught, will not be until we come to the measure of the perfect man in fellowship with Christ.

  7. If you look at the context of “Come, Come, Ye Saints” (both historical and textual), it’s pretty obvious that it’s addressed to people who are already putting their shoulders to the wheel (and then some). It’s the people who are already shouldering their burden, doing their part, who need the reassurance that their sacrifice is acceptable to God and that He is in charge. I’m reminded of Neal A. Maxwell’s comment about those “buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short.”

  8. Ann,

    I love reading your thought-provoking comments and questions. Thank you for asking.

    Perhaps if I lived my life as perfectly as the Savior did, I would not have to do any missionary work, other than just being me. I am perfect at being imperfect. ;-)

    The scriptures are replete with calls to share the good news with others. As Latter-Day Saints, we have also been asked by a living prophet to share the plan of happiness with those who have not yet heard the message. I have chosen to share the gospel message with those I meet.

    No one has beat down my door, but I was approached by someone in my first area while on my mission, asking me if I would come and teach their family the gospel. That was the exception of course, not the rule.

    Btw, I enjoy reading your blog. Your current journey reminds me of the journey that a close friend of mine is taking right now. He is a good friend and your blog gives me perspective. Thank you for that.

  9. I find it odd that the one true church with the plan of happiness needs to do missionary work. Shouldn’t the blessings of the gospel be so evident in our lives that non-members are beating on our doors begging for the secret of our well-being?

    Several types of responses:
    A) The question implies that people should join the church onlyor primarily for outwardly observable blessings, referring to the “What’s in it for me?” attitude. And whether or not most people actually have a “what’s in it for me attitude?”, a bigger question is whether God would want to cater to that attitude, or use the outwardly observable benefits as a “selling point”. Granted, many people are raised in the church being taught by parents and primary teachers “Hey, this is for your own good, you’ll be happier in the here-and-now if you believe and do all this stuff.” So I can see how people who grew up in the church might be questioning later on: “Hey, where are all the benefits my parents and primary teachers promised me?!”

    B) When, since the Gospel was first preached on this earth, have outward benefits, or obvious outward anything ever been the primary attraction or motivator? The only time I can think of when the gospel was “obvious to all” was Christ’s post-resurrection personal visit to the multitudes of Nephites. And then that organization only lasted for about 170 years before things started falling apart, and it was no longer obvious.

    Ammon and Aaron had some success with thousands, but again, the believers were in the minority among non-believers and had to flee for their lives. In the book of Helaman, it took droughts to get people’s attention.

    In all the dispensations described in scripture, with the above exception, the gospel was never obvious. Adam and Eve had their rebellious children. If you look at the time-line, the City of Enoch was translated/taken just a few years before the flood, so just about everyone outside that city was a non-believer. Noah and his immediate family were the last believers of their day.

    It wasn’t obvious in Abraham’s day, even his father was an idolater. It wasn’t obvious in Isaac’s or Jacob’s day. It wasn’t obvious in Moses’ day. Well, it _should_ have been obvious, but the Lord had to kill a lot of first-born in Egypt to get their attention. And the Israelites still murmured and wanted to go back to Egypt after all the miracles in the desert, the parting of the sea, the pillars of cloud and fire, the manna, the earth swallowing up the rebels, etc.

    The gospel wasn’t obvious to most during Jesus’ mortal ministry. It wasn’t obvious in the old world after his resurrection. Sure, there were times when thousands at a time joined up, but they were still in the minority overall.

    Even after Paul and the other apostles made tons of converts throughout the mideast and the lands bordering the Mediterranean, it was a constant battle for them to keep the believers “in the way” and from going back to old habits.

    Joseph Smith never used outward or obvious shows of anything to convince or convert people. Joseph Smith wasn’t even the most successfull missionary of his day. And the most productive missionaries: Woodruff, Pratt and Young, weren’t even converted by Joseph’s preaching, but rather by other lesser-known missionaries. Woodruff, Pratt and Young were two steps removed from Joseph.

    Over in England, some of the apostles had pockets of success where hundreds of people joined at once, but again, the converts were still in the minority.

    C) It is by God’s stated plan that the gospel and its representatives are never going to be “cool” or popular according to worldly or commonly-accepted standards. The Lord has choosen the weak, the meek and the despised to be His representatives, the vessels or deliverers of his message.

  10. That said, I believe there will be a day, not too long before the 2nd Coming, where there will be baptisms every weekend at almost every chapel in the United States or possibly the world. I believe there will come a time of mass baptisms again, held at lakes and ocean shores, and rented natatoriums. But it won’t be because the gospel plan will be outwardly obvious to all or to many. It will be because the Lord will “pour out His spirit upon all flesh” and many will respond while others will harden their heart.

  11. I am putting my two cents worth here a year plus since all others have. Here are some other thoughts on “All is well in Zion”.

    Being self-employed for three decades plus, and struggling financially pretty much most of that time, I have seen where most others view one not “prospering” as not abiding according to God’s commandments (“Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.” —Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 4:14)— listening to discussions in different Gospel Doctrine classes, I gathered that many took the stance “I am prospering, whether this be making money, having a good job, or even ‘prospering in the Church’ [i.e., holding prominent Church callings], or in a more secular vein (Korihor’s viewpoint) not doing well/right at “creature management” — “every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength… (Book of Mormon | Alma 30:17) This latter theory is taught in many a university “school of business” in various forms. I’m sure that aspects of it are taught (gasp) in the Marriott School of Business at the “Y”!?!

    If one took a national or international pulse from stock markets, one might often conclude that, indeed, “all is well”. (Remember, “Zion” is not ONLY equated with saints or the Church, but ALSO with the lands or nations they dwell in).

    I’ve long seen many who have held the basic attitude of, IGM-GYO = “I’ve Got Mine – Get Your Own!” My own beloved father even said this to me, basically, the year after my mother died. “Son, ‘Social Security’ won’t be there when you retire, so don’t count on it being there”. I knew he was right. I know it will yet collapse. But, I found it extremely hypocritical of him to receive it, plus a government pension, but I am required to pay 15.3% of all I earned as a “self-employment taxes” (i.e., ‘Social Security’), and have never really had any funds, so to speak, to be able to “put away” (for retirement, in large part, because of that)!

    But the IGM-GYO attitude I have seen pretty much everywhere. Employees, especially for the various levels of government (Federal, State, County, City), as well as many institutional employees (including those of the (gasp, again) LDS [Church], and those (mostly in the past) of larger corporations, often could mostly “show up”, and pull a decent pay check in many situations. Not necessarily as easy as the vagaries of trying to get people to buy from you, when you’re on your own, and have to wear “all hats” (bookkeeper, janitorial, sales, etc).

    Many in the world despise Americans (and Europeans), because many of them work their behinds off, often getting college degrees, but not being in a situation to do as little and earn as much as those in “advanced economies” have been able to.

    But even in our own ‘fair’ land (USA), as well as elsewhere, we see and read of the growing disparity between rich and poor, haves and have nots.

    Even among ‘middle income earners’, I often hear disparaging remarks about the poor. Whether this be of ‘apartment dwellers’ and/or ‘illegal immigrants’, including the many ‘Latinos’ who work in fields and factories, not making as much as many others—and hence “costing” us (mostly white) Americans a lot in terms of healthcare, etc. Those who pull down large pay view these peons as pariahs. “They (the illegals) are not carrying their weight…!” is the hue and cry.

    But, I ask, does God determine a soul’s worth according to what their annual pay may be? And, I also ask, is ‘pay’ and ‘contribution’ to the welfare of a community forcibly the same?

    Yes, many work hard, for many years, preparing themselves, going to college, graduate school/s, etc, to contribute much. I laud many of them. But do we often consider what Moses, speaking for God, warned “all” Israel of?

    10 When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.
    11 Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day:
    12 Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein;
    13 And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied;
    14 Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
    15 Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint;
    16 Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;
    17 And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.
    18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.
    19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.
    20 As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.

    (Old Testament | Deuteronomy 8:10 – 20)

    “And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.” I did it. I worked hard. I got the degree/s. I sacrificed, toiled, pinched, saved, and carefully, slowly, but assiduously amassed what I have. (And, basically), “I have (essentially) no one (else) to thank, but myself!”

    IGM-GYO!!! Wasn’t that, essentially, how the rich man felt in regards to poor Lazarus?

    Isn’t that what King Benjamin warned his people (and us) against?

    17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just. (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 4:17)

    King Benjamin aptly points out—

    19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

    (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 4:19)

    And need one be in rags, totally destitute, at your door, for you even to consider one a “beggar”? How about he/she who asks for a loan, for help otherwise. Need they be a classical “beggar in the street” requester of help? I wot not!

    An employee asking for better pay, for example, may be the “beggar” that King Benjamin refers to! It may be a family member, friend, neighbor, asking for help.

    Of course, we need to be wise in giving our help. We need not be “enablers” of bad habits. (Saw a great program last Saturday about two women, one Indian, the other American, figuring out how they could truly help lepers in India—they found that direct helping, giving, in that case didn’t work for lepers—they helped them with micro loans to build business and improve their own lives, gaining dignity and a much improve concept of self-worth in the process).

    Anyway, the “All is well in Zion” applies to more than just Church members. It applies to the nation (US), even the continents (North & South America) considered to (also) be ‘Zion’.

  12. Diligent Dave,

    Thanks for reviving the discussion on “All Is Well in Zion.” It would be nice to hear more comments in church about being grateful for what we have and being willing to share to counter the too human tendency to take credit for our good fortune.

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