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Recently, my wife and I went to Florida. On the way there, I watched Apollo 11, a documentary about the eponymous mission. And I was amazed by what the United States accomplished with primitive rocket and computer technology.

That was one of the greatest projects of all time.

Then, we went to Kennedy Space Center. And I got to see the results of the next greatest project, which is one of the most beautiful machines on Earth: the Orbiter Atlantis.

Yes, the Space Shuttle is the most beautiful machine ever (followed closely by the Concorde and the SR-71 Blackbird).

Also, my favorite of the Orbiters is Discovery because she returned us to flight after both accidents.

When I was a child, I loved airplanes, and I still do. When I decided to join the Air Force, this was my plan:

  1. Join the Air Force.
  2. Become a fighter pilot.
  3. Become a test pilot for the Air Force.
  4. Become an Astronaut.
  5. Be a pilot on the Space Shuttle.
  6. Be a commander on the Space Shuttle.

Unfortunately, I found out during my medical exam for the Air Force Academy that I was color deficient, and I was never going to fly for the Air Force.

Part of me wanted to still pursue becoming an Astronaut because I still wanted to fly the Shuttle. But it was not to be; the Shuttle was retired in 2011, just one year after I graduated from high school.

So going to the Kennedy Space Center was, for me, closure. It was my opportunity to put to rest a dream that would never happen.

Nevertheless, after both experiences, watching the documentary and seeing Atlantis, I got a feeling that I will have the opportunity to be a part of the next greatest project.

This project is not “just” the next greatest project; it is the greatest project in all of history, in all of Creation: building Zion.

The current Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, has told us that the Gathering of Israel is the most important work.

My dear young brothers and sisters, these surely are the latter days, and the Lord is hastening His work to gather Israel. That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty. And if you choose to, if you want to, you can be a big part of it. You can be a big part of something big, something grand, something majestic!

President Russell M. Nelson

So why do I directly contradict the Prophet and say that building Zion is the most important work? Because I am not contradicting it; they are the same thing. In the very next breath, President Nelson said,

When we speak of the gathering, we are simply saying this fundamental truth: every one of our Heavenly Father’s children, on both sides of the veil, deserves to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. They decide for themselves if they want to know more.

President Russell M. Nelson

So the Gathering of Israel is actually about preaching the Gospel and gathering those who believe in it, and in Christ, and covenant to live it.

But what does that have to do with Zion, a city?

Well, Zion is both a city and a people. We see this in the scripture that says,

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.

Moses 7:18

It is an economic system and a way of life. It is a people that live the Gospel. It is what will qualify the Earth to receive her King, Jesus Christ and create His capital city.

But most importantly, Zion is actually the people that live the Gospel. So by Gathering Israel, by preaching the Gospel, we are building the people of Zion, and the city will naturally come as the people come and live together.

So the Gathering of Israel and the building up of Zion are the same thing. President Nelson emphasizes Israel because that is what God has told him to do. In this post, I used the term “building Zion” to empasize that it is, in fact, a project in the way that Apollo and the Space Shuttle program were projects.

When I was young, I wanted to be a part of the great project called the Space Shuttle program. Now that I am a man, I am putting aside that childish dream to qualify for a place in the greatest project in the universe: building Zion and gathering Israel.

I encourage everyone to apply their talents to this. I am personally thinking about how I can improve computing. I am talking with a friend who is an urban planner about how to build a city. I would encourage engineers to think about how to build efficient, fast, frequent, and accessible public transit. I encourage everyone to build their talents in preparation for the time to come.

But most importantly, I encourage everyone to prepare their hearts and spread the Gospel to build the people that Israel should be and that Zion requires.