Trials of Zion's Camp produced valiant leaders for the future
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Zion's Camp was organized in 1834 by the Prophet Joseph Smith to carry relief to the saints in Missouri, help them return to their land and protect them afterward. Ostensibly a failure in its stated objectives, Zion's Camp actually achieved some deeper purposes which might not be readily apparent on the surface.
In October 1971, Elder Franklin D. Richards, then an Assistant to the Twelve, spoke in general conference of the "lessons from Zion's Camp":
"The 'journey of Zion's Camp' was regarded by many as an unprofitable and unsuccessful episode. A brother in Kirtland who did not go with the camp, meeting Brigham Young upon his return, said to him, 'Well, what did you gain on this useless journey to Missouri with Joseph Smith?' 'All we went for,' replied Brigham Young. 'I would not exchange the experience I gained in that expedition for all the wealth of Geauga County,' the county in which Kirtland was then located. (B.H. Roberts, 'Brigham Young, A Character Sketch,' Improvement Era, vol. 6 [June 1903], p. 567.)
"The journey covered more than 1,000 miles and there were dissensions within and hostile demonstrations from without. There were hardships and disappointments, but these experiences had real value because from this group many became the leaders in the exodus of 12,000 people from Missouri to Nauvoo, and then later many became leaders in the great western exodus from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley.
"In February 1835 those brethren who had accompanied the Prophet Joseph to Missouri as members of Zion's Camp were called together, and from their numbers the Quorum of the Twelve and the Seventies were chosen. The Prophet explained that the trials and tribulations endured by the members of Zion's Camp were not in vain, and it was the will of God 'that those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time.' (History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 182.)
"In the light of these events it is evident that the Zion's Camp experiences were of immense value to both the individuals involved and the Church."