We had an interesting discussion on my Prayer and Politics post. (Unfortunately, we talked more about politics than prayer.) The discussion focused on economic policies. Many people don’t like President Obama’s push to “redistribute wealth”. I made the statement that
“the United Order was all about redistribution of wealth, so there would be no poor among us. Brigham went out of his way to lambast capitalism’s evils.”
Ken S replied that
It is a Celestial Law and Terrestrial or Telestial beings are not capable of living this law. It does not use dominion or compulsion. It is completely voluntary. Moreover, Socialism/Communism is counterfeit to the law of Consecration. They are of Lucifer. The fruits of these ideologies are evil.Please don’t compare them to a Celestial Law.
I did a post previously asking if you would recognize this church, because living in Utah in the 1860’s-1880’s was so different under the United Order. There was some coercion in helping ensure that there were no poor among the Utah saints. There was pettiness. Bored in Vernal recently posted that she would like to live the United Order, but I’m not sure most of us capitalists would enjoying living in a United Order, and I doubt that we would do any better than the early saints. We don’t want to live equally; we’d rather be rewarded for our hard work. I thought I’d review what I learned about the United Orders in Utah from the book Great Basin Kingdom.
These United Order enterprises were extremely effective in helping to create an efficient workforce, producing needed products, and keeping people employed. It certainly was not the free market economy we’ve come to expect today. Mormons were encouraged to be self-sufficient. Brigham Young started many of these enterprises, but died in 1877. John Taylor kept them going, and they were helpful. Both Young and Taylor did not want to import anything if possible, which did create some hard feelings with non-Mormons. Many of these anti-polygamy feelings and anti-polygamy legislation can be traced to non-Mormons wanting to break into the Mormon market, which was essentially a socialist-like monopoly. There were price controls, and price discrimination between Mormons and non-Mormons.
There were some interesting dynamics with these United Orders. There is an interesting story about a pair of pants. From page 335,
Orderville had been founded in an atmosphere of dire poverty, and the common action which took place in the Order made it possible for members to eat and dress better than they had for years–better, in fact, than many residents in surrounding settlements where United Orders had not functioned successfully. When the Utah Southern Railroad was completed to Milford, Utah, however, the rich mines at Silver Reef, not far from Orderville were exploited to the full. Within five years, more than $10,000,000 worth of silver was extracted. Orderville’s neighbors, profiting from this boom, suddenly found themselves able to buy imported clothing and other store commodities. The Saints at Orderville became “old fashioned”….Orderville adolescents began to envy the young people in the communities….
A young man wanted a new set of pants, but the rules of Orderville said that all clothing must come from the same bolt of cloth. (All were equal, and there was no inequality among them.) His pants had no holes, and his request for new pants was denied. His community raised sheep. From page 336,
When the lambs’ tails were docked, the young brother surreptitiously gathered them and sheared off the wool which he stored in sacks. When he was assigned to take a load of wool to Nephi, he secretly took the lambs’ tail wool with his load and exchanged it for a pair of store paints. On his return, he wore his new pants to the next dance. His entrance caused a sensation. The story is that one young lady rushed to him, embraced and kissed him. The president of the Order demanded an explanation, and when it was truthfully given, he said: “According to your own story these pants belong to the Order. You are requested to appear before the Board of Management tomorrow evening at half past eight, and to bring the store pants with you.”
At the meeting, the young brother was commended for his enterprise, but was reminded that all pants must be made of cloth from the same bolt. However, to prove its good will, the Board of Management agree to have the store pants unseamed and used as a pattern for all pants made in the future, and further, the young man in question would get the first pair.
This story made me laugh, but I think illustrates well some of the problems we don’t think about in “utopian” societies. As time went on these United Orders were dissolved in 1885 due to growing anti-polygamy prosecution. From page 337,
With the disintegration of their collective institutions, after ten years of “cooperative living,” the older members began to reflect on the advantages of their previously enjoyed communal experience over the encroaching spirit of competitive individualism. The chafing under restrictive regulation, the disagreements, the yearning for privacy were all forgotten, and their memories were sweet. Almost every published reminiscence of life under the Order mentions it as the closes approximation to a well-ordered, supremely happy Christian life that was possible of achievement in human society.
While there will be no poor among us in a United Order, there will be no rich either. Many people in these United Orders complained about people that didn’t work as hard being rewarded equally. Here’s some questions to consider:
- Is that how you want to live?
- Do you agree with Ken that the United Order was completely voluntary?
- Was coercion used to make sure everybody wore the same type of pants?
- Do we really want equality in our society, where there are no poor AND no rich among us?
- Was Brigham Young’s experiment with United Order closer to socialism or (gasp) communism, than free-market capitalism? (I’m not talking about Soviet communism, but rather communal living, and having true equality, or “no poor among us.”)