Utah’s early Saints pre­pare for Baby­lon’s as­sault

Serve Daily - - EMPOWERING LIBERTY - By Jesse Fisher

Build­ing on the great strides taken by The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints in its sec­ond decade in Utah to achieve in­de­pen­dence from the Amer­i­can eco­nomic sys­tem, the Saints dur­ing their third decade went to even greater lengths to in­su­late them­selves from “Baby­lon.”

In 1867, church lead­ers re­al­ized the soon-to-be-com­pleted rail­road would threaten the so­cial and eco­nomic unity they had achieved to date. So, Brigham Young or­ga­nized the ter­ri­tory’s lead­ing High Priests into what func­tioned es­sen­tially an eco­nomic plan­ning com­mis­sion in ev­ery stake.

Cu­ri­ously, he named it “The School of the Prophets,” and its membership rolls peaked at around 5,000. Th­ese lo­cal and ter­ri­to­rial coun­cils were tasked with iden­ti­fy­ing and im­ple­ment­ing pro­grams to pre­serve the rel­a­tive eco­nomic equal­ity, unity and self-suf­fi­ciency the Saints had achieved dur­ing their first two decades of Zion-build­ing in the Moun­tain West.

Ac­cord­ing to church his­to­rian Leonard J. Ar­ring­ton in his mon­u­men­tal work, “Great Basin King­dom,” the School of the Prophets, with the as­sis­tance of the women’s Re­lief So­ci­ety, “coun­tered an en­er­getic and fi­nan­cially pow­er­ful lais­sez-faire cap­i­tal­ism with a vig­or­ous, well-or­ga­nized, so­cially minded, and theo­crat­i­cally di­rected pro­gram of eco­nomic ac­tion.” In other words, Zion was about to be swal­lowed up by Baby­lon, so they knew they had to act quickly to or­ga­nize the Saints even fur­ther in Zion-like fash­ion.

The School of the Prophets im­ple­mented var­i­ous projects to help the Saints take col­lec­tive ad­van­tage of the com­ing rail­road by en­cour­ag­ing home pro­duc­tion of goods and or­ga­niz­ing the Saints in ways to as­sist the ease of their ex­port­ing th­ese goods to the ben­e­fit of all.

They es­tab­lished com­mu­nity-owned pro­ducer co­op­er­a­tives to elim­i­nate un­em­ploy­ment and de­crease de­pen­dency on im­ports of con­sumer goods from the East. They built north-south run­ning rail lines to fa­cil­i­tate ex­port­ing the Saints’ man­u­fac­tured goods. And, they cre­ated a cen­tral Zion’s Co­op­er­a­tive Mer­can­tile In­sti­tute (ZCMI) in Salt Lake and in 100 set­tle­ments to han­dle ALL im­ports to the ter­ri­tory to pre­vent price goug­ing.

Some of the more im­por­tant co­op­er­a­tive en­ter­prises launched in­cluded the Utah Man­u­fac­tur­ing Com­pany, which pro­duced wag­ons and farm equip­ment, and the Provo Woolen Mills.

Other fac­to­ries were es­tab­lished to pro­duce such con­sumer goods as fur­ni­ture, buck­ets, ink and matches.

The Saints knew they couldn’t stop Baby­lon’s rail­road from com­ing, so they did the next best thing: they or­ga­nized them­selves co­op­er­a­tively so its com­ing would ben­e­fit all in­stead of a few.

Dis­cuss this ar­ti­cle at Build­ingZion.org.

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