Brigham Young’s four types of United Orders
In 1873, in response to a world-wide recession, Brigham Young rolled out United Orders to better insulate the Saints from the negative side effects of the boom-and-bust American economy. Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington reported that Brigham set up four different types of United Orders.
In the St. George type, which we could call the Company Model, participants consecrated their economic property (land, tools and animals) to the Order, which was run like one vast business. They then received wages according to the relative value of their labor. Around 50-plus Utah communities were organized this way. This model was the fastest to fail. About half these orders lasted no more than one year.
A second type of United Order was the Town Co-op Model, patterned after the Brigham City network of community cooperatives. In this model, no property was consecrated but the profits of the cooperatives were used to create new co-ops. This provided jobs and needed commodities to the entire community. The most notable communities to implement this model were Brigham City; Paris, Idaho; and Hyrum, Utah. The latter failed when the timber they were harvesting was exhausted. The rest failed when the polygamy raids of the mid-1880s sent their leaders to prison or into hiding.
The third type was the Ward Co-op Model. This model applied Brigham City’s system to the wards found in the bigger cities. Each ward established a cooperative to produce some product needed by the community. Like the Town Co-op Model, wages were paid and no consecration of property was made, and they too all fell apart due to the polygamy raids.
The fourth type was the Commune Model where all private property was consecrated to the Order and no wages were paid. Everyone shared in the products of their industry and “lived and ate as a well-regulated family.” Some notable communities like this were Orderville, Price, Springdale and Kingston, Utah. Surprisingly to many, the communities based on the Commune Model were the most successful. But, sadly, they too drifted into private hands during the polygamy raids. Often Saints believe that Brigham’s United Orders failed because the people weren’t able to live a higher law. Apparently that was true for many, but definitely not all. It appears that many only fell apart due to the loss of their leaders during the U.S. government’s polygamy crackdown of the mid-880s.
Discuss this column at BuildingZion. org.