Brigham Young’s four types of United Or­ders

Serve Daily - - BUILDING COMMUNITY - By Jesse Fisher

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.

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