Lessons learned from the United Or­ders’ fail­ure

Serve Daily - - BUILDING COMMUNITY - By Jesse Fisher

With hind­sight, it ap­pears Brigham Young may have jumped the gun by in­tro­duc­ing the United Or­der to the Saints in 1873. That year there was a na­tion­wide bank­ing panic, and he ap­par­ently in­tro­duced the United Or­der to bet­ter in­su­late the Saints from the neg­a­tive eco­nomic symp­toms of “Baby­lon” - from bank runs to un­em­ploy­ment.

The Saints had been liv­ing in what we might safely as­sume to be a Ter­res­trial-level econ­omy for only 10 years. That’s hardly enough time for its prin­ci­ples to sink deeply into the hearts, minds and cul­tural tra­di­tions of the peo­ple. Go­ing from the Te­les­tial-level econ­omy of dog-eat-dog free en­ter­prise to a Ter­res­trial-level co­op­er­a­tive free en­ter­prise econ­omy would re­quire ad­just­ment enough! Get­ting used to seek­ing the ben­e­fit of all one’s neigh­bors in­stead of just meet­ing one’s own needs would prob­a­bly take a while to be­come a per­ma­nent fea­ture of the LDS cul­ture.

The co­op­er­a­tive move­ment was con­sid­ered a step­ping stone to the United Or­der by Brigham and other church lead­ers. In 1869, Pres­i­dent Young noted, “This co­op­er­a­tive move­ment is only a step­ping stone to what is called the Or­der of Enoch, but which is in re­al­ity the Or­der of Heaven.” In 1878, then Pres­i­dent John Tay­lor stated, “What was the prin­ci­ple of co­op­er­a­tion in­tended for? Sim­ply as a step­ping stone for the United Or­der, that is all, that we might be united and op­er­ate to­gether in the in­ter­est of build­ing up Zion.” Apos­tle Wilford Woodruff in 1873 added, “We must give our earnest sup­port to co­op­er­a­tion, for it is a step in ad­vance to­wards es­tab­lish­ing the Or­der of Enoch and the build­ing up of the Zion of God.”

Per­son­ally, it seems to me that had the Saints stayed on the co­op­er­a­tive en­ter­prise level for a gen­er­a­tion or two, it would then have been eas­ier to shift to the higher gear of Con­se­cra­tion and Stew­ard­ship. Sadly, within two years af­ter rolling out the United Or­ders, the ma­jor­ity of them failed. Ap­par­ently, the Saints were still not ready to rise to that level, as the Saints or­ga­nized by Joseph had also failed to do.

I would ar­gue that since we Saints have to even­tu­ally build a Zion so­ci­ety, we should prob­a­bly unite in mov­ing back up the scale to­wards Ce­les­tial-level eco­nomics. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in co­op­er­a­tive en­ter­prises, where the prof­its go to ben­e­fit the com­mu­nity, might be a great start in that di­rec­tion.

Dis­cuss at Build­ingZion.org.

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