Thursday, July 30, 2009

Living the United Order Today

Today I'm going to write about what's on my mind--the United Order; and specifically how it is being lived today by a group of people living out on the Utah/Arizona border. I wrote a post giving the background over at Mormon Matters. Here on this blog I'd like to discuss whether or not the Law of Consecration is a viable alternative in today's world.

As we Mormons know, there were several attempts at living the United Order (a vehicle established to manage the law of consecration) in the early days of Utah. Church rhetoric states that the United Order is no longer necessary. Consecration is understood to mean selfless dedication of time and means to help "build Zion" through spreading the gospel by means of missionary work, temple and family-history work. Faithful members are now asked to tithe and give other donations to support those endeavors, as well as to serve in the church's unpaid ministries.

In the conversation over at Mormon Matters, a lot of attention is being paid to whether polygamy is moral or legal. So I don't want to talk about that here. I want to discuss whether it is possible or advisable to live consecration in this day and age. Is it legally feasible? Do you think there would still be so many problems if the group attempting it were not involved in polygamy? Would it be possible to sustain the desire to live communally if the people were not doing it for religious reasons? Why did the LDS church move away from the United Order as a way of living consecration? Is this just too hard for modern capitalists to do?

Do you ever have a longing to live in a United Order, like I do?

(Here's a house that was built in a day, The FLDS community accomplishes this by donating their time and the materials--and working together for the common good.)


  1. I think your post is very interesting and members of the church should consider it much more since ultimately capitalism and every other economic order is bound to fail because they are not Celestial.

    Unfortunately the United Order cannot be lived successfully outside of Zion, the New Jerusalem and the stakes that will surround that glorious City. Thats why the early United Orders in Utah ultimately failed.

    The Lord said
    D&C 105:34: “And let those commandments which I have given concerning Zion and her law be executed and fulfilled, after her redemption.”

    In interpretation of the above scripture D&C 105:34 the following quotations from leaders of the church teach that the United Order and the Law of Consecration will not be approved by the Lord outside of the appointed places of Jackson County, Missouri and surrounding cities:

    President Marion G. Romney said: “Further implementation of the order must therefore await the Redemption of Zion. Here Zion means Jackson County, Missouri.” April 1966 General Conf.

    President J Reuben Clark Jr. stated: “The United Order and its attendant laws will not be fully realized until the Redemption of Zion (The New Jerusalem). So there would not be any misunderstanding, President J Reuben Clark Jr. defined the phrase “Redemption of Zion as follows: “In the meaning in which the Lord was using the term Zion, the redemption means the reestablishment of the people in Missouri. This has not yet been accomplished”. Church News 15 Sep 1945 page 9
    When some church members living in Iowa undertook in 1840 to establish the Law of Consecration Joseph Smith advised them that it was not appropriate: “The Law of Consecration could not be kept here, and that it was the will of the Lord that we should desist from trying to keep it; and if persisted in, it would produce a perfect defeat of its object….” History of the Church volume 4 page 93

    I have recently written a scriptural study on this subject which I have sent to some of the G.A.'s. Have a read on

    I could go and on because the United Order is part of the fullness of the Gospel and we cannot become perfect without it. After all we will all be expected to live this order in the Celestial Kingdom so why not prepare by having a go now.

  2. Malcolm, thank you for your comment, and for the link. I think I'm going to spend plenty of time over there today. Your last sentence is what makes this principle so frustrating for me. For some reason I have a longing to live the Law of Consecration, to start to develop those capacities within myself NOW. To live among a people who are doing the same. And I don't think we CAN be perfect without doing so.

    From all the many failures modern man has experienced in trying to live communally, I can believe that Zion cannot be built except by the principles of the law of the Celestial Kingdom. It seems there has to be a religious basis behind it, or it will fail. But it doesn't seem right to just hang around and wait until the reestablishment of the Church in Missouri.

    I know some well-meaning soul is going to tell me to keep paying my tithing and offerings, keep volunteering at the food bank, going to the temple, fulfilling my callings, and sending my kids on missions--that those are the ways we develop the principle of Consecration today. But for some reason even all those things don't satisfy the longing...

  3. Came across this by Hyrum Andrus:
    "The Saints must "build Zion" -- not just the Church, but the entire Zion society consisting of the Economic (ie, the Law of Consecration & Stewardship), Social, Political (Council of 50 and etc) and Spiritual Orders and organizations of the Kingdom of God -- They have to be living the "higher orders" so they'll be prepared to live those higher orders when Jesus returns; and in the act of living those higher orders, they will further sanctify themselves, the Earth and the Church.

    "We hope and pray for the second coming; we sometimes talk about the redemption of Zion, but you can put it down as a sure thing that the redemption of Zion, which must precede the second coming, will never come about until there are sufficient people within this Church who are willing to humble themselves and to receive the spirit of the gospel and support this covenant system under the Law of Consecration and Stewardship. The Lord has made it plain to us that the redemption of Zion must precede the second coming. In Section 105 of the Doctrine and Covenants He also pointed out that Zion must be founded upon the Law of Consecration and Stewardship, otherwise He cannot receive her unto Himself. (See D&C 105:1-5.) We must live it; we must eventually attain a point of spiritual excellence and of brotherhood to where we are capable and willing to enter into this system and enjoy the blessings of the gospel economically as well as socially and religiously."

    Does this make sense to you? And how does it fit with the statements Malcolm quoted above?

  4. I tried living a very toned-down version of the united order about 6 years ago. My family shared a large house with another family. We babysat for each other; planned, bought, and ate meals together; shared the same living quarters, etc. It fell apart majorly after about 7 months.

    It takes a lot of mental and emotional work to live in such close quarters and share so many aspects of your life. You have to be very invested in the community itself in order to survive. It can't be just a way to save money or get free babysitting. It's an investment probably as intense as marriage.

    We built in community-strengthening timeat the beginning, but that fell to the demands of work and school very soon. I was going through a spiritual crisis that really freaked out the wife in the other family, she was trying to wean herself off depression medication, and all of us were trying to cope with an ill child in the middle of a dark Alaskan winter.

    We started resenting each other's children, the extra time another person would take that infringed on our own time, the noseyness of another. One day our cars actually collided in a physical manifestation of our inter-family dynamics.

    After we moved out and gained some perspective,I realized that our community had split up so quickly becase we hadn't practiced a way to be emotionally intimate, which I think is essential to communal living. I think this is why religion often plays such an integral role in communal living. It gives us ways of connecting deeply with each other through a set of shared metaphors.

  5. Stephen, thanks so much for sharing your experience--that has to have been painful, but I can see that you learned and stretched your soul through this attempt to live in community---there's just such a great and beautiful potential there.

    I don't know if any of you have read Moroni Jessop's blog, where he tells of his extended family's experiences in trying to live consecration. It's so fascinating to see the very human struggle and how trying to live this higher law really leads people to face and try to overcome our mortal weaknesses. Even when it's done on such a small scale, it's an amazing experience.

  6. I think that Stephen's post illustrates well that the ultimate difficulty in living the law of consecration lies not necessarily because we exist in a capitalist society, but because we are human. It takes an extraordinary amount of effort just to be unselfish and open enough to make a single family function, much less a communal living arrangement with another family, or an entire community. A refiner's fire that we're just not ready to jump into?
    You might be interested in the history of the Amana colony in Iowa as an example of another religious group that approached communal living in a different way than the early Saints, and managed to make it into the 1920s (I think).
    I wonder if the law of consecration strikes Mormons today as being particularly strange and undesirable because of the very Protestant current of "material success is an indication/result of righteousness" that runs through Mormon culture (at least in the U.S.). Interesting to think about...

  7. Stephen

    What you described is not really the United Order. Under the UO system families will be independent as they are now-it is not communal as such. The main purpose is to remove poverty and operate on the principle of equality.

    “And let every man deal honestly, and be alike among this people, and receive alike, that ye may be one, even as I have commanded you.” (D&C 51:9).

    “Behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.” (D&C 104:15-16)

    No rich or poor. To accomplish the United order the saints have to be gathered as one people and have the ability to live the principles of the gospel especially charity.

    What I like about the United Order is that the Lord has promised a multiplicity of blessings which we do not receive now.This is mentioned many times.(See D&C 104) I believe this will include more power in the priesthood.

    Its disappointing that we get so few sermons on this subject today. Why is that?

  8. Bored: can you give me the name of the book by Hyrum Andrus and page no etc. Its a useful quote. I also like the following by President John Taylor:

    “I cannot conceive of anything more beautiful and Heavenly than a united brotherhood…where our time, our property, our talents, our mental and bodily powers are all exerted for the good of all; where no man grabs or takes advantage of another; where there is a common interest, a common purse, a common stock…” JD: 17:180

    Probably no more than 10 per cent of members will be prepared and spiritually mature enough to live it. For certain they will be paying tithing etc today.

  9. A family in our ward had their house burn down yesterday.

    BiV, I think I felt the same longing you describe, because I was inexplicably disappointed when I heard that the family was being helped by their homeowner's insurance and Red Cross. I mean, that's great, but that could have been a great time for me to really say "what's mine is yours." I do expect to hear calls for help meeting particular needs in the weeks to come through the Bishop, RS President, and HPG Leader, so I hope to be able help then.

  10. Ben, those feelings are the best parts of the human soul. I've felt that before--when my greatest desire was to give everything I had--and I think that is when I am closest to heaven.

  11. Zillah, those are interesting points, and I'm now fascinated with the Amana colony. I do see that undercurrent you mention, and I also wonder why we don't get more sermons on the subject, and opportunities to help our ward members more directly than we now do...

  12. I'm personally acquainted with two united orders here in Missouri. One is Mormon, and the other Christian, and both are very successful. My family and I lived in the Mormon order for several months, and we spent several days in the Christian group investigating how they did things.

    Both groups have been living this way for at least thirty years, so I know that it's possible. I also know that it's difficult to leave behind personal aspirations when entering one of these orders. Celestial laws are not easy, and living the law of consecration is no exception.

    From my experience, those who have the greatest difficulty in living the law of consecration are those who lust after wealth. Not so much for the love of money, but for the power and status that it brings. These are the people that would find no satisfaction in wealth if everyone was wealthy. They want to feel superior to their fellow brothers and sisters. These are the type of people that would appreciate it if everyone stood as they entered the room. Do you know anyone like that?

    It makes one wonder why living the law of consecration is no longer encouraged in today's Church. Perhaps some of this stems from the procrastination doctrine, which states that we can do all these difficult things in the next life.

    One will in inherit the kingdom based on the laws they were willing to live in this life. If you want Celestial glory in the life to come, then you have to live Celestial laws now. It's the only way.

    As a side note, I thought it was interesting that the non-Mormon group had a beehive as a symbol of their order.