A note: this series, as mentioned previously, is a guide to LDS quotations and materials related to radical social change.  With respect to each statement that I’ve found in researching this material, I make comments and offer my perspectives.  So the posts aren’t unbiased, they’re subjective.  But they’re the best kind of subjective because, by construction, you have access to the materials I’m discussing as I discuss them.  If I get it wrong, I trust you to inform me of that!


In 1903, in response to a letter from a church member, Joseph F.
Smith remarked that Saints should be careful to distinguish between
socialism and the United Order, but that there is "no harm in the wise
and intelligent study of socialistic principles, such of them at least
as are true and as the teachings of the Gospel and the spirit of the
Lord will approve, nor in belonging to a club or society having that as
its only purpose" [Joseph F. Smith to Leila Marler, March 3, 1902,
Joseph F. Smith Letterbooks].  Obviously, this statement is quite
hedged, but, even at that, it’s remarkable to see any kind of
endorsement of involvement with socialism from a general authority!

The following citation from a book by Eugene England contains a
quote from Brigham Young and discussion of its context.  England’s
discussion on this point is probably sufficient as it stands.

a letter to his son Willard, just a year before his death, Brigham
deplored the growing tendency in Utah to "teach the false political
economy which contends against cooperation and the United Order"[ Cited
in Dean C. Jessee, ed., Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons (Salt Lake
City: Deseret Book Co., 1974), 199.].  It may surprise modern Mormons
that that "false political economy" was not socialism or communism but
free enterprise capitalism, the lack of which in Utah was being used by
gentiles as evidence that Mormons were un-American barbarians in need
of the salvation of public schools controlled purely by secular
standards. [Eugene England, 1995 Making Peace: Personal Essays, Ch.4,

In 1911, the Church published B. H. Roberts’
three-volume work, New Witnesses for God.  The book, which was commonly
used as a manual for Church lessons and which was approved by a
committee of general authorities before publication, contains a chapter
on the outlines of the United Order system.  Due to the way the book
was published, this statement has the character of a Church-authorized
description of the United Order.  Below, I reproduce most of the
relevant chapter.  Readers interested in seeing the relatively less
important paragraphs that I’ve left out should turn to Elder Roberts’
original text.

The New Dispensation of the gospel of
Jesus Christ does not regard alone the spiritual welfare of man; it
contemplates also his temporal salvation. That is, it looks to the
amelioration of those conditions which today render the lot of by far
the greater portion of the human race so hard to endure.

Nothing can be more patent to the understanding than the fact that
the basis of all our commercial or other industrial enterprises, is
selfishness. The selfish desire for wealth that ease and luxury may
follow and be enjoyed, or power wielded that shall administer to family
pride or individual ambition, seems to have taken complete possession
of the thoughts of civilized man, and well nigh fills up the sphere of
his activity. Almost unconsciously selfishness has been intensified in
our modern life. The inventions of our time have greatly multiplied
human conveniences and luxuries. Ease that springs from affluence has
been brought within the reach of a greater number of people than at any
other time in the world’s history; yet those who have entered within
the charmed circle of the enjoyment of ease and luxury are not
satisfied. Something is lacking to the completeness of their
contentment. They see for one thing the instability of their wealth,
and note what small circumstance may wrest it from them. So that the
fear of losing what is possessed is well nigh as tormenting as the
inability to gain riches. The wish to permanently secure that which is
possessed, and in like security have it descend to their posterity
occasions as much anxiety and effort on the part of the rich, as the
determination to come to the possession of wealth occasions the less
fortunate–the envious poor.

Instead of this wider distribution of comforts and luxuries among
mankind contributing to the sum of human contentment, it has increased
its restlessness; for luxury being more commonly paraded in the face of
the masses has maddened all with a desire to possess it, and, failing
in that, life is felt to be scarce worth the living. But possession is
possible only to the few; the great mass of humanity is excluded from
its attainment.

This success of the few and the failure of the many divides
civilized communities into two classes–the proud and the envious. It
also results in the division of communities into capitalists and
laborers; the former living in affluence on the proceeds of their
wealth, the latter, for the most part, eking out an existence on the
insufficient means secured through their labor. Capital, it must be
said, feels power and forgets right; labor in its despair grows
desperate and violates the law. Capital, to secure and perpetuate its
interests, combines into huge corporations which control production and
the markets, waters its stock, bribes legislatures, congresses and
parliaments; oppresses labor in its wages, robs the people; and having
thrived by it chicanery and fraud, laughs at all attempts to wrest from
it the spoils in which it revels.

Labor, to protect itself against the ever-increasing greed and power
of capital, forms societies and leagues and asks not only what is
easily recognized as its rights, but often demands that which capital
cannot give. Each confident in its ability to coerce the other,
lockouts and strikes follow, with the result that not infrequently the
conflict ends in civil strife, lawlessness and bloodshed.

Meantime wealth accumulates in the hands of the few; and if every
year does not see the condition of the masses growing worse and worse,
it is a fact at least that there is no just proportion between the
increasing gains of the capitalists and the wages of the laborers. As a
result, the bitterness between employer and the employed increases
every year; and the sphere of our industrial activities, instead of
presenting a scene of harmony and good-will, where the interests of
both capital and labor are recognized as existing in common, and the
welfare of both dependent on each, it represents more nearly the scene
of two hostile camps where distrust and jealousy have arrayed the
respective parties for deadly conflict.

Philosophers and philanthropists who have seen and deplored the
evils of our modern system of economics have not been wanting; but only
a few have ventured to propose remedies. Of these some have suggested
co-operative methods in trade, in manufactures, in commerce and other
labor, with an equal distribution of profits, as not only securing the
conservation of energy, but also a more equitable basis of economics
than our present individual and competitive methods. Many attempts have
been made to carry out these principles in practice, and for a time, in
several instances, partial success has been attained. In the end,
however, human greed, weakness, or individual necessity, real or
imagined, together with inability to make the system universal–a
condition necessary to the system’s success, according to the claims of
its advocates–have proven too much for these attempts at co-operation,
and the several enterprises have either drifted into the hands of a
corporation or become the concerns of individuals, or else have been
absolutely abandoned.

Others seeing the failure of voluntary attempts to secure the
benefits of the co-operative system, have advocated the enlargement of
the powers of the State to the extent of consigning to it the
management of all industry; so far taking control of the individual as
to compel him to work, according to his capacity and remunerate him
according to his wants.

Others have gone even further than this, and proposed not only to
make the individual a creature of the State, in relation to the matter
of labor and wages, but to control him in all the relations of life,
even invading the domestic relations to the extent of abolishing the
marriage institution and all domestic government founded on paternal
authority. These last two suggestions, with various amplifications, are
classed as socialism and communism respectively. The former has many
advocates in nearly all civilized countries, especially in Germany and
France, where they wield a political influence of considerable potency.
The latter, communism, since the abortive efforts of Robert Owen in
England, of St. Simon and Fourier in France, and M. Cabet–the disciple
of Fourier–at Nauvoo, Illinois, United States, may be considered as
relegated to the graveyard of impracticable theories which from time to
time have engaged the attention of philosophical minds with a bent for
speculation in human affairs.

But bad as our modern system of economics may be, with all its
manifest absurdities in the waste of energy, the unfairness in the
distribution of the products of industry, still mankind has, so far,
preferred to endure its known evils and incongruities rather than to
trust their fortunes to the proposed systems of the socialists and

The New Dispensation of the Gospel, however, contemplating as it
does the ushering in of that era of peace on earth and goodwill among
men of which angels have sung and prophets written, must perforce and
does, as I remarked at the opening of this chapter, take account of the
social and industrial conditions prevailing, and offers a solution for
the difficulties presented which, while within the possibility of
performance, is effectual as a remedy for the evils under which
humanity groans. Failure to do this would have been a grave defect in a
work making the pretensions of that founded by Joseph Smith. Moreover,
since what it has to offer as a solution of existing industrial
inequalities and evils is either based on or is itself direct
revelation from God, the Divine wisdom must appear in the plan proposed
for the betterment of humanity’s condition. All this mankind has a
right to expect of a divine plan for such a purpose, and all this I
claim for the plan revealed through Joseph Smith.

That plan does not begin with the community or the nation, and
through the community or state seek to reach the individual. While not
ignoring the value of institutions or the necessity for favorable
conditions, it does not put its whole trust in arbitrary institutions
or regulations for the successful accomplishment of its purposes. It
comes first to the individual with a cry of repentance, with an appeal
to turn unto righteousness. It teaches him that by repentance,
accompanied with true and holy faith in God, he may attain through
baptism to a remission of sins, to consciousness of renewed innocence,
lost through transgression, and to the possession of the Holy Ghost.
This last adds to his own strength, in some degree, the strength of the
Almighty God. Through its influence he is guided into all truth, taught
a knowledge of the things of heaven, receives a testimony that Jesus is
the Christ; by it he is reproved for his errors; commended for
resisting evil; prompted in uncertainty; by courting its influence and
listening to its counsels he is purified in heart, is purged of his
lusts and his selfishness, loves his neighbor as himself, and is ready
to seek another’s rather than his own good.

It is with an element such as this–cleansed and purified by such a
process, and thus made fit for the Master’s use–that the plan revealed
through Joseph Smith proposes to deal. It is an evidence that other
schemes for the amelioration of the distresses of mankind originated in
the petty wisdom of man that they did not take into account the
necessary preparation of the elements for their model communities. And
let me observe, in passing, that that preparation can only be made
through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the spirit of it outlined above.
It is vain for men to seek to build up communities in which selfishness
shall be abolished, and love and goodwill abound, until they have
developed in the separate units that are to compose it the same
qualities that are to be characteristic of the community; for
communities can be no better than the individuals that compose them. As
well might men hope to mix to the same consistency pieces of iron and
pieces of clay, make a rope of dry sand, or do anything else
impossible, as to undertake to organize a society in which want shall
be abolished, unselfishness abound, and all the virtues prevail, with
men unrighteous, proud, envious, jealous, lustful, suspicious,
treacherous and possessed of no higher gauge of right and truth than
human intelligence. Here, then, begins to be seen the wisdom of the
plan for the temporal salvation of mankind revealed through Joseph
Smith: it begins with the individual–with the preparation of the

Next to the preparation of the elements, the plan recognizes the
Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. It also recognizes the
fact that the earth is the Lord’s; that it is his by right of
proprietorship. He created it and sustains it by his power, and man’s
right to the portions of it he seizes so greedily can only be that of a
steward. Following these principles to their legitimate conclusion, the
plan contemplates the complete consecration unto the Lord all the
possessions of those who accept it. The person who desires to make the
consecration brings his possessions to the bishop of the Church, and
delivers them to him, with a deed and covenant that cannot be broken.
The consecration is complete.

The person so consecrating his possessions, whether they be great or
small, if it be a full consecration, has claim upon the bishop for a
stewardship out of the consecrated properties of the Church. That
stewardship may be a farm, a factory, a publishing house, mercantile
establishment, a home with the privilege of following a trade or
profession, according to individual tastes, abilities or capacities.
The stewardships are secured to those unto whom they are granted by a
deed and covenant that cannot be broken, hence the stewards are secured
in their stewardships.

The income from a stewardship over and above that needed for the
maintenance of the steward and his family, is consecrated to the Lord’s
storehouse, where all the surplus means from the community is, in like
manner, collected. Said surplus to be used, first, in supplying the
deficiency where stewardships fail to yield sufficient income for the
necessities of those who possess them; second, to form or purchase new
stewardships for such as have not received any; third, to supply those
with means who may need it for the improvement or enlargement of their
respective stewardships; fourth, the purchase of lands for the public
benefit, to establish new enterprises, develop resources, build houses
of worship, temples, send abroad the Gospel or for anything else that
looks to the general welfare and the founding of the Kingdom of Heaven
on earth.

The several stewards have claim upon the general fund created by the
consecration of the surplus of each, for the means necessary to the
improvement or enlargement of the business entrusted to him as his
stewardship; and so long as he is in full fellowship with the Church,
and is a wise and faithful steward, his application to the treasurer of
the general fund is to be respected by being granted; the treasurer, of
course, being accountable to the Church for his management of the
general fund, and subject to removal in the event of incompetency or

Each steward is independent in the management of his stewardship,
and is the master of his own time. He must pay for that which he buys;
he can insist on payment for that which he sells. He has no claim upon
the stewardship of his neighbor; his neighbor has no claim upon his
stewardship; but both have claim, as also have their children–when the
latter come of age and start in life for themselves–upon the collected
surplus in the Lord’s storehouse, to aid them in the event of their
needing assistance….

Such is a brief and, I fear, because of my effort to be brief, a
rather imperfect outline of the plan for the management of the temporal
affairs of life in the Church of Christ. It is a system which
contemplates the humiliation of the rich and the exaltation of the
poor, by the operation of consecration and stewardship, above
described. By the act of consecration both the rich man and the poor
one make a formal acknowledgment that the earth and the fullness
thereof is the Lord’s; and by receiving back a stewardship, each
receives that which his wants demand, or that his capacity will warrant
placing under his management; and which may be added upon as he gives
increased evidence of faithfulness and ability to wisely control the
stewardship for his own and the general good.

The plan recognizes the truth that there is enough and to spare in
the earth to provide plentifully for all the wants of the human race;
for all its necessities and all reasonable luxuries, if the wealth
created by the race’s industry be justly distributed. In it, too, is
recognized the truth that transcendent abilities for the manipulation
of the elements or the management of affairs by which wealth is created
are not possessed that they might minister alone to personal advantage,
or pride, or ambition; nor are they to be employed alone for the
benefit of the possessor’s family. This plan revealed to Joseph Smith
teaches a nobler and higher use of abilities than this; a broader field
of sympathy than that which merely comprehends a family. A great mind
in any department of abilities, and no less in financial or temporal
affairs than in law, or government, or literature, belongs to the race,
and is God’s best gift to it; for through it God, in part shines. The
employment of talents and genius for the common interest is to be the
outgrowth of universal sympathy and a willingness to co-operate with
God to bring to pass the eternal life, and, both in time and eternity,
the eternal happiness of man. Hence it is written that the inhabitant
of Zion shall labor for Zion and if he labor for money he shall perish
with his money….

It will be observed that the plan revealed through Joseph Smith,
while differing from the present selfish and competitive system, is
neither state socialism nor communism. It neither makes man the
creature of the state, nor invades the sanctity of his fireside. It
preserves a healthy individualism in that it allows each man control of
his own stewardship and makes him the disposer of his own time. It
provides for the general welfare in that it centralizes all the surplus
means of the community and places it at the disposal of the wisest men
who apportion it out to the improvement of enterprises or stewardships
under the management of men of demonstrated ability and approved
integrity; or who employ it in the development of new enterprises or
distribute it in new stewardships to those who as yet may not have
received them. This system therefore guards against want and
destitution on the one hand; while on the other it collects the surplus
means to be used in those new enterprises, the success of which shall
remove the community further and ever further from poverty and
wretchedness which is now at once the world’s anxiety and shame….

The two prime objections to co-operative methods, state socialism
and communism are, first, that by taking the proceeds of individual
industry, talent or transcendent financial abilities and applying them
to the common good rather than to individual aggrandizement, one of the
chief incentives to earnest endeavor is stricken down; and second, by
creating an assurance in the minds of individuals that their wants will
be provided for out of a common fund and that necessity cannot overtake
them, the other chief incentive to industry is swept aside. In other
words it is held that ambition and the fear of coming to want are the
chief incentives to human activity. Remove these incentives to action,
it is contended, and you have, of course, a listless, idle and hence
non-progressive community that all too soon from want of motive
principle would come to poverty, ignorance and at last to dissolution.

These are held to be the vices of the schemes of socialists and
communists so far as the industrial phase of their plans is concerned,
and I anticipate that the same objections will be urged to the plan for
the temporal salvation of mankind revealed through Joseph Smith….  [B.
H. Roberts, 1911, New Witnesses for God, Vol. 1, pgs. 392-403]

Roberts’ statement reiterates and clarifies several of the points that
have been raised throughout this source guide.  First, the consequences
of failing to follow the United Order are made clear: “the inhabitant
of Zion shall labor for Zion and if he labor for money he shall perish
with his money.”  In other words, participation in the United Order is
voluntary in the sense that it is required for exaltation and damnation
results if you don’t do it.

However, unlike 20th century versions of state socialism, the United
Order is decentralized.  Day-to-day scheduling and management decisions
are left in the hands of the individual.  Nobody forces each person to
go to work in the morning.  In this sense, the United Order clearly
involves less compulsion than socialism or communism.  (By the way,
since the United Order also guarantees the satisfaction of each
individual’s needs and righteous desires from the community surplus,
removing compulsion to work is in fact a further step away from what we
would think of as the normal economic system.  Not only do people not
have to work in order to feed themselves—they don’t have to work for
any reason whatsoever except their desire to help the community and
serve God.  The labor system functions more on the lines of a mission
than those of a market!)

Furthermore, Elder Roberts makes clear the theme we’ve seen through
a variety of sources related to the necessity to rely on God and the
Holy Spirit to change the individual before implementing the United
Order.  This system (guided by God and inhabited by Saints committed to
Christ and the gospel and working out of charity and love for each
other) is the ideal for us here at the Latter-day Saint Liberation
Front.  (Right, Serenity Valley?)

With respect to that ideal, however, a major issue arises.  While
the Saints pray for the universal establishment of the Kingdom of God,
we obviously do need some kind of fill-in-the-gap economic arrangement
in the meanwhile.  Free-market capitalism isn’t God’s law; the United
Order is.  So, if we’re not living God’s law, shouldn’t we try to
experiment and do the best we can in the meanwhile?  Are we necessarily
bound to let millions and even billions suffer in extreme poverty until
the Kingdom is finally, firmly established on earth?