Over the last 16 installments, we have reviewed the history of the LDS Church’s efforts to build a real, live Zion society in the Territory of Utah. Much was accomplished in their 40 year effort to establish a Zion society based on cooperative free enterprise in the Rocky Mountain west. This effort was the direct result in the belief that they were fulfilling the prophesies that a Zion society would thrive and spread until the Savior returned to the New Jerusalem.
Sadly, the effort to establish Zion was brought to a screeching halt by a combination of forces: political, social, and economic. Social crusaders in the Eastern States, who saw polygamy as a barbarous practice, joined forces with those seeking political power and those seeking to profit from breaking up the Saints’ economic unity.
After a series of laws failed to solve “the Mormon question”, Congress passed the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act which did the trick. By the force of government, the Church was dissolved as a legal entity, many of its financial assets confiscated, and its leaders fled. The choice before the Church leadership was: “Do we continue the fight and risk being scattered and driven, losing our temples forever, or, do we capitulate?” Whether you believe it was by revelation or not, the Church chose to surrender.
The United Orders, the cooperatives, and the Zion Boards of Trade, all elements of the Church’s program to build a Zion society, were decapitated when their leaders fled prosecution under the Edmunds Act. In the former two, ownership drifted into private hands, and in the latter’s case, it simply evaporated into history.
Driven economically to its knees by the US Government, the Church was forced to give up trying to create an independent, self-sufficient, cooperative society and become just another religion, although still unique. Historian Leonard J. Arrington reported that “the church no longer offered a geographic and institutional alternative to Babylon…. Individualism, speculation, and inequality – once thought to be characteristics of Babylon — were woven into the fabric of Mormon life.”
Polygamy was the Church’s Achilles heel, and by exploiting it, Babylon the Great literally conquered Modern Israel… but not forever. Prophecy suggests Zion must again arise “and put on her beautiful garments.” If so, why wait? Let’s get to work preparing in every way we can.