A response to Larry Barkdull’s article,
What Admonishments have the Prophets Given about Our becoming Zion?

Thanks, Larry, for reminding us of the goal!

On President Snow’s last quote you mentioned, it points to a whole avenue of here-and-now activity in which we can participate today in preparation for building Zion – no waiting necessary.  He said, “seeking unity and to cultivate the spirit of brotherhood financially as well as spiritually.”  And he would know, having united the saints of Brigham City in one of the most financially successful economic experiments in Utah’s mostly-forgotten history.

Reading Leonard J. Arrington’s GREAT BASIN KINGDOM, one is struck with the unceasing effort of the Utah saints, led by Apostle Lorenzo Snow, and Presidents Young and Taylor, to unite the people financially, and not just in United Orders.

In 1864, Apostle Snow organized a mercantile cooperative.  Within 10 years “approximately forty branches or departments had been established covering almost every phase of industry and agriculture in the valley”.  “Almost every conceivable good and service, from brooms and hats to molasses and furniture was produced and sold in one of these departments…. Brigham City came to be recognized as a ‘hive of industry’ — one of the most prosperous and progressive settlements in the territory.”  “When the panic of 1873 struck Utah, Brigham City was left almost untouched, experiencing in that year its greatest expansion.”  (Great Basin Kingdom, pp.324-325).

Both presidents Young and Taylor saw cooperatives as a steppingstone to implementing the United Orders.  For example, if you study a First Presidency letter entitled, “Encyclical Letter Upon Co-operation and the Social System“, you’ll see that Brigham Young abhorred the bad effects of unbridled competitive free enterprise (ie. Capitalism), and saw in cooperatives, like his ZCMI, a means for keeping the distribution of wealth more even, thus avoiding the division of the people into classes of rich and poor. He ends that letter saying, “But it is not in doctrines alone that we should be united, but in practice and especially in our business affairs:”  United in our business affairs?  Wow!

Although most of the United Orders were dismal failures, the cooperatives which preceded them were a roaring success (who knew?).  In fact, faced with the collapse of the Orders around the death of Brigham Young, President Taylor established a church-wide program to create cooperatives in every stake – providing employment and fulfilling unmet needs.  This little-known program was led by an organization called, “Zion’s Central Board of Trade” (google it!).  President Taylor expressly saw the creation of cooperatives as a step back toward the full Law of Consecration.

The above gives deeper meaning to President Kimball’s 2nd prescription for preparing ourselves for Zion, “Second, we must cooperate completely and work in harmony one with the other”.  We can do this today, now.  We don’t need to wait for prophetic direction to build cooperatives and learn how to unite “financially”.  Cooperative enterprises already make up a significant percentage of the GDP of several nations of the world, including ours. In building them, we won’t have to worry about breaking new ground, cooperatives have long been a part of the American economy.

Like you say, Larry, “To become Zion people, we must make a decision. Once and for all, we must commit to both believe and live what we have received.”  We have received a magnificent legacy of economic cooperation that we can revive as we seek to prepare ourselves for the call to build Zion.

Best Regards,
Jesse Fisher