Q: “Given how hard it is to ‘get’ a position of authority to do anything about this in a quorum or ward or stake, couldn’t we just as well form cooperative or corporate systems ourselves with like-minded people? Rather than trying to woo and work the church system?”TidwellTB

A: I’ve been pondering this very question for some time. And, yes, I believe we can organize ourselves economically. Let me share my train of thought on it.

As mentioned in “Rescuing the Saints TODAY“, the Church was compelled by the US Government to cease its multi-decade long efforts to unite the Saints economically. Although the Church established a social safety net in the form of our famed welfare program (that simply helps the unemployed get plugged back into Babylon’s economy), the Church has refrained from organizing us into companies, specifically cooperatives, as was done with great gusto during the 1860s and 70s.

I keep thinking about what Joseph said when asked how he maintained such order in Nauvoo, he responded, “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” For generations we have been taught correct principles regarding Celestial-level economics. Yet, the Church remains aloof from organizing us economically as they so thoroughly did during Utah’s territorial years. Perhaps they are understandably gun shy. Or, they see that we are all so enamored by Babylon’s delicacies that they have no hope for our success if we were to pursue economic unity. I pray it is the former.

As mentioned, we are taught in General Conference that we have everything we need to creatively solve the economic problems of the members of our quorums – we have permission, we have the resources, and we have role models.

Since the Church has abdicated organizing us economically, are we not free to do so as private citizens? Wouldn’t doing so be classified as doing “many good things of their own free will and choice to bring to pass much righteousness”? I believe so. In fact, I believe it to be prudent, given how the US economy is teetering on the brink of self-destruction.

We should have begun decades ago to train ourselves in at least a Terrestrial-level economic order – that of cooperative free enterprise. Jumping from a Telestial-level economy (that of America’s competitive free enterprise system) to a Celestial level one (the United Orders) has proven disastrous twice now. Both Brigham and John Taylor saw that cooperatives provided a nice interim training level. So, yes, I believe we can (and should) establish cooperatives and start learning to govern ourselves economically on the Terrestrial level in preparation for the establishment of Zion.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive enough to believe that such an effort wouldn’t be fraught with challenges. However, the Mondragon network of worker-owned cooperatives in Northern Spain gives us a great role model of, and hope for, success. That network, which began with a single manufacturing cooperative in 1956, has grown to over 250 cooperatives employing over 80 thousand people, all with their own banks, hospitals, and retirement programs. If they can do it, so can we.

After the failed second attempt at United Orders, John Taylor, picking up the gauntlet of organizing the Saints economically, established what he felt was one of his greatest achievements, the Zion’s Central Board of Trade, of which you have unfortunately never heard. These stake and general level boards of successful businessmen were tasked with assessing the economic needs and resources, organizing cooperatives to fill those needs, and gainfully employing the Saints within those cooperatives. The ZBoTs were making great progress when they were shut down by the polygamy raids, never to be revived.

This is what I propose we do today – establish boards of trade manned by experienced businessmen who have the wisdom to create cooperatives and successfully launch them. First outside the Church structure, with hopes that like the Sunday School and Family Home Evening, it will be later incorporated into the Church as a whole — hopefully in time to soften the blow of America’s unavoidable economic collapse.

So, who’s game?