Posted by: Loran Blood | February 17, 2016

Notes and Asides on the United Order: A Disorderly Subject

The United Order, that system of ordered liberty and gospel culture that prepares a people for the second coming of the Savior, is, to all appearances, deeply misunderstood by a number of church members, and, at the same time, misrepresented, wither willfully or ignorantly, by certain LDS intellectuals in positions of literary influence.

The system itself is not, in any innate sense, an economic system, and the core focus of the United Order is not on economic relations.  The UO is, as President Benson once observed, not an “economic experiment,” but “a celestial law.”  Economics are a main feature of the system, but only in harmony and in concert with the entirety of the gospel principles upon which the UO is grounded.

Comparisons of the UO with egalitarian collectivism (i.e., socialism and even communism) are not difficult to find, even among some within the LDS academic intelligentsia, and have a long pedigree.  Its staying power, even given the even longer history of direct and clear General Authority teaching in stark opposition to this idea, and official church doctrinal publications that leave no ambiguity as to the Church’s understanding of the matter, is fascinating for the way it defies and seems to leap over perennial General Authority teachings – even the few quips made by Joseph on the subject – with balletic finesse.

I do suppose that this, in and of itself, is no surprise.  Contemporary trends within the church among some of its members are equal to this kind of task, leaping easily over the patriarchal order, gospel governance/laws governing priesthood ordination, and the law of chastity, among others.  Little has perhaps been said on this wise due to the fact that the United Order is still future, and details of its full implementation are still sparce and fragmentary.

What is clear is the following: the United Order is vastly different from collectivism in any form as known among human beings on earth in both secular and religious contexts, and especially as conceived over at least the last two centuries.  Indeed, as radically different from socialism as is the classical liberalism out of which was formed the American experiment, the United Order is more sharply defined still.  No two systems, ideas, or visions of the human condition and of the relationship of human to human or of human beings to governmental authority, could likely be imagined.

I wrote, briefly, a short list of those differences on in another venue, and I will reproduce that here, for a cursory comparison, which I hope will provide nourishing food for thought, or perhaps even second thoughts.

1. The United Order is voluntary and free agency-based. That is to say, it not only preserves and protects agency, but “free” agency, or applied agency, i.e., a social, cultural, political, and economic environment in which agency in personal economic matters is not coercively curtailed or repressed.

2. The United Order does not see economics as a zero-sum condition, as on the secular progressive Left or in the world more generally speaking, but as a continual increase and investment in the talents one is given by God to improve and magnify.

3. The UO is, at a fundamental level, a “capitalist” system in a core economic sense, which is to say that one’s inheritance in Zion, although belonging to the Lord in both fact and legal title, is then managed and controlled as if it were essentially one’s personal property. The UO, when fully implemented, will be a system of free, open, competitive markets, capital accumulation, savings, investment, entrepreneurship, and contractual (not status) relations between individual citizens of Zion. At the same time, personal income above a standard set between each individual and his priesthood leader, based upon both “needs and wants,” will be set aside for the Bishop’s storehouse. Poverty, in any salient sense, will be abolished in this manner.

4. There will still be various levels of economic achievement and material compensation in Zion, so far as can be ascertained, although there will be no consciousness of social status attached to them. Further, those levels will be substantially narrowed and closer to each other than the vast poles of wealth seen today, pre-Zion.

5. There is no attempt to create a classless society or to equalize income, material wealth, or temporal condition in the United Order. Poverty will be abolished, but not through wealth redistribution (by distribution, yes, but not redistribution).

6. Charity, in Zion, is an act of love and compassion, and emerges from the heart and is extended to others in community. Socialism is not charity but class vengeance exacted on “oppressors” and “exploiters” whom, it is taught, are the cause of the poverty of the poor. It is born, not of love, but of envy, and extended by the mailed fist of the state, not in community, but by government.

7. Charity, within the socialist framework, must ultimately be punitive to truly be charity. In the gospel, charity is nonjudgmental, non-ideological, and non-invasive. Its does not punish one to bless another, but blesses all together.

8. Government is force. Zion is the “pure in heart.”






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