Private Ownership…under the United Order
President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
First Counselor in the First Presidency
J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Conference Report, October 1942, pp. 54-59
I have been trying for a week to relieve you of this experience, but Brother McKay, so kind, so sweet, and so merciful, has been perfectly adamant. So I stand before you here, not to preach, but to counsel with you.
There is a great deal of misapprehension among our people regarding the United Order.
I have not been able to believe that the United Order meant what some people have thought it meant, so within the last months I have spent quite a little time reading the revelations thereon, also reading our history, and at the same time giving some consideration to a dissertation which has been written regarding the Order.
There is a growing—I fear it is growing—sentiment that communism and the United Order are virtually the same thing, communism being merely the forerunner, so to speak, of a reestablishment of the United Order. I am informed that ex-bishops, and indeed, bishops, who belong to communistic organizations, are preaching this doctrine. So I thought that perhaps if I said just a few words to you tonight regarding the way I interpret the revelations that are printed about this in the D&C (if there are other revelations about the Order, I do not know of them), I thought if I said something about it, it might be helpful. I recommend that you, my brethren, read a few of the Sections of the D&C which cover this matter, beginning with Sections 42 (D&C 42:1-93), and 51 (D&C 51:1-20), see also (D&C 70:1-18); (D&C 78:1-22); (D&C 82:1-24); (D&C 83:1-6); (D&C 85:1-12); (D&C 90:1-37); (D&C 92:1-2); (D&C 96:1-9); (D&C 104:1-86). If you will go over these sections, I feel sure that you will find that my explanation of the United Order will be substantially accurate.
I may say to begin with, that in practice the brethren in Missouri got away, in their attempts to set up the United Order, from the principles set out in the revelations. This is also true of the organizations set up here in Utah after the Saints came to the Valleys. So far as I have seen there has been preserved only one document that purports to be a legal instrument used in connection with the setting up of the United Order, and that document is without date. It is said to have been found among the papers of Bishop Partridge. It was a “lease-lend” document. You may have heard that phrase before. Under this instrument the Church leased to Titus Billings a certain amount of real estate and loaned him a certain amount of personal property.
This instrument is not in accordance with the principle laid down in the revelations touching upon the United Order.
The basic principle of all the revelations on the United Order is that everything we have belongs to the Lord; therefore, the Lord may call upon us for any and all of the property which we have, because it belongs to Him. This, I repeat, is the basic principle (D&C 104:14-17,54-57).
One of the places in which some of the brethren are going astray is this: There is continuous reference in the revelations to equality among the brethren, but I think you will find only one place where that equality is really described, though it is referred to in other revelations. That revelation (D&C 51:3) affirms that every man is to be “equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs” (D&C 82:17), see also (D&C 78:5-6). Obviously, this is not a case of “dead level” equality. It is “equality” that will vary as much as the man’s circumstances, his family, his wants and needs, may vary.
In the next place, under the United Order every man was called to consecrate to the Church all of the property which he had; the real estate was to be conveyed to the Church, as I understand the revelations, by what we would call a deed in fee simple. Thus the man’s property became absolutely the property of the Church (D&C 42:30); (D&C 72:15). Then the bishop deeded back to the donor by the same kind of deed, that is, in fee simple, and also transferred to him by an equivalent instrument, so far as personal property was concerned, that amount of real and personal property, which, the two being taken together, would be required by the individual for the support of himself and his family “according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs.” This the man held as his own property (D&C 42:32); (D&C 51:4-6); (D&C 83:3).
In other words, basic to the United Order was the private ownership of property, every man had his own property from which he might secure that which was necessary for the support of himself and his family. There is nothing in the revelations that would indicate that this property was not freely alienable at the will of the owner. It was not contemplated that the Church should own everything or that we should become in the Church, with reference to our property and otherwise, the same kind of automaton, manikin, that communism makes out of the individual, with the State standing at the head in place of the Church.
Now, that part of a man’s property which was not turned back to him, if he had more than was needed under this rule of “equality” already stated, became the common property of the Church, and that common property was used for the support of the poor of the Church. It is spoken of in the revelations as the “residue” of property (D&C 42:34-36).
Furthermore, it was intended, though apparently it did not work out very well, that the poor coming into Zion, and by Zion I mean, here, Missouri—the poor coming into Zion were to have given to them a “portion” of land, which land was to be either purchased from the Government (and it was planned to purchase large areas from the Government), or purchased from individuals, or received as consecrations from members of the Church. The amount of this “portion” was to be such as would make him equal to others according to his circumstances, his family, his wants and needs.
The land which you received from the bishop by deed, whether it was part of the land which you, yourself, had deeded to the Church, or whether it came as an outright gift from the Church as just indicated, and the personal property which you received, were all together sometimes called a “portion” (D&C 51:4-6), sometimes a “stewardship” (D&C 104:11-12), and sometimes an “inheritance” (D&C 83:3).
As just indicated, there were other kinds of inheritances and stewardships than land or mere personal property; for example, the Prophet and others had a stewardship given to them which consisted of the revelations and commandments (D&C 70:1-4); others had given to them a stewardship involving the printing house (D&C 104:29-30); another stewardship was a mercantile establishment (D&C 104:39-42).
I repeat that whatever a steward realized from the portion allotted to him over and above that which was necessary in order to keep his family under the standard provided, as already stated above, was turned over by the steward to the bishop, and this amount of surplus, plus the residues to which I have already referred, went into a bishop’s storehouse (D&C 51:13 and citations above), and the materials of the storehouse were to be used in creating portions, as above indicated, for caring for the poor (D&C 78:3), the widows and orphans (D&C 83:6), and for the elders of the Church engaged in the ministry, who were to pay for what they received if they could, but if not, their faithful labors should answer their debt to the bishop (D&C 72:11-14).
Now, as time went on and the system developed, the Lord created two other institutions besides the storehouse: one was known as the Sacred Treasury, into which was put “the avails of the sacred things in the treasury, for sacred and holy purposes.” While it is not clear, it would seem that into this treasury were to be put the surpluses which were derived from the publication of the revelations, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and other similar things, the stewardship of which had been given to Joseph and others (D&C 104:60-66).
The Lord also provided for the creation of “Another Treasury” (D&C 104:67-78), and into that other treasury went the general revenues which came to the Church, such as gifts of money and those revenues derived from the improvement of stewardships as distinguished from the residues of the original consecrations and the surpluses which came from the operation of their stewardships (D&C 72:11-14).
The foregoing is the general outline as it is gathered from the revelations of the law of the United Order which the Lord spoke of as “my law” (D&C 44:6), (D&C 51:15). There are passages in the revelations which, taken from their context and without having in mind the whole system, might be considered as inconsistent with some of the things which I have set out, but all such passages fall into line if the whole program is looked at as contained in all of the revelations.
PRIVATE OWNERSHIP FUNDAMENTAL
The fundamental principle of this system was the private ownership of property. Each man owned his portion, or inheritance, or stewardship, with an absolute title, which he could alienate, or hypothecate, or otherwise treat as his own. The Church did not own all of the property, and the life under the United Order was not a communal life, as the Prophet Joseph, himself said (History of the Church, Volume III, p. 28). The United Order is an individualistic system, not a communal system.
THE WELFARE PLAN AND THE UNITED ORDER
We have all said that the Welfare Plan is not the United Order and was not intended to be. However, I should like to suggest to you that perhaps, after all, when the Welfare Plan gets thoroughly into operation—it is not so yet—we shall not be so very far from carrying out the great fundamentals of the United Order.
In the first place I repeat again, the United Order recognized and was built upon the principle of private ownership of property; all that a man had and lived upon under the United Order, was his own. Quite obviously, the fundamental principle of our system today is the ownership of private property.
In the next place, in lieu of residues and surpluses which were accumulated and built up under the, United Order, we, today, have our fast offerings, our Welfare donations, and our tithing, all of which may be devoted to the care of the poor, as well as for the carrying on of the activities and business of the Church. After all, the United Order was primarily designed to build up a system under which there should be no abjectly poor, and this is the purpose, also, of the Welfare Plan.
In this connection it should be observed that it is clear from these earlier revelations, as well as from our history, that the Lord had very early to tell the people about the wickedness of idleness, and the wickedness of greed, because the brethren who had were not giving properly, and those who had not were evidently intending to live without work on the things which were to be received from those who had property (D&C 56:16-20).
STOREHOUSES AND PROJECTS
Furthermore, we had under the United Order a bishop’s storehouse in which were collected the materials from which to supply the needs and the wants of the poor. We have a bishop’s storehouse under the Welfare Plan, used for the same purpose.
As I have already indicated, the surplus properties which came to the Church under the Law of Consecration, under the United Order, became the “common property” of the Church D&C 82:18 and were handled under the United Order for the benefit of the poor. We have now under the Welfare Plan all over the Church, ward land projects. In some cases the lands are owned by the wards, in others they are leased by the wards or lent to them by private individuals. This land is being farmed for the benefit of the poor, by the poor where you can get the poor to work it.
We have in place of the two treasuries, the “Sacred Treasury” and “Another Treasury,” the general funds of the Church.
Thus you will see, brethren, that in many of its great essentials, we have, as the Welfare Plan has now developed, the broad essentials of the United Order. Furthermore, having in mind the assistance which is being given from time to time and in various wards to help set people up in business or in farming, we have a plan which is not essentially unlike that which was in the United Order when the poor were given portions from the common fund.
Now, brethren, the Church has made tremendous advances in the Welfare Plan. We shall have to make still greater advances. As the Message of the First Presidency said this morning, we are being told by Government officials that we face what we used to call “hard times.” If the Welfare Plan is fully operative, we shall be able to care for every destitute Latter-day Saint wherever he may be.
Now, I would like to say something else, brethren, again by way of counsel I shall be accused, when I do, of talking politics, and perhaps on this point I may say I do not read anonymous letters. When they come in I just throw them into the wastebasket. I only read enough of the signed scurrilous letters that are sent to know that they are scurrilous, and then they follow along. So it is useless for anyone to try to take out any personal feeling in that way.
You and I have heard all our lives that the time may come when the Constitution may hang by a thread. I do not know whether it is a thread, or a small rope by which it now hangs, but I do know that whether it shall live or die is now in the balance.
I have said to you before, brethren, that to me the Constitution is a part of my religion. In its place it is just as much a part of my religion as any other part. It is a part of my religion because it is one of those institutions which God has set up for His own purposes, and, as one of the brethren said today, set up so that this Church might be established, because under no other government in the world could the Church have been established as it has been established under this Government.
I think I would be sale in saying that my fellowship with you in the Church depends upon whether or not I accept the revelations and the principles which God has revealed. If I am not willing to do that, then I am not entitled to fellowship. Anyone else who fails to accept the revelations and the principles which God has revealed stands in precisely the same situation.
In the 101st Section of the D&C, which contains a revelation received by the Prophet in 1833, when the persecution in Missouri was at its highest, the Lord told the brethren that they should appeal for help. Then He added these verses, which I want to read to you:
According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the fights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood (D&C 101:77-80).
INFLUENCE IN THE AMERICAS
I suppose you brethren will all know, but I will recall it to your attention, that the Constitution of the United States is the basic law for all of the Americas, or Zion, as it has been defined by the Lord.
You brethren from Canada know that, your great British North America Act, in its fundamental principles, is based upon our Constitution, and you know that in the courts of Canada, the reports of our Supreme Court, and our Federal courts generally, are just as persuasive as the decisions of the courts of England, and even more so, where questions of constitutional law and constitutional interpretation are involved.
You brethren also know that from the Rio Grande down to the Horn there is no constitutional government except those that are founded primarily upon our own Constitution. In Mexico the revolutionary party which more than a century and a quarter ago rebelled against the king of Spain and established a republic, copied almost verbatim, and practically overnight, our Constitution, and made it their own. Neither Mexico nor the others to the South interpret their Constitutions as we interpret ours. They have different standards and different canons of interpretation, for their fundamental system is the civil law, while ours is the common law. But the great essentials of that document, the Constitution of the United States, which God Himself inspired, is the law of Zion, the Americas.
THE LAW OF ZION
So, brethren, I wish you to understand that when we begin to tamper with the Constitution we begin to tamper with the law of Zion which God Himself set up, and no one may trifle with the word of God with impunity.
Now, I am not caring today, for myself, anything at all about a political party tag. So far as I am concerned, I want to know what the man stands for. I want to know if he believes in the Constitution; if he believes in its free institutions; if he believes in its liberties, its freedom. I want to know if he believes in the Bill of Rights. I want to know if he believes in the separation of sovereign power into the three great divisions: the Legislative, the Judicial, the Executive. I want to know if he believes in the mutual independence of these, the one from the other. When I find out these things, then I know who it is who should receive my support, and I care not what his party tag is, because, brethren, if we are to live as a Church, and progress, and have the right to worship as we are worshipping here today, we must have the great guarantees that are set up by our Constitution. There is no other way in which we can secure these guarantees. You may look at the systems all over the world where the principles of our Constitution are not controlling and in force, and you will find there dictatorship, tyranny, oppression, and, in the last analysts, slavery.
I have said enough. I believe you understand what I have said. Today, our duty transcends party allegiance; our duty today is allegiance to the Constitution as it was given to us by the Lord. Every federal officer takes an oath to support that Constitution so given. The difference between us and some of those to the South of us is this: down there, their fealty runs to individuals; here, our fealty and our allegiance run to the Constitution and to the principles which it embodies, and not to individuals.
God give us wisdom and enable us in these times of trouble and strife clearly to see our way, that we may be instrumental in sustaining the Constitution, in upholding our free institutions, our civil rights, our freedom of speech, of press, of religion, and of conscience. If we shall stand together we shall save the Constitution, just as has been foreseen, and if we do not stand together, we cannot perform this great task.
God grant that we may be true, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.