Question: Was the United Order simply a form of communism?

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Question: Was the United Order simply a form of communism?

The starting point of modern socialism was well after Joseph Smith's implementation of the United Order

Some have asserted that the United Order was simply a form of "communism." Marion G. Romney notes that, "The 'Communist Manifesto' drafted by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels for the Communist League in 1848 is generally regarded as the starting point of modern socialism." [1] However, Joseph Smith's implementation of the United Order predated Marx and Engels, so it would be impossible for him to have drawn upon their ideas.

There are some similarities, but also some important differences between the United Order and Marxist Communism

Similarities between communism and the United Order:

  • Both the United Order and communism deal with production and distribution of goods.
  • Both the United Order and communism aim to promote the well-being of men by eliminating their economic inequalities.
  • Both the United Order and communism envision the elimination of the selfish motives in our private capitalistic industrial system.

Differences between the United Order and Marxist Communism include:

  • The United Order is based upon "belief in God and acceptance of him as Lord of the earth and the author of the United Order," while socialism is wholly materialistic, and "is founded in the wisdom of men and not of God." [1]
  • The United Order is "implemented by the voluntary free-will actions of men, evidenced by a consecration of all their property to the Church of God," while "socialism is implemented by external force, the power of the state." [1]
  • The United Order is based upon the principle that "that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property" (D&C 134:2), while communism requires that the government control all property.

Elder Marion G. Romney summarized this as: "Socialism takes: United Order gives. That is the spirit of socialism: We're going to take. The spirit of the United Order is: We're going to give." [1]

What happened if one did not choose to participate in the United Order?

Elder Marion G. Romney notes,

One time the Prophet Joseph Smith asked a question by the brethren about the inventories they were taking. His answer was to the effect, "You don't need to be concerned about the inventories. Unless a man is willing to consecrate everything he has, he doesn't come into the United Order." (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 7, pp. 412-13.) [1]

Notes

  1. ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Marion G. Romney, "Socialism and the United Order Compared," Conference Report, April 1966. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "mgromney" defined multiple times with different content