We read in the New Testament how the early Christians lived "with all things in common" (Acts 4:32). In fact, this kind of unified social order is a sign of true Christian belief. However, First-Century Christians, Pilgrims in Jamestown, and early Latter-day Saints faced difficulty maintaining what is termed "the United Order". Consequently, because of these difficulties, most Christians observe the law of tithing today. In fact the failure of Jamestown instituting the United Order and reverting to tithing is major part of the Thanksgiving story (see past posts).
However, Christians should not look at past failures as evidence against the divinity of the United Order. Furthermore, looking back at the past shouldn't be discouraging but instructive as Latter-day Christians contemplate a more perfect implementation of this divine economic system in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Background aside, I think there are many misconceptions about the United Order which I want to discuss in this post.
1. Capitalism is not in the US Constitution. Property rights are protected in Constitutional government. However, our current system of a private central bank issuing debt-based fiat currency and banks issuing credit out of thin air according to fractional reserve lending has nothing to do with Article 1 Section 8 directive that Congress coin the currency and regulate its value. The United Order can preserve a free market without the super-elite capitalists/special interests/Gadiantons.
2. The law of consecration is not the same thing as the United Order. The law of consecration is a covenant that begins with an individual commitment to completely devote all time, talents, and resources to God and His Kingdom (Luke 18:22). The United Order is an economic and insurance system that helps a community live consecration. An individual and family can live consecration without the United Order.
3. The United Order is not Communism. The United Order respects property rights, is voluntary, and by assignment and is administered by the Church and not the Government.
My father-in-law visits Cuba in a regular basis. What was once prosperous country is literally crumbling and wasting away. There is little incentive for the people to start any business or farm or do much of anything except pick up garbage (gov. subsidized activity).
4. A friend of mine summed up his and, I think, many LDS member's conception of the United Order this way: "I am a doctor and have 2 kids, and my neighbor is a janitor and has 10 kids. We give everything we have and earn to the Church and the Church gives us back according to our needs. My janitor neighbor will get more for his unskilled labor because he needs more. I will get less for my skilled labor because I require less."
I have several friends who think the hypothetical above describes the United Order. I really think this is a pervasive conscious and unconscious conception among LDS members and Christians of other faith's alike. However, It is my strong opinion that this common conceptualization is wrong.
The problem here is, if this is our concept of the United Order, than what is the motivation for developing our talents? If spending years developing a highly skilled trade or profession gains me nothing, then why bother? Is love of learning and love of God good enough? Remember the United Order is a system designed to help us live consecration however the system conceptualized above does just the opposite. People consecrate in spite of the system.
5. It is my strong opinion that when the Millennial social order is revealed, understood, and fully implemented; we will all say to ourselves, "this social system works so well, why didn't we live this way all along?"
6. I don't have any keys or authority for special revelation about any new divine social order. All I know is that Joseph Smith who did hold those keys and authority as Prophet and Dispensation Leader taught that the US Constitution was inspired by God. Therefore, I expect that Constitutional government to be the Law of the Land during the Millennium. All I can do is look to Constitutional Law and scripture for direction and answers to these questions.
7. The US Constitution in Article 1, Section 8 provides for the creation and usage of currency or coinage. Many people claim there will be no money used in the Millennium. I think this notion is silly. It is the "love of money", not money itself that is evil. Money is a tool that God employed with the Jewish Temple and the temple shekel. Furthermore, if I am in the business of making cheeseburgers, it would be much easier to pay taxes, tithes, and offering with a common currency than perishable big macs.
8. All legitimate currencies must have a basis and backing. Basis refers to a currencies value and backing refers to what you can exchange for it. The basis for any legitimate currency is the amount and quality of labor. Backing for currency is any real and non-perishable asset (land, gold, real estate, etc). All goods and services should be priced according to the amount of skilled and unskilled labor required to produce or obtain the item. Item's should not be priced on scarcity as anything can be made artificially scarce. Scrpture teaches that the "Earth is full" not scarce (D&C104:17).
If I make cheeseburgers, then my pay in currency represents and reflects the amount and quality of labor required to produce cheeseburgers. I can then exchange the currency which represents my labors for other goods and services commensurate with the amount and quality of labor required to produce or delivers those goods and services.
9. The conceptualization of the United Order above based only on "needs" is wrong. The Doctrine and Covenants clearly states again and again that the United Order is based on "wants and needs" and not just "needs". The key is that righteous people will seek the welfare of their neighbor before their own materialistic desires.
10. The United Order is NOT some big church-based welfare bail-out system or wealth redistribution system. As I see it, it is likely more of an insurance program. Just think about how much money we waste on retirement, disability, life, medical, car and homeowner's insurance. Just imagine if most things were paid for with cash and there was a common just-in-time neighborhood fund to cover the catastrophic.
11. There is great joy in giving and helping a neighbor and seeing someone rise above adversity with some help and see a return to self-sufficiency. No one should want to create a system of dependent debt-slaves. That is Satan's system. In can see in God's just-in-time insurance system, people "wanting" to give of their talents and means to help a neighbor more than buying the next new thing right then. There is no " thing" I would rather possess more than helping beloved family, friends, and neighbors who will use that help to return to independence.
In our current state-administered welfare bail-out system there is no joy because nothing ever changes. Those that are taxed resent being taxed and those that are on the take feel entitled to what they take. Checks just arrive in the mail and destructive and unproductive behavior continues without accountability.
12. Some may say it will be easier to live the United Order in the Millennium because everyone will be righteous and there won't be sickness, death, or natural disaster. This may be true, but I can only speak about the hear and now. And, I can only believe that living Gods laws more perfectly will bring blessings. And I wonder how much paradise will result from living an enlightened social order vs. the social order being a product of God placing His people in paradise.
Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God. (Doctrine and Covenants, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 82:19)
13. In today's society we excuse our sins because Satan whispers to us that our sins aren't hurting anyone but ourselves. In a community where we care for each other, individuals would tend to limit any self-injurious behavior knowing that harming themselves would potentially affect everone.