Economic Equality

Richmond Cooperative Mercantile Institution;

Joseph Smith's conception of the Mormon Village was based on a co-operative economic system and a communal society; some of these idealistic practices were implemented in Utah by the Mormon pioneers in the mid-1800s.

In Salt Lake City, Mormon Church members formed multiple co-operative enterprises, one in each ward (local church district). Other smaller settlements such as Brigham City (Utah), Hyrum (Utah),and Paris (Idaho) established community-wide co-operative enterprises that employed all the local settlers and were managed by a central board. In other communities such as Orderville (Utah) and Bunkerville (Nev.), this collectivization was carried one step further, with church members living communally. Everyone ate in a dining hall, wore similar clothes made from the same fabric, and shared equally in the community's resources.

A cooperative economic system and communal society changed the way individuals viewed the environment and their property. Instead of a farmer staking land for his farm, the community divvied up land to individual stewards or joint farming efforts. Thus farming was not just a matter of taming the environment, but a means of growing produce for economic stability.

Early Cooperatives in Utah

Defining Cooperation in Utah

1. In certain communities every producer was asked to assign his economic property (land, livestock, tools) to a community cooperative, and the labor of all was directed by an elected board of management. Each shared in the common product according to his contribution in labor and property. This type of order had first been established at St. George during the winter of 1873-74, and was duplicated in many "Mormon valleys," including Sevier County.

2. In other communities this collectivization was carried one step further by the maintenance of communal living. Everyone ate in a common dining hall, wore clothes from the same bolts of cloth, and shared more or less equally in the common product. Reverently referred to as "the Gospel Plan," this arrangement was followed at Orderville, Utah; Bunkerville, Nevada; and at several Mormon settlements in Arizona.

3. Some of the larger and more complex communities, such as Salt Lake City, participated in the movement by forming a single cooperative enterprise in each ward or division of a city. Thus, one ward might cooperatively establish a woolen factory, another a machine shop, still another a cooperative dairy.

4. Finally, in Brigham City and Hyrum, Utah, and at Paris, Idaho, the establishment of independent cooperative enterprises multiplied until virtually all aspects of community economic life were managed by a central board of cooperatives, with almost universal ownership of cooperative shares, and with virtually all settlers employed within the cooperative network. [1]

An Interview with Arthur Anderson concerning the United Order

 Arthur Anderson recounts the family's move from Sanpete to Emery and the difficulties of producing crops on the rather barren soil there. He mentions his cooporation with and appreciation for the first USU county agricultural agent there, Robert H. Stewart, and the fact that many farmers failed to cooperate and adopt improved farming methods.

 Histories of Cooperative Endeavors in Utah Communities

[1] Feramorz Y. Fox, Experiment in Utopia The United Order of Richfield 1874-1877  ed. Leonard J. Arrington. Utah State University Special Collections and Archives. SCAMSS0319SEr07Bx003Fd04