United Order

Orderville Faithful Followed Principle of Consecration

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By Dixie Brunner

Orderville, Utah became the pride of the Mormon Church in the late 1800’s. From direction of LDS President Brigham Young, Orderville established a “United Order,” or a communal system. While the system was practiced by a number of communities at the time, the unique thing about the United Order of Orderville was that it worked well for many years! During a time of economic depression, the Prophet felt this way of life would make the Saints (Church members) more equal in temporal things, and that individual values would accrue from a self sacrificing way of living. “The “Order of Zion” was established on March 20, 1874, in Orderville. After a canvass of willing participants, ward officers identified 94 people over 14 and 96 under. Property from members turned into the common fund ranged from a few dollars to $4000, 430 acres of private land, 535 bushels of wheat and corn, and 360 bushels of oats and barley. The first day of cooperative work began on April 1. The movement became widely known throughout the state, and over 800 people joined the group within two years. The physical configuration of the communal site was a 25 by 40 foot lumber building, which was the dining room for the entire community. A kitchen with a large brick oven was built to the back. East and north of these buildings were rows of shanties built into sections of eight, with high sides facing outward and entrances facing the center buildings. The shanties were participant family living quarters. A large two-story structure, with a porch and many small rooms, was the special residence for the United Board (who were the LDS Church overseers of the commune), and their families. Board plank sidewalks lined with flowers fronted the dwellings. Life was difficult for the United Order at first, but they were eventually blessed with good times. Orderville became recognized as the most self-contained town in the territory, and the Order was able to secure valuable ranches and rangelands in northern Arizona-ranges and watering places on the Kaibab Mountain. They had over 5,000 head of sheep and increased the number of cattle they had started with ten-fold. The United Order principles guided the lives of those who established the system under LDS President Brigham Young for over twenty years, but passing time led to its eventual dissolution. The town was surveyed in 1884, and the people drew for lots, applying their credit on the Order’s books as payment. The top price was $70 per lot. The next year the fields were surveyed and sold to the stockholders – the men bidding on each piece. In 1889, the remaining stockholders bought the livestock and ranches. The actual expiration of the charter under which the United Order had operated was 1900.

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A painting of how the United Order of Orderville looked back in the late 1800’s by Elbert Porter.

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