When the Church of Jesus Christ was restored in 1830, one of the first revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith commanded the establishment of the law of consecration and the order of stewardships. Harmonious with the biblical testimony that “the earth is the Lord’s,” this revelation directed members to consecrate their properties to the bishop, who would then assign stewardships over properties and enterprises that would enable the members to support their families. Persons producing surpluses were expected to consecrate their unneeded production for the benefit of the needy and for other expenses connected with building the kingdom. The Saints were admonished to be industrious (“Thou shalt not be idle”—D&C 42:42) and make the most of their stewardships. Above all, they were counseled to live together in equality and love.
The law of consecration and order of stewardships was instituted among the Latter-day Saints in the early 1830s in Ohio and Missouri, and various means of realizing this order were also adopted in the 1840s in Latter-day Saint communities in Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. Difficulties with the United States government, particularly the failure of Congress to grant the Saints title to land until 1869, effectively prevented a, reinstitution of the law of consecration and order of stewardships during the first two decades of their sojourn in the Great Basin.
In the early 1870s, Brigham Young and his associates commenced the organization of community-wide United Orders of Enoch. More than one hundred such orders were launched. They were designed to help the Saints approximate the Christian society suggested by the revelations. Every person was asked to contribute his economic property to the United Order organized in his community, and each able-bodied male and female was given an assignment or stewardship—to plant and cultivate crops, to prepare meals, to graze livestock, to sew dresses, to do blacksmithing, to teach children, to work with leather, to bake bread, to build houses, or to nurse the sick. There was to be spiritual union as well as temporal union, and rules were drawn up according to which all were expected to live. Each participant (and participation was voluntary) underwent a new baptism and made a solemn covenant to obey the rules of the Order.
Beginning in 1875, several communities in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona were organized with a more communal way of life. Each person entering contributed all his property to the community United Order, each shared more or less equally in the common product, and all those in the settlement ate together, prayed together, and labored together. The first and most famous of these family orders was established at Orderville, in Kane County, Utah. This organization lasted for eleven years. Testimonies of those who lived in this Order verify that their lives were happy and exciting, that they enjoyed the experience of laboring collectively, and that they reached a new plateau of spirituality and unselfishness.
Records left by the more than one hundred United Orders suggest that the members were occasionally transported by transcendental experiences; they also suggest that there were occasional outcroppings of selfishness and arbitrariness. Such lapses were overcome by an outpouring of good humor and goodwill. Pioneer Mormons had the capacity to pardon human imperfection and make the most of little opportunities and small pleasures.
The meaning of this experience of living in the Order and its selflessness, dedication, and enjoyment of life are given authentic and imaginative expression in this new work by Carol Lynn Pearson.
To fully enjoy reading the script, put yourself in the proper frame of mind. Most readers will have seen dramatic presentations or films of Broadway musicals, or will have listened to records of such musicals. Imagine that you’re seeing the production of this musical. You’ve just read the background. The lights begin to dim … the orchestra plays a stirring overture … and the curtain opens …