Was Enoch’s Zion Voluntary or Compulsory?

October 8, 2007 at 5:28 am | Posted in Christianity, Enoch, Mormon, zion | 7 Comments

In our dispensation, the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, much of our debate about religion and governance takes either the side of “freedom” or the side of “slavery.” At least that is how some would like to frame the debate. I am curious though about an aspect of “Zion” in regards to governance.

Moses wrote:

And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

Much has been written about the United Order and its failure to even get off the ground. President J. Reuben Clark had this to say about the United Order:

“”The fundamental principle of this system was the private ownership of property. Each man owned his portion, or inheritance, or stewardship, with an absolute title, which he could alienate, or hypothecate, or otherwise treat as his own. The Church did not own all of the property, and the life under the United Order was not a communal life, as the Prophet Joseph, himself said, (History of the Church, Volume III, p. 28). The United Order is an individualistic system, not a communal system.” (President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. on The United Order and Communism, 113th Semi-Annual Conference, October 1942

I’m wondering, did the United Order fail BECAUSE it was all voluntary and your property was still your own? Or because they were not all of one heart and one mind? It seems a lot of pieces must be perfectly together in order to get Zion.

So I’m curious, was Enoch’s Zion voluntary or compulsory? Did they fully relinquish all rights to what was “theirs” for the community? Is the key element to running this operation an individual who is spotless before God, has no materialistic desire, and complete charity of his fellow men? Certainly from the little we have on Enoch, he doesn’t sound like a man who cared much for worldly possessions. Or does something like this only work in a simpler environment? How much advertising did they have back in Enoch’s days, advertising that so easily tempts us to get material possessions we really don’t actually need? Who doesn’t want a Lexus RX 330 hybrid? How easily will you allow someone else to drive what you paid for?



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  1. I think we talk about the law of consecration in the context of a Western civilization that is all about property and ownership. It’s probable that Enoch’s Zion came to the realization that nothing they “had” was even close to being “theirs.” Perhaps they felt a sense of stewardship for the gifts they had been given, a sense of duty to improve those gifts, and a joy in sharing those gifts with anyone who needed them/asked for them.

    As for communal possessions, both the early Christians in the Old World and the New World had all things in common. There seems to be a lot of fear of even using the word “communal” during the Cold War era and the decades prior due to the perceptions of closeness to communism.

    Fundamentally, consecration can only occur in a voluntary environment when the heart has changed to admit God’s hand in all things and a duty to use all our gifts for the care of our fellow man and sustaining God’s kingdom.

  2. When the concept of having all things common is mentioned in the New Testament, I get the feeling that to become a member of the Church, at least at first, one had to commit to the law of consecration, that it was an all-or-nothing kind of deal.

  3. Daniel, my understanding is that Zion is always voluntary. Free agency reigns supreme in the heavens. Compulsion is satanic. So is stinginess. Stinginess (and other sins) and the law of consecration don’t mix too well, if you get my drift. Hence the early saints were doomed to failure.

    Mark, before anyone is baptized, the missionaries tell the prospective member the laws of the church and have them commit to live them. If they aren’t willing to live those laws, they can’t get baptized. Currently the general membership is required to live the law of tithing to remain as members in good standing and a prospective member must be willing to live it, too, if he or she wants to be baptized. If the entire membership was required to live the law of consecration, the same requirement would apply to prospective members. My understanding is that the general membership of the primitive church lived the law of consecration, so the pattern should be the same.

  4. You guys know the incident in early Christianity of Ananias and Sapphira from Acts 5. It is a rather disturbing incident, especially in light of calling the United Order “voluntary.” Let’s read the whole incident:

    1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
    2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
    3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
    4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
    5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
    6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
    7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
    8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
    9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
    10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
    11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

    Were their “crimes” really worthy of death? And what is with having things in common being called “voluntary?”

  5. Back then people ate lots of fried, fatty foods, clogging up their arteries. Just about everyone had heart disease and died early of heart attacks. Give such a person, especially an overweight individual, a highly stressful situation, and bam! he or she has a heart attack. I can’t think of something more stressful than being caught publicly in a lie and fraud scheme. Ananias and Sapphira were caught red-handed, and all that red-meat they’d been eating (as they were converts and partook regularly of the idol meats in their pre-member days) finally stopped their tickers. This wasn’t a matter of God striking them down, it was a matter of poor health habits and an overly stressful situation. Most likely afterward, the primitive saints got their version of the Word of Wisdom, which revelation was burned up in some later fire…to be restored later by Joseph Smith! 😉

    As for your second question…you voluntarily enter enter into and live the law of consecration, you voluntarily consecrate of your surplusses at the end of each year, and of those accumulated surplusses, which are the common goods (not your own personal, private property), you have unlimited access to those surplusses for your just wants and needs, as long as you remain in good standing. You want out, you get out, with your private possessions sans whatever you have up to that point consecrated. This is my understanding of the law of consecration and it sounds fairly voluntary to me.

  6. thanks for the laughs. 🙂

    As to the second part, the reason I ask why it is voluntary, has much to do with this particular incident, wherein the simpler option for Peter would have been to just simply ask them to leave and never come back. Why did he have to kill them?

  7. I know that that is the general assumption, that Peter used the priesthood to kill them, or that God struck them down, but the text doesn’t actually say that. All it says is that Ananias died (“And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost:”) after listening to what Peter said and that Sapphira died (“Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost:”) after Peter told her that she would be carried out (“the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.”) I don’t see the text specifically saying that Peter cursed them unto death and struck them down using the authority of the priesthood. I see it merely saying both of them died. Maybe the original Greek text says it clearer and shows that Peter did kill them, but I don’t know Greek, so I’m just going on the English translation.

    As for Sapphira, maybe she was fainting when Peter was talking to her and in his compassion he explained that these young men will help you out (since you’ve no strength to leave on your own) and instead of just fainting, she died instead. Maybe the big shock that caused both these deaths wasn’t just that they lied and committed fraud, but that the penalty was excommunication and they both feared for their salvation, to the point that it caused heart attacks. Who knows? There’s not much information to go on, but unless someone brings the Greek out and shows that in the original it is apparent that Peter killed them, I don’t see the English text saying that.

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