Listening to W. Cleon Skousen’s The Cleansing of America, particularly the later chapters, I am struck by how unique the LDS vision of the ideal society is.
One of the most striking features is that LDS doctrine is that after the Second Coming, after all the wicked people have been swept off the earth, there will be people from many different faiths. The way that future scenario is prophesied in our church suggests that LDS members will still not be a minority, even after that great and dreadful day. This is the fundamental aspect of LDS religion: choice. The church operates at all levels by consent and persuasion, the same way God operates his world. No one, no one will be compelled to join the church, or stay, if they do not desire.
The city of Zion, according to LDS doctrine, is not a single “city” as we know it, but a network of towns living the highest laws of the gospel, including the Law of Consecration. The Law of Consecration is the farthest thing from Communism (the most anti-freedom philosophy I can imagine.)
The way the Law of Consecration works is individuals consent, through contract, to give all they own to join the society. They are given, by the bishop and by mutual consent, property that is their own. Rather than think themselves as the owners of the property, they will be trusted as stewards, while the Lord maintains ownership. However, should the individual decide to leaver the order, the property he is currently steward of becomes his own.
The society functions in the following manner. All surplus, that is, all property that the individual accumulates that is beyond the immediate needs of himself and his family and his business is turned over to the bishop. The bishop uses this property to take care of the needs of the poor, the widow, and the orphan. Additionally, this property is given as a stewardship to those joining the order.
From time to time, as the individuals ability and economic circumstances change, the individual may want to approach the bishop to ask for more property or to exchange his own stewardship for something else. The bishop and the individual come to a new agreement for their stewardship.
Everyone within the system is driven to do the best they can with what they have, exactly in line with the Parable of the Five Talents. Any profit they make, above and beyond their own needs, is directly used to benefit the people around them. If there are people who have less than they need, those who are capable are driven to produce more wealth to secure their economic wants. Individuals are not supposed to completely suppress their desires for physical goods; instead, they are to temper their needs with the needs of the people around them. For instance, we might desire to have a big-screen TV, but we would also see to it that everyone around us who wanted one could afford one as well.
In the drive to produce, the same economic principles we live by today will be used then. We will need a currency, which is most likely going to be based on precious metals. We will need contracts and tort laws, most likely the same laws that Moses gave the children of Israel (restore the victim to his original state, as much as possible.) Education and science will continue to be a high priority, just as it is among the members of the LDS church today. The costs that any society needs to bear, those costs which do not have obvious economic benefit and tend to be neglected, like education and scientific research, will likely be financed by individual societies or by pooling the resources of several smaller societies.
I do not foresee a society where 90% of the people are working the land. I see a future where, like today, the farmers are so productive that a few farmers can feed thousands. Those thousands are able to pursue higher education and build companies and businesses like we see today. The economy of this future, ideal society will be very advanced, perhaps even more advanced than today. Perhaps the earth will be changed into its original paradisaical glory, and human disease completely eliminated not by miraculous means (humans simply standing by), but by humanity achieving such a greater understanding of how things work and such surplus wealth that all of these things can be achieved. In other words, the same ideas and ideals that eliminated polio could be used to eliminate cancer and turn deserts into watered plains.
Underlying this advanced society is incredible self-control. This comes from a sincere and lasting devotion to the highest ideals. One who completely focuses on God’s glory and bringing that to the earth would hardly be tempted to diverge from the path of righteousness. Individuals alone, however, are incapable of achieving or maintaining this highest state of mind. We require entire families and communities focused on these lofty goals. When a family sets its sight on the glory of God, and when they apply the correct principles in achieving this, they experience a higher level of living, a level that is almost unimaginable to those who either do not know the principles or who do not focus on these higher goals. When neighborhoods and entire communities do the same, the effect is multiplied.
Imagine living in such a society, where everyone is focused on achieving God’s glory, and everyone operates almost completely synchronous with Christ’s teachings. There would be no crime, there would be no envying, there would be no fighting. Disagreements would be resolved or left open without animosity. If any individual fell from this highest state, those around him would quickly identify the fall, and quickly surround the individual with such love and compassion that he could hardly stay fallen for long.
I think it is important to note the effects such a teaching and doctrine has had among the people of the LDS church. We freely admit that, as members of the church, we do not live up to the highest standards we have set for ourselves. However, you can see, bit by bit, that we are coming closer and closer, growing more full with love and compassion for those among us and those without our group. I imagine that if we continue down this path, we will one day achieve ever higher states of society and living, states that make us today seem vastly inferior to what we may one day become.