Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation among the Mormons

Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation among the Mormons
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Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation among the Mormons
Author Leonard J. Arrington Author Feramorz Y. Fox Author Dean L. May
Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976

Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation among the Mormons

Reviewer Richard T. Hughes

Classic Mormon economic practices might be seen as exotic species by the non-Mormon historian. The deed of consecration in which the Trustee-in-Trust regranted land ownership rights for a lifetime stewardship was a radical departure from the American fee simple, and also in apparent violation of the principles of Quia Emptores Terrarum, the ancient English land law which ruled in colonial America (except in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania), and became the rule in federal America. The Mormons appeared to be recreating a feudal land-ownership chain, with tenure given for services, and the heirs barred from direct inheritance. Alternately, one might imagine in his deed the transformation of Zion's entire domain into glebeland, or perhaps an entire region of the USA turned into a "use," except that the trustee did not agree to support the heirs of the original owner. But then Zion itself seemed to be contrary to the spirit of the First Amendment, that the states should not establish a religion. It could of course be argued that in the case of the Mormons, a religion appeared to be establishing a state.

There were other peculiarities and social artifacts. To move from one Mormon ward to another required a "recommend," sent by the bishop. This practice is similar to the seventeenth century English laws of settlement. When the early Mormon villages farmed with common fields and herd boys, the outsider might have thought he was seeing a European medieval village reincarnate. The community of Sanpete finally divided its common meadow into strips three rods wide and two miles long. Such a division, they argued, "more justly" divided up the better and the poorer lands, and the gentile historian might see in this a reaffirmation of what most scholars consider to have been the classic justification of strip farming in early medieval practice. In the communal enterprises of the United Order were all the utopian "socialist" ideals of Jacksonian America and beyond, back to Jan Hus, back to the fifteenth century Taborite uprising in Bohemia where they had "all things in common," and beyond that to the Bible itself.

Classic Mormon economic practices might be seen as exotic species by the non-Mormon historian. The deed of consecration in which the Trustee-in-Trust regranted land ownership rights for a lifetime stewardship was a radical departure from the American fee simple, and also in apparent violation of the principles of Quia Emptores Terrarum, the ancient English land law which ruled in colonial America (except in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania), and became the rule in federal America. The Mormons appeared to be recreating a feudal land-ownership chain, with tenure given for services, and the heirs barred from direct inheritance. Alternately, one might imagine in his deed the transformation of Zion's entire domain into glebeland, or perhaps an entire region of the USA turned into a "use," except that the trustee did not agree to support the heirs of the original owner. But then Zion itself seemed to be contrary to the spirit of the First Amendment, that the states should not establish a religion. It could of course be argued that in the case of the Mormons, a religion appeared to be establishing a state.

There were other peculiarities and social artifacts. To move from one Mormon ward to another required a "recommend," sent by the bishop. This practice is similar to the seventeenth century English laws of settlement. When the early Mormon villages farmed with common fields and herd boys, the outsider might have thought he was seeing a European medieval village reincarnate. The community of Sanpete finally divided its common meadow into strips three rods wide and two miles long. Such a division, they argued, "more justly" divided up the better and the poorer lands, and the gentile historian might see in this a reaffirmation of what most scholars consider to have been the classic justification of strip farming in early medieval practice. In the communal enterprises of the United Order were all the utopian "socialist" ideals of Jacksonian America and beyond, back to Jan Hus, back to the fifteenth century Taborite uprising in Bohemia where they had "all things in common," and beyond that to the Bible itself.

Att South Cadbyri standith Camallate, sumtyme a famose toun or castelle. The people can tell nothing thar but that they have hard say that Arture much resortid to Camalat.

So wrote John Leland, an author attached to Henry VIII, in 1542.

In the summer of 1966 an archaeological organization began digging the hill of Cadbury Castle in the hope of finding some evidence which would substantiate that King Arthur was an ancient royalty and that Cadbury was his Camelot. The secretary of the organization was Geoffrey Ashe, who in Camelot and the Vision of Albion records his own personal search for the historicity of the legends of King Arthur and Camelot. The excavation of Cadbury established the possibility that Cadbury may have been a citadel of an Arthur-type figure, but nothing definite was found to substantiate that Arthur was an historical figure. The castle hill had earmarks of a stronghold of a wealthy leader who imported expensive goods. A "dark age knife" was found, also a dish marked with a Christian cross, some Tintagel pottery, and a bulk work three-quarters of a mile long, all of which indicated the "easy possibility" that this was the residence of a British Chieftain.

Att South Cadbyri standith Camallate, sumtyme a famose toun or castelle. The people can tell nothing thar but that they have hard say that Arture much resortid to Camalat.

So wrote John Leland, an author attached to Henry VIII, in 1542.

In the summer of 1966 an archaeological organization began digging the hill of Cadbury Castle in the hope of finding some evidence which would substantiate that King Arthur was an ancient royalty and that Cadbury was his Camelot. The secretary of the organization was Geoffrey Ashe, who in Camelot and the Vision of Albion records his own personal search for the historicity of the legends of King Arthur and Camelot. The excavation of Cadbury established the possibility that Cadbury may have been a citadel of an Arthur-type figure, but nothing definite was found to substantiate that Arthur was an historical figure. The castle hill had earmarks of a stronghold of a wealthy leader who imported expensive goods. A "dark age knife" was found, also a dish marked with a Christian cross, some Tintagel pottery, and a bulk work three-quarters of a mile long, all of which indicated the "easy possibility" that this was the residence of a British Chieftain.

Att South Cadbyri standith Camallate, sumtyme a famose toun or castelle. The people can tell nothing thar but that they have hard say that Arture much resortid to Camalat.

So wrote John Leland, an author attached to Henry VIII, in 1542.

In the summer of 1966 an archaeological organization began digging the hill of Cadbury Castle in the hope of finding some evidence which would substantiate that King Arthur was an ancient royalty and that Cadbury was his Camelot. The secretary of the organization was Geoffrey Ashe, who in Camelot and the Vision of Albion records his own personal search for the historicity of the legends of King Arthur and Camelot. The excavation of Cadbury established the possibility that Cadbury may have been a citadel of an Arthur-type figure, but nothing definite was found to substantiate that Arthur was an historical figure. The castle hill had earmarks of a stronghold of a wealthy leader who imported expensive goods. A "dark age knife" was found, also a dish marked with a Christian cross, some Tintagel pottery, and a bulk work three-quarters of a mile long, all of which indicated the "easy possibility" that this was the residence of a British Chieftain.

Att South Cadbyri standith Camallate, sumtyme a famose toun or castelle. The people can tell nothing thar but that they have hard say that Arture much resortid to Camalat.

So wrote John Leland, an author attached to Henry VIII, in 1542.

In the summer of 1966 an archaeological organization began digging the hill of Cadbury Castle in the hope of finding some evidence which would substantiate that King Arthur was an ancient royalty and that Cadbury was his Camelot. The secretary of the organization was Geoffrey Ashe, who in Camelot and the Vision of Albion records his own personal search for the historicity of the legends of King Arthur and Camelot. The excavation of Cadbury established the possibility that Cadbury may have been a citadel of an Arthur-type figure, but nothing definite was found to substantiate that Arthur was an historical figure. The castle hill had earmarks of a stronghold of a wealthy leader who imported expensive goods. A "dark age knife" was found, also a dish marked with a Christian cross, some Tintagel pottery, and a bulk work three-quarters of a mile long, all of which indicated the "easy possibility" that this was the residence of a British Chieftain.

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