1992: Max E. Stanton - "All Things Common": A Comparison of Israeli, Hutterite and Latter-day Saint Communalism

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1992: Max E. Stanton - "All Things Common": A Comparison of Israeli, Hutterite and Latter-day Saint Communalism

M Stanton

The thirtieth lecturer, Max E. Stanton, is also the first anthropologist so honored by his colleagues. Appointed to the Church College of Hawaii in 1971 to direct the College's sociology major, Stanton has also taught geography and anthropology in the years since. After his B.A. in 1967 from Brigham Young University, he earned both M.S. (1969) and M.A. (1971) degrees from BYU and Louisiana State University, respectively, as well as a Ph.D.. from the University of Oregon in 1973. Long associated with Pacific Studies as book review editor, Stanton has devoted considerable research to the Hutterites and other religious minorities both on the Mainland and in the Pacific. Widely published, Stanton routinely participates in conferences in his field. His callings in the Church include bishopric counselor, high councilor, temple worker, and ward executive secretary. He and his wife Marge, a part-time instructor for the University's English Language Institute, are the parents of William, Pamela, Aaron, and Andrew.

Where is Paradise? Where is Perfection? Where is Utopia? These questions have echoed through the folklore and imaginations of virtually all people in all moments of time and place. They have entertained us in our lone and private hours and have captured the yearnings of the great and the humble. They have sought that which could be improved upon, dreamt of what might be made better, and asked: Why not?

Utopia has been pursued in many ways. For some, it has been the "stuff" of an entertaining tale. For others, it has meant the life of exploration and discovery. Others have retreated inwardly looking for perfection in the deep recesses of the mind. Still others have turned their backs on conventional ways and intentionally mapped out an alternative course of living. This last category--those who have made an intentional and willful attempt to formulate a better design for their social, economic and mental well-being--will be the focus of this discussion.

People have often united themselves together in an attempt to achieve a higher degree of perfection and satisfaction, to "set things right." They have sought a society wherein the needs and security of all its members were the mutual concern of everyone. Until the advent of urban living this type of society was the human norm. Life was just too precarious and fragile not to care intensely for the welfare of all of the members of one's tribe, band, or village. All basic needs of food, shelter, physical protection and personal self-worth were attended to by all members.

The quest to return to a less complicated, more secure life has, until recent times, been principally a religious phenomenon. You are, I am sure, already aware of groups such as the Essenes of Q'mran who lived in the desert of Palestine about 100 years before Christ and are the same group who hid the Dead Sea Scrolls. Or, you may recall the magnificent, but tragically suppressed, Jesuit reducciones (mission colonies), which were a successful chain of collective communities established among the indigenous peoples along the Paraná River in South America (Cunninghame Graham), which were portrayed in the mid-1980s film, The Mission. I could continue with such groups as the Shakers, the Amana Colony, the Dukhobors, Rajneeshpuram, Jamestown, the Jesus People, and so on. All of the major religious traditions of humankind have produced their visionaries and rebels, some of whom have sought communal life as avenue for their reinterpretation of social traditions.

Christianity has produced its fair share of attempts to find utopia. Perhaps this is because the core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of charity and love unbounded for all: brother, sister, neighbor, stranger, friend, enemy. We all recall the admonition of Christ to "a certain lawyer" to remember to "love. . . thy neighbour as thyself" (Luke 10: 25, 27), but we often forget that in response to the question, "And who is my neighbour?" Christ told the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 29-37). In the past two thousand years, the Samaritans have received a "good press." (Hospitals are named after them, a well-meaning person to the rescue is often called a good Samaritan, etc.) We need to remember that, of all people, the Jews had the deepest contempt and antipathy for the people of Samaria. The Greeks, Romans and Egyptians could be forgiven for their beliefs. They were all a bunch of ignorant, pagan idol worshippers who didn't know any better. But the Samaritans! They professed to be the true worshippers of Jehovah and claimed to be the pure keepers of the Law of Moses. And so Jesus chose the Samaritan as His answer to the lawyer's question as to whom one's neighbor might be. We are bound to love all people, including those whom our friends, neighbors and loved ones revile. To do this successfully, some have sought separation from society at large, free of its prejudices and traditions.

One good place to prove one's unbounded love and to temper greed and selfishness is in the context of a commune. There you are often committed to the love and nurture of one who may, in the beginning, be a complete stranger and for whom you probably had little or no prior interest or concern. In The Acts of the Apostles, we read that on that all-important Day of Pentecost, when the Saints "were all with one accord in one place" (2: 2), the Holy Ghost filled them and Peter went out and baptized some three thousand souls and waited further instruction (2: 41). One of the first things they did is recorded in the second chapter:

And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need [italics added]. (Acts 2: 44-45)

This commitment was an important principle in the primitive church. Two chapters later it was reiterated (Acts 4: 31-37), again stressing the importance of having all things common:

Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,

And laid them down at the apostles' feet; and the distribution was made every man according to as he had need. (Acts 4: 34-35)

The absolute importance of this cooperation is made frightfully clear in the next chapter when we read that a man, Ananias, and his wife, Sapphira, "sold a possession, and kept back part of the price," giving the rest to the Apostle Peter (Acts 5: 1-2). When Peter (who realized that not all the profit from the sale had been given to him) admonished Ananias for holding back a portion of the profit, Ananias "fell down and gave up the ghost" (Acts 5: 5); and when Peter confronted Sapphira with her part in the deed, she too "yielded up the ghost" (Acts 5: 10).

This instruction to share for the common good was also found in the New World shortly after the mission of the Savior, as we read in Fourth Nephi:

And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly with one another.

And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift [italics added]. (1: 2-3)

This common sharing of things continued among the believers for nearly two hundred years and produced a society which was one of great happiness:

And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. (4 Ne. 1: 16)

In our own time, the Lord has again admonished us to share with and be concerned for others. In Section 82 of the Doctrine and Covenants we are told:

You are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and needs, inasmuch as his wants are just--

And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent. . . yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord's storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church--

Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God [italics added]. (17-19)

At the present time, the Latter-day Saints are not living in a state of sharing all things in common. That such an attempt has been made in the past among members of the Church to initiate and maintain a communal society is a matter of historical fact. That we, as a people, anticipate involving ourselves more earnestly in a mode of communal support along the lines outlined in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon is our deep conviction and an expectation of ultimate commitment.

The rest of this discussion will consider the nature and commitment of the Latter-day Saints to communalism. We shall also consider two very successful, communal societies: the Israeli communes (the kibbutzim and moshavim), and the Bruderhofs of the Hutterian Brethren, and compare them to the LDS experience. This will be done in order to put the Latter-day Saint experience and expectation into a more understandable context with those who have succeeded. We shall first explore the Israeli model of communal living.

The Israeli Communal Model

In the early 1870s, urban Jews living in the Palestinian city of Jerusalem began to question their status as a religious minority in a land controlled by Muslim Turks and surrounded by Muslim and Christian Arabs. As Orthodox Jews, they had a fervent belief that they would, one day, be redeemed of their minority status by the appearance of their Messiah. They promoted the belief that it was their responsibility to do something to help the Messiah hasten his return. To do this, they decided to "get back to the land." To get back, not just by their presence in the Holy Land, but actually becoming farmers and tilling the soil. In 1875, they issued a proclamation to the head rabbi of Jerusalem, which in part reads:

To settle the land of Israel by tilling the earth and getting our daily bread from it [for the cultivation of the sod and redemption of the land]. . . . The Jewish people cannot exist without a country. Every Jew should make it his heart's desire to attach himself to the Holy Land, whether in spirit or in deed. . . . The Jew can only feel that he is a descendent of his holy forefathers if he loves his land. . . . We have decided to buy, with God's help, a plot of land which we shall cultivate and on which we shall live according to the precepts of the Bible. And thus do we intend to put a new life into our families. Laboring on this land is good for body and soul alike. (Weintraub, Lissak, and Azmon 32)

This new colony, Petach Tikva (Door of Hope), the first known intentional Jewish community to have been established in the Holy Land in over 1900 years, was built near the port of Jaffa on 850 acres of land in 1878. The intention of the community was to perpetuate the traditional independence of the Jewish nuclear family in an agrarian setting. Because of a total lack of experience in any type of farming and as well as a shortage of funds, it became obvious that the only way that the colony could possibly succeed would be for the settlers to till the land collectively; occupy collective living quarters; market their goods collectively; and share their draft animals and tools collectively. This eliminated the necessity of each settler being forced to duplicate the purchases of his neighbor. This was a collectivism forced upon the group because of financial necessity and not because of any collectivist ideals: "The difficult conditions precluded individual undertakings; only a communal group could succeed--if at all--in establishing a viable settlement in the heart of this wasteland" (Weintraub, Lissak, and Azmon 37). But it marked the beginning of Jewish collective living in Palestine in modern times.

Initially, each farmer planted and raised whatever he felt would be most productive and rewarding. However, all of the settlers in this new colony were committed to the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and felt strongly regarding the internal economic and religious independence of the Jewish minority--about 23,000 Jews in a regional population of about one-half million people (Muslih 13). Therefore, the primary concern of their agricultural enterprise was to support their brother and sister co-religionists in Palestine who lived principally in Jerusalem.

Because of their inexperience and the lack of precedent for this type of Jewish farming communityÑand even in spite of their communal sharing of tools and draft animals and the cooperative marketing of their produceÑthe colony nearly experienced financial collapse. They looked for outside assistance; they were fortunate to meet representatives of the wealthy French Jew, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who was known to be strongly supportive of a strong Jewish presence in the Holy Land. Baron de Rothschild agreed to help underwrite the Petach Tikva colony only if the settlers would agree to reorganize their agricultural priorities and seek to maximize their mutual profit as a community. This was done by combining their farming efforts into a united, high-intensity, single cash-crop effort instead of allowing each individual farmer the choice to farm whatever he preferred. Each farmer would each maintain control over his own land and labor, but the colony as a whole would produce in a unified, cooperative manner. It was decided that they would convert their fields to vineyards (which is not too surprising given the strong association of the Rothschild family [with] wine in Europe) and the colony began to prosper and grow rapidly.

However, as they improved their economic well-being, farmers in Petach Tikva did not fully abandon their cooperative spirit. They continued to share their tools, machines and draft animals with each other. The intensive effort to market their common product, wine, also required concessions on the part of individuals to the common good of the community. As farmers prospered and desired to improve their personal circumstances, a banking system was needed; and when it was created, it too was established as a cooperative association. The colony also established the first public school in Palestine, funded by the cooperative efforts of the villagers. In addition, they established a cooperative hospital and a cooperative home for the care of the elderly (Weintraub, Lissak, and Azmon 64-67).

Eventually Petach Tikva grew beyond its agrarian roots and attracted other settlers representing the full round of services and industries that would be expected in a growing community. In 1937, it was recognized by the British government (which by that time had control of Palestine) as an urban area and is, today, the fourth largest city in Israel. But as the community grew, its citizens continued in their interest in communal cooperation. They established an agricultural experimental station, community recreation areas, a community arts center, and other popular facilities, which all remain, dependent on community-wide support. The majority of its residents no longer depended directly upon agriculture for their livelihood, but Petach Tikva proved that Jews could become self-reliant and could cope with dramatic change.

In the late 1870s and throughout the 1880s, a series of severe anti-Jewish pogroms jolted the Russian Empire. A number of younger Jews from Eastern Europe formed the Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) movement and decided to immigrate to Palestine. During this period, beginning in 1882 and lasting until 1887, nearly 30,000 Jews entered Palestine, more than doubling the Jewish population in the area. This mass movement became known in modern Israeli history as the First Aliya (Weintraub, Lissak, and Azmon 3). Due to the limited space in the cities of Palestine and because of the sense of mission and destiny among many of the new immigrants who were supporters of the Hovevei Zion movement, many of these new settlers, desiring to "get back to the land," used the experience of the Petach Tikva colony as their model. More than two dozen colonies were established between 1885 and 1910 (Weintraub, Lissak, and Azmon 24-25), and with the exception of the ancient communities such as Jerusalem, Jaffa and Acre, virtually all of Israel's towns and cities, including Tel Aviv and Haifa, which later became its largest and third largest cities, grew out of these colonies.

Following the Petach Tikva model, all of the new colonies attempted growing grapes, but by the year 1900 they had grown tired of what they felt was too much intervention by the French Jewish Rothschild family. They changed their focus, first to almond growing and finally to citrus fruit. They began to sell their fruit and juice internationally, and eventually groups of colonies in the same region cooperatively banded together for better market leverage under such interesting names as the Mutual Economic Association of the Farmers in Lower Galilee, Ltd., the Association of Jewish Farmers in Palestine, the National Farmers League and the Federation of Judean Colonies (Weintraub, Lissak, and Azmon 170-174). They formally incorporated under Turkish law and gave themselves the Hebrew name, moshavá (plural: moshavot), meaning "cooperative rural community."

In the decade before World War I, a Second Aliya saw the arrival of some 40,000 new Jewish immigrants to Palestine. A large number in this wave had been inspired by the Zionist Vision of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine promoted by Theodor Herzl and other European Jewish intellectuals at the First Zionist Congress, which met in Basel, Switzerland in 1897. Others were Russian intellectuals who had been inspired by the writings of Karl Marx (and other socialist visionaries), many of whom who had taken an active part in the abortive Revolution of 1905 against the Czarist regime in Russia. Many of these idealists were eager to cast off the rules and restrictions of tradition, which they felt had been partially responsible for centuries of oppression and social disruption of the Jewish people. They saw the moshavot as only a partial expression of their vision of a totally free and independent Jewish people. They proposed an extension of the initial communalism of the earlier Jewish colonies with a complete communal restructuring of the economic, political and kinship units of Jewish society, to form the kibbutz (plural: kibbutzim):

The socialist ideal, a central value of these immigrants, was achieved in the social structure. . . [and] was based on the principle of absolute equality of its members, both as regards the satisfaction of personal needs and the participation of each member. . . [T]he collective-kvutza, through its development, would also make possible the maximum development of each member of the group; this. . . was conditional upon the members' capacity for self-discipline, the ability to rise above selfish considerations and lead a strictly ascetic life (Weintraub, Lissak, and Azmon 9).

The first kibbutz, Deganya, was established near the southernmost point of the Sea of Galilee in 1909. In this radical departure from ancient Jewish tradition, all adults--men and women alike--were equal in community, economic, and social affairs. The children were placed in common nurseries and child-care units and had only limited interaction with their biological parents. Personal property was reduced to a minimum--even to the point that one's own clothing belonged to the community, and household appliances and furniture were community owned. No wages were paid to any of the kibbutzniks, and all one's avocational and recreational needs were met by the kibbutz. The kibbutz became a self-contained unit and the focus of one's life became that of the community as a whole.

Shortly after the British had taken control of Palestine in 1919, another 35,000 new people arrived. Many members of this group had taken part in the Russian Revolution on the side of the Bolsheviks. They had become disillusioned with the brutal suppression of those of their comrades who had revolutionary ideas which were not in accord with the Bolsheviks. They also resented the open anti-Semitism of many of the leaders of the Revolution. Few of these immigrants had the strong Zionist inclinations of their predecessors, but they were still burning with revolutionary zeal. They saw the kibbutz as a full expression of Jewish independence and openly welcomed non-agricultural industries into their communal organizations. This allowed for a greater variety of individuals within a commune. Some of these new colonies numbered more than two thousand inhabitants ten times the average population of the strictly agrarian kibbutz.

The Fourth Aliya began in the mid-1920s, and for the first time included a large number of families and professional persons. Most were from Poland. They left their country of birth because of the zealous pro-Roman Catholic laws which had been enacted by this newly created nation, which itself was just emerging from centuries of colonial oppression by Germans, Russians and Austrians. Most of these immigrants settled in Jerusalem and the new cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa. (It is significant to note that at no time in contemporary history did the rural communal population of Palestine, and later Israel, comprise more than 20% of the total Jewish population in the Holy Land and usually remained below 10% of the total.)

Many Fourth Aliya immigrants were impressed by the economic security and sense of belonging in the kibbutz, but were not enthusiastic about the strict regimentation of its members, nor did they approve of the apparent lack of concern for a strong, nuclear family. They were eager to form agrarian settlements, but did not want them to grow into towns and later into cities. As they sought an alternative to the kibbutz, they were attracted to the moshav (plural: moshavim) meaning, collective farm.

The first moshav had been organized in 1921 by Palestinian-born Jews who also sought economic communalism, but who wanted to maintain closer family ties and allow for a greater degree of individual independence. Each family controlled its own personal domestic finances and affairs, including working the land as a farmer, but farming implements and marketing of produce were controlled by the moshav. Even though the farmer had rights to use the land assigned to him, it belonged to the community, which had ultimate control over its use and destiny. This type of settlement was adopted by these Fourth Aliya pioneers who chose a rural, agrarian life and soon became the preferred destination for the Jewish immigrant who arrived in Palestine more for economic and political reasons than for ideological purposes. Between 1921 and 1941, seventy-four moshavim were established, a number almost equalling the seventy-nine kibbutzim in existence at the time (Weintraub, Lissak, and Azmon 25).

Three other types of Jewish communal organizations emerged in Palestine: the urban kibbutz laborers commune, the smallholders cooperative villages, and the moshav shitufi. They represent only a small portion of Jewish communal settlements and we shall not go into further detail regarding them.

After World War II, both the kibbutz and moshavim movements continued to expand, each occupying a special niche in Israeli society. There are now over 270 kibbutzim with some 130,000 kibbutzniks, and some 450 moshavim with a total population of 160,000. Approximately 3% of all Israel's citizens live in kibbutzim and about 4% reside in the moshavim (Metz xvi, 128-129).

The strict regimentation and zealous idealism of the kibbutzniks made their settlement the perfect first line of defense against their neighboring Arabs in the troubled years preceding and following Israeli independence. The kibbutz took upon itself the task of being a fortified, well-armed bastion against the Arabs. The gun-toting man and woman kibbutzniks standing defiantly in their sun-drenched farm field--their eyes squinting, jaws set firm, shirt sleeves rolled up, feet shod in tough hob-nailed boots, and rifles slung over their shoulders--had become the virtual icon of the newly independent Israeli state. The major Israeli cities and towns were ringed by kibbutzim. The pre-1967 borders of the nation of Israel can fairly well be defined by the chain of kibbutzim stretching from the mountains of Lebanon to the Red Sea and back again to Gaza on the Mediterranean.

Those of us who can remember twenty-five or more years ago can surely recall the somber news reports of attacks on these collective settlements. Almost daily some kibbutz or the other in Galilee or near Gaza had come under enemy attack: "X" number of children in a nursery killed by cannon fire from the Golan Heights; "Y' number of families in a cafeteria killed or injured by Arab commandos; another "Z" number of field workers near Acre or Beersheba blown up when their tractor hit a land mine. And so the toll droned on. Most of these deaths were sustained by the nahal (para-military soldier-farmer) kibbutzniks and the equally valiant members of the nahal moshavim. The nation of Israel exists as a political reality today due to these settlements, and all Israelis will be eternally grateful for their collective sacrifice.

In addition to their defensive rôles, these communal settlements performed other significant functions. One such function of the kibbutz was to develop lands which were thought to be useless and to make "the desert. . . blossom as the rose" (Isa. 35: 1). Many areas of Israel, which are today productive and well settled, owe their success to the fact that determined communalists had learned how to drain malarial swamps, reclaim coastal sand dunes, occupy rock-strewn hillsides and eke a living out of the seemingly barren and sterile Negev Desert.

The moshav also played one significantly different function, which in its own way has had a significant impact on Israel far out of proportion to its numbers.

In the 1930s, some 230,000 Jewish immigrants entered Palestine. Many were boys and girls who had been sent out of Germany and Austria because of the Nazi terror which began in 1937. Their parents were willing to maintain their jobs and businesses but wanted their children to be placed out of harm's way. Although some of these politically "orphaned" children were able to find relatives or friends of the family in Israel with whom they could live, most were "strangers in a strange land" without direct means of support (Ex. 2: 22). As they entered Palestine, their sheer numbers put considerable strain on the resources of the Jewish community as a whole. In light of this predicament, some of the moshavim decided they could collectively care for these children in their own homes and in communal child care centers.

The primary purpose of this effort was to socialize the children, most of whom had come directly from homes in large urban settings, into the sabra (native-born Israeli) culture of Palestine. Teaching these children the value of hard work, instilling in them a collective concern for others, and becoming fluent in the Hebrew language were three of the key objectives of this program. They were successful beyond their greatest hopes.

After World War II, when hundreds of thousands of refugees and Holocaust survivors were entering Israel at a rate which was doubling the population every three years (and, for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, making the Jews the largest single population bloc in the Holy Land), these same communal reception centers (and newly established sister centers) were able to absorb this new flood of immigrants.

These special communes called moshavim olim (moshavim for the immigrants) were an important means through which incoming Jews could be acculturated [and] become fully functioning members of their newly adopted society. These units played a crucial part in giving penniless, landless and homeless Jews a sense of self-worth and a newborn national identity. They could learn a trade, meet new friends, learn Hebrew. They became reborn men and new women, new children of the land--they became Israelis.

The moshav olim has continued to play an important part in Israeli acculturation. With each wave of settlers--the Holocaust survivors of the late 1940s to the Yemenites of the 1950s, the Romanians of the 1960s, the Hungarians of the 1970s, the Ethiopians of the 1980s, to the Russians and Ukranians of today--have come many who have learned how to become an Israeli in one of the nearly 500 moshavim olim of the nation.

The Bruderbof of the Hutterian Brethren

In 1874, less than one year before the Orthodox Jews in Palestine decided to move out of Jerusalem to organize their farming community, a group of communitarian Christians known as the Hutterian Brethren (or, simply, Hutterites) were living in Imperial Russia. They decided to abandon their homes and move to North America because of the demands of the Russian government that all young men serve in the military. The Hutterites were strict pacifists who declined service in the military, even as non-combatants.

After a period of intensive searching and a temporary sojourn in Pennsylvania and Nebraska, a vanguard group of these Hutterites decided to settle along the banks of the Missouri River in the Dakota Territory (Hofer, Wiebe, and Ens 58). This move was not easy for them to make. Their villages in the Ukraine were prosperous and life on the American frontier was still somewhat unsettled. (Custer and the Seventh Cavalry still had over a year to go before their fateful meeting with the Oglala Lakota who had a reservation, the Rosebud, less than a half-day's ride from the new Hutterite settlement.) Nearly forty members of this first group died of dysentery.

The Hutterites, an Anabaptist (Mennonite) group, developed a self-sufficient communal society wherein they shared all things in common (or, as they themselves prefer to call it, Gütergemeinschaft, which means community of goods). Their first Bruderhof (communal "farm of brothers") was established in the Austrian province of Tyrol in 1527 during the early years of the Protestant Reformation. After generations of long persecution and a number of forced evictions, they found themselves in the Imperial Russian province of the Ukraine in the latter part of the eighteenth century alongside many of their more numerous non-communal Mennonite "spiritual cousins."

They discontinued their absolute community of goods in 1819, but in 1859 a Hutterian blacksmith named Michael Waldner had a vision in which an angel instructed him to reestablish a Bruderhof. A year later a close friend of Waldner, Darius Walter, revived a second colony in the same village, Hutterdorf, where Waldner and his group were now committed to communal living. The other Hutterites were still loyal to the basic Anabaptist tenants of their faith but had opted for individual private-hold farms like their conservative Mennonite neighbors. Because of increasing interference by the Czarist government regarding such things as taxation and obligatory military service in the late 1860s and early 1870s, the Hutterites and their Mennonite neighbors decided to emigrate to America.

By the end of the 1870s, all of the Hutterite families but one (1265 people in all) had migrated to the Dakota Territory near the present town of Yankton (Hofer and Walter 48-53, 140). There had been high hopes to fully reestablish communalism among all of the Hutterites in their new American home. But the majority of these newly arrived immigrants (over 800) opted for the United States Government's generous quarter-section allotment of land (160 acres) and eschewed communalism. Waldner was able to hold his group together in a Bruderhof, named Bon Homme, located on the banks of the Missouri River a few miles west of Yankton. Because of Waldner's skill and reputation as a blacksmith, his group became known by the other Hutterites as the Schmiedeleut (the "People of the Blacksmith"). Darius Walter also was successful in holding his group together; they established their Bruderbof on the James River about twenty miles northwest of Yankton at a place they called Wolf Creek. His group came to be known as the Dariusleut (the "People of Darius"--after Walter's first name.)

In 1877, the final large group of Hutterites arrived in the area from the Ukraine. This group was led by a beloved teacher named Jacob Wipf. He had tried unsuccessfully to organize a Bruderhof before they left the Ukraine, but pressures from the government on the whole community which eventually led to the "Mennonite Exodus" (Hutterites included), and the disruption caused by the departure of so many of their close friends and relatives in the early and mid-1870s, prevented him from getting a successful venture off to a good start. When he arrived in the Dakota Territory with his group, the Schmiedeleut and the Dariusleut were functioning well. He was able to get his group settled in a Bruderhof at a place called Elmspring, also on the James River, about ten miles north of the Dariusleut colony. Because of his popularity as a teacher, this group of Hutterites came to be known as the Lehrerleut (the "People of the Teacher"). These three colonies became the nucleus for future growth among the Hutterites. It is a curious fact that except for a few rare exceptions in the first years of their North American experience, there has been only limited fraternizing between these three groups and no intermarriage even though they all mutually regard each other as being legitimate Hutterites (Stanton "Hutterites"). These communal Bruderhofs have grown at a very rapid rate. The original three colonies have grown to a total of some 380 colonies located in five American states and four Canadian provinces. With each passing decade, someone looks at Hutterite life and predicts its imminent demise. But so far all predictions regarding the passing of the Hutterites have been premature.

The average Hutterite colony is made up of twelve to fifteen families and has from 100 to 130 members. All of the property is owned by the colony; this includes not only the land, but houses buildings, farm equipmentÑeverything. The Hutterites hold absolutely to the dictum in Acts 2: 44 to have "all things common." They do have a private life, insofar as each family is provided with comfortable living quarters, but most of the activities take place outside of the home. Once a child is about three years of age, he or she is put in a nursery with other colony children and is tended by responsible adults for the entire workday. The Hutterites invented the Kindergarten over 400 years ago in what is now Czechoslovakia. Older children spend the school day in classes taught by qualified, certified public schoolteachers (referred to by the Hutterites as the "English" teachers), who are not Hutterites. In addition to the instruction received from the public schoolteacher, the children also attend "German" school in the afternoon, which is taught by an adult male Hutterite (a practice roughly equivalent to the LDS seminary program except it includes all school-age children). Hutterite youth (both males and females) quit school as soon as the state or provincial laws where they live legally permit (usually at about age sixteen) and begin to assume adult roles and responsibilities within the Bruderhof.

It is not the purpose of this presentation to explore widely all the facets of Hutterian living (see especially Bennett Hutterian 23-226; Flint 3-147; Gross [a practicing Hutterite minister] 18-204; Hostetler; Hostetler and Huntington 5-115; Huntington 34-47; Mann 242-331; Palmer 39-53; Peters 75-190; and Stanton "Maintenance" 373-388), but their wholehearted commitment to living a community of goods is rivaled, in its long-term persistence and vitality, only by Israeli communalism. By looking at these two highly successful groups in contrast with the Latter-day Saint experience in communalism, we might, I would hope, provide keener insights into the LDS experience and put it in its proper historical and cultural perspective.1

The Latter-day Saint Communal Experiences

Let us go back to the 1870s again for the third time, to the American territory of Utah. For a third time, we encounter a religious leader who is seeking a manner in which his followers might attain a more spiritually and morally rewarding life. This leader is Brigham Young, the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1872, he openly asked a group of Saints assembled in Salt Lake City if perhaps communalism, the revival of the United Order (Order of Enoch), might not be the way to perfection:

Now suppose we had a little society. . . organized after the Order of Enoch. . . . I will tell you how I would arrange for a little family, say about a thousand persons. . . . A society like this would never have to buy anything; they would make and raise all they would eat, drink, and wear, and always have something to sell and bring money, to help to increase their comfort and independence. (qtd. in Arrington, Fox, and May 139-140)

In February, 1874, some three hundred residents of St. George, in southern Utah, pledged themselves to support one another in the United Order of Enoch. A constitution entitled Preamble and Articles of Agreement of the United Order of the City of Saint George [reproduced in Arrington, Fox, and May 387-391) was adopted by the residents of the town. (This document later served as the model for the hundreds of United Orders, which were organized soon thereafter throughout the Latter-day Saint settlements of the Intermountain West.) Because of the number of members of the Church who were attracted to the idea of the United Order, the LDS Church issued a pamphlet in 1874, which was meant to serve as the official guide to all the Church membership who desired to approach the practice of communal living (Arrington, Fox, and May 149-150).

This document, entitled Uniform Articles of Incorporation for Branches of United Order, General Instructions and Rules (reproduced in Arrington, Fox, and May 394-405), was quite specific regarding the reciprocal financial obligations between the participants of the United Order and the collective corporation itself. One reason for this need for detail regarding one's personal obligations and conduct is that the Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 42 and 82, which contain the outline for the operation of the United Order, is quite vague regarding one's own specific conduct within the context of a functioning United Order (Nelson 19). This rather lengthy document (for a list [of] instructions) contains some specific instruction near its end under the section entitled "Rules That Should Be Observed By Members of the United Order," most of which are rules governing one's behavior on the Sabbath, tempering one's speech, preserving chastity, avoiding "foolish" or extravagant fashions, etc. Only rules seven, thirteen, and fourteen specifically spell out in detail how one should behave in the communal context:

Rule 7. That which is not committed to our care we will not appropriate to our own use.

Rule 13. We will combine our labor for mutual benefit, sustain with our faith, prayers, and works, those whom we have elected to take the management of the different departments of the Order and be subject to them in their official capacity, refraining from a spirit of faultfinding.

Rule 14. We will honestly and diligently labor, and devote ourselves and all we have to the Order, and the building up of the Kingdom of God. (qtd. in Arrington, Fox, and May 404-405)

The lack of any more specific guidelines regarding one's deportment within the Order and the necessary everyday regulation of one's activities within such an intensely social context were matters of deep concern for many of those who were committed to the group. This frustration was compounded by the seeming lack of support on the part of those who were in superior ecclesiastical positions over those in the Order. The response of one such leader, Erastus Snow, the apostle charged with the affairs of the Church in southern Utah, shows the gap between the leaders and those who were being led:

As to the minutia of the workings of the various Branches of this Order, the details of the business and the relations of life, one meeting of this kind would not suffice to tell, nor could the people comprehend it if we were able to tell it [italics added]; but it will be revealed to us as we pass along, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. . . and none need be over-anxious to pass over the bridge before they reach it. (qtd. in Arrington, Fox, and May 146)

And just who is supposed to muck out the cow shed and who works in the printing shop?

After this admonition, President Snow went on with his sermon, never seeming to see into the searching hearts of those who were agonizing every day to reconcile their faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ with their total commitment to communalism, and who had given up much to devote themselves fully into the United Order. Communal life requires total commitment, full trust, and love for those within the commune; if there are irregularities or problems, they just can't wait to be worked out "here a little and there a little"!

So vague, in fact, were the rules of incorporation that a "standardized" United Order was never achieved in the Mormon community. Four basic United Order types (with variations unique to virtually every community which adopted one of the four models) emerged in the LDS society (Allen and Leonard 363-364).

The first model, most typically represented by St. George, established in this community in August of 1874, was one in which members received wages and dividends (mostly in work related to farming and ranching). Wages and dividends were disbursed depending upon the amount of labor and property (given to the Order at the time of joining) they contributed. The members continued to live as independent families and were not answerable for the usage of their wages. "The problem over fair allocation of wages and time and the proper degree of centralization raised. . . fundamental questions" in this type of Order, which were never resolved (Arrington, Fox, and May 160). The St. George model proved to be inherently unstable. Most experiments of this type lasted only about a year; and, in spite of the original enthusiasm of its founding members, the St. George Order itself was dissolved in 1878.

The second type of Order is typified by the model of Brigham City, Utah. In Brigham City and a few other nearby communities of northern Utah and southeastern Idaho, a cooperative form of community business enterprise had already been in operation at the time the United Orders were initiated in the mid-1870s. Members were allowed to own and control their own property and labor and bought shares in the Order. A reasonable combination of shares ownership and personal expenditure of labor determined the amount of financial gain one would receive from this type of Order. This model proved to be popular and was only dissolved in Brigham City when, in the mid-1880s, economic restrictions imposed by the Federal Government and the imprisonment of many of the leaders for violation of the Edmunds Act (polygyny and unlawful cohabitation) made it impossible to continue.

The third type, most popular in the larger population centers of Salt Lake City, Provo, Ogden and Logan, required each ward to organize its own cooperative enterprise, financed and operated by the individual members of the ward. This type of Order achieved a varying degree of success depending upon the skill and enthusiasm of its members and the potential need in the wider community which their product satisfied. The same external problems which brought an end to the Brigham City type of Order proved to be the demise of this third type of Order in the mid-1880s, although many of the more successful enterprises were taken over as private businesses, and some continued to prosper. The United Order of the Nineteenth Ward, for example, was a soap manufacturing undertaking, which reorganized itself as the Utah Soap Manufacturing Company and, in compliance with territorial and Federal law, continued as a communally-owned, but not LDS Church-controlled, organization. The most well-known remnant of this communalism-to-capitalism shift is the Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI), which was organized in 1869 for the purpose of providing a reliable source of goods for the Latter-day Saints at a price and quality suitable for them without intervention from merchants and suppliers from outside the Church (Allen 38-39, 119).2

The fourth type of United Order, and one which came close to the full ideal of communal living, was the one typified by its best known and probably most successful community, Orderville, Utah. Both within and outside of the Mormon Church, when the term "United Order" is used, it is the Orderville type of community which comes to mind. Never totaling over ten successful communities and having fewer than 2,000 souls who lived in communal association, it is nevertheless the Orderville model that came to represent the "classic" Mormon United Order. It is probably due to the fact that, at least in the initial phases, a full communitarian ideal was being sought--and to some degree achieved--that the Orderville experiment has become synonymous with the LDS United Order.

The description of the Orderville community has been well summed up by E. M. Webb in the Orderville Manuscript History, reproduced in Arrington, Fox, and May, Building the City of God (1976): Orderville has been established with the understanding

[t]hat all people are literally the sons and daughters of God, that the earth is His and all it contains, that He created it and its fullness, especially for the use and benefit of His children, that all, providing they keep His commandments, are equally entitled to the blessings of the earth; that with proper regulations there is enough and to spare for all, that every person is simply a steward and not an owner of property he has in charge, and that he is under obligations to use it, and his time, strength, and talents for the good of all. They believe in living as a patriarchal family, and in common, according to their circumstances fare alike. All are required to be diligent in their labors, economical in their habits and temperate in their lives. (qtd. in 269)

Arrington, Fox, and May continue by adding their own commentary on Webb's report:

There was to be no private property. 'No man could say "This is mine."' The property was the Lord's and was to be used 'for the advancement of the Order and the Church.' However, each person was made steward over such personal effects as clothing, books, and jewelry. Each family was to have (but not own) a separate home, and these were to consist principally of one- and two-room apartment house units. . . joined together in a semi-fort arrangement around a town square. The typical. . . [apartment] had a living room twelve feet square and an adjoining bedroom eight by twelve feet. Between the rows of. . . [apartments] a community dining hall [which could accommodate over 500 people at one sitting] and other public buildings were. . . constructed. Shops and factories were. . . located outside the residence block. (269-270)

The initial dispatches from Orderville were euphoric. "A sacred religious ceremony was held at which each person was baptized by immersion and placed under. . . solemn covenant to obey" the rules of the Order (Arrington, Fox, and May 274-280).

The group was charged to become as independent as possible and, indeed, attained a high degree of self-sufficiency. They raised virtually all of their foodstuffs. Woolen blankets were produced on their own self-made handlooms from thread spun from the wool of their own sheep; they wove their own textiles from wool or from their own colony-grown cotton. They even had limited success with silk produced from the mulberry trees they had planted. They raised their own livestock, tended their own orchards and even started an agricultural experimental project. They had their own sawmill and produced their own building material, furniture and tools. The community attracted highly skilled craftsmen, artisans, musicians and technologists such as telegraphers and printers; and they made their own glassware, pottery, dishes, leather products, dyes and metalware.

They operated their own school and medical clinic and even found time for a community orchestra for their dances and concerts. They supplied surplus lumber and labor for the construction of the St. George and Manti Temples, paid an annual tithe of ten percent of their increase to the general Church fund (since in their group setting individual members did not earn an increase, [they] were not subject to tithing), and, supported their fair share of full-time missionaries.3

The initial phase of the Orderville United Order was one of optimism and cooperation. It was established at a time when much of rural Utah was suffering from the terrible financial setback of the Panic of 1873. It was located in a rather remote, but fertile, section of southern Utah. It was established by a hardy group of twenty-four families with a total population at the time of incorporation of [150] persons (Allen and Leonard 364; Arrington, Fox, and May 268). The settlers had been together as a group in an earlier attempt to colonize the Muddy River (in the extreme southeastern portion of the present state of Nevada) and were redirected by Brigham Young to colonize the upper reaches of the Virgin River of Utah. The Orderville group had become used to one another and had endured many hardships and by force of necessity had shared in many communal and cooperative efforts in the ill-fated Muddy River scheme. So when the call from Brigham Young came to establish a United Order, they were ready (Arrington, Fox, and May 265-269).

Because there were some in their group who did not fully endorse the proposal to take up a fully communal style of living, it was felt that for the sake of harmony and for the success of their project the ones who were committed to the United Order should move away from Mt. Carmel, two miles further up the valley of the Virgin River. There, in March 1875, their settlement began (Arrington, Fox, and May 268).

In the mid-1870s, when Orderville and the other "total" United Orders were organized, there were economic advantages in joining an Order. Economic times began to improve near the end of the 1870s. Independent farmers and ranchers began to prosper because of the arrival of the railroad in the region enabling products to move more cheaply to the market. Also, because of the arrival of the railroad in southern Utah, new economic activities, such as lumbering and mining, which now had easier access to the market, gave a wider number of options for a person to support himself and a family. As a result, things changed within the Order. Many persons felt that economic prosperity was passing them by. Others resented the fact that they had to wear Orderville clothes rather than dress themselves in the more handsome fashions of the garments which could now come to Utah from "back East" by rail. People who had children within the Order were concerned that they would grow up in the commune and would have no economic base, which would allow them to buy shares in the Order when they reached adulthood.

The biggest problem, however, grew out of the requirement to account for their stewardship more carefully. In 1877, shortly before his death, Brigham Young became concerned that too many United Orders were careless with their bookkeeping; and, already under extreme pressure from the Federal government because of polygyny, he requested the remaining United Orders (by this time most Orders had ceased to function) to keep full and careful records accounting for the amount of property given to the Order at the time of entry, the amount and type of labor performed in the Order and the total value of an individual's shares after leaving the Order. (Upon leaving an Order, for whatever the reason, a person had a right to demand full compensation for all property given to the Order at the time he or she joined. Also, a wage, based on the type of job, one's skills, and amount of time spent on a job, could be demanded.)

This is an expectation which is central to the Law of Consecration and Stewardship. Whereas the individual responsibilities of a member of the United Order are only vaguely stated, the rules of consecration and stewardship are explicitly spelled out. Basic to this law is the mutual accountability of the individual to the Order and the Order to the individual. This accountability proved quickly to introduce jealousy and ill will in every United Order where it was introduced. In fact, it is my firm contention that this was principal reason for the demise of the communalist type of United Order. Nothing supports this fact better than the collapse of Orderville's sister colony of St. Joseph, Arizona.

The United Order at St. Joseph was organized in April, 1877. This community was located in the northeastern part of Arizona in the valley of Little Colorado River. A contingent of Saints was sent out to colonize the area in late 1876 by Brigham Young and were directed to organize themselves along the lines of the Orderville model. This they did in 1877, in four rather isolated communities. Only two colonies, St. Joseph and Sunset, survived for any length of time.

The St. Joseph United Order was a small community of about twenty families (Peterson 112). There existed a high degree of camaraderie and altruism among its members, who saw no need to keep detailed account of the services performed by individuals. Because of concern over the legal status of the community, and because the leaders of the Church exhibited a lack of interest in living the Law of Consecration and Stewardship, direction was given, both on the local level and in Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, to urge the St. Joseph Order to be less of a "total" communalist society. On November 7, 1882, after successfully operating as a communal system for over five years, the St. Joseph Saints acceded to the will of the Church hierarchy, agreeing to keep an accurate record of individual labors and to assign relative worth to various jobs to be performed. With head-reeling rapidity, in only two months (November 7, [1882] to January 5, 1883) the St. Joseph Saints decided to give up their communal life and form a cooperative United Order! Finally, in 1886 the cooperation closed its books and the United Order at St. Joseph ceased to exist (Peterson 113).

The group at Orderville did not die out quite as fast as the St. Joseph group. However, after 1877, the year they adopted the full plan of the Law of Consecration, the strictly communalist nature of the village waned rapidly. It must be assumed that these factors which caused such a rapid decline in interest for the United Order in St. Joseph and which caused a sharp reduction in total commitment in Orderville after 1877 undoubtedly had some part to play in the overall collapse of the United Orders elsewhere. It is my conclusion that there are four principal factors which were responsible for the fact that all of these Order failed:

First, as the economic prosperity of the region increased, many of the Orderville Saints felt left out. Their small, confined apartments and plain clothes stood out in the more prosperous appearance of their neighbors. (As is human nature, only those neighbors who were well-to-do were looked at most closely. There were, indeed others in the area who were not as prosperous, and still others had to move on because of economic catastrophe, but they seemed not to enter so significantly into the discussions.)

Second, there was little wholehearted enthusiasm among fellow Latter-day Saints to embrace the full round of life in the "total" United Order. Even Brigham Young, who so forcefully spoke out in favor of the system and promoted the establishment of Orderville, the Little Colorado River colonies, and other communitarian orders, never embraced this style of living himself-- nor did any of the other members of the hierarchy of the Church.

After the death of Brigham Young in 1877, support for the United Order declined rapidly as a major priority among the Church leadership. After the death of President Young, the new President of the Church, John Taylor, reaffirmed his support for the Order but went on the say in the same talk that "all kinds of foolishness and all kinds of blunderings have occurred in their administration" (qtd. in Allen 112).

Two months before the death of Brigham Young, Erastus Snow, who had never participated in any of the communal experiments in the West, distanced himself even further from the movement by contending:

One of the chief obstacles in the way of our progress toward becoming a self-sustaining people is the lack of this understanding among the people. They cling to the habits. . . of Babylon that they have earned abroad--the laborer wishing to eat up the capitalist. . . constantly guarded for fear he should be drawn into close quarters, and then to succumb to the demands of the operatives. This is the way of the world, and the warfare is going on all the same; and why? Because they comprehend not how to promote their mutual interests; covetousness of capital on the one hand and covetousnes of labor on the other, each trying to enrich itself at the expense of the other [italics added]. (qtd. in Allen 111)

This is the same person who just two years before had told the Saints in Orderville not to be so concerned and "over-anxious" regarding the specifics of the operation of the Order (qtd. in Arrington, Fox, and May 146)!

Third, the extreme dependence upon mutual aid and self-sufficiency was obviated by the arrival of the railroad. What had perhaps once been a highly practical scheme for survival in the bleak isolation of the arid lands of the desert Intermountain West with the advent of the railroad became more an expression of one's devotion to an ideal. The railroad allowed for increased farming production and for a better access to the market for cattle and sheep. Also, with the railroad, large-scale mining and timber commenced in the region of southern Utah allowing for a greater number of means of making a sustainable, independent livelihood.

Fourth, one might argue that the Mormons in the 1870s were still adjusting to a new religion and a new land. Indeed, many were recent converts coming from such diverse places as Germany, Denmark, Iceland, Great Britain, as well as from all parts of the eastern United States and Canada. They were new to the desert and the rugged mountains of the West and often new to one another. Except for their common loyalty to the tenets of the LDS Church and shared experience [in] the uprooting trauma of the exodus from the East, there was not much else to bind them together.

Although the four factors outlined above--increasing economic prosperity, lack of support from the Church leadership, the advent of the railroad, and the "new convert" versus the "old timers"--probably played their respective parts in the demise of the Orderville type of United Orders, it is my contention that it was the inability to incorporate the Law of Consecration and Stewardship into a meaningful context within the social fabric of the Order that brought about such a rapid demise. Because of the careful keeping of records, it was possible for a person to see that although the same amount of time (or even more) was spent on a project, another person, having more skill or working at a more highly favored task would get more credit. This excessive keeping of records was necessary to fulfill the basic corporate tax requirements of the Federal government and to be able to provide full compensation for any malcontents who might try to accuse the organization of personal exploitation upon leaving the group. However, it was expensive and time consuming and created ill will and jealousy among the members of the Order.


In contrasting the success of the Israeli communal groups and the Hutterian Bruderhof with the Mormon United Order, we are forced to concede that communal life does not come easy. Also, a deep and unconditional commitment to the ideals of the community must be present. Perhaps the greatest threat to the kibbutz and the moshav has been success. There are few such units within the pre-1967 borders of Israel which still retain their "stockade and tower" first line of defense against its enemies. With the enlargement and professionalization of the Israeli military, most of the first line of defense tasks are no longer a burden of the older kibbutzim and moshavim. Many of these units now lie within close commuting distance of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Haifa. The initial practice of placing fortified, paramilitary kibbutzim and moshavim as first and second lines of defense around the larger centers of Jewish population in the urban areas has resulted in the present reality of a large number of these settlements now lying within the suburban sprawl of Tel Aviv, Haifa or Jerusalem; in the tightly packed population of a still-rapidly growing nation, their land is in a prime location for development and is some of the most valuable real estate in Israel. This makes for extreme pressure to subdivide the land, lease it out or build apartments, office and shopping complexes, and factories on property that was meant to be preserved to represent the Jewish idea of "getting back to the land."

The moshav farmer is often likely to hire out his field labor to Arab workers and pay them with his share of the communal profit or now that there has been such a rapid and high influx of Russian immigrants (and those from other parts of the former Soviet Union), it is becoming more common for successful members of the moshav to hire out fellow Jews to perform menial labor, while they commute to a nearby city to follow professions identical to those of their non-communalist co-workers who still might undergo a socialization process into Israeli society in the moshav olim, but not as co-equals. The members of the moshavim still abide by the economic rules of the commune with regard to the materials and goods produced within the moshav, but are free to retain all of the benefit realized from their job on the outside. This has caused severe strain within the system regarding one's personal commitment to the basic communalist philosophy of the moshav (Blasi 75). A kibbutznik who received support from the commune to pursue a career in classical piano and is busy on international performances is hardly the image of the free-spirited, defiant pioneer, which still survives in the mind's eye for many of us. A heated, Olympic-sized swimming pool flanked by a large air-conditioned gymnasium and night-lighted tennis courts is not the kind of radical departure from the conventions of the greater society at large that stirs the soul of the idealist.

This "routinization of the ideological drive" (Weintraub, Lissak, and Azmon 119) poses perhaps the greatest threat to the continued success of Israeli communalism. The age of communal association for the future common good of Israel is no longer necessary for the survival of the nation. The member of the kibbutz or the moshav can survive very well "on the outside." What, then, is needed is a renewal of a deep sense of ideological commitment to the principle of communalism if either institution (the kibbutz or moshav) is to have much of a future.

With the Hutterites, long-term success depends on a religious commitment as well as an economic ideal. Although they are a continuing success, it must be remembered that two-thirds of their number rejected the opportunity to join the Bruderhof shortly before or after they settled in the Dakota Territory. Those who opted for the less structured life of the single-owner farm still remained faithful to the basic tenets of their Anabaptist roots.

Bennett attributes part of the success of the communalist Hutterites to the concept of Gelassenheit (roughly translated as "self-surrender," "self-giving") to the will of God (Hutterian 41). This may be true, but Mennonites and Amish also speak of Gelassenheit in terms of their religious expression. However, I believe that Bennett comes closer to the answer to the continued success of the Hutterian Brethren by stating that the childhood socialization coupled with their firm conviction that the Biblical admonition to share all things in common is their key to success (Hutterian 246-248).

There are, indeed, some converts to the Hutterites, but they are few, the Teichreb family among the Lehrerleut and the Dorn family among the Schmiedeleut, and have not made a major contribution to Hutterite life. A group of some 3,000 communalists living in seven colonies in the eastern United States, which was started in the 1920s by Eberhard Arnold (hence the frequent reference to them as the Arnoldleut) have finally achieved full fellowship [and] recognition among the traditional Hutterites, but this has not been an easy accomplishment. They are not an agrarian people and live in colonies which can exceed 500 members. They have adopted the plain clothing of the Hutterites, but many who are members of this group are college graduates and idealists who do not share the close family bonds and hundreds of years of tradition of the traditional Hutterites. As the younger members of the colonies in New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut grow to maturity within the context of the Bruderhof, it is logical to predict fewer internal problems within the group.

The Mormons were never able to sustain their United Order through a multi-generational scheme. When the fires of idealism grew cold and practical reality intervened, there was no deeper sense of community to draw the Mormon back into the Order. As Bennett says, "First of all, Hutterites really believe in Christ's way, and believe that it must be implemented and followed. Since the rest of the World has fallen away from the doctrine, it is their responsibility to maintain it" ("Social" 304). Hutterites are committed to remain true to the admonition given to the early members of the primitive Christian Church in Acts 2: 44, which is "[a]nd all that believed were together, and had all things common." They are firm in the belief that their devotion to this principle is essential for the continued survival and success.

The basis of Hutterite social control is belief, not commitment (Bennett Hutterian 307). There is no deep ideological imperative to persevere, to make it work. Hutterian life is not easy, but it is a firm belief in the Bible and conviction that the community of goods is the best way for a person to live. As the Mormon of Orderville looked over the fence to see the prosperous farming family next door, it was a fellow Mormon, a co-religionist, he or she saw. When the Church leaders visited the Order to inspire the members to greater sacrifice, they were fellow Mormons--fellow Mormons wearing better clothes and living in better houses. What mission or responsibility did the practitioner of the United Order have to non-practicing fellow Saints? It was difficult for many Latter-day Saints to sacrifice and suffer only to see that right next door their fellow Saints had no such added burden and could prosper on their own. As humans are prone to do, they likewise overlooked those of their neighbors who were not as materially well-to-do and had to struggle--and fail--on their own.

Another important factor in the survival of the Hutterites has been their ability to keep their colony size down to nearly 100 members. This allows for a high degree of daily face-to-face interaction. No person is very far removed physically or socially from the decision makers in the group. Because of their rather high rate of natural population increase, each Hutterite colony is fully aware of the fact that the optimum should not exceed 130 or 140 people; therefore, they must save enough of their capital increase to build a completely new and self-sufficient colony every fifteen or twenty years. This "branching off" requires the purchase of ten to Twelve square miles of productive farmland. Because the most productive farmland in the Great Plains and Prairies is already occupied, the Hutterites must contend with two realities: if they want good, productive land, they must pay a premium price for it, and, if they want their land to be located in large, closely contiguous plots they may even be forced to pay a higher price simply because the news gets around that "the Hoots are on the buy"! Before the new colony is occupied, all necessary apartments, barns, workshops, and other buildings such as the schoolhouse, meeting place and dining hall, must be completed and ready to function. This requires a great deal of capital, and all of the members of the colony are aware that they must be frugal, so that when the time comes to "branch off," they may do so effectively and efficiently.

The Mormon United Order, on the other hand, had no optimum size and no rule existed for the eventuality of colony fission. Brigham Young stated that perhaps 1,000 persons would be the right size. At its height, Orderville had a population of nearly 800 people. This larger number of people made it very hard to foster the kind of relationships needed to preserve a "family" feeling within the group.

Finally, the very rules of the Hutterian Brethren foster their survival. Whereas the rules for the United Order and Law of Consecration were vague, the Constitution of the Hutterian Brethren Church is specific and detailed (Peters 193-201). With regard to the financial obligation of the Bruderbof, the rules are a dramatic contrast to the rules of the United Order. Four of the rules give specific absolution by the Bruderhof of any financial or other material responsibilities to any of its members who wish to terminate their association with the group:

38. All the property, both real and personal, that each and every member of a congregation or community has, or may have, own, possess or may be entitled to at the time he or she joins such congregation or community, or becomes a member thereof, and all the property, both real and personal, that each and every member of the congregation or community may have, obtain, inherit, possess or be entitled to, after he or she becomes a member of a congregation of community, shall be and become the property of the congregation or community to be owned, used, occupied and possessed by the congregation or community for the common use, interest and benefit of each and all of the members thereof.

39. None of the property, either real or personal, of a congregation or community shall ever be taken, held, owned, removed or withdrawn from the congregation or community. . . and if any member of a congregation or community shall be expelled therefrom, or cease to be a member thereof, he or she shall not have, take, withdraw from, grant, sell, transfer or convey, or be entitled to any of the property of the congregation or community or any interest therein. . . .

40. Each and every member of a congregation or community shall give and devote all his or her time, labor, services, earnings and energies to that congregation or community, and the purposes for which it is formed, freely, voluntarily, and without compensation or reward of any kind whatsoever, other than herein expressed. . . .

45. The act of becoming a member of a congregation or community shall be considered as a Grant, Release, Transfer, Assignment, and Conveyance to that congregation or community of all property, whether real or personal, owned by any person at the time of his or her becoming a member of the congregation or community, or acquired or inherited at any time subsequent thereto; such property to be owned, occupied, possessed and used by the congregation or community for the common use of all its members. (qtd. in Peters 199-200)

Whereas the United Order was burdened with a complex system of calculating the net worth of one's service to the group, the Hutterian Bruderhof is under no such obligation. Also, a departing member of the United Order could cause serious financial strain upon termination of affiliation. No such threat exists among the Hutterites. They are free to expend surplus cash on the needs of the colony, or invest it to prepare for the time (always in the not too distant future) when the colony will have grown too large, and new land, buildings and capital equipment will be needed to start a new colony. Much the same rule applies within the context of Israeli communalism. Over 90% of the Jewish residents of Israel live as self-supporting individuals outside the bounds of any type of communal organization. A person who cannot or will not adjust to the rules and requirements of the kibbutz or the moshav is asked to leave without any expectation of reimbursement or compensation by the commune (Blasi 148).

Within the framework of the United Order, one's labor and therefore, one's worth, could be too crassly calculated. It is one thing to muck out the cattle barn knowing your ten hours are needed and contribute, in their own miserable way, to the survival of the colony. It is quite another situation to know that your ten hours in the barn receive less value than five hours at the hand-loom. (Which would you choose?) Whenever this principle of "accountability" was introduced into a United Order, it was just a matter of a short time before the internal tensions of the system tore apart the cohesive fabric of the Order. In the case of St. Joseph, Arizona, it took only two months.

Latter-day Saints today consider the Law of Consecration to be, as Joseph Smith said in 1831, a "higher law" in that they recognize that it is the expectation that someday they will again be expected to embrace its principles in their personal living (D&C 42). The Doctrine and Covenants is recognized by Mormons as canon scripture. Sections 42 and 82 still exhort the Saints to consecrate their time, talents and all that they own, if so called upon, for the building up of the Kingdom of God. Although Mormons rarely think in terms of the United Order today, a strong sense of cooperation and community still exists. Faithful members of the Church are required to pay a full tithe on their earnings base (increase), which amounts to roughly ten percent of one's gross income. In addition, the Saints are expected to contribute, on a monthly basis, a "Fast Offering," for the needy based on abstaining from two regular meals and giving the equivalent cost (and more, if possible) to the Church for its welfare program. Members, or their families, are also expected to support themselves while on a mission (eighteen months to two years depending upon one's age, sex, and marital status). One is also encouraged to help with the missionary fund and in the latter part of 1991, a new category, "Humanitarian Service," was added to the official form given to members on which to declare their contributions. Members are also encouraged to give willing support to worthy charities or other non-profit groups with which they may be affiliated or have sympathy (e.g., Red Cross, Boy Scouts, United Way, political parties, etc.). In short, a Mormon is expected to "pull his or her own weight."

Heavy time constraints are placed on the shoulders of an active Latter-day Saint. There are no paid ecclesiastical positions in a local Mormon congregation. In addition to a demanding meeting schedule on Sunday (sometimes requiring in excess of six or eight hours of one's time throughout the course of the day), a person may be asked to spend one evening a week working in a temple, devote another evening a week as a volunteer in a genealogical library, be a scoutmaster and teach a mid-week class for adolescent young women, or participate in a service project for an ill or needy person--all on a non-paid basis. All this activity and demand on one's time, talents and finances are considered by Mormons to be an accepted standard of service--an application in the twentieth century of the principles of the Law of Consecration and Stewardship. Just as the United Order of the nineteenth century provided the Latter-day Saints with a goal, our present-day demands also help keep alive a spirit of idealism in the Church.

If we, as Latter-day Saints, are to flourish and persist in our ideals of love and charity for all, we must not cease to forget that basic query: "And who is my neighbour?" (Luke 10: 29). This has been quite effectively summed up by Arrington and Bitton:

Success in such ventures is often measured both by endurance and by the degree of egalitarianism achieved. If these were the sole criteria, the cooperative [Mormon] communities did not approach the success of Hutterite or Shaker communes, for Mormon experiments were short-lived, and 'free agency' and economic inequalities persisted among the Saints. But if it were possible to measure the value of property thus 'consecrated' and the number of man-hours devoted to the Mormon experiment, the totals would be impressive. There were, in addition, personal rewards. Many of those who lived in the United Order, especially in the more rigorous communities such as Orderville, Utah, saw their experience as a time of near-perfection in Christian living, a spiritual success if not an economic one. The ideal remains a part of twentieth-century Mormon awareness. (126)

Have we extended ourselves to the maximum limit? Do we really believe and hope for a re-establishment of the United Order of Enoch, or do we just give it lip service? Can we learn from the Hutterite and Israeli experiences?

Is it, perhaps, possible that we might just have something important to learn from the Hutterites and the Kibbutzniks? Have we become too affluent and independent for our own good? We pledge ourselves to the principle of the United Order, but do we really believe in it with the passion which will be required when the demand for our support finally comes? Or will we mortgage our property and deposit the money in a fund in a bank beyond the reach and knowledge of our Church leaders as was done by some of the Saints in Saint George in the 1870s when they feared that they would be required to consecrate all that they had to the Church and the Order (Allen 71). We might shrug our shoulders and casually remark that at this time, under present circumstances the United Order or something closely akin to it is not possible.4 But think of the success of the Hutterites who, with the exception of a forty-year interim in the second third of the nineteenth century, have sustained an organization remarkably similar to the United Order for over 450 years or that the oldest Israeli kibbutz has been in operation for well over eighty years. It is a documented fact that long-term communal societies can survive and thrive.

Over one hundred years ago John Humphrey Noyes said of the Shakers:

The example of the Shakers has demonstrated not merely that successful communism [communalism] is subjectively possible, but that this nation is free enough to let it grow. It is no more than bare justice to say that we are indebted to the Shakers more than to any or all other social architects of modern times. Their success has been the solid capital that has upheld all the paper theories and counteracted the failures. (qtd. in Burns 94-96)

The above statement was written before the Western Europeans and Americans were aware of the successful Hutterite colonies in the Ukraine and long before the establishment of the first Israeli communal group. We can add to the statement of Noyes the success of these two groups which has been more phenomenal than that of the Shakers. And, I hope we, as Latter-day Saints, can humbly admit that here is an area which warrants our attention and which we can improve upon. We openly subscribe to the Thirteenth Article of Faith that, "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

Perhaps it is not meant for communitarian societies to persist over a long period of time; they can often become too successful. In fact, if we look at the origin of the word utopia we find that it is a fictitious island created in the sixteenth-century mind of Sir Thomas More in a work by the same name and means not a place (nowhere). Latter-day Saints often argue that a true utopian community may indeed be beyond the reach of the complex, urbanized, industrialized world in which we now live. Or, is it our reluctance to give up our comfortable, independent ways which keeps us from our ideal of communal life? Was the United Order such a total failure that we now use its demise as a justification of our unbridled celebration of capitalism and free enterprise?

The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, had something to say about the affluence and the success of a new religious movement such as the one he was leading [which] bears a strong warning for us to ponder:

I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any true religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce industry and frugality. . . cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will love of the world, in all its branches. (qtd. in Burns 100)


1One might argue that the Shakers, too, were a long-term success. Mount Lebanon, their first colony in North America, was organized in 1787 about thirty miles east of Albany, New York, near the Massachusetts boundary (Andrews 56-57). However, today there are only six surviving practicing Shakers, all living in their last residential colony, Sabbathday Lake, Maine. Four of the six remaining Shakers are over the age of seventy. The group experienced a major decline in population after the American Civil War and many of the colonies died out by the 1920s and those which persisted into the second, third and final quarters of the twentieth century were made up of older people, an aging population caring for even older folks. Much of this population decline was due to the fact that the Shakers believed in strict celibacy (Andrews 230-231). We can consider the Shakers to have been a dynamic vital movement for not much more than half a century before it became moribund and lost its original dynamism. Other groups, such as the Amana Colony and the Oneida Commune, did not die out. They matter-of-factly discarded communalism for shareholder capitalism--they went from communalists to consumers (Oved 167-192; Barthel passim).
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2Those of you who have lived in rural Utah, Idaho or other parts of the Intermountain West may well remember the "Merc," which was often the one, and only, store in the community. These cooperative mercantile institutions, as they were known, all started out as consumer-controlled cooperative stores but by the end of the Great Depression in the 1930s all but eight of the more than one hundred fifty institutions had either gone out of business or had converted to individually owned or public stock corporations (Arrington, Fox, and May 105).
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3The Orderville project was not the first attempt by Mormons to live communally. In the carly days of the Church (in the 1830s), partnerships of a communal nature--also called the United Order--had been established. Although Joseph Smith and other early leaders of the Church gave strong initial support to the establishment of these United Orders (DePillis passim), by 1835 the LDS Church had abandoned its efforts to induce its members to live communally (Nelson 23). Much has been written regarding the reason why the early communalist effort was abandoned (see Huff 4-5; DePillis 118, 220-263; Arrington, Fox, and May 15-40; Allen 16-19; Peterson 91-92; and Hansen 123-126). Whatever the reason for their failure, the fact remains that although the Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 42 and 82, give an explicit charge to consecrate one's properties and energies to "the building [up] of the Kingdom of God" (Nelson 19), from the time the Latter-day Saints had settled in the Rocky Mountain region no serious attempt was made to honestly live up to the ideals of this edict until the 1870s.

We should not attempt to equate the Orderville United Order with the United Order of the early days of the Church. Joseph Smith himself rejected full communalism. In 1831, after being absent from the large Mormon community of Kirtland, Ohio, he returned to find some of the Saints organized into a communal society which they called "the family." He persuaded them to come out of their communal association and prepare themselves for a "more perfect law of the Lord" (Nelson 20). This "more perfect law" is known as the "Law of Consecration and Stewardship" which is found in Section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is the text of a revelation given to Joseph Smith in reaction to his encounter with the communalist "family." Under the terms of this law, all members of the Church were required to be prepared, if asked to do so, to consecrate all they owned (including time, talents, energy and material wealth) to the Church for "the building of the Kingdom of God and the establishment of Zion" (Nelson 19). The legal mechanism for carrying out this law was to be the United Order (Nelson 19). But, as we saw above, the practical social mechanism by which this law would be applied on a day-to-day basis is not clearly stated. However, at a later time, Joseph Smith was asked by a reporter. "'Do Mormons believe in having all things common?'" His reply was an emphatic, "'No!'" (qtd. in Nelson 20). Later, in the [city] of Nauvoo, the Prophet wrote in his journal, "'I preached on the stand about one hour on the 2nd chapter of Acts, designing to show the folly of common stock [holding property in common]. In Nauvoo, everyone is steward over his own'" (qtd. in Nelson 20). It should be clear that whatever the original intention of Section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants, it was not to establish a community of goods.
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4In 1944 the Communal Properties Act (also referred to as the Land Sales Prohibition Act) was passed by the legislature of the province of Alberta which severely restricted the size and growth of Hutterite colonies in the area. Because of this law, Hutterites were either forced to move out of the province to establish new colonies (which accounts for the fifty plus colonies each in Montana and Saskatchewan, plus the five in the state of Washington) or to locate themselves in the less productive Peace River Valley in the northwestern part of the province and in adjacent land in British Columbia. This legislation which has been so unpopular with the Hutterites was introduced by Solon Low of the Social Credit Party and was co-sponsored by fellow Social Credit Party member, N. Eldon Tanner, both of whom were active, prominent Mormons from southern Alberta (Hostetler 133). (Can you appreciate why I was met with so much suspicion when I announced to my Hutterite friends who lived within sight of the LDS Temple in Cardston that I just happened to be interested in their way of life and the fact that I was an active Latter-day Saint from an LDS college in Hawaii had nothing to do with my presence in their midst?) This law was not repealed until the Labor Party took control of the government of Alberta in 1973. In 1962, another Mormon from southern Alberta proposed a resolution at the provincial Progressive Conservative leadership convention which "called for the breaking up of existing Hutterite colonies and forcing them to live on individual farms so that they 'can enjoy the freedom of our country'" [italics added] (Palmer 47-48). It is troubling to me that of all people in the region the Mormons should have had the greatest sympathy and toleration for the Hutterite Bruderhof which, in so many ways, approximates the Latter-day Saint model of communalism. Are we so close to the trees that we can't see the forest?
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