“Why is the united order not practiced today?” Ensign, June 1986, 27
Why does D&C 104:1 say that the united order was an everlasting order until the Lord comes, yet it is not practiced today?
Stephen K. Iba, instructor at the Institute of Religion adjacent to the University of Utah. Whenever a covenant or commandment is entered into between God and his children, it should be understood in terms of larger, eternal laws and principles. The Prophet Joseph Smith stated that “we are looked upon by God as though we were in eternity. God dwells in eternity, and does not view things as we do.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, p. 356.) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:8–9.)
These statements suggest that God may have something else in mind when he uses words like everlasting, eternal, Endless, or forever. “Endless torment” and “eternal damnation,” for example, do not mean there is no end to punishment, only that such punishment is God’s punishment. “The punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name.” (D&C 19:10.)
A number of scriptures in the Bible sustain this principle.
For example, during the Mosaic dispensation, the Lord commanded Israel to celebrate Passover: “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” (Ex. 12:14.)
Similarly, the Day of Atonement, where the high priest would execute a sacrificial offering for all the people yearly, was sanctioned and sealed by Jehovah as “an everlasting statute unto you.” (Lev. 16:34.)
Today, we celebrate neither the Passover nor the Day of Atonement. We understand that both were in similitude of the everlasting release of God’s children from the bondage of sin and death through our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. (See Heb. 6:20.) With the Savior’s advent on earth, those ordinances were superseded by the ordinances of the gospel. (See Heb. 8.)
This is also true of the “everlasting covenant” of circumcision revealed to Abraham. (See Gen. 17:9–14.) In the first century A.D., this practice created problems when gentiles were converted to Christianity. Consequently, an apostolic council pronounced that this “everlasting” rite ended when Christ restored the fulness of the gospel. (See Acts 15:6–31.)
Early in the Restoration, the Lord revealed the law of consecration and commanded the Saints to be united in all things—doctrinally, spiritually, socially, and economically. This law, they were told, would help them establish Zion upon the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom. The united order was instituted to help implement the principles of the law of consecration.
Within three years, however, the Lord chastened the Church for transgression and withdrew the practice of the united order from the Saints. (See D&C 105:2–6, 9–13, 27–37.) Although the united order was suspended, some aspects of the law of consecration remained.
Aspects of the law of consecration that are active today were mentioned by President Marion G. Romney in general conference: “Full implementation of the united order must, according to the revelation, await the redemption of Zion. (See D&C 105:34.) In the meantime—while we are being more perfectly taught and are gaining experience—we should be strictly living the principles of the united order insofar as they are embodied in present Church requirements, such as tithing, fast offerings, welfare projects, storehouses, and other principles and practices. Through these programs we should, as individuals, implement in our own lives the bases of the united order.” (Ensign, May 1977, pp. 94–95.)
Although the united order was placed in abeyance, it is part of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. The principle is clear in the scriptures: The Lord is everlasting and eternal; hence, everything he commands is everlasting and eternal, although a particular commandment may not be practiced all the time, but only for the period the Lord wills. So it is with the united order—it will be lived in full when the Lord commands. It is his law, which is everlasting.