How LDS "Cooperation" Ideas Molded My Early Family

Both my mother’s family as well as my father’s family were LDS. This obviously influenced their thinking, and their thinking obviously influenced me. Additionally, I grew up in Utah which is predominantly LDS. I will talk a bit about the “Cooperation” part of LDS doctrine and what it in turn is layered on, and how all of this impacted my family’s life views.

LDS View of the Godhead

The LDS view of God is significantly different from the view most of Christianity has. It can be illustrated with the following references:

As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become” (Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the LDS Church).
Men, God, and angels are the same species” (Parley P. Pratt, 1835 Quorum of the Twelve).

Is this a form of Organic Evolution in disguise? Remember that Charles Darwin lived during this same period of time, and is widely considered to be the father of evolution theory. Consider also the following quote, which is attributed to Mr. Darwin:

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.

In other words, Charles Darwin preached cooperation, and cooperation was another central tenet of early LDS doctrine. I find that to be interesting.

Cooperation – Early LDS View

If you believe that “men, God, and angels are the same species“, it would automatically follow that nothing can be accomplished (either in heaven or on earth) unless one or more people make it happen. This is because, based on this LDS idea, God is a man, and he cannot wave a magic wand to magically create matter from nothing. This idea is further supported by the LDS Doctrine & Covenants, Section 131, verse 7: “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes“. Also the LDS Book of Abraham, and other LDS based material, all teach that nothing is created, but rather it is organized.

In other words, there are no Harry Potter magic wands that create from nothing. Somebody must make it happen. And that “somebody” is one or more people, and not some mystical deity.

Again, this is a major departure from classical Christianity.

And, acceptance of this idea necessarily leads to the next conclusion: any blessing that you enjoy must either be: (1) created by yourself, or (2) created by somebody else, or (3) created through the synergy of cooperation with multiple people.

And from that, you start to understand the fixation that the early LDS Church had with cooperation, which they dubbed at the time “United Order”. These attempts at the LDS version of “United Order” began in Kirtland, Ohio in 1831. During the course of LDS Church history, over 200 attempts were subsequently tried at “United Order”, spanning well into the 20th century. See the book “Building the City of God”, by the official LDS Church Historian Leonard Arrington for more details on those efforts.

Now, please realize, my father was active LDS most of his life. He was aware of this part of LDS church doctrine. And my father was trying to raise a family during the worst economic downturn in US history. Is it any wonder that he would spend a considerable amount of time contemplating the feasibility of human cooperation, and what it would take to make it successful, and how it might be used to help people? Is it any wonder he would want to investigate it, as he struggled to make a better place for his family? Especially when you realize his first wife probably divorced him at least partly because he wasn’t economically successful.

DCCS Economic Cooperative

Because of the harshness of the depression-era economics, many families banded together to help each other through that time.  The government encouraged that, and in the late 1930’s even offered $10,000 incentives for the establishment of cooperatives.  One such economic cooperative, the “Davis County Cooperative Society” (DCCS) refused the $10,000. 

At the time that the DCCS refused the $10,000, my father was fortunate to have found employment with the State of Utah.  He learned of the DCCS’s refusal, and became very curious about it.  My father left me with a lot of information about his thoughts, concerns, and beliefs about the DCCS, and I will talk more on that later, but if you would like initial information, I call attention to the DCCS website at:

Based on things my parents told me before they died, the DCCS was initially formed with the following four families joining together in an attempt to help each other economically: Kingston, Gustafson, Frandson, and Brown. Then within four years the following families joined: Grundvig, Bonkey, Nielson, Ekstrom, Owen, and Peterson. And then within two more years: Atwood, Owen, Stoddard, Kimball, Duvork, Defa, and Pratt. This is 17 different families that I have been able to come up with for the first 6 years, with “Kingston” just one of the 17. And more than likely there are others that I have missed. [Edited 3/11/20: I have just been told there were 22 different families in the first 6 years. I did not ask which five I missed]

Gaining membership in the DCCS is, interestingly enough, very similar to how a person would become a citizen of a country.  Historically, there have typically been three ways for a person to gain citizenship in a country of the world: (1) by application, (2) by marriage, or (3) by birth.  And that is precisely how membership in the DCCS is also obtained.

My father applied for DCCS membership in the early 1940's.  My mother was a member through marriage.  I automatically became a member by birth.  My wife automatically became a member through marriage to me.  My children automatically became members by birth.


Actionable Principles to Follow 
(adapted from "The 80/20 Principle", by Richard Koch):

The way to get ahead is to have a large network of cooperators, and cooperators find it hard and uncongenial to deal with transparently self-interested people. They will only do so if there is no choice. For a time, greed may drive out cooperation. In the long run, cooperation will drive out greed.

Companies and teams of individuals are, above all, instruments of advanced cooperation. The best cooperators may inherit the earth, provided that they are also good at satisfying selfish customers.

Become a cooperation junkie, a cooperation fanatic, an evangelist of cooperation. Always remember: cooperation is the highest from of self-interest.

Ultimately, the advance of civilization and the evolution of mankind and society require ever greater degrees of scientific and economic knowledge and activity, greater specialization, greater trade, greater interdependence, greater competition, and above all greater cooperation. This is the only way to defeat the war of “all against all” and the prevalence of death and misery over health and happiness—the only route to evolutionary disarmament.

Action Implications:

  1. Cooperate with the best cooperators. Build relationships with the cooperators who possess the blend of business and cooperative attributes that can take your career and business to the highest peaks. Remember that the objective of a career is to build an ever-increasing network of skilled cooperators.
  2. Build a reputation as someone who creates wealth for others and who is totally trustworthy. Keep your word, without calculation of short-term gain.
  3. Always cooperate in the first instance. Trust others until they prove themselves unworthy of your trust. Only withdraw cooperation from non-cooperators. 
  4. Be willing to ‘take turns’ in extracting advantage. Understand that reciprocity is a long-term concept, not one requiring mutual advantage in each individual transaction.
  5. Develop the daily habits of cooperation. Teach yourself that cooperation, like thinking and networking, is cumulative and self-reinforcing: it is impossible to deplete your bank balance of cooperativeness by cooperating. Seize all available opportunities to cooperate with useful cooperators, realizing that cooperation builds skill at cooperation, as well as building your reputation, reciprocal obligations, and added skill in cooperation in those with whom you cooperate.