Land Distribution Among Early Mormon Pioneers

“As the church distributed land, it attempted to balance individual preferences with what was couched as Zion’s welfare in several ways.

First, land speculation was discouraged, and at times not permitted as a per se violation of one’s stewardship: “[N]o man should hold more land than he could cultivate; and if a man would not till his land, it should be taken from him.”Land speculation had proved problematic in other Mormon settlements in the east, particularly Ohio, where those who arrived first attempted to profit at the expense of settlers who arrived subsequently.

Second, land was generally distributed in a manner that put a premium on equity.  Often church leaders assigned parcels by drawing of lots. Properties were often reserved for those who would subsequently arrive, allowing them to enter “the community on the same terms as the original settlers.”

Third, the church would redistribute land if it was not put to productive use. This redistribution largely relied on an honor system (not infrequently pushed to its outer limits), where settlers returned unused land to the church. At a high-water mark of church power, some church leaders even confiscated land to redistribute.”  (Brigham Daniels, p. 15 “Revitalizing Zion”)

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