People live by the law of consecration and stewardship. When people say that early saints lived the United Order, they do not understand what it is—or was. United Order is actually a pseudonym for the United Firm, a group of several Church leaders the Lord named specifically in section 82. “As a governing financial council, the firm was responsible for printing church publications, holding church properties in trust, assisting the poor, and operating general stores in Independence, Missouri, and Kirtland, Ohio, to generate funds for the church.”1
The Lord established the United Firm in 1832 (see section 82).2 In 1833, the Lord called Frederick Williams to be a counselor and scribe to Joseph and to consecrate his substantial farm to the Church. “Let thy farm be consecrated for bringing forth of the revelations and tho[u] shalt be blessed,” the Lord told Frederick.3 Section 92 made Frederick a member of the United Firm.4 The minutes describing what that means say that Frederick “should be received into the United Firm in full partnership agreeable to the specification of the bond” mentioned in D&C 78:11 and 82:11.5 Section 92 instructs the members of the United Firm to receive Frederick and instructs him to be a “lively member.”
Joseph sent a copy of the revelation to the members of the firm in Missouri. They apparently raised some questions about Frederick’s role. He joined the firm, consecrated his farm, was ordained a counselor to Joseph Smith, continued to serve as a scribe, and was otherwise “lively” though soft-spoken in building Zion. Joseph’s journal says, “Brother Frederick is one of those men in whom I place the greatest confidence and trust for I have found him ever full of love and Brotherly kindness. . . . He is perfectly honest and upright and seeks with all his heart to magnify his presidency in the church.”6
2. Max H. Parkin, “Joseph Smith and the United Firm,” BYU Studies 46, no. 3 (2007): 13.
6. “History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” p. 380, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 9, 2020.
From Doctrine and Covenants Minute
When Frederick G. Williams was brought into the presidency of the high priesthood on March 8, 1833 (D&C 90), several other responsibilities came along with his new calling. One of these involved a group of Church leaders that Joseph Smith had organized a year earlier. This group formed the “United Firm” (referred to in this section as the “united order”), a governing financial council that oversaw several crucial projects for the Church. The United Firm was responsible for “regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people” (D&C 78:3); holding Church properties in trust; operating general stores in Independence, Missouri, and Kirtland, Ohio; and overseeing the publication of scripture. They also supervised city planning and the construction of church buildings, including the Kirtland Temple. Earlier members of the United Firm were Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Gilbert, Martin Harris, Edward Partridge, William W. Phelps, Sidney Rigdon, John Whitmer, and Newel K. Whitney. Frederick G. Williams was the first new member of the firm since its organization a year earlier.
In the spring of 1833, the plans for building the city of Zion and the temple in Kirtland were accelerating, and Frederick G. Williams eventually became deeply involved in both projects. Both the plat of the city of Zion and the design for the temple were recorded in Williams’s handwriting and sent to Missouri later that summer.1 Williams also copied the revelation found in section 92 by his own hand into Joseph Smith’s letterbook.
1. See “Source Note,” Plat of the City of Zion, circa Early June–25 June 1833, JSP; and “Source Note,” Plan of the House of the Lord, between 1 and 25 June 1833, JSP.