“And They Had All Things Common Among Them”

Alan C. Miner

In 4 Nephi 1:3 we find: “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.” According to Andrew Skinner, the most striking thing about the law of the celestial kingdom as it operated among he Nephites and Lamanites, and others as well, was the economic equality that prevailed. The scriptures use the phrase “all things common” to describe the condition. This was not a system of communal ownership such as has been advocated by nineteenth- and twentieth-century secular political theories. Nor did it mean that each person had exactly the same amount of personal goods. The following instruction may help to further clarify the matter:

The scriptural phrase “they had all things common” (Acts 4:32; see also Acts 2:44; 3 Nephi 26:19; 4 Nephi 1:3) is used to characterize those who lived the law of consecration in ancient times. Some have speculated that the term common suggests a type of communalism or “Christian Communism.” This interpretation is in error. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught clearly the true nature of having all things common: 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 every one is steward over his own (property)." (Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6:37-38)

Each stewardship is considered private property, and the residues and surpluses consecrated for the storehouse became the “common property of the whole church” (D&C 82:18). It is referred to as the “common property” because every covenant member of the order had access to it, according to his just “wants” and “needs,” including the need to improve his stewardship. (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324-325, 1981, p. 425).

[Andrew C. Skinner, “The Course of Peace and Apostasy,” in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, p. 223]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary