‘Holiness to the Lord’

The ZCMI storefront facade, a fixture in downtown Salt Lake City since the 1870s, will be preserved as part of the new City Creek project, a massive retail development now under construction by a Church-owned corporation.

On July 2, the city's Historic Landmark Commission gave final approval for reconstruction of the facade, which was disassembled last year when the ZCMI Center shopping mall was razed to make way for the new development.

ZCMI, widely regarded as America's first department store, was sold by the Church in 1999, and subsequent owners of the store have retained the historic facade as part of their property. When the City Creek project is completed, the storefront will grace the entrance to the Salt Lake location of Macy's, the national chain to which the former ZCMI now belongs.

The decision by the commission is timely indeed, coming as it does this month when we observe the anniversary of the entrance of Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.

The storefront is a tangible reminder of a bygone but prominent chapter in the history of the Church: the development of cooperative merchandising among the Latter-day Saint settlers in their new Zion in the Intermountain West.

Persecuted and driven from the boundaries of the United States proper, the saints nevertheless were anxious to be seen as loyal citizens. At the same time, they were determined to strengthen themselves through economic self-sufficiency thereby remaining free of oppression.

Consistent with this wise policy, Elder Lorenzo Snow of the Quorum of the Twelve directed the establishment of the Church's first cooperative institution, this in Brigham City in 1864. It served as a model for the founding in Salt Lake City of Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution (popularly known as ZCMI) in 1868, a territory-wide economic system whereby goods could be acquired or manufactured and sold as inexpensively as possible, with the profits to be divided among the people at large. Eventually, more than 150 cooperative institutions were in operation — one in virtually every ward or settlement in the territory — with the Salt Lake store as the parent.

In an April 2005 general conference address, the late President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of his boyhood in southern Utah, when he would thrill at the words "Holiness to the Lord" that would appear on some of the buildings in the small towns, such as the co-op stores and bishop's storehouses. (The Ephraim Cooperative Mercantile Institution, pictured in a Church News center-spread article of June 28, is an example of such a building.)

The phrase, which also appears on the Church's temples, is an allusion to Zechariah 14:20-21, "In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD…. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts."

In a broad sense, the cooperative movement was a manifestation of the saints' determination to achieve a Zion like society. Changing times and circumstances eventually rendered the movement impractical. But like the historic ZCMI storefront, principles from this chapter in Church history remain to bless us today. Here are two to consider:

• Industry, solidarity and cooperation are ever-present endeavors for the covenant people of God. We see them exemplified today.

• Considering the goods and services we produce as a sacred task — in effect inscribing them in our minds with the phrase "Holiness to the Lord" — can sanctify our labor, as we come to regard it as an offering to our Father in Heaven and His children.

It has been said of President Wilford Woodruff that "with him, all life and labor was a mission" (see Church News, June 28, 2008; p. 14). May that be our attitude as we draw lessons from the cooperative movement in our Church history.