Right, so this was something I spotted way back in high school, and was among the first things I questioned, knowing what would happen (having questioned things in earlier years without realizing the weight of judgment that would befall me). The Law of Consecration, first 'revealed' to Joseph Smith in 1831, is a 'law' wherein members of the church consecrated (read, gave away freely) all their property and means to the church, to be redistributed to the poor of the Church, who were coming into Kirtland in droves. Now, something to note is that among the 'poor' in the church were Joseph and Emma, who shared a farmhouse (from which Joseph would later be dragged, tarred, and feathered, presumably leading to the death of his adopted son, Joseph Murdock Smith). So one can almost see that the leaders of the LDS Church have used the means which the members give them to support themselves almost since the beginning.
Now, let's think about this for a moment: people were coming in, having abandoned successful farms or businesses in Eastern states because they believed so strongly in this new, semi-Christian faith that had sprung up. I would direct anyone interested to watch Work and the Glory: American Zion. In there, Benjamin Steed (who is narrating slightly) says something along the lines of, "I still don't understand it. These Mormons, most of them dirt-poor and with barely a roof overhead, are hard at work on the temple because Joseph asked them to." During this monologue by Ben Steed, we see increasingly fanatical shots of people playing Mormons who are working on the temple. Another point in this same movie is where Joseph asks Nathan, Ben's son, why he's building the temple after Joseph asks him where he's currently sleeping. Nathan replies, "because you asked me to." Not "because the Lord asked me to", but "because you, Joseph Smith, who I believe to be a prophet, asked me to." Now, obviously they had Joseph rebuke Nathan, but its a pretty big selling point right there that a lot of what happened in the early Church, regardless of being 'revealed' or not, was done on Joseph's word, and Joseph's word alone. It is my personal belief that Joseph Smith could easily have been a sociopath; they are capable of faking superficial charms and other emotions in order to lure their targets into their traps. Sociopaths glory in the emotional pain of their targets; and what is more painful in terms of emotion than the threat of losing your family for all eternity?
Now, back to the Law of Consecration: I was told this when I asked about the similarities between communism and this law: "Communism is a crude, Satanic imitation of a good and wholesome law." Well, let's take a look at that for a moment. Communism, at its core, is a form of government where there is no upper, middle, and lower classes; their is true equality, but only because the government enforces sameness; depending on your position within a communist party (for example, if your simply a citizen or one of the inner circle of the communist leader), than you may get a large amount of resources, including a home and amenities. The size of your family may also be a contribution to what you receive. There would also be no boundaries (a stateless society, in essence). This is supposedly the ideal version of a communist society, before the Marx-Lenin movements.
Now, let's take those points and apply them to the Law of Consecration:
The Church takes into account your status and gives you what it believes you need to survive, and only what you need to just barely survive.
The Church does not respect those who once held high station; your faithfulness to the Church will determine your blessings (in the case of the Law of Consecration, you would receive a larger amount than a less-faithful member in the same circumstances).
The Church decides when and where the distribution of means is given.
Nowadays, the only remnant is the law of tithing, but I remember a bishop of mine talking to me about how one day, the Law of Consecration would become a major player in the Church again (speaking of the founding of the New Jerusalem). I personally found the whole "communism is a Satanic version of a good and wholesome law" excuse very suspect, and always have. Now that I can air my views, I'm not going to hold back. Especially on my own blog!
A small anecdote for those living in Cache Valley, UT: anyone notice that for all the ranting about communist-socialist cretins that goes on here, our local transportation system could be considered a 'communist idea'? Way I see it, if the government paying for something big is a communist agenda, than isn't the government using taxes to pay for free public transportation a communist/socialist idea?
Oh, and apparently, you can't challenge the leader of a communist country without facing execution. In the Church, you can't challenge stated doctrine or a leader of high regard without facing ex-communication (and from my understanding before Utah became a state, it was in fact practice to hunt down and kill anyone who argued with Brigham Young or other Church leadership on established doctrines and/or practices, such as plural marriage or blatant racism).
That's just some of my thoughts on this matter. Not sure what my next topic will be, but it'll either be serious like this, or semi-satirical like my one on addictions.