Noyes' teachings were practiced here by the community. The main teaching which received the most criticism was that of "Complex Marriage." In Complex Marriage, every man was married to every woman and vice versa. This practice was to stay only within the community and had to stay within two main guidelines. The first was that before the man and woman could cohabit, they had to obtain each other's consent through a third person or persons. Secondly, no two people could have exclusive attachment with each other because it would be selfish and idolatrous. Any two people found in any such situation would be separated and not allowed to see each other for a certain length of time.
In 1846, the community adopted Noyes' teachings of "Mutual Criticism," "Complex Marriage" and "Male Continence". At this time in the groups history, these practices were only practiced on a small scale among leadership, and not until 1848 in Oneida, New York, would these be practiced by the whole community. Because of these practices, the community came under much persecution, even to the point where Noyes was indicted for adultery. Noyes, not wanting to become a useless martyr, and who by this time was viewed by the group as the Moses of the new dispensation who was going to lead them to the promised land, quickly purchased twenty-three acres of land that contained some buildings in Oneida, New York.
Their "Promised Land" was near the Canadian border which would be very convenient in case of future persecution. Then in 1847, the Putney group agreed "that the Kingdom of God had come." . The community could believe this because of two of Noyes' teachings: one being that Christ's second coming took place in A.D. 70, and the other being that they could bring in the millennial kingdom themselves. Forty-five of his followers from Putney followed Noyes to Oneida and by the end of 1848, their membership grew to eighty-seven.
The economic base of the Oneida Community was agricultural and industrial. They had approximately forty acres of partially cleared land on which to farm and an Indian sawmill in which to produce lumber. Over the next year, the community purchased and cultivated additional land, established a variety of minor craft industries, built a communal dwelling house [now a museum, pictured above], appointed administrative committees and set up a pattern of daily living which the community followed for the next thirty years.
Another teaching practiced at the Oneida Community was that of "Male Continence," which was a type of birth control. In the practice of Male Continence, "a couple would engage in sexual congress without the man ever ejaculating, either during intercourse or after withdrawal." Noyes justified this practice because his wife Harriet in the first six years of their marriage had five difficult childbirths, four of which were premature and resulted in the deaths of the children. Noyes came to the conclusion that where an unwanted pregnancy occurred, there was a waste of the man's seed and that it was no different in practice to masturbation. With the implementation of Male Continence, which lasted from 1848 to 1868, some forty children were born in the community of about two hundred and fifty people.
Another teaching practiced along these same lines was that of "Ascending Fellowship." Ascending Fellowship was set up to properly introduce the virgins into Complex Marriage. This practice also worked to prevent the young members from falling in love with each other and from limiting their range of affection to just the younger members. The main people picked to care for the virgins were people who were considered to be closer to God. These people were of course older and had a special title which was that of Central Member. These Central Members were allowed their pick of a partner over which they would have the responsibility of spiritual guidance. It usually worked that the male Central Member would pick any female virgin of his choice. Due to her lower order, she was compelled to accept. In the case of the female Central Member, they were usually past the age of menopause, and when they chose their male virgin, they were obligated to honor the request. The reason women past menopause were chosen was so that as they taught the younger men Male Continence, they would not have to worry about unwanted pregnancies.
The forth major teaching practiced was that of "Mutual Criticism." Mutual Criticism was established to assure the integrity of the community by conformity to Noyes' morality. The way in which Mutual Criticism worked was that a member, under communal control, was subjected to criticisms of either a committee or the whole community. The criticisms were usually directed toward the "member's bad traits (those thoughts or acts that detracted from family unity), and an individual could be put through a shameful, humiliating experience." Only Noyes himself would not go through this unless he decided to, because he felt that a group should not criticize their leader.