Giving £1m to charity

Giving 10% of one’s income to charity is a concept familiar to Mormons (although paying tithes to the Mormon Church is not really the same in its purpose as paying 10% to, say, Oxfam — no judgement implied). One Oxford academic has decided to go further. He has pledged not only to give up 10% of his income but also all of his income above £20k ($30k). Dr Ord predicts being able to donate £1m over the course of his life and thus save thousands of lives. His website (Giving What We Can) encourages others to donate at least 10% and usefully ranks charities according to their cost-effectiveness.

I find Ord’s decision inspiring and wish him well in keeping to his goal (the pull of Mammon should not be underestimated). He goes where tithing does not — hurting the rich (or in Ord’s case, the non-impoverished). Up-scaling our donations according to wealth seems like a sensible way to discharge our obligations to the poor and remove the love of money from our hearts.

Could I do it? Probably not. Off the top of my head, I think our household of five in this corner of England could live comfortably and make room for future needs with no more than £50k ($75k) p.a. Tithing 100% (to the church, or to other charities, or both) of income above £50k is something I really wish I could aspire to. Even then I think £50k is too high a ceiling if I am to “give away [a relatively sacrificial amount of my possessions] to the poor.”

Comments

  1. But that’s so contra-Rand.

  2. When Melissa and I were first married, we discussed the fact that we really couldn’t imagine any reason for anyone to need more than $60k a year. That was in 1993. Four children and sixteen years later, I would probably up that a little bit; perhaps to $75k as you suggest, or maybe a little bit more. Given my current pay scale, we may never get to that ceiling, or if we do it’ll be a good 20 years in the future. Melissa will likely start working in a year or so, and when that happens our joint income will be presumably be higher than that level, but we have also talked about how that second income will basically be for covering credit card and school loan debts. Beyond a $60k-$75k income? I’d like to think our lifestyle would not lead us to see such as necessary, and we’d be able to give the extra away.

  3. I have taught Peter Singer’s article on “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” (http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/1972—-.htm)for a number of years now. Ord sounds like he is following Singer’s argument. While the moral/political theory on this topic has advanced greatly in the last decade, Singer’s essay and the example of Ord gives one serious pause.

    I really wish we would. However, it requires that we live more simply. That might mean less square footage and less fancy counter tops. Maybe I should bike to work. I biggest weakness is eating out.

    Like Russel, my teaching career (with three children) will never leave much surplus income. My goal is that we could commit to donate $2000 (beyond tithing and fast offerings) to groups like Oxfam. Right now, we are not even close, but it it possible. As, GA Cohen asked, if I am an egalitarian, why am I so rich? Good question.

  4. Just checked out the Giving What We Can website and Singer in affiliated with the group (as is my hero Thomas Pogge).

    Ronan, thanks for the post.

  5. Maybe I should bike to work.

    Do it, Chris, or try to get to a situation where you can. We bought a home in the location we did premised upon the idea that we would go without a second car for as long as possible, that I would bike to work and the kids would walk to school. It definitely shifts how we spend our time, and not always in good ways. But the time and money savings are significant.

  6. The Middle Eastern Studies prof across the street bikes to campus. I need the exercise as well. Russell, thanks for the encouragement. I think I will get my bike serviced this week.

  7. My earlier comment was in snark.

    I really think this is a great idea. But in order to be implemented well, we’ve got to give up certain luxuries in our lives. Do we really need cell phones? The iPhone, for example, can get very expensive on a monthly basis. Do we need cable TV? It’s mostly useless junk if you ask me. A family could probably pare down about $400 a month from their expenses.

    A problem is related to my snarky comment. Our economy thrives on useless excesses. If everyone were to stop spending on useless excesses, the economy would be ruined.

  8. It’s contra-Rand to be sure, but she was an anti-altruistic oddball. No doubt most libertarians actually believe in giving back to the community, they just want to have the freedom to choose how best to do it.

  9. I like it, and it is something my wife and I have talked about much in recent months as our income has risen. I also think it should not be a bright line amount such as $50k or whatever amount, as cost of living and debt differences are so widely distributed from the mean so as to make generalizations impossible. Where I live, $50k pa would not cover our extremely modest rent, utilities, and student loan payments.

  10. Mark D.,
    Yes.

  11. Bruce Rogers says:

    A few years ago, I read a study in which some BYU professors had done a survey of church members in their area, from which they estimated that those members were spending 10% tithing, about 5% other church donations, and about 5% in non-church donations. They also reported that it appeared that the members who paid full tithing were those who paid the most non-church donations. They wrote that perhaps paying tithing helps us to be more charitable to others.

  12. neat article, will have to check his site. I don’t think I could do that much in addition to tithing. Right now I am limited in service due to debt I have from school, living in a big city,etc My fault but wish I had been more “provident” .

    this summer I had the chance to go on a weeklong humanitarian trip. I had never done anything like this. We had a chance to meet some who lived in homes that had dirt floors. The schools I saw had floors of dirt. With all the children we saw I hardly saw any toys. In doing their work projects, their men did not have the luxury tools that many here have. Yet all seemed happy, content, grateful for what they have. It really opened my eyes and my heart to the need for me to do better in helping others in the world as well as locally. Since returning here to the US, sometimes I’ve contemplated why I was born here and not in a place such as that where I’d have such a challenging temporal life. I know for me I need to do better to always remember the message of hymn #219.

  13. Daniel: I am not fond of cell phones, personally. Really expensive phones could be seen as a gratuitous luxury for most people. I agree that cable television is mostly worthless junk, other than the fact that some people have to get cable or satellite tv to get any television at all, and there are certainly some things that are worthwhile and perhaps not too expensive.

    The controversial stuff tends to be oversize houses, boats, recreational vehicles, expensive vacations, luxury clothing, jewelry, furniture, … At some point it becomes a serious moral issue to spend money on that kind of stuff when there are legitimate and worthwhile alternatives.

  14. “The controversial stuff tends to be oversize houses, boats, recreational vehicles, expensive vacations, luxury clothing, jewelry, furniture, … At some point it becomes a serious moral issue to spend money on that kind of stuff when there are legitimate and worthwhile alternatives.”

    I agree with you Mark D on this (still very weird to write). However, for Dan or me (and most of us on this thread), an oversized house is not a possiblity. The i-phone might be our more equivalent of a yacht. Ord would likely argue in light of legitimate alternatives (particularly when people are suffering), people of more modest means should evaluate the amount they spend on clothes and toys (I-phone, cable) much in the way that the super-rich should re-evaluate the amount they spend on yachts.

  15. BTW, I do not doubt that many of us can do little more than our tithing. However, one possibility is to donate a few dollars to the PEF or the humanitarian fund when we pay our tithing (even just a dollar or two). Maybe strive to add a few dollars to fast offerings. Every little bit helps. If we develop the habit when we have little, it will become easier when we have more (wow, that sounded a bit Aristotelian, don’t tell anyone) .

  16. StillConfused says:

    Rather than give more money to charity, I find myself engaging in more charitable endeavors. For instance, I run a non-profit. I routinely teach free seminars. That type of thing.

    I do not claim for one moment to determine how much money a person should have. That is up to that person and his or her individual desires and needs. I can only speak with respect to myself. I currently feel that I have sufficient for my needs and have excess time to donate to causes that are important to me (giving people information to enable them to become better providers for themselves and their families)

  17. I’ll go with StillConfused.

    One of the really positive aspects of charitable service is that it often shuts out the “middle man.” There’s a lot of corruption in charities these days because there’s a lot of money involved. Service, on the other hand, often goes directly to the needy.

  18. The “charities are corrupt” cop out. Always a classic.

    Do some homework. Find a good charity. Service does little to help those beyond our local communities. The most desperate need is often abroad.

  19. Chris, I agree that “practicing” to be less tight fisted can go a long way. Liza and I decided to give around 1 percent of our monthly income away. We have used it in different ways. A bankrupt concrete guy messed up on how much he’d need for our patio, but we ate the higher cost although he was responsible for it and fully expected to pay it himself. I was going to do a do-it-yourselfer project to save money but instead hired an out of work construction guy in our ward to do it. I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back, just making the point that once we mentally set aside a certain amount each month, it didn’t feel like it was coming out of “our” money–it was easier to let go. But I also know even 1 percent can be hard under certain circumstances.

  20. Hello Chris,

    You don’t know me from Adam, and yet you have decided to judge both my motives and intellect? As is usual, your mouth is running far ahead of your common sense and charity.

    Charity! It’s not just a money thing, you know. Done correctly, the money part is simply the outward expression of an inward virtue that loves and respects all of God’s children because all bear equally the image of their Creator.

    And that’s ALL, Chris, not just those that you agree with, hard as that may be for a morally superior being such as yourself to comprehend.

    Poor Rustic

  21. Poor Rustic

    Do you believe the LDS church welfare program is corrupt?

  22. ganzo,

    I know of a couple of cases of relatively small, petty, corruption but nothing systemic.

  23. Thanks for this post. It’s good to stop and do the actual math sometimes.

    My wife and I have been on both sides of the divide, multiple times, in our life. We have given and we have received. The key, imo, is not how or what or how much we personally give; it’s that we give what we can – intentionally and generously.

    My personal “ideal” is to be able to give at least as much monetarily in charitable donations as I do in tithing. I am nowhere near this currently, as we are struggling to live within a very modest budget. My intention, however, is to establish what we need to live well enough for us, set aside enough to ensure stability if something happens that drastically reduces our income and share the rest in some way with those who need it more than I do.

    I also look for whatever non-monetary avenues are available to help those in my own local area. Monetary donations are important, but they are NOT the most important. Divorced from real care, concern and love, they still help – but they don’t change the giver and, often, don’t even change the recipient. An internal change (of both giver and recipient) is far more important than just giving financially, and giving won’t increase significantly without an internal change, imo.

  24. Poor Rustic,

    Then how can you use corruption as an excuse for not giving? You can give to fast offerings, PEF, Humanitarian Aid. From what I understand, all money for PEF and Humanitarian aid goes directly to people because the overhead is covered by other church revenue.

    I can see that if you are someone of little means how giving direct service is a good substitute for financial giving. But if you do have money to give, can direct service really be a subsitute for financial giving? I think we are obligated to do both.

  25. Ord’s £20k is his bright line; obviously that is something that would be different for other people.

  26. ganzo,

    You’ve misread my comment or missed my point. I did not suggest service was my only fora for charity, nor that I have any issues with any of the church’s welfare programs. I merely pointed out that one of the benefits of service is that it may not be as open to malicious intervention.

  27. Poor rustic,

    Fair enough.

    I would argue that unqualified statements like your #17 serve to direct people away from donating to the largely corruption free programs (IMHO) that the church runs. These programs do a large amount of good in the world and should be promoted. While it may not have been your intention, your initial comment implicitly downplays these programs.

  28. I have no taste for the common list of extravagant purchases usually listed that waste peoples’ money. The cost of cable plans alone makes me blanch. But I do have a hoarding sort of mentality. We’re not in a position to have lots of extra money, but we do have a small bit for the first time (mostly due to not having a cell phone plan, almost never eating out, buying most everything used, etc). The temptation is great to sock it all away for a rainy day, an early retirement, and kids college. Of course these are all prudent, but also unlimited. A normal person with a relatively modest income could never save enough to feel like you really had all those bases covered. We just need to decide to give sometimes, because people have real immediate needs and are suffering right now both in our communities and around the world.

  29. Natalie B. says:

    I like this post a lot. While how much you need genuinely does vary depending on issues like cost of living, I find that for me any purchase that I make because it makes me feel superior to others or that has cost disproportional to the pleasure I’d get from it over time is something that I shouldn’t have. But, since I don’t actually make enough money to worry about excess, I’m not tempted very often!

    Incidentally, I dropped my landline because I found that I spent less by just having a cell phone.

  30. Of course now my iPhone is all scratched from the rocks y’all threw at it….

    Of course everyone has to make their own choices about such things, but I do NOT consider my iPhone a luxury. It is a tool. I am a project coordinator, and I have to be available after 7 a.m. and up until 9 p.m. It’s a tool that allows me to be home with my kids after school.

    I have software with the scriptures-hymns-conference, so I use it a lot for church stuff. I also have the ward directory. Not to mention the calendars and to-do lists, etc. Translation into foreign languages. I can’t imagine serving a mission without it.

    One thing to consider is that it comes with a great GPS-style mapping program, the Kindle reader is free, an ipod is included and so on. So when you consider the cost of all those different electronics you DON’T have to buy, it is really a bargain. A lot of management types find they no longer need a laptop for travel since they can read email and send simple responses, etc.

    Although I admit that I get a discount on the service plan through my employer, which may affect my perceived cost.

  31. I love discussions like this. Especially since our income has risen dramatically over the last few years and now we have to make these kinds of decisions. It’s interesting because when we were poor we had no money problems. We were both frugal and never fought over money. We have realized that we actually don’t agree so much when extra money is involved. My husband likes to hoard it and I want to give it away (my nickname for him is Ebenezer Scrooge). His concern is his family’s future. He wants to save so much that he knows his family is okay if he dies or is disabled. He will not feel that he has saved enough unless it’s enough to retire on. Only then will he have peace of mind regarding his family’s security. This is based on his childhood experiences with lack of money. I am ready to give away large sums now but I see the wisdom in his point. We are still dependent on his income. We are not independently wealthy, but we have the potential to be if we keep saving and investing for 10-15 more years. This is my husband’s goal. Is it selfish? He feels he could give more later if he saves more now.

    I can relate to this point from #27: “The temptation is great to sock it all away for a rainy day, an early retirement, and kids college. Of course these are all prudent, but also unlimited. A normal person with a relatively modest income could never save enough to feel like you really had all those bases covered.”

    What if your income rose beyond your wildest dreams and it became possible?

    We do donate beyond a very generous fast offering and helping support a missionary in our ward, but we save large amounts of money that we could be giving away. How much do you save and how much do you give? What would YOU do?

    I guess it helps that neither of us are materialistic. We will never own a boat or RV (just not our thing) although I noticed tons of homes in northern UT County seemed to have one or both of these items parked in front during my trip last summer. Do LDS people truly finance such purchases or pay outright?

  32. However, for Dan or me (and most of us on this thread), [luxury items are] not a possiblity. The i-phone might be our more equivalent of a yacht.

    And yet, not being in the shoes of those who can afford them is rarely a barrier for those who want to determine how much others can properly spend on a car/phone/house/boat/whatever.

  33. I agree that it takes a constant effort to be charitable. It gets better with practice.
    My one caution is that I have intentionally chosen to live frugally in the past not just to stay out of debt, but also to make it possible to buy things later. Like now that my children are older I want to take a vacation with them and I want to spend money on piano lessons, etc. Yes, I actually chose not to buy cute baby clothes that she wouldn’t remember because I knew that I would rather buy her clothes when she was a teenager and she’d care.
    I have gone years without a cell phone and currently have a prepaid one that costs less than $10/month. However, once my child is a certain age it I will have to decide whether she needs one just to interact with her peers and make friends.
    Choosing to give to others is important, and luckily we try to make the continual effort and so I hope to always do it, and teach my children that it is what you are supposed to do. I had to give up a lot of canned food storage for the school food drive (and make sure it was the new stuff not the expired stuff) this week. There are plenty of ways to make giving a part of your life.
    Both in giving money and in giving of time and effort.

  34. Scott B. #32,

    I think there are some things that are clearly lavish and unnecessary. The specifics are debatable but is it wrong to have a coversation that seeks to hash this out? I don’t think that being poor should exlude one from this coverstation. In fact, not having money may well make you more clear eyed about it. It is probably useful to determine what is excessive before you actually have the temptations that come with wealth.

  35. Didn’t Hugh Nibley do this?

  36. I have software with the scriptures-hymns-conference, so I use it a lot for church stuff. I also have the ward directory. Not to mention the calendars and to-do lists, etc. Translation into foreign languages. I can’t imagine serving a mission without it.

    Though, remarkably enough, we did.

  37. Peter Singer has been doing it also.
    The problem really is in finding a peer reference group to make it work.
    And having a country with a reasonable social safety net. one reason to keep a higher salary is to create a buffer fund, though once the fund is created, charity flows again.
    I just have the Food Bank charge my credit card once a month for the donation–makes it more fluid, even though it was a sacrifice when we first settled on the routine donation. we also experimented with “luxury tax” which means giving 1:1 to charity anytime we bought anything that seemed to us to be more than we needed.
    complicated set of issues.

  38. Ganzo (34),

    First, please see my comment (9) way up in the beginning–I think Ronan’s post is great, and that it’s a great thing to both give more and to encourage others to give more. I admire both the man about whom the post is written, and Ronan’s frank admission that giving as much would be very difficult for him.

    However, you can only answer for yourself whether a discussion like the comment I referenced is a good thing or not. I personally think it is a very bad thing, inasmuch as they lead me to make determinations about what is “lavish and unnecessary” for another person, and consequently, hold in contempt any person who violates that determination.

    I believe that the Savior’s commandment to judge not extends to the way we view others’ use of their wallets. I believe in being generous in my offerings, and strive to live as modestly as possible. I encourage others to do the same. However, I am very, very careful about not imposing my definitions of generosity, modesty, luxury or excess on any other persons on Earth. If I were to tell you that you were spending money on something unnecessarily, I hope you would tell me to blow it out my arse, because that’s exactly what I’d tell you if our roles were reversed.

  39. smb brings up an excellent point. It may be very likely that Dr. Ord is doing this because he knows he is well taken care of, both of his own efforts and labors and that he belongs to a society that provides a safety net at the bottom in case his world collapses around him ten years later.

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    It’s always good to think seriously and deeply about what we give.

    But the Nacle tends to skew young. Wait until you have multiple children in college at the same time. Then–if it is your parental philosophy to pay for that as needed–all thought of giving thousands of extra dollars away will be but a distant memory. College and student living expenses are overwhelming and all-consuming when your kids reach that age.

  41. Do any of you actually live the kind of life where trying to save money doesn’t actually help you? I have a friend who tends to associate with needier people and needier family members so every time they build up some savings they have to give it away because they don’t believe they can turn someone away (none of these people are coming to them for poor choice financial mistakes……they are simply more poverty level people). It is good to see her example. I am used to only occasionally having a friend in true financial need so I can limit my generosity. I can still make my extra mortgage payments and still save fully for retirement AND spend a little on a worthy cause or a neighbor in need.
    I do expect to have my own safety net, but my friend has almost given up trying to build her own safety net since she doesn’t get to keep it.
    Does this free her to be more generous? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

  42. This was an inspiring post and inspiring discussion.

  43. I like Dave Ramsey’s 6 baby steps:
    1. $1000 emergency cash in the bank
    2. Pay off all debt except the mortgage
    3. 3-6 months worth of living expenses in the bank
    4. 15% of income into retirement
    5. Pay off the house
    6. Build wealth to give away

    In looking around at others who are older and more experienced than I am, I think there is a lot to be said for the kind of charitable service you can do when you have enough wealth/assets that you don’t have to spend all your time working to eat anymore. Doctors who run volunteer clinics for the poor, couples who serve missions (many of which are just charitable work), etc. There’s also a lot to be said for starting businesses that employ people and create jobs.

    For me, it’s not as simple as just giving a certain amount above X. Right now we are working on baby steps 2 and 3 (huge student loans don’t help), but we’ve also been trying to give enough that it hurts and requires sacrifice. My plan is to keep working our way through the baby steps while trying to give what we can and hopefully get to the build wealth and give more stage.

    In our case, we are surrounded by family, friends, ward members in need. Sometimes the needs (just from a couple of family members) are so great it is overwhelming. We could give 100% and still not help everyone we know personally who needs it. We frequently just have to say no when asked. (And it always seems like right after we give a lot to help with one emergency, someone calls two days later with a bigger emergency.) We’ve got to take care of our kids, too. It feels like a constant tension between meeting today’s needs for our family, helping others with their needs, and saving for future needs. It never feels like we have enough money to do it all.

  44. “Wait until you have multiple children in college at the same time.”

    That, and saving for retirement, which for many LDS includes serving missions, which is a worthwhile goal one doesn’t want to put at risk, either.

  45. ……..

    There is a terribly sad irony in a board full of people trying to assess whether they could live on less than $60-70K in a society where so many people are living and serving them for less than $25K.

    “If ye are not equal in earthly things, ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things.” D&C 78:5-7.

    Before you all jump on me for being holier-than-thou, that’s not my point. It just really makes me sad that we can all sit here and assess whether we could do without the i-Phone when people are actually raising families on $10 an hour. Makes me sad for the state of the world and our collective salvation, not for individual souls.

    I feel that the most important way for me to build up the Kingdom of God on this earth is to eradicate the gross inequality and injustice that I feel really flies in the face of what our cannon says about salvation.

    And I’m tending to think that the way to do this is to live in solidarity with the poor, which often must mean actually putting your body with the poor. I have a lot more faith in the power of collective action and solidarity to bring about meaningful progress than top-down politics.

    And I have very little faith in the ability of charity to bring about any degree of societal change, coming from my own experience of growing up dependent on the charity of others.

    All this to say, I think it’s great if we try to increase our giving a little here and there, and serve and donate and all that. But I really can’t feel totally secure with myself if I’m enjoying a standard of living that is completely unattainable to many around me. Which $60k a year is.

    So I’d agree with the Ord’s approach. And will hopefully someday emulate it once (if?) my income gets over $25K.

  46. Also…. I think a really great test of whether we’re actually charitable is to give significantly without claiming it on your taxes.

    Just a random thought.

  47. #30 – Naismith:

    “Of course everyone has to make their own choices about such things, but I do NOT consider my iPhone a luxury. It is a tool. I am a project coordinator, and I have to be available after 7 a.m. and up until 9 p.m. It’s a tool that allows me to be home with my kids after school.”

    As long as you are doing everything in your power to make it possible for the mother who is a housekeeper and has to leave her kids home alone while she works for very little money to have equal access to that iPhone, I have no problem with you having it.

    What I have a problem with is us allowing ourselves to talk about privileges as “necessities” when we are perfectly fine with allowing others in our community to remain without any access to them.

  48. Scott B., #38:

    “However, you can only answer for yourself whether a discussion like the comment I referenced is a good thing or not. I personally think it is a very bad thing, inasmuch as they lead me to make determinations about what is “lavish and unnecessary” for another person, and consequently, hold in contempt any person who violates that determination.”

    Except that one person’s actions affect not only them, but the community around them. And if their economic decisions affect me, they are accountable to me for those decisions.

    We don’t exist in a vacuum. If one’s spending/earning habits are harming my community, I have every right and, I believe, an important obligation to speak up about it.

    This doesn’t mean it has to be done in a mean, judgmental way. It should hopefully be motivated with a spirit of love and teaching……. though I must say I’m going through a phase where I’m having a hard time getting over my feelings of disgust for how I see others using their money. But maybe that’s because I work in a luxury hotel.

  49. Aaron Brown says:

    If I don’t buy that $6,000 Rolex Submariner, and everyone else follows the advice in this post and likewise refuses to buy a Rolex Submariner, then who will buy all the lonely Rolex Submariners, sitting in their jeweler cases, untouched and unloved? Surely God would not allow the creation of Rolex Submariners if it did not please him that they be bought by someone. All things must fill the measure of their creation. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that this argument is flawed. QED. :)

    AB

  50. I think a really great test of whether we’re actually charitable is to give significantly without claiming it on your taxes.

    Hm. I don’t know. For me, I want to be a wise steward, which means active choices on how I use my money. Letting money go to taxes unnecessarily to somehow ‘prove’ that my heart is good seems like an unwise use of resources. Why not claim that money and designate it for more charity or wise savings or supporting a missionary or …. ???

    I also think that helping the poor isn’t always about simply giving in a linear way, but also finding and supporting ways to help others help themselves. For example, I love the model of what the PEF does — it shares wealth in ways that others can then become self-reliant, pay back what was shared, and the cycle upward continues as more are pulled out of the hole of poverty by being empowered to care for themselves.

    I have often pondered the Church and how it approaches its resources in a balanced way. It does much to help the poor, but it also spends — and invests — money in other ways. It not only shares wealth, but wisely (and conservatively) creates it, thus having has more to share. It spends money on education and the arts, on beautifying and caring for its assets. Perhaps most importantly, it spends great resources on things that transcend mortal measures of merit.

    Similarly, I think balance is essential in our personal resource management as well. We are to care for our own, and to care for ourselves and our loved ones. We are to help build the kingdom. And yes, we are to care for the poor, but there are many ways to do that, and it is not the only thing we are charged to do.

    I do hear our leaders giving us very wise counsel about assessing wants vs needs…but again, where that line is drawn is a personal thing.

    It could be argued that any of us on a computer is living in excess, for example. If you look at the world and compare us all just on possessions, in a very real sense, we are. And yet, the Church uses the internet and encourages us to use it to do God’s work ….missionary work, family history/temple work. We haven’t been asked to give up such things, but are invited to use them well. I have never felt that God somehow expects us all to live ascetic lives to prove our love or humility or to make equality possible. I tend to think a lot of it is really how we use what we have, and where our hearts are. I also think that helping the poor is not just about money, but also about sharing truth and the power of the gospel.

    Another thought…I usually think think about how Pres. Hinckley was able to travel so extensively as a significant part of his ministry because of the wealth of someone who was willing to give access to his private jet for the prophet to do his work.

    Again, I don’t think things are always as simple as they appear. God’s work is multi-faceted, imo, and there are many ways we can help serve His children, from caring for our families to directly helping the poor in more ‘typical’ ways, to contributing to the building of a temple, to helping someone get an education, to donating resources for the prophet to minister to the world.

  51. they have to give it away because they don’t believe they can turn someone away

    I think everyone has to decide this for themselves, but in general principle, I don’t think that it’s always the right thing to give away and not save. If we don’t care for ourselves, we could end up draining ‘the system’ (either church or govt) if a crises of our own hits. I think there is great wisdom in caring for self along the way…with the Spirit’s guidance, of course. Hoarding in fear is not what I mean, but just being wise and reasonable…in wisdom and order and all of that.

  52. “Letting money go to taxes unnecessarily to somehow ‘prove’ that my heart is good seems like an unwise use of resources.”

    My point (which I didn’t make clear) was that by claiming charity on our taxes, we are taking back money we gave to help others. In reality, tax money does a great deal to help others, and if we weren’t so stingy about giving it, our government might be able to solve a lot of the problems we create so many non-profit organizations to address. It is hardly charitable to give money to one thing if you’re just going to get it back from another. And by getting it back, we are taking resources away from the larger community. That’s my problem.

    Also, m&m, I really love the spirit of your post. I think it is great when people are motivated to help others and “care for the poor.” But I have to point out the attitude here that sometimes can drive me crazy.

    There is a deeply important difference between “helping” the poor and working with the poor to end the injustices that are causing their suffering. One attitude looks at the poor person as a victim, in need of my aid, dependent on me. The other looks at the poor person as an individual capable of overcoming the collective obstacles of their community when operating in a network of others committed to the same cause. One very, very important product of any exchange of goods, be it charity or business, is the social relations that result. In charity, the giver is always accorded higher social regard than the giver. I think the best outline of this issue is Maimonides. (sp?)

    For example, the TV commercials that depict the poor starving children in Africa drive me CRAZY. I get what they’re trying to do, and I’m glad that they have good intentions. But they are making this whole continent of people seem like helpless, dependent, needy, ignorant victims, living in a constant swirl of degradation, violence and darkness. In reality, African culture is rich and vibrant, there are wide swaths of the continent where communities are very self-sufficient, and people there are already working together to confront the obstacles they know they have. When we focus on “helping the needy”, it is all to easy to reduce that person to nothing more than a victim, and give ourselves a great deal of self-satisfaction (or warm fuzzies). While the aid is important, and possibly life-sustaining, it comes at a very high cost if that kind of social relationship is established.

    We give SO MUCH praise to the uber-wealthy who donate lots of money to help “starving kids in Africa.” But as a consequence, we remain virtually ignorant of the incredible efforts people are making to eradicate their own suffering. Maybe the American billionaire can just ask if he can join their efforts instead of generating lots of positive publicity for himself and creating his own foundation to give the need that he thinks they need……. not to name names or anything….

    Again, I think it is AWESOME when people see problems and see others suffering and feel motivated to do so. I just think we have been really deeply trained to do so in a way that is maybe less uplifting than it could be.

  53. Whoops. Second to last sentence should read,

    ” I think it is AWESOME when people see problems and see others suffering and feel motivated to do something about it.”

  54. Natalie,

    #47

    As long as you are doing everything in your power to make it possible for the mother who is a housekeeper and has to leave her kids home alone while she works for very little money to have equal access to that iPhone, I have no problem with you having it.

    What I have a problem with is us allowing ourselves to talk about privileges as “necessities” when we are perfectly fine with allowing others in our community to remain without any access to them.

    Indeed. Wasn’t the Law of Consecration based on this principle?

  55. m&m, you have done a great job persuading me not to bother helping the poor in any way that impacts on my standard of living. My future bank account salutes you.

  56. Great post and comments. Caring for others is a basic concept of the gospel.

    With an LDS perspective of the last days, and the current state of the US financial system; emphasizing home storage/productions seems like an excellent idea. Not only to do it ourselves, but encourage others as well.

  57. In reality, tax money does a great deal to help others, and if we weren’t so stingy about giving it, our government might be able to solve a lot of the problems we create so many non-profit organizations to address

    Indeed it does. However, large parts of it go to help people who are anything but poor. I would doubt the competence of any citizen who could not make better charitable use of his contributions than the government does. The government, for example, spends *far* more money administering the welfare system than it actually spends in subsidies to those in needs. Enough over the past few decades to lift everyone out of poverty three times over.

    It is hardly charitable to give money to one thing if you’re just going to get it back from another. And by getting it back, we are taking resources away from the larger community. That’s my problem.

    You are assuming that the person receiving the tax deduction is going to use it for non-charitable purposes. That is not a valid assumption.

    Neither is assuming that net charitable contributions will increase if the tax deduction is eliminated. You might run that idea past a local non-profit and see how they feel about it.

  58. I think a really great test of whether we’re actually charitable is to give significantly without claiming it on your taxes.

    Imagine my consternation when I discovered that my new country of residence only allowed one to deduct about $150 in tithing contributions from one’s income.

  59. The government, for example, spends *far* more money administering the welfare system than it actually spends in subsidies to those in needs.

    You are assuming that these overpaid administrators have used their bounty for non-charitable purposes. That is not a valid assumption. 8)

  60. #55 – ??

    I love this post and almost every post and comment you write, but that was a seriously low blow that didn’t reflect m&m’s comment at all.

  61. Mark,

    #57,

    The government, for example, spends *far* more money administering the welfare system than it actually spends in subsidies to those in needs.

    This is the case with any charitable or non profit organization. The most of the funds go toward those who administer the programs. Compare the balance sheet of any charitable group of decent size and that of say the government welfare department. You’ll find they are not that different.

  62. A couple of thoughts…

    First, are we not counseled in the Doctrine and Covenants to give 10% of our interest annually in tithing, and also all of our surplus? It is quite likely that I have misread this direction, but that’s what I’ve always understood it to say. And I totally support the idea of giving far more than is the “legal requirement”. Be generous in your tithes and offerings!

    Second, as has been pointed out, each individual and each family needs to decide what they need. But the Lord doesn’t want us to be subsistence farmers. I have never heard of a single instance in which the counsel from the Lord has been to just get by. I do know that the Lord has told us that there is more than enough for everyone, though.

    Third, I have a great deal of concern about the idea of “hurting the rich” in our offerings. I assume that this is meaning that the “rich” should “hurt” themselves, as it isn’t the Lord’s way to tell me to pay my tithing by taking money from my wealthier neighbours. But why must it be the rich who are hurt? Heck, why must anyone be hurt by giving? Isn’t the whole point of giving to relieve suffering, not to just pass it from one person to another?

    (I’ll save my discourse on Ayn Rand for a later day…)

  63. Raymond,
    It may have been a blow but it was not low. I stand by it. We have an obligation to the poor which utterly nullifies the excuses we offer for inaction. m&m is muddying the water for which we should thank her — it makes us sleep better at night in our (comfortable) beds.

  64. Valencic,
    Of course no-one is advocating the forceable payment of donations, so rid yourself of that notion. Nor is anyone suggesting what level of giving each person should decide for himself.

    As for hurting the rich:

    It should be rather obvious that the widow’s mite represents a greater sacrifice than a huntsmanian private jet. I submit that no wealthy Mormon should say a word about tithing in the presence of the poor unless they themselves are far exceeding 10% in their own offerings.

  65. Sorry coming back to this a bit late”

    Sheldon (#19); I really like that example. I think setting aside something is a great start. That on top of all the times you let me stay at your house for free over the last few months.

    Poor Rustic: Of course I do not know you from Adam…you are using a fake name. I was not judging your motives or intellect (do not care) just addressing the merits of your argument about non-profits involved in this work. Of course charity is about more than money, but this post is about donating money.

    RJH: Keep up the good work.

  66. By the Rules says:

    Follow the Prophets! What is the type and example of the prophets that we sustain? What balance of savings/self suffieicency v. giving have they set? What is the spending balance shown by the Church on projects like the Conference center and downtown revitalization v. humanitarian aid?

    I don’t see any threshold above which money begins to be exclusively spent on one area. Regardless of income levels, the spending prototypes that I endorse, uniformly appear to retain a balance of spending between charity/humanitarian and personal lifestyle/organizational support.

  67. RJH 55 – Where are you getting this from? Look at it this way: if you as an individual decide to give everything above X to the poor, or to help others, or to build the kingdom of God, or otherwise to charity, you can do this in a number of ways. You could give the money to people you know who have needs, you could give it to the church to administer, you could invest it and give the annual increase to charity. If you are Natalie K, you can write a letter to the IRS and let them distribute it as they see fit. Someone is going to decide how that money gets spent. Why is it “better” to give it to someone else to decide how to help than to decide yourself? Sure, in many cases, pooling resources is a good way to help the poor. But, in other cases, the one-on-one help on the ground is more beneficial.

    A scripture my husband and I have been discussing lately is Helaman 13:19:

    For I will, saith the Lord, that they shall hide up their treasures unto me; and cursed be they who hide not up their treasures unto me; for none hideth up their treasures unto me save it be the righteous; and he that hideth not up his treasures unto me, cursed is he, and also the treasure, and none shall redeem it because of the curse of the land.

    To me, this says that we need to use our wealth to serve God. How we do that is very much up to personal inspiration. m&m didn’t offer “excuses for inaction” – she said that there are more ways to help others than just giving all of your money away.

  68. Besides, this seems to be the main point of your post:

    Up-scaling our donations according to wealth seems like a sensible way to discharge our obligations to the poor and remove the love of money from our hearts.

    I think any Mormon/Christian (with an honest heart) would agree. m&m clearly agrees. But to quibble about the details seems rather unnecessary.

  69. the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low

    This little D&C tidbit did not go over well in my Sunday school class.

  70. In 67, I meant to say that Natalie K can write a check to the IRS, not a letter.

  71. Mr. Rules,
    I think you are an anti-Mormon troll trying to embarrass the church.

    >we need to use our wealth to serve God.

    Stephanie, I agree. And Jesus was fairly consistent in explaining how this was to be done.

  72. Stephanie,

    If you are so worried about mean old RJH twisting the words of m&m, maybe you should not do the same thing to Natalies.

    BTW, it is Congress, not the IRS, that has budget authority. At least snark accurately.

  73. Chris, how exactly is that twisting Natalie’s words? I wasn’t being snarky. Natalie K said:

    In reality, tax money does a great deal to help others, and if we weren’t so stingy about giving it, our government might be able to solve a lot of the problems we create so many non-profit organizations to address.

    And I said:

    If you are Natalie K, you can write a [check] to the IRS and let them distribute it as they see fit.

    You’re right – congress decides how the money is spent. But the IRS collects tax money. Sorry I didn’t clarify to a T.

  74. And Jesus was fairly consistent in explaining how this was to be done.

    So which of m&m’s suggestions were inconsistent with Christ’s teachings?

  75. Except that I might understand how m&m is “muddying the waters” with her comment.

  76. It should be rather obvious that the widow’s mite represents a greater sacrifice than a huntsmanian private jet.

    I get this, but does that make the private jet offered for President Hinckley to fly around the world doing church service an inacceptable offering before the Lord? Is it inconsistent with what Christ taught?

  77. Nothing will be gained from escalating things here, but I will just say that this statement

    >We are to help build the kingdom. And yes, we are to care for the poor, but there are many ways to do that, and it is not the only thing we are charged to do

    seems to ignore what seems to be the unequivocal message of the parable of the sheep and goats: it is the most important thing we are charged to do.

    I have no appetite for arguing this further. Ord’s story is interesting and compelling to me; your mileage may vary, which is fine.

  78. You are assuming that these overpaid administrators have used their bounty for non-charitable purposes. That is not a valid assumption.

    It is a valid assumption:

    1. The administrators are usually not overpaid, there is just a lot of administration that goes on relative to the subsidies granted.
    2. Because of that, it is a matter of course that the administrators spend most of what they earn on support for themselves and their families.

    A better example is farm subsidies, by the way. Most farm subsidies go to people who are rather well off, including owners of corporate farms. There are many other examples of corporate welfare subsidies, which is a disgrace. How about the purchase of AIG, so that such companies as Goldman Sachs didn’t suffer a hit to their bottom line?

    Or more controversially, the buyout of GM so that it could continue to operate while compensating assembly line workers (who admittedly have a difficult job) to the tune of $78 per hour (benefits included). That is not exactly poverty territory.

  79. RJH, I am not arguing with anything posed in your OP. I, too, find Ord’s story interesting and compelling. He is essentially living the law of consecration – giving everything above what he has determined his needs to be. That is how I live my life, too. I just didn’t think that your assessment of m&m’s comment was accurate.

  80. This is the case with any charitable or non profit organization. The most of the funds go toward those who administer the programs

    The degree to which that is justified depends on what exactly the added value of the administrators is. Most non-profits do not exist to transfer funds from contributors to beneficiaries, but rather to accomplish other worthwhile objectives. Medical research or the performing arts, for example. Or more controversially, the promotion of various social and political agendas.

    Excessive overhead in a classic “feed, clothe, provide for” the poor charity is an excellent argument for administering such donations yourself, if you can find worthy beneficiaries.

  81. Stephanie,
    It is entirely possible that I am reading m&m uncharitably given that I am, by nature, wholly uncharitable, but I do have an aversion to Mormon Wealth Apologetics and will simply say that anyone hoarding their money in the hope that one day they will buy the church a jet is seriously deluding themselves.

  82. By the Rules says:

    RJH:
    I appreciate your opinion, but hereby correct your conclusion.

    Allow me to re-iterate my point: A balance of spending is appropriate regardless of income level.

  83. I hear what you are saying, RJH. I think there are several ways to be extreme, but a balanced approach of giving and saving while your income increases seems wise. In the article, Ord indicates that he has calculated out his lifetime needs and is giving what he feels is excess above that. To me, that sounds a whole lot like the law of consecration and is a worthy goal for anyone to aspire to.

  84. RJH,

    Since Mormon Wealth Apologetics is by and large an extension of American economic ideology, is this thinking as prevelant amongst Mormons in the UK and Europe?

  85. #57 “The government, for example, spends *far* more money administering the welfare system than it actually spends in subsidies to those in needs. Enough over the past few decades to lift everyone out of poverty three times over.”

    Uh, no. According to a GAO study dated 6/30/05, administrative costs in fiscal year 2004 for four of the largest welfare programs were:

    4.9% for Medicaid
    17.1% for Food Stamp Program
    4.5% for State Children’s Health Insurance Program
    2.1% for Child Care and Development Fund

    The Office of Family Assistance reported that administrative costs in fiscal year 2002 were:

    10.3% for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

  86. By the Rules says:

    @85
    How about the overhead of the IRS for collecting the money, the overhead of the multiple other layers of governement through appropriations through congress, overarching HHS departement level overhead, etc. And what about the deductions for fraud and abuse in the programs specified?

  87. In regards to the argument about charity corruption and how most of their income goes to administrative costs, there’s a great site calling GiveWell. It was started by financial investors who decided to bring that same scrutiny they brought to investing to the charities they were giving to. They rank charities on how effective they are at bringing about real change, the percentage of money that goes towards the charity vs administrative costs, and how transparent the charity is about their procedures and costs. http://www.givewell.net/

  88. One other observation: I am not sure how useful it is to compare ourselves to Ord and what he is giving. Ord says that he is giving everything above 20k to charity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is living on 20k a year. He mentions that he has a wife. She may work. She may make more than he does. She may be very wealthy. He might have wealth built up. We don’t know. I appreciate the principle of giving everything above our own needs, but I don’t think it is very useful to compare dollar amounts from one person/family to another.

  89. Mark D.,

    Sure, ok.

  90. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article6917270.ece

    His wife has also signed-up.

    de Pizan,

    Ord’s site does something similar. Apparently, if you want your money to save the most amount of lives, pour it into combating tropical diseases.

    Chris,

    This isn’t about Mormons or Americans. All of us in the West love our lucre.

  91. Right, RJH, I knew his wife had signed up. But, my comment was more directed at those who are comparing what they live on to the 20k of his salary he is keeping. I just don’t think it is a useful comparison.

  92. Mark,

    #80

    Excessive overhead in a classic “feed, clothe, provide for” the poor charity is an excellent argument for administering such donations yourself, if you can find worthy beneficiaries.

    I think that’s an excellent idea and more in line with what I think is the spirit of the law of consecration, and of living a life in service of others. The point is that each one of us learn how to better serve others, rather than going through a middle man who has trained himself or herself at serving others and is doing it as a profession (whether for profit or not).

    In terms of giving money to a charity or having taxes increased to pay for government services both push us, the givers, from the actual service our money provides those in need, and I think both miss the point.

  93. “As long as you are doing everything in your power to make it possible for the mother who is a housekeeper and has to leave her kids home alone while she works for very little money to have equal access to that iPhone, I have no problem with you having it.”

    I don’t see why the mother who is a housekeeper needs an iPhone. I wouldn’t have one if it weren’t necessary for my job; why should she have one just because I do? Does she also need a computer with DVD editing capacity? Does every family need a minivan?

    I do think it is important that I pay an honest wage to my cleaning service, and I do. But working to get them equal access to an iPhone is not a particularly worthwhile goal.

  94. StillConfused says:

    There was a comment up above from someone saying that financial donations were important, and perhaps even more important than service donations. I could not disagree more. I think the opposite is true — I think that service outweighs cash. My personal charitable bend is that I teach people to be self sufficient and self reliant. I specifically do this without a financial handout, as that would defeat my purpose. I help people take what they currently have available to them (including their passions, goals and desires) and teach them to be better stewards with that and to grow. I do give cash to my local Jewish Community Center as it has a great day care program. But the bulk of my interest is in service.

    I also do not think anyone ever has to justify their purchases to anyone else. If you have an iPhone, great. If not, great. I think it is extremely inappropriate to judge someone based on their possessions.

  95. StillConfused (94),

    Why pit the donations of time and money against each other. If you do a lot of direct service are you then exempted from giving financially? Are you then justified in buying uneeded luxury items? I think if you have an excess you should give it whether it be time or money.

  96. One quick addition from me:

    While I like Ord’s approach, my ideal is a little different, mostly because I’m so wary of those social relations created by charity.

    Instead of earning loads of money and giving it away, I would prefer to just limit my amount of income. If I took a position that was going to pay me $120,000 (haha!), I would ask that they cap it at $60-70K and redistribute the remainder elsewhere…. not to charities, but to the other people who are working. How much do the night janitors at your workplace make? How about the people answering the phones? We castigate non-executives and non-professionals who make good money ["compensating assembly line workers (who admittedly have a difficult job) to the tune of $78 per hour (benefits included)"], and then laud ourselves as fabulously Christian and charitable when we give our excess income to those who aren’t paid well, and who are forced to rely on our charity by the nature of our distribution. A lot of the people who are benefiting by your donations are people who should probably just be getting a chunk of your income in the first place.

    If everyone were just paid fairly, and income was distributed more justly to begin with, there wouldn’t be a need for charity.

    And then, maybe, even the marginalized in our society would be able to achieve full citizenship and take part in that service all of us privileged folks find so enriching, instead of always being on the receiving end of it.

  97. Uh, no. According to a GAO study dated 6/30/05, administrative costs in fiscal year 2004 for four of the largest welfare programs were…

    The GAO is using a very narrow definition of administrative costs. An alternative is consider everything other than cash assistance to the final beneficiaries as administrative costs. That is a bit extreme, but certainly the figures are revealing.

    For example, only 30.2% of federal TANF (temporary assistance to needy families) funding was spent in the form of cash assistance. Everything else was some sort of administrative cost or service provision. The devil, of course, is the question of how effective the money spent on non-cash assistance (read: welfare program administrators, caseworkers, etc.) really is. That is the crux of the debate.

  98. Naismith, sorry, I’m using the iPhone as a metaphor for all the wonderful luxuries we tend to think we can’t live without, while being quite happy with allowing others to do so. I don’t have any beef with the iPhone specifically; just using it in this conversation to represent the larger lifestyle that the inequality in our society enables.

  99. Is this where I bring up that for that past couple years, my husband and I have been combatting tropical diseases?

    We’re kind of amazing people.

  100. “Everything else was some sort of administrative cost or service provision.”

    Um… service provision, like….. daycare assistance? Those non-cash costs are often “in-kind” forms of assistance.

    Have you ever been on welfare? It consists of a lot more than getting a check.

    Not that I’m about to defend TANF or anything. Ugh. *shudders*

  101. #86

    Okay, let’s look at it from a larger perspective. In FY 2001 the direct cost of the 11 major welfare programs was $199.0 billion. Direct overhead for those programs was $12.5 billion (6.3% of direct cost).

    Total HHS administrative costs were $1.0 billion in FY 2001. The direct cost of the 11 welfare programs was about half of the HHS budget, so let’s say the distribution of HHS administration to them was about $0.5 billion.

    Total IRS costs were $8.8 billion in FY 2001. The direct cost of the 11 welfare programs was about 10.8% of the total federal budget, so let’s say the distribution of total IRS costs to them was about $1.0 billion.

    So, add another $1.5 billion of indirect overhead to the $12.5 billion of direct overhead, and we’re up to $14.0 billion of administrative cost – a whopping 7.0% of the direct welfare program costs.

    I suppose we could also look at the total costs of Congress and distribute those, but I don’t think it would make much more difference.

    The statement that the government spends more on administering welfare than in direct welfare spending is patently false.

  102. By the Rules says:

    #101
    Thank you for your additional information. Please don’t misunderstand my direction here.

    What I am interested in is the most efficient charity. My distant impression is that the church is a much more efficient charity based in no small part on a lay clergy distributing fast offerings. I would imagine that civic charities have a spectrum of efficiency that would bracket the governement.

    My current position that naturally follows is that charity is most efficiently handled by and through an organizational structure similar to the church, and that the further you depart from that model, the more inefficient it becomes.

    When it comes to the question of justice v. charity, I believe that government is best positioned to address issues of justice, and religion is best positioned to address issues of charity.

  103. Natalie K 96 – I see how that is different, but it’s also essentially the same. You want to live on what you need and consecrate the rest. That’s essentially what building a Zion society where everyone has “all things in common” is about, IMO.

    What about taking all the $120K for salary, living on $60-70K, and using the rest as seed capital for starting a business which then hires people at a living wage and reinvests profit to hire more people? If you pay the employees $60K, then you will have “all things in common”. There are lots of ways to achieve Zion.

  104. That was for 2007, by the way. See here.

    Another way to look at it is like this. The poverty rate in the U.S. is about 13%. About 40 million people below the poverty line. Means tested welfare spending (state and federal) was $714 billion (FY2008). That is $17,850 per person in poverty. The poverty threshold for an adult living alone was $11,201.

    Under the generous assumptions that all the people living in poverty were such adults (no children), and that not one of them earned a dime, spending all means tested welfare spending on direct cash assistance would be nearly enough to lift each one out of poverty nearly two times over.

    Adjusting for household size and number of children makes the multiple higher, hence the three times figure, which was from a study conducted several years ago.

  105. Re: in-kind welfare assistance. The issue is how efficient the provision of those services are, compared to (for example) just letting the recipients purchase the corresponding services outright. $17,850 per person under the poverty line is a *lot* of money.

  106. By the Rules (102),

    Government has the advantage of being comprehensive (i.e., people are less likely to slip through the cracks). I do not dispute that churches (especially the LDS church) are the most efficient forms of charity in terms of getting help to the people they serve. Maybe a mishmash of various charities could provide a comprehensive safety net that could effectively replace the government’s role. I am skeptical of this (although I have no real expertise on the topic). I am sure the libertarians out there would argue with me on this.

  107. #94 “I also do not think anyone ever has to justify their purchases to anyone else. If you have an iPhone, great. If not, great. I think it is extremely inappropriate to judge someone based on their possessions.”

    True enough, so long as we agree to avoid justifying luxuries to ourselves and judge our current generosity at least partially on our possessions. I fail on both counts after an honest assessment; most of us probably do. Acknowledging a collective need for some level of repentence…is that judging or just discernment?

  108. By the Rules says:

    106

    Having worked for 9 years providing services to reciepients of government programs, I am aware of many existing “cracks” in governement charity services. Whether they exceed the private sector I am unable to determine. I guess my “libertarian” streak concludes that forced charity ceases to be charity, and I would rather that at least in the US, that government restrict its charitable involvement, and that religion step up its role. The historical precedent that I look at is Catholic hospitals circa 1900. State of the art health care, filled the community needs, and taxes were tolerable. Currently we could examine Shriners, and some limited examples of outpatient clinics. While these are health care related due to my familiarity with health care, I am under the impression that equivalent charity exists in housing, and food, etc.

  109. StillConfused says:

    #95 says “Why pit the donations of time and money against each other. If you do a lot of direct service are you then exempted from giving financially? Are you then justified in buying uneeded luxury items? I think if you have an excess you should give it whether it be time or money.”

    Again, apparently he feels that he is in a decision to determine what is an unneeded luxury item. I am not so bold as to pass judgment on another person in that way. The whole point of charity is that it is a donation; not an obligation. I give because it is my passion and I give in a way that furthers my passion. I do not give out of some guilt for being successful or out of some perceived judgment by outsiders. When people start saying what they believe is excess for others, they are treading on very dangerous grounds. I don’t believe in that sort of mentality.

  110. 108

    “Forced” charity and the comprehensivness of charity are two separate issues. Hypothetical speaking, would you be willing to tolerate more “forced” charity if it was more comprehensive?

  111. 109,

    Did I make any determination of what is a luxury? Are you denying that such things exist?

  112. Makes me want to be less selfish. (My wife and me get less than $25k after tax, on top of heath care; for the two of us, so we don’t have much to pare down, but definitely some.)

    I think we should be more willing to share with others. Donating money may not be the best way, though. Still, pres. Kimball encouraged increasing fast offering significantly quite some time ago. I was a ward clerk, and didn’t see significant growth then.

    Sorry for sounding a little random, but here goes:

    One time I was checking a donation — years and years ago — and wondered (not out loud) if I could part with such amounts if I had them. I doubt we’ll ever know….

  113. By the Rules says:

    110
    My preferance, with extensive experience as above, is to decrease forced charity, even at the expense of comprehensiveness, and go with true charity. There are some ripple benefits that haven’t even been touched upon that would come about with my proposed approach.

  114. “How much do the night janitors at your workplace make? How about the people answering the phones?”

    Okay, this is where I have a problem. The person who answers our phones has been working for the university for 20+ years. She could have been taking classes for free (an employee benefit) that would qualify for her for a better-paying job. She has chosen not to do so.

    And the reason that she should be the paid the same as people with a graduate degree is….???? Should she also be paid the same as the MDs?

  115. Natalie K. says:

    Stephanie 103 –
    I think your example, of using the extra money to invest in a new, living wage business, accomplishes the same goal as my suggestion. But I think both have very important distinction from the charity based model proposed in the OP.

    Let me try to deconstruct my overly Marxist lingo.

    In a charity transaction, more than an exchange of goods is going on. The giver is in a higher social position than the receiver. The receiver is dependent on the giver. I think it’s okay for us all to give and receive and learn humility and generosity and all that. But when it is a continuous, systemic thing, the charity creates long-lasting social relationships that are very important and that do affect people’s lives.

    Going from memory, and sketching this out briefly, I think Maimonides hierarchy of giving is useful here.

    The “least noble” form of giving is when both the giver and receiver are known and know each other.

    Giving gets progressively more noble as either A) the giver becomes anonymous, B) the receiver becomes anonymous, or C) they become unknown to each other (like with organizations such as United Way).

    If I’m begging on the street, and you give me your spare change, you are immediately in a higher social position than I am. I am indebted to and dependent on you. And we both know it.

    If you anonymously give to an organization, and see me reap the rewards (like if you donate to a food drive and the family that received it is on the news), you know that I am indebted to you, but I do not. It is better than the first situation, but still not the best. Same for if we all know the giver but not specific receivers (like the Gates foundation.)

    But the most noble form of “giving” is to give someone work and compensate them fairly for it. In this transaction, both parties are indebted to each other. The giver is giving an opportunity, and the worker is creating value for the giver. If compensation is just, and respects the dignity of the worker, both are mutually indebted and can stand on the same social plane.

    Does that make more sense?

  116. Natalie K. says:

    “and I would rather that at least in the US, that government restrict its charitable involvement, and that religion step up its role.”

    Not me. I don’t want to be dependent on the beneficence of a random organization to decide whether I have the resources necessary for life. I want the people I elect to shape my society, who are accountable to my vote, to be in charge of dispensing that. Free-acting organizations can withold or grant their aid based on any capricious whim they choose, and I have no say in what determines that.

    I never will understand my fellow citizens distrust of the government they elected.

  117. Natalie K. says:

    Another problem with relying on the private sector to provide aid for the needy is that its reach is far more limited than the government. One example of this is rural poverty in remote areas.

    A private organization does not enough incentive to expand their reach into areas where only a few people will benefit, at tremendous cost. The government has an obligation to do so. And those people are every bit as deserving of aid as anyone else.

  118. Natalie 115 – it makes perfect sense. Your description reminds me of fast offerings and of the way the church does charity. You as an individual give your excess to the Bishop’s storehouse. The Bishop disperses aid as needed, but noone knows who is receiving the aid, and noone knows who is giving it. I think it is an inspired system in achieving Zion.

    And I totally agree with the social impact of giving. When we know families are in need, we try to give as anonymously as possible. Even if we know they will probably figure it out (like they told us in confidence and noone else), we still will leave money in an unmarked envelope or something so that it isn’t awkward for anyone.

  119. Natalie K. says:

    “The person who answers our phones has been working for the university for 20+ years. She could have been taking classes for free (an employee benefit) that would qualify for her for a better-paying job. She has chosen not to do so.”

    UUUGGGHHH.

    Why on earth do we equate degrees with somehow deserving a higher standard of living? Maybe the reason she never took classes is because she felt like she was contributing meaningfully as it was.

    And what if she did take the classes, and moved on to a “better’ job? Would it be okay to pay her replacement substandard wages? And what if they moved on too? You can just keep paying people less than a living wage indefinitely? If it is a job that doesn’t deserve adequate compensation, why do you have the position at all? If you are unwilling to pay someone livable wages for it, you are willing to live in a world where some people simply do not deserve an adequate standard of living, no matter what. If there are always bad jobs, there will always be poverty, and someone will have to fill those positions.

    Of if the work is so easy and worthless, and not deserving of adequate compensation, you could just answer your own phones.

  120. I believe that it was President Monson who said (paraphrased):

    He who gives of his money gives much;
    He who gives of his time gives more;
    He who gives of himself gives all.

    When it comes to my obligation to the poor, I want to follow this model:

    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/matt/6/1-4#1

    And remember this individual:

    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/luke/21/1-4#1

    From these and other examples in the scriptures, listen to the promptings of the Spirit and act upon them. Becuase what we will be held accountable for is how in tune we are to the promptings which the Spirit gives to us and how we respond to them, nothing more nor less.

  121. Isn’t single motherhood is the biggest poverty risk factor? If all of our efforts go to preaching the gospel, encouraging marriage, encouraging staying married, aren’t we combating poverty?

  122. (The church actively discourages abuse in marriages so the encouraging of married people to stay together also includes staying together happily married, not staying in abusive situations).

  123. jks, that is the conclusion that I often come to. When I start pondering the world’s ills and what I can to do combat them, I feel that sharing the gospel has the most impact.

  124. m&m, you have done a great job persuading me not to bother helping the poor in any way that impacts on my standard of living. My future bank account salutes you.
    We have an obligation to the poor which utterly nullifies the excuses we offer for inaction. m&m is muddying the water for which we should thank her — it makes us sleep better at night in our (comfortable) beds.

    Wow. I am NOT trying to feed excuses or validate gluttony or avoid the very real covenant obligation we have to help the poor, so I’m sorry if it came across that way. I have a DEEP concern about helping the poor…just spent a good chunk of my week with a major humanitarian project in my area, in fact. But I do believe how to approach it is a personal choice, and I do believe there is a variety of ways to use what we have been given for the good of others and for God’s work.

    But again, let me not be misunderstood…our obligation to help the poor is something very significant in our doctrine, something essential to what it means to be Christlike.

    Again, I think it is AWESOME when people see problems and see others suffering and feel motivated to [help]. I just think we have been really deeply trained to do so in a way that is maybe less uplifting than it could be.

    Natalie, this actually captures something I feel strongly about. Even as I think it’s so important to help with immediate needs and relieve that suffering that is so widespread (!!), I also think that it’s important to think creatively and to look for ways to help people help themselves.

    To bring that around to part of why I said what I said is because of this kind of quote:
    “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”

    Again, I’m not trying to negate the work of directly helping the poor. It’s something we are told to do. It’s something the Church does. It’s important! But I also believe that in helping others in creative ways, and in helping the Lord’s work in other ways as well, we are going to be able to help the poor in other ways as the gospel continues to spread…more to help them have the tools and knowledge and truth that will help them help themselves all the more.

    Then again, sometimes the immediate needs have to be cared for first….so please, don’t misunderstand me as trying to find a way to avoid helping the poor. Again, that is very far from what is in my heart.

    In reality, tax money does a great deal to help others,

    Personally, I don’t feel assured that if I weren’t to claim taxes that I would actually be used to help someone. Government programs and spending are all over the place. So I still prefer claiming the deduction and being an active steward in how I use that money, where I know how and where it will be used.

  125. Natalie, this is a serious question meant to clarify only:

    Do you believe all workers should make the same wages, regardless of their expertise, education or length of employment?

  126. I do have an aversion to Mormon Wealth Apologetics and will simply say that anyone hoarding their money in the hope that one day they will buy the church a jet is seriously deluding themselves.

    For the record, I wasn’t trying to advocate hoarding money, RJH. I understand your concern about Mormon Wealth Apologetics, but that wasn’t the game I was trying to play.

    But, I will hold to the fact that no one can judge another on this stuff. I have an aversion to people drawing a line in the sand (“anyone who owns a ________ is unrighteous” or “anyone who doesn’t’ give everything about $_________ a year to the poor in ___________ way is evil”). Christ told us to care for the poor, but also had a lot to say about motes and beams and judging and all of that.

  127. give everything about $_________

    That was supposed to say everything above

  128. Ray (#125),

    Natalie, I will take this one. The problem is not so much that secretary makes less, but that the professionals in her department think she deserves to make less because she is just a secretary. In the academic departments where I have worked, the administrative staff have been key to the success of each academic in the deparment. They make my job much easier. I would not feel threatened if they made as much as me (granted that might not be a increase). I would like to get paid more than I do now, but I do not need for others to get paid less than me.

  129. I would also hope that he/she could purchase an I-pod if they so chose to do so. If anything, just so they can follow BCC threads like this one while at church. The is why I have a smartphone.

  130. “That is why…”

  131. Natalie K. says:

    I agree with Chris, definitely. But to further answer Ray’s question…

    What is important here is the value of individual humans. I have this great quote by Pope John Paul II on my facebook wall, but I can’t get it now because my work computer doesn’t let me on facebook….. basically, it says that the fundamental reason for any human work is humanity. I think the economy only matters insofar as it affects humanity. Development and increasing the GDP only matter because those things exist to further humanity. Having a strong economy, but crippling inequality, is scarcely better than having a failling economy. All this to say that the main motive behind any business/charitable venture should be THE PEOPLE, not the money. We don’t have an economy to make money. We have an economy to encourage a more full life for people.

    THAT SAID, here’s how I view wages. Virtually every employee of any company contributes to the profit and value of that company. When the night janitor comes into the lawyer’s office at night, and cleans up her desk, he is making it possible for the lawyer to do her work. By having that desk, the lawyer enables the janitor to do his job. I don’t care who can quote more Sophocles, neither of them could do their job without the other. And since this janitor is creating value for that law firm, he should be adequately compensated for it.

    So, specifically, I don’t think wages necessarily have to be distributed flatly (though I would have no problem with that). But, again going off of memory, the average CEO in the 1950s made about 40 times more than his lowest-paid employee. Now, the average CEO makes 2000 times his lowest-paid employee. We don’t have to flatten wages to dramatically flatten out this kind of inequality.

    A good metaphor I heard somewhere is that our economy is currently structured like the Eiffel Tower. There is a tiny segment way, way up at the top. It can only exist up there because it relies on this huge mass at the bottom. I won’t demand that our economy become a pancake, but I’d like to see it become more of an onion… does that make sense?

    In a religious sense, though, I think we need to be even more concerned with inequality. Like the D&C scripture I cited way up above makes pretty clear, salvation only happens with unity and equality. I think we need to be worrying about the state of our souls while we are living in this society that is so antithetical to the nature of the sealing covenant.

    I wrote my thoughts (with citations) in a more in-depth and organized manner in a paper that I submitted to Dialogue…. can’t someone here get on that and get it published? :D Otherwise I’m gonna have to take it over to the Mormon Worker. :)

  132. Natalie K. says:

    Whew, can y’all tell this happens to be possibly the most important topic in the world to me?

    Sorry for the wordiness. I just can’t stop once you get me going.

  133. Natalie K. says:

    jks, #121 – Maybe instead of expecting marriage to solve every problem, we could just stop punishing single parenthood……. And there are PLENTY of poor married people here as well.

  134. “Natalie, I will take this one. The problem is not so much that secretary makes less, but that the professionals in her department think she deserves to make less because she is just a secretary.”

    That is NOT an answer to Ray’s question, which does get directly to the heart of what I was really asking, using an example. Should all workers receive the same wage? Should a heart surgeon earn the same as the janitor?

    Since it was my example, I have to say that I don’t think she deserves to make less merely because of her job title. I do think it is appropriate that she make less because she gets to walk out the door and never worry about it again (unlike those of us who are salaried and on call). And the decisions she makes do not involve as many people as my decisions, nor risk the dollars that my decisions do. And her work doesn’t require the training that I have received, giving up years of my life to obtain.

    There’s an assumption that many people working in lower-paying jobs are stuck there by fate, and have no opportunity to do better. But in this case, the person did have the opportunity to get a degree at no cost if she so chose. She chose not to. So it is hard to work up sympathy if she were to think herself underpaid.

  135. Natalie K, I agree with a lot of your ideas and logic (even if I don’t necessarily agree with your conclusions).

  136. By The Rules says:

    “I never will understand my fellow citizens distrust of the government they elected.”

    Its not that I distrust the government, its that I endorse Ezra Taft Benson’s discourse on the “Proper Role of Government”.

  137. Naismith, that is an answer to Ray’s question. You just do not like it. Your reaction has made my day. I am glad that you are so aware of your own importance. My problem is not with the fact that the secretary makes less than you do, but your arrogance about the whole situation. I feel bad for her. Not because she is a secretary. Not because she is underpaid. But, because she works with you.

  138. Ord’s idea is interesting. Too bad that I have already pledged 100% of my means (as well as my time and talents) to another cause.

    The tricky part is figuring out how to divide that 100% between worthy causes such living in a neighborhood where my wife and daughter will be safe, saving for retirement so we can serve a mission, making sure my daughter has an environment to grow up happy and well educated, giving generous fast offerings and to programs like PEF, paying for medicine for African kids, visiting the doctor to increase my chances of being healthy enough to serve a mission in 30 years, airfare costs to spend time with extended family, paying for a car so I can spend less time commuting and more time at home, giving to local charities, etc.

    I haven’t given this sufficient thought. It’s pretty intimidating really, but I’m glad this thread got me thinking.

    One of the most influential essays I have ever read is by Orson Scott Card on this very topic.

    http://www.nauvoo.com/library/card-consec.html

  139. Another word about the importance of degrees….

    As a recently graduated student, I can state emphatically that being educated does NOT mean I deserve more money. The attitude that getting an education constitutes “giving up years of your life” is completely fallacious. With the exception of fields that require unpaid internships, years spent in school are entirely non-productive. They are completely selfish. It’s hard work, sure, but it’s 100% for self-enrichment.

    On the contrary, students owe their society a debt after they graduate, because that society has made it possible for them to be so self-indulgent for all those years. You are not producing value for society as a student. You are preparing to do so.

    My thoughts on this maybe come from the pattern of alternative currency that some communities have developed. Rather than charging fees for services, they have a community pool of time. If a janitor needs a babysitter for an hour while he fixes a lawyer’s computer, he can be repaid by the lawyer with an hour of legal service, and repay the babysitter with an hour of plumbing work. You can see here that the lawyer, though perhaps the one with the most specialized knowledge, might conceiveably owe a few people hours because they sustained him and offered services for free while he was getting the specialized knowledge that can now benefit the entire community.

    Again, communities of people here in the US are actually living like this.

    It comes down to this principle: One person’s time is equally as valid as anyone else’s because we are all equally human.

  140. I wanted to mention that this talk by Arthur Brooks is a very interesting read about the subject of charitable giving.

  141. On this question of fair pay: How much would a doctor in a Zion society make? How much will the janitor make? Maybe entire professions won’t be needed!

    We tend to attach too much value on salary, title, etc. To the point of putting ourselves above or below others. I think Pres. Benson had something to say about that.

    Of course I worry about my own salary. We don’t live in a Zion society. But I should probably look at my job more as a means to other ends such as providing for my family and allowing me to serve and (in my specific case) hopefully enabling better medical care through new technology.

  142. Stephanie, 135 – Thanks! I missed this comment earlier. Most other members of the church just look at me like I’m nuts, so I appreciate the understanding.

  143. And in case anyone was just dying of curiousity, here’s the quote I was talking about:

    “….the basis for determining the value of human work is not primarily the kind of work being done, but the fact that the one who is doing it is a person….In fact, in the final analysis it is always man who is the purpose of the work, whatever work it is that is done by man–even if the common scale of values rates it as the merest ‘service,’ as the most monotonous, even the most alienating work.”
    -John Paul II, “On Human Work”, 1981

    The guy had some pretty awesome stuff to say. I definitely recommend reading the whole statement.

  144. I can’t believe that I just wasted so much time reading yet another argument about “charity”. Well, actually I can. I’m kind of silly about reading into the night. Fortunately, I gave up about a quarter of the way through and skipped to the end. No new light and truth seems to have been revealed. Good night.

  145. Tom D: next time just post: “TLDR” and spare us the verbosity. Thanks.

  146. What is the value of any work? Leaving value to an invisible hand in a market tends to overvalue certain labor that really has little actual value at all. For example, our society is perfectly fine with paying an individual to play a game of baseball $250 million dollars for ten years. We tend to undervalue the labor that provides us the environment in which we enjoy the pleasures of the luxury. So a janitor, while providing us a clean environment where we won’t get sick from rats and cockroaches and diseases, gets paid a meager sum.

    I believe that our society should increase taxation of luxury spending and increase the benefits of the lowly, thus providing more of a balance. We can still enjoy the entertainment of the baseball player, but reward the janitor who provides us a clean environment accordingly.

  147. StillConfused says:

    I prefer people who are less concerned with what others have and with what good they can do with the skills and talents that they have.

    I was very saddened to read someone above say that they did not want to have to rely on a charitable organization for their basic needs; they wanted to rely on the government. I would have hoped that they understood that it was their own responsibility, not that of the government or a charity, to provide for their basic needs. Unfortunately there are so many people in this country with that mindset.

    Excuses are easy; responsibility is appropriate

  148. #143 Natalie,

    I agree entirely with your attitudes about work and compensation thereof. It is the source you cite that bothers me.

    Pope John Paul II was a religious freedom fighter growing up under communism, and his words were just as infected and warped by that experience as those of Ayn Rand. Sometimes obviously, sometimes not, his works were remarkably unnuanced for a man of his learning. He was in this sense like Reagan: determined, single-minded, and unbothered by nuance. (And, like Reagan, his followers have been in an unseemly hurry to canonize him and his works.)

    This was a man who “put down” a populist movement within the Catholic church in Central America. Crudely given by its detractors the name Liberation Theology, it sought basic rights for the poor and indigenous, still suffering under co-conquest by the Mitre and the Sword. Emissaries were sent to Rome to explain the situation but the Pope, virulently anti-“Communist”, would not listen, and let a beloved Archbishop and some nuns be murdered with impunity, unmourned to this day by the Vatican.

    John Paul’s life mission was not fighting the overreach of the State, but the underreach of the Church, something which puts him solidly in the mainstream of Church leaders throughout history.

  149. Natakie K: I’m in your camp. I’m sure there are scores of reasons that many of your (my?) ideas might be unfeasible in the current economic structure (or general state of mankind). This is why it’s important not to judge someone harshly for running/participating in a traditional business. However, your principles seem rock solid. I especially like the analogy of the Eiffel tower; in nearly all cases one person’s high salary is only made possible by many low salaries providing crucial support. Seems more like opportunism than justice.

  150. I was very saddened to read someone above say that they did not want to have to rely on a charitable organization for their basic needs; they wanted to rely on the government.

    I was saddened to read that some people willfully misrepresented another person’s arguments in order to teach the rest of us a strange lesson in responsibility.

  151. “if the work is so easy and worthless, and not deserving of adequate compensation, you could just answer your own phones.”
    Natalie, my favorite comment of the day! I love that I saw this post this morning, I just spent the better part of last evening talking to my 13yo sister about why a doctor isn’t
    “better” than a “janitor”. Very timely, and I would love to read your paper – tell me who to harp on to see it published.

    “I do think it is appropriate that she make less because she gets to walk out the door and never worry about it again (unlike those of us who are salaried and on call). ”
    Naismith – how about equal pay per hour than? You get compensated for the time you work, she for hers. You may be paid more if you work more hours, but your time has the same value.

  152. Sorry, not sure why I put janitor in quotes on that one…

  153. By the Rules says:

    There seems to be an undercurrent in some of these posts that overlook a critical fact of life. While we are all childrend of the same Heavenly Father, we are NOT all equal.

    There are already at least a third of us that have been barred from obtaining a mortal experience. There has been, currently are, and always will be nobel and great ones who have leadership qualities that exclude others from leadership positions in the Kingdom. There are many mansions in the celestial spheres, and tiered/stratified/and ordered rewards. Many are not worthy and lack sufficient good works to qualify them for greater rewards.

    Now with such upper and lower classes designed, organized and endorsed by God, why should we be so concerned with mirroring on Earth that which exists in heaven? We, as a Zion society, can properly reward greater works with greater salary, can we not?

    I have worked on both the cultural bottom as well as the cultural apex of work teams. In either position, I do not begrudge the salary given. Of course, as an entry level worker, I worked hard to make my efforts contribute to the success of the team, and appreciated it when my contributions were well received. Now as the “boss” in a work team, I value the efforts of “subordinates” and feel we have excellent working relationships regardless of salary.

    Isn’t there a provision to accomadate some “wants” and “desires” as well as needs in the law of consecration? Should one person want a luxury, and put it to beneficial personal/family use (read: Not for Pride!), does not any true principle of the gospel allow for that? Does not our personal joy as well as happiness become valid goals (limited by reasonable bounds)? Can we not enjoy mortal appetites and passions within the bounds that the Lord has set? I think so.

  154. By the rules,

    I do not have time to explain, but my life’s work is committed to countering the very argument that you just made.

    “Now with such upper and lower classes designed, organized and endorsed by God,” The Mormonification of social darwinism. Very disturbing.

  155. “reward the janitor who provides us a clean environment accordingly”

    The janitor is not rewarded based solely on what he provides us, but also on how easily he is replaced.

    If you can find 100000000 people that can janitor, it’s likely that pay will be low. If you offer someone 60,000 to janitor, I will gladly find 10000000 people who will take his job for half that amount. Emphasis on gladly. And their output will be similar.

    Try that with A-Rod. Sure people will take his place. Will their output be similar?

    Now I’m not saying this is fair. But we can’t just cover our eyes to the realities

  156. sam (#155) Econ 101 aside, you acknowledge that it is unfair. THAT is a reality to which many cover their eyes.

    We all have to navigate our local economy with as much good intent as possible; this leads to all kinds of tough calls. Unfortunately, it is tempting to endow the telestial economy with celestial meaning, especially if it’s working in our favor at present.

  157. Cort,
    When we take each side to the logical extremes we end up a at a strange point.

    Pres. Hinkley once said he didn’t have time to read any books other than the scriptures (paraphrasing).

    Do you think the world would be a better place if everyone devoted their reading time to reading the scriptures?

    I do. The world would be better, if instead of seeing movies, reading Twilight, reading C+ for dumbies, etc. people read the scriptures. What about reading Organic chemistry books?

    This may seem totally off topic… but the point is that if we want to focus our lives totally on celestial principles, there is a LOT we can do, that we simply aren’t doing. So the suggestion that we all of the sudden apply a celestial standard to one area of life (the economy) and not another, is also a bit unfair. Did that make sense?

    Where does that leave us?

    I dunno… my thought is to do the best I can to implement my ideas about treating and compensating people fairly as much as we can in our power, while not trying to force or coerce anyone else to do the same if the don’t want.

    It’s probably not a celestial way of living to force people in the telestial to live like they’re in the celestial.

    And I’ve put my money where my mouth is, taking a 50% pay cut and arguing for co-workers to get raises.

  158. Steve Evans says:

    How on earth have I missed this wonderful thread! Hello, friends. Man, you are all a bunch of nuts!

    Newsflash: money RULES. You can buy all sorts of stuff with it and have a very comfortable life. Also, you can get a decent education for your kids and not dress like a total schlub all the time. Goodness you’d think you people had never heard of exchanging money for goods and services before.

    a brief primer.

  159. -We, as a Zion society, can properly reward greater works with greater salary, can we not?

    My concern is with who’s judging “greatness” in this scenario. In determining my eternal dwelling place, God is judging. He knows me – my works and my intentions – perfectly, He judges perfectly. I am 100% okay with Him determining my eternal status.

    By on earth, and especially when it comes to monetary rewards rather than celestial glory, look at what the world is most valuing as great – physical beauty at the expense of health, corruption, the bottom line, the ability to throw a ball while ignoring the latest shooting incident. I don’t think we have shown any ability at all to judge “greatness”.

  160. -So the suggestion that we all of the sudden apply a celestial standard to one area of life (the economy) and not another, is also a bit unfair.

    Why? You have to start somewhere. And I imagine starting in one area of life would lead to a ripple effect in the other areas.

    It seems like the alternative is to say that it’s not fair, so let’s just not try to apply celestial principles at all…

  161. Sam (157) You are right, forcing anyone to live a celestial economy isn’t celestial (and is a public policy disaster). I thought your first comment was perfectly reasonable. You acknowledge that current economic forces make it unrealistic to pay everyone equally, and that it is not fair. I also accept both parts of that sentense. I guess I was reponding more to some of the earlier comments that didn’t ackowledge the unfairness.

    As you point out, there is a LOT we (I) can do that we aren’t doing. We shouldn’t pretend it is otherwise, although our frailty might limit what we can realistically accomplish. I certainly am not signing up for a pay cut like you have, but I’m not going to pretend your generosity isn’t living a higher law than I am ready to live. So thanks for your example!

  162. Enna,
    The economy is not so easy to control, and any attempt at controlling it usually leads to widespread misery within a lifespan.

    If the prophet is in charge of the economy, maybe then we can trust them with trying to apply a celestial standard for all of us to follow — wait that didn’t really work out to well when the prophets were in charge of the economy.

    I think we should all strive to do the most we can do, and then do even more. But my personal thought is, it ends there.

    Because I cut my pay and got a pay raise for my subordinate, does not mean I should require everyone to do that.

    But when I read a few posts up that “society should…” I see reasoning that is very well intentioned, but completely disregards the economic realities of life, motivation, risk, reward, scarcity, etc.

  163. Cort, thanks for the compliment. I probably make more than you do, no bragging intended. So I didn’t “need” it. That being said, my wife and I spend less than most people we know with 2 kids (and I don’t associate with high earners).

  164. By the Rules says:

    159

    I would be interested in your opinion on the following scenario: Old West homesteaders. One homesteader works twice as hard and builds a cabin twice as large as his neighbor. Does he owe his neighbor anything?

  165. Also, I didn’t mean to advocate living celestially in only one area, I meant to acknowledge that on the topic of the original post we all have a ways to go and there’s no sense in pretending we don’t. By the way, I also have no intention of reading only scriptures. Ugh! Despite that, I still see Pres. Hinckley’s point.

  166. I think that 153 confirms Ronan’s earlier suspicion that By the Rules is a troll.

  167. By the Rules says:

    Opinioniated, yes. Troll, no way. You’re talking with a true fan here. And yes, I can change my opinion based upon reason and logic; to which I remain open.

  168. Just as Peter (150), I am “saddened” by StillConfused’s attitude.

    StillConfused appears to be very sensitive about judging someone based on material possessions (109) but has no problem at all judging others for not being able to provide for themselves (147). While there are apparently no good excuses for not being self-reliant there are plenty of good excuses for not giving financially (i.e., I give my time instead because that is what I am passionate about and giving money is an inferior form of charity).

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