Review: The Book of Mammon—A Monograph of the Church as Owned Corporation

Anthropologist and emeritus perma David Knowlton returns to BCC to discuss and review Daymon Smith’s recent book. An excerpt from the book can be read here.

The Book of Mammon: A Book About A Book About The Corporation That Owns The Mormons. (CreateSpace 2010).

An elephant squeezes the house of religion. Yet it is little studied in its own right. Pieces of it fill analyses but its stomping, enormous form is almost ignored, even though it increasingly requires walls be rebuilt and floors reinforced. Its demands for food become the house’s budget, and its waste… oh my gosh, it’s waste.

If the house is belief, faith, and ritual, whether properties of individuals or communities, the elephant is the organizational form they as well as the individuals and communities take. One recent book grabs hold of the elephant by trunk and leg for the house of Mormonism. Its doing so has relevance for grasping all kinds of contemporary faiths, whether Catholicism, Pentecostalism, or Islam.

Yet, like the beast it stalked, it is not a simple nor a small work as its subtitle indicates: A Book about a Book about the Corporation that Owns the Mormons. Key for understanding it as an ethnography of Mormonism are three things, the word “owns”, the social reality of “corporation” and a chain of “reference”.

The book’s main title is The Book of Mammon, by the University of Pennsylvania anthropologist Daymon Smith (CreateSpace, 2010), or is it by Daemon Smith an alter ego and simulacrum of Daymon? At the same time Daemon is an alter ego of Daymon and a character/ author—object and subject—in the abstract world of text and property that is both the book and the book about the book.

If this last bit seems confusing, it is because the Book of Mammon takes us into the hall of mirrors that is meaning. But it makes us pay attention to the mirrors, as if in the temple for a “sealing” and instead of seeing the couple extending into eternity, we see the mirrors and an infinite reproduction of images that are not really identical to one another. It makes us split signifiers from their object. And, it requires we notice what, or was it who, attempts to bring them together.

In ordinary life we proceed as if it were the couple extending into eternity, since that is what we mean. The Sealers will be sure we know that is what we are officially to take from the image of image of image of . . . The Book of Mammon breaks the naturalness of being told what something means to show the mechanics of it and how it takes a lot of work to produce mirrors that reflect so “cleanly” and Sealers who simply state a meaning. The relations among them cannot be taken for granted in this book.

Daymon Smith’s intellectual background is, no surprise, a linguistic anthropology that focuses on discourse and semiotics. One of his mentors, Asif Agha, wrote the book of reflexivity, on the way language folds back on itself to create meaning. Daymon moves beyond language, however, following chains of signification—of meaning—to things like mirrors and churches. He follows the material forms of the things that carry meaning and notices how meaning is attached and asks the implications of the how.

As a result, The Book of Mammon is a book about a book. It is playful and literary in its use of styles of narrative from a much earlier century, especially genres of complaint. It also is a meditation on the silliness and pretentiousness of reflexive ethnography. This latter was a movement in anthropological writing from the eighties and nineties to cope with the situatedness of ethnographers by including them in texts they write about other people. But, as Daymon’s use of Daemon, with all its demonic ambivalence, suggests, the writing of oneself into the text is the creation of simulation, not unlike all the other chains of simulation that form our world, but it is not capable really to measure an author and his/her relationships with the people studied.

Thus, Daymon worked in the LDS Church Office Building, a tangible representation of the corporation in the subtitle, but it is Daemon’s working in the Church Office Building, with all the various kinds of motivations that bring Daymon and Daemon, the Church Office Building and the COB together.

That kind of playful awareness demands a lot of the reader. And, of anyone who wishes to grapple with this very important but exasperating text. However, for the rest of this review I am going to leave the issues of reflexivity and semiotics mostly alone. I want to talk about why I find this book important for understanding the contemporary Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and why I think it important for the study of religion more generally.

Daymon brings to the fore of analysis the issue of ownership. He explores consequences of religion becoming property and fitting into regimes of property established by the state. Although his book is filled with the kind of angsty awareness of someone who first stumbles of the issue and repeats it over and over, nevertheless his insights are good and lay the foundation for much future work.

For example, Daymon notes that there are no members, technically, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to the way it as legal organization is established it is not the kind of organization that has members, despite the common usage whereby people call themselves members. The Church is, Daymon notes, a trademark owned by a corporation.

Many people will be non-plussed by this observation and argument about “what is is”, at least at first read. Most Mormons feel themselves members of the Church and that membership means something powerful to them. So what if member means something different legally than it does to them?

But Daymon’s focus is not ordinary Mormons, since he feels that there is an enormous discrepancy between what they think and feel and the material reality of the Church as form that can be owned. Daymon carries his focus further to note that the corporation owning the Church is The Corporation of the First Presidency, which only has one member, the President of the Church.

But, although there is a real person occupying that position, Daymon continues to argue that person is not the same as the position and that he is limited precisely because of the nature of ownership within a corporation.

Although stunning to Latter-day Saints, and perhaps infuriating, the basis of this idea is not new. It lies in Marxist ideas of fetishism or in the classic Weberian notion of formal rationality, hence modernity, as an “iron cage” that removes the substantive rationality that is typically most human.

Nor is Daymon’s thinking on corporate bureaucracy new in its broad outlines, for, yes, his book is about the corporation and its various instances. It is new as an expansion of a creative ethnographic look into the workings of bureaucracy and especially a religious bureaucracy where maintenance of the bureaucracy and its functioning becomes a clear value rather than the evidently religious purposes that ostensibly guide it.

In this light, Daymon’s work is along the lines of the work of Veena Das and colleagues who challenge Weber’s understanding of rationality to show how government is often not a Weberian rational bureaucracy where there is coherence from one side of a syllogism to the other. Rather it is typified by a foundational illegibility, a foundational incoherence.

This is an important part of Daymon’s observations about the Church Office Building and the Church as Corporation. While attempting rational management, ostensibly, it is wildly irrational and illegibility is important to its functioning. This is also an important part of his anguish as an active Mormon ethnographer writing this monograph.

In between thoughts about the corporation, I must write about Daymon the ethnographer. Despite Daemon, or rather because of Daemon the alter-ego, Daymon the Latter-day Saint who is also an Ivy-League trained anthropologist is very much a part of the book. Ethnography depends on its practitioners being part of the reality they study. But most ethnographers are outsiders, or they make themselves such by becoming inside-outsiders to use Jan Shipp’s felicitous term. Daymon is an inside insider of Mormonism who is doing ethnography. In that, some will read betrayal because of the expectations of the methodology and Daymon’s text can be painful as well because of the non-break between the inside and him as an insider. Or better said the breaks are between his expectations and faith, related to deep traditions within Mormonism as religious community and its dissociative relationship with the Church as corporate property.

The dissociation becomes visible, knowable, and narratable for Daymon because of his penchant for following signs as material things and noticing how they function in discourse and society to create meaning by becoming fixed and quotable within discourse and social relationships. In this he follows the theoretical traditions of his graduate department. He pays close attention to language and to meaning in ways most people and most analysts don’t.

This returns us to the elephant. While most believers and scholars will focus on religion as a matter of faith, even a universal need for meaning—if one believes Stark and buddies—Daymon finds a tension between that and the mechanics that make it function, not in the relationship of individual to other individuals, per se, or in the relationship between individual and the supernatural, but in the mechanics of forming religious social organizations and coordinating individuals. He finds it in the gap between people and the things they have created, religious corporations in this case.

Daymon’s analysis is important here. Mormonism is unusual for the degree to which it embraced the corporate form just as it was developing and becoming significant as a matter of society. Catholic social organization is significantly different, caught between the Vatican as symbolic state and individual diocese, or Pentecostalism with its struggles to create organizations that can stay true to its emphasis on individual gifts of the spirit while finding an economy of scale, i.e. size, that allows them to move as a body in the world consonant with their numbers. In each case the form matters and has implication for the nature of the resultant religion.

Though a book that will raise many people’s hackles, The Book of Mammon is an important one, not just for the study of Mormonism but for the social science of religion. It looks the elephant of religious structure into the eye without blinking. As a result, I shall use it as a required text in my seminar on the anthropology of Christianity next semester. I welcome discussion on the issues it raises.

Administrative note: This review and the book in question raise difficult and sensitive issues. It is easy to imagine a rather non-productive conversation ensuing. We have decided to open comments on this thread, among other things as an act of faith in our readers. Needless to say, the usual standards of civil interaction and moderation (in both senses) will be expected and enforced, and comments should confine themselves to the content of this review and Mr. Smith’s book. There is potential for rich and substantive discussion here. Please, readers, do not disappoint!

Thanks,
The Management

Comments

  1. I’m glad that this volume may find some productive use within the structure of your seminar, David. Beyond that, I generally think that it won’t be of much value. Perhaps the author intended such a limited application, though.

  2. Sadly, I don’t share the reviewer’s sense that the style of the book and its commentaries on reflexivity are interesting. The book reads as if the author were enamored of DeLillo, Eco, and Pynchon but lacked the skill to adequately imitate. Bad text always reads like a parody of itself.

    The more specific arguments also do not hold up well. The claim that there are no members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is poorly argued and poorly considered. Of course membership is socially constructed rather than legally nominalistic. But what are the implications of this? It seems there are probably none.

    The ideas about the functioning of bureaucracy are hardly new, novel, or provocative. Is there much here that can’t be found in a textbook on organization theory? Maybe the claim that the Mormon church is an organization like others. Perhaps this is shocking to some, but they have lost touch with reality.

  3. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    I’m curious about this book, to be honest; however, from what I’ve heard the content of the book is somewhat circumlocutory in style and difficult to read. I’m still wanting to get a copy, but for those who have read it what is the benefit for the average person studying the Church to reading this volume as opposed to reading the phenomenal interview series here at BCC (or just reading Smith’s thesis)?

  4. Tom,
    The Book of Mammon is a very different work from Daymon’s dissertation or the Correlation series. You’d probably get a better sense of it from listening to the Mormon Stories podcast with Daymon. As for the book itself, I quite liked it, and I think it makes important contributions to our understanding of how the Church’s corporate headquarters operates, as well as our social scientific understanding of modern religious organizations. But, as I’m sure the comments make (and will continue to make) clear, your individual mileage may vary.

  5. I gave up about 100 pages in. The first 25 pages were tortuous, though it did get a bit better after that. My (albeit partial) assessment was that the nuggets of genuine insight weren’t worth the effort needed to find them. And I say that as someone who first picked up the book with high hopes.

  6. I suspect that many readers will feel distracted by two formal/disciplinary issues, the playfully postmodern narrative strategy, and the belief in anthropology, a discipline which is currently usually sufficiently far from most people’s experience as to require substantial translation before it can be engaged for content. I wonder whether it would be useful to abstract beyond those two formal/disciplinary impediments to conversation.

    My admittedly anecdotal sense is that for most practicing LDS the image of a corporation remains rather far from their religious experience. They see themselves as integrated into a family/kindred, into a ward and stake, and then have special feelings (critics call them hagiographic, participants call them reverential) for a select few leaders. They appreciate that, as all large groups of people, some structure is required to make the LDS Church operate. Some regret the amount of bureaucracy required to run such a church, others see it as a reasonable solution to the logistical problems. For many LDS the question of democratic participation is a political rather than a religious question. Many derive great satisfaction from the belief that the hierarchical organization of the LDS Church reflects an ancient hierarchy (and, it appears from my study of the Mormon revision of the Great Chain of Being, they are probably correct even when analyzed on purely secular terms) of great cosmic power. They see themselves as members of the body of Christ, of the Kingdom of God, whatever the scribes and Pharisees (their shorthand for lawyers and academic excessively concerned with the meaning of language) may say.

    Some may find this topic a distinctive way to draw attention to a tension that exists for all who entertain ideas about holiness, sacredness, or measurable righteousness. Creedal Christians describe the miracle of Incarnation, and though many struggle to avoid imputing banality to Christ, there is a clear sense in which religion (religious structures, practices, and beliefs) forces us to confront the separation between our holy aspirations and our profane accomplishments. Some Latter-day Saints are shocked to discover that leaders they revere as inspired representatives of God are sometimes frustrated or speak out of turn or exercise influence in political disputes within the church’s leadership structures. That unsettling moment of frustration may be the collapse of the imaginary wall separating what we hope to believe about the nature of heaven and the sacred from our own actual experience in life (few of us imagine that we are so heavenly as to never speak out of turn or seek our own ends within an organization or be intermittently petty). C.S. Lewis in an imaginative if methodologically rather limited review, suggested that the difference between the Moral Way and actual human behavior represented a confirmation that the Moral Way exists above human experience. The chasm between who we hope to be and who we are, between what we imagine as the possible and what becomes increasingly probable, is a complex space that we populate as humans. I am glad for opportunities to remember that chasm.

  7. (My comment has been eaten by your filters again, possibly because of its brevity, so perhaps by fluffing it up with this sentence my reaction to both the book and the review will be posted now:)

    Huh?

  8. Sorry, Ardis. Not sure why the spam filter would trap a one word comment. Let us know if it happens again.

  9. Ardis, if that was your response to the review, you don’t even want to think about picking up the book :)

  10. Oh, I knew that already, Randy! I’ve heard enough about it elsewhere to know I’m not its target audience, or that I refuse to acquiesce if in fact I *am* its audience. I’m interested in what you and others have to say about it, though.

  11. Well, I for one intend to pick the book up — probably even purchase it — because, if for no other reason, it has generated a somewhat unique response from readers that I find hard to categorize or compare to reactions to other controversial Mormon works.

    That said, my list of “books to buy/read” is about as long as Ardis’ comments are short, so who knows when I’ll get around to this.

  12. Steve Evans says:

    Hey Randy, send me your copy.

  13. As I recall you snubbed me for brunch, so you’re on your own.

  14. David,

    Thanks for the review.

  15. Randy baby don’t be like that

  16. Borrow Aaron’s when he gives up. Shouldn’t take long.

  17. Brunch snubbing . . . scandalous.

  18. If you don’t like Steve, you could send your copy to me, Randy. You don’t know me, but at least I’ve never snubbed you for brunch.

  19. You just got cut from the brunch list, Davey.

  20. Peter LLC says:

    I’m glad that this volume may find some productive use within the structure of your seminar, David. Beyond that, I generally think that it won’t be of much value. Perhaps the author intended such a limited application, though.

    I googled “damn with faint praise” and was led here. [scratches head]

  21. S.P. Bailey says:

    This gave me that sinking feeling I used to get in lit-crit classes that the author/reviewer: (1) has nothing interesting to say to non-specialists, (2) intentionally complicates her delivery to shield her message (and tenure prospects) from criticism, and/or (3) has suffered irreversible damage to her facility for plain English through extended exposure to other people who talk like this.

  22. Jonathan Green says:

    Why is he self publishing this?

  23. Apparently Deseret Book passed!

  24. /reads Jonathan Green’s perfectly innocent query — and ducks for cover/

  25. Prior to reading this review I had been interested in this book. I would love to see an intelligent take on the goings on inside the COB. I have had several business meetings there and it is an exceptional(ly strange) business environment. I also very much enjoyed the Mormon Stories podcasts that Daymon Smith did.

    But if the book is technical and aimed at anthropologists I’m considerable less interested, though perhaps I’m more inclined to buy a copy as a gift for my father-in-law.

  26. agggh.

    I’m considerably less interested…

  27. “agggh.”

    What?

  28. arJ, the book is decidedly not technical; it’s just that a lot of it is only (barely) comprehensible with some knowledge of the contemporary field of anthropology and ethnographic method. David’s review, I think, gets at the substantive issues raised in the book, which are at least partially concealed by the narrative antics.

  29. Thomas Parkin says:

    “has nothing interesting to say to non-specialists”

    Jargon is like a secret handshake.

    Too bad! I’d love a book on the subject that I could actually read. (Found the excerpt readable, but a little pleased with itself.)

  30. Arj, Daymon is definitely an anthropologist, and there is a reason why anthropologists will be most intrigued by it. That said, it is not disciplinary jargon that creates the difficulty. The book itself, as opposed, perhaps, to the review, formally eschews the language of social theory in favor of an idiom of mythology.

  31. david knowlton says:

    Daymon is self-publishing the book, in part, because there is a movement towards reevaluating such things as institutional guarantees and he wants to be part of it. At the same time he is aware that might lead many people to dismiss his work, especially people who revere authoritarian guarantees.

    I am sorry Bailey finds my review illegible, or an example of poor English (not bad–I am too old for that change of grammar) or of poor English style. But plain English itself is an enormous problem here. It is saturated with power in terms of the sayable and Daymon challenges plain English not simply by his writing but because of the object of his writing–signs with attached meanings connected by people in communities where power is made through control over language and signs.

    That alone makes writing in a plain English an impossible task,

    As for me, sometimes I write in plain English despite all the above. And sometimes I don’t. I take the responsibility for the English of the review.

    The English of Daymon’s book is not so easily dismissed unless people refuse to engage the basic notions of semiotics as Daymon (his peers and professors) mobilize them.

    I think organizational theory has a lot to offer to the task of understanding religious organization. But it almost never appears in sociological or anthropological conversation. Darn provincialism anyway.

    Furthermore, Daymon’s text poses questions of semiotics and organizational form that, to my knowledge, do not form part of organizational behavior texts. These are interesting questions.

    Daymon’s reflexivity is not a normal reflexive text because he is not an external anthropologist writing about his engagement with natives of some sort or another. He is a native, trained as an anthropologist, writing about his own reality (and ours) at the same time he feels strongly his religious sensibility and his academic training strongly alienate him from his work mates in the COB (Church Office Building). This is a distinctive narrative within my reading of ethnography.

    David

  32. For those who have concerns about stylistic issues, the linked excerpt is pretty representative of the overall text.

  33. Thomas Parkin says:

    I wonder if we get can get a ‘lite’ version, which edits out everything that isn’t juicy digs directed at suits.

  34. I wonder if someone could do a review of Ulysses next?

  35. When a non-fiction work gets compared to the fiction of Umberto Eco, red warning flags go up. With all this talk of Daymon and Daemon, am I to understand that this book actually is a metatext? Hip waders advised, it would appear.

    (Disclaimer: I’ve not read DeLillo and Pynchon, probably an oversight on my part, but I have loved the Umberto Eco that I have read, The Name of the Rose, Foucaults Pendulum, and The Island of the Day Before).

  36. Book About A Book, kev. Hip waders indeed. :)

  37. Cynthia L. says:

    I’m with Parkin on all points (#29 and #33).

    I would be exceptionally interested in getting a behind the scenes view of the processes and culture of the COB, but, however guilty I may feel about the degree to which this is petty of me, I just can’t get past the presentation. I’m a scientist/engineer, so, you know, I’m pretty biased on this. But I feel anything other than an efficient, straightforward presentation is disrespectful of my time and the fact that I am a SAHM and got stuff to do.

    Daymon, how much can we pay you to make a layman’s/cliffs notes version, maybe just a big concatenation of all the true(ish) anecdotes?

  38. Kevinf, you’re a man of class and taste. Come over for dinner sometime. Stapley will be there too.

    Not kidding.

  39. Cynth, start with the Mormon Stories podcasts.

  40. Steve, Dinner for Schmucks? Name the date!

  41. Jonathan Green says:

    Oh, dear.

  42. David #31 it is not fair to most readers to suggest that they are overly timid or “revere[nt of] authoritarian guarantees” if they do not make time for the absolute deluge of self-published books. Having gone through the process of peer review and working with editors, I feel that my book has improved by an order of magnitude from what I would do on my own, no matter how brilliant I think I am when I’m the main person reading my book. I would think it would be sufficient to say something like “many thoughtful people are suspicious of self-published books. in this case I find the book quite interesting and well-edited and worth the time for readers with an interest in current approaches to ethnography and anthropology.
    As for the question of whether good academic writing must be inscrutable, as someone who writes by default in hopelessly complex language, I believe that failure to make content clear (no matter how concerned about matters of the meaning of language) is generally a sign of laziness or insecurity or lack of time on my part. I generally strongly reject the suggestion that certain truths can only be communicated in particular types of heavily theory-inflected language (even if it is occasionally true that certain truths are lost in translation).

  43. Cynthia L. says:

    Brad, I was just thinking that. An excellent suggestion. Good content does need to be distributed in different styles and different modes for different audiences. I am the extremely short attention span demographic, I recognize that. :-)

  44. David,
    Thank for the very charitable review and for unlocking some of the potential that this book offers to its readers. I really appreciate the careful read and the explanation of some of the important methodological interventions that you see this text making. I have a few thoughts/questions:

    “Daymon finds a tension between [faith] and the mechanics that make it function”

    You seem to be suggesting that the chief insight that Smith offers is that he finds a tension between faith and organized religion. While this is certainly an interesting element of Smith’s experience, it is fully historically located in discourses of “spirituality” vs. “religion” and skepticism toward organization. Really, I don’t find this tension to be particularly profound, but rather a restatement of a rather mundane view of religion in modernity. It strikes me that he never really seeks to explore the ways in which Mormonism rejects this dichotomy.

    When you say that this text is that of an inside-insider and that “the breaks are between his expectations and faith, related to deep traditions within Mormonism as religious community and its dissociative relationship with the Church as corporate property,” I think that you get closer to what this text offers, namely, a text about the expectations of Smith and his subsequent disillusionment. As you note, this is a strange ethnography indeed, one that challenges the category’s limits. But does it push it too far, and simply become the tale of a personal encounter rather than an ethnography per se, especially given the degree to which Smith’s own paradigm for the faith occupies such a central place in the work?

    At least in the study of religion as practiced by those who see it as a distinctive discipline, the degree of one’s own personal “dissociative relationship” with the object of one’s study has received a fair bit of theorization, and I am not sure that the level of Smith’s angst in this work would qualify it as a proper ethnography in that field. But then again, Smith is deliberately illusive on exactly what he sees the work as, both asserting and denying any specific categorization…

    Finally, it seems to me that the semiotic point about meaning is more polemical than explanatory, in the service of his larger narrative about what he sees the church to “really” be. In a way, I felt like the arguments about meaning were arguing for his own normative discursive construction of the “church” which he believes that others are mistaken about, namely its existence as a corporation in the service of its own interests. He never seems to turn the mirror back on himself to see how his own discourse about the “Corporation” is no more “real” than any other. Why, for instance, is the realm of the legal status of the Corporation the best hermeneutical lens to interpret the Church? Too often, it seems as if it is because it serves his narrative about the gap between his faith and his experience inside the bureaucracy.

    If one is inclined to appreciate the challenge to faith in an expose about how the sausage is made, they would perhaps find value here. Instead, if one wants to investigate the very terms of the critique that Smith offers to uncover how the categories of “religion,” “faith,” “spirit,” “church,” are marked off from supposedly secular categories of “corporation” and “bureaucracy,” and how these divisions are historically situated in modernity, I suspect that students of religion will find a great deal of value in this work as a primary text.

  45. He should have had a lawyer help him with the membership question. There is no such thing as “Corporation of the First Presidency,” but there is a “Corporation of the President of the Church . . . ” and a “Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church . . . ,” both of which hold or held legal title to the Church’s property. There are now two additional corporations, “Property Reserve, Inc.” and “Intellectual Reserve, Inc.” which hold the Church’s real property and intellectual property, respectively.

    But the Church is not any of those corporations. They are simply legal organizations to hold title. I used to file applications for the Church with the NYS Attorney General, and they’d recoil from the notion that, legally, the Presiding Bishop was the sole member of CPB and could, as a matter of corporate law, transfer title to the Church’s property without a vote by a board of trustees or anybody else. We finally worked out a statement that he operated within the constraints of the Church, an unincorporated association, and could not act without approval of the governing councils of the Church. The Church, despite its beginnings as a religious corporation organized under New York Law, is an unincorporated association. And every person who has been baptized and confirmed is a member of that association.

    If Daymon got that foundational fact wrong, there’s no telling how far off the superstructure ended up.

  46. Steve Evans says:

    Mark, you’re telling me. We went through all this during the various conversations about Correlation. What can i say, i tried…

  47. Mark and Steve,
    You’re both mischaracterizing Daymon’s claims about the corporate organization of the Church (you won’t find the term “corporation of the first presidency” anywhere in his text, but you will find detailed references to all of the corporate entities that Mark B. lays out in his first paragraph, plus several others), as well as the conversation about corporations and corporate forms from the Correlation series, which was actually quite substantive.

  48. Steve Evans says:

    Brad, suit yourself.

  49. I appreciate David’s review and the comments, including the comments by Sam MB, TT, and Brad. I had a difficult time slogging through the book’s snarkiness and condescending tone. I didn’t find much that was especially clever, playful, or humorous. I found reading it a tiresome exercise.

  50. david knowlton says:

    Sam,

    You are right on the merits of working with editors and an established press, but the ways in which the presses limit access to communities of readers goes far beyond simply reducing the flood of books for the convenience of the reader. It serves as well to limit what ideas are sayable and what are worthy of study.

    This is a problem and it, along with the explosion of extra-mural academic publication, is what motivated Daymon, I believe.

    I disagree with you about plain English, pure and simple. There are things that are not communicable and things that, no matter the plainness of expression, require the readers to move into abstract domains beyond their comfort level.

    Unfortunately the criticism of the English, in my experience tends to be less about poor writing or lazy writing than it is about readers who do not have the time or will not make the effort.

    I realize I sound arrogant. Oh well. It takes me work to understand Cynthia’s field, even when expressed plainly, I am sure, and work to understand medicine, even when expressed clearly. Anthropology, as you justifiably note, also requires work and patience. I struggle to teach this to my students when they encounter difficult texts, and here I struggle to ask everyone to not get fixated on Daymon’s English. His text requires some work. I think that is good.

    Really, I am not arguing with you Sam, because you grasp–I think–that anthropology as discipline has its own subtleties and depths. I am quibbling with the argument about English and the pretence of American culture that everything is expressible plainly and that simple is best. It just ain’t so. This notion is part of a cultural ideology not a primary reality.

    Daymon’s work is troublesome to some because it breaks with this and other common expectations of what a text should be and how it should work. However I am the one with a jeremiad against plain English and my pretentiousness on this issue is a separate, and probably quixotic, argument from those about Daymon’s text.

    To TT: Daymon’s book is a good ethnography, as I understand the term and the art. It is also an exploratory, experimental one, in the way he intersperses analytical discourse and data with personal narrative and mythological references (as Brad properly noted). Because of all the data in his work, and the rigorous analysis it must be considered far, far more than a personal narrative. Although experimental, I think ethnography is still the best category in which to place the work.

    I also do not think “dissociative relationship” adequately grasps what Daymon is writing. Yes, his alienation as an active and continuing active Mormon is part of the narrative. But it is distant from his most important points which, I believe, are sustained analytical arguments about the nature of his religious community with implications for the study of Mormonism and religion more generally.

    Otherwise, I think you make interesting and useful points. Thank you for your thoughtful and engaged comments.

    To Mark B. I think Daymon did his homework, as Brad relates. However, what is the Church is a relevant question. An ethnographer is welcome to challenge your assertions that the legal reality is not the important one in the face of what members think. I believe that is indeed what Daymon does. So lay out your evidence to justify your claim. Daymon is arguing and giving data that the legal organization–and its semiotics–is far more important for grasping Mormonism that are the ideas that the Church is a body of the faithful or some other metaphysic. I think that is interesting and yes it does challenge many other notions of how we are supposed to understand organizations in our own society beyond simply the Church. it also challenges how we are to understand the law as socially significant process. Lawyers, like other natives, often get things wrong here because they are caught in their own webs of meaning.

  51. I’m afraid to even weigh in on this one. Like Cynthia I’m a scientist/engineer so the language in this review was a bit over my head (and by a “bit” I mean “a lot”). I am very interested in the book, but perhaps it wouldn’t suit me well. I have listened to the MS podcasts and found them very interesting.

    My only other comment is to Ardis. I’m new(er) to the b’nacle and I gotta say, you’re an enigma to me. No offense, I just don’t understand. Sometimes you come across very defensive about anything you perceive as critical of the church, yet, I have read stuff by you that could most certainly be perceived by some as “critical.” And I don’t just mean this thread. Sorry, just tryin’ to figure you out!

  52. What better way to be a Mormon than to be an enigma. Ardis might be my favorite enigma.

  53. Okay, let me get this straight: This review is an attempt to persuade me to read a self-published book by a former COB employee with anthropological training who is expatiating at great length in deliberately obscure po-mo speak on his great discovery that church property is held by a corporation sole? The pedantic obscurity of the review is then defended as a way of undermining the nefarious ideological power grabs inherent in the idea of clarity? Really?! Seriously!?!

    Didn’t we all get over this some time in the late 1980s or early 1990s after Derrida and Foucault stopped being cool and novel in American universities and before Social Text’s publication of Sokol’s article introduced us to Oz the Great and Postmodern? Do we really still have to take bad prose seriously as an ideological statement? Come on guys, let’s grow up.

  54. What better way to be a Mormon than to be an enigma.

    Indeed.

  55. I disagree with you about plain English, pure and simple. There are things that are not communicable and things that, no matter the plainness of expression, require the readers to move into abstract domains beyond their comfort level.

    And yet we still rely on language to navigate us to the abstract, don’t we. So using decidedly “in”-language and jargon only makes that transition into the abstract more difficult for those who are “out”, doesn’t it?

    I realize I sound arrogant.

    Indeed.

  56. If I’ve learned anything in academia, it’s that the mark of intellectual maturity is the ability to use “Derrida and Foucault” as a foil for unceremoniously dismissing something called “postmodernism.” The good news is that since you already know the “corporation sole” secret, you can give yourself intellectual permission to completely disregard the book. There are plenty of other reasons too, of course…

  57. Brad: Thank you for giving me permission to give myself permission….

  58. Mark A. Clifford says:

    I am not a linguistic anthropologist, and so cannot speak to the methodological issues. I am a psychiatrist. What comes through loud and clear in this text is deep hurt. That hurt is present in the podcast, and in the dissertation, too. It is arresting and poingnant, which makes the book captivating even in the midst of its own obscurity.
    My impression was that this “insider” really feels an outsider in many ways, lost in a church that “used to” be real and has become – for him – synthetic. It is kind of heart breaking that what he deems to be real about Mormonism – the COB – is what is least real in the lived experience of other Mormons, who live and worship so far from what his text inhabits. So far, in fact, that the divide is bewildering. I am not sure who the identification of the Church as a trademark is supposed to impact. I was thrilled to think of the Church is a legal fiction, for example.
    Perhaps without the correct expertise, one will not see what is intended in The Book of Mammon (I, for one, found his dissertation to be a more straightforward presentation of what seemed to be similar ideas). What I see clearly, though, is another testament of an alienated Mormon guy.
    For whatever reason, my heart goes out to him.

  59. I just wanted to continue the trend of ever-increasing ellipses…..

  60. Mark: You are a more Christian soul than I…

    Steve:…

  61. Thomas Parkin says:

    “I am quibbling with the argument about English and the pretence of American culture that everything is expressible plainly and that simple is best. It just ain’t so.”

    The problem is that I don’t have time to learn the language of every discipline. If it is true that certain ideas necessary to anthropology, or whatever, are also necessarily written in language that is particular to anthropology then we are stuck with a situation in which knowledge is particular to narrow areas of study which have a great deal of trouble communicating with other areas of study and which statements about reality, which will rely on just that communication, are increasingly hard to come by. This ought to put a great deal of pressure on the disciplines to resist jargon, whenever possible, and to communicate in _anything_ closer to the common tongue.

  62. Thomas Parkin says:

    I note that I’m way out of my depth.

  63. Thomas: I think that you are being too generous. Jargon is an extremely useful short hand for certain kinds of insider discussions. On the other hand, if that which is stated in jargon cannot be explained in relatively clear if involved prose, then we should be extremely suspicious. At times jargon ceases to be a useful short hand for certain kinds of insider discussion and degenerates into a language game largely devoid of meaning.

    I am extremely suspicious of prose whose impenetrability is defended by pseudo-Cabalistic references to its ineffable esoteric meaning.

    As for that which cannot be said, perhaps Kierkegaard was correct when he counseled silence.

  64. Re Mark #58

    It is kind of heart breaking that what he deems to be real about Mormonism – the COB – is what is least real in the lived experience of other Mormons, who live and worship so far from what his text inhabits.

    I suppose so, but that’s not the message I get. Rather it’s one that demonstrates how that side of the church influences, indeed (to him anyway) overpowers the other, more authentic side. The fact that other Mormons do not experience is, in part, because they do not recognize the influence. The idea that correlation conforms to the doctrine is replaced by correlation proclaiming the doctrine. At least that’s the message I get from it.

  65. FWIW, I am not sure that we can simply make a case in the abstract in favor of technical, jargony prose or clear, plain English as if the issue could be resolved in the abstract. To argue in favor of jargony language is not necessary a sign of sophistication nor is to argue against it a sign of laziness.
    Rather, the question should be more concrete, as to whether in this particular instance the prose is successful. It would be hard to argue that in the case of Mammon, the prose is uniformly “academic” or even “technical” in the field of anthropology, since the use of pseudonyms and personas, extended metaphors and allegories, and hyper referentiality are not exactly part of the normal prose. This book is, as Smith and David state, “experimental.”

    I am not sure that Smith’s work is really devoid of meaning and that the complex prose is not making some larger point. I am just not sure that the intellectual payoff of that point is worth the effort he seems to think that it warrants.

  66. “Rather, the question should be more concrete, as to whether in this particular instance the prose is successful.”

    This strikes me as very sensible, but that said time is limited and there are costs to wading through any book. Given that fact, there are some useful rules of thumb.

  67. david knowlton says:

    If Daymon’s book, or my review were in jargon they would be very different texts, much more concise, for example. Neither is really in jargon, though they may use words and expressions that are not in everyone’s vocabulary. In many ways it is far easier to write about a daunting set of equations than it is to use ordinary language to express key things about social worlds including, especially, religion.

    Hence my jeremiad.

    Daymon’s book is not from Derrida or Foucault nor is it Postmodern. It does not fit into those categories. They are very different and raise different usages.

    Daymon’s book is in the contrasting camp of American philosophy on symbols and meaning as well as on language. key names are C.S. Peirce and Dell Hymes.

    They only thing remotely postmodern is the inclusion of the author in the text…but that is more mainstream in anthropology than the term posmo suggests. It is also a recognition, following nineteenth century social thinking, that scholars are part of communities and not abstract entities who know.

    Nate, my review was not about sales but was saying that there are important things in this book.

    It is worth reading for that alone. It takes work. It is not easy. Its tone is sometimes snarky and Daymon’s crisis is there as Mark alludes. And, it involves ideas that require work–NB we are talking about the ideas and not the language in which they are expressed. However, it is worth the read because the insights are valuable, even for an insider like Nate or others who work in the Church Office Building. They are also valuable for anyone who studies religion, including Mormonism.

    That is my assessment of the book. And, I am done with my quixotic arguments on plain English. (On that I shall just remain a heretic who is grateful for other languages and other countries with their ideologies of what constitutes good prose. But I really am done. LOL).

  68. Please place this comment in the mod queue, and then promptly erase it.

  69. David: My reference to postmodernism was to your defense of the obscurity of your review and to the various ways in which you describe Daymon’s obsession with his book’s own textuality. I”ve no doubt lots of other really cool un-postmodern things are going in both his book and your review. As for your review, my criticism is not that it fails as a bit of marketing, but that it fails to persuade or even very successfully gesture toward what makes this book intellectually valuable.

    For what it is worth, I work in a small building in Virginia that has no association with the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop. I am, however, a lawyer, which apparently makes me uniquely unqualified to understand how a corporation sole works.

  70. Boys, let’s be civil here. Even those of us who have no respect for the French literary/cultural critics can be civil to those who do have respect for them.

  71. Blah blah blah blah, people. Blah blah blah blah blah!

  72. Hopefully this isn’t out of line (I know a lot of you–let me know if it is)–we’ve got them at Benchmark Books at 20% off this month and we do ship

  73. david knowlton says:

    Nate, sorry for confusing a small building in Virginia with a large one in Salt Lake. Yikes.

    I think our conversation here has been more on language and specifically Daymon’s language. But the book is interested in the ways Mormonism structures itself through speaking, through using language. As part of that, it is interested as well in how language relates to contexts including other things and the forms in which social interactions–in this case religious and other work in the Church–take place. I mean how Mormons do their religion in spaces formed by particular kinds of organizations.

    In the LDS Case, it is a corporation. Daymon does argue that the corporation, as a particular social form with its own way of being and structuring people’s lives, has taken over the Church.

    If this were all he says, then there would not be much point as many people have spoken about a tension between the Church and the so called “institutional church”. However, Daymon is specifically concerned with two things here. The corporation of Mormonism does not operate according to the rules one expects to govern a corporate bureaucracy. It is not governed by corporate nor capitalist logic, but by an ecclesiastic capitalism in which the accounting and the money are all provided by the same institution such that its main purpose is maintaining the circulation of value within it, rather than by sales, missionary work, concern for membership, etc.

    He is also concerned that though a corporate form, the Church is also property of a single entity. In this Daymon challenges the notions expressed above about the Church being the people and the membership. Daymon’s book suggests that is an idea people has, but that it severs to keep them chained to the inner functioning of the self-perpetuating organization that is property rather than being an accurate or adequate expression of Mormonism as religion.

    Daymon follows the notion of ownership to show how it enables kinds of power and relationships that, though covered in religious clothing, seem at variance to the ideals they are supposed to serve.

    Here his work becomes a kind of denunciation. Yet it also suggests, for me, the importance of looking at the inner architecture of religious organizations to see how organizations of power are made and maintained as well as how they relate to the beliefs and rituals that form their day to day for many believers. I think this issue is the elephant in the house of the study of religion in social science which focuses more on belief and practice than on the ways in which religious bodies are organized and the implications of those organizational forms.

    So, I think Daymon’s work has a lot to say to people interested in the nitty gritty of religion–but not as it sees itself.

    So, Nate? Is this a better job of laying out what I think is interesting in the book?

  74. Sigh, Bryan.

  75. Like I said–feel free to remove that if it’s out of line

  76. out of sheer love and affection I hereby grant thee a pass this one time.

  77. David, your #71 is much clearer and very helpful. Stripped of the jargon it does suggest that the book is a formally innovative work (the memoir-as-protest-and-ethnography) reporting criticisms that are reasonably familiar to people who have watched the discussions about the meaning of organized religion in 20th-21st century America. I suspect most readers will decide the book’s merits on the basis of the formal innovations and the prose given that the fundamental concepts underlying are familiar to many readers/observers. My personal preference is that if a formally innovative book like this is of lower quality than Pale Fire I don’t have time–I’d rather re-read Pale Fire. I personally think I would like a novel about COB written by someone like Richard Russo (e.g., Straight Man), though such would be much harder to write I think.

    There’s an interesting book, which also sports Mammon in the title (can’t remember precisely the title), that talks a bit about this in a more traditional historical format. Evangelicals, while denominationally less formal, in any given mega-church also have some of these issues. As I recall John Turner’s biography of Bill Bright gives a bit of a flavor for such phenomena in an evangelical organization. There are also some interesting treatments of what happened with pan-denominational reform movements in 19th century into Progressive Era that had to struggle with what it meant to function as a sacred bureaucracy, though in this case the infrastructure was extra-denominational.

  78. Nate Oman says:

    David: Expressed in those terms it sounds moderately interesting, although I have to say that you are correct that the tension between religion in some lived or spiritual sense and its institutionalization is old hat in the study of religion in general and in the case of Mormonism in particular.

    If he actually has a theory of ecclesiastical capitalism as a unique form of economic organization that could be interesting but talking in terms of value circulating within an institution sounds a lot like premodern criticisms of commercial activity. Here, I fear that my snobbery kicks in and I’d rather look at the question in terms of organizational behavior or better yet the economic theory of the firm than in terms of semiotics. I suspect that thinking in terms of rents, incentives, and information is more helpful than thinking in terms of signifiers, signified, and quasi-fictional alter egos for the narrator. (The later strikes me as extremely gimmicky.)

    Life’s short and I don’t see myself rushing to get this book, but I appreciate your accommodating your argument to my troglodytic and Anglophone desire for clarity.

    Sorry Bryan. I’ll try to find something else at Benchmark — and awesome store — to buy.

  79. #75: I would be interested in seeing these themes extended to examine the functioning of “sacred bureaucracies” that are in the business of marketing to Mormons from outside the Church proper. This is one thing that really fascinated me in reading Matt Evans’ impassioned pleas for the ability of private entities who market to Mormons to retain their right to discriminate against gays just like the church’s bureaucracy can. This was in the wake of the SLC anti-discrimination ordinance, which exempted churches. I think he’s dead wrong on the issue, but his framing of private corporate entities with religious bents as being at a competitive disadvantage with the institutional church due to being forced to have gays around, was a very interesting view of things. IIRC he even invoked the idea of the degree to which the Spirit could attend the activities of the two entities in the wake of the law, but I’ll stop speaking for him now as I am undoubtedly revealing more about my own reading of him than his actual views. Anyway, it sounds like Matt and Daymon may actually have very similar views of the nature of the Church structure, both of which differ from my own.

  80. If he actually has a theory of ecclesiastical capitalism as a unique form of economic organization that could be interesting…

    I suspect that thinking in terms of rents, incentives, and information is more helpful than thinking in terms of signifiers, signified, and quasi-fictional alter egos for the narrator.

    In the case of the first, you’ve actually described a central feature of the book. In terms of the second, he combines the two approaches that you juxtapose.

  81. Robert C. says:

    [Nate:] I suspect that thinking in terms of rents, incentives, and information is more helpful than thinking in terms of signifiers, signified, and quasi-fictional alter egos for the narrator.

    Nate, when you study “information” from an economic perspective, as you suggest, don’t you have to talk about signaling? Ultimately, I don’t think a strong distinction can be made between semiotics and signaling, at least not without egregious (and lazy) reductivism. I suppose we might say semiotics is more focused on the interplay of a system of signification whereas signaling theory is more focused on the function—but then I’d think the system is, indeed, the more appropriate focus for this topic….

  82. I’d like to thank David for spending time with the text, and for writing this review.

    There’s also a review on ldstalk, written, I believe, by a fellow lawyer:
    http://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/the-book-of-mammon-a-review/

    A few points about the register (jargon, or was that metajargon, or too much reflexivity?) of the book, the style, the lack of genre, and so on.

    Last night I happened to read from the Book of Ether. Moroni laments that his writing is weak compared to his speaking, and this due to his awkwardness of hands. The Book of Mormon is weakly written, he complains. The Lord responds that it is good to be weak, for there charity might abound.

    Also from the book of Ether, I happened to read about a confounded language, and the use of glass stones for interpreters. A certain writing was sealed up, to be unsealed at some later time, and yet it still had to be written, if only as a witness.

    Too much boasting? I intentionally wrote a difficult book, one that I happily called ‘fiction’ for reasons I won’t go into. Why not an accessible one? Why not a hammer-fisted assault on the COB?

    Why was the Book of Mormon written in a mock-KJV English? It’s not like New Yorkers spoke this way in 1830. Perhaps for the same reason the Lord, exasperated with Peter, explains why he speaks in parables. That those who cannot understand or won’t understand might not be troubled by the lessons in the tale.

    What I encountered at the COB, and then wrote about in the Book of Mammon, deeply disturbed me. I thought Mormons should know how it runs, but I also feared harming Mormons who’d rather not know how it runs.

    There were two ways, I thought, to manage this: 1. Hide it under academese. 2. Invoke the old trickster god, and create a magic circle by way of laughter. I tried for number two, but I understand if my god of humor is not, as it were, quite as full of pleasant melancholy as yours.

    Please address questions to my email: bookofmammon@gmail.com

  83. Ok, any book generating this much discussion is worth picking up. Count me in. If only I knew a place where I could get one at a discount.

  84. Unlike many of their books, Amazon priced this at $25.00 (they usually set you up at 24.95). That means you can get it with free shipping without buying that other book you only sort of want or can’t really afford. Since I already owe them my 401k, this was not so bad.

  85. David Clark says:

    Daymon,

    I wrote the review at LDS Evangelical Conversations. You must have me confused with someone else, I’m not a lawyer. I am a lowly writer of software. Having spent some time giving a deposition at Fulbright and Jaworski, LLP, I’m certain I made the correct career decision.

  86. Sorry David,
    I meant to write “fellow David” rather than “fellow lawyer” (D. Knowlton isn’t a lawyer, either).

  87. No offense to Professor Knowlton, but I’m interested in reading the book that David Clark reviewed. :)

  88. WVS, FWIW Amazon doesn’t set the cover prices on the books it sells, the publisher (who in this case is the Author) does. But, your observation that the extra nickel puts it into the free shipping category is certainly useful.

  89. Thomas Parkin says:

    I just listened to Daymon’s interview at Mormon Stories (most of it, anyway), and am very interested in this book, and his thoughts on any number of things, based on that. (Although rather than read the book, I’d much rather just sit down with you for a couple hours … in case you’re ever in the Northwest.)

  90. I teach 9th grade literature. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree at a mediocre university. I read the book and I didn’t have any trouble. I didn’t love all of it, but I missed my stop 4 times while reading on the bus. Anyone who can enliven stories about Book of Mormon surpluses or the failures of a well-intentioned but unsuccessful Church Welfare training program has some writing skill.

  91. William Schryver says:

    Not being a regular follower of BCC, I’m late to this discussion, having been led (via a bread-crumb trail of links) to it by Alan Waterman’s more recent commentary on Smith’s book posted this past Sunday: http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2010/10/how-corporatism-has-undermined-and.html

    I have not read Smith’s book. I did read all of David’s review above, and I read a selection of the comments that have followed.

    First of all, I want to endorse Sam’s observations as expressed in #6. What surprised me most of all was that no one appeared to have any reaction to Sam’s post, whereas I regarded it as, hands down, the most cogent commentary on both the thrust of Smith’s book as well as Knowlton’s more or less glowing endorsement of it.

    I seriously doubt I will read Smith’s book–partly because my “need to read” pile is already many volumes deep, but mainly because the issues upon which it touches don’t vex me in the least.

    Frankly, I’m not persuaded that Smith’s having worked in the COB constitutes credentials sufficient to reliably commentate on affairs to which he could not possibly have been privy in any substantial manner. Furthermore, I think there is an almost ironical naivete at work in terms of Smith’s underlying premises (as well as Waterman’s comments on them that I read earlier this morning).

    The conception of “Church” as it applies to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is clearly a subjective one in the minds of its constituency, and especially so (I believe) in the case of the “learned” among us. I attempted to explore the concept of idolatry in my GD lesson this past week, during which I cited the famous passage from D&C 1:

    “… every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol …”

    Of course, one man’s idolatry is another man’s penchant for “unfettered thought.”

    Even so, it occurs to me that the average Latter-day Saint (be he a hay farmer in Parowan or a professor of anthropology in Orem) gives little thought to the notion that, just maybe, there are deliberate and superbly executed purposes underlying the overall strategies and specific tactics of the leaders of the faciley reprehended LDS “Corporation” that is, by various speculative and yet possibly accurate accounts, amassing a considerable degree of material power as it steadily seeks to advance towards a long-ago-defined goal: the realization of Zion.

    I find it somewhat ironic that a group of Mormon thinkers who would normally embrace the uniquely materialistic aspects of Mormonism at the personal level are typically repulsed in some fashion when that materialism manifests itself at the institutional level.

    And yet, have the following passages been expunged from the canon?

    Immediately after enjoining the Law of Consecration as a prerequisite to realizing Zion, the Lord–almost incongruently in the context of the preceding verses–concludes with this thought:

    (D&C 82) And now, verily I say unto you, and this is wisdom, make unto yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness, and they will not destroy you.

    Elsewhere (and always more or less related to the same topic of the realization/redemption of Zion) we read:

    (D&C 103) … the redemption of Zion must needs come by power …

    (D&C 82) Therefore, a commandment I give unto all the churches, that they shall continue to gather together unto the places which I have appointed.

    Nevertheless, as I have said unto you in a former commandment, let not your gathering be in haste, nor by flight; but let all things be prepared before you.

    And in order that all things be prepared before you, observe the commandment which I have given concerning these things—

    Which saith, or teacheth, to purchase all the lands with money, which can be purchased for money, in the region round about the land which I have appointed to be the land of Zion, for the beginning of the gathering of my saints;

    All the land which can be purchased in Jackson county, and the counties round about, and leave the residue in mine hand.

    Now, verily I say unto you, let all the churches gather together all their moneys; let these things be done in their time, but not in haste; and observe to have all things prepared before you.

    And let honorable men be appointed, even wise men, and send them to purchase these lands.

    And the churches in the eastern countries, when they are built up, if they will hearken unto this counsel they may buy lands and gather together upon them; and in this way they may establish Zion.

    The fact is (and few understood this quite as clearly as did Brigham Young) the Kingdom of God upon the earth, in order to attain unto its spiritual objectives in the last days, must amass the material might and political means necessary to fulfill its mission.

    Indeed, although Nibley’s Approaching Zion remains my favorite of the late professor’s works, I cannot help, when reading it, to note the blind spot he seemed to have concerning the unavoidable materialistic realites of the world as it is.

    There is much useful practical truth in the words placed in the mouth of Pontius Pilate as he admonishes Judah in Ben Hur:

    “A grown man knows the world he lives in. For the moment, that world is Rome.”

    Well, I don’t want to be misunderstood as one who endorses a union of “The Church” and “The World.” That is absolutely counter to my point. But neither do I view the production, accumulation, and wise use of the material world as some inherently repugnant enterprise at odds with the goals and ideals of Zion. Quite to the contrary, does not the frequently misinterpreted commandment given to Adam and Eve to “subdue the earth” connote the same thing that Brigham Young continually encouraged the pioneer generation of Saints to do in their respective stewardships; to grow and expand them?

    Is there not a logical relationship between the verse in D&C 82 that encourages accommodation with “mammon” and the statement just above that establishes the accompanying rationale?:

    For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.

    I grant that there are aspects of “correlated” 21st century Mormonism that I also find frustrating and ill-conceived. But I remain convinced that there has been and continues to be an often-neglected recognition of the underlying (and, in ways, miraculous) wisdom at work in the operations of “The Corporation of the President” and its subsidiary entities. I have a strong suspicion that the day may come when many will finally recognize that wisdom:

    (D&C 45) And with one heart and with one mind, gather up your riches that ye may purchase an inheritance which shall hereafter be appointed unto you.

    And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God;

    And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion.

    And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.

    And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another.

    And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand.

    And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy.

    And now I say unto you, keep these things from going abroad unto the world until it is expedient in me, that ye may accomplish this work in the eyes of the people, and in the eyes of your enemies, that they may not know your works until ye have accomplished the thing which I have commanded you;

    More this deponent saith not …

  92. @91 William Schryver,

    I certainly don’t object to the church engaging in business with “the world”, nor in building up millions of dollars in stored assets against future needs. If that is the conclusion you reached from my piece at Pure Mormonism, I’m afraid I failed to make my position clear.

    What I wonder is why the highly vaunted “modern revelation” is not utilized when investing or spending tithing funds? Why not check with God before disbursing all those billions?

    The history of church spending includes its share of folly. Henry Moyle brought the church near bankruptcy in the early ’60’s with the church building program where chapels were built in locations where there were few if any members (“build it and they will come” was his mantra, and when they didn’t arrive on schedule Moyle blamed the missionaries for not working hard enough.)

    As the nation was on the very cusp of a depression that is expected by many to last at least a decade (never mind what the government shills declare to the contrary), this church started a project to build a mall that is intended to cater to the high-end consumer. Never mind the billions being poured into that fiasco; where will those high end consumers come from? These are the same people who have already lost most of their money in the failed stock market.

    And who can afford to visit that hundred million dollar hotel in Hawaii right now?

    I just think that before the member’s money was invested in these follies, they should have checked with the Lord to see what the ten year forecast was going to look like.

  93. Carl Youngblood says:

    Rock, I still don’t think you have responded adequately to William’s point that your criticism of the Church’s legal structure is unwarranted. A good portion of your essay focused on the evilness of the corporation itself, not on the particular manner in which it is managed. I think your post would be much more compelling if you left the dogmatic mumbo-jumbo out of it and focused on your complaints about how the inertia of the bureaucracy can sometimes interfere with the Church’s ideals, and I would give you even more brownie points if you could address what better alternatives could theoretically be implemented. Keep in mind that in many cases, when dealing with bureaucracies of this size, it is difficult even for the leaders to bring about change. The org essentially takes on a life of its own and seeks its own survival, often through difficult inter-departmental struggles.

  94. @ William Schryve

    I have known or suspected this is “The Plan” — that ‘the righteous’ will be called to gather to Zion — the ultimate gated community!

    Okay, but who gets to go and who must to stay? The righteous go. Oh, and pray tell, who might they be? What will qualify you as being righteous? If you are member of the second anointing elected club, then fine, no doubt you’re in. And all the rest of the mere paying to keep playing ‘candidates‘? What happens to them? Could someone even write a fictional account (like the Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, ‘Left Behind’ series) about this future, expected gathering? I can only see a lot of people having been taken for all they are worth, then left out in the cold because they just didn’t kiss ass enough to establish friendships with those in high places, or had the right LDS pedigree, or paid enough tithes and offerings, or whatever. What will happen to all of these temples all over the world? Do all the ‘rest of us’ get to barricade ourselves within their walls while the wicked are banging on the temple door like a bunch of crazed zombies trying to destroy us? “Well, sucks to be you. You should have done better at home teaching.” says the GA as he boards a jet taking him and his family to Zion.

    And you know what? I think this ‘gathering’ is very possible and most probably will occur one day (I sincerely hope I’m long dead by then), but will it be fair and just? Based upon my experiences in the church it’s *who* you know, *how* you are perceived based upon *what* you do to maintain the proper ‘image,’ having a clear agenda of *why* you endure and persevere jumping through all of the requisite hoops in order to get get *where* you want to be. I wonder if this has something to do with why so many mission presidents strive to be noticed in order to be chosen to become a future GA?

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