At the recent Richard Bushman symposium (June 18, 2010) in honor of his 80th birthday, I noted that Armand Mauss was going to speak to “Rethinking Retrenchment: Course Corrections in the Ongoing Campaign for Respectability.” I was planning to be there for his talk, but arrived late. But before that, I had decided to read through his 1994 book “The Angel and the Beehive” since the title of his talk is related to issues discussed in the book. While looking at some the analysis in the book related to General Authorities of the church, I became curious about certain details regarding the current group of GAs – GOs (General Authorities, General Officers (Aux.)).
So on the Friday evening prior to his talk, I compiled a few stats just to see how things may have changed, or not. In any case, I thought some of you might be interested in such things, so here you go. (Data taken from church provided material.)
At first I was mainly interested in education and profession data, but collected a bit more than that.
First, there are 128 persons represented in the “survey.” These include the First Pres., Q12, Prescy of 70, 1st Quorum of 70, 2nd Q of 70, Presiding Bishopric, Primary Prescy, Relief Soc. Prescy, Young Women Prescy, Sunday School Prescy, Young Men Prescy.
Among GAs, the youngest group on average was the 1st Q of 70 at ~59 (not counting prescy of 70). The prescy of the 70 averaged a little higher at ~62. The 2nd Q of 70 was fractionally older than the prescy of 70 (about 6 months). On average the Presiding Bishopric came in at a surprising (to me) ~73. Apparently they don’t get the boot at 70. The Q12 was ~76 and the First Pres. mean age was ~78.
Youngest GA: 46. Oldest: 89.
I should note that I did not consider birthdays, so some ages may be a year off. No age data was readily available for the GOs.
Now for some of what I had originally wanted to know: education.
Only 101 people indicated a higher education field of study, so the remaining 27 may have a college degree of some sort but either did not indicate that or simply did not provide information on field of study. Most every “respondent” did indicate some form of college whether they finished or not.
Terminal Degree Field (out of 101 respondents)
Business (includes finance, etc.): 54
Education (I mean degrees like Ed.D): 7
There was a scattering of other degrees like international relations, English, Phys Ed, Sport science, a couple of engineers, etc.
There was one who had a degree in the humanities (Jeff Holland -wrote a dissertation on Mark Twain and Religion or something – it was pretty good as I recall).
There were 7 Ph.Ds, 4 of these in business, the other 3 were non science degrees, one in “instructional psychology” which is probably education but I have no idea what it means.
There was a dentist.
Out of the 101 respondents, 19 had MBAs. These were from a variety of schools.
Among GAs, last place of employment: 26 worked for the church, 16 of those in CES.
A large proportion of GAs were in some field of business before beginning service, if one counts law firms, something well over 70%.
So what did this mean re Mauss’ data from his 1994 book? It is not clear that the post Benson years have really pushed back against the “Clark men” who ran the church from the 40s until the mid 90s except in certain ways. One of these is a distinct relaxation over early Mormonism’s history. Another is the new church generated publicity. Taxi-hats indeed!
Conclusion: if you are bucking for GA, head for business school! Seriously, this is the same trend noted by Mauss. As he points out, science was a represented field among GAs until mid-20th century when it dropped out of sight as retrenchment was starting to take hold. Church expansion meant increased challenges in finance and administrative pressures.
I predict, based on the data, that we are unlikely to see theological fun from Salt Lake. While the pendulum may be swinging back from “retrenchment” in some respects, it seems unlikely that we are going to see church leaders drawn from disciplines of basic science or history, etc. You guys, don’t count on that office suite at 47 East. (grin) There is not going to be any engagement with, well, thorny stuff from religious studies and so on. (See Mauss pp. 81ff.)
 The little bios available on lds.org are interesting to read and many if not most appear to have been provided by the subjects themselves or perhaps transcribed from a resume or something. The content is a little funny sometimes. Like this bit: “He has been listed in Chambers USA as one of America’s Leading Lawyers for Business from 2005-2008. He was also listed as one of the Southwest Super Lawyers in 2007 and 2008.” Yo.
 But remember Nibley!