The average cost of a litre of petrol in the UK right now is £1.39. That is $2.23 per litre, which is $8.42 per gallon.
Yes, ouch. This post is about the cost in fuel of being an active Mormon in the United Kingdom.
Mormonism is a commuters’ religion. A few hardy souls bike, walk, or take the bus to church, but they are in a minority outside of western Mormonism (discounting cities with good public transport). We live eight miles from our ward building (cost in petrol: £2.50 round trip), twenty-five from the stake centre (£10) and 160 from the London temple (£50). As young men’s president, I probably go to the ward house three times a week; to stake meetings once a month; and to the temple twice a year. That comes out at about £610 ($980) per year, which is £50 ($80) per month.
There are ways to minimise this cost, such as car-sharing to the temple and to stake meetings, and I don’t go to church 52 weeks a year (a man must see the world, you know). However, I think two temple trips are probably the minimum of what might be culturally expected of a recommend-holding member; there are also times when I am at the stake centre more than once a month; and I haven’t counted the occasional young men’s expedition to places further afield. I also haven’t counted the meetings my wife’s calling might expect her to attend, home and visiting teaching, giving rides, etc. Therefore, I think it is reasonable to suppose that the average active LDS family in the UK is spending around $1000 a year on their Mormon commute. For me, this represents around 1/3 of my total annual fuel costs. I earn a good wage but these are not insignificant sums. I would begin to struggle if the cost was much higher.
For those with executive level callings, and lots of kids to ferry around, the cost is certainly more. A lot more in some cases.
When I was on a bishopric and attended quite a few stake meetings I once totaled up the cost of everyone’s fuel who attended the meeting. It was something like $1000. Put that way — and we don’t often think of fuel that way — I once joked that a meeting would have to be pretty good to justify that expense.
Some solutions to consider:
1. Less meetings.
2. Less cultural pressure to attend every meeting.
3. Greater efficiency in planning, i.e. arrange meetings and visits for the same night.
4. Better systems for car sharing.
5. Fuel allowances for leaders.
6. Build close to the public transport networks.
7. Conference calls and remote meetings.
With fuel prices continuing to spiral upwards, perhaps it is time to think carefully about the financial burden placed on LDS families in places like Europe where driving is expensive and ecclesiastical boundaries large. Wilfried Decoo has recently written about these costs of membership – I would add that I suspect that Mormonism might be the most financially expensive religion in England if we add tithing, mission costs, and other offerings to the cost of fuel. This may be the price of membership in the kingdom but that should not be an excuse to ignore how that price is borne by the Saints in different parts of the world, nor by those whose callings and commitment require them to travel.