Education and Class

While the Restoration scriptures consistently warn against the stratification of society into classes, our zeal for education and achievement tends to produce exactly that.

Eugene V. Debs said “…while there is a lower class, I am in it…”, and those words echo several themes in the New Testament.  In this post and in your comments, I’d like to explore how we can avoid or resist the tendency towards privilege and class identity.

The church has defined my primary role in life to be the provider of material goods for my family.  Within the last two years, President Hinckley spoke about this in general priesthood meeting and quoted the scripture which says that anyone who doesn’t provide for his family is worse than an infidel.  Most men I know feel a strong sense of urgency about this responsibility, and we tend to think that if a little providing is good, a lot of providing is even better.  We tend to have large families, and that necessitates larger homes and multiple cars.  And it goes without saying that homes always need to be maintained and cars always need to be repaired.

The church also advises us repeatedly to get all the schooling we can.  The advice is often couched in terms of securing a living in a competitive environment.  In that sense, I am literally “getting ahead”, or gaining a comparative advantage over others.  My parents gave me every advantage, and I’m doing the same for my own children.  Most of us would do anything we could to secure the future of our children, but I am wondering if there should be limits, and what those limits are.

We tend to derive a strong sense of ourselves from what we do for a living.  “What kind of work do you do?” is a question we expect to hear very soon upon meeting someone new.  And we value some occupations above others.  From my office where I perform my work (software engineering) I can look out the window and see other men at work, laying brick.  I’m not at all sure that what I do is more valuable or meaningful than what they do.  And with the wages that skilled craftsmen earn, I’m not sure I make any more money than they do.  However, I know that we are in different classes, and the reason is because I went to college.

I think the gospel can counteract and neutralize class differences.  For instance, those differences can go away when we serve together and visit in one another’s homes.  However, some things about the church tend to reinforce a class system.  A man who went to college is more likely to be called to leadership positions than a man who is a bricklayer, or the owner of a Roto-Rooter franchise.  Why is that?

It is my belief that sometimes the drive for achievement and excellence can be harmful, not only to ourselves but to the greater community.  And while education is no doubt valuable in terms of earning a living, how much of it can fairly be thought of as nothing more than credential acquisition?  How can we be high achievers while simultaneously keeping faith with “the least of these”?




  1. One does have to be cautious. I was in a church-related meeting in which the wife of a relatively high profile leader the church (in the area) told us all (YSA) to get rich so we could buy the prophet private jet planes. I think sometimes we fall into the trap of associating the degree of our material prosperity with our standing before the Lord. Of course, she wasn’t entirely serious, but she wasn’t entirely joking either.

    I think the best way to be high achievers while “keeping faith with ‘the least of these'” is to purposefully interact with those you do not naturally assimilate with and if possible to assist them in their pursuits of achievement in whatever realm it may be it. The more interaction one has with a group, the easier it is to relate to the members of the group.

    Also, I tend to believe that, as long as one is doing one’s best, God views each person’s achievements as being equal to the achievements of others even if they may (in the world’s eyes) be inconsequential. If we can value achievement for achievement’s sake, we will better be able to value those who appear to have achieved less, but given their circumstances, have accomplished much. A little wordy, but I hope I made myself clear.

  2. As with any advice, we tend to take it too far and base it in the most base motivations.

    We’ve forgot that beyond a certain point, making more money makes us poorer, and part of the reason the prophets want us to be educated is to help advance the kingdom, not just make more money…

  3. But Mark, what of the lazies? You know, the perfectly capable people who could be amazing corporate lawyers but instead choose to be park rangers or firefighters or choose other low-paying and therefore low-worthiness occupations?

    It is problematic that leadership or “prestige” callings in the Church are sometimes perceived to skew towards higher education. It isn’t always so, but certainly it happens. Where are the bricklaying stake presidents? Or do the organizational tasks of such callings require training best acquired in the fields of corporate labor?

  4. MikeInWeHo says:

    “What kind of work do you do?” is a question we expect to hear very soon upon meeting someone new…..

    In many parts of the world it’s rather impolite to ask that question. It’s very American to immediately ask someone “What do you do?”

    re: 3
    I have a distant memory of a home teacher explaining to me that in this dispensation, the Church is “in corporate mode.” So perhaps the answer to your last question is yes, Steve.

  5. In general, I think the corporate types have subtle bias towards like-coifed and attired people.

    It also should be noted, as I am learning, the man who labors 14 hours a day in the summer sun laying bricks or, say, roofing houses, comes home extremely tired and very dirty, and generally has zero energy left to go network and hang out with the other guys in the ward. He showers, falls in bed, and gets up at 4:30 the next morning and does it again.

    On the other hand, the white collar worker sits in an air conditioned office, networks via IM and phone calls, plays a little Packrat, checks the box scores, logs a few billable hours, and heads home, with lots of energy to spare for his family and his ward.

    I have experienced marriage to both those men… I know which one was more likely to be tapped to lead…

  6. Molly Bennion says:

    John W. Gardner’s “Excellence-Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too?” remains a superb treatment of your questions and more. Gardner wore many hats, notably pres of The Carnegie Corporation and Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of HEW. Gardner argues strongly for achievement and decries the mediocrity pervasive at every level of society. But he simultaneously argues that achievement does not define human worth. Individual worth and dignity are based on moral imperatives within the reach of every individual. He also posits that keeping a free society requires great competence and that forced and artificial equalities (including placing limits on the opportunities of our children) lower the mean and risk all. It seems to me the gospel is a tremendous help in navigating the complexities of moral equality in a world sorely in need of individual education and achievement. All our experiences, including educational and corporate, should inure to the good of our fellows if we can keep the eternal brotherhood of man and the moral imperatives in mind. The best stake presidents do need some organizational skills, but they need a humble and generous heart far more. We once had a fine bishop who was a plumber; glad he wasn’t overlooked. And Gardner would have tipped his hat to that bishop because he chose to be not “just a plumber,” but an excellent plumber.

  7. Randall says:

    Through my life, I have chosen to live in increasingly smaller cities: Born in San Francisco, raised in SLC, schooled in Provo, first career in town of 45,000, 2nd career in town of 2,500.

    As I’ve down-sized my municipalities, I’ve come to believe that the social impact of the church is far greater in less populous locales. This is because the church incorporates both the wealthy and the poor into one ward in small towns. In contrast, in large cities entire stakes came consist of only gated or blighted communities.

    I gained the best sense of this in Grand Junction, CO, where the church maintains 2 stakes, but all the wards follow a north/south axis. The northern half of the city is wealthy and the southern half is generally limited in income (akin to the east/west dynamic of SLC). My ward had 6 physicians and others with advanced degrees worshiping alongside the tradesmen and uninsured.

    Despite the benfits of this elbow-rubbing, my 3 bishops were a psychologist, a wealthy small business owner, and a radiation oncologist. The 2 stake presidents were a very successful accountant and a lawyer. All of them provided dedicated, effective, and compassionate service, but others with less education and material success could have done equally well.

    At the end of the day, I think it comes down to trust. As a church with all lay leadership, a great deal of trust is placed in a people who run the wards and stakes. The people making callings rely on certain markers to decide which people will magnify the calling. As it is men who are making these decisions, the markers of success and trustworthiness that are important in the office bleed over into the stakehouse.

    I’m curious if women wouldn’t attune themselves to different markers and pay less attention to education and material success.

  8. Naismith says:

    We tend to derive a strong sense of ourselves from what we do for a living. “What kind of work do you do?” is a question we expect to hear very soon upon meeting someone new.

    I think this is just sick. Don’t buy into it. Don’t do it, don’t expect it.

    You will be so much happier if you can get beyond this.

  9. This is a something that bothers me a lot. Not just that our leaders are generally “upper class” but that we don’t use the tools the gospel gives us to help those who might be considered “lower class”. I am not just talking about people who work with their hands or sell appliances at Sears. Our branch covers a very large area and we have all sorts of people. The more educated do lead , but unfortunately, they don’t use their positions to develop leadership abilities in the less educated. We have many members, especially single women, who need to be taught how to raise their children to be the leaders of the future. Our current leaders are so busy being administrators and making sure that their own families have all the advantages that they don’t have time to do anything for others. I don’t know that we should lower the bar for leadership positions but we should raise the bar for leadership performance.

  10. #6 – I once thought women would do it differently, but I no longer think so. Those in power have certain characteristics that allow them to be in power which constrains them to a certain set of markers.

    #7 – Naismith, DITTO.

    As for the topic, perhaps my military life has made me oblivious to the choice of leader based on employment. My current bishop is a plumber. I wonder if it is more of a perception than a statement of reality.

    Of course, one must have some financial stability in order to be able to serve in the Church full-time. Our last prophet, however, was neither doctor nor lawyer. Nor was he ever “financially comfortable” from what I understand.

  11. SilverRain, it’s worth asking, though, how many of the General Authorities don’t have a college degree? Once that category would have included nearly all of them. Now I’m quite confident that it includes nearly none of them, in spite of still constituting a clear majority of people both on Earth and in the church.

    Note also that social class isn’t exclusively about income, but rather about education and the kind of work one does. Hinckley may not have been wealthy, but he had a college degree and worked in the church bureaucracy manipulating symbols for almost his entire life. That’s middle class.

  12. All I can say is this: I’ve spent more of my life as the “least of these” than I have as a member of the so-called “upper class”. I’ve been both blue collar and white collar, and even once was a member of a union.

    I followed the advice of the prophet, got all the schooling I could stomach and now I pull down a six figure income, leave the office most days at 5pm and fulfill my duties as a husband, father, and priesthood holder.

    Do I understand what it’s like to be one of the “least of these”? You bet. Do I need to be one to “keep the faith”? Not hardly.

  13. James McMurray says:

    #6 – “As I’ve down-sized my municipalities, I’ve come to believe that the social impact of the church is far greater in less populous locales. This is because the church incorporates both the wealthy and the poor into one ward in small towns. In contrast, in large cities entire stakes came consist of only gated or blighted communities.”

    I have deep concerns about the socio-economic separation that occurs through the development patterns typical of many cities, which is often occurs in the name of seeking the best education possible for our children. In my estimation, it is difficult to love a neighbor we don’t know, and if this spacial separation results in our knowing only those like us, well, it only serves to reinforce Mark’s point about Education and Class and limits our personally access to those perhaps in most need. I don’t want to downplay the fact there is real need among all people – rich or poor, educated or not – but hopefully you get my point.

    For me, this partly explains why men’s hearts are “waxing cold.” Incidental “heart warming” opportunities to interact and serve those who are different from us are basically eliminated given how our communities are built (especially in the U.S.)

    One other note: the ward of my youth included parts of two distinct neighborhoods – one upper-middle class, the other squarely middle class. The core leadership, for the most part, came from…you guessed it…the middle class neighborhood!

  14. Naismith says:

    When we lived in South America about 12 years ago, the bishops and stake presidents were pretty well-to-do because it was helpful for them to have a telephone and car, which was true of only maybe 15% of the membership.

    Here in the US, when my husband served as bishop, we found that a white-collar job was helpful because he could simply take annual leave when he was called away to give a blessing, conduct a funeral, etc. I think that might be harder for someone who has to punch a time clock.

    And a certain amount of fiscal solvency is helpful for a bishop because of the constant flow of out-of-pocket expenses. It’s not unusual for us to have over $1000 of expenses waiting for reimbursement, although $600 is more typical.

    In addition, we end up spending a chunk our money (maybe $300 per month) in order to help people in need who cannot be helped by church dollars. Those include prospective missionaries who need dental work, older couples who are willing to serve missions, non-members who need welfare assistance after the monthly budget for that has been exhausted, and sending youth to EFY. None of this is tax-deductible, it is just our opportunity to share with neighbors. Although we did do some of that before my husband became bishop, letting our bishop know that we could help if there was need.

    The Lord requires sacrifice, not prostration, and I think it is easier for us to give those things than it might be for others with more rigid workplace attendance expectations or limited financial reserves.

  15. John Mansfield says:

    An editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune touches on this problem. The old Central Utah Vocational School is now Utah Valley University.

  16. John Mansfield says:

    In connection with this, the old Central Utah Vocational School this week became Utah Valley University.

  17. Naismith, I think the points you raise are right on the mark, as are Tracy’s earlier points about surplus energy. These are almost certainly some of the real-world reasons that our church’s leadership comes predominantly from the middle and upper classes. Given the way our church is currently structured, leadership makes fiscal and time demands that people from those classes are easier to bear than is the case for working-class prospective leaders.

    I guess it’s worth thinking about some of the costs this produces, though. First of all, speaking in broad strokes, we as a group lose out on the spiritual leadership of more than half of our worthy members. Second, we suffer from institutional blind spots because the life experiences of our body of leaders for the most part does not include the experience of blue-collar living. While I think our leaders try very hard to empathize with diverse experiences other than their own, empathy is simply not equivalent to first-hand experience. Furthermore, social class involves networks of ideas as well as life routines; it’s hard to reconstruct another culture’s worldview, and that’s what’s required to avoid trouble when a major cultural category is severely underrepresented among an organization’s decision-makers.

    Given these collective costs, it’s worth thinking about what we could do to make the burdens of leadership more bearable by those with non-middle-class life experiences. I might note that there are certainly some successful non-middle-class leaders scattered throughout the church; perhaps these exceptional individuals could provide guidance and suggestions for how we might make the sharing of our leadership opportunities and burdens more class-equitable.

  18. I’m the son of a janitor, which is one of those occupations that people regard as bottom rung. You know—“If you don’t get good grades you’ll end up as a janitor or burger flipper.” But I’m proud that my dad worked hard until he was 72, when he started developing Parkinsons. There is no honest job that is more (or less) honorable than being a janitor. Being a janitor does have practical drawbacks—it’s hard to do some good, valuable things when you don’t have any extra money—so there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a higher paying job. But there is something wrong with holding janitorial work in lower esteem than other honest ways of making a living.

    Just as one must be careful to avoid top-down classism, there is danger in letting oneself develop bottom-up classism. I think the bottom-up kind may be easier fall into because the targets are rich and powerful and because we don’t talk much about it. But I sometimes face the temptation to look down on silver spoon types (which in my thinking includes comfortable middle class and above) and consider their life experience inferior to my own.

    But the irony is that I’m on a path that may lead me to a prestigious occupation that some people think is noble (although I don’t) and might make me a comfortable middle classer myself. My classist tendencies make me feel a little conflicted about that, but my desire for more kids and some financial security is pretty strong. Plus, I’m fighting the classist tendencies and have pretty much convinced myself that there’s nothing wrong with being middle class. Some of my best friends and siblings are middle class. I just hope I never turn into a richer.

  19. Mark IV says:

    Thanks for the comments and suggestions, everybody. Molly, I especially appreciate your book suggestion. I checked with my library and reserved it for pickup later today. I also agree that there is much that the church can do when it sets boundaries for wards that can help erase class distinctions. Unfortunately, sometimes the boundaries are drawn in such a way that class is reinforced, as some of you have noted.

    Part of what motivated my thoughts here is that for an embarassingly long part of my life, I have been unaware of, and hence ungrateful for, the unearned advantages that were given to me. I just assumed that we all live in comfortable houses with families who love us and where the refrigerator is always full. I don’t think it ever entered my mind not to go to college, and it was simply assumed that the money would be available. I am still oblivious to many of my privileges.

    One interesting observation about men who are called to be priesthood leaders is that many of them have advanced degrees, with the exception of CES guys. I’ve wondered why the guys who teach seminary are called more frequently than the guys who teach math or biology across the street.

    And I just want to say that I am very, very disappointed in all of you for not taking the bait on the Roto-Rooter guy. Can we not all agree that putting on your chest waders and getting into septic tanks every day would be the perfect preparation to be an LDS bishop?

  20. Of the last few bishoprics I’ve been in wards with, I can only tell you what one person did for a living. He was an FBI agent. That’s one out of what, 10 people or so?

    I know our stake president is a dentist, but only because a woman I know in our ward works in his office.

    One of the hardest-working, best bishops I’ve ever known was a fireman. He’d often come to church straight off an all-night shift and it wasn’t unusual to see him fall asleep on the stand.

  21. And, yeah, the way the office of bishop works now, my Dad wouldn’t have been able to be a bishop. When he wasn’t working at work he was working around the house. When you don’t have money to pay other people to do all the work that goes into keeping up a house and providing transportation for a big family, you keep pretty busy doing it yourself.

  22. Also, the office of Mission President, in my understanding the commonest springboard to the GA tier of Church leadership, necessitates financial independence. That isn’t an eternal imperative, but it is certainly currently Church policy and would require, I think, massive financial restructuring to change.

  23. Part of what motivated my thoughts here is that for an embarassingly long part of my life, I have been unaware of, and hence ungrateful for, the unearned advantages that were given to me. I just assumed that we all live in comfortable houses with families who love us and where the refrigerator is always full. I don’t think it ever entered my mind not to go to college, and it was simply assumed that the money would be available. I am still oblivious to many of my privileges.

    It’s always boggled my mind that anyone can say that. I’m glad for Tom’s comment above, because I too tend to the bottom-up kind of classism. It’s kind of hard not to when you’ve lived in a ghetto. I’d actually prefer to live in a poor neighborhood over a rich one, if it weren’t for my kids.

  24. Brad, I think there’s a caveat: being a mission president requires either financial independence or employment by the church. Church employees, including employees at church schools, have policies and incentives that make service as a mission president financially possible on lower-middle incomes.

    In general, I agree that this is a roadblock that prevents many capable leaders from building the church resume evidently all but necessary for service at the highest levels of the church.

  25. Mark IV says:

    I agree with the idea that we should not focus on what we do for a living.

    So I wonder why the church focuses on that. In the Church News, they write short paragraphs about new stake presidencies who have been recently called. They write two or three short sentences about each man, and one of them is always about his job.

  26. Well, I know I find my husband much more attractive now that he’s a carpenter than when he was a pencil pusher! (Though the money was better.)

  27. StillConfused says:

    #21 My children and I actually prefer the more economically diverse neighborhoods to the high end ones. The people are more friendly and caring.

  28. I pretty much agree with most of this post. The better educated in most areas of the country are much more likely to be called as bishop or SP.

    One big exception is rural Utah and Idaho. In these areas the ward sizes are so small due to high density of members that many wards simply do not have highly educated members. Pretty much anybody can be Bishop. A construction worker or farmer whatever

    I will never forget once in SE Idaho I was walking down the street as a teenager with my Gramps and the mailman WALKED by carrying a huge bag and sweating heavily. Hello President Jones my grandpa said. It was the local SP!!!

  29. I think what people do for a living is important to the point that it makes our society and/or communities better places to live – independent of the money. The problem is that money is really all most Mormons are concerned about as is evidenced by the Church being filled with dentists and lawyers. There is no way that such a high percentage of Mormons really care about teeth and criminals.

  30. Mark IV (#23),
    I think it’s interesting to know what people do for a living. It is big part of who they are. You can’t make any moral judgments about a person by their occupation (with the exception of lowlife software engineers), and it’s not the entirety of their identity, but knowing what a person spends half of their waking hours thinking about and doing lets you know them a little bit about them.

    So knowing, for example, that my dad was a janitor doesn’t tell you that he’s an arch conservative who’s smart, likes to read, and cries while watching Full House, but it does tell you that he probably is a hard worker and might be a handyman type—interesting things to know about a person.

  31. Mark IV says:

    Careful there, gma. Judging from the looks of our buildings, not many of us care about architecture, either. /smiley here/

  32. Mark IV, when you said “gma,” I thought you were calling someone a grandma!’

  33. Mark IV says:


    O rly?

  34. #27

    I think you are being a bit unfair. My own take is that so many LDS men go into lucrative fields is that they want to support a larger then average family and to avoid Mom having to work.

    That certainly my motivation and the motivation of most of my LDS friends and relatives.

    That professional 6 figure income does not go as far when you have 3-6 kids and Mom is a SAHM and you tithe.

  35. How can we remain educated and yet be with the least of these? I think part of the answer is, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” As an analogy, the things which are God’s come in great abundance among all educations and classes, but when making callings, those less conspicuous things of God are often trumped by the more obvious things of Caesar. When it comes to the things of God, I find that I am often poor indeed among those who have significantly less education than I.

  36. Alexander says:

    How can we be high achievers while simultaneously keeping faith with “the least of these”?

    Ride the bus!

  37. prairie chuck says:

    It’s not just the hours blue collar workers have to work that limits them being called to leadership. My dad was blue collar and owned his own business. It was also somewhat seasonal, so he had lots of control over the hours he worked and could always drop his work when there was a need in the ward. And yet, when he was called to be bishop, the classism was palpable. “What if I have to call him during the day? He’ll be so DIRTY!” (We have running water in our house. Trust me, he’ll shower before he comes over to your house. He’ll even brush his teeth and clean under his fingernails.) “But there are so many other good candidates (pointing to the insurance exec, the bank president and audiologist.)” “But he’s a well-driller. That’s just so…dirty!” I can’t even count the complaints I heard that our new bishop was dirty every day. One well-off member told my dad that when he came to visit he was to park around the corner. He didn’t want his neighbors to know who’s house that old car belonged to.

    Yes, he often worked 14+ hrs in a day, coming home exhausted, but he loved the church and always gave priority to the requirements of his church callings. If my dad noticed the snubs and conceit he never showed it. Not long after he was released my parents sold the house we’d lived in for 15 yrs and moved the family–first to an apartment, then a trailer–to a different ward. My parents never uttered a word of complaint or criticism for how they were treated but it left marks on my siblings (I moved away from home less than a year after he was called, so I missed most of the nastiness.)

  38. Wow. We have three kids, I stay at home, and I’ve never seen six-figures come home. Never. And we tithe.

  39. Interesting caveat, JNS. Fascinating that there is one institution in the Church that militates against the socio-economic classism that in many ways shapes the dimensions of our leadership hierarchy: CES. Interesting also that CES, while in some respects undermining the determinism of socio-economic class status, generates another kind of class division within the Church: ideological.

  40. I’ve seen the six cute little figures of my kids come home. Does that count?

  41. Jami and Traci,

    I simply think its unfair to say that all Mormons care about is money when Mormonism leads its most committed members to have large families, have a SAHM, and tithe.

    Those three things are simply income drains and if all you cared about was money you as a culture would not engage in any of them.

    You would be a bunch of Double Income No Kids. Which is simply not the case with the LDS

  42. Norbert says:

    Good post, Mark.

    In many parts of the world it’s rather impolite to ask that question. It’s very American to immediately ask someone “What do you do?”

    Very true. I rarely talk about work with other men … which means we have nothing to say to each other.

    and even once was a member of a union.


    That professional 6 figure income does not go as far when you have 3-6 kids and Mom is a SAHM and you tithe.

    Tracy beat it to me. That’s just silly.

  43. Mark,

    I’ve been in stakes where the socioeconomic differences were quite stark, and in one of those, a lot of negative feelings developed.

    I’ve seen way less than that where I live now. We do live in the suburbs of Seattle, so it’s certainly more skewed by high paying tech jobs, but many of our wards have lots of lower income, apartment dwelling members. But even there, you begin to see differences. Some of those apartment dwellers are upwardly mobile young college grads, and others are immigrants, or less educated folks in their middle age, trying to hang on in a tough housing market. However, the tension seems to be much less pronounced here than elsewhere that I have lived with such notable economic differences.

    Education seems to be the biggest divider. Education brings about better earnings potential, more regular hours, and more leadership opportunities, which translate into more availability and better skills for church leadership positions. But there are exceptions. In at least one or two of our more affluent wards in our stake, the bishops earn substantially less than the average of their ward members.

  44. rondell says:


    I think it is unfair of you to characterize those of us who do not ascribe to the mormon stereotype as less committed to the church/gospel. Except for the ward we were in together, every ward I have been in has included more moms who work outside of the home than sahms. If I am not mistaken, that is actually the trend in the church. So to suggest that we are less committed marginalizes a lot of faithful LDS. Its much like saying those from “pioneer stock” are better mormons. The outward appearance of things does not necessary show inward committment.

  45. bbell, I’m totally confused by your above comment.

  46. Re: mission presidents. The friends I have who have served as mission presidents were not financially independent. At least one was a government employee before and after.

    Fortunately, to my knowledge, there is no Church policy that bishops or stake presidencies be white collar or have any particular education level. I agree, though, that in experience, my bishops and stake presidencies have tended to be better educated and better off financially, but not always.

  47. #14, you make a good observation. In my ward’s bishopric, two out of the three are teachers. Obviously, the strong trait there isn’t financial independence, but stability and a family-friendly work schedule, two things that make church service much easier.

    Regarding the post and comments in general, I’m reminded of two of my favorite stories, Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” and Rand’s “Anthem.” If the goal is unity (as ours is), there are only two ways to achieve it: encourage (or force) everybody to the lowest common denominator, or encourage everybody to excel to the highest of their potential. The gospel, while admittedly demanding empathy and pateince for those who are in any way behind on progress, clearly strives for the latter.

    Actually, I’m bothered by my wording there, and will leave it that way for us to consider. Is our discussion of mingling with those who are “lower” condescending? Mark’s question about being high achievers while keeping faith with “the least of these” has a penetrating personal dimension to it: how do we recognize our relatively “high” station in life and work with those less fortunate while remaining humble? Thoughts?

  48. I apologize ahead of time for the length of this comment.

    A man who went to college is more likely to be called to leadership positions than a man who is a bricklayer, or the owner of a Roto-Rooter franchise. Why is that?

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) Being very close to someone who has been in the position of selecting and calling stake presidents and bishops, I can share a few things that general authorities or stake presidents often look for when calling someone to these positions. In general, the process is geared toward finding the person the Lord would have serve in that calling. There is a lot of prayer and careful thought involved. As a way of “studying it out” in their mind, one of the first things they will probably do is take out of consideration those who are not able to hold a current temple recommend. It will be very difficult to help others with serious spiritual problems when they have serious spiritual problems of their own (beyond the “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” problems). Then, as they are interviewing potential stake presidents, certain characteristics may pop out. Is this person sufficiently humble (ie, can he take counsel from the Lord and his priesthood leaders)? Is this someone that the membership can sustain? Is this someone who can and will devote the time required for this calling (this may call into play factors such family and employment situations)? Is this person dependable?

    Generally, in calling a stake president, two general authorities, or a general authority and an area authority, will interview many individuals (perhaps 40), and will narrow it down to a few more. You may have heard some experiences given in general conference (see Elder Hales’ October 2007 conference address). In the experiences that have been shared with me, the two authorities independently chose 3 individuals to consider more deeply out of the 40. It was amazing to hear how often they would independently choose the exact same 3 individuals. They would then choose the man they felt the Lord wanted in that position. Again, amazingly, both would independently select the same person. He described these experiences as some of the most spiritual experiences he would have in his calling. There was a lot of prayer involved, and he felt the hand of the Lord guiding them. Noticeably absent from the descriptions were anything about occupations, except as it may indirectly affect any of those questions they may ask themselves during the interviews.

    2. So why does it seem like those of “higher station” are often called to be leaders? I can only throw out a few conjectures (may I emphasize conjectures). In the words of Elder Nelson:

    The Twelve come from different backgrounds—business, education, law, and science. But not one was called to serve because of that background. In fact, all men called to positions of priesthood responsibility are chosen because of who they are and who they can become.

    I personally believe his statement that correlation between educational/occupational backgrounds and church callings are incidental. At the same time, I recognize that correlation has been found between level of education and activity in the church. Could it also be that level of education (and its relationship to occupation) is correlated with some of the factors listed above that are looked for in potential church leaders? From my own personal leadership experience in the church, there has, unfortunately, been such a correlation. Why? For many, I imagine, it may simply be a lack of current ability (not potential). For others, sadly, a lack of dependability (as culturally narrow a term that may be) may be preventing them from serving in positions of responsibility both in the church and in the workplace, and may also have kept them from further schooling. Others, however, have consecrated their performance and sought excellence in what they do, even with a GED. And if a position of responsibility would not unduly overburden them, there is no reason the Roto-Rooter man couldn’t serve as stake president.

    3. What do we make of prophetic counsel to seek out education and “get all the education [we] can get”? Of course, the quotation there is from President Hinckley, so it would be difficult for someone already into their career to do anything about formal education. But while he has emphasized it more, such counsel has been around for awhile. Now, obviously, there are many reasons people decide not to pursue further education, and education studies show that standardized test scores are more related to level of education and income of parents than any other factor (in fact, when you control for these variables, things like increased funding, teacher salaries, classroom sizes, public vs. private schools, etc. have no statistical significance – but I digress). But perhaps, again, there could be some correlation in the qualities that lead someone to seek further education and those that allow someone to be a faithful, able church leader. Now of course we’re not talking about one-to-one correlation here. Just likelihoods. We all know of the wonderful bishop or stake president who was a plumber or carpenter.

    4. I find any cultural divide in the church to be as much related to education as it is to economic prosperity (ie, there are as many uppity professors as there are snobby rich people). I personally struggle with this one. The other day I was joint teaching with the missionaries, and for some reason it dawned on me that I was having a very difficult time relating to this person we were teaching. I wanted to give him fellowship, (and I will invite him over for an FHE or something). But I just can’t ever see myself ever hanging out with this person. We’re just so different. Anyway, this has bothered me (as a deficiency on my part), because it doesn’t seem confined to this one case. It made me realize that I had a long way to go to being a part of becoming “of one heart, and of one mind” with my fellow saints.

    5. This is an interesting post from a blog that presupposes computer literacy and is unlikely to value posts or comments without some indicia of education in the writer (this is no knock on BCC – it’s just the nature of any blog geared toward more educated people). But, of course, the church has a different purpose, so I guess there is no point to this statement other than that perhaps we should be careful about looking down our noses at the situation. But overall, I like the post for drawing to our attention the danger of socio-economic divides in the church.

  49. Kristine says:

    Clearly, everyone should be getting Ph.D.’s in the humanities–that way we can obey the injunction to “get all the education [we] can” without having to deal with the filthy lucre that comes from other professions.

  50. Home teaching gives me the opportunity to visit those I normally wouldn’t associate with. One family I am currently assigned to I have grown to love in spite of their home being filthy and smelling bad each time I visit. I don’t even agree with them in general on most things, but we are able to have enjoyable visits together. They are a good family, even if the ward members shun them, and they are living life (and the gospel) the best they know how.

  51. Science Ph.D.’s don’t have to worry much about filthy lucre either. Unless you go into oil or Wall Street anyway.

  52. Mark IV says:

    I am proud to say that I make a seven figure income. Those two numbers to the right of the decimal count, right?

  53. This conversation reminds me a bit of the marrying up and down conversation we had a while back. The concept of higher and lower bugs me.

    People always talk about how when we go to the temple we put on white clothes and class is dissolves. But there are still mammoth wedding rings and professionally manicured nails and $200 temple dresses. Financial difference are still visible in the temple. (Not so much the educational differences.)

    I prefer to think about how cleaning the temple equalizes us all. The gloves and white scrubs go on and the toilets get cleaned and the floors get vacuumed. Really we’re all just children of God doing the chores. Not higher or lower than each other. That’s the image I like to keep in my mind.

  54. Proofread much, Jami?

  55. Mark IV says:

    Jami, your temple provides white scrubs? What a bunch of pretentious smuggers! Where I live, we provide our own cleaning clothes. Of course, it goes without saying that we are therefore more righteous (and more humble, too!)

    But you’re right, of course. It’s difficult to keep up appearances when you are down on your hands and knees scrubbing baseboards.

  56. I need to provide my own next time or lose some weight. There are some differences that even scrubs don’t camouflage.

  57. molly bennion says:

    Jami, #51, I miss the days when we had to take off all our jewelry except wedding rings, which sometimes won’t come off, to go through the temple. No watches or pierced earrings. Some women rolled the stones to the inside of their hands to be in tune with the message of equality. I would also welcome a single dress design.

    Huston, #46, in answer to your question, I fear talking about humility because it’s so easy to be other than humble even discussing humility. But, in working with others of lesser worldly accomplishment, it does help to think of the eternal brotherhood of man, the preeminence of moral virtues and the Lord’s counsel that he is no respecter of persons. It helps to know a bit about how individuals fare under different social and economic systems. No matter how much money or education or power a person achieves, he did not achieve it alone. There is a debt to repay by helping others, not in a “higher or lower” sense, but in a “better us all” sense. And it does help to believe in a consequential afterlife.

  58. Tracy,

    I am merely saying that the prophetic counsel on large families, Tithe and the encouragment to be a SAHM is not exactly a formula designed to create people who are focused on materialism. In fact it seems to me that it would discourage materialism while encouraging quite a few LDS to pursue lucrative careers.

    #49 is also true about HT and VT.

    Missions are another way that many affluent LDS kids are exposed to “real” world problems.

    That then leads us to the class issue that the post is about. In the stake and Ward that Rondel in #44 and I used to live in a small group of lawyers and MBA’s filled most of the stake leadership and ward leadership callings and presided over a largely poorer stake.

  59. Naismith says:

    Those three things are simply income drains and if all you cared about was money you as a culture would not engage in any of them.

    This simply isn’t true. To anyone who believes the myth that having one parent at home is a money drain, I recommend the book, “Two Incomes and Still Broke?: It’s Not How Much You Make, but How Much You Keep” by Linda Kelley. Excellent analysis of how families with young children might be better off financially with a parent at home.

    In our family, what paid off was that my flexibility of being home for a few years allowed the family to travel with my husband’s work, including our sabbatical to South America, which was a turning point in my husband’s career, resulting in an innovative body of research that caused his reputation to skyrocket, and incidentally got him an accelerated promotion to associate professor level, which in turn meant an early promotion to full professor level–all of which benefitted our family financially, both short- and long-term.

    In other two-earner families among my husband’s colleagues, people aren’t as free to travel because of their spouse’s career needs.

    My husband is appropriately humble that my efforts at home allow him to earn as well as he does. I have never been considered an income drain.

  60. In one area where I lived when the stake presidency was reorganized, one of the counselors was listed as “Vice President of Important Sounding Local Corporation.” While I have no doubt that he WAS an officer of that corporation, it was his chicken farm. I often wondered who the president was.

    Snobbishness comes in all varieties. I have often perceived that I’m looked down on for being a mere programmer, rather than someone who does something important for a living. Since I’m not doing research or working in higher ed, I’m a mere peddler, prostituting my valuable time for filthy lucre. Add to that the humiliation of being degree-less, and I’m lucky that educated people deign to speak to me. Unless, of course, they need their computers fixed.

    The people I work with value what I do and find me useful. My work is legal and moral. I give them a fair day’s work and they give me a fair day’s pay. Beyond those features, WHAT I do is irrelevant.

  61. John Mansfield says:

    Henry B. Eyring, CES fireside, Nov. 5, 1995:

    “There are important ways in which planning for failure can make failure more likely and the ideal less so. Consider these twin commandments as an example: ‘Fathers are to . . . provide the necessities of life . . . for their families’ and ‘mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.’ Knowing how hard that might be, a young man might choose a career on the basis of how much money he could make, even if it meant he couldn’t be home enough to be an equal partner. By doing that, he has already decided he cannot hope to do what would be best. A young woman might prepare for a career incompatible with being primarily responsible for the nurture of her children because of the possibilities of not marrying, of not having children, or of being left alone to provide for them herself. Or she might fail to focus her education on the gospel and knowledge of the world that nurturing a family would require, not realizing that the highest and best use she could make of her talents and her education would be in her home. Because a young man and woman had planned to take care of the worst, they might make the best less likely.”

  62. Regarding education, upon completing my BS degree (many years ago), the last thing on my mind was continuing my education. Now, I always regret not having earned a masters degree. The more education you have, the more opportunity you have. I agree with church’s counsel to get as much education as you can.

    To me, this is largely about our ambitions, desires, and balance. Do we seek degrees and well paying jobs for our own sake, or do we seek these to be in a better position to serve and help others? Are we able to achieve a balance between our careers and our family and other responsibilities?

  63. Steve Evans says:

    great quote Johnny.

  64. Education, earning power, brains, beauty and other qualifications do nothing to fit us for the kingdom of God. They may make us more useful to His earthly kingdom, but that’s because it’s earthly, not because it’s His. The cleaner of houses and collector of garbage are no less valuable to the kingdom than the author of books, interpreter of laws, or repairer of broken skulls.

    I do a very poor job of giving proper respect to the gifts and talents of my brothers and sisters who have not been blessed with my brains, beauty and humility. I think I am not alone in this.

    What Jesus said about the first being last and the last being first may be applicable here in some degree.

  65. #49 bothers me a lot. If there are ward members shunning a family because their home is filthy and smells, that is so wrong. Those are the people who need to be fellowshipped and taught with love the most. I know this is cliche, but they are children of God just as the rest of us are. Would you shun your mortal brother or sister because of a messy house or would you try to find a way to help? If they wouldn’t allow you to help, would you ignore them and kick them out of the family? There is nothing intrinsically better about any one of us than another. It is the circumstances and opportunities of our lives that separate us and most of those are not the result of anything we have done.

  66. The greatest man I have ever known personally was an elementary school janitor – and my father. He was in a bishopric before he turned 30, but his family responsibilities took him away from further leadership positions for the next 30 years. He chose to step off the fast track to take care of his wife and children, and part of that sacrifice was walking away from callings that would have required an extensive time commitment.

    I think there is a degree of validity to the idea that church leadership is available more to those with disposable and/or flexible time, not necessarily more available to those with disposal money – although the latter includes more of the former and, therefore, those with extra money often have extra time.

  67. I’m interested in one of those high-paying white collar jobs that gives one lots of free time and energy to serve in the church. I think I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up with one that requires that I spend about 80 hours a week working, and that, when I’m not working, I’m instantly available to respond to the demands of a bunch of insane people.

  68. gst, fences, greener, other side, etc.

  69. FWIW, none of my most recent say 4 or 5 SPs have been very well off. My current SP works in a trade, his wife works part time to help support their large family, and he drives an old battered subcompact. Just so we don’t overstate the idea that the church always selects leaders from the upper classes. But I thinks the truth is, someone who is truly struggling financially probably has less ability to take on something as demanding as leading a stake.

    I also think adding a demanding leadership calling to all of life’s other responsibilities requires quite a bit of organizational skills and self discipline. Frankly those are the same skill sets that are needed to do well in the professions or in business.

  70. Eric Russell says:

    I just want a job where I can blog all day like all you people.

  71. Researcher says:

    And I want a job like you where I don’t have the option of blogging all day. However, we’re solidly upper middle class with the typical 4-6 kids, so it would cost more for me to go to work than I could possibly earn. (At this point in the summer, the grass is greener anywhere but here.)

    By the way, we had a stake president who had a egg farm. It’s been a few years, but I remember that he owned something like three quarters of a million chickens and drove a Lexus. What social class does that put him in? He mentioned one time that he put 30,000 miles a year on his car doing stake business. At 33 cents a mile, that’s almost 10,000 dollars a year. That would be quite the luxury for many people. It would be an impossibility for others.

  72. Man, this is a long thread. Thus, I will add a comment to match :)

    My experience is a little different. I grew up worrying about money. Without a scholarship to the Lord’s University I wouldn’t have been able to get a degree.
    My husband just finished his MBA from a good school (we now have an extra $100k debt) and is bringing home a teacher’s salary b/c he’s working for the state. (this will improve, he keeps telling me)
    My best friend and her husband have no college degrees, but he’s a computer guy and is making nearly 6 figures. They are debt free and own rental property.
    Anyway, it’s remarkable how we think education will get us money, but it’s all a crap shoot anyway.
    But, I do think that my DH MBA is one of the reasons that he was called as EQP.
    The majority of church leaders in my wards have been wealthy men. I wonder if part of it is the permanence of wealth. Poor people in apartments tend to move more often. Those who are well off can afford to stay put. (excepting the old wealthy folks who take off during the hot AZ summers. They never get real callings, but then again, they don’t want them anyway)

  73. I grew up in homogenous suburbs and wards in CA. After BYU and marriage I lived in the midwest and attended branches. I met my new best friends there. I taught one to read and she taught me carpentry, auto mechanics, and true friendship. We had an oil well guy, a teacher, a mail carrier and a rich exec as our branch presidents. As bishops, I have had a truck driver, one lawyer, THREE psychologist/psychiatrists, one CES guy, one tire salesman, and a welder. I grew up as the poorest child in middle class wards, snubbed for myriad reasons I only understood later. My husband grew up without indoor plumbing and was the first in his family to go to college only because he earned an athletic scholarship. He was a branch president in his late 20’s, when we were dirt poor. He’s a Single Branch President now in a major midwestern city. This calling requires a man with a job that allows him to counsel the lost, the lovelorn, the erring, the prospective missionaries, the returned missionaries; the one, and the ninety-nine. Time available to serve seems more the issue to me than money does. My husband’s schedule is flexible now so even though this calling takes easily 3x what serving in a family ward took it is easier for us now that when he was Bishop and we had 6 children under 10. The Lord requires obedience and a willing heart.

    aside- in our small Temple the cleaning volunteers wear street clothes with a white apron over. Also, molly bennion, I liked the no jewelery rule too, but is that identical dress going to fit and flatter me? or you? Will it stay the same forever? or date us?

  74. #66: LOL! You and I have a lot in common, especially the part about having to be available to respond (always kindly, no matter how tempted otherwise) to insane people. I’ll share with you what I learned as a medical intern working over 100 hours per week while pregnant. Never complain, because no one is going to feel sorry for you. They think you’re “privileged”. And you are.

  75. The bishop in my last ward was a potter. It was incredibly refreshing, and announcements from the pulpit in sacrament meeting were frank and straightforward instead of being filled with the pretentious reverent pomp of a corporate presentation. It was by far the most diverse, fresh, and real feeling ward I have ever been in.

    As for myself it is not the “What do you do for a living?” question that bothers me, it is the one I can expect to directly follow it: “So, . . . what are you going to do with that?”. As a composer currently pursuing advanced degrees at a university I am constantly bombarded with questions concerning the legitimacy of my decisions. This is quite unnerving, especially considering the lengthy, painful, yet intensely spiritual process I went through in order to arrive at the decision to pursue the arts.

    I have had well to do church members to “go major in something useful,” “go get a real major, like an MBA.” Most members are just simply baffled and through the puzzlement on their face I can tell they think it is a somewhat selfish and irresponsible pursuit. Considering how deliberate and careful the decisions regarding my career and educational process have been (becoming a well-to-do doctor was on the list of possibilities for a while) I find it disconcerting how obsessed many in the church are with making money. I was once told by a sunday school teacher in private that he thought the over-arching principle taught by the Book of Mormon is that if you follow God’s commandments you will “prosper in the land,” and by this he meant that you will be monetarily rewarded. I have personally thwarted a dozen conversations in various Elder’s Quorums that were leading towards such erroneous and similar conclusions.

    I find absolutely nothing inherently damaging or harmful about the “drive for achievement and excellence.” I do however think it is damaging when achievement and excellence are strictly equated with financial success.

  76. Correction in third paragraph above “I have had well to do church members tell me to “go major in something useful.”

  77. JNS, my only point is that I’m disinclined to think that the reason that white collar professionals are disproportionately selected to preside over us is because they have more free time.

  78. gst, nonetheless, they do.

  79. SamR, it may not be entirely a fixation on money that drives the baffled response you get. The arts — any of the humanities, really — are outside the direct experience of most people. They may consume them to some level, but it genuinely has never occurred to most people that they might could maybe just possibly produce them, even for personal enjoyment, much less as a way to earn a living. When people ask me what I do, it doesn’t matter what I say about church history or state history or writing or lecturing or researching for authors or professors, the response is always a variation of “My aunt already did all my genealogy.” And even though I do only $200/month business with the Salt Lake Tribune, I am frequently introduced as “working for the Tribune” — at least that is a “real job” they can kinda sorta latch onto. I’m certain nobody but the financial clerk has even the remotest idea whether history pays.

  80. Troy Taysom says:

    By the way, we had a stake president who had a egg farm.

    I saw him on Napoleon Dynamite!

  81. gst, for a less flippant answer, let me offer you some data from the General Social Survey. 73.9% of people who describe themselves as middle class work a day shift with defined beginning and finishing hours. In comparison, only 70.1% of people who see themselves as working class have such a schedule, and only 64.7% of those who see themselves as belonging to the lower class. Working- and lower-class people are about twice as large as middle-class people to work night shifts, and about four times as likely to work split shifts (which really destroy one’s free time). The lower classes are about as likely to work on-call-type shifts as are the middle and upper classes. The lower and working classes are also somewhat more likely to report that their jobs require them to work more than eight hours a day, and they are much more likely to report needing a second job to make ends meet.

    Other factors add up to really kill the free time of the working and lower classes. In particular, such people report spending more than twice as much time per week commuting to and from work. Overall, middle and upper class people report spending more time in volunteer work, and even so report having substantially more leisure time than the lower or working classes. You may feel that you don’t have any free time — and certainly some people in all class categories have none — but on average, people in your class category have a lot more time to themselves than do working-class people. Believe it or not.

  82. And in case you want some heavier reading and analysis on social class and leisure time in advanced industrial countries, here’s a neat book.

  83. JNS, can you break out professionals from those numbers? I bet that the GSS data is more inclusive in its definition of white collar than we are in this discussion (i.e., it would include both my paralegal, who works an eight hour shift and is not exempt from overtime laws, and me). Here, we are not complaining that we have too many clerks and computer programmers (both white collar) as bishops–we’re talking about doctors, lawyers, CPAs, and MBAs.

  84. gst, yeah, I can break the data down quite finely. The longest hours of all in the survey are worked by industrial assembers; drillers; dry wall installers and lathers; drivers for mines, factores, and logging camps; self-employed farmers; product demonstrators in sales fields; asbestos deinstallers; industrial meat cutters; sawyers; transit rail conductors; deliverymen; sales clerks; door-to-door salespeople; shipping clerks; furniture finishers; metal platers; industrial mixing operatives; industrial painters; precision machine operators; fork lift operators; non-farm animal caretakers; auctioneers; cement finishers; piano tuners; mining blasters; home dressmakers; bus drivers; truck drivers; trade purchasers; office managers; and sales managers.

    Lawyers work, on average, just under 40 hours a week when asked to keep a journal of how they spent their time day by day — although they substantially overreport their working hours when not asked to document them this closely. And so forth.

    The above times are just the time for work at the actual first job itself, and don’t include extra transit time, second jobs, and the other ways that lower socioeconomic status eats away at people’s leisure time.

  85. Then it’s just me I guess.

  86. Naismith says:

    The difference I see between someone who has to punch a time clock and my husband’s and my white-collar graduate-degree jobs is not the hours worked, but the issue of flexibility in working those hours.

    The good thing is that we can often race off to the hospital or funeral home or wherever church service is needed. As long as we meet deadlines and get the work done, there is not overmuch concern about where or when it gets done.

    But the bad thing is that we are always working, in order to meet those deadlines, etc. I’ve done phone calls from the zoos in San Diego and Cincinnati, and from Disney more times than I can count. We’ve travelled with two laptops for years, because we both have reports due, stuff to review, etc. Oh, and the fact sheet I wrote in my swimsuit from the resort in Palm Beach….

    That’s very different from the clerk or janitor, who leaves work behind at the office or factory, and never has to think about it again until the next shift. That’s honorable work, no doubt. But it is also easier to count the hours worked than for those of us who are modern-day centaurs, with a laptop almost an integrated appendage.

  87. I have to second your thoughts in #67, gst.
    I’ve been a civil and criminal litigator over the last 20+ years and find that at the end of the 10 to 12 hour day, my mind is fried and I just want to veg. Too tired to deal with Church, no desire for the bedroom, just sit and talk to my wife about her day (she’s in state government upper management, her days being just as fun as mine) so I can stop thinking about my cases and what needs to be done the next morning……

    And in my years in the Church I have been in wards where it was mostly blue color and quite frankly, there was a level of humility I do not find in other wards where it is white color and professional. I have also been in stakes where there was a clear dividing line between the rich and the poor and it seemed there was more emphasis to ensure the poorer wards were taken care of, rather than there being a common ground for all of us…..

    And last but not least…. Are we not commanded to “study all things” because the glory of God is “intelligence”. I am not equating “intelligence” with “education” or “learning” but it would have been nice if God had defined “intelligence” for us although I personally tend to believe it is “learning AND wisdom”.

    My thoughts on a nite when my two younger adult children (still living at home) are partying in the backyard with turntables ablasting and my mind is slowly but surely dissolving with the madness……

  88. gst, either that or things are really worse for other people.

  89. Jay in Phoenix says:

    I think you all are over-analyzing this issue.

    First, in general we want everyone to be as educated as we can get them. Sure this can be taken to an unreasonable extreme, but if done in wisdom and order, getting more education rather than less is a no-brainer. Why would we encourage anything less than that?

    Second, the issue in creating Zion is not getting rid of wealth, it is getting rid of poverty. And of course in becoming spiritually united. One heart, one mind, and no poor among us – never said anything about eating the rich. God just wants us to care for one another temporally and spiritually, and within ourselves to avoid sin, selfishness and pride. Let’s put it this way: I think he’d rather see us driving a Lexus to visit a friend from the Ward in the hospital than a used, beat-up Civic to the sports bar. And like me, I think Jesus would prefer watching conference on a big screen TV over a small black and white TV any day. Nothing wrong with a lttle comfort as long as we do not neglect our duties and covenants.

    Third, I think we place far too much meaning on who gets what callings than is necessary. The more academically educated will tend to have skills in administration that are useful to the Lord in such positions as Bishop or Stake President and so on, that the less educated may not have had the opportunity to develop. It’s not a shock that the Lord would act accordingly. Sure it’s not an absolute rule, but in general I think the average MBA who has had to manage budgets and groups of people brings something to the table in a calling of that sort that the average mechanic or brick layer might not. Yeah yeah I know there’s always going to be exceptions but in general I think this is a resonable perspective to have on this issue. So I see all this “why can’t we have more farmers becoming Apostles?” type of stuff as much ado about nothing.

    That’s my ake anyways.

  90. Naismith says:

    “Sure it’s not an absolute rule, but in general I think the average MBA who has had to manage budgets and groups of people brings something to the table in a calling of that sort that the average mechanic or brick layer might not.”

    But the thing is, callings in the church are not about what you can bring to the table, but what you learn by sitting at the table.

    A lot of times the congregation has to suffer with less-than-ideal leadership while a member learns to serve. We’re a lay ministry, and part of the deal is to perfect the saints through service.

    It’s not efficient, but it’s how we tend to do things.

  91. #90 I know that we have been told that callings are to help us learn things HF wants us to know, and I am sure that is true to a certain extent, but I think there is more to it than that. I think the Lord calls people who are the right ones to accomplish what He needs done at the time. We had a farmer as a BP who was not a smooth talking, tactful leader. He was very competent but just not especially easy to get along with. He had a very strong testimony of self reliance and financial responsibility and while he lead our unit many of us made strides in accomplishing those goals for ourselves. It was something we really needed to learn as a unit as we are in an economically depressed area where good jobs are hard to find and most of us are not professional people. Now we have a BP who is very spiritual and I believe that is what we are to learn from him. If callings were just given to those who needed to learn from them, we all would get called to everything.

  92. Naismith says:

    If callings were just given to those who needed to learn from them, we all would get called to everything.

    Not so, because we all have different things to learn, and different competencies.

    I’m just saying, when a well-to-do person gets called as EQP or bishop, maybe it is as much for what they must learn as for their ability to serve.

    I did a stint as primary chorister, in a large ward in a college town that had many more musically qualified people. It was humiliating to have to sing in front of people every week. But I learned humility, etc.

  93. Personally, while I agree that there is something everyone can learn from every calling they fulfill, I don’t think the Lord wants an entire ward to suffer in order for one person to grow. In my experience, when it comes to Bishops and Stake Presidents, there is a particular reason that a particular person is going to be needed in the future – so that person is called.

    In my lifetime, I have experienced a ward that went through certain problems that required a very strong, single-minded, no-nonsense, “iron rod” Bishop. A soft-spoken consensus builder would have been eaten alive and spit out. (I mean that seriously. The ward might have imploded.) The Lord knew in advance what trials that ward would face, so he called someone who could handle those trials – even though some other issues arose as a result. When those trials passed, the Bishop was released – and a soft-spoken, incredibly humble and gentle man was called to take his place. It was revelation through the Stake President in the truest sense.

    Both were the right person for their specific time because of the particular strengths each possessed that were a perfect match for the issues of their own administration. Yes, they learned lessons while they served, but I am convinced that their learning of those lessons was not the primary reason they were called. They were secondary to the needs of the body of Christ they led.

  94. Ray – thank you. That was what I was trying to say.

  95. That’s a great comment, Ray.

    I wonder if we’re brave enough to believe that the same may apply to BRM–that with all that may have been wrong with some of his ideas, he was the right man for the job.

  96. I think most people get callings because someone knows them. If the SP is a lawyer, for example, is it terribly surprising that most of the bishops he installs will be lawyers who he has known in other wards?

    I also think Americans need to be mighty careful with the “what do you do?” stuff. Americans attribute much of interest, temperament, and intelligence to a choice of profession. In most of the world, though, it is simply a matter of opportunity. We are so blessed to make what we wish of our lives, for the most part.

    Also, I really think it a shame that people go into certain professions for the expressed purpose of “providing” for their family. While that is a fine goal, if that profession will in actuality, require you to work 80-100 hours per week while you have small children so you, in essence, miss their childhood only to be comfortable when they are teens and beyond, is it worth it? It certainly would not be to me, barring divine guidance to become a doctor.

    I was in one branch which seemed to exist in some sort of Mormon bizarro world. I, a lowly teacher with a master’s degree, was the second most educated person in the branch (one woman was a professor) and most of the adults had not completed college. There was a distinct anti-intellectual bent to every discussion there, as if we were a model some conservative talk show host had put together: constant discussion of liberal professionals, the lefty middle class (although there was quite a bit of wealth in some of these families), and the dangerous pride that comes from knowing too much.