Monday Mid-day Theological Poll: Hero Worship edition

On Average, are General Authorities of the Church more righteous than non-General Authority members of the Church?

Are the general authorities more righteous than the other members of the church?
( polls)

Please explain your answer below.


  1. How many GA’s are there? Compared to what, the rest of the world? Pretty safe to say they’re probably more righteous. Even if they’re only fair-to-middling righteous.

  2. The “on average” part guarantees a “Yes”.

  3. Just so you know, in case you didn’t get the memo; this post and these comments aren’t getting ported over.

  4. Down with surreptitious Monday polls! Viva la nueva BCC!

  5. Compared to active members of the Church who are in the same age range, no, they are not. The apostles and above are, I’d wager, but the seventy are quite human.

  6. Please note that this poll will be rebooted along with the rest of BCC. Plan your voting accordingly.

  7. Quick, people! this is your chance to say something bannable but then be unbanned forthwith!

  8. Comments are open again. I make no promises regarding their permanence. Please plan accordingly.

  9. Half the members of the church are more righteous than the average. I would guess that the average GA is drawn from the top 50%.

  10. Anyone has the potential to become perfect in righteousness or to sin less and less and less. The story of the city of Enoch shows this possibility. But, the difference is using one’s own intelligence with that close to being perfected righteousness for the profit of oneself and others. Not everyone has the same potential to be and do certain things. Those that do have that potential end up in leadership positions.

  11. There is none righteous, no, not one.

  12. Why wasn’t “I have no way to know” one of the options?

  13. S.P. Bailey says:

    What would become of the bloggernacle without blind speculation about other people’s righteousness?

  14. Steve Evans says:

    Jim, what would be the point of pointless speculation otherwise?

  15. If you believe that on average GA’s are more righteous than non-GA’s, there could be a couple of very different explanations behind that conclusion:

    1) The GA’s were called to their positions because they were more righteous.

    2) The GA’s are more righteous by virtue of their calling (sort of like, “whom the Lord calls, he qualifies”).

    My own opinion goes a little beyond #2: I personally believe that a calling is primarily a way of assigning responsibilty to a certain individual, and the individual has to work & pray like crazy to measure up. I assume that most GA’s have that routine down better than the average member because they sort of have to.

  16. “Half the members of the church are more righteous than the average. I would guess that the average GA is drawn from the top 50%.”

    This kind of settles it for me. Seriously, about half the active members of any given ward, if you take that view of the Parable of the 10 virgins, are perpetually low on oil. Who is suggesting with a straight face that half the GA’s fit in that category?

    Look, I’m all for not being overly impressed with position, letting leaders be human, not expecting perfection from them, and not being surprised when some fail, even spectacularly. We’re all sinners and fools before God, them included.

    But I’ve known a lot of bishops well, a few stake presidents well, and my back yard neighbor and the father of my first home-teaching family growing up became GAs. And if you think that on average, they’re putting no more effort into learning the Lord’s will and doing it than any other member of the church, you either haven’t known many church leaders or you have some very different experiences with what constitutes a typical church member.

    An extremely solid and unapologetic YES.

  17. I second #1 – I answered yes based on the inclusion of “on average”. There could easily be single members of the church “more righteous” than a GA…but as a group I’m guessing the GAs beat the combined membership.

  18. The trouble I see, is that saying “The average GA is more righteous than the average church member” is quite often heard as “Every GA is more righteous than every general church member.” The first is perfectly accurate and reasonable, the second is patently false and harmful.

    Other problems arise when you start factoring in other information. The, on average, more righteous General Authorities are also more male, more white, more affluent, and more American than the general membership. Pretty soon all of those qualities start to be markers of ‘righteousness.’

  19. Nice points, Starfoxy.

  20. My other Brother Jones says:

    As a white male American (who is working on the affluence part)I can see that I am on the right path!

  21. Is there any way to change my white maleness to avoid positions of leadership?

  22. True Believer says:

    One of my closest friends was a general authority for several decades. He told me the GAs typically were chosen on the basis of their administrative ability, and that they were not particularly more righteous than other good church members.

  23. The argument for “yes” has been articulated well by several people, but no one has stepped up to give an argument for why they think the average member is more righteous than the average GA. Bueller?

  24. How do we define average? Is it the median? Is it the mean? Would the two be different due to outliers? Can we assign a numerical figure to righteousness? Could God be assigned a figure, or would it be infinite?

    If you were to exclude the “non-member” members, such as those that have given up and just don’t care anymore from consideration, and just include the rest of the members, you might be able to make the case that any difference in overall righteousness levels is statistically insignificant. However, there’s little empirical evidence to support that conclusion other than noting that of the people that are trying, most seem to be doing at least tolerably well, with some doing remarkably well.

    I suspect that amongst the GAs you would find a similar outcome, although there might be some small differences in the mix, simply because most of the posers hiding significant misdeeds would be more likely to face detection due to more frequent interaction with the living oracles.

  25. I think another way to ask the question is- are GA’s called to be GA’s primarily because of their righteousness or primarily for some other reason. I think it is safe to say that righteousness has at least something to do with receiving the call to be a GA.

    We really have no way to judge another’s righteousness (unless you are specifically called to be a judge and given these keys).

    But, the way the question is phrased, I would say on average, yes, the average GA is more righteous than the average member.

  26. #22, should have voted no on prop. 8, raulus.

  27. A good friend quoted her father saying that when you were doing business and found out that the person opposite was a stake president, you had better watch out.

    I answered the question as: are GAs more righteous than my LDS circle of friends?

    From what I can see and from what I have heard, not really.

    Applying the Dilbert Principle, that management are just people only more exposed, I guess it holds, in general.

  28. Well, one more time. My father-in-law was a GA in the old days when there were regional reps. If his health had not been so bad, he might have moved further. He was known personally by Spencer Kimball.

    Was he more righteous than most of my circle of LDS friends? He tried really hard, but he was a hard nosed man and not particularly a better father or husband than anyone else I knew or cared about. He was an exceptional manager, however.

    He is the one we have to thank for being on the block meeting schedule. He was a stake president when the gas crisis hit in the 70’s and noticed the attendance improved. He notified the authorities and it became Church policy.

    He was also responsible for the way we deposit tithing monies on Sunday and notify the Church by phone to reduce the float time. He saved the Church millions of dollars.

    He had a heart attack at 55 and a second at 60. High pressure man. He tried really hard but no harder than most people who are grunt members.

    They had their calling and election made sure.

  29. There are many equally righteous members of the church out there. About 1/2 of them are women. Some statistician should explain what impact this has, if any, on the calculation. Of the remainders, many do not live in the United States, have not had broad educational opportunities, work jobs with little flexibility, or have not had the chance to develop sufficient administrative skills to assist in the management of an organization like the LDS Church. Many do not interact regularly with Church leaders, and it is hard (not impossible, I suppose) to be inspired to call someone you have never heard of. None of this, however, bears on their righteousness.

  30. Latter-day Guy says:

    They had their calling and election made sure.

    Do you mean sacramentally in the temple, or just by private revelation? (If it’s the former, somebody cheated; no one is supposed to tell.)

  31. The are some problems with the polls. I’m taking them offline for the moment. I hope to have it fixed soon. At the time I’m writing, the stats are 56% yes and 44% no out of 294 votes.

  32. Steve Evans says:

    280 of those votes came from you John. I call foul!

  33. The poll is back, but it may only take 100 reponses. We’re looking into it. Thank you for your patience.

  34. #31 It was found in her private journal after they both were deceased. One can assume that all authorities above stake president have the 2nd endowment.

    I am the one who is cheating.

  35. This question and the 36 comments that follows, which includes mine, only means that there are too many people out there with too little to do and way to much time on their hands.

  36. Foul! Foul! The first and second polls are entirely different questions! My answers are different for each one!

    And to think had nearly settled this question once and for all.

  37. I think there’s an interesting parallel between the question as Jim re-articulated it (#26)–are GAs called at least in part because of their righteousness–and the whole argument about whether premortal righteousness has any bearing on where we are in this life. In a previous discussion of the latter question, someone (it may have been Ray) said that even if there were some connection between premortal righteousness and mortal position, speculating on it dangerous because it’s so easy to jump to conclusions about who was righteous or not based on irrelevant factors. I think the same could be said of the question of whether righteousness affects GA callings. As Starfoxy put it so well (#19), it’s easy to leap to the conclusion that irrelevant factors are really righteousness.

    All that being said, I find the argument that GAs are on average more righteous than the rest of us, even if only because (I hope!) really wicked men don’t get called as GAs, pretty compelling.

  38. #22 – If you change your maleness, I guarantee you won’t get any leadership callings.

    The first question was bad enough, but this one’s worse. What other members of the Church? Are we supposed to compare the GAs to each and every “other” member of the Church we know? Since I don’t know any GAs, I have no way of knowing.

    Also, I think righteousness is beside the point. General authorities are called of God. God qualifies who He calls. End of story.

  39. Absolutely not, John C.

  40. He is the one we have to thank for being on the block meeting schedule. He was a stake president when the gas crisis hit in the 70’s and noticed the attendance improved. He notified the authorities and it became Church policy.

    He instituted a block meeting schedule in his stake on his own? Or did his stake participate in the fall 1979 fifteen-stake pilot program?

  41. #41 He instructed the wards in his stake to remain on the block after the gas crisis of the early 70’s. One ward reverted and he made them change back. He then wrote to Salt Lake and notified them.

    This was about 5 years before 1979. My guess is that his observation precipitated the pilot program. And yes, it was on his own.

    It is my observation that the Church, in general, encourages stakes to experiment in a limited way. The basic unit of the Church is really the stake, and if a new thing can be run on a stake level it can survive. Stake presidents have a certain amount of autonomy. If a program can not be run by stake presidents it will die.

    I have data on this.

  42. One more thing. It was the New Jersey Stake. If you really want I can email you the name of the Stake President. I knew him well and as intimately as one could know him.

  43. One more thing. It was the New Jersey Stake. If you really want I can email you the name of the Stake President.

    I’ve now identified him. Very interesting.

  44. I remember a story about President Gordon B. Hinckley. It was when he was first called as a General Authority. I believe he was serving as a stake president at that time as well as holding down a job within the Church. When he received the call, he was overwhelmed, humbled. He went home and he told his wife, then he told his children. One of his daughters admits to thinking to herself, “Are you sure you were supposed to be chosen?” Why do you suppose she thought that? After all, we all revere President Hinckley to be a wise and holy man. It was because she knew him. She knew his short-comings. She knew his weaknesses. She knew he wasn’t perfect. I’m not sure I could imagine it, but she knew. She learned a lesson from that. That lesson was that her father was doing everything to move the gospel forward in not only his life but also in the lives of others and even though he was not perfect, he was a chosen instrument of our Heavenly Father and he was doing everything within his power to become more perfect.

    (This story was told in Pres. Hinkley’s biography by Sheri Dew)

  45. I said no because leadership excludes women and by saying GA’s are in general more righteous is the equivalent IMHO of saying men are more righteous than women.

    I know plenty of women who are more righteous than the average member.

  46. Sorry but what happened with the rest of the comments? They were 52 yesterday.