General Authority Stats

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.[1]

Terminal Degree Field (out of 101 respondents)

Business (includes finance, etc.): 54
Law: 23
Medicine: 9
Accounting: 8
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![2] 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.)


[1] The little bios available on 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.

[2] But remember Nibley!


  1. Not a single theologian in the bunch? Aren’t these the men who are directing our spiritual nourishment and defining our doctrine?

  2. The Relief Society and Young Women General Board bios are brief, but give a little to work with. Five of the ten RS board members have fields of education noted: one in teaching, one in early childhood ed., one in elementary ed., one in nursing, and one in elementary ed and nursing. For the YM board members four out of the nine have education specified: two in elementary ed., one in English ed., and one with a bachelor’s in zoology, a master’s in art history, and a doctorate in instructional psychology and technology.

    There’s a pattern here to see, with one outlier who didn’t quite achieve escape velocity.

  3. I’ love to be able to see a form of Network Analysis performed on this data; for example, how does ecclesiastical and professional networks play into these formations?

    Also, how many of the people who did not indicate a college degree were women?

  4. A significant portion of GAs going to business school doesn’t translate into saying that if you go to business school, you’re more likely to be a GA. It has to be compared to the number of total business school degrees in the pool demographic. It’s quite possible you’re LESS likely.

  5. Raymond says:

    Thanks for this survey. Very interesting.

    Re lack of scientists: How did you classify Elder Scott? Do we know whether any of the physicians or engineers were in research?

    Only one humanities degree sounds pretty disheartening, but isn’t it likely that several (or maybe many) have an undergraduate degree in the humanities? I’m thinking especially of the lawyers and educators.

  6. Could there be a correlation between the number of GAs that come from business backgrounds and the strong corporatism that is currently enveloping the Church which, in turn, is leading to the mass desertions? Our meetings have become void of Christ and of spiritual nourishment. I am surprised at the number of conversations recently in my ward from life-long members who are disillusioned about Church services and excessive obligations which do not lead to closer discipleship. They feel they are on a treadmill of busy work.

  7. The average ages interest me — the scorners need to update their taunts from “octogenarians” to “septuagenarians.”

  8. Thanks for this information. Keeping in mind that both Jesus and Joseph were the Lord’s choice in their thirties I think aged leadership is the single largest problem the church faces. Seniority succession without term limits insures that only the oldest generations are represented at the top.

  9. “Not a single theologian in the bunch?” I guess not anymore. Gerald Lund (best known for his fiction) was released in 2008, but got his PhD in Biblical Studies or something similar from Pepperdine. He walked away from Claremont. See a brief autobiography at

    I’m not convinced that we want trained theologians at the helm, though it would be nice to have at least one or two to provide that particular perspective.

  10. I’m quite sure God’s perspective will show through regardless of their degree or age.

  11. As far as undergraduate degrees go, there was a somewhat wider selection, but not much. I believe all of the women did indicate a degree. The data hole was from men who either indicated an education but not a field of study, or that they didn’t finish. For instance, one man studied pre-vet school but did quit and went into business.

    One of the MDs was doing some kind of research but was also in admin. Elder Scott helped design fuel rods or something related to that I believe.

    None of this was to point out a problem. Personally, I don’t really think it’s a problem at all. But just as Mauss found such data indicative of the kinds of things that would be seen as valid issues then, I think this data does the same in some respects. But even that can be misleading. As far as emphasis on business acumen or training, I wonder if that can’t be traced as far back as Brigham Young!

    And if you have a Ph.D. in physics, math, biology, chemistry, geology, history, music, lit., religious studies, etc., and you are reasonably good at research, well, you get the picture!

  12. Ben S,

    While I don’t expect them all to be theologians or trained in Biblical scholarship, don’t you think that more than one or two theologians would be called for to offset 54 businessmen and 23 lawyers??? We are a Church after all. The corporatism has gone to the extreme to the detriment of true gospel teachings. They just end up quoting each other in a vicious cycle every general conference.


    How would you define God’s PERSPECTIVE? I always thought it was God’s WILL that was sought by obtaining further light and knowledge on the items that are not yet revealed? How would God’s perspective show through? Isn’t that something that comes to an individual disciple directly from the Holy Ghost without an intermediary?

  13. There are at least one or two General Authorities who have a professional religious background (CES, professional seminary instructor, religion professor, Dean of Religious Education at BYU, etc.)

    Trained in Biblical scholarship? Maybe not. Qualified to offset businessmen and lawyers? Definitely. Personally, I’d rather that professional religious scholars not become General Authorities, for various reasons (priestcraft, etc.) Most professional CES/institute/seminary teachers I’ve known are not suited to become General Authorities, IMO. I can only think of maybe two exceptions (of at least a dozen I’ve known)–and one of those was recently called to the Sunday School general presidency.

    I do think there are too many lawyers and businessmen and not enough scientists/other professionals. But I realize that a big part of their job is administrative, and lawyers and businessmen are probably better-suited to deal with administrative issues than research scientists.

  14. Ben, it would be nice to have one or two floating around (sort of like theoreticians in the politburo – hehe), but somehow I can’t picture it – and we might not like the prejudices of that small representation. I think of the typical GA as smart, somewhat narrowly focused maybe, but with a great work ethic and some charisma thrown in (there’s no way you could keep your head above water in that bunch without some). My home teaching companion would be a good example: a dentist(!), harbors a lot of intelligence, ex athlete, avid scripture reader (but not much else I’m thinking beyond professional lit.), former bishop, relatively young (40s-50s) and not much interested in arts, history or science beyond utility, and charisma out the ears. Knows current sports, values it in his children to an extreme I think, takes over every conversation not by design but by nature and not unpleasantly either. And he’s pretty handsome and about 6’4″. Pretty sensible, a little overbearing maybe but good natured about it. Sorry ladies, he’s married.

    Connie, your criticism of rupert’s remark is invalid. But you do touch on an interesting point with regard to canon. However, if you want to grind an axe, please take it to a different shed.

  15. Tim,

    When I speak of theological or philosophical training I am not speaking of CES. CES is not scholarship, it is tepid religious instruction.

    I am also confused by your belief that a large part of the calling of General Authorities in our Church is administrative. Don’t you find that part strange? That is why there is such a famine for true spiritual nourishment from our GAs. Our stewardship is over the Lord’s Kingdom on earth, not over a corporation. Where are the Neal A. Maxwells and Eugene Englands and Hugh B. Browns?

  16. WVS,

    I am not seeking to grind an ax. I was being quite sincere in my question so I can better determine where he is coming from when he uses the word perspective instead of will. I am not familiar with defining the role of GAs as one of providing God’s perspective. My own experience has been that I gain the Saviour’s perspective through personal revelation and meditation via the Holy Ghost.

  17. Ron Madson says:

    #11, when you say “Personally, I don’t think it is a problem at all” I completely agree. If I want deep theological insights/revelations into existing scriptures/church history/world and christian history I have found it elsewhere—wonderful sources of profound thinkers/theologians (Girard, NT Wright, Hauerwas, Yoder, Herzog, Richard Bushman Symposium to name a few). My expectations of our church “prophets, seers and revelators” is simple and narrow. Pierce the veil and speak with diety/angels, etc; dust off the seer stone and use it, and/or gain direct revelation and then share it accurately. All the other commentary, correlated “nice” lessons/generalities (be “nice, be “honest”, have “gratitude”, be whatever) is a given, but I/we can get that anywhere from any faith community. I think we expect too much when they speak as men and settle for way to little when we consider what we sustain them to be.
    So, in short I rather have one single church leader/authority pierce the veil and have genuine contact with deity and/or lift the condemnation and use a seer stone to give us the rest of the BOM/writings of Jared and come back and report it (even if his was a used car salesman who took one course in business law) then legion of deep theologian scholars. so we wait and manage the silence…

  18. I don’t think that judging the situation by professional background is a very useful way to look at it. Elder Bednar for example, gave a talk to church employees in Feb. 2010, where he said:
    “OK. I’ll only do a little background so that I might have a small amount of credibility on this. In my former life as a professor of business management, I wrote books about motivation and stuff like that. It’s all bogus. There’s no such thing as motivation. Motivation— (laughter) the word motivation stems from a Latin root mo- vere, and what that means is to make move. Well, nothing outside of you makes you move for any sustained period of time. The only thing that will cause you to move is what’s inside.
    So think of President Benson. The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. What the world’s talking about from the outside in is incentives and punishments and rewards and all that stuff. That’s the typical motivation stuff. But the only motivation that matters comes from within and is a function of seeing what we really are. The difference between what we really are and what we ought to be spiritually or at work or anything else, and recognizing that in the strength of the Lord, through His grace and the enabling power of His Atonement, what looks so overwhelming that I’ll never get there, I don’t have to do alone, and that He will help me close the gap. And that applies at work as much as it applies at home and at church.”
    I think this kind of attitude permeates the way things are thought about up there. I think that they all feel that the gospel and the church are very different from business and that they left it all behind. I bet they all regret the administrative burden and wish they could spend more time reading or being with people (family included).

  19. Steve Evans says:

    Connie, there’s no evidence to indicate that God speaks to man more accurately through theologians than He would through business majors, doctors or carpenters.

    Let me juxtapose two of your quotes:

    “I am also confused by your belief that a large part of the calling of General Authorities in our Church is administrative. Don’t you find that part strange? That is why there is such a famine for true spiritual nourishment from our GAs….”

    “I am not seeking to grind an ax.”

    QED. Heed WVS’s request to grind your axe elsewhere, please.

  20. Where are the Neal A. Maxwells and Eugene Englands and Hugh B. Browns?

    They are now called Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Jeffrey R. Holland and Dallin H. Oaks. Leaders of the past are too often imaginatively reconstructed in the critic’s rosy memory by people who aren’t even listening closely enough to leaders of the present to recognize that what they claim to have found in the past is really quite evident in the present. Move along.

  21. I find it funny that there’s no mention of military service. Were those who choose not to list a degree actually retired military men?

  22. Thomas Parkin says:

    In other words, just as we thought: they may be very good men, they may be the right men for the job, but they are suits. Pretty much all of them. Maybe I just got up on the wrong side of the bed, but I found this discouraging.

  23. How much weight one gives this type of data really is dependent on one’s view of how God intervenes/leads the Church. If you believe it is with a strong hand – lots of specific intervention on a regular basis – then leader background doesn’t probably matter so much. If you believe that God gives us wide latitude to work out our own problems, based on our evolving understanding with infrequent and non-specific intervention then I think it matters a lot. My reading of Church history, the scriptures, and observation tends to make me believe it is the latter, even for those called to lead the church at all levels, but I know others see it vastly differently.

    Not taking the professional lens but including other social factors I think the person most likely to lead to “fun” or simply significant “change” is probably Uchtdorf. He just comes from a totally different place and I think it shows in how he approaches things – one of the reasons he is a favorite of the Bloggernacle. He is as much an outsider as anyone in the current leadership.

    Also of interesting note: if you look at the 70 the single most common career appears to be “real estate developer”.

  24. NewlyHousewife, there was a retired general in the group. Military service wasn’t generally mentioned, but was probably not terribly uncommon, based on age profiles and a smatter of info about it.

    rah: Pres. U. did go to business school after the military. (grin)

  25. Whizzbang from Winnipeg says:

    Newlyhousewife-I think Robert C. Oaks and a new one now Bruce Carlson were career military men. I know the DN (I think!) did profils on GA that had done military service and were in actual combat situations like Lance Wickman, Neal A. Maxwell, F. Enzio Busche etc

  26. Ron says, “I rather have one single church leader/authority pierce the veil and have genuine contact with deity and/or lift the condemnation and use a seer stone..”

    My thought is many of us just wouldn’t accept it. There is a lot out there about the eternities that has been preached at various isolated times in the past that is mocked, ridiculed and rejected both in and outside of the church. So instead of the doctrines of the eternities, which we aren’t so prepared for we get charity and virtue. If you want the mysteries, they are to be had in the temple, one on one with God. And it’s not just the simple mechancs/demonstration of what’s presented there, but I think in my own experience what can (sometimes) come as a result of contemplating it.

  27. “My own experience has been that I gain the Saviour’s perspective through personal revelation and meditation via the Holy Ghost.”
    I think that’s great Connie, I would also add, and I don’t think you’d disagree that the Brethren probably can do this as well as anyone, education notwithstanding. And one final addition, I think the best way to gain the Savior’s perspective is through meditation that results in action — specifically action that involves you ministering unto others and bearing their burdens. I don’t think you can know the Savior any better than through doing what he did. And I think the Brethren are probably doing the best job in the world at that.

  28. Thanks chris. I agree. But I have been shown the door by other commentors so I will sign off now and just listen into the conversation.

  29. Steve Evans says:

    Connie, don’t pout. There are plenty of great things to say — and you’ve said many already. Not too much to ask that you refrain from some of your more acrimonious comments about the institutional Church.

  30. #23: “Also of interesting note: if you look at the 70 the single most common career appears to be “real estate developer”.”

    Good thing the call from the Lord came before the market went south…

  31. Eric Russell says:

    Maybe god doesn’t actually care that much about theology.

  32. Joel, a law student ;) says:

    I think it’s unfair to group MBAs (or other business types) and attorneys together. The attorneys are more capable of critical thinking and discourse, IMO.

  33. Ron Madson says:

    and more humility, Joel, IMO, that is, an opinion of a now over 30 years of “more capable” and “critical thinking..”

  34. Eric Russell (31): I think that’s exactly right.

  35. Ron: In my experience, humility is no prerequisite for General Authority-ness!

  36. rah, I think real estate (10 or so among all) is much less common than church employment. Of course, my notes may be in error.

  37. Greg McCall says:

    I find it interesting that the 1st Quorum of 70 is populated by younger leaders than the 2nd. Isn’t the 2nd only for a term of five years, or is that 3rd and beyond? I would be interested in seeing the trend of BYU grads to U of U grads over the last ten years. I suspect that there is a huge move toward BYU and wonder what implications that holds going forward.

  38. By the way, 56 were BYU alums either ugrad, grad or both.

  39. Greg, BYU grads outnumber UofU by a fair margin, but age doesn’t seem to be a factor. There were also a significant number of Utah State grads. The 2nd Q, no disrespect intended, appears to be a kind of reward for long service rather than a potential long service for reward.

  40. “Where are the Neal A. Maxwells and Eugene Englands and Hugh B. Browns”

    None of them were trained theologians…

    Strictly speaking, Theology is not at all the same as Biblical Studies or its further subdivisions, Hebrew Bible or New Testament, let alone the further subdivisions and sideways entrances into the topic, like Early Christianity, or Second-temple Judaism, or Near Eastern Languages and Civ. or ITS further subdivisions, like NW Semitics or Assyriology. (My own perspective grows out of 5 years of graduate school in one of those fields, as well as several years of teaching volunteer Institute and summers at BYU.)

    What those fields are good for is when you need careful parsing of history or scripture, which does become important at times. However, knowledge of dead languages is not a prereq for revelation, which, last I checked, is supposed to be the key to leading the Church, not correct exegesis.

    If it’s just better preaching we want, Theology is no help at all ;)

    There’s a long history of LDS antipathy towards the elevation of trained Bible scholars to a ruling religious class, discussed a bit by Philip Barlow in his dissertation. ( I can’t recall if that part made it into his Oxford volume, Mormons and the Bible.) There’s certainly a growing (but very minor) counter-awareness of the downsides of non-professional clergy in the Church now, though.

    I think Armaund Mauss put it eloquently.

    “Where do Church leaders get the ideas for the proposals that they take to the Lord in search of their revelatory confirmations? We must assume that they get their ideas from many sources, both within and without the Church. Some ideas no doubt come to them from the Saints and leaders in the rank and file; some from “pilot projects” started on local initiative; some from sponsored research; some perhaps from the business world; some even from their wives and children. The “alternate voices” of LDS intellectuals simply add, in a unique way, to the supply of ideas available to Church leaders as they undertake to formulate proposals to take to the Lord. That is an important function for these “alternate voices” and is perhaps the main mission to which they are called. I have had plenty of reasons to believe that our leaders often consider these “alternate voices,” and that their proposals to the Lord are sometimes informed by what they read and hear from these sources as well as from others.

    I, for one, appreciate this de facto “division of labor” between Church leaders and “alternate voices.” Such a distinction is blurred in some of our sister Christian churches which maintain “house intellectuals” hired and salaried primarily to insure that official Church doctrines, policies, and pronouncements are based on extensive scholarly research and made intellectually palatable to the world. To the extent that “alternate voices” depend for their livelihood and professional recognition primarily on Church largesse, they run a constant risk of being muted, moderated, and compromised by organizational imperatives and internal political pressures. (I hasten to add that they do not always succumb to such pressures, as we can see from the number of outstanding “alternate voices” that somehow manage to maintain distinguished and independent careers at BYU; but they are often uncomfortable). While many Mormon intellectuals might enjoy the luxury of basking a little more often in the celestial warmth of official approbation, they are far better off maintaining their separate callings and their intellectual independence.”

  41. #36 WVS. You are right. Outside of church employment it makes up quite a big chunk. Maybe not a bad thing giving we just sunk a boatload of money into redeveloping downtown SL….

  42. The lack of theologians seems right in line with our populist history – until you find out they’re all – mostly – trained suits. I don’t see the farm boy from Palmyra fitting in very well – not to mention the fishermen from Galilee. /jab

  43. Those fisherman from Galilee were hardcore business-owning suits. They changed cities for a tax-break.

    On the other hand, they also were not trained in the theological schools of their day…

  44. #42 – “trained suits”

    Nothing like a well-placed and completely ridiculous kick to the head of those we sustain as general authorities, apostles and prophets. /counter jab

    You might want to take a closer look at the lives of the people about whom we are talking before making such an inaccurate statement. The “farm boy” is represented VERY well in our leadership – but most of them left the farm and gained a formal education and professional occupation. The only thing that appears to have been exactly the same about them is that they valued education and pursued it successfully.

  45. Think I have a short comment in the queue…[thanks–got it]

  46. Ray – “trained suits” was not meant as derogatory – BION. Just a short way of saying – men who’s education/training led them to professions that required them to wear suits to work.

  47. I think GAs pick themselves or who they know is a fair statement. Also, a lot of the top 15 have always had a family tie. I do think they could mix into their businessmen and lawyers, some who trained in the liberal arts or sciences. Maybe_even someone from a California school?

  48. FWIW – I totally open to the idea that God calls different *types* of men and women at different times and for different purposes. But my longing is to see the scriptures in today’s church – in style and substance. (as unrealistic as that is)

  49. CJ – And that farm boy like to refer to himself as Lieutenant General when people wanted to start throwing around qualifcations and background with a bit friendly banter. He was no ordinary farmboy and these aren’t ordinary “trained suits”.

  50. Bob, I know Quentin L. Cook went to Stanford and spent many years in CA. David Bednar grew up in CA to the best of my knowledge. I believe both of their fathers were either non-members or inactive. Although at one point Elder Bednar’s father was baptized.

  51. Plenty of GAs attended or taught at California schools. (Even a couple from the 12–Eyring and Cook both had close connections with Stanford, with Eyring teaching there and Cook attending law school there).

  52. #18. I do take mild issue with the idea that the professional qualifications of GAs become irrelevant when entering service. The facts work strongly against that. I’m open to all kinds of reasons why, but I think it’s unreasonable to claim otherwise.

  53. #52: WVS, I don’t know how you can say today ” professional qualifications are irrelevant” when they clearly are__ since they all have them. I don’t find that it’s unreasonable they are professionals or that they feel it’s needed for the job.
    #51: Maybe I should have said maybe someone who got a Phd. in English from Berkeley, or Science from Stanford. There are lots of Mormons coming out of these schools.

  54. We need an App for that!

    It would be terribly fun to create a statistical matrix based on this data and turn it into a “quiz” available either online or through a free app called “Percent GA”. After taking a short quiz, your statistical GA potential could be calculated. Of course we’d have to put an overlay for timelines (your age and the average circulation of open spots). It would be really interesting and could be checked for accuracy against existing GA data. I’d also include questions and stats relating to:

    *Geographic origin
    *Pioneer stock
    *GA relatives (easy to tabulate stats on the family factor)
    *CES or other church employment
    *Contact with GAs (do they know who you are?)
    *Military history (for the U.S. WWII generation it was a positive factor, it seems like for U.S. Vietnam Vets it is a NEGATIVE factor).
    *Age called as bishop, SP, High Council, etc.
    *Callings (bishop, SP, high council, mission prez/mom, etc.)
    *Career (different stats for different GA quorums)
    *Income (if enough data could be gleaned on current GAs)
    *University (BYU, U, “ivy league”, state school outside/inside the mormon corridor, perhaps hook in some sort of pre-existing academic school ranking system like Tier 1,2,3,4 Law schools, med schools, US News & World Report business program evals, etc.)
    *Career accomplishment
    *SAHM factor (for both male/female GAs)
    *Yikes, I don’t want to go here, but there must be a % for converts vs BIC and lifetime actives vs re-activated.
    *Public past (GAs are now interviewed with questions delving into any past activities which would embarrass the church. Ie nude pics, anti-mo or politically volitile or inappropriate recordings, personal or business dishonesty, felonies, legal rulings, etc.) Anyone have the list?
    *Phrases in patriarchal blessing like “called to testify to the world” or “called to general leadership” or “will travel all over the world for the church” (data on how many self identify as having the ‘call’ would be fascinating whether or not it is statstically useful.)

  55. I find the entire discussion nauseating. I have been trying to show myself the door but feel compelled to respond.

    First, I think Connie has valid points and should not be shown the door. Not that I agree with them all, but I want to read them. I want to read valid responses to them. They are part of the picture and may represent a wider held view than y’all think. Better here than in her ward.

    For me a large problem in the church is a modern form of idolatry. Worship of church leaders has replaced worship of God. The first law of heaven of obedience (to church leaders) has replaced the first principle of the gospel of faith in Christ. We make up rules and then “lay it on the prophet.” We no longer sing “We thank thee oh God for a prophet” who prophecies. We sing “We thank thee oh God for the handbook.” We follow directions not the Spirit.

    Since modern Israel has little changed from ancient times, I think the Lord is calling the oldest, sickest, most demented and senile men he can find for us to worship, that are still barely capable of not running the church completely into the ground. Although, I must admit they are doing a pretty good job of it.

    I really don’t care whether they went to any school 50 or 70 years ago. Irrelevant. Does President Monson root for BYU or U of U when they play football? How about Pres. U-dorf? Irrelevant. (One thing that might muddy your statistical waters is President Hinckley graduating as an English major from the U of Utah. Irrelevant.)

    One time I heard Elder Nelson speak at a fireside praising President Hinckley for several minutes. President Hinckley stood and joked, “seems I’ve just attended my own funeral.” While everyone laughed he turned to Elder Nelson and sharply said, “don’t you ever do that to me again.”

    Most of our leaders have been fermenting on South temple for many decades anyway. I wouldn’t trust Doc Nelson to remove a mole off my ass, even though he saved my aunt twice with near miraculous heart surgery in the 1960’s. What on earth could this fact have to do with his apostleship?

  56. WVS #52

    Recently a false (to me) polygamist prophet in southern Utah said that if God could speak through Baalam’s ass, he could speak through me. In this instance I agree with him. Don’t you?

  57. #50: Chris: Elder Cook is the GGGS of Heber Kimball.
    Elder Bednar and his wife are from long lines of active Mormons.

  58. chris (50)

    Well said.

  59. I find the entire discussion nauseating. I have been trying to show myself the door but feel compelled to respond.

    Thanks for gracing us with your presence here today, buddy. Now that you’ve got that bilge out of your system, if you still need help finding the door, I’d be more than happy to oblige.

  60. home slice says:

    Bob (57)

    Sorry to nullify your point, but Elder Bednar was raised by a catholic father who didn’t joint the church until 1979 when he was baptized by his son.

  61. Cynthia L. says:

    On the topIc of ages, some of the recent Q12 calls have been to (relatively) younger men, and I wonder if that is about drawing (relatively) younger voices to the table.

    However, in terms of really mixing things up in terms of variety of contributors and voices, I wonder if filling new positions with younger men eventually has he opposite effect. Now someone like Bednar will be in the 12 for decades and decades. Less turnover in general, and by the time leaders do reach the most seniority, it has been maybe nearly half a century since thay knew a life outside service in the 12.

  62. #54

    They kind of do have an app for that at Church HQ. They have a database made specifically to track potential GAs. I don’t think this is good or bad it just is. Whether we like it or not we have taken on many of the trappings of modern management.

  63. Footnote two made me laugh out loud. My friend and I call them “sorry hugh” moments.

  64. #60: I am speaking about his wife and mother.

  65. #61: You can have a lot of power in the Q12 regardless of your seniority or age.

  66. Craig M. says:

    #62: Please give any evidence.

    It seems almost indisputable that General Authorities often come from a similar mold, but every one that I’ve come in contact with (which is very few) have all been impressive people who seem to be doing their work well. An interesting (but nearly impossible) study would compare this data to active men in the church (especially “high achievers” in whatever they do). I have a feeling that the number theologians and academics probably wouldn’t leave many options.

  67. Whizzbang from Winnipeg says:

    I have only heard a rumour about this database but have never ever seen evidence or a reference for it

  68. Ron Madson says:

    Sorry for the long comment that follows, but I am going to give a shot as to why all this “stats” stuff/focus and trying to hope to somehow get the “ideally” suited, trained, etc. church leader seems not just silly but indicative of something so much less then that which can inspire and regenerate a faith community:

    After blessing the first Q12 with gifts of the spirit, ie, healing sick, raising the dead, moving mountains, angelic visitations, the final, general charge to the first Q12 found on pages 194 through 198 of Volume 2, “History of the Church” includes in summation the following as I read it: You are indebted to others for evidence of your faith as special witnesses but you must obtain a witness directly from heaven yourself that you “have seen God.” And if you haven’t yet then “never cease striving until you have seen God face to face.” “This is more then a testimony of an angel…When the proper time arrives you will be able to bear testimony to the world….when you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony shall never fall, but will bear you out…You will, therefore, see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven.”

    They were charged, like the Jesus’ apostles to bear their testimony of the resurrected Lord before ALL–even to us heathens, gentiles and those who would even mock and reject the same—how much more those of us who desire to have faith and increase our faith (the suggestion that testimony of personal face to face witness and visitation of Jesus is too sacred to share publicly is at odds, imo, as to the historical sharing from the early apostles to the charge given in the restoration).

    I believe our expectations should be very narrow but very great of those called as sustained as prophets, seers and revelators. I could care less about the management skills, education, background of those charged with being the special witnesses as mandated in the restoration of the church—I only hope, or rather sustain the hope that they seek the face of Jesus, make contact and share honestly and openly that testimony/message from time to time and thus become in fact “prophets, seers and revelators” of the “special” witness kind. Such is the evidence/power that replenishes a faith community in each generation without which we are just managers of the past. I would suggest that those so sustained (if they had not already had their direct visitation) would be free to put all their energy into making direct contact and sharing the direct word of God (retreats, fasting/praying, pleading) until they fulfill the “charge” given to them, and in the meantime (or even after) employ the best “suits” and administrators who are really, really nice and virtuous and “serve the tables” and run the church corporation–you can even call them “presidents” or any other corporate/legal/honorary title but not confuse/conflate them with real oracles.

    And a last thought: while I really like what President Uchtdorf (sp?) brings as a change of perspective , the differences ,imo, between him and the rest seems so trivial to me compared to the difference/change the nice, inspiration messages, if someone, anyone were, to declare to our faith community as Paul, Peter, Joseph, Oliver Cowdery, or even Abinadi/ Samuel Lamanite their real “special witness” and “thus saith the Lord” message.

  69. Ron, that’s all well and good, but where do we read that Abinidi and Samuel saw God face to face in a literal sense you seem to mean when you say “visitation”? How often has that been recorded unequivocally throughout the history of our entire canonized scriptures, as you seem to be requiring? Even the experiences of Moses, Lehi, Nephi, Isaiah, etc. (including Joseph Smith’s “First Vision”) are recorded as visions and certainly open to interpretation as to the exact nature of the experiences. I think you are taking the quote and interpreting it in a very specific way that isn’t the only reasonable way to read it. Yes, they “saw God” – but they didn’t do so necessarily in the form of a “visitation” that automatically excludes a marvelous “vision”.

    If we hold our own modern prophets to a standard that is higher than the prophets of our scriptures, aren’t we risking setting them up for failure right from the start?

  70. Ron Madson says:

    Ray, good points and I stand corrected as to Abinadi and Samuel—but they did speak with clarity/power that they were delivering a message from God. That “voice” we (or I should say I) have seldom if ever seen in our generation. I also agree that what constitutes a “vision” or “visitation” is open to interpretation. However, would you agree that the charge given the first Q12 in our restoration was something more than a witness of the “spirit”?? So why do you suppose that the present Q12 and First Presidency never speak openly/publicly that they have “seen God” whatever that means? Or have they and I have just missed it? And if they have not seen God are they really “special” witnesses? And if the seer stone (or whatever means) is not used to bring forth hidden records, are they really “seers”? Or does our current sustaining them as “seers” mean something less then “seering” as defined in the scriptures? I am willing to sustain (hope, pray that the gifts intersect with the office) them as such, but whether they are in fact prophesying, seering or revealing is another question, is it not?
    my point for this post being that whatever that “special witness” is should it not be the primary if not only relevant qualification or disqualification regardless of any other credentials, skills, work experience or even disposition…

  71. #70: There are many relevant qualifications: age, male, MP holder, Married (?) that go beyond just a ‘special witness’.

  72. I agree with your last paragraph, Ron – completely.

  73. I just realized that my last comment might seem to be dismissive of the rest of your comment, Ron. I didn’t intend it to be. I just agree strongly that the primary qualification should be the role of being a special witness, whatever that is exactly. I don’t think it needs to be a qualification for the calling to be extended, however.

  74. Whizzbang from Winnipeg says:

    I would love to see a divorced GA or one that has been some kind of an addict or something that doesn’t fit the mold!

  75. Cynthia L. you bring up a very interesting point. We do see changes mediated by age, for example, older members of the Q12 in the 60s and earlier, slowed a number of things like changes in the priesthood ban and temple ceremonies. The concerns of one generation do matter. The interesting transition from polygamy to monogamy is another great example. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I think the recent additions may mediate more subtle changes, but who knows?

    As far as the balance between age and increased tenure, universities deal with the question a lot and this is especially true at BYU where new faculty who come, generally stay (providing they make the cut).

  76. Natalie B. says:

    If we look at where the church spends its resources, it seems increasingly clear to me that theology is simply not a priority. Most of the energy is spent on practical jobs like helping families or youth programs. It’s unclear to me whether the leadership has pushed this trend or reflects it. Probably both.

    I also think that members of certain professions (generally the most time-sucking ones) get chosen for leadership roles at the ward level and thus get put on a “leadership” track.

    I wrote a similar post on this topic after Faust died. Would be interesting to compare the comments.

  77. Natalie B. says:

    Follow up observation in my comment about theology in #76:

    Because of our authority structures, who says the theological statement is more important than what is said in terms of establishing influence and authority. Thus, quite unlikely that our church will ever produce young theologians–what they would never be given authority by those in the church.

  78. As a trained historian and currently in postgraduate work for an MA in philosophy, I can’t help but think that part of the lack of GA’s with humanities degrees, or at the very least none with PhD’s is that it seems to be very difficult to emerge from the education process with an orthodox belief system, I know that I struggled to maintain it and I do not know many that maintain a literal and orthodox belief in the church once they have studied literary theories, postmodernist epistemology, and other philosophical viewpoints. The exposure to the academic methodology of humanities I think may mean that many simply aren’t of the same dedicated cloth that they look for in a GA and are too liberal and open-minded. I am thinking of academics from the humanities such as Richard Bushman, the Hardy’s, many of them don’t seem to have the same mindset as the leadership seems to pick for its future leaders.

  79. Natalie in response to #76 & 77. I don’t know if it is that the church isn’t interested in theology per se. The church is very interested in doctrine and what the members believe, they just want the control over what the theology is, hence the existence of the correlation committee. If you have trained theologians it limits the control that can be had, and opens up the idea of a less fixed theology, as theologians will debate various interpretations, instead of the one true interpretation. The business-model of the church needs the ability to manage the doctrine through a diverse spectrum of cultures, and levels of membership, and this doesn’t allow for diversity in theological opinions, but a simple and monolithic theology. The leadership want to influence what beliefs are allowed, hence chapter headings which tell us how to read the scripture and its meaning. Bringing in theologians will make it harder to keep a homogenous multi-national church structure.

  80. #67 John Dehlin helped program it. Refer to his Mormon Stories podcast just as one reference. Again, i am agnostic as to the worth of the database. It seems a fairly reasonable thing to do to me. It is analogous to those little “mission boards” or “calling boards” used by mission presidents and bishops etc. just on a bigger scale. I come down on the “study it out in your own mind” version of inspiration as the most common form even for the super important things, so it doesn’t bother me. The interwoven relationships, family ties and other homophily we see among the leadership that has been well documented (like your stats) would indicate to me that these human selection processes are alive and well in how most/many of these decisions seem to occur. Sometimes do I wish there was more mysticism/apparent randomness in the process going on that to me would indicate a more strong hand of God in it? Yes. However, this is the evidence that we have to help us understand how the Lord works.

    My take is that if I shut my eyes to it and ignore what is there it is in way a refusal to grapple with the hard issues which will eventually lead to disappointment. It is how I make sense of the whole history of the priesthood ban, ERA, polygamy etc. etc. and keep my faith. It just seems that God is willing to let us as a church do really, really human things that even deny blessings to others until we are open enough to think differently. The deification of the leadership and the process by which it is generated doesn’t square with what we seem to know. God seems to allow these very human processes to play a role in how the leadership is produced. Maybe we should accept that and then work on improving how we do it. Pretending otherwise for me isn’t helpful to my faith and ultimately would add to the frustration of trying to understand some form of the universal truth Mormons are taught to believe is out there. Whether I like it or not I am driven to believe in a very messy, gray version of the heaven to earth communication link in my own life and in my expectations for the institutional church.

  81. Yes they want control over the theology and they want control over the membership. Elder Oaks while speaking on freedom of religion strengthens society at the Chapman University School of Law said religious teachings are important to society at large because laws need to be enforced but society doesn’t have the resources to enforce them all so religion teaches obedience to the unenforceable. While this is concept is generally true I find the use of the word enforce and the fact that he sees this as the church’s primary contribution to society particularly distasteful because the LDS church operates in that fashion much more strictly than the others and this attitude is reflected in the on-going parental top down leadership monolog. Contrast this warm but distant corporate hierarchical behavior to President Beck’s more Christ like presentation in Idaho where she took questions from the audience interacting spontaneously with them and hugging a line of members at it’s conclusion.

  82. “The leadership want to influence what beliefs are allowed, hence chapter headings which tell us how to read the scripture and its meaning.”

    Sheesh Jacob. Chapter headings aren’t to control how you read the verse so much as give you a quick, but limited and often incomplete synopsis of the chapter. We’re talking about the time before computers…. if you wanted to find something in the scriptures you had to do it the old fashioned way. To my understanding Talmage created the chapter summaries in 1920, before there was even an index to the scriptures. If you wanted to find something, you had to dig around and look for it. The summaries were certainly incomplete and updated in 81 and an index was added. Both are still incomplete as there are a lot of good things missing from both the index (especially some verses which should be there) and the summaries. But that’s what happens when you have to make choices for brevity.

    It’s also one reason I love the electronic scriptures where you can search. I don’t have to rely on an index compiled by hand which leaves things out. Strange that you would see some kind of semi-demagoguery purposes in the summary… obviously one aspect of summarizing is that it sets the tone of what follows, but if you want to avoid setting the tone, you might as well not open your mouth. Except for that has a different message in itself… so there’s nothing you can do. I’m quite sure were there no chapter headings and index, etc. someone would be saying, “Why don’t they want to make the scriptures more accessible to us by giving us modern tools to cross reference and analyze the scriptures?”

  83. #77: Natalie B.,
    If you mean (Mormon) Theology, I think that has a lot of Mormon history in it. If so, then the young thinkers at the Juvenile Instructor blog are doing a great job.
    If ‘ever’ go back to 1820, then the Church has had many young theologians.

  84. “deification of the leadership”
    Rah, good thing we have a lay leadership! We’re all encouraged to become deified, or raised to the condition of becoming a god, are we not? ;)

  85. Chris, I think you are confusing index with chapter headings. I think indexes are very useful to understand how key words appear in the texts, but that is very different from chapter headings and footnotes. The chapter headings most certainly do dictate and attempt to control the way in which the scriptures are read. I suggest you look up the literary theory of intertextuality in particular epitexts and the way in which the prologues, commentary, are used to impact upon the way in which a text is read. A couple of examples show this;
    Isaiah 29 – The chapter heading states that: “Nephites shall speak as a voice from the dust – The apostasy, restoration of the gospel, and coming forth of the Book of Mormon are foretold – Compare 2 Nephi 27”

    Now nowhere in that passage does it refer to nephites, book of Mormon, apostasy or restoration, the chapter heading is instructing the reader that the chapter should read it in connection with these themes and with passages from the Book of Mormon, these links are reinforced by the marginalia, and the footnotes that bring home the link between them. By drawing attention and imposing these concepts upon the reader in the chapter heading they are trying to control the way in which the reader, reads and gains meaning from the passage. I don’t see how you could possibly think that this is not an attempt to control the way in which Isaiah 29 is being interpreted. I am not saying that this passage could not refer to these themes, but simply the way in which they are controlling the limits through which the scriptures can be understood through Chapter headings. This is just one of many, that I picked up at random from my scriptures now.

    If its about making scripture study accessible, I think using a version of the Bible with modern English, or updating the 19th century pseudo 17th century language of the BoM and D&C, and commissioning a new translation of the Bible would do far more to make scripture accessible then adding footnotes.

  86. Jacob,
    If you read what I wrote I said the headings appeared in 1920 first. Index didn’t appear until 1981. The headings were the first attempt at laying out quick summaries from a modern perspective of the text. Certainly, it involved a bit of, “here is how we use the text” as people often would like to scan through the chapters and find a verse that relates to how they are going to use it.

  87. Now that Glenn Back is out of a job maybe they could make him a general authority. I think he would fit right in, except that he does have a tendency to have original thoughts now and then so that might be a problem.

  88. Having “original thoughts” is the least of his problems.

  89. Interesting, this is a marked contrast to some other similarly-structured religious institutions, like the Catholic Church, where the current pope publishes complex theological exegesis, both before and after he became pope. To be a Catholic priest, you have to attend seminary, where you study all the skills one supposedly needs to be a priest – giving a homily, confession, saying mass, and of course, theology.

  90. #89 – Thank God we don’t have the Catholic structure.

    #87 – You must know next to nothing about the current general authorities.

  91. Anonforthemoment says:

    I taught religion at BYU but was not a member of the Religion Department. During out training it was mentioned many times how useful it was to have professors from a variety of disciplines doing this, because their spiritual insights were informed by their areas of expertise. Those training sessions were incredibly rich because of the dialogue among the participants, who came from biological and physical sciences, engineering, linguistics, art, humanities, philosophy, and the social sciences. So yes, I do think educational background is important to our understanding and interpretation of scripture and revelation. This experience provided evidence to me that the effect is way stronger and way more valuable than I’d previously posited it to be.

    #68, 70 – I know a handful of people who are not general authorities who have seen Christ face-to-face, and many more who have heard His voice directly. They don’t tell many people, and then only according to the Spirit. I’m pretty sure none of them will be called to general church leadership. Some of them are even women. :) So if I know this many people who’ve had such experiences, they must be relatively common. (My sample is from several strata of the LDS population.) I wish our leaders and members felt free to discuss their more spectacular revelatory experiences publicly. On the other hand, the fallout might not end up being so good.

    By the way, one of my G.A. friends told me general authorities are usually called because they’re good administrators, not because they’re particularly more righteous than good men who aren’t given these callings. (He was in for decades, so I tend to trust his assessment.) I have no problem with this if it’s what the Church needs, but it limits the repertoire those men, as a whole, bring to the table. And, given our status as humans, I don’t think personal revelation always makes up for this. Whether or not this limits the progress of the Kingdom is a different question.

  92. Ron Madson says:

    #73, Ray, I did not take it that way, but thank you for the followup comment.

    #91. I appreciate your sharing the information as to those “handful of people.” That increases my faith/confidence. For those of us of lesser faith/confidence the importance of “special witnesses” as it pertains to those who hold the keys to the kingdom are three-fold: one, to reinforce faith that God actually lives and Jesus is real and not just a myth like many myths in religious histories (in the age of information/ “enlightenment” many myths–including our church history myths–are eroding rapidly–a present tense revelation evaporates the concordant loss of faith that comes with such erosion); second, to know that He is in fact involved in the affairs of this world–present tense and not, as defined by Deists, some cosmically remote God; and third (and this is why it is highly relevant that those sustained as “prophets, seers, etc. receive a “special” witness) that God and His Son STILL have their imprimatur on THIS church. It does not take a course in logic to realize that those that try to connect the dots from a faith assumption as to the authenticity of JS and the BOM to believing that, it must follow, that this is HIS church today is flawed logic. A reading of Quinn’s chapter on “Succession” in Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power” (a royal, ugly fight over polygamy of all things with the polygamists “winning”) or the machinations that have taken place since and a significant absence of charismatic gifts such as prophesying/seering/revealing further scriptures (or even reading of our prophecies in DC, 3 Nephi 16, and Mormon 8, Isaiah, etc.) can lead one to logically conclude that we are no more exempt from falling/losing His approbation as we claim the original church of Jesus lost it during the great apostasy. Therefore, all the more important for those we sustain as Prophets, Seers and Revelators to be special witnesses and in fact share it—openly and publicly and deliver His messages and not just administer/manage past truths—the whole true & LIVING. I understand the restraint of your friends that have confided but do their reasons apply to our church leaders or should it? and if so, why exactly?

  93. #86 yes…but….premature deification might still be an issue :)

    I wouldn’t consider the apostles at any rate a lay leadership or 70s employed by the Church for significant periods of time so local level lay leadership absolutely, top level lay leadership might be a stretch.

  94. Mike #56, amen (except the door stuff), but many have excellent points.

    #62 Rah, I’m totally not suprised to ehar about a database. KNowing about ward clerk work though and having looked at membership records, I’m sad to say that the data collected is well- extremely mathematical. (Temple recommend dates, ordinances, family, tithing- $ earned and paid, etc.) The church would have missionary interviews (which are extensive), but that’s just one snapshot of a 19 yr old. I kinda think that some sort of database could be used for picking mission presidents and *some* 70’s, but most 70’s and the GAs are all in the family. Wow. Interesting. I wish John Dehlin would chime in.

    My ‘app’ idea is for young single adults in the marraige market. Who wouldn’t want to know your potential spouse’s %GA potential? (lol). I also think missionaries climbing the leadership ladder would go gaga for it. Am I the only one who has seen families move to Utah to either be seen by the GAs and called to leadership or because they believe they will be called as future GAs? Seriously, I know so many I can’t keep count. Wouldn’t a few old fashioned numbers be great?

    What would happen if God called another Saul or Alma the Younger? Would the members accept them? A former anti-mo preacher? It would go a long way in breaking leadership worship.

  95. Ron —

    I suspect that GAs have rarely, if ever, physically see Christ.

    Brigham Young specifically said that he had never seen the Savior.

    I once had a conversation with a descendant of President Hinckley and he indicated that his grandfather had indicated the same thing.

    My own take is that Bruce R. McConkie made the same point in his final address.

  96. Whizzbang from Winnipeg says:

    Steve- It is on the record that Pres. George Q. Cannon,melvin J. Ballard, Orson F. Whitney George F. Richards, David B. Haight, Pres. Hugh B. Brown are the ones that I know of right now that have seen the Saviour. I know others have seen visions like Presidents George Albert Smith, Joseph F. Smith, Rulon S. Wells. There are several articles written about this stuff. I believe Elder McConkie has seen him and I read his final talk as a statement that he has.

  97. Ron Madson says:

    #95 Steve, you may be right. How would we know for sure when often it is “not plain.” Having said that, how often are prophets historically raised up in to deliver a “thus saith the Lord” message from the institutional church even if the proper legal authority resides with the church? A quick survey may indicate that it might be the rule rather then the exception that a prophet is sent from the wilderness (John Baptist), from the outcast priests (Jeremiah), the dissidents (Lehi), outside of the priest class/shepherd (Amos) an alien (legal or not) in the voice of Samuel or even an obscure farm boy (JS)
    Why is that? Is there something about the church once institutionalized that voices have to be sent from outside the group at times? I really do not know. The institution always claims having the fulness/only necessary source and incapable of ever leading astray the flock (14 Fundamentals, etc) and strict boundaries/lines of those who speak for the Lord (outside voices if in the least bit inconsistent to be ignored or worse called as Elder Oaks did “from another source”), but doctrinally and historically is there really a type of the institutional church over generations that retains the charismatic gifts that occurred at its genesis that it needs no outside voices/prophets to be sent?

    Personally, I would prefer that office and prophecy conflate/intersect. It would make it a lot easier for the rest of us. But whether it does or not or will in the future is another matter. When we discuss “management/profiling” and such things, it is interesting and reasonable to consider (I would do as much) but for some of us it does not instill a great deal of confidence/faith that there is anything really “special” going on that any virtuous religion/faith could not generate.

    I could be wrong on all that I said above and open to suggestions/counter-points and hope there are some.

  98. #96: The “record’, please.

  99. As someone who was trained in theology and biblical studies, I would like to add my two cents. I firmly believe that not only does one’s professional training influence the theological and political culture of the church, but that the dearth of training in certain fields, such as humanities and theology, has had an overall deleterious effect on the church’s spirituality and religiosity. That’s not to say that a GA having a degree in biblical studies automatically leads to a richer, more profound, authentic church experience. But having more leaders informed by the best and deepest thinking on a range of intellectual and religious issues does open up new avenues of thought (which often leads to revelation) on just about everything we do in the church, and contrary to what seems to be a common theme in the comments, diversity is a crucial catalyst to spiritual ferment and growth. It pains me to say that I think that what we generally have in the church at all levels is a self-reinforcing trend towards traditionalization, which, ironically, is a far cry from the ethos of what Joseph Smith started. We are becoming more and more exactly what Joseph Smith could not stand for–sterile ossified dogmatic tradition.
    My two cents.

  100. It's Not Me says:

    I took Elder McConkie’s last talk as saying that he had NOT seen the Savior, but that he would do so “in the coming day,” and that when he did, he would not know any better (having physically seen him) than he did at the point he was giving his talk (only having spiritually “seen” him).

    There are a number of examples in scriptures of individuals having visual manifestations that do not produce lasting testimonies/conversion. It is the Spirit that converts.

  101. Whizzbang from Winnipeg says:

    Hugh B. Brown-Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, p145-There is another one about him an dthe Savious but i can’t find it right now
    Lorenzo Snow-
    David B. Haight-
    Melvin J. Ballard-
    Orson F. Whitney-
    George F. Richards-Oct. 1946 General Conference
    George Q. Cannon- I can’t find the reference right now but I throygh in th eone by Lorenzo Snow, he actually had an earlier experience similar but it doesn’t explicityly say he saw the Saviour but

    Numerous others have seen visions and recorded them and are written in articles and books.I was called to give references for the three brethren I made note of are here they are
    Joseph F. Smith-Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants
    George Albert Smith-“Your Good Name,” Improvement Era, Mar. 1947
    Rulon S. Wells-April 1940-Double feature as he saw the Saviour and Elder William W. Taylor

    I hope I am not trifling with sacred things!

  102. MikeInWeHo says:

    Re: 99
    So what does that imply?

  103. Whizzbang from Winnipeg says:

    Apologies for the cruddy spelling!

  104. anon (99),
    Moreover, is there a reason that the Church should avoid becoming something Joseph Smith wouldn’t recognize? That is, you worry about ossification. But your complaint is that we’ve changed, which implies no ossification.

    There may be a normative reason why the Church should continue to be completely recognizable to Joseph Smith. But that point is not self-evident.

  105. To add to Sam B’s comment in #104:

    If I had to choose to live in the LDS Church now or in the church as it was in Joseph’s day, I would choose now without hesitation. I’ve looked in minute detail at that time, and it’s not for me.

    Call me lazy or faithless or anything else you think is appropriate, but I’d rather not face what those saints faced – and I’m not talking just about the physical and political trials. I’m not sure I could have handled some of Joseph’s issues and/or the days of Brigham. The LDS Church is right for me as it is now, even as there are many things about it I would like to see change in my lifetime.

    I’m not saying “all is well in Zion” by any stretch. I’m just saying returning to the chaotic, violent, oppositional, calamitous, doctrinally free-wheeling days of yore doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.

  106. #94 J.A.T My guess is that the whole reason for making a separate database, apart from the Church records, is to include relevant information that aren’t captured in the basic Church database. Everything from notes by apostles and 70s who might meet them in their travels/duties, professional experience, their patriarchal blessings maybe, more details on church service roles etc could be included. I would imagine to make it into the database you would need to have come to their attention either through some personal connection or through significant service roles – mission president, some really specific mission assignment, working for the church, stake president they meet on a trip and are impressed by, BYU faculty interview etc. Of course, you could also theoretically make it into it by sitting in the audience of a stake conference and they could be impressed by the Spirit, or through some other type of spiritual manifestation. I wouldn’t know. But we are a people of records. In the past it was a people of journals and ledgers. In the modern day that makes us a people of databases.

    If I put on my faithful, wild speculation hat, I might posit that being a record keeping people in an age of deep and democratized historical information just might provide the checks and balance necessary to keep us from going completely off the rails like other past dispensation versions of the church. I have always thought that many of us (I include myself) have taken the idea that “the church will not be removed from the earth” way too arrogantly, assuming that someone we would just march on through righteousness and nothing that we as a church have done or could do would be significantly wrong. My gut tells me this exact type of attitude probably played a significant role in every systematic religious apostasy aided and abetted by the fact that those in power could more easily rewrite history to suit their narrative. This is how I read most the dynamic of the New Testament and what I find most interesting about the structure of the BoM narrative with its single editor looking back and trying to lay out and make sense of the long run history of a people. Heaven knows we as an institutional church have tried/are trying hard to play the selectively rewrite history game through strong forms of correlation, but it seems we might be hitting up on the limits imposed by modern day record keeping and the entire vibrant cottage industry of Mormon historical writings it has spawed (and in which many of you hear participate actively). I don’t think it is coincidence that are biggest internal fights have been fueled by our historical records. My read is that eventually we will be absolutely forced to really make communal sense of our history, but we will be dragged there kicking and screaming because it will require us to come to grips with our own humanity and imperfections as a people, our leaders included. The easy way out just doesn’t seem to be an option for us thanks to our ancestors who recorded everything and the fact that we kept it all – intriguingly by divine demand. I think it only saves us when we acknowledge things that really, really hurt. Of course, I could totally be wrong.

    Taking off wild speculation hat.

  107. #106: IMO__ Yes, the Church has changed since Joseph Smith, Yes, it needs change to continue’ ( and ‘to continue’). Is it changing fast enough? Good question. Is it changing in the right directions? Another good question.

  108. Sam B.
    My complaint is not that we’ve changed, but that we have steadily lost the ability to change. You misunderstand what I’m trying to say. It’s not that I want the church to be recognizable to Joseph Smith per se; I want the church to live up to its rhetoric and theology, which at its core is a revelation based approach to reality, a dynamic process of always seeking after further light and truth.
    Some members of the church may be entirely comfortable with the sacralization of tradition and not want it any other way (although most are totally unaware of what’s happening to them), but then what’s to distinguish us from any other religious tradition? Why be a Mormon? Because you’re born that way? Socialized that way?

  109. #108: “I want the church to live up to its rhetoric and theology, which at its core is a revelation based approach to reality…”
    Which rhetoric__which theology? 19c Mormonism?
    I am not sure how the Church even defines ‘revelation’ today, but not the way it did in JS times.

  110. I’m speaking in generalities. Of course, revelation has been understood differently in various epochs of church history. But the way I see it, the principle of revelation (for members and for leaders) is what theologically binds, even if only in theory, the present day church to the early church.

  111. Whizzbang —

    I think we need to define what we mean. I think physical visitations are exceptionally rare. Visions are a different story. Many members claim to have had them.

  112. Whizzbang from Winnipeg says:

    111- what is the difference between a vision and a visitation? to me they are one and the same. I seperated out the ones that claim to have seen Christ and the ones that didn’t. There are some I have heard about but I don’t have the reources to find them for example Elder John Henry Smith of the Twelve wrote in his journal he saw Christ but I don’t have the time to go through it all. Plus as I say there are articles with other accounts. I have no way of knowing how many times Jesus has appeared to people, if he actually did or not, but I have just provided the references that I was asked and take them for what they are worth! all the best!

  113. #106 Rah,
    Thanks for your very insightful thoughts! I agree 100% with the statement of need you laid out (reminds me of Nibley’s comments re: the City of Enoch). The record-keeping work you described lies within the professional skills sets of systems librarians, database experts and computer gurus. It would be all about cataloging, access and retrieval. I don’t think we are there quite yet. I’m pretty sure bishops dont’ keep track of every calling anyone has ever had. Priesthood ordinations and certain callings which require priesthood ordination (Patriarch, etc.) would be noted in a membership record. Most callings (especially for women) no. I’ve seen the following on membership records:

    *mission service and language(s) spoken
    *family (children, spouse, their membership status)
    *member id#
    *demographic info- (birth info, parents, current address, nationality, former wards)
    *active, less active, do not contact, fellowship status
    *tithing data (declared status, numbers, don’t know how far this goes back)
    *men-priesthood levels
    *marraige dates, ordinance dates (baptism, temple ordinances, etc.)
    *special notes???

    I’m probably missing stuff. When I move to another ward, isn’t this the only thing that follows me except perhaps a phone call from the new bishop to the old one?

    If the church really did farm patriarchal blessings they’d need to collect all active card-carrying living member’s print letters. Only the individual can retrieve them or a direct descendant of a deceased person. If GAs did it, I think that would be an invasion of privacy. I doubt they would. The process of even knowing which member ids and names to pull (one at a time) would be massive. Then, they’d need to convert all these blessings (hand-written or typed with a typewritter) into digital form. (Remember that each photocopied blessing does not leave the archives without being checked by workers to make sure every word was copied completely and without errors.) Even OCR technology couldn’t elliminate the human element here.

    Of course the church could target men within certain age groups which would be a more manageable batch. Then, they could use a massive kw searching tool like vivissimo to search for words like “calling and election, minister/travel the world, special witness, general counsel, names of specific callings” etc. The “in-between the lines” and revelatory nature of blessings makes me wonder whether this even has value. I can see this being done for specific individuals being considered, but not on a mass-scale.

    I don’t think we’re to the point where we can connect the dots -retrieve necessary information- from the info that is collected by the church. Temple archives, genealogy records, membership records, tithing records, patriarcal blessings, current ward info, etc. are all in different places and not completely digitized. I heard and an LDS FBI agent say that the background checks the church conducts on potential mission presidents and their wives are MORE comprehensive than the government could ever do. I suspect that these checks are about 10% digital and 90% on foot going to various church info repositories (one at a time) and making reference phone calls to church leaders, business associates, etc.

    I’ve also been pretty dissapointed with the church’s database search for its own publications on it’s horribly unreliable. Academic database vendors and even government databases such as and pubmed are a thousand times better. Most researchers skip the church’s search interface completely and use google’s advanced features and limit the domain to So, I don’t have a lot of confidence in the church’s ability to do anything much different behind closed doors in a secret GA finder tool.

    I agree that we need to digitize the records and USE them. I’m kinda scared at the Orwellian prospect of it all and how this mega catalog would too coldly and conformistly “lead” the church eliminating the Alma the Youngers, the Sauls, the Zeezroms, etc. from leadership. We might already be there anyway without “Hal” opening the pod bay doors. Dunno. It has a lot of potential and some pitfalls. A “google search” or comprehensive database query is still science fiction. Wait– I think God keeps a book of life that would do all this and more.

  114. I think GA Nepotism ( D: Favoritism shown to relatives or close friends by those in power *as by giving them jobs*), is how they decide who is available as anything. I don’t think they need a database.

  115. #54: JAT:
    That would actually be a really cool application. Not really any practical value, but it would be fun to see what my “Percent GA” index would be – although maybe it’s a negative number – who knows.

    Re: the lack of scientists
    I think this will continue for a while. I see three big issues here:

    1) Conformity and a “united front” – There have been many statements made by religious leaders in the past about “scientific things” which have been based on their interpretation of religious texts. Examples might include the inhabitants of the moon or sun, the age of the earth, the validity of evolution, whether humans were on the earth before 4000 BC, more rigorous proofs of things, etc. In the past (ie. 1800s and early 1900’s), members of the Church up through the apostle level were allowed to disagree with other leaders on different things (including things like this). Witness the “debates” between B.H. Roberts and Joseph Fielding Smith, et al. In today’s church, contrary opinions or dissension are shut down. If someone questions an “orthodox” belief, they are seen as questioning the calling that someone fills as opposed to the opinion that that person holds. In science, the natural result of thousands and millions of observations can potentially lead to something that mght conflict with a commonly held belief. This conflict can hinder one’s chance to progress through the leadership hierarchy.

    2) Business success – As mentioned above, the people called to leadership are generally seen as “successful” from a worldly sense as well. They have managed people, they have made money, they have the outward appearances of success. Many “true” scientists don’t have this level of outward success. They generally work for someone else or in a corporation. They generally don’t work their way up the corporate ladder. They are generally seen as “just an average” person. Even a “scientist” like Elder Nelson wasn’t just a “scientist”, but a world-renowned and financially successful cardiothoracic surgeon.

    3) Evidence – This is somewhat related to #1. The basis of the scientific method is following the evidence to whatever conclusion naturally and logically follows. Sometimes the status quo is supported. Other times, the status quo is questioned. The goal of church leaders is different. The goal is to find evidence to support a conclusion that is already made. As President Packer taught, “Some things that are true are not very useful”. Things should instead be faith-promoting. This can potentially be hard for a scientist to support.

    So, I don’t see a scientist being called anytime soon – at least not until the values of a scientist become more valued in the church as a whole.

  116. Whizzbang from Winnipeg says:

    I, Too, would be very surprised if that had a physical database for who gets called, mentally possibly. People die, go inactive possibly or just stuff happens and to me if you look who gets called, a few relatives get in, but mostly it is people you have never ever heard of. For example who knew Elders O. Vincent Haleck, Spencer V. Jones, Kent D. Watson or Ray H. Wood? obvioulsy local people and their families but they were one of hundreds of former mission presidents or stake presidents or whatever. Our Stake had Elder Jones here a few years ago and he said his mission president was, I think, Elder Scott, but Elder Jones didn’t think he knew him well or he was never a leader or anything to bring him to the attention of Elder Scott and he said that if the Lord can find Elder Jones in Virden, New Mexico then he can find you anywhere. One thing I wonder is maybe the Lord put certain people in certain families just so they woul dbe called or noticed by the Leaders? Who knows?

  117. ted Boren says:

    I guess if we were critiquing Jesus’ original 12 we would be complaining that there were clearly “too many fishermen and not enough rabbis and scribes… I mean seriously – not even one rabbinically trained scholar until maybe Saul of Tarsus?”

%d bloggers like this: