Does the Source of GA Allowances Matter?

In the wake of the recent GA allowance leak, a Church spokesman made this statement: “None of the funds for this living allowance come from the tithing of Church members, but instead from proceeds of the Church’s financial investments.” I’m trying to figure out whether this caveat should make a difference in how we perceive this practice.

My gut reaction, which I’ve expressed a couple of times, is that I don’t think it should. That is, money is fungible, from Latin fungibilis (“capable of being used in place of another, capable of being replaced”). When you deposit $100 in your checking account, and then later withdraw $5 to buy yourself a Slurpee, the $5 bill the teller gives you was not actually part of your original deposit. But you don’t care; any $5 bill will do, because they all have the same value, and which one you get doesn’t matter. Or if you have 100 shares of Apple in a brokerage account, your shares are commingled with other shares. When you go to sell them, it doesn’t matter whether the shares you sell are precisely the same as the ones you originally bought; like money, shares of stock are fungible.

The Church’s statement is claiming a difference based on provenance or source; tithing dollars are red dollars, proceeds of financial investments are blue dollars. We pay these allowances with blue dollars, but not with red dollars.

But I’m not sure; maybe I’m thinking about this the wrong way. Accounting firewalls for various purposes can be meaningful. Maybe this claimed distinction is more significant than I originally thought. I welcome your insights either way.

Genealogically, I suspect the source for the allowances goes back to red tithing dollars at some point. If tithing dollars come in, you invest them, and only use the investment return and not the tithing principal to pay the allowances, is that a truly meaningful distinction? Even if we’re talking about proceeds from one of the Church’s for-profit businesses, if you go far enough back genealogically the seed money for that business in the first place was probably tithing dollars. GBH made it clear that the tithing of the people is overwhelmingly the source of the Church’s finances, that it could survive on its investments alone for only a very short time.

If the source doesn’t really matter, then it should be acceptable for these allowances to be paid directly out of tithing dollars. and I for one think that’s true. I have no problem with the allowances[1] and I would have no problem if they were paid directly from tithing.

I suspect the Church insists on this distinction for more subjective and psychological reasons. It might be hard to ask someone scraping by on a very modest salary, especially in a another part of the world, to tithe her income when she makes a small fraction of these allowances. Or it might be hard to toss around rhetoric such that if one must choose between paying the rent or tithing, pay your tithing, between feeding your children or tithing, pay your tithing. Separating the allowances from tithing gives some distance to allow the Church to continue to push hard for tithing compliance.

Personally, I simply don’t accept the rhetoric we sometimes hear that if it’s between eating and tithing, pay your tithing. The miracles we hear about in those situations can be inspiring, but a miracle doesn’t always come. I think it’s irresponsible to tell people to pay tithing in lieu of the basic necessities of life.

So anyway I’m curious what you think about this. Does it really matter what the source of these allowances is? Why or why not?

[1] Other than the Church’s persistent touting of its “unpaid clergy” without qualification and its not being open and upfront about this with its members. That this is now out in the open is to my mind a healthy and a good thing for the Church. But the Church could have accomplished this proactively on its own instead of reactively in light of a leak. The Church needs to improve its forthrightness skills.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Kevin, the case where it matters is the down scenario. If the Church’s investments made no money, GAs presumably would be paid nothing. That’s good, IMO.

  2. Is that real, Steve?

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    You’re putting a lot of weight on that “presumably.” Of course, in the post Elder N. Eldon Tanner Church when the fiscal ship has been righted, that situation is unlikely to arise, so we may never know what would happen if all the Church had left was tithing funds.

  4. anitawells says:

    I think the distinctions do matter. Yes, it’s all money, but if you think of Pres. Eyring’s recent story of paying his fast offering, his choice to pay that money and feel the value of where that money goes had a big impact on him and others. Would it be better that he not draw a salary and not pay any fast offering back to the church, because it’s all coming from and going to the same place? (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/04/is-not-this-the-facibferebce st-that-i-have-chosen?lang=eng&_r=1)

  5. Yes, a lot depends the ‘presumably’, but the church must think so, too, or else why the distinction? My experience is that tithing funds are viewed as particularly sacred and not to be misused.

  6. No, the source doesn’t matter, but it does feel a little bit of being played the fool. Per the church’s web site, here are the uses for tithing:

    -Building and maintaining temples, chapels, and other Church buildings.
    -Supporting the activities and operations of local Church congregations.
    -Supporting the programs of the Church, including education and family history research.

    There’s no mention that some tithing funds were/are used for investing in for-profit ventures, from which the leaders’ salaries are paid. But these are the fruits borne of tithing-planted trees, so it’s disingenuous to suggest there’s no tithing involved. But I suppose we have a long history with “carefully worded denials”, so this comes as no surprise.

    What matters to me is transparency and disclosure. The church should open its books and allow the world to see that our actions match our rhetoric.

    They do match, right?

  7. This post reminded me of my mission, and why church pay bothered me. My mission president was a taxi driver before becoming a mission president. His allowance by the church was a king’s sum. He sent all of his kids who still lived at home to a top private school in Bogota. He drove a nice, new car, and he lived in a beautiful apartment. When he went back home to Medellin he had none of those things.

    Is there a standard of living that is necessary for general authorities? Do we want general authorities wearing $10,000 suits, or would Mr. Mac be good enough?

    The living stipends for the general authorities coming from business entities actually irks me more; it reminds me of the corporate culture of the church, which I find contrary to the gospel. I’d rather it came from tithing.

  8. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    We have 2 joint checking accounts. My wife’s payroll check is deposited into one, and mine into the other. There are times when money is transferred from one account to the other, to cover certain large/unexpected expenses. Under the Church’s reasoning, I could move money from the account where my wife’s money is deposited, into the other account, and then write a check from that other account to buy her an Anniversary gift, and could then say that I used my own money to buy the gift. I’m pretty generous like that.

  9. Historically, salaries came from tithing income. (I show that in my Dialogue article.) Like you, I’m not concerned about the source because of the fungibility of money. But also, I think paying salaries of people who work for the institution is an appropriate use of tithing dollars. I mean, Red Cross execs and employees get paid out of donated money; I assume museum staff have at least part of their income drawn from donations. I don’t see any reason why tithing dollars are different.

  10. Lauren Arrington says:

    I personally think that is a huge amount of money. Not “modest” in the least. Some people argue that they work 24/7. No, they don’t. I assume they sleep. And I doubt that they put in any more time than my scout leader husband does. And the suggestion that they have given up their livelihood to serve in the church: Maybe some of them gave up a lot of money, but most of them were nearing retirement age anyway. All things considered, I think that missionaries should be paid the same amount, as their sacrifice is as much as or greater than that made by the GAs.

  11. The distinction makes me feel better, even if the money’s ancestry is in tithing, and even though it’s not a real distinction. Not entirely sure why.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    G H, I can understand the distinction having a psychological effect on our perceptions of the practice.

  13. Oh the democratization of the internet…yet another example of the Church needing to respond to new info readily available to the public. I agree Kevin that the Church could have qualified the “unpaid clergy” policy long ago instead of leaving the members to conjecture. Yes, I think the distinctions matter also. Analogies can be found in industries like insurance, higher education, and hospitals where contributed or earned funds are restricted as to their use by self-imposed rules or external regulators. Just as with these institutions I think Church members have a reasonable expectation that certain funds are not co-mingled, for emotional reasons, as with Pres. Eyring’s story above.
    anitawells, good question. Personally, I think the GA’s should be paid and have the chance to exercise their faith by paying tithes and offerings like everyone else.

  14. Hardly the first Church to face the challenges of inadvertently accumulated wealth. Will we see a Mormon version of the mendicant friars? And how would the Church react to such a movement?

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    If I recall correctly, the Elder Eyring paystubs had hand notations specifying the amount of tithing. So presumably they pay tithes on these allowances, even though they’re simply returning a portion to the original source.

  16. The Church from the beginning, had no money or property until people donated or tithed. Therefore all possessions of the Church were initially purchased with tithing or donation funds. Any “increase” the Church realizes from its possessions, have their root in tithing.

    Additionally, the living allowance is probably small as a percentage of their compensation package. Housing, health care, 1st class travel and accommodations, cars, retirement and so forth are no doubt top notch. This allowance also, may not include salaries from serving as board members of corporations for which the Church has that type of privilege.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    (Correction: by “original source” I just meant the Church broadly, because the Church’s whole point is that the original source is NOT tithing.)

  18. No, it’s obfuscation, and it’s not even necessary. The stipends are, all things considered, relatively quite modest ($120k may sound like a princely sum to someone working a minimum wage job, but any salary seems like a lot to someone making way less).

  19. And to think we used to have to pay for chapels out of our pockets and local budgets were paid by members to the tune of 1% – 2% of their income.. Now we don’t pay for chapels, all the budget comes from headquarters, and we’re still going to complain about what stipends the GAs get. The next thing you know we’ll be complaining about having to clean our chapels or temples.

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    The Elder Eyring paystubs broke out an amount labelled “parsonage” that was not considered taxable, so I’m guessing that housing is included within the allowances and is not an add-on.

  21. John Mansfield says:

    The 19th Century LDS church’s economic activities were varied, so it can’t be taken as a given that its current income-generating assets can be traced to tithes. Perhaps some Leonard Arrington fan can say something informative on this. One of the more unusual church accounting teachings I’ve heard was about thirty years ago when Thomas Monson said in General Conference that the Lord is displeased when tithes are used to make up for a lack of fast offerings to serve the poor.

  22. “it might be hard to toss around rhetoric such that if one must choose between paying the rent or tithing, pay your tithing, between feeding your children or tithing, pay your tithing.”

    Add “If you have to choose between buying medicine to heal a sick child and paying your tithing, pay your tithing” to your list. This from the Bishop (a doctor at the local children’s hospital!) to the young men in our ward.

  23. It is all “red” money: donations to the Church. Whether the donations were made this year, last year, or 70 years ago, all of the investment income has donations in its genealogy. And it isn’t just GA salaries: the whole curia at 50 E N Temple (and elsewhere) is paid from red money.

  24. Thank you Paul Brown.

  25. brenttubbs says:

    I agree about the fungibility. But to the extent there is any distinction, I would *prefer* that they be paid out of tithing rather than for-profit earnings, for reasons of incentives. I would rather have the brethren feeling accountable to tithe payers than attending to the for-profit arms in order to ensure they keep getting paid.

  26. I feel like all of these rationales — including that they are taking a huge pay cut or that they’re paid far less than CEOs and heads of large non-profits — are far too earth-bound and frankly irrelevant as applied to a group of people who are called to model discipleship for all the world. I think that as part of that modeling function, communicating that discipleship does not guarantee an upper middle-class lifestyle and may chafe against it is probably a pretty valuable message, at least for those of us in the wealthy West. And yet, there’s also a part of me that sees how difficult the job is and feels like we’re already asking too much.

  27. NewlyHappy says:

    I think there is serious room for doublespeak and deception here, largely because my family and many rich folks I know pay their tithing with stocks they want to dump, literally, handing over their investments, so it’s even more savings for the wealthy because it saves to not actually pay dollar amounts on that income. The church pays out of their investments, and wealthy members are allowed to donate their investments as tithing. I have so little respect for the general leadership anymore. I feel at this point, it’s just attempts to deceive every time they address concerns.

  28. A concerned member says:

    I’ve read a lot of discussions about the salaries, and where they come from. But I think they miss the point. When I was called on a mission, I lived on a stipend of around $400 a month and lived in dumpy apartments. How can the general authorities (GA) need $9500 more per month?
    I also didn’t get the perks they get. Free college tuition for their kids, free private school for kids, free airline tickets for their children, free maids, free car, free gas, free health insurance, life insurance, free nice home, usually in the rich part of town, etc. (the list goes on, read the leaked mission president’s handbook, appendex B for more details). All tithing and tax free.
    I think this is a conversation we need to be having. When called as a GA, are they not to leave the world behind? Specifically all their money and “stuff”?
    With a little research in public records you learn most if not all, have multiple homes, some more than two. And the majority of these homes are very nice places. Who cares what a CEO makes. That has nothing to do with being called as a Witness of Christ.
    We know that there are LDS members who are starving to death. And somehow we can’t figure out how to help them, but we have no problem building a multi billion dollar mall. Something seems out of whack.
    How did the Lord live? How did He preach?
    Luke 18:
    20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.
    21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
    22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
    23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
    24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
    It is my understanding that when called as a GA, they are to leave the world behind, just as they instructed me when I was called as a missionary. I left it all behind, business and all. How come it seems they can’t?

  29. FWIW, the best explanation (albeit speculation) that I’ve heard is that some significant donations to the church are not tithes/offerings, but rather generous gifts such as donating a portion of one’s estate after death. The thinking is that the church’s for-profit activities only derive from such gifts, and not from tithes and fast offering. I’m dubious – and there’s no way to know considering the church’s closed financials – but that’s the best explanation I’ve heard.

  30. Also of note, the church appears to take the position that all donations are fungible. The following disclaimer appears at the bottom of donation slips:

    “Though reasonable efforts will be made to use donations as designated, all donations become the Church’s property and will be used at the Church’s sole discretion to further the Church’s overall mission.”

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    GAs are called to run what is in effect in size and complexity the equivalent of a Fortune 100 company, and so they are almost exclusively called from the professional class. By professional standards, their compensation is quite modest. But not everyone in the Church is herself a professional, and by the standards of, say, the working poor, the compensation may well look extravagant. There’s just an inherent difference of perspective there.

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    Dave K, I hadn’t thought about that disclaimer in this context, that’s an interesting insight.

  33. Kevin, I’m going out on a limb here but I seem to remember this disclaimer being added about 10 years ago after some former members sued the church trying to get their donations returned. Perhaps one of their claims was that their donations were not actually used as the church lead them to believe they would be used. Regardless, the current disclaimer seems to give the church authority to move money from any bucket to another.

    One other note on “buckets.” At the local level where I work the buckets do matter. For instance, donations to our ward missionary fund or to a specific missionary serving from our ward count towards our ward’s obligation to help pay for that missionary; donations to the general missionary fund do not. So our bishop at tithing settlement time wisely makes sure that his members understand which bucket to put their donations into.

  34. I know this is going to be a long, hard to read, ranty comment thread, but I wanted to add to it.

    We’ve had posts before on the different corporations that deal with money in the Church. This separation is one way I can see where the funds are made less fungible. I don’t know which handles what, but it’s not hard to make sure that funds only flow from the financial investment side to the tithing side. It is certainly hard to find trust that this is happening without some sort of transparency, but it’s not hard to imagine.

    It’s sometimes forgotten that there are plenty of other ways money is given to the Church that doesn’t involve Tithing and Fast Offering. It’s not been that long since we had that commercial come out that said people should donate to the Church in their wills if their children went astray (which was a truly thoughtless move).

  35. To answer your question about the pay your tithing over basic necessities rhetoric, I think we miss the point. Honestly, if you’ve got to decide between the two, you’re already long past the point of decision. Even if I make $10 dollars per day, I can budget as though I made $9. I appreciated Elder Bednar pointing out that the “miracle” doesn’t necessarily come from extra money. Often, I believe, the miracle is that in budgeting and planning this way, I find that I have enough to meet my needs.

    Kind of like, you don’t choose between paying FICA and rent/food.

  36. Those who say that tithing money isn’t paying GA’s probably sing a different tune when it comes to Planned Parenthood and tax dollars for abortion.

  37. GAs are called to run what is in effect in size and complexity the equivalent of a Fortune 100 company, and so they are almost exclusively called from the professional class. By professional standards, their compensation is quite modest. But not everyone in the Church is herself a professional, and by the standards of, say, the working poor, the compensation may well look extravagant. There’s just an inherent difference of perspective there.

    GAs usually are in their prime earning period when called, too. Nobody under 65 would ever serve as a full-time GA if they were required to self-fund. Below this age, eliminating pay for GAs would result in only the independently wealthy serving. When you consider where fortunes are made in the Jello Belt–i.e., disproportionately from businesses that engage routinely in fraudulent practices–you can see how this might be a problem. We already have enough of a problem with local leadership being drawn almost exclusively from the upper-middle and upper classes, and their responsibilities are in no way a full-time job.

  38. Those who say that tithing money isn’t paying GA’s probably sing a different tune when it comes to Planned Parenthood and tax dollars for abortion.

    Motivated cognition is a frustrating mess, isn’t it?

    Speaking as someone who works for what is probably both the most extensively and intensively regulated type of business in the United States–namely, an investor-owned utility in California–I am exquisitely aware of issues surrounding the fungibility of money. You may write a single check to the electric or gas company every month (do please switch to online bill pay), but all of the different line items on your bill have to be tracked meticulously and treated as though they’re the components of liquid rocket fuel. The money all comes from the same place ultimately–the customer/ratepayer–but which types of customers pay for what things and not for others is a matter of the utmost importance, and God help you if the Public Utilities Commission catches you being sloppy with it.

  39. Sorry, another tangent. I’m curious as to why only GA’s receive these payments. The church’s recent statement reads: “General Authorities leave their careers when they are called into full time Church service. When they do so, they focus all of their time on serving the Church, and are given a living allowance. The living allowance is uniform for all General Authorities.”

    This logic would seem to apply to many other full time general positions (I’m leaving out missionaries, bishops, RS Pres, etc. for now). Per the church’s website (https://www.lds.org/topics/church-organization/how-the-church-is-organized?lang=eng): “The General Authorities consist of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Presidency of the Seventy, the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric.” The General Auxiliary Presidencies – Primary, Relief Society, Sunday School, Young Men, and Young Women General Presidenies – are not included. Likewise, Area Authority 70s are excluded.

    It seems to me that these good brothers and sisters make just as much of a career sacrifice as do GAs. The only difference may be that their appointments are for a limited set period – often five years (at least in recent church history). Still, those are a lot of years to give up, it is not uncommon for such an appointment to effectively end one’s career, and even if one returns to a career, it would make just a much sense to pay these members for those years as it does to pay an 89-year-old President Monson.

    So I guess that what I’m really asking is why Sherri Dew was not given a living allowance for the 5 years in which she left her CEO position to serve full-time as a general auxiliary president.

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    Yes, that’s why I started to doubt my original fungibility of money position. Accounting firewalls are essential in Planned Parenthood for legal reasons; thanks for another great example with your investor-owned utility, APM.

  41. I think the main thrust is that the church doesn’t have a professional clergy. The closest are the CES instructors but they aren’t clergy and aren’t always well thought of. (Often unfairly) Pretty much all normal callings are volunteer with a lot of donated time. Some expenses are reimbursed but I suspect most are like me and donate a lot without submitted receipts for expenses. (I certainly don’t mine the stuff I’ve bought for scouts for instance) Once you move up to full time callings like Mission President or the like things get a lot trickier. First people are being told to give up years during their prime earning period, as others mentioned. Second they have fixed expenses like existing mortgages, debts like car payments and often kids near or about to start college or go on missions themselves.

    The point is though that people aren’t trained for this, are picked out of a wide variety of careers and serve the best they can by the spirit. Where I think the church made a mistake is in conflating this professionalism with being paid. (Although there are of course some scriptures in the Book of Mormon I suspect they’re trying to avoid dealing with) It’s not like this information is hidden. There have been lots of talks going through the details. However often GAs speak in a not entirely accurate generalization of “no paid clergy.” That’s just not true, even though I understand the point they’re trying to make. Some GAs, especially in recent decades, have been much more careful.

  42. Did I miss the leak that said Aux Presidencies don’t get an allowance? I keep seeing the assumption, but there seems to be a lack of evidence.

  43. I’m really curious to know if the church pays a living allowance to the RS, YW, and Primary general presidencies and board members, and how it compares to the male GAs…

  44. If the Church paid General Authorities nothing, they would still need to find a way to live while fulfilling their callings. One solution would be to pay them nothing and require them to give away all their worldly goods. The result would be that they would live off the charity of members. There would be no shortage of members willing to provide housing, meals, transportation, etc. for the General Authorities and their families. Their standard of living would be comparable to what they have now, if not higher, though it would not be uniform as some General Authorities would be more popular than others. Paying a uniform allowance is simpler and fairer and not prone to subtle pressures from individual wealthy donors or groups of donors. In that sense, the source of the funds could matter.

  45. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    Thinking out loud here.

    What is the modern-day equivalent of an apostle traveling and preaching without purse or scrip? For Brigham and Parley it was to travel the countryside and hope for a charitable meal and room/hayloft at the end of the day. It seemed to work out okay because it didn’t freak out the locals too much, and their missionary service was typically in spurts of several months or a few years. I am not familiar with how the apostle’s children and spouse would factor in, as I assume they remained at home during those extended assignments.

    So, in today’s world how do you work that when they stay on the job for several decades and return home to SLC consistently rather than remaining afield? Limit the field of candidates to those with enough financial security to get by for a few decades? No thanks. But today’s burden on the 12 and 70s does not lend itself to taking care of the planting and fishing on the side.

    I’ve heard criticism that supporting our permanent (until death or emeritus) authorities takes funds away from other good uses. But suppose for a moment that there was a box on the donation slip where members could specify how much they’d want to kick in to take care of dinner and housing for the General Authorities. My guess is that such an option would divert about 10x more funds away from temples/missionaries/ect than is currently allocated.

  46. Frank, the church’s statement says the payments are made to “General Authorities.” If payments are made to others, I’d like to see that evidence. Until then, I think its a safe assumption that that’s it. The church is very careful to make sure that AA 70s and Gen. Aux. Presidencies (and others) are not mistakenly referred to as “General Authorities.” I always caulked this up to the church’s need to limit who is ‘officially speaking’ for the whole church – something that only GAs can do. But it now seems to also matter to who gets paid.

  47. I wish the church would stop being weirdly coy about stuff like this and just be transparent. All the finances open.

  48. A concerned member says:

    “GAs are called to run what is in effect in size and complexity the equivalent of a Fortune 100 company, and so they are almost exclusively called from the professional class. By professional standards, their compensation is quite modest. But not everyone in the Church is herself a professional, and by the standards of, say, the working poor, the compensation may well look extravagant. There’s just an inherent difference of perspective there.”

    I’m still confused over all this. What did Jesus mean when He said:
    “SELL all that thou hast, and DISTRIBUTE UNTO THE POOR, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.”
    And how does this concept seem to only apply to “lowly” missionaries, and not a general authority? How are they exempt?

  49. A concerned member says:

    “What is the modern-day equivalent of an apostle traveling and preaching without purse or scrip? For Brigham and Parley it was to travel the countryside and hope for a charitable meal and room/hayloft at the end of the day. It seemed to work out okay because it didn’t freak out the locals too much, and their missionary service was typically in spurts of several months or a few years. I am not familiar with how the apostle’s children and spouse would factor in, as I assume they remained at home during those extended assignments.”

    That is the same question I am asking. What happened to traveling without purse or script?

  50. “concerned member” – that verse was to a “certain ruler” who asked what he should do to ensure a place in heaven, not to his apostles. We’ve no idea what means the Apostles had, for themselves or their families. Peter was only told to leave his nets, not sell the boats or business.

  51. Leo, if the purpose of the payments is to compensate for lost career earnings (the sole explanation given by the church), then why are the payments made long after retirement age? The justification makes some sense if an apostle is called at age 51 (as Elder Bednar was). But he’s now 64. Other recent apostles were in their early-mid 60s when called – basically retirement age. So the call didn’t deprive them of any earnings.

    Personally, I don’t have much of a problem with the payments. But so far the only reason given by the church is lost earnings, and that reason doesn’t fly for payments made post-retirement age, and it doesn’t explain why so many other full-time church positions are uncompensated when those members would otherwise be working.

  52. A concerned member - Bill Smith says:

    Sorry, don’t mean to over post, but here is a scriptural reference to the concept:
    Mark 6:
    7 And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;
    8 And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse:
    9 But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.

  53. Dave K – retirement is when you actually stop working. If you never stop working, you still get paid.

    At the rate my life is going, I’m never going to retire.

  54. Bill Smith says:

    ““concerned member” – that verse was to a “certain ruler” who asked what he should do to ensure a place in heaven, not to his apostles. We’ve no idea what means the Apostles had, for themselves or their families. Peter was only told to leave his nets, not sell the boats or business.”

    Hi Frank,
    Here is another scripture on the concept:
    D&C 24:
    18 And thou shalt take no purse nor scrip, neither staves, neither two coats, for the church shall give unto thee in the very hour what thou needest for food and for raiment, and for shoes and for money, and for scrip.

  55. Concerned, Bill,
    Again, this is only to what they should do in their missionary work, not speaking anything of what businesses or other income they had to care for their families.

  56. John Mansfield says:

    I looked up what Arrington wrote about a pet interest of mine, the Deseret Telegraph. (link) Before getting on to the Deseret Telegraph, he describes how the LDS church made $11,000 acting as a contractor to construct a portion of a transcontinental line. It appears that tithing did not play a role in capitalizing the Deseret Telegraph until a succesful profit opportunity was seen in extending the telegraph from St. George to Pioche. Other than the extension into Nevada, the telegraph mostly operated at a small loss, which Arrington writes was covered by general tithing funds, for the sake of providing a communications utility, with the LDS church as its main user. The LDS church sold it in 1900 for $10,000.

    Did that $10,000 come from tithing?

    The LDS church built 17 hospitals after World War II: Do those born in those hospitals or treated for catastrophic illness or injury owe their lives to the church? Is their subsequent income derived from tithing?

    Maybe someone else, versed in business, can tell us something about how Beneficial Financial Group was capitalized, or Bonneville Communications.

  57. Frank, not true. Everyone works. Some get paid for it. My mother’s worked her whole life, including now in retirement age, but has very rarely been paid. My father just retired (he and mom are on a mission now) and is working as hard as ever. I really don’t see why it need be any different for GAs. Just looking at the FP/Q12, is there any question in your mind that they would not suffer financial should the payments stop? Maybe if we were calling Guatemalan farmers to be apostles, sure. But 65 year old former lawyers?

    And none of that answers why other full-time church positions are uncompensated. When Elder Holland sits down to meet with the General Primary Presidency, why is he in the only being compensated? Heck, even his secretary gets paid.

  58. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    This is my opinion, and I’ve love to be more informed by those who understand the nuance of ancient language, but my sense is that traveling without purse and scrip was intended to be a temporary situation. It was suitable to continue the pattern off and on through life perhaps, but gospel adherents are also commanded to look to the care of their families. For example, see D&C 126 where Brigham is told:

    “Dear and well-beloved brother, Brigham Young, verily thus saith the Lord unto you: My servant Brigham, it is no more required at your hand to leave your family as in times past, for your offering is acceptable to me.
    I have seen your labor and toil in journeyings for my name.
    I therefore command you to send my word abroad, and take especial bcare of your family from this time, henceforth and forever. Amen.”

  59. You can’t really have a correlated worldwide church without a professional bureaucracy, which is the antithesis of “without purse or scrip.” Gut feeling tells me that the Church could be leaner, but I’m not sure how much, and I sincerely doubt anyone else here could say for certain.

    Nobody’s getting rich working for the Church, that’s to be sure. The question here seems to be whether permanent Church employees should be a bit uncomfortable. This is a perfectly acceptable state of affairs for churches with celibate clergy who have no dependents, but not so much for one in which marriage with children is mandatory for leaders.

  60. Wait, you have something that says the GPP doesn’t get paid, and that his secretary does?

  61. When I find this subject on Facebook, from people I know who are true believing mainstream Mormons, they invariably invoke the “I don’t care about this, I wish they got more” and also they usually invoke the “this isn’t paid by tithing money” caveat.

    These are also invariably the same Facebook “friends” who loudly proclaim that Planned Parenthood money is always fungible and thus no tax money should ever go to Planned Parenthood.

    Just an observation.

  62. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    I’m pretty sure that all of the church’s financial interests are based on seed money from the Mormon Battalion, so really, we’re all living on government cheese.

  63. “It’s not been that long since we had that commercial come out that said people should donate to the Church in their wills if their children went astray (which was a truly thoughtless move).”

    Seriously? Do you have a link? I don’t believe it.

  64. Elizabeth says:

    1. It was not news that the GA’s receive a living stipend. I’ve known that for years. Am I that unique?
    2. The guy who leaked the pay stubs has obviously obtained his desired results, this discussion makes that very clear.

  65. Bill Smith says:

    “Concerned, Bill,
    Again, this is only to what they should do in their missionary work, not speaking anything of what businesses or other income they had to care for their families.”
    Frank,
    Interesting. I never thought of it like that. But isn’t being called as an apostle a lifetime calling? In other words, are they not being called for life to do missionary work as “traveling elders”?
    I’m sorry, I’m having a hard time understanding how being called as an apostle is different than being called as a missionary. I somehow had it in my mind they were held to the same standards. And then I found out about the perks on top of the $120K+ stipends (free college tuition for kids, private school, airline tickets for kids, maids, car, gas, health insurance, life insurance, nice home, etc.)
    Or am I wrong? Are they executives with the lifestyle that comes with being one? The more I read, the more I’m finding I was completely wrong in my understanding of their position.
    I get even more confused when I read in the book of mormon scriptures like:
    Mosiah 18:
    24 And he also commanded them that the priests whom he had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support.
    26 And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God.
    Alma 30:
    32 Now Alma said unto him: Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people; for behold I have labored even from the commencement of the reign of the judges until now, with mine own hands for my support, notwithstanding my many travels round about the land to declare the word of God unto my people.
    33 And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time.
    34 And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?

  66. ” Nobody under 65 would ever serve as a full-time GA if they were required to self-fund.”

    I strongly dispute this. I’ve known several Q15 (including my great uncle and my cousin) and many 1Q70 members well enough to have dinner with them, travel with them, and hosted several overnight stays while living abroad, so I’ve gotten a little bit of a personal look, and my conclusion is that these men would serve for nothing, and in fact, would happily divest of everything they own in order to serve. To a person I’ve personally known (and therefore make the leap that it applies to all of them), they do not do it for the money.

    In my estimation there is a huge gray area and blending of what drives them: a true belief that what they are doing is the right thing, and the immeasurable gratification they get from the recognition, stature, respect, adulation. This is not a component to be overlooked. D&C 121:39 applies to these men just as much as it applies to the rest of us mere mortals.

    A silly hypothetical exercise would be instructive. Let’s offer the GA’s a choice, 1.) remain with their current calling, visibility, etc., but they get zero $ from the church. It all has to be self-funded; or 2.) Triple, quadruple their current financial situation (whatever it takes to match, or even improve on what they’d make in the private sector), but all their work is done outside the public view. Their names are no longer spoken, they do not appear in public, but they do continue to be in charge of guiding the church, anonymously and without credit. They get to be oracles whose inspired messages are carried by professional communicators. My bet is that for option 1 we would see no change, no drop off, nothing. For option 2, however, I think the attrition rate would be surprisingly high.

    It’s not about the money.

  67. I think the suggestion that “if the church would just open up its finances, that’d solve everything,” is ridiculous. Just think of all those mini-sleuths running through the books outing everything they thought suspicious or inappropriate. Think of all those complaining of the ointment that could have been sold to the poor. Think of the public outcry over all the land the church has purchased. Yes, it’d be a firestorm that would mostly pass and the church might be better for it (though I’m not convinced), but what a nasty ordeal. The indignity of answering each and every allegation from the dozens of Fred Kargers with their selective accounting wouldn’t do the church any good or forward its mission. If I were an apostle, I’d rather just not deal with it. I’d rather let everybody whine about the secrecy.

  68. A Happy Hubby says:

    One analogy would be if we still paid tithing “in kind”. So if I paid in corn, would it be meaningful to say, “we are giving corn to the GA’s, but not the corn donated. It is corn from the plants that sprouted after planting the donated corn.” It does not seem like it matters at all. You have made other good points.

    This does make me think about my contributions to the Perpetual Education Fund. There are some that say the way that is structured that the donations are plowed into investments and only the investment dividends are loaned out to those needing educational assistance. No donations go right to recipients. Of course none of us know for sure and only a small number of people in the COB know how it is actually done. I am not sure members would be so happy to hear “not one penny of what you donate will directly go to someone in need.” It made me stop contributing and put my money into Kiva loans for education. The church lost my trust.

    And your closing statement: “The Church needs to improve its forthrightness skills.” Amen. I am pulling back from the church for that very reason. I don’t feel I can trust the top leaders.

  69. I think, HDP, that misses the point a little. The issue is not whether certain people would do it for free; the issue is that without the stipend, there would be a very small subset of people that could do it for free. Essentially, if there was no stipend, you would be limited to calling only upwardly-mobile, entirely self-sufficient men to be GA’s. That’s been an issue in the past; the Leonard Arrington bio talks about him not liking the fact that the Church was only picking high-ranking authorities exclusively the moneyed-class as late as the ’60s.

    My father was called as a mission president when he was 41. He had 6 kids and one on the way. He was given a stipend, and we lived on it for three years. There’s no way that he could have been called without one.

  70. HDP: It’s not a question of doing it for the money, it’s a question of whether they would do it for no money. As mentioned by many posters, based on biography it’s reasonable to assume that $120k is be a sizable pay cut for most GAs, at least in the developed world. I suspect that only the independently wealthy would be willing to serve before retirement age if there were no compensation. Putting my economist hat on, this is where stated and revealed preferences probably diverge pretty strongly.

    The point about wanting the adulation and public respect is a sobering one, though. True Believing Mormons tend to treat Q15 in particular like gods; some of them seem to bear that a little more lightly than the others. I want to say it was Elder Holland who, in a GC talk, mentioned Pres. Faust warning him precisely about this.

  71. Essentially, if there was no stipend, you would be limited to calling only upwardly-mobile, entirely self-sufficient men to be GA’s.

    Exactly, jimbob–and in the Church in the US, particularly the Mormon Corridor, this disproportionately means men involved in MLM, fraudulent security (excuse me, “home automation”) firms, “dietary supplements” (read: snake oil), and so forth.

  72. Bill Smith says:

    It wasn’t my intention to post more than my first post.
    So this will be my last post aside from thanking those who I feel have thoughtful responses. I think this is an important conversation to have.
    In response to the OP’s question “Does the Source of GA Allowances Matter?”, I have to ask, do these sources influence those whom they support? Would another word be “sponsor”? Knowing what I do about politics and people in general, I find this situation more scary than knowing it came directly out of tithing.
    In response to Martin:
    “I think the suggestion that “if the church would just open up its finances, that’d solve everything,” is ridiculous.”
    I too think that those against the church could harm it if the books were opened. But at this point, I think the damage of not opening them up is much more. I don’t see how you can explain multi-billion dollar malls and other real estate projects while leaving a large portion of members starving to death, and 100’s if not thousands dying ( https://liahonachildren.org/ ). The argument at http://bycommonconsent.org/ is a strong one: “We seek complete transparency in all our financial affairs by following the Lord’s counsel that monies placed into His treasury shall “not be used, or taken out of the treasury, only by voice and common consent” (Doctrine and Covenants 104:71)”
    In response to jimbob:
    “The issue is not whether certain people would do it for free; the issue is that without the stipend, there would be a very small subset of people that could do it for free. Essentially, if there was no stipend, you would be limited to calling only upwardly-mobile, entirely self-sufficient men to be GA’s.”
    If we have to do stipends, they should be uniform throughout the church. The problem is, people are being treated differently than others, when there is “no respect of persons with God.”. Why does a GA get paid much more than a seminary teacher. How many seminary teachers get $120K+ stipends (free college tuition for kids, private school, airline tickets for kids, maids, car, gas, health insurance, life insurance, nice home, etc.)? And why is this so much more than the average wage of an American? So much excess. Its almost as if they have more money than what they know to do with, yet somehow can’t figure out how to feed our own.
    Again thank you for all your posts. And thank you OP for bringing this up.

  73. christiankimball says:

    A long thread and I’m late to the party! The OP is the first piece I’ve seen in the general region of GA allowances that is interesting (to me).
    My two cents:
    It’s all red. (Fungibility is a real thing.)
    Blue vs red is all psychological and reporting (nonsense), and the “out of financial investments” gets it backwards. If we’re going to have allowances (which I’m generally supportive of) they should be allowances not salary, they should be available to a much wider swath of church leaders, male and female, according to their need, and they should be justified or rationalized as out of tithing, out of contributions, out of “the Lord’s money.” If you can’t justify it that way, you shouldn’t do it.

  74. APM: Point well taken. But on a practical level, aren’t these individuals the ones already being called? I don’t know the answer, but I wonder how many of the top 1Q70 (in the Q15 recruiting pool) would be in a position where they couldn’t serve due to $? The ones I know would be able to give up their practices/businesses, but I don’t know if it’s a representative sample. But it seems to me we could already be there.

  75. On a more general note, I was originally perturbed at the leaked paychecks, but I think it has sparked a healthy discussion.

  76. faithful but sad says:

    It seems reasonable that full time authorities should be paid, including women.
    The problem is in how much, and all the accessories.

    I have particular knowledge about central and south america. A friend who became mission president there lived in a secure high rise in one of the very best parts of the city–but not within his mission. This is down the wrong path.

    Just a month ago I was traveling in one of these countries. One of the apostles was visiting. He stayed at one of the very best hotels in town. What does this say to church officials who went to meet him there? It clearly says “these are the things we seek after.” Doesnt matter the source of those funds. They came through the church.

    Now this apostle is a fine leader, but this path we are going down can only corrupt. Perhaps we are just in initial stages, but things have clearly changed since my youth. I can remember when church authorities, including apostles, would stay in members homes. What happened there?

    My brother served in Scotland on his mission in the early 60s. Bernard Brockbank was the MP. When he interviewed the elders he liked to ask them: “Now elder, what kind of car do I drive? I drive the very best kind of car– a cadillac. And what kind of Cadillac do I drive? The very best cadillac” I dont remember what kind of Cadillac that was (times have changed!.

    The point is that we have become much more comfortable with the ways of the world in just a few generations. I am certainly not saying we are fully apostate or corrupt, but I am saying that corrupting influences seem to be penetrating at the edges, and perhaps a bit deeper.

  77. “That is the same question I am asking. What happened to traveling without purse or script?”

    This isn’t really on topic, but that is the best argument I’ve heard against memorized missionary discussions.

  78. Mark B – look up “lds philanthropies inheritance” (sans quotes). A few ex-mo sites mentioned it. It was taken down shortly after it was noticed, but all in all a terrible idea.

  79. Great post! As a member of the Church, one of my concerns is that leaders show transparency and accountability in all that they say and do. Another concern in that leaders are not treated as monarchs and that members and leaders do not develop a pharisaic attitude. I wonder if some in the Church are not moving in that direction.

  80. On a different site, a commenter pointed out that a “Der Spiegel” article in 2007 says Uchtdorf lives off his pension, not an allowance from the church: “Uchtdorf, for example, lives off his Lufthansa pension. And he says he has no right to a house or other comforts in Salt Lake City. At most, apostles like him receive compensation for their travel costs.” So, maybe some of the wealthier GAs can forego the allowances.

    Also, to corroborate John Mansfield’s story from the 19th century, church funds are sometimes used to bail out it’s for-profit entities. From a 2012 Bloomberg article:

    “Besides having final say on major transactions, the church owns all of DMC’s shares. And each year the holding company, like all church businesses, donates 10 percent of its income to a church fund. In some cases money flows in the opposite direction, from the church’s treasury to the businesses. “From time to time, if there is a particular need, there would be some monies available, but fortunately over the years that has not been the case very often,” says McMullin. “If you have a particular reversal in an enterprise, you need to have some additional cash flow until you work through a difficult time. I’ll give you an example, we’re going through one right now: It’s called a recession.” McMullin declined to elaborate on whether the church has been bailing out subsidiaries.

    “Asking your prophet to fund a flailing business can be stressful. Sheri Dew, chief executive officer of the DMC subsidiary Deseret Book, pulled the publisher and distributor out of the red 10 years ago. It’s now profitable. “There’s, like, nothing worse on the planet than to go back to your owner and say, ‘Uh, we didn’t do what we told you we’d do,’ especially because one of the interesting things we deal with is that the owner is also an ecclesiastical leader whom we revere,” she says.”

  81. [bemused by the suggestion that 18 year old missionaries, who are basically being baby-sat by the Mission President, with no dependents or debts and minimal living expenses should receive the same stipend as a 40+ year old married family with both aging parents and children]

  82. @Sam Brunson, I agree with you on the fungibility of money. I also don’t have issue with leaders being pushed a “modest wage”. We could debate “modest” til were blue in the face, but we should leave that to the zealots on both sides of the issue to duke out.

    I feel your Red Cross example, though accurate, is incomplete. The Red Cross financials are much more transparent than the Church’s. GA’s also get a lot of perks for being GA’s. If Red Cross execs were showered with similar perks just for being charity execs, muckrakers would have their heads.

    (I loved your Dialogue article btw.)

  83. That should read “paid” not “pushed”. Stupid autocorrect

  84. Brother Sky says:

    HDP, I agree with you and others about the leak, transparency, etc. The church really could be smarter about getting ahead of some of this stuff. The issue this brings up for me, especially in light of questions about tuition for children, maids, etc., is about the essence of both discipleship and the difference between the gospel and church culture. We claim, constantly, that this church is modeled on Christ’s original church, a claim that is tested by how folks are defending the stipends and how many of us view the GAs. To be blunt, the equivalences that are drawn between corporate America and the GAs makes me uncomfortable, in part because I believe Christ would have nothing to do with the world of profit and business.

    I certainly agree that many necessary and good leaderships skills can be learned in a business setting and then applied to a church leadership calling. No problem there. But I do wonder just what to do with things like the original disciples being told not to worry about where their food and raiment came from and to have faith that they’ll be sustained if they simply do the work of the Lord. That seems not at all to do with “business culture” generally. I’m not naive enough to think that the GAs would be better off wandering about in robes on street corners, trying to spread the gospel that way, but that does seem to be the model, both in the early days of Christ’s church and the early days of the Restoration. Of course, technology, the internet, the proliferation of media etc. influence both how the church, a global enterprise, operates and how it thinks about what’s appropriate in terms of what a GA needs. But I do wonder about how much the gospel/culture line is being blurred here in order to justify what I see as a kind of business lifestyle. And yes, I know about the recent discussions on here about corporations and the church and I’m not trying to equate necessary hierarchies, organizations and resources with so-called “evil” corporate America. I’m just trying to figure out what the essence of discipleship really is and whether the current church leadership system is really getting at it. Can someone help me untangle all of this?

  85. On topic, I think the source of funds can matter, for the reasons discussed above by Steve Evans and many others, but in this case I would prefer the church not make such a distinction. There is a strong culture in the church that looks askance at paid clergy, but I see little doctrinal reason for it. Sure there are the BoM passages, and the filthy lucre in the New Testament, but I think it is reaasonable to say different times call for different measures. I don’t think that Alma’s church stewardship spanned an entire continent.

    I’d prefer for more clergy to be paid. Perhaps that way we could have local leaders who could afford to be better trained. I’d rather have my kids seek counsel from a trained and paid minister than the typical successful-businessman-turned-bishop.

    I am more bothered by the fact that we keep non-tithe payers from attending the weddings of their children than I am that we pay the men at the top, and I worry more about who we don’t pay (auxilary presidencies and local leaders) than who and how much we do pay.

  86. Brother Sky, a concern well articulated and very much shared by me. I think a middle ground in the debate is missing, and as of now those who question the current nexus of church leadership and materialism as sincerely as you do are too often written off as too idealistic for these modern times.

  87. There is a lesson here about the Church’s weak approach to public relations. The spokesman’s statement that Kevin quotes is a textbook example of a clarifying statement that creates new confusion. In response to the claim that tithing funds are not used for GA allowances, Kevin’s question is the natural one: “So what?” A public relations professional should anticipate this and draft the statement accordingly. But no one did that, so the statement is cryptic. The reference to tithing probably means almost nothing to outsiders (if they even know what tithing means to Mormons), and to insiders it raises the ton of questions in this thread.

    When the Church wants to be forthcoming in public relations, it can do that effectively. Unfortunately, the default mode for the Public Affairs Department seems to be a kind of siege mentality. Whenever there is a hint of controversy, Public Affairs slips into a fog of unresponsive or poorly-conceived non-answers. (See, for example, this column by a frustrated Ogden Standard-Examiner writer.) It’s unclear to me whether that’s better than the combative, self-righteous attitude of Public Affairs for a few years under the recently retired Michael Otterson, but both approaches are pretty poor.

    The Church will always have its critics. The question is whether parsing out the minimum possible amount of information is the best way to deal with controversy. I think it’s usually not. By seeming to obfuscate, the Church does nothing to appease its critics or please its allies. In Public Affairs, the Church would do better to focus on strengthening its friendships and its credibility, and the critics be damned.

  88. “Personally, I simply don’t accept the rhetoric we sometimes hear that if it’s between eating and tithing, pay your tithing. The miracles we hear about in those situations can be inspiring, but a miracle doesn’t always come. I think it’s irresponsible to tell people to pay tithing in lieu of the basic necessities of life.”
    My understanding is the counsel is you pay tithing first and then get assistance from the ward for the food–not to simply just pray for manna from heaven or some other miracle.

    I also agree that the phrase lay clergy is usually taught instead of lay LOCAL clergy. A huge difference and one I try hard to emphasize. I can’t tell you how many people are shocked when I make that distinction. Imagine how many are just now finding this out along with the dollar amount.

    This topic is sticky for many people. I have a cousin and friend who struggle due to their perceived perceptions of wealthy GAs. My cousin talks about a (now deceased) member of the 12 who drove around in a nice car when she saw him around SLC. I told her that most of these leaders were successful in business long before becoming GAs, and for many, it may even be a pay cut. For example, how much does a heart surgeon make annually vs. what they are being paid as members of the 12?

    Transparency does seem to be the answer. But will there ever be enough to silence critics? (as stated much more eloquently in previous posts)

  89. Clark Goble says:

    1. While I think some greater transparency is in order there are costs with that as well. Any mistake will be magnified a hundredfold by critics and used to undercut leadership. There will also be [i]a lot[/i] of second guessing of how the money is moved around. (Look at the controversy of the improvements in downtown SLC) As I said on balance I suspect it’s worth it but we should be aware that it’s not going to placate critics nor those struggling with testimonies. It may in fact make it worse.

    2. Scriptures have contexts. 1st century Jewish Palestine is not the 21st century Europe or United States. As Joseph Smith said Noah’s revelation to build a boat doesn’t mean that’s what we should do. What made sense for missionaries in 1st century Palestine or 19th century America doesn’t necessarily make sense today. Adjusting for changing circumstances is part of why we need modern prophets.

    3. So far as I know no one has established who gets allowances in the Church. We know of the apostles and to a more limited extent mission presidents. It doesn’t follow others don’t get similar treatment. Indeed if you stop and think about it most likely they did. Consider for instance Shari Dew who was unmarried and full time counselor in the General Relief Society for several years. You have to imagine that would require an allowance since she gave up her job. If she had an allowance almost certainly others did although that might be adjusted to whether they had significant income coming in via their spouse. Remember most GAs are old and came from a time when typically only one spouse worked. So for that generation they might have adjusted it accordingly. One would again assume that changes as the culture changes.

    4. Ultimately the issue is one of consecration. Are you willing to consecrate all to the church? The Lord doesn’t ask in a practical matter we do that beyond tithing and fast offerings. Yet the expectation is there that we do in principle. In practice we all certainly could do more, likely including many leaders who are far more spiritual and successful at it than I am. I think we’re a bit unduly quick to criticize the mistakes of fallible people in all this. Especially when, as with the Brother of Jared, the Lord leaves the details of how to implement his commands to us.

  90. On a related note, Leonard Arrington’s wish list for the church (written in a 1990’s journal entry) is worth a read:
    http://www.sltrib.com/blogs/faithblog/3991307-155/mormon-historian-leonard-arringtons-wish-list

    One of the practices he wished to stop was “Appointing the highest tithe payers to positions of leadership rather than the most capable or worthy. …”

    I don’t know if that was (is?) policy, or a general trend, or what, but my family has a long-running joke about the size of the McMansion in relation to the person’s calling…

  91. @BrotherSky: “I’m just trying to figure out what the essence of discipleship really is and whether the current church leadership system is really getting at it. Can someone help me untangle all of this?”

    Joseph Smith described discipleship as thus:
    Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation;

    Religions begin with an inspired leader whose confident vision opens new light and truth into the world. If there is no new vision then the religion won’t survive. But an original, inspired leader is difficult replicate. Within a short time, the founder’s work is overtaken by others. Their insecurities and fears leave them without the confidence once present at the foundation. Believers donate, and contributions aggregate. A new generation of believers begin to notice the wealth of their movement, and aspiring leaders who would never sacrifice their name, reputation, security and lives are drawn to management, seeking personal benefit from the institution. Bold claims become hollow echoes, and leaders’ insecurity results in defensive and protective steps. Instead of moving forward with inspired new light and truth, the established religion fears and fights against threatened losses.

    In our current situation, where full-time missionaries pay and full time general authorities get paid, well, Jesus described it:

    Matthew 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

    5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

    6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,

    7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

    But, as commentators said earlier, they might not be able to fill the GA jobs if they weren’t paid. I’m not sure if that is a rationalization or a condemnation.

    Today the church robs Peter (the members) to pay Paul (the GAs). In New Testament times neither Peter or Paul got paid. They were homeless bums, just as their master was:

    1 Corinthians 4:9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.
    10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor.
    11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless;
    12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;
    13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.

    The gifts of the Spirit seem to be absent, or minimally available. We find it easier to have faith not to be healed than to have faith to be healed. D&C 70 tells us why:

    14 Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.

    But maybe things are different now. Maybe preaching the gospel on a shoestring budget in the modern world just isn’t practical. On the other hand, youtube and blogging cost precisely zero senines, so maybe it’s even cheaper now than it was for Peter and Paul.

  92. Sorry that last comment was so long. I had a lot to get off my chest.

  93. BCC conscience says:

    At the risk of filling Peterson’s blog with comments from MINOs, liberals, and other lost causes….
    Here’s something people should consider…
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2017/01/two-quotations-relevant-matter-general-authority-stipends.html

  94. Sidebottom says:

    I can’t help but think of Franklin Richards passing by the Willie Handcart Company in his carriage and asking them for fresh meat for his entourage.

  95. @Dave K 

    Dave, you seem somewhat concerned about the explanation. I am not, and I’ll happily explain why. First, the heavy majority of General Authorities are General Authority Seventies, and they are typically called during what would otherwise be their peak earning years and are typically making a significant financial sacrifice by accepting a calling. Second, it is usual, customary, and only fair that those who reach some arbitrary retirement age but are expected to keep working do not have their compensation automatically cut off. We do not typically expect or require military officers, college presidents, college faculty, congressmen, mayors, governors, etc. who are past a given age to stop receiving remuneration if they are expected or required to keep working. This is also true in the private sector. Quite a few men keep working past an arbitrary retirement age. 37% of men 64-69 are still in the workforce, 24% for ages 70-74, 12% for 75+. Many accomplished older professionals do quite well as part-time consultants. So yes, they are still giving up opportunities, and they are also giving up a leisurely and carefree retirement for a demanding job where they are expected to die in the traces. I think most people understand that without the Church going into the detail I just did.

    The Church could set up a complicated system where pay was docked based on potential Social Security income, possible retirement assets, deductions for sick days, etc. as complicated as IRS and frequent flier rules. The current system is much better. It is simpler, fairer, and quite reasonable.

    General Authorities have the option of not collecting their allowance (and I have heard that some don’t) or collecting it and using the funds in charitable ways. I am personally, though accidentally, aware of a couple of instances of very large and unheralded financial charitable donations by General Authorities.

    Offhand, I can’t think of any full-time, permanent or seriously long-term Church positions that are required or expected to be uncompensated. Missions are relatively short term and typically don’t come in mid-career. Also, some missionaries do have their missions financed through the generosity of donors.

    No system of compensation or non-compensation will satisfy everyone and work best in all circumstances. The work requirements of a 15 million member world-wide Church are not simple, especially if we expect the Church to grow and function smoothly in a high-tech age. As pointed out by others, purely self-financing of positions would limit many Church positions to the well-heeled. Individual member donations for personal support (the equivalent of GoFundMe, a modern version of relying on the charity of your hearers for your meals and lodging) could become problematic in the modern context.

    The Church has a mix of volunteers (the backbone of the local church), a number of paid workers (CES, finance and administration, etc.), and a relatively small handful of paid full-time leaders. Glassdoor recently ranked the Church as a good employer for its paid workers, and I am glad this is so. All the General Authorities put in a lot of uncompensated hours before their callings. No group in the Church should be jealous or envious of another group. Regardless of our callings or lack of them, all the money that passes through our hands is ultimately the Lord’s. We are all accountable for what we do with it (see the charitable activities referenced above), and we can’t take it with us.

  96. Tithing money begets more tithing money so in reality any increase from any use/investment of tithing money is still tithing money and should be used exactly the same way the original tithing money was intended/supposed to have been used for. To illustrate this a cow herd begets more cows, NOT pigs or horses. If you want pigs you have to have a pig herd.
    In like manner if the G.A.s wanted investment money to line their own pockets they should have used money out of their own pockets to invest and kept the funds separate from The Church funds. No comingling.

    This was all shown to Mormon and Moroni by Christ how the Mormon Church would eventually become “polluted” because of money (that which will canker) by (“teachers”) leader (G.A.) “hypocrites.” Specifically check Mormon 8:38, compare verses 1; 33-41 and Moroni 10:27 for the end result Jesus will Personally question the G.A.s about their misuse of His tithing money and more.
    Many Mormons ass-u-me General Authorities upon death go straight to the arms of Jesus when it is more possible they go straight to spirit prison, do not pass go…

  97. Resolved: I need to start using KJV phrases like “in like manner” more often in everyday speech.

  98. John Mansfield says:

    The LDS church supports with tithes the education of thousands of university students. This investment of tithes in their education has a major impact on their future earnings. Are those earnings derived from tithing?

  99. John, I think the terminology is what is confusing here.

    When The Church uses tithing money to help with the education of others that is really a contribution not a direct investment of The Church to receive a direct return in money on the original tithing money.

    I suppose one may consider if the person benefiting is a good Mormon then their extra earnings, as a result of their increased education financed by The Church, will lead to increased tithing contributions based on the increase of the income of that individual. Over the years if that person does well financially The Church may actually receive more money back than they contributed. Amazing how genuinely helping other people can work well as opposed to the lavish lifestyles some of the G.A.s seem to be receiving from the widow’s mite.

    In directly answering your question, “Are those earnings derived from tithing?,” no they are not. Those earnings by the graduates are derived from the personal efforts of the person who was helped in their education.

    Even though your question seems logical and relevant it is actually comparing oranges to apples. There are scriptures that address tithing and other offerings and how, when, etc. they are collected and used and all of that needs to be followed strictly as the word of the Lord pertaining to His tithing. Word games will not get you to where you want to go eternally but strictly following the words of the Lord will.

  100. Clark Goble says:

    It seems to me those arguing against this tend to neglect the practical concerns of actually getting things done. I’d say that right now (to address the insinuation from Arrington or the common view that there are too many Stake Presidents from the upper income bracket) the problem is that the time/resources to do these callings are so great few others can do them. If anything, that’s because there’s not enough compensation to make up for that time. I just look at my own life. Would it be reasonable to become a Stake President? No, I honestly and earnestly just don’t remotely have enough time, have major family commitments due to children with some learning issues, and my business can’t spare me. Also my wife literally needs help with everything just to keep things going. Were I making $250,000 a year I could probably afford to hiring 3rd party cleaners, more babysitters, more tutors and so forth.

    Now that’s just a comparison example and obviously isn’t meant to explain all differences. However typically the farther up one goes, the more resources and time it takes. And frankly a bit of experience managing people or the like is extremely helpful. If you don’t have a professional clergy, then you have to ask how you get people who can do the jobs. Those who don’t want any compensation, while I understand it, have to explain how to do this. Vague appeals to YouTube suggests strong unfamiliarity of the responsibilities these people have.

  101. John Mansfield says:

    Jim, thanks for the effort to guide me to the path to eternal life; I can use it. I’m still not settled though on the extent to which the prosperity of an enterprise financed by tithing remains part of the tithing funds. Putting money in a bank doesn’t give the depositor a stake in property the bank finances. There are degrees of investment that are short of ownership and only give an investor a right to some amount of return on the investment and not all the profits of the business. I am wondering about the difference between the LDS church investing tithes in independent for-profit companies like General Motors and IBM versus investing in business enterprises it created itself like Beneficial Life Insurance or Bonneville Communications.

    Has anyone read A beneficial century, 1905-2005 : a centennial history of Beneficial Life Insurance Company and Beneficial Financial Group”? With the interest in the LDS church’s for-profit business arrangements demonstrated here, it seems someone must have. Google returns several pdf downloads at odd sites that I can’t access currently.

  102. @Clark Goble: All I’m saying is that preaching the gospel is cheap nowadays. Certainly running an enormous organization is very expensive, both in money and in the distraction it creates from preaching the gospel.

  103. The claim that the Church has an unpaid clergy hasn’t been true since Joseph Smith’s day. He got paid for his efforts leading the Church, and so have all the GAs since then. Yes, local leaders are unpaid, but at the general level, we definitely practice priestcraft, by strict BoM definition. Call it a “living allowance,” but $120,000 a year is pretty sweet. The order of Nehor is hard to kill.

  104. Four years ago, I was happy in the church. I didn’t know Joseph Smith was marrying other people’s wives while they dutifully served missions. I didn’t know that Brigham Young taught things like blood atonement or Adam-God theory. I didn’t know that the GA’s received stipends. I didn’t know that money earmarked on a tithing slip may or may not actually be earmarked the way I received revelation it ought to when I paid into the coffers. I didn’t know that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon with a seer stone and a top hat. I didn’t know that the Book of Abraham is not what is actually inscribed on the papyrus. The list goes on and on.

    I know we’ve discussed this all before, but the result is always the same. I grew up in the motherland, I am a seminary graduate, I attended BYU, I served a mission. So why did I only learn these things as an adult? The hardest part of it all is this feeling I cannot shake that I’m being played a fool. I don’t like that feeling.

    The Church has a choice now. Begin cleaning up the books and proactively make a choice to share them with the members (of which, only a few will actually be interested anyway). Or continue to retrench and wait for either someone to leak the finances (which they eventually will) or cave to mounting pressure to become more transparent, a la the end of polygamy and the end of the priesthood ban. Time will tell what choice they make.

    At work, before I hit send on an email, I always ask myself if there is anything in this email I would be embarrassed about if it went viral. I wonder if the leaders have acted likewise on these items.

    The mental gymnastics to be an apologist for the church are getting out of hand.

  105. Were I making $250,000 a year I could probably afford to be hiring 3rd party cleaners, more babysitters, more tutors and so forth.

    Just probably? Good heavens! What kind of standard of living must a Mormon achieve in order to begin affording things? No wonder everybody’s cool with apostles making six figures–they all aspire to make way more.

    I’m reminded of a class I took at the BYU on risk management. Each week an expert in the field would come and address the class. The only lecture I remember is the one by a life insurance salesman. “Now you college students may think $100,000 is a lot of money. But take me for example….” He then noted how much it would cost to sustain the same standard of living for his children that they currently enjoy after an early demise. According to these calculations, his policy would have to be for a few million dollars. It was then and there that I decided the way to go is to sell life insurance.

  106. Dunno if it’s been brought up (sorry, can’t read all the comments), but it appears that with the perks, freebies. and salary given to GAs, they’re pushing towards an upper-class lifestyle. Is that ok? Plenty of commenters here are ok with it. Are impoverished saints in third-world countries ok with that? Does that change the calculus of whether they decide to tithe?

    Attempting to appease outsider critics should never really be a priority for the church, but respecting tithe-paying members definitely should. I frankly feel the current approach is very patronizing.

    I doubt most Mormons outside the US are very sympathetic to the argument that GAs took a huge pay cut to work for the church full-time, if it still leaves them at this financial level.

    Anyway, it’s good this discussion is being had.

  107. Clark Goble says:

    Again Trevor what’s the alternative? (And whether it’s “upper class” depends upon where you see that cutoff — I don’t see $80,000 as upper class although there are some perks like grounds crews and security that some might see that way) Imagine you want to call someone who is already making $200,000 a year and has a $3,000 a month mortgage. Can you call them if they don’t get paid in some way?

    Peter, the issue isn’t sustaining ones lifestyle but whether one has to take a vow of poverty to accept a calling. If you think they should that’s fine. But what are the implications of that? How many people could take calling if they had to declare bankruptcy to accept the calling?

  108. John, I think the correct answer(s) could be found in your resources and especially the scriptures that are open to all.

    The most pertinent question to ask is, does The Church have any business in certain businesses The Church may find itself in as a conflict of interest or has nothing to do with the three fold mission of The Church?

    For example the City Creek Center Mall (C.C.C. Mall) was built by Church money, not a loan according to a Wall Street article of the time period it was built, so in reality The Church went into business as a competitor to other area Mormons who donated tithing money to The Church to finance the Mall in direct competition to their own business.

    Another conflict of interest and moral ethics would be the Beneficial Life Insurance Company (you mentioned) who no doubt made a lot of money selling Whole Life products. Anyone who has ever attended a Primerica opportunity meeting was instructed on how Whole Life Insurance is a “wealth robber” of the poor for the fast profit of the insurance company.

    Also The Church has counseled for decades to be “adequately insured” as pertaining to life insurance so is this a conflict of interest to own a major life insurance company too?

    Welfare farms are a good area for The Church to spend tithing money because this is an area that helps the poor in two ways in perfecting the Saints; it gives the poor (as well as others) opportunities to work towards a welfare project and it helps independently supply the food necessary to feed the poor.

    As for tithing money, or money derived from tithing money investments, being used to pay G.A.s perhaps a better system would be on the tithing slips there could be a line for Supporting The G.A.s Wages? In this way those who want to help support the G.A.s life style can do so out in the open.

    I do know there is a disclaimer statement on the tithing slip stating The Church reserves their right to move funds around so this is not an absolute solution either.

    What we actually have here is The Church conducting business in a similar fashion as the U.S. Federal Government. Even though the U.S. Constitution specifically forbids the Federal Government from entering into many areas of Society (Compare the 10th Amendment) perhaps half of what the Federal Government does it should not be doing. Likewise, the Mormon Church does a lot of things it should not be doing, especially with tithing money, according to the scriptures.

    There can be a lot of gray areas where government and The Church could be involved in which require a “judgment call.” Apparently a lot of Mormons are concerned about some judgments of the G.A.s or blogs like this one would not be so popular right now.

    Here is a historical fact about tithing money. About eight years ago (or so) when the C.C.C. Mall was being built (two billion dollars or so) the newer Church policy manuals came out and the new policies eliminated the ward and stake activities chairpersons along with the ward and stake activities budgets. That was $400 a year per ward and I do not know how much it was for the stakes per year.

    Obviously The Church knew the C.C.C. Mall was going to hurt The Church financially so they took actions to eliminate their liability to specifically fund the activities in all the wards and stakes. Also since the building of the C.C.C. Mall there has been times when The Church has cut back on, even cancelled plans already set for, building projects like meeting houses and temples. Obviously The Church spending money in places it probably shouldn’t have spent money in created circumstances that The Church had to cut back in areas they should be spending money.

    For all those who are concerned about what seems to be secret combinations in The Church you are only following a commandment of the Lord to “awake to a sense of your awful situation” (Ether 8:24). In case someone tries to claim this only pertains to nations (verse 25) remember The Church represents the Modern-day Nation of Israel with 15 million citizens, a President, a cabinet (the Twelve) without borders.

    Just one last thought: with the high level of life style the G.A.s have become accustomed to what do you think the chances are of ever having the United Order reestablished like was promised in the past? The G.A.s are the ones in control of reestablishing the United Order and it appears to me they have no intentions of sacrificing their current lifestyles to come down to earth with the rest of us.

  109. “How many people could take calling if they had to declare bankruptcy to accept the calling?

    http://lecturesonfaith.com/6/

    3 Having the assurance that they were pursuing a course which was agreeable to the will of God, they were enabled to take, not only the spoiling of their goods, and the wasting of their substance, joyfully, but also to suffer death in its most horrid forms; knowing, (not merely believing,) that when this earthly house of their tabernacle was dissolved, they had a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

    5 For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge: realizing, that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest; and be a partaker of the glory of God.

    We listen to the Q15 because we presume they speak the words of Christ, and that they are on a course agreeable to the will of God. If they are not willing “to lay down their all”, they don’t have actual knowledge, and if they don’t have actual knowledge, why should we listen to them?

  110. I had another thought about this last night. Doesn’t scripture instruct that the proper wage should be one senine of gold (or silver) a day? Maybe Sam Brunson can tell us what is the current interest-adjusted value of 365 senines in US currency.

  111. John Mansfield says:

    Jim, which specific scripture verses or passages are you thinking of regarding the LDS church’s involvement in commercial activities? One that comes to mind in asking the question is Section 124 regarding the Nauvoo House, “a house for boarding.”

  112. Anyone who has ever attended a Primerica opportunity meeting was instructed on how Whole Life Insurance is a “wealth robber” of the poor for the fast profit of the insurance company.

    I’m sorry, I stopped reading at “Primerica.”

  113. John, the better guide would be if the scriptures specifically don’t guide The Church into a particular business venture then The Church shouldn’t do it. In other words if the scriptures are silent don’t put words in the Lord’s mouth. This would obviously pertain to business ventures.

    APM, I am sorry too.

    Gentlemen, I have to leave now.

  114. “In other words if the scriptures are silent don’t put words in the Lord’s mouth”

    I’m sorry, but I had to laugh at this one. Did we forget we’re talking about the LDS Church, the one with Prophets? Y’know, for stuff that’s not in the Scriptures?

    Almost as good as the person who said “without purse or scrip” (not script) means missionaries shouldn’t have written discussions. fyi – script is paper money. purse is where coins are kept.

    I keep wondering why no one has yet come up with an “ex-mo” bingo card. There seem to be any number of re-iterations of the same arguments and gems like “mental gymnastics” and “the Church isn’t interpreting their own scriptures right”

  115. John Mansfield says:

    But Jim, you wrote above that the scriptures were open and would guide me on this matter, not your non-scriptural advice to not do anything that the scriptures don’t spell out. And now you’re leaving, leaving me with only the scriptures and their lacunae and no more of your advice.

  116. This isn’t going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back of my testimony. But I will say that both the post and this discussion make me feel odd as a mother struggling to raise a young family on around $25,000 a year that my husband works long hours at a physically demanding apprenticeship program to earn.

    Meanwhile we are literally hoping and praying that the new administration won’t take away our ACA health insurance before our next baby is born in a few months.

    You don’t need to look to the third world to find members who sacrifice a lot to faithfully scrape together that 10% every month. I don’t know quite what to think about all of the shrugging over the sum of 120,000 a year. I’m not suggesting it’s obscene, but…

    Maybe one day I won’t be flooded with hormones and spending a lot of long nights worrying about how close my little family is to the ragged edge. Maybe then I will be able to feel only warm and fuzzy feelings about how well we take care of these men who have dedicated their lives to the church in this most visible and public of ways.

  117. Clark Goble says:

    Lemuel you’re conflating being willing to do that with that being a wise course of action. Again you’re not really clarifying how things would work (which makes me think you recognize it wouldn’t as a practical matter). Now if you think the wisest course of action is for the church to demand anyone middle class or higher as a practical matter declare bankruptcy due to the typical level of debt in our economy that’s fine. To me if the church did that people really would wonder what’s going on.

    I’m not saying there might not be a case where that might be necessary. Heaven knows there were trials and tests like that in the early Church. However anyone remotely familiar with church history knows the problems that created. The question is unless there was an important reason to do that, why do it? In other words what are the benefits versus the costs. I just don’t see any benefits.

    Jim Kelly, can you point to a time when the church did what you think they should be doing? Especially during the life of Joseph Smith? If there is no such time (as there isn’t) doesn’t that provide compelling reasons to think that perhaps your own ideas are the problematic ones?

  118. LaLa, thank you for your comment.

  119. For entertainment value I’ll take a good old Amway pitch over a Primerica pitch any day.

  120. Clark, you’re right. The gospel isn’t practical. Or at least it never seems that way.

    I guess the question of how things would work is preceded by the question of what the goals are–President Monson’s oft-quoted story about the Cheshire cat and all that.

    It probably wouldn’t be a good idea for Church leaders to demand that people give their stuff away. How much of your stuff to give away is a difficult decision between you and the Lord.

    And for the leaders, how much of the Church’s money to take for themselves, if any, is a difficult decision between them and the Lord. We know what the result of that decision was for Benjamin, Alma, Jesus, and his apostles.

    I read the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, knowing I’m more like the rich man than Lazarus. I worry that I will receive the rich man’s reward, especially knowing that there are a lot of Lazaruses (Lazari?) among the LDS, especially outside of the US.

  121. After this discussion, I’m feeling convinced that a public accounting of compensation for the Church’s ecclesiastical authorities would be very healthy for the Church. I do not believe that the general authorities are outrageously overpaid, though I’m not sure what the ideal level of compensation is. They are paid more than a Catholic parish priest, Methodist minister, or Lutheran pastor, but their pay is comparable to that of an Episcopal priest in a large congregation or a demanding administrative role. Mormon general authorities are paid less than quite a few evangelical megachurch pastors.

    Of course, general authorities are paid more than most members of the LDS Church.

    Whatever the appropriate compensation might be, I think more openness will help identify the right level. Kevin’s original question illustrates this point well. Why would it make a difference that GA allowances do not come out of tithing funds? We just don’t know the answer to that. Apparently, it plays a part in the general authorities’ thinking, but it’s a real puzzle what its significance might be. The fact that the Church believes it is clarifying things by mentioning this point shows that they haven’t thought through the process of communicating this stuff. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, they should work out that process. I think they’ll find that periodic reports about how they make these decisions will improve the decisions and strengthen the Church’s credibility.

  122. Anon this time says:

    No one here has mentioned the senior missionaries who spend their retirement age and money to go on multiple missions. My parents are not wealthy, but they did pay off their home while raising 10 kids on a single income. They have been in full-time church service ever since retirement between going on 3 missions away from home, and putting in twice as much time with ward, stake, local missionary, plus temple assignments when they are home (often 70-80 hours per week). They would never dream of asking for a stipend for their service, but from my perspective, there is a class system operating where some people are paid for specialized service and others are expected to pay for the opportunity. Take a look at the list of senior missionary opportunities, and many of those jobs require specialized training for which regular industries would have to pay top dollar.
    In terms of service required, the living conditions and expectations of apostles vs. young missionaries is miles apart. What apostle would consent to being assigned a 24-hour/day companion, living in whatever accommodations are provided, perhaps including cockroaches, dirt floors, showering with a hose and bucket, and eating (with a happy face) any manner of diet that is provided. All while being told that not meeting quotas of talking to strangers and baptizing converts is an indication that you are not fully obedient and you have to try harder to qualify for the blessings of the Lord in your work. Oh yeah, young missionaries pay for the privilege and are told it will be the best two years of their life. (If you are one of these and happen to come home early while your BYU education is deferred, the deferment is cancelled and you have to reapply for admission and scholarships. I am not saying missions need to change, I am saying there is a caste system in place.

  123. it's a series of tubes says:

    All while being told that not meeting quotas of talking to strangers and baptizing converts is an indication that you are not fully obedient and you have to try harder to qualify for the blessings of the Lord in your work.

    You weren’t saying that missions need to change, but they certainly do at least as to this part.

  124. Clark Goble says:

    Lemuel, I’d disagree. I think the gospel is very practical. What God is trying to do often isn’t clear, but he expects his servants to do it in practical ways. I’d be the first to admit we don’t always live up to that. The idea that the Church is more a monastic order where actually doing and accomplishing things doesn’t matter seems alien to my view of the gospel. I think for all his mistakes Joseph Smith was earnestly trying to do the things God commands.

    To your later point we also know how much Brigham Young and Joseph Smith took and for that matter a reasonable amount about other figures as well. God asks different things of different people. Right now we don’t have implementations of the United Order quite the way Orderville or other experiments were organized. We don’t ask of new members to give up what was asked during the Nauvoo era. Things change and will continue to change.

  125. I wish there was a way to elevate LaLa’s comment to some sort of prominence. She manages to raise the level of discourse while lowering the level of theoretical hubris we are all infected with. This is the best I can do:

    LaLa says:
    January 13, 2017 at 11:50pm
    “This isn’t going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back of my testimony. But I will say that both the post and this discussion make me feel odd as a mother struggling to raise a young family on around $25,000 a year that my husband works long hours at a physically demanding apprenticeship program to earn.

    Meanwhile we are literally hoping and praying that the new administration won’t take away our ACA health insurance before our next baby is born in a few months.

    You don’t need to look to the third world to find members who sacrifice a lot to faithfully scrape together that 10% every month. I don’t know quite what to think about all of the shrugging over the sum of 120,000 a year. I’m not suggesting it’s obscene, but…

    Maybe one day I won’t be flooded with hormones and spending a lot of long nights worrying about how close my little family is to the ragged edge. Maybe then I will be able to feel only warm and fuzzy feelings about how well we take care of these men who have dedicated their lives to the church in this most visible and public of ways.”

  126. FYI The average compensation for a CEO of a Fortune 500 company is $10.5 Million These men are elite in every way. I venture to say not one of the whiners above work any where near as hard as these brotheren.

  127. @Frank Pellet: “Almost as good as the person who said “without purse or scrip” (not script) means missionaries shouldn’t have written discussions. fyi – script is paper money. purse is where coins are kept.”

    If you laughed, good for you: that was the point. It was a joke about an earlier typo. Just be careful or you’ll end up having to repent for your “loud laughter”.

  128. High Flyers says:

    My bigger concern is that the Church pays for first class fares (not business class or coach/economy) for GA’s and their wives on international travel. With so many around the world flying so much (think what one general conference amount must cost), and with so many people with so little, I find it hard to fathom that first class is the way the Lord’s servants should travel.

    And yep it’s real. A close relative is serving in a third world country right now and flies first class on the Church tab to the USA and also to his home country at breathtaking cost.

  129. Folks say it might be the case that GAs fly 1st class because they have so many upgrades from all their frequent flyer miles.

  130. There’s also the possibility that the Church gets a significant discount on its fares due to being a religious organization, but the appearance is as unseemly as Pope Benedict’s Prada shoes.

  131. Give us a thousand years, our GAs will be wearing ruby slippers and Mitres too.

  132. Geoff - Aus says:

    In Australia we are in the midst of a minor scandal with a cabinet minister resigning because of excessive use of entitlements. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-13/sussan-leys-time-in-the-office/8180824 And this is causing a rethink on how the system works.

    My parents joined the church in 1958 by 1960 my father, who was a carpenter and had 4 sons was on a building mission as a supervisor. They received an allowance designed to allow a retired American to survive. We were on that mission for 6 years, and by that time had sold our home and spent the money to survive. The programme changed and my father was employed by the church to manage the whole of LDS office including building, tithing etc for Australia, which he did with a secretary for many years until a bod came from SLC, found out he was a carpenter and offered him work back on the building site, and employed a business manager who had 100 people doing the same job within 5 years.
    My parents retired with no assets, and went on a senior mission, they still live off the Government pension and the small pension they receive from the time they were employed by the church.

    They sacrificed everything financially for the Church. It does not appear any sacrifice is required by this generous GAs allowance are paid.

    Apostles should not be life time callings 3 Nephi quotes the Lord as saying 72 is the retirement age.
    There is no comparison between a CEO and an Apostle, Senior Apostles can work minimal hours, They are nearly all retirement age. I suspect there are laws preventing 92 year olds from doing heart surgery. So If you have everything supplied except perhaps food and clothing, and you have no dependents how much do you need? Not $120 000a year. As LaLa says she can live on much less.

    Opening the church financial records, would also be an incentive to behave more modestly, and perhaps spend more on the needy. TRANSPERENCY = HONESTY

    The present hidden finances, half answers from public affairs, and no accountability is the perfect environment for corruption, why tempt them?

  133. Aussie Mormon says:

    “Apostles should not be life time callings 3 Nephi quotes the Lord as saying 72 is the retirement age.”
    The verse says “after that ye are seventy and two years old ye shall come unto me in my kingdom; and with me ye shall find rest.”
    It certainly looks like at 72 they’ll die, and hence it was a lifetime calling for them.

    ” So If you have everything supplied except perhaps food and clothing, and you have no dependents how much do you need? Not $120 000a year.”

    The leaked stubs show four items in the earnings column:
    Reimbursement (only there for one pay period)
    Child allowance
    Living allowance
    Parsonage
    With a stack of deductions in the deductions column.
    Presumably, if they don’t have a child at the time, the child allowance won’t be there.

    —-
    As an aside, based on the hand-written tithing annotation, it looks like that in 2000 Pres. Eyring paid his tithing on his gross rather than net income.

  134. A relevant question, I believe, is what happens to the excess (unspent) tithing amounts collected each year? To illustrate, assume $5 billion is collected in tithing in year 1, but only $3 billion is spent (constructing and maintaining buildings, etc.)? The numbers aren’t important (feel free to substitute your own) but I think we can all agree that a conservatively managed organization would not spend the entire amount collected each year. So what happens with the excess amounts (collected but not spent) year after year? I have my opinion, but I’d like to know what others think.

  135. Clark Goble says:

    It’s saved. One thing to keep in mind that as the church grows outside of the US, Europe, Canada and Australia (all wealthy areas) the other areas will take more and more money. I suspect conservatively that within my lifetime less than ¼ of members will be in the US but I bet they’ll still make up the majority of tithing. So future costs will depend upon us putting money away now to take care of the needs of these other saints.

  136. Clark, I’m not sure what you mean by “saved”. My wife found this article from 1991 published in the Deseret News. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/170647/LDS-CHURCH-REAL-ESTATE-HOLDINGS-INCLUDE-FARMS-RANCHES-BUILDINGS.html
    In it, John Creer, who directed the church’s Farm Management Co. at the time, seemed to equate “saving” to buying farmland. He said “the church buys farmland because it is a good place to put savings-account money. I think we look at it as any portfolio manager would. You take a portion of your reserve fund and put it in a tangible asset. Among the number of tangible assets that are available to choose from, our leadership is very comfortable with farmland.”

    I’m also not sure that I buy into your vision that the rest of the world will be a financial drag on (currently) wealthier areas. The world is developing very quickly. Also, I’ve not heard that it is Church policy to put away money to care for the needs of future saints. Interesting thoughts though; thanks for answering.

  137. Kevin Barney says:

    Unspent tithing is saved, as Clark says. As Fred says, the savings vehicle is not a bank savings account, but various types of active and passive investment. We should all count our blessings that this is so; back in the 50s the Church wasn’t saving anything, spent everything and more, and its deficit spending almost bankrupted the church.

    Personally, I don’t begrudge the Brethren flying first class. If I had to fly almost every weekend at that age I might seriously reconsider that whole being a GA thing…

  138. So if that is true, then isn’t there a big unaddressed (public policy?) issue surrounding fair competition?

    I realize that everything is legal under current law and that the profit-making businesses pay tax on their profits, but a competing business that has to raise its capital from banks has a higher cost of doing business and ultimately can’t compete with a business that has no (or a substantially lower) cost of capital.

    For example, let’s say independent farmer Jones takes out a $50 million loan, using $10 million to buy land and plant almond trees and $40 million as working capital to bring the trees to production, harvest the nuts, etc. During the first 4 years that the trees are growing and not producing marketable quantities of nuts (and for every year thereafter) Farmer Jones pays interest of at least $3.5 million (using a very conservative 7% interest rate).

    Now let’s say the adjacent parcel of land is owned by the Church, who contributed $50 million (“saved” tithing funds) to plant the same number of almond trees. Each year, the cost of producing the Church’s crop will be $3.5 million less than Farmer Jones’ cost. The $3.5 million (less taxes paid on it) can be used to buy more nearby farming land, buy more market share (by undercutting Jones’ pricing, etc. Over time, a small independent farmer like Jones has no chance to compete and may just decide to sell his farm to the Church.

    It seems to me that this (unfair competition) issue can exist in real estate and any other business funded by tax-free tithing dollars.

  139. Aussie Mormon says:

    Apple has around 240BILLION in cash just sitting around ( http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/25/apples-cash-hoard-now-nearly-238-billion.html). They are taxed. Being tax-free isn’t the only way to save money.

  140. High Flyers says:

    Might be flogging a dead horse here… but if a one way first class flight from Auckland or Sydney or Africa through to SLC is around $10000 each way. That’s 20k for a GA and another 20k for his wife. General conference is twice a year so we are at 80k in first class flights for those who have significant distances to travel. Throw in a trip home once or twice a year and they’re hitting 150k + per year for flights. That is an astronomical amount of money and frankly I begrudge that sort of spend.

    Does it diminish my faith in Christ or the restoration? No not at all. But does it make me question the policy decisions made around finances? Deeply.

    It doesn’t even make me resent paying tithing. I do that because I believe God has asked me to, regardless of how it is spent. But I see it as unjust and hypocritical that the dollars are spent like this.

  141. High Flyers says:

    If they can pay out that much money, why can’t we get the facilities folks to cough up for decent vacuum cleaners?

  142. Clark Goble says:

    High Fliers why do you assume that’s the price the church pays? They probably fly enough they could make special deals with airlines. Not saying they did mind you just that it’d make a lot of sense.

    Regarding savings, as Kevin said how you save and invest billions is different than we did. Pres. Tanner changed a lot of that in the 70s as Kevin alluded. Sometimes the investments can have multiple purposes as well such as the land the Church bought in the 90s around Jackson.

  143. Clark Goble says:

    Doesn’t each ward or stake determine what vacuums get bought? I confess I just bring my own while cleaning the chapel because the ones we have do truly suck. Or rather don’t suck.,.

  144. Anon for this says:

    I’m not sure where to tell this story, but maybe it fits here, a little. For our family, financially and otherwise, last year was pretty difficult. Every year we saw the watermark of adversity slowly rise, and in 2016, it flooded. Never before was our shopping so spare, our payments so minimal. It’s embarrassing to admit that such feelings of frugality and self-denial were so rare until this year. In a year that contained many terrible firsts, there two that apply here: food orders & missed tithing.

    So when the ladies in Relief Society crisply asserted that they have *always* paid their tithing, and paid it first, I couldn’t help but feel a little sting that I’m not a member of that club anymore. With Tithing Settlement looming, I grew more and more anxious. I had always declared “full”, and this year, the words “partial” would cross my lips, in front of my kids. In front of everyone. But it would have to be. There was not much for the bills or tithing, much less for Christmas.

    And then envelopes started arriving, delivered by strangers at night. “This is for you.” We couldn’t believe it. We could fix the car. We could buy a few presents. A few days before tithing settlement, one more envelope arrived. We looked inside, then looked at each other. We decided to pay our tithing. I really don’t know how much I owed, but it seemed right. So we took the envelope, and paid it right there at tithing settlement, declaring, “Full”.

    The odd thing was, declaring “full” did not feel like I thought it would. While it was satisfying for me to declare, I realized that being “full” was not for me to say. I thought about the word “partial”, and how I felt—and still feel—partial in almost every sense. I’m a partial soul, broken, hoping to be made whole. None of us can really say we are “full” anyway; that is not for us to say. Fullness—like grace—doesn’t come from our own declarations; it is what’s distilled upon us.

    If I may bring it back to one of the points of the OP, tithing is not such a cut-and-dried affair as we might think. It may be a requirement for a temple recommend, but paying it does not always guarantee that we are whole. Tithing money is sacred. Giving to the poor is also sacred. We are all partial.

    Lastly, I care less about how much a person makes, and more about who they know. If you don’t know any poor people, that’s a problem. If your lifestyle has eliminated any associations with those who struggle, this is wrong. If we insulate our meetings, conferences, activities, academia, etc., from the poor, then who will remind us of the beggar, and show a mirror to our faces?

  145. Clark

    Exactly what kind of discount do you think Delta is giving the Church on flights? I work for a Big 4 accounting firm so presumably with 150,000 employees our air spend is similar to the Church. The discount is barely noticeable. But if that $50 per flight makes it all ok in your eyes then that’s fine. Perhaps our notion of cost here is different. Again I’m not advocating against first class for an elderly couple that can use the space to retain their health, but it still seems like not entirely kosher either way.

    I think the best comparison here is what the Church asks of senior missionaries, which is a ton, compared to what they ask of themselves. Do what I say but not what I do is just not strong leadership.

    I think for a GA to disclose he doesn’t need the funds would be helpful disclosure. When CA elected The Terminator to governor, he worked for $1. It wasn’t a pretentious disclosure but helped us understand he was doing his part to be fiscally responsible. I understand Trump may do the same. Leadership by example is helpful when possible. If the other Apostles need the funds, then god bless them.

  146. Clark, good post backed up with facts. Nice.

  147. Sorry, my last post was meant for Chadwick.

  148. When I was in the MTC a General Authority, whose name I never kept track of, explained to us that the only members of the church living the law of consecration to its full extent were us full-time missionaries and the General Authorities. I took that to mean that what income and assets they (GAs) had went into a pot, like our missionary money, and was meted out as needed to support them. Should I take this to mean that that explanation was incorrect or that perhaps the source of the funds for this stipend come from some sort of consecration amongst the GAs. I’m left to wonder.