Lay Clergy in the Mormon Church

Among the unique aspects of the Mormon Church is the institution of a lay clergy. With the exception of a few leaders at the very top of the church’s hierarchy, almost all leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are lay clergy, without professional training or salary. I am unaware of any other Christian denomination¹ that relies so heavily on its rank and file to perform the functions necessary for worship and administration. I understand that certain early Methodist congregations would sometimes appoint a lay minister, who would receive some leadership training and ride in a circuit, preaching to different congregations; this is very similar to the Mormon tradition during the mid 1800’s. But in modern times the Mormon Church is relatively unique in this respect.²

What this means for a practicing Mormon is that he or she will almost always have some sort of church responsibility, usually referred to as “callings.” Per the recommendation of Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, even new members of the faith soon have duties commensurate with their level of experience or ability. Some of these callings involve practical necessities, such as cleaning a meeting house or helping disabled congregation members around the house. However, most callings involve an element of overseeing the spiritual well-being of other parishioners. For example, most active members of a Mormon congregation can expect to be called on to teach a Sunday School lesson or give a talk during Sunday services, as well as looking out for the needs of several other individuals or families in the congregation.

Sometimes I feel jealous of people who go to other churches, especially if I have to wake up for early Sunday meetings. My evangelical friends are very active in their congregations, and yet they don’t seem to spend so much time doing church things. On top of the standard three hours of Sunday services, many Mormons can expect meetings during the week, youth activities on weekends, and performing and receiving visits as part of the “home teaching” program of the church. Depending on one’s calling, Sunday may not be quite as relaxing as the label “Day of Rest” would seem to suggest.

I recently moved and changed congregations, necessitating my “release” from the calling I had been in charge of. Because my responsibility had been fairly time-consuming, I suddenly found myself with more time on my hands. And while I’ve appreciated the extra hours, I also miss taking part in the functions of the congregation. Though I may be jealous of my friends in other churches, I don’t actually want to give up the participatory nature of Mormon religion. It has its down sides, but it certainly helps me be less selfish and more inclined to help other people. I’m sure that things could be done much more effectively with a professional clergy, but that probably wouldn’t help me as much personally.

It’s only a matter of time before I am given a new calling in my new congregation. It might be to teach a Sunday School class or to pick up hymnals after meetings or to help members of the congregation find or upgrade their employment. Whatever the assignment, I’ll once again be part of the machinery that makes each congregation run. And as much as I would like to have a leisurely Sunday, it’s a part of my life that I need. It isn’t a perfect system, but hey, we’re not perfect people.

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1. The question of whether Mormonism is a Christian sect is another topic entirely. However, for the purposes of this discussion, let us loosely define “Christian” as any denomination that identifies with the Christian tradition.
2. I know Buddhism involves the laity in certain roles, but given Buddhism’s lack of rigid hierarchy, I think the comparison is only approximate.

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49 thoughts on “Lay Clergy in the Mormon Church

  1. I actually think it is a major weakness. The more distance I get from Mormonism, the more the idea of lay clergy is extremely distasteful to me.

    I feel like the LDS lay clergy is problematic in terms of the clargy-penitent relationship. In the end, your Bishop is just some guy in the ward. He’s not trained in grief counseling, he’s not trained in crisis management. More importantly, he doesn’t have the same motivation to keep strict confidentiality, and if he violates confidentiality, nothing will happen to him. That bothers me a great deal.

    Second, I think the callings in the LDS church are in theory a great idea, but in practice they are horrible. I agree that a person should have the chance to be actively involved in a congregation, to have a chance to help out and pitch in and carry the load together. However, in Mormonism I think there is just too much that gets done that doesn;t really have to get done. There are callings for the sake of callings and meetings for the sake of meetings (or to plan other meetings). The result is that everyone is so busy simply trying to carry out the programs of the ward that nobody has time to focus on the spiritual or to be a real community.

  2. I think that the level of volunteer involvement in the LDS church is quite admirable. It’s quite possible for Evangelicals to be just as wrapped up in volunteer service, but we have a saying that 10% of the people are doing 90% of the work. Among active LDS what do you think the ratio is?

    I think Kullervo has a good point when it comes to pastoral counseling. In fact, moments of pastoral abuse in the Protestant wing can usually be traced back to a lack of quality counseling training (I’m not talking about pastors in sin).

    I don’t know how much of service in the LDS church is “busy work” or work for the sake of work. But we had some LDS friends that just seemed exhausted by all they had to do. It seemed there was always some new little task that was being added to their plate.

  3. Like I said, it’s not a perfect system. The time-consuming aspect and the “meetings to plan meetings” phenomenon are always an issue. Mormon church leaders are advised to keep things short. In my area, congregation leaders do an admirable job at eliminating unnecessary meetings.

    Kullervo, I realize that you’ve probably had less-than-stellar experiences with LDS lay clergy in the past. I have too. But I wouldn’t agree that the principle of callings is horrible in practice. I think most of the programs in the LDS church do an admirable job at getting lazy guys like myself off our collective behinds. And generally speaking, the administrative tasks and the ecclesiastical responsibilities of each Mormon congregation get carried out fairly well. Having worked in both the state and federal governments, I can attest that this is no small feat for an unpaid work force.

    I also recognize several significant limitations to having lay clergy, specifically with respect to lay ecclesiastical leaders. However, I don’t necessarily agree that the fault lies in a lack of training for grief counseling or crisis management. Even though some counseling may be required, at its heart, the role of an ecclesiastical leader (be it priest, pastor, or bishop) is simply to watch over the spiritual development of the congregation. I don’t share all of your concerns with priest-penitent confidentiality, though I agree they are potential problems. But is the prospect of continued employment really such an influential factor in the confidentiality of professional clergy members? And what consequences (legal, ecclesiastical, or otherwise) does a professional pastor face if he or she breaches confidentiality that a Mormon bishop wouldn’t face? I definitely see some issues, but I guess I don’t find them so alarming.

    I don’t want to come off sounding like a cheerleader for laity. It definitely has its drawbacks. However, there are down sides to having a professional clergy, and I do appreciate the way laity encourages community and personal development.

    Dando — that is an excellent question. I suspect that the ratio is better than 10% doing 90%, but it’s certainly not 100% doing 100%. Maybe it’s a third doing two thirds, or a quarter doing three quarters of the work. I don’t have a very good sense of the actual numbers, but some people definitely carry more responsibilities than others. Clearly, both Mormonism and Evangelicalism have yet to solve the collective action problem. 🙂

  4. When I heard the quote, it was “20% of the cows give 80% of the milk.” Anyway, it seems to hold true in many wards.

    What a new member (and some veterans) needs to keep in mind is that there is a huge amount to do in this religion. You’ll never be able to do it all. Be a bit more selective, and learn to turn things down if it’s too much.

    With all of its drawbacks however, I’ve found that the “active Mormons” are intensely proud of their lay ministry. Maybe its a macho thing that we get to lord over all those other “sissy religions.” (I say that tongue firmly in-cheek)

    Whether all this work jives with you really depends on how seriously you take the religion, what your personality is, and how otherwise burdened you already are. It also depends on the ward as well.

  5. I think it would be interesting to see a performance comparison between Mormonism’s lay clergy and the professional clergy of other religions – rates of abuse, “customer satisfaction,” etc.

    It would be pretty hard to get such data. But it would be interesting.

  6. The pastoral staff at my church has been big on emphasizing that everyone in the congregation is a minister and that their job is to equip us to go out and do the work of the church. Volunteers play a big part in our church (much bigger than most EV churches), but even though our congregation has grown 250%x in the last 2 years the congregation’s general volunteerism hasn’t grown at the same rate as attendance.

    What a new member (and some veterans) needs to keep in mind is that there is a huge amount to do in this religion. You’ll never be able to do it all. Be a bit more selective, and learn to turn things down if it’s too much.

    This is SO true. I constantly have to remind myself that there are LOTS of good things to be involved in, but I can’t do them all (and no one should expect me to).

  7. But is the prospect of continued employment really such an influential factor in the confidentiality of professional clergy members? And what consequences (legal, ecclesiastical, or otherwise) does a professional pastor face if he or she breaches confidentiality that a Mormon bishop wouldn’t face? I definitely see some issues, but I guess I don’t find them so alarming.

    Is the prospect of continued employment really such an influential factor in the confidentiality of professional attorneys? Of course it is, and a lot more. It’s more than just “the threat of losing your job.” Being disbarred means you can’t even practice your profession, and you recuse yourself in shame. Like having your medical license revoked. It means the thing you do- or in a very real sense the person you are- is taken away from you.

    Mormon clergy violate confidence all the time. If you’ve ever sat in PEC, they discuss all kinds of things with pretty much the entire ward leadership. And anything serious will be reported to the stake president.

    In traditions with an ordained professional clergy, if that happened, they would find themselves defrocked. That’s the clergy version of disbarred, and it means a whole lot more than just being released from a calling.

    For Mormon clergy, the calling is a serious thing, but it is temporary, and it is secondary.

    In fact, the secondariness of Mormon clergy is something else that bothers me. Bishops have to balance their career, their family, and their clergy position. When you call on the bishop, you’re intruding. You’re imposing. He may help you gladly and sacrifice his time gladly, but you’re still making him make a sacrifice.

    When you call on professional clergy, taking time to help you with whatever your problem is _is their job_. It’s what they do. You’re not imposing at all. You’re not robbing them of the few precious hours that they would otherwise get to spend with their wife and kids. This may not seem like a big deal to a Mormon for whom it is the usual state of affairs, but looking from the outside in, it seems really unreasonable. It sucks for the bishop, and it subtly dissuades the member from seeking out help.

    Don’t get me wrong- I have known some really dynamite LDS bishops, real men of God. But I think the lay clergy situation is rife with potential and actual problems.

  8. Kullervo,

    I agree. I think this is an area that Mormonism could stand some improvement in. I guess I just see the solution more as one of dropping the hammer on bishops who blab, rather than instituting a professional clergy.

  9. I’m not saying that lay clergy is irredeemably horrible; just that I don’t personally care for it, and I think there are serious actual and potential problems.

    I think it would be great if there was some way to get bishops to keep confidences better, but I’m afraid the whole priesthood leadership in the LDS church is based on communication, and imposing a more strict sense of confidentiality would disrupt how the church works.

  10. Interesting. In my admittedly brief experience with bishoprics, not once have I heard anything that I thought was a breach of confidentiality. In fact, when some disclosure of information was necessary, the bishops were discrete and gave no more information than necessary. Perhaps our perspectives are largely a product of our experiences.

    As far as imposing on a bishop’s time, I almost see that as a plus! If you know you might be intruding on someone’s family life, it might make you ask yourself if it’s important to talk to them. I guess it may deter some people unnecessarily, but if the discussion can wait until later, I think that may be more efficient. Also, if a Mormon bishop is so busy, he’s got counselors and other leaders in the congregation to help with the work load. That’s one factor that helps balance the load.

  11. It was a surprise to me to get outside of Mormonism and see how strictly confidences are often held. In my experience, professional clergy have a tendency to err vastly on the side of caution when it comes to things you tell them- they assume what they have been told is confidential, often even if you tell them otherwise.

    You wouldn’t necessarily recognize many things as a breach of confidentiality because as a Mormon, your expectations of confidentiality are a plus.

    And I definitely don;t see how imposing is a plus. He’s your clergyman- he’s supposed to be there for you spiritually, otherwise he’s not much of a shepherd. for the important things and the unimportant things.

  12. While I don’t know that I feel _as_ strongly as Kullervo about the issue, since leaving Mormonism, I too have realized some concerns about the confidentiality of Mormon clergy–mostly due to an experience that we had here.

    Our nanny is a member of the local ward. She’s wonderful. I adore her. (That’s my prelude lol.)

    One of the two times that the former bishop (when he was still bishop) came to visit us, we were talking about how great my nanny is, when he mentioned that she’d recently been to the hospital. She hadn’t mentioned it to me, so I was obviously concerned. He then went into more detail than I was comfortable with regarding her health problems.

    Now, this bothered me on so many levels. My nanny had clearly had health problems that she hadn’t discussed with my husband and I, and we’d heard it from a third party–who we had only met one other time in our lives! He made it sound pretty serious, too.

    Kullervo and I approached our nanny and told her what had happened, and she mentioned that she had not said that the bishop could go around discussing the health problems (that were not nearly as serious as he made out). Especially since she had not discussed them in-depth with her son.

    I think that, more than anything, really affected the way I thought about the lay clergy. I think before I hadn’t thought about it because I never told a bishop anything in confidence.

  13. It’s interesting to note that the “clergy” in the New Testament was an unpaid lay clergy. They didn’t preach the word of God for “filthy lucre” and they weren’t the scholars and trained ministers of the time – they were mere fishermen and others who were often looked down on.

    Giving everyone a chance to work in different positions improves everyone. I always get much more out of a lesson/sermon when I’m the one who has to prepare it. I also have to face my fears and leave my comfort zone. And when we had our twins two years ago, we turned down a calling or two to help keep a good balance in life.

    Bishops are not perfect and they are not trained counselors, but I have witnessed the inspiration of God come through several Bishops that has been worth much more to me than any amount of human-originated grief training would have been.

    And when they do show their imperfections, it gives me a chance to forgive in a difficult time and be honest with myself that I’m also imperfect. These have been extremely valuable lessons learned when I decide to learn them instead of running away offended or bitter. These situations have been at the cause of much of the growth I have experienced in my life.

    I’ve been under imperfect leaders and I’ve been an imperfect leader and I see how being in both positions has helped me to progress as a human being in learning not to judge, to stand up for myself, and to apologize when appropriate.

  14. Actually, now that I’ve thought about it, I don’t think you missed the point at all. From what I’ve gathered in your posts, your an offended ex-mormon. Your response makes sense in that context. Sorry for the mistake.

  15. Ouch–rcronk… Kullervo isn’t an ‘offended ex-mormon’. He’s not offended–he sees flaws in the Church.

    Do you see any flaws in the Church?

    His point with his last statement is his pet peeve that members of the Church often refuse to recognize flaws or faults in the Church, and therefore turn everything that is a legitimate concern about the Church into the reason why it’s actually good.

    While I think there is value in seeing the good in bad situations, I think there is also value in recognizing the potential for bad situations in bad situations. That doesn’t mean that you don’t support it or work through it, but that you (general you) can look objectively at things. Even things as important as church.

    Without that, aren’t we all just God-robots?

  16. Fair enough. I apologize to Kullervo if I got that wrong – that’s just what it seemed like given his tone and his completely ignoring that there might be any validity in what I’ve said – which is all I have to go off of in making that judgement.

    I certainly see flaws in the people who belong to the church. When we say “the church” I assume that it means the organization of the church.

    The church’s organization has progressed through time and so that would imply that it’s not perfect either – fair enough. However, I think every example I’ve ever heard of people complaining about “the church” really boils down to some individual (or two) being a jerk in some way, someone getting offended by that instead of forgiving, and then leaving. That’s certainly their right, but I’ve found that game-plan to be detrimental to my own progress in my own life.

    The main purposes of “the church” are to give people a place to interact in the context of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, receive the ordinances of His Gospel, and carry the message of His gospel to others. The point of doing this is to lift each other when we’re down, help us remember where we’ve been, and help us all become a little more Christlike each week. That involves bringing together a bunch of broken people (just like any other group or religion) and trying to work through the good times and the bad times. During that exercise, there will be bumps and bruises and sometimes dismemberment (no pun intended) and we can forgive and make course corrections or we can run away from the exercise. I have found a lot of joy and progress amidst my own bruises and good times in the church and I have seen how sticking to it and working through the issues and forgiving other imperfect people and seeking forgiveness for my own weaknesses has made me a much better person than I used to be. And that’s one goal – to become a better person.

    As I said before, certainly adjustments have been made to the organization of the church as needed, but I’m not usually involved with that and so I tend to focus on how I can improve myself to function in whatever circumstance I’m in instead of moaning about how this person or part of the organization is broken and then walking away from it.

    Of course, not walking away partly comes from knowing through the Spirit of God that this is the church that Christ organized Himself – with the same organization He set up 2000 years ago. Perhaps if a person has a witness of this fact, they will turn a blind eye to problems instead of working through them or improving them, and I think that’s wrong too – good thing they’re not in charge. We probably agree on that one.

    Another part of my point was that the way the LDS church is set up is Biblical. No “filthy lucre” – to prevent love of money from coming into the picture – 12 apostles, seventies, lay clergy – not professional clergy, etc. I am amazed at how often people ignore those similarities.

  17. Rcronk–you do know that once you rise higher in the ranks than stake president you DO get paid, right? The Church calls it a ‘stipend’…. but what it boils down to is a salary. That’s fine and all–it’s people who are doing work for the church full time. But it’s NOT a completely unpaid clergy. It’s an unpaid local clergy. And that’s not a fact that’s advertised (I didn’t realize it until years after I’d joined the church, actually).

  18. katyjane-

    Well, kind of. Many General Authorities don’t receive any stipend, and live off of their retirement/pension funds. And even for those who do draw a “stipend,” it essentially amounts to providing housing, a car, and covering travel expenses.

    They receive no cash stipend for their preaching and administrative duties, though, and thus they are, in fact, an unpaid clergy.

    rcronk-

    That said, I don’t think that an unpaid clergy qualifies as “evidence” for the LDS Church being “Biblical.”

  19. It’s just one of those ignored facts, that’s all. And good points on the details of GA money. My mission president was in the fifth quorum of seventy and had a full time job since he wasn’t paid by the church. Anyway, I think the point has been made.

  20. So, Christopher and rcronk…

    If they don’t receive anything but a stipend, and must live off of their retirement income, does that mean that you can only be called to those callings if you’re wealthy?

    Because someone without retirement income wouldn’t have anything to live off of….

  21. If a person has not been thoughtful, and has not saved money for retirement, they probably don’t have the wisdom or insight to be qualified for those callings. Lots of middle class people and even lower class have saved money for their retirements. Just because you have saved enough money for your retirement, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re “wealthy”

  22. I will admit that there are some people who have had truly difficult lives, and sometimes there are medical catastrophes and things like that, but, most of the time, if you reach retirement age and you don’t have any money–you have not lived prudently.

  23. “Well, kind of. Many General Authorities don’t receive any stipend, and live off of their retirement/pension funds. And even for those who do draw a “stipend,” it essentially amounts to providing housing, a car, and covering travel expenses.

    They receive no cash stipend for their preaching and administrative duties, though, and thus they are, in fact, an unpaid clergy.”

    Sure about that? Say, Christopher, how big of a “stipend” do they get?

  24. Yes, I am sure about that. I don’t know how big of a stipend they, outside of knowing that many have a home and a car provided for them and their Church-related travel expenses covered.

  25. Lisa,

    I think it is rude and unfair to judge people who don’t have retirement income. You don’t know their circumstances.

    If you’re saving up for retirement, that’s great. And be glad that you have that opportunity and don’t have to spend every penny you have feeding your family. Be grateful and don’t judge others who aren’t blessed with as much as you.

    Also, spiritual wisdom and financial wisdom are NOWHERE NEAR the same thing. I know many people who are financial wizards but are spiritually devoid. Likewise, I know people who have the sweetest spirits you’ll ever see but just never did well with money.

  26. If you don’t know how much they get, how can you possibly know how much it is?

    The dollar amount on that stipend is a closely guarded bit of information. AFAIK, the latest hard data on the subject puts the Twelve as getting 60-80 thousand in 1984.

  27. katyjane,

    Yeah, but it’s classic Calvinist/Puritan garbage (the rich are rich because they are righteous and have been blessed by God) that has infected Mormon thought since the Church’s inception. The idea is deeply-rooted in Mormonism to this day.

    People might not come out and say it- in fact, they might outright deny it, but it’s an attitude that is extremely prevalent in Mormonism. It’s also an attitude that in my opinion is completely out of harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  28. You know, katyjane, it is not from my religious background that I have gained this insight. It is from my Aunt, a DEEPLY religious Christian woman. She is every bit as much a Christian woman as you are. She was married to her first husband, also a Christian, for fifty years. After he died, two or three years later, she had the opportunity to remarry another man. She told me that she had checked out his financial background, and that he was ok, they were both drawing up prenups to protect their assets for their own children from their previous marriages. (They were both widowed.) She told me that, there was no way she would ever get married to a man with no money, and that, at her age, anyone who didn’t have at least some money, “there is something wrong with them.” I happen to agree with her. Again, I repeat, just because you have enough money for retirement DOES NOT mean you are wealthy. I think you are determined to nitpick. You have left the Church, and you cannot see ANYTHING good about it. I know, I’ve been there. I left my religion at 21, and I felt the same way. Give it a few years. I think both you and kullervo are both young, in your 20’s I think. I’m in my 40’s, and I have seen and experienced things about life that you have no idea about. We all have choices in this life. You have made yours, and I wish you well with it. But others have made theirs, and they do deserve some respect, regardless of whether or not you happen to agree with them.

  29. Don’t bother to reply, because I will not check this website again. I have better things to do than waste my time talking to people like both of you.

  30. Dando,

    See what I mean? This is what I was telling you in my first post! Two prime examples of loving, caring, Evangelical Christians! And you wonder why I left, after enduring twenty years of this GARBAGE! Just keep on going Dando–with all this loving and caring, you’ll have loved the Mormons into Christ’s kingdom in no time!

  31. Lisa–I do not consider myself an Evangelical Christian. And I am loving and caring as a person–for poor people as well as rich. 😉 And I have no tolerance for people who make assumptions and generalizations about all people.

    Also, I’m not nitpicking. I do think that it is outrageous for you to assume that a single woman who is raising her children on the wages that she can, but who is spending all of her money on rent and food for her family should also find the money to put it away. Where do you propose that she gets this money? Should she make her kids eat ramen for dinner?

  32. Also, just because someone is “DEEPLY religious doesn’t mean that they are doing everything right. Aren’t we all sinners?

  33. Back to lay clergy…

    More information about the stipend – http://www.fairwiki.org/index.php/Paid_clergy

    “Some members of the Church are unaware that at least some general authorities do receive a modest living stipend. However, a call to serve as a general authority usually comes later in life, and none of these men has depended upon their Church service for their “career” or “income.” And, given the high calibre and accomplishment of those called to full-time service, it is unreasonable to expect that they couldn’t make much more money (with less trouble) in some other field of endeavor.

    The fact that this stipend exists has not been hidden. As President Hinckley noted in General Conference:

    Merchandising interests are an outgrowth of the cooperative movement which existed among our people in pioneer times. The Church has maintained certain real estate holdings, particularly those contiguous to Temple Square, to help preserve the beauty and the integrity of the core of the city. All of these commercial properties are tax-paying entities.
    I repeat, the combined income from all of these business interests is relatively small and would not keep the work going for longer than a very brief period.
    I should like to add, parenthetically for your information, that the living allowances given the General Authorities, which are very modest in comparison with executive compensation in industry and the professions, come from this business income and not from the tithing of the people.”

    And as has been mentioned before, these living expenses are paid the same regardless of how much success the church has or how much preaching a general authority, so it can’t become a source of motivation. Heck – some of the general authorities were lawyers and doctors (heart surgeons) before they became general authorities. What terrible career choices! 🙂

  34. The stipend isn’t hidden, but the amount of the stipend is hidden. Reassurances that “it isn’t very much” aren’t very reassuring. The difference between receiving a stipend and being paid a salary are semantic at best.

  35. True – I’m currently poking around to see if I can find an amount. Here’s one comment:

    “Some General Authorities of the Church (include Presidents of the Church) receive living allowances, depending upon their personal financial condition (i.e., need based). For example, a General Authority who is a retired business executive and independently wealthy would receive no allowance. On the other hand, a school teacher called into service before retirement age, might receive a small stipend to allow him to feed his family. Unlike local leaders, who maintain their normal vocations while serving in Church assignments, General Authorities set aside their careers to devote their full time to the ministry of their office. The living allowance given General Authorities rarely if ever equals the earnings they sacrifice to serve full-time in the Church.” – http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/qa/28.htm

    “The church has no salaried ministry; however, general authorities who demonstrate need receive stipends from the church, using income from church-owned investments.[92] All area and local authorities are unpaid and continue in their normal occupations while serving in leadership positions.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints

    I also heard that it used to be a set amount but it was changed to a variable amount and the amounts went down because of this change. That’s to be taken with a grain of salt as I have to reference for it.

    “In the Wall Street Journal, Nov. 9, 1983, the salary given to a Seventy (second tier of LDS General Authorities, lower than an Apostle) was reported to be $40,000.”

    Anyway, it’s apparent that the vast majority (myself included) don’t receive anything at all and about a hundred receive a stipend that is unrelated to their amount of service or membership amounts. It probably would help if they just published the amounts, but then of course people might just focus on that and miss the whole point.

    I think the general idea here is to not let money become a motivating factor in spreading the word of God by receiving more money when you have a bigger congregation.

  36. “I should like to add, parenthetically for your information, that the living allowances given the General Authorities, which are very modest in comparison with executive compensation in industry and the professions, ”

    I don’t find that very reassuring about the amounts. Executive compensation is in the multimillion dollar range. So, I would dang well hope that it is ‘very modest’ in comparison to that. Most everyone’s salary is ‘very modest’ in comparison to that.

    Anyway, there’s no sense in arguing about it. .

  37. There are many misconceptions on this thread.

    Check Elder LeGrand Richards’ talk in the October 1979 General Conference where he spends half of the time talking about the living allowances General Authorities receive.

    Check The Encyclopedia of Mormonism’s entry on General Authorities and the one on Mission Presidents to see that both groups of men are given these allowances (mission presidents have a much smaller allowance as they are provided with a house, something only President Hinckley is provided with among the General Authorities).

    Check President Hinckley’s October 1985 Conference address where he states that the living allowances come not from tithing (which pays church employees’ salaries, curiously) but from the profits of church-owned businesses. The interesting thing about this is that church employees are expected to pay tithing on their salaries, while the living allowances given mission presidents and General Authorities are tithing-exempt (like the funds you received as a missionary, you pay fast offering once a month but that’s it).

    Check SLC area newspapers in 1996 for President Hinckley’s announcement that he directed all General Authorities to resign from their positions on business boards, church-owned or otherwise.

    Check the additional notes in the CD-ROM included in Lengthen Your Stride, the recent biography of President Kimball by his son published by Deseret Book, where his son states that having filed his father’s tax returns in the late 1950s, his allowance from the Church was $8000 annually, an amount which with inflation would be equivalent to $57,000 annually now. This source is also great for letting us know that members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy typically do not receive an allowance (but receive the other benefits accorded General Authorities) and that members of the First Quorum continue to receive the allowance as a retirement benefit when they are emeritized. When you look at the backgrounds of those called to both quorums, you begin to see the truth of this claim.

    Check Michael Quinn’s book Extensions of Power for documentation that President McKay adopted uniform living allowances for all General Authorities, regardless of position, during his ministry.

    The Church maintains a fleet of Toyota Avalons for the use of General Authorities (they are much easier to maintain and resell after a few years than Fords!) They are also provided audited credit card accounts to charge all of their Church-related expenses to (like when they stop at a burger joint on a stake conference trip or mission tour).

    My neighbor is a Seventy and sold his business when he was called to serve a number of years ago. He maintains a discreet, unflashy lifestyle as far as I can tell, but he has expenses which need to be met, and I am sure uses his living allowance as any of the rest of us would use our salaries. We often see each other on the way to and from our respective offices, and I know he works very hard and travels a lot in his calling. One difference between him and me is that for the most part, my job stops when I leave the office. He is always a General Authority, which means he is constantly in demand for firesides, temple sealings, ad nauseam. He deserves every penny of his current modest middle-class salary for the scrutiny his life receives every day as he does simple things like jog or grocery shop. He certainly did not apply for a position among the Seventy!

    There is ample scriptural provision for all of this in the D and C anyway. I don’t understand the reluctance to accept that the “laborer is worthy of his hire”. As a kid, I wondered how Joseph Smith provided for his family while he was president of the church…common sense tells us the above is a reasonable facsimile of the truth. It is reasonable to suppose the Lord will call whom he wants to serve as General Authorities, and it is reasonable to expect a certain level of financial sacrifice for those who accept, even most church employees called as GAs were making much more than $60,000 a year when called. It is not reasonable to expect either only the very wealthy to serve or to thrust those less financially independent onto the welfare rolls either.

  38. Peter
    Your 19 July post is the rule. Bishops do not talk out of school about private matters. But in cases where that information must be shared with higher authority, in the case of church disciplanry matters, it is kept within a tight circle of those who need to know.

  39. jnilsson- sure, all of that is fine and dandy. Nobody is saying they get too much for their services… we’re just saying that the “LDS Church has no paid clergy” line is a lie.

  40. I recently confessed some major sins to my bishop. He said that either he had to have a court, or the stake president needed too. I told him are you sure you need to tell someone else about this? I told you stuff very personal, does it have to go to the stake president? He said that he had to tell the Sp. I said, “can you do this without my permission? My friend was excommunicated when he was about 19, and I didn’t agree with it. He said he believed he had to tell the stake president. I said I don’t agree, in fact I think it might be illegal. He called me the next day and told me that I had to give him my permission to tell the Sp. I met with him once again and reluctantly gave him permission to tell. At this point I have been formally disfellowshiped. I cannot pray in front of the congregation or take the sacrament. I have been released of all my church responsibilites. The Bishop had to tell everyone in his commity that I have been disfellowshiped and I am basically awaiting a trial that will involve confessing my sins to the high council, a group of about 15 men. I have never felt so abandoned. People who never use to talk to me now pat me on the back and say “how are U?” and people who use to say hi totally avoid me. In the church there is no room for sinners like me. I have not left the church yet, but I might before I go to trial. I thought that Jesus said, “go thy way and sin no more”. I wasn’t caught. I confessed to GOD, my wife, and the Church. This has been brutal. I sang in the choir. It was a huge mistake. I felt so bad I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t realize I wasn’t suppose too. I was just trying to do something positive. I have 4 beautiful daughters. I want to give them the best and now I don’t know what to do.

    Brad

  41. Unfortunately, while what the Bishop did was a serious breach of confidentiality, you’d have a hard time showing it was illegal.

    Again, this is a serious problem I have with Mormonism’s lay clergy. There is no confidentiality, and there’s no incentive for a lay clergyman to keep your confidences.

  42. Brad,

    I’m so sorry to hear you are struggling. I’m confident that you’ve confessed your sins to God and that you’ve been forgiven by Him. That’s what matters most. You are righteous before God.

    I applaud you for confessing, it’s unfortunate that someone else is violating that confession and trying to meet protocol instead of dealing with you as an individual who needs help. You need a friend not a system.

  43. As a practicing Buddhist over these last 40 years I only recently learned of the Lay Clergy concept being practiced amongst the Latter Day Saints. It was during the Republican National Convention that I came know of this.
    I must say that I am ever so pleased to hear that the international Buddhist organization I am practicing with over these last 40 years, known as the SGI [Soka Gakkai International], is not alone amongst major religious denominations of the world that embrace the concept of a Lay Clergy as does Latter Day Saints. I highly commend LDS for their long enduring active practice of common everyday people helping common everyday people without any consideration of receiving money for their dedicated acts of compassion. I further find that in all cases throughout history that the perceived need to expect monetary payment for offering religious instruction and assistance has been the very thing that has so corrupted all to many otherwise pure teachings bearing humane good intensions.

  44. For what it’s worth, Soka Gakkai International is to Buddhism what Mormonism* is to Christianity

    *Or Jehovah’s Witnesses, or any other comparable Christian NRM.

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