Skip to content

Where has all my money gone?

October 19, 2009

One of my favorite Christian ministries isn’t really a ministry in the traditional sense at all.  Ministrywatch.com is a website that was launched to help Christians know whether or not the charities they were giving to were using their money wisely.  The website obtains financial records from an organization and then analyzes utilization of donations.  Ministry Watch provides a detailed summary of an organization’s purpose, statement of faith, and history.  After researching the organizations, Ministry Watch uses a 5 star efficiency rating and a transparency grade.

An example of one of their worst “ministries” is Trinity Broadcasting Network/TBN run by Jan and Paul Crouch.  For those of you that have missed out on their fundraising techniques, consider yourself blessed.  I’ve seen tearful entreaties to send money so that every child in Africa can receive a toy.  And yet the gargantuan pouf of platinum hair sprouting out of Jan Crouch’s head indicates that money sent in is being spent at places other than Toys-R-Us.  It gives me some sense of deep satisfaction to see that Ministry Watch gave TBN an “F” on their financial transparency.  The last known salary figure provided to Ministry Watch was almost a decade ago.

Significant salaries for 2001 included Paul Crouch at about $403,700 and Jan Crouch at $347,500.

One of the ministries to receive an “A” for financial transparency” was New Tribes Mission.  Ministry Watch gave them 4 out of 5 stars for financial efficiency.  Seeking to minister among the unreached people groups, New Tribes sends missionaries to serve and translate the Bible.  Ministry Watch provides an overview of what the ministry does.

NTM uses a team approach in the task of planting churches among ethnic groups. Its members serve in a variety of roles: Bible translation, church planting, mission aviation, education, training, administration, and support. NTM puts a strong focus on working with local churches to train, coordinate and send missionaries.

There are a great number of ministries that are requesting money, and it is nice to have an organization that helps to sort out the good, the bad and the ugly for us so that we don’t have to do all the leg work.  But in the end our own intuition is often correct.  If it smells like dead-fish, it probably is rotten.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that TBN is not spending their money wisely and that NTM is.  Nothing is quite as suspicious as financial secrecy.  Ministry Watch was unable to even perform an efficiency rating on TBN because they withheld such a vast number of their records—making it impossible to figure out where the money was going.

Has anyone ever tried to figure out where the money is going in the LDS church? This is a church that owns the BYU universities, Deseret Book Company, Deseret News Publishing Company, Deseret Trust Company as well as having financial holdings in many private businesses.  The church owns all of the land for the temples and meeting houses across the world as well as the historic sites that the church holds sacred.  In a 1986 New York Times article, an estimate was made that the church was worth more than $8 billion.  In 1997 Time ran an issue about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Estimates at that time far exceeded the 1986 figures.

Its current assets total a minimum of $30 billion. If it were a corporation, its estimated $5.9 billion in annual gross income would place it midway through the FORTUNE 500, a little below Union Carbide and the Paine Webber Group but bigger than Nike and the Gap.

The article goes on to confirm the vast wealth of the Mormons.

There is no major church in the U.S. as active as the Latter-day Saints in economic life, nor, per capita, as successful at it.

The LDS Church has every reason to feel proud of their financial assets.  And I don’t begrudge them their wealth.  I would just ask to know where all the money is going.

Unlike most Christian denominations, LDS churches have volunteer leadership at the ward and stake level.  It is certainly true that LDS build elaborate and costly buildings—meeting houses as well as temples.  But surely the donations would far exceed the cost of these projects.  Mormon missionaries pay for their own way.  I’ve never seen a Mormon version of a homeless shelter or prison ministry.  The biggest facility of the church welfare system is Welfare Square in Salt Lake City.  But even that mostly just supports members.  The Encyclopedia of Mormonism provides this information:

Most of the recipients of food and services at Welfare Square are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but there is also a transient service center associated with the Bishop’s Storehouse that gives temporary assistance to the homeless of all faiths.

With the cash flow that the Church is receiving, I would like to know what the compensation packages are for the leadership.  Withholding of information raises only suspicion.  Why is the church not willing to provide this information to members?  In order to receive a Temple Recommend, members have to donate 10% of their annual income to the church.  Can you imagine a God who does not allow you to enter His House unless you are paid up?  And yet you don’t even know where the money is going?   Why don’t LDS receive a financial statement showing where their money is being spent??

In the parable of the Ten Talents, Jesus says God will examine people as to whether or not they were good stewards of the resources He provided them (Matthew 25:14-30).  Will you be able to answer to God that you were a good steward of His money?  Do you know where your tithing has gone?

Advertisements
60 Comments leave one →
  1. faithoffathers permalink
    October 19, 2009 3:26 pm

    Your questions are fair, especially considering the long history of financial scandals among Christian ministries.

    I have thought about this a considerable amount over the years. And, in my opinion, every indication is that the church is truly a model to follow when it comes to financial management and frugality.

    First consider that there has never been a financial scandal in the church. A multi-billion dollar religious entity with absolutely no history whatsoever of embezzlement, etc.

    Next, consider the physical facilities in which the church invests. At any given time, the church has in construction around 500 meeting houses and several temples- all are paid for before ground is broken. Each meeting house probably costs maybe $10 million give or take? Add that up and you get $5 billion for the meeting houses alone. Each temple costs considerably more than a meeting house.

    The church, as you mentioned, runs 3 church owned universities- not a small bill. Then you have all the institute facilities. Church farms- this is a huge one- the church owns very many, very large parcels of land in North and South America. Portions of these are dedicated to crops and livestock used to supply the Bishop’s storehouses throughout the world. Then you have all the canneries and trucks.

    One big emphasis in church finances is preparation for a “rainy” day. Although I know nothing of the particulars, the brethren have said many times that they set aside resources so the church could continue to run if tithing funds were cut off. Name just one other organization that could do such a thing.

    How many employees does the church have? I imagine tens of thousands. I have known a lot of people who work for the church. Without exception, each has a very modest salary from the church.

    I think the big question in your mind, as others, is what do the apostles and first presidency “make.” That is the heart of the matter for many I believe. Many critics have said that they sit in SLC and get rich and fat off the tithing of the members. To me, this shows how little these critics understand and how poor their judgement.

    From what I have heard in speaking to many people, some general authorities, is that they live on something comparable to other church employees. I, personally, have no reason to doubt this. One of the people I heard such things from had been in the Presidency of the Seventy. Unless there is a huge pay grade increase between them and the twelve, I think he had a pretty good indication of what the highest leadership in the church lives on.

    A person could examine the types of residences the leaders own. This would show fairly modest places with little else in the way of real estate holdings. Again, compare this to top CEOs of companies with equal budgets. There is just no comparison.

    Look at the budgets at the local level- wards and stakes. The money is very carefully spent with a big emphasis on avoiding waste. The budgets are modest- no blank checks for unscrutinized expenditures. And the accounting processes are solid and have accountability features all over them. There is a general church auditing committee as well as committees in each stake that perform routine audits (although I know that does not make critics feels any better- these committees are made up of all LDS individuals).

    Christ actually spoke a great deal about money- look back over the gospels- it is surprising how frequently he referred to money principles. I think the church is the best organization its size in the world as far as responsible financial stewardship.

    I do have faith in how my tithing is spent. But it is not blind faith. Every indication is that the LDS leaders are responsible and frugal. The organization is actually quite bottom heavy- its resources really are leveraged to help the average Joe member.

    fof

  2. October 19, 2009 4:06 pm

    faithoffathers ~ First consider that there has never been a financial scandal in the church.

    I’m not so sure about that.

    The LDS church hasn’t released its financial information since 1959, so the fact that it’s been scandal-free in recent years does not mean very much. If the finances of Trinity Broadcasting Network had been closed since its inception in 1973, I’m sure they would have been scandal-free as well.

  3. October 19, 2009 6:45 pm

    Jack,

    Well said! It is pretty easy to avoid scandal if you don’t reveal anything. Silence certainly does not mean that “all is well in Zion”.

    I think the big question in your mind, as others, is what do the apostles and first presidency “make.” That is the heart of the matter for many I believe.

    FOF, I have heard all kinds of specualtion and conjecture about how “little” the Apostles live on, yet when it really gets down to it, not one person I have ever spoken with knows for sure. They are always simply speculating. In reality, the easiest way to clear this up would be for the Church to release the records. IMO, the resistance on their part to make the records public speaks far louder than all the conjecture on the part of church members.

    Many Mormons love to throw stones are Christian Churches and claim that all the Pastors are getting rich (hogwash I might add), yet the Mormon Church refuses to make its records public. Something indeed smells strange!

    Darrell

  4. October 19, 2009 7:02 pm

    Good post, Stephanie!

    Recently, my pastor posted the quarterly review of financial accountability for my small country church. Complete and total transparency….. ahh…. so refreshing….. the books are completely open for everyone to review and see.

    I am in awe at the honesty and tranparency!

    So different that the LDS church for sure.

    God bless,
    gloria

  5. October 19, 2009 7:03 pm

    Jack ~~

    Good point you made. I had forgotten about the Kirtland Safety Society scandal.

    Gloria

  6. October 19, 2009 7:04 pm

    I for one, see nothing wrong with the LDS church paying it’s full time leaders a salary. Nothing wrong at all ~ they have to live on something. My problem lies with the fact that there is absolutely no disclosure of it, and no accountability. That is where my concern lies. But then again, I don’t lose any sleep over it, since I am no longer a member. 🙂

    Gloria

  7. October 19, 2009 7:07 pm

    Fof,

    I respectfully disagree with your assesment of ward budgets. When we lived in Utah a few yrs back, the stake we lived in held a stake youth activity…….. the cost, from what the Stake Pres. Counselor told us was in the range of $10,000 for the event. ( they were going to the olympic village)
    At the time I was so upset by it, and voiced my concern to the Stake Pres. I told him how much better that money could be spent on the poor and less fortunate. Not much response was given.

    Gloria

  8. Stephanie permalink
    October 19, 2009 7:11 pm

    Recently, my pastor posted the quarterly review of financial accountability for my small country church. Complete and total transparency….. ahh…. so refreshing….. the books are completely open for everyone to review and see.

    Gloria,

    I agree. My church posts the budget and expenses on the bulletin board in the hallway. Our leadership usually goes over the financial state of the church quarterly and annually. The salary of church staff is available for all to see. I’m confused why the LDS church would practice such secrecy if everything were on the up-and-up.

    Stephanie

  9. October 19, 2009 7:20 pm

    Stephanie,

    I agree, if everything is on the “up and up” why not publish it for their own members at least to review?

    Accountability is always good.

    Gloria

  10. October 19, 2009 7:24 pm

    I agree, if everything is on the “up and up” why not publish it for their own members at least to review?

    You said it Sister!

    Darrell

  11. October 19, 2009 9:38 pm

    Regarding how much LDS General Authorities make:

    Back when I first began studying Mormonism and posting on the Answering Mormonism discussion forum, there was a really interesting guy posting there. Lived in one of the historical towns in Utah, had been excommunicated from the church a few years previously because (according to him) he believed the church should be practicing polygamy and teaching Adam-God. Not a fundamentalist Mormon in practice, just a fundamentalist Mormon at heart. I saw him posting online and corresponded with him from 1998-2000 (I know his name, but I’m not going to give it).

    He had previously worked as an auditor for the church, and he claimed that the Apostles were all paid a high five-digit figure and Gordon B. Hinckley was paid a low six-digit figure. Whatever his strange ideas, the story of his excommunication was consistent and never changed. He always struck me as sincere, if a little melodramatic. In 2000 the LDS leadership in his town changed hands and he was offered a shot at re-baptism, and he took it. He stopped posting after that.

    I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a story I was told by a guy from the Internet, and how accurate can that source be? But consider this: according to the Tanners, it was reported in the Nov. 9 1983 Wall Street Journal that a Seventy gets paid $40,000 a year (I haven’t checked the Wall Street Journal myself). If they still get paid the same thing today adjusting for inflation, that means a Seventy got paid $85,378 in 2008.

    Go back to the numbers that the guy I knew gave me in 1998. Let’s estimate that in 1998, an Apostle got paid $90,000 and the Prophet got paid $105,000. If you adjust for inflation, that means that in 2008, the Seventies got paid $85,378, the Apostles got paid $118,368, and the Prophet got paid $138,096. I think those are reasonable ballpark numbers.

    I’ve heard that these “modest stipends” are in addition to travel expenses and some of the top leaders are also put up in nice condos in Salt Lake City free of charge.

    By comparison, the average salary for full-time senior pastors in America is $81,113 per year. Executive and administrative pastors make an average of $60,777 – $76,671. Pastors of worship make $51,954 – $64,781.

    I realize there’s a lot of guesswork involved in my numbers (out of necessity), so take it all with as much salt as you want.

  12. Stephanie permalink
    October 19, 2009 9:59 pm

    Jack,

    It sure would be easier if we didn’t have to guess.

    Stephanie

  13. October 19, 2009 10:06 pm

    /agree

    What can I say, Stephanie. My church is open about its finances and briefly discusses them at the start of each meeting, and I’m glad.

  14. faithoffathers permalink
    October 19, 2009 11:03 pm

    Bridget,

    I wouldn’t be surprised if your numbers were close. Do you feel those numbers are inappropriate?

    The comparison you provide is really comparing apples to oranges. Do you really think the responsibilities and stresses are comparable between a small, local church and a world wide religion of 13 million?

    A better question might be- if those average American pastors could pay themselves any salary they desired, how would the comparison THEN turn out? Because from your perspective, the LDS leaders could pretty much pay themselves anything they wanted. Lets compare their salaries to preachers from the really big churches who can pay themselves hefty sums- Joel Osteen, etc.

    Do you know how much time the twelve and first presidency spend on their “work?” How much time travelling? If you calculated their per hour wage, it would not be that impressive. Again, why not compare the GAs salaries to leaders of any organization of similar size?

    Honestly, 138K a year is beans for a person in that position. They would certainly never be considered rich, or even close (unless you ask Obama-sorry).

    I would be annoyed if my church meetings started each week by talking about finances. Seems like it would take away from the spirit of it all. But for a person who doesn’t fully trust their church, I suppose it would allay some fears. You folks take solace in the fact that your churches wear their financial statements on their sleeves. I am grateful I can fully trust my church and have always had that faith justified.

    Does anybody here really think the LDS church dumps money into anything that is devious or evil? Does anybody think the apostles and first presidency are getting rich from the members? I am serious.

    Gloria- you said “My problem lies with the fact that there is absolutely no disclosure of it, and no accountability.” How do you know there is no accountability? Just because nobody knocks on your door and hands you an envelope containing the salary figures for the LDS leaders does not mean they have no accountability. Does accountability mean accountability to everybody? In other words, if a person is not accountable to everybody in the world, are they not accountable to anybody? Please back up your statement about accountability.

    As far as the trip to the Olympics- my stake took the youth on Trek- you know, pushing handcarts across the plains. It cost something close to the figure you cited for the Olympics. They had fundraisers and each kid contributed a certain amount of their own. It did not all come from the tithing fund. But if you step back and look at it- 10K for what was probably 200 kids. $50 bucks each. Gives a little perspective.

    One more thought- not shouting one’s salary to the world is not necessarily evidence of wrong doing. Maybe the leaders don’t want people seeking that type of office to improve their financial situation. I again claim that their salaries are beans, but in money- it is all relative.

    fof

  15. October 19, 2009 11:47 pm

    faithoffathers ~ I wouldn’t be surprised if your numbers were close. Do you feel those numbers are inappropriate?

    No, not in the slightest. In fact, I left off any commentary or judgment of those numbers on purpose because I don’t think they’re inappropriate for the work those men do. I’m glad that you agree that they probably aren’t far off the mark. I assume they aren’t far from what your friend who was in the Seventies presidency told you then?

    As far as comparisons between what the General Authorities do and what pastors do, full-time church work is full-time church work in my book. I don’t believe denominational leaders or mega-church pastors ought to get paid more than local clergy, and it’s unfortunate that it turns out that way sometimes. And yes, I believe the life of the pastor of a small congregation can be every bit as stressful and time-consuming as the life of a General Authority. One of the staff at my last church took several trips last year to countries in Africa and the Middle East where Christianity is forbidden to meet with the underground churches there, where he could have been killed had he been caught. GAs don’t do that.

    I only have two complaints about this business of the GAs getting paid:

    (1) I don’t like that the church’s books aren’t open. To some extent it can be argued that Protestants ought to butt out since it isn’t their church, but I’m married to a Latter-day Saint and the way we do tithing in our family, 5% of what I make goes to the LDS church. So I think I have more right to complain than the average Protestant.

    (2) I don’t like that so many Latter-day Saints demonize full-time Protestant pastors for getting paid. Look at the apologetics being offered by the rank-and-file on Yahoo! answers here when the subject of GAs comes up. “hey those guys are on call 24/7. They’re entire schedule is dictated by the church.” Guess what? My pastor can say the same thing about her congregation. She’s on call 24/7 and her entire schedule is dictated by her work for us. Bottom line, I think people who do full-time work for their congregations should get paid for full-time work, whether they’re LDS, evangelical, Catholic, Jewish or whatever.

    You personally haven’t said much about pastors getting paid, but I brought it up along with the topic because I figured it was likely to come up.

    I would be annoyed if my church meetings started each week by talking about finances. Seems like it would take away from the spirit of it all.

    We talk about our finances because we’re a small congregation in the process of moving from meeting in a high school to meeting in our own building, and we’re very busy getting the building ready to be our new church home. They like to keep the congregation informed on how funds for the new building are coming, and most of us find it exciting to know what the needs are and what we can do to help.

    For me, open books has more to do with the leaders of my church valuing me enough to allow my input on financial matters than it does with me not trusting the church. I understand your perspective on trusting the LDS church absolutely, but congregational government is one of the things I really enjoy about being and evangelical Christian.

  16. October 20, 2009 12:11 am

    If Jack’s figures are accurate, I think those kinds of figures are more than appropriate.

    What’s inappropriate is that we don’t know for sure.

  17. October 20, 2009 12:13 am

    Back in the 80s it used to be that more affluent wards had more funds because of the way ward finances were structured. So a rich ward would throw a big youth hoo-hah, were a poor ward would have some cheapo event in the cultural hall.

    The Church has since cracked-down on these inequities and demanded more standardization.

    I’m fully open to the idea that my money (I do the 10% per month – and no, I can’t afford it) is being misspent.

    I just don’t care.

    I feel that all charities are a little corrupt, inefficient, misguided, and even just plain ridiculous. So it’s not like you’re ever going to find a “good” place to donate your money elsewhere.

    I consider an exercise in humility to be obligated to send my money off without any control over it, or even assurance that it is being well-spent (other than my general faith in the Church). Truly a reorganization of priorities.

  18. faithoffathers permalink
    October 20, 2009 12:42 am

    Jack- off topic but:

    You said- “One of the staff at my last church took several trips last year to countries in Africa and the Middle East where Christianity is forbidden to meet with the underground churches there, where he could have been killed had he been caught. GAs don’t do that.”

    Did you know that Russell M. Nelson got beat up last year in Africa- got thrown down, kicked in the head several times, and knocked out. He got up the next morning to speak in a district conference. Almost nobody knows about that.

    I do know that most preachers in America are not rich. And I really don’t have much problem with a small-town preacher living on part of the modest income generated by the church. In my opinion, it is not ideal, but I really have no problem with it. I do see a huge problem with people making big money off of the gospel- it grosses me out.

    Seth does hit on something- our different views of “Christ’s church.” In your view, there is no real structure or organization other than “the body of Christ.” Our belief in an actual Church of Christ as an organization fosters a certain trust in the process and structure in that church, and that almost certainly effects our attitude in contributions and accountability.

    fof

  19. October 20, 2009 12:58 am

    I have a lot of concerns about how money is spent in American Christian churches (no matter what denomination). With a desire to see the Great Commission fulfilled and the gospel proclaimed to every unreached people group I feel called by God to send my money to support ministries seeking to minister in unreached or less-reached areas than here in the decadent US. I also have a heart for the under privileged and feel called to give to ministries for orphans, etc. I seek to give at least 10% of my gross income (usually more) and I truly love to give to these ministries that are on my heart. It brings me joy and feels like such a privilege to be a part of what God is doing in the world today.

  20. October 20, 2009 1:13 am

    Gloria, you said, “When we lived in Utah a few yrs back, the stake we lived in held a stake youth activity…….. the cost, from what the Stake Pres. Counselor told us was in the range of $10,000 for the event. ( they were going to the olympic village). At the time I was so upset by it, and voiced my concern to the Stake Pres. I told him how much better that money could be spent on the poor and less fortunate. Not much response was given.

    This is exactly the kind of examples I am referring to when I think of American churches and wasted resources that could be better spent. I’m thinking of all the fancy sound equipment in mega churches, Rick Warren’s theme park, etc. Ridiculous waste that could be better spent on the yet unreached frontiers. What were Jesus’ parting words for us? What is our responsibility in this dispensation?

    “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” (Matt. 28:19). Those are our marching orders. Not decorating our palaces and enjoying our pleasantries.

    And, yes, decadence and misused resources was high on my mind when I visited SLC temple square last summer.

  21. October 20, 2009 1:50 am

    My pastor can say the same thing about her congregation. She’s on call 24/7 and her entire schedule is dictated by her work for us.

    P.S. SO COOL that when you say pastor, you’re talking about a “she.” That made my day.

  22. October 20, 2009 2:25 am

    faithoffathers ~ Did you know that Russell M. Nelson got beat up last year in Africa- got thrown down, kicked in the head several times, and knocked out. He got up the next morning to speak in a district conference. Almost nobody knows about that.

    No, I didn’t know that. I’d like to know more about the circumstances surrounding that. But I doubt it happened because he was taking the LDS gospel to a country where Christianity is illegal. Mormons don’t do that.

    I do see a huge problem with people making big money off of the gospel- it grosses me out.

    You and me both.

    In your view, there is no real structure or organization other than “the body of Christ.”

    This isn’t correct. I believe in evangelists, pastors, elders, deacons, and teachers in addition to other local and multi-denominational leadership callings. We don’t typically have an office for prophet, but we do believe in people with the gift of prophecy. There’s plenty of structure there, it’s just congregational rather than hierarchical with a centralized national or international authority. IMO there’s strengths and weaknesses to both systems, but in practice I prefer the congregational structure of evangelical Christian churches because it gives the believer more freedom and authority to study the truths of the Gospel for himself or herself and follow the dictates of the Spirit.

    I actually do like how the LDS church is set up in theory. I just have numerous complaints about it in practice. The LDS church’s lay ministry and local organization structure both made my list of things I like about the LDS church that I wrote back in January.

    Katie ~ It makes my day too every time I think about it. She really is a gem.

  23. Stephanie permalink
    October 20, 2009 3:21 am

    I actually do like how the LDS church is set up in theory. I just have numerous complaints about it in practice. The LDS church’s lay ministry and local organization structure both made my list of things I like about the LDS church that I wrote back in January.

    I guess I see it a little differently. It could be seen as a positive that the Bishops work full-time elsewhere, but I look at this as a major problem with the church. I’m not sure how how Bishops are chosen, but where I live a large portion of them are practicing physicians. One that I know works as a hospitalist, sometimes being in-house for up to 48-72 hours at a time. Another one is in a specialty field requiring frequent call. Physicians are busy people and often are under quite a bit of stress due to the nature of their profession. These are people who are doing rounds in the hospital at 6 AM and have office appointments until 5 PM, while sharing night and weekend call rotations. It seems foolhardy to think that any person with a full-time job would be able to manage the duties of a Bishop .

    My pastor spends his week in prayer, study, outreach, and caring for the flock. I’ve heard him mention coming into the sanctuary during the week and stretching out face-down on the pews to pray. It is a comfort knowing that he is praying for the flock throughout the week. The pastor is needed for spiritual leadership over the church.

    But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. Acts 6:4

    And for this weighty responsibility the pastor should be paid. Paul writes regarding the payment of pastors, “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:13-14).

    I know that my pastor prays more over his flock than either of these two bishops that I mentioned. Its not because they don’t want to or don’t care about their flocks, its just that they don’t have the time. Both have families and stressful careers to manage. There are only so many hours in a day.

    They say you get what you pay for. If you want to have a pastor who is devoted full-time to the ministry of the word and prayer you are going to have to pay for it. And I’ll gladly pay for it any day.

    Stephanie

  24. October 20, 2009 4:41 am

    If you want to get something done, give it to a busy man.

    Words to live by.

  25. Stephanie permalink
    October 20, 2009 4:52 am

    I get what your saying, Seth. But this is a calling, not a job. 🙂 I don’t think even a highly efficient busy person can cram as much prayer and Bible study into their life as a full-time pastor can.

  26. October 20, 2009 5:10 am

    Seth’s dad was a doctor and a bishop, Stephanie, so he’s somewhat in the know on this from the LDS perspective.

    I think there’s advantages and disadvantages to both systems, though I prefer professional clergy for some of the reasons you list. My main concern about LDS bishops isn’t so much how busy they are, it’s that they take on a counseling role usually with little to no training in counseling, sometimes to disastrous results.

  27. Stephanie permalink
    October 20, 2009 5:19 am

    Sorry, Seth. I didn’t know. I’m sure that there are many people who are able to do more than one job well. I was just relating my personal experiences with people that I know. Their parishioners have complained that they are too busy to address the needs of the congregation.

  28. October 20, 2009 5:22 am

    By the by, I thought the saying was, “If you want to get something done, give it to the Relief Society.”

  29. October 20, 2009 1:06 pm

    One of my callings during my tenure in the LDS Church was as a councilor in the Bishopric, and my Bishop happened to be a Family Physician. One of the things my LDS Friends and I often discussed was the pressure that holding a demanding church calling while working a full time job puts on a family. Working 70 – 80 hours a week while serving as a Bishop and trying to give time to a wife and 4 kids is beyond demanding. Not to mention the pressure this puts on a stay-at-home mom with very young children. I often thought it was odd for the church to teach such high emphasis on family to basically take men away from their families to serve in the church.

    Darrell

  30. Stephanie permalink
    October 20, 2009 4:27 pm

    I often thought it was odd for the church to teach such high emphasis on family to basically take men away from their families to serve in the church.

    I’ve wondered the same thing, Darrell.

  31. October 20, 2009 4:42 pm

    I’d actually stack my dad’s mastery of scripture up against a lot of Evangelical pastors. Scripture and Gospel study was always his passion. He also has fishing and cycling as hobbies, but study of scripture and the teachings of modern General Authorities is his first love – aside from mom, of course, and sometimes we’re not even sure about that… 😉

    Yes Darrell, it places stress on families.

    You know what?

    With therapy, we get over it, and somehow manage to contribute to society anyway.

  32. October 20, 2009 4:50 pm

    I personally believe that LDS leaders *should* get paid. They put in a lot of hours and time into their callings. Most are extremely dedicated to their callings and work long hard hours. I think bishops, stake presidents should get paid.

    I don’t have a problem with a paid clergy.

    My concerns lie when churches ( and that is any denomination here) does not disclose what the income is and it’s budget. In the case of the LDS church, they proclaim “unpaid ministry”… and that is not entirely true.

    I realize also that misuse of funds can occurr in any religious sect, not just the LDS. I am just thankful that my church I attend offers come and total disclosure.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  33. October 20, 2009 5:36 pm

    At the ward level, the use of funds is actually pretty transparent.

    Unless you consider a team of about 5 volunteer financial clerks (who are rotated with other volunteers on a regular basis) to be somehow “secretive.”

  34. October 20, 2009 5:56 pm

    At the ward level, the use of funds is actually pretty transparent.

    So can anyone in the local ward request a summary of how funds are being spent?

  35. October 20, 2009 5:57 pm

    No.

    But it’s hardly Fort Knox Jack.

  36. October 20, 2009 6:04 pm

    Yes Darrell, it places stress on families.

    You know what?

    With therapy, we get over it, and somehow manage to contribute to society anyway.

    That is a really bad excuse Seth. People can get over a lot of things using therapy… even rape and/or molestation. Don’t misunderstand me… I am not saying the church’s use of a lay ministry is equal to molestation; rather, I am simply showing that your excuse doesn’t fly. The fact that someone can “get over” something doesn’t make it right or okay to do it.

    Don’t teach publicly that families are vitally important and then, for the purposes of saving a buck, destroy some by calling men to work what is, for all intents and purposes, two jobs.

    Darrell

  37. October 20, 2009 6:08 pm

    No.

    But it’s hardly Fort Knox Jack.

    I see. So if I flirt with the right ward clerks, they might let me in on teh secrets.

    That doesn’t sound too hard.

    (Not that I’m actually interested in how my husband’s ward funds are being spent. Just… hypothetically speaking…)

  38. October 20, 2009 6:10 pm

    No Darrell, I’m just trivializing the scope of your concern.

  39. October 20, 2009 6:18 pm

    No Darrell, I’m just trivializing the scope of your concern.

    Nice to see how deep your concern truly is for families. Perhaps all those nice LDS commercials about families from the 80’s and 90’s aren’t all that accurate. Hmmmmm?

    Darrell

  40. October 20, 2009 8:32 pm

    Naw. It’s just the way some people talk, you’d think there were broken families left and right.

    I find these kind of cries to be utterly overwrought.

  41. October 20, 2009 8:37 pm

    I know. Those silly people who work 70 hours a week… who are they to complain about spending Tuesday night, Wed night, Thursday night, and all day Sunday doing Bishopric work in addition to monthly Youth Temple Trips, Stake Temple Trips, Ward Temple Trips, and Home Teaching. The additional 40 – 50 hours a week in church work is nothing. 110 – 120 hours a week away from family is a walk in the park. They are just wimps.

    🙂

    Darrell

  42. Stephanie permalink
    October 20, 2009 10:50 pm

    fof,

    I wanted to respond to something in your first comment. Sorry I’m so slow to respond. 🙂 You mentioned the Bishop’s storehouse and the great amount of expense and effort that goes into Welfare Square. I live in a pretty heavily Mormon populated area and I’m not aware of any food banks or shelters run by LDS. In fact, I’ve never seen that before. I can see not having one in the communities with low LDS influence, but I live in a Mormon dense area and I don’t know of any. On the other hand, I can’t think of a community doesn’t have a Christian run shelter for the homeless. Some great shelters that I am aware of are the Union Gospel Mission in Spokane and Seattle, WA, and the Boise Rescue Mission in Boise, ID. Even in the small, podunk towns I lived in there has been Christian run homeless shelters.

    I once visited the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. Talk about an eye-opening experience! That place is awe-inspiring. It gives me chills to think about the ministry that they have to the homeless. The place is huge and has served millions of men and women. Each night they average 500 men, women and children–pushing 800 in the winter months. In addition to food, shelter and clothing the Mission provides counselling, Bible studies, jail ministries, free medical/dental care, career development and help with job placement. The mission receives no government help and is run completely by donations. If you ever are in Chicago it is definitely an awesome place to tour.

    Its great that the LDS church wants to “take care of its own” through their welfare program, but what about the lost and hurting outside the church? Why “save up for a rainy day” when there are people that are going hungry today?

    I have no idea about cash flow in the LDS church so I can’t judge expenditures. But, it does seem very odd to me that other churches in the US are able to support a pastor, purchase their building, send and support overseas missionaries, support para-church ministries in the US, provide for the homeless, support prison ministries, and run crisis pregnancy centers. And, they are able to do all of that while still maintaining their financial transparency.

    Stephanie

  43. October 20, 2009 10:54 pm

    That’s alright Darrell.

    It’ll all be worth it when I get my 30 virgins in Heaven.

  44. Stephanie permalink
    October 20, 2009 11:34 pm

    It’ll all be worth it when I get my 30 virgins in Heaven.

    Seth, you take the cake. 🙂

  45. October 20, 2009 11:40 pm

    Only 30?

    The Muslims get 72.

  46. October 21, 2009 12:32 am

    I only think I can manage two of the Five Pillars.

    So I only get 30.

  47. October 21, 2009 12:51 am

    Seth,

    Only 30? higher than that. Joseph got more than that before he died,and he didn’t even make it to 45.

    As for me, I’ll just be sitting on a cloud playing a harp.

    Darrell

  48. October 21, 2009 12:57 am

    TK Smoothie for me. I’m not as valiant as Seth is.

  49. October 21, 2009 12:58 am

    On the other hand, I can’t think of a community doesn’t have a Christian run shelter for the homeless.

    Stephanie,

    In my hometown we have a wonderful non-denominational place called The Weaver House. Several Christian Churches in town work together to keep in running. Each Church takes a day at the Shelter, buys all of the food out of the Church budget, and has a group of volunteers that come over to cook and feed people. I have gone a few times this year on my Church’s day and it has been a truly rewarding experience. To see the look on someones face when they are hungry and you bring them a hot meal is incredibly humbling. I can’t remember participating in anything like that while LDS. My old ward did a great job of moving members in, helping them pack up to leave, doing yard work for the elderly ward members, etc. But as for reaching out to the impoverished in our community… I can’t think of one thing they did.

    Darrell

  50. October 21, 2009 1:08 am

    Jack or others ~~

    Wasn’t Joseph Smith a student or studied the koran? Why do I get this impression he did…….maybe that is where he got his doctrines on eternal polygamy.

    gloria

  51. October 21, 2009 1:37 am

    Gloria ~ Personally I’ve never heard of Joseph Smith studying the Qur’an. Doesn’t mean that he didn’t; I just haven’t heard it before. I doubt English translations of the Qur’an were all that handy in 19th century America.

    For the record, here’s the Straight Dope on the 72 virgins thing. While the Qur’an makes numerous references to heaven being filled with busty virgins, the idea of having 72 wives in heaven comes from another Islamic text, not as authoritative as the Qur’an.

    Granted, also, the emphasis on virgins is a little weird. (Think back on the first nights you’ve been party to. Was this your idea of great sex?)

    Oh, Cecil Adams, how I love you for making that point.

    As far as Joseph Smith goes, I think his inspiration for polygamy came from the Old Testament, especially David and Solomon, and I think the idea of creating “sealings” and “celestial marriages” was to provide a vehicle for marrying other men’s wives. He didn’t get sealed to Emma Smith until 1843, long after he’d been getting sealed to other women. Additionally, early LDS leaders after Joseph Smith exclusively used the term “celestial marriage” to refer to polygamous sealings. It wasn’t used to refer to monogamous sealings until after the 1890 manifesto. Bottom line, I doubt Islam had anything to do with it.

    I apologize to everyone else for this tangent. Carry on.

  52. October 23, 2009 5:09 pm

    As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we see and hear evidence of where our tithing goes regularly. Many of these funds come from the Humanitarian fund, but a lot is from tithing as well.

    Here are two excellent videos that show some of our efforts:

    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1023338/mormon_church_humanitarian_effort/

    http://www.ldsphilanthropies.org/humanitarian-services/multimedia/wheelchair-initiative.html

    We have a huge sent enormous amounts of aid by way of volunteer work, food, shelter, clothing, hospital equipment, rebuilding communities, wheelchairs, creating water irrigation systems to countless countries all over the world, including many devastated by natural disastors. We receive newsletters with this type of information and many wonderful videos on sight in these places as well.

    Often times, during a disaster, an organization will call the Church first for supplies, and we always give. Also, the Church is almost always the first on scene, and we are usually still there helping after all the other organizations have gone home.

    The Church also works with a lot of Catholic and Red Cross agencies as well. However, the Church does not feel the need to advertise it’s good will for gain and respect to man.

    We also provide student loans and grants to members in third world countries and here who have sever hardships. We have employment teams and specialists, family counseling at excellent discount rates.

    Currently, we are working on farming in Ecuador. You can read a whole slew of activities we use with this money here:

    http://www.lds.org/humanitarianservices/0,19749,6208,00.html

    “From 1985 to 2008, the Church has shipped 61,308 tons of food and 132,028 tons of other supplies to more than 150 countries. In 2008, the Church provided assistance in response to the Sichuan, China earthquake, the famine in Ethiopia, the Myanmar cyclone, the hurricanes in Cuba, Haiti and the United States, and 118 other disasters.”

    http://www.lds.org/library/page/display/0,7098,6209-1-3212-1,00.html

    We also have helped over 80,000 birth attendants in impoverish hospitals in over 30 countries with neonatal training, offering training and supplies to save the lives of babies:

    http://www.lds.org/library/page/display/0,7098,6211-1-3217-1,00.html

    Since 2002, we have helped over 4,500 communties gain access to clean water and in 2008 alone we were in 26 countires with this project.

    http://www.lds.org/library/page/display/0,7098,6212-1-3216-1,00.html

    Since 2001, we have donated 350,000 wheelchairs to those in need in impoverished nations.
    http://www.lds.org/library/page/display/0,7098,6213-1-3215-1,00.html

    We’ve also helped 180,000 people with vision treatment in needy countries.

    This aide isn’t limited to members only, nor does it come with a backhanded guilt trip that the people receiving this aid needs to convert to the church, unlike many other organizations who help as well or provide shelter during times of need. This aid we have done is available to many not of the faith.

  53. Stephanie permalink
    October 24, 2009 12:10 am

    Mrs Smith

    First of all, I went to your blog and have to say–you are a creative soul! I’m a crafty person too, but don’t have nearly the skills you do. 🙂

    I can definitely see what you are saying and I agree with you that the LDS church provides very good humanitarian aid to people in need throughout the world. Thank you for providing links to support your post.

    On the other hand, the very same claims could be made about the Catholic church. The Catholic church also has a history of withholding their financial records from church-goers. This all came to light during the sex abuse scandals when dioceses began paying out huge settlements to victims. When the books were “opened” it turned out that the church actually had a lot of money!

    Most of us deal with small amounts of money on a day-to-day basis. We can easily see the value and usefulness of $1000. We buy houses in the hundreds of thousands. But, what is the difference between $1 million and $100 million? A lot actually! A starker contrast is seen between $1 million and $1 billion. While only 1 consonant in difference, the two numbers are vastly different. One million seconds passes in just 11.5 days. One billion seconds takes 32 years. The 1997 estimates (more than a decade ago) placed the LDS church’s annual income at more than 5 billion dollars. This is a Fortune 500 Company.

    There has been discussion on this board as to the salary of the leaders. Some commenters have agreed that the apostles are probably making a salary in the $100 thousands. Here is my question. What if it were $500K? What if it were $1 million? This is a drop in a 5.9 billion bucket and the differences are trifling on a large scale. But, on a small scale it means something. What leaders of a church make absolutely means something. It speaks to dedication, desire, motivation, consecration. I’m not here to judge how the LDS church spends its money. I just think they need to be upfront with members about where its going.

    Stephanie

  54. Stephanie permalink
    October 24, 2009 2:33 am

    One more thing to add. 🙂

    You mentioned that the Church does not feel the need to advertise it’s good will for gain and respect to man.

    Yet, all of the links that you provided are LDS.org websites! This appears to be self-advertisement to me. If the figures provided by the 1997 Time article are correct and adjusted for inflation, the annual income by the church is $7.9 billion. Now, look at the figure that the LDS church puts on their charity.

    HUMANITARIAN CASH DONATIONS SINCE 1985 $282.3 million
    VALUE OF HUMANITARIAN MATERIAL ASSISTANCE SINCE 1985 $833.6 million

    http://www.newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/statistical-information

    In 24 years the church has put out less than one-quarter of what it receives every single year.

  55. October 24, 2009 4:58 am

    “You mentioned that the Church does not feel the need to advertise it’s good will for gain and respect to man.”

    That is true, I did say that and I did post links to videos and stats. Those links are not self advertisements to local medias and such as I have seen many churches do around here, they are shown to members so we can see what is being done with the money we faithfully and willingly give and to appreciate what we have and to be dedicated to volunteering and serving more for those who are in need.

    The tithing also pays for utilities, construction, maintenance, broadcasts, materials, lessons, genealogy and learning programs, counseling family services, ward and stake activities…. every ward does have a budget and I have helped in the past in planning for activities and charitable donations to non-church organizations as well, such as foster homes, nursing homes, battered women’s shelter and the like. Also, the church pays up front for buildings, so there is zero debt after the fact.

    I don’t mind what the annual income of top church leaders receive. They travel the world doing the Lord’s work, helping people and putting vast amounts of time and energy into that effort. Also, whatever their income is, they also pay a tithing and generous fast offering on top of that, so part of their income goes right back into the church.

    I read an article that bashed our former President, Gordon B. Hinkley for living off the church and not working. However, he authored several books and earned income from that and, the man was 92 years old, way past retirement age. He served the church his entire life and did nothing but to uplift and help people.

    Also, we are guided to be prepared in cases of emergencies, in both food, water, equipment as well as backup financial security that could keep a family afloat for quite some time. I am quite sure the church as has a large savings of emergency funds for times as these.

    It is interesting, when people look past all of the good an organization has done, and still finds ways to criticize or even to hate them. I can’t fathom the energy I would waste on deciding to research nonstop and accuse or even hate an organization or religion that is only trying to help people with money that is donated willingly and legally.

    I saw a quote the other day, and thought it interesting:
    “We see the buildings being built and the humanitarian aid being ministered around the world. There’s your answer. Better question: How can we find out how the government is spending our money. We voluntarily tithe, we don’t voluntarily pay taxes.”

    Also, the Times article does speak some about the church’s funds and where the money comes from outside of tithing. The church does a lot of investing, you could read more about it here.

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,986794,00.html

  56. mrs. smith permalink
    October 24, 2009 5:09 am

    I wanted to make one other point about paid ministers. I have never heard members demonize or say hateful things about pastors and the like who get paid to preach for a living.

    The experience I have, comes first hand. I know a relief pastor who goes in to church’s who kick out their pastors while they are interviewing new ones. He is very careful to keep extremely neutral lessons to audiences who only want to hear light and casual conversation.

    Usually, the pastor he is temporarily replacing is fired over little squabbles, congregational gossip, every now and then it is more serious like an affair or embezzling the money somehow, but more than anything, it is because the pastor has started preaching what congregations don’t want to hear. That they have to ask for forgiveness, or pay tithing, or have more faith, or do missionary work. When the church looks for new pastors, they interview them intensely to make sure that they will preach this or that according to what the congregation votes on.

    We had a few preachers in the area whose members were so poor they couldn’t pay tithing, so they had the members come over and wash their cars/do laundry.mow their lawn as their payment.

    This is why paid preachers in this area anyways are questionable (not all of them of course, many are excellent people!!) My point is, that many pastors in this area are changing their teachings to make congregations happy, so they can keep their jobs and get paid. Teachings and religiosity become lax, and churches are no longer religions, they are social clubs that offer counseling, rock bands, vacations, coffee bars, one down the street from us even has tanning beds, and then there is a little bit of God talk thrown in on Sundays.

    Now, isn’t that a scary thing?

  57. October 24, 2009 6:07 am

    Mrs. Smith ~ My experience has been entirely different. “Priestcraft” is one of the most common charges Mormons level at me, and they seem to equate any act of clergy being paid with “priestcraft.” It’s not really too much of a surprise that Mormons are so hung up over it given all the references that the LDS scriptures make to it. These people are also usually completely unaware that their own top leaders are paid.

    Yes, there can be problems in the Protestant system with pastors being dismissed for dumb reasons or pastors afraid to preach certain things for fear of losing his or her job. But the LDS church has the opposite problem: you can get stuck with an absolutely terrible bishop and have absolutely no power to change that. Like I said earlier, there’s pros and cons to both systems.

    Teachings and religiosity become lax, and churches are no longer religions, they are social clubs that offer counseling, rock bands, vacations, coffee bars,

    Why would a church not offer counseling? As to your other points, it really depends on what you mean by “rock bands,” “vacations” and “coffee bars.” Those can be a lot of different things, some of which I’m okay with, some of which I’m not. In general I dislike the casualization of churches that I encounter in evangelical Christianity, but I have looser standards on the matter than some of the Latter-day Saints I know.

    one down the street from us even has tanning beds

    Out of curiosity, what’s the name of this church?

  58. October 24, 2009 7:12 am

    Teachings and religiosity become lax, and churches are no longer religions, they are social clubs that offer counseling, rock bands, vacations, coffee bars,

    Sounds like a helluva lot more fun to me than a social club offering invasive interviews, half-hearted congregational singing to P-A-I-N-F-U-L-L-Y slow organ music, more items on a salvation checklist than you could get ever get through in an entire lifetime, and smelly mother’s rooms.

    Just sayin’.

    (P.S. I’m not trying to be nasty, just using sarcasm to demonstrate that if you’re going to be all cynical about it, one could find plenty to gripe about in our religion [LDS], too.)

  59. October 24, 2009 4:20 pm

    Ahh…. Priestcraft. I live in an area heavily populated by Evangelicals, and, while LDS, I heard the charge of Priestcraft used repeatedly. One member of our old ward used to call a large Evangelical Church in town the Great and Spacious Building and say that the preacher was obviously making a fortune. Another time that sticks out in my mind – while playing golf with an LDS friend and a Baptist Youth Pastor friend of mine, my Mormon friend whispered in my ear, “You know why they (pointing to the Youth Pastor) don’t like our church? Because everytime we convert one of their Church members they have less funds and eventually their pay goes down.” I tried my best to talk some sense into my friend – with no luck. The funny part about it is that my Youth Pastor friend was doing his job because he loves the Lord and not for the money. He was making peanuts while working 60 – 80 hours a week. Oh, and BTW, when my wife and I lef the church – both of these LDS individuals cut ties with us.

    Darrell

  60. October 25, 2009 12:22 am

    I think making “priestcraft” accusations is about as useless as speculating whether someone’s testimony or spiritual gifts are “from Satan.” All it really boils down to is “I don’t like what you’re doing!” Pure subjective value judgments all around.

    Besides, I know of plenty of examples of Mormons trying to swing a spiritual gift for profit – and I’m not talking about the General Authorities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: