Today’s guest post is by Jake.  When I first went out onto my mission I was warned that when I saw missionaries all day that it might challenge my testimony. That they would lose the shine they once had when I viewed them as beacons of spirituality when I was a 14 year old youth.  This warning turned out to be true. As I entered the mission field it was a marvel to me that missionaries had not already ruined the church.

Upon returning from my mission I got a job at  the UK church offices. Before I started work I was warned that working there would once again challenge my testimony. When I saw how the church was really administered it would be difficult. As it turns out this was also true.

The first thing that struck me about working in church offices (in the UK) was the fact it seemed that many of the people were not hired because they were qualified. They got the job either because they knew someone who worked in the office already or they were a recent RM or held a position of power in church. It was also true in my case; I had been given my job due to ward connections and because the head of human resources knew my family. 

I realize that favoritism and nepotism is a problem in many workplaces. It’s fine if the people selected are capable of doing the job. My job was merely data entry, and anyone who can type could have done it.  However, other jobs required greater experience and qualifications;  in such cases hiring based on personal friendship was detrimental to organizational effectiveness. Further, it made firing people or even correcting performance problems difficult as everyone knows everyone and attends the same wards, so people were often kept on the payroll just to avoid awkwardness. This gave employees a sense of security as they knew they could get away with more then normal and still not be fired or made redundant. 

This attitude created an environment of mediocrity at church offices. In the end workers didn’t care how inefficient or expensive processes were, because they wouldn’t be held accountable, and the Church was not tracking “profits” anyway. This was the greatest challenge I faced:  if this was the adminstration of God’s kingdom then why was it so unprofessional and content with mediocrity? God is a God of order yet I saw disorder in my working environment. 

It also bothered me that tithing was used to run the office.  It shocked me to see how the tithing funds were squandered through inefficiency. As an example of the inefficiency, the filing system I had to work with made no sense whatsoever; there was no organization at all.  To file 5 documents could take up to 45 minutes as you wondered around finding the right section to file them in. I offered to create a filing system which was rejected because ‘this was the way things had always been done around here.’

There seemed to be no end to the inefficiency. After documents were filed, they were later taken out so that they could be unstapled. This meant that for hours we would sit around taking out 3-4 staples out of documents. In the space of a week I was able to construct a model of the London Temple out of all the staples that I removed. When I suggested using paperclips instead, this was again vetoed as it went against the way things had always been done. This could simply have been the conservitivism of my department but as I looked around I saw it in every facet of the organisation. It was difficult for me knowing then that my job of taking out of staples for 5 hours a day at £8 ($12) an hour was at the expense of someone else’s tithing. 

Tithing I had always been told was for the purpose of building the kingdom of god. Was my taking out of staples really helping to build up the kingdom of God?  More generally it made me think: does God really need such an extensive adminstrative organisation to run his kingdom? After all this is the God who said take no heed what to wear or eat (neither purse nor scrip) to his apostles when he sent them out to build his kingdom.
 
In the end I came to see that working for the church was just a job like any other. I learned to see that church offices and the church were two very different organisations. That just as the gospel and church should not be conflated neither should the adminstrative body of the church be confused with the ecclesiastical body. However, I noticed that many people who worked for the church did not see this division. They thought that their job was greater and more sacred than other jobs; they developed a “holier than thou” mentality. Working in the same office as the area presidency led many to think that their job was an act of salvation that was bringing them closer to God. 
 
This produced strange dynamics with the local wards. In some cases, managers in church offices would have their bishop working for them.  This produced interesting power struggles, especially since the bishop conducted the temple recommend interview that his own manager needed in order to keep his job!  Some who worked for the church looked down on members who had ‘common’ jobs.  Wards with a high concentration of church office employees felt that they were more blessed for doing more to build the kingdom of God than wards whose members had secular occupations. Why do Mormons feel that proximity to leaders impacts their own holiness?
 
Working there challenged my testimony but also taught me something valuable about the kingdom of God. It highlighted the limited way in which we conceptualise building the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God will be bigger then both the church and church offices. Therefore the work of building it will not be limited to our service in church, missionary work, or church offices. The kingdom of God still needs the infrastructure of our current society to run.  So, in essence, building and creating that infrastructure is helping to build up the kingdom.
In the kingdom of God our lives will not revolve around the church. Whilst my work on my mission and in church offices contributed in a specific way to God’s kingdom, I realise now that building God’s kingdom is far more than knocking on doors and taking out staples. The Saviour said the kingdom of God is within each of us.  Whilst my pile of staples may not have literally built up God’s kingdom it helped me to understand that building up the kingdom is more about building and making better where I am, wherever that may be, not just through the service I give at church. 
 
P.S.  I should point out that many of these observations are from 6 years ago. The headquarters and much of the administrative work has since been centralised in Germany.  Perhaps things have become more professional and efficient. In my heart I can’t help but think that things probably haven’t changed that much.