MormonLeaks™ released confidential documents yesterday received from an operative working on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church (or some dude rummaging through a shred pile, take your pick). Two of the four documents reveal salaries of top leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Well, not current salaries, but past salaries which still give a pretty good idea of how much we should be enraged about.
One of the documents is a 2000 paystub of President Henry B. Eyring, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, suggesting an annual salary just shy of $90,000 if you squint your eyes just right. The other document is a 2014 letter to Elder Bruce D. Porter, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, announcing an increase in base salary for general authorities from $116,400 to $120,000.
Church spokesman Eric Hawkins, who was likely thrilled to hear of the leak, released this statement as reported at KUTV.com (a local television station):
General Authorities leave their careers when they are called into full time Church service. When they do so, they focus all of their time on serving the Church, and are given a living allowance. The living allowance is uniform for all General Authorities. None of the funds for this living allowance come from the tithing of Church members, but instead from proceeds of the Church’s financial investments.
The Salt Lake Tribune clarified that full-time General Authorities consist of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, First and Second Quorums of the Seventy and Presiding Bishopric (a total of 89 individuals according to the article). As Hawkins said, each of these men receive the same amount, from a Seventy all the way up to President Monson.
From what I can tell, members of the Third through Eighth Quorums of the Seventy (Area Seventies) and Auxiliary leaders do not receive salaries, presumably because those positions don’t require the same commitment. Notably, all female members of church leadership serve in Auxiliary organizations. (ETA: FairMormon says “At the present time, calls to other Quorums of the Seventy do not require the same full-time commitment, so those who serve in these positions do not receive the living allowances.” As for Auxiliaries, recent reports of focus groups suggest female leaders work full-time without pay. Perhaps the determination of living allowance has more to do with life-time appointments as opposed to temporary service.)
The LDS Church touts itself for having unpaid clergy, so many members understandably come away with the impression that church leaders aren’t paid. This not the fault of the church, though. The fact that top leaders receive salaries has been “published in diverse sources and known among long-term and well-read members, historians and Church leaders for many years.” Oh wait, sorry, that was polygamy. Anyway, the church-owned Deseret News argues, “The church long has been transparent about providing living allowances to General Authorities, while not publishing specific amounts.” In the October 1985 General Conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley (then a member of the First Presidency) stated,
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. (emphasis added)
Although we have a general idea of the base salary ($120,000 as of a couple years ago), Peggy Fletcher Stack at the Salt Lake Tribune pointed out, “It is unclear from the leaked documents what additional income or perks these men might make, including heath care benefits, free cars or book royalties.” It’s also possible there could be income from personal investments, retirement accounts, and Etsy shops.
Regardless, should we be upset about an annual salary of $120,000 for an apostle? The state of Utah has the 11th highest median household income in the United States at $66,258 as of 2015. For General Authorities, I’d expect a two-person household with a non-working spouse. So yes, this definitely provides a better lifestyle than most Utahns. Yet, as FairMormon contends, “Dedicating themselves full time at the sacrifice of substantial careers, these leaders live modestly, work tirelessly, keep grueling travel schedules, and continue doing so well past an age when others retire.”
Reactions have been mixed. Some think the pay is too low.
Religious historian Jan Shipps, who is not a Latter-day Saint but has studied Mormonism extensively, was astonished at how relatively low Eyring’s living allowance was — even for one more than 15 years ago.
Many university presidents and even some faculty make much more, said Shipps, who taught American religious history in Indiana for years. “Compared to their pay, this is small potatoes.” -Salt Lake Tribune
And others think the pay is just right.
Matthew Bowman, author of “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith,” said the amount of money the leaks appear to show is provided to General Authorities is unsurprising.
“The most relevant comparison might be the income of other clergy, and from my understanding, those totals are not dissimilar to what Protestant clergy make,” said Bowman, a history professor at Henderson State University. -Deseret News
I haven’t found very many who believe the pay is exorbitant, though some say any amount is too high.
I can hear it now, “But $90k / year isn’t a lot compared to what a lot of these former business men used to make…” That’s beside the [expletive] point. They have been telling us since childhood that they don’t make anything… –Reddit user bowyourheadandsayyes
But Ryan McKnight, founder of MormonLeaks™, doesn’t care either way. The goal is transparency. “Let the public decide whether this reflects positively or negatively on the church.”
Yep, keep up the public service. I’m sure Eric Hawkins appreciates it.
- Salt Lake Tribune (local newspaper) – most complete coverage
- Deseret News (local church-owned newspaper)
- KUTV.com (local television station)
- KSL.com (local church-owned television station)
- What’s your opinion on the leaked salaries?
- Do you find the lack of transparency in the Church’s finances concerning?
- Do you think leaks like these are useful? Are they ethical?
 MormonLeaks™ is the new name of MormonWikiLeaks™ because apparently they wanted to make life miserable for the poor souls at MormonLeaks.com who now have to post this at the top of EVERY PAGE: “Many visitors to this site may have seen reference to “Mormon Leaks” in the news, involving the publication of internal documents and videos of the LDS Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. The individuals behind this effort are in no way affiliated with us and we do not have an explicit opinion supporting or denouncing their efforts, and we want to make it clear that we are in no way associated with or connected to the recently posted leaks from the LDS Church on Reddit, or the video series on YouTube that have been published under the same name.” And WikiLeaks wasn’t wild about the name MormonWikiLeaks.
 Or do some simple math. As Peggy Fletcher Stack explained at the Salt Lake Tribune, “Copies of the biweekly stubs for Henry B. Eyring — then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — report that he earned $83,132.75 from the start of 2000 until the first week of December. Two more pay periods at $3,096.15 each would have put Eyring’s salary at $89,325.05 for the year.”
 Elder Porter passed away less than a couple weeks ago, so someone could’ve taken advantage of paperwork dumps associated with his estate.