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.
I actually wonder how Mormons got so caught up on the idea that having non-paid clergy was such a big deal. I mean, I don’t want to be cynical and assume it was just a way for the church to avoid having to pay all the way down the chain to every bishop, but…
Lots of different angles to address these things from.
I don’t have a problem with paid clergy.
I have a huge problem with the Church’s claims about how great it is that they have an unpaid lay clergy.
I have a huge problem with the categorization of 120k as a “modest stipend.” That is a considerable salary, more than most people will ever see.
I have a huge problem with the lack of transparency in Charge finances (and everything else). I’m sick of the “leak-outrage-PR spin” cycle that is the only way we find out anything about the administrative workings of the Church. I’m glad the leaks are happening, but I wish the Church would just be open and honest in the first place.
And I have a problem with any and all claims that such-and-such thing comes out of business investments, not tithing. The capital for those investments comes from tithing. The defense that there is a layer of money-laundering between tithing and such-and-such thing is tenuous at best.
“What’s your opinion on the leaked salaries?” I have mixed feelings. I don’t think $90-120K is much, but when it’s $0 for auxilliaries (really? no graduating scale?) meaning no women ever get compensation, that seems a little hinky. Also, they are receiving these salaries well into their dotage when most people are living off retirement, not continuing to draw a regular salary.
“Do you find the lack of transparency in the Church’s finances concerning?” When I first discovered it, honestly, I felt foolish for having claimed (as a missionary) that none of our leaders were paid. It’s kind of a selling point that comes up sometimes in teaching the discussions and answering questions. It didn’t bother me that they are paid something. Even a paid clergy wouldn’t bother me. It bothered me that I gave misinformation. And I’m sure (wink,wink) that this information has been hiding in plain sight all these years and I just missed it. Right.
“Do you think leaks like these are useful? Are they ethical?” This is a tricky question. My corporate background would say that salaries are almost never disclosed and are considered private information (except those of the officers of the company that are reported). I think most of us would find it reprehensible if tithing settlement involved discussing our actual pay stubs to reckon what is “owed.”
But leaks are the way of the future, and I have often thought about the scripture that the secret things will be shouted from the rooftops. There are a lot of things that can be solved with a little light being shed on them. In my work life, we used to talk about opening the kimono in meetings with clients, showing them that we have nothing to hide. But that was what the sales folks said. I was in operations, aware that of course we had stuff we didn’t want everyone to see, stuff that could be misunderstood. There’s a difference between opening the kimono in front of a doctor and opening the kimono in front of strangers in the subway. Whether leaks are good or bad in general, they are going to happen. We need to try to simplify and educate people when they do happen so they understand what they are seeing, but also we should all (including the church) be doing things that can bear scrutiny.
I find the “well these men walked away from high paying careers to be GAs” argument interesting. Would we feel the same way about a six figure stipend if God was calling auto mechanics and school janitors as apostles?
Good post and great questions. The issue of whether the links are useful and/or ethical to me isn’t the big question here. It’s are they necessary. And yes, I think they are absolutely necessary. The church has a long and documented history of pretending to show at least a bit of transparency (especially retroactively, as Angela C’s response implies), but that’s simply not the case. The church, IMHO, feels that it’s necessary to hide behind a wall of opacity and, given the history of institutions over, oh, say, the last 2,000 years, opacity is, almost without exception, a strategy for covering up/concealing information that could end up damaging the institution in question. The church is no different, which means that if you’re not a TBM who readily accepts every pronouncement from on high as the Truth with a capital “T”, you’re probably at least a bit skeptical about how little truth the church actually tells about its inner workings. And given that the church constantly emphasizes the importance of “truth”, both in terms of individual accountability (don’t lie, come clean to clergy about sins, etc.) and in terms of the church as a whole being the “true” church, then it needs to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to being honest in its own dealings with its fellow (wo)men. And since it doesn’t seem to be willing to do this, a site like MomronLeaks is, unfortunately, necessary. To my mind, this is just one of the natural consequences that results when an institution demands truth from its members, but doesn’t reciprocate. I think Angela C’s comment about doing things that bear scrutiny is really at the heart of the matter. If what you’re doing as an institution doesn’t pass the smell test, you should be called to account by people willing to expose the truth. And since the church constantly emphasizes the importance of telling the truth, I don’t see how it could have a problem with any of this since we’re supposed to “do what is right, let the consequence follow.”
I’m just glad it is finally out. The totals are about what I’d figured they’d be so it ends up being a non-story in that sense. I kind of wonder if they leaks weren’t intentional to make everyone shut up about church leaders getting rich.
While the 3rd thru 8th quorums of Seventy are not full-time positions, the general auxiliary presidencies are. I would be surprised if they were not making the same amount. I still remember Julie Beck talking about how she regularly worked 100-hour weeks in her calling.
Good to see the church PR responding quickly to this one. Almost makes you wonder if it was, indeed, an intentional leak–or, at the very least, an expected one.
I fully expected the income to range from $80k to $130k, so this isn’t much of a surprise. The “this isn’t from tithing” line always bugs me, however. Money from the investments of tithing dollars is still tithing dollars.
I guess the only think that bugs me is that I was under the impression it was based on need, not automatic. Since there is this trend in calling men who have been successful and prosperous in their careers, there would seem to be little need. I can understand if a mid-40’s early 50’s guy is called or from a less developed country outside the US, and has not reached retirement age, but after pensions, 401Ks and SS kicks in, it seems like icing on the cake.
Where do I sign up?
JT, I can’t find it right now, but Elder Holland commented in an interview within the last year that the auxiliary presidencies were part-time volunteer positions. It was in relation to why the female leaders weren’t involved more in higher committees, and he said it would be unfair since they are already overworked as it is, not full-time like the GAs. Still looking for the quote, but that’s why I put it in the post.
It doesn’t really bother me to find out how much some make…confirms it is not secretly a huge amount which would bug me. It just should help the membership change what is said from “no paid leadership” to mostly lay ministry and volunteered time. Just is a little more accurate to say “most” instead of “all” and there isn’t anything unethical about what it seems to be. Like many other industries…people don’t go into it for the money, and that is the way it should be.
JT, I found one source that references what I’m thinking about, but it’s not as exact as I’d like. Regardless, it corroborates your view that the Auxiliaries work full-time, yet says they don’t get paid. https://wheatandtares.org/2016/10/22/engaging-and-supporting-women-in-leadership/
I’ve added this into the post for clarification.
I think the leaks can be justified as necessary based on the church’s stubbornness regarding transparency, but I still feel like these are unethical. Perhaps if McKnight had redacted the names of the authorities from the papers (not just Eyring’s SSN) it would feel less like an invasion of someone’s privacy. But still, it feels like “doing something wrong for the greater good” justification, which is a slippery slope. Orthodox members use it to justify Nephi killing Laban, but I’ve seen many people here on the bloggernacle call that reasoning into question.
I guess I feel a bit like Jason Bourne in the most recent installment, when he says to the WikiLeaks-type guy, “I’m not on your side.”
Yes, the notion that this allows us to “hire” people who aren’t independently rich is interesting, but doesn’t seem to hold true from what I’ve seen. And I’m not sure how I would feel about it if we were putting people in these positions who might be using it to upgrade their lifestyle. Economics does make strange bedfellows.
Actually, regardless whether the church has openly disclosed that GAs+ are paid, the fact is that the BOM says that even the top leaders were not paid. Even the king.
Here’s a link to Gina Colvin’s commentary on the leaks: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kiwimormon/2017/01/spiritual-dangers-religious-elitism-secrecy/
“If what you’re doing as an institution doesn’t pass the smell test, you should be called to account by people willing to expose the truth”
In this case, I have more faith in the institution than the people. I’ve been pretty unimpressed by the people lately. Besides, institutions are like human bodies — you smell the breath, pits, and butt, it’s not going to come up roses all the time. That doesn’t mean the body isn’t healthy. And if a person feels healthy, it’s up to her to decide if she wants a check-up or not.
I don’t know if the leaks are unethical, because I don’t know how they came about, but I don’t think simply posting the stuff is unethical. What I don’t understand is why somebody feels “the people” deserve to know what the institution is doing with “their” tithing money. The only return the church makes wrt tithing are spiritual (per the believer) or faux-mystical (per the non-believer), which from an earthly perspective are indistinguishable, so where’s the fraud? Most of your tithing probably goes to BYU.
I’m sorry. Once again, the reactions that the salaries are no big deal come from Utah and the US. I hardly think it’s fair for a member from a poor country outside the US (and remember that there are now more members outside the US) to be supporting the salaries for US executives to run their business, especially when many of these members thought they were/are members of God’s kingdom on earth. This is the epitome of “grinding the face of the poor”.
In addition, the GAs need to stop telling stories of families who work, save and sacrifice for years to travel to a temple to be sealed when they themselves are flying first-class or on chartered planes to give a 40 minute talk to a congregation escorted by a security team. They are not “servants” as Christ defined, they are elite Pharisees.
PS. Please do not respond to tell me their salaries don’t come from tithing funds but from outside business funds. My response will be….then use THOSE funds to support education , homelessness, hunger, poverty that exist inside the church and around the world.
“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)”
Hilarious and made my day!
My two cents: This will only be big news if members aren’t aware that general authorities get paid. In the wards I grew up in it was know that GAs made money because their responsibilities made it so they could not have a full time job. (30 something President Monson), No one knew what that amount was, but it was certainly more discussed than say polygamy, seers stones, etc. That said, I’m seeing many people who are at least as smart and curious as I am saying they didn’t find this out until later on in life. That would be a big shock to me and a hard pill to swallow. However, having known as far back as I can remember the story struck me as rather underwhelming. That said I don’t blame anyone for feeling different.
I am pleased to learn rumors of huge salaries are (probably) unfounded. As long as I can remember I knew that some GAs recceived compensation, and I am pretty sure that was even mentioned in the youth teaching manuals of old. However, I was also under the impression it was need based (don’t know why I thought that) so the fact that some left lucrative positions seems totally irrelevant. I assumed salaries were small, but also that there were substantial French benefits,
I don’t feel like these leaks are unethical on their own. Many public employees have their salaries published. The GS scale for federal employees is public information. In fact, while most people do not want their salaries publicly known, it is the corporations that benefit the most from the secrecy, holding a wealth of information about their employees pay that the employees do not share with each other. There may be ethical problems with how the leaker(s) obtain and share the information, but without knowing more about it I wouldn’t say the leak itself is unethical.
 French benefits are like fringe benefits, but much better.
 There used to be a funny commercial that played on this.
 Footnotes should never be nested.
Jason B. – Again I don’t think the surprise will be to members like you in your ward. But what about to members in other countries?
These guys don’t write their own talks (they are heavily edited by Correlation). They attend big public ribbon cuttings with other well-knowns. They photo-op with dignitaries. They don’t drive themselves everywhere. They don’t pay for their children’s education. They don’t buy their own suits. They don’t often spend time among lay members in their “rigorous travel schedule”. They travel first class. They do a speaking engagement or take tours. This sounds like a pretty good retirement plan yet they still are able to draw full-time salary! If members have no reaction to this while we claim to have and follow the Book of Mormon (NO leaders except for those practicing priest crafts took support. See Mosiah 18:26; Mosiah 27:5; Alma 1:3) then I am in the wrong church.
We willingly lift the prophets up, give unto them of our substance; we give unto them of our gold and our silver and we clothe them with costly apparel; and all because they speaketh flattering words unto us (as in President Nelson telling the YSA’s this past weekend that they were the future leaders to give just one example) They say all is well and we won’t find any fault with them (or their salaries and perks). Hel 13:28.
Nice post. My thoughts:
1. I’m not offended by these amounts in the least.
2. For me the big problem is that, until now, I suspect the vast majority of Saints had no idea the GAs were paid. (Yes, it has been disclosed, but not in a way that would likely make an impression on your average member.) Our fixation on an “unpaid clergy” either needs to be qualified or dropped entirely. We need to stop lording it over all those poor Protestants who pay their ministers.
3. This reflects a great weakness in the Mormon ethos of a preference for secrecy and hiding the ball. We think hiding the ball is a good thing, that it protects the Church from criticism. And for a long, long time, it worked pretty well. But we live in a different age now. The Church still hasn’t managed to adapt to the internet era, although they are trying and making progress. On an issue like this, transparency and forthrightness is the Church’s best defense. The numbers are fine if you own it and are forthright about it. The Church needs to improve on its owning it and being forthright skills.
4. The Church also needs to stop making a big deal about how the source of these payments is not tithing. In doing that, they are counting on a lack of financial sophistication among its people. Money is fungible; it doesn’t matter what the proximate source is.
I would gladly sell all that I have and give it to the poor to become an apostle of the Lord, if I knew I would be #blessed with a modest living allowance of $120k give or take a few perks (like first class travel to assignments in Hawaii). Surely the Q12 needs another J. Golden Kimball and I can swear with the best of them. President Monson, please accept this as my application.
Here are my thoughts. I was surprised that the compensation was not higher. I was actually pleasantly surprised, and it does not seem that unreasonable to me, for the work that these men do. If you compare it to people in academia, other religious leaders, leaders of non profits, the salaries are pretty comparable and even modest. I was impressed that the Apostles take the same salary as the Seventies. I had always thought the higher up you got, the more you made. So that was quite egalitarian.
I think in order to understand the continual Mormon references to a lay clergy, you have to be familiar with the pre-1990 endowment, in which Satan coaches a Protestant minister in how to preach the gospel for money. A paid clergy was associated with the church of the devil in early Mormonism (perhaps to this day), and the lay clergy was a sign that this is the true restored Church of Christ. We didn’t stoop so low as to preach for money, like other churches do. I think that is what motives us to downplay the compensation that church leaders make, to label it a stipend, or an allowance, rather than a salary or compensation. That is also probably what motivates the decision to pay church leaders out of the for-profit business interests of the church, rather than tithing. Which takes me to my last point.
I think the general authorities should be compensated with tithing dollars, and not from business interests. The source of the money matters, and I think it would help general authorities set proper priorities, and also feel more accountable to the membership, if they knew their compensation came from the sacrifices of the membership. As it is, they get paid from the business successes of the church, and in that sense there is just that much more motivation to advance the corporate interests of the institution. The lack of fiscal transparency is a sign that the general authorities do not feel that they are accountable to the membership.
I hear what you are saying and, if pressed, would probably agree about redacting names, etc. The “doing something wrong for the greater good” angle is, I agree, potentially quite troubling. It’s the slippery slope shared by both leftist revolutionaries and rightist religious zealots. I’m genuinely curious, though, about where you think the line is between truth and ethics. I’m less troubled by the leak than you, I think, in part because I believe it’s better to have these things come to light, even if it makes things messier. And in that sense, I think the “truth” should generally take precedence over any ethical considerations, at least when it comes to an institution’s hidden practices. I’d love to know what, for you, would constitute an ethically justified leak. I’m not trying to be snarky, I’m just genuinely curious about where the line would be for you.
And to Martin: I think we can agree to disagree on the whole “what/who do you trust more” issue. An institution that has so consistently worked to hide/spin the truth is deserving of at least a modicum of skepticism, if not outright distrust. To me, it’s less a matter of “what are they doing with MY tithing money” and more a matter of if the truth matters and is so important, why is the church so reluctant to be transparent?.
Joel, I admit while reading your comment at first I had a strong negative reaction – of course we would NOT want the brethren being paid (directly) by tithing dollars – but you make a compelling argument. And honestly, I think my reaction says a lot about how I’ve always been conditioned (as a lifelong Mormon) to think about paid clergy. Like it’s just the worst thing ever – whoops, turns out we’ve had one all along.
Do they pay tithing on their salaries since their salaries come out of tithing?
Brother Sky, I agree that truth is good (like I said before, I think there’s a good argument to be made that the leaks are necessary right now). A clearly ethical leak would be when something illegal is happening or people are getting hurt. This was a matter of transparency on a perfectly legal operation, with documents obtained in questionable ways. I get *why* people did this and I have no idea what business ethics people would say (maybe it’s fine), but perhaps because I’ve worked at a financial institution, releasing personal financial documents when there is no wrongdoing *feels* unethical. Redacting the names would make it look more like targeting the institution’s finances (more justifiable) as opposed to the finances of those individuals.
I am not really surprised by any of this information, but I am surprised by the strength of my emotional response to having a few things confirmed. Let’s start with the gut punch: the church’s beliefs about financial roles of husband and wife are exactly as 1950s as I’ve always suspected, so much so that the general auxiliary presidencies go uncompensated because they aren’t the breadwinning gender. No wonder the church can’t begin to fathom modern concepts like same-sex marriage and ordained women — the higher ups can’t yet bring themselves to pay us!
When it comes to the amounts, I’m torn. Part of me is grateful to see that my mission president (who came from modest means to begin with) is being compensated such that his family won’t suffer from his entering full time church service in his forties. Another part of me is screaming at the sheer volume of commentary calling $120,000 a “modest stipend.” I’m a teacher on the Wasatch front, and it’s taken me nigh 10 years to see the north side of $40,000. Three times that would be positively luxurious! I know a straight comparison of my position and theirs doesn’t hold, but I’ve spent a lot of time watching my salary be publicly debated. The Utah legislature always seems to conclude that giving me a raise would be irresponsible stewardship of the people’s money. But six figures is modest use of the Lord’s money? It leaves me angry even though I had previously assumed the salaries would be in that range.
Elizabeth, according to one publication I saw (from 2012), about 41% of Utah households have two or more workers. So when you see the median *household* income for Utah around 66k, that needs to be taken into consideration. The GA salary is definitely more than what the vast majority of individual Utahns earn.
So I have been having second thoughts about my comment on the ethics of the leaks, and I haven’t really decided where I stand on that yet. In the mean time, I ask myself a new question.
Assuming it was unethical for the leaker to publish this information, is it also unethical to republish the leaked information? Or is it okay once the cat is out of the bag?
I was surprised that they make less than the average professor at UT Austin: http://faculty-salaries.startclass.com/l/12687/The-University-of-Texas-at-Austin — to think Dallin Oaks was acting dean of Chicago’s Law School for a while.
“Assuming it was unethical for the leaker to publish this information, is it also unethical to republish the leaked information? Or is it okay once the cat is out of the bag?”
Generally, it is accepted in journalism that once the cat is out of the bag a journalist my discuss the information.
The stipends came about when they decided to pull all the GAs off of the boards of directors and from all outside income streams (a reaction to the Paul H. Dunn problems).
Some of the things, like first class travel, are merely a side effect of the amount of travel. My first home teaching companion in my current ward traveled a lot for business (Platinum Club membership). While HP only paid for coach, he had perpetual first class upgrades from the travel he had, as well as the club and other benefits. Complaining about their traveling first class (as Jan does) is merely a complaint that they travel so much and make use of rolling upgrades that constant travelers get.
On the other hand, with a median income of 66k per adult, a two adult GA family with one stipend of 120k a year puts them close to the median (132k) for Utah. I appreciate that some, like Jan, feel that the median is grinding the face of the poor.
I’ve mixed feelings. But having seen the houses that the GAs live in (from the blog that tracks them), I suddenly realized that the median house in my current ward i s nicer. And the building that my wife had been considering downsizing and moving into on retirement is one where some GAs own condo units.
I think we have issues of class resentment and general desire to find fault, at least on the data we have.
The big surprise is that the numbers are not higher — something that critics of the Church have constantly claimed to be the case.
At least my two bits at reading the comments and reflecting on the issues.
Though I think that Andrew and Mary Ann and Hawk and the rest have done an excellent job with this post and their comments.
Mary Ann –
I appreciate your reply. I by no means wish to claim the hardship ground :). I was only explaining my emotional reaction to the information. The logical processing part of me is well aware of the statistical methodology you mention. Thanks!
$66k is the median *household* income, not the median per adult income. The GA stipend is coming in at close to double that.
I find the amounts low, but we are not seeing the full compensation package. But even saying this is the biggest part of their compensation, it isn’t that big.
But on a personal level, this is just one more pitchfork full of hay thrown on the back of my faith in the leaders camel – and it’s back was already broken. Yet another case where I see them being dishonest by the definition that they hold me under.
So I am clearly in the “who cares about the amount, what about the lack of honesty by intentionally misleading?”
I also was disturbed by the other leak where it looks like “Make a $50K donation and your suggestion will be floated among the highest leaders.”
Stephen, a 2012 Bloomberg article indicates that some general authorities still sit on the boards of directors: “In some cases, individual General Authorities augment their salaries by serving as board members of the church’s for-profit companies.”
Rockwell, “Assuming it was unethical for the leaker to publish this information, is it also unethical to republish the leaked information?” That’s a really good question.
Hey listen, this isn’t news to the bloggernacle. There have been so many leaks over the years that have all been in this ballpark. If you read, you know about these “stipends”. It isn’t necessary, isn’t transparent. I also don’t buy the “this pot is for this, that for that” because it’s all connected.
I wish they would be less Pharisaical, less materialistic. I know that I will never be called as a GA, but I don’t think I could accept it and the stipends, because I really love being comfortable, a little too much.
-That being said everyone reading this thread should stop immediately and realize that getting a burr under you saddle over zealous protection of holy money is exactly how Judas fell. He became a son of perdition. He had a stronger testimony than you, he fell from a much higher place. You are playing, literally with fire.
Someone spent too much money on anointing oil-spikenard-worth more than its weight in gold, for a one/time foot-washing while children, lepers, and the poor went hungry. Righteous indignation and a loss of testimony followed.
Don’t let it happen to you. Let go of the filthy money. Let God be the judge, it will kill you if you try to weild the gavel! Frankly, if I used the widow’s mite for personal comfort, I would not want to look God in the eye. The eternal consequences for materialism and pride and misuse of sacred funds are sufficiently described in ALL the scriptures. God will handle it, don’t ruminate on it, least you too idolize money.
Let them be accountable for themselves, you be accountable to you. Let the d&$@ money go.
But..but..but…what about the problem?
The only way to influence it is to teach and model the words and walk of the savior to the rising generation. Teach about materialism, about Mormon 8 and 9, about charity. Stop GA worship that includes praising them spiritually for their worldly accomplishments (heart surgeons, university presidents, corporate lawyers, etc). Start teaching the value of King Benjamin’s free service, of a lay ministry, etc. Teach it!!!
Missionaries don’t pay tithing on their stipends/monthly allowances, even if they didn’t earn their own mission money. Stipends are considered a living expense not an increase.
A few years ago the mission president’s manual was leaked to the bloggernacle. It advised MPs and missionaries not to tithe, and offered free tax consultations to MPs navigating the issue. Emphatically, the manual said no, this isn’t a salary, this isn’t an increase, but a living stipend.
The MP manual calculated the potential cost of everything from modest birthday present purchases for close family members, to hosting meals, house staff, clothing, and private schools for children (especially those living abroad).
Elizabeth St Dunstan — thanks! I stand corrected (and gave you a thumbs up vote too).
Happy Hubby — I think this is another example of information overload. I remember the stipends being announced, and Dallin Oaks has talked about how the changes affected him and his wife (his career path has involved continual pay decreases — acting Dean of Chicago’s Law School to BYU to Utah Supreme Court to General Authority — and then as they cut back the board of director positions and other things more reductions).
Mary Ann — Bloomberg is drawing conclusions rather than reading actual facts. May be correct, but there is nothing to substantiate the conclusions.
Mortimer — reliable ex-mormon sources who used to prepare tax returns for GAs are very clear that they pay taxes on their stipends. On the other hand, housing and such for mission presidents (who are required to live in the residences as a part of their service) are specifically addressed in the tax code as non-taxable. I think you’ve conflated your tax law issues, but in a manner others have done so.
All in all this has been interesting to follow in the discussions on-line. I’ve been particularly amused by academics (whose salaries are, as far as I could tell from on-line sources ^-^ are larger than the stipends) who were critical of the stipends as indicative of great wealth. More amused because I could well be wrong on the numbers because the on-line materials I had were not necessarily any more accurate than other things.
To me as a kid in a trailer park? — This was incredible wealth.
To me looking at what a federal judge is paid? (“Associate Supreme Court justices now have a $244,400 salary, up from $213,900. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges are getting $211,200 a year, up from $184,500. The annual salary of a U.S. District Court judge increased to $199,100 from $174,000”) ,,, not so impressed.
A general in the military (think Robert Oaks)? (“A brigadier general (the lowest rank for a general) with 20 years of experience earns $137,000 in annual salary, plus a $20,000 allowance—a largely untaxed subsidy for food and housing. Top generals max out at $180,000 in base salary.”).
These are generic “bulk” government service employees in the United States.
Stephen R Marsh,
“You’ve conflated your tax law issues, but in a way others have done so”.
that’s an unkind and haughty way of parsing your opinion. . I doubt you would phrase it like that if we were talking in person. , I’ve been chatting on the bloggernacle with you for many years now, and am disappointed by your tone towards me. sometimes it’s easy to forget online that we are people, not inanimate text.
We could go back into the MP manual. It does say that you should pay taxes on profit from businesses and holdings back home, and adhere to the codes in your area, but the stipend is for living expenses. Sounds like a fun ball of Christmas lights for someone to untangle in a future post.
Nonetheless, whether or not all or part of the $120k is taxed, it is essentially pure pocket money. GAs have homes (yes, many have plural homes) paid off (I’ve heard rumors that GA debts for Q15 are paid off when they are called-home mortgages, student debt, etc. They want the person to focus on the work and be free of entanglements and potential embarrassing and potentially public defaults.) Granted, it doesn’t apply to most as they were independently wealthy prior to the call.
I don’t think that Elder Oaks has much to lament having lost fortunes from lost decades as a university president, judge, etc. At a certain point living in the top income bracket, money doesn’t matter. If all your needs are taken care of, you can’t do much more with piles of money except continue to get more. You could build a swimming pool out of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, or start a big humanitarian campaign as Bill and Melina Gates have, but you are already leading a big humanitarian effort- the LDS church. you could live in tacky opulence, have a golden toilet, live in a gilded world like our incoming president does, have thousands of pairs of shoes, but most don’t want that. . My point is that they are extremely comfortable and are able to live and appear to be part of the site class, without installing the gold toilets.
If elder Oaks wants a new house, wants to re-marry, go on a vacation, buy a grand piano, install a porch, eat at a nice restaurant, at the drop of a hat he can. The GA name and nepotism connections ensure that his children and descendants can sell books or CDs simply with their last name, network with church and world leaders, get into big schools as legacy admits, work as a church employee, or be called as a GA and live a similar life of comfort. Frankly, that’s a heckuvalot more stable than any stock or inheritance. Then add eternal salvation (second anointing), the priveledge, honor and respect of the office, whining about another $100k here or there that you couldn’t use in your lifetime anyway is meaningless. It’s like the pope…he’s an incredibly intelligent leader. He could have been a CEO somewhere, earning scads of money. Should we lament that he is the pope and probably doesn’t draw a salary, but lives in the Vatacan with all his needs met?
Most of the commenters look at the salary and compare it to their own situation or something similar to give it context and say: “OK, sounds about right.”
But let’s put it in true context.
$120K per year, yes, I could live on that.
Now $120K a year
No mortgage (paid off by a no interest forgiven at death loan by the church.
No auto expenses (payment, insurance, maintenance, repairs)
No tuition expenses.
No health care expenses.
Now compare that you your situation and consider it.
One more thing that no one is talking about.
Take a frugal, careful individual that earns an upper middle class income in the United States. Let’s say she saves 10% of her income for forty years. At 65 she retires and has about $1million in the bank.
She now generally does one of two things:
1-starts drawing on the interest for living expenses
2-sets up an annuity to draw down interest and principal over twenty or thirty years.
Either way, the amassed capital stops growing at retirement.
If you are an apostle or member of the first presidency you continue to draw your salary until you die.
At 8% (the roughly the historical Dow Jones long term annual return), that $1million doubles every 7 years or so.
So at age:
That is enormous familial wealth passed along to their heirs, generated by our tithing.
Not a bad gig.
Also, they presumably don’t pay tithing on this stipend or any other benefits. (Does anyone know otherwise?) So you can’t really compare this stipend to a salary of the same amount because a church member earning $120K a year is also paying $12K a year in tithing. All other things being equal, the GA stipend is worth more.
Alma 30:32 Now Alma said unto him: Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people; for behold I have labored until the commencement of the reign of the judges, with mine own hands for my support,and after the commencement of the reign of the the judges, notwithstanding my many travels round about the land to declare the word of God unto my people, I have received only so much for my labor in the church as any of my brethren.
33 And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as a Lamanite for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were on corporate boards; and then we have received only according to industry standards for our time.
It’s not nearly as strong a response as it used to be, but I guess it will have to do.
I haven’t read all the comments here or in other articles about this topic, but one thing I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere is that most of the Q15 are well beyond retirement age. When I retire at 65 or 67 or 70, I will not be receiving a salary. I have an IRA and a generous pension plan from my employer, but I will no longer be receiving a salary. I would assume that the GAs would follow their own advice and prepare for their later years by socking quite a bit away in IRAs or other investments. But apparently they are still receiving a “living allowance” somewhat north of $120,000 well into their 80s or 90s. That’s a pretty sweet sum for a senior citizen. Certainly not common for most members of the Church.
Mortimer — I’m sorry that the expression came across to you that way. What I meant to say is that the GA stipends are not the same as missionary stipends or mission president stipends. Because the same word is used, it is easy to take the information about the one and apply it to the other — and that has been done a number of times in bloggernacle posts — so your conclusion is not a “one off” but is instead one that many others have made.
Wally — you hit the core issue the rest of the analysis has missed. I will note that federal judges often just take senior status rather than retire, and you can run the numbers on them, but you still hit a very real point.
The analysis here is not flat and not one-sided or single variable. There is a lot going on when you look at things.
Probably so much that it is hard to draw full conclusions.
Daniel Smith (and others) — I’ve had similar thoughts and analysis, including in other essays. However, the very real issue came up a number of times about what to do about the effect of entanglement in outside endeavors.
I was probably too cryptic in referencing Paul H. Dunn. What he did was serve on some boards. He obviously wasn’t qualified to do much but let them make use of his name. For that he was well compensated. The end result is that he was released as a general authority and his attorney got disbarred. The Church made the decision that what they needed to do was stop all outside entanglements. Before they had a hodgepodge of serving on boards, stipends, support, retirement benefits, etc.
They leveled things out and made an effort to end entanglements. The plus side of that is there have been no more Paul H. Dunn stories. The negative side is that “modest” has a lot of different meanings. Especially when you are dealing with people who react better to people presenting as professional class. So, GAs are expected to present to the world as professional class (something that has proven out to make a difference in missionary work when mission presidents present as professional class vs. other presentations).
What we then get is “modest” professional class standards of living. Some of those are incidental. As I learned from a home teaching companion, if you travel enough, you eventually are in the permanent upgrade to first class/Platinum Club/etc. At no additional cost. Some of it is health related. GAs used to eat with local families and stay in local homes. Having them stay at hotels has improved their overall health and reduced down-time. Much of it is presentation (e.g. wearing suits, white shirts and ties — a uniform).
The baseline automobiles are a good example. Is a Toyota Avalon “modest” or “extravagant?” Is responding to threats against President Monson by putting him in an armored vehicle appropriate or extravagant (because of the cost of that class of vehicle)?
How people react depends a lot on their own class situation. Professional class people, upper middle class and higher see the GAs as living a modest life-style. Lower middle class people see the life-style as extravagant. Those outside the United States are sometimes very positive and sometimes negative or perplexed. Often it depends on their class. I’ve been amused to watch academics bench mark what GAs “should receive” on things other than what academics are paid — often amounts that would not support professional class standards.
What is the solution? I don’t know. A lot of variables, a lot of issues and a lot of rippling effects are implicated.
But I’m glad to see the conversation.
And I’m apologizing to Mortimer.
I have no problem with either the amount of the stipend as “revealed,” nor the unfounded “lack of transparency” attacks. But, like Angela C, I have a problem with being taught–and repeating that teaching as a missionary–that we have an unpaid clergy. That “teaching” was not only inaccurate due to these well-earned stipends, but due to the fact that bishops and stake presidents received payments for their service from tithing funds (“worthy of their pay” in the D&C was meant to be literal) and clerks were paid a fee for issuing priesthood ordination certificates (licenses) at least until the late 19th Century. I think I learned this many years ago from reading Rough Stone Rolling, but it could have been from an article in Sunstone or Dialogue.
Oops…”worthy of their hire”
How can it be both a “modest living stipend” and compared to salaries of professors and administrators? Does it really take that much to get them to take the job? Now that this is out, will they stop telling stories of people who pay tithing rather than eat?
In 2007 after Uchtdorf became a counselor in the First Presidency, he was interviewed by Spiegel. “Uchtdorf, for example, lives off his Lufthansa pension. And he says he has no right to a house or other comforts in Salt Lake City. At most, apostles like him receive compensation for their travel costs.” The two church leaders whose stipends are supposedly being disclosed are among those who did not leave well-paid careers. Eyring left the Stanford faculty when he was still young after his wife asked him, “Are you sure you are doing the right thing with your life? Couldn’t you be doing studies for Neal Maxwell?” Maxwell was then the commissioner of church education. Bruce Porter was an expert in Russian affairs who worked for the government and later was a BYU professor.
In 2007 after Uchtdorf became a counselor in the First Presidency, he was interviewed by Spiegel. “Uchtdorf, for example, lives off his Lufthansa pension. And he says he has no right to a house or other comforts in Salt Lake City. At most, apostles like him receive compensation for their travel costs.” The two church leaders whose stipends are supposedly being disclosed are among those who did not leave well-paid careers. Eyring left the Stanford faculty when he was still young after his wife asked him, “Are you sure you are doing the right thing with your life? Couldn’t you be doing studies for Neal Maxwell?” Maxwell was then the commissioner of church education. Bruce Porter was an expert in Russian affairs who worked for the government and later was a BYU professor.
[URL links omitted to pass the web-hating filter.]
John, we got the comment through the web-hating filter. 🙂
If I was getting a $120,000 annual stipend, why would I jeopardize that by merchandizing my general conference talks and selling a few “Ponderize” t-shirts? Makes no sense to me.
I suppose one could consider the stipend to be in a different category than salary, meaning you could somehow still teach that the positions are unpaid? Though I wouldn’t try to do that. I mean, the Trib does call the pays such things as ‘living allowance’, ‘parsonage or clergy housing allowance, and ‘child allowance’. (I’m pondering how child allowance is necessary for octogenarians, unless they have adult dependents who are disabled. ) Members of the Uniformed Services receive payment for ‘housing and subsistence’ that is not subject to tax, if they live off base. That could, likewise, be considered a stipend rather than a payment for services rendered.
I can see I will grow tired of Mormon related newsfeeds being dominated by ‘wikileaks’.
Rigel, the “ponderize” guy (Devin G. Durrant) serves in the Sunday School Presidency, an Auxiliary organization. He is not considered a General Authority per se, so he would not receive a stipend.
This discussion is a far cry from Matthew 6…..
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Thanks for correcting me Mary Ann. Don’t want my errant quotes to be picked up an published in the Trib!
It used to be that stipends were supplemental. That is, if you had retirement benefits of $40k a year, your stipend would only be $80k to bring your total up to the $120k. If you had retirement benefits over $120k (e.g. retired generals and others), then the stipend would be $0.00.
Second Quorum of Seventy and Mission President stipends and support worked that way, and end at the end of the calling.
Some of the allowances (such as the dependent allowances) are cafeteria items — if they apply, they are available, if they don’t, they don’t. So. If you are 59 with children at home (and there are general authorities who are in the 40-60 range with children at home), then it applies. If you are 80 and past that — then it does not. Not everyone is as old as President Monson or President Nelson.
I’m wondering if anyone who has been doing tax returns or has other contact can confirm whether the stipends are supplemental (rather than absolute) now. The problem we have is that the stipend information leaked was from an individual who gave up retirement and other benefits in accepting the call and thus has the $0.00 base. Uchtdorf, on the other hand, has a substantial pension, I think over the $120k base, so I’m curious if he receives a stipend in addition or not. If he doesn’t, that would explain some of his comments.
It would be nice to know so that we are not in a vacuum in discussing things. So much of what we know and what we think is based on speculation and on old information.
Hawk — you have called it on the effect of lack of transparency.
Mary Ann — I’ve noted that you pointed out in other conversations that of an age (e.g. the “older generation”) talking about pay and income was considered extremely rude and intrusive — something that just wasn’t done. But in the era of “toot of the flute” discussions, I guess many things are more than fair game.
Interesting discussion and comments.
There are over 30,000 wards and branches and over 3,000 stakes, each lead by unpaid lay clergy. Counting counselors, that is over 100,000 unpaid clergy. The claim that the Church has unpaid clergy doesn’t seem particularly disingenuous to me.
Unpaid? Oh yes, they’re all paid, more ways than one.
I’m for full disclosure by the Church, but not necessarily by the paid individuals. I believe in individual privacies.
In my 20s in the early ’70s, I worked at an IRS Service Center in Code and Edit. It was competitive processing of 1040s, so no time to linger looking or contemplating lest falling behind others and getting furloughed earlier. Disclosures discovered by the employer of course meant pronto firing. Nevertheless, I do remember seeing a GA’s 1040, including W-2s from a church-related entity, which reported wages and withholdings proportional, accounting for inflation, to the amounts being discussed now.
This is no surprise to me, and I’ve marveled as others through the years have discussed and speculated about information I knew, at least to some degree.
That people are compensated for full time work doesn’t bother me. Far worse, IMHO, is the giant, ostentatious home that was recently build in my small, southern Utah town. The homeowner- a recently retired CES employee. It is easily one on the fanciest homes in our town, and was in the annual Parade of Homes. If we compare CES employees to public school educators, with summers off etc. it is clear that they make much more than school teachers. As a school teacher, who pays taxes and tithing, the mansion on the hill is very offensive.
When you refer to “they’re all paid,” do you mean the GAs or the bishops and stake presidents? As someone who bears the dubious distinction of being familialy connected to multiple former bishops who have left the church, let me assure you that they received no financial compensation for their church service. For context, I should note that each of them served as bishops in the US outside the Book of Mormon belt.
As someone who spent his teenage years in relative poverty because my family were called on a building mission, to supervise the building of chapels, I find this information disturbing. Our family home was sold and the money spent because we could not live on the allowance.
I am now retired and live on a pension plus sale of property. At a recent tithing interview, my bishop asked how I could live on 10 times the tithing I paid. I just told him I had paid a full tithe. He was not happy. Now I will be able to tell him senior GAs don’t pay tithing on their $120k incomes.
I believe Apostles should retire at 72, as the Lord says in 3 Nephi. I also believe they should not be paid anything unless they are in financial difficulty. I would also be watching the amount spent on travel and accommodation.
OPENNESS AND TRANSPERENCY EQUALS HONESTY. TOO MUCH TO ASK?
Elizabeth, I was speaking rhetorically. Bishops and Stake Presidents don’t get cash, but I think they do get kudos, connections, honors, credibility and respect, etc. Especially, I think, in places like Utah and Eastern Idaho.
They can have those kudos, connections and ‘honor’s as far as I’m concerned. I would much rather miss out on those AND not be aware of each and every ward member’s personal problems (those that are not announced from the pulpit anyway). I would much rather spend more time with my family then to be spending more hours at the chapel and stake center. Receiving those late night calls that so and so is in the hospital or died and needs a visit is noble, but demanding.
I can assure you that $120,000 is well below the point at which money ceases to matter.
Kullervo, except if you are earning that amount every year, well past the age of retirement, after your house is paid off, until death.
I realize that to a lot of people, $120,000 sounds like an opulent, kingly sum. I grew up in East Tennessee, and my parents were self-employed, usually just barely scraping by. I thought my friends in school with parents who made $60k were just fabulously rich.
Now, thirty years later, I am a trusts and estates and nonprofit org attorney at a large law firm in an East Coast city, and my perspective is very different. I know what professional salaries are like. I know what executives at nonprofits of various sizes and budgets make (and I know how to look those salaries up). I know the dramatic range of salaries that pastors make. I also know that $60k doesn’t stretch nearly as far as I used to dream it did.
I’m also an ex-Mormon (grew up active, served a mission, married in the temple) and I am a staunchly evangelical Presbyterian.
I definitely think that clergy should be supported by their congregations., and think it is ludicrous that Mormons think that unpaid clergy is a feature, not a bug. (It’s easy to point at celebrity pastors of megachurches with preposterous compensation packages, but the vast majority of pastors have small congregations and usually they’re underpaid, given education level and cost of living. Many are bivocational and paid nothing or very little.
I say all of that to preface my answer, which is that I think these leaked salaries are indeed modest, all things considered. However, they certainly do not reflect the entirety of the GA’s incomes, which could include book royalties, income from investments, pensions, etc.
However, like many of the posters above, I do take issue with the hypocrisy and dishonesty of claiming that the church has unpaid clergy. Regardless of how the “official” sources parse it–I understand that they’ve been open about the existence of stipends for years–but members and missionaries continue to repeat and believe otherwise, and ultimately the church is its members. And it certainly does not jive with the Book of Mormon passages that preach against paid clergy and castigate other churches for having it. (I think the BoM is fictional and those passages are wrong, but hypocrisy is hypocrisy.)
Yes, and I have never heard a justification for it that was not preposterous. Churches are not required to disclose their finances (unlike other non-profits that have to make substantial disclosures on their Form 990 and 990-PF tax returns), but good churches do. I would probably not attend a church that did not. My current church is transparent about its finances. We know what our pastors make, we know how much goes to what programs, how much goes to what ministries we support, how much goes to staff, how much the building and maintenance costs, etc.
Anything that pushes the church toward financial transparency is useful, in my opinion. I’m not sure what ethical principle the leaks would violate. I’m not a utilitarian. I suppose the ethics of the leak depend on the circumstances of the leaker. But I don’t think there’s some sort of general ethical principle that applies.
You can still burn up $120k awfully fast. Maybe $120k is enough so that money doesn’t matter if you live a lifestyle that costs less than $120k, but that can be said about any salary above absolute poverty.
My point is, at $120k/year, even if you have no mortgage, dependents or significant debt, you still have to make decisions about how you spend your money. You still have to choose between spending on this or spending on that. You can’t actually just start snapping up mansions and exotic cars, and travelling to Paris every other weekend. You can’t just decide to eat out for every meal. You can;t throw money at your problems to fix all of them. You can’t pay for all your grandkids’ college educations.
You may not have to worry about money, or stress out about whether you are going to be able to pay the water bill. But that’s not the same thing as “money doesn’t matter.”
Again, I agree that with $120k you could set yourself up with a significantly restrained lifestyle, such that you didn’t have to budget for relatively frequent purchases of a certain amount or less. But that’s not money not-mattering, at all.
The amazing health care that the 12 and prophet receive is not factored into the salary. They have a full-time physician who serves that and also receive exceptional health care that few, if any, people on earth receive, including around the clock health care providers serving them in their homes if they become incapacitated. They may earn less than they would earn if they were working in a secular job, but they are well-compensated for their service in other ways and seem to be becoming more powerful and less transparent. As a member,the latter concerns me.
Kullervo – given your background, think about $120,000 per year this way. What would it cost you today to buy an annuity for life that pays $120,000 per year? Do the math and the number might surprise you.
Stephen R Marsh,
Thank you. Well intentions on both sides.
Kullervo, take a look at Sean’s post at 9:44 above, it adds up if you are free of most bills.
This living stipend goes out whether or not one is working or incapacitated. There are a few senior apostles who haven’t attended conference in some time, don’t travel, aren’t attending meetings or making it into the office. They still get the same stipend. Since it was calculated to include things like world-class business attire, expenses hosting dignitaries, etc. I think that probably needs to be revisited.
Elder Uchtdorf may not live in SLC, but he has a brand new $300+ home in a quiet development just outside SLC that was owned and developed by the church. I can’t recall, but he lives next door to another apostle (Nelson?). They received priority access to the development lots and the bloggernacle has rumored how much of the home was gifted to him by the church. Whether or not he simply received first pick of the lots, or was given the land to resettle in Utah, or was given the entire home, we don’t know. We know it was a church development, the two apostles homes were the first two built in the cul du sac, and we know what the property taxes for the address are. However it happened, he can’t wash his hands completely free of a SLC home. That goes beyond a mere transparency problem, and becomes an intentional smoke screen.
I think that people respond to this information the same way that they do politics- they are in a camp and have preconceived ideas about trust and loyalty, which bias their responses. A TBM has long taken pride in the fact that the church boasts of its careful stewardship of finances, immaculately clean audits, tearful testimonies of financial stewards, etc. When the possibility that something financial may not be right appears, their limbic system says “no!” Then they begin to rationalize it away with really bad logic. (I’m not saying all posts to that effect were illogical, but there were several that really made no sense- wouldn’t pass muster if we were talking about military budgets, or a frat/sorority budget, or your basic local non-profit. (See the book “The Righteous Mind” by Haidt.) We might also look at the post-Mormon comments and say, hey guys, bad blood, you’re just throwing stones. At the end of the day, we have to figure out what is scriptural (King Benjamin or lilies of the field?) what is practical, and what is honest and transparent.
For me, I tend to think we are ALL guilty. I think they live the lives of the business elite, dress in costly clothing, and are blind to the opulence of City Creek. We are the ones who hold them to that standard though. Our GA worship comes from expecting to see them in suits, always immaculate, riding their worldly accolades (Supreme Court, heart surgeon, SCOTUS clerk, big business man, etc.) would we respect them if there were stories of having to rescue Elder so and so and his broken-down Chevy truck on the side of the road last week? Or the scoffs of RS sisters seeing a GA child with old scuffed sneakers passing the sacrament?
We are the ones who are star-struck with the show. We are the ones who introduce them at church or the MTC by reading their resumes. We are the ones who have forgotten that we originally followed a nearly-illiterate plow-boy Prophet who wrestled with other boys and lived among the people. We are the ones who always sustain the richest men in our wards/stakes as bishops, stake presidents and high councilmen (as a rule, with increasingly few exceptions). We are all guilty of all the things prophesied for our day in Mormon 9 (pride, costly arraiment, love of money above love of the poor). My goodness, did you see Sister Uchtdorf’s silk Coach ($500) scarf she wore to conference! How beautiful, I wish I were like her…so put together.
Many people are drawn to the church because we uphold the prosperity doctrine -we flaut these men and women as spiritual exemplars who applied Mormonism and were blessed with amazing career success, perfect suits, bleached teeth, etc. Missionaries especially are given this carrot-see your rich/successful MP? Follow the formula and do likewise. The big televangelists do the same thing (Joel Osteen, White, Jakes, Joyce Meyer, N. v. Peale, etc.)
If we valued people who lived humbly more than worldly success, we’d probably see GAs living a more normal and less opulent life reflective of the world-wide poverty norm. We’d probably have a lot less materialism in our culture. What if we weren’t known for our suits and ties, but our jeans and work-shirts???
Before someone chimes in that we need the appearance to play ball with other churches and governments, I’ll say that Mother Terrsa didn’t. There are plenty of churches and leaders who live humbly as a walk of faith. Our scriptures tell us we should do that, but we don’t. We choose not to hear that stuff like we choose to eat meat throughout the year and as main courses, not sparingly. We cherry-pick what we obey and wonder why God is taking so long to return.
Well said, Mortimer! It’s not that LDS GAs are different than anyone else in the religion biz. It’s that they’re just not different and NOT what Mother Theresa or Pope Francis or some other unheralded authentic person working in the trenches are that deserves some reflection. It isn’t necessary to go on the un-examined, un-transparent way we have.
On reflection, the above was too harsh. Not necessarily untrue, but absolutely too harsh.
Seriously, do you really think that $120k lets you live “the lives of the business elite?” I promise you, it does not.
Back in the late 70’s I attended a missionary farewell in President Kimball’s home ward and he was in attendance. My friend lived on President Kimball’s street. President Kimball’s home was just a standard home in a middle class neighborhood. Nothing special.
I agree with many of the points Mortimer raises. I’m always touched by pictures of Pope Francis washing his follower’s feet and his shunning of some of the pomp and circumstance associated with his status. I thought it would be nice for our apostles to sit in the congregation during General Conference unless they were speaking at that particular session.
President Monson also keeps his humble home, but lives in the President’s condo (with more security, closer to work), and has a vacation cabin/home in Heber. Many of the Q15 have cabins/vacation homes. Sheri Dew and the Wendy Watson Nelson co-purchased a vacation home together (a subject in another part of the Bloggernacle).
That being said, they aren’t in the McMansions that are popular for televangelists-the multi-million-dollar estates with tennis courts that former cardiac surgeons could afford.
That being said, Brigham was the most opulent, having the Lion House, the Gardo House (called “Amelia’s Palace), his multiple homes in St. George, Salt Lake etc.
I am not surprised or bothered. I AM bothered by the lack of transparency. In the Lutheran church I grew up in, the pastor’s salary IS LISTED to the general membership EVERY year – including the parsonage (pastor’s home), and any other perks received.
It is irritating that they want to keep DISCLAIMING themselves about the money not coming from tithing. As a commenter further up said, money is money. It really doesn’t matter what the PROXIMATE source is – it’s all fungible.
What I really want to see is something more like an ‘accounting of the estate’. I want to know where all the money comes from, where it’s going, and who’s getting what, including in terms of ‘perks’. I would expect that the perks outweigh the salary – sitting on boards (and earning salaries from that), business offshoots, selling books, etc.
Most all of the commenters here (LDS, no doubt) are missing the critically important point here:
Since before I was born (before 1983), the LDS church has been telling its members that no one in the LDS church is paid for their services to the church “AS THE SIGN OF THE ONE TRUE CHURCH”. I have been told this repeatedly all throughout my life, that this is what sets apart the one true church apart from all the others, it’s been said to be the trait that makes all the others religions immediately and automatically “not the One True Church”, and I’ve grown up and visited many different wards who have said the same thing so many times in so many lessons that it boggles the mind that anyone would be glossing over this fact to say, “I don’t think the salary is very high, imo”. Scriptures are even used to back this up from the bible.
“The true church must have no paid ministry” (1 Cor 9:16-18; Acts 20:33-34; John 10:11-13)
Not a big deal? Yeah, it is a big deal. It proves your church is false by its own standards.
What ought to be astonishing is how easily and willingly LDS members are willing to defend their religious paradigms, flying in the face that the LDS church is built primarily on falsehoods. What falsehoods?
First and foremost:
-The myth of Blood Atonement: how can someone being murdered for you, whether human or non-human animal, keep you from experiencing the consequences of your own unethical actions, rather than further adding to condemnation?
-the mythology of jesus: no records of a jesus date back to before 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea (more than 325 years after this alleged person’s death), because they weren’t written until then, and there are zero valid historians of the time who mention this person. Josephus the Historian’s quick few sentences where he mentions jesus is the messiah is taken by credible historians as a forgery because he wrote extensive volumes about people who were less famous, less “important”, so surely he would have written much more than a few sentences about someone whom he himself had allegedly claimed was so important. Those looking for evidence or mention of” jesus christ” or “christianity” in the Dead Sea Scrolls (which are said to be predate when the bible was written) will be sorely disappointed.
Please see “Forged Origins of the New Testament”, citing the Catholic Encyclopedic Records of the Council of Nicaea and political Roman emperor Constantine who murdered his wife and son, compiled the various mythological religions into one composite deity, chose and edited which books would go into the bible, burned other religious texts, and used the symbol of the cross to invade and conquer other indigenous peoples. https://www.nexusmagazine.com/articles/doc_view/11-the-forged-origins-of-the-new-testament
This example has continued on through Christian Christopher Columbus (who caused genocide of the arawaks) and beyond, up to Donald Trump today. Please read “A People’s History of the United States” (http://www.historyisaweapon.com/zinnapeopleshistory.html ) about these accounts of people who were full of religious talk about their genocide, much like many mormons today, conflating patriotism and “Support our Troops” (the military industrial complex) into religious idolatry): more accurately, they ought to be called Christofascists.
-what the people are told about health in the temples while still following the prophet’s example and ending up obese and with diabetes like him
-the idea that the LDS church cares about this planet when it spends billions of dollars on lavish temples instead of what it could be using to plant food forests, to live Vegan as the example and help promote being Vegan (please see the environmental ramifications of animal agriculture here: http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/–if one doesn’t like the name of the controversial documentary, please feel free to point out which credible sources and studies within one has a problem with and why), to provide access to clean water and clean renewable energy
-not to mention the war against the non-human animals in animal agriculture being waged by the LDS prophet, LDS leadership, and 99.9% of LDS members who are not Vegan, even using scripture to justify injustice to these sentient beings.
Being Vegan is the #1 first best thing one can do for one’s health, the environment, the animals, our economy, our ethics/spirituality and logic systems, to end world hunger and promote world peace.
Yet, the LDS church owns one of the largest amounts of cattle ranch land in the world and hunting lodges, and investsin businesses that have NOTHING to do with LDS proclaimed values of peace and love (which ought to be unconditional for all sentient beings!), such as Burger King, Dominoes, Pizza Hut, etc. which interestingly, they even teach a girl’s camp song to the young girls about.).
-If the LDS “prophet” did something so horrific (like condoning genocide, packaged as kindness), you would swallow it, hook, line and sinker. Members in a corporate cult don’t know they’re in a corporate cult until they learn logical fallacies and how science works. It’s time to stop “hero worshiping” religious leaders, work together with those who can help make a peaceful, loving, kind and revitalized world with minimized unnecessary suffering, open your hearts, follow your own conscience and be our own leaders.
The support for the billion dollar “City Creek Center Mall”, which restaurants serve alcohol and which the LDS church receives rent money from those restaurants and thereby is profiting from alcohol sales (which is against your stated “Word of Wisdom”) is another example of how you’re willing to change your standards over time, without a blink of the eye. Wake up. You’ve been had.
Just a couple of important notes. I keep seeing the words “living Allowances” if it is in fact a living allowance then it would be considered an entitlement and would not be subject to taxes. As a member of the military I received an annual salary and other entitlements such as Basic Allowance for Housing or BAH which is not pay but an entitlement and was never taxed. Another such entitlement was Separate Rations if you lived off post and didn’t eat in the mess hall you received these entitlements monthly tax free. I see no problem with our Apostles making $100,000 or even $200,000 per year, and if Washington were full of Apostles we would be much better off than with Senators and Members of the House of Representatives.
Reference most of the apostles being past retirement age and still receiving a stipend. These men are not retired in the typical sense. They work a sometimes grueling schedule.
A few of the Quorum of the Twelve have Harvard MBAs, one has a JD from Stanford, another has a JD from Duke, another was a Utah Supreme Court Justice, others have PhDs, one is a very renowned heart surgeon.
Most of these guys were probably making over $250,000 a year. They take a big pay cut and work nonstop. Plus, the Church doesn’t pay them using tithing money, so I don’t get why anyone cares.
Steve – I am with you on the “that isn’t that much” as I agree most of the top church leaders take a pay cut and really work hard. I don’t doubt that for a minute. You do point out the top leaders have mainly corporate backgrounds. I do wish we had some theologians among our top leaders and not mainly business leaders. I think that is partially what is making the church feel very “corporate” for many.
But the part about “not tithing money” makes no sense to me. So if they are not paid by “tithing money”, then where is it coming from? Is it coming from the church’s business investments? Ok, Where did the money come to make the business investments? Eventually it comes down to someone’s tithing to start with. And even if that wasn’t a big deal on where it comes from, for many other items is this money that could be going towards other things? I am a bit more worried about where the money is going vs where it is coming from. It just angers me that on the bulletin boards in my stake there is a flier for the Liahona Children’s Foundation where it states, “LDS children are dying from starvation.” I applaud my stake leadership for allowing the fliers to be up, but if I take a step back I feel there is something seriously wrong when $35 million is spent from members on a historical document while kids are starving to death within our own church. I feel more investments in helping the world-wide membership to be more self sustaining would be money better spent.
President Monson left a 12 million dollar estate, sounds funny if he wasn’t paid 🙂
I saw a previous post (Mortimer, 1/13/17) about Bishops and Stake Presidents being the richest men. I have been both, Bishop for 6 years, Stake President for 10 years. I am 59 years old and I just now hit $65,000 a year. It’s an honest living, but rich I am not.
To the 90.000 to 120.000 thousand dollars it is necessary to add, travel expenses, insurance, school benefits for children, staff help, services paid by the church and many other sources of benefits that for sure rise the “stipend” amount…in my opinion , if we count all the extra benefits the sum will go up to around 200.000 $ or more….for example, I have know of mission presidents having house employees for help in household chores, servants, gardeners etc etc….not counting that they always live in the best zones with the elites of the host country or location……
I have taught my whole life that the church has no paid minstry from a Sunday school teacher to the prophet? I just of course assumed that for that full time leaders first presidency the twelve GA s would get help with travel and hotel expenses food etc when they do these things these men are all educated and have either retired or in case they haven’t should be asisted with a housing allowance we expect young men and women to go missions and pay thier way however there are those who can’t and the church can assist them with the very basic living expenses, but we need to understand how any monies are brought in in the first place not by inestments are church buiss ess because the church didn’t purchase anything unless was from tithes and offerings! When a member who is serving in a ward or branch or stake is in need of financial help in thier home many cases they may be turned down by a bishop for any help it happened to me once apony time I was tithe payer I served a mission I’m proud of. I have heard president Hinckley among others say! We. Are all on the same journey being an apostle is a calling just like a Sunday School teacher yes it’s a life long calling and a committnent but know calling in this the Lord’s church shall not be a paid commitment it can’t be called a salary it needs to be distributed just like it is at the ward level if you pay for a plane ticket you bring to the clerk or prsiding bishop and you get reinmbersted or you get a continual housing check but not for leaders who already have a nice home bought and paid for?? But those that need help by the way the ward I grew up in wouldn’t allow me to get assistance for my mission I had to work 2 jobs and go a mission in a different ward altogether they did fill in some gap we are all servants and none of us are greater than the saviour or the original apostle s who received no salry or pay for their service and sacrifice I hope the Lord’s servants and those who hold the power over these funds which are the Lord’s will change the way things are done read the book of Mormon and Bible study the early days of the church in this this dispensation. You LL discover things that were not always according to the Lord’s desire there must be transparent attributes I could say more but I make my point
Personally, I will never have to worry that my service to the Lord for spreading his gospel or serving in any calling came or will come with a price tag 🙂
I can and will someday give a proper accounting of my time on this earth and that is not one area where I have to worry about giving a proper accounting (like anyone else I am sure the Lord will find plenty of shortcomings elsewhere to question me on, but this won’t be one of them).
That said, I find it interesting the church would have to defend it by calling it “modest” etc…or that there is even a stipend. Given their travels etc, I have no problems with GA being reimburse for expenses etc…
However, to me the idea of a stipend (again, just my general opinion) means…”Well, I am not sure I really have enough faith that the Lord will sustain me in my calling or help me retire in such a way as to not need additional funds…I better go ahead and hedge my bets and take the money.” …Though not improper, I would hope GAs would avoid “the appearance of evil”. in all things and not put themselves in a position to be questioned on these matters…if it was avoided altogether, there would not be an article for discussion. There would be nothing to discuss in this area as GAs went about their business :)…and under, “Good, Better, Best”…to me that would be “Best” 🙂
I personally think it’s horrible that church expect us to pay for those general authorities and used our tithing to pay them and invest! Where is the transparency? It hurt members’ testimony when all my life I believed there was no paid clergies and what an honorable position those general authorities accept to do for the church. 120000 is not an average salary! Most of the members in the church are struggling and don’t make half of that much. Seriously, I am struggling to make my ends to meet to pay for the general authorities and how they decorate their offices? Most of the local leaders are well off in their professions and no paid for them. In my area, you have to be rich to lead the church. Rich people are more righteous in that regard! GA getting paid and their stipends being kept a secret really make people lose their testimony!