We get a new bishop in my ward in a few weeks. The old one is moving, the only sure way of getting released before 5 years that does not involve a disciplinary council. As has been noted many times on Mormon blogs and forums ( I hate the word “bloggernacle”), Bishops and Stake Presidents usually have well-paying white collar jobs. Notice I said usually. Everybody knows a bishop that does not fit the mold, is a farmer or a carpenter or a “refuse technician” (aka garbage man!). But if you live in an urban area, dentists, medical doctors, and business owners are over represented in leadership callings compared to the statistical makeup of the members in the area.
It is obvious that the type of person that becomes a doctor has the organizational skills that would also make him a good bishop or SP. But what I find interesting and somewhat paradoxical, is that it is not the type of person that is currently converting to the church.
So what is it that draws the best and brightest to high local leadership positions, yet does not attract the same caliber of new members as converts? This got me thinking about the type of people I baptized as a missionary many years ago.
In my mission to Southern Chile in the mid 1970’s, we used an interesting method in assigning areas to companionships. The Zone leaders, which were the most senior leaders in a particular town/city, were assigned to the wealthiest area. For Chile, this meant people with automobiles, college educated or business owners. The reason I was told this was done was that these wealthy people were the hardest to teach, so the ZLs, being the “best” in the Zone, were given the hardest assignment for proselyting. One of the perks of this was that because the missionaries rented a room from a family in their area, the ZLs usually get a very nice room with a well-to-do family. The downside was they had a lower baptismal rate than the rest of the Zone.
So why are rich people less likely to join the church? The line we get at church is that these people are proud, hard hearted, and are “so called intellectuals”. But I didn’t see this at all when during the last 6 months of my mission I was a ZL, and taught these “rich” people. What I saw were people that were very friendly, inquisitive, intelligent, educated, and had analytical skills to evaluate what we were teaching them.
I also see this in my current ward. The convert baptisms of adults over the last few years have been single people on the low end of the income scale. The one family baptized about 5 years ago are inactive. About ten years ago we had an emergency room physician marry a nurse that was in our ward, and he converted. He left before the year was up.
While there is not a hard correlation between incomes and intelligent, these wealthy people I taught in Chile had better organizational skills, better analytical skills, and spoke a little better Castellano (they would conjugate their verbs correctly).
So why do poor people join the church at a higher rate than wealthy people? Are they looking for a way ahead, and see the church (particularly people outside the US) as a wealthy organization that they can hitch their wagon to? Or are they really just more humble and open to the “promptings of the spirit”?