Without doing an actual poll, I’m just going to throw this out there and solicit your vote in the comments: Is the LDS Church a well managed organization? You can use the old reliable scale of outstanding, good, fair, poor, or a complete train wreck, or you can give a longer explanation. I’ll add a few additional comments.
General Conference. Change can be good for an organization, and Pres. Nelson is bringing a lot of changes to LDS organization and practice. These seem to be minor rather than major changes and not everyone will see every change as positive, but who can argue with two-hour church? But the changes to the temple recommend questions, announced by Pres. Nelson in the Sunday afternoon session, illustrate a perennial problem for church governance: leadership doesn’t explain why they do the things the do. The wording was supposedly edited for clarity, but as Jana Riess points out in her two-part review of the changes, the meaning and effect of the changes are clear as mud (part 1, part 2). Interviewees are asked if they understand the Word of Wisdom. Does anyone? Do you promote teachings contrary to those of the Church? You mean like science? If you’re going to edit a key document, what comes out of the process should be an improvement over the prior document.
Finances. I can understand why the Church does not publish financial statements. When lots of people want to take potshots at your organization, why give them additional ammunition? But you can’t let your critics determine your policies. Just do the right thing. Until the late 1950s, the Church did publish its finances. Here is the key thing: Publishing financial statements promotes organizational accountability. Not publishing them almost certainly means there are things to hide. The membership, which contributes generously to the Church, deserves more than an auditor’s report expressing an opinion on the accuracy and reliability of financial statements that no one gets to see.
Leadership. One often hears the argument made that the Church must be well led by the senior leaders because of their experience as business executives, educational leaders, and so forth. That held more weight two generations ago, when LDS leaders were of roughly the same age as actual leaders in business, government, and education. Lifetime tenure has pushed the senior cadre of LDS leaders into their 80s and 90s. No organization in the country, apart from the federal judiciary, allows senior leaders to regularly serve until they die in office, and even many federal judges retire rather than die on the bench. There is a price to be paid for sticking with lifetime tenure. This is most apparent when, as often happens now, the person in that office loses the mental capacity to conduct the duties of the office. An organization that supports a system in which the leader of the organization is regularly incapable of leading the organization can only be described as dysfunctional.
Selecting the President. Then there is the issue of choosing the President. Bishops, stake presidents, new GAs, new apostles … all of these selections are made carefully and with due consideration to the capabilities, qualifications, and faithfulness of the person selected from several qualified candidates. But for the leader of the Church, it’s the last man standing system. Imagine how wards would run if, when a bishop is released, the oldest high priest in the ward automatically became the new bishop? I understand the benefit of avoiding conflict in the senior quorum by not forcing them to have an actual discussion about who would best serve the Church as President or who the Lord would like to serve. But isn’t that what inspired leaders are supposed to do? You could avoid conflict by selecting the *youngest* member of the Twelve and giving them a twelve-year term of service (to avoid the loss of capacity problem).
Selection procedures sometimes may aim to select the best candidate available, an NFL draft pick or the new accounting manager at your company, for example. But sometimes the system merely avoids making a bad selection, or even simply avoid picking the worst candidate. Elections arguably do this, although not with complete success. Is an organization capable of avoiding picking the wrong candidate for CEO or president? Most make every effort to avoid picking the wrong coach or the wrong CEO or the wrong general for the job. For LDS President, it’s just luck of the draw. There is no mechanism to avoid picking the wrong person for President if they happen to be the most senior living apostle.
I’m thinking here of Ezra Taft Benson. I just read Thunder From the Right: Ezra Taft Benson in Mormonism and Politics (U. of Illinois, 2019), a collection of essays edited by Matthew L. Harris. It’s informative but depressing, depressing enough I can’t really bring myself to write a review. While Benson was a dedicated public servant in office and served energetically in the Church, he also brought conflict to the quorum, manipulated an aging Pres. McKay to further his own agenda, helped politicize the Church in his General Conference addresses, and embraced right-wing conspiracy theories. The Church has still not recovered from all this. But when he was the oldest surviving apostle, there was no organizational mechanism to prevent him assuming the Presidency. The LDS Church is an organization that, as an organization, does not have the power to select its own President.
So, back to the original question. Do you think the LDS Church, at the central and highest level, is well managed? Is it outstanding, good, fair, poor, or a complete train wreck?