Leadership roulette is a real thing, as demonstrated by the Utah Area Authority banning all online church meetings in his area, while the rest of the world enjoys “Zoom” meetings on Sunday. In my ward we have them about every 3 weeks. Last week we had a zoom testimony meeting, where anybody that want to bear their testimony would message the moderator, and she  would turn the microphone on at the appropriate time. It worked very well, and we had about 50 families join, which is about the same we would have at a normal testimony meeting.
The difference in leadership can be startling from ward to another and stake to stake, but it is nice when the wheel lands on red 34, and that happens to be where you put all your chips!
My daughter told me that they were called last week by the EQP, and asked if they needed financial help during this time. My daughter and her family have not been to church for over two years, and yet they were offered help. They later found out that the Stake President had instructed the bishops to contact every person in the stake, regardless of activity, and off to help them. They were instructed NOT to turn anybody down.
This has not happened in my stake, even though our stakes share a border. So one could assume this is not an area or church wide initiative, but a stake president that has made the decision to help as much as he can.
When I was bishop 15 years ago, I was instructed by my SP that I was to try to keep my welfare expenditures less than or equal to what the ward took in as fast offerings. As long as I was under that amount, the SP took a hands off approach, and never questioned my expenses. I was fortunate that I was always under, but another bishop told me that once he went over, the SP would look over every expenditure. Also, the stake was expected to keep its total outlay under what the stake fast offering income was.
It is obvious that the wards in my daughter’s stake will not be meeting these thresholds. I can see the stake’s total outlay to be several hundred thousand dollars per month over what they are taking in.
I applaud this Stake President for the initiative he has taken, and using some of the $100 billion the church has for a “rainy day fund”, which one could argue this constitutes a “rainy day”.
So, what do you thing about my daughter’s SP and what he is doing? I wonder if this SP heard about the $100 billion, and knows the church can cover all checks by 1000s of bishops world wide, and not use more than a few percent of the rainy day fund.
What have you seen/heard in your stake? Is the church reaching out and offering to help members financially? Have you been contacted?
 Maybe this is why they are so scared of zoom meeting. We had a woman (wife of the 1st counselor) as the moderator, controlling who spoke and when!)
We live in the southern US and we were instructed not to do Zoom Sacrament Meetings or Sunday School/RS/EQP. According to the communication we received, our Area President via the Area 70’s had discouraged it because that was the purpose of Come Follow Me, i.e. leave the time to families. Zoom was encouraged for Institute and YSA FHE gatherings. As far as welfare, when I was Bishop and then later as Stake President, the direction was to not spend more than was taken in. But, that was about 15 years ago when I was released as SP, so I don’t know what the current guidance is. I do think given some of the recent news on the Church finances, more should be given to the needy.
Poking back that fills me with regret on how that was done. Much, much regret. Also, certainly some things done now like cleaning buildings and other tasks should be turned over to professionals vs. putting it in the back of the members. I think many times non-professional members are asked to do things the Church should pay for and have it done correctly.
“ Also, certainly some things done now like cleaning buildings and other tasks should be turned over to professionals ”
My uncle was the paid “professional” custodian who took care of the buildings in his stake who lost that job when the church started having ward members clean the building. I don’t know/can’t remember what he did after that.
For a period of time I was the Visiting Teacher for a woman in her 40’s who had multiple sclerosis and was confined to a wheelchair. Her only income was disability—barely enough to get by. But when she started paying tithing it was not enough to get by so she received food from the Bishop’s Storehouse-until that Storehouse underwent renovation. I was told by someone at the Storehouse that food aid is meant to just be “temporary” assistance. Well, MS isn’t a “temporary” condition, so she then turned to a local Catholic Church and community resources for food aid. Eventually she ended up in a care facility as her condition deteriorated.
I’ve never felt good that we require a 10% tithe
from everybody. Some local leaders might calculate that 10% differently than other others. It’s always a problem when the leader is a “letter of the law”/strict obedience above everything else type.
Our ward is doing zoom testimony and occasionally other zoom Sunday meetings (return missionaries, mostly).
We did get a call asking if we needed financial help, although we are active so I don’t know who all received that call. For us though, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of our very wealthy ward members were bankrolling the financial assistance. We are a very mixed-economically ward and from what I can tell the wealthy members have long been supporting anything that might have a price-tag attached. (Trek, scouting trips, girls camp are all covered by a ‘the generous donation of a ward member.’) I’ve heard from my parents that their ward works in a similar way. They live in an area with lots of extreme-wealth members who donate very large sums to local temple building, sending every kid in the stake on missions, etc.
Ditto ReTx. We live in a ward with quite a few wealthy people who privately finance welfare / missions / etc outside of official church funds.
Our Stake in Latin America has instructed the Bishoprics to spend all the fast offering money and not let any get sent back to Church HQS. As a member of a Bishopric, I’ve been in meetings where the Stake Presidency has come down hard on not using more Fast Offering money that we take in. A counselor explicitly said, either tell your ward members to donate more or cut off aid. Given that instruction, I was surprised the Stake told us to spend more — though I don’t believe the intention is to spend more than we bring in.
The obvious problem with the Church welfare system is that it is not designed to help people over the long run. I don’t mind that philosophy as a general principle, but it is a terrible rule. Like the heartbreaking case Lois described, we have a case in our ward where the family will likely need assistance forever. Without going into details, there are just no realistic options for this particular family. Our hope is that perhaps we can break the poverty cycle and that the children in this family will have better opportunities than their parents. But in a country with a poor social safety net, the Church is the only thing keeping this family going. It is our duty as Christians to help them, whether or not the Stake likes it. Up to this point, we’ve been able to help without too much questioning from up above, but they are receiving so much aid (relatively speaking, just a couple hundred dollars a month is enough to keep them going) that we are fastidious about the associated paperwork, otherwise there’s a worry the Bishop could get in hot water for helping one family so much. In fact, in a periodic audit the Bishop had to prove he wasn’t related to the family in question to prove the aid was truly altruistic.
“We live in the southern US and we were instructed not to do Zoom Sacrament Meetings or Sunday School/RS/EQP. According to the communication we received, our Area President via the Area 70’s had discouraged it because that was the purpose of Come Follow Me, i.e. leave the time to families.”
Couldn’t that same reasoning be used for church meetings before (and after) the pandemic? Sorry, we’re not going to hold the 2 hour block. That’s the purpose of Come Follow Me, to give you that time back to be with your families.
Pre-pandemic many members spent a large portion of their Sunday away from family to participate in church programs and fulfill church responsibilities. During the pandemic families are home together every day of the week for several months on end yet an occasional 30 minute zoom meeting on a Sunday would be too much of a distraction from being with family.
It sounds like another case of being handed a decision, struggling to come up with a justification for that decision, and then people working their way backwards from the decision to come up with some plausible reason behind the decision.
I have served three times as a Ward Financial Clerk, once as a Ward Clerk, once as a Membership Clerk, and once as a Bishopric First Counselor, all between 1990 and 2013, mostly in Maryland. These callings involved preparing and signing a lot of checks from the Fast Offering Fund; checks needed to have two signatures from Bishopric members. In those callings, I saw several financial reports about what were then the North America Northeast and Mid-Atlantic areas. Those Areas took out a lot more from Fast Offering funds than they put in, as Bishops provided assistance. I once saw a statistical report (I do not know if information is still shared like this) that indicated F.O. expenses tripling income in our Area. While individual accounting was kept for each Ward’s Fast Offering fund, we were allowed to maintain a deficit, and Church HQ would cover it. (I don’t know if this is still the case.) I think the Wasatch Front massively underwrites the Church’s overall F.O. system.
Some local Bishops and SPs are generous. Some are not. I have seen incredible pro-active temporal assistance (sometimes for long periods), with leaders vigorously seeking out those in need. I have also been disappointed when local leaders refused to assist members in genuine need. Some leaders have Christ-like personalities. Some leaders make me think of tightwad accountants. The Church has to operate according to a budget, but the 100-plus billion USD in surplus tithing funds bring invested by Ensign Peak indicates to me that more Church leaders could stand to be like Bishop Bill’s daughter’s SP, and actively seek out people in need, in these troubled times.
The Church stopped issuing public annual financial reports in 1957 (I think that is the year), when it faced an acute short-term cash flow problem, caused by the excessive chapel-building program of the 1950s (this was straightened out by N. Eldon Tanner, who was called as an Assistant to the 12, to get Church finances in order; he did so ruthlessly, and by the early 1960s, Church finances had returned to good health). But once Church finances were back in order, the Church did not resume public financial reports.
I wish the Church would publicize its finances, once again. I am sure that critics and enemies of the Church would take advantage of this openness, but the secrecy surrounding finances indicates to me a lack of trust by Church leaders toward its membership.
For the last three years, my ward has brought in a healthy five-figure annual sum in fast offering donations, but we’ve consistently paid out double that amount each year (I’m an assistant clerk). My ward contains a lot of low-income areas, including several members in Section 8 housing; there are also many financially stable members, but no super wealthy members. When approached for financial assistance, my bishop tends to err on the side of generosity; I don’t have a problem with this, but I imagine other ward members might disagree with how their FO money is being spent. We have several families that are in situations of chronic/multigenerational poverty, and are not equipped to improve their situations simply by rolling up their sleeves and working harder. I don’t know if the stake is able to absorb the shortfall (I’m not privy to that information), but I doubt it considering most of the wards cover rural agricultural communities. I’m not aware of any special effort to reach out to members to assess financial needs.
Since the lockdown, however, my bishop has been very reclusive and hands-off in his leadership (I wonder if he is just grateful for a break). My ward has Zoom Sunday School every other week (on weeks when Sunday School would normally take place). It’s been wonderful. Our primary presidency has also been proactive in reaching out to households with children and maintaining a social media presence. I asked my EQ president if we could do EQ meetings over Zoom on alternate weeks, but he mentioned something about leaders discouraging online meetings, and that we should be using Come Follow Me instead, etc. Having a standardized curriculum like CFM is good, but it’s not the same thing as church. People are starved for community. We are desperate for adult interaction outside of our homes. I’m wondering why leaders who oppose Zoom meetings don’t see that.
What about tithing donations under these circumstances? Now I respect (but politely disagree with) the viewpoint that tithing is a test of faith and obedience, and that members should have no concern on how donations are used. But we have been told that tithing is used to build and maintain ward buildings, temples, support BYU, missionary programs, etc. But ward buildings and temples are mostly closed. Missionaries are being called home. BYU probably has its students taking courses online now instead of in brick-and-mortar classrooms.
Yes, I know there are fixed costs even with owning shuttered buildings. Still, costs such as printing ward bulletins, utilities, etc. must be going down. Somewhere deep in the bowels of the Church Office Building is an accountant with a spreadsheet salivating over the cost savings. Maybe Church leaders are diverting some tithing funds to cover fast offerings. But would not our donations be better utilized by a local food bank for example?
Tom Irvine seems to share my dislike of accountants! I personally like balancing my checking account each month (yes, I’m strange; a habit taught me by my Depression-era mother), but there is something about accountants that makes me think of a scrawny old guy wearing a green eye-shade and shirtsleeve garters, and that instinctively raises my hackles:
I agree with Tom’s guess that Church expenses have probably gone down, and I think it entirely plausible that the Church is diverting surplus tithing funds to Covid-related assistance. But the Church will probably never release details—a combination of wanting to shield our financial situation from the outside world, not appear as though the Church is responding to pressure, and following Christ’s injunction not to publicize alms-giving. For the record, the Church has a track record of liberally helping local food banks, even though the Church provides most of its food assistance through Bishops’ Storehouses. It would just be nice if the Church could be a bit more open about what it is doing—not to the point of blaring trumpets, but letting its rank-and-file members know a bit of what is going on.
Tom not the first time you’ve brought that up.
10s of billions have likely been lost that pale in comparison to the few pennies on utilities you speak of.