Priestcraft is a term used in the Book of Mormon to describe a bad thing, a thing that Churches and preachers should avoid, but what is it exactly?
I was recently in an online group of Church members where someone shared a letter from their Stake President outlawing informal discussion groups unless those groups were sanctioned by the Stake, and the letter called these groups “priestcraft.” I found that specific use of the term rather surprising, although I guess it’s possible these study groups were hiring speakers to come in (which seems unlikely, but Mormons are weird so IDK–that’s kind of how Snuffer and Rowe started out with books and lectures). The particular Stake letter seemed to be calling anything that they (Stake leadership) weren’t overseeing “priestcraft,” meaning the core problem was not professional preaching for gain and praise, but leader message control and correlation. My initial reaction was: “That’s not priestcraft.”
These are scriptures that relate to priestcraft according to the Church’s website:
- Men preaching and setting themselves up for a light to the world that they may get gain and praise of the world; they do not seek the welfare of Zion (2 Ne. 26:29).
- Churches which are built up to get gain must be brought low, 1 Ne. 22:23 (Morm. 8:32–41).
- Because of priestcrafts and iniquities, Jesus will be crucified, 2 Ne. 10:5.
- Were priestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction, Alma 1:12.
- The Gentiles shall be filled with all manner of priestcrafts, 3 Ne. 16:10.
Although this is mostly a Book of Mormon term, the Bible says:
- Feed the flock of God, not for filthy lucre, 1 Pet. 5:2.
This seems to be an admonishment to both preachers and churches, to do good works and help others without using that work to enrich oneself or one’s church. The verse is more about motives than practical questions, though. What if you break even rather than making a profit? Is that OK? What if you accidentally make a profit, like oh, say, $100B, but it wasn’t intentional and you still live modestly? Is that OK?
I’ve always thought of priestcraft in contrast to this scripture:
- Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Isaiah 55:1 
This suggests that the gospel and participating in salvation should be free, not for sale, and everyone should be welcome without any financial bar to entry. As we see in both the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, poverty often leads to humility which leads to being willing to join religious movements (as does being in jail, go figure). Financial wealth leads to independence and pride which makes one less likely to be interested in the gospel.
The other anti-Priestcraft scripture that comes to mind is this one that Mormons like to trot out about missionary work:
- And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Luke 22: 35.
This one is valuable, as it requires total reliance on grace and faith with literally no safety net, financial or even bipedal . It’s a big ask. While we like to preach this idea, we still require missionaries to pay rent, wear shoes, shower and groom, and buy groceries. Relying on local members for meals is one way to make missionaries less financially independent and require them to operate more on faith, I suppose, or at least on the kindness of semi-strangers, as it were. Making them find their meals without relying on members would be an even bigger leap of faith! But it could also lead to some outlandish vulnerable situations and bad PR. Nobody wants to join a church of beggars, despite all the New Testament austerity talk.
I blogged about this concept a few years ago when Snuffer’s movement was just taking off, and my angle was to discuss the issues with monetizing content. I have steadfastly resisted the idea of monetizing content, but I’m probably a little over the top about it. For example, while I would probably resist all of these, I do see a distinction between:
- Allowing advertising on your blog. (This is mostly an irritation, but we don’t send missionaries out in NASCAR jackets, although it might help fund their missions.)
- Requiring a subscription to your blog. (How much does it make? In excess of your annual fees? Do writers get paid? What about administrators?)
- Selling blog-themed merch like mugs or tee shirts that are for profit. (When I wrote the blog post, it was before BCC Press).
If the Church were to go these routes, we could literally have product placements in General Conference. I can just imagine a talk starting with “I was sitting with my family, enjoying a hearty mug of Postum . . .” and the Postum sales SKYROCKET! We actually came really close to that when Elder Durrant coined the term “Ponderize” in his controversial General Conference talk which was immediately followed by a website launch hawking “Ponderize” merchandise. That was an unsavory moment for Mormonism. While much has been said about tithing being a type of subscription to gain access to the temple (which is a legit complaint), if monetization were the focus, it would be easy enough to monetize things like access to Church manuals, LDS Tools, or the Church’s website. Of course, if you had to pay to get into LDS Tools, you’d feel entitled to use that data for a lof of things we aren’t supposed to, such as trying to sell things to other Church members.
So, again, we come back to the question of just what Priestcraft is. Growing up, the definition I would have given would be something like this:
- Using the gospel to make money, including to make one’s living (e.g. paid clergy, but also televangelism and also selling books about the gospel). I might have been OK so long as the preaching / writing / selling was not the primary source of income, but deep down, I would have felt that it was a rationalization. This is basically a condemnation of any religions with paid clergy, even if paid clergy are making a pittance. Within the Church, it might also condemn GA stipends, mission president homes, and for sure any parents who buy their kid a car for serving a mission.
Growing up, I was not aware of the existence of things like Time Out for Women or Especially For Youth, programs that cost money to attend, where speakers are presumably paid. I had already objected to the idea that Lynn Bryson was allowed to hawk his terrible CDs at our break-even cost Youth Conference after maligning our far better Queen, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC music as if it was going to suddenly turn us into Satan-worshiping pot fiends. According to my personal Priestcraft spidey-senses, these conferences would have qualified as verboten.
As I pointed out in my earlier post, though, there’s a difference between symbiotic and parasitic actors, at least in the Church’s mind. The Church in general doesn’t go after symbiotic grifters (my language, obviously, not theirs), just the ones whose messages are challenging to Church authority (parasites), however that may be defined at a given moment. For example, if you write a book, its content can be evaluated by the Church as far enough off the reservation to consitute “priestcraft” (e.g. Snuffer’s work, and George Pace accidentally came close without realizing it and backed off as soon as he was admonished, ironically, by McConkie whose own book Mormon Doctrine caused a similar behind-the-scenes kerfuffle. Hello, pot. Kettle here.)
Parasites feed off the body while damaging it or using it up. They harm the body. They thrive as it dies. Symbionts (and I’m mostly relying on my knowledge of the Trill species from Star Trek here) have a give and take relationship. Both the host and the symbiont thrive together, becoming stronger, each bringing something new to the body. In the case of the Trill species, the humanoid hosts are basically himbos and bimbos, attractive bipedal folks who are more or less dumb as rocks (going back to the original introduction of the species, mind you–later they got smarter). The symbionts are wise, ancient slugs bringing a bunch of brain cells to the table for a chance to live out yet another bipedal existence. Without hosts, the symbionts are just slimy invertibrates; they are smart and have a lot of life experience, but they are lousy at pickleball and square dancing.
The problem I see with this pass being given to symbiotic actors is that you can make a bunch of money off of Mormons by simply implying you are on message. As we’ve seen, you can make a bunch of money off ex-Mormons in similar ways, by telling them what they already believe. The other problem I see is that admonishing someone for heresy is not really the same thing as priestcraft. Heresy is the off-message issue. Priestcraft is the “show me the money” issue. Since we traditionally associate priestcraft with paid clergy, giving symbiotic actors a pass is kind of hypocritical.
 Which begs the question, who you calling ho? Why you gotta be so salty, Isaiah?
 Erm, TR questions about tithing be damned?
 Good luck shaking the dust off your shoes if you have no shoes.
 Quit trying to make Ponderize happen.
Any apostle selling a book is priestcraft in my book. Deseret Books thus falls under that category as well.
I simply find it impossible to decouple the “they speak for God” claim from the fact that they then turn around make profit from their words. Personally, I think it’s the most odious and obviously accepted priestcraft that the church and general membership supports almost without question.
Yes, seems there are many examples of Church-sponsored activities and products that are way more priestcrafty then a “study group.” I think you’re right that seems to be about control and correlation. And it’s completely bizarre to me that a Stake President thinks he can tell people not to meet and discuss things. Boundaries!!!
I may be totally wrong, but it was my understanding that when all profits a GA makes from a book are pulled together, that number is more or less pulled from their annual “wage,” so that they’re still making the same amount. I was even told they were encouraged to write books so that Church money could be used elsewhere, basically supporting their own “mission” as much as possible. Having looked into the publishing industry somewhat, most authors also make far less than many of us think anyway.
As far as the post goes, I think of priestcraft as profiting off any message that’s slightly off base or more from Church teachings, but I think a sincerity factor is slightly involved as well. I think once the Church gives someone or a group a warning shot, it’s easier to see where the greater motivations lie. I also sometimes think of it as the message mostly right, but the eye totally on profits. That’s harder to spot..
It’s difficult to be sure, for the consumer of gospel-related material as well. I’m somewhat a fan of the Heartland model, and individuals like Wayne May and Rod Meldrum, but a protective barrier automatically goes up anytime money is involved. I realize if someone is passionate enough about something, and wants to pursue it, some amount of money is going to be needed at some point to take that passion up a notch. But at what point does it become more about the money than the passion? That’s the line I keep searching for when it comes to any non-profit organization. It’s difficult to find at times.
My response after much thought: using the gospel to increase personal fame and fortune without consideration for the needs/good of one’s fellow (wo)man.
Eli, I see the distinction, but I feel like that is still making money off the gospel. Especially if the stated goal is “supporting their own mission as much as possible.” I would even feel better about that, though, if the church money that was freed for other purposes wasn’t sitting in a $100 billion fund, or being used to pay for lawsuits, or to build temples and remodel random spaces (and I don’t think the apostles and mission presidents who are supported by the church live all that simply, either). Of course if this comment seems unfair, then show us where the money goes.
“In the home-centered, Church-supported portion of this adjustment, there is flexibility for each individual and family to determine prayerfully how and when it will be implemented. For example, while this will greatly bless all families, based on local needs it would be completely appropriate for young singles, single adults, single parents, part-member families, new members, and others to gather in groups outside the normal Sunday worship services to enjoy gospel sociality and be strengthened by studying together the home-centered, Church-supported resource. This would be accomplished informally by those who so desire.” Elder Quentin L. Cook, Oct 2018 General Conference.
It would seem that the stake president in question would be the one practicing “priestcraft” by acting in opposition to the guidance provided by church leadership.
I had a friend who has now passed away. His wife was a convert, and, because a dependent wife does not have to pay tithing, they could afford for her to be a member of a church that requires 10% of income as tithing. But when he wanted to join, he looked at the bills and the grocery money. They were barely scrapping by as was. He talked about being baptized, but was honest enough to say that he could not pay tithing. Not until their mobile home was paid off. So, they figured out how to baptize someone who was on oxygen and in a wheel chair. But the couple could not be sealed. He could not pay tithing without going on church welfare and he was too proud “to beg” by going on church welfare. So, a few years went by and he died without being sealed to his wife.
Yeah, I think he is a victim of priest craft.
The Ponderize incident was as blatant a grift as I have ever seen in the church, but it’s far from the only grift. Sheri Dew has made what I assume is a comfortable living from the church, both as author and as administrator, and her friendship with Wendy Nelson certainly hasn’t hurt her travel opportunities and access to leadership. All the MLMs in Utah Valley, but the supplement and essential oils businesses in particular, take advantage of church social structures, situational skepticism of pharmaceuticals, and always-present belief in vague deistic assistance (not to mention legislative assistance from Orrin Hatch) to line the coffers. Do these qualify as priestcraft? I don’t think so unless we define it as making money in any way from even presumed association with the church, and according to the poll it looks like many define it that way.
If you’ll excuse me, I have to rub lavender oil on my bunions.
Dot writes “but I feel like that is still making money off the gospel. Especially if the stated goal is ‘supporting their own mission as much as possible.’ “
Making money off the gospel, but to what end of that stated goal? I make more than GAs. The life of a GA is not all that appealing to me. I enjoy my weekends. I hope to stop being able to go into work at some point (granted, if I’m passionate enough that might make a difference). Yes, some of their homes are fairly nice. What part of that lifestyle came from their hard work prior to their time as a GA? Most of it probably, based on their wages. Additionally a part of priestrcraft I partially neglected to mention earlier was making money by telling people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. I see GA books doing the latter. I’ve also never felt any pressure to buy these books at any time (I rarely do at all, and usually just “inherit” them from other people).
As far as the rest of your comment, it’s hard to discuss until two can agree on if and what degree transparency is needed, which I don’t think we will. And although I have no desire to derail this into another 100 billion discussion, until I can find another organization with the efficiency, dedication, and scope the Church has (per capita) with regard to charitable activities and their fruit (which can be seen), any criticism I’m tempted to give would feel both hollow and a bit hypocritical. I can see how it wouldn’t to others.
No stake president should bar members from meeting in their own homes and having Gospel discussions. At is most basic level, religion is based on a personal relationship between a member and God. In fact, that is what Joseph Smith always preached. What would the stake president prefer that people do with their time: play violent video games?
You literally can not enter the temple and be sealed to your family if you do not part with 10% of your income. You could be living a Christ-like existence but be denied temple blessings and the opportunity to be with your family forever if you do not give the 10% to the Church. Is that a form of priestcraft? Asking for a friend.
“for the consumer of gospel-related material” is a hideous phrase, totally unJesus, in fact Blade Runner territory.
@Josh h –
By some definitions, the entire CES, with its army of full-time paid employees, could be considered an institution of priestcraft. It’s a backdoor/loophole around our ostensible “no paid clergy” policy. Most professional CES teachers I’ve known are not that much better than your typical volunteer Sunday School teacher (some are noticeably worse), and don’t have religious credentials that would be taken seriously anywhere outside of LDS spheres. And when they inevitably get called into local leadership positions (my last SP was the institute director at the local state university) it sets up a conflict of interest. When a Church leader has to choose between doing what is right for the members in his stewardship and showing loyalty to his employer (who in this case happens to be the Church), he will almost always choose the latter, and the members will suffer for it.
I also consider the “celebrity” (cult of personality) gospel teachers to be practicing priestcraft; the ones that sell books, hold paid firesides, and cultivate “popular” public personae (Bytheway, Wilcox, Gaskill, etc.) and do so under official Church auspices. I don’t consider Terryl and Fiona Givens’ work to be priestcraft; even though they write and speak on Mormon topics for profit, they operate independently of the Church and don’t claim any authority in the organization.
Does anyone else have issues with the church sharing a parking garage with NuSkin for the Provo City Center Temple?
It’s difficult enough for me to see NuSkin’s name associated with BYU sports. Seeing it as I enter the temple parking garage is a bitter pill to swallow.
My first encounter with NuSkin was years ago when a financially struggling ward member wanted me to buy NuSkin from her. The MLM business model that NuSkin employs is one that exploits the poor, the most vulnerable, who usually lose money they can’t afford to lose as they chase empty promises of riches dangled in front of them by these MLM companies whose leaders make millions.
The church, as an organization that proclaims that it follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, should stay far away from associations with MLM-based businesses. Giving an MLM an endorsement by sharing a parking garage is troubling.
(Slate dot com “Why Is Everyone Selling Leggings on Facebook?” links to “The Dream” podcast which goes into depth about how MLM’s operate and exploit and how they skirt laws that prohibit pyramid schemes. The podcast is worth listening to.)
Until the church is completely transparent with its finances, it can continue to hoodwink the general membership with the false “no paid clergy” line. This only applies partially at the local level. Above that, it’s all paid.
Professional positions as part of the church apparatus, GA’s, temple and mission presidents, and the list goes on. Book deals, church leaders as celebrities that are not allowed to be questioned or criticized. The church is steeped in priestcraft. Yet, it uses the term as a control mechanism on well intended congregants.
My wife was good friends with our local temple president’s wife. Through her, she learned how their compensation works. The modest living allowance that the church has acknowledged is just the beginning. It’s in the range of 8-10k per month. Seems reasonable, but I’m too of that ALL expenses are reimbursed- housing, cars, health care, kids college, vacations, gifts, entertainment etc. Literally everything is paid for via reimbursement plus the “modest living allowance.” By the time they added it up it was between 3-400k annually in total compensation. And we have the gall to claim we don’t have a paid clergy.
@Jack Hughes: I think you might be letting Givens squared, Bushman, Mason off a bit too easily. I, for one, don’t believe there is much they do without a subtle nod or even enthusiastic support from 50 E.North Temple. No, I cannot cite evidence to support my baseless suppositions.
@Commoner: NuSkin is just the grandfather of all the MLM companies in Utah Valley. Many are perfecting what they disseminated. The New Yorker article on essential oils is fascinating and troubling at the same time.
Does calling a MLM CEO as Young Men General President send a good message? Yuck. 🙄
My reading of 2 Ne. 26 has led me to conclude that priestcraft is one opposite of charity. It’s self-focused while masquerading as discipleship. So any activity that points in that direction (fame, money, etc.) would be engaging in priestcraft. In that reading, it’s a much broader problem that we can all face to limited degrees. Some make it their living. Others of us might practice it on a local scale (stake, ward, class, even family).
I once attended, as part of my student job at BYU, the LDS Booksellers Convention.
To paraphrase Obi Wan Kenobi, you will never find a more wretched hive of kitsch and vanilla. OK I jest, but even as a true blue BYU kid, I was a bit taken aback by the sheer scope of gospel monetization—Book of Mormon board games, pop art posters of muscley ninja Nephites, the “fine art” of the McNaughton types, and of course the books. Learn what the BoM teaches about the temple for 34.99. One author of such a book cornered my co-worker while we were peddling our BYU wares to give him a strange and off-putting sales pitch. It was…memorable.
I think there’s an honest reckoning to be had between the asceticism of Jesus and John the Baptist and the practicalities of leading a life of religious service in the modern world. I don’t hold the concept of paid clergy in contempt the way I did when I was younger. But I definitely agree with a lot of you that there’s something repugnant about the Deseret book deals and the Ponderize merch.
Can I pay less tithing if I shop at Deseret (or Seagull) Book? Asking for a friend…
On the topic of Mormon knock off product, “Priestcraft” would be an excellent title for the Mormon variation of “Minecraft.” Same blocky graphics except instead if mining for materials, crafting ever stronger tools and weapons, and defeating the Ender Dragon to save the villagers, you reap the white fields, craft ever blander churches and temples, and defeat “the world” to save the elect.
How about BoM tours? They are the ultimate in priestcraft.
A year or 2 ago, a High Councilman visitor was Peruvian. I was interested in talking to him about possible humanitarian projects in the Cusco area. All he wanted to talk about was his brother’s BoM tour in Peru. Church scholars, with their limited geography theory, have long ago discounted the a South American/BoM connection. I suspect that the Central America tours can also be problematic with their claims.
JLM: Totally. but don’t leave your tools laying on the ground, or they will disappear!
There were updates to the handbook released that include an injunction against affinity fraud in the Church and implying one’s endeavors are sanctioned by the Church. On the one hand, that’s a great step in the right direction. On the other hand, it’s not really going to do anything to curb the priestcraft that’s coming from within the Church structure. Also, it only tackles “fraud” which almost nobody will admit they are doing.
The Kirton-McConkie law firm is another example of priestcraft. How much money has this firm made off of the Church and its sacred tithing funds? How many church policies documents, news releases, etc., have been vetted by this firm prior to publication? How many bishops has this firm advised to forego reporting child and sexual abuse to the police since there is “no legal requirement” in the given state? I have counted three different McConkies who have spoken in General Conference.
Kirton-McConkie has a lot of clients other than the Church. Most of the extended McConkie family has never been associated with that law firm. There is a long-standing, legitimate common law distinction between confession and other sources of information/accusations of abuse. In some places that law has been changed; in some places maybe not. While I don’t much like (read heartily dislike and disrespect) what little I know of that the firm has done for the Church, it seems a little too facile to assume it’s all or even mostly bad.
I’ve always considered the LDS themed tours, vacations and cruises as priestcraft. Daniel C. Peterson does several of the these a year and boasts on his blog about the luxury accommodations, free food and first class travel. To me, this is the very definition of priestcraft.
Lynn Bryson. Haven’t heard that name in years. What a piece of work that guy was. I remember listening to tapes of his firesides on my mission and all the backward masking crap and secret Satanic rock and roll cults. That dude was Mr. Priestcraft. (And a loony besides.)
Lynn Bryson. Haven’t heard that name in years. What a piece of work that guy was. I remember listening to tapes of his firesides on my mission and all the backward masking crap and secret Satanic rock and roll cults. That dude was Mr. Priestcraft. (And a loony besides.)
Based on the scriptures cited above, the root of priestcraft is using religion (Jesus’ teachings) to further one’s self-interest whether individually or organizationally. It usually manifests itself in greed as those scriptures indicate. Jesus’ teachings (and priesthood) on the other hand emphasize the opposite—selfless love. Greed is completely selfish and possibly a form of hatred toward our fellow man. If religious doctrine or practice reduces to any form of selfishness and hate it is priestcraft. The churches and other religious organizations may be guilty of priestcraft. Think using religious doctrine to obtain money, to deem certain races or gender as inferior, to set one’s self as the source of all truth, etc. Anything less than selfless love by a follower of Jesus is priestcraft.
I really like how you think through the issue in the post, Angela. And I think you have such an excellent point in your latest comment:
“There were updates to the handbook released that include an injunction against affinity fraud in the Church and implying one’s endeavors are sanctioned by the Church . . . [is] not really going to do anything to curb the priestcraft that’s coming from within the Church structure.”
I also find what seems to be blatant moneymaking from the gospel by people like celebrity gospel teachers, like Jack Hughes describes so well, distasteful. But I think your point here is such an excellent one. The Church itself sets a pretty bad example by selling stuff to members. I appreciate that things like magazines are sold so cheaply, but why are things like books sold through Deseret Book just as expensive as books anywhere else? If they’re really essential to the gospel, shouldn’t they be given away like Book of Mormons are?
So it’s not a good look when the Church itself tries to suppress priestcraft because it’s the behavior of a monopolist: “Hey! We own the priestcraft around this religion, and don’t you naughty third parties go trying to invade our market.” But that isn’t to say that I’m a fan of the unofficial priestcraft. It’s just that I think it looks bad for the Church in particular to be the one doing the suppressing.
That being said, I also really like Kirkstall’s point:
“I think there’s an honest reckoning to be had between the asceticism of Jesus and John the Baptist and the practicalities of leading a life of religious service in the modern world.”
It does seem pretty clear that we live in a more –I don’t know the term– moneyed (?) world than Jesus did. Like in towns and cities and countries designed for *strangers* to interact, it’s hard to get much of anything done without money because we don’t all know each other. So I also see that a church or a writer on religion or a teacher of religion needs money. Which I guess is just getting back to the complications you brought up in the post. How much is reasonable? How much is too much?
Been thinking about this one. I think the rule I’d make is:
If you are taking advantage of a position of Church authority to benefit yourself personally (whether financially or otherwise), that is priestcraft. If you are an ordinary person taking religious ideas and using your time and abilities to turn those into something beautiful and useful enough for people to be willing to pay for, I just don’t think that’s priestcraft. You aren’t taking advantage of your special position of authority or privilege as a “priest” (or something similar). You’re taking advantage of your own skill.
I’m thinking of all the mommy bloggers / influencers who create and monetize Church-related content (like Come Follow Me lesson plans, etc.). I find that distasteful, personally, but then again I also believe that women should be paid for their time and ideas if those ideas are helpful to people. I also don’t see where you draw the line between that and religious art or other media like books, podcasts, etc., that I have no problem paying for or donating to if I find them valuable to me. I certainly wouldn’t accuse someone like J. Kirk Richards or Caitlin Connolly of “priestcraft” for creating and selling art on religious subjects, so why would books by independent authors be any different?
So the only real line in my mind would be religious authority figures selling stuff or influencing people (affinity fraud) based on a Church position = priestcraft. I think that puts books by apostles, etc., squarely in the camp of “should be sold at cost or given away.” Regular people selling stuff or influencing people because they have things that are worth selling = not priestcraft. I’m not sure the intent of anti-priestcraft teachings is to prevent people from making use of religious ideas in their own work; I think it’s probably more directed to not allowing religious authorities – i.e., PRIESTS – to take advantage of their position.
Events like Time Out for Women and popular LDS authors on the EFY circuit (or as pointed out above the cruise ship circuit) are a fuzzier area for me because I think they benefit from their association (implied or express) with the LDS Church and Church authorities.
The OP picture reminds me of an additional type of priestcraft I left out: if you are selling access to salvation, whatever your official religious position, I think that’s probably priestcraft. I would just distinguish that from producing religiously-oriented content.
Selling signs, tokens, sealings, and access to other ordinances for money = priestcraft.
Some televangelists-type folks probably also = priestcraft.
Would like to see a separate post about mission presidents and what the perceived qualifications are for the role.
Elisa: “Selling signs, tokens, sealings, and access to other ordinances for money = priestcraft.”
I suppose this is a reference to the tithing question in temple recommend interviews. I think I understand the concern, but I wonder how you would deal with it in the context of the covenant of consecration included in the endowment. As the temple ordinances stand, none of them (except baptism for the dead) is independent of that covenant. I suspect that, when tithe-paying was added to the temple recommend interview questions, at least one of the concerns was leading people into making a covenant they had no intention or ability to keep, that tithe-paying was seen as either a substitute for the full-blown covenant still included in the endowment language or an indication of intent and ability. (Of course, at least some Church leaders seem to have equated the COJCOLDS with the Kingdom of God and the covenant is worded in terms of both.) While there are issues with both the wording of that covenant and with some definitions of tithe-paying, it seems that tithe-paying is integrally connected to the consecration covenant . (Currently, that is. I think Lorenzo Snow had it a bit different with the words for which ellipses were substituted in the Teachiings of the Presidents manual.) It seems to some that Church doctrine is that the signs, tokens and sealings are worthless (in an eternal sense, as opposed to full participation in the Church community in this life) without keeping that covenant. If I suppose correctly that you refer to the tithe-paying requirement for access to the temple, what do you make of the consecration covenant and its relationship to tithing? How can signs, tokens, sealings benefit* one who does not keep or intend to keep the related covenants? Maybe characterizing the tithe-paying requirement as selling them is too simple. What do you think?
*Of course, some find the endowment’s purported purpose of signs and tokens to be either (a) symbolic rather than literal or (b) wholly misleading. But that’s a different question.
Complicating this question is the fact that Deseret Book–the leading publisher and retailer of LDS-oriented books, music, artwork and other media–is wholly owned by the Church itself. When a DB-published book sells well, the Church profits. Technically, there is nothing wrong about writing and selling thoughtful faith-based books that appeal to a specific audience, but when these books are being published, marketed and sold exclusively through a for-profit arm of an ostensibly non-profit Church, which the authors are members of and are working to shamelessly promote…well, that seems like it crosses a line. Kind of like in “A Christmas Story ” when Ralph gets his long-awaited decoder pin, only to find out the very important secret message is actually an ad for Ovaltine, the sponsor of the show.
Whether or not it qualifies as priestcraft, though, is for each of us to decide for ourselves, and we can vote with our dollars.
@Wondering, fair point about not wanting people to covenant to something they can’t do. My thoughts:
-I don’t like the way the law of consecration (to the Church) is framed in the temple anyway. I’m cool with consecration to God but not with to the Church
-I think we should be free to define that for ourselves. For us, in our circumstances, in our lives, with our means, with guidance from the spirit, what does consecration mean? And then just trust us to do it. Rather than defining it as 10% of income. I don’t think tithing and consecration need to be conflated.
Perhaps it is over simplistic to say the Church is selling signs, tokens, and ordinances like sealings – but I don’t think it’s inaccurate. At bottom, we are. The intent might be different but one step back and it looks and is really problematic from my perspective. But I mean, I hate the entire concept of temple recommends so I acknowledge I am operating from a different paradigm and that there are paradigms within which the requirement makes sense. I just don’t buy into those or believe they come from God.
Thanks, Elisa. I think there is a clear indication that selling them is not the intent:
“Do you sell your tokens or signs for money? You have them, I presume.
I have them, but I do not sell them for money. I hold them sacred. I am looking for the further light and knowledge Father promised to send me.”
Even if, at bottom, it is seen that way from some perspectives.
BTW, I also don’t like the way the law of consecration (to the Church) is framed in the temple, unless it is understood, as some do, to leave it to the individual, guided by the spirit, to determine whether what is asked is “for the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God.” Maybe that’s not far from your approach. Maybe it amounts to thinking “we should be [or are] free to define [consecration] for ourselves.”
I wonder how Jana Riess’ recently published approach to tithe-paying will proliferate or be “disciplined.”
@Wondering, the quoted material you use is why I think it’s so strange that the Church makes people pay to enter the temple. I agree it’s not the intent, but it’s the impact. Of course I went many years not bothered at all by it so I understand many are not.
I am also interested to see what happens with Jana and I applaud her for going public with her approach (which I know many privately take). That’s definitely a leadership roulette and will be unless and until the Q15 redefine tithing.
I think the verses in 2 Nephi 26 are pretty clear about what constitutes priestcraft, but these verses don’t give us a simple way to know priestcraft when we see it:
“Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish. But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.”
I take two important points from this.
First, whether you’re engaged in priestcraft or not ultimately depends on where your heart is. If you’re laboring for money, then you’re in the wrong. If you’re laboring for Zion, then you’re okay. But of course there are problems when we try to apply this to real-world situations. It’s hard to really know someone’s heart, so how can we ever slap the “priestcraft” label on anyone? On the other hand, we have to make judgments about these things, and it won’t do to let people claim that their heart is in the right place even though their actions seem to be screaming otherwise. Wealth is so seductive that nearly everyone can convince themselves that their riches are perfectly justified by their good intentions.
Also, what does it mean to “labor for Zion”? To answer this question, we have to decide what “Zion” is. That’s hard to know, since Zion exists only as a utopian ideal. There is no real-world measurement of how well our labor and our motives might conform to a Zion society. Do we want to say that Zion just means the Church, so anything we do in the service of the Church is not priestcraft? That functional definition pretty much neuters the concept of Zion, stripping it of its aspirational value. If Zion is just equivalent to whatever the Church happens to be at the present time, there is no standard by which we can check and correct the Church’s course.
The best we can do is probably to rely on our understanding of love. Practically speaking, laboring for Zion does not equal laboring for the Church. Zion equals love. If we are laboring for the sake of love, then we’re probably okay.
Second, it’s okay for people to get paid for their work in Zion. If we love each other, we will “not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.” That means that we pay the laborer in Zion.
Our traditional pride in having unpaid clergy becomes a stumbling block for us here. It’s just false that we don’t have a paid clergy. The senior leaders of the church have always been paid, and that’s okay. If we want capable people to devote their lives to church service, we have to pay them. There’s no compromise in that. It’s simply the way life works. The challenge is not in deciding that you’ll pay people for their service, it’s in deciding how much to pay them. There is no formula for figuring that out.
The wealthier the Church gets, the harder those decisions become. When the Church was relatively poor, it was meaningful to point to the frugal salaries of Church leaders as a sign of good faith. With $100 billion in the bag, personal frugality is still necessary, but it’s no longer sufficient. The Church also has to demonstrate that it’s being responsible in managing its wealth. Sitting on the money and hoping that nobody notices is not enough, no matter how personally frugal you are. That kind of behavior legitimately opens the Church to questions about priestcraft. Wealth is a thing that always changes you. When you get rich the worst thing you can do is try to pretend that the money isn’t there or that you’re immune to it, because then you blind yourself to the effects it’s having on you. This a new problem for the Church, and not one that Church leaders asked for, but they really need to work out a plan that they can persuasively share with the rest of us. That’s part of the responsibility that comes with this kind of stewardship.
Growing up in the South, I always rolled my eyes at the “Jesus Saves” Pepsi like tshirts etc. when I moved to Utah and saw the “mommas boys” sons of helaman shirts at Des Book I was embarrassed because I thought we were better than that
How about the life coach / motivational speaker etc that mix religion and their message? There’s a current mission prez in Utah county that is taking the increased exposure of being a mission prez and promoting the hell out of their motivational company
I think there is a problem when we claim that the law of tithing as currently practiced is substitute for the law of consecration as promised in the temple. The law of consecration was so that we as a church society would become a Zion people, holding all things in common with no poor among us. That is the law of consecration is a promise to live the United Order. Now, under this law the rich guy tosses everything he owns into the same pot as the widow tosses her mite. Then, the widow is given a house, clothing, and food, same as the rich guy. The poor are no longer poor.
As contrast, with tithing the rich guy keeps his million dollar home with a swimming pool, tennis courts, and beautifully landscaping. He keeps his yacht, he keeps 90% of his millions. Meanwhile, the widow is forced to toss in her 10% of her total income, whether there is money for food left over or not. She is left homeless and now may not even have money for food. Big difference between taking care of the poor and making the poor even poorer.
The way tithing was originally defined is you put in 10% of your increase. Not income. Increase is how much more I have at the end of the month than I did at the first. So, if the widow has an income of 12 mites a month and spends 12 mites on food and shelter, then she pays no tithing because she has no increase. The rich man looks at his 20 million in the bank and if at the end of the month he has 21 million, they he pays 1/10 of how much more he has in the bank. Or 1/10 of how much more he has than what he needs to survive. But the church was near bankruptcy, so it changed the rules to tax everyone a flat 1/10 of their income. This is what is called a regressive tax because it hardly effects the rich at all, but hurts the poorest of the poor. Yup, grinding the face of the widow to get gain.
It shouldn’t be a matter of harming the poorest of the poor to enrich the church. The poor should be cared for by the church, not forced to give to the church before they buy food for their children.
It is harming the poor that makes it priestcraft in my opinion.
@Jack Hughes- I agree 100% with your concern and assessment of CES employees and CES celebrities. One CES celebrity actually built a replica LDS chapel *in his home*to film sermons, complete with YSAs (in church clothes) sitting in the pews. Prayers are said, and the spirit is called upon during those filmings. Icky.
About 15 years ago, the church grew extremely worried about its local leadership deficit following the Catholic sex scandals. The church issued an edict to call a CES leaders as Bishops/Stake Presidents whenever possible, codifying paid clergy.
@Elisa, I agree with the line you drew regarding author royalties for DB materials. Full-time GAs (and their families) should NOT receive royalties, but rank-and-file members can, as they aren’t leveraging their name or position to sell their books, as a GA does. Why should a GA receive royalties when their every need has been paid for by the church? I realize academic authors often receive author and patent royalties (only to a point), but it’s apples and oranges. Most GA books are collected works (re-packaged conference talks) anyway, so to me- they stink of priestcraft.
President Monson told the story in regional conference years ago about publishing Talmages “Jesus The Christ”,. Talmage wrote the work while an apostle with special access to a room in the Temple for inspiration. Monson’s father (who owned a printing press used by the church) personally worked with Talmage to print It. Talmage stubbornly refused to accept any author royalties- citing that the work was sacred and to receive money for it would be blasphemous. The existing financial model was re-explained and justified by the church administration. (TSM injected at this point in the story, that royalties are completely ethical and that tithing is paid on them.) Nevertheless, Talmage held his ground. A compromise was made and his royalties were calculated and donated back to the church. Talmage didn’t receive a penny. I understand that President Hinckley donated his book royalties (while President) to the PEF. Yet, many other GAs take the money, as do their families. Whether or not everyone here considers author royalties priestcraft or not, I mourn the fact that so much content is being pumped out by GAs and members alike that the authors themselves don’t identify as being sacred/inspired enough to necessitate that boundary.
DB and the church press originated because no one else would print our stuff. (We have a convoluted history with imprints ; ) Only recently have scholarly and mainstream presses begun to accept LDS content (edited to conform to their world-view). A great deal of our work would never see the light of day w/o DB and the church press. That being said, Sheri Dew has been zealously magnifying her calling over the years and she successfully demonstrated her executive value to the brethren by turning DB, which was a profit-negative enterprise, into a revenue-generating business. (So much for a member service.) Consequently, books have mass market prices. The church press subsidizes or gives away some content (scriptures, manuals, etc.), but IMHO, much more of DB should be run through the church’s press and made free and/or at cost.
Is the church frugal with it’s ministerial salaries? Heck-to-the- no. The median US income is $31k (US census Bureau 2919) and GAs earn more than 3x that much. My next door neighbor is a minister and earns a teacher’s salary. Even high-ranking military Chaplains don’t earn as much as our GAs do. I’m so sick of hearing that “well, they are expensive corporate people, if you want them- you have to pay for them”. For heavens sake. First of all, it’s a minister’s stipend, not a cardiac surgeon’s or CEO’s salary. Second of all, everyone is already comfortably retired. Third, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s ethical for us to do so. And lastly, unlike being a cardiac surgeon or a CEO, the church pays you if you are incapacitated and unable to work. Your CEO/surgeon job would give you 12 weeks under FMLA and then can you. Even if you worked in the non-profit sector. Yeah- not buying it.
Lastly- @tomirvine999 and wondering, Kirton and McConkie’s main client has always been the church. When nepotism has established you with a long-standing and exclusive retainer with a $100 Billion dollar client, I promise that all other accounts are secondary. The church is theIr #1 client and I don’t have to work there to tell you that church projects aren’t tossed to junior partners. Priestcraft? SCOTUS justice Stewart (1964), was asked to define what pornography. He said he couldn’t articulate it but, “I know it when I see it.” I feel the same way about. priestcraft. I can’t completely define it, but when I see K&M, various Utah construction/real estate companies, practices at DB, w CES directors/celebrities, I see it.
Mortimer “The church issued an edict to call a CES leaders as Bishops/Stake Presidents whenever possible, codifying paid clergy.” Can you tell us where to find a copy of such an edict? Also interested in your source of information about GA book sales royalties and the inner workings of Kirton & McConkie. Thanks.
Extremely fascinating discussion as it’s continued. I think many have offered fairly broad and encompassing definitions of priestcraft, but at the back of my mind, the question of just how interwoven the Gospel fabric is in our life keeps coming up. One may be an active member with clear lines they’ve made on their own when it comes to priestcraft. Or maybe one is a less active or less orthodox member who has simply compartmentalized their secular and Church life but can therefore draw quick conclusions as to what constitutes priestcraft precisely because of that compartmentalization. I think there are also many active members who have so integrated the Gospel into their life that everything they do more or less has a “Gospel Flavor” to it and is nearly second nature to them. Can that flavoring get mistaken for priestcraft at times? I suppose so, but I’m sure there comes a point where the money can slowly start to tear one from the Gospel fabric and patch it into the worldly kind. Again, I sometimes think that’s harder to spot than many let on. I think I’d rather err on the side of being a little too slow to condemn. I don’t think I’m naïve (at least most of the time), but maybe I just need to get better at spotting it too.
Mortimer, Please tell us the CES celebrity who built a replica chapel and films in it — inquiring minds want to know, and I haven’t heard yet.
Ji- It was John Bytheway- here is a video https://youtu.be/-rOtE8DudV8
Wondering, this is a link to Sheri Dew describing author royalties. https://universe.byu.edu/2002/07/30/general-authorities-and-deseret-book-collaborate/ I have heard video citing Hinckley’s generosity with his later publications, but cannot search the text of video to retrieve. There was a website that cited the fact that he donated royalties to his later works to humanitarian aid, which has been taken down.
Regarding K&M, I am a multi-generational Utahan who has watched K&M for years, has known past and present attorneys (at the top of the firm and at the bottom) as well as legal aides. I’ve also known persons who sought professional counsel from K&M. If you are as old as I am, you get to know which restaurants K&M partners favor for power meetings and which dishes they select. For decades I have read about K&M in the news and have followed court rulings/filings/briefs, etc. via legal databases. I am familiar with corporate defense law and have compared firms of similar size and tenure in the 10th circuit as well as elsewhere on various criterion. So, while I’m not a partner, and not a primary source, I’ve done my homework and am not just talkin’ outta my hat. I don’t have time to pull together a big history of the firm, but a general overview/history of the business and its key players, connection to the church, and key cases/actions/filings would be a fascinating blog post.
Lastly, regarding the church’s edict to seek CES leaders to bolster local leadership, it wasn’t a FP message or handbook paragraph. Several years ago, the church conducted many leadership trainings. A family member was part of a regional PH leadership training where that verbal recommendation was passed from regional authorities to SP and other high councilmen. Not long after, the local CES director in our area was called as a bishop- then the SP. I’ve seen it mentioned casually across the bloggernacle/blabbernacle, but not in print.
Mortimer, Thanks. That puts your earlier comments in context. I’ve seen enough variance in regional authorities’ recommendations to have to wonder whether those you know of were passing along an “edict” from SLC or acting on their own. Probably doesn’t matter much. Here we’ve had only one local CES professional at a time, so whether they were called to leadership or not, hardly made any impact. FWIW (not much), when I was for a time peripherally connected to the YA university branch/ward, the professional was not in leadership there.
I’ve worked with/been a shareholder at law firms of similar size with K&M, one of which had a large primary client, but many others. When that client left the firm, there was some uproar and the firm survived just fine, though smaller. In 35+ years at such firms, I’ve never seen junior lawyers not work for such a large primary client, though they were lead lawyers only on very small issues. The one time I corrected K&M over a stupid Church policy, the policy was one with such minor impact on such few people, that I doubt anyone at K&M had paid significant attention to what they didn’t know about the related tax, employment and practicality matters. As to the things that make it into the news, etc. from K&M, I expect you’re quite right. I know only one senior partner there and will not be asking him! 🙂
Incidentally, the Catholic sex abuse scandals were already quite old hat by 1987 when I represented a party in one of the lawsuits. I have to wonder why it would take until only 15 years ago for the Church to get worried about them and why they would think CES professionals had any more relevant training or sense than many others. I think by that time sex abuse allegations with respect to BSA scoutmasters called to their positions by LDS bishops contrary to established policy, coding on membership records, may also have been old hat. When was that awful Oregon case, anyway? Most of the general membership just didn’t know about it because the Church settled out of that case (and who knows how many others) before it’s involvement became part of the general news. Some of the members here were wondering why all the adult priesthood quorums were required (about the time of that Oregon case) to watch a video training about sex abuse and reporting requirements, etc. Oh, well.
Thank you, Mortimer.
P wrote “ ‘for the consumer of gospel-related material’ is a hideous phrase, totally unJesus, in fact Blade Runner territory.”
Yet it describes most every member I’ve ever met to one degree or another. I seek a lot of things I find of good report or praiseworthy. Reality means that a lot of those people who produce those things probably would love nothing more than to give them away freely, but have to put food on the table. I’m willing to give them some amount of means of getting that food. Yes, there are some exploiters out there, but having gone to school with a couple of LDS artists who are rapidly rising in popularity, I know they’re in it because A. God told them to do it, and/or B. They are sincerely passionate about it. Feeding their family is a necessity they’re faced with after the fact, but of no less importance in the eyes of the Lord.
@mortimer That isn’t John Bytheway’s house, at least the chapel isn’t. That was filmed, if I recall correctly, at the Pine Valley Chapel (not sure if it is in the replica at This is the Place Heritage park, or the original location).
Well, I stand corrected. If that’s the case and he used an actual LDV chapel
Or church history site, – a whole new can of worms is opened. Non-profit church buildings shouldn’t be used for for-profit causes. Even if this particular event was open access, his brand is still being promoted. I’d much rather hope/believe it was his own house.
Thank you for the insight and additional detail. There’s a pretty well compiled history and summary of the major cases levied against the Catholic Church over on Wikipedia. It looks like every few years another shoe drops. But yeah, the BSA issue and Recurring spotlights on the Catholic Church changed not only our processes, but most all other major faiths. Windows in classroom doors, safety trainings, teachers working in pairs, tighter restrictions and vetting of those working with youth/children, etc. Thank you for shining sunlight on a problem.
I stand corrected. If he was able to use an LDS chapel or historic site for recordings, even if the event were free, he’s still a for-profit brand benefitting from an endorsement. I would be extremely troubled if that were the case, more so than a home chapel.
Wondering, thanks for the insight and additional info. Wikipedia has a fairly good review of the Catholic Sex Scandals – there were so many bombs that dropped, and continue to explode. Yes, both the BSA and Catholic Church have permanently changed major denominations’ practices. Windows in doors, team teaching, trainings, better vetting of persons who work with youth/children. Positive change.
I think priestcraft has more to do with an abuse of authority than monetary compensation. I would say that the Stake President’s action of outlawing the discussion groups is itself priestcraft. It seems to me that, generally, informal discussion groups would be something to support. If they are filling some of the spiritual needs of the people who attend them, what’s the problem? I’m going to guess maybe the Stake President is concerned that discussion topics might not stay within Church Approved guidelines, but that’s setting up the church itself for the “gain and praise of the world”, not the welfare of Zion. Priesthood power is not supposed to be maintained by dictates and prohibitions, but by persuasion, gentleness, and love unfeigned.
I’ve written a bit about this in the context of covid-lockdown sacrament in the comments here:
Re GA compensation, I am put off by the “modest stipend” line. It is deceptive. In addition to the very good list of financial benefits listed by ChooseTruth I would add: Rolls Royce healthcare plans and income for life. Imagine never having to worry about saving for retirement – having that money available now for spending or investment. They also have access to sweetheart deals on vehicles that are retired from the church motor pool (I was friends with an apostle’s daughter who had two such vehicles).
President Monson was called as an apostle in his mid 30’s. Prior to that he worked for the Deseret News (interrupted by a stint as a mission president). He was not wealthy when called to full time service. I recently read that his estate was in the $14 million dollar range, based on property and other records. I can NOT verify that figure beyond the documents I’ve seen of real estate holdings (several million dollars worth). But if that is the right ballpark, that kind of wealth does not come from a modest stipend unless you get to keep most of it because many costly necessities and niceties are covered by the church.
My sociology professor at BYU was the brother of the then current Presiding Bishop. The bishop told him of a new GA being turned away from the church parking garage with his battered VW Beetle as it was an embarrassment. He was welcome to park his new Mercedes after several years of his modest stipend.
Yes, I think that too much compensation crosses the line into priestcraft. Perhaps the greater sin is in deliberately hiding it with smoke and mirrors.
BeenThere: that story about the humble car being an embarrassment (!) reminded me of one of the ideological conflicts between the two popes in the 2019 Netflix movie The Two Popes. Pope Benedict is very formal, lives in the summer palace, always dresses in his fancy pope clothes (out of respect for the office). Francis arrives dressed casually, hasn’t even packed his Cardinal hat (I think that was it), and is alarmed at staying at the summer palace which is opulent compared to his own preference to live in a modest apartment. Ultimately, despite their differences (which are stark) or perhaps because of them, Benedict essentially chooses Francis to succeed him, to do what he was not capable of doing.
Now obviously, this movie is catering to progressives who love Francis, but still, the acting and writing is top notch. If you haven’t seen it, you should. (Stars Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce). I reviewed it here: https://wheatandtares.org/2020/01/08/conservative-leadership-vs-progressive-leadership/
On priestcraft: what about artists who use their name, which they share with a high level church leader, and use church buildings and meetings to perform while they subtly promote their brand. And in their presentations they mention multiple times their connection to the high level church leader. Is that priestcraft?
Angela – Loved the Two Popes and learned about it from your blog post last year.
There are a number of comments here that are critical of the Stake President in hawkgrrrl’s opening story and the supposed letter from him “banning” informal LDS group meetings. Do we have the contents of the letter? Do we truly know anything more about to whom it was addressed? Do we know about the conditions, if any, around the so-called ban? Do we know anything about the SP’s motivations and what promoted the letter? Do we know the stake and the particular difficulties, if any, it’s facing? Do we have any context at all about this? If not, then I suggest we back-off a bit. Repeating just the critical or sensational elements of it feels a bit like gossip.
There may have been something horrendous that lead the SP to initiate the ban. Then address the issue and don’t make an overreaching edit.
That’s like having a child who grubbed up the wall with pudding and decreeing that no one in the family can henceforth use their fingers.
I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but I agree with the commenters who linked the pay-to-play tithing requirement to enter the temple with priestcraft. To me it seems like a pretty clear cut example of salvation for sale. (by the way, I was always a bit put off with all the money being exchanged in the temple (ie. to rent the clothing) to be a bit off putting, even when I attended semi-regularly). I also think the idea of tithing as a placeholder, or stepping stone, for the law of consecration to be a bit disingenuous considering it is not much of a sacrifice for the gatekeepers in the church, and most members use it as a tax deduction anyway.
Pagan: while I think your caution about the SP letter is reasonable, the issue in that particularly story was that the letter was shotgunned out to the entire stake without providing any context, and the recipient was not aware of any context either. While clearly *something* prompted this reaction from him, it was not widely known to his audience. However, his letter was really not salient to the OP aside from prompting thoughts on this topic by (mis)using the term.
Thanks for confirming we’ve got no context around the letter, @Angela.
Back to the general topic, I suspect that priestcraft may have been more easily identified in Nephite culture (from which we largely get the term). After two additional millennia of capitalism and organized religion since then, we’ve “progressed” to having many more shades of gray.
Would just add a scripture here:
 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
Notice verses 3-4, it really stresses the seriousness of the sin. Gotta be the worst kind of what is discussed here.