I have a partial manuscript for a novel in the bottom of my nightstand. Part of the premise is that our hero is a patsy in a non-profit corruption scheme, which is hidden by him being a patsy in a romantic murder. This partial novel is getting so old that it no longer makes sense given current technological advances, unfortunately, but it does reveal my personal interest in understanding corruption.
My own standards for avoiding corruption are pretty high, largely due to my religious upbringing. Jesus was both anti-corruption and quick to point out that politics and power inevitably created corruption. By contrast, he pointed out that his kingdom could not be corrupted, and yet basically all religions end up corrupt. Ergo, his kingdom is not tied to any specific religion as practiced by humans on earth.
In my business life, I encountered many cultures as a global business leader in which corruption seemed evident to me; in retrospect, that corruption was evident because it differed from what American culture allows, but that doesn’t mean American culture doesn’t have other forms of corruption. For example, in the travel industry, some coutries’ embassies could only be accessed for travel visas if one was willing to pay a low-level person a bribe (one could generously call this an “access” fee). This is considered an illegal bribe in the US, but if you think about it, how different is this from tipping in the US for low-wage industries? (In Singapore, for example, tipping is not done because workers are paid a proper wage and customers are not asked to pay them directly).
I’ve also blogged before about types of corruption that bother me within Church culture, including basically any time anyone is paid for spreading the gospel, whether that’s a general authority trading on his church-based fame, or someone running Book of Mormon tours, or even a blog that monetizes. My view has always been that we shouldn’t be earning a living off this stuff; that’s priestcraft. Once you make it your bread and butter, you will start to alter your message toward your audience to increase profits. And yet, my standards are clearly much higher than the Church’s on this. I recognize that what I consider to be corruption is just another Tuesday to most. I’m the weirdo.
Likewise in politics. I don’t approve of Trump’s obvious corruption in profiting off the office of President by funneling money into his hotels, hosting meetings and conferences there. I don’t approve in general of the corruption that exists in real estate in which it is routine to overvalue properties when seeking credit and to undervalue them when paying taxes. I also disapprove of Hunter Biden getting a cushy board seat so that foreign actors can have access to a powerful politician in the US, even if that access didn’t actually result in special treatment for their business interests (much worse if it had!). I also disapprove of all forms of nepotism, which is particularly rife in politics and the Church (no, I’m not impressed that you descended from so-called Mormon royalty–on the contrary, the act of pointing out your pedigree immediately makes me think less of you and your faith-based bona fides).
I recently listened to a podcast with Dr. Ang who explains the rise of corruption in China, but digs deeper into all forms of corruption that are a byproduct of capitalism. Chinese corruption often looks different than the type of corruption we see in the US, but we shouldn’t assume that this means we don’t have corruption. She points out these specific features of corruption that are common to both countries:
- Extreme inequality
- Systemic financial risk
- Excessive materialism
- Ecological crises stemming from overconsumption
There are a few interesting types of corruption she describes that are unique to China, including:
- The Naked Official. A Chinese official who pretends to be poor in China but maintains great wealth overseas.
- Elegant Bribery. Forms of sophisticated bribery that are subjective in value, such as using works of art (or crypto-currency?) to bribe since the value is malleable.
Part of her research is to identify the difference between corruption that inhibits growth or GDP and corruption that can improve GDP. The types of corruption that inhibit growth include embezzlement, extortion, and petty bribery. These are usually done by low-level officials who maybe feel underpaid. The US doesn’t tolerate this type of corruption as much as some poorer countries do. Once you contain these types of corruption, what’s left?
Influence peddling is a type of corruption that is very common in the US, and it can be good for the economy even if it is obviously unfair. Americans would typically consider this type of corruption to be immoral, not just illegal. This is still abuse of power for private gain, but since the actors involved are at a higher level, the preferential treatment they are giving out has to at least provide a public good. I was watching a show in which a politician got off the podium after announcing that more of the city’s contracts had been awarded to minority-owned businesses under his leadership; he then turned to a private conversation with the contractors, instructing them to manufacture delays and added costs for eight months so he could milk the government for more funding.
Dr. Ang created a matrix of corruption that is more complex than prior models. In addition to understanding the type of corruption:
- Petty theft
- Grand theft
- Speed money (bribes to overcome obstacles)
- Access money (getting access to special deals or contracts)
She also assesses whether the corruption is taking place among elites or non-elites. When you consider her more complex view of corruption, one which is broader like my own, it’s easy to see that a lot we view as “the price of doing business” is also corruption. Her conclusion that access money and speed money can actually boost GDP, even though it’s corruption, is an interesting byproduct of capitalism. After all, somebody is going to get that contract, and whoever does is plausibly going to encounter delays and obstacles; weighting the scale towards a corrupt actor who supported your political party or campaign doesn’t necessarily hurt the project even if it’s immoral. The country thrives economically while faltering morally.
- What types of corruption bother you in politics and religion?
- What corruption have you encountered in your professional life?
There’s a world of difference between “access fees” (bribery) and tipping in restaurants (which originated as a form of payment for services.) Bribery is secretly passing the hostess money to be seated ahead of the line, against restaurant policy. Tipping is a transparent way of paying the busboy part of his living salary.
I think the various shades listed here are not on the same side of the line. I’d rather have the writings of a religious luminary get published than worry about whether someone gave him a few bucks for being the publisher. Getting paid to publish a book is one of the bankable aspects of being famous, sure. Where I’d draw the line myself is a bit different than you, I suspect. For me, that tends to be when the book ends up used as the material from which the class is taught or the members are expected to purchase it. I watched this happen after my in-laws’ protestant church got “merged” (bought) into a megachurch when the economy slumped and they couldn’t pay the mortgage on their building. That was clearly corrupt, and the motive was apparent.
The LDS have a long history of leaders writing things, and so do the Catholics. Protestants have a bit of it too, but it’s not of the same broad appeal across the whole of christendom as there’s less sense of who are the authoritative figures over time. In the cases of more clear cut leaders and also some top religious thinkers like CS Lewis, this tradition serves to improve our understanding of leaders and luminaries throughout the years and I think it’s generally beneficial. But I can see how having a lay clergy makes it harder to stomach the idea of ecclesiastical leaders getting paid for anything that seems religious in any way.
Corruption should bother all of us in both politics and religion. But religious corruption is 10x as despicable because religion pretends to represent God and his will.
Nobody should expect perfect behavior by our religious leaders. They are people too. But when the institution oppresses the rights and privileges of marginalized groups including women, that to me is the ultimate corruption because I can’t believe it represents God’s will.
We really shouldn’t treat the Church and its leaders as if we are all part of some kind of representative democracy. But we should expect at least equal treatment in the eyes of God and it’s never been that way in the Church. Why? Because his will has been corrupted.
I can handle individual flaws by members and leaders. But the 200-year-old “religious”institution is still corrupt in 2022 based on how it treats women and LGBT. And financial corruption is obviously there too (maybe not individual wealth attainment but wealth of the corporate organization). The question we all should ask is: does the Lord want it this way or do the Brethren simply want it this way? If you believe the latter, you know what real religious corruption is. You decide.
Corruption is a very complex topic, because it involves both laws and cultures — and laws and cultures vary from place to place.
A traffic policeman in Romania, for example, might not think of himself as corrupt if he uses his discretion to give a verbal warning to a speeder rather than a written citation — and if the speeder responds with a small cash gift, well, everyone is happy. But in the U.S., that might be seen as corruption.
U.S. law (the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) differentiates between bribes (illegal) and facilitation payments (legal). But U.K. law (the UK Bribery Act) does not so differentiate (both are illegal). Regarding facilitation payments — it may be legal under U.S. law to make the payment while simultaneously illegal under the law of the other country to receive the payment.
It is messy.
I’m not talking from a legal perspective but from a moral / ethical one. I think in the US we essentially legalized corruption with Citizens United and lobbying and all that. I think the influence that large corporations have on our government and elections is corrupt.
From a religious perspective I think a lack of transparency in how funds are used and decisions are made is hugely problematic. See eg City Creek Mall, owning a good chunk of Florida, and the $100B+ fund that trades in GameStop. I think it’s corrupt to use my tithing money for that.
I don’t really think it’s “priestcraft” if ordinary members – who are not paid by the church or given a reputation by virtue of a church calling – produce content that gives them a reputation and monetize that content. Time isn’t free and there’s a lack of good content out there. If I found someone out there who made GOOD LDS come follow me Old Testament Content, I’d pay for it. (Trust me I went to Deseret Book looking for it and … nope, nope, nope.). Why should I expect ordinary people to put that kind of work in for free? And where would you draw the line – should artists who depict religious figures in art not be able to sell that? What percentage has to be religious before it becomes “priestcraft” to sell? Now I think some people are a bit distasteful if I’m being honest and for sure there are lay folks who’ve gained a big following who are probably closer to the line but I’m not sure I’m comfortable accusing them of priestcraft if they aren’t actually church authorities in some sense. So basically … no women. For men, depends on their position.
So I think the line is better drawn not by the nature of the content but by the position of the seller (doesn’t the name “priestcraft” also suggest that – the craft of a priest?). If you’re in a paid position by the church – at that point you (1) already have an income for doing work for the Church and (2) have undue influence on Church members by virtue of Church position. So I don’t think you should be paid or charge for producing Church materials. I should never ever have to pay anything but cost of production for work done by a 70 or Q15. That’s absurd. They are supposed to be special witnesses of Christ witnessing to the world so why would they be charging for that work? If they are being paid so little that they need to supplement their income, they should take that up with the presiding bishopric and ask for a raise.
@Elisa Does your view differ if a 70 or Q15 writes a memoir or autobiography (or biography of a historical church figure) that may include personal religious insight, or a non-authoritative view on a gospel topic they find interesting but is not intended as “church material” in context of something to be used for classes or in-church use ? This is a question that I find interesting because it is the kind of area that gives us interesting glimpses into those people, but would probably not otherwise be written outside of a private journal, much less published, were it generally not acceptable for them to publish their works outside that context. I think it’s an interesting question but one people are likely to have varied and strong opinions on.
@the pirate, IMO that’s exactly what I’m talking about actually. No one would care about that kind of book EXCEPT for the person’s church position. They are in a privileged position to sell copies of that book because of their calling. Some of them had notable careers outside of their church callings that would pique interest, but *all* would sell significantly more books based on their callings than on their lives outside of that. So, IMO, priestcraft.
Mortimer: Of course tipping is not like paying for access (even if tipping were a form of corruption, it’s not really the same kind of corruption). The similarity is that petty crime (which tipping is not) emerges when low-level officials are underpaid. Tipping occurs in countries where low-level employees are underpaid. In essence, tipping (or petty bribery) covers the sin of underpaying and is only necessary / tolerated because the recipient is intentonally and systematically underpaid. In the US, we expect tipping, and we have no tolerance for petty bribery (which is incredibly common in many Asian countries). A form of corruption associated with tipping, that is not outright illegal, is when owners or managers pilfer staff tips for the business or (I would argue) when tips are pooled and then split between workers to get them to meet minimum wage regardless of where the customer intended the tip to go. To me, the problem is paying below minimum wage, or if at minimum wage, paying below a reasonable living wage.
Elisa: Lobbying is truly a corruption in our system, but as Dr. Ang points out, it doesn’t hurt the GDP and may even help it, which is why we prosper when countries that rank higher on the “corruption” index do not. We have a form of controlled corruption that is a game played with much higher stakes. As to the priestcraft argument, my standards for this are probably higher than they should be. I agree with you that content costs time and skill to create, but I also just have this deeply ingrained distaste for monetizing anything gospel-related (and yet I wrote and sold a mission memoir). I think it’s what Josh H points out, that it’s a deep-seated distaste for mixing money and religion due to being raised on the narrative of a lay clergy. But then, when I see GAs and apostles writing books (being ghost written, more likely) that Church members gobble up like Thanksgiving leftovers, some of which are literally just their talks recycled which are all free online anyway, my priestcraft spidey senses tingle. When the Church amasses $100B accidentally without saying a word, and then shrugs it off like it’s a rainy day fund for the second coming, well, I don’t know that it’s priestcraft, but it’s not great, whatever it is. For me, I had to draw the line at my opinion, produced for people with other access points to the gospel. I’m not restricting access to anything, only allowing those who pay to receive it. Which obviously puts the temple in a questionable light.
Oof @Angela, I don’t see how the temple isn’t priestcraft tbh. Pay your 10% or you don’t get to be with your family for forever … once you see that you can’t unsee it.
I can think of multiple “influencers” and other content producers who make my stomach turn who don’t fit my definition. I just can’t think of where to draw the line and I don’t like “I know it when I see it” definitions so I have to go by calling. Probably partly has to do with intent on some of those but I don’t feel comfortable judging other people’s intent. Some of the people who make my stomach turn aren’t even making money – just seem to be really braggy. A lot of the people who bug me in the social media space are women, but since they by definition aren’t priests, I guess they can’t be practicing priestcraft! Let’s you off the hook too ;-).
There are also people whose content isn’t even religious but who capitalize on Mormon audiences like MLM’s and other affinity fraud schemes. LuLaRich anyone? That seems worse than selling religious content. So again, seems so hard to draw a line (and I suppose we only really need to draw it for ourselves, although again I’m comfortable saying I don’t think GA’s should sell their repackaged talks or autobiographies).
One of the most glaring examples of corruption in recent memory, I believe, is Elder Stevenson’s involvement in iFIT as a sitting apostle, which gave him a $900M payday when they went public. Despite being legal, it is immoral and unethical for someone who claims to be a special witness of Christ to use his office to enrich himself thusly. He sought and got approval for a special exception that allowed him to stay on the board of a for-profit Utah-based company–an obvious conflict of interest. Never mind that Christ asked his original apostles to abandon their nets (permanently retire from their prior occupations) and become fishers of men.
This is just one example, but it seems that the Church considers itself immune to scrutiny for conflicts of interest. On a micro-level, it happens all the time among Church members whenever there is an inappropriate mix of Church and business. I can’t fully escape it even though I’m outside the Morridor. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been pitched MLMs or other shoddy products by fellow ward members who only could have gotten my contact info from the ward directory. This is why I avoid doing business with or seeking professional services from other Church members as much as I possibly can. There is an especially disgusting brand of corruption that results from certain people believing that they are favored of God and thus don’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else.
@jack Hughes – while Stevenson perhaps should have stepped down when he accepted his calling (like the disciples did), how did he use his church office to enrich himself? How was it a conflict of interest?
My read on that is simply that he was doing that before he got the calling and wanted to keep doing it. Not that becoming an apostle helped the company’s valuation / got him any richer than he would have been if he hadn’t become an apostle. I don’t think investors or the market cared one whit whether there was an apostle on ifit’s board so I don’t know that it made a difference. But interested to hear your perspective on it.
LDS carp about priestcraft a lot. But the New Testament teaches, in the context of financial support to missionaries and church leaders, that “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” See Luke 10 and 1 Timothy 5. That’s not priestcraft. That’s just getting supported by the church when doing work for the church. Whether you call it a reimbursement or compensation or just plain getting paid — there is nothing wrong with it. Let me put it bluntly: The Bible teaches that we ought to be paying our local leaders.
And despite LDS claims about our “unpaid ministry,” lots of LDS get paid by the Church. Senior leaders get paid. Mission presidents get paid. Thousands of CES instructors in seminary and institute get paid. Thousands of staffers at the COB get paid. About the only people working full time for the Church who *don’t* get paid are missionaries — because they are young and idealistic and (let’s be honest) naive.
And bishops don’t get paid. They ought to. Every bishop ought to get a $1000 or $2000 a month stipend for the hours they put in and the stress the deal with. Plus the Church ought to put some real money into training for bishops. Offer day-long seminars taught by professionals on counseling and doctrine (which they’re supposed to know) and the like. Instead the Church builds up the Hundred Billion Dollar fund, money doing nothing — rather than investing in human capital at the local level to improve the quality of LDS leadership and improve the whole LDS experience. The local membership of the Church sure gets the short end of the stick when it comes to LDS finances. If we had more priestcraft in the Church, we’d all be better off.
I’ve never heard a defense of CES seminary and institute instructors that I couldn’t laugh out loud at. CES is the very definition of fraud, priestcraft with the negatives of a paid ministry and few of the positives . They “work” by imitating gifts of the spirit and get work benefits if called to serve missions. I asked a CES director years ago how the Church justified paying seminary teachers so much more than Utah paid school teachers. He answered, “So their wives don’t have to work. They need to be the ultimate examples of good Latter-day Saints.” They get paid extra to study the scriptures, more in-service than most public school teachers and still turn out a pathetic product.
There have been several other posts wondering why the music is so bad. A small fraction of $100 billion could be used to pay an organist for every congregation. Then a minimum standard of competence could be demanded.
One anecdotal experience with speed money: On a trip through Baja California, we were stopped at the border between North and South Baja states by agents. We didn’t expect to need US passports in 2000, but five of the six of us brought them anyway, just in case. The lone traveler who did not was told he could not proceed without proper documentation unless he paid the required penalty. When he tried to hand a twenty to the border agent, the response was, “Oh, no, senor, this is not a bribe,” after which the agent pointed to a coffee can in the corner where our friend could drop the cash.
Was this a legitimate, legal documentations check or just an excuse to exact speed-money bribes? I don’t know for sure. I did feel at the time that the focus on procedure in the US would have made it more difficult to resolve the situation so easily had we been north of the Rio Grande instead of south. As Angela explains, the cash exchange added money to somebody’s personal economy, didn’t really detract from the overall economy of Baja CA, and made barely a dent in my friend’s pocketbook. It also enabled us to proceed without having to go all the way back to San Diego.
Did anyone get hurt in the exchange?
Specifically, no, but corruption pervades eventually and undermines the legitimate function of institutions without fail. Elisa has already mentioned the endemic legalized corruption by which the Congress operates. I would add a corollary in that few people can afford to run for office these days without millions of personal funds in reserve to finance the campaign. The system in the UK–public funding of campaigns and a designated starting date for all who seek office–seems much more fair.
As for the church, I agree with more than a few of the comments above. Public accountability–sunshine, in the well-worn analogy–removes the stink of corruption. When the church won’t even discuss finances and how tithes are used, they’re failing to avoid the perception of corruption, they’re arrogantly saying that their character is unquestionable (no one’s is), and they’re demanding fealty, not faith. The good news is that there will always be whistleblowers like those at EPA. The truth will out eventually.
As I see it, for a Utah-based company to have a sitting apostle on its board represents an opportunity to inflate the value of its stock price, and is an obvious attempt to buy extra credibility in the market. By virtue of his calling, Elder Stevenson holds a great deal of power and influence over the lives of millions of LDS people around the world. What corporate board wouldn’t want someone like that? To me, that crosses the streams. That, and the whole thing reeks of prosperity gospel. The perception of impropriety alone is enough to raise red flags and undermine trust in Elder Stevenson as a religious authority (what are his priorities in life?), as well as undermine the credibility of the Church as a whole.
I personally believe that upon receiving their call, all apostles need to permanently sever ties with profit-making activities in order to fully commit themselves to their apostolic duties. No full-time Church leader should be making a personal fortune (regardless of the source of the income) while in office. This is also why Trump’s efforts to use his office for personal enrichment, while technically legal, were so despicable. A true public servant (or apostle of Christ) should not be concerned with amassing wealth, especially when they are already paid a comfortable salary and have their needs provided for.
Years ago, I had a boss who deservedly got promoted, and as part of that promotion had to relocate to another part of the U.S. We threw a going-away party for him, and it was a delightful but bittersweet event, because he was very well regarded by those of us who had worked under him for years. Many of us gave small gifts of appreciation. After the party, he tracked down everyone who gave him a gift and then paid each giver for the estimated cost of the gift out of his own pocket, despite the fact that there was no official policy requiring him to do so. He was absolutely committed to making sure there was no perception of impropriety attached to his name, and my respect for him was even greater after that. Why can’t God’s official representatives hold themselves to that level of personal integrity?
@Jack Hughes, maybe. I’ve seen multiple companies through IPO’s and been deep in diligence and I don’t think investors or public markets care a whiff about an apostle sitting on a board. In fact, I think they may see it as a liability or risk. But I’ve not actually been with a company with an apostle on the Board as that’s quite a unique scenario so you’d have to ask someone at Goldman Sachs :-). I think there is an argument to be made that he ought to have resigned as most apostles do from all worldly pursuits but I don’t really see a conflict of interest / personal enrichment from being an apostle.
It’s not corruption per se, but it’s certainly hypocrisy that the Church has recently been beating the “religious freedom” bandwagon while also kicking BYU students out who change their religious beliefs (there was also a nasty incident years ago in which a Sikh student was required, against his religious belief, to shave his beard). There is a financial component to that as well, in that BYU requires wasted time and money on credits that don’t transfer (religion classes) because their religion department is not accredited or recognized as meeting any academic standards. Yet, these classes are required! It creates a penalty for those who leave and for those who stay. CES is like the Church’s version of home-schooling, but at the college level. Along those same lines, another element that was corrupt that has been rectified was that CES had a policy until not long ago that if a paid female seminary teacher had a baby, she could no longer retain her position as a paid seminary teacher. There was no such stricture on unpaid seminary teachers used throughout the Church for early morning seminary, and of course, the Church also didn’t restrict men with children between the ages of 0 and 18 (this thought was triggered by Old Man’s comment above). It was absolutely a discriminatory practice (the Church is rife with such). It was hypocritical to allow women to do the same work unpaid that they were not allowed to do for pay. Probably not corruption, but all these efforts feel like cousins to corruption. There certainly has been a concerted effort for decades to get labor for free from women and to pay men who “have a family to support.”
When speaking of corruption what comes to mind for me was GA Devin Durrant speaking at the Sept. 2015 CG using his newly minted term “ponderize” while his family had already set up a website to sell T-shirts and possibly other merchandise sporting the term. That was a calculated attempt to monetize the opportunity presented by GC and Mormons’ naive wish to exhibit their own worthiness.
Brother Durrant has since been released but not until a few years ago.
@Angela C, that topic needs its own post. The Church thinks women’s time has no value. So it has no problem thinking women should have no problem sacrificing it.
There are so many examples of this.
(Also 100% on the religious freedom / BYU thing.)
I did a quick Google search for books written by Russell M. Nelson. I’m sure there is a similar list for all the Quorum of the 12.
Books written by Russell M. Nelson
From Heart to Heart: An Autobiography of Russell Marian Nelson (1979)
The Power Within Us (1988)
Lessons from Mother Eve – A Mother’s Day Message (1993)
The Gateway We Call Death (1995)
The Magnificence of Man: Truth – and More (1998)
Perfection Pending, and Other Favorite Discourses (1998)
Hope in Our Lives(1999)
Wise Men and Women Still Adore Him (Christmas booklet 2010)
Accomplishing the Impossible: What God Does, What We Can Do (2015)
The Prince of Peace (2016)
Teachings of Russell M. Nelson (2018)
Insights from a Prophet’s Life (2019)
Daily Joy: A Devotional for Each Day of the Year (2020)
Books written about Russell M. Nelson
Insights from a Prophet’s LIfe: Russell M. Nelson (Sheri Dew)
Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle (Spencer J. Condie)
Remembering the Prophets of God (Francis M. Gibbons & Daniel Bay)
President Russell M. Nelson: Brilliant Mind, Gentle Heart (KSL DVD)
The Conference Talk Study Journal: (Featuring Talks By Russell M. Nelson given since 1968 when President Nelson was a Stake President and spoke in Conference, all the way through 2019)
Russell M. Nelson retired as a surgeon in 1984 when he was called to the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. He wrote his autobiography while he was still a surgeon but all the other books were written when he was an Apostle.
Wendy Watson Nelson has also written many books and recorded lots of audio books for Deseret Books. Sister Nelson was a BYU Professor before she married President Nelson.
Church Books Written by Wendy Watson Nelson
Purity and Passion: Three Truths About Love and Sex Every Husband and Wife Will Want to Know (2001)
Purity and Passion: Spiritual Truths about Intimacy That Will Strengthen Your Marriage (2004)
Change Your Questions, Change Your Life (2009)
The Not Even Once Club (2013) (by Wendy Watson Nelson and Brandon Dorman)
What Would A Holy Woman Do? (2013)
Rock Solid Relationships: Strengthening Personal Relationships with Wisdom from the Scriptures (2015)
Covenant Keepers: Unlocking the Miracles God Wants For You (2016)
The Heavens are Open (2019)
Things Are Not Always As They Appear
The Power of Sarah’s Prayer (by Wendy Watson Nelson and Brandon Dorman)
Savior Heals Without a Scar (by Sheri Dew and Wendy Watson Nelson)
Personal Purity and Intimacy: 1999 Womens’ Conference Address
Searching Diligently in the Light of Christ: Women’s Conference Address
Taking the Temple with You (Wendy Watson Nelson, S. Michael Wilcox)
The Savior Heals Without a Scar (by Sheri Dew and Wendy Watson Nelson)
Professional Books associated with Wendy Watson Nelson
Watson co-edited “The Cutting Edge of Family Nursing” in 1990 while teaching at the University of Calgary. In her work with the FNU (Family Nursing Unit), she wrote and produced five educational videos. In 1996, she co-authored “Beliefs: The Heart of Healing in Families and Illness” with Lorraine M. Wright and Janice M. Bell.
I’ve been thinking about the topic of priestcraft and books written by church leaders and I keep coming back to the books of Chieko Okazaki. Her writings on our relationship with the Savior touched me deeply and I value her insights. Considering how little we get to hear from our female church leaders in comparison to our male leaders, I’ll all for paying to hear more from them. In the same vein, I’d love to hear more from Sharon Eubank.
So it’s a complicated topic for me.
@DCS yes but Nelson was General Sunday School president from 1971-79, so iffy on whether his church position was immaterial to his autobiography. Do many 55 yr olds write autobiographies? Seems a bit presumptuous to me but who knows.
I can’t even with Wendy writing books about sex (or writing books worshipping her spouse). But there are some v. amusing Amazon reviews about the book for interested folks:
“After reading Sister Nelson’s book, I was really excited to incorporate some of her ideas into my marriage. I especially liked how she suggested incorporating prayer, fasting, and scripture study into God-Ordained Marital Intimacy.© I also tried incorporating the “sacred language” into my marital intimacy. However, my spouse just looked at me weird when I said, “Wouldest though like to knowest me after thou hath committed prelude?” (prelude is sacred language for foreplay).
Although I took “exquisite care” to ensure our “activities don’t offend the spirit,” my spouse did not have “a grand and glorious experience that will continue eternally.” My spouse suggested that next time we stick to having “worldly sex” even if involves “carnal, sensual, and devilish passions.”
Elisa, presumptuous would be RMN writing a book called “Motherhood”
@your food allergy I had the same thought! then got distracted. Thank you for not getting distracted by the more prurient interests.
@Margot, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure Chieko’s work as a counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency was unpaid.
Sharon Eubanks is a bit more complicated because she is technically a Church employee, but her job as a Church employee isn’t to write books – she actually has a real actual job as a Church employee. So I imagine she is writing books in her free time.
These male GA’s are being paid a salary to be professional clergy (which I don’t have anything against) while funds (Church? Deseret Book? I dunno?) are probably being used to pay ghost writers to write their books from which they then earn a royalty on top of their Church salaries, even though their literal job is to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ. If that is their actual job, why wouldn’t they do everything in their power to distribute whatever possible witness they might have – whether autobiographical, sermon, or otherwise – for as little cost as possible?
Those female leaders are lay leaders who are not paid a Church salary and are writing those books on their own time. They aren’t called as Special Witnesses of Christ and if they want to spend their time to spread light through the world, but they still need to earn a living because they aren’t to do it – then I don’t care if they get paid for their writing. Call me biased but if Church won’t value women’s time then I’m fine if the market will once in a while.
I don’t think ANYONE bought Cheiko’s books just because she was in the General Relief Society Presidency for a few years. How many books from members of the Relief Society Presidency has anyone ever purchased? How many members of the General Relief Society Presidency can anyone even ever name? No one purchased her books because of her position, they purchased her books because she was an amazing woman. Sure, her position gave her an opportunity for other people to REALIZE how amazing she was, but that’s not priestcraft, that’s just serendipity.
Ditto Sharon Eubanks. She outshines every single one of the Q15 every. single. conference. If people want to buy her books or hear her speak it’s because she actually has something worth saying, not because people think she has a fancy mantle or power from God (because certainly, no one thinks she does – she’s female).
So no. That’s not priestcraft. Priestcraft is people fawning over totally mediocre men’s words just because of their titles at Church while women have to be ten times the better speaker – AND catch the attention of those men and be called to a position by them – just to have a chance at being heard.
@Elisa, I don’t know how I missed the fact that the female leaders of the Church don’t get paid. I knew it was only a 5 year position, but it’s not even something they do full-time? That’s appalling.
I’m sorry, the relief society general presidency does not get paid? I mean, does any high-profile female other than Shari Dew get paid?
Someone correct me. Do they? I don’t want to misspeak. I am not certain if auxiliary presidencies paid or not during their (obviously not lifetime) tenure.
Julie Beck was a friend’s aunt and I didn’t think she got paid based on what I heard then (because hey, if she didn’t leave a profession to serve in the Church, why pay her now? Remember women’s time is not valuable) but I don’t want to spread misinformation – I could be wrong and/or it could have changed since then. From Sister Eubanks’ talks it sounded like she still does what she’d done before but that’s with the Church so it’s tricky. Ditto Sherri Dew.
Camille Johnson seems to have retired or suspended her law practice so I’m particularly curious whether she’s being paid … even if she is, she stepped down as president of one of the top law firms in Utah less than a year after being appointed as president (after pausing her practice to be a mission president’s wife) and will do … what? … after she’s released.
Would love if someone had clarity on this.
There are many things the institutional church does which bother me because I think those institutional behaviors/policies are unethical. In no particular order here are some of mine:
*Church -paid laity. We take great pride in having a volunteer laity instead of a clergy, yet when you read the church news announcements about foreign country stake presidency reorganizations, almost without fail, one or two in the stake presidency is employed by the church. It doesn’t seem to me we have honest conversations about church employment and the fact that as many as 30%-50% of our laity in foreign countries is employed by the church. I know they are still amateurs and not trained clergy, but the narrative that all of our local leaders are unpaid just isn’t true. I know this is slicing the bread thin, and I’m not necessarily opposed to foreign leaders being on the payroll. I simply think not talking about the number of church employees and those in high, local offices is problematic. It certainly isn’t consistent with the brag that our church leaders are unpaid. Here in Utah Valley there is a similar problem I have noticed anecdotally. In every stake of which I have been a part, CES employees are over represented in stake presidencies, high councils and bishoprics. The local church seems to favors church employees when it comes to callings of consequence. Why does this bother me? When this happens, leadership is not representative of the local church’s congregants. CES employees seem to me to apply more narrow mindsets, are hyper-orthodox and out of touch with the kinds of experiences and challenges most members are going through. (Having served directly under two, my experiences with both were surprisingly similar and are the foundation for my observation.)
*Church budgets. I’m guessing the three biggest cost line items are (a) church education, CES and the BYUs, (b) temples and church buildings, and (c) other church employment (the bureaucracy). But who knows? The lack of financial transparency is deeply concerning. The hiding of the $100B, and the Ensign Peak Advisor’s president confessing the fund wasn’t disclosed because they were afraid church members would stop paying tithing…I am not sure I will ever get over that. The breach of trust this created forever changed how I look at the institutional church’s ethics. The amount of money concerns me for many reasons, but the hiding of it is terribly immoral on the church’s part. Again, there is no discussion. Nothing. Only an increased spend on PR to put the light on the humanitarian work the church does. The misdirection is terribly concerning to me as well.
*Hank Smith. Everything his brand of profiteering stands for upsets me.
*The way the church treats its critics is often immoral. Sam Young’s excommunication, Natasha Helfer’s excommunication and other “apostate” excommunications often use deplorable methods. I’m not saying churches can’t retain the right to sanction their members (although these policies often reflect the moral maturity of the institution), but when you look at the church asking members on trial to surrender their smart phones, sign confidentiality agreements, not allow those on trial or their supporters to use church restrooms, not allow personal advisors into the proceedings, calling in the police to intimidate supporters, choosing venues far from the member’s home…these are signs of an institution driven by fear and not by the love of God. It’s hard for me also not to see these proceedings more as acts of institutional cowardice. (And the church always says these are “local matters.” The guidance from church headquarters is so obvious. This is also lying and counts as a form of immorality and corruption.)
*As the Tribune reported a couple of days ago, Deseret Book pulling the anti-racism master class James Jones created because of his criticism of Jeffrey Holland’s “musket fire” talk is morally questionable. The eraser of Ben Park from the Maxwell Institute’s website with no explanation following his critical Washington Post OpEd is morally questionable. It makes me wonder what kind of non-disparagement clauses are in church employment contracts. Certainly when you have Kirton McConkie staring you in the face and risk losing your pension if you dare to whistle blow almost guarantees we don’t know if anything untoward is happening in the COB. (And I would love to know what the church’s non-real estate related spend is with Kirton McConkie….)
*The new protest rule at BYU and their claim it is out of concern for the safety of students. Will BYU please stop lying? Just stop it.
A couple of years ago we had a priesthood lesson based on a conference talk by Jack N Gerard. Having never heard of him I looked him up. From the description of him I read he was the lobbyist for the petrolium industry. He was paid 5 or 6 million a year by them. Aside from lobbying he set up bodies, and funded them, the were supposedly grass roots groups and partially peopled by industry employees with names like energy nation, energy citizens, and energy tomorrow, whose purpose was to campaign against green legislation. They disrupted green ralleys and picketed against politicians who were leaning green, while claiming they were grass roots orginizations, and totally funded by him.
This seems corrupt to me, but he went straight from this to GA.
If it don’t involve crocs, scantily-clad women and honky-tonks, it ain’t corruption, just bidness. Deal with it.
Those who serve institutional power and authority, ahead of the people we call brothers and sisters, are corrupt. Whomever steers the institution to run over the congregation, is corrupt. Those who think that Zion is built by brick and mortar and asphalt, are corrupt. Those who would lie to protect the “good name of the church,” are corrupt. The middle-managers, like Gadiantons, who turn tithing into wealthy construction and development contracts, and invest consecrated offerings into the secular stock market, are corrupt. The CES, who converts doctrine into dogma, is corrupt. The Masonic dross that pollutes temple ordinances, is corrupt. The belief-systems that mimick ideology, and obfuscate Christ’s doctrine, are corrupt. Those who say “All is well in Zion,” are most certainly, corrupt.
@bigsky amen to everything. Instagram keeps telling me to follow Hank Smith and I keep trying to tell Instagram something is so, so wrong with their algorithm …
Funny you mention Jack N. Gerard. I use him as an example to teach my children how to discern between LDS leadership. Listen to him plagerize the speaking patterns of Eyring and Monson, notice how well-rehearsed his pauses and pace. This is what appetite for power sounds like. He speaks diplomatically at length about nothing. The work of peppering a talk with chains of GA quotations is a technique of feigning the Spirit. Yuck. Compare to the graceful authenticity of Elder Robert C. Gay:
Jack N. Gerard @BYUH
Robert C. Gay @BYUH
Speaking of corruption, Kirton McConkie is deplorable. Their inability to hire and promote women should be disqualifying, and yet, deep down, I think we all know the Church either didn’t notice, doesn’t care, or secretly loves it.
While I can’t talk of church financial corruption, I can with some authority say that members are just as dishonest when it comes to taxes, shell companies, working the system to grab every penny for themselves as my non-member clients. The one that really took the cake for me was a member of a stake presidency calling the entire three-day temple wedding extravaganza of his son a company marketing event. He included all the travel and hotel for the extended family, the clothing, limo, reception rental/food, local excursions to keep everyone busy prior, the list went on and on. While that isn’t even the highest dollar amount of dishonesty that I’ve seen, it really made me feel gross about working for him let alone listening to him talk at stake conference. I’m outside of Utah, but I’ve heard from others in Utah that this is pretty normal practice for many LDS small business owners. Gag.
I wish I could find the source, but I know I read that many years ago in Latin America the church had a hard time getting church manuals, books, etc through customs.
However one mission president did not (think it was Uruguay.). Anyways, someone from from slc went down to find out his approach, to replicate in other missions. Found out they were paying custom officials.
The lds corporate church’s hands are not clean in many aspects
I have a family member who investigates white collar crime .
Most of the people they are going after are bishops and stake presidents!
The idea of the prosperity gospel is alive and well. Many people believe the only way to get ahead economically is to cheat the system; they are then seen as more blessed by God and put into lds leadership
There is a lot of pride in these comments
What bothers me about corruption is its widespread acceptance is popular business philosophies and attitudes. Get-rich-quick schemism has crept its way into popular business (not necessarily academic business philosophy, which is rooted in ethics and law), and dictates that people violate ethics and dip their toes into illegal activity to get ahead. What matters is your ability to maintain plausible deniability, not your ability to maintain ethics or even behave legally. This in turn has crept its way into Mormon culture.
A culture of corruption based on pop business philosophy was made no more apparent to me than when I did door-to-door sales for a Utah-based home alarm company in 2005. They taught us to use big-pressure, manipulative sales tactics and say we were with ADT or GE (even though we worked for a different company) simply because we used their services and had their logos on our shirts. I quit after only three weeks.
Vivint came along a few years later and swallowed the competition. But they used the same manipulative tactics. However, because of Vivint’s “success” they were able to hire good lawyers and PR consultants and elevate themselves as these sorts of heroes in Utah Valley.
Yet Vivint, is just one of many examples of skeevy companies rising in Utah. So many other corrupt organisations dot Utah. Their philosophies of fake it to make it and toxic positivity permeate Mormon culture.
Just a quick follow-up. A quick Google search of “Vivint corruption” reveals a long list of settlements that Vivint has been forced to pay and complaints filed against them. They leave a long trail of questionable behavior. What has been published about them just scratches the surface. They are corrupt to the core.
Semi-relevant, esp w/r/t Mark I’s astute PRIDE callout:
The OP asks two questions: “What types of corruption bother you in politics and religion?” And “what corruption have you encountered in your professional life?” And the comments, for the most part, categorize corruption neatly into the boxes of politics, religion, or business — and the whole thread focuses mainly on other peoples’ corruption or institutional corruption, until Mark I’s cryptic pride comment, which seemed to inspire many thumbs down.
I don’t recognize Mark-the-commenter, but I understood the comment. Because what I learned as a child was that the worst thing you could be was unclean, or sinful, or —*corrupt*. And under the tutelage of my family traditions, enmeshed with church teachings, I learned to strive mightily for cleanliness, without corruption. And failed spectacularly, and carried the weight of my own corruption in my heart as I continued to strive mightily. And repent. (Cue loud laughter) This experience preceded my learning about corruption in politics, religion, and business— such small categories for such a ubiquitous part of life as Corruption.
I’m not interested in posting my own OP here with my take on corruption, but I will point out the many years I spent obsessed with my own purity to the point of denial, and I get a familiar feeling reading all the denunciations. Nobody wants to examine their own corruption. I totally get that — hence all the downvotes on Mark poking us with the pride pin. But, as much as I agree with the disgust expressed here towards corruption in politics, religion, and business, I just can’t muster a comment without recognizing that I am not untainted by these corruptions, and we’re all, to some degree, hypocrites on our soapbox.
And I’m not really in the mood to call that out. I love my soapbox time, and all y’all’s too.
But corruption is a bigger topic to me because it’s so close to home where I live every day. And those enmeshed teachings are utterly worthless in navigating this.
On my mission to Guatemala in the early 90s a missionary from the US was nearly jailed for accidentally hitting a pedestrian with the mission van. The church paid off multiple policemen at the scene to keep them from arresting this missionary who would be eaten alive in a Guatemalan jail. About a year later the church snuck him out of the country because he was going to be detained indefinitely.
Corruption is rarely a good thing but sometimes the only answer in a corrupt society is more corruption. Corruption engenders more corruption.
Elisa: Damn that paywall, but yes, this is a freight train that the Church can’t ignore much longer.
Nope. The accusation of hypocrisy and pride because all individuals are inherently imperfect is not a valid response. This is the appeal to hypocrisy fallacy, or bothsideism. Individual members of the church doubt themselves with great regularity and with the emotional equivalent of a hair shirt, but the organization itself rarely comes within earshot of an apology. Instead, like Mark, it reminds members that they are imperfect and that is is wrong to criticize the lord’s anointed (talk about pride). If all are imperfect, and it’s okay for the church to regularly remind members of their imperfection, is this not also acceptable as a unidirectional strategy?
Sorry, bidirectional. (I have to spend more time reading before posting.)
The corruption in the church that bothers me the most is false or hypocritical moral superiority. Especially when such attitudes and actions contribute to how members are treated. Like when my Bishop refused to vaccinate or even wear a mask, yet then criticized others for not “following the brethren.”
Or what about when leaders place women on a pedestal and then simultaneously push them off? Like when my Stake President praised the young women in the stake for their modesty, yet a week later instructed Bishops to question the young women in private interviews about WHEN the last time was they masturbated or engaged in oral sex. Most of the poor girls had no idea what the Bishops were talking about and they felt assaulted, falsely accused and deeply embarrassed. My daughter never trusted priesthood leaders again. Modesty, what crimes are committed in thy name!
Jaredsbrother, maybe you misunderstood me or I’m missing your point? I think my response was valid, and I tried my best to not disapprove — because I don’t really disapprove — but I don’t have much of a contribution to address to the narrow confines of the OP topic. Corruption is pretty much the same everywhere it happens, not just at the institutional level. I’m familiar with the hair shirt to which you refer, and agree that it’s used by an institution that will never concede its own guilty corruption, but will manipulate members into not criticizing leaders who badly need feedback. Maybe I’m sensitive from being poked with a pin.
What I was trying to say was that we’re all corrupt in a fallen world, and the corruption that occupies my attention the most is that which must be handled in my own private life. But we fight entropy anyway.
MDearest, my comment was not directed at you. I took issue with Mark calling us all to repentance for the sin of pride.
On a related note, I was not aware that BYU was the first university to receive a Title IX exemption thanks to the leadership of Dallin Oaks, in case you were wondering how long Oaks has been carrying the “gays are evil” axe. The Trib article behind the pay wall makes reference to this article about the initial exemption: https://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/bitstream/handle/1808/25554/Augustine-Adams_Final%20to%20Sheridan.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
(Jaredsbro et al, please accept this meme)
Honestly, the corruption that sticks with me is the corruption created in the wake of the American-led NATO invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. The U.S. poured literally trillions of dollars into fighting various terrorist groups, reconstruction, and rebuilding Afghan police and security forces and left with just about nothing to show for it other than creating perhaps the most corrupt government in the world which promptly crumbled when the U.S. and NATO finally pulled out. Neither NATO nor the U.S. ever had a coherent policy for helping Afghanistan to long-term stability, rather they relied on a hodgepodge of efforts that were never properly funded because the Afghan political and military leaders who oversaw these efforts siphoned the money away into their own pockets. Some of the efforts laudable and included building schools where girls would be welcomed to attend, building local marketplaces intended to be hubs for business creation, building local clinics and hospitals to provide treatment in more rural areas, and investing in road construction to make the country easier to traverse. Were NATO and U.S. military and U.S. Dep’t of State leadership aware of the corruption? Absolutely. Were they angered by it? Absolutely. Did they have the political stomach or the experience necessary .to combat it? Absolutely not. When you, the foreigner, are in-country for only a year (two at most for senior leaders), without serious, serious effort, you simply can’t understand the political and social landscape at anything more than a superficial level and thus you often have no choice but to accept the status quo and keep doing the things and working with the same people that your predecessor did because you don’t have time to implement something better. Besides, surely your predecessors had a good reason for initiating their efforts, right? The result was a mess of incomplete building projects or projects that were completed and never used for their intended purposes as well as a complete inability to win the support of the masses, especially those living outside urban centers who were easy fodder for recruitment into the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and other local belligerent groups. We’ll never know if a different approach to Afghan reconstruction that did not take corruption as a fact of life would have made any difference, but continuing to knowingly pour blood and treasure into the pockets of politicians and generals.
Show me a 10 foot paywall, and I’ll show you a 12 foot ladder.
you’re welcome 🙂
I think MDearest’s turn inward (and into the corrupting influence of our mortal condition) is the heart of the post. My concern about it being corrupt to sell gospel-related items can either sound noble (there can be no price to entry for discipleship) or ridiculous (like Bill Paxton criticizing rival Cary Elwes in Twister: “He’s in it for the money, not the science!”) While I’d like to think I’m the former, maybe I’m actually the latter! It does occur to me that this “free labor” idea, particularly as pertains to women in the Church, is deeply ingrained in us while the men are cashing in. I mean, obviously, Jesus wasn’t flush with cash (was there a cover charge where he was hanging out with those publicans and sinners?), but among the humans, men seem to find a lot of justifications for taking a payday and calling it noble while feeling perfectly fine about women remaining financially dependent mother angels.
“… certainly rates as a much worse approach to say the least.”
[Sorry, kept getting interrupted when drafting my response and didn’t realize that my last sentence didn’t make it into my post.]
@Angela, the gender issue and a lot of other murky questions are resolved when you draw a line at whether someone is using a position of authority or power for personal gain. Anti-corruption / anti-bribery laws actually do use such a line (and the first definition of “corruption” in a lot of dictionaries also uses the “position of power” qualifier) and I think it’s a fair line.
A lot of people have mentioned things that are definitely shady business practices, unethical, dishonest, etc. But I would probably put many of those in a different category than “corruption.”
And yes, there is also a type of “corruption” that MDearest is referring to but I’m not talking about that type either.
Every member a life coach? What are the credentials for such a profession? Seems a little corrupt to me…maybe it’s been around a while but I feel like I am just now noticing this particular Mormon subculture.
Corruption is the truth of the world. It is a problem of the whole world.