A while back we had a comment that deserved being made into a post of its own. We just had a comment that broke 90 likes, and so I’ve gotten permission to make it into a post of its own.
The quality of the LDS ship programs and accommodations have changed over the years.
The LDS ship has always been known to be expensive and passengers have always willingly paid premium prices for the full service LDS cruise experience. Many families has been cruising on the same cruise line for years and the kids have loved hearing their elderly relatives talk about all the wonderful ports and the amazing ship experiences that they have had in the past. The kids have looked forward to those same experiences.
Current passengers were promised that they will get a balcony suite and a true luxury cruise experience in exchange for the high price of the tickets.
As the current passengers board, they are randomly being assigned housekeeping, entertainment and meal prep. They are promised that there is a captain on board and that he knows how to navigate. The term Celestial Navigation keeps being brought up — but the LDS ship seems to be going in circles and has not docked in a real port in years.
As the passengers clean, entertain each other, prep meals and shine up the ship, they are able to see the other ships nearby. The other ships all appear to have capable and competent paid staff and the passengers on other ships appear to be having a really good time. The other ships serve margaritas.
The LDS passengers have been told that the LDS ticket price will stay the same but that they will be expected to pick up even more of the workload. They are told that they should be grateful to be allowed on the cruise. The entertainment program was just cancelled. Housekeeping and meal prep are now the only options.
In other news, the LDS cruise line just posted record-setting profits. The company states that increased profits were due to savvy investments unrelated to the cruise industry.From Damascene
The LDS Church used to have a professional ministry for the boy’s youth program (well, we paid out about $50,000.00 a year per ward for scouting). The Institute programs used to have regional activities and were vital and engaging.
I appreciate that stipends came about as Paul H. Dunn and others were taking employment that led them into promoting businesses that were not really a good match. But the truth is, that as stipends and the related cafeteria plans and other benefits have increased (and the details have become less public), the level of services provided to the average ward has dropped.
Leaders no longer sleep at the homes of members and eat with them, instead they stay at hotels and eat at restaurants. Many claim that they have a fully enclosed ecosystem of their own that they live within and relate to.
Leaders have a better berth on the boat than they used to have, everyone else seems to have gotten reduced status.
What do you think?
- Are the leaders really as isolated as some claim?
- Has the “bang for the buck” really gone down?
- What direction do you see the boat going in and what is it providing?
Damascene has made a good point about the modern crop of leaders. I share the fear that the leaders are too isolated.
In my day, leaders were as self sufficient as they expected the members to be. They spent time on the farm or the family business to earn a living. By its very nature, this work kept them in contact with everyday people—people who were not afraid to tell it like it is.
Unfortunately, there has been a celebrity culture emerge among the modern leaders. Instead of quoting the Savior in their talks, they quote each other incessantly. They have taken “Praise to the Man” to an absurd level that once again, separates them from everyday people. They only associate with those who claim that all is well.
We do not need celebrities as leaders. We do not need Post Malone and Dua Lipa wannabes directing the work.
I suspect that the celebrity culture is part of the reason for the attack on the Mormon culture. What I mean by that is the attack on ward plays, road shows, and youth activities that traditionally brought ward members together as a family. These activities are not highbrow enough for a celebrity culture.
Give us leaders like we had in my day. Give us a farmer, a plumber, and a railroad mechanic for spiritual leaders. Then we would have humble servants who give Praise to God and not Man.
I believe the leaders, especially those who have been in the q 15 for some time, are isolated in some ways. On the one hand, they have families and those families have the same issues as other families. On the other hand, sometimes some of them say things that make me think they are really, really out of touch. It’s been said that “the past is a foreign country”. I think to some of them (for example, the entire first presidency), the present is a foreign country. They try to study it and respond to it, but they are just a little but “off” and the things they say and do demonstrate that they fundamentally don’t get where other people are coming from, especially people who are not elderly straight white men with literally every social privilege imaginable.
The “bang for the buck” has gone down for me personally. I’m a middle aged primary teacher currently, which is fine, and I’ve been a committed active member my entire life, but I haven’t really gotten much socially or intellectually from the church in about 30 years. Sometimes I feel spiritually fed at church but not often. I attend and serve to keep my covenants and hope to be a blessing to others. I’ve never enjoyed the temple. When I was a young mother I anticipated that the church would provide a lot of support and positive social and spiritual experiences for my children but those anticipated benefits have mostly not materialized. That is more a function of the social environment in the ward we are in.
I too find the leader worship to be deeply disturbing.
On costs of participation, I am old enough to remember when ward members were required to pay budget funds in addition to tithing and fast offering. As a small child I recall our then bishop coming round to visit our family to ask if donations could be made on account of a shortfall in the annual budget. We were very, very far from well off. There were many ward members much better off than we were. Yet my father was prepared to had over the entirety of their meagre savings. Something the Bishop was extremely embarrassed to accept. So there’s that. Then there came a time when the church said there wasn’t a need for members to pay a separate budget. Im not confident that would have been said in the current climate. In the current climate costs which used to be covered by budget are more and more being pushed back onto the local members in a far more covert and insidious way. Take printing costs and provision of curriculum materials as an example. The most recent case being that Temple recommends must be printed off locally. It’s more and more an expectation that members will access materials online. Wards are discouraged from ordering paper copies of manuals. This creates hierarchies of wealth within a ward, pushing out those who cannot afford the necessary hardware they’re expected to have, or who cannot afford printing at home. I don’t imagine the Q15 pay for their own iPads , their generous stipend notwithstanding. Yet back when my husband was on the high council he had to upgrade his device at no small expense in order to function within the council meetings because his then existing device was too old to run the then current version of the tools app properly.
I greatly regret the loss of paid custodians of our buildings. Indeed my father was the custodian for a short time. But mostly I remember the much-loved and respected member of the ward who worked as custodian for many many years. I was a student when employment of custodians for our church buildings was discontinued. I was devastated for this member. Our current building has a very dedicated member serving as PFR. Someone well versed in health & safety legislation. Someone who would certainly benefit from being paid for the role, who is paid for a similar role in a local community centre. And this is the thing. Our buildings could be local community centres if we’d only invest in paid staff to run them properly. But instead we hoard that amenity for ourselves. My husband’s sister-in-law is employed as the manager of the local baptist church in where she and my brother-in-law worship in their city. That baptist church does a great deal for their local community, including running a cafe where people can drop in during the week. Yet we aren’t even allowed to cook for our own members in the kitchens of our buildings. Somewhere something has gone seriously seriously wrong. It seems that fear, fear of things going wrong, fear of what it might cost to put in place appropriate insurance cover, fear of paying out money for anything at all is getting in the way of our doing anything good.
Before the pandemic my wife and I enjoyed cruises, although even then we tried our best to avoid getting sick onboard. Cruise ships have long been termed “floating petri dishes,” and as an immunosuppressed organ-transplant recipient I’ve been cautious. Now, of course, it’s hard to imagine when or even if we’ll ever return.
But this post/comment reminded me of a couple different types of cruise patrons. I remember talking with a delightful guy in the next cabin on a seven-day cruise out of New Orleans at the beginning of Mardis Gras, no less.. He was a teacher in upstate New York and booked a cruise each winter. He didn’t much care what ports the ship would visit; his concern was two-fold: baseline cost and the details of the drink package. He didn’t plan to get off the ship anyway, just enjoy his week-long party. I’ve never spent a winter battling lake-effect snow in upstate New York or faced the spectre of trying to teach algebra to 15-year-olds. So I shouldn’t judge.
I’ve also encountered more than a few cruise-ship passengers who would only get off the ship at the cruise line’s private island or perhaps the well-scrubbed safety of port shopping areas. Technically, I guess, they could go home and say they’d been to Barbados or Cartegna or wherever, but in reality that wasn’t actually the case. I have friends and relatives who continually vacation at Walt Disney World for basically the same reason.
Cruise ships can open you up to surprising experiences in new places. Or they can be secure places for fearful people to pretend they’re something (and somewhere) they’re not.
Excellent comment –> guest post by Damascene. It opens up the question, noted at the end of the post, of how things should change. What kind of church program is better? What is ideal? To what extent is it a one-size-fits all program, or should it be easier to scale up or down the extent of one’s participation in the LDS program?
My quick observations:
— People are busier than 20 or 30 years ago and don’t want all the activities grandma and grandpa remember. No one misses road shows.
— Contributions like building funds and ward budget have been cut, so the financial burden on members has gone down.
— But the burden of tithing falls unevenly on the membership, with no acknowledgment by leaders that tithing falls a lot harder on some than others.
— Early morning seminary puts a lot of stress (and sleep deprivation!) on young LDS. The program needs to be revamped.
— The LDS curriculum needs to be beefed up. The LDS leadership thinks in terms of indoctrination and socialization rather than education and personal growth.
I enjoy this comparison to cruise ships. The interesting thing about cruise ships is that they hearken back to an earlier time in which passenger ships were a dreadful but necessary part of global travel. So shipping companies added luxurious trappings (food, furnishings, entertainment) to make the experience bearable, particularly for the wealthy. Jet airplanes have taken over the role of facilitating efficient trans-oceanic travel, but cruise ships survive today as an experience unto themselves (and are marketed as such), rather than a practical means of transportation between global port cities. In this regard, I view the Church as an institution trying to fight back obsolescence while clinging to what’s left of it’s relevance, and in the process has become a self-licking ice cream cone. Other more efficient institutions have taken over its roles in many people’s lives, while many dissatisfied former passengers are asking themselves, “what’s the point?”
“The LDS passengers have been told that the LDS ticket price will stay the same but that they will be expected to pick up even more of the workload.” “In other news, the LDS cruise line just posted record-setting profits.”
I’ll start by saying I understand some of the rationale for having members clean the church buildings. It teaches the kids (who come help clean) to respect the building and not make messes. I have a lot of doctors in my branch, and it can be a good thing for me and them to alternate cleaning the toilets (it keeps us grounded and down to earth). With so many buildings, it saves the church a lot of money.
But… with a $100,000,000,000.00 fund… it’s INSANITY to me that the church doesn’t pay people to clean the buildings, especially when there are so many members who are strapped for cash and could benefit in a real way from being paid to clean the buildings.
I thinkit would be great if one of the perks of being a member of the church was “Anyone who wants to work for some extra money can come clean the churches and the temples for $15/an hour. Sign up here and bring your kids.” I grew up below the poverty line while my dad served as a bishop. (My dad is a true saint, and a great man). I’ve always looked at how much time he spent at the church and thought, “If he had spent that time working a 2nd job, we would have had enough money for food, clothes, etc….” If we had the opportunity to earn a little money while cleaning the church, that would have made our lives a lot better.
(As a side note, I didn’t hear much about the 4th mission of the church in conference. When are we going to get around to focusing on the poor and needy?)
“Are the leaders really as isolated as some claim?”
I want to address this question. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been badly hurt in family drama and then blamed for not being forgiving enough. As I’ve listened to lessons and talks over the years about healing relationships, 99% of the burden is placed on the person who got hurt to be more forgiving. Occasionally, a sentence will be focused on repentance. I remember one particularly painful meeting with my bishop while my marriage was falling apart. My bishop made a suggestion to my husband. It was a good suggestion. But it was based on the assumption that my husband cared about me and wanted to actually do something to fix our relationship rather than tell me that I’d never make it as a single mom. The spirit whispered to me, “he has no idea what you’re up against.” That was it for me on taking relationship advice from priesthood leaders. This bishop, who is a good man and was supportive of me, simply did not have any frame of reference to understand the depth of the problems in our relationship.
In another situation, I was trying to explain to a stake president the relationship-destroying betrayal that a family member had done (he asked about this relationship; I didn’t bring it up). The stake president’s reply was to tell a story about a time when a professional colleague did something underhanded and it cost the SP about $800 in a business expense. He bore his testimony about the peace forgiveness brought him. I remember staring in disbelief and thinking to myself, “that’s really the worst thing you’ve ever had to forgive?”
E, you really hit the nail on the head with this comment: “They try to study it and respond to it, but they are just a little but “off” and the things they say and do demonstrate that they fundamentally don’t get where other people are coming from, especially people who are not elderly straight white men with literally every social privilege imaginable.”
None of the priesthood leadership have ever been victimized, have ever been in a long-term position of powerlessness as an adult, or had someone sneer at them and refuse to apologize. Of course they only ever talk about forgiveness — the only wrongdoers they interact with are the ones crying in their offices about how much they hope to be forgiven. The wrongdoers who shrug and say, “she deserved it” do not interact with the Brethren, and so they don’t really accept that people like that exist.
To tie it into the cruise ship analogy, I’d say that the cruise ship leaders are skimmed from the ones who are enjoying the ride the most, the ones who haven’t had anything bad happen to them on the cruise ship and who, therefore, do not see the problems faced by those who are lower down on the rungs of the hierarchy. We need more diversity in leadership.
My current cruise ship has all the architectural inspiration of a 1960s government building. Everything is cheap, functional, and insipid. There is nothing special, sacred, or inspirational about this space. So I am left to my own devices to internally make it so. Yet the temples are the precise opposite with much thought put into symbolic design and original and (mostly) inspirational artwork. Yes I do feel I’m paying for a first class ticket (literally), but being seated in the peanut gallery. It’s not going to change my commitment, but at times the thought creeps in that the Church is more important to me than I am to it.
@Dave B.” No one misses road shows.”
I missed road shows so much that when I was in the Stake YM presidency I suggested we have the youth make videos that were essentially modern day road shows. Then we came together for a watch party. It was far and away the favorite activity for many of the youth that year.
The youth don’t miss road shows because they haven’t tasted the fun of road shows
Janey: slow clap to your entire comment. Well said, and it is such an important problem with a patriarchal leadership structure.
The HBO Max show Succession (which I imagine many here haven’t watched–it’s not for the faint of heart) is about a wealthy family running a media empire, theme parks, and a cruise line. One of the older family members was using the cruise ship as his personal playground, sexually assaulting low-level workers, then paying them hush money from company funds to cover things up. Everyone in the family knew it because they grew up calling him a nickname that referred to his being a molestor, and a family member lets that nickname slip in a media interview, so the public knows that they knew about it, even if they still try to claim they didn’t know about it. The current family members are left to manage the emerging crisis, even though the perpetrator is no longer alive. The cover up is now the real problem, and the current family doesn’t want to take the fall. They are looking for a patsy, someone to show their loyalty by going to prison for the rest of them, all while having to pretend that they care about the victims (some of whom committed suicide), when really they just care about protecting the company (and thereby their family wealth). And on some level, exploitation is nearly always the foundation of a cruise ship. The conditions of cruise ship workers (even if they aren’t being sexually assaulted) are generally very bad with long hours of grueling work, little privacy, and demeaning policies. Making the passengers the workers is a neat trick indeed.
My thanks to everyone, especially those who pointed out things I missed or was off on and those who shared personal experiences.
A few years ago I went to a BYU basketball game against Utah State, at a neutral arena. Figured out quickly I was seated by a Q70 and his family – he was out of uniform and enjoying his grandkids etc. On campus I”m sure he would have front row seats but on this day he was just a regular Joe.
Different GA was my mission president – his wife is completely standoffish except to her favorite former missionaries, most of whom are on the short list to become “mission president and companion.” One of these dudes (and wife) is already serving.
Props to my brother who leveraged a close connection to a GA to get his kid into BYU basketball camp.
Personally, I have been on this cruise with my wife for a long time but she knows that to some extent, I am ready to disembark. There is a slow leak in steerage but I am being told by our beloved captain not to rehearse this concern with anyone else.