It was actually two sets of questions. The one was too logically unsound, but the other kind of fits a discussion of the Old Testament.
I was asked “what about the rumor that Elder Bednar paid no tithing in 2021 on his retirement, social security or stipend but still asked others to pay tithing? And what about the rumor that members aren’t allowed to make their own garments like they did for scores of years to financially benefit the Smith family company that makes all the garments?”
First “what about a rumor?!”
Eli was a prophet, and his sons took bribes
Selling out the judgment seat, destroying peoples lives
They took care of Eli and he grew quite fat
Bought himself a stool and there is where he sat.
Samuel was a prophet and his sons ran whores
Lined them up by troops at the tabernacle doors
As for the bribes, they took money hand over fist
And of their sins Samuel did not make them desist,
God can judge a prophet, but more importantly
God will judge us all and God will judge me
I’ll leave judgment of others and the Smiths to God for eternity
Pay attention to the Iron Rod and then we will see
Jake wasn’t happy with the answer, which is one of the major points of the Old Testament. He pretty up and challenged me on it, claiming Christ would say I was flat out wrong.
Matthew 23:2-3 is exactly what Christ had to say.
Not a single word about all of that being an excuse not to follow.
What do you think. Would you give a different answer?
I can understand why the church provides a stipend and other benefits that give general authorities security. All their needs are met. Based on what is known I don’t think it’s excessive but it does provide complete material security. To me it would seem reasonable that in return they give everything they own away when they are called. They don’t need multiple homes, or retirement savings, or profits from their businesses. And you’re right, they do not bear the burdens that other church members are asked to bear.
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Each individual can give tithing money to:
The immigrant. The hungry. The thirsty. The naked. Prison reform. The poor. The needy. The fatherless. The widow.
There is much need. Much need close at hand, then the need continues outward.
Give where it will help others.
Pay tithes and offerings to Jesus.
I would be interested in knowing what happens when GAs visit developing countries. Do they break bread with the poor in Kenya or Brazil? Or do they stay in expensive hotels and eat at fancy restaurants? Do they use public transport or are they driven around in expensive cars? Do they see reality, or a glossed over version?
If they see reality, how can they just make token contributions, and sit on $100+B? Half the members now live in developing countries. The only place the Church is growing is in developing countries. The time for action is now. The Church has the human and financial resources to do a lot more.
They travel first class and stay in the best hotels. Personal experience in Guatemala
There can be no wiggle room here. The same Savior who asked the rich young man to give away all he had to the poor would not turn around and approve of the Church holding $100B in its coffers.
When GAs and mission presidents show up at the airport looking more like Peace Corps volunteers than business adminstrators, you’ll know the Second Coming is imminent.
This is a personal story so take it for what it is worth, but when my wife and I traveled to Europe for our honeymoon, it happened to coincide with the opening of the Rome temple.
While we were waiting for our flight from SLC to Amsterdam we noticed half a dozen apostles including Uchtdorf. They also had other people traveling with them.
The apostles all boarded the plane and were seated in business class before they started boarding the first group. I never even heard an announcement to start boarding and they were on the airplane.
We smiled a little when we walked past them and Uchtdorf had changed out of his suit and into a tracksuit.
One time my mission president and a member of the seventy came to visit my zone to speak to us and the members. They stayed at an exclusive beach side resort while the APs and senior couple who traveled with them stayed at other missionary apartments.
A former neighbor was in the Presiding Bishopric, and part of his job was traveling to temple sites under construction (I also think he helped select and buy the properties).
One day we were discussing the temple in Guayaquil, Ecuador, which, at that time, was under construction. He had just returned from there, and I was interested to hear about his trip.
I’m familiar with Ecuador, and asked if it bothered him that this big, beautiful, ostentatious building was going in an area, a city, overrun with poverty?
He replied, “no. In fact, it has been shown that every country where a temple is built experiences an economic boom among its citizens.” I told him I’d like to see that data…nothing.
I also asked what he thought when he visited the homes and neighborhoods of the everyday members (their homes were often bamboo shacks back then). “Oh, I don’t spend time doing that; I’m on a tight schedule. I get in, I get out,” he explained.
I was surprised by his answer and probed a little more, asking if he at least drove the streets and neighborhoods to better understand the challenges of the people. He answered, “I go from the hotel to the temple site to my scheduled meetings to the airport.”
And that was where it stood, and obliviousness is where I think a lot of the GA’s stand with regards to the struggles of its poorest members.
Visit without visiting.
See without seeing.
Talk without listening.
(On a personal level, he was a good guy and a tremendous, helpful neighbor who was always there when I needed him. I liked him; I just hated this answer.)
The question seems to be “even if our leaders do not act like disciples of Christ, are we required to?”’ The answer seems to be yes, however we interpret that.
I interpret that to mean that we tithe and provide service in a way we think Christ would want. In spite of updated handbook 34.3.1 “Tithing is the donation of one-tenth of one’s income to God’s Church“ I think Jesus would be ok with donations to non-hedge funds.
TC said: “He replied, “no. In fact, it has been shown that every country where a temple is built experiences an economic boom among its citizens.” I told him I’d like to see that data…nothing.”
Wow. Just wow. Prosperity gospel much? Something something causation and correlation? Something something economic boom for who, exactly? Poor folks moving up, or just rich folks getting richer? Government, donors, lobbying? That must be some powerful economic juju they’ve got behind closed doors if they can say that.
Cynical hat off.
More likely, he just didn’t have a good answer to the question and was as embarrassed about it as you might be, so he just said something vague to move the conversation along. Being a good man and all, I’m sure your neighbor was as uncomfortable and troubled by your questions and their implications as you were, every single time he went on assignment. I’m sure he wanted to do more that would help people out in a temporal, physical sense, but just wasn’t sure how. After all, he was just doing his job and his job was temples, so he didn’t have a lot of headspace to do the other stuff he might want have wanted to do. I think it’s been pretty well established that the church bureaucracy is pretty well established to very high levels, which results in a whole lot of “just doing your job” because the wider question of “fulfilling your calling” in a very expansive, broadly defined Christian charitable way would require a whole lot of moving and shaking that most people have neither the skills nor the inclination to do. For all we gripe about the way things are run on the blogosphere, I think we can all agree that the GAs are, broadly speaking, people just like us, and if any of us were suddenly plopped into their positions we probably wouldn’t do much better. After all, we all have hard decisions to make about how much we can afford to contribute to charity, and then uncomfortable feelings when we’ve already spent our charitable budget and there are still so many poor people on the streets that we then don’t give to. Also, as for only staying in hotels and eating out I do understand it, from a certain point of view. As a missionary eating with poor members I always felt bad about consuming some food that could have gone to feeding their families. So there’s the desire to not burden the members who might feel like they have to sacrifice a lot to take care of GAs who come and go too frequently.
Sympathetic hat off.
Answer to the OP question :
“Not a single word about all of that being an excuse not to follow. What do you think. Would you give a different answer?”
Broadly speaking, I don’t think I would give a different answer. I don’t feel like taking the time to elaborate on that statement, it’s the middle of the workday.
There are plenty of scriptural passages about standing up to oppression. Within the Judeo-Christian tradition it is required.
When we have poor and vulnerable people around us both locally and worldwide I would believe it would be imperative that we stand up for them if they are being opposed rather than leaving the judgement of the oppressors up to God.
Zion is something we create rather than something we are rewarded with for following arbitrary rules.
I appreciate the thoughtful questions you present.
* I would believe it would be imperative that we stand up for them if they are being oppressed rather than leaving the judgement of the oppressors up to God.
[Edited to say oppressed rather than opposed]
As a first year student at BYU in the late 80’s, I read John Heinerman and Anson Shupe’s book, The Mormon Corporate Empire, published in 1986. To my knowledge it was the first fulsome look at the church’s financial holdings. To my young mind at the time, the church’s holdings seemed vast. I was impressed the living stipend of the Q15 seemed modest relative to the scale of the organization and assets they oversaw–as the authors noted. (I didn’t understand at that time the difference at the time between nominal and real income.) I think the book made waves when it was published, and believe it was highly cited when Time magazine did it’s piece on the church’s assets and holdings several years later. Looking back, it’s amazing to me that the church went from being close to insolvent in the late 1950’s to being worth a couple of billion dollars (estimated by these financial researchers) by the early 1980’s.
Mormonleaks published pay stubs of some GA’s several years ago. I can’t recall whose pay stubs they were, but I was again struck by how modest their allowance income was. However, this is their nominal pay. Do we really have any idea of what their real income is? What is the value of their total basket of benefits, and what other fringe benefits do they receive?
I was on a flight years ago and had been upgraded to business class because of my frequent travel status. The front eight seats were open until just before we pushed back. Then security came on, stared us all down, and in came Elder Packer and seven other men, presumably his entourage. When they landed, flight personnel held all of us from disembarking until security came and lead Elder Packer and the others off. I heard rumors during that time (the Hinkley era) that Jon Huntsman Sr loaned his private jet to the church, often. Nedra Roney, co-founder of NuSkin, said publicly she loaned her private jet to church officials. Is this how it works? I hear about second homes, get-aways. Do they hold the deeds? Does the church? Other “friends” of the church? I know where some of the Q15 live in Bountiful and I wouldn’t call their homes mansions. Elder Packer lived in a small home behind one of his son’s primary residence. (I knew one of his grandsons and gained a pretty clear view into aspects of his day-to-day life. I have to say it sounded pretty bland.)
However, we don’t have any insight into K-1 income. Certainly Q15 members like Elders Andersen, Stevenson and Rasband are people of serious wealth. (When Elder Andersen was a member of the Seventy, I watched him pull into Magleby’s Fresh in Provo in a newer model Porche 9/11 convertible. He wasn’t in a suit, but in designer jeans, a button down with a baseball cap on–it was
a Friday night.)
Frankly, I don’t know what to think of all of this. It’s clear Elder Stevenson’s former company iFIT geared up to go public largely because (my opinion) it knew it was headed into rough financial or market waters. The public offering stalled as value in the company collapsed and they were forced to hastily restructure. That made me raise an eyebrow that they would work to leverage the public markets probably knowing the company was in trouble. Perhaps it was an unexpected Covid effect, an unforeseen consequence of the time. To my knowledge, the offering never went through and Stevenson didn’t receive his nearly $900 million in anticipated stock value. I could be wrong and if anyone has any inside views I would love to be corrected.
But like the $100 billion fund, all of this comes back to a lack of transparency. The church operates in the dark. It provides no insight into how GA’s travel, where they stay, what they do when abroad other than the public affairs coordinated activities. Certainly I think it is safe to say none of them are regularly walking through the “villa miseria” like Pope Francis did, even when he was a cardinal. My frustration continues to be the lack of honesty the church displays. It’s lack of transparency and openness. It’s overconfidence in it’s own righteousness.
BigSky, In a circumstance such as you described, there is no opportunity for Elder Packer to share his testimony with his seatmate. I thought doing so was de rigueur for travelling Latter-day Saints? 🙂
I’ve frequently been critical of the Church’s humanitarian efforts. But I would like to pay homage to several GAs who have visited refugee camps. Sisters Bingham and Eubanks recently visited a refugee camp in northern Iraq. Elder Uchtdorf has visited several camps in Poland (for Ukrainian refugees) and Greece (for Middle Eastern refugees). It sounds like they were able to assess conditions in the camps. My hat’s off to the three.
Elder Uchtdorf as twice been a refugee himself and understands their plight. Sister Eubanks is head of Church charities. I wish the Church would turn the 2 lose to do even more.
After I quit paying tithing, I started giving away more money to individuals. (Not immediately, first I increased my contribution to my 401k). I tip service workers very generously; voluntarily paid more than asked to a couple people who work for me; and give away money directly to people I know who are in need. It works out to less than 5% of my income, so I’m not bragging. But the funny/sweet thing is when I get told I’m a tithing blessing. The woman who tutors my son basically bore her testimony to me and was so happy that this would make it easier for their family to support their missionary. I was very happy for her and did not tell her that I could afford to pay her more because I’d quit paying tithing.
I would hope that the Brethren with substantial funds are giving some away, even if it isn’t to the Church. I could understand them not wanting to broadcast that they’re helping specific individuals, or contributing to other charities, but I hope they’re doing so. I agree with some of the Bloggernacle discussion about declaring as a full tithe-payer when people are paying some of that tithing to non-Church Christlike causes.
And here’s a fun rumor I heard years ago, that you should all take with a grain of salt: Back when Time magazine did its article on the Church’s wealth, another news organization sent a reporter to SLC to find out what the Brethren were earning and to write an expose similar to what happens to televangelists with yachts and pricey vacations. Eventually the reporter left in disappointment, having concluded that the Brethren are drastically underpaid for their work (running a company that would make the Fortune 500 list), and do not have flashy lifestyles. Their stipends are comfortable. They likely have 100% health insurance coverage. They don’t need a retirement plan since they work until they die. But they aren’t hiding a megayacht. I mean, it could be worse, right? The Brethren aren’t spending the $100B on themselves, at least.
More nuggets from the annual “Seminar for New Mission Leaders”
Rasband’s daughter and son-in-law headed to preside over the Illinois Chicago Mission: “Presidents and sisters, don’t ever think that we — your leaders in this Church — don’t experience the same emotions that you do, with children, grandchildren and parents. We all make wonderful sacrifices, and we thank you once again for your consecrated willingness to serve.”
Mission presidency as sacrifice or paid sabbatical? Either way it’s not something I would sign up for…
Side note – a close friend seems to view this calling as a reward for being wealthy, until I often point out that your typical church-employed non-American will continue to be on the payroll…