Today we have a guest post from Faith. This is the first in a planned series of posts about the professional backgrounds of general authorities for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

Growing up as a 6th generation LDS member, I was exposed to the process of church leadership callings at an early age. Every week, the Church News would arrive on the doorstep with updates of the hierarchy callings. Included, for members to get to know the new leaders, was their biography. I always noticed a pattern, that every one of those called into Stake Presidencies, new Mission Presidents, or the highest General Authorities, each had a professional employment. This would be in one of three categories: the upper echelon of a corporate board, self-employment, or working for the church. Also, they typically had a post-graduate degree.

In recent years, the church has truncated Stake Presidents resumes, by only printing the job title, but not the company; like as previously done. Once the men (and a very few women) are placed in positions of decision making, we are expected to follow their lead on every subject and topic. As LDS members, we are expected to obey their every word, as if God were speaking directly to us. However, how much do we really know them? In other areas of life from our employment, friends, discretionary purchases, etc. we learn who we are dealing with and their backgrounds. Sometimes in life we change employment, friends, or frequented businesses because they are not what we thought they were, as presented, and we make a better choice. Sure, we look at the G.A. biographies and think they are good men/women, and willing to serve the Lord for his kingdom. For the top G.A.’s we get a longer resume and for the Q15, we get a faith promoting book to purchase at Deseret Book.

Still, I would ask, what do we really know about them? When we do learn a new fact, how does it affect our view of the church and its leadership?

I understood back in the 1980-90’s, prior to the recent Faith Crisis’ experienced the past 15+ years, the quickest way to lose your testimony is to work at 50 North Temple. Now in a series of blog posts, what I am going to attempt will not be a in depth fact-finding historical inquisition. However, I would like to invite discussions on what a particular decision maker has done in the past (of what we know from superficial facts) or said that for myself personally created cognitive dissonance (Long before I was aware of the term or how it works).

Now, all of us have our personal issues. If any one of us had a deep dive into our lives, we would not come out clean pure white. However, outside of our own children, most people have boundaries and do not go around telling people how to live their lives (for our children it is parental advice and should not be controlling). Keep in mind, as Greg Prince states, that the LDS leaders “it’s not white hats vs. dark hats; it’s all different shades of gray.”[1] Also, as John Dehlin says “we want to be tougher on systems than we are on people.”[2] However, someone is still a decision maker creating the system. The “leader” tells other people about how to proceed with life choices. When the leader’s past reflects other choices, what are we to think and how are we to act?

I had mentioned in a prior post, which has led to this guest blog, some superficial facts known about Kevin Pearson.
Kevin Pearson, as CEO of Medicode, managed a merger to create Ingenix.[3] Ingenix was a company that manages health care data. Ingenix then changed its ‘ name to Optum health care; they are now a subsidiary of United Health Care (UHC). Pearson did leave the company in 2005, to be called as an LDS Mission President, then 3 years later he was placed as an LDS General Authority. However, he was on the ground floor of UHC dominating the market and of events that led to government investigations. FYI, the CEO of UHC earned $142M last year.[4] Also, UHC is the largest insurance company in the USA by revenue and membership.[5,6] In 2006, Ingenix/UHC was charged in a government investigation of fraudulent practices for their actions of the prior 10 years. UHC engaged aggressively with medical billing fraud that drastically increased out of pocket costs for their health insurance buyers.[7] Kevin Pearson left the company as these investigations were initiating.

To put the Ingenix fraud into perspective, NY Governor Cuomo described a typical scenario. An out-of-network doctor who charges $200 for an office visit is told that the “going rate” is only $77. The insurer would then normally pay only 80 percent of that figure, leaving the patient responsible for the difference of about $138. The number is derived from a database of claims data created and maintained by Ingenix and then sold to other insurers. “When insurers like United create convoluted and dishonest systems for determining the rate of reimbursement, real people get stuck with excessive bills and are less likely to seek the care they need.”[8] In 2006, the SEC began investigating UHC’s management, along with the IRS, the AMA, and prosecutors for the New York U.S. attorney’s office. There was “deception, manipulation of data and outright fraud.”[9]

Pearson was CEO from 1998-2005, when thousands of clients were defrauded by his company. His legacy still permeates the health care field with medical providers being underpaid, unpaid, or using insurance delay tactics. Most heartbreaking is that patients were/are being denied necessary care. UHC paid $50 million to settle out of court for their actions.[10]

Now with Kevin Pearson’s recent talks of abundant life stating, “Our determination to center our lives on Christ, therefore, must be consistent—not conditional, situational, or superficial.”[11] Living during a time when many people seem to pick and choose what commandments are important, Elder Pearson emphasized how important it is to follow all of God’s counsel. He said, “The Lord expects us to be ‘all in’ all the time.”[12] Does Kevin Pearson’s business dealings match his recommendations for LDS church members?

I cannot put these two pieces together: How someone should live their life as recommended by the clergy, when the preacher lived a different life. When LDS members attain a temple recommend it is an audit of our own actions. Should our life be audited, and if so by who? Should have Ingenix undergone audits ?[13] I do not wish to be overly critical of Kevin Pearson. What do you think?

Sources and Additional Reading

  1. Mormon Stories. Episode 660. 1:21:40
  2. Mormon Stories Episode 1630 4:50