Tuesday, October 7, 2014


"Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the Welfare of Zion…. But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish" (2 Ne. 26:29, 31).

If you labored in Zion -- if you taught humility, obedience, paying tithes and offerings, remaining pure from alcohol/sex and other fun outside of the happiness the church designs for you -- and you were paid well for preaching this, would you want the members to know about your financial compensation?

What if you also sought investment income far more often than the welfare of humans, but preached as if you cared more about people than profits?

Preaching is a skill.  A skill is also a craft.  Being crafty is being deceptively ingenious so that your skill nets you unobserved gain.

Are the LDS apostles engaged in priestcraft? Do crafty church leaders keep secret their gains for laboring in Zion?  

FAIR has a page dedicated to help the questioning member decide that NO, the church leadership is not a priestcraft.  

FAIR, does admit that the church uses non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which is where the basis of financial opaqueness is founded. NDAs are to financial transparency what blackout curtains are to the sun. 

Keeping financial opaqueness, the LDS church refuses to disclose: 
1) complete or even basic tithing & offerings income, 
2) corporate income, 
3) church operating expenses, 
4) salaries of leaders and many church employees, 
5) the form and even existence of the non-disclosure agreements, 
6) source of investment monies (tithing?), 
7) investment gains/losses.  

There might be other factors I neglect here, but this suffices.  Remember, tithing comes entirely from the members but they have no accounting for it.  Also, NDAs in the LDS church might be a secret, but so many church employees have admitted to them at various levels, their existence is not really in question.

FAIR argues that NDAs are not a sign of deception or priestcraft: "One problem with an NDA is that in order to get relief the injured party must sue. And in suing, the contract itself would become part of the court case, and potentially available for public scrutiny."

They argue that NDAs don't solve the secrecy problem.  They do, however, create a great excuse for GAs at the top who don't want to be forced to disclose their compensations.  The NDA is a cover for the top, and a way to keep internal records sequestered so that all but a few mid-level staff don't see the compensation of the higher ups.

FAIR: "This would only be some sort of problem if the church was trying to hide something. And so if the church is trying to hide payments to general authorities, then the whole process of having a NDA creates far more problems than it would solve. "

Ok, then by FAIR's reasoning, there is no need for a non-profit, charity-church based corporation to have NDAs. If they would forego their self-mandated NDAs (they are The LDS Executives, after all) and just produce financial transparency, it would clear it up.  They have nothing to hide, right?

But they do.  The Mission President Handbook, which FAIR has not addressed, shows they absolutely have things to hide regarding tax liabilities if "stipends" or reimbursed packages were defined as income.

Removing the NDA would create more problems than it solves in the case where publishing the GA compensation packages would upset the proletariat members. And again, the MP Handbook tells the mission presidents not to disclose their compensation packages. Not even to family or other MPs.  Why?  Because the compensation includes Christmas gifts, gardeners, tuition, maids and more.  Items the average member would find on the edge of moral responsibility for their own church.

On GA compensation, FAIR quotes Hinckley, former prophet, as saying:
“... the living allowances given the General Authorities, which are very modest in comparison with executive compensation in industry and the professions, come from this business income and not from the tithing of the people.”

This tells us two things:  
1) GAs make “modest” executive compensation.  He didn’t say salary.  He said executive compensation.  
2) GA compensation is tied to LDS business income.

Compensation tied to business income can be very healthy, especially if your companies have billions to invest in a lot of real-estate and other ventures.  For the LDS church, everything they own, hold or build derived originally from tithing.  Even Hinckley says, "the combined income from all of these business interests is relatively small."  However he defines small, it's on the scale of having enough cash on hand to build billion-dollar malls, hundred million dollar condo high-rises, industrial parks and more, year after year.  If that is small, tithing income must be huge!

If your personal yearly compensation were dependent on how much money the corporation had for investments (likely from invested excess tithing) and how efficiently the monies are used, you would try to get all the free labor  you could.  You would ask members to pay for their own sales-position as missionaries.  You would ask them to clean the chapels.  You would ask them to work for free at storehouses, farms and temples.  You would ask them to do a lot of work to benefit the LDS corporate bottom line, like advertise and lobby for the LDS full-length motion movie advertisment to get put in theaters nation-wide.

Free sales force. Free janitors.  Free storehouse workers.  Free farm labor.  Free this and free that.  Bottom line savings from tithing goes to business investments and is tied to executive compensation.

I’ve blogged about apostles heading up positions on LDS corporations previously—such as Monson simultaneously holding positions as Chairman (CEO) of the Corporation of COJCOLDS, Chairman of LDS Business College, Director of BYU-I; as Holland being Director of Farmland Reserve, etc.  The LDS Corporations are valued conservatively by Business Week at $40 Billion, with a church-wide gross (and mostly tax-free) income between tithing and return on investments coming in about $6-8 billion annually.  It's estimated that about 20% of their income (or $2B) is their annual consolidated income, used as investment seed to build cash for building projects like malls and condo complexes.  This net income is the level of a mid-latitude Fortune 500 company, such as Target Corp, whose post-tax consolidated net income is $2-3B per year.  What does a CEO/Chairman or Director of a such a corporation make? 

While it is an apples/oranges comparison of sorts, in 2012, Target Corp Chairman, Gregg W Steinhafel’s compensation package was $20,647,464. (Target’s listed VPs earned $5-7M). The median CEO salary, according to an Associated Press/Equilar pay study, is around $10 million.  

So a "modest" compensation "living allowance" compared with the equivalent Target CEO, at 5% would be $1,032,373 for Monson.  However, Monson had three jobs, two of them as Chairman, and one as Director.  His modest tri-job package could be...well, we really don’t know.  We can’t.  There are NDAs to protect such things.

Hinckley also said, quoted by FAIR, that:
 Merchandisinginterests are an outgrowth of the cooperative movement which existed among our people in pioneer times. The Church has maintained certain real estate holdings.”

It’s interesting that he used the word “merchandising” when one considers the merchandise of Porsche Design, Rolex and Tiffany’s at LDS owned City Creek Mall.  And interesting also because New Testament Peter said to his flock to beware of “false prophets” who “through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.” (2 Peter 2:3)  That is, they will make money off of their flocks by flattering them.

The NDAs are crafty, for a bunch of high priests and apostles.

Uchtdorf's two, $700,000+ homes come decades after retiring. Because the GAs sign non-disclosure agreements, we can't know how, for example, Boyd Packer as a BYU Religion Teacher ends up with just under $2M in property in Utah alone. Or how Monson, retired from advertising at Deseret Book and Deseret News apparently at 36 years of age (two years from 31-33 as a Mission President), ends up with over $1M in property.  
If they would forego their self-mandated NDAs (they are the executives, after all) and just produce financial transparency, it would clear it up.  A lot of Fortune 500 CEOs, ExVPs publish their compensation packages.


  1. The apostles are not rich! You're reaching.

    1. You don't have to be rich to be dishonest. Fame is just as tempting.

  2. How come Mormons can't demand an end to the financial Secrecy? What is their fear of asking leaders to be open and honest? They are asked to account for full tithing. What's so bad to ask their church to account to all income and expenses?

    They fear these business men called apostles, But they are the power the apostles fear.

  3. A lot of Mormons, by and large, are stupid. I really don’t like using that term (stupid), but it is so apropos. I was at one time, as well. There’s a big difference between not being bright (like me) and STUPID. Stupid is not being smart enough to know that you aren’t very bright, i.e., you think that you are in fact bright enough to know what’s going on. That’s why so many Mormons are stupid; they think and declare that they ‘know’ TCOJCOLDS is perfect and true, and that they are sacrificing their hard-earned money to build up God’s kingdom while at the same time many of them don’t even have enough money to build up their own kingdoms’ (households—retirement funds, health care premiums, etc.) And yet there they sit (the top ’15’) in their plushy, red, mohair chairs, and in their plush offices, with their golden pension and health-care plans and so many other perks as so-called humble servants of the Lord making do with a modest ‘living allowance’ sufficient only for their needs. ‘Needs’ indeed! Yeah, I need to give them money like I need another hole in my head. ‘Building up Zion’; what a crock. How could I have been so stupid?!

    The only appeasement I have in retrospect is that for decades and decades I gave a full and honest tithing as well as other offerings (besides donating my time) with a willing, pure and selfless, believing heart. For that aspect alone I feel that I was blessed by God (I fervently believe in a God entity/presence). But now that I have come to realize that the LDS church's agenda in building up God's kingdom (Zion) is nothing but a ruse, I'm exempt from financially supporting said church. However, I'm not exempt from giving financially to the poor and needy and other causes mandated by the Christ. In essence, I would have loved it (the LDS church) if it really had been the ‘true' church run the way Jesus taught how His church should be, instead of by false prophets declaring, “Let's go shopping!"

  4. I have never been a Mormon. I read this blog because I'm interested in Mormonism both as a cultural phenomenon and because if its significant influence on American politics. All my experience of religion has been in traditional Christianity.

    The average Mormon would, I think, be flabbergasted by the degree of financial transparency that's not only expected, but actually provided, in most of American Christianity. In the church I belonged to when I was a believer, the parish's books were open to anyone who wanted to inspect them. A detailed financial summary was prepared for the parish before the annual meeting, which would both elect the Parish Council and approve the budget for the upcoming year. Everyone knew how much the rector was paid because his salary was a budgeted line item. (Contrary to the stereotype, it wasn't much, and he wouldn't have been able to provide for his family on it if he didn't also receive modest housing. But it was necessary. In most churches, it's expected that the rector is available full-time, any time, and it's not possible to earn a separate living.)

    When financial misconduct was uncovered at the national church a little less than a decade ago, what erupted can best be described by a word I'm not sure is allowed here, but which I will call instead a "fecal tempest". The chancellor primarily responsible for the misconduct, who had served for many years, was unceremoniously fired. The head of the national church, who had formerly served as Treasurer and MUST have known what the chancellor was up to, was forced to "retire". A complete shakeup of the national administration was undertaken, and a similar level of transparency as was normal at the parish level was instituted. And mind you, this is not a democratically-run church. It's heavily hierarchical. Its bishops are regarded as successors to the New Testament Apostles, and in every case they can actually trace their line of ordination back to a specific Apostle. By millennia-old tradition a bishop is absolute master of his church -- they're called "master" like priests are called "father" -- but even the most despotic of them didn't dare keep the church books closed at that point.

    Mormon leadership should fear a situation like that. I wonder what it will take to bring it about? It absolutely astonishes me that, given the thousands and thousands of dollars Mormon families fork over to the church every year, they don't seem to care what's done with it. Or, contrary to all human experience of what happens to people with access to enormous piles of money, they simply trust Mormon leadership to do the right thing with it.

    It's interesting to note here that the quote from Nephi can only be another one of JS's trademarked mistranslations. "Priestcraft" is not a dirty word. In the context of traditional Christianity, it refers to the skills and practices of priesthood, usually referring the conduct of church services. A priest who is good at priestcraft conducts the services beautifully and with gravitas and dignity. It's also a mass noun that does not take a plural, like "engineering" or "luggage" or "traffic". So "priestcrafts" is ungrammatical as well.

  5. Chris C., I find it interesting that despite the, "open book," in finances that someone still managed to misuse funds. Which equals to meaning nothing, if someone or more than one person wants to find a way to be dishonest they will find a way.

    I came from mainstream Christian churches and saw what also takes place then the books are open and people feel they have a right to say how their money is spent. They get to say how the church is run, what music is played, how to interpret and change doctrine and scripture. In other words, they make the church into a place to party, and place where everything is okay in the sight of the Lord, that you can sin, just as long as you confess and ask to be forgiven.

    My mom started attending a mainstream Christian church over thirty years ago. It was small at that time, but now it is considered a mega church. She was very active going to two or more services, and volunteering for different things. She became ill, and was not able to attend for over two months....during that time NOT ONE PERSON came to see her or check and see how she was doing. I took her to church one day, and everyone was hugging me and her and saying hello. Then the band started blasting music. My mom started curling up and not feeling well...guess what? Not one person noticed! They were too busy with their feel good worship songs and clapping to notice that an old woman was not doing well. This would NOT happen at a LDS church! As much as I at times get queasy at the assigning of home teachers and visiting teachers...if everyone is doing what the church suggest people like my mom would NEVER go un-noticed or fall to wayside.

    The people of this church isn't perfect, but it and the people try to follow the teachings of the Lord more closely than any other church I'm aware of.

    1. I should be clear: open books were, at the time the misuse occurred, common on the parish level but not the national level. Exposing the misuse -- which came about from an "insider" revelation -- forced transparency on the national level too.

      It would be very difficult to misuse funds at the parish level, requiring such elaborate double bookkeeping as to make it hardly worth the effort. (Parishes in this church tend to be small, and of very modest means.)

    2. Chris C.

      If a parish is similar to a ward or stake in the LDS faith, there would be plenty of opportunity to hide money, this is tithing people can and do decide to tithe 5, 10, 15, 20 %. They can donate cash or checks....they can choose to report whatever they want, or don't want to report.

    3. I hope multiples don't some through, as I seem to be having some trouble posting. Not getting the "moderation" message or anything else.

      A parish is similar to a ward -- or rather, a ward is similar to a parish since the parish antedates the ward by many centuries. A stake is more similar to a diocese, although there's no correspondence between the two in how they're governed.

      And no, there's virtually no opportunity to hide money. Between the receipts people receive for their contributions -- at least annually, for tax purposes -- the double signatures required for any disbursements, regular financial reports, open budgeting, internal audits by parishioners otherwise uninvolved with internal parish finances, there's just no place for money to hide.

      I'm not at all sure what you think tithing has to do with it.