Evidences and Reconciliations (6/30/08)

John Nilssonbook of mormon, church, General Authorities, Leaders, Money, surviving 37 Comments

And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.

Alma 1:26

And the elders or high priests who are appointed to assist the bishop as counselors in all things, are to have their families supported out of the property which is consecrated to the bishop, for the good of the poor, and for other purposes, as before mentioned… And the bishop, also, shall receive his support, or a just remuneration for all his services in the church.

Doctrine and Covenants 42:71,73
The calling is not a regular remunerative position, but interrupts professional employment; whatever financial losses accrue are part of the expected sacrifice.  The family involved gives of its time and energies without salary, though there is a modest allowance for living expenses.
Gerald Day, “Mission Presidents,” p. 915, Encyclopedia of Mormonism

Unlike local leaders, who maintain their normal vocations while serving in church assignments, General Authorities set aside their careers to devote their full time to the ministry of their office.  The living allowance given General Authorities rarely if ever equals the earnings they sacrifice to serve full-time in the Church.

Marvin K. Gardner, “General Authorities,” p. 539, Encyclopedia of Mormonism

Discuss, my friends:

Comments 37

  1. ‘Oh that my days had been in the days of Alma 1:26’.

    GA’s make six figure salaries. It may be less than many of them could get in the private sector, but its still well above the average income for a member of the church. The church generally doesn’t disclose financial details, probably because many members would see the church as too rich and stop/reduce their payment of tithes.

    The biggest problem with having GA’s that are paid (as well as CES teachers who are paid) is that it calls into question their testimony. Are they teaching the things that they do because they really believe them, or are they teaching the things as part of their employment?

  2. Bill — do you have more numbers (I still remember a friend of mine who was promised a “six figure” income and got 4,000.00 — the numbers after the decimal being added in to make it six figures)? There is a far difference between around $70,000.00, nudged up to ~100k if you count social security, unemployment tax and health benefits and the over $600,000.00 that puts the number in different territory. Looks like they are better paid than they had been. I still remember people living off of their retirement income.

    Robert Oaks doesn’t seem terribly driven by money. He quit his job to spend more time as a stake president in a stake that really needed the devotion. As his job was more of a seven figure job, and he had just started it; he went back to retirement income he had that was more in the five figure range, I can’t see whatever the allowance the Church is giving him as being significant to his choices.

    But I’d like to know the numbers you have, and the source of them.


  3. #1 Good point.
    I know there are people who drift around the DAMU that are Church employees (CES, I doubt and GA’s, hehe). They definately don’t have the standard orthodox testimony, but they fear losing their job. So yes, it does make that crossover between faith and employment.

    I do like the fact that you have to generally get far up the chain of hierarchy before people start getting paid. The local level, where the faith meets the pavement, is still volunteer and sacrifice. Stake Presidents and Bishops are not paid.

    The original point of the blog post was to reconcile various statements. Things change. I don’t think the paid positions in the earthly Church is an eternal principle of God (never changing). Of course, my view of unchanging doctrines has expanded to just about everything since I started studying Church history more in depth.

  4. #2–The numbers aren’t published, as you know. My understanding is that the salary is about $200k. Correct me if I’m way off. $200k really isn’t that much for leaders of the organization of the size of the church. They can honestly say that it is a ‘modest living allowance’ compared to what it would be in the private sector. Despite this, I think the number is high enough that it would be a problem for some members.

    #3–Unpaid local leaders is a good thing. I once thought about how financially efficient my ward was because of having no paid people. Then I realized that there were 3 seminary teachers in my ward.

  5. Bill…where do you get these numbers? Your “understanding” is based on what?

    And the quotes from Section 42 fall under the Law of Consecration, don’t they? Which, since it’s not currently in effect, doesn’t have bearing, right?

    How do we reconcile a cynic’s complaint that the General Authorities are too old with the need to support them financially if they’re called while still young? How can you expect Thomas S. Monson to support himself financially while working full-time for the Church, traveling the world, etc. if he’s been a GA since the 1950s? So is it better to call Seventies who are, ahem, pushing 70, when they’ve got a pension or retirement income (mostly) to live off of, or is it better to recruit the newest graduates of Harvard and Claremont Divinity schools and put them on a graded pay-scale?

    Finally, where does the profit from Deseret Book sales go? I mean, if you buy a book by a GA, where does that money go?

  6. Bill, Seminary and institute teachers make less than their counterparts in classic education. BYU presidents make pennies compared to their colleagues at other institutions. GA’s make MUCH less than they would make in similar positions of leadership in the business world most of them left. Their salaries testify of their commitment to the Church and the Gospel, not the other way around.

  7. #5–I don’t remember where I saw the numbers. I’d be happy if someone could correct my estimate with more accurate numbers. It is clear that Pres. Monson has an income high enough to need to make quarterly tax payments, based on a talk from the last conference. I’m not sure how many members of the church related to what he was saying.

    “Finally, where does the profit from Deseret Book sales go? I mean, if you buy a book by a GA, where does that money go?”

    That is the whole problem–where does any of the money go? I don’t think that members of the church have any problem understanding that full-time church workers get some compensation. Without disclosure, though, someone can claim that GA’s make millions of dollars in compensation and there isn’t any data to prove them wrong. Full financial disclosure is only a bad thing when you have something to hide.

  8. #6–“Seminary and institute teachers make less than their counterparts in classic education.”

    I’ve seen job postings for seminary teachers with the salary range included in the posting. The salary (~$50k) seemed comparable to classic education salaries. I’d be happy to see your numbers.

    “BYU presidents make pennies compared to their colleagues at other institutions.”


    “GA’s make MUCH less than they would make in similar positions of leadership in the business world most of them left.”

    I’ve already agreed with this in posts #1 and #4.

    “Their salaries testify of their commitment to the Church and the Gospel, not the other way around.”

    This is the case for most (but not all) of the GA’s, but I would guess it is not the case for most seminary teachers. With 10 years of seminary teaching on your resume, you probably can’t walk into the corporate world and command a very high salary.

  9. Is the CES salary adjusted for cost of living in a particular geographic area? A 50 or 40K salary for CES personnel in NC (where I live) would have them making twice what a public school teacher makes. Its about the same as what an associate professor at a university makes, but few CES personnel I have met have the experience or education (or temperment) needed to get a job like that.

  10. A CES employee in NC is not the equivalent of a public school teacher. That position is a supervisory position overseeing seminary instruction in multiple locations and generally teaching (or at the very least overseeing) Institute instruction in multiple locations, as well. In a public school system, it is much closer to a principal (of sorts) than to a teacher – and 40-50K for that position in a public school system is low.

  11. “That position is a supervisory position overseeing seminary instruction in multiple locations and generally teaching (or at the very least overseeing) Institute instruction in multiple locations, as well.”

    Ray–have you been writing job descriptions for CES employees in NC? If not, it seems a lot like you are pulling a lot of things out of thin air. This isn’t a REAL job we are talking about–we are just talking about salary difference for different geographic locations.

  12. Yes, that is their job description, but are the qualifications of a CES Institute director or teacher equivalent of a public school principal? I’m asking because CES personnel must be perpetually concerned that their wife will leave them (see Phil Barlow) and then they can’t teach for CES anymore. So what other jobs are out there for you if you have been teaching for CES your whole adult life and how much do they pay? (in other words, opportunity cost)

  13. #12 – Bill, years ago I looked at the possibility of becoming a seminary teacher; a few years ago I considered the possibility of being a CES coordinator; the High Priests Group Leader in one of the wards in our stake is a CES coordinator; I have spoken with him extensively about his job; I speak on a regular basis with our regional Facilities Maintenance Manager; my father-in-law was an administrator at BYU for years. None of this is coming out of thin air.

    YOU are the one who mentioned seeing a job description with a specific salary range – so YOU are the one who appeared to be talking about a “real job”. Make it one or the other – real or one pulled out of thin air. I’m talking about reality.

  14. Ray–I was talking about a real job with a real salary. You were refering to #10’s imaginary job.

    “I doubt seriously it is $200K”

    Ray–when was the last time that you had to make quarterly estimated tax payments? Do you know how much you need to make to be required to make these payments?

  15. I saved an item that came from one of the email groups. Mind you, this item was dated June 14, 1999. Here is a quote from that submission:

    “I used to work as a FULL TIME Church auditor. The First Presidency pull down salaries of $425,000 per year, each, and also full health insurance, life insurance, and other PERTS, including a brand new chauffered limousine, and of course, all expenses paid on Church business. President Hinckley has an office that takes up nearly half of one of the Church office building floors, complete with expensive hardwoods, marble in the sinks and all of the other amenities that would say you were in the Presence of the Pope and NOT in the presence of a humble apostle of the Lord.

    Apostles pull down $125,000 per year in salary, and of course, the same benefits as the FIRST Presidency.

    Seventies are at $72,000 per year in salary, plus benefits.

    Now, some of these men refuse to accept any salary from the Church, as they are independently wealthy, having acquired their own wealth in their own businesses. But for the most part, that is not the case.

    Now, I actually audited Church records up on the 16th Floor of the Church auditing department, but never actually audited these records. I was just told about them.”

    Of course, the author of this comment did not include his name. Another added that he had a friend in the auditing department that validated these numbers.

    Is this accurate? Not known. I don’t have personal knowledge of the books of the church. There are some other items that I do believe are accurate. The first presidency each have drivers and limos. The penthouse suite used by the prophet is worth several million dollars. Up until recently, GAs could receive compensation for serving on corporate boards. Of course, it has been sixty years since the church released any financial information. If you go back to conference before 1950, there was a much more detailed financial statement provided to members. Not any more.

  16. Spektator, so Elders Uchdorf and Eyring receive 350% of what the more senior apostles receive – even the President of the Q12? So they drop that far when a new President is sustained and calls new counselors, relegating them to being “just an apostle” again?

    I think there’s a reason the person didn’t include a name. Whoever wrote that comment seems to be under the common misperception that the FP is more “prestigious” (or higher up in the chain of command) and therefore would “make a higher salary” than the members of the Q12. It’s like believing that a counselor in a stake presidency is more important than a Bishop – or that a counselor in a bishopric is more important than the Elders’ Quorum President or the High Priests Group Leader. Understandable, but instructive.

  17. I don’t fault any of the full-time LDS church’s leadership or its employees from paying what the Corporation deems they are worth. If they have the means to self-subsidize their labors, in part or whole, that’s between them and God. If they don’t they are not less worth their labor. If someone volunteers their labor that does not make them more noble than someone who is paid a salary, stipend or other material benefit. The Christian Bible appears to establish clearly that payment flows out of the Body of Christ: who is us who call ourselves believers. Therefore the Corporation of the President scripturally should answer to its body, if it is part of the Body.

    Just because an organization professing to be of the Body may be large and wealthy does not shift this ownership. The Levite temple class were supported by the Jewish nation in order to function in their role. Paul and the other apostles lived by the support of the believers at times; other times they performed jobs had they crafts and skills. In the Didache we see a great picture of the early church functioning in practice. Early Christians, for example, were asked to house and feed traveling ministers; similarly those same clergy were given limits so as not to burden individual members of the Body.

    It would be easier to arbitrate nowadays, I suppose, if there were clear biblical rules that established the checks and balances between the Body and its called leadership. Yet there are basic principles of what is often called Christian Liberty. An individual Christian has the opportunity to sanctify their giving unto the Lord and still have visibility to where that is used. It is also Godly for leadership to operate with order, to work for trust and accountability of the Body. It’s seems reasonable there should be some give and take: intercommunication and accountability with a growing and abiding trust. I don’t disagree with those who say the Lord’s is a house of order. But is it wise to make it into a house giving orders?

    The LDS church has the opportunity to behave in a way that fosters trust and encourages accountability. They could do better. While I think they desire (and may deserve) trust of its membership, and try to operate on business measures of accountability (read: audits), they do not act like they honor the primacy and vitality of the Body. Instead they honor hierarchical order.

    In its lack of financial transparency The LDS church can breed suspicion where none may be deserved. It also, in areas where its membership has the most touchpoints, cuts corners. The professionalism needed in full-time local ministry, counseling and guidance are left up to a staff of lay clergy who may or may not be trained well, who may or may not perform to the level a local congregation needs. Despite the sustaining “voting” mechanism there isn’t a practical spirit of consensual accountability. Volunteerism is not harnessed in a spirit of liberty and consensual respect either. Though well-intentioned, subtly the methods divert accountability and empowerment where it belongs: with righteous liberty among the Body.

  18. I’ve seen local leadership changes from complaints by the members. I don’t think it happens much. You are right about that. But it does happen when someone is acting really bad in their calling. It takes courage. Some members don’t have that much confidence. It can be a problem. But there is liberty. Yes there are problems. Less than in other large churches. I think. I hope our leaders make enough to focus totally on their callings. They deserve more than I think they get. I think.

  19. #19
    When was the last time someone dropped out of the FP and back into the Q12? I can’t remember it happening in modern history (my life time). It would be very difficult to ask someone to give up that significant of pay. By the way, the salary thread where I got this is still active at http://www.salamandersociety.com/foyer/salary.

    In a simplistic perspective, these men are paid a salary; something that is juxtaposed to the statements about righteous leaders in the BoM. I am reminded of the Savior’s words to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 12. Regarding the 12 disciples, the Lord encourages the multitude to give heed to those “whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants…” The key word here is servants. This thread, I believe, was intended to contrast these two positions.

    The biggest difference between the times of the BoM leaders and today is that a person cannot normally survive on the fruits of their own labors. King Benjamin raised his own crops. He was able to provide sustenance from the land for those of his household. I don’t see how we can easily do that today being so entwined in ‘Mammon.’ Does the church have any choice but to compensate the ‘full time’ administrators of the organization? Probably not.

    Too bad we couldn’t simply have them work with their bishop to receive their needs from Welfare just as others who are not able to meed the needs of their life. Could you imagine how humble these men would be if they had to stand in line behind the commoners with hard luck? I have often thought that the true significance is lost of the Savior’s parable of the greatest being the least in heaven. We may all be surprised in its application.

  20. Spektator, just to be clear, I have no problem with the GA’s receiving a pretty good living allowance. None whatsoever. I also am amazed at how humble most of them are. Every once in a while . . . but usually they are very humble men.

  21. Ray–maybe corporations should take a lesson from the church and call the CEO compensation a ‘living allowance’ rather than salary, stock options, bonus, etc. Maybe people wouldn’t mind CEO’s getting paid so much with this term.

  22. So, the 3 FP each make more than POTUS? Interesting. I admit I’m not crazy about that given the BOM perspective. It seems there are many places where modern LDS are not consistent with BOM ideals, despite it being the cornerstone of our religion. I certainly don’t think they should have to live like paupers either, although I prefer an example of self-sufficiency. The seventy being basically a job is not something I love either, although the pay is modest at least (if this information is correct). Why not pay all the same amount, regardless of calling? Covering all health benefits for those serving the church is something I wholeheartedly support.

  23. Interesting, a collection of poorly worded comments and speculations on that comment thread. Lots of typos, including “perts” for “perks” etc.

    But this one caught my eye (typos probably cleaned up):

    My uncle is in the First Quorum of the Seventy. He does not make $75,000 a year. He makes more like $48,000. All of the perks the writer alluded to are partially true. They get great health insurance, some retirement, and free tickets to college games. The do not own a Satellite system. They do have a couple of limousines. GBH is old and doesn’t drive anymore. He also has very tight security. I asked my Aunt if her life was better or worse since my Uncle was called to be a GA. He made more money as an attorney, and they sold a couple of business because of his extensive travel schedule. She say’s she has no regrets, but they are not getting rich either. Just some information. – 03/05/2002 – K from the recovery bulletin board

  24. OK, having gone to the salamander site, I have to say I am far less persuaded that the information is accurate. Stephen Marsh points out what is completely evident upon one brief read-through. The comments are a morass of spelling errors, uncited sources, rants from ex-Mos (do they kiss their mothers with those mouths?), vociferous yet equally uneducated defenses from TBMs, conflicting third hand stories, and clear violations of customer privacy laws. Those who argue specifically that the prophet shouldn’t be paid like a CEO later go on to evaluate his performance as if he were a CEO. JfQ has a point that more open disclosure would be beneficial as the lack thereof creates paranoia. However, those on the salamander site seem prone to paranoia and bereft of either spell check or any higher education.

    It’s also interesting that those who most decry any salaries are those who complain they paid tithing on their small salary. Yet, the one thing I feel is great about tithing is that it’s always the same, regardless of what you make. 10% on a thousand or a million. It’s not a wealth redistribution model. Just a model of equal faith and sacrifice for all, regardless of one’s means. It seems to me that there is a real problem with pride among those who struggle financially (as seen on the salamander site link); some seem to covet their meager wealth more than those of greater means do.

  25. Wasn’t Gordon B. Hinckley only the sixth (6th!) employee of the Church in its entire history as a dis-incorporated voluntary religious association (since the Edmunds-Tucker Act and the Supreme Court case “The Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. United States” of 1887-1890)? A lot has changed since Hinckley (I like to think the turning point was when he took a portrait with our family)!

  26. As a missionary I don’t recall being sent to Japan without purse or scrip, or relying solely on the kind willingness of Amuleks for my care and feeding (no wonder Alma and the sons of Mosiah spent so much time fasting . . .). I know that my contribution to the costs of my missionary service only covered a small part of the actual costs. I have no problem with our leaders having enough to live on–I’d imagine they’re pretty conscientious about how they spend it too. I think if they were living large we’d hear about it.

  27. I thought that as they got to the level of apostle they were required to live the law of consecration where they turn over all they own to the church and in return receive their living allowances. Or is that just something I heard?

  28. Post


    I have heard that before but there are two problems with that assumption:

    1. There is no evidence for it.
    2. There is no evidence for it.

    I have read many biographies of General Authorities at the apostle level and above and this is never even hinted at. I suspect this notion is spread by CES for some reason.

    One interesting recent clue that General Authorities continue to live as the rest of us financially is that President Monson, in the last conference, talked about joking with his hospitalized wife about possibly being late on their quarterly income tax payments.

    When one owes taxes payable on a quarterly basis, one has a pretty significant income, larger, I would assume, than is “sufficient for one’s needs”.

    If you can find evidence of this, I would love to see it. I suspect some people are comforted by the idea that someone, somewhere, is living the law of consecration.

  29. Post


    “Yet, the one thing I feel is great about tithing is that it’s always the same, regardless of what you make. 10% on a thousand or a million. It’s not a wealth redistribution model.”

    That’s the one thing I wish tithing were more of on an individual level: a wealth redistribution model. On a global level, it already is. U.S. Saints are collectively subsidizing Church infrastructure in the rest of the world. And fast offerings in my SLC ward take money from the better-off and give it to the worse-off. An admirable system, I might add.

  30. Just so y’all know, quarterly tax payments have nothing to do with your total income, but rather about how much tax was (or wasn’t rather) withheld the year before, or if your income is uncertain. If at the end of the year, you owe more than 1000 in taxes, and you expect next year not to have withholding do a better job, you MUST pay in quarterly taxes the following year. I am a grad student, with a stipend (much much less than 6 figures), but because my University doesn’t withhold enough taxes from my stipend I had to pay quartely taxes. Also my father in law is a lawyer who has a large chunk of his yearly income in the end of year bonus. He never knows how much this is, so he has to guess and pay quarterly taxes, just in case. Hope this settles the assumption about quarterly taxes erqo rich.

  31. He quit his job to spend more time as a stake president in a stake that really needed the devotion. As his job was more of a seven figure job, and he had just started it; he went back to retirement income he had that was more in the five figure range, I can’t see whatever the allowance the Church is giving him as being significant to his choices.

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