What is Good Church Leadership?

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What is good leadership?  How did Joseph Smith envision church leadership?  How does that differ from the church today and how is it the same?  Today’s lesson is from the Joseph Smith manual #24, Leading in the Lord’s Way.

Once again, Joe Spencer provides an excellent recap of the lesson here.  He specifically makes a great point that the correlators of the lesson manual seem to fundamentally misunderstand Joseph’s point about governing ourselves.  To quote Joe regarding the section entitled  Leaders teach correct principles and help those they lead learn to govern themselves:

“I think it important to point out how the title of this first section completely misunderstands and so ultimately misrepresents Joseph’s teachings within the section. Joseph indeed teaches that leaders teach correct principles, but he does not teach that leaders also help those they lead learn to govern themselves.”

I’m sure the mistake was well-intentioned, but it does cut to the heart of what many members find irritating in the church today, the administrative or corporate quality that the church has developed.  We have sacrificed leading for managing in some cases.

One wonders what Joseph Smith would say if he time traveled to a modern ward.  He might not fit local leadership’s perceptions of what would qualify him for some callings.  After all, he was only ever a member of the church for 14 years (before his death).  He might be considered a relative newcomer with little experience in some circles within the church.  He died young enough that many wards would not consider him old enough to be a High Priest.

What are the qualities of leadership, according to Joseph? Here are the ones mentioned in the lesson:

  1. Leaders teach correct principles.  “I told him I obtained power on the principles of truth and virtue, which would last when I was dead and gone.”  (1844)  How does teaching incorrect principles result in loss of power?  Do those incorrect principles die when the teacher is dead and gone?
  2. Those they lead govern themselves.  JS:  “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”  (quoted by John Taylor in 1851)  “I do not govern them at all. The Lord has revealed certain principles from the heavens by which we are to live in these latter days . . . and the principles which He has revealed I have taught to the people and they are trying to live according to them, and they control themselves.”  (quoted by Brigham Young in 1870).  How does this differ from managing and being the decision maker for others in our stewardship?  What are the pitfalls of this kind of free-for-all leadership style?
  3. Leaders receive the wisdom they need from the Spirit.  “A man of God should be endowed with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, in order to teach and lead the people of God.” (1843)  How does a foolish leader differ from a wise one?  Are leaders always teachers first and foremost in the church? “There are many things of much importance, on which you ask counsel, but which I think you will be perfectly able to decide upon, as you are more conversant with the peculiar circumstances than I am; and I feel great confidence in your united wisdom.”  (1840)  JS routinely deferred all decisions to the lowest level possible.  The recent statement by TSM similarly referred members to go to local leadership rather than writing to church HQ for every matter.  Why is this good counsel?  Are there exceptions?
  4. Leaders acknowledge the Lord’s blessings to themWeird.  There isn’t really a matching quote for this in the lesson, but the lesson quotes do talk about the need to pray for our leaders.
  5. Leaders in the Lord’s kingdom love those they serve.  “I possess the principle of love. All I can offer the world is a good heart and a good hand” (1843)
  6. Leaders teach through their love and example. The example given here is Zion’s Camp, which always seems like a really bad camping trip gone awry that is then parlayed into a “character-building” lesson.

How do you think we generally stack up as a church today, from the lowest levels of leadership to the highest?  Are there some of these that are more of a watch-out for us than others?  Are there some that tend to be harder at different levels than others?  Are there other principles of leadership that should be mentioned here but aren’t?


Comments 24

  1. “the correlators of the lesson manual seem to fundamentally misunderstand Joseph’s point about governing ourselves.”

    I think the correlators probably understood Joseph’s point but couldn’t deal with the anxiety it ostensibly caused, i.e. can general members really be trusted to govern themselves, without additional hands-on guidance?

    It seems to me that could be the case, not just with correlation but in many church leaders in general. Perhaps it is because we think that often members need something extra. For example, I knew of a mission that the “teach correct principles” was the only rule, and many of the Elders there got into all kinds of trouble…

  2. How do you think we generally stack up as a church today, from the lowest levels of leadership to the highest?

    I think it can be real hit and miss with leaders (which doesn’t sound very inspired). Leaders develop like the rest of line upon line. If you catch them in their early days in their calling they can play by the book and not take into consideration as much the best interest of the person.

    I knew of a missionary who was sent home for mooning – the mission president was just out and probably wanted to set an example. I think if the MP had been out longer he would have sat the missionary down and said that was pretty stupid it puts the church in a bad light, I expect you to keep your nose clean the rest of the mission. I certainly couldn’t see my mission president sending some one home for that.

  3. Hawkgirl,

    Thank you for your work on the lessons. I read them all the time and find them very helpful.

    Did Joseph really simply teach correct principles and leave it at that? Or was that more of an ideal he tried to adhere to but in practice acted differently? I wonder if Brigham Young and John Taylor would have asserted that they taught correct principles and left their followers to govern themselves. Do leaders of the Church today proclaim that that is what they do? If so, are they mistaken?

  4. My thoughts about the leadership issue in the Church. Looking back at Joseph’s time, the saints in Nauvoo were much more oragnized (managed) than they were in Missouri. If you look at the experience in Missouri, the influx of Saints was more haphazard (many people moved there inspite of calls for order from the Lord and Joseph), which caused many of the problems in Missouri. The native Missourians felt like they were being invaded, and many of the Church member’s comments didn’t help either. My point in bringing this up is that there wasn’t effective management of the move to Zion, and it led to disaster. When left to themselves, some Saints messed it up for the rest of them. (Yes I’m generalizing, feel free to lambast me on that point)

    This point relates to the Church today: Without some form of management, the Church as we know it would probably cease to function. As noted in the comments in Joe Spencer’s log, many people are lazy enough to accept callings, and then not do them. Without management on a local level, would the Church be the same? I think not. I believe that at least locally, the management is essential. I term management the extension of callings, the constant email/phone reminders to show up for this service project, or that ward function, or to take the youth to the Temple. Without this, many people would fall away from the Church, leaving a more motivated core behind. But if with some prodding, many more people partake in blessings of membership (even if they only get some rather than all blessings) some is better than none.

    Do we need, however, Church-wide management? As the Church grows world-wide, the need to separate Church doctrine from Church management will become more important, and I hope that leaders at both levels recognize the differences between policies and doctrines. What bugs me the most is music in the Church. I don’t need some person in SLC to tell me what type of music I can feel the Spirit to, and what types I can’t and therefore what is/isn’t appropriate for various Church meetings. Yes, there is a distinction, but the boundary will be different for everyone.

  5. “Joseph indeed teaches that leaders teach correct principles, but he does not teach that leaders also help those they lead learn to govern themselves”

    Unfortunately I have to disagree here because (I ask) what kind of teacher will teach but not help those they teach learn? Only a lecturer type of teacher, the intellectuals we find in any university. But Joseph was a teacher to leaders, who he did actually both teach, the correct principals, and then “helped those [he] lead learn to..”. Best example is with Brigham Young, Joseph first taught him some principals and then spend years helping him ‘learn to govern himself’ through challenges, missions, public humiliations etc etc. Its a two phase activity, first teach the principals then help those we teach learn those principals, ie ‘to govern themselves’.

    The ‘help those they lead’ is shown and explained mainly in that Zion’s Camp story especially the last section.

    Then he delegated that which he, Joe, did best: the leading and teaching. Joseph, and Jesus, were actually very good at this intimate, close group teaching which involved helping those he lead to learn, by things like that march to nowhere (Zion’s camp) and the school of the prophets and council meetings etc etc. Joseph actually was a leader/teacher to his group of influence -the 1st Presidency, twelve, those who helped him translate and the seventy called later on. They are the ones he taught through his unique leadership style, which Jesus had too, and then asked them to pass on what they learned, he delegated, and in so doing “taught [all the church] to govern themselves”.

    Also if one checks the literature on leadership we will see that any good manager is actually a good leader and viceversa. In the church we tend to downplay the managing aspect of leadership but the leader who can’t manage -ie get things done through others- is all talk and no walk. And Joseph certainly did get a lot done through the efforts and sacrifices of others. He is actually a very good example of what a manager should be.

    “How does this differ from managing and being the decision maker for others in our stewardship? What are the pitfalls of this kind of free-for-all leadership style?”

    I really think that it shouldn’t differ. We should lead and teach just as Joseph did within his stewardship (which may have been the entire church through the D&C etc in his unique case), but day to day it was only those who were close to him and around him, just as it is today with the current 1st Presidency. But I wish there was more space and time to write about this issue of leadership. In the church it is a fascinating subject: how did the church survive so long with so many incompetent leaders -that’s the real question to investigate 🙂

  6. you touched lightly on somthing that is destroying my testimony.

    the church as a corporation. I hate it. I hate corporations. More and more I am seeying a church that has christ as its head fall prey to eartly man maid buisnes practice and ethic. Why doea a church whose leaders recived direction from christ need a legal department. That message in the ensgin about the word of wisdom was mear politcs as it played to both sides ie. caffine is bad, but not the word of wisdom. lets have some leaders that are third grade drop outs. who lean unto the lord and not the leagal department.

  7. Fwiw, matt, the Church needs a legal department because it exists in a telestial world. It must be in the world, even if it is trying not to be of the world. That is an extremely difficult balance, and as long as the Church is comprised of stupid humans and faced by real, conspiring enemies (as it is) it will have to deal with legal issues that threaten its very existence. One sexually abusive bishop or home teacher or scout master can cause tremendous harm (as can one dedicated opponent), and, unfortunately, our organizational structure of empowering growth among the saints is such that stupidity and actual evil are impossible to eliminate altogether from within. We also will never be rid completely of those who are trying to destroy the Church.

    I have said often that our reliance on the weak things of the kingdom is one of the greatest aspects of the Restoration, but it also is one of our biggest challenges. Weak things are weak until they become strong, and we who are weak do some incredibly dumb things.

  8. Ray,
    I find your response regarding the legal department of the church somewhat hypocritical. A church that speaks of truth and honesty should not need to put out hundreds of thousands of dollars as retainer fees to local law firms. Just try to find a competent lawyer in the Salt Lake Valley who does not have a conflict of interest because his firm takes a hefty retainer from the church. If a lawsuit is filed because of a sexually abusive bishop or other leader, the church lawyers will resort to every legal delay tactic in an attempt to starve out the challenge. You can see that in the number of recent lawsuits that have been filed.

    Yes, the church is a multi-billion dollar corporation and, as such, is a target for money grubbers. The reaction to a challenge of ‘priesthood’ authority as many of these challenges are defined, is about as unchristian as one can expect in the rest of the legal world.

  9. “A church that speaks of truth and honesty should not need to put out hundreds of thousands of dollars as retainer fees to local law firms.” “Yes, the church is a multi-billion dollar corporation and, as such, is a target for money grubbers.” These two statements seem mutually exclusive. A corporation that values and promotes honesty and truth could still be the target of specious lawsuits due to the depth of its pockets, be that a church (particularly vulnerable to emotional and subjective charges) or a business (vulnerable to the same but also to regulatory and anti-trust issues that don’t plague non-profit organizations). I know from work and personal experience that the majority of lawsuits are not motivated from a desire for truth and honesty, but generally out of a sense of hurt and desire for revenge.

  10. spektator, We will have to agree to disagree on this one.

    I believe that if the Church really does view its funds as sacred, consecrated offerings from its members, it will spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to stave off specious lawsuits demanding millions. If it really does see its mission as the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world, it will hire legal experts to make sure it is doing so in a way that will not cause unnecessary legal problems as it moves forward. If it wants to have an effect on society (as ALL religions do), it will pay to make sure it’s attempts are as effective as possible and still retain its tax-exempt status.

    We live in a litigious society, and validity often is not relevant to lawsuits. I read your comment as a vision of an ideal that simply is impossible for an organization that exists in this world – and I assure you that the elimination of the Church’s legal department would be the fastest way possible to ensure its demise and destruction, even if its every action were completely above reproach. Honestly, I think it is naive to believe otherwise, even as I share the wish that your ideal was possible.

  11. I think the big question here is how does a Perfect God governs and inspires an organization in the imperfect and wicked world and filled with imperfect individuals who are called to serve?

    I think that as far a large, decentralized and diverse organizations go, The Church does a pretty good job. The fact that everyone can come up with examples where failure has occurred for a variety of reason speaks to the imperfection we are all working from. I dislike the “Corporate” feel that has begun to penetrate through to the local level.

    But, I’d like to see some examples of where it is better. Joseph Smith did a heck of a job laying the foundation and principles of good leadership. We’d all be better off trying harder within our own sphere of influence and responsibility. Pointing fingers is easy.

  12. Jeff S: “I dislike the “Corporate” feel that has begun to penetrate through to the local level.” I think the fact that there is a corporate feel at the local level (sometimes) is precisely the indicator of poor leadership skills, or as it says in D&C 121: 39-42 “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—” Seeking power is the usual pre-cursor to high-handedness in leadership. I truly don’t see it very often in the church (less and less all the time), but I certainly can’t say I’ve never seen it.

    The components of corporate style leadership that strike me as being least like the Savior’s example would be the elements that are patriarchal (fostering inequality based purely on one’s sex, family roles, or age–although that may be after Paul’s example and was certainly culturally extant in the middle east), require deference to leaders (implied or inferred infallibility), and create additional distance from God through an undue focus on reverence (form vs. function) over “drawing near unto me.”

  13. I think that if the church handles money, especially large amounts of money, then setting up a corporation structure to handle it, the money part, is probably the wisest thing they could do. And with a corporation structure there will inevitably be lawyers, CPA’s and MBA’s.

    No one likes lawyers in business but they are -unfortunately- a necessity of business life, especially corporate life. If the church was a hot dog stand well then things would be different.

    But I wonder what Joe would say about How the church has changed so much, from that 6 or so people who started it, to the current ‘Corporation’ worldwide church. Would he be please or would he be concerned at how bad home teaching and retention is, or all the other many problems the church has -plus all those lawyers amongst the general authorities.

  14. Hawk: “I think the fact that there is a corporate feel at the local level (sometimes) is precisely the indicator of poor leadership skills, or as it says in D&C 121: 39-42′

    Well, I won’t argue that point because that scripture has been true from the beginning of time. But, I think we as we see more and more leadership, at least in the US, taken from the ranks of the Corporate World as opposed to academia or more ” blue collar” types, we’ll see this approach to leadership. One of the things that I have noticed throughout my professional and Church experience is that “Like hires Like.” So, it is in the Church as well. In many cases, you can see a “leadership track” developed among certain people, mainly the men. Leaders are comfortable with those they are familiar with, as opposed to those they do not know. So, those who are most well known get “promoted” more often, in spite of their skills and, in the case of the Church, their ministering capability.

    Its just human nature, I guess.

  15. A multi-billion dollar corporation flanked by a crack legal team is about as far as you can get from the true church of God. Did not the Lord express contempt for this profession?

    “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” (Luke 11:52)

    Doesn’t the simple fact that the church has to operate in this world as a corporation give you cause for concern?

    “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight…” (John 18:36)

    What will be the reward for all these efforts focused on the material/monetary success?

    “But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.
    For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you.” (3 Nephi 27:11-12)

    Yes, my view may be the ‘ideal.’ But, isn’t that what we are supposed to be striving for? Are we not supposed to be building toward a community of the pure in heart?

    “…for if Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved in all things in His sight, He will seek another people, for His work will go on until Israel be gathered, and they who will not hear His voice, must expect to feel His wrath.” (TPJS p. 18)

  16. spektator

    “Did not the Lord express contempt for this profession”

    Today, even the devil himself would express contempt for lawyers. Lawyers will probably try to sue Satan for causing them to end up in hell! 🙂

    “Doesn’t the simple fact that the church has to operate in this world as a corporation give you cause for concern? ”

    Nope. Because they handle some $6B a year in tithing receipts (best guess) plus the investments so if they were all mechanics and carpenters, well we would be in trouble as an institution even if they were good mechanics/carpenters.

    “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world”

    Sure, but Jesus still built his home and worked as a carpenter until he was ‘called’ to full time ministry. So did Peter, and the others, as our apostles do today. And keep in mind that there weren’t any universities back in Jesus time so a carpenter was actually kind of a respected professional, similar to our civil engineers today, and a self employed fisherman was actually similar to our successful corporate leaders (since they didn’t have corporations only successful fishermen or farmers who bred sheep!) Maybe today we are missing a maverick personality amongst them like a St Paul, but when one gets down to the details they aren’t that much different today as they were back in Jesus time. They are all different personalities from different backgrounds.

  17. spektator, this is a sincere question:

    What is your proposed, practical alternative? Theory is fine, but what do you propose as a practical solution?

  18. I just finished watching the animation of the downtown reconstruction. The church is funding the design and reconstruction to the tune of two billion dollars? Sacred money, huh? Oh, yeah, I remember the story now; none of this money is from tithing, but all of it is being financed through the church’s real estate development arm. When did it become apropos to include in the consecration of our time, talents, and energies making sure Nordstroms has a nice place to sell their wares?

    If you trace it all back, every penny that the church considers the results of their investments is likely to have come from a donation to the church at some time. So help me… when does the money the church acquires become non-sacred? When does the church of God need to be funding billion dollar land deals? How does this support the Lords work and glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man?

    Unfortunately, the church is doing no better than the Holy Roman church did when it reached the same mega-dollar status. Wil Durant in his work called ‘The Reformation,’ said this of the popes in the 15th and 16th centuries:

    “They labored to redeem Rome from the ugliness and squalor into which it had fallen while the popes were a Avignon. They drained marshes (by comfortable proxy), paved streets, restored bridges and roads, improved the water supply, established the Vatican Library and the Capitoline Museum, enlarged the hospitals, distributed charity, built or repaired churches, embellished the city with palaces and gardens, reorganized the University of Rome, supported the humanists in resurrecting pagan literature, philosophy, and art, and gave employment to painters, sculpters, and architects…” (page 14, The Reformation)

    “For the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God” 1 Cor. 3:19

    As for your question about a practical solution…
    Each individual has to answer that question for themselves. Are you satisfied with the direction of the church? Do you consider all is well in Zion? If you are comfortable, then let the good times roll.

    If you have concerns, I would say spend some quality time on your knees and in the scriptures.

    Have you ever wondered who the Lord was talking about in D&C 112:24-26? If you are sure it must be somebody else, then enjoy your life. If not, what does the Lord expect of you to avoid this punishment?

    What is the practical solution? Extricate yourself as best you can from the world. Prepare yourself spiritually. Don’t rely on the arm of flesh. Seek to be converted, born again, baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost. Don’t support the works of man but seek to lift the works of God.

    How is that for an easy answer?

  19. Interesting thoughts spektator.

    Maybe there is a need for a mormon ‘Reformation’ when it comes to its expense account. And honestly when GBH announced he was building that conference center I thought ‘well, its expensive but the tabernacle is small after all’. But then he approved a massive building which is much bigger than I thought they needed.

    Then after hearing about that ‘downtown’ reconstruction I kind of thought ‘what? does the church really need to be involved? given some store there will sell alcohol. I think in this case they are too close to the development to not get burnt one day -or maybe they will blame it on GBH and his release date.

    A solution could be to reduce tithing to 5% and 5% fast offerings. That way we don’t need to change the scripture since it implies ‘tithing and offerings’ of 10%

  20. Carlos,
    Need for a reformation? You may be aware that the first Mormon reformation occurred in the 1856-58 timeframe. Brigham Young and his counselor Jedediah Grant began an effort to inspire the members to pay more attention to their sacred responsibilities. Many were rebaptized at the time as a show of recommitment. This was also the time that the idea of ‘blood atonement’ got some time from the pulpit and there appears to be some validity to the stories of those who were considered apostates having their blood spilled.
    There was also a catechism developed to help determine a person’s worthiness. It dealt with things like murder, betrayal, theft, honesty, tithing, and, of course, bathing. This was the time when the home teachers were called upon to report to the bishop regarding a person’s faithfulness as defined by these questions.
    Do we need a reformation now? I would heartily agree that there needs to be a refocus on the spiritual successes rather than the material successes. I used to cringe when GBH would get up and speak of the condition of the church. He saw temple attendance and tithing as indicators of the health of the church, He even included the renovation of downtown Salt Lake in this analysis. I hold these to be the works of man not the works of God.
    As for tithing, I re-read Section 119 again and I still have a hard time understanding how we get our current tithing guidelines. When members covenanted to enter Zion, they were to give all their surplus property to the bishop. Subsequent to their entry, they were to give one tenth of their ‘interest.’ So how do you define ‘interest?’ I wouldn’t equate that to income. The church has made such a deal regarding the membership’s commitment to the church through tithing that I don’t think changing the percentage would get any traction.

  21. Spektator,

    Yes, we do need a spiritually focused reformation -as long as we don’t end up with blood atonement again or with bathing reports!

    And I agree with your comments on GBH. Sure he was there a long time and did a lot but then they all seem to have these special ‘birthday parties’ with the Osmonds near the end of their service and they do start to go over their achievements, just before the Lord ‘releases’ them. Happened with Pt Kimball too and maybe its not just a coincidence that a year or two later they are ‘released’. This year I didn’t even hear about Pt Monson’s birthday party and I hope it stays that way.

    About the tithing I was always taught that ‘interest’ meant income for the year. But I don’t know who came up with that. We were also taught that the surplus property to the bishop didn’t happen anymore because we don’t live the law of consecration but that one day it will return. But I do think that more people will pay if its reduced to 5% although the new discussion topic in priesthood will probably be how 5% is worked out!

  22. Carlos,

    The 1856 Mormon Reformation did also have some spiritual benefits. There were a number of occasions when speaking in tongues was witnessed. The result was a perceived increase in commitment among the members.

    Having grown up in a farming/ranching community, I would suggest that a farmer’s income is not equal to his interest. When a farmer sells a product, that represents the income for the farm. Should he be tithed on that gross amount on money he received? Should he deduct that cost of the seed? How about the cost of the machinery to collect the product? What about the cost to maintain the home on the farm? The list goes on. The point is that a farmer has inherent costs to achieve his income. I would suggest that, in this case, the ‘interest’ is more closely aligned with the farmers profit margin.

    Let’s look at the typical salaried employee of a business. Does this person have base expenses that are necessary to acquire an income? Should the costs of these expenses be ignored or factored into what is considered the profit margin. A good example is the cost to maintain roads, bridges, etc. I help pay for those conveniences in order to reach my place of employment. Should that cost be included?

    This is a well worn subject. The right amount of tithing has been debated for decades. The church certainly sees value in increasing the tithing revenue as that gives them more for the things they want to build.

    Since the church operates as a corporation, perhaps it should apply general accounting practices. To me this would mean forecasting the costs of the operation and planning a budget. The cost of the operation could be used to forecast the revenues (tithing and investments) necessary to maintain the business. This could then drive the percentage asked of it’s members to sustain the operation.

    What needs to happen? First, it has been more than 50 years since the church stopped releasing detailed financial statements. We, as members, have no visibility into what is going on financially. I don’t agree with the secrecy. If they are going to act like a corporation, they should take on the responsibilities a corporation has to its members (stockholders). Second, full disclosure would also entail release of the information regarding the salaries and perks of the general authorities as well as the other costs of the operation. What does a member of the council of the twelve make? What does it cost to supply a driver and limousine to the upper echelons of the church? Do they still get additional income from boards indirectly? What is going on behind the curtain? What is the church paying for legal, security, and birthday parties?

    Is this a perfect solution? Absolutely not. In my opinion, there should be no need for a highly bureaucratic central infrastructure in the church of Christ. King Benjamin made it clear in the Book of Mormon that he took care of his own expenses. It is a vicious circle. We need full time bureaucrats to manage this complex business that the bureaucrats created.

    Sorry for the rant.

  23. spektator,

    “When a farmer sells a product, that represents the income for the farm. Should he be tithed on that gross amount on money he received? Should he deduct that cost of the seed?”

    I was always taught that it was the net income for businesses, including farms. But that raises some fairness issues with business owners using business assets for their own personal use, like when one uses a truck registered as a business vehicle to drive to church or when a business account pays our hotel stay during a quick weekend getaway; that money is obviously untithed.

    I think that is why the law is tithing says: a full plus ‘honest’ tithing. The ‘full’ part should cover the technicalities and the ‘honest’ part should cover those issue you mention here. And when one pays a full and honest tithe you feel it, one feels that one is doing the right thing and the money burden lifts. It is a spiritual law after all.

    But still I think that we would be better off paying only 5% tithing, since we are in a worldwide recession and the church is more than ok with its finances. Plus there seems to be something morally wrong with 10% going to HQ and only some 2% roughly going to the poor as fast offerings.

    I agree with you that they should publish financial statements and those who can, like Uchtdorf, support themselves with their own retirement plans. Plus accounting standards do help with confidence because when I see all the waste our area office has, well the old testimony is battered around a bit. Maybe they wouldn’t do those massive church funded birthday parties anymore if members saw just how much is spent on them!

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