The Whole Enchilada

guestMormon 57 Comments

Guest post by Paul Swenson

So what?
So, what if
I’m one of those
cafeteria Mormons?
No offense.
More like it
makes some sense,
since my Mormor
(Swedish for
maternal grandmother)
ran a cafeteria,
and had to forgo
coffee (drinking it,
serving it)
just to join
the Mormon church.

Just because
she gave up caffeine
didn’t miss her chance
(between husbands)
to answer life’s
tough questions.
To pick and choose
to make a living.

“Smart,” my mother
said of Mormor —
“smart businesswoman.”
That was before
the patriarchy
gave their wives
the business
about a woman’s role.
Coffee rolls (kaffebullar)
were what my Mormor
baked and sold.

Sorry, whole different
time now, but an old
story. Comes
to spiritual food,
can not order
off the menu.
“No substitutes,”
my waiter scoffs.
I complain —
Maitre d’ informs
me it is the chef’s
night off. Wrong
venue — “this is
no cafeteria.”

Not as if
I object to eating
But if every bite
is planned for me,
might lose
the nerve
for that unique
hors d’oeuvre —
free agency. Takes
the edge off

Say I appreciate
the main course, yet
cannot swallow
everything —
therefore leave some
garnish on my plate.
Would the omission
seal my fate — damnation
for my soul? No
satisfaction? Nada?
Forgive me if I take
the risk. Refuse to eat
the enchilada, whole.

Comments 57

  1. All Mormons are cafeteria Mormons but many are unable to recognize themselves as such because they are intentionally blind to their own choices, since the idea of making choices is not consistent with their view of what being a good Mormon is. Nonetheless, the choices persist.

    So since there is no such thing as a non-cafeteria Mormon you are not at any risk. You are just more aware of your choices than others. Which is a good thing!

  2. I have noticed the older I get, the less I take from the buffet. When I was younger I questioned very little. As I have learned more my belief system has altered.

  3. I agree that everyone is a cafeteria Mormon in the sense that there’s nobody I can think of who doesn’t ignore at least some LDS scripture and prophetic teachings. A couple that come to mind are D&C 89’s injunction against eating meat except in times of winter and the innumerable statements by past Church leaders against hunting for sport. Nevertheless, many active Mormons, all the way up to the highest leadership levels, are meat-eating sport hunters, and nobody seems to call them cafeteria Mormons for that.

    Although everyone is a cafeteria Mormon to one extent or another, the truth is that only certain forms of cafeteria Mormonism have become accepted by LDS leadership and culture (e.g., eating meat and hunting for sport), while others are not.

    For me, however, the real issue is not whether we’re cafeteria Mormons, but rather: (1) why are some people so darned concerned about whether other people are cafeteria Mormons (especially in light of Christ’s teachings to “judge not” and to worry about the beams in our own eyes rather than the motes in others’ eyes); and (2) why do self-described cafeteria Mormons even care whether other Mormons approve or disapprove of their choices? Worrying about this sort of social disapproval seems to display a lack of spiritual independence and personal conviction in the path one has chosen to take.

  4. Andrew — It’s OK to be a cafeteria Mormon, as long as you eat in the right cafeteria.

    The cafeteria that serves meat is acceptable, under present standards. The cafeteria that has a Happy Hour is not.

  5. Re 5 AA

    (1) why are some people so darned concerned about whether other people are cafeteria Mormons

    I think it has something to do the admission of being a cafeteria Mormon. TBMs, while all that I know are indeed Cafeteria Mormons, would never admit to such. That is, they seem to have the desire to be obedient to every rule, they just recognize their fallibility. In contrast, a self-admitted cafeteria Mormon acknowledges he/she is such and is okay with that. The difference is subtle but seems to be related to the intent, as if self-admitted cafeteria Mormons just have no desire to obey some rules.

    I am going through some of this right now. For some Mormons, it seems to be more important what you believe than what you do. I don’t believe everything, but am orthopraxy in practice. But it’s not good enough for some members of my family, as if I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing or something.

    (2) why do self-described cafeteria Mormons even care whether other Mormons approve or disapprove of their choices? Worrying about this sort of social disapproval seems to display a lack of spiritual independence and personal conviction in the path one has chosen to take.

    I have no idea. I don’t care much personally, although it does seem to cause me a fair amount of grief in my family circles.

  6. The ones who have a hard time with the notion that we are all cafeteria Mormons are those who are motivated by fear and spiritual insecurity, who have a white-knuckled belief that obedience to everything leaders tell you is the path to salvation (I’m not advocating disobedience in saying that; it just doesn’t have to be your prime motivator or based in fear), or who fear looking different (what people will think), or who are insecure in their own path and choices (as Andrew suggests, but this is also being afraid to listen to your personal revelation as well as inspired counsel of leaders).

    This topic came up about a year ago in RS, and someone made the comment, “We’re ALL cafeteria Mormons,” then someone else (I think our SP’s wife) said, “Scratch that – we’re all cafeteria HUMANS.” Which is so true.

  7. One poem deserves another

    Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd;
    There’s one of us that’s humble, one that’s proud,
    There’s one that’s broken-hearted for his sins,
    There’s one that unrepentant sits and grins;
    There’s one that loves his neighbor as himself,
    And one that cares for naught but fame and pelf.
    From much corroding care I should be free
    If I could once determine which is me!
    Ensign May 1977, P. 14

  8. Is there anything other than a “cafeteria” when it comes to religion? No Mormon or Catholic or Buddhist or pagan can worship in the exact same way, just as no one can love in the same way.

    I have seen a trend in Mormonism over the years that has sealed many of my presumptions–money matters. Mormons with money are moved up to the highest echelons of the Church while the poor members toil and give up their precious family time as a shitty, sorry, crappy seminary teacher or Elders Quorum President. You don’t see many financially struggling Apostles, do you?

    And when the poor can’t afford the mortgage or food, what’s the first thing to go? Yep….tithing. And that seals their fate; proof positive that those who pay a FULL tithing are blessed, and those who don’t have enough faith are weak and NOT blessed. Thus they continue in their poverty never breaking free because God does not approve and they are not valiant. It’s pretty diabolical. I wonder if God is rich?

    Finally, in order to insure the lower class’s committment, the bishop doles out checks to the poor almost on a whim, making sure they are on the teat. The poor stay indebted to the Church and kept in check while the rich run the whole gaddamned thing. Gee, I guess it is the American Religion.

  9. JulieAnn, I know enough poor/lower-income Mormons in regional leadership positions and enough rich/upper-income Mormons “slaving away” in “lower” positions to question your experience. I think what you’re maybe missing is that guys who are business leaders or work in management are usually better with money and have higher incomes, and guys with leadership and management experience are more likely to be called to regional leadership positions. Of course this is not a rule, but it does influence callings.

  10. JulieAnn

    I really appreciate your albeit cynical and refreshingly profane observations. I am glad people don’t talk like that all the time but it does no harm in to my mind to hear these things in this way occassionally. Mormonism is an American religion, most of it’s members are on the American continent if not in the USA and it’s ethos is decidedly American, following the American business/management model. But then American churches in general often follow that model and here in the UK and Europe there are mixed feelings as to whether such a model is biblical.


    You wrote that you are “orthopraxy in practice.” Forgive my pedantry but orthopraxy is practice and this is a tautology. I think perhaps you meant “orthodox in practice.” Oh, good grief, I am correcting a stranger’s grammar! I am getting old, but I am not doddery, doddery I am not. Forgive me.

    Being a cafeteria Christian is no new thing and the writer describes a common enough idea. It is novel however to hear these things said of Mormons who traditionally have always been ultra-orthodox. In Christian circles (or at least those in which I move) there is a formula that helps in this regard; “These things we hold firmly, these we hold lightly and these we hold away.” The problem as I see it is that officially and traditionally Mormonism does not allow for such independence in thinking whereas the Bible teaches and models such a view.

    Mormons of my acquaintance have wondered how churches can disagree and yet call each other Christian and the answer is in another aphorism; “In essentials unity, in no-essentials liberty and in all things charity”, again a biblical principle. I am glad that Mormons are talking this way because it creates a forum in which people need not be afraid of speaking their minds. I wonder where this will lead for official Mormonism however.

  11. Mike Tea – I think there is an expectation of unified thought within Mormonism that experience doesn’t bear out. It’s kind of like the difference between Mormon infrastructure and actual grass roots culture. But IMO at real heart is that there are individuals within any group who are afraid of appearing different from the norm, who feel that being ostracized for being unique is about the worst thing that could ever happen to them. So they routinely ostracize others instead of being ostracized themselves. It’s just a dirty little human tendency that you can find in any organization: from high schools to boardrooms.

    That is coupled with a lack of self-awareness among many believers. They truly do view their beliefs as orthodox or 100% in line with whatever they think has been handed to them because they have no intention of rocking the boat, but within that construct, there are so many possible interpretations. Different leaders have interpreted things different ways. You can listen to Gen Conf and hear the same exact talk completely differently than someone sitting next to you. This is further exacerbated by two factors: an open canon (which means doctrine is constantly being refined and redefined), and personal revelation (which means it’s doctrinally sound that you might receive a personal answer that doesn’t apply to all).

  12. Re 16 Mike Tea

    You wrote that you are “orthopraxy in practice.” Forgive my pedantry but orthopraxy is practice and this is a tautology. I think perhaps you meant “orthodox in practice.” Oh, good grief, I am correcting a stranger’s grammar! I am getting old, but I am not doddery, doddery I am not. Forgive me.

    Oops, yep, you’re correct. I was either going to say just “orthopraxy” or “orthodox in practice” and apparently I mixed the two. Thank you for the correction.

  13. Julieann’s frightening description may bear out in a ward like mine but I’m not sure that it remains the case in more rural areas, or in smaller branches or in other countries. It would be a wonderful topic for a sociological / economic study. If there is a link between wealth and position we should know about it.

    The youngest guy on our stake high council is in his 30’s and was called to the position quite suddenly having been just a regular guy in our EQ before that. He also became wealthy rather quickly in the five years or so prior to being called. I did hear it observed that there is no way a poor or middle class member would experience the same elevation in a calling. It is a cynical thing to ask but how many people in suburban wards with a mix of professionals and working class folks see a consistent pattern of the working class folks in leadership positions?

  14. Vin,

    I can appreciate that there are exceptions to the rule. There would have to be. But wouldn’t a person with talent in certain areas be on God’s radar? If a poor person has as much ability toward ‘management’ as one with money, why wouldn’t God inspire more callings in the upper echelons toward people without means?

    I would be very interested to see the demographics of the GA’s and where they grew up, their social standing and family affiliations. I have a good idea from where many of them hail in Salt Lake.

    Here in good old Utah, it’s considered a status symbol to have a relative or friend in the upper echelons, or ‘management’ as I like to call it.

    I remember someone being wow-ed when a GA showed up at my mother’s funeral. I proceeded to call him by his first name because he isn’t an “Elder” or “President” of anything of mine. He was downright chagrined. But I saw it this way: he was there to honor my mother and in death, aren’t we all equal? I think we are.

    I think it’s foolish to be so naive as to think status, money and power play no part in callings and positions of power.

  15. As a recent-ish adult convert to the church and avowed cafeteria mormon, I so wanted to beleive that $$ and position played no role in “callings” at church. I really, really wanted to beleive that one was “called” to a position. That callings were for the individual called (as a learning opportunity perhaps) rather than due to qualifications, perceptions or community stature. I am familiar with the high counciler referred to in #19 and while this guy is simply the nicest guy imaginable, it was obvious at the time that this “calling” was motivated by other than Godly things. Disappointing to be sure but strangely validating of my cafeteria religion choices…I really beleive the church is true but that people (stake leaders anyone??) are sometime stupid.

  16. I think people in general are “human”. Humans bring all sorts of life experiences to the table. Stake presidents, leaders, bishops…these men are not trained to deal with some of the stuff that comes their way. That’s where I’d hope they would have the wisdom to defer to a professional–whatever the issues are–instead of taking the Pride Mantle on and trying to solve it for themselves. One can always hope. It wasn’t my experience growing up, but one can always hope. :0)

  17. Besides money and position, one thing that perpetuates the “bias” against “self-admitted-cafeteria-Mormons” is the self-reinforcing nature of the hierarchy. In the hierarchy, the characteristic perhaps valued above money is uniformity. The “TBM-cafeteria Mormons” tend to choose the other members who have chosen to “eat at the same cafeteria” as them, or at least be appearing to eat at the same cafeteria. As this goes on year after year, this becomes the “de facto” cafeteria, or perhaps the place to be seen, especially if someone has any desire to be chosen for one of these callings (although why anyone would want to do that is beyond me).

    Anyone who chooses to emphasize something different is shunned – ie. a vegan “not in times of famine” who has a glass of red wine.

  18. In defense of the wealthy . . . (actually I just wanted to open a comment that way), a coupla thoughts:
    1 – JS was not wealthy, and he was terrible with money and financial choices. He proposed a communal living arrangement (after 250 Campbellites who were already living that way joined the church), which is great if you are wealthy, but if you are poor and you say “hey, let’s all pool our money together,” it sounds like a bad idea to anyone who doesn’t have sucker written on their forehead.
    2 – There are skills associated with managing large sums of money, making wise investments, and evaluating the cost and benefit of projects. Someone with little or no experience at this probably doesn’t have those skills. (Again – JS, itinerant farmer and money digger, as a banker? Really? What were these people thinking?) So, at highest levels, having some experience with managing seems to make sense. (Being related to other high-up leaders, OTOH, smacks of nepotism).
    3 – A bishop is supposed to have his own “financial” house in order to be in that calling. While not the loftiest position in the church, it seems to me that it would be an inherent conflict of interest for the guy dispensing welfare to be a recipient of the same (at the same time anyway). So, financial stability (not necessarily wealth) would have to be a precursor.

    While I think we can all agree that the prosperity doctrine is smug and self-congratulatory, financial stability should be a precursor to financial responsibilities in the church (collecting tithing, making welfare decisions, and far bigger decisions at the higher levels).

  19. #20: “I proceeded to call him by his first name because he isn’t an “Elder” or “President” of anything of mine. He was downright chagrined.”

    Cf. Matthew 20:25-26 —

    “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you….”

    Titles and hierarchies and curtsying deference to Princes of the Church may have their place, but I’ve always had a hard time reconciling them with Christ’s disapproval of the apostles jockeying for precedence.

  20. Fwiw, I’ve known lots and lots of leaders who were relatively poor – or, at most, solidly middle-class. I’ve also known a corporate president who played the prelude music for Sacrament Meeting then stepped aside so a teenage boy could play the hymns during the meeting.

    I’m not sure that proves anything other than that my own experiences don’t match the idea that only rich members hold leadership positions (or even the vast majority of them) – and that, in all honesty, I have to work HARD to avoid taking offense at labeling teachers and ward presidencies as sh***y jobs filled by the ignorant. If that’s really how you see it, JulieAnn, all I can say is that you are disparaging millions of sincere people – MANY of whom are very well-educated, very humble, very dedicated, wonderful people. Call them s**t-suckers if you will (my own re-statement of your words, I know), but please understand what your description means and how utterly disdainful your words are – especially since they apply to me, my immediate and extended family and the vast majority of my church friends directly.

  21. Ray,

    I’m sorry you view my comments as disdainful. I was referring to the MAIN leadership of the church, which is why I called it the ‘upper echelons’. I was not referring to local ward leadership. A poor section of town in Salt Lake would be Kearns, for example. I don’t think they’re going to cart someone in from Cottonwood Heights to preside as bishop.

    I find it ironic that a church that essentially believes in Communism–and lest I seem like a wing-nut, here are my reference points: Orderville, United Order, Bishop’s Storehouse, All Things Held in Common, Law of Consecration, ZCMI…–yet the Church promotes the richest and most capitalistic members as your leaders.

    My dad worked for the Church. I saw his pay stubs after he passed (he kept everything.) He was not paid by the Church, he was paid by The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Which goes back to my original point that the Church acts more like a business than a religion.

    And actually, you MISstated, not re-stated my words. I referred to the church’s poor as people who are kept “on the teat”, or in other words, dependent and indebted to the Church. Nowhere did I state that anyone was a s*** sucker, nor did I call anyone ignorant. Ever. My whole family is LDS and I am very aware of their goodness. All of them are highly intelligent–doctors, even. I have many friends who are LDS and I am aware of their goodness. I have also been treated with utter disdain, cut off from friendships and even *gasp* DE-friended on FaceBook for NOT being LDS! (I weep, I weep). If you feel I am disdainful, welcome to the world of a former Mormon, my friend. If we speak out our–OUR–truth, we are ‘apostates’ and ‘enemies of the Church’. If we try to make sense of the utter betrayal we feel at what we see as a deception, we are told we are not good enough; we need to pray and ask for forgiveness.

    You can be a good, decent person, Ray, and still be wrong. You can be well-educated and be wrong. You can be humble and dedicated and be very, very wrong. I’m not saying Mormons are right or wrong, I’m stating a simple fact that there is a real disconnect between a person’s inherent goodness and the validity of their claims. I believe the Pope is probably a very good person. I don’t believe his church is the One and Only, either.

    You took my post very personally, and added many disparaging things that were not even written by me. I encourage you to take a step back and ask yourself why that is. I am very sorry you saw my post as an attack and that you took it so personally. But understand that when a person leaves Mormonism, it doesn’t mean we are disparaging the many great people we encountered in it; we are bucking against the beliefs and tenants of the Church; but make no mistake, there are those members who help.

    I have great hope here, on Mormon Matters because, believe it or not, I feel I am still a part of Mormonism culturally, and it is part–a big part–of who I am. I would like to find common ground, understanding and truth among the faithful. But I am also not afraid of dissent.


    As a post script–Joseph Smith was not wealthy, true. But he tried very hard to GET wealthy (Kirtland Safety Society–one of those historical things ‘forgotten’ by most Church members). ‘Nuff said.

  22. I’m new here and noticed the whole discussion on cafeteria Momonism seemed to fracture into arguments over the salad bar and the all you can eat dessert buffet. Seems to me if you are going to eat the whole enchilada, besides massive indigestion and heartburn, you would end up with a rich corporate old boys bueracracy and a doctrine requiring poverty and abandonment of personal property; conflict galore while you need to be of one heart and one mind here in Zion.

    I guess it is kind of like a lifetime membership in Chuck-o-rama (or Up-chuck-o-rama depending on your vantage point.)

  23. Unfortunately for some of us, the cafeteria plan doesn’t work because there’s this one ingredient they seem to put in all the food, to which, through no fault of our own, we’ve developed a life-threatening allergy. So the options are not to eat in the cafeteria, period, or to always have an epi-pen handy to stab ourselves with after every meal. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone their choice but I’m not into needles.

  24. JulieAnn, these are your EXACT words – cut and pasted from your comment:

    “while the poor members toil and give up their precious family time as a shitty, sorry, crappy seminary teacher or Elders Quorum President.”

    “Finally, in order to insure the lower class’s committment, the bishop doles out checks to the poor almost on a whim, making sure they are on the teat. The poor stay indebted to the Church and kept in check while the rich run the whole gaddamned thing.”

    I’m not going to argue with you. These are your own words, not mine. I personally think they are disgusting and wrong – and not because I am offended by the language. I’m not. Claim them or deny them, but don’t try to suddenly switch tactics and talk about loving “shitty, sorry, crappy seminary teachers or Elders Quorum Presidents”. You called them that, without qualification or disclaimer. Your words directly linked being poor with being “shitty, sorry, crappy”. You didn’t describe anyone but the poor using those words. You criticized Bishops for helping the poor. Those are your EXACT words.

    If you wrote in a moment of intense emotion, fine. Just own up to it and don’t use my response as fuel for your disaffection – and realize that, as everyone else here can attest, in nearly three years of participation, I probably have gone off on one or two people here like I did in response to your comment. It needed to be said, so I said it.

    Now you have the exact quotes to show why. Own them or apologize and change them; I really don’t care which. Just stop blaming me for pointing out what you actually said.

  25. Hey Ray,

    It was certainly not my intent to disown my words. I did make a mistake on the seminary teacher–that isn’t a calling. Other than that caveat, I also stand by my words. If you find them disgusting, I’m sorry for that. I did not call seminary teachers OR Elders Quorum presidents those things PERSONALLY, Ray. I was referring to the callings themselves. You misunderstand me–I don’t think these people are anything but good people, most of them. It’s the religion with which my ire was raised on this.

    Now….I am going to argue. My words did not, in any way connote being poor with shitty, crappy anything. You really are bent over something that has pushed your buttons and it certainly isn’t me. What my assertion was was this: poor people in your church do NOT get promoted to management aka the UPPER ECHELONS. No matter how faithful, no matter how good, no matter how devout, you do NOT find a General Authority who can’t make end’s meet.

    I criticized bishops for helping the poor not because I have anything against helping the poor. I criticize the capricious and unregulated way in which bishops dole out monetary funds to people without any sort of system other than his discretion. Bishops are human, and as it’s been AMPLY pointed out here, callings are not necessarily “spiritually guided”–they are more out of necessity and logic than inspiration.

    As for you ‘going off on me’, I’m not too concerned. I don’t take it personally. My comment has been misinterpreted by you and I believe you are reading it through a filter that is fraught with personal issues. They aren’t my issues, my comments here are only here to clarify my position. If my original comment didn’t make my position clear, then I will try to be clearer next time. As a side note, some here HAVE attested to your lack of aggression–they also have said that YOU have misunderstood ME. Everyone else can see it, why can’t you?


  26. Ray and JulieAnn,

    I’ve watched with interest as Ray and JulieAnn have argued over what constitutes the whole enchilada — and yes it is an argument despite what Ray claims.

    It is easy to play the word game. Let me give you an example using Ray’s exact words and rhetorical technique:
    I’m not going to argue with you. Ray then proceeds to immediately contradict himself and begins to argue with her. Actually it isn’t so much an argument as a demand that he be deemed correct Claim them or deny them. . . . Own them or apologize and change them.— a little patriarchal bluster? Ray, admit that you are threatened by a woman having strong opinions. You said it claim it or deny it.

    As a rhetorical response, Ray (and I in the preceeding paragraph) utilized a technique that is deeply flawed. Rather than discuss and dialogue on the issue at hand, the process hand selects comments that are the most inflammatory and the most outrageous, takes them out of context and completely diverts the argument in a new and safer direction, ie Fox News. It is much easier to argue about whether JulieAnn was disparaging over seminary teachers or Ray was acting like a patriarchal bore than address the question JulieAnn raised in her intial mildly incendiary post:

    Why shouldn’t this site be called instead of

    You’ve got to address it if you want the whole enchilada. Cafe Rio anyone?

  27. I think it’s a logical fallacy to say that since there’s no one of modest means or lower that’s a general authority therefor only the rich are considered of high leadership. At each point when one is given a calling he (I’m restricting this to men/priesthood) performs or doesn’t perform. If he does well he’ll be considered for other leadership, if not he won’t. And that begins the long process of winnowing that leads to the few who will become general authorities or bishops or scoutmasters or even seminary teachers because that is a calling now. To assume that all things being equal a rich man will be called over a poor man is just not the case and unless it can be substantiated with names and places it’s tired point that should be put to rest. Being angry, disaffected, or out of the LDS church doesn’t let someone off the hook when they make statements like JulieAnn did. Ray reacted as one who sees her (if JulieAnn’s a her) statements as personally offensive. She reacts as one who has left the church and continues to nurture the hurt and anger she feels. These things are part of who we are and how we communicate but when all is said and done I think it’s better to rely on logic and fact rather than cynicism and emotion. And this is from someone with a lot of money that has on a number of occasions has on shown he is a disaster of leadership and thus has never risen about assistant songbook coordinator. My wife by the way is a college professor and a seminary teacher and as near as I can see does not consider her calling or performance shitty. An neither do I.

  28. I think you assume too much GBSmith.

    You’ve really no idea if I nurture hurt or anger and after perusing my written words, the only emotion I glean from them is slight indignation. If you want to redress that as hurt and anger, be my guest, but it’s still an assumption. Speaking of, why would you assume I am not a woman? Know many male JulieAnns, do you? Or is it possible that a person of strong opinion can only be male in your world?

    I think relying on logic and fact is an interesting idea coming from a professed member who has been taught to obey solely on faith. But since you seem to think you are correct in your facts, (facts which suspiciously resemble your opinion, allow me to share some recent facts from this year.

    Here are some recent callings extended to the many blue-collared lay people you so vehemently assert get the same chances as the wealthy. And these are relatively humble callings; 2nd Quorum of the 70, Sunday School General Presidency etc.

    “Elder Craig C. Christensen, 46…. A Utah native, he attended Brigham Young University (BYU), graduating with a degree in accounting and economics. He later earned an MBA from the University of Washington. He has worked as a business executive and is currently self-employed, overseeing his own real estate development and auto dealership businesses…”.

    “Elder James M. Dunn, 62,…Born in Pocatello, Idaho, he attended BYU, graduating with a degree in Latin American Studies. He later earned a law degree from the University of Utah. Early in his legal career he worked as a deputy county attorney and an assistant U.S. attorney. Now retired, he was a founding partner in the law firm of Jardine, Linebaugh & Dunn….”.

    “Elder Daryl H. Garn, 63…. Born in Tremonton, Utah, he and his family now live in Mesa, Arizona. An orthodontist by profession…”.

    “Elder D. Rex Gerratt, 66… served as an Area Authority Seventy for the Idaho Area before his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. Born in Heyburn Idaho, he and his family now reside in Burley. He attended USU and makes his living as a dairy farmer. He has been inducted into the Idaho Dairy Hall of Fame and the Southern Idaho Livestock Hall of Fame, and in1994 he was recognized as Conservation Farmer of the Year…” (I admit, I was pleasantly surprised to see a dairy farmer until I noticed that he is THE dairy farmer of all dairy farmers.).

    “Elder Spencer V. Jones,…. he attended BYU where he earned a degree in animal science. A long-time resident of Orem, Utah, and a businessman by profession, Elder Jones has been involved in a variety of businesses including a furniture company, a cattle company and a mobile home park.”

    “Elder Andersen …was serving as the senior member of the Presidency of the Seventy prior to his calling to the Quorum of the Twelve….He graduated from Brigham Young University, where he was a Hinckley Scholar, and earned a masters of business administration from Harvard University. After completing his education, he settled in Tampa, Florida, where his business interests included advertising, real estate development and health care.”

    I gathered this information on

    Facts are not difficult to check, GB. In the process of winnowing, I can only assume from these facts and your statement that poor LDS folks do not perform well in their callings, thus only the rich are capable enough to have them. Would that be a fair assessment of your beliefs?

  29. “I have also been treated with utter disdain, cut off from friendships and even *gasp* DE-friended on FaceBook for NOT being LDS! (I weep, I weep). If you feel I am disdainful, welcome to the world of a former Mormon, my friend. If we speak out our–OUR–truth, we are ‘apostates’ and ‘enemies of the Church’. If we try to make sense of the utter betrayal we feel at what we see as a deception, we are told we are not good enough; we need to pray and ask for forgiveness.”

    Sounds like hurt and anger to me.

    “Speaking of, why would you assume I am not a woman? Know many male JulieAnns, do you? Or is it possible that a person of strong opinion can only be male in your world?”

    I don’t even know if your name is JulieAnn, why would I assume you’re a woman. And FWIW my world is made up almost entirely of women, all of whom have strong opinions and none are the least threatening.

    “I think relying on logic and fact is an interesting idea coming from a professed member who has been taught to obey solely on faith.”

    Professed member? Member of the LDS church, how about episcopalian, or maybe just a burned out agnostic pew occupier. You never know. As far as the obey comment are we talking the Ten Commandments, loving your neighbor, believing in faith and repentance or is it something more sinister like the atonement.

    “In the process of winnowing, I can only assume from these facts and your statement that poor LDS folks do not perform well in their callings, thus only the rich are capable enough to have them.”

    Actually there’s as good a chance that the men you named beat out richer but less well qualified persons. Or there have been those that were less well off that weren’t as capable. That doesn’t show up on but if it suits you to believe otherwise, be my guest.

    Lastly as regards communism and the united order, yes you are a wingnut.

  30. M’kay.

    As to the cafeteria Mormons who have replied to me directly, I can only say that your replies are very supportive of the fact that people simply choose to gather evidence to support what they believe. Not much room for growth here, folks.


    JA “Wing-Nut”

    PS: Look up the definition of communism. It isn’t a bad thing, just an ideal emulated by the early Church. But I suppose you and Glenn Beck see Communism as the same thing.

  31. JulieAnn, every comment you have written in this thread has been insulting and assumptive of those who addressed your comments. Ulysseus then accused me of “patriarchal bluster” and being “threatened by a woman having strong opinions.” Hogwash.

    I am bowing out of this pissing contest and accusation fest, since it’s not going anywhere and I really don’t like this kind of verbal one-upmanship that doesn’t reflect reality in any way. Call it what you will, but it’s just not worth it.

    I simply will repeat what I’ve said previously:

    All I have to evaluate are the words on the screen. I know nothing about you but the bitterness and extreme stereotyping of your words. I didn’t take anything out of context; I quoted the entire context of each statement and simply parsed the actual meaning of the words. Discredit my response any way you want to do so, both you and Ulysseus. Just realize you are doing so by twisting your own words that I simply quoted.

    As you said, “Peace.” I truly do wish it for you, but I won’t stand silent while you disparage the poor who serve in the LDS Church.

  32. Wow JulieAnn how did I miss this one? 😉

    Ray, I apologize. She and I are facebook chums now and she found the blog through me. You have to get a feel for her style and see through all the vinegar. 😀

  33. It’s pretty diabolical.

    Ulysseus =/ Odysseus

    adamf, I thought you were one of those guys who defriended people for not being LDS and making them weep, in duplicate? 😉

    (1) why are some people so darned concerned about whether other people are cafeteria Mormons (especially in light of Christ’s teachings to “judge not” and to worry about the beams in our own eyes rather than the motes in others’ eyes); and (2) why do self-described cafeteria Mormons even care whether other Mormons approve or disapprove of their choices? Worrying about this sort of social disapproval seems to display a lack of spiritual independence and personal conviction in the path one has chosen to take.

    I know, I’m responding to comments out of order, but they sure grabbed me in that order, so to speak.

  34. FWIW, I read JulieAnn’s initial comments exactly the way Ray did. But since she says she meant to disparage lower-level callings rather than the people who serve in them, I accept her clarification.

    That said, I’m not quite sure what to make of such disparagement of lower level callings. That’s where, IMO, the true “Christian service” in the church takes place. In general, I’d therefore say that those positions and the work performed through them are far more valuable than the work done by General Authorities.

  35. #38 Ray,

    It seems so appropriate that you call my argument on your alleged patriarchal bluster as “hogwash” when I said as much myself– but I also had called your argument hogwash, although I believe my words, if I may quote myself, were “deeply flawed.” And you just did it again. This is cafeteria feasting at its most finite and internet blogging refined, selecting portions of posts and totally missing the thread of the argument. I was attempting to stop the pissing contest by actually looking at what was being said in totality and it was you who brought us back to the urinal.

    From what I read JulieAnn was speaking passionately about how she felt on the entree of religious heirarchy of the wealthy and its fundamental conflict with the wine of Christian charity to continue the poetic metaphor.

    One particularly delicious morsel from the cafetria of Mormonism is D&C 121:43. JulieAnn illustrated this scripture perfectly in how she has dealt with you in this comment thread, although you will have to make the concession that her initial outburst of reprovement with sharpness came from the Holy Ghost. After the disagreement sprouted up, she showed an increase of love by apologizing for misunderstandings, asking for peace and a safe place to discuss and dissent, lest you be deemed as her enemy. Classic Momonism done by the self-professed heathen, simply lovely. Maybe you should worry less about how she disagrees with you and more about what she might teach you about your own beliefs.

    I must address the issue of the poor. In my opinion, JulieAnn’s viewpoint was the only one so far that has been compassionate, concerned and focused on treating the poor with the respect they deserve. By stating the poor are under represented in leadership positions, she was asking why more people weren’t chowing down on the brussel sprouts (United Order) and brocolli (Law of Consecration) of Mormonism.

    And GBSmith #36 and #39 — My initial reaction was “How do I know that GBSmith is not Ray?” Come on, if misquoting and diversion are Ray’s modus operandi, then GBSmith’s is name calling and emulating talk radio ditto-heads.

    Communism and the United Order have much more in common than the United Order and Capitalism.

    D&C 42:30 and 32 [T]hou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them. . . . that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants.

    Karl Marx: “The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property” and this gem that I think he stole from Joseph Smith or God depending on how you view Joseph’s revelatory abilities: “From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need.”

    Wing-nut? No, just surveying the buffet of contradiction that is contemporary Mormonism.

  36. Oh dear. Missing my point again and again.

    Adam, I didn’t find this blog through you, so you don’t have to repent. And if you de-friend me on FaceBook, I’d be surprised. You have a mind that’s a little more broad than most.

    As for the “poor” of the Church I was advocating for them, not disparaging them. My point was that the Church chooses it’s leadership based, in part, by their pocketbooks. THAT, friends, was my one and only point. All other points were conflated and misconstrued. No one doubts there are many good, poor members in your Church. And you’re right, kuri, those jobs are probably more important than a GA position. I know being a visiting teacher or YW adviser can be the most influential callings of them all in people’s personal lives.

    Again, at the risk of belaboring the point, no disparagement was meant toward the poor of your Church. Only the criticism of the LACK of poor representation among the upper echelons.

    I see I will have to step lightly on these threads. I believe Elder Ballard warned members to avoid being defensive in recent conference remarks. I think he gave some very sound advice that everyone can agree upon.

  37. Point of clarification, Ray is a believer and GBSmith probably isn’t. I took issue with JulieAnn’s statements about wealth as a factor in choice of LDS church leadership because it’s a flawed argument. I think the fallacy is titled “after this therefore because of this”. You have to be wealthy to be a GA therefore not being wealthy means you can’t be a GA. And the only proof offered is a list of wealthy GAs. I don’t see that as a defense of the poor, just a bad argument.

    As far as communism and the united order goes communism is supposed to morph through a dictatorship of the proletariat with centralized planning and control until the state can “wither away”. The united order is more like anarchism where people work cooperatively for the benefit of the group, much like the cooperative efforts in Brigham City but within a religious/moral framework.

    As for name calling I promise not to do it again if you agree not to mention my name in the same breath with Glen Beck.

    Lastly, Ulysseus, I didn’t feel I was being reproved by someone that was moved by the spirit and afterwards shown forth an increase in love. I saw it as an angry outburst by someone with issues about the LDS church. And as someone who’s been there, done that, and bought the T shirt it just seemed all too familiar.

  38. GB…

    My premise was that wealthy people are promoted. Period. I gave a small list of examples. If that’s flawed, okay. But I cited more solid evidence than you were able to cite.

    “…anarchism where people work cooperatively…” Huh? You lost me. Anarchy is the polar opposite of cooperation.

    I think my posts have been rather conciliatory based on the vehemence with which I was misquoted, misunderstood and accused, quite frankly. But that’s me. I am trying to bridge the gap of understanding. I expected a little more from readers of Mormon Matters. I expected an acknowledgment of the lack of representation of the poor in leadership positions–major leadership positions. Instead, inconsequential things in my comments were focused on, taken out of context and personalized.

    Finally, consider the Name That Shall Not Be Named (although your initials ARE quite suspect…) stricken from my vocabulary and never again shall I state said name within the breath of yours.


  39. Glen Beck — weird, unconnected political comments like fascist (extreme right wing) communist (extreme left wing) progressive (reform minded lefties) socialists (Europeans).

    Deep brathe so GBSmith won’t be offended. Remember, we all must take a breath so this doesn’t become name calling.

    I thought I’d offer a little dictionary to help decipher GBSmith’s previous post.

    Dictatorship: autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual
    Proletariat: the entire lower social class
    Anarchism: chaos and/or disorder or absence of a political state
    Cooperative: getting along in an attitude absent of chaos and disorder
    Religious Moral Framework: (I’m assuming that you are referring to the early theocracy of the Mormon church) Political state, not absence of a political state, but a religious and moral political state

    I noticed the intitials too, GB. Only if I was a conspiracy theorist would I want to say that two people with the same initials who also make weird nonsensical word choices relating to political ideaologies were in fact the same person or had at least earned the privilege of being mentioned in the same breath.

  40. Obviously, different people believe different things – even about what they and others say. I won’t be contributing any more to this thread.

  41. Actually the original meaning of anarchism was no government, that is government by committee. From Wikipedia “Anarchism is a political philosophy encompassing theories and attitudes which consider the state, as compulsory government, to be unnecessary, harmful, and/or undesirable, and favors the absence of the state (anarchy).”
    Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a 19th century anarchist that wikipedia mentions and whose writings are along the line of what we’re talking about. “While he opposed communism and favoured remuneration for labour, he also opposed capitalist wage labour (i.e. profiting from someone else’s labour).[24] He also opposed rent, interest, and profit. He supported an economic system called mutualism. He urged workers “to form themselves into democratic societies, with equal conditions for all members, on pain of a relapse into feudalism.”

    Ursula le Guin used anarchism as the basis for one her her novels, “The Dispossessed”. For a long time after reading it it was common for my kids to caution each other about being propertarian.

    Sorry to be long winded. It was a popular movement during the 17 and 1800s and spoke to the working class’s desire to take control of their lives. What you see now days is a bunch of snot nose kids trashing Starbucks in the name of freedom.

  42. Ulysseus, I’ve read Joyce, but I’m half Greek (two grandparents buried there). It is always the wily Odysseus, whereas Joyce (I guess I was given my first Joyce book about forty years ago for Christmas by my Aunt None) really isn’t, and used the Roman name to boot 😉

    Lots of wealthy people are not promoted. My first mission president was a BYU professor, very modest means, the second was the executive vice president for Marriott Corporation. The BYU prof ended up going further, so to speak, than the multi-millionaire.

    However, it is true that the lack of representation of the poor in leadership positions–major leadership positions to the extent you are talking positions that involve significant executive work, very few poor people have that kind of experience. But Robert Oaks, for example, walked away from wealth as a Stake President (he retired from the military, moved for a job where he could expect to make some real money, got called as a Stake President, decided that the calling needed him full time and resigned from his job, to live off his military retirement). Dallin Oaks did not make that much money as an academic or serving on the Utah Supreme Court. (We had Robert Oaks in a branch with us, I took a class from Dallin Oaks). Gordon B. Hinckley was not wealthy, very much working class in income and wealth. I don’t know about Thomas S. Monson.

    I remember driving by Spencer W. Kimball’s house, it was modest, I think it was plaster and around a small three bedroom in size.

    Jeffrey R. Holland has had a career as a an academic. Not a great path to wealth.

    Airline pilots are solidly middle class in Europe.

    Marvin J. Ashton was not wealthy.

    Hmm. Lots I don’t know about. deJager’s kids were humble, if he had money, they were not getting to spend it, though he had a successful business career, it was on the European side, where the executives at his level did not make a significant multiple of the workers.

    “The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” — that is a matter of having a named entity to hold property, issue checks and solve a number of transmission issues. It is an artifact of trust law and anti-catholic legislation in many states. I do not see it as having deeper significance.

    David Allan Bednar is also an academic.

    Well, I’m off to bed, but that offers some perspective.

  43. As far as “upper echelon” positions and my opinion on who fills them:

    In reality, they are past the point where they have much personal, one-on-one impact in the lives of real members. They don’t even want to get letter directly but want us to address it through our local leaders. So once you get past essentially a bishop in the hierarchy, you are basically just an administrator or a bureaucrat in many ways. Therefore, people who get promoted to those areas generally have 2 main characteristics:

    1) Don’t rock the boat: The days of someone like J Golden Kimball or similar being promoted in the Church are long gone. Loyalty is valued above all. You have to be willing to bury your own personal opinion for the opinion of someone above you in the hierarchy for the sake of the organization.

    2) Corporate mentality: This is somewhat related to #1, but you have to be someone who thrives on policies and handbooks and organizational charts. You have to be adept at handling “office politics”. For an excellent discussion on this, read the section in McKay’s biography on what went on for years behind the scenes just in order to get to the point where the revelation on blacks and the priesthood was even possible.

    Given these 2 characteristics, it becomes more apparent why “successful” people from a worldly sense also get promoted up the “ladder” in the Church. Wealth probably isn’t the primary causal factor (ie. wealth = promotion), but both wealth and promotion likely come from someone who is good at AND is willing to “play the game”. Someone successful at managing people in the workplace is probably going to also be successful in managing people in the Church. Someone who isn’t quite as skillful at managing people in the workplace, or someone who doesn’t really care for all of that anyways, probably isn’t going to be successful in the hierarchy.

    All that being said, I don’t really see why it’s that big of a deal. Perhaps it’s because I live in Salt Lake, but I don’t equate hierarchal position with spirituality. I have seen too many “highly ranked” leaders be absolute crooks when it comes to business. I think at the end of the day, the truly concerned YW advisor who helps a single girl become closer to God is going to do much better than someone in the “Upper echelon”.

    And I certainly wouldn’t want to be there myself.

  44. I think Mormon leaders tend to be at least relatively affluent, but I’m not convinced that it’s necessarily because of some sort of widespread personal prejudice against poor people. Non-GA Mormon leaders are volunteers who put in a lot of unpaid work. I think working-class people tend to have less leisure time and less autonomy, so they have less time available for volunteering. And that probably also means less opportunity to “prove themselves” in more and more responsible callings and to get to know and to gain the confidence of other leaders. So they may tend to get “left behind” their more affluent peers as they move up the hierarchy.

  45. #51: You may be onto something there.

    Lower-echelon Mormon leaders do often tend to come from economic elites — doctors, lawyers (accounting for my last 3 stake presidents) & merchant chiefs. Don’t know much about the breakdown of the Quorums of the Seventy, but suspect they’re similar.

    But as for the Twelve, they do seem to come from less wealthy backgrounds. I wonder if that comes from that small, select caste being groomed from an early age for leadership, with the result that they are less likely to rise to the upper echelons of business or the professions.

  46. Ulysseus. Your comments about my “nonsensical word choices” have been grating on me so I thought I’d copy something from wikidpedia.

    “In Marxism, the dictatorship of the proletariat denotes the transitional socialist State between the capitalist class society and the classless communist society. During the transition, the State can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat,[1] thus the term refers to the Classical Roman dictatura concept — republican and constitutional — whereby the proletarian government would replace the incumbent capitalist economic system and its socio-political supports, i.e. the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”.”

    I’m sorry that you didn’t understand the reference and felt the need to make your remarks. Sometimes it’s best to educate yourself before seeking to educate others.

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