Wealth & Worthiness

Shawn Larsen christianity, church, LDS, Leaders, Mormon, politics, Priesthood 35 Comments

I have long believed that the Church’s reliance on a lay clergy is both one of its strongest selling points, as well as one of its greatest weaknesses. On the hand, our DIY approach to religion results, among other things, in folks having a very personal stake in building the Kingdom, which is a plus. On the other hand, following a leader who is simply plucked from the congregation, without any formal training or indoctrination, can lead to the imposition of personal, non-doctrinal strictures (e.g., Stake Presidents banning beards and other such nonsense). This, of course, is too big a topic to cover well in a single post. So, I want to focus on one particular aspect of the lay clergy dynamic that has been on my mind lately — the role a member’s wealth (or lack thereof) can play on his/her worthiness to serve.

Before going any further, let me define what I mean by “worthiness.” I’m not necessarily talking just about my personal relationship with God, i.e., freedom from sin. I’m using the term in the more colloquial sense we all use in a ward setting on Sunday mornings, i.e., being “worthy” to hold a calling means not only that I am striving to keep the commandments, but also that I have passed muster in an interview with a leader (“I have interviewed Brother Larsen and found him worthy to clean the restroom floors every third Sunday afternoon”). While the two concepts overlap, they are not the same, in my mind.

Here’s what I see happening with increasing frequency as the Church fully embraces a more corporate model: Priesthood leadership positions being given to those who are financially better off than most of the congregants over whom they preside. On its face, there may be nothing alarming about this phenomenon. Wealth certainly is not a sin (well, except for maybe for that whole “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” stuff) and should not be a barrier to an otherwise worthy person’s service in a leadership position. However, when only the wealthy are moved up the ranks, it sends a clear message to others: wealth = worthiness. This is especially pronounced in a lay clergy community such as ours, where every member, at least on paper, has an equal chance at attaining wealth and position.

We’ve all heard stories of General Authorities dispatched to pick a new Stake President, and who, under the influence of the Spirit, and choose a humble (i.e., non-rich) guy who has been reactivated for a few months. That has not been my experience; my last three Stake Presidents have all been very successful (i.e., rich) attorneys. In fact, when I first moved into the area, the entire Stake Presidency, down to the Executive Secretary, were lawyers. Even in the wilds of Guatemala, where no one was rich by any American standard, leadership positions tended to rotate among the those who had more than others. Thinking back, virtually all of my Bishops have been very successful white collar professionals. The same is true of Mission Presidents.

Why is this problematic? Because it can lead to a virulent strain of classism amongst members. Those with more money (and position) begin to believe themselves to be more favored of God than other, less-blessed members. Once these folks get into power, they may come to believe that, as evidenced by their pocketbooks, they are more in touch with God’s will, and thus are entitled to push their interpretation of His will onto those they preside over. Similarly, leaders looking at open ward positions may tend to gravitate to the more affluent, assuming their wealth to be an indicator of their worthiness. At the same time, poorer members believe that their financial situation is a curse from God, leading to lowered self-esteem, lessened spirituality and, potentially, departure from the Church.

Such thinking is not unprecedented. Over the past two decades, a new strain of evangelical Christianity based on the principle that wealth equals worthiness, and vice-versa, has come to prominence. Led by televangelists such Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen and the Crouchs, this “prosperity theology” (aka the “Health and Wealth” or “Name It and Claim It” Gospel) teaches that religious piety will result in the adherent’s material prosperity. Put another way, the more righteous one is, the more financial success he/she can expect to enjoy. In this view, wealth becomes the measure of one’s devotion to God — the more you have, the more “worthy” you must be in the eyes of God and his church. (Apparently, it doesn’t always work out that way, even for celebrities). Preachers of this doctrine are known for their flashy lifestyles, expensive cars, and big paychecks. For example, the New York Times reported that Rev. Dollar is the proud owner of “Rolls-Royces, private jets, million-dollar Atlanta home and $2.5 million Manhattan apartment” (Perhaps I should say, “was the proud owner” — the Senate, led by Chuck Grassley, has opened a probe into the finances of six “prosperity theology” televangelists, including Dollar).

Perhaps you’re thinking I am overstating the case. “Come on, that sort of thing doesn’t actually happen, right?” Wrong. I live in Orange County, California, one of the most affluent counties in the country. Just think of all the reality shows glamorizing the OC lifestyle (“Laguna Beach” & “The Hills,” just to name two). Heck, the housing community where “The Real Housewives of Orange County” is filmed is in my Stake! While we’re not into Creflo Dollar territory just yet, I have had several friends relay to me their concerns over the seeming connection between wealth and worthiness in their wards. One buddy of mine, who is among the few families not to live in the gated community housing the majority of his ward, has told me several times how out of place he feels sitting in Elders’ Quorum while CEOs use lessons to swap stories of their latest international adventures. For me, I’ll admit its strange to pull into a parking lot full of sports cars for Stake Conference.

At the risk of sending this whole topic down the rabbit hole of yet another SSM debate, let me highlight another way in which wealth and worthiness may be inappropriately linked. Here in California, we are in the throes of a pitched battle over Proposition 8, which would amend the California Constitution to outlaw gay marriage. As part of its effort to ensure passage of Prop 8, local stakes (at least here in the OC) have set/been given member fundraising goals. Bishops are responsible for making sure their ward’s goal is met. To do so, talks are given in Sacrament meeting, and lessons are given in the 2d and 3d hours to encourage donations. To make up any remaining difference, ward leaders may send out a mailer to a select number of ward members and/or call through the ward list to ask for money. At the extreme, I am aware of instances in which Bishops have gone into the homes of members to personally request a donation, down to the exact penny.

Personally, I find this sort of behavior problematic for a number of reasons which go beyond the scope of this post. But as an active member of the ward, I am expecting to get the call to donate any day now, along with many others who may share my point of view. If I refuse to commit to a donation on the spot or if I refuse to disclose (i) whether I have donated/will donate, or (ii) how much I have donated/plan to donate, I foresee the potential for a black mark on my worthiness. While my leaders know and like me and I hope that they will understand/respect my point of view, there is the possibility that could be viewed as me “not being part of the team” and, as a result, not “worthy” of priesthood callings. At the same time, those who have more money to give (the wealthy) and who, as a result, give large donations, are likely to be viewed as more worthy. Again, the underlying message is, wealth = worthiness.

For my money (pardon the pun), I think this is an issue worth examining. The Book of Mormon is rife with examples of harmony within the Nephite community being totally undone by wickedness springing directly from the pride of members as a result of their wealth. The question is, how do we address the problem, apart from advising leaders not to take wealth into account when making callings. What do you think? Am I seeing something that is not there? Also, I’m interested to know if this trend (if you want to call it that in the first place) is unique to the West, where there is a concentration of Mormons (and, hence, more rich Mormons).

Comments

comments

Comments 35

  1. I saw something similar when I was in the military years ago. Ward leadership positions seemed to correlate quite often with rank (which also correlates to money and pay grades). I suppose one could argue that those people were experienced and trained secular leaders, and therefore made for a good pool of spiritual leaders to draw from for the Church callings.

    I’ve had the feeling before though that some in the Church at times associate their material prosperity with being blessed for their righteousness. It’s a dangerous trap. The BOM has many warnings against it.

  2. Shawn, I also live in Southern CA, in a stake that ranges from extremely affluent on one end to prosperous in the middle and just getting by on the other end. Almost all of the stake leaders during our 14 years living here have come from the most prosperous ward.

    I am also getting ready for the Prop 8 financial frenzy that is coming. What disturbs me is the unspoken assumption that merely donating money is a righteous deed, and donating lots of money is more righteous. Did you know that all donations in excess of $100 to protectmarriage.org, the group the church is asking donations for, are public record and available on a website? So anyone with a web browser can see just how righteous you really are.

  3. Could it just be that the people who make a lot of money have more flexibility in their schedule and therefore asking them to serve in those positions is less of a tax on their time?

    Heck, I don’t know if I’d want to worry about it. Maybe God is punishing them for their wealth by making them serve in those callings! :0)

  4. I heard it directly from a General Authorities mouth that obedience to the gospel will make one prosperous in the land and success in business was an indicator of blessings of heaven. This was Vaughn Featherstone in about 1993 -1994.

    It isn’t too uncommon in Protestant communities – I think of Max Weber’s book about the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. I don’t like the idea, but it isn’t surprising.

  5. I happen to live in a VERY prosperous ward, where a 3600 sq foot house on a 1/4 acre plot will run you plenty of money, and there are plenty of members living in such houses. Not CEO’s, but dangit if they aren’t well paid.

    The stake president is from this ward, and yes, he lives in a very nice house. Here’s the thing: wealth IS a big factor in many wards.

    I don’t think its easy to give a calling to someone who is struggling financially. I think rather than wealth what a lot of people tend to look for is a sense that you are stable. That you are really grounded in your life. That you have your affairs in order, and it’s easy to mistake wealth as a sign of stability and lack of wealth in an affluent area as instability. Conflation of signals like this is a serious problem. I think for MOST people this is a sincere thing.

    Now there are some who truly subscribe to this theology of wealth for righteousness. As near as I can tell it is a flawed theology because there are times when it can break down–that’s what the ENTIRE BOOK OF JOB was about! Teaching us that wealth is not the entire reward: that there is a test that can come that can truly push us to our limits.

    Anyone looking to a person’s wealth to measure their worthiness should think of Job, then remember that it is impossible to know where a person is within that metaphor.

  6. Shawn – this is different from my experience. In PA, my bishops/branch presidents were almost all college professors. In TX, our branch president was a blue collar guy. In NJ, our branch president was pretty average Joe also. In UT, we had a variety of bishops, but I wouldn’t have said any were terribly upscale. Most were doing something either in sales or entrepeneurial (which did give them more freedom over their schedule). Currently, we live in a very affluent ward. The highest callings are not to the most affluent members, although everyone’s doing well.

    I agree with the principle that a bishop must to a certain extent have his own house in order, meaning generally free from crippling debt and enough financial freedom that he’s not presiding over decisions about his own family’s welfare needs (which seems like a conflict of interest to me).

    But we clearly have cautions in the BOM and from church leaders (plus Jesus) that wealth can lead to pride and destruction. BY wondered whether the church members could handle their newfound prosperity, and they didn’t even have indoor plumbing!

  7. From personal history I’ve found those called to Stake President are more frequently of prominent business executive status who know their place in business structure and chain of command and administration. Often SPs have been wealthy, but not always. I’ve more often had Bishops who are more gifted as administrators regardless of wealth. Good ministers have been very, very rare. I’ve only had a couple who really have touched my life like a gifted minister can. But then, to be fair, it could also have been because of personality chemistry; some bishops who haven’t meshed with me probably touched other lives.

    A major eyebrow raiser for me was my dad. He was quite a flexible, “spirit of the law,” people-oriented person even as a bishopric member and became quite stilted after being called to bishop. The administration load is enormous, and some of his complaints have been revealing. One especially curious one was after he proposed a man to counselor who wore an earring. Even though the man was willing to give up the earring, even though that man thought it shouldn’t matter with God, he was willing to be submissive. Yet the SP gave my dad mounds of grief for considering a man who even wore one in the first place. I think the challenge in Mormonism isn’t just the lack of training in theology, scripture, counseling and ministry for leaders, but the greater issue may be that there is a typecast for the kind of men who are elevated into positions of authority. I’m not sure wealth is the greatest predictor.

    At any rate, “affluenza” certainly permeates religious cultures, too. Thanks for bringing up the “The Proseperity Gospel” which has been a very controversial and divisive approach to ministry within American evangelicalism. The Jesus Shaped Spirituality blog was just talking last weekend about some of the fruit the “Prosperity Gospel” appears to produce, as evidenced by the proceedings of a civil case against Joel Osteen’s wife: http://jesusshaped.wordpress.com/2008/08/09/what-does-the-osteens-gospel-produce

    I think it is fair to judge if a leader is a person who leads us to a better relationship with God or not. Of course, I am speaking as a Christian of a different culture now who views my leader as a shepherd who has demonstrated consensual trust and authority to speak into and guide my life. I view that God “called” us into a spiritual relationship and community together. I don’t really view him in the way I once perceived my LDS bishops, as externally “called” authority-leaders.

    Maybe LDS bishops can serve for others the kind of spiritual role-relationship I value for myself, however.

  8. My bishop and stake president do OK, but we easily have several people just in my ward who out-wealth them by far. I’m sure in the whole stake there’s many more who do to. Wealth might be a consideration, but it’s not the only one.

  9. hawkgrrrl said, “I agree with the principle that a bishop must to a certain extent have his own house in order, meaning generally free from crippling debt and enough financial freedom that he’s not presiding over decisions about his own family’s welfare needs (which seems like a conflict of interest to me)”

    I think this is a wise perspective. Also, the “pastoral epistles’ (Tims and Titus) give us guidelines for the kind of “house of order” that should be expected for leaders of a flock, including for the flock itself. Some of them are obvious, but some can seem pretty strict, for example (1 Tim 3; Titus 1) a “husband of one wife” has been strictly interepreted by some congregations that divorcees and unmarried men are disqualified — and certainly is problematic for polygamists *wink*. Having seen some bishop’s families (including my own father’s *wink*) it was good the “having all his children in subjection with all gravity…” was not strictly interpreted.

  10. Great post Shawn. I have a hard time even thinking about the wealth/worthiness issue because I get so worked up about it.

    Most of my bishops have been relatively wealthy, but they have all been great leaders, fortunately. I agree with the above comments that leaders should have things in order, otherwise the calling could be crippling (or more than it already is)… I don’t get the correlation though. Jesus routinely slams the wealthy UNLESS they give it all to the kingdom/serving others. How many wealthy members can say the ONLY reason they sought wealth was to help others.

    As you said, not to get into another SSM discussion, but I’m really glad I don’t live in CA.

  11. I don’t have much to add to the discussion only to posit that perhaps mission presidents fit this mold because they have to finance their missions. From what I understand, my mission president just applied to go on a mission with his wife and he was called to be the mission president.

    It’s been a while since I checked on the lengths of senior missions, but it was 18 months when I was a missionary. Since a mission president serves for twice as long, it kind of makes sense that more affluent people are called to that type of position. This argument of course ignores any spiritual aspect of the call… but so does the post.

  12. vbg – I had two mission presidents, but the first one was not terribly wealthy, which I guess is the exception. He had been in CES most of his adult life… In fact, I had a conversation with a son of a GA a few years ago, and he said that GAs often are called from the ranks of successful businessmen, or from CES, which creates almost two completely different schools of thought. Granted, Institute instructors make more than they used to, but they’re not rich.

  13. I believe that those who have had successful businesses or professions tend to be or seem more grounded, stable, and able (time-wise) to administer in leadership callings. I have never seen a direct correlation between wealth and leadership in any of my wards, but maybe I haven’t been paying attention. There may also be a correlation between education and leadership positions.

    As a people, if we are obedient to God, we will prosper financially; but individually, we have no such promise. Some individuals will be rich; some will be poor; but our general focus on education and stable families will lift us and future generations financially.

    AdamF said: “Jesus routinely slams the wealthy UNLESS they give it all to the kingdom/serving others.” This is a good point that I have to ponder.

  14. I have asked my self this same question. I really like some of the comments given. My stake president is very wealthy as well, and the one before him was his business partner.

    One thing that came to mind (and it isn’t always the case), but besides being financially stable, wealthy people are hard workers and usually pretty influential people (remember, not always the case). Our stake president does seminars for a living and is an amazing speaker. He is very driven, and thus, so is the stake.

    This is just one point to consider, but I actually feel the same way as Shawn. I have seen how money can make people feel spiritually “above” others. It can be frustrating.

  15. JfQ: “it was good the “having all his children in subjection with all gravity…” was not strictly interpreted.” Well, you know what they always say about The Bishop’s Kids! 😉

    AdamF said: “Jesus routinely slams the wealthy UNLESS they give it all to the kingdom/serving others.” Jesus told the rich young man that, and the rich young man went away sorrowing. Does that mean you have to actually give it all away or that you should just not place your heart on the things of this world?

    If wealth does not equal worthiness, I don’t think we should assume it equals unworthiness either. Wealth is a temptation, whether you have it or don’t. The prideful rich think they are better than the poor; the prideful poor think they are better than the rich. The wealth is not the issue; the pride is.

  16. I would say that on average, given how ridiculously wealthy the major industrial nations are, people who can be trusted to lead large numbers of people have to beat off wealth with a stick. Even the mildest competence at getting by in life distinctly shoves one towards the wealthier side of the spectrum. There are few professions, public education perhaps being one of the glaring exceptions, where by the time you’re getting towards your late 40’s you have to be at least a mild screw-up not to be making a good deal of money and have accumulated significant capital. The correlation isn’t between responsible callings and wealth, it’s between responsible callings and being a responsible person, which is correlated with wealth. Remember, the average IQ is 100. How much responsibility are you willing to give to a person with an IQ of 100?

  17. Frankly, this has been one of few “raw nerves” in gospel thought aka issues that tend to get my “fight” hormones flowing. Alas, I have found that in general (there have been a few exceptions), the rule has been to give the callings to those who are “stable.” I see wisdom in this, though, unfortunately, as Elder Maxwell so noted, whenever we have truth (those in stable positions make the best leaders), when we don’t have love, we tend to have some behavioral/doctrinal anomalies.

    The problem isn’t so much that the doctrine of stability (so-called) is incorrect as it is allowed to be an independent principle without being checked by other doctrines (I see this often within the church). By letting this principle have free reign (or any other principle, for that matter), we equate it with righteousness. The same could be said of temple work (he who goes to the temple regularly is “righteous”)…or even of other principles (patience, gentility, inquisitiveness)…all our true principles provided that they exist together. Otherwise, we end up with strange ideas about money, temple work, or tithing equating righteousness.

  18. I believe the temptation is there to equate wealth with righteousness, but I also believe that the ability to spend TIME in a leadership calling is considered even more heavily. That consideration favors the financially stable and schedule-flexible.

    I think the “bright-line” demarcation is that someone who is struggling to feed and clothe and support self and family is not is a good position to do so for others. “Righteousness”, in the end, has little to do with leadership. That is misunderstood by many, but they really are very different qualities.

  19. I’ve had a large variety of experiences in this regards.

    All I can say about my current high priest’s group is that the leader makes less than the first assistant who makes less than the second … 😉

    I think it varies, though I do agree that we have a strain of neo-calvinism running through the Church, and have written about it from time to time.

    That said, Stake Presidents have to handle a lot of administrative tasks. Generally, that particular skill comes with a particular background.

  20. Ray (19): Great point. This is one reason I like the pastoral epistles. Paul (or his stand in) says it’s a good work to desire the office of episkopes — bishop, overseer, elder or pastor, depending on epistle and translation — but the kind of sobering demands he outlines aren’t a match for everyone. When we see such service as an expression of desire, ability, preparation and gifting, but not of greater righteousness (Romans 3) then there should be less creation (or perception) of distinct spiritual castes, classes or worlds — which was one of the valid beefs Luther had. After all, our greatest Leader is Servant of us all. We are all unrighteous without His justification, no matter how well we do or don’t fit the biblical definition for an episkopes.

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  22. It is clearly erroneous to equate wealth with worthiness. Your post does well to point this out.

    But it seems like you’re also making the assumption that holding a leadership position implies that a person is more “worthy” than everyone else for that position. Given the definition of “worthy” that you set forth in the post, most active LDS are equally “worthy” to serve in leadership positions – meaning this type of worthiness is a pass or fail type – either you’ve got the temple recommend in your pocket or you don’t. If this is our standard of worthiness, then worthiness is not what determines who will be bishop – because anyone with a temple recommend is “worthy” to be bishop (or president of the church).

    Since leaderhsip positions in our church are largely administrative in nature (as opposed to ministrative), it’s not surprising that those who have been successful in business are given leadership positions.

  23. I wish I could remember the person who shared this, but I remember clearly hearing a new apostle say that he told the Prophet who extended the calling to him that there must be dozens (or hundreds) of men who were more worthy than he for the calling. The response was, “No, there aren’t. There are thousands. You’re not the most worthy; you’re just the one the Lord wants for this calling.”

    The quote isn’t exact, I’m sure, but the central point is vital, imo.

  24. Data point estimate from my (US, expensive cost of living) ward/area:
    current bishop: in the top 10% wealthy in ward (accountant)
    his counsellors: top 25%
    Previous bishop: top 15% (accountant)
    his counsellors: top 40%. school teachers.
    Current stake president: dunno
    his counselors: top 30% (cop; small businessman)
    Previous stake pres: top 40% (retired schoolteacher)

    Over the 10 years I’ve lived here, we’ve had a mix of socioeconomic classes represented. There’s greater variability for the other leadership roles, and many economic stripes have been called, but less well-off people eventually ask to be released. The people who work 60-70 hour/wk and weekends to make ends meet end up getting released so they can spend their few waking free moments with their families, or heck even attending church.

    I’m glad I don’t suffer from wealth=worthiness culture in my ward/stake.

  25. Both our current and previous bishop make modest livings, live in modest homes and drive modest cars. However (as others have already pointed out), they have flexible jobs that enable them to put out fires as needed. Come to think of it, our stake president is middle class, at best, too. Perhaps the wealth = worthiness is an OC phenomenon?

  26. I think overall this is a correct supposition-90% correct. Their will always be those that will share the odd example that varies. Some stakes are probably just happy to have some one willing to take on the callings.

    At least as I review the areas I have lived, Salt Lake, Canada and England. Your post fits the model perfectly and my stake now it’s a spot on resemblance.

    I was discussing this with a friend who just got back from Australia and he thought this article was the clone of his stake over there and his current one here.

    I went to a ward conference in a stake near by when it was over all the stake officers, high council men pulled away in Jags , Mercs and BMers. I felt awkward pulling away in our family Peugeot estate (kind of made sure we were one of the last to leave.)

    When wealth gets to certain level its not like the richest millionaires get the Stake Presidency position. Being just a humble millionaire may be enough. It becomes irrelevant.

    A similar thing you may notice with wealth is if your income in comparison to a friend stays static and their wealth increases they tend at least in their minds eye to become more of an authority on all issues i.e. health, relationship advice, the economy etc.

    Could be a similar phenomenon going on with leaders of the Church. Their secular life is succeeding and gives them more confidence in their spiritual lives.

  27. Fwiw, in the case of a stake and ward where I have lived – assuming nothing has changed since I lived there:

    The stake president is very well off, while his counselors are upper middle class. The High Council is made up of a mid-level manager (with a large, young family, so relatively poor), a mid-level accountant (relatively poor), an upper/mid-level manager (solid middle class), three retired military officers (well-off but not rich), a general manager of a small company (relatively poor), two bank executives (very well off), a recruiter (middle class, and married to a non-member – just fyi), a handyman (moderately well off due to being incredibly frugal) and one whose professional background I don’t know but who is at least upper middle class.

    Honestly, I think that is representative of the Church in general. My current stake president is the only one of the Stake Presidency and High Council whose job makes him travel extensively, while all of the others have at least a degree of control over their schedules – at least being available most weekends and evenings for their required meetings. Most of them are “more well off” than the “average” member, but I believe only 1-3 of them are in the top 5% of the church members in this area economically – and at least 5 of them (33%) are in the bottom half. Also, only one bishop can be considered “rich”, and two of them (at least) are not “well off” by any stretch.

    In my current ward, the bishop is an accountant whose wife had to work to help finance their son’s and daughter’s missions – even with “only” three children. His counselors are a school teacher who has had some very rough times financially, and a handyman who worked three jobs prior to being called into the bishopric. At one time, our ward organist was two people – a 13-year-old deacon who was the regular organist (and an amazing musician) and the President of a fairly large company (one of the richest men in the ward) who played the prelude music and then turned over the organ to the deacon. He is a rich, articulate, influential, intelligent, humble man who has never been a bishop or stake president. A local college dean has been a bishop and a SP Counselor – and now is a counselor in the YM Presidency. Our most recent bishop owns a small business and barely makes anything from it – and served for a time as a co-nursery leader after he was released as bishop.

    General stereotypes might be accurate in broad brush strokes, but they certainly don’t constitute “the rule”, based on my decades in the Church – in two countries and four states. If you are worthy and can commit the necessary time without undue pressure on your family, I don’t believe your relative wealth will play much of a role in your callings – and sometimes the latter condition is waved when nobody else is available.

  28. Post
    Author

    Just now getting a chance to respond . . .

    #6 — I’m glad to hear this may not a be a Church-wide phenomenon. Trying to figure that out was was one of my reasons for posting. Thanks.

    #17 — “Even the mildest competence at getting by in life distinctly shoves one towards the wealthier side of the spectrum. There are few professions, public education perhaps being one of the glaring exceptions, where by the time you’re getting towards your late 40’s you have to be at least a mild screw-up not to be making a good deal of money and have accumulated significant capital.” Are you serious? Either you’re pulling my leg, have a much looser definition of “significant capital” than I do, or you are not living the real world.

    #18 — great thoughts. I agree.

  29. I have been in the church all my life and I have had Bishops from all walks of life. Most led modest lives financially and one was the president of a swiss holding company. All of them were incredible men.

    Our current stake president is an educator with a PHD, travels a considerable amount and I think that earns a decent wage but I would not call him extraordinaly wealthy. He will be released in two weeks and although we live in a very affluent part of California I am thinking of all of those that will likely be interviewed (myself included) and I do not know any that are off the charts wealthy. There are many whose wealth give them more flexibilty with their time and this I believe is a key factor in many such decisions.

  30. Shawn’s model works most of the time. But as stakes and wards revolve after 5 years typically for Bishops and 9 years for Stake Presidents , the wards and stakes use up the well to do pool eventually and have no choice but pull those callings from a lower economic band as the higher echelons of wealth have been used.

  31. While my current stake president is said to pull in about $5 million (CAD) a year, I too have had bishops and branch presidents that were certainly in a lower class. My branch president back home right now is an accountant at a little ATV store and the previous worked at a factory until he lost his job and then drove trucks until he was missing too many Sundays. My current bishop works at a phone company and I don’t think he’s making all the much either.

    Of course a thousand people could comment on how they’ve had leaders who weren’t millionaires, but really I think that one of the key points, that’s already been mentioned is stability. I remember hearing that one of the first questions asked in an interview for a calling like Stake President is “Are you in any debt?” It is vital that a person called to one of these positions is financially stable.

    I’d also like to point out that wealthy people don’t get wealthy by working a 9-5 at the local department store. They aspire for something greater and they achieve. I believe that especially in the church, where theoretically all this wealth is gained honestly, that these people are hardworking, innovative, and motivated in general. Anybody can be wealthy, most just don’t realize it right in front of them. (Fun fact: You could become wealthy working at the local department store. :-P)

    One more thing, in regards to the thought that wealth people called to leadership positions may believe that they are better because they are wealthy. Well, I thought it was a fairly commonly known fact that power tends to corrupt. I don’t think this would only be true for wealthy people, it could just as easily be somebody else who for whatever reason believe a certain attribute they possess makes them better.

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