I may choose to ignore anonymous comments. I consider this type of anonymity dishonest. Also, I don't post regularly. I post when I have something worth writing and something worth reading. I explain all this in: Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Church Leadership Corruption: Discussion 1 Introduction and Types of Stake and Unit Corruption

Since local Church leadership is lay leadership, local Church leadership is us – YOU and ME. My intent in writing this essay is so people can evaluate their own behavior, not label or malign others. It also assumes that local Church leadership at the stake and unit level is the only Church leadership corruption that needs to concern ordinary members today. Corrupt Church leadership ABOVE the stake level IS NOT addressed.

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Disclaimer: If anything I say violates scripture, modern revelation or current Church guidance like that contained in the Handbook, I withdraw it. I do not have direct access to all these materials, so I cannot be completely certain that what I am asserting is currently accurate. I hope the reader will absorb my general points and not pick at the details. Most of the details are for illustration purposes only.

1. Introduction and Types of Stake and Unit Corruption

Most scripture and commentary deals with either the Church itself going astray or individuals going astray. This series deals with individuals going astray, while serving in Church leadership positions.

In the July, 2010, Ensign, there is an article entitled, “Recognizing Righteous Leadership” by Elder Paul E. Koelliker Of the Seventy. The article’s title assumes that unrighteous leadership exists and can be a stumbling block for us.

In these last days we know that there will be extreme wickedness and every imaginable sin. It stands to reason there will be corruption amongst stake and unit leadership as well. It is inevitable. As Church members we will need to react to it. The scriptures provide us with examples of both.

Perhaps the best scriptural example is Saul and David. Saul was the Lord’s anointed and the best of men, in the beginning at least. Saul became wicked, but the Lord had not yet removed him from his divine calling. Everyone could agree Saul had fallen, but it was still the Lord’s responsibility to remove him. David did nothing to undermine Saul’s authority. He fled. He protected himself. He removed himself from Saul’s power, but he did nothing to undermine Saul. Consumed by jealously, and every conceivable demonic behavior, Saul pursued David intent on killing him.

Clearly, the message for us is to look to our own behavior. Heavenly Father must have had purpose in allowing Saul to remain. He did remove Saul in his own due time. Heavenly Father knows when his called leaders are corrupt. It is not for us to seek their removal, despite having popular approval amongst the members to do so. We must wait for the Lord to act. We will not be held accountable for their actions, only our own. It is unlikely that local Church leaders will try to kill us. The corruption will probably be evidenced in other ways.

What form will stake and unit leadership corruption take in these latter-days? Some assumptions can be made. The following list is not intended to be exhaustive, only illustrative:

- Leaders have titles such as Stake President, Bishop, Branch President, High Councilman, Relief Society President, Gospel Doctrine Teacher, etc. Corrupt leaders will wave the title and its accompanying authority, power and privilege as a flag, perhaps using it in secular settings, as well as religious ones. They will insist that people acknowledge their privileged position. In reality, these titles represent tremendous responsibility. A truly humble person would seek to be worthy of the title, not flaunt it. (See Mark 9:35. Matthew 23:11-12. God is no respecter of persons, Alma 1:26)

- Corrupt leaders will seek inordinate acclaim for anything that is done by those in callings under them. They will not allow others to appreciate the talents and skills of others, or even know about them. This inability to share the limelight suggests that the leaders want the glory for the efforts of others – priestcraft in its purest form. Seeking the limelight by anyone is not Christlike. It is His Church, His Gospel, His scriptures, etc.; no one should seek His glory. In the premortal life, it was the same story because Satan wanted the glory. Seeking personal adulation in the Church now is no different from what Satan did then (See Moses 4:1)

- Corrupt leaders will seek to sabotage, or render powerless, those they see as competitors for leadership positions, both now and in the future. This robs the Church of skills and abilities that could otherwise be used to build the Church here on earth because certain people never get called to these positions. In effect, corrupt leaders subvert the Lord’s will; if it is His will that these callings should be extended, but never are.

- Corrupt leaders allow their own desires to guide their decision making, rather than the Lord's. Conceivably, the Lord may direct a leader to extend a calling he does not want to or elevate a person the leader does not personally like. It is a test of the leader’s mettle whether or not he can rise to the challenge and implement the Lord’s will rather than his own. Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac. Nephi completely subordinated his personal will to that of the Lord’s. We must subordinate our will to His.

- Corrupt leaders will probably not seek revelation or guidance on directing the affairs under their jurisdiction, because they would not follow it even if they knew what it was.

- Corrupt leaders will control information flow in a unit in order to handicap those he or she wants to disempower.

- Corrupt leaders will seek to influence those outside their unit jurisdiction. This could be with members or non-members. When dealing with other unit members, protocol requires that they work through the individual(s) designated stake or unit leader. Church leaders only have authority inside their congregations or under their particular calling.

- Corrupt leaders may encourage their flock to pursue a particular political cause or candidate that they favor. This is simply evidence that leaders are using their position to further their own ends, rather than the Lord’s.

- Corrupt leaders will use the purse strings for their own ends.

- Corrupt leaders structure Church assignments to their own likes and dislikes and for their own ends. This could include a leader making Home Teaching or Visiting Teaching assignments, selecting one’s own friends for example.

- Corrupt leaders do not keep confidences. Obviously, certain information needs to be conveyed to certain leadership in particular positions, but no leader should ever betray confidences to ordinary members concerning other members.

- Corrupt leaders are often cliquish. Righteous leaders are egalitarian and wish all those under their purview to have the same information and resources.

- Corrupt leaders that teach in the Church are more concerned with being considered good teachers, than with teaching as the Spirit dictates. Personal acclaim for one’s teaching prowess often subverts more righteous goals. We all want to be good teachers; but people should leave a teaching event thinking that the Gospel is wonderful, not that the teacher is. Righteous teachers are more concerned with teaching the Gospel, not the personal rewards for doing so.

- Corrupt leaders tend to use their positions to acquire personal resources, influence and prestige. The “perks” of office may include restricted tickets to events, knowledge or access to prestigious persons, etc. Corrupt leaders will seek these privileges exclusively for themselves or their chosen others.

- Corrupt leaders are unlikely to follow all scriptural or Handbook guidance, especially if it conflicts with what they personally want to do. Corrupt leaders are not likely to access it or even read it. There is no point in doing so if they have little intention of following it. Often, this is the best evidence for identifying corruption in stake and unit Church leadership. If the Lord has made his will known either in scripture, modern revelation through his chosen servants or in policies and procedures contained in the Handbook; then there is never a reason to deviate from this inspired guidance. If a leader does so, he is elevating his own judgment above Heavenly Father. There is a tremendous amount of latitude in applying principles to particular circumstances at the local level. However, when the guidance is unambiguous, it should be strictly followed.

- Correct leaders manipulate information. This is the second best evidence for identifying corruption in local Church leadership. Information is power, so whoever controls the information has the power. This could include misrepresenting information about, or to, members or misrepresenting statistics.

From my management studies, I know that some people have a Jekyl and Hyde personality when they get placed in leadership positions. From D&C 121: 39 we know it is all too common.
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.

In sum, corrupt stake and unit leaders restrict the progress of the Church on this earth because of their own weaknesses. Remember, corrupt leaders can exist in any Church calling, even ones we do not normally think of as leadership. Abuse of power or authority can exist, regardless of what calling one possesses.

When I was in an International Relations class at BYU as part of my major in political science, the teacher relayed a strange story I found perplexing.

We were talking about the United Nations and all the various committees and work groups it is composed of. Our professor told us that in some of these groups all they do is get together a few times a year and make speeches about how wonderful the other members of the groups were and all the wonderful actions and activities they were doing for the group. In reality, no one did anything at all. At the time, I found this almost unbelievable.

I no longer find it unbelievable.

In fact, I think it is very common in the Church. There are a lot of references to so-and-so and what he or she did to make some event a success. A great deal of what should be worship time in our meetings get expended in these speeches. Various people get recognized and celebrated. Those not mentioned often feel slighted or jealous of those that do.

There is nothing productive or positive in these statements. Shouldn’t we seek to build the Lord’s Kingdom, regardless of whether we get recognition for it? Shouldn’t we seek to do so anonymously as the scriptures teach? Shouldn’t we allow Heavenly Father to bless people for good acts, if blessings are warranted? With our limited vision and understanding, should we be doing or saying these things? Shouldn’t we simply extend thanks in a private setting, if our thanks are in order? For people who want and seek this acclaim, don’t they have their reward?

It strikes me that when statements like, “It was such a privilege to be able to work with so-and-so.” Or, “It was such a privilege to be in his presence, [Insert name of General Authority here]" or “It was such a privilege to attend [Insert Church event here] is simply bragging about exclusive perks one was able to enjoy. There is no reason to even bring these sorts of statements up, unless one is seeking acclaim or trying to emphasize one’s so-called privileged position.

Anas, Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate and Herod were all in Christ’s “presence” and they didn’t appear to benefit from the experience. We should seek to benefit from the privileges we have, not dangle them in others’ faces.

Shouldn't we be showing our gratitude to God, instead of celebrating each other? Isn’t that what the scriptures teach us to do?


  1. I am eager to read the rest of your series!

  2. Thank-you for this series. We are in a bad situation right now in our unit. This article helped me alot. The church is true but the people are not and we must constantly keep ourselves in check so that "wolves do not destroy the sheep". Satan is going crazy right now and it is not just in the world but in the church as well. Be "humble followers of Christ" pride is the main sin in all of these situations. We must strive to be humble and not let Satan use pride to decieve us. Thank-you for your timely words of wisdom!! :)

  3. Read about corruption in Laie Hawaii by a Stake President and a few Bishops.


  4. There were a lot of people who moved out of Laie when Eric Beaver was Stake President. There was uncontrollable abuse of power. Those who questioned Hawaii Reserves were called into the Bishop's and Stake President's office to be questioned and disciplined. A guy by the name of Bishop Orme threatened church members and tried to put a gag order on any Hawaii Reserves discussions. Eric Beaver continues to be the CEO of Hawaii Reserves.

  5. I love your article, and it's about time we have church members thinking and saying these things. I live in Idaho and used to live in Utah. I get so sick of hearing nothing but praise for leaders for half the meeting. And I feel you are doing our faith a service.