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.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Church's Finances: Distorted Democracy in Mormondom

Recent articles inflaming the digital wires:

How The Mormons Make Money (Bloomberg Businessweek)

The Church and Its Financial Independence (from the Church's Newsroom)

Many across the Blogosphere are calling for the Church to be completely open in it's financials. I have several points to make on this topic.

1. The Church is not a democracy and we shouldn't expect it to be.

In a democracy, the leaders get their power and authority "from the people." This is NOT where the Church gets its power. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. He heads it. He controls it. He runs it. Obviously, he does this through his chosen leaders.

His leaders are not accountable to us and we should not expect them to be. The Church has no obligation to "account" financially to its members.

Consider that private companies do not have to account to their employees or customers either, just the government for tax purposes.

2. The Church is a top-down organization, not a bottom-up organization.

Democracies are bottom-up organizations. The Church has always functioned top-down and will likely remain so. This includes all Biblical and Book of Mormon times.

The notion that it should function bottom-up is a societal expectation from our history as a democracy. I suspect people in other lands wouldn't have this expectation.

3. It isn't your money.

From our beliefs, Heavenly Father gives us everything we have. When we pay tithing, or otherwise donate to the Church, we are simply giving Heavenly Father back what he has already given us. If you truly believe this, and I do, then it is incredibly arrogant to expect the Church to account to you for how it spends Heavenly Father's money and resources.

4. We know how the Church spends its money.

We may not know exact amounts but given we have a lay clergy and multiple people involved in all financial decisions, even at the lowest levels of the Church, we know how the Church spends its money.

Those of us who grew up in Utah (the Mormon equivalent of the Vatican), went to BYU, attended Seminary, went to Youth Conference, etc. ad nauseum know how the Church spends money.

We see evidence of it all around us in meetinghouses, the resources that stock them, our unit budgets, the programs the Church sponsers and produces, the curriculum resources we have, the web site resources, the historical areas, the temples, the educational facilities and resources, etc., etc., etc.

This is all right in front of us all the time. Don't tell me you can't see it. How the Church spends its money is OBVIOUS.

I don't think faith comes into play here. There is so much hard evidence for how Church funds are spent.

5. Church financial decisions always seem to save members money.

Remember how the 3-hour block cut member's own transportation costs to Church?

Remember how standardizing missionary costs saved members' money?

Remember how having the satellite system reduced transportation costs?

Remember how digital resources save the members money, especially the FamilySearch resources?

Remember how the new budget procedures save members' money by standardizing unit budgets?

How many of these examples do you need? The Church is not a self-interested organization spending money for its own ends or for its leaders' ends.

6. No evidence of financial misdoing or misappropriation has resulted in these calls for financial transparency. They evolved from a stupid, speculative article in Businessweek.

Everything out there, that we all know about, is positive. Why are people looking for dirt?

7. What purpose would be served by it?

You won't be able to understand financials when our objectives, outcomes and goals are so ephemeral.

How much money do we expend to attract one convert?

How much money do we expend to retain one convert?

How much money did we spend on table decorations in Relief Society?

How much money do we spend to instill a testimony in someone?

How much money do we spend to create a good father?

How much money do we spend to instill self-reliance in a teenager?

Good grief. There is no profit motive in anything we do. We can't reduce the Church's activities to numbers. How much we spend has no bearing on the value of any of our outcomes. It's like a city trying to figure out how many crimes they prevent or how much its street service improves people's quality of lives by measuring the amount of tax money it takes in.

The Church is primarily religious and service oriented. Financials aren't going to have much to add to what we really do and what is really going on. They'll only be a very sketchy and an incomplete snapshot in a great collage of images.

As long as the Church can pay its bills and operate frugally what is the point of knowing all these detailed numbers?

8. I think the reason most people want to see our financials is so they can figure out how best to sue us.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Extreme Tolerance

There is no point in my saying it if someone else said it better and accurately captured my thoughts. The following quotes are from "Defending the Family in a Troubled World" by Elder Bruce D. Porter from June 2011 Ensign:
Until recently in our national history, tolerance referred to racial and religious non-discrimination. It meant civility in the political arena; in other words, respecting the right of others to express their views, even if we do not agree with them. It meant treating all people with decency and respect. . . . An extreme definition of tolerance is now widespread that implicitly or explicitly endorses the right of every person to choose their own morality, even their own “truth,” as though morality and truth were mere matters of personal preference. . . . Curiously enough, this new modern tolerance is often a one-way street. Those who practice it expect everyone to tolerate them in anything they say or do, but show no tolerance themselves toward those who express differing viewpoints or defend traditional morality.
And, from John MacArthur, "The Rise of Extreme Tolerance as the Supreme Virtue" in Christianity Today
In the secular realm, postmodernism's extreme tolerance has been foisted on an unsuspecting public by the entertainment media for several decades. A plethora of talk shows on daily television have led the way. Phil Donahue established the format. Jerry Springer took it to ridiculous extremes. And Oprah made it seem somewhat respectable and refined. Shows like these remind viewers daily not to be too opinionated--and they do it by parading in front of their audiences the most bizarre and extreme advocates of every radical "alternative lifestyle" imaginable. We are not supposed to be shocked or notice the overtly self-destructive nature of so many aberrant subcultures. The point is to broaden our minds and raise our level of tolerance. And if you do criticize another person's value system, it cannot be on biblical grounds. Anyone who cites religious beliefs as a reason to reject another person's way of life is automatically viewed with the same contempt that used to be reserved for out-and-out religious heretics. The culture around us has declared war on all biblical standards.
On occasion I've been on the receiving end of someone's extreme tolerance. It happened a number of times in academia. I got accosted by some ultra-liberal academic unhappy with my expressing my views. Usually, an apology later followed, but not always. I never accosted these people back. I was usually so surprised that a personal attack resulted from an academic discussion. We are all supposed to know how to separate ourselves from ideas. How else could we all get along after all?

I have no problem being tolerant of others in the traditional sense. However, I draw the line at "moral surrender" (extreme tolerance.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Obvious, Or Is It?

Almost as soon as I posted my July 2 post a thought struck me: If most new converts come from social media proselytizing then most of our new converts are going to be (drumroll) DIGITAL.

Gee, what a nasty surprise for most of our local church leaders. New converts are going to expect their local congregations to be as digitally astute as the worldwide Church. Boy, are they in for a rude awakening.

The Internet has existed since 1991. The Church's web site got started within about six years or so of that. Local unit web sites (LUWS) have existed since about 2003 and here we are almost 10 years later. Most local units have yet to discover the digital possibilities of the Church's digital tools.

This is most perplexing. If I suggested to people that they ignore FamilySearch.org and do their family history totally via the paper system they would laugh in my face.

However, the Church's digital tools for the living are just as sophisticated as the Church's digital tools for the dead. Why is there such a disconnect in their use?


I hope we don't have to wait until the new converts gain enough spiritual maturity to be leaders before these tools are fully utilized, but we might.

Monday, July 2, 2012

" . . . Mormon missionaries might be shown the door for the last time."

It's being said in Great Britain and it needs to be said here. The gospel is spreading digitally. Knocking on doors is passe.

Mormons turn to Facebook evangelism

Mormon missionaries take to Facebook to drum up converts

Mormons knock on heaven's door, online

Mormons are turning to the web to recruit new adherents

You would never think that it is surpassing the old traditional way of sharing the gospel but it is. Congregations all over the United States need to take notice. Listening to instruction there you would think the Internet doesn't even exist.

When I first started this blog, I was getting about 50 hits a day as a high. I told this to one of our missionaries. He told me, "That's more people than we talked to yesterday."

Wake up people! The future is already here!

Here are some quotes to prove it: (All from The Australian article.)
Elder Erich Kopischke, head of the Church's European operation who is in London to mark the 175th anniversary of American missionaries setting sail for Liverpool on July 1, 1837, told The Times that one post on Facebook could reach 900,000 people in an instant. It would take many months, if not years, to knock on that many doors, he said.
According to leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the doorstep has been superseded by social networks such as Facebook.
A Church spokesman said that social networking was proving far more effective than knocking on doors. Over a 12-month period, Mormon social networking missionaries have taken part in more than one million online chats.

I think they are right in saying, "the famously clean-shaven, clean-living Mormon missionaries might be shown the door for the last time."