Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Gratitude for Clerks

I thought about the role of clerks in the Church after my last post on the LDS.org training materials. Some of the most competent, faithful, and dependable people in the Church fill the quiet and often unrecognized positions of clerks. Perhaps it's time to recognize their work more and to express some gratitude.

I think the average member has no idea how important that calling is and how technically demanding it can be. So much of the work of the Church depends on getting the right information organized in a computer. Each organization needs membership lists, roles, etc. Efforts to reach out to less active members require information about who they are. Welfare efforts and the operations of the Church depend upon faithful accounting of finances and entry of donations by people of impeccable integrity. It's all demanding work that is often not noticed by others. So give your ward or branch clerk a hug - or better yet, an apple pie.

And as for any clerk with the patience to endure the Church's MLS record keeping software, well, there's only one thing to say: "You're a saint!" (I'm not kidding here. It's the only case I've seen where I yearned for the ancient DOS version of a Windows program. For you MLS defenders, here's a pop quiz: show me how to use MLS 2.2.2 to print out a useful list of prospective elders without having to kluge together a customized report, or show me how to print out useful pages of home teaching assignments without cutting and pasting and writing in basic information by hand, pages that I can simply hand to home teachers so they can have phone numbers, etc., for their people.)

56 comments:

anothernonymous said...

This is just a random question about church organization. I noticed on the "Serving in the Church" section of the Church website that Ward Clerks are classified as Melchizedek Priesthood callings. Is it classified that way as a convenience? Is there a pragmatic reason why a clerk is to be a Melchizedek Priesthood holder? Is there a scriptural mandate for this classification? Is there reasoning against having a worthy, qualified Aaronic Priesthood holder, or a Sister in the ward perform this calling?

My guess as to the Melchizedek vs. Aaronic distinguishing is because being a clerk typically is benefited by some kind of technical (e.g. information systems or accounting) training and those in the Aaronic Priesthood are typically not advanced enough in their years to have had such training.

My guess as to the Melchizedek Priesthood vs. Sister in the ward distinguishing is that the clerk works, in many time behind closed doors, with other male leaders of the ward, which could lead to inappropriate familiarity (unless of course it's a single's ward).

Or maybe it's just a notion inherited from the business world of prior generations that duties of a clerk are performed by men, which has never been subject to questioning within the Church. (After all, Relief Society and Primary Presidencies have their respective secretaries, what's the difference?)

Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I don't have my blue Church Handbook of Instructions nearby, but it would be my guess that clerks have to be Melchizedek Priesthood holders due to the work they do with Church finances, especially tithing and other donations.

Mormanity said...

I think that's it. Clerks deal with confidential information of several kinds, and participate in Church councils (e.g., Priesthood Executive Committee meeting) that are clearly for Melchezidek Priesthood holders.

Anonymous said...

Are ward Executive Secretaries still called upon to do tithing accounting if at least one bishopric counselor and the clerk aren't available?

pate said...

I no longer have access to MLS (new ward, new calling -- not that I mind, that is a pretty hideous program).

I believe the Home Teaching report you're looking for is the companionship report. You'll have to select each companionship and print them individually though. You can also turn on the birthday printing function and then the home teachers get names, phone numbers, and birthdays for everyone in their assigned families.

Bill said...

"Welfare efforts and the operations of the Church depend upon faithful accounting of finances" - I am under the impression that the church does not provide a public accounting of its finances and that there is no transparency. Is this accurate?

AlexG said...

Bill:

As I understand it, the Church is a non-profit religious organisation and it is not legally bound to provide public statements about its accounting. I do know, however, that the Church is audited by an independent body. As far as I can recall, the accounting practices are in accordance with the General Accepted Accounting Principles.

I am grateful for clerks, in spite of those hideous programs, they manage to produce the necessary reports. Maybe this could be a project for BYU students of a software engineering undergraduate degree (if BYU offers such degrees). Maybe the MLS 2.2.3 could be so much better. Or the Church could go for a recognised ERP like PeopleSoft or Oracle Financials. I am just venturing solutions. I recognise that those packages do not provide all the needs of the Church but hey, they work and are not that complicated.

Bill said...

ag:

Do the members have a public accounting of how their tithing funds are spent?

Anonymous said...

bill: no, except for what you read about in the news or see w/ your own eyes (temples, meetinghouses, welfare, church programs like misionaries, ces, etc).

just be happy that this isn't the law of moses and your "donation" doesn't get burned on an altar; the fruits of tithing are more than just smoke. nevertheless, the law of tithing is about faith and sacrifice, which require $0 income, just as much as it is about financing the Lord's desires.

Bill said...

I find it odd that a religious organization in this day and age doesn't produce a fully transparent record of their spending of member's tithing payments.

What do they have to hide?

Anonymous said...

Bill:

What do you propose they are hidding?

Even so, do members of whatever other relgions congregation recieve a breakdown of how collection plate money (or whichtever mode of donation they employ) is spent?

We may not recieve some detailed financial spreadsheet of were every cent is going, but we know it goes towards temples, chapels, and other facility construction and maitenance costs. It goes to humanitarian aid, educational support, publishing church materials, and other such things.

It's not like the money that comes in goes to line the pockets of the Firsth Presidency, 12 Apostles and General Authorities. While some of them are quite wealthy, it has been by their own labour.

BrianV said...

I haven't heard of any religous orginization that releases a breakdown of spending

Bookslinger said...

That question is yet another page from the RfM playbook.

Those in charge of the disposition of the tithing income of the church, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, are prophets, seers and revelators. They are held by the membership to be the mouthpieces of God.

People, even members, are free to disagree with that, and are also free to not pay tithing.

And like any other membership organization, the church is also free to withhold its benefits or privileges from those who don't comply with the stated prerequisites for those privileges.

Samuel said...

As well, our Church is the only one I know where the men who serve as religious leaders don't get a paycheck, where we put 2 (or even 3) congregations in one building so we don't have to spend the money on 2 or 3 separate buildings, where after services people go through the chapel turning the hymnbooks on their spine so as to reduce their wear. I am proud of how good our Church is with money.

Speaking of which, didn't the Arizona Republic do a story on various churches and found the LDS faith to be the one that spent the money the best?

Bill said...

The answer seems to be that up to $6 billion in annual revenue (per Newsweek) is spent without accountability.

Churches around the country provide breakdowns of their budgets and spending.

A billion here for a shopping mall, a billion here for who knows what, paid to who knows whom, but you just pay, pray, and obey.

Mormanity said...

A friend of mine got heavily involved in the affairs of his church here in town. He said as he got learned more about the workings and the way money was spent - referring to information that was not public knowledge - the more discouraged and cynical he became. He kept going, but was disappointed with his church. He said that the higher up you go, the more you see that it's an organization of typical men.

Having been part of ward and stake organizations (bishop, high council, stake clerk, etc.), my experience was just the opposite. The more I saw how things were handled by the Church - including what went on behind closed doors, involving confidential information as well as budgets and tithing, and gaining insight into the motives of the top leaders - the more obvious it was that the driving force of the Church was something wonderfully wholesome, in spite of the fact that it's filled with fallible humans. But my peek into higher levels of the Church left my testimony strengthened, although I have at time strongly disagreed with some things and have not always been shy about expressing my views to leaders above. Sometimes I've been wrong, and other times I think other leaders have been. But that's mortality. My testimony is based on Jesus Christ, not on the fundamentalist idea that all LDS leaders are somehow infallible.

Regardless of the exact percentage of tithing that goes into each of the many categories such as buildings, missionary work, publications, universities, etc., there is no reason to question the financial dealings of the Church.

Private institutions commonly hold the details of their finances private, though they often do, like the Church, have auditors examine the books to ensure that its operations are sound and ethical.

Say, does the Utah Lighthouse Ministry provide a detailed public accounting of its finances? How much are the Tanners getting paid, anyway?

Anonymous said...

Wow, if it was in Newsweek, it must be correct.

Bill said...

From my perspective there is nothing noble, faith-promoting, or moral about giving money to a faith-based organization that doesn't provide transparency and hides its finances. It furthers the perception of those of us outside of Mormonism that the church is more focused on corporatism and control than spiritual growth.

Members shouldn't abrogate their responsibility to help influence how money is spent, and to direct the money to do what is the Lord's work. Willingness to accept the Brethren's word is not a sign of righteousness, it is a sign of spiritual weakness.

BrianV said...

Members can donate money for specific things like humanitary aid or the missionary program if that is where they want their money to go..
As for paying tithing goes, I would have to say that I have a strong testimoy in it, I have been in college for 4 years, My income has been declining that whole time... Ever since I have been paying tithing my family has not had to worry about money, and it feels like we have more, when we are making less and giving up 10% of what we do have to the church.

BrianV said...

newsweeks website has an interview with Gordon B. Hinkley if anyone is interested

Samuel said...

"that the church is more focused on corporatism and control than spiritual growth"

Yea, that is why we have somewhere around 55,000 missionaries and missionary offices all over the world. That is why we build temples, which ain't cheap. What are they thinking? They could use that money they spend on missionary work and temples and buy a strip mall in Toledo or a radio station in Oklahoma City.

Anonymous said...

Jeff -

Regarding the Tanners' finances, you can view their tax return online (Form 990). Guidestar.org publishes the tax return of every 501(c)(3) organization. To view this information, you must set up a free account.

Regarding the specifics of the Utah Lighthouse Ministry, they had $214,985 in total revenue in 2003. Of that:

$156,871 came from "direct public support" (line 1a and line 1d)

$3605 came from "interest on savings" (line 4)

$54,509 came from "gross profit from sales of inventory" (line 10 c)

Net assets for UTLM were $427,771 at the end of 2003 (line 21).

"Compensation of officers and directors" totaled $85,140 (line 25).

"Other salaries and wages" totaled $57,791 (line 26).

If we examine Page 4, Part V of the Form 990, we see that Sandra Tanner's salary was $39,525, plus a $5,134 contribution to her retirement account. Jerald Tanner took no salary, but did accept a $2,092 contribution to his retirement account.

Wendell Carothers, V.P. & Treasurer, received $19,466 in compensation, plus a $1413 contribution to his retirement account or benefit plan.

Secretary Marlene Reeves received $26,149 in compensation, and no money in deferred compensation.

I hope you find this information useful. I urge anyone out there who may consider donating to a charity to ALWAYS check the charity's tax return on Guidestar. (Not that Mr. Lindsay was looking to donate to UTLM, but you get my point....)

As for UTLM, I think the fact that I have access to this information proves that, yes, UTLM's finances are more transparent than the Church.

Additionally, we have no evidence the Tanners are getting rich off their operation. Just take a look at the numbers.

If these numbers are bogus, then the Tanners are committing tax fraud. If Jeff (or anyone else) has information that the Tanners are fudging the numbers, I urge you to report them to the IRS.

AlexG said...

Bill:

I do not understand your position on the 'transparency means lack of spiritual growth'. For one, running costs of buildings are expensive. Just in the United Kingdom the so called 'council tax' is quite high for buildings such as the chapels, let alone for the two temples. There are electric, water, gas and other bills that have to be payed. If you had a report on how much does the Church spend on these items, would it diminish your perception "that the church is more focused on corporatism and control than spiritual growth." There is also manuals that must be published, in not cheap paper, but rather good quality one. And the events done by the Church are completely free, even though there are some costs, you do not pay for them. Would a report showing how much money is spent on these events give you peace of mind? Would a report showing the amount spent on printing missionary materials, supporting missionaries that are not capable of self-funding, money spent on the mission areas, etc. change your perception? If you had all these and other reports, would it change your views of the Church?

When the early Apostles of Jesus Christ were on the Earth, they established a system in which members donated all of their possessions to the Church and the Apostles decided how this was to be distributed (see Acts 4:33 - 37). If the Brethren back then decided to give to someone in a particular manner, or to assign funds to the expenses of someone preaching, how does this fit with your statement "Willingness to accept the Brethren's word is not a sign of righteousness, it is a sign of spiritual weakness." Where the early Saints unrighteous? Deceived by the cunning lies of the fishermen? If you lived back on those days, what would you have done?

Samuel said...

Not that I really care how much the Tanners make, I see a few problems that this "proves" that the Tanners don't "get rich" off their ministry.

1. These figures leave out personal income that they probably have made from their books. I have no idea what that would be, but they have written something like 45 books, and even though many are small, they still make a profit off each one sold. I am sure they have sold quite a few over the years (I mean they made $50,000 or so from the sale of inventory listed on the form.) Wonder how much they get per copy as the authors.

2. The total of compensation, salary, and wages is $142,931. The amounts laid out in the tax return show $93,779. Where is the other $49,152? It is listed as compensation. Who do you suppose pockets that money? You neglected to include that as compensation.

3. They lost somewhere around $12,000 in the year cited (good to know they didn't make a profit for tax purposes), bringing their ministries' assets to around $425,000. Not bad.

Bookslinger said...

I'm glad the church invests in income-producing assets like shopping malls.

Large organizations need reserves. And those reserves need to be in safe and income-producing assets.

(Indianapolis businessmen Mel and Herb Simon are quite rich owning and operating malls. It must be a good business to be in.)

The Perpetual Education Fund only makes loans out of its interest, not the principal which it invests. That is also a wise move.

Bill wrote: "Members shouldn't abrogate their responsibility to help influence how money is spent, and to direct the money to do what is the Lord's work."

Duh? That's the explicit calling of the Prophet and Apostles to find out and communicate what is the Lord's work. The LDS church, as were the ancient organizations of Moses, et al, through the organazation run by Peter, James and John, is a top-down hierarchy.

Never have the Lord's people been a democracy in ecclesiastical matters.

Sure, members need to communicate to their superiors what is needed at the grass roots level. "Return and report" is the watch-word of every assignment down to the lowest level.

Anonymous said...

Samuel:

These figures leave out personal income that they probably have made from their books.

No, they do not. The $54,509 includes book sales. That's what "gross profit from sales of inventory" means. (I think it's a safe assumption that sales of inventory refers to the merchandise they offer.) Therefore, if the Tanners are receiving additional compensation from the book sales that they do not report on the Form 990, they are in violation of U.S. tax law.

I have no idea what that would be, but they have written something like 45 books, and even though many are small, they still make a profit off each one sold.

According to their Web site, they have authored exactly 45 books. So you are correct in that regard. However, any and all proceeds from these book sales that accrue to the Tanners must be reported as part of their salary.

The total of compensation, salary, and wages is $142,931. The amounts laid out in the tax return show $93,779. Where is the other $49,152? It is listed as compensation. Who do you suppose pockets that money? You neglected to include that as compensation.

The Form 990 must include compensation only to Directors and Officers. Other employee compensation is not required to be reported.

For example, I am the Executive Director of a private, charitable foundation with assets of a little less than $6 million (tiny in the world of foundations). All Directors, including myself, are unpaid. However, the Foundation's compensation figures do not equal zero, for we do have a bookkeeper/secretary to answer the phones, make sure our expenditures are properly tracked and accounted for, etc. So while her salary is reported on our tax return, her name with her accompanying salary is not.

It's probably a safe bet that the $49,152 is going to some sort of clerical help, or some other employees who are not officers. If Mr. and/or Mrs. Tanner is somehow receiving any or all of the $49,152, they are required to report it as income on the Form 990.

If the Tanners are not reporting this as compensation on the Form 990, they are committing tax fraud. If, Samuel, you honestly believe they are pocketing that money, then say so. But please understand the consequences of your accusation -- one, I would hope, you would not make without evidence.

They lost somewhere around $12,000 in the year cited (good to know they didn't make a profit for tax purposes) (snip)

Your statement betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what a 501(c)(3) organization is. The Utah Lighthouse Ministry is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, which means they are exempt from federal income tax. It does not matter for "tax purposes" whether they show a profit or a loss.

Regarding the $425,000 in assets, that's not all that large in the charitable world. Take a look at a site like, say, charitynavigator.org, and you'll see that most 501(c)(3)s are larger than that.

But again, the question (as raised by Jeff Lindsay) is to what extent the Tanners are using that $425,000 for personal gain. The tax return says their gain is negligible. For example, I could draw a salary off our Foundation's $6 million. I do not. So, from a personal financial standpoint, that $6 million is useless to me. Likewise, the figures show that the Tanners are not drawing some outrageous salary off their ministry's assets. Something would be fishy if the Tanners were drawing a salary of, say, $100,000.

In any event, the primary reason for my posts are due to Jeff's questioning how much money the Tanners are making off their ministry. It is my contention that this information is available to anyone with an Internet connection. Furthermore, UTLM's finances are much more transparent than the LDS church. If someone can tell me how I can discover similar figures on the LDS Church, I'd be most appreciative.

Until then, it is my contention that the Utah Lighthouse Ministry's finances are considerably more transparent.

Bill said...

To: Samuel and Book of Mormon in Indy

$6 billion per year in income and tithe payers have no idea where their funds are going.

What % is spent on welfare vs churches? vs shopping malls?

What % is given in humanitarian aid? Do tithing funds backstop commercial loans?

Who gets temple building contracts? Anyone want to bet that those contractors are connected to a GA?

How much is spent on administration vs operations? Management salaries?

This is basic stuff and to just assume that $6 billion annually doesn't line somebody's pocket is simply naive. Transparency overcomes those doubts; lack of transparency suggests something to hide.

BrianV said...

I actually know someone who has worked on several temples (contractor) and he is not friends w/ any GA's

Bookslinger said...

First off, the $6 billion annual income is speculation.

Given that the number of total members in the US is about 6 million, that means the number of active members is around 3 million (counting men, women, and children).

Then the number of actual adult tithe-payers would be less than that, probably between 1 million, and a maximum of 2 million in the US.

Therefore, I'd guess that the tithing income in the US would be between $1.5 and $3 billion annually. There are a lot of poor, unemployed, elderly, and retired people in the church that offset the prosperous. So I think a $15,000 per capita annual income for active tithe-paying adults is a fair assumption.

With 6 million members outside of the US, and an estimated activity rate of about 25%, that would mean 1.5 million active members (men, women, and children). Then I'd estimate about 500,000 actual tithe-paying adults. And I'm going to take a wild guess, and suppose that that translates to tithing income to the church of $50 to $150 million annually.

Bookslinger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bookslinger said...

But the bottom line is that the president of the church and the quorum of the 12 are held to be PROPHETS SEERS and REVELATORS. That gives them the right to determine how to spend the money.

Those who disagree with that can either:

1. not join the church in the first place.

2. not pay tithing.

Anonymous said...

"Say, does the Utah Lighthouse Ministry provide a detailed public accounting of its finances? How much are the Tanners getting paid, anyway?"
Why do you ask this Jeff? What business is it of yours?
Anyway, someone answered your questions. I do not see where you responded to that answer. Or were you just being a smart aleck when asking those questions?

Samuel said...

"According to their Web site, they have authored exactly 45 books. So you are correct in that regard. However, any and all proceeds from these book sales that accrue to the Tanners must be reported as part of their salary."

I was thinking that the profits from the books that the ministry sold would be reported as part of the ministry earnings. I was also thinking that the author royalties from the books would not be reported in this way, but would be reported on their personal income taxes. Am I wrong?

I am not accusing the Tanners of wrongdoing. I just was pointing out what I thought was odd about their returns.

Bill said "Transparency overcomes those doubts; lack of transparency suggests something to hide."

First of all, I have no doubts, so no need for transparency on my part. Lack of transparency suggests nothing of the sort. I see the welfare programs we undertake, the temples we construct, the books we produce, the meetinghouses we build. The Church has some holdings that produce income to support the Church. Big deal, I say more power to them. They are engaged in important work and need the money.

nshumate said...

Bill,

You're misunderstanding a very salient point. I don't pay tithing because I know the Church needs the money; I pay tithing because the Lord asks me to.

And once it leaves my hands, in every conceivable sense of the word, IT'S NOT MINE. I have NO attachment or ownership to it. It is a sacrifice, given out of obedience to the Lord because of love. I have no feeling that I am "owed" an accounting, because it's not my money to be accounted for. The Lord could instruct the brethren to burn the tithing money in the boilers of the meetinghouses to heat the buildings, and I would feel no outrage over how "my" money is spent, because it isn't mine. My blessings for faithfulness are the same no matter where the money goes and how it is spent.

You may call that spiritually weak if you prefer; I call it "putting my money where my mouth is" -- acknowledging concretely that I believe the Church to be run by inspiration through prophets, seers, and revelators. If I didn't have that conviction, I wouldn't care about the accounting, because I wouldn't be paying.

Bookslinger said...

nshumate: Thanks for the much more eloquent wording of what I was thinking.

Samuel said...

"Thanks for the much more eloquent wording of what I was thinking."

Double ditto for me.

I think what bothers me the most about the whole thing is that the Tanners and others like them even make one dime through denegrating and debasing the religious beliefs of others with trickery, distortion, and out and out lies.

Bill said...

nshumate:

From your comments I would say that you are not tithing. It sounds like you are superstitiously throwing money over the fence to buy salvation. When you don't care how men use your money then you forfeit any moral value from the act itself.

You might as well throw salt over your back.

BrianV said...

Bill- You obviously didn't get his point...
MAybe I can help, but I doubt it will change your thinking in any way.

1. Tithing is about sacrafice (read the bible on this we did not make it up
2. It's not that we don't care what the church spends tithing money on, We would care if they bought things that were against the principals of the gospel.
3. If the church did show percentages on where it spends the money some may feel that they aren't exactly what they would do ie. some might want most to go to humaintary aid, some might perfer temples, some missionary work, and so on. People would get mad and some might leave based on their contempt(people have left for thinking they know how things should be ran) ... The fact is that we also know the beliefs of the leaders of this church and have testimonies of this gospel. We have faith, and not blind faith either. I believe in tithing because I have tested the principal and know that not only am I helping others by doing it, but I am Teaching myself that money is not the most importaint thing in life, it is not something I should worship and put above God.

Also, I am curious are you religous?

nshumate said...

From your comments I would say that you are not tithing. It sounds like you are superstitiously throwing money over the fence to buy salvation.

That's not from my comments, Bill. That from your attempts to read into my comments what isn't there.

When you don't care how men use your money then you forfeit any moral value from the act itself.

Listen a little closer, Bill. I'll say it louder for you:

IT'S NOT MY MONEY.

I have given it. I have consecrated it. I have sacrificed it upon the altar of my Lord and God. It is His. If I have any desire to double-check on how that money is used, then I have NOT honestly given it; I still consider it "mine," and somehow believe that I have "bought" a piece of the kingdom with it.

You say that not second-guessing the use of funds once they leave my hands forfeits the moral value of giving. I don't know how or where you gained your authority as an arbiter of morality, but I reject it. I say instead that maintaining that attachment to what I presented myself as having given to the Lord means that I am unwilling to honestly give anything.

The Church does not present itself to be a man-made government, which derives its power from the consent and will of the governed. It presents itself as the kingdom of God on the earth, guided by the Lord Himself via revelation. By your declarations of how things ought to be, you imply that the best way for me to serve the Lord is to explicitly deny what the Church is, that the only way to be truly faithful is to deny what the Church says it is. Instead, I will continue to put my trust and faith in the Lord to govern His own affairs.

Bill said...

nshumate says:

"I have given it. I have consecrated it. I have sacrificed it upon the altar of my Lord and God."

You must belong to the Church of the Sacred Mall because that altar you just sacrificed it on just bought millions of square feet of high end retail space.

Blind faith is lazy faith. The people of Kirtland who consecrated everything to Joseph without question lost it all as well, and you can't tell me God wanted it that way.

The church on earth is made of men; if you were handing the money to God then I'd cut you some slack.

BrianV said...

were the poeple in the old testiment giving their tithing to God? did they question where their money went?

By the way you never awnsered my question.

Walker said...

Bill:

"The Church of the Sacred Mall"

Come on, Bill. Simply because a practice is based on good business does not invalidate the principle as secular or irreligious. You're exploiting our general inability to prove a negative. That notwithstanding, I suggest that you look at the bottom-line results--temples (which Mormons believe house the ordinances of salvation) and food (which Mormons believe fuel temporal salvation). Quibble with the temples if you like, but the internal logic of the Latter-Day Saints is sound.

Malls bring in revenue. Revenue buys temples, humanitarian goods, etc. Such things help the Church carry out its mission of temporal and spiritual salvation. We indeed live in a material world. To pretend like the Church does not need to engage in business (fair and legal business, to be sure) is to ignore reality. Provided that it was done honestly and legally (which I believe it was) and that the ultimate result will be salvation of souls, I have no issues with giving money to the Church for a mall.

Bill said...

Walker -

The church you tithe to makes a concerted effort to keep you in the dark on how the money is used.

They don't want you to know.

Sleep tight.

nshumate said...

What's to know, Bill? That they buy retail space? That they (gasp) invest the funds they don't use immediately? Curses! Boy, if Jesus knew they were investing, He'd give 'em the smackdown, just like the guy he gave the ten talents to who went and... Wait.

Bookslinger said...

Organizations with ongoing expenses, public or private, secular or religious, need RESERVES.

Those reserves need to be in a wide range of investments so that a decline in any one sector of the economy doesn't affect the entire reserves.

Real estate is generally a good investment for reserves. Malls can be high income producing assets.

Mel and Herb Simon of Indianapolis are multi-millionaires (maybe billionaires) for having owned and operated shopping malls.

Granted, a long term downturn in retail sales will affect income for mall owners. However, you can bet that the mall(s) aren't the church's only investments.

Bill's accusation about non-disclosure is true, but the rejoinder is "so what?"

However, his ridicule about the shopping mall shows that he either doesn't understand that non-profits must invest, or else it's disingenuous.

Another good thing about big malls is all that square footage that can be converted to other purposes if needed: housing, churches, offices, schools, warehouses.

It could turn out to be not only a good investment but good strategy for future growth.

Anonymous said...

Samuel -

Please pardon the delay in my response. I was doing some research into your question. Unfortunately, I have been unable to come up with a clear answer.

You may have a point regarding royalties. Royalties may or may not be considered part of the Form 990 salary figures for the Tanners. However, since the Utah Lighthouse Ministry is the publisher, any royalties paid must be listed somewhere on the tax return.

What's clear is that any accepted royalties (if the Tanners are even taking royalties) could be reflected in the salaries I listed, or it could be part of the $49,152. I've gotten conflicting answers. I speculated that the $49,152 could go towards payment of non-officers. Based on experience, I strongly believe that's the case, but it's also possible that the royalties, since *perhaps* not technically part of their salary, are part or even all of the $49,152.

For the sake of argument, let's assign all of that $49,152 to Mr. Tanner. In round figures, before taxes, Mr. Tanner makes $49K and Mrs. Tanner makes $39K. Regardless of what one thinks of the Tanners -- and I respect, if not completely agreeing with, the disdain some of you hold for them -- the case cannot be made that the Tanners are getting rich off this operation.

I've been reading this blog for months now, and have found it fascinating. I only decided to comment on Jeff's post because this is something I know a lot about. I also thought Jeff's post implied a few things that are not true:

1. That the Tanners finances are just as opaque as the Church's finances.

2. The Tanners are getting rich off Mormon bashing. If they are, I'd love to see some shred of evidence, because the numbers do not support such a contention.

Finally, let me be very clear: How anyone here spends money is not primary concern. If giving this money is part and parcel to your beliefs, then so be it. Some of the comments on this thread have been a bit more inflammatory than I would have liked.

Books of Mormon in Indy is correct when he says organizations must invest to grow -- or even to stay afloat. Indeed, I'm looking at real estate opportunities for my charitable foundation. The markets too frothy at the moment, but when the bubble bursts, I'll be the first in line to take advantage.

But I would like to emphasize one thing. Serving as the Executive Director of a foundation has opened my eyes to a lot of abuses that go on in the charitable world. We even had an embarrassing incident that took place with a trustee, resulting in her removal from the Board. What I have learned is that transparency is not just nice; it's *essential* to good governance and effective giving.

I recognize and respect that many here regard those entrusted with LDS tithing money to be inspired. But what I have also learned from Jeff's site is that these men are still fallible. They may make mistakes, and there may even be a rotten apple in the bunch. Transparency is a wonderful check on potential abuse, or even honest mistakes.

"The Lord could instruct the brethren to burn the tithing money in the boilers of the meetinghouses to heat the buildings, and I would feel no outrage over how "my" money is spent, because it isn't mine."

When I read comments like that, it causes me concern. I do not wish to hold the author up to scorn for making such a statement. However, Jeff says that the LDS religion is not some "park-your-brain-in-the-rear cult." If that's the case, especially with my background, and in light of human fallibility, you can be sure I'm going to care how the money is spent (were I a Latter-day Saint, which I'm not). I will ask questions. I will not park my brain in the rear and just accept that everything is going to be OK. I simply don't have that level of faith, nor is that level of faith healthy, in my opinion.

Ultimately though, Books of Mormon in Indy is correct: If you don't like the Church's lack of transparency or how that spend the money, then don't join the Church or don't pay tithing. It's the individual's call.

Respectfully submitted....

Bookslinger said...

Anon, Thanks for the last post. That was well-reasoned.

Another nit to pick: It is possible that not all of the Tanners' personal income goes through UTLM. I don't know if they get speaking fees, etc., paid directly to them. Other so-called professional anti-mormons in the past have claimed that they have made speaking-fees of from $100,000 to $150,000 annually. There are and have been organizations and individuals whose full-time activities are working against the LDS church. And several more who engage in part-time anti-mormon activities and are remunerated for doing so.

It is possible that royalties for the Tanners' books are paid outside of UTLM. And it is possible that the Tanners have personally sold books outside of UTLM, such as at speaking engagements. Not saying that it is that way, just leaving open the possibility.

There are secular employees of the LDS church in many departments: curriculum, education, missionary, printing, distribution, welfare system, facilities management, LDS Family Services, and more.

Yet the people who are over them, and direct their activities at the upper management level are ecclesiastical leaders, I suppose to be the 70's, and above them, the apostles and the prophet. I believe the "Committee on the Disposition of the Tithes" consists of the Presiding Bishopric (3 men), the First Presidency (3 men), and the Quorom of the 12 Apostles.

I know that many of the 12 have been highly successfull businessmen, executives, and CEO's, as have the Presiding Bishops and many of the 70's.

The point I'm getting at is that the same people who are ultimately over the temporal and monetary affairs of the church (apostles and prophets) are the same ones we trust in matters of our eternal salvation.

It's not that we don't want scrutiny over how tithing money is spent, it's that we trust the prophet and apostles to do the scrutinizing or ensure that the scrutiny is there.

Having a firm testimony, based on personal divine revelation, that the prophet and apostles are the Lord's anointed and duly authorized servants to direct the Lord's OFFICIAL church, it includes, sort of by default, that they are also carrying out whatever responsibility that the Lord has given them for accounting and oversight of sacred funds.

Being a top-down hierarchy, the LDS church is quite different from other charitable or non-profit organizations and foundations. We don't have elections. We don't elect a Board of Directors or officers from the membership. The leaders don't derive their authority to act from the membership. I know that that surprises and often offends a lot of people who call it a self-perpetuating hierarchy. In a sense it is.

Joseph Smith was called by Jesus Christ himself, and received Apostolic authority from Peter, James and John. Every prophet and apostle since then has received their authority in a chain going back to Joseph Smith.

The LDS paradigm harkens back to the Catholic church (though not identical, as Catholic popes are elected by cardinals).

Our paradigm sometimes offends those with Protestant backgrounds and mindsets because our paradigm is opposite to how churches have been set up ever since the Protestant Reformation.

We are closer to the Catholic church than to Protestant churches in that regard. Like the Catholics, we claim divine authority.

Understanding this paradigm -- that Gordon B. Hinckley is a Joseph Smith, is a Peter, is a Moses -- is essential to to our faith.

Going to Gordon B. Hinckley and demanding an accounting would be like going to Moses to demand an accounting.

I do know that astute businessmen have been among those at the upper levels of church leadership and administration since at least when Joseph F. Smith was president, 1901-1918. The next prophet, Heber J. Grant had very much financial experience and knowledge.

I do know that when I joined the church and started paying tithing, I started to prosper financially very much. And when I left the church and stopped paying tithing, I lost my job within 7 months, and in another 2 years I was broke. Hmmmm. Coincidence?

God rewards those who sacrifice in faith. I've heard many testimonies about tithing from those who are not of our faith. I would encourage you to pay 10% of your earnings (on gross or net, however you want) to YOUR church, and see what happens.

Bill said...

"I do know that when I joined the church and started paying tithing, I started to prosper financially very much. And when I left the church and stopped paying tithing, I lost my job within 7 months, and in another 2 years I was broke. Hmmmm. Coincidence?"

I couldn't have written a better example of the fact that you're not paying tithing, you're throwing salt over your shoulder.

Superstition indeed. Meanwhile no one can give me a reason why financial transparency isn't a good thing.

Sheep. Those who were truly of God would care where their money went.

BrianV said...

and as it has been repeated many times, you don't understand because you have not experienced it. We know where our money is going, maybe not the exact porportions of what goes where, but we know where it goes.

You have ignored many valid points by myself and others on this blog and I am getting tired of reexplaining the same thing ... Read the whole section carefully.

Walker said...

Bill,

I must grant it to you--you have a talent for ticking people off. Of course, that is a great tactic for winning debates. However, when you are willing to marginalize an entire mass of people as dolts or "sheep simply because they believe in the goodnes of their institution, you're walking on some thin ice of logic.

A lack of knowledge on expenditures disqualifies a person from commenting on the morality of those expenditures. Suddenly, your argument is without legs. However, Mormons have diversified their understanding. They know there are other signs of goodness besides financial disclosure. Would you call your friends crooks if they didn't show you their personal budgets?

Bookslinger said...

Bill, By your measure Abraham paying tithes to Melchizedek would have been superstition, the ancient Israelites paying tithes and sacrificing holocausts would have been superstition, and believers laying their offerings at the feet of the apostles would have been superstition.

I prefer to call it faith.

There are other things that I do based on faith that seem to generate good results, that could be called "coincidence". Things such as going to church on Sunday, reading the scriptures every day, going to LDS Institute religion classes, going to a singles Family Home Evening, keeping copies of the Bible and Book of Mormon in 60 languages in my car.

Someone who doesn't view things with faith could call those acts superstition and coincidence. But I'm the only one who knows what's going on inside my mind and heart when I do those things and when the results occur. The most accurate way for me to describe those results is to call them blessings and miracles. At some point, it just stops being coincidence.

Granted, good results don't always closely follow the exercise of faith. Hundreds of the followers of Joseph Smith got mobbed. Dozens lynched, and massacred. Thousands disposessed, displaced and made homeless. Hundreds of those who followed Brigham Young out West died on the trail.

Today, you can find many disaffected and former members on the Internet who complain that they did everything they were supposed to and yet they never reaped any benefit, but were instead used and abused.

Yet there are many more who "pray pay and obey" faithfully, who don't receive outward benefits or miracles, yet receive an inner confirmation and peace they are doing right. They know their faith is rewarded internally or quietly, even if it's merely a peaceful conscience.

And there are even more who do all those things and do testify of receiving outward benefits and miracles.

If every act of obedience had an immediate and visible reward, there would be no faith. There would be lines a mile long at all LDS baptismal fonts, of people wanting the rewards, but there would be no faith, no acting on an internal desire to do the right thing regardless of the consequences.

If you truly believe the Bible, I invite you to read the Book of Mormon, and put it to the test. If you don't believe the Bible, I still invite you to read the Book of Mormon because it is plainer and simpler than the Bible, and it may come through clearer.

Brianv made a good point, it's the doing that leads to knowing. Now the LDS don't ask people to pay tithing before joining. But there are other steps or experiments that one can do prior to making committments, such as reading the scriptures, obeying the ten commandments, and learning the basic doctrines of the church.

Those who stand off to the side and mock will never understand.

Anonymous said...

Books of Mormon in Indy,

And *I* thank *you* for your post.

Just a few things, and then I'd like to move on:

1. According to their Web site, all the Tanners' books are published by UTLM. Therefore, any royalties are paid by UTLM.

2. You are correct in that public speaking fees would not be noted on the 990. However, I can't find any public speaking engagements by the Tanners. For one thing, it appears Mr. Tanner shuns the spotlight.

3. Who are these anti-Mormon speakers making $100K a year off their speaking fees? That's a new one on me.

Regarding the rest of your post, we'll have theological disagreements (of course) because I'm not LDS, I don't think Mr. Hinckley is a prophet, etc. That said, I have no doubt the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the right one for you. It seems from your posts that your LDS affiliation has made you a better person.

However, here's what I need help understanding: As a Latter-day Saint, when do you question, and when do you sit back and trust? Frankly, if Moses were standing in front of me right now, I'd have a hard time questioning his decisions or opinions on anything. And yet, we know that prophets and apostles are fallible. Jeff has said, for example, that on certain issues, he disagrees with and ignores what the prophet has to say. Do you agree? And if so, when do you disagree with, challenge, or ignore the prophet? Is there something specific about transparency in tithing that should not be questioned?

Best regards....

Bookslinger said...

Re: anti-mormons claiming to make $100,000/year and more. A couple are mentioned in the series of four books called "They Lie in Wait to Deceive" by Robert L. and Rosemary Brown, self-published by Brownsworth Publishing, Inc., PO Box 2671, Mesa, AZ 85204. I bought the set at www.fairlds.org.

I forget which one claimed the dollar amount, but I think it was either Dee Jay Nelson or Walter Martin, or Ed Decker. I don't think any of those are actively preaching against the church at the present time, but their arguments continue to get resurrected and rehashed, so the Browns' books are good reference material. The anti's then started libeling the Browns, so part of the books is tedious self-defense on the Browns' part.

The Browns also do a good job debunking the anti's claims of plagiarism from the Spaulding manuscript. There's even a cool statement of testimony by a grandaughter of Solomon Spaulding who joined the church in 1908.

The series of books debunks some of the more outrageous attacks against the church. They also document how the above three made many false claims, and falsified or embellished their credentials. According to the Browns, the Tanners actually know that some of their claims are false, yet continue to make them in support of the claims that they believe are true.

The 4 volumes back up what Jeff has been writing about how the dedicated anti's intentionally leave out information that weakens or disproves their position, such as with the rediscovered papyri and the Book of Abraham.

The 4th volume powerfully skewers "The God Makers" video and its producers. Mainstream Christians and Jews lambasted the video as biased and hate-filled.

The Browns are good researchers but are not professional journalists. The main drawback of the series is that it is not slick in its presentation, and perhaps the Browns get a little passionate about the suject matter.

Bookslinger said...

You: Frankly, if Moses were standing in front of me right now, I'd have a hard time questioning his decisions or opinions on anything.

Good for you. Thousands of the Israelites who followed Moses out of Egypt did openly rebel against him.

Not just in the golden-calf thing (where thousands of the rebels were killed by the sword at the hands of the more faithful), but also throughout the 40 years in the wilderness, such as some non-Levites wanting to offer incense who were burned by fire from heaven and swallowed up in the earth. Later many of the rebels and murmurers were killed by deadly serpents and by plagues.

The point being that not everyone recognized a prophet as a prophet, or as the final arbiter, which happened all the way up through the Lord's mortal ministry.

The pharisees kept saying "_We_ wouldn't have stoned the prophets" while rejecting not only the prophet John the Baptist, but Him who commanded the prophets. Which illustrates that it's tons easier to believe in dead prophets than living ones.

You: And yet, we know that prophets and apostles are fallible. Jeff has said, for example, that on certain issues, he disagrees with and ignores what the prophet has to say. Do you agree? And if so, when do you disagree with, challenge, or ignore the prophet?

Good question. This is one where many faithful latter-day saints disagree on the answers.

One of the apostles (I think it was Elder Nelson at a CES fireside) recently said something along the line: "Leaders teach the rules, and the exceptions are left up to the individuals."

I can see the logic in that. If an attempt was made to enumerate all the exceptions and only the valid exceptions, then flexibility, judgement and individuality would be lost. Almost every rule has exceptions that can't be foreseen.

Prophets have said many things that many take as binding, and some others take as suggestions. President Hinckley has said, from the pulpit at General Conference, "no ear piercings for men" and "only one piercing per ear for women." I don't think men who have ear peircings are denied temple-recommends. Yet I've seen many men remove their ear-rings, and women remove their 2nd pair of earrings. So there's an example of some obeying and some disregarding. I've also read some very harsh online statements by members against the prophet about earrings, saying that he is merely stating his own personal bias.

Holding "Family Home Evening" every Monday is a similar item. Church leaders constantly encourage it. President Hinckley encourged it with the words "We urge you in the strongest terms possible to..."

Some people claim that since he didn't say "Thus saith the Lord..." or "I _command_ you..." that it is merely a suggestion.

But when someone I hold to be a prophet says "We urge you in the strongest terms possible..." I'm going to take it very seriously.

The rules of thumb seem to be:

1. Is it in an official written policy statement?

2. Was it said at General Conference by a member of the First presidency or the Quorom of 12?

3. Was it in the First Presidency's message in the monthly Ensign magazine?

4. Has it been repeated by the current prophet/Apostles? (For instance, past prophets spoke against playing with face cards, and many members still go by that, but I've never heard any apostles speak out against face cards in the last 23 years.)

5. Take it to the Lord in prayer. We are encouraged to seek confirmation of the directions we receive from the prophet and apostles. Brigham Young often spoke about not blindly following church leaders, but to seek knowledge that they were divinely inspired.

6. Is the matter a subject of a temple-recommend interview? However, there are many teachings that are not the subject of temple-recommend interviews, which are constantly encouraged.

President Kimball (pres from 1973 to 1985) said "Every young man should serve a mission." He also gave several prerequisites and qualifications that were less quoted. Obviously there are exceptions, such as those in ill health, paralyzed, mentally handicapped, but he didn't put the exceptions in the same sentence as "Every young man should serve a mission." The church only officially put a few of the obvious exceptions in writing. Many people then assumed there were no exceptions other than those specifically enumerated, or misunderstood what were valid exceptions.

Eventually, there arrived so many unqualified young men in the mission field, creating many problems, with many being sent home, that now the pendulum has swung the other way and the requirements President Kimball enumerated are now being more strictly enforced by those who screen the prospective missionaries. And some new requirements are also in force.

The "effective" bar has been raised, but technically, the requirements are the same, it's just that they are being more strictly enforced whereas before too many exceptions were granted, and the young men were just rubber-stamped and sent out. (That was one of my stumbling blocks, I thought missionary service had become a joke because the reality of elders didn't match up with how leaders said "missionaries must be.")

You: Is there something specific about transparency in tithing that should not be questioned?

Tithing, chastity, and Word of Wisdom are specific "deal breaking" items. If you don't commit to them, you can't get baptized, period. If you want to join, but say "I'm still going to have an occasional cigarette", or "but I'm not going to pay 10%", then you can't get baptized.

I think it's still an individual interviewer's call as to what level of committment is the proper threshhold. Does a person have to say "I _will_ pay tithing" or can they still get baptized if they say "I'll _try_ to pay tithing" ? I don't know. That's usually left up to the mission presidents to instruct their missionaries. From what I've read, the "degree of committment" threshold for baptism has varied over the years.

But if someone never pays tithing, or breaks the Word of Wisdom after baptism, they are not excommunicated, nor are they disfellowshipped.

However, if someone commits fornication or adultery after baptism and is totally unrepentant, they can be disfellowshipped or excommunicated. There are very detailed procedures laid out in leadership handbooks on how to handle and judge those cases.

If someone is not a full tithe-payer, or doesn't obey the Word of Wisdom, they cannot get a temple-recommend, and there are some callings they cannot hold, and there are some callings they can hold.

--------

Okay, suppose you were one of Moses' followers back in that day. Suppose you fully believed him to be a real prophet. How would you respond to his counsel?

Would you distinguish his "suggestions" from pronouncements that started "Thus saith the Lord" ? If he asked you to be sure to pray 5 times a day, would you ignore it if he failed to say "Thus saith the Lord" ?

If he said to you personally, "Um, hey, Ebeneezer. By the way, I think you have too many goats, and not enough sheep and cattle" how would you take it? Would you go out and trade some of your goats for sheep and cattle?

Or would you ask for clarification, "Moses, are you just giving my your personal opinion there, or are you telling me that in the name of the Lord?"

In my book, Gordon Hinckley wears the same mantle as Moses. I try to pay special attention to the counsel he gives at General Conference and in the monthly Ensign magazine.

Bookslinger said...

There may be some official pronouncements from past conferences or Ensign magazines where church leaders explained why breakdowns of church expenditures are no longer given. But I'm unaware of any.

My guess is that it would give rise to bickering and contention among those who have no authority in those decisions.

As I mentioned before, it's a top down hierarchy, where authority flows from the top down, not from the bottom up.

The whole non-profit charitable paradigm that you're used to is the bottom up, authority comes from the members/donors style.

Or as our style of government is where the government derives its powers from the people.

The LDS church just doesn't fit, nor does it claim to fit, the model/paradigm that you're thinking it should fit. It's not a democracy. The prophet derives his authority from the Lord through those who preceeded him, similar to how Joshua derived his authority from Moses, who got his authority from the Lord. The people did not elect Joshua.

As someone else mentioned, tithing is an _unrestricted gift_ with no strings attached. Maybe that phrase corresponds best to the secular fund-raising world.

If we put those concepts together, that 1) President Hinckley is a Moses, 2) tithing is an unrestricted gift, 3) President Hinckely is in charge of those who decide how to dispose of the tithes; does that help to answer your questions?

Anonymous said...

wealthy tithers= fast track to high callings, such as bishop, Stake President, 70, etc.

otherwise= it will take long dedication and youll never make it to 70!