Yeah, and then we're just a few steps from pedophilia!

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It's been a while since I've posted a complaint about a church service. But yesterday's Elders Quorum was horrific. We were focusing on a talk by President Packer about how our church uses a lay ministry and that no one is better than anyone else, regardless of the calling they hold. Of course, any discussion of Mormonism's clergy, or lack thereof, frequently turns into a game of Whack-a-Pope. That is, those involved will take pot shots at how traditional Christianity runs things, back it up with quasi-scriptural notions, and then laugh at how silly those wacky professional clergies are.

Basically, the teacher asked why we have an unpaid ministry in our Church. This lead to the idea that, if you're being paid, you're much less invested, more driven by results, more likely to fudge doctrine in order to be popular and so on. This lead to one member opining that he doesn't get how other Christians can expect to get marriage advice from a celibate priest. (I mean, it's not like Mormon bishops are out of their depth dealing with, oh, spousal abuse, homosexuality, mental illness, right?) And, of course, getting paid to do God's work leads to corruption. Just look at what a mess there is in Catholicism right now! It makes me so sad that Mormons just seem to assume that all ministers are crooked, sad men who are hungry for glory and gain. And of course, the whole situation showcased the irritating habit the Saints have of making assertions about Christianity that simply aren't true. Such as the idea that Mormonism is the only Christian group without a paid ministry. Um, have these people no idea about the Quakers? And that's even a well-known group. Surely there are other models out there that profess Jesus but don't write a salary check to their leader.

What was not addressed, of course, were the liabilities of having a lay ministry. These could include having untrained men lead a group and wreck havoc, the jockeying for position caused by all being eligible, the social stratification that is caused by having certain members being lifted over others, and the abuses that are perpetuated by fallible men because they believe God is directing them. That last one is obviously not unique to Mormonism, but if you have a system where no training is required and where you're basically told, as a priesthood leader, that you have final say, it's a recipe for ecclesiastical abuse. I'm not saying the Mormon system doesn't work. It does, for the most part with few problems. And there are definite advantages to it.

The icing on this cake, though, came when one member reminded us (or informed, if there were particularly clueless members there) that the Q12 and other high-level officials are, in fact, paid for their work. The resident apologist raised his hand quickly to give the standard explanation for this: that they're paid only for their basic needs and that they'd make more money if they were still pursuing their business pursuits. He did add a disturbing bit there about how God calls successful men. But, let's get back to the traditional excuses. If these stipends are really to just support their needs, why do they get cash at all? The Church could work out a system where their needs are addressed without payments. Secondly, the argument that these men would make more in the business world is valid when the men we're discussing are in their 40s and 50s. But, to assert that men in their 70s and 80s would still be vigorously working and receiving big salaries is ridiculous, right? I mean, if you're going to make arguments, at least make them non-idiotic.

I'm beginning to wonder if now, with the passing of President Hinckley, and various other issues at play, if it's not the perfect time for me to disengage from Mormonism all together.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

here is an interesting article on status and money in the mormon church. although not directly related to the clergy, it does mention linking money and spirituality, which i think reflects in rich people being called.

http://deseretnews.com/article/1%2C5143%2C695246554%2C00.html

interestingly enough, i am sure that they get even less money than they would working a "real" job

Annie said...

does anybody know how much GAs actually get paid? How does anyone know if it's just for their basic needs? i know we like to think that, but...

Ted said...

disengage totally from mormonism? don't do that!!! mormons need minds like yours! please!

Pinto said...

wanna talk about it? Like...I'm not even being sarcastic with that question.

Jér said...

If you do decide to disengage, make sure you have a non-Church social network already in place before you definitively sever all ties. In other words, don't do what I did. :D

alea said...

annie- I don't think anybody does know how much they make. They used to be paid for being on the for-profit boards of directors they were on, but they no longer are on said boards. The best guesses I've read is somewhere in the 50/60K a year range. It's unclear if that includes benefits like having a driver, an apartment, etc.

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