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Sunday, October 31, 2010

How Corporatism Has Undermined and Subverted The Church of Jesus Christ

When I was released from my mission in Independence, Missouri, my family was on hand to pick me up in their new RV. After tooling around the country for a bit, we stayed a few weeks in Salt Lake City before returning home to Anaheim.

Wandering alone one day around Temple Square, I found myself no longer sure what I wanted to do for a living. I had always planned to go back to work at Disneyland, but already I was missing the structured life of a missionary, where every day had purpose because it was spent in meaningful religious service.

I soon found myself looking up at the imposing Church Office Building.  How would it be, I wondered, to work in there, in close proximity to the most spiritual men on the earth? Perhaps I could get a good job in the city, workin' for the Lord every night and day.

"Quickest way to lose your testimony."

Those were the words of the wife of a friend of mine some years later. She had spent a good part of her life as some sort of an assistant to some other assistant to some General Authority, and boy, was she jaded. She assured me that life in the COB -that's short for Church Office Building- was like that old line about watching sausage being made. You really don't want to see it.

I've since heard similar tales of warning from others who have gotten too close to the Morg.  Former employees of the Church can sure be a cynical bunch.

And now comes Daymon Smith with a newly published memoir of his experiences as an employee at the COB. But Smith's account is more than mere memoir; though a bit scatter-shot in execution, I'd rank it among the top Ten essential histories of the modern LDS Church. What Smith uncovered in his research is that the corporation at the top of what we think of as the LDS church actually spends an inordinate amount of its time serving not God, but Mammon. And too often that Mammon-serving is wrapped up and presented as Godly service when sometimes it is anything but. 

Don't Hire A Digger If You Don't Want Nothin' Dug

For some reason Church headquarters decided they needed an anthropologist in the building, so they hired Daymon Smith, a latter-day Saint with a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. He had written a 500 page dissertation on some under-discussed facets of Mormon history that nobody at the COB seems to have bothered to read. Maybe they should have, because they would have learned that Smith was an extremely curious and thorough researcher with a knack for uncovering hidden goings-on that most of us in the church had no inkling of.

Smith's new book is titled The Book of Mammon: A Book About A Book About The Corporation That Owns The Mormons. If you had no idea before now that the Church was actually owned by a corporation, read on.  It gets worse. 

And if you harbor the happy illusion that all Church policy is the result of prayerful consideration by the general authorities, be prepared to have those illusions shattered. Much of what has been handed down to us in the way of “inspired” Church programs originated in Marketing or some other department of the Church Office Building and was later approved by the G.A.'s.

I'll give you two examples. 
 
Remember when the church trotted out the new scriptures back in 1981? Someone at the COB thought it would be helpful if all the standard works could be coordinated with matching fonts, then tied together with footnotes and cross references. So amidst much fanfare, the Church announced a new era of personal scripture study. The diligent LDS reader could now find prepackaged scholarship on every page.

But as most of us know by now, anyone hoping to actually learn anything by following those footnotes soon finds himself going in a circle. That's because what they did at the COB was mostly just feed the scriptures into a computer (this was the late 1970's, when computers were magic), and whenever the computer found a word in the Bible that also appears in the Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants, that word is footnoted and cross-referenced, no matter how irrelevant or inaccurate in its meaning. Inaccuracies also abound in the chapter headings, which summarize concepts not always found within the scriptures they are  describing. These chapter headings were written by a committee headed by Bruce McConkie. As if I need say anything more about that.

You're way better off with a copy of Strong's Concordance by your side and a good set of commentaries.

But the COB really pulled out all the stops in the marketing of this new Quad. Articles appeared in the Church News and The Ensign, and speakers at general conference touted all the reasons you just had to have a copy of your own if you were going to be in with the in crowd.

The problem, though, was that for most members, this new set of scriptures was prohibitively expensive. Depending on which size volumes you chose or the color of fine leather cover you picked, your desire to walk into the chapel toting the latest in up-to-the minute must-have accessories could end up costing you as much as a hundred bucks.

Less expensive editions were available, of course, but the guy in charge of Deseret Book, the chain of bookstores owned by the Church, didn't want the membership to know about the availability of the cheaper volumes because Deseret Book -that is, the Church- didn't make any money on those. If the corporate Church was going to skin the rubes -excuse me, I mean “serve the membership,” they were going to have to downplay the availability of the cheaper editions.

Which is what they did, talking up only the super-duper deluxe editions and keeping the others hidden in a back room of the store.

I recall paying $90.00 for my bible and Triple Combination back in a day when I used to have that kind of money to throw around. Still, I remember that we couldn't really afford to get a second set for Connie at the time. We could only afford new scriptures for one of us, and since I was the priesthood holder it wasn't even up for discussion which one of us was going to get them.

After the Church pulled in a couple of million dollars selling the books to the more affluent members, they finally let it leak that you could buy a less extravagantly bound set for around fourteen bucks. Today if you're a new convert, the bishop will just hand you a set for free.

Flooding The Warehouse With The Book of Mormon

About this time Church headquarters also sent an announcement to all the mission presidents that a new improved edition of the Book of Mormon was being readied for handing out to investigators. It was going to have more features and be more attractive, and therefore hopefully be a better conversion tool for use by the missionaries.

But first they had to figure out a way to get rid of those millions of old copies of the Book of Mormon just sitting in warehouses. They tried to palm these off on the mission presidents, but unfortunately marketing had done such a good job of promoting the new editions that the mission presidents said, “No thanks, we have plenty.  We'll just wait for the new ones to come out.”

This lack of cooperation by the mission presidents created a dilemma because of the weird way things are done at Church headquarters. The various departments of the Church are constantly shifting money back and forth to each other, so the way accounting takes place at the COB is completely kooky, if not downright incestuous. Even though departments spend the Church money on each other, each department wants its bottom line to look good to the higher-ups, so the Church has a way of conducting business that would make no sense to an outsider.

For instance, from the money the Church collects in tithing, it doles out some of that money to the various missions around the world to finance the operations of those missions. The mission presidents then turn right around and spend a good chunk of that money purchasing materials from the Church, which is the very same entity that just gave them that money to begin with.

Why doesn't the Church just give the materials to the missions? Because then the printing department would show a loss. They would not have gotten “paid” for the materials used by the missions.  And the printing department of the Church would not look good to the general authorities who review their books at the end of the year if their books showed they had lost money for the Church.

(You may be catching on here that the corporate Church is a hopeless bureaucracy. Let's just say it's worse than you can possibly imagine.)

So Church headquarters had a problem with its excess inventory. Before they could even think about printing millions of new missionary editions of the Book of Mormon, they had to get rid of warehouses full of the old ones. They couldn't sell them to the missions, because the missions weren't buying. The missions would accept the books for free, of course, but that would reflect a loss to the Church. They couldn't throw them away or even give them away to members for the same reason.

Hold on a minute. What was that about giving them away to members?

Some hot shot genius in the Marketing Department came up with an idea. What if we could get the members to actually buy all those books from us?

And so was born the Family to Family program. And it was a corker. Here's how it worked.

What you did was purchase a quantity of the books from the Church, then inside the front cover you would place a picture of your family along with a short note containing your testimony of the Book of Mormon and how it had enriched your life and the lives of your family. Those books would then be given to your local missionaries, or sent back to Church headquarters which would send them to foreign missionaries, and you would have a direct hand in bringing the gospel to people you never met. It lent a personal touch to missionary work, and well, you never knew what effect your testimony might have on some far away family in say, France or Minnesota.

The program was a resounding success. The Church promoted the program with an extensive campaign of ads, letters, fliers, and articles in the Ensign and the Church News. Talks were given in conference encouraging the membership to “flood the earth with the Book of Mormon,” and that phrase became the promotional tag line for the program.

By 1990, 6.5 million Books of Mormon were sold to the membership of the church, a total, reports Smith, “that approximates the same number of Mormons on record that year.”

Not all of those books ended up in the hands of missionaries and investigators. Cases of the books still sit today in the backs of well-meaning member's closets. Many books ended up years later donated to D.I. There was such a glut of them at some of the mission offices that they ended up just stored in the basement and forgotten until the new editions arrived and were given out instead.

But the guys at the COB got all of those unwanted books out of the warehouses, and that was the point of the whole thing, after all.

Our family participated in the program, and I remember thinking at the time how inspired it was. But the Family to Family program wasn't inspired from on high in the way I was conditioned to think these things occurred. The idea had come because the Church needed to rid itself of a bunch of unwanted inventory, and some mid-level employee came up with a way to do it while making a buck off the membership.

It was a brilliant con. I had paid for the printing of those books originally when I sent in my tithing money. Now the Church got me to pay again to buy them back. Somebody at the Church Office Building was patting himself on the back.

Inspired? It was inspired alright. Inspired in the same way Old Spice was inspired recently to come up with that suave new Man on a Horse campaign to move a lot of old product nobody wants because it makes you smell like your grandpa. 
 
The Vanishing LDS Church

Without a doubt the most startling discovery in Daymon Smith's book is his revelation that the church that Joseph Smith established in 1830 no longer even exists. At all.

What we think of as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says Smith, operates today as a mere trademark of the corporation that owns the name to it. The actual church that used to go by that name, and which claims Jesus Christ as its head, does not exist today in any legally recognized form.

I realize that sounds impossible for some people to grasp. Well, I'm here to help.

As it so happens, I know something about corporate law as it applies to churches, so allow me to back up a bit here and give you a quick crash course so you can understand how a government chartered corporation can own a church that no longer even exists. I promise to make it easy to understand.


Corpus Descriptum  
(See, it's getting easier already!)

A corporation is an organization chartered by the state and given many legal rights separate from its owners. You with me so far? Didn't think so.

Okay, think of Frankenstein's monster. No, scratch that. Too evil.

Think of a robot that you and your friends control. It has no brain and no soul, but it can walk around and pick things up; it can do stuff for you. That's a corporation. It can do stuff for you.

Except unlike a robot, a corporation has no actual form. No body. No robot hands or robot feet. So if you can visualize a robot that has no mechanical parts, you're close to mastering the concept. A corporation is an entity. What is an entity? It's a thing. What is a thing? It's an entity.

Welcome to the world of law.

A corporation is an entity that you cannot touch. It is neither inherently good nor inherently evil, but it has a life of its own, and if the batteries are good, that robot can live on after you and your friends are dead and gone. Sometimes that can be a problem. Originally corporations in America were not meant to outlive their creators. Today they do.

One of the biggest problems with a corporation is that under the law, a corporation is actually considered a “person.” That's why it is often defined as a legal fiction. That is, this “person” is legal, but he isn't real. It's a fictional person. It isn't flesh and blood. It has no soul.

And that's the rub. Although it is treated like one, a corporation is not a human being, and usually no real live person within a corporation can be legally held responsible for the harm a corporation might do. The corporation can be fined, but that fine is usually absorbed by the stockholders. The board member's salaries remain sacrosanct.

Indeed, the directors of a corporation can, in a way, transfer their sins to the corporation, which will absorb them without much consequence. In the words of the British Baron Edward Thurlow, the problem with corporations is “they have no soul to save, nor body to incarcerate.”

Most tellingly, a corporation is not something that can stand accountable before God. So if you believe in the doctrine of personal accountability, you can see the crack in the plan right there.

The American colonists were particularly leery of corporations because England's East India Company had in many ways become more powerful than England herself, and was a prime instigator behind England's imperialist ambitions.

When our country was young, there were very few corporations in existence here; when one did appear, it was for the purpose of accomplishing something monumental. Charters were granted for a specific purpose and always for a limited time. The construction of the Erie Canal is one example of the granting of an early American corporation. When the canal was finished being built, the founding corporation expired, as all corporations were meant to.

Corporations certainly weren't the common mode of doing business that they are now. And as far as churches went, incorporation was simply not done, as a corporation derives its existence and all of its power from the state.

Since Jesus Christ is the head of the church, it would be incompatible for a church to petition the government for permission to exist. The church, as Paul taught, is the body of Christ. He governs it with His laws, principles, and directions. It is not subject to man's laws. No Christian pastor in colonial times would have thought to place his church under political control.

As the Supreme Court explained in the case of Hale v. Hinkle:

"A corporation is a creature of the state...It receives certain special privileges and franchises and holds them subject to the laws of the state and the limitation of its charter. Its powers are limited by law. It can make no contract not authorized by its charter. Its rights to act as a corporation are only preserved to it so long as it obeys the laws of its creation. There is a reserved right in the legislature to investigate its contracts and ascertain if it has exceeded its powers" (Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43)

"Corporate existence,” according to Roberson's Business Law, “is a privilege granted by the sovereign upon compliance with specified conditions."

So that's a problem for any church that gets a hankering to incorporate, because in the church, Jesus Christ is supposed to be the sovereign. When application is made to incorporate a church, the will of Jesus Christ becomes subordinate to the will of the state. "For a church to become a corporation,” goes the maxim, “in effect divorces the church from Christ.”

All of this incorporating of churches is unnecessary in America anyway, because churches automatically operate in a sphere separate from the state. Governments have no jurisdiction in the church whatsoever. There is no tax advantage for a church to incorporate, as some mistakenly believe. But there is if that “Church” actually wants to operate as a business. Then it can trade its sovereignty in exchange for special privileges granted by the government.

Which is what the President of what used to be the LDS church did in 1923. 
 
How We Waived Our Sovereignty

Back in 1887, the church found itself in a famous staring contest with the federal government, and our side blinked. The United States Congress punished us by dissolving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and seizing all of its assets, including the Salt Lake temple and all of temple square.

Whether the government actually had the authority to do all this is a question for another time, but in 1890 the Supreme Court upheld the dissolution, and the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as a legal entity, simply ceased to exist. We had to do a lot of serious butt-kissing just to get our stuff back, but there was no question that the church itself was not returning any time soon. At least not in any form Joseph Smith would have recognized. Or Jesus Christ, for that matter.

Serving God And Mammon

Although a corporation is a person without a soul, corporations do retain at least one characteristic of a real person. Just like you and me, they tend to want to continue to exist. For most corporations, staying alive means bringing in money. Continually.

Which brings us back to Dr. Daymon Smith. For as Smith points out, it wasn't so much polygamy that brought the ire of the nation down upon the heads of the Mormons. That was just the cover story fed to the masses back east to stir up the public, much as the government today keeps the populace in fear of cave-dwelling boogie men in order to justify its adventures overseas and its abrogations here at home.  

Did you really think that President Buchanan would send the United States Army half-way across the desert to stop a handful of hick farmers from sleeping with extra women?

No, the problem with the Mormons, as Daymon Smith reminds us, was “their theocratic control over politics, economics, and resources in the west.” This uppity Mormon empire was becoming a viable threat to the Eastern banking establishment, railroad tycoons, and ambitious politicians.

But you can't send out the army because the Eastern money men don't like competition. So you get the press to stir up the American people against those scary-bad polygamists and before long you have America demanding the army go and put a stop to this barbarism. Let's show those desert-dwelling rubes they can't thumb their noses at Uncle Sam!

The fact is, the Mormon church by the 1880's was becoming an economic force to be reckoned with. Not only was it threatening the Eastern money men, it was also threatening the peace within the church, as members of the Twelve argued constantly among themselves about -you guessed it- money.

The Twelve Apostles were now much too busy to to go forth throughout the world and spread the good news of Christ. They had to stay home and spend all their time managing literally hundreds of church owned businesses. It was virtually impossible by this time to find where the division lay between ecclesiastical and monetary interests. Apparently God himself couldn't help getting in on the action, as He kept coming up with hot investment tips to pass on to his servants. According to historian Michael Quinn:

"In1870 Brigham Young publicly announced a revelation for Mormons to invest in a railroad. In 1881 John Taylor privately dictated a revelation to organize an iron company, and in 1883 another revelation to invest tithing funds in a gold mine. In the 1890's the hierarchy gave certain men the religious 'calling' or obligation to invest thousands of dollars each in a sugar company.”
This focus on the financial over the spiritual was starting to take its toll on the Church. Brigham Young, Jr. felt it had all gone too far. “There is too much time given to Corporations, stocks, bonds, policies, etc. by our leaders to please me,” he wrote in his diary, “We are in all kinds of business interests. Even the members of the Twelve represent businesses which are jealous of each other and almost ready to fight each other.”

How I Love Ya, How I Love Ya, My Dear Old Mammon

After the bust-up of 1890, and after bowing and scraping to their government masters so that they could retain some of their assets, the Church hierarchy eventually made peace with Babylon. As the saying goes, “If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.”

With only a hint of exaggeration, Daymon Smith cheekily summarizes the situation:
"No longer members of any legally recognized religion, Mormons organized a focus group to re-brand their identity. So they called around to some California railroad lobbyists, New York ad-men, and brainstormed and out-paradigm-shifted a totally innovational re-branding of Mormonism.”
"The Trustee thus offered bonds to Eastern bankers with the promised collateral being the Mormons themselves."
The Mormon people, you see, had untapped value: a sense of community, a uniquely productive work ethic, and best of all, a built-in propensity to be obedient to authorities.
These Mormons were made to order. The Mormon leaders offered up the future tithes of the Mormon people as guarantees against their investments. The members of what used to be The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be unwitting cash cows for the benefit of their leaders. And the leaders of what used to be that church were now climbing into bed with the whore of Babylon.

Catholic Pope, Meet The Mormon Pope

Some time around 1900, the office of Trustee-in-Trust was reformed, then a few years later the financial interests of the "Church" were protected under the “Corporation of the Presiding Bishop.” Finally in 1923, church lawyers found The Holy Grail: a rare, little known, and hardly ever used mode of incorporation known as The Corporation Sole.

Virtually unknown in America, and tracing its origins to ancient Roman law, the corporation sole was the way the vast riches of the Holy Catholic Church had been protected under Emperor Constantine. All financial power was vested in one man -in their case the pope, in our case, the prophet.

Or, as he was named in the corporate charter, “the President.” The word “Prophet” doesn't appear in the charter. This wasn't a real church, after all. It was just a way for the leadership of the, ahem, "Church” (wink, wink) to control the member's money.

In the original LDS church from the time of Joseph Smith, all members were considered of equal worth. They were called “members” because in the ancient church the scriptures called them “members of the body of Christ.” All parts were of equal importance to the Lord. You know the words of Paul in 1st Corinthians 12: “The head cannot say to the feet, I have no need of you.”

Likewise church property bought with member's tithing was considered held in common by all the members of the church, with common consent required for the purchase or disbursement of that common property.

But not anymore. Under the corporation sole, the head could tell the feet to go take a hike. The president of the church could do whatever the hell he wanted with the member's money without asking permission from the members whatsoever. It's spelled out right there in the charter. The president of the corporation needs no authorization from any mere member of the Lord's church. No show of hands, no vote, no “all in favor please manifest.” Like the Pope, his power is absolute. He is the Sole Brother.

Also written into the charter of the Corporation of the President as amended was how the line of succession was to operate within the Church. In order for there to be no question as to who held the purse strings following the death of the president (the “Sole” in a ”Sole Corporation”), the Senior Apostle automatically becomes the next president of the Corporation.

You thought somehow God maneuvered certain chosen men into these callings over the years so that they would one day be at the head of the line at the exact moment when God was ready to call them as the next prophet? You are so naïve.

The line of succession is outlined in the state approved charter. God's will isn't mentioned anywhere in it.

Systemic Within The Body

Now, I don't want to leave you with the impression that I see the general authorities of the Church as a group of sinister businessmen gleefully rubbing their hands together plotting their next takeover.

Far from it. I believe those men take very seriously their commitment to doing good works. They try very hard to be worthy of their responsibilities, and I'm positive they pray for guidance daily. With the obvious exception of Boyd K. Packer, none of these men is inherently evil. On the contrary, most of them are exceptionally good and fine men.

As Paul James Toscano has said, individually the general authorities of the Church are fine and wonderful people. “The problem,” he says, “is that when they get together, they act like a corporation.”

Exactly. It's not so much the people within the system, it is the system itself. This Church is a corporation. It is chartered as a corporation, and it behaves like a corporation. Before they were called to their positions of leadership within the Church, most of these men made their livings as lawyers and businessmen in the corporate world. Not in the last hundred years can I think of an actual theologian who has been invited to join their ranks. They are in these positions because the talents and skills they developed on the outside are needed on the inside.

When each of them came aboard to serve in this corporation, even though they believe it is ecclesiastical in nature, they soon learned that things are run here very much the way things were run in the corporate world they left.

Thus, the areas that the corporate Church tends to focus on are, by and large, the same things any corporation lends its attention to: Growth, Image, and Control.

Especially damage control to its image. Notice that in the early LDS church, the spokesman for the church was called a Prophet. Today the press is continually quoting a “church spokesman” who turns out to be someone from the Public Relations Department.

That is how a corporation works. It is not what we expect from a church that claims Jesus Christ as its head. If Jesus Christ was still the head of this church, He would have his spokesman speak for His church, not some flunky from the PR department whose job it is to act as a buffer to protect the prophet from embarrassment. 

Those Were The Days, My Friends

Let's take a look at the way things used to be in the church in my own lifetime.  Things were pretty good for a Mormon boy growing up in a California ward. We met three times each Sunday, and went home for a long break between Sunday School and Sacrament. Each ward was a self-contained community of believers where we all knew one another. Most of the stuff we did, we did together as a ward.

Although I'd never been to Utah, I was aware that the church had headquarters there, but I didn't think much about it as the bureaucracy's reach was not noticeable all the way to the Anaheim First Ward. Church to me meant the building at Euclid and Broadway, and it meant the people who met in that building with me.

And that simple description is pretty much what “church” meant not only to the early latter-day Saints, but to the original first century Saints also.

As the shepherds of their wards, Bishops had a lot of autonomy in the old days. Fast offerings were collected, then disbursed among the needy in the wards they were collected in. If there wasn't enough in the fast offering fund, a bishop would supplement it from the tithing collected in his ward. As bishop, he had fiduciary trust and a certain amount of discretion with the funds. The money was collected from his congregation, and much of it was used there. What wasn't needed locally was sent on to Salt Lake where it was assumed most of it would be used to help other people within and without the church.

When I was a kid, the ward held bazaars and rummage sales to earn additional money so we could hold ward dinners and parties and such, all which added to our sense of community. We competed with other wards and stakes by putting on Road Shows, which were hokey little mini-musicals we wrote ourselves. Bishops were usually avuncular old men who knew the gospel pretty well.

Rise Of The Institutional Church

In 1961 Church headquarters announced a new program that it called “Correlation.” This new way of doing things was introduced in conference by apostle Harold B. Lee. It was described as a benefit, sold as a way to coordinate and unify all the various programs of the church.

What it ended up being was a stifling means of control, not only of individual wards, but also of many individual members. The policies of correlation took decades to fully implement, and most of us didn't even notice the subtle changes. Although it was begun during the administration of President David. O. Mckay, it has since been learned that President McKay neither implemented nor controlled the program, and on at least two occasions he expressed concerns about it privately. Still, the Correlation juggernaut continued on for the next four decades.

Correlation represented a gradual and subtle shift in the way the church came to be governed at all levels. What it resulted in was top-down control of the church and its members. Like the frog in the pot, few members really noticed what was happening to their church until it was fully cooked.

Even I don't remember the exact moment I realized the meaning of the word “church” had changed for me. But at some point, without realizing it, when I spoke of “the church,” I was no longer referring to the place I went on Sunday to worship; I was now subconsciously referencing a monolithic institution headquartered in Salt Lake City and controlled by an accordant group of men in dark suits.

Where previously friends and I might have perhaps wondered what the scriptures said about this question or that, now we found ourselves asking, “What has The Church said about it?” or “What is The Church's position on that?” We spoke as if “The Church” was, if not God himself, some commensurate entity that existed on its own, separate from the Creator, but somehow equal in authority to Him.

Why They Canceled Roadshows
Gone by this time were the Roadshows, because the central authority couldn't trust us hippie teenagers not to write some funny bit into the script that someone might find inappropriate. Gone also were the fun church bazaars, rummage sales, and pancake breakfasts. With them went many of the extracurricular activities, other than scouting and some tightly controlled dances.

Gradually there was not much to do outside of Church on Sunday, and those meetings were crammed all together into three hours of stultifying boredom that was so unbearable that as soon as church was over no one felt like staying around to visit. After church you just wanted to get home. Since ward members no longer lingered, they didn't get to know each other well, and the sense of community in many wards began to weaken.

"The Church” whatever that used to mean, was now morphing into some kind of giant monolithic authority. “Church” no longer meant us, the aggregate community of believing Saints. The Church was now THE CHURCH.TM  The Great I Am.

Bishops now tended to be chosen more for their administrative skills than for their deep knowledge of the gospel and love for others. It was no longer so important that such men knew how to shepherd the flock. What the ChurchTM needs today is someone who can “run the ward.” We need managers. Go-getters. High achievers.

Daymon Smith quotes a department head relating an odd inversion of charity occurring on the local level throughout the church. Rather than fulfilling their chief duty of tending to the poor and needy, these bishops believe "that they're expected to keep expenditures as low as possible. There is a sense of pride among bishops and stake presidents who send fast offerings from their units to the general Church.”

The New Mormon Church

I may not have recognized the frog as it was boiling, but Dr. Smith gives us the exact date it finished cooking. January 1st 1990 was the day the ChurchTM dropped all pretenses.

From that day on, it was announced, all tithing monies collected from local congregations would be sent directly to Church headquarters, and the Church would then dispense a portion back to the wards. This was all sold as a more efficient way of running things. But it turned the traditional church of Christ on its head, requiring the members to send in their money to a corporate entity that was far removed from them and which became the sole judge on how contributions would be spent. Nothing about the doctrine of Common Consent was mentioned in the announcement.

President Hinckley and Elders Packer and Monson announced the news at a priesthood satellite broadcast. The details were sketchy, but the new program, said Monson, “eliminated the need for local units to raise budget money as their...expenses are now funded almost entirely from general Church funds.”

Now the Church would fund everything through a “ward budget” it dispensed, based in part on attendance at Sunday services.

"The Church?” Smith asks rhetorically. “Yes, the speakers were quite clear...They know by the Church they mean The Corporation.

You were not included in those decisions, because you are not a member of that ChurchTM.

At best you are a subsidiary of the corporation. Like those Mormons promised as human collateral to the banks at the turn of the twentieth century, It is upon the promise of your future tithes that the corporation counts you as an asset. You are a resource, a cow to be milked when the bucket runs low.

Daymon Smith says that over a three year period, his ward sent ChurchTM headquarters “a flat million in tithes.” 
 
"In return for their generosity,” says Smith, “members receive an annual return held in trust by the ward accountants. For my ward it was $7 a head, officially.”

What does the ChurchTM do with all those billions? It “sends out materials (print, DVD, and so on), builds chapels, funds missionary efforts (partially)... and who knows what with the rest of the billions.”
"Rarely does your money feed the hungry, clothe the poor, or provide for other non-religious forms not published by the Church Office Building or sent forth from the COB.”
“By the time the money comes back from the COB, the Church has generously tithed to the needy from its multibillion dollar revenue stream something on the order of one percent, often in used, tattered clothing and rice and wheat and so on...For all its bluster and public relations about humanitarian aid, The Corporation, in other words doesn't follow its own rule of tithing.”
"I would not be surprised,” adds Smith, “if more was spent on PR than on those good works which are PR'd before men.”

In 1837 Joseph Smith taught that tithing meant a mere 2 percent of one's net worth, after debts were paid. That was back when we had a church. 

Somehow over time the corporation has convinced us that we should hand over to it 10 percent of everything before expenses, and some believe that includes money received as birthday gifts. Corporate spokesmen have even hinted from the pulpit recently that some of us should consider turning over 20 percent to them.

"When instituted by Joseph Smith in the 1830's," writes Smith, “tithing wrought a very small revenue stream, and it was designed to be small in order to prevent just the sort of dominating “Church” that now governs and patrols, steals the very name, and surveys and takes and gives what it believes best to congregations.”

"Mormons are warned from the pulpit not to rob God, so they send their money to the bishop. Aware of poorer congregations, and of starving Mormons on some god-forsaken land, locals tighten belts and send as much as possible to headquarters.”
"And it all disappears, then suddenly we are handed another pamphlet, another manual, built another chapel or temple, beamed another satellite broadcast. The rest of the money just sits in banks and investment portfolios reviewed by money managers in Salt Lake City, who see in growing numbers the Lord's General, Sacred Funds, and that means the Corporation's, and they its priestly stewards.”
"Many Mormons who attend chapels,” Smith continues, “are good, kind, and decent; many are not. Mormons in these wards are often willing to sacrifice for others, to help, and yet these desires are turned, collectively, too often by the corporate interests against the works of light.”

Buy This Book

I've barely touched on the information available in Daymon Smith's book, and I haven't mentioned the various ways in which the corporation's directors waste your money on expensive meals, cars, credit card accounts, and unbelievably generous salaries that they have chosen to dub “modest allowances” or “stipends.” The house that the current president of the corporation lives in is said to be valued at $2.1 million. He didn't buy that house with his own money.

You can hear several hours of interviews with Daymon Smith over at Mormon Stories Podcasts where he discusses the history of correlation, how the corporate ChurchTM struggles to serve both God and Mammon, and more on the transformation from church of Christ to corporate hybrid.

You can find his doctoral dissertation here, and over at By Common Consent there is a nine part discussion with Smith on the history of correlation that starts here.

I can't stress the importance of these materials strongly enough. If you lack a knowledge of the changes wrought in the church through correlation and corporate influence, your understanding of Mormon history in the twentieth century is woefully incomplete and innacurate. It's as simple as that.



PostScript

I wanted to include the following information in the essay above, but the piece was already so long I didn't have the heart to put you readers through a longer stretch.

But I did not want to leave unanswered the question some may have of how a church ostensibly guided by Jesus Christ himself could have been dissolved by a government entity. What possible claim of jurisdiction could the government have over any independent church?

Where it may be argued that the federal government might have had the right to seize church property since that property was situated on federal lands (until Utah became a state, it did not have autonomy separate from federal authority), that theory of law certainly does not extend to the dissolution of a sovereign church of Christ.

The answer is that the church hadn't been sovereign since 1829. Although the restored church existed prior to April 6th, 1830 (There were three branches and over seventy baptized members prior to that time), it was on that date that Joseph Smith unwittingly petitioned the state of New York for permission to form a church under the laws of New York State. Clearly he did not understand what he was doing; it's likely that he saw this action as akin to an announcement that a new denomination was hereby established. But what the government giveth, the government taketh away, and any act of incorporation takes a church out of the jurisdiction of God and places it smack dab into the backyard of Babylon. And Babylon does what it wishes.

Here is an excerpt from David Whitmer's account at the inception:
In this month (June 1829) I was baptized, confirmed, and ordained an Elder in the Church of Christ by Bro. Joseph Smith. Previous to this, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had baptized, confirmed and ordained each other to the office of an Elder in the Church of Christ. I was the third person baptized into the church. In August, 1829, we began to preach the gospel of Christ. The following six Elders had then been ordained: Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, Samuel H. Smith, Hyrum Smith and myself. The Book of Mormon was still in the hands of the printer, but my brother, Christian Whitmer, had copied from the manuscript the teachings and doctrine of Christ, being the things which we were commanded to preach. We preached, baptized and confirmed members into the Church of Christ, from August, 1829, until April 6th, 1830, being eight months in which time we had proceeded rightly; the offices in the church being Elders, Priests and Teachers.
Now, when April 6, 1830, had come, we had then established three branches of the “Church of Christ,” in which three branches were about seventy members: One branch was at Fayette, N. Y.; one at Manchester, N. Y., and one at Colesville, Pa. It is all a mistake about the church being organized on April 6, 1830, as I will show. We were as fully organizedspiritually–before April 6th as we were on that day. The reason why we met on that day was this; the world had been telling us that we were not a regularly organized church, and we had no right to officiate in the ordinance of marriage, hold church property, etc., and that we should organize according to the laws of the land. On this account we met at my father’s house in Fayette, N. Y., on April 6, 1830, to attend to this matter of organizing according to the laws of the land; you can see this from Sec. 17 Doctrine and Convenants: the church was organized on April 6th agreeable to the laws of our country.” (An Address to All Believers in Christ, pg 32-34)
 Indeed, the Lord defined His church in D&C 10:67, showing that it was already in existence at least since 1828. There was no need to “organize” something that was already extant. Joseph's act of registering with the state was a slow poison that proved fatal to his creation sixty years later.

And if you haven't already figured it out, no government actually has the power to dissolve the Church of Christ. All they did was kill a corporate version of it. The true Church of Christ is present “where two or three are are gathered together” in his name (Matt 18:20), and “whosoever repenteth and come unto me, the same is my church.” (D&C 10:67)

YOU are the church. So go ahead and continue attending your local ward. Keep shining your light there and make it a better home for all the Saints of God.
(I'd steer clear of the Church Office Building, though.)

Update December 4, 2010: It has come to my attention that Joseph Smith most likely did not incorporate the Church in New York, as has been commonly believed.  David Stott, an attorney from New York has researched the matter and concluded that Joseph most likely organized the Church under the common law practice of registering it as a "religious society", rather than as a "religious corporation" under the state of New York.  The latter is a petition of permission, while the former is not.  David Whitmer is still correct in asserting that seeking legal standing for the Church was unnecessary, and that the church existed prior to being officially organized, but the act of organizing at the common law would not have placed the Church under state jurisdiction, so I was wrong about that.  You can read David Stott's analysis here.

The "religious society" Joseph Smith organized in 1830 was called The Church of Christ.  In 1851, Brigham Young incorporated what was by then known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Since Utah was under federal jurisdiction at that time, it would make sense that the federal government might claim the right to disincorporate the Church that had been incorporated under federal law.  Was that action right? No. Was it legal? Yes, I think so.


_

How Corporatism Has Undermined and Subverted The Church of Jesus Christ

When I was released from my mission in Independence, Missouri, my family was on hand to pick me up in their new RV. After tooling around the country for a bit, we stayed a few weeks in Salt Lake City before returning home to Anaheim.

Wandering alone one day around Temple Square, I found myself no longer sure what I wanted to do for a living. I had always planned to go back to work at Disneyland, but already I was missing the structured life of a missionary, where every day had purpose because it was spent in meaningful religious service.

I soon found myself looking up at the imposing Church Office Building.  How would it be, I wondered, to work in there, in close proximity to the most spiritual men on the earth? Perhaps I could get a good job in the city, workin' for the Lord every night and day.

"Quickest way to lose your testimony."

Those were the words of the wife of a friend of mine some years later. She had spent a good part of her life as some sort of an assistant to some other assistant to some General Authority, and boy, was she jaded. She assured me that life in the COB -that's short for Church Office Building- was like that old line about watching sausage being made. You really don't want to see it.

I've since heard similar tales of warning from others who have gotten too close to the Morg.  Former employees of the Church can sure be a cynical bunch.

And now comes Daymon Smith with a newly published memoir of his experiences as an employee at the COB. But Smith's account is more than mere memoir; though a bit scatter-shot in execution, I'd rank it among the top Ten essential histories of the modern LDS Church. What Smith uncovered in his research is that the corporation at the top of what we think of as the LDS church actually spends an inordinate amount of its time serving not God, but Mammon. And too often that Mammon-serving is wrapped up and presented as Godly service when sometimes it is anything but. 

Don't Hire A Digger If You Don't Want Nothin' Dug

For some reason Church headquarters decided they needed an anthropologist in the building, so they hired Daymon Smith, a latter-day Saint with a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. He had written a 500 page dissertation on some under-discussed facets of Mormon history that nobody at the COB seems to have bothered to read. Maybe they should have, because they would have learned that Smith was an extremely curious and thorough researcher with a knack for uncovering hidden goings-on that most of us in the church had no inkling of.

Smith's new book is titled The Book of Mammon: A Book About A Book About The Corporation That Owns The Mormons. If you had no idea before now that the Church was actually owned by a corporation, read on.  It gets worse. 

And if you harbor the happy illusion that all Church policy is the result of prayerful consideration by the general authorities, be prepared to have those illusions shattered. Much of what has been handed down to us in the way of “inspired” Church programs originated in Marketing or some other department of the Church Office Building and was later approved by the G.A.'s.

I'll give you two examples. 
 
Remember when the church trotted out the new scriptures back in 1981? Someone at the COB thought it would be helpful if all the standard works could be coordinated with matching fonts, then tied together with footnotes and cross references. So amidst much fanfare, the Church announced a new era of personal scripture study. The diligent LDS reader could now find prepackaged scholarship on every page.

But as most of us know by now, anyone hoping to actually learn anything by following those footnotes soon finds himself going in a circle. That's because what they did at the COB was mostly just feed the scriptures into a computer (this was the late 1970's, when computers were magic), and whenever the computer found a word in the Bible that also appears in the Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants, that word is footnoted and cross-referenced, no matter how irrelevant or inaccurate in its meaning. Inaccuracies also abound in the chapter headings, which summarize concepts not always found within the scriptures they are  describing. These chapter headings were written by a committee headed by Bruce McConkie. As if I need say anything more about that.

You're way better off with a copy of Strong's Concordance by your side and a good set of commentaries.

But the COB really pulled out all the stops in the marketing of this new Quad. Articles appeared in the Church News and The Ensign, and speakers at general conference touted all the reasons you just had to have a copy of your own if you were going to be in with the in crowd.

The problem, though, was that for most members, this new set of scriptures was prohibitively expensive. Depending on which size volumes you chose or the color of fine leather cover you picked, your desire to walk into the chapel toting the latest in up-to-the minute must-have accessories could end up costing you as much as a hundred bucks.

Less expensive editions were available, of course, but the guy in charge of Deseret Book, the chain of bookstores owned by the Church, didn't want the membership to know about the availability of the cheaper volumes because Deseret Book -that is, the Church- didn't make any money on those. If the corporate Church was going to skin the rubes -excuse me, I mean “serve the membership,” they were going to have to downplay the availability of the cheaper editions.

Which is what they did, talking up only the super-duper deluxe editions and keeping the others hidden in a back room of the store.

I recall paying $90.00 for my bible and Triple Combination back in a day when I used to have that kind of money to throw around. Still, I remember that we couldn't really afford to get a second set for Connie at the time. We could only afford new scriptures for one of us, and since I was the priesthood holder it wasn't even up for discussion which one of us was going to get them.

After the Church pulled in a couple of million dollars selling the books to the more affluent members, they finally let it leak that you could buy a less extravagantly bound set for around fourteen bucks. Today if you're a new convert, the bishop will just hand you a set for free.

Flooding The Warehouse With The Book of Mormon

About this time Church headquarters also sent an announcement to all the mission presidents that a new improved edition of the Book of Mormon was being readied for handing out to investigators. It was going to have more features and be more attractive, and therefore hopefully be a better conversion tool for use by the missionaries.

But first they had to figure out a way to get rid of those millions of old copies of the Book of Mormon just sitting in warehouses. They tried to palm these off on the mission presidents, but unfortunately marketing had done such a good job of promoting the new editions that the mission presidents said, “No thanks, we have plenty.  We'll just wait for the new ones to come out.”

This lack of cooperation by the mission presidents created a dilemma because of the weird way things are done at Church headquarters. The various departments of the Church are constantly shifting money back and forth to each other, so the way accounting takes place at the COB is completely kooky, if not downright incestuous. Even though departments spend the Church money on each other, each department wants its bottom line to look good to the higher-ups, so the Church has a way of conducting business that would make no sense to an outsider.

For instance, from the money the Church collects in tithing, it doles out some of that money to the various missions around the world to finance the operations of those missions. The mission presidents then turn right around and spend a good chunk of that money purchasing materials from the Church, which is the very same entity that just gave them that money to begin with.

Why doesn't the Church just give the materials to the missions? Because then the printing department would show a loss. They would not have gotten “paid” for the materials used by the missions.  And the printing department of the Church would not look good to the general authorities who review their books at the end of the year if their books showed they had lost money for the Church.

(You may be catching on here that the corporate Church is a hopeless bureaucracy. Let's just say it's worse than you can possibly imagine.)

So Church headquarters had a problem with its excess inventory. Before they could even think about printing millions of new missionary editions of the Book of Mormon, they had to get rid of warehouses full of the old ones. They couldn't sell them to the missions, because the missions weren't buying. The missions would accept the books for free, of course, but that would reflect a loss to the Church. They couldn't throw them away or even give them away to members for the same reason.

Hold on a minute. What was that about giving them away to members?

Some hot shot genius in the Marketing Department came up with an idea. What if we could get the members to actually buy all those books from us?

And so was born the Family to Family program. And it was a corker. Here's how it worked.

What you did was purchase a quantity of the books from the Church, then inside the front cover you would place a picture of your family along with a short note containing your testimony of the Book of Mormon and how it had enriched your life and the lives of your family. Those books would then be given to your local missionaries, or sent back to Church headquarters which would send them to foreign missionaries, and you would have a direct hand in bringing the gospel to people you never met. It lent a personal touch to missionary work, and well, you never knew what effect your testimony might have on some far away family in say, France or Minnesota.

The program was a resounding success. The Church promoted the program with an extensive campaign of ads, letters, fliers, and articles in the Ensign and the Church News. Talks were given in conference encouraging the membership to “flood the earth with the Book of Mormon,” and that phrase became the promotional tag line for the program.

By 1990, 6.5 million Books of Mormon were sold to the membership of the church, a total, reports Smith, “that approximates the same number of Mormons on record that year.”

Not all of those books ended up in the hands of missionaries and investigators. Cases of the books still sit today in the backs of well-meaning member's closets. Many books ended up years later donated to D.I. There was such a glut of them at some of the mission offices that they ended up just stored in the basement and forgotten until the new editions arrived and were given out instead.

But the guys at the COB got all of those unwanted books out of the warehouses, and that was the point of the whole thing, after all.

Our family participated in the program, and I remember thinking at the time how inspired it was. But the Family to Family program wasn't inspired from on high in the way I was conditioned to think these things occurred. The idea had come because the Church needed to rid itself of a bunch of unwanted inventory, and some mid-level employee came up with a way to do it while making a buck off the membership.

It was a brilliant con. I had paid for the printing of those books originally when I sent in my tithing money. Now the Church got me to pay again to buy them back. Somebody at the Church Office Building was patting himself on the back.

Inspired? It was inspired alright. Inspired in the same way Old Spice was inspired recently to come up with that suave new Man on a Horse campaign to move a lot of old product nobody wants because it makes you smell like your grandpa. 
 
The Vanishing LDS Church

Without a doubt the most startling discovery in Daymon Smith's book is his revelation that the church that Joseph Smith established in 1830 no longer even exists. At all.

What we think of as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says Smith, operates today as a mere trademark of the corporation that owns the name to it. The actual church that used to go by that name, and which claims Jesus Christ as its head, does not exist today in any legally recognized form.

I realize that sounds impossible for some people to grasp. Well, I'm here to help.

As it so happens, I know something about corporate law as it applies to churches, so allow me to back up a bit here and give you a quick crash course so you can understand how a government chartered corporation can own a church that no longer even exists. I promise to make it easy to understand.


Corpus Descriptum  
(See, it's getting easier already!)

A corporation is an organization chartered by the state and given many legal rights separate from its owners. You with me so far? Didn't think so.

Okay, think of Frankenstein's monster. No, scratch that. Too evil.

Think of a robot that you and your friends control. It has no brain and no soul, but it can walk around and pick things up; it can do stuff for you. That's a corporation. It can do stuff for you.

Except unlike a robot, a corporation has no actual form. No body. No robot hands or robot feet. So if you can visualize a robot that has no mechanical parts, you're close to mastering the concept. A corporation is an entity. What is an entity? It's a thing. What is a thing? It's an entity.

Welcome to the world of law.

A corporation is an entity that you cannot touch. It is neither inherently good nor inherently evil, but it has a life of its own, and if the batteries are good, that robot can live on after you and your friends are dead and gone. Sometimes that can be a problem. Originally corporations in America were not meant to outlive their creators. Today they do.

One of the biggest problems with a corporation is that under the law, a corporation is actually considered a “person.” That's why it is often defined as a legal fiction. That is, this “person” is legal, but he isn't real. It's a fictional person. It isn't flesh and blood. It has no soul.

And that's the rub. Although it is treated like one, a corporation is not a human being, and usually no real live person within a corporation can be legally held responsible for the harm a corporation might do. The corporation can be fined, but that fine is usually absorbed by the stockholders. The board member's salaries remain sacrosanct.

Indeed, the directors of a corporation can, in a way, transfer their sins to the corporation, which will absorb them without much consequence. In the words of the British Baron Edward Thurlow, the problem with corporations is “they have no soul to save, nor body to incarcerate.”

Most tellingly, a corporation is not something that can stand accountable before God. So if you believe in the doctrine of personal accountability, you can see the crack in the plan right there.

The American colonists were particularly leery of corporations because England's East India Company had in many ways become more powerful than England herself, and was a prime instigator behind England's imperialist ambitions.

When our country was young, there were very few corporations in existence here; when one did appear, it was for the purpose of accomplishing something monumental. Charters were granted for a specific purpose and always for a limited time. The construction of the Erie Canal is one example of the granting of an early American corporation. When the canal was finished being built, the founding corporation expired, as all corporations were meant to.

Corporations certainly weren't the common mode of doing business that they are now. And as far as churches went, incorporation was simply not done, as a corporation derives its existence and all of its power from the state.

Since Jesus Christ is the head of the church, it would be incompatible for a church to petition the government for permission to exist. The church, as Paul taught, is the body of Christ. He governs it with His laws, principles, and directions. It is not subject to man's laws. No Christian pastor in colonial times would have thought to place his church under political control.

As the Supreme Court explained in the case of Hale v. Hinkle:

"A corporation is a creature of the state...It receives certain special privileges and franchises and holds them subject to the laws of the state and the limitation of its charter. Its powers are limited by law. It can make no contract not authorized by its charter. Its rights to act as a corporation are only preserved to it so long as it obeys the laws of its creation. There is a reserved right in the legislature to investigate its contracts and ascertain if it has exceeded its powers" (Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43)

"Corporate existence,” according to Roberson's Business Law, “is a privilege granted by the sovereign upon compliance with specified conditions."

So that's a problem for any church that gets a hankering to incorporate, because in the church, Jesus Christ is supposed to be the sovereign. When application is made to incorporate a church, the will of Jesus Christ becomes subordinate to the will of the state. "For a church to become a corporation,” goes the maxim, “in effect divorces the church from Christ.”

All of this incorporating of churches is unnecessary in America anyway, because churches automatically operate in a sphere separate from the state. Governments have no jurisdiction in the church whatsoever. There is no tax advantage for a church to incorporate, as some mistakenly believe. But there is if that “Church” actually wants to operate as a business. Then it can trade its sovereignty in exchange for special privileges granted by the government.

Which is what the President of what used to be the LDS church did in 1923. 
 
How We Waived Our Sovereignty

Back in 1887, the church found itself in a famous staring contest with the federal government, and our side blinked. The United States Congress punished us by dissolving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and seizing all of its assets, including the Salt Lake temple and all of temple square.

Whether the government actually had the authority to do all this is a question for another time, but in 1890 the Supreme Court upheld the dissolution, and the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as a legal entity, simply ceased to exist. We had to do a lot of serious butt-kissing just to get our stuff back, but there was no question that the church itself was not returning any time soon. At least not in any form Joseph Smith would have recognized. Or Jesus Christ, for that matter.

Serving God And Mammon

Although a corporation is a person without a soul, corporations do retain at least one characteristic of a real person. Just like you and me, they tend to want to continue to exist. For most corporations, staying alive means bringing in money. Continually.

Which brings us back to Dr. Daymon Smith. For as Smith points out, it wasn't so much polygamy that brought the ire of the nation down upon the heads of the Mormons. That was just the cover story fed to the masses back east to stir up the public, much as the government today keeps the populace in fear of cave-dwelling boogie men in order to justify its adventures overseas and its abrogations here at home.  

Did you really think that President Buchanan would send the United States Army half-way across the desert to stop a handful of hick farmers from sleeping with extra women?

No, the problem with the Mormons, as Daymon Smith reminds us, was “their theocratic control over politics, economics, and resources in the west.” This uppity Mormon empire was becoming a viable threat to the Eastern banking establishment, railroad tycoons, and ambitious politicians.

But you can't send out the army because the Eastern money men don't like competition. So you get the press to stir up the American people against those scary-bad polygamists and before long you have America demanding the army go and put a stop to this barbarism. Let's show those desert-dwelling rubes they can't thumb their noses at Uncle Sam!

The fact is, the Mormon church by the 1880's was becoming an economic force to be reckoned with. Not only was it threatening the Eastern money men, it was also threatening the peace within the church, as members of the Twelve argued constantly among themselves about -you guessed it- money.

The Twelve Apostles were now much too busy to to go forth throughout the world and spread the good news of Christ. They had to stay home and spend all their time managing literally hundreds of church owned businesses. It was virtually impossible by this time to find where the division lay between ecclesiastical and monetary interests. Apparently God himself couldn't help getting in on the action, as He kept coming up with hot investment tips to pass on to his servants. According to historian Michael Quinn:

"In1870 Brigham Young publicly announced a revelation for Mormons to invest in a railroad. In 1881 John Taylor privately dictated a revelation to organize an iron company, and in 1883 another revelation to invest tithing funds in a gold mine. In the 1890's the hierarchy gave certain men the religious 'calling' or obligation to invest thousands of dollars each in a sugar company.”
This focus on the financial over the spiritual was starting to take its toll on the Church. Brigham Young, Jr. felt it had all gone too far. “There is too much time given to Corporations, stocks, bonds, policies, etc. by our leaders to please me,” he wrote in his diary, “We are in all kinds of business interests. Even the members of the Twelve represent businesses which are jealous of each other and almost ready to fight each other.”

How I Love Ya, How I Love Ya, My Dear Old Mammon

After the bust-up of 1890, and after bowing and scraping to their government masters so that they could retain some of their assets, the Church hierarchy eventually made peace with Babylon. As the saying goes, “If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.”

With only a hint of exaggeration, Daymon Smith cheekily summarizes the situation:
"No longer members of any legally recognized religion, Mormons organized a focus group to re-brand their identity. So they called around to some California railroad lobbyists, New York ad-men, and brainstormed and out-paradigm-shifted a totally innovational re-branding of Mormonism.”
"The Trustee thus offered bonds to Eastern bankers with the promised collateral being the Mormons themselves."
The Mormon people, you see, had untapped value: a sense of community, a uniquely productive work ethic, and best of all, a built-in propensity to be obedient to authorities.
These Mormons were made to order. The Mormon leaders offered up the future tithes of the Mormon people as guarantees against their investments. The members of what used to be The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be unwitting cash cows for the benefit of their leaders. And the leaders of what used to be that church were now climbing into bed with the whore of Babylon.

Catholic Pope, Meet The Mormon Pope

Some time around 1900, the office of Trustee-in-Trust was reformed, then a few years later the financial interests of the "Church" were protected under the “Corporation of the Presiding Bishop.” Finally in 1923, church lawyers found The Holy Grail: a rare, little known, and hardly ever used mode of incorporation known as The Corporation Sole.

Virtually unknown in America, and tracing its origins to ancient Roman law, the corporation sole was the way the vast riches of the Holy Catholic Church had been protected under Emperor Constantine. All financial power was vested in one man -in their case the pope, in our case, the prophet.

Or, as he was named in the corporate charter, “the President.” The word “Prophet” doesn't appear in the charter. This wasn't a real church, after all. It was just a way for the leadership of the, ahem, "Church” (wink, wink) to control the member's money.

In the original LDS church from the time of Joseph Smith, all members were considered of equal worth. They were called “members” because in the ancient church the scriptures called them “members of the body of Christ.” All parts were of equal importance to the Lord. You know the words of Paul in 1st Corinthians 12: “The head cannot say to the feet, I have no need of you.”

Likewise church property bought with member's tithing was considered held in common by all the members of the church, with common consent required for the purchase or disbursement of that common property.

But not anymore. Under the corporation sole, the head could tell the feet to go take a hike. The president of the church could do whatever the hell he wanted with the member's money without asking permission from the members whatsoever. It's spelled out right there in the charter. The president of the corporation needs no authorization from any mere member of the Lord's church. No show of hands, no vote, no “all in favor please manifest.” Like the Pope, his power is absolute. He is the Sole Brother.

Also written into the charter of the Corporation of the President as amended was how the line of succession was to operate within the Church. In order for there to be no question as to who held the purse strings following the death of the president (the “Sole” in a ”Sole Corporation”), the Senior Apostle automatically becomes the next president of the Corporation.

You thought somehow God maneuvered certain chosen men into these callings over the years so that they would one day be at the head of the line at the exact moment when God was ready to call them as the next prophet? You are so naïve.

The line of succession is outlined in the state approved charter. God's will isn't mentioned anywhere in it.

Systemic Within The Body

Now, I don't want to leave you with the impression that I see the general authorities of the Church as a group of sinister businessmen gleefully rubbing their hands together plotting their next takeover.

Far from it. I believe those men take very seriously their commitment to doing good works. They try very hard to be worthy of their responsibilities, and I'm positive they pray for guidance daily. With the obvious exception of Boyd K. Packer, none of these men is inherently evil. On the contrary, most of them are exceptionally good and fine men.

As Paul James Toscano has said, individually the general authorities of the Church are fine and wonderful people. “The problem,” he says, “is that when they get together, they act like a corporation.”

Exactly. It's not so much the people within the system, it is the system itself. This Church is a corporation. It is chartered as a corporation, and it behaves like a corporation. Before they were called to their positions of leadership within the Church, most of these men made their livings as lawyers and businessmen in the corporate world. Not in the last hundred years can I think of an actual theologian who has been invited to join their ranks. They are in these positions because the talents and skills they developed on the outside are needed on the inside.

When each of them came aboard to serve in this corporation, even though they believe it is ecclesiastical in nature, they soon learned that things are run here very much the way things were run in the corporate world they left.

Thus, the areas that the corporate Church tends to focus on are, by and large, the same things any corporation lends its attention to: Growth, Image, and Control.

Especially damage control to its image. Notice that in the early LDS church, the spokesman for the church was called a Prophet. Today the press is continually quoting a “church spokesman” who turns out to be someone from the Public Relations Department.

That is how a corporation works. It is not what we expect from a church that claims Jesus Christ as its head. If Jesus Christ was still the head of this church, He would have his spokesman speak for His church, not some flunky from the PR department whose job it is to act as a buffer to protect the prophet from embarrassment. 

Those Were The Days, My Friends

Let's take a look at the way things used to be in the church in my own lifetime.  Things were pretty good for a Mormon boy growing up in a California ward. We met three times each Sunday, and went home for a long break between Sunday School and Sacrament. Each ward was a self-contained community of believers where we all knew one another. Most of the stuff we did, we did together as a ward.

Although I'd never been to Utah, I was aware that the church had headquarters there, but I didn't think much about it as the bureaucracy's reach was not noticeable all the way to the Anaheim First Ward. Church to me meant the building at Euclid and Broadway, and it meant the people who met in that building with me.

And that simple description is pretty much what “church” meant not only to the early latter-day Saints, but to the original first century Saints also.

As the shepherds of their wards, Bishops had a lot of autonomy in the old days. Fast offerings were collected, then disbursed among the needy in the wards they were collected in. If there wasn't enough in the fast offering fund, a bishop would supplement it from the tithing collected in his ward. As bishop, he had fiduciary trust and a certain amount of discretion with the funds. The money was collected from his congregation, and much of it was used there. What wasn't needed locally was sent on to Salt Lake where it was assumed most of it would be used to help other people within and without the church.

When I was a kid, the ward held bazaars and rummage sales to earn additional money so we could hold ward dinners and parties and such, all which added to our sense of community. We competed with other wards and stakes by putting on Road Shows, which were hokey little mini-musicals we wrote ourselves. Bishops were usually avuncular old men who knew the gospel pretty well.

Rise Of The Institutional Church

In 1961 Church headquarters announced a new program that it called “Correlation.” This new way of doing things was introduced in conference by apostle Harold B. Lee. It was described as a benefit, sold as a way to coordinate and unify all the various programs of the church.

What it ended up being was a stifling means of control, not only of individual wards, but also of many individual members. The policies of correlation took decades to fully implement, and most of us didn't even notice the subtle changes. Although it was begun during the administration of President David. O. Mckay, it has since been learned that President McKay neither implemented nor controlled the program, and on at least two occasions he expressed concerns about it privately. Still, the Correlation juggernaut continued on for the next four decades.

Correlation represented a gradual and subtle shift in the way the church came to be governed at all levels. What it resulted in was top-down control of the church and its members. Like the frog in the pot, few members really noticed what was happening to their church until it was fully cooked.

Even I don't remember the exact moment I realized the meaning of the word “church” had changed for me. But at some point, without realizing it, when I spoke of “the church,” I was no longer referring to the place I went on Sunday to worship; I was now subconsciously referencing a monolithic institution headquartered in Salt Lake City and controlled by an accordant group of men in dark suits.

Where previously friends and I might have perhaps wondered what the scriptures said about this question or that, now we found ourselves asking, “What has The Church said about it?” or “What is The Church's position on that?” We spoke as if “The Church” was, if not God himself, some commensurate entity that existed on its own, separate from the Creator, but somehow equal in authority to Him.

Why They Canceled Roadshows
Gone by this time were the Roadshows, because the central authority couldn't trust us hippie teenagers not to write some funny bit into the script that someone might find inappropriate. Gone also were the fun church bazaars, rummage sales, and pancake breakfasts. With them went many of the extracurricular activities, other than scouting and some tightly controlled dances.

Gradually there was not much to do outside of Church on Sunday, and those meetings were crammed all together into three hours of stultifying boredom that was so unbearable that as soon as church was over no one felt like staying around to visit. After church you just wanted to get home. Since ward members no longer lingered, they didn't get to know each other well, and the sense of community in many wards began to weaken.

"The Church” whatever that used to mean, was now morphing into some kind of giant monolithic authority. “Church” no longer meant us, the aggregate community of believing Saints. The Church was now THE CHURCH.TM  The Great I Am.

Bishops now tended to be chosen more for their administrative skills than for their deep knowledge of the gospel and love for others. It was no longer so important that such men knew how to shepherd the flock. What the ChurchTM needs today is someone who can “run the ward.” We need managers. Go-getters. High achievers.

Daymon Smith quotes a department head relating an odd inversion of charity occurring on the local level throughout the church. Rather than fulfilling their chief duty of tending to the poor and needy, these bishops believe "that they're expected to keep expenditures as low as possible. There is a sense of pride among bishops and stake presidents who send fast offerings from their units to the general Church.”

The New Mormon Church

I may not have recognized the frog as it was boiling, but Dr. Smith gives us the exact date it finished cooking. January 1st 1990 was the day the ChurchTM dropped all pretenses.

From that day on, it was announced, all tithing monies collected from local congregations would be sent directly to Church headquarters, and the Church would then dispense a portion back to the wards. This was all sold as a more efficient way of running things. But it turned the traditional church of Christ on its head, requiring the members to send in their money to a corporate entity that was far removed from them and which became the sole judge on how contributions would be spent. Nothing about the doctrine of Common Consent was mentioned in the announcement.

President Hinckley and Elders Packer and Monson announced the news at a priesthood satellite broadcast. The details were sketchy, but the new program, said Monson, “eliminated the need for local units to raise budget money as their...expenses are now funded almost entirely from general Church funds.”

Now the Church would fund everything through a “ward budget” it dispensed, based in part on attendance at Sunday services.

"The Church?” Smith asks rhetorically. “Yes, the speakers were quite clear...They know by the Church they mean The Corporation.

You were not included in those decisions, because you are not a member of that ChurchTM.

At best you are a subsidiary of the corporation. Like those Mormons promised as human collateral to the banks at the turn of the twentieth century, It is upon the promise of your future tithes that the corporation counts you as an asset. You are a resource, a cow to be milked when the bucket runs low.

Daymon Smith says that over a three year period, his ward sent ChurchTM headquarters “a flat million in tithes.” 
 
"In return for their generosity,” says Smith, “members receive an annual return held in trust by the ward accountants. For my ward it was $7 a head, officially.”

What does the ChurchTM do with all those billions? It “sends out materials (print, DVD, and so on), builds chapels, funds missionary efforts (partially)... and who knows what with the rest of the billions.”
"Rarely does your money feed the hungry, clothe the poor, or provide for other non-religious forms not published by the Church Office Building or sent forth from the COB.”
“By the time the money comes back from the COB, the Church has generously tithed to the needy from its multibillion dollar revenue stream something on the order of one percent, often in used, tattered clothing and rice and wheat and so on...For all its bluster and public relations about humanitarian aid, The Corporation, in other words doesn't follow its own rule of tithing.”
"I would not be surprised,” adds Smith, “if more was spent on PR than on those good works which are PR'd before men.”

In 1837 Joseph Smith taught that tithing meant a mere 2 percent of one's net worth, after debts were paid. That was back when we had a church. 

Somehow over time the corporation has convinced us that we should hand over to it 10 percent of everything before expenses, and some believe that includes money received as birthday gifts. Corporate spokesmen have even hinted from the pulpit recently that some of us should consider turning over 20 percent to them.

"When instituted by Joseph Smith in the 1830's," writes Smith, “tithing wrought a very small revenue stream, and it was designed to be small in order to prevent just the sort of dominating “Church” that now governs and patrols, steals the very name, and surveys and takes and gives what it believes best to congregations.”

"Mormons are warned from the pulpit not to rob God, so they send their money to the bishop. Aware of poorer congregations, and of starving Mormons on some god-forsaken land, locals tighten belts and send as much as possible to headquarters.”
"And it all disappears, then suddenly we are handed another pamphlet, another manual, built another chapel or temple, beamed another satellite broadcast. The rest of the money just sits in banks and investment portfolios reviewed by money managers in Salt Lake City, who see in growing numbers the Lord's General, Sacred Funds, and that means the Corporation's, and they its priestly stewards.”
"Many Mormons who attend chapels,” Smith continues, “are good, kind, and decent; many are not. Mormons in these wards are often willing to sacrifice for others, to help, and yet these desires are turned, collectively, too often by the corporate interests against the works of light.”

Buy This Book

I've barely touched on the information available in Daymon Smith's book, and I haven't mentioned the various ways in which the corporation's directors waste your money on expensive meals, cars, credit card accounts, and unbelievably generous salaries that they have chosen to dub “modest allowances” or “stipends.” The house that the current president of the corporation lives in is said to be valued at $2.1 million. He didn't buy that house with his own money.

You can hear several hours of interviews with Daymon Smith over at Mormon Stories Podcasts where he discusses the history of correlation, how the corporate ChurchTM struggles to serve both God and Mammon, and more on the transformation from church of Christ to corporate hybrid.

You can find his doctoral dissertation here, and over at By Common Consent there is a nine part discussion with Smith on the history of correlation that starts here.

I can't stress the importance of these materials strongly enough. If you lack a knowledge of the changes wrought in the church through correlation and corporate influence, your understanding of Mormon history in the twentieth century is woefully incomplete and innacurate. It's as simple as that.



PostScript

I wanted to include the following information in the essay above, but the piece was already so long I didn't have the heart to put you readers through a longer stretch.

But I did not want to leave unanswered the question some may have of how a church ostensibly guided by Jesus Christ himself could have been dissolved by a government entity. What possible claim of jurisdiction could the government have over any independent church?

Where it may be argued that the federal government might have had the right to seize church property since that property was situated on federal lands (until Utah became a state, it did not have autonomy separate from federal authority), that theory of law certainly does not extend to the dissolution of a sovereign church of Christ.

The answer is that the church hadn't been sovereign since 1829. Although the restored church existed prior to April 6th, 1830 (There were three branches and over seventy baptized members prior to that time), it was on that date that Joseph Smith unwittingly petitioned the state of New York for permission to form a church under the laws of New York State. Clearly he did not understand what he was doing; it's likely that he saw this action as akin to an announcement that a new denomination was hereby established. But what the government giveth, the government taketh away, and any act of incorporation takes a church out of the jurisdiction of God and places it smack dab into the backyard of Babylon. And Babylon does what it wishes.

Here is an excerpt from David Whitmer's account at the inception:
In this month (June 1829) I was baptized, confirmed, and ordained an Elder in the Church of Christ by Bro. Joseph Smith. Previous to this, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had baptized, confirmed and ordained each other to the office of an Elder in the Church of Christ. I was the third person baptized into the church. In August, 1829, we began to preach the gospel of Christ. The following six Elders had then been ordained: Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, Samuel H. Smith, Hyrum Smith and myself. The Book of Mormon was still in the hands of the printer, but my brother, Christian Whitmer, had copied from the manuscript the teachings and doctrine of Christ, being the things which we were commanded to preach. We preached, baptized and confirmed members into the Church of Christ, from August, 1829, until April 6th, 1830, being eight months in which time we had proceeded rightly; the offices in the church being Elders, Priests and Teachers.
Now, when April 6, 1830, had come, we had then established three branches of the “Church of Christ,” in which three branches were about seventy members: One branch was at Fayette, N. Y.; one at Manchester, N. Y., and one at Colesville, Pa. It is all a mistake about the church being organized on April 6, 1830, as I will show. We were as fully organizedspiritually–before April 6th as we were on that day. The reason why we met on that day was this; the world had been telling us that we were not a regularly organized church, and we had no right to officiate in the ordinance of marriage, hold church property, etc., and that we should organize according to the laws of the land. On this account we met at my father’s house in Fayette, N. Y., on April 6, 1830, to attend to this matter of organizing according to the laws of the land; you can see this from Sec. 17 Doctrine and Convenants: the church was organized on April 6th agreeable to the laws of our country.” (An Address to All Believers in Christ, pg 32-34)
 Indeed, the Lord defined His church in D&C 10:67, showing that it was already in existence at least since 1828. There was no need to “organize” something that was already extant. Joseph's act of registering with the state was a slow poison that proved fatal to his creation sixty years later.

And if you haven't already figured it out, no government actually has the power to dissolve the Church of Christ. All they did was kill a corporate version of it. The true Church of Christ is present “where two or three are are gathered together” in his name (Matt 18:20), and “whosoever repenteth and come unto me, the same is my church.” (D&C 10:67)

YOU are the church. So go ahead and continue attending your local ward. Keep shining your light there and make it a better home for all the Saints of God.
(I'd steer clear of the Church Office Building, though.)

Update December 4, 2010: It has come to my attention that Joseph Smith most likely did not incorporate the Church in New York, as has been commonly believed.  David Stott, an attorney from New York has researched the matter and concluded that Joseph most likely organized the Church under the common law practice of registering it as a "religious society", rather than as a "religious corporation" under the state of New York.  The latter is a petition of permission, while the former is not.  David Whitmer is still correct in asserting that seeking legal standing for the Church was unnecessary, and that the church existed prior to being officially organized, but the act of organizing at the common law would not have placed the Church under state jurisdiction, so I was wrong about that.  You can read David Stott's analysis here.

The "religious society" Joseph Smith organized in 1830 was called The Church of Christ.  In 1851, Brigham Young incorporated what was by then known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Since Utah was under federal jurisdiction at that time, it would make sense that the federal government might claim the right to disincorporate the Church that had been incorporated under federal law.  Was that action right? No. Was it legal? Yes, I think so.


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