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.


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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Carl Youngblood said...

Although I think you bring up some good points, Alan, it seems like your discussion of the Church's legal organization isn't taking into account all the historical motivations for the way things ended up. Remember that the early saints shifted from working towards creating a "Kingdom of Deseret" to capitulating to the US gov't when it became clear that they were not strong enough to succeed. They sought whatever legal means were necessary to "stick it to the man," if you will. The more I study the writings and teachings of early church leaders, the more it seems to me that they didn't really care much about specific forms or organizations so long as these allowed them to have an advantage over their enemies.

It's easy to share platitudes about following the Spirit, but these guys were burned too many times by having high ideals that weren't matched by earthy wits. Jesus told his followers to be as wise as serpents, and that the children of this world were wiser than the children of light, because they had mastered the requisite survival skills for functioning in this world. In that sense, I think that the measures you see being taken later on to incorporate are the same kinds of tactics that JS, BY or any of the earlier leaders would have adopted just as readily, were they in similar circumstances.

What I'm saying is that I don't see a specific point at which the overall agenda shifted from being inspired to be worldly. Mormonism has always been a balancing act; a paradox between the sacred and the profane.

Carl Youngblood said...

I should have said, "The more I study Church history," not "the more I study the writings and teachings of the early church leaders." I meant to refer to more detailed history, not doctrinal teachings.

Anonymous said...


You said: "Remember that the early saints shifted from working towards creating a "Kingdom of Deseret" to capitulating to the US gov't when it became clear that they were not strong enough to succeed."

My understanding is that the Lord God would have fought their fights for them had they not made promises to the Gentiles and had kept their covenants and the commandments. They failed to do their part, and the Lord abandoned them to their enemies.


Carl Youngblood said...

Steve, I think your argument is fairly simplistic. If you study the history in more depth, you'll see that the situation was a lot more complex than that. It's easy to say that if something the prophet said didn't come true, then it was because the people weren't faithful enough.

There are, however, a number of examples of revelations (even those of JS) being revised after the facts played out differently. Heber J. Grant pleaded for the Saints not to repeal prohibition, for example, but thankfully his wish was not granted. This law was so obviously wrong and fostered conditions that were so much worse than the problem it was trying to overcome that it was simply evil to try to maintain it. As good as the prophets might be, they are not always right, and although we should seriously consider their words, the thinking is by no means over when they have spoken.

I'm not clear on all the particulars, but during the early days of the Church, JS prophesied in the name of the Lord that a copyright should be sought in a certain city in Canada. When Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page got to the city, it was discovered that copyrights were not even granted in that city, but that they would need to apply in another city quite far from there. There are a number of failed or not-quite-up-to-snuff prophecies in the early days of the Church like this one.

But far from proving the falseness of the work, I find it refreshing that the early saints were so willing to go out on a limb and attempt to exercise the gifts of the spirit, even if they ended up being wrong. Wish we had more of that willingness today.

That said, it was common for the leaders to encourage the saints to move in a certain direction, but then to change course as it became clear that things just weren't working. This is what I see as having happened during the course of John Taylor's presidency. It became more and more clear that the current tactic wasn't going to work. A great reference for this period is the BCC posts on correlation.

Anonymous said...


I understand that well-meaning men can make mistakes. With you I am glad that Pres. Grant's wish was not granted. I know nothing of the copyright story you cited.

The Saints were reluctant to keep the full law and thus, I guess, the Lord was not bound to protect them. I think the following revelation to Pres. Woodruff is clear on what was expected and what the Lord would do if the Saints complied.



November 24th, 1889.

Attended a meeting with the lawyers at the Guardo (house) in the evening. They wanted me to make some concession to the court upon polygamy and other points, and I spent several hours alone and inquired of the Lord and received the following revelation:

Thus saith the Lord to my servant Wilford. I, the Lord, have heard thy prayers and thy request, and will answer thee by the voice of my spirit.

Thus saith the Lord unto my servants the Presidency of My Church, who hold the Keys of the Kingdom of God on the earth. I the Lord hold the destiny of the courts in your midst, and the destiny of this nation, and all other nations of the earth, in mine own hands, and all that I have revealed and promised and decreed concerning the generation in which you live shall come to pass, and no power shall stay my hand.

Let not my servants who are called to the Presidency of my Church deny my word or my law, which concerns the salvation of the children of men.

Let them pray for the Holy Spirit which shall be given them to guide them in their acts. Place not yourselves in jeopardy to your enemies by promise. Your enemies seek your destruction and the destruction of my people. If the Saints will hearken unto my voice, and the counsel of my servants, the wicked shall not prevail.

Let my servants who officiate as your counselors before the courts make their pleadings as they are moved upon by the Holy Spirit, without any further pledges from the Priesthood, and they will be justified.

I, the Lord, will hold the courts, with the officers of government and the nation responsible for their acts towards the inhabitants of Zion.

I, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, am in your midst. I am your advocate with the Father. Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. Fear not the wicked and ungodly.

Search the scriptures, for they are they which testify of me; also those revelations which I have given to my servant Joseph, and to all my servants since the world began, which are recorded in the records of divine truth.

Those revelations contain the judgments of God which are to be poured out upon all nations under the heavens, which include Great Babylon. These judgments are at the door. They will be fulfilled as God lives. Leave judgment with me, it is mine, saith the Lord. Watch the signs of the times and they will show the fulfillment of the words of the Lord. Let my servants call upon the Lord in mighty prayer, retain the Holy Ghost as your constant companion and act as you are moved upon by that Spirit, and all will be well with you.

The wicked are fast ripening in iniquity, and they will be cut off by the judgments of God. Great events await you and this generation and are nigh at your doors. Awake! O Israel, and have faith in God and his promises and he will not forsake you. I the Lord will deliver my Saints from the dominion of the wicked in mine own due time and way.

I cannot deny my Word, neither in blessings nor judgments. Therefore let mine anointed gird up their loins, watch and be sober, and keep my commandments. Pray always and faint not. Exercise faith in the Lord and in the promises of God; be valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ.

The eyes of the Lord and the Heavenly Hosts are watching over you and your acts. Therefore be faithful until I come. I come quickly to reward every man, according to the deeds done in the body. Even so, Amen.

Dave P. said...

Wow. This is the first comment thread on the blog that's actually spilled into a second page. I'm excited.

Tom said...


Woodruff's biographer (Susan Staker) made mention several times of how Woodruff would vacillate wildly between his "revelatory" moods. If you take the 1889 "revelation" at face value - and I'm not sure if there's anything to discount it - and contrast it with the 1890 Manifesto you're left with a stark contrast of language:

From Waiting the World's End:

"Only a year later on 25 September 1890 a tormented, weakened Wilford was driven to write these chastened words in his diary: “I have arrived at a point in the History of my life as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints where I am under the necessity of acting for the Temporal Salvation of the Church. The United States Government has taken a stand & passed laws to destroy the Latter day Saints upon the subject of polygamy or patriarchal order of Marriage. And after praying to the Lord & feeling inspired by his spirit I have issued the following proclamation.” A more personal register of language captured Wilford’s journal on this day. He writes of the “History of my life as President” rather than the history of the church. “I have issued the Proclamation,” he writes, employing the first person pronoun, whereas only a year before it had been “I, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.” Faced with federal confiscation of church property – including the sacred and secret temples – and no supernatural help in sight, Wilford was forced to act himself “for the Temporal Salvation of the Church.”
Instead of heavens painted with blood, this 80-something man faced corporate ledgers marked with a red of a different kind. More and more he faced not night visions in the wilderness but decisions about whether to build a dam or to invest in a newly proposed telephone company. Even his inspiration to finish the Salt Lake City temple (finally an ending he could control) contributed to the institutional debt which increasingly burdened Wilford and the church in his final years. His days became consumed with a tenuous juggling act, keeping a stressed institution afloat financially. Repeatedly he confided his exhaustion to his journal: “I am worked altogether to hard. I don’t sleep nights and am weary by day” (8 Aug 1894). “It looks as though the Presidency would be ruined unless God opens the way. Our affairs are in a desperate condition in a temporal point of view” (17 Sept 1896). “We the Presidency of the Church are so overwhelmed in financial matters it seems as though we should never live to get through with it unless the Lord opens the way in a marvelous manner. It looks as though we should never pay our debts” (30 Dec. 1896)."

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Great excerpt, Tom. Thanks. That's information I can use for a later entry. I really must get that book!

Anonymous said...


What I thought of as Pres. Woodruff said, "I have arrived at a point in the History of my life as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints where I am under the necessity of acting for the Temporal Salvation of the Church." was the story of the man who was accompanying the ark of the covenant. When the ark looked like it would topple, he attempted to steady it and was struck down by the Lord. I can't say I understand why there was such a harsh action by the Lord, except that He had prohibited such.

I don't know that the Lord acted in the same manner with Pres. Woodruff, although I think He wanted His servants to wait upon Him to act. From personal experience I can vouch that such is not easy. I have the greatest respect for Bro. Woodruff's service to the Lord and His Church and I would not have wanted to be in his position. However, it was probably what he needed for his own experience.


Carl Youngblood said...

Steve, or possibly... he was already receiving as much help as he was ever going to receive in this situation. I think you're judging the situation from an idealistic perspective that fails to take into account the nuances of the situation. The problem I have with this type of primitivism is that it imagines a past world that simply didn't ever exist.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I have added an update and a correction regarding the actual mode of organization of the church in 1830. It would appear that the Church was not incorporated until 1851, and then under the laws of the territories of the united states. The update appears at the very end of the article.

DPC said...

I have to admit that I'm confused by this post. I don't understand why it was wrong for the Church to incorporate an entity whose sole purpose is to hold the property for the benefit of the members of the Church (according to its corporate charter.) I can think of a myriad of reasons as to why a corporate structure would be better than another type of association to the functioning of a religious organization.

Additionally, how would you reconcile your comments with Doctrine and Covenants Section 44:4-5 that seemingly indicates approval from God to "organize...according to the laws of keep [God's] laws...?"

Alan Rock Waterman said...


God didn't tell Joseph Smith in section 44 to organize according to those laws that would become popular in the 20th Century.

The status of incorporation as presently constituted in the Church was absolutely unknown in any other religious organization outside the Vatican. If God was telling Joseph in D&C 44 to become a corporation sole, Joseph would have done so at that time.

But that's not what God was saying. What Joseph was told to do in section 44 was no different than any of the protestant churches had done and were doing at the time: registering under the common law. Virtually no church at the time would have considered incorporating, and neither would Joseph Smith have.

To reiterate my correction and update at the end of my post above, we now know that Joseph Smith registered the Church according to the COMMON LAW. This is akin to announcing the Church's existence, much as one would announce a new business. Nothing wrong with that; it's the proper way to do it. The Common Law is the closest thing we have on earth to doing things according to God's law.

It is not required for a church to incorporate in order to protect its assets or conduct business. That is a 20th century government con. A religious society has full capacity to protect it's assets and conduct business. How do you think businesses fared in the 19th century? There were partnerships, sole proprietors, companies, etc; any number of entities other than corporations. Most private businesses avoided the trap of incorporating.

To place itself UNDER the laws of the State is a far different thing than to organize "according to" the law. Incorporation changes one's status and standing under the law. That's a dangerous thing for a church to do.

Joseph Smith did not incorporate the Church, but Brigham Young did. He not only changed the status of the Church in 1851, he changed the name also. One might wonder, if it has a different name and a different status, is it the same Church?

Again, incorporation of ANY church is unnecessary, and even harmful, which is why so many churches today are revoking their charters and getting out from beneath the State. Our own church would do well to follow suit.

TruthSeeker said...

All I can say is WOW! You have an incredible knowledge of corporate law.

In truth, I have wondered how the church was going to manage all the money that comes in, without incorporating. I too was almost fooled by this sneaky government ruse! In colonial America, churches could speak out against government policies. Today, churches seem to have wimped out.

Thank you for making this point abundantly clear, once again.

DPC said...

I think you lost me. If Joseph registered the church in New York in 1830, why would God command him in 1831 (the year Section 44 was apparently received) to do something he already did? And 44:1 says that the revelation was for God's servants. Why would it only apply to Joseph Smith and not his apparent succesors? Couldn't they organize the church in accordance with current law to protect it from enemies?

Corporate law is a creature of the courts of equity. It's biggest benefit is that it shields its members from personal liability. If the church were to dissolve and become unincorporated, every member would assume liability for the debts and obligations of the church. So in your corporate-free churchly paradise, if Brother Jones sexually assaults several of his primary students, and they were to sue, you would gladly allow them to single you out for no particular reason and take your own personal assets if the Church could not meet this obligation? I get the feeling that you don't really understand corporate law and its history. I respectfully submit that you may be unqualified to comment on the appropriate legal structure the Church should employ. Don't get me wrong; you have a lot of good points and insights on your blog. This just might not be one of them.

The corporation sole is a common law legal precept designed to keep religious property safeguarded against changes in church membership. A form of it would have been in existence when Joseph Smith was alive. The fact that Joseph didn't make use of it at that time is not dispositive of anything.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I confess that when you mentioned Section 44 in conjunction with the organization of the Church, I was thinking of section 20 wherein Joseph mentions in an aside that the Church had been organized and established "agreeable to the laws of our country..." I had even made the mistake of forgetting that Joseph Smith had not been given any such instructions from God. In that section God is not speaking; Joseph Smith is simply giving an account. (You can tell how out of it I am, because I had made a big deal out of David Whitmer's criticism of the Prophet for organizing a church that was already in existence a couple of years.)

Well, that's what I get for trying to go by memory way past my bedtime; I had mistakenly assumed your quote from section 44 was that similar sounding phrase from Sec. 19.

It isn't, of course. Section 44 concerns itself with setting up a conference, one of the purposes being to gather the saints and "organize according to the laws of man." Why? So that their "enemies may not have power" over them.

It has nothing to do with the organization of the Church, it's more about gathering the Saints geographically and politically so there would be strength in numbers. (The misuse of their political strength, or more precisely, the braggadocio of some of the members regarding that strength, would later actually incite persecution.)

Section 52 tells us that one of the reasons for that particular conference (the fourth one held) was to scope out the land of Zion for a gathering place.

Your question as to why God would command Joseph Smith in 1831 to do something he had already done in 1830 answers itself. He wouldn't. And he didn't, neither in section 20 or in section 44. Here's what Joseph F. Smith had to say about section 44, verses 4&5:

"When the Lord restored the Gospel the spirit of gathering came with it. The Lord commanded the people to gather together, and that they should not only be organized as a Church, but that they should be organized under the laws of the land, so that they might not be helpless and dependent and without influence or power; but that by means of united effort and faith they should become a power for the accomplishment of righteousness in the earth ( D. & C. Sec. 44; 4–5 ).” (Joseph F. Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1900, p. 47.)

Anyway, my fault for misunderstanding your question. Had I been on my toes I would have recognized section 44 as being the one about organizing a conference, not organizing the Church, and my answer would have made more sense.

Alan Rock Waterman said...


You posit "If the church were to dissolve and become unincorporated, every member would assume liability for the debts and obligations of the church." You offer a hypothetical scenario in which the members would be exposed to legal action for a crime another member committed.

You seem to believe members of an unincorporated organization somehow share liability for a crime committed by another on the basis of their shared religious beliefs. I think you're looking at everything from a 20th century corporate mindset.

When the families of boys molested by Catholic priests sued, who did they go after? The corporation sole, in the form of the Pope. He IS the corporation sole. Had the Catholic Church never incorporated, do you think the separate members of the Catholic Church would have been liable? Or do you think it would have been the priests themselves?

What do you suppose happens within the many unincorporated churches in America? Are the members individually liable for a crime committed by another member?

To answer you question above, if the LDS Church suddenly dissolved it's corporate status, yes, I suppose the members would assume liability. But remember, there's only one member of that "Church," the President. And since he holds all the assets and has complete control, I don't think he'd be hurting. The rest of us don't control church assets, and neither would we be required to replace them.

I don't know for a fact, but I suppose a member who were to molest children while serving in an unincorporated church would be guilty both criminally and civilly as an individual. Why would you assume his neighbors share in the blame?

Let's suppose for the sake of argument the victim sued the church successfully and the victim recovers damages. Wouldn't those damages come from among the church's assets?

I would suggest that a Church of Christ would not have much on hand in the way of "assets" -certainly not investments. Tithing is meant to be immediately disbursed, so there wouldn't be much in the bank. Plus, if a lawsuit was pending, don't you think the members would stop paying tithing knowing it would just be taken anyway?

I can't see how your scenario of the other members being liable has merit. They are not investment partners, they are contributors. Any money lost would have been money they'd already given to the church in tithes.

But let's assume the church loses all it's assets; building, organ, pews, any money in the bank, everything. What is keeping the members from simply starting over? Hasn't that been the case not only in the mainstream LDS church but also it's many splinters?

You're an attorney; why don't you do a little research and find out how this sort of thing would play out in one of the many churches that doesn't rely on a corporate charter for its existence? Why ask me? As you presume, I'm no expert on corporate law. I know just enough about it to know it doesn't belong in church.

Many churches today do quite well employing staff, paying suppliers, and engaging in the commerce necessary for a modern church to get by. Your comment suggests to me that you can't conceive of any church thriving or surviving outside a corporate charter.

Unincorporated churches existed a hundred years ago, and more are cropping up in America every year. You'll find them; you just have to change your way of thinking about what a church is supposed to be.

Carl Youngblood said...

What I think is foolish is Alan's fanatical assertion that the Church suddenly ceases to be the same if only there is a slight change in its name and legal structure. These kinds of arguments remind me of people who say that the Social Security Number is the mark of the beast and who think that there is some magic way things must be organized, and if they depart from it by a hair, you are suddenly screwed.

These arguments fail to recognize that the Church has evolved constantly since it was organized, that its shape was a product of centuries of history before it, and that humanity's conception of God is itself changing and evolving with the times. There is nothing wrong with this. This is good. I would rather believe in this kind of God then one who was stuck in the Old Testament or the stone age.

Alan, I like your style overall, but I think you are getting too fanatical in this post.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

It's worth noting that in Section 20 Joseph Smith reports that the Church of Christ was "organized AND established." He is not just repeating himself. He is reporting two separate and distinct accomplishments.

The method by which the church is "organized" is set forth beginning in verse 37 describing the manner of baptism then giving an account of the structure and roles, i.e. Elders, Priests, Teachers, and what their responsibilities are to be.

The "organization" of the Church has nothing to do with the setting up or "establishing" it as a legally recognized entity. The organization of the church is an internal matter, a blueprint for how the Church is to be run. "The laws of Man" would care nothing for how a Church is organized and run.

I wonder if much of the problem here is a misinterpretation of how Joseph Smith used the word "organized" in juxtaposition with "established."

Conversely, in section 44 the Saints are told to organize according to the laws of man. As the converts accrue, they, the people, are to gather together and organize themselves for the purposes set out in verse 5. It's very clear.

A church doesn't organize according to the laws of man, a church organizes according to the laws of God.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

My idea of a fanatic, Carl, is someone who is deeply invested in a certain position, and who clings to that position beyond all reason. I don't feel I fit that description, and it is unfair of you to build a straw man argument by misconstruing my words.

I posed a question regarding whether the Church today is the same one founded by Joseph Smith, and you have claimed that was my "fanatical assertion." A question is not an assertion; indeed it is the direct opposite. You place words in my mouth. That is not the way to advance a dialogue.

You further imply that I insist things be done a certain way and that it must not depart from that way by a hair. Again, a complete mis-characterization.

Longtime readers of this blog are aware that I embrace the core theology of Mormonism, regardless of the direction the institution goes. I don't conflate theology with the various policy changes within the Church, many of which I agree with. Because my faith is fixed outside the orbit of any earthly institution, in the end whatever the Church does is really of no concern, for it is temporal.

I am, however, intrigued by the transformation of the LDS Church from a 19th century religious society into a modern corporate entity. My explorations regarding how that change came about are motivated not by fanaticism, but by curiosity.

Nor am I freaking out just because the church changed its name and status. I have also noted the absence of the gifts of the spirit once prevalent at every church meeting and now so rare as to be non-existent, and the transformation from a religion that valued the individual's free agency into one that emphasizes dogma.

Since the salient feature of the LDS church has long been declared to be the manifestation of continuing revelation through a prophet, I think the obvious absence of new revealed truth might be an indication that things are not as they once were.

This lack of institutional revelation and prophecy, the absence of spiritual gifts, the changing of the ordinances and the change of focus all combine, in my opinion, with the transformation of the church as a gathering of Saints into the present corporate entity that must toe the line with the decrees of Babylon in order to safeguard its very existence.

To inquire rhetorically whether this modern entity has very much in common with the Church of Christ founded by Joseph Smith is, I think, a valid question. For someone to pose that question does not make him a fanatic.

I would characterize as fanatical that person who defends the status quo in the face of all reasonable evidence to the contrary. The person who proclaims, "All is well in Zion, yea, Zion prospereth" while refusing to consider contrary evidence because he is emotionally invested in a certain fixed belief; that guy, I think, is the fanatic.

Carl Youngblood said...

Alan, forgive me if my comment was offensive. Perhaps I should have been more specific. I feel that some of your arguments are valid. I would also like to see some reforms in certain areas. I most certainly don't think that "all is well in Zion." However, these two particular arguments you made regarding the legal structure of the church and the specific words in its name strike me as too purist or pedantic, too focused on arbitrary dogmas rather than the overall thrust of things. I also think that they distract from the bigger argument you're making, because they mix good reasons for reform with not-so-good ones and they make you vulnerable to accusations of fundamentalism.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I don't know how I can be accused of being a fundamentalist when I reject the key doctrines of the Mormon fundamentalists. Although they see themselves as reaching back to Joseph Smith, in my opinion fundamentalists reach back only to the days of Young and Cannon. Besides, I'm not the only one saying these things.

Perhaps I have given the impression that I care about the name of the Church. I don't, other than that it should, of course, have the name of Jesus Christ in there somewhere.

It's my understanding that it was Sidney Rigdon who came up with the idea of adding the elongated "Latter-day Saints to the name", so I'm not looking to blame Brigham.

My concern is that what many believe is a reincarnation of the ancient church is merely a trademark owned by a corporation separate from, and posing as, the church as restored by Joseph Smith. There are enough similarities to make the claim, but the principles that have been abandoned are numerous, and they are key.

I think it's important for members to know what has been taken from them. Tens of thousands are leaving every year because of what they see as lack of substance and an absence of spirituality. When they do, they tend to reject not only the Church, but also the founding theology. I think that's a shame, and I try to point out that one's testimony should be based on gospel truths instead of focused on the organization. I've been told by many on the verge of rejecting their faith that my words have helped them to reconcile it. Still, whether one clings to the Church is less important to me than whether one clings to the teachings of Christ and treats others with kindness and respect.

Would I like to see the Church return to its libertarian roots? Sure. For one thing, the world would find much less to be critical of us for if we didn't give off such an authoritarian air, and the membership would feel freer to walk their own paths rather than be constantly reminded of their responsibility to live as "examples" and emissaries of the Church. I'd rather see members emulating Christ by serving others than being concerned with whether someone might spot them sneaking a sip of coffee.

My intent on this blog is not to encourage reform in the Church; it is merely to assist others in recognizing the difference between the Church and the gospel; between the Brethren and God. Too many members are walking in confusion, idolizing the Brethren as though their every word is from the mouth of the Lord. (An example is how vigorously some have seen "the one earring rule" as a gauge of a woman's devotion to the prophet.)

Carl Youngblood said...

To be a fundamentalist does not require that you support the same agenda as other fundamentalists. I'm just saying that arguments that focus on certain narrow dogmas as being the criteria for the Church to retain its divine mandate are the kinds of arguments that fundamentalists (using the word generally here, referring to no specific group) are known for making. Your stance on the Church's name and its legal structure seemed similar to these kinds of fundamentalist arguments to me.

However, I do agree with you to some extent about the larger picture you are trying to paint, although perhaps not in every particular.

I would ask, though, why not try to encourage reform in the Church? It is just as much your Church as it is the Brethren's. We're all in this together. I'm reminded of a public conflict between Bishop Edwin Woolley and President Brigham Young, after which Brigham said, "Well, I suppose now you are going to go off and apostatize." "No, I won't," retorted Edwin. "If this were your church I might, but it's just as much mine as it is yours, and why should I apostatize from my own church?"

Anyway, thanks Alan. Lest I be misunderstood, I'm basically saying I agree with you overall but don't feel that all of your evidence supports your argument well.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

That's a great quote from Woolley, Carl!

I suppose I could be considered a fundamentalist in that I would like to see a return to Mormonism in its fundamental form, which would include those items mentioned in the subtitle of my blog. But I'm not interested in a return to dogma; that's where the Fundie's get bogged down, and I think that's what's happened to the corporate church, led in my day by men like McConkie, Peterson, and Packer.

But a church that consistently sought for fundamental truth? That would be a church for me, alrighty.

I think the primary need for a church is for somewhere to gather for a sense of shared community. As I mentioned before, the sense of community among members does not seem as strong as it once was, due largely, in my opinion, to that fershlugginer three hour meeting block that discourages lingering and chatting.

Anyway, glad we understand each other better, Carl. Again, good point you made with that Woolley quote. I myself have come to see the Church as something outside of my own influence.

Steve said...

I myself have come to see the Church as something outside of my own influence.

What is not beyond your influence are the members of the Church. Surely they have need of truth and love.


Bryce Larsen said...

Wow. the word "jaded" doesn't do you justice. You really need to get a clue that church employees and general authorities are just people. Church employees are just trying to do their best in their employment, I'm sure. I think most G.A.'s have been financially successful in their own right before being called to full time church service. How would you like to trade the life of, say, a successful businessman for one where you are staying overnight in some stake president's guest bedroom two or three weekends a month for stake conference? These men have really nothing to gain financially.

I can accept the church as the Lord's church on earth being run by people, imperfect people. Sounds like you need to live your own advice about not judging others.

On another note, I am old enough to remember ward dinners, bazaars, and the such. All those activities were primarily fund raisers for the ward budget. Everyone, everyone I know was thrilled with the change you mention when the ward budget assessment was eliminated. Apparently, by your thinking, the brethren had a big enough cash river - why bilk the rubes too much, huh?

Maybe you should just start a new church with a 2 percent tithing commandment. See how that works for you.

Get a grip.

andrew said...

actually, i think it is worse than corporatism. it's more run like the [current state of] government. at least corporations have an obligation to shareholders. the same government that demands, with exactness, the nutritional content in food can't seem to provide similar information from taxes revenues on gasoline. in the church, the wards have to budget for all their needs and get their crumbs from the 'higher ups' but we can't get honest info on where exactly tithing money is going. speaking of, can i stay in a hawaiian resort on discount since i helped pay for it?

whitehusky said...

//The actual church that used to go by that name, and which claims Jesus Christ as its head, does not exist today ...//

You do have a point. Jesus Christ is the head of the church. He is our Lord and our God. But do you realize that an awfully lot of Mormons have bought into false notions and are calling them doctrine? For example, I've heard that we're not supposed to pray to the Lord anymore, and that this is considered by an astonishing number of Mormons to be LDS doctrine. When you point out that everywhere in scripture that the people are praying to the Lord, these Mormons will cough up a hairball of blasphemy: Heavenly Father is actually the Lord, and Jesus only barely qualifies as a secondary Lord.


Alan Rock Waterman said...

I'm with you on that one, WhiteHusky.

Anonymous said...

FYI with regards to the discussion about the church president's $2M home, I suspect this is referring to the official residence provided to the church president by the church in the Eagle Gate condo downtown on the corner of State and South Temple. I've been in the building, I grew up with Gordon Hinckley's grandkids and one of his grandaughters had a wedding reception there. This was now many years ago, the building is nice, but not that nice. Doubtful that it is worth that much, but I'm ignorant of the total sq footage of the actual space. In any case several high profile church leaders live in that building or the neighboring building - I believe Monson lives at his Millcreek residence still. I know Pres Hunter still lived in his Foothill East home in the mid 90's as I as a teenager fooling around with friends in the neighborhood more than once bumped into church security guards patroling his house at night. The building downtown is I believe provided at an option for the president, a custom which I believe started during Kimball's tenure when he lived in the top floor penthouse of the Hotel Utah, given his poor health and apparant need to be close to the beating heart of the Corp. Got to keep the finger on the pulse of the beaucracy I guess. As to whether this custom began with Kimball I can't be sure off hand, someone check my history.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks for that information.

Anonymous said...

so you really think that the scriptures as a standardized set don't do anything to enhance your understanding as a member of the church? Brother, you are kind of a joke if you are not willing to do more research than some hearsay crap from one book. Granted, you have some points, but if you are not even going to analyze the effect of what the standard works gave us as far as knowledge of the scriptures vs past generations, how will you ever know if they were inspired or not. Does every decision have to come directly from the prophet to be inspired? What about when the lord said in Numbers that he would that all the members of the church were prophets. The standard works is just an example of a great idea coming from someone other than the prophet, and the general authorities running with it. So get over it. And by the way, why don't you provide some other, factual data for how much a similar sized, leather bound book cost in the 80's? People don't brag about their leather bound books for nothing, they are expensive. If you want to sound smart, you can do that pretty easily, but if you want to provide factual data, it takes a bit of work.

Alan Rock Waterman said...


If you are of the opinion that I don't value the Standard Works, you have misunderstood my words. The Standard Works contain the word of God, and therefore constitute the iron rod of safety as revealed in Lehi's dream.

In an era when institutional revelation appears to have ceased, the standard works, along with the Holy Ghost, are the only guides available.

doyle_megan said...

I'd really like to know how it can be that Jesus Christ is no longer the Everlasting God, the Father of Heaven and Earth, but is supposed to be a "spirit child." Where did that mouthful of blasphemy come from? You just can't get most Mormons to admit that's calling Jesus an angel.

whitehusky said...

I just saw another scripture calling Christ our Eternal Father today.

"Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father." [Mosiah 16:15]

It's pretty hard to miss.

2.5 said...

Alan, Daymon Smith is a soft-headed anthropologist who knows nothing about economics or business. He doesn't understand why The Church charges its ward and branches money for the materials. Any beginning economics student will tell you that you need to put a dollar value on the materials, or you can't keep track of how much materials the ward/branch is requesting and using. Since Gospel Principles manuals and sacrament cups cannot be counted together, the only way to assess their values together it is to assign a dollar amount to both of them. That way the volume of materials can be standardized.

He also paints the picture that the personal scripture study drive was profit-driven. Well, even if that were true, Mormons have become the most Biblically-literate people in the world.

Dave P. said...


The fact that you're attacking the messenger tells me that you have completely missed the point, but I can sum it up in one sentence, which is also the same reason why Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple:

The church was never supposed to be run as a business.

Unknown said...

I would not agree that Mormons are biblically literate. They pretty much just rehash stuff out of the manuals and never bother to search out the meaning from the Lord ... that is, if they're reading the Bible at all.

I remember hearing a Mormon running a blog claim that she had just finished reading Isaiah, yet she seemed to be woefully ignorant of its contents and meaning.

As far as the church being run as a business, I'd say it's not being run as well as a business. It's run on "Mormon" time and testimonies about how "wonderful" activities are ... like girl's camp.

Yes, this week at church girl's camp was the big deal. Who cares about girl's camp? Keep it out of sacrament meeting. Sacrament meeting is about loving the Lord, not activities we indulged in during the week.

Dave P. said...


The other really sad part of that is that Mormons really don't take the scriptures seriously. The church has been cursed for 170 years for "treating lightly" the message of the Book of Mormon. The big one, of course, was the unauthorized 2nd edition that made 3,000+ changes to the original Book (including altering the identity of God). Other parts include the following:
* Beware of pride, lest ye become like the Nephites and fall.
* Beware of and recognize the works of secret combinations.
* Study the words of Isaiah.
* Polygamy is and always has been an abomination.
* Do NOT wage offensive wars.
And so on.

So basically Mormons are not only Biblically illiterate, the same can certainly hold true for their knowledge of the Book of Mormon; the book that's called the "Keystone of our religion." Though when Joseph Smith called it "the most correct of any book on earth," he was referring only to the original 1830 edition. Somehow that all got replaced with "follow the prophet."

Steve said...

It strikes me as odd that polygamy gets added to your list. According to Jacob the ban on polygamy started with Lehi, indicating that perhaps it was only for his descendants. It is certainly a feature of the law of Moses and I have yet to read a prohibition to it in the revelations. In fact the Lord told David that He had given David his wives and would have given him more had he asked. Not sure how that can be construed as an abomination. I know Rock has given up on it, but abomination?

Anonymous said...

None of the points you bring up in the essay end up being nearly as shocking as you explain them to be at the beginning. I know, corporations are big and scary. Some people at my high school told me all about that. Its really too bad the church is using business-like tactics to handle its money. Heaven forbid they try to distribute it and manage it wisely. As a matter of fact, the church should likely replace its educated financial handlers with a more spiritual group of members who don't know anything about managing millions of dollars in the modern world.

Don't forget that this Church has to exist in a foreign nation and you have to play by the rules when you're handling money. This isn't Nauvoo anymore either. Running this church isn't child's play, especially when we're talking about money. Like it or not, the Church needs money to grow just like our families need it. Its the way things function in 2011, and that is ok. Why not treat it carefully and have people who know how to deal with it in charge of it all?

We should maybe stop making the argument that corporations are so bad because they are just really bad and everyone knows that. As for the church being sneaky enough to rid itself of 'church status' to move into the corporate world and thus avoid accountability to God: What?

Ryan said...

Just found this tonight for the first time. A lot of the infighting that went on in the Quorum of the Twelve from John Taylor to Lorenzo Snow can be found in "Grant's Watershed" which is a great read on early Church policy and succession not to mention the concerns over material processions and profits.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks for the tip, Ryan; hadn't heard of that one.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I don't find that book on Amazon or anywhere else, Ryan; you got any further info, author, etc.?

Nell said...

Joseph Campbell said that by identifying the tallest building in a city, you could tell from where that community got it's direction. He used Salt Lake City as his example: first it was the temple, then the capitol building, now the COB. Also, we don't live in a vacuum...we are always influenced by our environment. No one has commented on what kind of influence is being subtly let loose on all members from the detached monolith. Not only can we shiver at what the "church" will eventually look like, what will the members eventually morph into? I think Joseph Campbell is brilliant, a prophet of a different color...but right on the money!

mikaellewis said...

Very insightful (though extremely long winded) article. Unfortunately, the people who really need to read the article or Smiths book, will never see either. Ignorance is bliss after all.

Anonymous said...

I know this is an older post, but I read this article in Bloomberg business week and it is very pertinent to the post; thought I would share.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks for that timely link.

Chuck said...

My first experiences with this nonsense came on my mission in 1986, where my first week there, I learned I was to pay for all missionary supplies out my own pocket (a pocket half sponsored by my very generous, non-member Gentile father; and half sponsored by the good people of my home ward), including BoMs. I guess the requirement to show healthy bank books to the higher-ups applied to mission homes as well.

I will never forget that first trip to the mission home to buy supplies, and my surprise in having to purchase that case of BoMs we were told to "flood the world" with (and I wasn't in one of THOSE missions where we had dozens of baptisms a week, dirt floors, maids, and sacred funds left over at the end of each month).

The long ride home...once there we opened that case of BoMs and my trainer began to open each and every book, in which was placed a photocopied image of a family or couple along with a "testimony;" he removed the testimonies and threw them in the trash. "These only make it harder to give them out," he tells me. I didn't think much of it then, but now I realize I had not only purchased books the church was making me give away, but family-to-family BoMs in the bargain! Books printed free and clear (using tithes), sold at a markup to Distribution, sold again at markup (and subsidized with further tithes) to members who turned around and gave them, in good faith, to the mission home in hopes they would go to its missionaries and be placed with interested investigators.

And the mission home sold them to me. My question: where did all that money go?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Interesting, Chuck. Let's recap:

Members paid tithing for the printing of Books of Mormon. The Church then turns around and sells those books back to those same members who had already sent in their money to have those books printed. Then these members turn around and send the books to the missions, and the mission presidents sell them to the missionaries who, before they came on their missions, had been paying the tithing which brought those books into existence in the first place. It's enough to make your head spin.

You give a publisher money to publish a book, the publisher sells that book to a customer, the customer gives it to a middleman, and the middleman sells you back the very book you already paid to have published. It's the circle of life!

Chuck said...

When you put it like that, Rock, well...geeze...sounds even more horrible; but that's a fair recap.

I often imagine the "Nephi" version:

- Lehi: "Nephi, the Lord wants you to to go back to the mission home in Jerusalem to pick up some 'scriptures' so we can bring souls to Christ."
- Nephi: "I will go and do!"

...several days later...

- Nephi: "President G, I would like a case of BoMs, please."
- President G: "Sure, Elder, but take two cases; you should be giving out more than that, anyway...that will be 500 widow's mites, please."
- Nephi: "Well, ok, but how will I pay my rent?"
- President G: "Quit murmuring, Nephi; humble yourself, do what I say, and buy the damn books. Pray (or call home) for more money if you need to...and quit eyeballing my new Saab."
- Nephi: "Hey, President! Look there, what's that!" (quickly cuts off head as he looks around)

...several days later...

- Nephi: "Ok, I got 'em, but come on, everyone; we gotta get outta here...and start tossing out those silly testimonies."

[Not that I advocate the "Nephi" method for the acquisition of sacred scripture; indeed, I obediently paid for mine...twice! Call me proud, will ya...]

Skousen John said...

You can smell the fumes of this article a mile away. There may be disagreements with how the Church is operated, or why it was incorporated, etc., but this article purports to reach conclusions from a caricature of "facts" about the Church, even making fun of how Church members (or GA's) dress. This cannot impress the sincere reader who has experience dealing with the Church.

I don't think anyone will argue that the community of Christ's Church, wherever found, should be viewed as more than how it is registered or operated. Yet, this article pushes the view that this is all the Church has become: a corporation masquerading as a Church that is failing in its fundamental mission.

I served as a bishop for many years and found Church headquarters extremely helpful and balanced in dealing with the most complicated issues imaginable, involving the spiritual and temporal welfare of my ward (and stake) members, and very careful not to intrude on areas that should be purely local issues for local leaders. Likewise, my stake presidents were always very supportive of each ward, which would include using Church funds subject only to the reasonable guidelines you would expect in any stewardship of sacred funds. I am sure you can find exceptions here and there, as we are not in a perfect world.

But reading this article, you would think that a bishop's hands were tied by a massive, impersonal bureaucracy that is preoccupied with issues of money over doing Christ's work. That simply was not my experience. And let's face it, there is a financial side to being stewards over the tithes that are paid. This is not new, as we have references to the collection of offerings in the book of Acts.

The suggestion of the article is that the Church is bungling about in the use of our tithes. You can always find examples of human error or imperfections in administration. But exceptions do not define the goal itself, nor the majesty of the vision underlying it all.

Like many of these kinds of articles, there is always a report of someone having worked on the inside who has some derogatory or sinister experience to report. Once again, looking for support from the universe of exceptions from which to support a conclusion that has already been reached in advance. This reminds me of distortions reminiscent of some conspiracy theorists, the way they selectively shop from the historical annals to "prove" whatever conspiracy they seek to cultivate. If their positions are undermined, rather than abandon their views, they quickly search far and wide for other "helpful" facts. But what they wind up with is always a caricature of what we know to be true from personal experience. I see this happening outside the debates involving Mormonism, so it is a phenomenon that is part of our human experience...

I realize there is sometimes a kind of cuteness (and sometimes justifiable relief) that comes with speaking out just for the sake of being heard, but thank goodness there comes responsibility for backing up extraordinary claims with extraordinary evidence, substantially lacking here.

In short, I found this article overly cynical in tone, written with an agenda to create a kind of cloud over the Church's operations. Once I saw the negativity in places where in my view it really was not deserved, the credibility of the entire article was really tainted.

Gary Hunt said...

Brother Skousen:

If you were trying to convince readers that there are errors and/or lies in this article, you didn't do a very good job. Starting your comments with "You can smell the fumes...", or in other words, you think the article stinks!, is not the best way to start off. I think you lost credibility with most readers (even sincere ones) before they read the remainder of what you had to say. This is assuming you are a sincere reader. If you are not sincere, then my comments will fall upon deaf ears.

Your comments were very condescending and full of basic logical fallacies. I counted at least seven. This commonly happens when a person has been offended and responds emotionally. The chances are that you are a person, who is sincere, but has been offended by Bro. Waterman's article. I think you are offended by the style of writing as much as the content. I know these things because I have "been there...done that!" However, this is just my personal opinion.

I found Bro. Waterman's article very enlightening and entertaining. I think he brings up many valid points and questions to consider, for members and others who read the article. And, just for the record, I do not alway agree with what he writes. I do my due diligence. If you read some of the other articles, as well as, blog comments, you will find that if Bro. Waterman makes an error, there are many on his blog who will correct him. And he will correct the error! And if they disagree with him, and make a good argument (with back up data), he will either change his opinion, or respectfully agree to disagree.

All I ask of you, if you truly are a sincere reader, is to do your due diligence. By the way, it would be a good idea to study up on logical fallacies. There are many good websites which list what they are with the associated definitions and examples. Then come back with arguments which you can back up and not just generalizations such as playing the "conspiracy theory" ("tin foil hats") card or "the tone of the article..." argument. I think you will then be able to communicate more effectively, what you are trying to say to the sincere reader.


A. Sincere Reader

Anonymous said...

Hi Rock,
Thanks for all the articles that you have written, they have made me rethink the traditions of my fathers. I want to buy a Strong's concordance but there are so many to choose from, which one is the most helpful with the KJV in your opinion?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

The Strong's I have is BIG; sorry I can't tell you anything more about it, it's boxed up somewhere in the back and I haven't seen it for awhile. But I recall it's titled Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, and it's thick and coffee table size. I would avoid anything that isn't full size, I don't think abridged or compact versions are very helpful.

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Dallin Pankratz said...

Hi, so first of all I love this blog! I've been feeling that there is something fishy going on in the church for sometime now I just haven't been able to put words to it or find much evidence cause I didnt know where to look.

Have been in and out of activity in this church for a while now and recently I have been struggling with spiritual things and had a falling away from religion in general. But since reading these I have found that my desire to learn of Christ and his doctrines revitalized. I believe the book of Mormon to be true and Joseph Smith to be a true prophet.

Anyways I have a question. In the section systemic within the bobyyou talke about the general authorities taking seriously there responsibility and the there not inherently evil with the exception of Boyd k packer. "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." I was wondering if you could elaborate on this?

Monica said...

As a member of the church, this article would have been appalling to me. So much of what you say cuts to the very core of the truth though. As a non-member reading from the outside, I say you are right on the money

I hope more people read this and Smith's book and begin to see reality. But no amount of research or reading other people's articles would have convinced me at that point that my beloved church was not guided by Christ himself. If my husband had not stumbled on one book over 8 years ago (The Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon), to which I subsequently, very stubbornly read) I would have never had eyes to see. That ONE book was able to lead me--ever so slowly, and in words that I could relate to--from the religion I loved with all my heart to the reality of the truth about the Church.

I don't think I could have read your article as a Molly Mormon. Again, the best description I could come up with of how I felt when I read it was that it cuts..."OUCH!" I would think as I read some of your words...and very true, and learning the truth can set one free.

What I have found though, is that while I have TRULY been set free from the church, others of my friends who have left the church, or are leaving the church, or are struggling with the church, all seem to be bitter or angry or hurt or sad, etc. Learning about what you write above for many is like a deer in the headlights. On the other hand, I am very much at peace about my decision and I do not feel angry or bitter or any negative feelings towards members of the church or the leaders themselves. The REAL TRUTH of the Sealed Portion and subsequent other books I read was a salve to the emotional, heart-wrenching "OUCH!" felt by learning the truth.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am glad I got to read them!

Bill B. said...

Interesting post and discussion I stumbled on here, and to which I see I am about 2 1/2 years late, so apologies for flogging what you all may consider a dead horse. I also admit I didn't read every word of every comment, but I scanned them all pretty thoroughly, and nowhere did I see mention of two points I would have thought someone would make.

As an independent accountant and tax professional, I am often asked by my clients what entity structure their business should take. Corporation? LLC? Sole Proprietorship? (Note that there is no such thing as "no entity" in business. If you don't choose one, you default to a sole proprietor or partnership.) I have enough practical experience that I am able to give a specific and, I think, supportable answer in every case, which my clients may or may not follow, but which they do appreciate.

On that basis, I see two obvious reasons why the Church (and any church) would want to incorporate. One Alan alluded to with some venom because it limits the ways in which an organization can address certain topics in the public forum, and that is that a non-profit entity must first incorporate before it can claim 501(c)(3) status. Why does that matter? Because non-profit corporations do not owe taxes, and they can confer tax deductible status on all contributions of money and goods they receive. You and I get a tax deduction for our tithing, fast offerings and other donations, and the Church is not taxed on that revenue, specifically (and only) because the Church is a 501(c)(3) corporation. I do not think that is a small thing.

Second, I always ask my clients, "What will be your liability? How likely is is that you will be sued, and can you risk losing your personal assets if you are?" The Church gets sued all the time anyway, justifiably or not. The leaders of the Church are not buffoons, and as Alan points out, almost all of them come from business backgrounds. Are you seriously suggesting that a Church which has grown to encompass millions of members, and thus administers billions upon billions of dollars worth of their donated money, should not incorporate as a way of providing at least some liability protection for those funds?

In a render unto Caesar kind of way, the Church plays by the legal rules of the countries in which it operates, and I can't see how Alan's view that a church can just say "we're a church and you can't touch us; the Constitution says so" would work. We could spend millions of dollars just trying to defend that idea in court, and I think we would lose, just as we did in the 1880s. I don't see the wisdom of that course.

I think Wilford Woodruff's view that the government would crush the church into oblivion if it had fought for polygamy any longer is instructive here. You can make some accommodations to the powers that be so that you still have the capacity to offer the saving ordinances of the gospel in baptismal fonts and temples all over the world, or you can mistake your mission as one of confronting Caesar on political grounds and force him to fight you back. To what end? I'm as bothered by mindless corporate bureaucracies as anybody (one reason I prefer to work as a small, independent professional), but I think in this the brethren did the only thing they could.

Alan, since you "think there is something wrong with the legal organization of the church," perhaps you can enlighten us as to how this non-entity entity would work, as a practical matter, not as an idealistic argument.

Mit Ailbu said...

Funny you should mention Boyd K. Packer. When I was a kid, My dad ran against him for city council in Sandy. Boyd told my father to exit the race or he would be ex'd. Even as a kid, I found that to be very disturbing and an abuse of power.

I was a teenager when Boyd got all passionate about masturbation. I always figured was a closet pedophile.

Anonymous said...

As a convert to the church of more than 10 years, I am saddened to learn this information. I'm trying to keep my testimony while learning additional information that I hoped wasn't true/out there.

Anon 23 said...

Anonymous 6:53,

We have to realize that everyone in this world has been and is being deceived by alot of things & people, especially false prophets, that's what Christ tried to warn us about.

So to realize we have been deceived is a good thing, for we can be so glad for the wake up call & change course if we need to. It doesn't mean we are a bad person or doing wrong, for even prophets like Joseph Smith were often deceived, its part of living, but we have to wake up enough to make sure we aren't deceived to support evil and false prophets.

Just because the Church isn't true and Brigham was a scoundrel and a false or fallen prophet, doesn't mean the Gospel isn't true, it is! Christ is still our Savior and he still taught us his pure Gospel in the New Testament. It's all there, all based around true Charity & Christlike love.

Who cares is the Church is false and everyone deceived, it only matters if we wake up in time and just focus on Christ and his simple Gospel of love.

False prophets have made it so complex & complicated. Your testimony should be of Christ and those who truly preach & practice what he taught & nothing else. Anything added or taken away from what Christ said, "cometh of evil".

Relish new information, for it can save you! Joseph taught that we are only saved as fast as we get knowledge, even if that knowledge is hard to hear at 1st, it will become very sweet to us very quickly.

The Gospel is still true, the Book of Mormon still testifies of Christ, God still hears & answers your prayers, Joseph Smith was still a true prophet even if all who came after him in the Church were not.

Thank your lucky stars that God has revealed the truth to you, because you are courageous enough to search for truth. You are very fortunate, and one of the few who can see through the deception. For the ancient prophets warned that everyone today, even in the Church, would be deceived by false prophets, except a rare few who truly believe in Christ and his pure teachings

Ryan Nickel said...

I'm interested in what you have found about the non-profit status.

In my research I came across these two sites.,173793,174259

I'm not buying into the conspiracy that Lee was murdered for dissolving the corporation sole, but would like to know why.

Mike H. said...

Late to the comments here, but I have enjoyed finding this site and reading the articles.

I'm not sure that I follow why it is important that a church should be allowed speak out against the government. In separation between church and state, shouldn't the church stay out of politics, and government stay out of religion?

Churches can be very large and powerful, and if they could be used to influence government (hypothetically) then religion would more likely to be infiltrated by politicians who do not care about the church, or God.

Of course, that is all just fantasy land in this day and age. Religion and government have never really been separate. Government is full of individuals of belief (which eventually equates to institution/church), and church institutions have always had political aspirations for power to promote their moral and perceived divine agenda.

Individuals do not need church to organize against government. Nor do we really need church telling us how to vote. The political undercurrents of and within the Church(TM) is something that I really.... hate. I have the right to vote not any church.

Anonymous said...

What, are you for real? Forgive me for not accepting such an incredible claim from a stranger over the internet. I'd love to see your father's written and signed testimony about this, along with some proof that they were in fact running against each other.

R. Metz said...

This was one of the first posts that I read on this blog. I found it interesting and of great importance.
In one of the above comments a statement is mentioned, that was made about the “seventh president of the Church”. It was President John Taylor who came up with such a statement.
It was on the occasion of a revelation given to him on the 26th of september 1886, related by Lorin C. Wooley (but denied by the Church, although testimonies of several witnesses and relevant details make the story credible enough), at which occasion he was even visited by the Savior (taken from Truth, Vol. 6, p. 134-6). While relating his experience to some of his associates the next morning, John Taylor was said to have made the prophecy that “in the time of the seventh President this Church will go into bondage both temporally and spiritually”.
In this post it has been explained how the Church became in bondage temporally in 1923, in the time of the seventh President. I get to understand things have not improved since.

Brenefc said...

Insanad, Pre 1980 was an amazing time to be lds if you were white and of course if you didn't go back too far in time (polygamy era). ;)

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