Mormonism and church finances/No paid ministry/General Authorities living stipend

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PERSPECTIVES MEDIA QUESTIONS RESOURCES 2014 CONFERENCE


    General Authorities' living stipend

Questions and Answers


Question: Why do General Authorities receive living stipends?

Gordon B. Hinckley: "the living allowances given the General Authorities, which are very modest in comparison with executive compensation in industry and the professions, come from this business income and not from the tithing of the people

Some members of the Church are unaware that some General Authorities receive a modest stipend as a living allowance. Nevertheless, it cannot be said that the Church has a professional ministry in the traditional sense.

Calls to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or the First Quorum of the Seventy are calls to “for-life” positions, members of the Twelve serving full-time until they die and members of the First Quorum of Seventy serving full-time until retirement to emeritus status at age seventy. At the present time, calls to other Quorums of the Seventy do not require the same full-time commitment, so those who serve in these positions do not receive the living allowances.

The fact that this stipend exists has not been hidden. As President Hinckley noted in General Conference:

Merchandising interests are an outgrowth of the cooperative movement which existed among our people in pioneer times. The Church has maintained certain real estate holdings, particularly those contiguous to Temple Square, to help preserve the beauty and the integrity of the core of the city. All of these commercial properties are tax-paying entities.

I repeat, the combined income from all of these business interests is relatively small and would not keep the work going for longer than a very brief period.

I should like to add, parenthetically for your information, that the living allowances given the General Authorities, which are very modest in comparison with executive compensation in industry and the professions, come from this business income and not from the tithing of the people.[1]

Many Church General Authorities come from respected professions from which they make a substantial living

Dedicating themselves full time at the sacrifice of substantial careers, these leaders live modestly, work tirelessly, keep grueling travel schedules, and continue doing so well past an age when others retire. They are also demonstrably men of education and accomplishment; one can hardly claim that they were unsuited for work in the world given their accomplishments prior to being called to full-time Church service.

In 1996, the stipend was in the neighborhood of $50,000 per year.

In 1996,[2] the church altered some of the responsibilities given to General Authorities. Prior to this point in time, they also served on corporate boards of church-owned companies and for these positions they received a stipend. At that point in time, some of the financial information was disclosed, indicating that the stipend was in the neighborhood of $50,000.00 a year.

To give a sense of proper comparison, US Department of Labor statistics list the 1996 average salary of a civil engineer at $52,750, that of a computer programmer at $50,490, and that of the average junior college teacher at $49,200. Therefore, the living allowance, which provides for most of the normal day-to-day expenses of a full-time authority and his family (including house payments, personal transportation, food, clothing, entertainment, etc.), is in line with that of a professional employee. It is far lower than the large management salaries that might be expected for someone with the skills that these General Authorities must have and the responsibilities that they must shoulder.


Question: Do General Authorities receive a large sum of money when they are called in order to "keep them quiet"?

Claims that General Authorities receive large "hush money" payments are pure speculation with little data

This type of criticism seems intended to imply that General Authorities perform their duties out of greed, rather than sincere belief. This seems implausible, given that most are at or beyond retirement age when called, and many have been highly successful outside of Church service.

Furthermore:

  • Non-disclosure agreements are standard practice with regard to salary and compensation.
  • The numbers suggested have consistently escalated over time, despite an absence of hard data.
  • Those who provide such accounts attempt to make normal practices seem nefarious or hidden.
  • The Church has not hidden the fact that general authorities receive a stipend, and there is scriptural warrant for the practice.

These kinds of speculations as to money received almost always comes from disaffected and former members, and involves large round numbers such as $300,000, $500,000 or $1,000,000

They all claim (in true conspiracy theory fashion) to have an inside source. They always make claims with no evidence - and use nice big eye-catching round numbers such as $300,000, $500,000, $1,000,000, and so on. Should the church provide some data, it would almost certainly be dismissed as a cover up of the truth (protected of course by those NDAs, right?). There may be a lot of reasons why people become General Authorities, but it seems doubtful that getting wealthy is one of them. You would think, with hundreds of General Authorities, all supposedly getting excessive payments from the church (as the allegations go) for the last century, there might have been some sort of financial scandal that the critics could pin their speculations to. But it doesn't seem like it, does it?


Question: Do General Authorities sign a non-disclosure agreement promising to never divulge what they are paid?

It is highly likely that General Authorities sign a non-disclosure agreement

Not only do many of the employees of BYU sign such non-disclosure agreements, but, those who have access to this information are also required to sign such agreements. Generally speaking, these agreements allow organizations to sue for damages when a breach of confidentiality occurs. The major point here, though, is that if general authorities are given a stipend (for living expenses), it is quite possible that the stipend comes with a non-disclosure agreement (an NDA). This would be the "contract promising never to divulge to anyone what they are paid". Of course, it is presented in a way that makes all sorts of insinuations. But probably if such a thing exists and happens, it follows the standard boiler plate legal language used elsewhere by the Church's legal team to handle the same issue. That contract wouldn't actually list the compensation, and so while this person may have seen the NDA, we can be certain that they have no personal knowledge of what the compensation actually is. The $300,000.00 figure is just being tossed out with no real evidence behind it, save anonymous hearsay.

Now, what is the point of this sort of agreement? Mentioning the NDA in this kind of discussion is intended by the critic to demonstrate that something nefarious us going on. That is, we are meant to conclude that the Church is covering a big secret of some sort with the use of NDAs.

A non-disclosure agreement does not guarantee secrecy

This, however, doesn't make much sense. One problem with an NDA is that in order to get relief the injured party must sue. And in suing, the contract itself would become part of the court case, and potentially available for public scrutiny. If the objective is complete secrecy, then the concept of an NDA utterly defeats the purpose in this case. Not only would it open up hidden information for public consumption, it would also tend to confirm whatever had been said by the general authority who offered information. This would only be some sort of problem if the church was trying to hide something. And so if the church is trying to hide payments to general authorities, then the whole process of having a NDA creates far more problems than it would solve.


Question: Who is the highest-paid Church employee in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

The head football coach at Brigham Young University is likely the highest paid employee

Who is the highest paid church employee? As of 2014, it is probably Bronco Mendenhall (the head football coach at BYU). His base salary is estimated to be at least $900,000 a year. With incentives and bonuses, it could be as high as $2,000,000.00 per year. Even at 2 million a year, he would only rank 59th (of 126) college football coaches (a lot to us individuals, not excessive by the narrow standard of his peers).[3]

Of course, nobody is really quite sure how much he makes because, like most employees of BYU, Bronco Mendenhall has signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) about his salary. And being that he works for a private university, you cannot simply request this information. This is, by the way, standard practice for private universities in particular, but its also true of most private entities. Organizations where salary information is widely available are usually managed by group contracts and are often unionized. The Church does not fit that particular mold. The business side of the Church (and its corporate employees) follow business practices that recommend these kinds of NDAs.


Notes

  1. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Questions and Answers," Ensign (November 1985), 49.
  2. Lynn Arave, "LDS programs evolve over the years," Deseret Morning News (30 September 2006).
  3. http://www.coacheshotseat.com/SalariesContracts.htm (accessed 28 March 2014)

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