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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Good Stewardship and Paid Clergy

Just a few days ago, a Mormon tried to tell me that the church presidency wearing expensive tuxes and suits was just "good stewardship."

I could give him multiple examples of good stewardship, and the presidency and upper leadership of the Mormon church are not it.

The LDS pride themselves in two major things that the upper echelon is in direct contradiction to: unpaid clergy and good stewardship.

There actually is biblical back-up for paid clergy, beginning all the way back in the Old Testament when the priests ate the sacrifices for their meals and generally lived off of the offerings, as they were commanded to from the time Moses first had the tabernacle built. In the New Testament, while Paul doesn't say that teachers have to be paid for it, he says they deserve it if its how they choose to make a living.
1 Corinthians 9:11-14 "If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more? ... Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel."
1 Timothy 5:17-18 "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching...'The worker serves his wages.'"

The upper leadership can afford these $1000+ suits for a reason. Not only are they often retired or current successful businessmen, but they also receive a "modest stipend" when they reach a certain tier in the leadership, and most of them sit on boards for and direct companies that the church owns or takes interest in. Sitting on one of these boards just one week a year can make them more than twice the money that the average American lives on. Not to mention that many of the upper leadership have a habit of publishing books which are usually sold successfully amongst the church members through Deseret Bookstore, earning them even more money.

I don't personally know how these men live. I know they get to travel a lot, wear expensive suits, and probably have big houses, shiny cars, and whatever else they might choose to invest in. Many of them have the money to live comfortably even before they make all the extra from being church leadership. If the church published their spending (like most churches, including mine, do) the membership would probably be outraged when they realize what's really going on.

So what if they'd gone for the less expensive (and still nice) suit for half the price and put the other half towards a charity? What if they put all of their income from their books into funds for orphanages? What if they made a scholarship for underprivileged kids? The story would be much different.

Materialism is epidemic in the LDS church, like in much of America. Appearances are very important, and since a worthy Mormon already gives 10% to the church, they call it good and invest in all their wants and goods, if they're well off.

I'm not saying its bad to invest in a few personal hobbies or live comfortably. I am saying that there's a complete lack of the spirit of cheerful and abundant giving that characterizes a heart that is truly led by the Spirit. There's a lot of that lack in Christian households, too, but its far easier to find a Christian who gives abundantly no matter their circumstances than a Mormon who gives abundantly in abundance. I've never met a Mormon who made a very pretty paycheck who looked me in the eye and said, "I give more than I have to." I'm not saying they're not out there, they're just much rarer than in the Christian community.

Then I look at Christians and other church leadership I've met and know of.

There's my own pastor, who is so set on not using his church for prophet that he makes sure that the percentage that pays himself, the other pastors, and the staff is less than 50% of the income, when its as much or more than 50% with many other large churches. They also manage to give about 30% annually as a church, despite these economic times. This means my pastors live comfortably but not extravagantly, they love the church and not the money, and I know that about $3 out of every $10 I give is going towards helping people who need it.

There's Francis Chan, a successful pastor and author who does his best to make sure his church gives away 50% of their income and who didn't even touch his income from his last book, but instead put it all right into a fund to help free women and children from the sex slave trade. Its so obvious that he's excited to give and to be helping these people that its inspiring and makes me want to do something more. He said something amazing. When people asked him why he didn't even put part of the book's income away for a personal emergency, he told them, "Don't you think its an emergency that these women and little children are getting raped day after day after day and can't help themselves?"

There's Shawn McCraney, who started a television ministry to the LDS community basically out of his own pocket. He is not shy about telling curious Mormons that he makes no real prophet from it because running the show is so expensive: he does it because he wants to help Mormons become born again Christians, because he feels its his calling to do so.

There's my brother- and sister-in-law who have struggled with unemployment and poverty and yet manage their money so well that they still were able to keep a home and food on their table for their children. And despite their money troubles, they still gave! Even when they can't give monetarily, they give of their time and energy. They listen, they advise, they lend a helping hand. They're amazing with their children and always willing to mediate for other people, to contribute at church, to give love where its needed. They've certainly struggled, and not just in finances, but in the short time I've known them I see them reaping the rewards of their willingness to put it in God's hands.

These are good stewards. These are biblical paid clergy. The LDS leadership are not among them.

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