Working for the Church: Calling or Job?

The discussion below under my post on Kim Clark is evolving toward this topic, which I have wondered about for a long time. During my short stint teaching at the MTC just after my mission, all of the MTC instructors were invited to a meeting with a General Authority. He asked us, “How many of you view your work at the MTC as a calling?” Almost all of the hands in the room were raised.

“It’s not a calling,” he proclaimed. “It’s your job!” I never understood what prompted this instruction, and I was always unclear about what I was supposed to take from it. I remember that my paycheck was limited to 20 hours per week, even though I (and every MTC teacher I knew) routinely worked more than 20 hours per week. Most of us viewed the extra time as a contribution to the missionary effort (we were, after all, a pretty enthusiastic bunch for missionary work), but after this talk I wondered why they didn’t either pay me for all of my work or lighten their expectations.

Since leaving BYU, I have never worked for the Church, except in volunteer positions, but the search for BYU’s new head football coach at the end of last year raised the issue for me again. Former BYU Athletic Director Val Hale wrote about BYU’s attempts to hire a football coach on the cheap:

BYU’s trustees have an expectation that those who work at BYU will make a sacrifice to be there. Most of the faculty and coaches could go elsewhere and make much more money, but they choose to work at BYU for smaller wages. Sacrifice and BYU have been synonymous since the days of Karl G. Maeser in the late 1800s.

Jim Faulconer just expressed a similar sentiment on the Kim Clark thread, observing that “faculty positions at BYU are considered to be something like a calling.”

The decision to portray Church employment as a calling interests me. Is this the “official” view of Church employment, or merely the way that underpaid employees adjust to their circumstances? As Jed asked below, does it mean that Kim Clark did not have a choice? Does this change the workplace environment, and if so, for better or worse? Why would the Church send a General Authority to disabuse MTC teachers of the notion that their teaching jobs were callings?

132 comments for “Working for the Church: Calling or Job?

  1. Richard T
    June 8, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    My guess is the GA was attempting to appeal to the work ethic that often accompanies a job and is often absent in a calling.

    -A simple church calling often gets our lowest commitment. It doesn’t pay the bills. Nobody gets recognized for accomplishments. Nobody gets fired or laid-off. Hence, mediocrity is the norm. You need to be pretty faithful to be super-committed in these circumstances.

    -A job gets a bigger commitment. It pays the bills; excellence is encouraged and openly rewarded, making mediocrity more dangerous; people do get fired or downsized. Keeps you on your toes a little more. I think the GA was appealing to these instincts.

    -A “job” within “the kingdom” combines the two. All the negative and postive reinforcement of the workplace AND the ability to feel like you’re serving the Lord. You can salve your pining for a bigger salary with the idea that you’re sacrificing for the Lord, but that doesn’t change the fact that you still work in the world of pay, promotions, hirings, firings, recognition, etc.

  2. June 8, 2005 at 2:21 pm

    Richard: “My guess is the GA was attempting to appeal to the work ethic that often accompanies a job and is often absent in a calling.”

    Let me guess, you never worked at the MTC? Slacking was the least of the problems among the part-time staff.

  3. Travis
    June 8, 2005 at 2:29 pm

    I worked as a teacher at the MTC at at time when many of my co-workers complained about the low, low pay (’94-’97). (I didn’t complain partly because I was meek, submissive, and obedient–and (mostly) because my parents were paying for most of my schooling). Although I can’t cite who delivered the message, I remember the general response to these concerns being “we pay you less because you’re doing the Lord’s work and you’re sacrificing to be a part of it.” Shorly after I left, the pay-rate teachers were given a meaningful raise, although I suspect that the wage is still lower than it would be but for the “serving the Lord” rationale.

  4. Justin H
    June 8, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    The only difference is that if it’s a job, you can aspire to it guilt-free.

  5. Jason Unsworth
    June 8, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    Interesting…I am preparing for a career as a Church endorsed military chaplain. The Church itselt did not call me to this ministry, it is something that I feel called to in my private spiritual life–yet, I must go through the Church to be endorsed for this JOB. When I enter the chaplaincy, the Church will set me and my wife apart as “Special Non-proselyting Missionaries.” So, the job then becomes a calling? As for Church employees (MTC workers, CES faculty, etc) I know that many of them view their work as some form of ministry/service in the Church although they did not get their position from revelation recieved through the hierarchy of the Church. So, can a job be considered a direct form of ministry/Church service, but not a calling?…I think so.

  6. Richard T
    June 8, 2005 at 2:41 pm

    I taught at the MTC and loved every minute of it. And, the MTC paid me a better wage than my other off-campus job. And as you’ve noted I, too, observed that the general MTC employee was highly motivated and hard working.

    If you pay close attention, in my ranking I don’t consider the MTC a “calling.” It’s a “job” within “the kingdom,” which, as I noted, is the situation that tends to produce–perhaps I didn’t make this very clear–the most motivated workers. So we’re not disagreeing here, Gordon.

  7. Jordan
    June 8, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    Is it possible to view your job as a calling even if you don’t work for the Church?

  8. June 8, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    Jason, I think most people outside of the Church who feel “called” to the ministry sense that the calling comes directly from God. In the Church, “callings” are intermediated by priesthood leaders. When people say that they feel “called” to be seminary teachers, therefore, I usually assume they mean, “I feel inspired to do this.” Now, I might feel the same way about being a law professor or living in Wisconsin or going on a vacation. So, in answer to your last question, I agree that a job definitely can be a form of ministry without being a calling, and the job doesn’t have to be a Church job of any sort.

  9. June 8, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Richard. I need to read more closely!

  10. Kevin Barney
    June 8, 2005 at 3:12 pm

    There is a tradition in the Church that with a calling, one should almost always accept it (of course, if there are extenuating circumstances, these should be discussed with the bishop or whomever). At least, that is the ideal.

    But there seem to be some positions that are not meant to be considered as “callings” within this tradition. One I’ve encountered is early morning seminary teacher. When I was invited to this position, it was by a woman who was the Stake education committee member, or some such thing. So the invitation expressly and quite self-consciously did not come through the priesthood. And she gave me a speech about how it was not a “calling,” and how I should feel free to turn it down if I felt I had to. (And indeed I did turn it down; I have a long commute into Chicago which would not mesh logistically with such a calling.)

    I appreciated all of this, because it lessened the guilt I otherwise would have felt for having to decline the position.

  11. Jack
    June 8, 2005 at 3:34 pm

    Perhaps another reason the GA reminded the folks at the MTC that it was their job rather than a calling, was to keep employees from crossing into that sacred territory where only those with real stewardship may tread.

  12. June 8, 2005 at 3:34 pm

    When I worked at the MTC after my mission I considered it a job. While I was grateful for and valued conducting morning scripture study, teaching the missionaries the discussions and using my Japanese as part of that job, it was still my work. I may have felt differently about it if I hadn’t been Relief Society President of my BYU ward that same year. Incidentally, I put at least as much time into my ward calling as I did as a teacher at the MTC. In fact, looking back I’m not quite sure I managed to swing a full load of classes at the time.

    Jed’s question is an important and interesting one that I want to but don’t have time to discuss right now (ten years later and I’m still a frazzled student) but I will at some point. I think the philosophical nature of the question probably deserves its own thread.

  13. jimbob
    June 8, 2005 at 3:38 pm

    While growing up, my father was at the same time both the director of the institute at the university in our city and the stake president over the student wards made up of the students of that same university. He has told me privately that there were many times during the course of a day where he wasn’t sure if he was doing his church calling or his job, as the responsibilities seemed to often overlap. That seemed to bother him becuase as he was nervous about being paid to do his calling.

    Regardless, however, I never quite understood how his job as institute director on its own didn’t violate Mosiah 27:5. In the interest of harmony, and the fact that my Cheerios came from CES funds (actually, they were Toasty-O’s due to the aforementioned parsimony of the church), however, I never brought the subject up.

  14. June 8, 2005 at 3:49 pm

    The best job at the MTC was in Media Services.

  15. Cort McMurray
    June 8, 2005 at 3:56 pm

    Every job is “in the kingdom” — lawyer, doctor, pool man or professor, if you’ve made covenants, you are obliged to represent the Kingdom “where’er thou art.” Differentiating between a job teaching Spanish in, say, inner city Houston and teaching it to missionaries in the MTC smacks of all the stuff that makes Mormon culture so wearying and obnoxious: working for the Church is just a job. Get over yourselves.

    About 20 years ago, I was sitting in a professor’s office in the Kimball tower, going over a geography project, when he said, “You know, you grow up in Utah, and you spend your whole childhood being told to go out into the world and gain all the knowledge you can. So you work hard, and get into an Ivy League school, and study in Europe. Then you start a family, and all you hear is, ‘The world is no place to raise an LDS family. Come home to Zion.’ And you believe it, so you take a job at BYU at half what you could be making someplace else. BYU gets a world-class faculty for peanuts, and we get to live in Zion. Quite the scam…”

    My father-in-law spent some time in his southern Wyoming hometown recently, tying up family affairs following his father’s death. I asked him what it was like to go to Church in a “real” ward. He was quiet for a minute, then said, “The Lord has this army of intelligent, enthusiastic, and capable Priesthood leaders, just itching to do something. But they’re all clumped up in little towns out West, and the only thing they have to do is argue over whether drinking Diet Pepsi is against the Word of Wisdom.”

    That’s how somebody emptying trash cans in the Wilkinson Center convinces himself that he’s “working in the Kingdom.” Sometimes a full trash can is just a full trash can…

  16. Ben H
    June 8, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    I honestly think the GA might have been trying to tell you MTC workers to stop being doormats and letting the MTC get away with paying you less than your work was worth. I’ve known well a few people who worked in the MTC, and I think the MTC got away with a lot of stuff it shouldn’t have. That said, teaching jobs are underpaid almost universally, so I don’t know how reasonable it is to expect the MTC to be different. My friend who taught elementary school and actually wanted to do a good job put in a lot more time than she was being paid for, and her classes were overfull, and . . .

    It’s funny, though, that the GA would approach it that way because I agree with Cort that if you’re living your temple covenants, you should approach everything you do, paid or not, as a part of God’s work and a way of building his kingdom. And that should imply that sometimes you take a job that is doing something really valuable even though it pays less than some other job doing something less valuable. No easy answer here. Perhaps this is where theologizing the job in general ceases to be helpful, and what is needed is for someone to tell the MTC administration to be less officious and more respectful of their employees’ time. Maybe what needs to be said is not that working in the MTC isn’t a calling, but that it doesn’t give one spiritual authority over others who work in the MTC!

  17. Jim F.
    June 8, 2005 at 4:23 pm

    Cort McMurray: You are right that every job is a job in the kingdom if we take our covenants seriously. You are also right that too many people feel that they are missing something if they don’t live in Utah or some other nearby place full of Mormons. But if “working for the Church” is just a job, why is that the Brethren consistently say otherwise? It isn’t that we at BYU necessarily need to get over ourselves. Perhaps some of us do. But the Prophet and members of the Twelve have repeatedly said that though working at BYU isn’t a calling it is also more than a job. (See for some of these kinds of things.)

  18. Jack
    June 8, 2005 at 4:24 pm


    If that silly staffer up at the church office building had just had a little of Cort’s outlook on working for the church, maybe he wouldn’t have hit me so hard over the head with his cast-iron-frying-pan like counsel. It can be a little disconcerting when a short guy with a napoleon complex acting point man for the priesthood department tells you what a louse you are.

  19. N Miller
    June 8, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    Ceteris Paribus – An accountant working for the church is building the kingdom more than the accountant working for a firm.

    (BTW, I’m an accountant at a large company, guess I am not doing as much to build the kingdom as my church-working counterparts are)

  20. Jim F.
    June 8, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    Jack, the last time I checked, everyone working for the Church was a mere mortal, and D&C 121:39 applies to all mere mortals: “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” In other words, almost all of us gets a Napoleonic complex when we think we have a little authority.

  21. Jim F.
    June 8, 2005 at 4:36 pm

    N. Miller: To say that someone is doing something that is like a calling is not necessarily to say that he or she is building the kingdom more than someone working in a job that is not like a calling. To describe someone’s work as a calling or like a calling says something about the character of the job. It says something about what attitude the worker is supposed to have. It doesn’t say anything about the value of that job compared to other jobs. That value depends on the person, depends on the job, depends on all kinds of things.

  22. a random John
    June 8, 2005 at 4:38 pm

    My business dealings with the church have led me to never want to work for the church. I honestly feel cheated. I know others that have even worse stories.

    If you read the articles that mention the president of Harvard’s thoughts on the matter, it is pretty clear that it was communicated to him that this is a calling for Clark and more than just a job.

  23. Jack
    June 8, 2005 at 4:39 pm


    Actually I find your words to be quite comforting. I like to think that in most cases such as the one I described above that it’s really a matter of good people tripping over one other’s weaknesses. I think most people around here have guest by now that I’m no saint. No doubt, my weaknesses were like a felled tree for that poor chap to trip over.

  24. June 8, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    My comment should have read, “In fact, looking back I’m not quite sure HOW I managed to swing a full load of classes at the time.”

    I wonder if the GA’s comment wasn’t meant as clarifying instruction indicating that MTC employees could and should still accept callings in their wards even though they were teaching at the MTC? I can see how this might be confusing to some and perhaps this had become a problem? It is hard to interpret this comment without knowing the potential motivating reasons for the talk.

  25. Jim F.
    June 8, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    An addendum to my reply (#17) to Cort McMurray (#15): Though the assumption is that BYU faculty are paid slightly less than the average for comparable positions at the group of universities we use for comparison, it is far from true that BYU is paying the faculty half of what they would get some place else. Perhaps 10% less, perhaps 5%, but certainly not 50%. Like everyone else, I would always like to make more than I do, but I am paid reasonably well and I am not the exception. Perhaps I could make more some place else, but not a lot more.

  26. N Miller
    June 8, 2005 at 4:59 pm

    Jim F. – Agreed. At least assuming the human factor. However, everything else being equal as stated (character, pay, ability, commitment to Christ, etc.), someone who works for the church, merely by doing their job helps the church, and invariably, the kingdom of God, move forward. Somebody that does not work for the church does not have that built-in ability in their job.
    Adding the human touch can change the mix and the value of how they help move the kingdom forward, but working for the church does give the advantage in doing so.
    I say this not meaning that the rest of us are looked down upon, but for the argument that working for the church *helps* somebody to move the church forward.

  27. Ben H
    June 8, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    Good to hear, Jim : )
    And the cost of living in Provo is probably 5% or 10% less than a lot of places, and more less than some.

  28. Cort McMurray
    June 8, 2005 at 5:04 pm

    Look at your temple recommend. What illustration graces that document? A line drawing of The Temple in Salt Lake, of course. We live in a remarkable age, when, according to Elder Hales, nearly every faithful member of the Church is within an easy day’s journey of a temple. Most members of the Church will never set foot in Salt Lake City, let alone in the temple there. Yet the image of that edifice is chosen to represent faith and righteousness and sacred covenants is the Salt Lake Temple.

    You can make an argument that the Salt Lake Temple is an especial symbol of consecration, that the covenants made there are no more sacred than in any other temple, but the context of its creation lends it special significance. You can argue equally well that this is another example of the tension between Zion in the Hills and Zion in the World, that this is a little message that Utah is still the center of things. A more generic symbol, like an Angel Moroni, or the “standard plan” drawing on the passes for the Palmyra Temple dedication, would imply that all temples, like all Church members, are equal.

    When we single certain groups out for “job as calling” status, we’re sending that same message: “we people here are doing the same work as those people there, only we’re a little more blessed, a little more chosen.” It’s Utopia Myopia: we’re so busy looking at how wonderful and special we are, that we’ve gone blind to the wonderful and special things being done all over the world. In fairness, this happens on the other side of the Zion Curtain, too: people think that they’re noble, just because they live in “the mission field.” It’s all baloney.

  29. diogenes
    June 8, 2005 at 5:37 pm

    The Church seems to be more than a little conflicted on this issue.

    Many years ago I interviewed for a job working for the Church in SLC. The interviewer went to some pains to emphasize that the position under discussion was a job, and not a calling. He wanted to make clear to me that the job was just a job, and should be considered such — in particular, that the decision whether to accept or not should be approached as I would any other job.

    When we got to the salary negotiation, he named a figure that was about a third the going rate in the general market for my profession. I pointed this out to him, and essentially asked why he thought I would be willing to work for less than half what is paid in the industry. He replied that many people felt there were non-pecuniary benefits to working “in the Kingdom.” He then became rather flustered when I pointed out the obvious conflict with his earlier insistence that the position was just a job.

    I ended the interview there and didn’t pursue the job any further, BTW. And, much like “a random John,” my subsequent dealings with the Church as a business have convinced me it would not be a desireable employer.

  30. Paul
    June 8, 2005 at 6:13 pm

    Cort McMurray, it is great to see that you have started commenting on this board. And, not surprisingly, your comments are dead on. What Jim and others talk of — the Brehtren telling them that working in Utah or at BYU is more than a job — sounds to me a lot like the Noble lie.

  31. June 8, 2005 at 7:05 pm

    Cort, there certainly are people with over-hyped ideas of how Ziony Utah is, but I don’t see that the choice to put the Salt Lake Temple on the temple recommend has anything to do with it. I haven’t encountered any hint of someone thinking that temple is somehow more holy than others, and I don’t see that your other suggestions would send a better message. Let’s not fight myth with myth; I think we can be more concrete than that.

    It seems pretty clear that in several sectors of church employment there is some fuzziness about how it is or isn’t different from a job. How do we think it *should* be?

    I think there are times when thinking of church jobs as holy leads to misguided sanctimoniousness and officiousness and taking employees for granted, but I also don’t think that a church job should be just like a secular job, only with the paycheck drawn on a different account. I have doubts about the way we usually divide “public” and “private” space in pluralist countries like the U.S. I think it matters who we spend time with all day, what their character is, etc., not just what their professional qualifications are, narrowly understood. Especially in an institution run by a church.

  32. Silus Grok
    June 8, 2005 at 7:30 pm

    RE #19… I disagree. Ceteris paribus (all things being equal), an accountant working for the church is building the kingdom more _directly_ than an accountant working for a firm, but that’s a far cry from just plain “more”.

  33. Jim F.
    June 8, 2005 at 8:32 pm

    Paul, if it is the noble lie then it has some other purpose. What would the purpose be? They are up front about the fact that we are paid less than we would be at comparable institutions, so that doesn’t seem to be the reason.

    (By the way, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Brethren say that working in Utah is more than a job.)

    My take on what that “more” means is that because the Church operates BYU I have a different responsibility teaching LDS students than I would have at a state or other private institution. I not only have to teach them philosophy at least as well as they would learn it some place else, I also have to do so in a way that reflects the LDS character of the institution and my own life in the Church. I also take it that I have a responsibility to remember that much of the money I’m spending and I’m paid comes from the tithes of the members. That isn’t the same as earning and spending tax dollars (though perhaps it ought to be similar) and it is a far cry from earning and spending endowment money. I think they are also saying things about the way BYU ought to be administered, about relations among colleagues, etc.

  34. June 8, 2005 at 9:33 pm

    A relative of mine was being considered for a job at a specific BYU department. This relative is a world-renown expert in his field and a current professor at a major US University. He also has a consulting business on the side and probably makes upward of 7 figures.

    — Before anyone chimes in with class envy (ok, I’m a bit envious ;) ) I should note that the family supports a private school for struggling high schoolers and pays for about a dozen missionaries financially. One misnomer people have about “the rich” is that they simply sit on their money, accumulate it and thumb their nose at the rest of the world. In truth, most “rich” people I know spend a good deal of their yearly “fortune” on others.–

    Initially, he was promised a salary to replace his professorship and his consulting firm to teach full time at BYU. Later, a change in leadership occured at the BYU department. They thought the offer too extravegent, citing the “privledge” to work at BYU and cut the offer down to 1/5th of the origina price. He tried to work it out in the end he had to decline.

    On the other hand there are some colleges that will splurge for exclusive and presigious names to come to campus but that is probably the exception.

  35. Paul
    June 8, 2005 at 10:32 pm

    Jim, I guess it is case specific (see Justin H #34). The “lie” to which I refer (and lie is a strong word but it is the word Plato used, so I use it) is not that you are doing good work or even furthering the Lord’s cause, it is that you are doing some higher calling/job by working in Utah or for the church. A faithful LDS professor is a faithful LDS professor. To suggest somehow that an LDS professor at BYU is called to a higher or more weighty position is false. It is like arguing that a collegiate athlete has a higher calling to play for BYU than some other university. Also false.

  36. June 8, 2005 at 11:40 pm

    Slow down with the sports talk, Paul. Now your treading on sacred ground!

  37. Jim F.
    June 8, 2005 at 11:51 pm

    Paul (#35): Justin’s case is possible, but quite exceptional. Not that many professors anywhere make 7 figure or more salaries. At that kind of salary I doubt that his relative could have found anyone to hire him at another university than the one he was at. If he could, good for him, but it is unlikely.

    I find it odd that you equate the claim that a job is a calling or like a calling with the claim to have a higher or weightier position. I don’t see any basis for your idea that someone thinks BYU professors have been called to a higher or more weighty position. Who has suggested that? Not me, and not anyone else on this thread. Nor is it implicit in the notion of a calling.

    Since numerous apostles and several prophets have taught that working at a Church university is something like a calling, with unique responsibilities, I can say that I don’t fully understand what is implied by that. But I don’t see how I can, in good conscience, deny it or chalk it up to something like Plato’s noble lie.

  38. Jack
    June 9, 2005 at 2:05 am

    I can see how there may be assumptions floating around out there that smack of Paul’s “lie”. But those that I know personally who work at BYU (and they are few) seem to be the ones most concerned with making sure that there is no basis for such. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that getting paid out of the tithing funds of the church ought to have the opposite effect, though at first glance it may seem to be one of the causes of the “lie”. I think that such would cause one to make sure that the goods are delivered “just that much” more honestly, thereby causing one to focus “just that much” more on the duties for which they are being paid. Pretty down to earth kind of stuff if you ask me.

  39. Cort McMurray
    June 9, 2005 at 8:48 am

    To Ben’s comment, when my wife and I were engaged, one of her friends asked where the wedding would be performed. “The Dallas Temple,” my wife explained. Her friend’s countenance clouded, and she solemnly said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” She went on to explain that as far as she was concerned, there were only two places to get married, Salt Lake or Manti. We might as well have been getting hitched in the bishop’s office, as far as this girl was concerned. A few years later, when I briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a full-time Seminary teacher, the local CES director told me, “You’ve got about as much chance of making it as you do getting a hit against Randy Johnson. The Lord chooses most of his servants from the West. They’re better trained.”

    It’s not healthy to analyze by anecdote, but I think these stories speak to a deeper truth. A lot of people in the mission field (and I know, I know, today, even Salt Lake City is “the mission field,” but you know what I mean) think, way down deep, that things are a little safer, a little holier, and just a bit happier on the Wasatch Front. We take our vacations there, we send out kids to college there, we even subscribe to a weekly insert from the mediocre local paper. I think a lot of people in Utah are perfectly happy holding the same perception: “We’ve got seats on the front pew in that eternal Sacrament meeting in the sky.” I don’t mean to imply that the temple recommend is secretly underwritten by the Utah Tourism Council, but, like singling out a particular set of workers as holding a higher calling simply because they’re drawing a salary from Church coffers, choosing that particular graphic sends many messages.

    To Jim F., as the leader of a ward with 600+ members, 115 prospective Elders, about 300 single sisters and only 73 Melchizedek Priesthood holders (roughly half of whom are less active), where nearly 70 percent of our youth are in single parent homes, I would give my right arm, my left eye, and a couple of toes for 5 or 6 pair of those smart, fresh scrubbed, temple married and ready to work BYU grads y’all turn out every Spring. BYU is essential to the continued health and vitality of the Church: it’s a place where leaders are created. So is the Institute at UT-Austin, and Texas A&M, and University of Houston (where we’re Cougars, too, only we’re red, not blue, and we have Low Self Esteem). BYU is part of a panoply; it might shine a little brighter that the other stars in the firmament, but it ain’t the Sun…

  40. Aaron N.
    June 9, 2005 at 8:55 am

    “We take our vacations there”

    OK, there’s the problem right there. Don’t take vacations to Utah. Go to Hawaii. Or Mexico. Or Iowa, for Heaven’s sake. But Utah? For fun? What can one do besides ski? Hang out at the Visitor’s Center?

  41. Floyd the Wonderdog
    June 9, 2005 at 9:59 am

    I am a strong proponent of a Voluntary Mormon Diaspora. I want those young BYU, U of U, Snow College, Dixie College, etc. graduates to move out into the *mission field* and leaven the lump.

    The accountant working at the Church office building probably doesn’t have a chance to interact with non-LDS. Said accountant goes home to a neighborhood that is predominantly LDS. (In my Utah neighborhood we had one non-member.) He teaches the 12-year-olds in Sunday School. Send him out here. He’ll be able to be an example to people who may never have met a Mormon. He can be a Ward Missionary to more than just the one non-member in his ward. He can discuss the gospel with his neighbors who are seeking the gospel, but who don’t know where to find it. Come on out!! Be an active part of building Zion!!

    (Disclaimer: The Wonderdog is not affiliated with Wonderdog Realty or Wonderdog Job Placement Agency. Mr. Wonderdog makes no financial gain from his support of the *Voluntary Mormon Diaspora*. Voluntary Mormon Diaspora and Wonderdog are registered trademarks of Wonderdog Industries LLC.)

  42. Cort McMurray
    June 9, 2005 at 10:28 am

    I grew up in Buffalo. We don’t ski. Snow is not for fun. Snow is something you grimly endure, winter after winter, until it kills you. The most compelling reason to go to Utah on vacation is LeBeau’s, a little hamburger stand near Bear Lake, where they serve raspberry milkshakes and an huge hamburger that’s grilled, wrapped in ham, covered with cheese and grilled onions, and served with several pounds of fries. It fairly screams, “I won’t drink. I won’t smoke. I’ll stay away from the hippie lettuce. But, darn it, my clogged arteries are MINE!!!”

  43. Jim F.
    June 9, 2005 at 10:40 am

    Cort McMurray (#39): BYU is part of a panoply; it might shine a little brighter that the other stars in the firmament, but it ain’t the Sun…

    Who suggested that it was the sun?You and Paul seem to be reading a lot into “like a calling.”

  44. Maren
    June 9, 2005 at 10:58 am

    When I was in college I worked for the church’s printing center. I would stand for eight hours a day and collate papers or box Books of Mormons. We would have a devotional once a week where we would be reminded that the books we box help build the kingdom. Even with that, I know all of us felt our job was a job, and not a calling. There were many single mothers who had been subject to either a death or a husband leaving. They had not gotten an education so they were stuck boxing books. It was a hard job.
    I now live in Brooklyn NY. I am one of two Mormons in my agency. I work with adults with disabilities, assuring that their medicaid and other services are in place. I view this job as a calling much more than my experience in the Print Center. I have the blessing of helping people live a better life, and my example to the non-members I work for and with is noticed often. I have done more missionary work in Brooklyn than ever in Utah. I know all things are need. The Book of Mormon must be printed. God calls us to help people. Then there are times we just do jobs because they need to be done.
    Thank you for comment #41. I am 26 years old, got married 3 months ago, and was called two weeks after my wedding to be the Relief Society President in my ward. My husband is in the Elder’s quorum presidency. We do not have a second counselor in the bishopric because there is no one. I spoke to a friend in Utah recently who got called to be on the Enrichment committee. I thought, oh if you and your husband lived here! We have no secretary in the primary, we only have a president and one counselor in the YW, the YM just have a president, the Sunday School President is also the teacher, I have no callings in relief society except the presidency. When I went home to see my mother for Mother’s day I was so sad to see so many people in the ward that my father, a very active man who has had several callings in his life, right now has no calling but Home Teacher. Oh, the difference people would make out here!
    Incidently, I vacation in Utah because that is how I see my family. Once my husband is through the immigration process, we will vacation in the Philippines to see his family, and that will probably be the financial extent of our vacationing. I wish we could go to Hawaii, but I do like to see my family so I will sacrifice my vacation to boring Utah for the time being.

  45. June 9, 2005 at 11:05 am


    I don’t think anybody has a problem with someone feeling that their teaching position at another university is something to which they are called. But Jim is right in that there have been repeated and recent specific messages by Church leaders that to work at BYU is a sacred responsibility and akin to a calling. And apparently BYU is worth spending many millions of dollars on, instead of on other Church priorities. Which would be a strong indication that the Church feels it is getting something special out of having BYU and not solely a set of institutes (valuable as those are). On the other hand, it seems equally clear that the Church is not interested in a massive expansion of the resources given to BYU.

    Clearly all of this angst over Utah is just a reflection of too much time spent in Texas, a state which resents any other state considering itself special…


    Although I totally agree that there are lots of great missionary opportunities (and more per capita) outside of Utah, you might be interested in knowing that Utah missions lead all English speaking missions in number of baptisms. Although “gathering” has costs as you note, it does provide a strong support network for many people who might otherwise slip through the cracks.

  46. ryan
    June 9, 2005 at 11:36 am

    There seems to be a lot sincere efforts to justify one’s own existence and place in the world in this thread. I personally think we are all where we are for a purpose. I wonder about those who aspire to work for the church because it is some sort of higher calling. But aspiring for any job to enjoy creature comforts and enjoyable surroundings is fine by me, and I can’t think of a more pleasant place to enjoy a lunchtime turkey wrap and lemonade than outside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on pleasant Utah summer day. Ain’t nothing wrong with getting a paycheck from the Corporation of the First Presidency. That said, the courtyard outside my office in Pennsylvania is also pretty nice.

    Furthermore, I do not need to go to New York to help those of you that have a shortage leadership and no one in Utah should feel so obligated. I think we really underestimate our (others’?) potential to do good regardless of what community we live in. The idea of “wasted priesthood talent” in Utah baffles me. Why is it “wasted”? Because they aren’t all in PEC on Sunday morning?

    I love Utah. It has the best weather anywhere. Hands down.

  47. Mark B.
    June 9, 2005 at 11:40 am

    Maren’s experiences in Brooklyn are similar to mine–and I’ve been here since the year that she was born. And yet I see large numbers of able men and women in wards I visit in Utah without callings. That’s why a Non Quite Voluntary Mormon Diaspora would be a good thing.

    Here’s how it would work:

    Tuition at BYU would be increased substantially (five or six fold), coupled with a substantial increase in student loans.

    Loan forgiveness would be granted to people who moved away from the Mormon Corridor–the amount of loans forgiven would increase depending on where one moved and how long one lived there. You’d get a higher rate, for example, if you lived in the Bensonhurst Ward than in the Park Slope Ward, and a higher rate still if you lived in the Bushwick 1st Branch. A simple form, with a check box and signature by the bishop, could be completed at tithing settlement each year and forwarded to BYU would be all that you’d need to administer the program locally.

    You’d build the church, especially in those struggling branches and wards like Maren’s, and you’d have a solid argument for continuing the large tithing subsidy to BYU.

  48. Paul
    June 9, 2005 at 11:47 am


    The 9-year-old part member baptisms in Utah are rarely strengthening the fold.


    I have heard from too many people — professors and professionals, retirees and children — that they are going to or back to Utah to be part of some nobler calling. Look, I think that the BYU faculty does a good work and that BYU as an institution is important. But it is only on par with other faculty and institutions that do good work. Agreed?

  49. Jed
    June 9, 2005 at 11:57 am

    Paul (#35): “To suggest somehow that an LDS professor at BYU is called to a higher or more weighty position is false. It is like arguing that a collegiate athlete has a higher calling to play for BYU than some other university. ”

    The analogy is misguided. It assumes all LDS professors and students can be placed in the same camp independent of their institutional commitments. But BYU professors and students commit to a different standard of behavior than LDS professors and students elsewhere. Because BYU operates on tithing funds, the expectations are higher for BYU students and professors.

    The “weighty” calling comes after BYU people sign on the dotted line, not before. Calling follows obligation.

  50. greenfrog
    June 9, 2005 at 12:01 pm

    Jim F. wrote: I find it odd that you equate the claim that a job is a calling or like a calling with the claim to have a higher or weightier position. I don’t see any basis for your idea that someone thinks BYU professors have been called to a higher or more weighty position. Who has suggested that? Not me, and not anyone else on this thread. Nor is it implicit in the notion of a calling.

    Since numerous apostles and several prophets have taught that working at a Church university is something like a calling, with unique responsibilities, I can say that I don’t fully understand what is implied by that.

    Jim, I understood Cort McMurray’s comment not to question in particular whether instruction of students at BYU entailed unique responsibilities, but whether it entailed unique forms of compensation (blessings?) that made up for the below-average-market wages offered in exchange for your services. As I understand the discussion so far, the time when the “calling” aspect of the work is taken into account is in weighing a decision to work at BYU (or for the Church generally) for less than one could be paid doing substantially similar work for other organizations. If that’s correct, then the question becomes whether the “calling” is something objectively more than the emperor’s subjective perceptions of his clothes.

  51. June 9, 2005 at 12:01 pm


    Go read the stuff at the link Jim gave at the top and see if BYU is, in the minds of its funders, no different than any other place. Of course BYU is not the place for every academic Mormon. And there are many wonderful professors doing great things at other schools, both for their LDS students and their non-LDS students. But if it is no better than a typical good university with an institute then the Church is wasting a tremendous amount of money.

    Here’s a quote from President Hinckley in 92:

    “This institution is unique. It is remarkable. It is a continuing experiment on a great premise that a large and complex university can be first class academically while nurturing an environment of faith in God and the practice of Christian principles. You are testing whether academic excellence and belief in the Divine can walk hand in hand. And the wonderful thing is that you are succeeding in showing that this is possible–not only that it is possible, but that it is desirable, and that the products of this effort show in your lives qualities not otherwise attainable.”

  52. Paul
    June 9, 2005 at 12:12 pm

    Frank, go read the Republic.

    Jed said, “But BYU professors and students commit to a different standard of behavior than LDS professors and students elsewhere. Because BYU operates on tithing funds, the expectations are higher for BYU students and professors.”

    Jed, it is your logic that is misplaced. It would be like saying, “because most of the GAs have graduated from University of Utah, the expectations are higher for UofU students and proffesors.”

  53. seven bohanan
    June 9, 2005 at 12:22 pm

    Several members of my wife’s family have worked for the church as professors, accountants, and administrators. From first hand witness, I can confirm that church employment is just that — employment. Despite the lofty rhetoric about callings and special positions, the church views its workers as employees not parishioners. And those who believe otherwise are either in denial or defense.

    Really, the lofty rhetoric is a one way street in church employment. The church makes statements of and hints at divine purpose (in the church workforce, that is), but when the dirty details of work rear their often ugly head, the church has no qualms about firing, demoting, freezing pay, etc . . . When you try to combine Caesar and the Lord, the result is a strange one.

  54. June 9, 2005 at 12:39 pm

    Plato is more informed about BYU than President Hinckley? That seems unlikely. And I wasn’t being snide. You should really take a look at the quotes. They will, I think, provide direct information as to how Church leaders view BYU.


    It is entirely possible to run a business as a business, including hiring and firing people based on merit, and adjusting wages and so forth, but at the same time recognizing that there are non-wage benefits to the job that make it enjoyable for the workers and, in some cases, more helpful to the kingdom than other employment. Surely you don’t think that the Church should never fire or demote people? As Jim has pointed out, there are plenty of imperfect humans in Church employment and management. This also does not deny the possibility that working for the Church can be rewarding to specific people.

  55. Ben H
    June 9, 2005 at 12:44 pm

    Cort, thanks for the clearer illustrations! I’ve been lucky enough not to encounter anything quite so glaring, but there is a bit of a cultural current behind what you’ve described. The part about teaching seminary full-time is particularly discouraging.

    Paul, BYU is not just one more university among zillions in the country that “do good work”. BYU brings people together into a community that is based on faith, and because of that, things happen there that don’t happen just anywhere. Nor is BYU just like the University of Texas (which has a big Institute), only with *everyone* in the Institute program. The idea is that the gospel plays a role in how education goes on throughout the life of the university, and there are few places like that. That doesn’t mean that BYU (or BYUI, or BYUH) should be every Mormon’s top choice; there are lots of things to consider in planning an education, but it is an important feature. Nor does everything at BYU fully live up to the ideal, though I can say that my faith in and understanding of the gospel grew a lot while I was there, in ways it would not have if my professors had not been models of faithful scholarship. But given that that is the ideal, and to get back to the topic of thread, it makes a big difference in who belongs on the faculty, and how they should understand their role. They are expected to be role models, including models of a harmony between scholarship and faith.

    Paul, is your point that there is too much there to read? Or is it something to do with the philosophical point of Plato’s Republic? Sorry, I have never managed to slog through most of the Republic, but I know does propound an ideal of education and an ideal of community, so I’m not sure what you mean. If your point is that other places have ideals of community, well, they are very different ideals.

  56. Ben H
    June 9, 2005 at 12:47 pm

    I think there are several issues here that are being conflated. One is the question of where one is located. Another is who is one’s employer. Another still is who one works with (there are some nice things about having co-workers who share your faith, e.g.). Another still is the question of whether one’s job has a major spiritual component. In the case of MTC and BYU teachers, this last one is key.

  57. jimbob
    June 9, 2005 at 12:55 pm

    Ryan (#46): “The idea of “wasted priesthood talent” in Utah baffles me. Why is it “wasted”? Because they aren’t all in PEC on Sunday morning?”

    I know you meant this tounge in cheek, but my answer to that is that it is wasted because they all aren’t in PEC on Sunday morning. When I was in law school, my wife and I decided to live close to school so that we only had to have one car. I’d made a decision a long time ago that I was never going to choose my housing situation based on the church unit I might end up in. Thus, we ended up in the branch that covered the majority of a very diverse and poor city. I was called into the branch presidency the week I got there and wasn’t released until two months after I left. My wife was the primary president for the entire time we were there. Why? Because although this university had a decent number of members attending it, most of them with an active Melchizedek preisthood holder in the home, none of them would move into the branch. Nearly to a person, I was told that although it was closer to school for them and probably cheaper overall, they just didn’t want to move into the branch. Some made excuses about how this was “the time for their family” and they knew once they got there they’d have big callings. Others said that they wanted to be where other members were in abundance (in the suburb) because it felt more like “home in Utah” (their words, not mine). One went as far as to say that it was difficult to feel the spirit in our building, because a lot of people in our branch were new to the gospel and didn’t know not to shout hallelujahs during Sacrament Meeting or share overly personal stories in Sunday School. They even set up unofficial recruiting committees to sway other students coming to the university to visit and interview away from moving into the branch because they were concerned that that potential student would immediately get a big calling. Nearly to a person, every one of these student families in the suburb ward was from Utah, had gone to BYU for undergrad, and was anticpating returning (and counting down the days) when they could return home and get away from all the “culture” of a different community. They lived near one another, complained loudly to each other about how “un-Utah” the city we were living in was, and only let their kids play with other mormon kids.

    My point is that there are a whole lot of the parts of the vineyard that need far more pruning than others. There are a lot of PEC meetings out there that are woefully underattended because members who could be making a difference are not. It is unfair to lump all Utah mormons into the same category as this suburb group, but even a few years removed from the situation, I still have difficulty not assuming most Utah members don’t want to grow the kingdom unless they’re in Utah, or at least in a unit that makes them feel like they’re in Utah. So I guess my answer is that, yes, the community you’re trying to do good in does make a difference. If you want to stay in Utah and enjoy the weather, I think that’s great. But please don’t tell me that your “potential to do good” in American Fork, where you could find a good candidate for new Bishop within a few minutes, is the same as a less-mormon populated area where they pray for a baptism or move-in of someone who at least knows who Joseph Smith is.

  58. Jim H.
    June 9, 2005 at 1:22 pm

    The Job vs. Calling attitude is an ongoing tension for many of us.

    Perhaps the General Authority’s point was to encourage a way of thinking that would salve your testimony were something untoward to happen at work.

    With that perspective I’m hoping my relative who has been so poorly treated for so long by his entire BYU hierarchy might finally leave the institution with spiritual moorings still intact, and my friend’s wife – who used to come home from work (Church Office Building) in tears every day because of awful office politics and a mean-spirited boss – perhaps can move on after having been fired, still retaining her faith in the Savior and good feelings for His church.

    #31 – Ben, you’re right on.
    #42 – Cort, you crack me up.

  59. Maren
    June 9, 2005 at 1:27 pm

    Wow, Ryan. Well, I like the weather better in Utah as well. No humidity. And yes, there are other ways of living the gospel rather than sitting in PEC. For me, personally, I serve the church more now than I ever have, except perhaps my full-time mission. While I was in college my biggest calling was Ward Choir Director. The Choir Director in my ward now also happens to be the Stake Relief Society President. It is just a different world. Before I moved to Brooklyn I had never even attended a family ward Relief Society (with the exception of my mission). I had been in student wards. Suddenly I am president, by virtue only because I am active in the church. I have no homemaking skills, I work full time, and am starting graduate school in the fall. It is tempting to move in the Park Slope ward, where perhaps I would be less noticed, Mark, but my finances will keep me in the cheap (for NY) apartment my husband and I have found. So here I serve. I am in desperate need of people. When someone loses a family member, has a baby, etc, the same four people make them meals. There is no one else. That is all I am saying. I was comparing my current situation now to the idea that working for the church in the print center would be considered a calling by some. I even had people say to me “it must have been wonderful to work for the church! Do you miss it?” Miss boxing books all day? That is supposed to give me a spiritual feeling? However, seeing a person receive a motorized wheelchair, so that for the first time in their life, they can travel down the street BY THEMSELVES, that is a spiritual experience. Seeing a new person move into the ward and within one week seeing them get two new callings because they actually know how to play piano, that is spiritual. So, yes, talent is somewhat wasted. When there are more twelve year olds in my parents ward who can play piano than there are any piano players in my ward, talent is wasted. Yes, we are grateful for anyone who moves in who knows who Joseph Smith is. No, you do not have to move out here. You can build the Kingdom whatever way you think is best. I have lived in Utah, and I have lived here. I will say for me that my spiritual existance is greater here than ever in Utah. I was once assigned as a ward greeter as my calling in Utah. I certainly did not feel responsible for anything there. No one cared if I missed church on Sunday. I tell you what, if you are in the Bensonhurst Brooklyn ward, you will be missed when you are gone. I understand more about the church now that I have left Utah than I ever learned by being brought up in “Zion”. (If you can’t tell, I am very stressed this week!)

  60. A. Greenwood
    June 9, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    “but even a few years removed from the situation, I still have difficulty not assuming most Utah members don’t want to grow the kingdom unless they’re in Utah, or at least in a unit that makes them feel like they’re in Utah.”

    I think this is pretty unfair. When I went to law school, almost all of the students lived in the poor, diverse ward that also happened to be cheaper and closer to the University. Most of those students were from Utah. Maybe we’re looking at a founder effect.

  61. Cort McMurray
    June 9, 2005 at 1:39 pm

    Jimbob makes a good point. One of the wards that borders ours has something like 14 former bishops living in it. There are a lot of places that need pruning; Utah makes an easy target.

    But the thing is, when you talk to people living in the Epcot wards (“Just like the real Church, only cleaner, safer, and nobody has an accent!”), someone will invariably say, “We like it in this ward. It’s so much like the West!” The popular perception is that it’s better in Utah, and Utahns are happy letting people think that.

    Of course there are problems in Utah, and as Lowell Bennion liked to point out, plenty of opportunities to do well. But I’ve lived in Utah, and I’ve lived in the mission field, and the difference is like the difference between flying cross-country and taking Greyhound: you end up in the same place, but nobody on the plane is using Hefty bags for luggage, and the guy behind you on the plane isn’t smoking a joint.

    As for the whole BYU as special institution thing, it’s sort of like a political stump speech, or a rock star saying, “Thank you (insert city here). We love you!” They say that stuff to EVERYBODY. (Don’t believe me? Read some of the talks given at CES firesides, pumping up the royal army of Seminary and Insititute teachers.) We’re all stars, shining brightly. It’s no big deal.

    It’s hard in the mission field. My family has shouldered the same yoke that many of you describe above. Have any of us been diminished by it? Would you really want it any other way? I love what I do, and I love The Weight. My brother-in-law is 26; last month, he was called to be a bishop. Unless you’re another young Tommy Monson, those kind of opportunities don’t happen much in places like Orem.

    Finally, and most importantly, Texas rules.

  62. ryan
    June 9, 2005 at 1:44 pm

    Jimbob, Is there a difference between “potential to do good” and “potential for exaltation”? I don’t think, at least I hope, that my PEC attendance every week because I have a “big calling” outside of Utah, and the fact that I home teach in the ghetto in no way qualifies me more for the big rewards than my brother who faithfully teaches the sixteen year olds in his ward and home teaches his neighbor. Your experience in law school sounds sad. I do think you are generalizing “Utah Mormons” a bit. I have found much joy outside of Utah and I do think there are significant differences between living in and out of the Deseret belt, but to me the differences are largely social not so much spiritual. My non-Utah ward embraces those not of our faith, encourages assimilation with the impoverished areas of the ward and seeks mightily to do what is right (I like my ward–a lot. I am not a good sampling of its otherwise solid membership).

    Maren, I tend to agree with your comments. I have found (I think) more spiritual fulfillment outside of Utah as well. But I think a lot of that comes with my age/maturity/kids/marriage/etc., etc., etc. Not necessarily place. I think the idea of “big callings” is a bit off. The choir director in our ward (that’s all she is) works very hard at her job. Our three greeters? They have meetings. I think our salvation will depend a lot on our actions outside of callings and our attitude towards them. Spiritual growth can come from serving in a calling but serving in a particular calling certainly is not necessary for spiritual growth. I think we tend to “brag on” our current stomping grounds. I think that’s healthy–but people who choose to live/work in Utah are equal candidates for the Lord’s blessings.

    You know, in my opinion.

  63. ryan
    June 9, 2005 at 1:51 pm

    Cort, what a great opportunity for your twenty-six year old brother. I hope he finds as much joy and spiritual growth in his calling as my twenty-three year old brother does in teaching Sunday School to the youth and fulfilling his home teaching assignment. Should my brother move to Ghana because he isn’t a bisho in his home ward?

    A lot of non-bishops will be standing next to you in the Celestial Kingdom, enjoying the same blessings. I have a hard time seeing how “big callings” make a difference. I qualify all of these statements that I have had many callings that I think you would characterize as “big” and many that you would characterize as “small”. I have found joy and fulfillment in all of them.

  64. Maren
    June 9, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    I like the greyhound/plane analogy, although it makes for some sad thoughts for us poor people on the greyhound. Does that mean the Utah saints are “richer”. They can afford to fly to heaven while we have to ride the greyhound? What does it say about someone like me? I was once on the plane with all the other rich people, and I had to switch to the greyhound? And I know that big callings are relative, and what really matters is how you serve the Lord. Perhaps it just seems as if those in large wards fell very comfortable with their one calling, big or small, while those of us who struggle in our three callings in our branches and tiny wards wonder why we can’t be blessed with more people. That is what missionary work is for, I guess. Too bad all my interested friends always seem to reside in different ward boundries.

  65. Jordan
    June 9, 2005 at 2:09 pm

    Cort- you are right! Texas does, indeed, rule!

  66. June 9, 2005 at 2:27 pm


    Institute teachers are a special group of people with an important job. Are you saying BYU professors are engaged in work no more exempleray than institute teachers? That’s not a bad crowd at all! Probably better than most BYU professors really deserve. I had thought we were comparing BYU to average state school academic jobs. Institute is a whole other ball game.

    Lastly, follow the money. It is not difficult to guesstimate BYU’s cost to the Church and it probably is in the 200 million dollar range. If BYU is just a state school with a fancy name, then the Church is making a huge mistake by shouldering those costs. You should probably let the Church know that you’ve figured out a way for them to save a bunch of money for better things.

    As for Texas, any place where the legislature only meets every other year can’t be all bad.

  67. Cort McMurray
    June 9, 2005 at 2:31 pm

    Gee, Ryan, lighten up. My point wasn’t that my brother-in-law is holier than the Sunday School teacher. A great advantage of being in the mission field is that it forces you to be focused and dedicated. There’s so much need, you don’t have the luxury of coasting. Alma would say that the poverty of priesthood has compelled us to be humble. So the dedicated Sunday School worker in American Fork, the person who’s praying for the individuals in the class, and carefully planning lessons, the person constantly going the extra mile, how much greater is his reward because he chooses to magnify his calling? “Big” versus “small” callings is one of those ridiculous differentiations that we don’t think about here — the size of your shovel doesn’t matter, so long as you’re digging.

    And Ghana doesn’t need you to be a bishop. Rudyard Kipling is dead, Bwana. On the other hand, I could really use a dedicated, faithful Deacons quorum advisor. Wanna move? Houston is lovely in June…

  68. Sam Payne
    June 9, 2005 at 2:31 pm

    There is a very clear analogy to the real world, that I think many of you are familiar with, and would help the debate. As a graduate student (PhD in CA) I have a 20K stipend, and am expected to work somewhere around 60 hrs a week. Roughly 3000 hrs a year at less than $7 per hour. ( much less than the MTC). The reason for this is that the most substantial part of the “benefit package” is experience. I get to work closely with excellent faculty and substantially advance my own skills.

    From basic econimics, if I value this experience then I go to grad school. If I don’t value the experience, then I get a regular job. Much the same for BYU/MTC/church employees. If you value the experience, then you will work for the modicum pay. This seems to me to be a personal choice, related to what you get out of it. e.g. MTC workers get to work with the missionaries and spend time in a spirit filled environment; etc. Yes it’s a job, yes it has less pay.

  69. ryan
    June 9, 2005 at 2:36 pm

    Cort–all light. I agree completely with your last post. There are differences, no doubt. And I think you hit them.

    As for Houston in June, been there done that. I’ll take northeast humidity over Houston’s jacuzzi feel.

  70. Jordan
    June 9, 2005 at 2:41 pm

    Aw come on, Ryan. It’s not so bad if you have a backyard swimming pool. Besides, North Texas is where it’s at- specifically D-town.

  71. June 9, 2005 at 2:46 pm

    Hey Sam. How’s it going? Are you in San Diego? I seem to remember John saying that’s where you’d headed.

  72. JWL
    June 9, 2005 at 2:53 pm

    Although we’re wandering a it off the post, the thread has come to the always difficult issue of why BYU? For most of its history BYU was accessible to almost all Church members. However clearly the time has passed when the Church uses tithing funds to provide higher education to ALL its members. Other than simple inertia, it is difficult to justify the continuing substantial tithing subsidies referred to by Frank in #66 unless BYU in some way still serves the entire Church. No one picked up on Mark B’s proposal in #47 that BYU tuition be increased with loans then forgiven to the extent that one lives in the “mission field,” but I know that that is a serious proposal to address both the inequity of using tithing to subsidize the education of a small elite of LDS youth, and the needs discussed here by Cort, Maren, etc. What think y’all? Come on Frank, isn’t that a good rational use of market mechanisms to reduce several inequities?

  73. Jim F.
    June 9, 2005 at 3:12 pm

    JWL: It is a good, rational proposal. And the Brethren have vetoed variations on it several times without comment.

  74. Sam Payne
    June 9, 2005 at 3:26 pm

    On a lighter note in response to #72, I know people who feel that BYU should only admit students from outside of Utah. I view the purpose of BYU to show the youth of the church its own strength both spiritually and intellectually. People who grew up in Utah have already seen that. But people like Frank and I that grew up in Kansas, I hoped that the church kids I would one day meet in throngs would be as fun as advertised. (my ward did have a few youth and it was fun) For those of us who grow up without the opportunity to know lots of LDS youth, BYU is invaluable. When 50% of Timp View high goes to BYU, it seems to me that they don’t have as much to gain as us folk out of the mormon corridor.

  75. A. Greenwood
    June 9, 2005 at 3:33 pm

    “Houston is lovely in June.”

    This is that sarcasm people keep telling me about?

  76. seven bohanan
    June 9, 2005 at 3:35 pm

    Cort, I nominate you for permablogger status, though, sadly, I have no authority to make such a nomination let alone bring it to pass. Still, you have written some of the best posts I have read on this board. I may not wholly agree with them, but they are smart, funny, and well-composed.

    The Republic of Texas does rule.

  77. Jordan
    June 9, 2005 at 3:35 pm

    I know when I went to Ricks College (and subsequently to BYU) it was the first time I had ever seen so many Latter-day Saints in one place so close to me. It was kind of cool and freaky at the same time.

  78. A. Greenwood
    June 9, 2005 at 3:38 pm

    “Cort, I nominate you for permablogger status . . .”

    I look down my nose, with aristocratic contempt, at this groundling attempt to influence me. Pah! What fools these mortals be!

  79. drex davis
    June 9, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    Does anyone know whether, as a church member student, BYU would allow you the opportunity to “opt-out” of any subsidies the church provides to your education, should you desire? That is, in addition to your tuition you would pick up the difference between your tuition and the actual cost of your education?

    I know that because I was educated there, I do feel an obligation to return service to the church. Knowing that there were tithing funds used from many members supporting my education there, I feel a duty to do them well via my post-BYU decisions. Many of those members who supported my education wanted to attend BYU but were not accepted. For those who might feel a desire to offload this responsibility, maybe they could pick up the tab themselves . . .

    (My tongue’s planted firmly in cheek, but still wondering if anyone knows of members attempting to pay an unsubsidized tuition for any reason).

  80. Jordan
    June 9, 2005 at 3:51 pm

    Texas, our Texas-
    All hail the mighty State!
    Texas, our Texas-
    So wonderful, so great!
    God bless you, Texas!
    And keep you brave and strong.
    That you may grow in power and might
    throughout the ages long.

    (Sorry for the irrelevance. But I just felt a surge of Texas pride and had to let it go.)

  81. A. Greenwood
    June 9, 2005 at 4:09 pm

    I believe that BYU is entirely willing to accept donations from alumni and current students. If those donations approximated the actual cost of a BYU education, who’d cavil?

  82. Rosalynde Welch
    June 9, 2005 at 4:12 pm

    But Adam, Puck wasn’t an aristocrat!

  83. seven bohanan
    June 9, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    The stars at night
    are big and bright
    deep in the heart of Texas.
    Reminds me of
    the one I love
    deep in the heart of Texas.

    Texas is the geographic and politcal hub of the Americas. As the nation and the church’s Latin American population continues to mushroom, Texas’s importance and greatness will only increase.

  84. drex davis
    June 9, 2005 at 4:48 pm

    I read post #83 and immediately had a Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure flash-black. Yikes.

    The wonderful news for the rest of us is that Texans love their state so much that they rarely re-locate to the other 49 . . . ;)

  85. June 9, 2005 at 5:40 pm

    I guess I would echo Jim on the redoing tuition. I am not sure I understand why the Church sees fit to put so much into BYU. But I am quite sure that they have their reasons, because they don’t spend money lightly. Since they have the calling, I defer to their insight and hope to understand the reasoning some day.

  86. Daniel
    June 9, 2005 at 5:50 pm

    Threadjack: 5th lowest tax burden in the nation; great weather and beautiful green with thriving industry and a higher-than-average wage (especially for professionals).

    And some of the nicest Christian people you’ll ever meet. Great Mormons, too. Before Joseph Smith died, he sent representatives down to Texas to try to negotiate a place for the Saints to settle. In the interim, however, he was martyred. I won’t say Utah isn’t nice (but for some of the negatives mentioned above), but Texas is sure wonderful.

    This is purely anecdotal, but I noticed while working in the call center as a teacher at the MTC that, although we called all 50 states (or maybe only 48?), a disproportionate share of the calls (maybe as many as 1/3) came from folks in Texas.

    God bless Texas.

  87. Randy
    June 9, 2005 at 5:58 pm

    Daniel, that is right about Joseph Smith wanting to go to Texas. In fact, Sam Houston was sympathetic to the Mormon cause and, when a US Senator, tried to dissuade the federal government from taking action against the Saints. Utah has a higher cost of living and meager pay compared to the Lone Star State.

  88. A. Greenwood
    June 9, 2005 at 6:08 pm

    “But Adam, Puck wasn’t an aristocrat! ”

    That you think us noblesse can’t quote any part of Shakespeare to our purpose shows that your own blood runs a little, well, common.

  89. June 9, 2005 at 6:12 pm

    I am reasonably confident that we would have been run out of Texas in short order, just like MO, IL, and OH.

  90. Silus Grok
    June 9, 2005 at 7:22 pm

    * shakes head *

    Texas is like some of my former roommates: better as neighbors than roommates… We should have left them as a republic.


  91. annegb
    June 9, 2005 at 8:24 pm

    Daniel: that’s probably why the polygamists from Colorado City are coming to your state. Enjoy.

  92. AC
    June 9, 2005 at 9:03 pm

    In reponse to comment 67:
    My parents’ ward is also badly in need of a deacon’s quorum advisor, along with a teacher’s quorum advisor, a YM president, and all the parallel positions in Young Women’s. Almost all the youth in their ward fail to graduate from high school, marry before the age of 20 due to unplanned–and unwedded–pregnancies, and hold only menial labor jobs. Only two Beehives are active, out of ten.

    It’s a rather dire situation. Any takers? The location is central Orem. The view of Mt. Timpanogos is, in a word, superb, and the opportunity to help fellow Saints would be extraordinary.

    A number of my acquaintances during the time I was at BYU would have fallen away from the Church if it were not for the unique mission of the school: to integrate faith and education in a manner based on Joseph Smith’s Kirtland and Nauvoo visions of education. If I had gone to Harvard as I had planned, it is likely that I would have left the Church–not due necessarily to Harvard itself, but rather due to personal predilections. BYU merits its extraordinary financial support from the Church based on its purpose to educate youth academically and spiritually, to nurture the soul, and to teach them what it entails to live a Christlike life. If there are doubts regarding the mission of BYU, there are innumerable speeches on the subject stretching back to Brigham Young.

    Perhaps the point I am trying to make–and should have made rather a while ago–is that generalizations ring hollow, whatever the subject of simplification, and they aid no one, inside or outside of Utah, at BYU or elsewhere.

  93. Cort McMurray
    June 9, 2005 at 9:10 pm

    If you haven’t seen the sun rise in the Hill Country in Spring, when the hills are purple with bluebonnets and the live oaks are filled with songbirds, if you’ve never blasted down a farm to market road during a gully washer with Joe Ely singing “Boxcars” on the radio, if you’ve never experienced the strange carnival that is Friday Night Lights, then brother, you ain’t livin’.

    Texas is the most tolerant place I have ever lived: The reports of our bubbaness are greatly exaggerated. (You want racism, classism, and cultural division? Try LA.) In my neighborhood, at least, when someone proudly flies the flag of a a failed southern republic, it’s not the Confederate battle flag, it’s the saffron banner of the Republic of South Viet Nam (which reminds me, is “BYUI” a school, or a Vietnamese surname?) The Parents of the Sons and Daughters of the Utah Pioneers might not have succeeded here, but it would have been heat and mosquitoes that killed ’em, not mobs.

    Plus, it takes a Texan to appreciate all the subtle brilliance of “King of the Hill,” itellyawhut.

    On an unrealted note, please, please, please, let’s never suggest that Church members have the right to dictate where their sacred tithing funds are applied. This is a box that should be nailed shut, wrapped in heavy chains, and thrown into the deepest waters.

    Finally, on a personal note, it’s a nice thing to spend a few moments with thoughtful, kind people, who understand Elder Maxwell’s observation that we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, who carry work visas to the kingdom of Mammon…

  94. annegb
    June 9, 2005 at 9:41 pm

    I personally knew some people who were a racially mixed couple and they lived in Texas and their children were not allowed to swim in the apartment building complex’s pool. This was in the last five years.

    Not to slam Texas or anything.

    But, Texas, you are certainly welcome to all the polygamists in Utah.

    Back to the subject: I think there are many jobs that can and should be viewed as callings, such as teaching or social work, or nursing. And maybe the church didn’t send that guy to give that message, maybe he just felt that way.

    Sort of off the subject, but I’m troubled by all the general authorities who write books. Because members feel obligated to buy them even when they can’t afford it because it makes them feel more righteous. It bothers me that they make money just printing their talks in books. That just doesn’t seem right to me.

  95. Salem
    June 9, 2005 at 9:53 pm

    You know how everyone in America thinks that everyone else in the world wishes that they were from America. The truth being that most do not wish they from America or ever want to visit America. Texans do the same thing. Texans think everyone else in America wishes they were from Texas. The truth being that nobody wishes they were from Texas. Seriously, ask anyone from Texas and they will not believe that anyone could not want to be from Texas. Sorry to burst all the Texans bubble, but some people like Texas, but most do not.

  96. jimbob
    June 9, 2005 at 10:05 pm

    I knew I was in trouble when at my first fast and testimony in Texas, an older woman got up and thanked the Lord not for the freedoms that America provided her, but for the freedoms that the Great State of Texas provided her, and that she was similarly glad she wasn’t from one of those heathen liberal states. I thought I saw the bishop flinch when she said it, but I’m not sure.

  97. June 9, 2005 at 11:06 pm

    How on earth do we go from woking for the Church, calling or not, to bearing our testimony in a Texas Sacrament meeting?

    Back on track, I put myself through my first year at BYU “WORKING” for food services, scrubbing toilets, cleaning tables, scouring the kitchen, and dispensing food from the commisary. I NEVER thought of it as a calling. Regardless the amount, work comes with a paycheck, callings come with blessings and a life-after-death retirement plan only.

  98. Diebold
    June 9, 2005 at 11:32 pm

    A bus mate of mine worked at the church office building for $9.62 an hour. She went to her boss and asked for a raise. Her boss told her to stop paying tithing. What kind of message does this portray, (even supposing the boss replied in jest)?

  99. Gilgamesh
    June 10, 2005 at 12:01 am

    Well I’ll throw in my two cents having worked for a division of the church.

    I think there are two groups of people. those that feel working for the church is equal to a calling and those that don’t. From my own experience, those that do feel it is a calling are some of the bureaucrats that work for the church. They have dedicated their lives to the church and each promotion feels like the Lord’s personal approval system. Those that view them as jobs are the are the brethren. A case in point.

    When I worked for the church, we were chastised at one point because the SLC management took a poll and it was shown that 70% of our branch of church employees either worked second jobs or their spouses worked. This was disconcerting to our top brass and they made sure to remind us that ours was a privilege to work for the church, and unless we demonstrated our faith in the Lord’s choice to pay us low wages, we would never reap the blessings we desired. We were reminded that we should be with our families, not work second jobs, and that our wives should care for the home, not work. Otherwise we were unfaithful servants. This was followed by an assurance that the brethren, espescially the prophet, would be dissappointed in the statistics. To me this demonstrated that they felt church employment was a calling that we should trust to bring us blessings and our low wages were an act of service to the church.

    Three weeks later we all recieved an across the board 10% raise. To the brethren, particularly the prophet, they were jobs and the numbers proved that we were underpayed.

  100. Rosalynde Welch
    June 10, 2005 at 12:54 am

    Adam: “That you think us noblesse can?t quote any part of Shakespeare to our purpose shows that your own blood runs a little, well, common.”

    Too true, Master Greenwood; this Rosalynde is no duke’s daughter. But be she ne’er so vile, this blog shall gentle her condition.

    (Hey, wanna know something cool? If you google Rosalynde, I’m the second result that comes up!)

  101. Bboy-Mike
    June 10, 2005 at 2:22 am

    I think that story of the GA making fools of all those MTCers is hilarious. Did he have to make you look stupid to prove his point? Obviously not, because his point was lost to the audience anyway,i.e., the subject of this post.

    It’s a scary thing to have your means of employment tied in with your church attendance (or schooling for that matter). It makes your pay contingent on your practice of religion, which can utimately make religious participation coercive.

  102. Daniel
    June 10, 2005 at 9:11 am

    Frank (#88): The Saints surely would have found opposition in Texas, just as they found it in Utah from the Indians and the elements (I’ve ancestors that settled some pretty horrible places) I’m sure, and, having read the prophets on this (including Isaiah), I’m sure that Utah was where the Lord meant for the Saints to settle, but don’t attribute the opposition to Texas, but rather to the fact that the adversary will always oppose the work of God.

    Ok, ok, in fairness, early Texans weren’t exactly the most tolerant of people. I’m sure that the same sort of rednecks that inhabited frontier Missouri were the same sort that inhabited Texas, especially since the state was populated by many trying to flee bankruptcies in other parts of the country (hence Texas’ continued lenient bankruptcy laws). My point though, was that Joseph Smith was only 170 years ahead of his time — Texas is the promised land now for its cheap land, no state income tax, inexpensive real estate and laid-back atmosphere. I especially like the lack of federal intervention and opposition thereto. Interesting tidbit: 87% of land in Utah is owned by the Federal Gov’t, creating artificial scarcity. In Texas, less than 3%. My understanding is that Utah enjoys 80% the national average earnings and 120% the national average cost of living, while almost the exact opposite is true of Texas.

    annegb(#s 91 & 94): My family lives in Washington — Washington, Utah, that is, so I am only too familiar with the polygs (used for convenience, not as a derogatory term) at the Wal-Mart. My wife (native Texan) still chuckles every time we go to Wal-Mart in Washington because you can’t go there without seeing a polyg.

    I think they are coming to Texas for exactly the opposite conditions than those you attribute to Texas: namely, tolerance and a live-and-let-live mentality. My experience here bears out Cort McMurray — Texas is MORE tolerant than other places (save that one little incident with Janet Reno in Waco, but again, that was not Texans, but the feds). I’ve found that the places that claim to be tolerant, i.e., large metropolises, are usually those that just hide their racism better. Here in the South, to echo something I read recently, the racism is outright WHEN it is there, and knowingly shunned, partly to overcompensate from so many accusations of “bubba-ness”. Houston, where I live, is one of the most tolerant, diverse places in the country. Your friend’s experience at the apartment complex is not only probably legally actionable, but definitely not borne out by my experience. It definitely exists, but at least it is a known quantity if and when it exists.

    I know this is a threadjack, but Texas deserves no less than a spirited defense. Those who malign and calumniate Texas and Texans most likely haven’t been here long enough to know what they’re talking about. Having enjoyed the wonderful association of a little, auburn-haired, 7th generation Texan for some years now, I can honestly assert that y’all are missing out on on all the superlatives down here.

    To return to the original post, in all my dealings with Church employees and church employment, I have found that viewing church employment as a calling has generally been the cause of most of the distaste left in people’s mouths in dealing with Church employees (I exempt BYU professors from this because I genuinely feel that teaching in that environment must be considered no less than a calling, similar to teaching missionaries, because it involves an infinite amount of soul-shaping). The Church is a bureaucracy, plain and simple. Endowing bureaucrats with a sense of self-importance beyond that which they’d normally have leads to deplorable hubris. To paraphrase a Henry Kissinger quote of which the church employment attitude can sometimes remind me: academy politics are so vicious precisely because there is so little at stake.

  103. Mark B.
    June 10, 2005 at 10:01 am

    Not enough fighting or blood or sacrifice in the blog to gentle anyone’s condition! What scars will you show when you’re an old [wo]man on St. Crispin’s day?

    And who, in England or elsewhere, will think themselves accursed they were not here??

  104. annegb
    June 10, 2005 at 10:17 am

    Daniel, you’re in Washington? We’re practically neighbors.

    Yeah, you can spot the plygs a mile away, except the ones who surround us dress like anybody, homeschool (marginally), and live like pigs.

    If you live around them, you have to feel some sympathy for Texas. Their life demands a tolerance I don’t have.

  105. Adam Greenwood
    June 10, 2005 at 10:20 am

    “Endowing bureaucrats with a sense of self-importance beyond that which they’d normally have leads to deplorable hubris.”

    Probably the smartest thing that’s been said on the subject.

  106. Adam Greenwood
    June 10, 2005 at 10:21 am

    Master Greenwood! Master Greenwood!?!

    You insult me on my own blog, villein. Am I a baker’s boy made good? An upstart sumpter?

  107. Scott
    June 10, 2005 at 10:32 am

    I lived in both West Texas, and Central Texas, and been through most of the far reaches of the state, both in car and helicopter.
    Some things to consider:
    Texans think that because something is big, then it must be great. Most of the land is flat and unusable. The highest point is 8000 feet above sea level, not that impressive, and that is way out on the tail of the state.
    People celebrate the arrival of a weed, the Texas Bluebonnet, as some great moment in spring, yet it only lasts for 2-3 weeks and the rest of the year most is Texas is brown and dirty.
    Only a Texan couldn’t recognize that “King of the Hill” is mockery, not adulation.
    The Rio Grande? its only 2 feet deep! (at least in El Paso)

    On the other hand, it is the only place I know (except for perhaps Montana) that has posted 70 mph speed limits on 2 lane backroads.

  108. Cort McMurray
    June 10, 2005 at 11:26 am

    John Illsley, bassist of Dire Strait (some of you can quote fine literature; I can quote rock bassists), said that the most remarkable thing about the band’s first visit to America, was that no matter what city they vistited, dozens of people felt compelled to say, “I was listening to your record before anyone else, man!” Illsley wondered what it was in the American psyche that constantly impelled them to be first. We don’t care when you started listening to us, so long as you bought the record, was the band’s more continental attitude. Luigi Barizini, the Italian journalist, writes that the chief difference between Americans and Europeans is that Americans see life as a 100 meter sprint, where you either come in first, or you’re a loser, and Europeans see it as a very, very long relay race: it you stumble, it’s OK, your son (or grandson or great-grandson) will make it up on his leg.

    Our Church culture is infused with that peculiar American-ness, with a twist. We all strive to be the best, the first, the strongest, but we also want judges’ points for degree of difficulty. Years ago, a Mia Maid in our ward went to Girl’s Camp against her will. She refused to bathe for the week, telling everyone, “When I get home, I want my momma to smell my stink!” When we talk about our Church challenges on the mean street of Houston, or the mean streak of Accra, or the mean streets of Orem (and I have been a chief offender on this count), we’re just asking our brethren to smell our stink. It’s hard everywhere, and there are blessings everywhere.

    BYU-Provo dominates our culture: and contrary to earlier comments, it IS seen as preeminent. Look, Bill Russell and Hank Finkel were both Boston Celtics centers, but which one would you want on your Church basketball team? (Here in the State Everyone Wishes They Lived In, some folks have taken to dropping the “I” from BYU-I, as in, “Well, Cumin is serving in Botswana, and Sariah’s gettting married in Manti, and Helaman starts at BYU in the Fall!” Until “BYU-P” enters the vernacular, there will always be a little shadow over Rexburg, and the Provo campus will always be seen as the One True School). As for Institute, there are parents all over North America who lay awake at night, wondering if sending Junior to a College With An Institute is pushing him into the shadowy world of illicit drugs, radical political thought, and free lovin’ Feminist Studies majors, lightly dusted with the occasional “Break-Fast” social). We have a long way to go before we reach parity. That’s why any little indication that BYU-P is The Place rankles.

    There are indeed racists in Texas. They all move here from other places.

  109. Sam Payne
    June 10, 2005 at 2:29 pm

    Is it possible to start a different blog about Texas? I farrrrrr off the topic and it’s clogging the blogging.

  110. Rosalynde Welch
    June 10, 2005 at 4:23 pm

    Adam: “Am I a baker’s boy made good? An upstart sumpter?”

    Worse still, I’m afraid: a bawdy balladmonger. I’m a Shakespeare literalist, you see, and I can find no canonized support for your pretentions to noble blood. The Good Folio has only this to say about Greenwood:

    Under the greenwood tree
    Who loves to lie with me,
    And turn his merry note
    Unto the sweet bird’s throat,
    Come hither, come hither, come hither:
    Here shall he see
    No enemy
    But winter and rough weather.
    (AYLI II:v)

    How hard the mighty fall.

  111. A. Greenwood
    June 10, 2005 at 4:57 pm

    One doesn’t go to Shakespeare, dearie, one goes to Burkes’ Peerage.

  112. Rosalynde Welch
    June 10, 2005 at 5:06 pm

    LOL, your Grace! I yield the day; Burkes delivers the coup de grace.

  113. Kaimi
    June 10, 2005 at 5:11 pm

    RW writes: “(Hey, wanna know something cool? If you google Rosalynde, I’m the second result that comes up!)”

    I’m trying to be impressed with that, Rosalynde. Really, I am. But I’m having trouble — you see, I’m the first Kaimipono that comes up in a google search.


  114. Paul
    June 10, 2005 at 5:40 pm

    Cort, muy bien, my friend.

  115. Rob
    June 11, 2005 at 12:02 pm

    I earned my mission money as a construction worker on the Portland Temple. Though my paychecks came from Zwick Construction and Buehner Concrete companies, I felt I was building up the Kingdom of God. When I got home from my mission, the temple was completed, and I was offered a job as a night custodian there before I was released by my Stake President. My checks then came from the Church, and I still felt like I was working for the Kingdom. It was a priviledge to be in the temple late at night, vacuuming clean floors and looking for white shoe scuff marks on dark wood floor molding. At BYU I worked for the New World Archaeological Foundation for three years, and I felt like I was building the Kingdom by helping establish the credibility of a BYU archaeological work in Mesoamerica.

    Since BYU, I’ve worked for a number of governmental, nonprofit, and educational institutions and have felt like I’ve been building the Kingdom by helping prepare the earth (and people who will inhabit it) to be restored to its paradisical glory–BTW, that work’s called Conservation for Environmentalism for you folks from Utah ;)

    I’ve also served many callings in branches and wards in Washington DC, Austin, TX, Euless, TX, and now in Pennsylvania. Those callings have given me more spiritual strength and opportunities than any of my jobs–both those paid for by tithing funds and otherwise. I think we should see all our jobs as building the Kingdom, and if they aren’t really building the Kingdom, maybe we should take other jobs. I’ve taken lower pay to work for the Church, and I’ve taken lower pay to work for NGOs–because I believe in the common missions of both. For those of you who have never worked for an NGO, this is common–and may be one reason more of us don’t work for NGOs, or don’t do so for our whole careers.

    As we’re fond of saying, It isn’t where you serve (or work), but how you serve (or work). You may be able to work for CES or in a corporate job and be a complete pharisee. You could also work for the Church or for any number of other employers and spend your full work day building the Kingdom of God. The Church only needs so many full-time employees. Those who have those jobs aren’t particularly special or better than anyone else–for the most part their positions are accidents of history and geography.

    And speaking of geography (the subject of my graduate work at UT-Austin), there have been some overly broad generalizations (though good humored, I’m sure) about Texas on this thread.

    For the record, my 5th Great Uncle was Lyman Wight, the Apostle who settled in Texas with a company of Saints before Brigham Young headed West. His band of Saints moved around a lot in Texas, but not because they were persecuted. For the most part, they were seen as slightly odd but productive members of Central Texas society. Texas was indeed a bit more religiously tolerent in this way than was Missouri at the time.

    As for racism, my first real exposure to racism was at BYU where I heard a Texas woman make very disparaging comments about black kids in her sister’s neighborhood near Houston. That woman’s husband now is an institute director. While most Texans I knew were pretty tolerent on this aspect (I lived mostly in Austin), there were also strains of the most virulent racism I’ve ever encountered as well. An acquaintance of mine from Waco was especially vile–I’ve never heard someone actually use some of the racial epithets he was so quick to spout while watching TV or just driving down the road. Anyone who wants to read up on the history of lynchings and the KKK in Waco can find evidence for all kinds of ugly things in pockets of Texas, some of which emerged a few years ago in Jasper, TX. So there are all types deep in the Heart of Texas.

    That said Texas is beautiful (though often in a sublte way).

    And finally, about quality of service opportunities in “the mission field”, perhaps the biggest differences are not between Utah and Non-Utah wards, but between Upper Middle Class wards and lower economic wards or branches. There are wards that struggle in Utah and elsewhere because of economic circumstances of their members. Everywhere I’ve lived away there have been affluent wards right next to poor wards–and well-off, capable of really making a difference through service members often don’t want to live in the poor wards. The schools aren’t as good, and there may be poor people in your kid’s primary class.

    At any rate, this has been an interesting thread illustrating many points about ideology and economics–and how we use ideology to support our own economic position (working both in and outside of the Church and Texas) and hide some of the economic tensions from ourselves and others: All in favor of working for Zion (both through Church employment or otherwise) instead of working for money (both in or out of the Chruch and Texas), signify by the appropriate sign.

  116. Madera Verde
    June 11, 2005 at 12:43 pm

    In response to the comment:

    “Endowing bureaucrats with a sense of self-importance beyond that which they’d normally have leads to deplorable hubris.”

    I would hope that upon seeing it as a calling they would be more humble. Because then they would have to give an account to the Lord. I think on what the prophet has said about tithing. Because they are sacred funds, “the widow’s mite” he was more cautious about how he would spend it than he would be with his own money.

    And while we are on the topic, who googles themselves?

  117. Julie in Austin
    June 11, 2005 at 12:55 pm

    I feel like I should weigh in on the Texas threadjack, but I live in Austin, not Texas ;)

    I do pity those non-Texans who missed Elder Holland’s remarks about the Great State of Texas in the broadcast portion of stake conference last week. (I can even forgive his dig at Rhode Island, tho I am an RI native.)

  118. annegb
    June 11, 2005 at 8:03 pm

    I googled myself. Boy, was I surprised. My name was on more than I would have ever thought.

  119. Steve H
    June 11, 2005 at 9:17 pm

    I guess I’ll chime in.
    I work at BYUH (no one drops the H, though BYU-P is vernacular here), and I work here for two reasons. First, I applied for a lot of jobs and this was the best thing going for me when the chips fell. Second, whatever other jobs came up, I couldn’t imagine a better place to work or one that fits my training and accademic temperament better. At the same time, I can talk about God any time I want without anyone getting edgy about it. That’s a plus, no matter what anyone says. The funny thing is that when I got my offer, the colleagues closest to me–the ones you ask about these things because you have no idea–were rather impressed. (This was, of course, before I had signed or even considered the privacy clause about salaries–which is standard at a lot of companies, don’t want to start any odd discussion about salaries.)
    If people started turning down jobs at church institutions, the church would start paying more until they reached the threshold at which they could get qualified instructors. At the same time, they may have to turn down instructors that have priced themselves out of their market. They aren’t the sort of institution that is going to attract more dollars based on higher-profile faculty, so they can only afford what they can afford–they aren’t going to spend more tithing dollars than they have set aside, especially if they can get people who are competent and reputable to do the same job for less.
    So I think that when the church says that we should consider our jobs as jobs, they mean it. Perhaps middle-management forgets when things look especially pressing at times, but they don’t want to coerce people to take jobs. Some people will like the idea of working for the church enough to take a little less, so the church isn’t going to insist they take more. Others–like one person I know recently–turn down the jobs for a little more money or a little more of the job they want elsewhere. I think the chruch is fine with that.
    As far as church employment being religiously coercive–if the church really isn’t paying as much, you should be able to sell your skills on the open market for more than you are making, so why feel coerced to do things in order to keep a lower-paying job?
    As far as service–it’s service wherever you are, but different service. I know that every student I’m teaching is potentially a future leader, somewhere in the church. I take that seriously in ways that I never did at Purdue (except in isplated cases), though I always thought about the spiritual welfare of my students in either case. And many of these potential future leaders look up to the faculty. That’s a responsibility, though not one I always feel completely comfortable with.
    As far as sending leaders to whre they are needed–at BYUH this is perhaps our primary mission. We spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to ensure that the students we bring here from all over the world are able to return and give service to their wards, branches, communities, and countries. I know that this is an issue that BYU-P is learning to deal with, increasingly, and that the leadership is aware of the difficulties. It is, however, a difficult thing to deal with, as it involves large life decisions that are hard to program for students before they finish their education. The proposal offered above might be difficult for someone whose only job offer is somewhere that offers little tuition reimbursement. That isn’t always something controllable by the student. Not that it’s not a problem–just that it’s a very difficult one.

  120. Troy
    June 12, 2005 at 1:40 am

    “As far as church employment being religiously coercive–if the church really isn’t paying as much, you should be able to sell your skills on the open market for more than you are making, so why feel coerced to do things in order to keep a lower-paying job?”

    You are coerced for the simple fact that your church attendance is now tied directly to your paycheck. Therefore, are you truly free to attend church voluntarily by your own volition? Nope. You know that the consequences of not attending church would mean losing your means of employment. (some people do not have the luxury of quiting their job and finding a new one anytime they feel like it, especially in Utah.)

    Isn’t this the same principle as to why we do not pay our clergy? Doesn’t the tie between church attendance and employement by said church have a corrupting influence on the one’s relationship to that church? It seems so to me. One is not truly free to practice their religion as long as there is a carrot hanging over your head to do so.

  121. Steve H
    June 12, 2005 at 3:06 am

    “Some people do not have the luxury of quiting their job and finding a new one anytime they feel like it, especially in Utah.”
    Why should this be a problem in Utah more than anywhere else? Unless, of course, one cannot think of leaving Utah, which has been discussed here, albeit with little relevancy to the current discussion.
    That said, if we don’t have any particular reason that we have to stay in a particular place (I like Hawaii, but I could certainly move elsewhere and be happy.) my skills have a value on the market. That said, one of two conditions exists. Either the church is paying me too much, and I don’t really have the qualifications to make it at the job I have if the church wasn’t letting me slide, or I could find a job elsewhere paying at least as much. Tenure requirements take care of the first problem in the case of my job. Thus, I am free to change my employment. There have been people who, regrettably, have felt that they did not feel they were comfortable with the particular demands of employment in the church educational system. Those I know of have all gone on to have other jobs that were at least as lucrative as the ones they left. The church is one employer among many, and there are many reasons for deciding not to work for the church, a few of which are religious. I feel no particular carrot over my head.

  122. Ben H
    June 12, 2005 at 8:11 pm

    Troy, I can see how it would be very awkward to have a job for which church attendance etc. is a prerequisite, and then have doubts or spiritual struggles that make it difficult to be wholehearted about (or make one ineligible for) participating in the church. We shouldn’t make light of how tough a position that would be. But to call it coercion suggests that the church doesn’t have to do it that way. And that is just not true. At least as far as CES or BYU goes, it is crucial to doing the job well that one maintain good standing in the church (in the case of BYU, that isn’t always the CJCLDS, but whatever church one belongs to). There’s nothing optional about it. And someone who takes such a job does so knowing full well that it involves this special standard not involved in most employment. Anyone who is struggling spiritually is in a tough spot, and for a church employee probably tougher than for others. But it ain’t the church’s fault, and it is not coercion. It’s just a tough spot, and anyone who thinks there might come a time when they’re going to church just to keep their job should seriously consider whether they belong in a different line of work.

  123. Bill
    June 12, 2005 at 9:20 pm

    Are non-member BYU employees required to belong to a church? I never heard this before.

  124. Salem
    June 12, 2005 at 9:29 pm

    So this whole discussion makes me wonder about those who do business with the church. If they are members are they expected to give the church a discount or do they just treat the church as a regular business entity? For example: Let’s say I run a concessions stand and the youth decide to come visit to get snow cones after an activity. Do I charge full price? Am I expected to give a discount? Would I give a discount to the Baptist youth group? It’s using the sacred funds of the church just the same. This is a small example but I am sure there is bigger business that faces the same situation. I guess I just cannot see the church expecting a discount, and I certainly would not see it as “helping build the kingdom.” So how is working for the church any different?

  125. June 13, 2005 at 1:34 am


    There are (at least) two reasons why Church employment might pay less:

    1. Because people like working there and so will do so for less money.
    2. Because people like giving to the Church.

    The first is about a non-wage benefit of employment and is the same reason why lots of jobs pay different amounts– because some jobs are just more fulfilling or enjoyable than others and so the market clearing wage is lower for those jobs. The second is about sacrificing money to the Church just because you personally want to. I would guess that #1 is the reason Church jobs pay less. As such, there is no particular connection to offering business deals on the cheap, except that if lots of businesses like being kind to the Church, this competition drives down the prices of those services to the Church and so a business that didn’t would be priced out of the market. There need be no implied moral duty to lower prices; what we observe is just run-of-the-mill economics.

  126. annegb
    June 13, 2005 at 11:15 am

    No, Frank, I think there is a third reason, there are people who are not highly skilled or educated who work for the church in maintenance or groundskeeping or stuff like that, who take the job because they can’t get a job elsewhere. I’ve only known a few, but as soon as they can find a better job, they usually take it, because they can’t support their families on what the church pays.

    My question would be why does the church pay less? Why can’t we pay what everybody else pays for similar jobs?

  127. June 13, 2005 at 2:31 pm

    Certainly there are lots of reasons, but I was thinking of a comparison where ability is held constant across a Church and non-Church job.

    Sure, some jobs are (I think) handed out on a welfare basis. I know they used to be anyway. But in those cases, the people can’t get a job elsewhere because they are not very skilled or whatever. Thus they get a low salary that reflects their low ability. This is important especially if one wishes to preserve an incentive for them to pick up and get a better job so you can give the money to the next person down on their luck. Or whatever. Pay for those jobs probably depends on the local and individual circumstances.

  128. Troy
    June 13, 2005 at 3:55 pm

    “But to call it coercion suggests that the church doesn’t have to do it that way”

    So, to be a great professor at BYU, church attendance is a prerequisite? What about all the great professor at other universities? Granted, there are definite jobs that require such attendance (mtc teacher for example) but the vast amount of other jobs I would say should have nothing to do with church attendance.

    “Anyone who is struggling spiritually is in a tough spot, and for a church employee probably tougher than for others.”

    Right. And that’s why I make the point that such ties between religion and employment may ultimately rob the person of the free volition of church attendance, which can have serious detrimental consequences to one’s faith.

    I’m not accusing the church of anything; i’m simply observing the fact that there seems to be a relationship between work and religion that should not be there (for the vary same reason we don’t employ our clergy). I don’t think the church is going out of its way to be coercive, it’s just the way it is.

    As for the idea that you can just change jobs, that is really beside the point.

  129. Randy
    June 14, 2005 at 4:06 pm
  130. Greg
    June 15, 2005 at 8:00 pm

    I stopped reading the posts on this thread at about number 75, so if what I say has already be covered, my apologies. Next time I’ll read them all.

    All the GA was trying to say to the MTC workers is lighten up folks, give us your best 20 hours each week, and get on with your life. No more. When I applied for my job at the LTM (that’s MTC with a foreign accent for you younger folks). I wasn’t called. And when they let me go because missionaries weren’t getting into Brazil, I wasn’t relieved; I was unemployed.

    Two short stories to make my point. I served my mission when we had the six memorized “Mr. and Mrs. Brown” (I think it was them) discussions. Word for word was the only way to go, we were told. That admonition was particularly helpful to a missionary speaking a new language. As long as I stuck to the discussion, neither I nor the investigator got too lost. However, it didn’t take too long before missionaries were actually saying that the reason we recited the discussions word for word was because they were revealed. In my view, that was not a healthy development (see below).

    Next story. Later in life, my former mission president was busy at work as an LA attorney, making the big bucks. He’d served as a bishop and a stake president after his return from Brazil if I remember correctly. He and his wife were and are very faithful, very good people. One day he gets a call from a GA in Salt Lake, wondering if he’d be willing to be the secretary to the area presidency in Brazil. “Is this a call?” my mission president asked. “Well, no it isn’t,” was the response. “Well, if it were a call, I’d go,” he said. “But if it’s not, I’d rather stay home, work, and support my family.” (Or some such.) The caller said he would get back to him. And he did. As I remember they talked two or three times, and each time my former mission president said that he’d go if it were a call; otherwise, he was staying put. In the end, Salt Lake called him to the position, and he and his wife returned to Brazil. And loved it.

    The first story illustrates the fact that we can take the Church stuff too far, and in doing so we often treat the practical as an act of God. And when we attribute what we’re doing to God without warrant, we elevate something that doesn’t merit that elevation and thereby diminish that which does.

    The second story illustrates the fact that not everything in the Church is a calling, and mature people understand that. There is, or should be, power or authority behind a calling. A calling should, in some way, be the revealed will of the Lord. A job? You apply for a job.

  131. Mark B.
    June 17, 2005 at 8:11 am


    Not if they worship the oblong ball in the great and spacious building on North Canyon Road (or on Sundays at the altar of their television set, where the games begin too early to squeeze in even a quick service at the local church). That’s a completely acceptable alternative form of worship.

  132. Lisa B.
    June 17, 2005 at 10:34 am

    I’ve worked for the church (while a student at BYU), taught seminary “in the mission field” (different than release time, as I understand it), played with Mormon Youth Symphony (now The Orchestra at Temple Square) during college, and consider my current occupation (FT mother with PT other work) a calling. So I have a few experiences that involve this discussion.

    Seminary was basically a request, with the note that it was not a calling (as others have discussed). Mormon Youth Symphony involved an audition, a “call” letter, and a setting apart. A friend of mine played with the group, and arranged an audition. I then received a letter with all the information and requirements for the “calling”, as did my bishop (who was told to keep this calling in mind when considering me for ward callings, and to place my missionary service first and not call me to any callings that would interfere with the symphony) and was set apart as a missionary. I’m guessing it is similar for the Mo Tab?

    I did think it pretty interested to basically “apply” and audition for this “calling.” But I guess people “apply” for their missions in a similar way. Since pay was not involved, I guess it’s still different than the OP. But I have wondered what is so wrong with paid ministers (Yes, I’ve read the BOM. I think the same dangers of priestcraft exist without monetary compensation.) or with people receiving callings directly rather than by someone else “in authority” for them (which apparently does happen, as per above examples, though is not the norm within the church).

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