Making Money off the Mormons: Sacrament Butt-pads

When I was a senior in college, I worked at Seagull Book and Tape, an LDS book and trinket store across the street from the LA Temple. (The pay was lousy, but working with books was fun. So it turned out to be a decent job.) I was amazed by all the stuff that Mormons buy just because it has some sort of Mormon reference or connection. There were stripling warriors t-shirts, iron rod key chains, temple recommend card holders, choose the right pencils, and much, much more.

As a social commentator, I’m disgusted by the unashamed use of Mormon ideals and images for profit. As a devout Mormon, I appreciate why people might feel so strongly about the Church that they want it more in their lives, even if it means wearing it on their t-shirts. As an economist, I understand this phenomenon as simply the market forces of supply and demand at work. Yet, as an opportunist, I have my own idea to make money:

Have you ever come in late into sacrament meeting and had to sit in the overflow area on cold, hard, uncomfortable, metal folding chairs? If you have, then this product is for you… I present to you the Sacrament Meeting butt-pads. Made of a plastic outer shell with an inch or two of foam padding on the outside, the Sacrament Meeting butt-pads come in many designs and colors. Choose from one of two Joseph Smith pads—one of him with raised sword in front of the Nauvoo Legion and one of him with his face buried in the hat translating the gold plates… Collect them all!

You get the idea. I’d start with famous dead Mormons, like JS, BY, Emma, Eliza, etc. If I did it this year then I’d be sure to have WW since we’re studying his teachings. I’d also add non-humans, such as the SL Temple or other local temples, one with a CTR logo, one with a cigarette with line drawn through it, etc. Maybe even use different materials. A cloth and cross-stitched pad with lace for the older RS sister, perhaps. Who’s face do you want to sit on–wait, that didn’t come out right.

I really think this product would sell because I actually got the idea one Sunday after my sore and benumbed rear end sat through a way too long Sacrament meeting. I admit I’d need a better name. Maybe “Celestial Seat Cushions� or just plain ol’ “Overflow Pads,� although that name might have an unintended interpretation.

What’s your take on making money off the Mormons? Disgust? Intrigue? Market capitalism at work? Please explain in 50 words or more. Do you have an idea that can make more money than my idea?

121 comments for “Making Money off the Mormons: Sacrament Butt-pads

  1. July 12, 2006 at 12:42 pm

    The only problem I forsee with your invention is the reluctance many members will have to sitting on Joseph Smith or another prophet. They might chalk it up to sacrilege, and refused to place their keister on something they would rather wear proudly on their chest.

    That being said, I think you could explore cloth covers as an alternative. You could have different styles, all of which would have matching scripture cases, primary totes, and binder covers. This would spread like wildfire in Relief Society, I guarantee it.

  2. July 12, 2006 at 12:43 pm

    Along the same lines as seat cushions, I’ve kneeled through prayers for which I could have used a kneeler like those I’ve seen in Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Theirs seem always to have been made by the ladies society of the church, but there’s no reason to expect the RS to do what capitalism can do instead.

  3. Kaimi Wenger
    July 12, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    Agreed that folks are unlikely to want to sit on Joseph Smith.

    Tangent: The idea of folks not wanting to sit on Joseph Smith reminds me of something I observed (and experience) on my mission.

    Every elder, at one point or another, got hit with what we called “Bu” — basically, no-warning Guatemalan diarhea. Hence the name — it sneaks up on you, and then Boo, you’ve got ten seconds to get your pants down.

    Ideally, if this happens in a rural area or roadside or trail, you’ve got toilet paper with you. Doesn’t always happen, though. And if neither you or your comp has TP, you use what’s available. And so elders became proficient at using the folletos — the discussion brochures — as toilet paper.

    Folletos 4 and 5 were preferred, because they had lots of pages and very few Christ pictures. Folleto 1 was the least useful, because 2/3 of its pages were pictures of Jesus or Joseph Smith. Most elders (including me) just couldn’t bring themselves to wipe with a big picture of Jesus or Joseph.

  4. Jeremy
    July 12, 2006 at 12:52 pm

    I agree with Conner that people might want to sit on the images of revered leaders. How about well known enemies of righteousness… Governor Boggs, John D. Lee, Lonnie Pursifull, Hugh Nibley’s nut-job daugher, etc.?

  5. Ethan
    July 12, 2006 at 12:59 pm

    I have mixed feelings on the idea on all the LDS merchandise. I truly believe that to an extent, they are great. I\’ll admit to having worn a couple of religious t-shirts (some LDS specific, some general Christian). They are a great novelty and have their place, but then I see some items that seem nothing more than blatant desperate attempts to cash in on Mormondom. They are cheap, poorly designed, tacky, and generally worthless other than their connection to our culture and I can\’t help but feel a bit disgusted by the attempt.

    Of course, the problem is that what I may consider tacky and irreverent, someone else may jump at as being great which is why many of these items continue to be made.

  6. July 12, 2006 at 1:00 pm


    Bu! I served in Honduras, and we didn’t call it that, but after the mish I learned this term from my friends that served there. I had this exact experience you describe on my mission, and all I had was folleto #1. I carefully set aside the portions of the pamphlet w/ Christ’s picture. I seemingly forgot that on the flip side of portions I used, there was a picture of Joseph Smith. Oops. Hopefully he won’t hold a grudge. For those interested, my companion, being the valiant, loyal friend he was, grabbed my camera out of my backpack to capture the moment. The photo, in all its glory, can be seen here (nothing explicit).


    I like your idea about enemies of righteousness. I’d be all for that. For fun, can we also add this guy to the list?

  7. Silver
    July 12, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    Now /this/ is funny! Overflow pads: unintended interpretation, indeed. A fun look at Mormon opportunism.

    I suppose I can’t laugh too hard before confessing I have a TR cover with a black & white drawing of the Oakland Temple on it. I’ll keep using it till they issue TRs in tough credit card plastic. What else should it have on it, Joe Camel?

    You ask about an idea that can make more money than your idea? It’s already been done by the CleanFlicks folks and others in the same business, but it may be that the sun is setting on their days of strolling though the crisp dollar bills. The ruling so far is not in their favor, and I’m very happy that movie “sanitizing” has been found to violate federal copyright laws.

  8. Julie M. Smith
    July 12, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    Howabout non-WoW-violating sedatives that you could give your children before meetings? They could be like chewable vitamins and come in BoM themed shapes and flavors: raw meat that is sweet, a little pile of forearms, Nephi tied to a mast, etc.

  9. Anonymous this time
    July 12, 2006 at 1:15 pm

    Personally, I’d get a kick out of sitting on Packer’s face.

    And I really don’t know if the type of Mormons who buy Mormon kitsch would really have a problem sitting on a leader’s face. I’m almost positive they wouldn’t have a problem sitting on a picture of their favorite temple. Sure, there are some sacrilegious undertones, but I think a lot of people would find this a bit humorous and extremely practical.

  10. July 12, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    THREADJACK: Julie, the business of making raw meat sweet has always been a subject of curiosity for me. The Book of Mormon doesn’t say anything about the raw meat becoming sweet, does it? Yet I hear people talk about that “miracle” regularly. What gives?

  11. July 12, 2006 at 1:24 pm

    Jim F.,

    “And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings. For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not.” (1 Ne. 17: 2, 12)

    I think from those two verses, people deduce that since they lived on raw meat, and since the Lord said he’ll make their food become sweet so they don’t have to cook it, that A=B and B=C, so naturally A=C. The raw meat was sweet.

  12. Kaimi Wenger
    July 12, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    Maybe it’s just personal preference, but I’d hope that if I were ever in the wilderness subsiding on raw meat, the Lord would send a few piles of heavenly firewood instead.

  13. Jonathan Green
    July 12, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    The construction of more comfortable church seating is a tradition of many centuries, and the study of the iconography of such seating goes back decades at least: look up misericords. I appreciate the attempt at satire, but medievalists have already beaten you to the topic and drained all the humor out of it.

  14. July 12, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    Kaimi (#3): I was never without the requisite supplies, but a friend told me he would use the Church News in a pinch. Never a page, he said, with a member of the FP or Q12, but for him Seventies were fair game.

  15. Adam Greenwood
    July 12, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    I think this could be a nice seller with a big per-unit profit margin.

  16. Mark IV
    July 12, 2006 at 1:56 pm


    Mormons would hesitate to buy butt pads, but if you called them sacrament doughnuts you could sell them by the boxcar load.

    I wish I had a copyright on the Footprints poem, and also on the phrase I Never Said It Would Be Easy… . Last time I was in Deseret Book, you couldn’t turn around without seeing one of those saying superimposed over either a picture of Jesus or a picture of sunset on the beach.

    The best cross stich I ever saw was in the old Mormon Handicraft store that was taken down to make way for the conference center. I have alwayswanted to meet the sweet RS sister who came up with these words:

    The bee is such a busy soul
    he has no time for birth control.
    And that is why, in times like these,
    There are so many sons of bees.

  17. Michael McBride
    July 12, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    OK, many people will not want to sit on JS’s head, but I’ll bet you some wouldn’t care. Actually, I’d even bet that some disgruntled LDS would love to sit on the likeness of a not-so-loved Church leader. (I will not name names–of those LDS or those Church leaders.)

    And I’ll also bet J. Golden Kimball would love it to have his face on such a thing if he were alive. He’d probably crack some joke about this being the only way he’ll “touch” people during his talk.

    Jim F. #2. You’re onto something. Maybe market a similar version of this as Prayer Pads. They could have built in electronic alarms to remind you to say your prayers at night. And there could be a jumbo sized one for everyone in the family to sit on. It could have clouds and chairs to represent the “no chair left empty in the CK” motif.

    Julie #8. You’re onto somthing, too. True story: A rowdy kid in our ward was quite sedate one Sunday, and the Primary teachers asked the parents how they so effectively were able to get him to be reverent. The parent had a puzzled look, but then the lightbulb went off and she said, “Oh, he’s been sick and we gave him some NyQuil.” Every primary teacher would be willing to buy your little Lamanite arm NyQuil chewables.

    Jonathan #12. We could also rent pews like some denominations have done in the past. E.g., the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Evanston, IL, did it this way in 1911: good ones in the the 6th-11th rows went for $200; bad ones in the way back went for $25. Actually, by keeping it uncomfortable in the back, the Church could raise the price of the good ones.

  18. July 12, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    Bronzed Hornsman, anyone?

  19. July 12, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    CONTINUED THREADJACK — Connor Boyack (#10): Thanks. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice the simple equation you pointed out. I hope it wasn’t senility.

    But I wonder what “sweet” might mean in that case? What is “sweet meat” in that context? Raw meat isn’t unpalatable (except psychologically to some). As everyone knows, lots of people eat various kinds of raw meat and fish.

  20. Seth R.
    July 12, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    The Ten Commandments!

    Collect them all!

  21. Heather P.
    July 12, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    This reminds me of the Will & Grace episode where Jack tries to pitch a “Subway Tush” butt pillow. He sings, “Hey, mon frere, if your derriere could use a little cush…”

  22. mullingandmusing (m&m)
    July 12, 2006 at 3:34 pm

    This is very funny (although I would consider buying a whatever-you-would-choose-to-call-them pad…since we are always in the overflow.
    Maybe if the pad had a back (like a soft version of portable stadium seats) so your little ones can’t slip through the back of the chair? (has that ever happened to anyone else?)

  23. Julie M. Smith
    July 12, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    “Maybe if the pad had a back (like a soft version of portable stadium seats) so your little ones can’t slip through the back of the chair? (has that ever happened to anyone else?)”

    Yes! And sound dampening properties: the noise a toddler can make with a metal chair on a gym floor has to be heard to be believed.

  24. July 12, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    RE THREADJACK: The OT (principally Genesis and Numbers) use the term “sweet” to refer to meat and the odour of meat that had been offered on an altar. Is this really meaning sweet, or does it mean something else? Two possibilities for the Nephi usage: 1) It is a way of saying that the meat was pleasant, the same way that “sweet” meant that an offering was pleasing to God–who doesn’t actually eat it, after all. 2) It is a way for God to say that he would make the meat kosher, since eating raw meat would have violated the law of Moses.

  25. Julie M. Smith
    July 12, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    BrianJ, my Hebrew lexicon gives ” soothing, quieting, tranquillising” for ‘sweet.’ (That definition makes me think of aromatherapy!) Whether the BoM is using it in the same way is another question; Webster’s 1828 has “Agreeable or grateful to the taste” for its first definition of sweet, but then gives sugar and honey as examples.

  26. Kevin Barney
    July 12, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    That is the definition for *nichowach*, which is the Hebrew word used in the KJV expression “sweet savour” (lit. “an odor of satisfaction”). But there are other words that could underly the concept, such as *mathaq*, which is a verb meaning “to be or become sweet [or pleasing].” This is the verb used for instance in Exod. 15:25 where the waters were made sweet (as opposed to bitter). The word doesn’t necessarily mean sweet in a sugary sense, as in honey; it can simply mean something like “pleasant.”

    I think we can largely discern the meaning of “sweet” in the BoM passage from its immediate context, where it seems to require a meaning of “palatable” at a minimum, and perhaps more than that, something like “pleasant” to the taste.

  27. Chance
    July 12, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    Rather than pads, why not market seat savers instead for those who always end up in the overflow? You could employ deacons or even use inflatable figures that have a likeness to historical figures.

    On a more serious note, I have trouble from time to time with the mailings we receive from Deseret Book. While reading through Sheri Dew’s message of the quarter (or however often we receive them), I feel like to be a better LDS I need to have the latest GA authored book, the newest book on strengthening the family, Sheri’s latest GA bio, and the largest framed picture of a lighthouse that money can buy.

    It’s a double-edged sword. While I appreciate that we have Deseret Book, and I’m sure many benefit from all that they offer, I just feel like we are bringing a bit of the world into the Church.

  28. July 12, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    I regularly get a catalogue called “All Things Jewish” (or something like that). I always enjoy looking at it because it reminds me that Mormons are hardly the only ones who can reduce their religion to kitsch objets d’art–such as Disney menorahs.

    Chance is right: it is a double-edged sword. Without Deseret Book, etc. Mormon culture would be less rich. However, with it, there are also ways in which its richness is impoverished. As long as we are mere mortals, I doubt that there is any way to remove the sword’s second edge.

    So, perhaps the best thing to do is what Michael McBride has started here: have a good time thinking about that second edge.

  29. mullingandmusing (m&m)
    July 12, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    Yes! And sound dampening properties: the noise a toddler can make with a metal chair on a gym floor has to be heard to be believed.

    LOL. Excellent.

  30. mullingandmusing (m&m)
    July 12, 2006 at 5:00 pm

    I believe DB’s profits are used for some Church-related things, aren’t they? It’s one of the profit-making arms of the Church that provides funds, I believe, which makes it not 100% commercial in my mind. Also, not all materials that are in DB produce pocket-filling profits. For example, I know that profits from the book of Marjorie Hinckley’s letters goes to one of the Church funds, not to any person.

    That said, I still sometimes feel a little sqeamish with some aspects of the business, but am also grateful to have a place to get uplifting books, music, etc.

    Incidentally, I much prefer DB over Seagull. Seagull always has a person ready to pounce on you when you come in the store, and they have their assigned product they are required to push. That crosses a line for me.

  31. doug
    July 12, 2006 at 5:00 pm

    I particularly like the Liahona replica (er, replica of Arnold Frieberg’s Liahona) here ( or the child-safe plastic version, currently for sale.

    I wonder: how would they deliver my Liahona to me? Would I find it on my doorstep in the morning?

  32. Kevin Barney
    July 12, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    Our local LDS bookstore (near the Chicago temple) sells way more kitsch than books. That’s really their bread and butter, even though it is a “book” store.

    Instead of premanufactured buttpads with images of JS, how about more homespun buttpad kits that can be cross-stitched and quilted and crocheted on enrichment nights? This might be the resin grapes of the 21st century!

    Also, your “overflow pads” name coupled with the disgusting missionary stories suggest a natural: a Mormon version of Depends for those missionaries tracting in Guatemala and other points south. No need to abuse tracts or desecrate images of the Savior; just let it gush! This could become one of those items that are included in prepackaged missionary care packages that you can buy from outfits in University Mall.

  33. Michael McBride
    July 12, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    Yes, it seems like many of you (Ethan #5, Chance #26, Jim #27) see the double-edged sword.

    But, let me propose another dimension to this double edge. It makes sense that the producers and consumers benefit from the tacky Mormon products, and I agree that what we think of as Mormon culture is enrichened in the process. However, this really creates not a Mormon culture (though that’s what we call it) but really an ENGLISH-SPEAKING American Mormon culture. Non-English speaking LDS who know of the culture and want to participate are really left out. I’m thinking largely of Spanish-speaking US citizens and residents.

    While I worked in the book store, my heart really went out to all the Spanish speakers who came in and asked, “Is that all the Spanish stuff you have?” only to have me respond, “Yes, I’m really sorry” and then try to avoid their eyes. They would stare at the book shelves looking for something new, never to find it.

    I’m not suggesting the institutional Church do something about this. But why hasn’t the market yet responded? From personal experience, I can attest to the high demand for these products by Spanish speakers. Is it a supply-side reason, like costly translation? But is there another, possibly legal, reason why some entrepreneurial Central or South American RMs haven’t translated more classic LDS texts into Spanish? Something I don’t know because I served stateside? Or because I don’t know copyright law?

  34. Mardell
    July 12, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    Or how about some literature with no pictures printed on paper as soft as paper. You know a book or publication with two uses. I could be a newspaper that the missionaries would receive once a week.

    And instead of a seat pad how about a padded room for the children so parents could sit and enjoy sacarment meeting? Fun to think about but it will never happen.

  35. July 12, 2006 at 5:32 pm

    Michael McBride: Excellent question, for which I have no answer. Given the numbers of Spanish-speaking members in the U.S., surely we should expect that some entrepeneur will step in and begin selling things to them. I don’t know why none has.

    However, the members for whom I feel the most sorry are those who are in language and cultural groups sufficiently small that, in the near long term, they are unlikely to have more than a few translations of basic Church books and pamphlets: Dutch-speakers, Koreans, French, many in Africa, etc. To a significant degree they not only cannot now take part in Mormon culture fully, they are unlikely to be able to do so for a long time.

    But perhaps that is also a good thing, something that will help develop a variety of Mormon cultures rather than just American Mormon culture: Dutch Mormonism, Korean Mormonism, French Mormonism, Swahili Mormonism. That would be nice. I wonder what the members from outside of North America who visit here think of that?

  36. Hyrum
    July 12, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    I based an RPG I created on the BoM somewhat, and I’ve got a copy of “Settlers of Zarahemla”, the BoM knockoff of the “Settlers of Catan” boardgame.

    I really think you’ve got a good idea here Mike. It wouldn’t be hard to produce, and you could probably sell it for under $20. Make the cover wash and wear and you’d do even better. (Heck, you could probably sell the pattern for the cover so people who like to sew could make their own.) Even better would be “blank” covers and iron-on ink-jet printer transfers….

  37. Michael McBride
    July 12, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    Hyrum #36. “I based an RPG I created on the BoM somewhat.” We all fully endorse using the Church to make money off of non-Mormons. :) To which RPG game are you refering? (Go ahead and shamelessly plug your game.)

    Do you have the more recent, limited geography FARMS Settlers of Zarahemla, or the earlier hemispheric version?

  38. Mark Butler
    July 12, 2006 at 6:09 pm

    Doug (#31), I like the idea of having a replica of the Liahona, but I don’t think they did a very good job with that one. Looks too much like toned down French Enlightenment era styling to me, not particularly Hebrew or something similarly ancient. I don’t know how much design styles change in heaven over time, but I suspect the Hebrews had a better idea of heavenly aesthetics than we do, at least artistically speaking. Bach probably beats the best Hebrew music on the heavenly top 40.

  39. Hyrum
    July 12, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    Mike #37 – I really don’t know, I’ll have to check when I get home. It’s a pretty good looking product so I’m betting it’s the second one.

    (shameless plug)

    As for the game, it’s titled Diomin and is available for use with D&D. There are two races of humans (Tirasim and Zeredites), the cat-like Gadianti, stone-like Hearthom, and long-lived Gnolaum. Sales wise it’s done ok, but I’ve only had one person point out the BoM references to me. :)

    More info can be found on our website here:

    (/shameless plug)

  40. Chance
    July 12, 2006 at 6:39 pm

    re: M&M post #30 (and even Michael in #33 and Jim in #35)

    From Desert Books site:

    Deseret Book is a wholly owned subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation, the holding company for business firms owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Deseret Book is a profit-making Utah corporation.

    Deseret Book is committed to support the mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by providing scriptures, books, music, and other quality products that strengthen individuals, families, and our society.
    I don’t have time to post much, but Deseret Book itself is double-edged sword. On one hand, they are providing members with everything and anything LDS while providing a profit for Church interests. On the other hand, how much profit can they take, and how big can they grow? Right now they have less than 40 locations, and really have not grown much in the last 5 years. Why haven’t they gone international (or East of Denver)? Why are they not providing all materials in all languages? Is out of fear of negative perception, or is because they are leaving it to the members (both?)? Are they only keeping shop in the US because we have the most disposable income?

    Sorry to ramble, but wanted to throw a few things out. I’ll post more later after I take our YM to the DQ for planning (really).

  41. manaen
    July 12, 2006 at 7:21 pm

    I’ve long held that putting up some travel-trailer parks in Jackson County, MO would be a good investment.

  42. gst
    July 12, 2006 at 7:42 pm

    I threw the Living Scriptures guy off my porch. If he had them, I would have ripped his boutonniere in two, punched through his hat, and turned his umbrella out.

  43. July 12, 2006 at 7:44 pm

    I’d buy Sacrament meeting tranquilizers by the case! (Note: my two-year-old is Benadryl-resistant.)

    I draw a distinction between products that help people worship (consecrated oil holder keychains, prints of the Savior, temple recommend cases, scripture pencils) and products that are just gratuitously Mormon (Angel Moroni ties, General Authority T-shirts). The former I’d buy; the latter I wouldn’t. Except for one really, really clever T-shirt I saw that had pictures of Thomas, Gordon, and James from the Thomas the Tank Engine that said “Follow the Tank Engines: THOMAS S. Monson, GORDON B. Hinckley, JAMES E. Faust”. Now THAT was so clever that I’d buy it.

  44. July 12, 2006 at 7:47 pm

    Here’s my favorite Mormon kitsch item. The missionary rodent who dances and thrusts the Book of Mormon at you. A winning product!

  45. Ana
    July 12, 2006 at 7:50 pm

    How about an inflatable cry-room? That is the saddest omission from modern chapels. But if you could make a blow-up variety, maybe it could double as a bounce house for Primary activities. This would, of course, be more a ward expenditure than an individual one. So maybe you would have to market it through the Distribution Center.

    Or some kind of enclosure to keep crawlers and early walkers actually in the pews would also be helpful. I have always envied the pews with little half-height doors that you sometimes see in old Protestant churches. If you’d caught me a few years ago when my kids were little, I totally would have shelled out a hundred bucks for a chapel playpen, even though I had nothing of the kind at home.

    In general, I am fine with people marketing to established Latter-day Saints. It’s their money and their choice what they want to spend it on. What made me feel bad was when we were at BYU and made friends with a newly married couple that had joined the Church fairly recently. They were absolutely sold on all things Mormon. Even Zion’s Bank. Brigham Young started it, after all.

  46. Julie M. Smith
    July 12, 2006 at 7:54 pm

    Oh, Ana, I’ve got it: hooks on the walls of chapels. You put overalls on your kid and hang them up by the tab on the back before the meeting starts, then claim them on the way out.

  47. Kevin Barney
    July 12, 2006 at 8:06 pm

    Willow Creek, which is a huge megachurch in our ward boundaries, has an interesting system. If you sit near the back of the auditorium for services, there are TV monitors that show the service. When you drop a child off at the nursery, the child is assigned a number. If the child is acting up or you are otherwise needed, that number is flashed at the bottom of the screen. All very high tech.

    I would recommend this system for us except, that, oh, yeah, we don’t belive in nurseries during sacrament meeting.

  48. sideline
    July 12, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    Wonderful idea and it would sell just as well as everything else out there.

    However, methinks thou exaggerates with this line, “…after my sore and benumbed rear end sat through a way too long Sacrament meeting”. If you were late enough end up in overflow, even if it ran over what you experienced was a normal length meeting. :)

  49. Mark Butler
    July 12, 2006 at 10:06 pm

    When I was young (1970s), sacrament meetings were ninety minutes long and held in the late afternoon / early evening. The Farmington Rock Church (where the Primary was organized), between its first expansion in 1941 and its second in 1978 or so, had a cry room of sorts that was on the second floor with a huge room length, nearly floor to ceiling window that looked out over the Primary Memorial Chapel, the part of the building chapel built out of alluvial rocks in 1868 or so.

    The room is about the size of a conventional overflow, between the sliding dividers, perhaps 15′ by 40′. Well back then it was great – the younger kids didn’t cry very much, and one had an excellent view of the whole chapel from say 30′ feet up, and the talk coming over the intercom. I think our family sat there almost every week for two years.

    In 1978 or 1979 the Church decided to expand the building by constructing a new, modern chapel, such that from above (e.g. looking down from the mountain) the building looks like a symmetrical cross: the new chapel on the north, the relief society / multipurpose / classroom wing on the east, the cultural hall on the south, and the Primary Memorial chapel on the west.

    President Benson, of the Quorum of the Twelve, came to the rededication of the building, that time we did sit down on the hard wooden benches – he gave his address in the original chapel and it was carried to the other via closed circuit television. My younger brother was sitting on the end of the row, and was able to shake his hand. If I had any idea how rare of an opportunity that was I would have tried to squeeze over a little and shake his hand too.

    Since then the Primary Memorial Chapel, which has hard wooden benches, is only used for sacrament meetings when there is (was) a singles ward, or when there are temporarily a larger than normal number of conventional wards in the building.

    Here is a picture of the original chapel, before any wings were added:

    Rock Meetinghouse in Farmington

    See also Glen M. Leonard, Farmington, Utah History Encyclopedia:

    And: Coleen K. Menlove, President’s Message, Primary, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 2003:,4945,4160-1-2154-1,00.html

  50. Ana
    July 12, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    Julie, we could probably come up with some kind of Velcro device to work with the carpeted walls of many chapels. Are you up for an entrepreneurial venture?

  51. Julie M. Smith
    July 12, 2006 at 10:21 pm

    Ana: I love it! Let’s do it! I’ll buy the first three!

  52. Hans Hansen
    July 12, 2006 at 11:30 pm

    Is it just me or does that picture of the Liahona look more like The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”?

  53. July 12, 2006 at 11:36 pm

    I want a t-shirt with a picture of Orin Porter Rockwell. The caption should say “Wheat! Wheat!”

    I think I’ll scan his picture from “A Book of Mormons” from Signature Books, and make it through If you make the T-shirts for personal-use only, I think you skirt around the copyright issue.

  54. Clair
    July 13, 2006 at 12:04 am

    16. “I wish I had a copyright on the Footprints poem, and also on the phrase I Never Said It Would Be Easy… . Last time I was in Deseret Book, you couldn’t turn around without seeing one of those saying superimposed over either a picture of Jesus or a picture of sunset on the beach.”

    Mark, maybe you can get a copyright on this one. It even fits our topic.

    One night I had a wondrous dream,
    One set of footprints there was seen,
    The footprints of my precious Lord,
    But mine were not along the shore.

    But then some strange prints appeared,
    And I asked the Lord, “What have we here?”
    Those prints are large and round and neat,
    “But Lord, they are too big for feet.”

    “My child,” He said in somber tones,
    “For miles I carried you along.
    I challenged you to walk in faith,
    But you refused and made me wait.”

    “You disobeyed, you would not grow,
    The walk of faith, you would not know,
    So I got tired, I got fed up,
    And there I dropped you on your butt.”

    “Because in life, there comes a time,
    When one must fight, and one must climb,
    When one must rise and take a stand,
    Or leave their butt prints in the sand.”

  55. Mardell
    July 13, 2006 at 12:11 am

    comment #43 have you ever tried dramamine, I have always had it work great. One half for the Kid who get motion sick and the other for the crazy one.

    My favorite chapel for kids was the Manhattan building on 66th street. I had three huge windows ceiling to floor looking out at Lincoln Center. There was enough traffic that it kept my transportationaly inclined boys very busy. They could look out for hours. Of course there was the occasionlly shout, “Look mom a ________ ( insert anything of interest).” But sadly when they put the temple there the took the windows out of the chapel.

  56. Melinda
    July 13, 2006 at 12:12 am

    CTR rings come in any language imaginable. As missionaries we all got them in our mission language, and all the members wanted them in English! I guess foreign is exotic.

    As for getting other stuff translated into other languages, I’m pretty sure the original author would hold the copyright and therefore hold the right to translate it. Deseret Book wouldn’t be the translator – it would be up to the author and then Des Bk would market it. It’s probably pretty pricey for a private individual to translate a book. If the Church itself holds the copyright, it has the staff to handle translation.

    And I think Book of Mormon action figures are the coolest . .

  57. July 13, 2006 at 12:41 am

    Mike, here’s a folk wisdom endorsement for your product:

    “The capacity of the mind to absorb is limited to what the seat can endure.”

    One of my MTC teachers attributed this to Brigham Young, but a google search links it to a dozen other guys. But it sounds like something BY would say.

  58. Wilfried
    July 13, 2006 at 1:47 am

    Jim F (35):

    “However, the members for whom I feel the most sorry are those who are in language and cultural groups sufficiently small that, in the near long term, they are unlikely to have more than a few translations of basic Church books and pamphlets: Dutch-speakers, Koreans, French, many in Africa, etc. To a significant degree they not only cannot now take part in Mormon culture fully, they are unlikely to be able to do so for a long time.”

    Mixed feelings about this, Jim. On the one hand I have pleaded before to have more available in other languages, and I continue to sustain that idea for obvious reasons. On the other hand, I can see the development of a cheap market, purely driven by money-making, where converts would feel compelled to purchase anything because it’s Mormon and where much would not be culturally adapted. What we would need is a balanced approach, with needs analysis and quality criteria. But indeed, the market is too small for capitalism to be interested.

    Finally, just like in the U.S., we have a mixed Mormon population: at the one extreme avid readers who would purchase any Mormon publication and enjoy the width of the offer, at the other extreme those who limit themselves to the Scriptures and perhaps a Church manual — if they ever already read much — , and they are still in good standing and enjoying their Mormonism. So we need to nuance the concept of participation in the full Mormon culture through books.

    As to gadgets and trinkets, I haven’t seen too many around here in Mormon homes in Belgium. Tourists to SLC may bring some back, re-visiting returned missionaries may bring them as presents. For some people there is value to it as visual sign of belonging.

  59. mullingandmusing (m&m)
    July 13, 2006 at 1:58 am

    I’m pretty sure the original author would hold the copyright and therefore hold the right to translate it. Deseret Book wouldn’t be the translator – it would be up to the author and then Des Bk would market it.
    I’m almost positive that the copyright rests with the publisher, not the author. Not that an author couldn’t translate and then resubmit for publication, but I would assume it usually happens the other way around.

  60. Wilfried
    July 13, 2006 at 4:27 am

    Copyright depends on the contract, m&m (59). At the start, the copyright always belongs to the author. He may retain it or give all or part to a publisher. For example, the author can fully retain the right to translations, though publishers like to put “all rights” for themselves in the contract. In order not to make this into a threadjack on copyright, see e.g. here. There are many other sites that explain the meanders of copyright. Plus, the law can differ from country to country. The past decade there has seen a strong legal movement, internationally, to protect the rights of the author and limit those of the publisher.

  61. Wilfried
    July 13, 2006 at 9:46 am

    One more thought in connection with the preceding (and closer to the topic of the thread): it would be nice if (succesful) Mormon authors would require in their contract that the publisher pledges to have the work translated and published in at least another language too. Oblige the publisher to do a little more for the international Church, even if it is less profitable.

  62. Matt Evans
    July 13, 2006 at 9:58 am

    The market for Mormon merchandise is so small that few products financially reward their creators, meaning that most of the creators have to be excited about the project for other reasons. (Most authors, whether Mormon or not, want their books published, even if they’re realistic about the fact that they’ll be lucky to sell a few thousand copies.) The reason few books would be translated into Spanish is that the market is a magnitude smaller than the already-small English market.

    And the complaint against Living Scriptures et al has never resonated with me, even though I’ve never bought any myself, because I think it’s unrealistic to expect kids to not watch any cartoons, and I see no reason to prefer kids watch stories about PowerRangers and SpongeBob than about Nephi and Captain Moroni.

  63. Frank McIntyre
    July 13, 2006 at 10:12 am


    I imagine the publisher would be happy to do that– as long as the loss comes out of the author’s royalties and not theirs. Basically you’re asking for handouts from succesful authors, which is certainly one way to do charity, but not obviously the best way to spend one’s charitable resources. After all, there is a market for books, so if it is not published in, for example, Dutch it might well be that it is not a worth the resources to publish it in Dutch.

    The Church does publish in many languages, and probably does so without recovering their fixed costs. But that is because they think there is an external gain to the Church that is not captured in the individual’s decision to buy the book at the market price. While I find this a compelling argument for the scriptures and priesthood manuals, I have trouble seeing it through to the latest Jack Weyland novel. And if it was true for the latest Mormon novel, then the Church should probably subsidize the English ones as well, based on the same “externality” argument. And I really have trouble seeing my way to that proposition.

  64. Wilfried
    July 13, 2006 at 10:55 am

    All true, Matt and Frank! Economic reasons are indeed compelling. But don’t underestimate the leverage of a succesful author in his/her dealings with publishers… Of course, the main idea behind my suggestions is to remind us of the situation of the international church in relation to what English-speaking members have. Also, with the present easy printing facilities for even limited editions, cheaply produced, it is not all that difficult to provide members abroad with non-official material that Mormons in the U.S. enjoy. It’s mainly a question of interest and willingness.

  65. Frank McIntyre
    July 13, 2006 at 11:37 am

    “But don’t underestimate the leverage of a succesful author in his/her dealings with publishers… ”

    I have no doubt this is true, but what you are telling me is that they have a resource. What I am arguing is that it may not be the best way to spend that resource.

    The cheap printing, and mulitlingual abilities, of the membership should make the costs of adding other languages comparatively low. Thus, if there is interest, we’ll see the translations. And if we don’t, we probably shouldn’t– in the sense that there are better ways to spend those resources to improve the world.

  66. Michael McBride
    July 13, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    Frank #65 “The cheap printing, and mulitlingual abilities, of the membership should make the costs of adding other languages comparatively low. Thus, if there is interest, we’ll see the translations. And if we don’t, we probably shouldn’t– in the sense that there are better ways to spend those resources to improve the world.”

    You may well be right. I’m no market interventionist, but you might also be wrong. We also know from economics that the market doesn’t always handle all problems very well. For example, if there is a public good component to this issue of foreign translations, then what we are observing could be inefficient. Also if there is a first-mover disadvantage, second-mover advantage, and the first-mover is endogenous, a type of war of attrition could also lead to an inefficient outcome. The efficient outcome could very well involve Deseret Book covering the cost of translation. In short, you might well be right that not seeing the market is evidence that we shouldn’t have it, but it is not proof.

  67. Frank McIntyre
    July 13, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    Yes, I briefly discussed externality (or public good) issue in my preceding comment.

    And yes, any industry with fixed costs is more vulnerable to market problems– which is why my point about efficiency was couched in one about bringing down costs.

    But I am not sure what you are thinking in terms of first and second movers. If DB publishes a book in Spanish, Covenant cannot then publish the book in Spanish, nor is is it clear that it got all that much of a benefit from DB’s actions. So tell me what you are thinking there.

    Of course, on that subject, if one thinks DB has substantial market power, then they may well be underproducing, but this would be just as likely in the U.S. as internationally.

  68. Michael McBride
    July 13, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    Re the pub good problem. It might be efficient to subsidize both English-speaking and non-English speaking books as you point out. Yet at a per-person level, I would argue that the gains are much higher, relatively speaking, for non-English speakers because they’re starting with nothing (think diminishing returns). Thus, subsidizing non-English speakers first would then be the optimal approach.

    Re the first-mover advantage. Sure, the company that translates retains copyright, but one translated book could generate a positive externality for later translations by other companies. In this case, DB waits for Bookcraft to make the first translation, while Bookcraft waits out DB. In some game theoretic versions of war of attrition models, both wait out the other, even though in the end both are worse off waiting, and the outcome is highly inefficient.

    There could be other forces that generate war of attrition-like dynamics, too. Suppose demand is partly endogenous so that you need 50 translated books, each produced at a loss, to invigorate demand before any particular translated book is profitable. The DB wants Bookcraft to make those 50, and vice versa. Efficiency here is not obvious because the parameters to make the war of attrition outcome inefficient, but you could rig the parameters of the model to make it so.

  69. Kaimi Wenger
    July 13, 2006 at 1:40 pm


    As DB is church owned, its return is probably not best seen as its profit or bottom line. Rather, DB should be interested in spending its resources in a way that maximizes conversion or member strengthening. The proper metric would be cost-per-convert or cost-per-member-strengthened (have fun trying to calculate _those_!).

    But given Mike’s point about the likely higher marginal returns for non-English speakers, one would think that producing for the non-English market would have a much greater per-person marginal return in converstion and retention. Whether that higher marginal return justifies the higher costs for translation and distribution is ultimately a question that’s going to turn on the particular numbers at issue for a particular book — but it certainly seems like answers supporting Wilfried’s assertion would be within the realm of possibility.

  70. Melinda
    July 13, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    #69 – “As DB is church owned, its return is probably not best seen as its profit or bottom line. Rather, DB should be interested in spending its resources in a way that maximizes conversion or member strengthening.”

    Because DB is a for-profit corporation, it does have to pay quite a bit of attention to its bottom line, despite the fact that its owned by the LDS Church. I think a lot of members assume that DB and Deseret News and other for-profit entities ultimately owned by the Church are a lot more fixated on the Church’s mission than they really are. They definitely contribute, but the Church isn’t going to subsidize DB if DB is continually losing money by focusing on strengthening members rather than on marketing to members.

    Remember when the Church sold off ZCMI and now it’s Meier and Frank? That was because ZCMI was running in the red.

  71. Frank McIntyre
    July 13, 2006 at 2:56 pm


    I like the diminishing returns argument and agree that the benefits are higher per person. But surely that does not answer the question, as the costs are also higher per person. Hence… we don’t have the books now.

    “but one translated book could generate a positive externality for later translations by other companies.”

    What externality is this? You just got done with a diminishing returns story, after all, so surely you are not flipping back over to increasing returns across books? I mean, you’ve got a perfectly workable set of math, but I don’t see it as a great explanation for the international mormon book market. I think it much more likely that profits would be higher on the first books than on later books– since you can cherry pick the first books to translate as the best bets. So I don’t see this “invigorate demand” story as very credible. Are you thinking of some similar market where that has happened?

    Now, if you did not have distribution channels, this could be an issue, but once again those costs are falling dramatically thanks to online dealers. And at the point that the story is about transportation costs, well that is something of a seperate issue.


    I am not sure what DB is maximizing. I agree that what you state would be great to maximize, if one knew what it looked like. But I doubt DB really knows that much about eternal salvation :). Thus, they probably do something fairly close to profit maximization– at which point they can turn the money over to the Church for projects with more obvious returns to the salvation of souls.

    And as I pointed out, the higher per-person rewards in Mike’s model (which I agree with but seems to eat away at his positive externality argument) are really only half the story. “Returns” have to include costs.

    “but it certainly seems like answers supporting Wilfried’s assertion would be within the realm of possibility.”

    There is no doubt that this is true, but it is not exactly a high bar, now is it? What I was talking about was what was likely and probable. Which, you will be happy to note, is how I phrased my initial comment. :)

  72. Frank McIntyre
    July 13, 2006 at 2:59 pm


    I think that is probably a smart way to run it on the Church’s part. I don’t know that I fully understand all of the Church’s motivation in holding on to its various media enterprises, but they seem to feel that it creates positive externalities that they can internalize by merging. After all, the Church does want books by its GA’s available, thinks they have positive externalities, but probably does not want to publish them under the imprimature of the Church itself.

  73. Wilfried
    July 13, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Kaimi: “DB should be interested in spending its resources in a way that maximizes conversion or member strengthening.”

    Wilfried: Amen.

    Melinda: “Because DB is a for-profit corporation, it does have to pay quite a bit of attention to its bottom line, despite the fact that its owned by the LDs Church. I think a lot of members assume that DB and Deseret News and other for-profit entities ultimately owned by the Church are a lot more fixated on the Church’s mission than they really are.”

    Wilfried: Probably so. Indeed and alas.

  74. Frank McIntyre
    July 13, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    “Kaimi: ‘DB should be interested in spending its resources in a way that maximizes conversion or member strengthening.’

    Wilfried: Amen.”

    I think this is great in theory, but could be a nightmare in practice. How do they know if they are succeeding or not? The outcome is going to be largely unobserved. If DB were to run this way, they would need a whole bunch of continuing revelation. Or maybe (largely) maximizing profits really is the way that best helps the kingdom by providing financial support.

    That would be true, for instance, in the basic neoclassical model.

  75. Markie
    July 13, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    As a designer and marketer of Mormon \”stuff\”, I struggle with the issue of good taste, marketability, and making sure not to cross the line into making light of the sacred. I try to go by the principle of asking myself whether I would buy it or laugh at it if I saw it at DB, but I am still often embarrassed by this sideline of mine and rarely bring it up if I\’m introducing myself. One good friend of mine said to me recently, \”I\’m glad I got to know you as an intellectual before I found out you make Quiet Books or I may not have bothered with you.\” Sadly, I think I feel the same way. Still, it is fun to go to the LDS Bookseller\’s Association convention every year and try to pick out the craziest new product for the Mormon market. I think the overflow pad might just win (although, in my ward, the overflow goes 2/3 of the way back into the gym every week and you\’re stuck there if you\’re not at least 10 minutes early – you\’d get a lot of buyers).

  76. Kaimi Wenger
    July 13, 2006 at 4:33 pm


    Come on, it wouldn’t be that hard to get _some_ data, would it? How’s this for a quick sketch of a pilot program:

    1. Interview bishops and mission presidents and etc. in Bangladeshi speaking areas to get a sense of church activity, member knowledge, conversion rates, etc.
    2. Translate 20 new DB titles into Bangladeshi, and set up appropriate distribution channels.
    3. Interview again in six months / a year / whenever. See if the variables are the same. Ask specific questions relating to book titles, if appropriate. Interview again in another 6 months/year. Etc.

    Rinse and repeat a few times in a few different locations. Control for variables (new mission pres, etc) as appropriate. See if there’s a noticeable effect.

    Easier said than done? Sure. Perfect data on member belief isn’t going to be available. But _some_ data allowing us to make some inferences should be obtainable.

  77. mullingandmusing (m&m)
    July 13, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks for the info, Wilfried.

  78. Wilfried
    July 13, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    I think I can vouch for the success of such an endeavor (74, 76). In the early 1980s we translated a series of books in Dutch, brought in installments in a high-quality bi-monthly magazine for a period of two years — Jack Weyland, Blaine M. Yorgason, Ed Kimball’s biography of SWK, faith-building articles from independent sources, etc. After a time we had twice as many subscriptions as the official Church magazine. We did a survey to assess contentment: convincing. We had scores of supportive letters of members and non-members. OK, no figures with variables and no control group. But sufficient to say that this kind of material, which provided a different feeling of belonging to the local membership and which easily reached non-members, answered a need. I’m confident it helped in conversions and member strengthening.

  79. Frank McIntyre
    July 13, 2006 at 4:57 pm


    First off, that is simply amazing.

    Clearly such a program has benefits, but you haven’t yet told us about the costs.
    Or why it no longer exists. These are the things a grubby little cost/benefit person wants to know. :)


    The problems with collecting that data in a way that DB can use them for annual goals are, frankly, pretty big. You are an entreprenuerial fellow, so feel free to give it a shot :). T

    But I think you will find,
    when your death takes its toll
    that all the [souls] you made
    will never buy back your [money]

    (or something like that)

  80. Ed Johnson
    July 13, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    Speaking of Deseret Book’s goals, here’s today’s Salt Lake Tribune article about the dispute between DB and Seagull Books:

    Is this behavior profit maximizing? Is it socially optimal?

  81. Wilfried
    July 13, 2006 at 5:03 pm


    Frank: “You haven’t yet told us about the costs”

    I agree we had special conditions: no royalties to the original authors & publishers (thanks to their willingness to help that way), and all the work was done voluntarily. But subscriptions covered production, mailing and all the other related costs. We could still do it under the same conditions.

    Frank: “Or why it no longer exists.”

    We did it as an experiment to show what was possible and needed, in the hope the concept would catch on in higher spheres. With twice as many subscriptions as the official Church magazine, we had made our point. The rest is history.

  82. Michael McBride
    July 13, 2006 at 5:09 pm


    The diminishing returns is a demand side story, and a simple war of attrition story (not my demand invigoration story) is principally a supply side story. Thus, they can be both perfectly consistent. The costs may still be higher per-person for translated books, and we can still have the inefficent underprovision.

    In any event, my main point was not that both are in effect (even if you were right that they were contradictory) but instead that there are reasons to suppose why intervention could be efficient. Which effect is actually at work is an empirical not theoretical question.

    It seems, however, that you want more of a guestimation as to what is actually happening. (It is good of you to bring the discussion back to this, seriously.) In this regard, I think your story is more likely for European and Asian countries because translation is so costly and the demand is so low.

    But, for Spanish books, I think inefficient underprovision is very likely. From personal experience, I know the Spanish demand is huge, and I think the translation cost would be much lower than for other languages given the supply of Spanish speakers in the US and elsewhere.

    Why hasn’t it been done? I honestly don’t know. I’m surprised it hasn’t been done, and I think it’s a profitable opportunity. But saying that it hasn’t been done is proof why it hasn’t been done is not satisfactory to me.

  83. Frank McIntyre
    July 13, 2006 at 5:29 pm

    Mike, yes it was the demand invigoration story I found somewhat contradictory, not the supply side story which I just found implausible :). As I told Kaimi, I was asserting what seemed probable, not offering a proof.

    I also think Spanish is the most credible language for these markets. Sure enough, a quick glance at the DB site will show that there are spanish language renditions of some things (I even found a Gene Cook talk on tape). And probably more to come.

    But I honestly don’t see a plausible war of attrition story for this. Especially not if demand is so big. What are the big fixed costs that would keep them on the sideline waiting for the other actor? Mathematically possible, sure. But are there really that many positive externalities in opening this market? And surely DB internalizes a huge chunk of them owing to their size. As Ed pointed out above, DB does seem to act oddly at times, but it appears that the Spanish ball is indeed rolling.


    I think that is really fascinating. So, ballpark-wise, how many subscriptions are we talking about here?

    The no royalties thing seems fine, since there would be no royalties without the publication so the author is arguably losing nothing. If you could get enough subscriptions to pay for the labor then you’d have an economically efficient outcome, no question.

    But is it worth it to the Church to take a hit by paying for that labor out of its own pocket or should it pay people to do something else worth doing? Tricky question. Personally I am not convinced– especially given the rising fluency in English among these groups.

  84. Wilfried
    July 13, 2006 at 6:08 pm

    Frank: “how many subscriptions are we talking about here?”

    Wilfried: We reached about 2,000, which, given the Mormon Dutch-speaking population at the time, was pretty high.

    Frank: “Personally I am not convinced– especially given the rising fluency in English among these groups.”

    Wilfried: That’s a touchy matter. In view of the social level of most converts, only a small minority reads English. Without the extra input we’re talking about here, you reinforce two kinds of Mormons, the haves and the havesnot.

    Midnight here in our time zone. Over and out for now!

  85. Michael McBride
    July 13, 2006 at 9:08 pm

    Frank, Yep, I thought the demand invigoration story was clever but I agree not very realistic. There could be a sort of Say’s Law argument, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on in this case.

    Wilfried, Thanks for your insights. I had once read about those efforts to produce Dutch materials, and it’s great to hear about it from someone who was there.

  86. Michael McBride
    July 13, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    And thanks to everyone else for making this an interesting (at least to me) thread!

  87. Frank McIntyre
    July 13, 2006 at 10:26 pm

    2000? Wow that is a lot. Once again, I think this speaks to the fact that demand is highest at the opening stages. If true, then there probably is not much of an “infant industry” argument for the need to subsidize it. Which reinforces the view that if it is socially beneficial, it will likely be profitable (and so it still needs an entrepreneur to start it, but it does not need special favors from the Church or other outside benefactors).

    As for the have and have nots, well the have nots are always with us, and I really doubt that the best place to put resources in to mitigate that problem of inequality is in translating Janice Kapp Perry (which, I might add, appears to have already happened in Spanish). But if you enjoy translating, well it sounds like a fine hobby…

  88. July 14, 2006 at 1:31 am

    Frank, we may well always have the have-nots with us, but Wilfried’s point was that you can’t base a principled decision regarding publication on the premise that there is a rising level of English-fluency since such a decision would increase the problem created by that division. I’m sure there are good reasons (economic and otherwise) for not publishing many books, Dutch, French, Korean, and so on. I don’t think Wilfried was disputing that. He was just arguing against your suggestion. And he might agree with you about the value of translating JKP into Dutch.

    Did you intend your last sentence as an insult? Or were you just being silly? It is hard to tell, but it isn’t difficult to wonder. Wilfried’s academic specialty is translation, and those who worked to translate the English materials into Dutch for the project he describes were doing more than playing at a hobby. They were trying to provide things to the Saints that they thought would make them feel part of a larger community.

  89. Wilfried
    July 14, 2006 at 2:43 am

    Frank: “I really doubt that the best place to put resources in to mitigate that problem of inequality is in translating Janice Kapp Perry (which, I might add, appears to have already happened in Spanish). But if you enjoy translating, well it sounds like a fine hobby… ”

    Sounds kind of sarcastic, Frank, and you seem to suggest a cheap conclusion (or was it just to provoke further discussion?). I feel a little annoyed to have to respond… But, for the record: Our endeavor in the 1980s included not only popular authors like Weyland and Yorgason (moreover culturally transposed to a European context), but lots of material from BYU Studies and Farms under the feature “Studies”. Our readers’ survey revealed that that feature was the most appreciated, showing the prime need for that kind of material too. We tried to cater to the needs of a diverse audience. We had the help of people in Utah like Ed Kimball, Eugene England, Douglas Tobler, Charles Tate and many others. Doug Tobler and his team provided the research to make a feature telling the 19th century history of the Church in the Netherlands and Flanders in great detail. We had a feature discussing local social issues like Mormon children in the Belgian school system or the challenges of interfaith marriages, always in a constructive atmosphere. Our readers were introduced to the work of Carol Lynn Pearson, Douglas Thayer, Emma Lou Thayne etc. We had long interviews with people like David M. Kennedy (who had been Nato-ambassador in Brussels), so our people could draw pride from such Mormon presence among us. I could go on and on.

    One thing was certain: the have-nots (identified here as those unable to read English, but also others unable to get to all that U.S. material) received plenty. The sense of community and of pride in things Mormon (local and international) was reinforced. Perhaps also interesting to mention is that the endeavor, because of its independent nature and broader approach, attracted attention from academic circles for the socio-religious study of Mormonism and proved a strong tool not to be viewed as a cult.

    Doing all that for the edification of the members and the sustaining of missionary work, was “a hobby”, for sure, carried out by a handful of people. I will consider that a compliment.

    (BTW, Jim, thanks for the support in the previous comment! It’s always fun to help our friend Frank see the light! )

  90. Frank McIntyre
    July 14, 2006 at 9:00 am

    Jim, Wilfried,

    I meant hobby in the sense that you would be doing it for free, as this is what you stated as to how you were doing it before. I did not mean hobby in any pejorative sense, merely pointing out that if the publication could not cover its costs of labor, then it is worth doing only if you enjoy it enough to do it without payment (aka, as a hobby).

    Suppose you were willing to do it for free because the social benefits were high, even if you did not personally enjoy it. Well then you would want to compare the value of that way of helping compared to the other ways of helping the “have-nots” and pick the one that gave them the highest return. This was my point about the have-nots– that if you wish to alleviate the problem, translation does not seem to me the best way to do it, unless there is somebody (like Wilfried) who gets pleasure out of doing it for its own sake (once again, this is what one commonly refers to as a hobby). At that point, the fact that they enjoy it for its own sake mitigates the social cost. On the other hand, if you have somebody who really enjoys making soup, then it might be efficient to have them run a soup kitchen, because not only do they get personal satisfaction from it, but there is probably a high social return.

    Sorry for the misunderstanding. Hopefully you guys can now “see the light”! :)

    Jim, you seem to think that we can’t make a “principled decision” that might lead to a wider gap between the two groups. That is simply not true. It all depends on how much the alternative costs and how much damage there is from the wider gap.


    You are quick to point out that you guys were translating higher end materials than JKP etc. I think that is great and certainly more enjoyable for you. But I doubt the audience for that is wider than for JKP (if the American market is any guide). And surely scholarly works also favor the more educated. But perhaps you are done with the topic, in which case we can hit it some other time.

  91. Wilfried
    July 14, 2006 at 9:52 am

    Thanks, Frank, for the extra light. We’ll end up with overexposure.

    Frank: “… you guys were translating higher end materials than JKP etc. I think that is great and certainly more enjoyable for you. I doubt the audience for that is wider than for JKP (if the American market is any guide). ”

    Wilfried: First, I think it’s kind of cheap and snobbish to disparage JKP so globally. But that’s another debate. Second (OK, now I open Pandora’s box, but you hinted at it by using the American market as reference), is it possible that the interest for higher end materials is on average greater in Europe than in the U.S. because of the intense tradition of documentation and debate in the European school system, in social life and in the media? Hence, also among Mormons, a relatively broad market for the kind of material we talk about. Our endeavor in the 80s proved it. Plus, such an approach has the major advantage of changing the perspective that we are a cult.

    Frank: “And surely scholarly works also favor the more educated.”

    Wilfried: Not necessarily if you take care to select understandable material first and present it in acceptable language and format. And by so doing lift all to more educated levels. Europe has a strong tradition of popularization of intellectual content.

  92. Frank McIntyre
    July 14, 2006 at 11:28 am

    Hah! Wilfried, I think we can safely leave that Pandora’s box for another day. It was good talking to you. In closing, let me just note that I have no JKP hatred, she was just an example of someone who I knew actually had been translated into Spanish.

  93. July 14, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    Frank, since the problem created by the division of the English-speakers from the non-English speakers, the gap,” was a division in the community as community, not an economic gap, I don’t see how you can make a principled decision to make that gap wider. The cost is the community itself. “You really do need to remember that not all terms always have their economic meanings” he said haughtily.

  94. Frank McIntyre
    July 14, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    Suppose (merely as a hypothetical) the cost of keeping the gap from growing 1% (in some dimension that perhaps only God understands) was the end of all civilization as we know it, plus no more French cuisine. Then I would be willing to make the gap 1% bigger and so would you.

    I’ll meet your haughtiness and raise you a cost-benefit analysis!

  95. July 14, 2006 at 1:26 pm

    Could it be that there needs to be original works created in the various native languages? For example, for years, the Church has practically begged for non-english submissions for the music competition, but I’ve yet to see much come of it. Face it, some ideas lose in the translation; and some stories are best told in their native context and culture. Perhaps there needs to be an encouragement of non-english story-telling/hymn-writing.

  96. Wilfried
    July 14, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    Good point, Coffinberry. I know we’ve had good entries in the visual arts from the international church — different styles, even daring modernism and abstractions. As to original stories, I presume they are much more difficult for the Church to be acceptable for an international audience, in view of the local cultural context, the peculiarities of a situation… That’s already obvious from the stories brought from the Ensign and the NewEra into all the Liahona’s over the world. There is a certain standardization (similar story lines, miracle-type happening, happy endings, in any country or culture), which probably means that different styles and types of original stories would make little chance. So, production in visual arts seems pretty easy to be acceptable if original & creative. Literary, doubtful. Musical, I don’t know.

  97. Matt Evans
    July 17, 2006 at 12:46 am

    “After all, the Church does want books by its GA’s available, thinks they have positive externalities, but probably does not want to publish them under the imprimature of the Church itself.”


    There’s probably no topic that makes me more frustrated with the church and GAs than their copyrighting words that they claim are God’s. There’s no justification for their not granting free licenses to anyone willing to publish or distribute the word of God. Heaven knows most of the GA’s books sell only because of their position in the church.

    Back in the days of the LDS-Law list I argued that we can know whether an apostle’s talks were inspired of the Lord by his decision to earn money from it. By definition the Living Water is always “without money and without price.”

  98. Michael
    July 17, 2006 at 12:10 pm


    The need to copyright their works is solely to protect the Church from those with evil-designs. Many times, people will take their words and use them in slanderous and non-faith building ways so the Church has recourse to stop such action.

    Please remember that many of the brethren (First Presidency and Quorum of 12) live the law of consecration so there is no personal benefit to them financially. Some of the \”non-permanent\” sevenities may use royalties to support themselves but usually there is not much money to be made from GA doctrinal books as most members would rather read the fluffy mormon fiction books rather than study pure doctrine.

  99. annegb
    July 17, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    The general authorities make money off Mormonism every time they write a book. You’re as entitled as anyone. Personally I think it’s a good idea and we have too many books in this church.

  100. July 17, 2006 at 5:00 pm

    There’s probably no topic that makes me more frustrated with the church and GAs than their copyrighting words that they claim are God’s.

    Except that they always say that their books hold their personal views, not official views. You can’t blame them for responding to people’s desire to hear more of their personal thoughts, especially since we aren’t in the early days anymore when the prophet might come to your house for dinner.

  101. Matt Evans
    July 18, 2006 at 11:46 am


    First, copyright doesn’t protect the church or anyone else from people who want to abuse their words. Copyright law allows the anti-Mormon press to quote liberally from a book if they’re criticizing it, which of course they are. Second, anyone who wanted to reprint their books or collections of conference addresses in their entirety would of course be helping the church, not hurting it. The words of the prophets invite the spirit and we can only hope antis would distribute them broadly. Third, I don’t know what you mean by the brethren living the “law of consecration.” Most of them own expensive homes (Salt Lake County assesses Boyd K. Packer’s house at over $1 million) and the royalties from Mormon Doctrine accrue to the McConkie family. They’re still struggling to overcome the natural man just like the rest of us. Finally, their books sell because Mormons hope their words are inspired by God. There wouldn’t be a market for collections of their church talks if they weren’t apostles who claim to speak for God.

  102. July 18, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    Most of them own expensive homes (Salt Lake County assesses Boyd K. Packer’s house at over $1 million) and the royalties from Mormon Doctrine accrue to the McConkie family.

    How long has Pres. Packer owned his home? My home is probably appraising at some ridiculous number (not THAT high) but that doesn’t mean much since home values are just skyrocketing in Utah. You can hardly get a starter home for less than $200K. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I would suspect that home is paid for, so royalties from his books are probably completely unrelated to his home.

    You don’t know their hearts. I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt. I just can’t see them selfishly filling their pockets to adorn homes they rarely even stay in, or “support lifestyles” that don’t exist — these men travel to fulfill their callings more than anything. Sure, they are human, but assuming that they write books to line their own pockets is harsh, IMO.

  103. Matt Evans
    July 19, 2006 at 1:26 am


    Packer bought his home a long time ago, but Salt Lake tax assessments are out of date (the homes whose current value I know have assessments at 60% — which means Packer’s house is probably worth about about $1.7 million now). I’m not suggesting that Packer bought an estate that expensive from selling books; for all I know he bought it before he sold a single book. The reason I mentioned his house was just to show Michael that the apostles aren’t living the “law of consecration.” Like the rest of us, Elder Packer still struggles to love his neighbor as himself.

    I’m not arguing that the GA’s are trying to line their pockets, either, only that it would be better if they derived no financial benefit from their being a conduit for the Lord. It would allow them to produce better fruit, too, and producing good fruit, it seems to me, should be their primary vocation. God’s fruit — the only good fruit — is always without money and without price. The apostles, and all of us, should strive to produce more of it.

  104. Frank McIntyre
    July 19, 2006 at 10:05 am

    President Packer’s house is not the main driver there. I’ve been in his neaighborhood and he has (if he still lives there) a large wooded lot with, as I recall, a stream through the back. Very old school.

    Since lots appreciate rather than depreciate, that value is essentially a non-liquid form of savings. As such, knowing its value is not so informative as one might think. What matters most is how it is allocated when it is sold. Since we do not know that, because he hasn’t done it yet, this is actually not all that great of an indicator of President Packer’s living of the law of consecration.

    That said, I am sure many GA’s could give away more money, and I am also not sure that this makes it wrong for them to accept royalties for books they write. But I’ll wait to flesh this out until Matt writes an actual post!

  105. Matt Evans
    July 19, 2006 at 12:03 pm

    “What matters most is how it is allocated when it is sold.”

    While I agree this is important, Frank, who benefits from our assets matters, too. Land is a “consumable” investment because we enjoy the property rights, even though they don’t of necessity diminish as we use them. The “savings” defense covers some ground, but it stops working far short of $1 million. Otherwise there are no wealthy people, just big savers.

  106. Adam Greenwood
    July 19, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    “The “savingsâ€? defense covers some ground, but it is inoperative far short of $1 million. Otherwise there are no wealthy people, just big savers.”

    Depends on what form the wealth is in. Lots of luxury goods aren’t really investments.

  107. Frank McIntyre
    July 19, 2006 at 1:05 pm


    Land is enjoyed, but it is not consumed. Nor is that land likely to depreciate. So yes, some people really are big savers. Even though they do get a stream of utility from the assets, they can give more if they wait, which gives a rather different picture than thinking someone is buying yachts or what-have-you that rapidly depreciate.

    Warren Buffett, for example, is giving away a bunch of money now. Some people think he should have started sooner. But if he’s getting at least a market return (and he certainly has) there is a reasonable argument that he can give more later, and so he should invest now and give later.

  108. Matt Evans
    July 19, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    Adam, I was using “wealth” in the sense of a person’s net worth, which includes the value of their luxury goods, whether or not they’re an appreciating asset. I agree that depreciating assets (a class including many luxury goods) are consumables and not investments. But many luxury goods — homes and vacation homes, land, antiques, art — are ostensibly investments, even though the owner “consumes” their exclusive property rights.

    This is why, as I’ve argued before on T&S, when we discuss Zion-building we get sidetracked into _what_ we’re doing with our money, trying to identify some imaginary line between needs and wants, etc. The primary question for Zion-builders isn’t What? but For Whom?

    For example, no matter the merits of Packer’s $1 million real estate investment, it’s not necessary for Packer to personally live on and enjoy the wooded lot, rather than let a less fortunate neighbor live on and enjoy the use of his “investment.”

  109. Adam Greenwood
    July 19, 2006 at 1:29 pm

    Except that President Packer has to live somewhere, Matt E., and this would presumably require money, which for all we know he only has in adequate amounts in the illiquid form of the land he owns. (1) maintaining the investment and (2) letting someone else live there may not be compatible. Also, you’ve switched grounds here. Earlier you were arguing that one should use one’s wealth to help others, which is compelling. Now you’re arguing that if luxury goods exist, one should give them to the poor to enjoy instead of oneself. I don’t see the reasoning here. If I somehow come into possession of a Rembrandt and I have sound reasons of the sort Frank sets out for keeping hold of it for awhile, am I really morally obligated to hang it in one of the mobile homes in my ward instead of in my own, even if the mobile home people would take care of it as well as me?

    I’m thinking the morality you’re preaching here ignores lines that it shouldn’t. I see a difference between buying a luxury home and buying a home that’s expensive because of its location, if the location has some value to you other than its prestige;
    I also see a difference between buying a home that’s expensive because of its location and living in a home that becomes expensive because of its location over time.

  110. Frank McIntyre
    July 19, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    “if the location has some value to you other than its prestige;”

    Such as living near one’s family or what have you.

  111. Matt Evans
    July 19, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    Adam, I’m afraid using Packer as an example has skewed the discussion. Let’s instead focus on other people who will have to change before we’re able to build Zion: you and me. If we were given something we like, like a sports car, and our wife liked it too, everyone would agree that our love for our wife would compel us to share it with her, and that if we always drove the sports car, and made her always drive a car she didn’ t like as well, we would show that we don’t love her as much as we love ourselves. Zion will function on that principle: no matter who has formal title, or stewardship, for a thing, because everyone is motivated by love to work for the benefit of their neighbor, in a world of scarcity they are happy to share with others their cars, Rembrandts, and houses on wooded estates.

    I think it’s wrong to say we are “morally obligated” to share our things with our neighbors, because moral obligation connotes something contrary to genuine love. When we become like Christ, we will actually derive greater happiness being the means of letting our neighbor enjoy a Rembrandt painting than we derive having the painting in our own living room. (Assuming that we both like Rembrandt.) That is why the 4th Nephi people “could not be a happier people . . . because of the love of God in their hearts.” Their love compelled them to give, and they couldn’t give any more because they’d given everything. No people could be happier.

    Or to paraphrase a favorite quote of Twains, “We can grieve perfectly all alone, but to perfectly reap joy, it must be divided.” In Zion, joy — and possessions — will be divided over and over again until the joy runneth over. In Hell nothing is shared.

  112. Matt Evans
    July 19, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    “Such as living near one’s family or what have you.”

    Frank, this is an example of the “what” misdirection that I described above. The key moral question isn’t *what* the asset is or its justification, the moral question is who benefits from the asset or justification. There are lots of people forced by circumstance to live apart from their families, for example, and in a world of scarcity we have to decide who gets to live near their family.

    In Zion we will work as hard to help our neighbors live near their families (and every other righteous desire) as much as we do to live near our own.

  113. July 19, 2006 at 2:44 pm


    Why don’t you just write this up as a post and then I’ll disagree with you some more there?

  114. Mark Butler
    July 19, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    Elder and Sister Packer’s purchase of their current home is discussed in a recent biography (Boyd K. Packer: A Watchman on the Tower) by Lucile C. Tate. I understand that the purchase was made about the same time he became an apostle, without any Church financial assistance, nor returns from any LDS books that he (later) published. I don’t know what the property was worth in 1971, but know doubt, even in real terms, it was a lot less expensive than it would be today. The Salt Lake Valley was still a rural area in many ways back then.

    Now it is worth recognizing that the law of consecration and stewardship is a principle, not a system. I have no doubt that the Packers feel a considerable obligation to exercise the stewardship over the temporal blessings they have received in such a way as to serve the Lord’s purposes.

    Now certainly the GAs receive a living allowance far less than the comparable amount that would be paid to them in comparable private occupations. That is consecration-ish. The same applies to many of the more qualified Church employees as well.

    However as far as I know, there is no formal United Order in operation in the Church, even among some narrower group of leaders. The day will come someday, but until then I cannot see fit to convict someone on *ownership* alone, unless they are clearly squandering their God-given resources on things of little value or that have questionable ability to be used to bless the lives of others.

  115. Mark Butler
    July 19, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    “no doubt”

  116. greenfrog
    July 19, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    Matt Evans wrote: When we become like Christ, we will actually derive greater happiness being the means of letting our neighbor enjoy a Rembrandt painting than we derive having the painting in our own living room.

    Nicely put. It captures a bit of why Jesus would choose His own death.

  117. KLC
    July 21, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    Apologies for the lack of an active link, but this article in the LA Times today should interest those who participated in this thread. Times stories are typically available for 1 week until they go into the archives. When that occurs you have to register to read them.,1,1938782.story?coll=la-headlines-nation&ctrack=1&cset=true

  118. KLC
    July 21, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks to the (wo)man behind the curtain for making the link active.

  119. Michael McBride
    July 22, 2006 at 2:57 am

    #117. FYI, the Column One article ran under the title “What Would Jesus Sell?” in Friday’s print edition of the LA Times.

  120. Tijuanabob
    July 26, 2006 at 2:31 am

    I have frequently lamented the lack of Spanish language material available. I believe that the reason that there are not more Spanish translations of LDS related writings is almost ENTIRELY market related. The fact that Spanish is the second language of the church, ranked by number of members that speak it, does not necessarily translate into a large market for books other than the Standard Works.

    I base my opinions on my experience working for many years in the family owned bookstore, and what I observed during my mission in Spain and the last ten years working and living in Mexico. I have lived in Guadalajara, Mexico City, and, most recently, scenic and beautiful Tijuana. While in Mexico, I have been blessed/punished with both ward and stake leadership callings. This experience has allowed me to see first hand the need for more Spanish language materials, yet, at the same time, understand the reality of the market for such materials. Having said all that, I am obviously not a marketing or publishing expert. These are just general observations. WARNING: this post is probably about as entertaining as watching paint dry, but this topic is something I have given considerable thought.

    Even though, on the surface, there appears to be demand for LDS materials in Spanish, I believe the market for material in Spanish is smaller than one may think because of the following factors:

    1. The disposable income of a high percentage of the membership does not allow purchases of non-essential items. Many units have a high percentage of their membership living in poverty. The faithful members struggle to obtain triples, bibles, and hymn books. The less faithful do not even bother. The latest book from Elder Holland or Elder Hafen just does not fit in their budget, even if they did want it.

    2. Lack of leisure time. The economic situation of many families forces the adults and, in many cases, the older children to work multiple jobs. This leads to very little time left for reading.

    3. Lack of a reading culture. The literary culture in Mexico and Central America is actually very weak. There is remarkably little demand for even secular works. Maybe this is caused, in part, by the economic conditions noted above. Most of the books in the country are sold to the upper socio-economic classes. Thats a pretty slim segment of the market. The bulk of church membership in latin countries comes from the lower economic classes. In my experience, there is not a lot of reading going on among members.

    While true that in Spain, and possibly parts of South America, the populace is more inclined to read, overall church membership in those countries is small and does not represent a large market.

    4. Much of the Spanish speaking membership in the US is comfortable reading in English. Those that are not bi-lingual generally come from the same non reading socio-economic background as the membership in their home country.

    5. The culture of the Church in latin countries is not necessarily the same as it is in the States. The interests of the members can be different and so the content of many LDS related books just does not resonate with the reader. At the risk of over-generalizing, many of the members are not seeking deeper gospel truths. They are just trying to grasp the lesson in Gospel Principles and make it throught to the next day. It could be pretty hit and miss deciding which titles to translate.

    6. All of the factors above cause a lack of demand for books in general, and LDS titles in particular. This lack of demand, even in a country as large as Mexico( 100 Million), leads to small print runs. That in turn leads to high prices on books. In Mexico City, the largest market in Mexico, retail prices of books are two to three times the price of similar genre in the US. The even smaller market represented by the portion of church membership who
    have the money, time, and inclination to buy LDS related books leads to even
    smaller print runs of LDS materials. That elevates the cost even more. The
    higher cost contributes to further dampen demand.

    I just do not think it is yet a profitable market. With some of the recent advances in self publishing and micro publishing, it may soon be economically viable to bring out more Spanish titles. But not now. Thats my two cents.

    Another topic all together is why the church has not come up with a Spanish translation of the Bible and the Topical Guide. Any thoughts on why with half the Church speaking Spanish we would still be using a non indexed version of the Reina Valera Bible? Anyone know if there are copyright issues translating the King James version to Spanish? Or is the church just to english-centric?

  121. Tijuanabob
    July 26, 2006 at 2:50 am

    I really need to brush up on my spelling and english grammar. I just checked my post and it is full of errors. I feel pretty lame comparing it to the beautiful work of the particpants on this blog……….I should just go back to lurking.

    Or maybe I should just be studying the back of my eyelids right now. My wife blames T&S for my lack of sleep. Thanks for all of the great entertainment.

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