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The Apostleship as a Path to Wealth


Daniel Peterson

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A few weeks ago on this board, there was a vigorous discussion of "Corrupt General Authorities and Their Huge Salaries." The Church doesn't make its finances public these days, and, consequently, much of the discussion here (to say nothing of a parallel thread, with a very predictable tone and approach, over at the Compound) was conducted on the basis of inferences and, less worthily, of sheer speculation and fantasy (including crazy notions about President Packer growing wealthy off of the tithes of widows, orphans, and the poor).

But, once in a while, a hard statistical fact surfaces.

I've just, by chance, come across another bit of damning evidence on this subject. It appears in Gary James Bergera, "'This Great Thing Which Has Come to Me a Humble, Weak Farmer Boy': Ezra Taft Benson's 1943 Call to the Apostleship," Mormon Historical Studies 9/2 (Fall 2008): 155-164. Those who know anything about Gary Bergera, former managing editor of Dialogue, former director of publishing for Signature Books, and current director of the Smith-Petit Foundation in Salt Lake City, will not, to put it mildly, confuse him with a Mormon apologist.

On p. 155 of the article, Bergera writes that "Before his calling as an apostle, Benson had been employed for the previous four years as executive secretary to the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, headquartered in Washington DC, for $25,000 annually."

In today's dollars, he was making an annual salary of somewhere between roughly $312,000 and $375,000. (The calculation is easily performed at http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm.) While the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives was scarcely General Motors, Ford Motors, or RCA, and while this probably wasn't in the ballpark with the salary of a corporate CEO in those days (let alone today), it was certainly a very, very healthy income.

On p. 161, note 2, Bergera observes that "By comparison, Benson's beginning yearly salary as an apostle was $6,000. See Merlo J. Pusey, Eisenhower the President (New York: Macmillan, 1956), 69. Benson later referred to the impact on his wife and him of his decision to accept the LDS apostleship as 'turn[ing] our backs on money.' Ezra Taft Benson, Cross Fire: The Eight Years with Eisenhower (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1962), 142."

The change from an annual income of $25,000 to an annual income of $6,000 represents a decrease of 76%. The 2009 equivalent of a 1943 income of $6,000 would be $74,640. This isn't poverty level, of course, but it's also certainly not a lavish, princely income. Nor is it a particularly vast income on which to support a wife and six children.

Ezra Taft Benson was 44 years old when he was called to the Twelve. He was an upwardly mobile professional (who would be named to President Eisenhower's cabinet a decade later) with manifest executive talent, a solid educational background including a graduate degree, and a demonstrated record of success at the national level. However, at least in 1943, the apostleship does not seem to have been a pathway to riches.

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...in 1943, the apostleship does not seem to have been a pathway to riches.

When you have great power, what need then of great wealth?

Joseph Smith declared bankruptcy at Nauvoo -- had a net worth of practically nothing.

What danger was he in then, of starving, or dying of exposure? What danger was he in

of not being the richest land-holder in Hancock county, as soon as he

transferred all the town plots out of Emma's name, and back into his own?

Orson Pratt was so poor that he did not even own clothing suitable for burial,

other than his temple garments. Brigham Young was the richest private account

in the Bank of England -- (or so urban legend says)

Kim Jung Il may not have a penny in his pockets.

But he has an intaglio bank-note printing press.

UD

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When you have great power, what need then of great wealth?

Joseph Smith declared bankruptcy at Nauvoo -- had a net worth of practically nothing.

What danger was he in then, of starving, or dying of exposure? What danger was he in

of not being the richest land-holder in Hancock county, as soon as he

transferred all the town plots out of Emma's name, and back into his own?

Orson Pratt was so poor that he did not even own clothing suitable for burial,

other than his temple garments. Brigham Young was the richest private account

in the Bank of England -- (or so urban legend says)

Kim Jung Il may not have a penny in his pockets.

But he has an intaglio bank-note printing press.

UD

Goalposts moved.

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Goalposts moved.

Not exactly. "Wealth" is not measured by money in the bank, when you

have been given the "keys of the seventh and final dispensation."

If the earth and the fulness thereof is the Lord's -- then will not

the Lord give that fulness unto His Saints as an inheritance?

In terms of Divine power, who on earth outranks an ordained

"prophet, seer, revelator and translator" in the latter days?

If the "Corporation of the President" liquidated its assets

today, and laid the entire pile down in Vegas on double-zero,

just how high would that pile be?

UD

corrected for spelling --

.

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Not exactly. "Wealth" is not measured by money in the bank, when you

have been given the "keys of the seventh and final dispensation."

If the earth and the fulness thereof is the Lord's -- then will not

the Lord give that fulness unto His Saints as an inheritance?

In terms of Divine power, who on earth outranks an ordained

"prophet, seer, revelator and translator" in the latter days?

If the "Corporation of the President" liquidated its assess

today, and laid the entire pile down in Vegas on double-zero,

just how high would that pile be?

UD

.

Yours is a completely new argument...not the one to which DCP was responding.

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Yours is a completely new argument...not the one to which DCP was responding.

Three shells on the table -- the pea is under one of the shells.

Looks like I lifted the wrong shell, once again.

Was I wrong about Orson Pratt's poverty?

UD

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That's correct. And I would prefer not to have this thread cluttered up with irrelevancies and rabbit trails.

So, the limits of the discussion are Ezra Taft Benson, and the year 1943?

I agree that the fellow probably did not have a pile of diamonds stashed

away in his Zion's Bank safety deposit box, while WWII was raging.

Can we expand the parameters of the discussion;

or have we thus exhausted the topic?

UD

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Hello Peterson,

Without seeing the church financial statements, you can't claim to know how much these individuals receive both in salary, perks, and spending expenses. There usually already wealthy when they are chosen so we can't tell from the amount of money they have how much of it was due to tithing. The only exceptions would be individuals like JS and BY who had an estate after they died.

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On p. 161, note 2, Bergera observes that "By comparison, Benson's beginning yearly salary as an apostle was $6,000. See Merlo J. Pusey, Eisenhower the President (New York: Macmillan, 1956), 69. Benson later referred to the impact on his wife and him of his decision to accept the LDS apostleship as 'turn[ing] our backs on money.' Ezra Taft Benson, Cross Fire: The Eight Years with Eisenhower (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1962), 142."

My understand is that apostles, especially in those days, received a salary as well as the compensation they received for the many boards they sat on related to LDS companies. Up until a few years ago, it was not uncommon for a member of the 12 to sit on several boards and hold other positions in the vast corporate holdings of the Church Does the $6K only include his base salary or does it also include the income received from other Church owned corporate service?

Also, what other non-salary compensation is included in this position that he no longer has to pay for out of pocket. Housing? transportation? meals? clothing allowances?

Ezra Taft Benson was 44 years old when he was called to the Twelve. He was an upwardly mobile professional (who would be named to President Eisenhower's cabinet a decade later) with manifest executive talent, a solid educational background including a graduate degree, and a demonstrated record of success at the national level. However, at least in 1943, the apostleship does not seem to have been a pathway to riches.

So while serving on the cabinet, did he retain or decline his Church salary in addition to his cabinet post salary.

I actually don't mind if they get paid. I think they deserve a corporate level salary for their corporate leave work. My only issue is that some people continue to claim that the LDS Church has no paid clergy, which is obviously untrue.

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Sleepyhead's comment about wealthy men being chosen would have them following in the footsteps of their master.

Looking at the Jewish sources stating that 30 is the age of full adulthood, it is quite obvious that a man was to become self-sufficient, indeed, in many cases wealthy, before commencing to publicly teach or preach the law and commandments.

Dr. Peterson, I do apologise for this OT post. Would be happy to carry it on elsewhere.

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...

Bergera could be lying

...

Well, that settles that. How your sarcasm makes me smile.

Back from my walk along the beach.

Found some nice shells, and what looks like a corroded 1943

"gray penny." I'll soak it in turpentine, and see what's there.

If I support Bergera's reporting, can I be allowed back into the discussion.

???

UD

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The alledged or potential wealth of LDS apostles is a useless criticism. They are far too busy to enjoy it. Given the litigiousness of society and the largely baseless (in terms of culpability) charges of abuse, frankly I'm glad the Church protects my tithes by keeping the figures close to the vest.

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Since we are providing evidence about GA's salaries, here issome more. Depending on your POV, you will find some more persuasive than others.

08/10/2002 - Flew the Coop

I know that 7 years ago GBH had a salary of $500,000 plus, an audited and unlimited charge card, and lived in an $800,000 dollar condo with servants.

08/10/2002 - Deconstructor

I can verify Flew The Coop's salary facts. I worked at Zions Bank Corporation for two years with access to confidential bank records. I have personally seen the activity in Hinckley's account. I also saw his credit card records. What Flew The Coop said about salary and credit card is true.

At the time I was a True Believing Mormon and had a hard time with what I learned. For example, after Howard W. Hunter died, his wife charged up thousands of dollars on his card to buy all kinds of expensive furniture, then cut up the cards. She refused to pay the balance, so we sent the bill to the church offices. They paid it with no questions asked. I couldn't help see my tithing money in the form of new furniture for a rich old prophet's wife.

Based on a conversation I had with a close friend who is an internal auditor for the church, the figures presented here reasonably reflect actual salaries paid. It should be remembered that in the 1990's the church began restricting its presiding authorities from serving in significant business functions(i.e, board of directors for church owned operations, etc.)This decision precluded additional sources of income for general authorities. Apparently salary increases (in the same time frame) correlate with this mandate.- 07/27/2002 - anon
My uncle is in the First Quourm of the Seventy. He does not make $75,000 a year. He makes more like $48,000. All of the perks the writer alluded to are partially true. They get great health insurance, some retirement, and free tickets to college games. The do not own a Sattellite system. They do have a couple of limosines. GBH is old and doesn't drive anymore. He also has very tight security.I asked my Aunt if her life was better or worse since my Uncle was called to be a GA. He made more money as an attorney, and they sold a couple of business because of his extensive travel schedule. She say's she has no regrets, but they are not getting rich either.Just some information. - 03/05/2002 - K
From: DELETED

Sent: Monday, June 14, 1999 3:37 PM

Subject: Church Salaries

FYI

I used to work as a FULL TIME Church auditor. The First Presidency pull down salaries of $425,000 per year, each, and also full health insurance, life insurance, and other PERTS, including a brand new chauffered limousine, and of course, all expenses paid on Church business. President Hinckley has an office that takes up nearly half of one of the Church office building floors, complete with expensive hardwoods, marble in the sinks and all of the other amenities that would say you were in the Presence of the Pope and NOT in the presence of a humble apostle of the Lord.

Apostles pull down $125,000 per year in salary, and of course, the same benefits as the FIRST Presidency.

Seventies are at $72,000 per year in salary, plus benefits.

Now, some of these men refuse to accept any salary from the Church, as they are independently wealthy, having acquired their own wealth in their own businesses. But for the most part, that is not the case.

I have a relative who is in the 1Qot70. He made it known to his family that he gets a living allowance that breaks down as follows: The Church asked for copies of his last 5 year tax returns. They have a formula that essentially pays him the 60% of the average of the "highest" 3 years income. In addition, he is given a credit card for expenses when away on church business.

His travel is handled by Murdoch Travel or someone within the church's travel department. When he visits Stake Conferences, he travels in coach but always has miles built up to upgrade to Business Class. He also stays in the Stake President's home or in the home of a member. He never stays in a hotel unless absolutely necessary. In that case he uses Marriott or Holiday Inn due to LDS Church contracts with those chains.

He usually flies in on a Saturday morning and leaves on Sunday evening after the last session of Stake Conference.

When General Conference rolls around he is in meetings Monday thru Friday before GC. If a GA is not from Utah then they either stay with another GA or they stay in a hotel near Temple Square. They may use their credit cards for incidentals while in Utah.

All receipts must be turned in and all expenses accounted for. There is a very specific list of what the church issued credit card may be used for. Anything out of those guidelines are the responsibility of the individual.

Also, they have a per diem that is allowed for meals. It varies on location but they are not allowed, for instance, to have a $100 steak dinner just because they have the credit card. I believe the limit is $30 for dinners, $20 for lunch, and $10 for breakfast, or something like that.

Their clothing is paid for out of their own pockets. They are paid the standard IRS mileage rate for using their personal vehicle for church business. If they choose to take the reimbursement then mileage records must be submitted. If not, then they may use the mileage as a tax write-off on their tax return. 2009

I just learned at this Mormon Stories video interview that children of General Authorities are automatically admitted to BYU, and they pay no tuition. I
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