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Book Review: "The Book of Mammon" by Daymon Smith


cinepro

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Review (Short Version): I would kill myself if I worked in the Church office building.

Review (Long Version): "The Book of Mammon" is Daymon Smith's memoir/expose/psychoanalysis of the goings on in the "Church Office Building", wherein he worked for several months in the mid 2000's. As detailed in the appendix, the stories in the book are a mixture of personal experience and "related stories" that were verified by the author in some way.

Weighing in at 400 pages, the book is a long and very demanding read. Daymon opted for loose writing style that incorporates an approximation of modern English, King James English, and a generous helping of words seemingly made up on the spot. General Authorities are referred to with nicknames that might take a second to decipher ("Holla" = Holland, "$ Money" = President Monson, etc.) And the book ping pongs from corporate soap-opera to Church history to anthropology and elsewhere with seeming abandon.

Truth be told, by page 300 I recognized I only enjoyed the "narrative" aspects of the book and started skimming over the more tedious exposition. In fact, I can summarize the parts of the book I enjoyed rather succinctly:

- The stories of inter-departmental politics and pettiness.

- The stories of people trying to apply the principles of the gospel to a corporate work environment, and their resistance to opening their projects to "research" that might put them in a bad light.

- The insight on the process used to create the LDS edition of the scriptures in the late 70's

- The insight on how the manufacturing arm of the Church (i.e. printers, garment makers) can affect Church policy by overproduction and lack of controls that react to real world supply and demand (i.e. warehouses full of BoMs = "flood the Earth with the BoM, please, and buy copies to put your picture and testimony in")

- Most importantly, the detailed explanation of the poor accounting and checks and balances that allow not-insignificant amounts of money to be lost every year.

At my most generous, I would say that 100 pages of the book are really good and worth reading, 200 pages are so-so, and 100 pages made me want to stab my eyes with a fork. This book needed a skilled, ruthless editor!

But ultimately (and sadly), it's probably the best picture of how the Church-corporation is run that we'll get for quite a while. So if you've ever wondered what it's like inside the corporation that runs the Church, it's either this book, or get a job there.

Either way, it's fascinating to see how the sausage is made.

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Review (Short Version): I would kill myself if I worked in the Church office building.

Review (Long Version): "The Book of Mammon" is Daymon Smith's memoir/expose/psychoanalysis of the goings on in the "Church Office Building", wherein he worked for several months in the mid 2000's. As detailed in the appendix, the stories in the book are a mixture of personal experience and "related stories" that were verified by the author in some way.

He worked there for several months! Now that's what I'd call an insider!

Conclusion: The Church office building is inhabited by human beings. Now there's a shocker!

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He worked there for several months! Now that's what I'd call an insider!

Conclusion: The Church office building is inhabited by human beings. Now there's a shocker!

He definitely never became an insider. His stories are all about him butting heads and ruffling feathers.

Ultimately, the most forceful argument the book makes is that the COB is inhabited by human beings, and for that reason a little public financial accountability (no pun intended) might not be a bad thing.

He also mentions some of the things the Church subsidizes, such as the food in the COB cafeteria and tickets to Church-sponsored cultural events. It would be interesting to see a more detailed list of such things. I know that when I pay my tithing, it's not with the hope that the good people in the COB can get cheaper lunches at their cafeteria or save money when attending Utah-based Church-produced cultural events.

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.

He also mentions some of the things the Church subsidizes, such as the food in the COB cafeteria and tickets to Church-sponsored cultural events. It would be interesting to see a more detailed list of such things. I know that when I pay my tithing, it's not with the hope that the good people in the COB can get cheaper lunches at their cafeteria or save money when attending Utah-based Church-produced cultural events.

I have both eaten church cafeteria food and been to a Utah-based Church-produced cultural events. I can see why they might have to subsidize both.:P

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He definitely never became an insider. His stories are all about him butting heads and ruffling feathers.

Sounds like a good mindset with which to gain a solid, fair, unjaundiced picture of the inner workings of the place.

He also mentions some of the things the Church subsidizes, such as the food in the COB cafeteria and tickets to Church-sponsored cultural events. It would be interesting to see a more detailed list of such things. I know that when I pay my tithing, it's not with the hope that the good people in the COB can get cheaper lunches at their cafeteria or save money when attending Utah-based Church-produced cultural events.

I pay tithing in full awareness of the fact that the Church has paid employees.

I don't care overly much what particular shape their compensation packages take. If some of their compensation comes in the form of subsidized tickets to Church cultural events or reduced prices on hot dogs, that's fine with me. Nobody has ever seriously suggested that Church employment is lavishly overcompensated, and it would take a huge amount of evidence to convince me that it's a royal road to wealth (or even to secure middle-class status). I've often thought, in fact, that Church employees -- and I'm not talking here about BYU faculty -- should be paid more. I've had to cope with cases in which young, talented, idealistic people came on staff, and then, after a few years, realizing that they couldn't support their families, had to leave. The turn-over has led to substantial inefficiencies.

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Sounds like a good mindset with which to gain a solid, fair, unjaundiced picture of the inner workings of the place.

I can't recall the author ever claiming aspirations of solidness, fairness, or lack of jaundice. It's entirely possible he did so in the portions of the book I skimmed over, but I suspect from the tone and attitude of the book in general, even average readers will be acutely aware of the bias being brought to the stories.

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Review (Short Version): I would kill myself if I worked in the Church office building.

Do you think there might be one or two COB employees who are happy with their jobs?

Maybe?

Review (Long Version): "The Book of Mammon" is Daymon Smith's memoir/expose/psychoanalysis of the goings on in the "Church Office Building", wherein he worked for several months in the mid 2000's. As detailed in the appendix, the stories in the book are a mixture of personal experience and "related stories" that were verified by the author in some way.

If he worked there in the mid 2000's, how is he privy to details of the publication of the LDS scriptures in the 70's?

General Authorities are referred to with nicknames that might take a second to decipher ("Holla" = Holland, "$ Money" = President Monson, etc.) And the book ping pongs from corporate soap-opera to Church history to anthropology and elsewhere with seeming abandon.

And this doesn't give you any clues as to it's reliability?

- The stories of inter-departmental politics and pettiness.

- The stories of people trying to apply the principles of the gospel to a corporate work environment, and their resistance to opening their projects to "research" that might put them in a bad light.

- The insight on how the manufacturing arm of the Church (i.e. printers, garment makers) can affect Church policy by overproduction and lack of controls that react to real world supply and demand (i.e. warehouses full of BoMs = "flood the Earth with the BoM, please, and buy copies to put your picture and testimony in")

- Most importantly, the detailed explanation of the poor accounting and checks and balances that allow not-insignificant amounts of money to be lost every year.

A few months as an employee and he can give the inside scoop on all this? How did he obtain detailed explanations of

accounting procedures? Where did he work to get details about the "manufacturing arm" of the Church?

At my most generous, I would say that 100 pages of the book are really good and worth reading, 200 pages are so-so, and 100 pages made me want to stab my eyes with a fork. This book needed a skilled, ruthless editor!

Why should we trust the "really good" pages?

But ultimately (and sadly), it's probably the best picture of how the Church-corporation is run that we'll get for quite a while. So if you've ever wondered what it's like inside the corporation that runs the Church, it's either this book, or get a job there.

The best picture? Really?

Either way, it's fascinating to see how the sausage is made.

Sounds more like boloney than sausage.

Bernard

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I can't recall the author ever claiming aspirations of solidness, fairness, or lack of jaundice. It's entirely possible he did so in the portions of the book I skimmed over, but I suspect from the tone and attitude of the book in general, even average readers will be acutely aware of the bias being brought to the stories.

Then why do you assume it is an accurate enough picture to give it this recommendation:
it's probably the best picture of how the Church-corporation is run that we'll get for quite a while. So if you've ever wondered what it's like inside the corporation that runs the Church, it's either this book, or get a job there.
How do you know it's not another work in the style of Martha Nibley Beck?
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Do you think there might be one or two COB employees who are happy with their jobs?

Maybe?

The comment was referring to me specifically, in regards to my temperament in bureaucratic environments. I also wouldn't do well working for the government. I also am averse to Church callings that involve a great number of extra "meetings" in proportion to actual service or doing stuff.

It wasn't meant to be extrapolated as a judgment on the experience of every Church employee.

If he worked there in the mid 2000's, how is he privy to details of the publication of the LDS scriptures in the 70's?

A few months as an employee and he can give the inside scoop on all this? How did he obtain detailed explanations of

accounting procedures? Where did he work to get details about the "manufacturing arm" of the Church?

If you've read any of the interviews with Daymon or read up on his dissertation, you'll recall he did quite a bit of studying regarding Church history and the history of Correlation (including the preparation of the correlated scriptures). I'm not sure if this was before, during or after his job at the COB.

The best picture? Really?

As far as I can tell, this is the only account of experiences from inside the COB. I would be just as interested to hear about other people's experiences, good or bad, working for the Church inside the bureaucracy.

Sounds more like boloney than sausage.

Bernard

Could be. I'm just sharing my thoughts on the book.

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I pay tithing in full awareness of the fact that the Church has paid employees.

Is tithing money used to pay salaries?

Bernard

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As a side note, I recall a Stake Conference a number of years ago where Elder Oaks presided. He told a humorous story where he claimed he didn't trust certain "bureaucrats" in the Church Office Building. It was largely tongue in cheek, but it was pretty funny.

Best,

T-Shirt

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Then why do you assume it is an accurate enough picture to give it this recommendation:

That's not really a recommendation. I was just observing that very little has been written about what it is like to work in the COB. If someone were curious, there isn't a whole lot to go on. As far as I know, it's either read this book, or get a job there.

How do you know it's not another work in the style of Martha Nibley Beck?

I haven't read Beck's book, so I can't compare. But I don't recall any of Smith's stories being based on repressed memories, and it's my understanding that some of Beck's accusations were. That's a deal breaker for me.

Perhaps a better analogy of this book is the "Mouse Tales" series of books by David Koenig.

mouse-tales-a-behind-the-ears-look-at-disneyland.jpg

In these books, Koenig gives a "behind the scenes" account of what it is like to work at Disneyland. You get to hear all the interesting rumors and gossip about Disneyland employees/cast members. The books aren't written with malice or out of a hate of Disney; they're more of a peek behind the scenes for people that really like Disneyland and care about that kind of thing.

If someone were totally invested in the "image" being sold by Disneyland (and the LDS Church), these books might be damaging to their illusions. But for people who understand that these organizations are being run by real, fallible people, these books just serve to give a peek behind the curtain to show how the "magic" works.

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Sounds like a good mindset with which to gain a solid, fair, unjaundiced picture of the inner workings of the place.

I pay tithing in full awareness of the fact that the Church has paid employees.

I don't care overly much what particular shape their compensation packages take. If some of their compensation comes in the form of subsidized tickets to Church cultural events or reduced prices on hot dogs, that's fine with me. Nobody has ever seriously suggested that Church employment is lavishly overcompensated, and it would take a huge amount of evidence to convince me that it's a royal road to wealth (or even to secure middle-class status). I've often thought, in fact, that Church employees -- and I'm not talking here about BYU faculty -- should be paid more. I've had to cope with cases in which young, talented, idealistic people came on staff, and then, after a few years, realizing that they couldn't support their families, had to leave. The turn-over has led to substantial inefficiencies.

lol. You do more than just pay tithing in acknowledgment that the Church has paid employees.

I also am not bothered by the fact they have employees or that them might receive generous compensation. I just believe that the Church has a moral duty to disclose that fact to those whose donations are used to fund said compensation.

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As far as I've heard, just about everyone who works in this building is paid out of tithing money (with the exception of people who are "called" to work there without pay):

Who have you heard that from, and how do they know? Not that I'm doubting it -- I'm just curious. It's just that it's my understanding that the Church incorporates large sums of money that aren't from tithing, and I wonder what these funds are used for if not something of this nature.

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So this guy worked there a few months and expects his work of 400 pages to be accepted as credible and reliable????

Let's put it in perspective:

Michael Watson was personal secretary to Gordon Hinckley, spent decades in the COB. Yet, based on past threads here, many members here question his ability to accurately convey the First Presidency position in what he was obviously told was a longstanding position of Church leaders on the location of Hill Cumorah in a ONE page letter to another church leader!!!

400 pages after a few months when one page after decades wasn't accepted???

I think this Daymon Smith is living a pipe dream!

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That's not really a recommendation. I was just observing that very little has been written about what it is like to work in the COB. If someone were curious, there isn't a whole lot to go on. As far as I know, it's either read this book, or get a job there.

Sometimes between what you have and nothing, the best is nothing.
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1.

lol. You do more than just pay tithing in acknowledgment that the Church has paid employees.

I'm not sure that I understand what you mean.

I'm also not sure that you understand what I meant.

I also am not bothered by the fact they have employees or that them might receive generous compensation. I just believe that the Church has a moral duty to disclose that fact to those whose donations are used to fund said compensation.

Can there be any even minimally informed people out there who would be surprised or shocked to learn that Church secretaries and janitors and security personnel and printers and fleet managers and editors and maintenance workers and the like are paid? Or, in fact, who doesn't already know it?

2.

Michael Watson clarified the position of the Church in a subsequent letter cited by Professor William Hamblin.

The text was published nearly two decades ago.

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cinepro,

Thanks for the review. Very interesting.

Years ago I did a little bit of business with the church's Info Systems dept, and I noted a bureaucratic atmosphere similar to any large corporation. We have to remember that many church leaders have extensive experience in business, so I have faith that COB is under control, but not perfect.

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Michael Watson clarified the position of the Church in a subsequent letter cited by Professor William Hamblin.

The text was published nearly two decades ago.

Don't want to derail this thread but looks like it's off the first page anyway!

Never really understood the above response after reading all the past threads on this issue. Always came across to me that the first letter from the Office of The First Presidency has been a real problem for BYU professors. What and where is this supposed "clarification letter"? Has anyone ever seen it? Was it a letter on stationery from the Office of First Presidency, or just a personal email or fax? Was it more or less official than the letter from the Office of The First Presidency and how/who/what determined that?? If the letter fromThe Office From The First Presidency was not official, how was that determined and by whom. Was Bishop Brooks intentionally deceived from Salt Lake? And why was this second communication, which has never been produced, more official than one issued on letterhead from the First Presidency?

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Michael Watson clarified the position of the Church in a subsequent letter cited by Professor William Hamblin.

The text was published nearly two decades ago.

Don't want to derail this thread but looks like it's off the first page anyway!

Never really understood the above response after reading all the past threads on this issue. Always came across to me that the first letter from the Office of The First Presidency has been a real problem for BYU professors. What and where is this supposed "clarification letter"? Has anyone ever seen it? Was it a letter on stationery from the Office of First Presidency, or just a personal email or fax? Was it more or less official than the letter from the Office of The First Presidency and how/who/what determined that?? If the letter fromThe Office From The First Presidency was not official, how was that determined and by whom. Was Bishop Brooks intentionally deceived from Salt Lake? And why was this second communication, which has never been produced, more official than one issued on letterhead from the First Presidency?

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