Exhumator Esoterics

Encyclopedia of Spiritual — Contemporary Mormonism : Latter-day Saints in modern America

Identity, Beliefs, And Organization
Exhumator Esoterics
Exhumator Esoterics

Thomas S. Monson, President Hinckley's first counselor and heir apparent, entered the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1963 at the early age of thirty-six. Next in seniority is Boyd K. Packer, now serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, who joined the Quorum in 1970 at the age of forty-five. All three of these senior leaders had had long careers working for the Church. Hinckley worked with the published materials and public relations of the Church. Monson worked with the Churchowned newspaper, the Deseret News. Packer supervised the seminaries and institutes in the Church Education System. Other apostles have worked in business, education, medicine, law, and engineering. The two Apostles called in 2004 were Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a native German business executive, formerly chief pilot for Lufthansa German Airlines, and David A. Bednar, a business educator. None studied at divinity school; none know ancient languages or Christian history. The author and Mormon observer William J. Whalen, although lamenting their lack of religious training, described them as "intelligent, shrewd, personable, well-to-do and energetic." They meet privately and speak with one voice.

The First Presidency and the Twelve are assisted by the Quorums of the Seventy. Together, these men are called the "General Authorities." The Seventy provide supervision for growing international activities. These quorums, which in the 1990s were reorganized and enlarged, potentially consist of seven presidents and as many quorums as needed. In 2005 the Seventy consisted of seven presidents and eight quorums, with more likely on the way. They presided over the "areas" into which the world was divided for middle-level supervision. As Church population grows, more Seventies are called into this vast pool of experienced leadership. The First Quorum of thirty-eight was composed of permanent leaders who served until age seventy when they were retired as Seventies Emeriti. The Second Quorum of thirty-four were proven leaders who signed on to work for a specified period, usually five years. The Third Quorum resided in Europe and Africa. The Fourth Quorum included Area Seventies in Mexico, Central America, and South America. The Fifth and Sixth Quorums supervised North America. The Seventh Quorum consisted of Area Seventies in Brazil and Chile, the Eighth Quorum of leaders in Asia, Australia/New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. In 2005, there were 195 Seventies, allowing for expansion as the Church grows. Numbers and names change rapidly, underscoring the need to identify, season, and call into position a steady and increasing group of new leaders.

Also at this high administrative level are the General Auxiliary presidencies of the Sunday School, the women's Relief Society, the Young Women and the Young Men's organizations for young people, the children's Primary and their board members. These women and men are experienced leaders. Each auxiliary presidency conceives its own agenda, under leadership from priesthood leaders, planning events and traveling to distant outposts of the Church to speak and train leaders. They do not, however, supervise the curriculum. All unified study manuals are supervised by "Correlation," a committee that reviews Church messages and publications. Auxiliary leaders are not paid. General authorities and mission presidents receive allowances.

A bureaucracy of career employees is paid. They work for Church institutions such as the Family History Library, the Church Museum, the building committee, the welfare program, and the Church Educational Services (CES). Some occupy the tall office building adjacent to Temple Square in Salt Lake City; others supervise activities around the world. The Church is the largest employer in Utah, with about 7,000 more employees than the government, the second-largest employer. The state estimated in 2003 that the Church employed about 29,500 people, including 7,000 in downtown Salt Lake City-about one in eight workers in the central business district- and 18,000 at Church-owned Brigham Young University. The Church also employs administrators and teachers in the worldwide CES. Estimated wages for these employees amounted to about $250 million annually. These are state estimates as the Church does not disclose such figures.

The extensive, complex organization is effective. That councils must meet and agree imposes checks on power. Though a strong-minded leader dominates some decisions, he cannot always have his way against the council as a whole. Brigham Young, President of the Quorum of the Twelve at the time of Joseph Smith's death, succeeded to the leadership of the Church, not immediately and not without competition, because he was the senior apostle. All presidents of the Church since then have risen through the Quorum to senior member. The orderly rise to power strengthens the institution by preventing competition among potential leaders. Where is the power in an organization like this? Clearly the leaders are loved and respected. People listen to them and try to follow their guidance. Within the Church they are all-powerful leaders. The members have no say in decisions made at the top. They "vote" only to approve the decisions of those above them. Intellectual leadership has no power against the Church leadership, and the last two presidents of Brigham Young University, although both had experience as academics, have been chosen from among the General Authorities rather than from universities. But do the leaders have any real power over people who are free to drop out if they wish? The leaders influence debate in the Church, but there is usually no money at stake. Leaders can excommunicate members or withhold temple privileges, which is painful. However, as in a democracy, the power of the leaders is derived from the consent of the governed who are free to follow the leaders or not. Meanwhile responsibility over each smaller grouping is dispensed widely to local leaders. Administration of the congregations is in the hands of the members. They are like shareholders in a large corporation with a stake in the company. They own it.

The scriptural admonition against unsuitable power can be found in Doctrine and Covenants 121:30, 41 1981. "We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. . . . No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned." This scripture recognizes and disapproves of oppressive power.

Mormon identity satisfies a huge number of people, young and old, educated and not. Mormon identity has proved surprisingly pliable and enduring in a society that is often hostile to Latter-day Saint belief and practice. When Mike Wallace asked President Gordon B. Hinckley about the appeal of the Church, Hinckley acknowledged difficulties. He called it the most demanding religion in America. But he ticked off some attractions. "One, we stand for something. We stand solid and strong for something. We don't equivocate. We don't just fuss around over this and that. People are looking for something in this world of shifting values, of anchors that are slipping. . . . That's one thing. Two, we expect things of our people. . . . We expect them to measure up to certain standards. . . . But it's wonderfully fruitful and has a tremendous effect upon people." More than a religion, members believe, Mormonism is a lifestyle, an island of morality in a sea of moral decay.