The commercialization of religion

In my first post in the miracles of Mormonism series, I touched briefly on something that needs further exploration.

Like it or not, we humans are economically driven.  From the very moment that Adam was cast out of the Garden of Eden and told that he would eat his bread only by the sweat of his brow, we became dependent upon the need for compensation.  Compensation allows us to live, survive, to feed and support our families, and to maintain a particular lifestyle.  We became inexorably tied to the laws of economics.

As mankind progressed, societies progressed.  Soon we outgrew hunting and gathering, began to farm and store our own food, trade, and specialize.  In the course of this specialization man began to look for all kinds of opportunities to make money.

It was only a matter of time before some would realize that religion, or the desire to believe in something, was a pretty fundamental need of mankind.  Where there is demand there will also be supply.  That’s how economics works; people will pay you for giving them what they want.

But there are lots of problems with this kind of commercialization when it comes to religion, and just as one could have predicted the emergence of the occupation of “preaching for money”, economics can also forecast some of the consequences of this model.

When you receive regular compensation for something, that something becomes your product.  If you are going to make a living off selling that product, then now you have to market that product.  In a very real way, you’re simply in business, and the basic rules of business and product marketing and management can now be extrapolated to you – even if what you’re selling is religion.

As a product manager myself, I can testify that once you start selling a product, you become very interested in selling more of that product.  After all, your sustenance depends upon it.  So you begin to naturally see how your product is received.  Over time, your product evolves. 

Soon you start carving out the portions that people don’t care for, or that are too “expensive”, and don’t offer sufficient return.  At the same time you start adding to your product things that you know your consumers want, things that will keep them buying your product, and things that will make your product more enticing to others.  You start to look at ways to expand your customer base and reach new market segments.

This kind of product evolution is inevitable and inescapable, and the economics are undeniable.  As long as one derives their sustenance from the customers they serve, they’re interests will be naturally shaped by their customer satisfaction.

A business cannot survive, after all, selling a product that nobody wants.

But when we’re talking about the commercialization of religion, where doctrine and teachings are the product being sold, then the evolution of that product becomes a scary thing, for the longer time goes by, the more that product begins to represent the will of the people, and not the purer, original version.

The commercialization of religion is a large part of what led to the great apostasy, or falling away, where the truth of the gospel could not be had in its fullness upon the face of the earth.  For the doctrines of man began to intercede with the will of the Father, and the original product of Christ – his true church, began to evolve.  Over time, unpopular principles began to fade away until they were gone entirely.  In their place came new principles that made the product more enticing to the people.  This evolution was sustained and propelled by leaders seeking increasingly to protect their own power and wealth than to maintain the purity of the gospel despite its difficulty.

The Bible tells us that straight is the way unto salvation, and few there be that find it, but broad is the way that leads to damnation.  But the commercialization of the doctrines of the church forced the opposite – they evolved to become widely popular, to appeal to the masses.  For the more customers purchasing the product, the larger the organization could grow, the more wealth could flow in, and the more power would be given to those who were already in authority.  Soon it would become an organization led by the profit of the world, and not by a prophet of God.

These evolutionary changes in doctrine over time are readily apparent to one who truly studies and understands the Bible.

Think for instance, on the doctrine that man is saved by grace alone, in spite of what works they do on earth.  If I derived my sustenance from my congregation, and my ability to appeal to the masses, what better doctrine is there!  Come to my church.  Be baptized.  Then, it doesn’t matter what you do, at least not in terms of your eternal salvation.  Act as you will, sin, it’s okay.  Just come to church!  What a marketable concept, even if the references in the Bible that speak to the contrary are clear, plain, and readily available (which I cover here). 

Does that sound like the path of God that is supposed to be straight and narrow, with few there be that find it (as described in scripture), or some man-made highway, manufactured to accommodate and capitalize on the greatest possible traffic?

What about baptizing infants.  Marketers today are learning more and more that they need to start early, marketing to toddlers, for if you can sell them on a brand while they’re young, you exponentially increase the likelihood that they will remain your customers as they grow older.  Is this a practice supported by doctrine, or by the commercialization of religion?

Is it heresy, or wisdom to ask such questions?  I submit that it’s our eternal salvation that’s at stake, and no matter how unpopular the question, if it needs to be asked, it should be, for none should trifle with the souls of man.

But such commercialization was not necessary, it was chosen.

One of the miracles of Mormonism is in its lay ministry.  It’s in the fact that none of the local or area leaders are paid for their work.  Missionaries aren’t paid for their time and labor.  They take two years out of their lives to teach the gospel, travel to foreign lands, learn foreign languages, and all at their own expense.  Bishops, teachers, priests, stake presidents, primary, Sunday school, and all those who are called to directly preside over and administer to their local congregations are entirely volunteer.  They did not ask for their positions, nor did they aspire to them.  They were simply asked to serve, and being willing, were called to sacrifice their own time and effort as the needs demand.  Such a notion gives even more context to the Mormon miracle I describe here.

So when the bishop gives guidance or counsel, or when missionaries exhort someone to pray and ask the Lord if the Church is true, if Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God, and if the Book of Mormon is true, there is no financial motive.  They have nothing to gain, save only an eternal friendship and the blessings that come to those who so unselfishly serve.

But in spite of a lay ministry, of an organization made up of volunteers, and not paid professionals, and in spite of the difficulty around being a Mormon, and being required to live and abide by the commandments of God, the church is flourishing.  The work of the Lord rolls forth, free from the grasp of economic principles that do not apply, and free from the evolutionary changes that corrupted the true gospel of Christ so long ago.  The church today has been restored in its fullness, back to the blessed “version 1.0” of the gospel of Christ, led not by the profit of man, but by a prophet of God.

I extend an invitation to all to ask such critical questions, to read the Book of Mormon, and to pray and ask God if it is not true.  I invite all to read and learn of Joseph Smith, the great latter day prophet who restored the church of Christ.  I invite all to discover for themselves the miracles of Mormonism.



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20 replies
  1. Margaret says:

    Great post and true. I remember a pastor from my American Baptist days who was ousted because he preached too much from the Bible. People stopped giving money to support him.

  2. Margaret says:

    BTW, I have noticed that you have no ads on this blog, and no pleas for contributions. There is no way to give a voluntary contribution…

  3. Margaret says:

    I’m sure many would contribute if they could, but i’m thinking it might be good if you explained why you are doing this blog without asking for money.

  4. Rusty Lindquist says:

    You are so sweet to mention that, and so perceptive to notice. I guess the truth of the matter is that I never even considered trying to monetize my effort. The notion of it just seems contradictory. Somewhat akin to Christ’s apostles asking for personal donations as they went about working miracles… except of course that I’m far inferior to them, and I don’t do miracles (LOL). But the concept is the same. I just can’t imagine that happening. I think, for me, I’m simply happy with the opportunity I have to share my views, to encourage and uplift others, and to teach the gospel of christ. The blessings inherent to that endeavor are far more than sufficient for me.

  5. ponderingpastor says:

    Ah friend … once again, generally good post, but pretty one-sided. I would expect that. At risk of being accused of having a financial stake in full-time paid ministry, may I offer the following.

    1. The church does not pay my full value. If I decided to go into any other business, I could earn a great deal more than I do in the church. I’d also have a lot fewer headaches, more predictable hours, and overall better financial benefits. (I could double my pay in private industry.) Most of us don’t do this for the personal economic benefit. Will economics play a factor? As you note, how can it not? Jesus speaks about money in the Gospels more than any other topic.

    But see, that’s the point. We’re not talking about an either-or scenario. We’re talking about combining the hours, demands, and headaches of a normal job on top of those you’re dealing with now – that’s the life of a Mormon bishop, who doesn’t accept any personal money from their congregation. Is it harder? For sure. But my point is that then you’re dealing with purety of purpose without the apparent conflict of interest nor the unintended consequences of commercialized religion on doctrine over time.

    To be clear, I’m not questioning your motives (especially yours), for I know that exceptions to the rule always exist. But this post isn’t about any individual, it’s about how commercialized religion has affected doctrine over thousands of years.

    2. We have active lay ministry and visitation, and yet there are many important leadership matters that I do that are not done by lay persons. You’ve not seen me here recently because of a 73 hour week and a 53 hour week back to back. Those are important ministry matters I’ve been addressing. I’d be unable to count the number of ministry hours conducted by lay members these past two weeks. I can’t count that high.

    I appreciate your hard work, working that much takes it’s toll on anyone. Now imagine if you had a 40 hour work week on top of that so that you could put food on the table! But I’m with you, God bless those volunteer efforts. I don’t care what religion you’re in, if you volunteer to tech the gospel and promote good with no thought for personal gain, then in my mind, you deserve the blessings.

    3. When I look at the economics of congregational life and what is preached and taught, it is actually more likely that I’ll be proclaiming the Gospel and urging non-economically beneficial ministries than will the general membership. Just one quick example. We have an inexpensive ($150) worship service mid-week attended by about 20 people. We don’t take an offering at this service. It is not cost effective to continue it in difficult economic times for the congregation. I won’t let it be cut if it is for economic reasons. Our managers hate this. I can give you dozens of examples just in our congregation of ministries that are not cost-effective.

    That’s fantastic. I’m with you – economics should play no role in whether or not you teach the gospel. If the session attracts people, and people walk away with value, then it should be continued. But this is a good example of this post in action (on a microcosmic scale) – These managers are putting pressure on their pastors to change church meeting structures because they don’t make money. Where does it stop?

    We shouldn’t stop teaching the gospel because it makes economic sense, we should teach the gospel because we feel passionate about it, and appreciate the impact it has in peoples lives – as it sounds like you’re doing. I wish that more were like you, or that your managers would see the same perspective as you. Perhaps there’s some way we could bottle you up and ship you out to all their other congregations. Keep it up!

    4. Infant baptism has nothing to do with economics. It is supported in scripture. It is a tremendous witness to God’s grace.

    I’ll do a separate post about this, because it should be noted the apparent incongruence with this teaching. That somehow Christ’s atonement is sufficient to save men in spite of their works, but somehow insufficient to save infants who have no control over their baptism. Somehow that seems neither merciful, or just, although it does make economic sense.

    5. I’d propose to you that requiring a tithe (as I understand the Mormons do) is an easier economic way to build a church than through voluntary contributions based on one’s willingness to give out of gratefulness for what God has done. Frankly, grace is a very hard sell … law and adherence to the ordinances of the church is easier economically to support.

    I couldn’t agree more. In terms of building a church, the tithe is the perfect way to do it (it’s inspired doctrine after all). But that’s beside the point, which is that when people stand to gain from their efforts, they adapt their product to maximize returns as we see from number 4.

    6. You wrote: “Bishops, teachers, priests, stake presidents, primary, Sunday school, and all those who are called to directly preside over and administer to their local congregations are entirely volunteer. They did not ask for their positions, nor did they aspire to them. They were simply asked to serve, and being willing, were called to sacrifice their own time and effort as the needs demand.” You’ve just described my call to the ministry. I had a well-paying job when God called me out of that into ordained ministry. I did not ask or aspire to this position, in fact, I resisted it for quite some time. It required 4 years a very significant financial commitment, I estimate something on the order of $90,000. Many more tens of thousands of dollars annually from lost earning power for me to serve God continues to this day.

    I don’t know much about how it works with Lutherans, but I’m assuming your call was a personal revelation, and the expense was to go to training, but still it was your decision to go. You chose to do it, paid the money to get trained, and aspired to the calling. While I completely trust your personal motives and financial sacrifices, the model creates problems.

    7. Scripture is clear in both the Old Testament and New (including the Gospels) that the people of God are to take care of the leaders of the church financially.

    Go ahead and post the particular references so we can discuss them individually.

    8. You write: “Think for instance, on the doctrine that man is saved by grace alone, in spite of what works they do on earth. If I derived my sustenance from my congregation, and my ability to appeal to the masses, what better doctrine is there! Come to my church. Be baptized. Then, it doesn’t matter what you do, at least not in terms of your eternal salvation. Act as you will, sin, it’s okay. Just come to church!” That caricature of Christian churches is really beneath you Rusty. If this is what you believe we teach, then shame on you for not digging deeper! Besides, it would be impossible to sustain a church economically with such drivel. Why give at all?

    It’s a broad generalization, but when you’re extrapolating consequences from a trend that transpires over thousands of years, that’s what you’re left with. We’ve discussed at length the additional incongrunce of the doctrine that works have no play in salvation with scripture (which I summarize here).

    I think that’s enough for today.

    Pondering Pastor

  6. Margaret says:

    I agree that there are a lot of wonderful pastors out there who are not in it for the money. My hometown is a small farming community, <400 people, and at the time I lived there, it supported 2 pastors. They barely scraped by. Now, the tendancy there is to have “united” churches that cater to more than one denomination, a concept I don’t really understand.

    I;m curious. How did your call come?

  7. Margaret says:

    Don’t forget our Bishops have 2 Counselors, clerks, High Priest group leaders, Elders’ Quorum presidents, Relief Society presidents, home and visiting teachers, and other willing hands to help them. There are also many resources from Church Headquarters to assist when needed. It is most certainly well organized, a house of order. In my opinion, only the Lord Himself could put a Church together so well!

  8. ponderingpastor says:


    Wow! You are pretty firmly entrenched in this. I didn’t realize this was so important to Mormons (I’ll assume that it is held by Mormons … correct me if it is simply an individually held belief). It certainly colors how you look at Christians and the churches that are called into being by the Holy Spirit. So, as a Christian pastor who is paid, what I say and do is suspect because I’m paid. That flies in the face of the intent behind Krister Stendahl’s statements you quote in another post. We are not walking here on equal ground, but rather I get the disadvantage because of studying and learning and being paid. 🙁

    Pondering Pastor

    From Rusty:

    The belief in the apostasy is shared (and one we’re fully entrenched in), but this theory about the implications of commercialized religion on doctrine over time is mine. At least I’ve never read it anywhere else.

    You’re not at a disadvantage for studying and learning, no, but for getting paid, yes. That’s simply economics. Economics seeks (among other things) to understand incentives. When ones livelihood is tied to the doctrine they preach, then there’s economic incentive to make that doctrine appealing, compelling, marketable, and sellable. Doctrine becomes your product, and when people stop buying your doctrine, you go out of business.

    In your instance, I don’t believe that you’d change anything simply because people didn’t like it. But we’re not talking about you; we’re talking about the vast infrastructure of Christian churches over thousands of years, where there is tremendous wealth and power at stake over an innumerous quantity of wealthy, powerful individuals who are not anxious to see that well dry up.

    Under this commercialized structure, there simply will be downward pressure from managers (as you described above) on their pastors to evolve in ways that keep the money flowing in. You illustrated a perfect example of this in describing how your managers were putting pressure on you to cancel a meeting that was no longer economically compelling.

    This specific illustration is a small evolution, but proof of economic pressures changing the way the church works. When distributed over thousands of years, a turn of only one degree can end up creating a chasm between what once was, and what now is. And that chasm is doctrine. In so many ways it is not now what it once was.

    But my vocalizing this theory didn’t create the problem, I’m just describing it. It’s not my fault it exists, nor yours, for it was the case long before either of us came into the equation. But you are a part of it you’re subject to it, and that is a disadvantage for sure.

    Imagine if I were not a Mormon, but was curious about Mormonism, and went to my local pastor and said “hey, I was thinking about looking into Mormonism”, do you think I could trust that their reply wouldn’t be somewhat biased because their financial livelihood depended upon customers like me coming back?

    Simply by virtue of taking money from your congregation, the whole subject of incentives comes into play. Now for everything that you say I would be forced to wonder if there was not some financial motivation behind your advice. It could be that you, yourself, aren’t at all affected by the financial threat of losing your membership, but what about your managers? If your congregation started dwindling, would they not hold you accountable? And why? Because it’s not just your finances at risk, the very structure relies on people like you at the grass-roots level pulling in money from their congregations. So now there’s downward pressure on you to start selling.

    In short, and again, it’s not at all about you, it’s about the adverse affects on doctrine due to the pressures of commercialized religion over long periods of time.

  9. ponderingpastor says:

    And Mormons are immune to this pressure because? I’d suggest that once a church becomes accustomed to $$, it has an influence. That’s whether or not the leaders are paid. Expenses and overhead are issues too.

    What about social pressures? The revelation that African Americans are eligible for membership and leadership came in response to societal factors. The teaching about polygamy likewise resulted from societal influences.

    Pondering Pastor

    Why are Mormons immune to this pressure? That’s the point of this post – we have a lay ministry. Our leaders don’t derive their wealth from their congregations.

    But you are right that once a church has money it has influence. Mormons believe in paying a full tithe – 10% of your income, but that money goes directly to building churches, temples, etc. Including vast and ongoing humanitarian contributions (to which I’ll dedicate a post).

    But using money for influence is different than being influenced by money. That’s why our contributions don’t go to bishops, teachers, priests, primary leaders, presidents, quorum leaders, or any other local leaders. Having a lay ministry means we’re not pressured to change doctrine to be appealing to the masses in order to put food on the table.

    You specifically mention two things that have changed in Mormonism over the years. But change is not indicative of corruption. There is a time and a season for all things. We are not required to conduct animal sacrifices anymore. Why? Because there was a time and a season for that. We’re not required to do much of what the Old Testament outlines as appropriate anymore, why? Because there was time and a season for that.

    But I do find it encouraging that in no comments so far has anyone tried to disprove or dispute my theory. But rather they seem to be indirect concessions that indeed, it’s a problem.

  10. ponderingpastor says:

    The problem with the challenge to prove or disprove the theory is that it is impossible to do. It assumes too much. Your theory depends upon the assumption of apostasy and that the Holy Spirit has abandoned the church. I reject both assumptions. Mormons at the very least hold apostasy. If I reject the assumptions upon which the conclusion rests, I reject the conclusion.

    Has corruption happened in history? Yes. God then raises up leaders and faithful people to bring an end to the corruption.

    Scriptural basis of compensation:
    Mark 6:7-13 (Luke 9:1ff)
    Deuteronomy 25:4
    1 Corinthians 9:1-18 where Paul describes a “right” that he chooses not to take.
    1 Timothy 5:17-18
    Numbers 18:21-32
    Deuteronomy 12:19
    Deuteronomy 14:29
    (to name a few)

    Pondering Pastor

    From Rusty: I understand your dilema. As you stated, there is sufficient evidence in scripture of corruption of doctrine, then you provided an example above of this theory in action even today, and even the very existence of the Lutheran faith is evidince of corruption of doctrine over time (that’s why Luther began it), but to accept the apostacy puts you in a predicament as a pastor. So it’s better to say that it cannot be disputed because it can’t be disproved, inspite of the evidence to support it. But I wasn’t expecting you to come out and concede that it’s a problem. But it’s important for me to convey nonetheless, because it’s ramifications are real, compelling, and require attention.

  11. ponderingpastor says:

    I don’t know what has happened recently Rusty. You’ve become much more harsh in your comments to me. What happened to the dialogue? This last note can be understood as saying that I have to protect my job so that I’ll do anything … including lie about the nature of the church.

    I’m willing to concede that error creeps into the church. I’m not willing to concede that God has abandoned the church, and you want to make that about me or about the Christian Church. I see God at work correcting the abuses.

    So, my willingness to accept that the Christian church has flaws becomes proof to you that the Christian church is apostate.

    At the same time, you are unwilling to entertain the possibility that corruption has entered the Mormon faith. I’ve not engaged in that kind of discussion. You’ve laid out the Mormon understanding of things, and I’ve laid the Lutheran understanding beside it. I’ve not attacked you.

    “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sin, God who is faithful and just will free us from our sin …”

    (Post may have suffered from editing)

    Pondering Pastor

  12. Rusty Lindquist says:

    I’m sorry if it feels I’ve attacked you with this post, I was afraid it would come across that way. Let me say first and foremost that I have tremendous respect for you. Indeed, you’re the first leader of any other religion that I’ve genuinely been able to say that about, to your credit. You’re genuine, sincere, with an obvious good heart and good intent. I’ve tried to reiterate in almost every reply to your comments that this post is not about you, but about the problems with the structure at large. In fact, I’ve tried to specifically illustrate how the theory I outline here still persists, in spite of people like you who would die to keep the doctrine pure.

    But I too have a dilemma; one of the primary things I must necessarily address is the notion of the apostasy, for obvious reasons. But I can’t address the apostasy without talking about portions of what made that possible – including corrupted doctrine because of people who value money and power more than truth and right. And unfortunately, much of that blame over the last couple thousand years lies in the lap of those who are financially tied to how successfully their doctrine is received. And much as I’d wish it were otherwise, since I do believe you are an exception, I can’t do that without risking offense to you or seeming to attack you.

    While there are lots of other ways the apostasy took place, and doctrine changed, and the priesthood failed to be passed down, and the line of prophets broken, one of the clearest and easiest to understand (and surely one of the most difficult to dispute), is due to the commercialization of religion. There’s simply no way around the implications of the economics of paid religion. But let me reiterate that I don’t believe you personally fall into that category.

    I hope you know I’m sincere in what I say. You’ve provided your own proof that you’re fighting economic-driven changes even today, showing me clearly (though I wouldn’t have doubted before), that you’re a different soul, and I respect you for that.


  13. ponderingpastor says:

    And so … I’d ask that you reconsider the Mormon teaching about apostasy. I can’t be the only one. Is it indeed possible that the Holy Spirit has worked at keeping the church vital and faithful … even in some of the elements of the church that Mormons consider to be in error (like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity). From outside the Mormon church, this apostasy belief sounds very convenient and self-serving. Joseph Smith, befuddled by the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, is “led” to the understanding that the Christian church strayed from original teaching about who God is and who Jesus Christ is, and restores the right teaching. Even Luther didn’t go that far.

    One of the largest differences between us is that I trust that God remained active and made sure God’s people were not completely led astray over thousands of years, as God promised in scripture. I’ll admit that there have been challenges to the faith but also believe that God has not let those stand. I believe God is more powerful than evil that insists on corrupting God’s church. In every time and age there have been faithful people of God who have preserved right teaching.

    OK, I was feeling particularly vulnerable the past week or so, and probably took your comments more personally than I usually do. Thank you for your kind and considerate words.

    Pondering Pastor

  14. Rusty Lindquist says:

    First, you’re welcome, I wouldn’t say them if I didn’t mean them.

    To address your comments, in truth, Joseph wasn’t befuddled by the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. That conundrum had actually never crossed his mind. Rather, he was befuddled by the hotness with which all the various Christian sects fought each other for converts, arguing over almost every point of doctrine, none being able to agree, and all wanting the convert (which brings us back full circle – the need for paying customers).

    But I will reconsider the apostasy. In fact, since it is so core, I’ve decided to do a full set of posts on it. I’ll do one parent (or master) post that lists all the various evidences and ways that it came about (commercialization is actually only a very small part), and each will link back to its own post exploring that particular one in more depth.

    To keep the focus of this post though, while I do indeed believe that the Lord worked to keep elements of truth intact, and don’t believe that any one church was entirely in error, there also comes a point of diminishing returns in trying to fix things versus starting over… because of the paid religious superstructure of the church. I’ll explore this in great detail in my parent post about the apostasy, covering just how probable it would be for the doctrine of any of the main Christian churches of the day to change such dramatically core beliefs like their view of the Godhead, etc.

    In short, I think I’ll be able to show that if such core beliefs had to change, it wouldn’t be possible through the existing structure, which is sustained solely off the income of the followers. A radical change like that would have caused a revolt, and for a business such as commercialized religion, a revolt means you soon go bankrupt. And when you have so many thousands of rich, powerful men working to retain their wealth and power by keeping their customers happy, they’d be highly loathe to come out and say “oh, we were wrong, the Trinity is actually three separate beings” or any other such change. In short, I’ll describe in detail how (if the apostasy indeed did take place), the only way to correct it would be to do just as we believe he did – a full restoration from the ground up. It’ll be a valuable set of posts to have a discussion around.

  15. ponderingpastor says:

    Unfortunately, Rusty, this is disingenuous. It arises from the assumption that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity (among others) is wrong. And now that the doctrine is wrong, we have to find out how it can be fixed. The only way to fix it is to throw everything out and start over? How convenient! I maintain your assumption is wrong, therefore what follows is wrong also.

    I read a recent speech from one of the current prophets of your church indicating that Joseph Smith was confused and befuddled (my terms) about the Holy Trinity (my assumption…see below), that he couldn’t make sense of it. That’s why I reported that as truth.

    Quote: “My additional testimony regarding this resplendent doctrine is that in preparation for His millennial latter-day reign, Jesus has already come, more than once, in embodied majestic glory. In the spring of 1820, a 14-year-old boy, confused by many of these very doctrines that still confuse much of Christendom, went into a grove of trees to pray. In answer to that earnest prayer offered at such a tender age, the Father and the Son appeared as embodied, glorified beings to the boy prophet Joseph Smith. That day marked the beginning of the return of the true, New Testament gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the restoration of other prophetic truths offered from Adam down to the present day.”

    Isn’t it interesting that this devolves to the same arguing about every point of doctrine? Maybe instead of apostasy, this is a broader reality that the more we put God in a box, the more problems we have.

    I’ll be gone for a week and will not be taking the time to look in on these posts until after my return.

    Pondering Pastor

  16. ryan says:

    My first blog comment–don’t make fun of me too much.

    The way I read the Joseph Smith story, I thought Joseph was confused about which church to join. He wasn’t going to the grove to find out about the Holy Trinity. But what an answer! A humble 14-year-old boy actually sees God the Father and Jesus Christ as separate beings! This news should be shouted from the housetops! All those passages that seem to contradict each other confuse the literal interpreter of biblical verse. At the time of Joseph’s childhood, different sects would take sides and argue over points of doctrine. I’m sure one of those points was the nature of the Trinity, but also include other topics this blog has addressed–for example, faith and/or works, authority, apostasy, and infant baptism. Joseph’s vision refuted any further argument about the Nicene Creed description of the Godhead. He saw two personages who introduced themselves and God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. You can’t convince Joseph Smith after this that Jesus is “one substance with the Father.”

    So we are left to no longer argue over the nature of the Godhead, but to choose to believe whether Joseph Smith really did see this vision–I do. How wonderful it is when I pray to picture a Father who looks like me and cares for me and loves me just like my earthly father does. Because I can feel his love more naturally, more of my prayers make it past the ceiling.

    But I stray off topic. This branch of dialogue is about economics of religion and how it has the potential for corruption in paid ministries. I think religion should change over time, because the trials a congregation faces now are different than the trials faced 100 years ago. I don’t see change as corruption or apostasy, but as a need to keep up. And hopefully most church leaders have as pure intent as Pondering Pastor. But all it takes is a conflict of interest and one less-than- pure soul to start the ball rolling. And over 321 years, the creed of Christianity had evolved into what I interpret as a compromise of many opinions, however pure in intent.

    Mormonism is based upon direct revelation. And better yet, it is ongoing. Mormons have a living prophet to give counsel and direction as the world around us changes (Oh, and by the way, this prophet is paid, but a salary that doesn’t change with how much tithing/donations come in). The organization of Mormonism with lay local leadership allows less potential than paid ministries to stray off course in the tide of popular opinion.

    Thank you, Rusty, for this blog. I’ve never considered this theory as a means to deviate off course and head toward a “falling away.” But your theory rings true.

    I hope my naivety will not offend. I’m just glad Joseph’s vision helped me cradle the fact that I was created in God’s image, literally.


  17. Thlete says:

    Love the well thought-out post and replies. So great to hear the respectful discourse between Pondering Pastor and Rusty. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see the calm, respectful debate here in stark contrast to the Salt Lake Tribune opinion blogs that I unfortunately read sometimes. Truly, both sides have good points and it makes for a good debate.

  18. James says:

    This is an interesting discussion, but one that is somewhat uninformed.

    Rusty has not touched on the fact that General Authorities receive a “living allowance” for their services.

    Also, the set-up that the LDS Church has no is not anywhere near what they started out with. For example:

    1. Many stake patriarchs once made a living off of giving blessings.

    2. Stake Presidents were paid $300.00 a year in 1904.

    3. Tithing was a source of General Authority pay until the recent corporate success.

    4. Church Presidents have used tithing funds as a source of personal loans.

    I suggest that all read D. Michael Quinn’s article on this subject. It is very interesting.

  19. Rusty Lindquist says:

    Not uninformed at all, I said clearly in my post that it was the local leaders that were not paid. Only the Prophet, Apostles, and First Quroum of the Seventy receive a living allowance (which is just that, and nothing more), but then the Bible itself says that the members should care for the prophet and the apostles financially, so they can focus on the work.

    What’s uninformed is to attempt to compare their living allowance with the wealth the highest leaders of other Christian religions receive, and the chain of compensation all the way down to the local leaders.


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