Out of Touch Leaders

It’s easy for Mormons to scoff at elderly, celibate Catholic bishops making decisions about birth control for married Catholics, but I’m afraid our own GAs are equally insulated from problems of average Mormons. Except for July and August, General Authorities rarely sit through a three-hour block in their home ward. Even then they are unlikely to be asked to substitute in Primary or to accompany Scouts to camp.

When GAs do attend their home ward, it is a homogenous group of white, middle class Mormons. I doubt many GAs live in lower income areas on Salt Lake’s west side. Those whose addresses I’m aware of live in middle or upper middle class suburban neighborhoods. Those with high income careers before their Church calling occupy the hillsides overlooking the valley. Do they have any idea how their policies affect members outside their circle of associates?

Sure, GAs travel the world, visiting stakes and missions. But who do they talk to? Not to the drop outs and less actives who skip their meetings. Brief visits to the field allow little time for meeting members not holding stake callings. Information GAs receive about average Church members and their problems is filtered through anxious-to-please Stake Presidents.

Another isolating factor is that General Authorities aren’t subject to problems many Church members face. They never have to worry about losing their jobs, health insurance, and retirement benefits. GAs also receive perks beyond job security. In the past GAs, their wives and children enjoyed discounts from ZCMI—and possibly other Church businesses. Apparently, they can be exempted from certain policies. DMBA, the Church-owned health insurance company, has long excluded birth control prescriptions from coverage. I know of one instance where the daughter of a GA was denied insurance coverage for her BC pills. She called Daddy, and DMBA picked up the tab for her pills. Nice for her, but unfair to other women on Church health insurance.

General Authorities do work long hours—spending nearly every weekend visiting stakes and missions and speaking at conferences. Of course, they are exempted from ward callings. Do they realize that many ward members work long hours, sometimes at two jobs, and still need to fit service to their wards into the remaining hours of the week?

Mormons are told that Church activity is a blessing—and it is—to a point. When I was teaching full time, working on a master’s degree, and trying to meet the needs of five teenagers at home, I hated to hear my phone ring. I knew it would be someone from the ward asking me to do something I had no time for—and I didn’t feel I could say no.

A few years ago, the Church added another duty to callings, home and visiting teaching, temple work, and assignments at welfare farms and canneries. When the Church announced that weekly building cleaning would be done by ward members, I assumed it was a temporary measure to offset losses suffered by Church investments in a bad economy. I also assumed that expenses were being cut in other areas, but I haven’t noticed any. The rate of temple building—surely a major expense—has not been reduced. A very expensive renovation of the burned Provo Tabernacle into a temple is currently underway.

Certainly temples provide spiritual opportunities for Saints in far flung countries throughout the world, as well as jobs for faithful members in those countries. Still, the cost to members who are expected to finance temple building and maintenance—including four in Salt Lake County and four in operation or under construction in Utah County—needs to be considered.

In a wonderful piece in this month’s Sunstone MagazineDana Haight Cattani outlines the burdens the Saturday cleaning schedule places on ward members. She quotes an exhausted ward member who confided to her as they finished their meetinghouse chores, “I’d rather pay 11% tithing.”

Each week has only 168 hours, and family budgets are finite. When the Church demands too much time or money, individuals and families suffer. I suspect some of the drop out problem which currently concerns Church hierarchy is not due to hurt feelings, loss of belief, or desire for a glass of wine with dinner. Some of it is just plain fatigue—physical and financial.

Since Church leaders are fallible human beings who can’t always distinguish inspiration from desperation or correlation, GAs at every level need to leave their ivory towers periodically, spend a year as a regular ward member, and feel the effects of their own policies. Alternately, callings for all General Authorities could have time limits.

Course Correction

Course Correction is a retired English teacher who reads, writes, and helps immigrant women learn English. Her favorite lost cause is fighting for clean air along the Wasatch Front in Utah. She blogs at http://annmjohnson.wordpress.com

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79 Responses

  1. MB says:

    Since we church members are fallible human beings who can’t always distinguish inspiration from desperation or correlation, we all at every level need to leave our frantic feeling that we must respond positively to every request for service and as a regular ward member, choose to say no when there are other things we feel called to spend our time doing.

    The source of the problem cannot be just laid at the feet of a handful of general authorities. Each of us must give ourselves permission to proactively make wise choices, not just feel compelled to say yes to everything and then blame the effects of saying yes too much on someone else.

    • Amelia says:

      That is very true, MB. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t recognize the role our leadership structure plays in the problem. Especially given the over-emphasis on obedience as a marker of goodness and faith in the last several decades.

  2. Anon says:

    Last year I heard Elder Oaks say that when he is not assigned to a stake conference, rather than attending his “home ward” he gets in his car and drives randomly (?) to a meetinghouse, then attends whatever ward is meeting — and if I recall correctly, does so for the entire 3-hour block. So at least one of the brethren sees “regular” meetings (to the extent they can remain regular when the bishop suddenly has an apostle sitting next to him).

    Building cleaning? My schedule is busy, but I honestly don’t mind taking my turn. What I miss is having my kids (all out of my ward now) clean with me. It was a great family contribution to the Church. What disappoints me in my ward is that the instruction to involve the youth, made when member cleaning first arrived and reiterated since, never seemd to take hold. I recall well the physical labor we performed together as young men — whether at the welfare farm or at our meetinghouse. My own sons and daughter didn’t get nearly enough of that in their quorums and classes, in my opinion. I hope that in other wards the youth have a more prominent and sustained role.

    • Anon

      I agree that service is a great idea for the youth. The YM in my ward perform a lot of service in winter. They not only have to clean the sidewalks before Sunday meetings, they are assigned to clean driveways and walks for the many elderly in our ward.

  3. Ben S says:

    “General Authorities aren’t subject to problems many Church members face.” Really depends on the GA. Given our non-professional clergy, all of them have had to go to school, find a job, and provide for a family, and most of the 70s must continue to do so while fulfilling their calling. Otherwise, you’re talking about a very very small group.

  4. KLC says:

    I have read some valid comments about building cleaning being more than about saving money but as you point out, what about the time? This month is our turn to do it. You really need 3 families to do it in a reasonable amount of time, assume 6 adults or older teenagers, times 4 weeks is 24 assigments. This is also our month to do the nightly building check and lockup, 30 days and one person per day makes 30 assignments. This month we have two temple sealing assignments for 6 people each, that’s 12 assignments. We also have a DI assignment for 4 people and a bishop’s storehouse assignment for 4 people, that’s 8 assignments. So for this month we have 74 additional assignments in our ward over and beyond our own calliings, lessons, HT and VT, etc, etc. It gets to be a little too much sometimes. Every Sunday there are multiple sign up sheets going around, every Sunday the HP group leader receives multiple more. I only slightly joke that going to church is pretty much like going to work these days.

  5. SilverRain says:

    I have met a few GAs in person. The ones I have met are much more connected than you give them credit for.

    • mraynes says:

      Can you give examples of this, SilverRain? I doubt Course Correction is trying to malign the Brethren she is just sharing her experience. If you have a different experience then sharing it might give us a more complete picture and help us have more compassion when it seems like general authorities don’t get it.

      • SilverRain says:

        I would be happy to share my experiences, once I get to a real keyboard again.

        Though I will point out that the OP by get own admission has conjecture, generalities, and assumptions, but only one actual experience.

      • SilverRain says:

        I have been personally interviewed by a member of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy while serving a mission. The questions he asked about the people I was teaching and their needs (every walk of life from African refugees and government dependents to multi-generational members) were impressive. It was obvious that he cared about the one, and sincerely wanted to know how to meet their needs. It was clear by the nature of the changes made to that mission later that we were heard.

        Also, I have listened to a member of the Quorum of the 12 teach in person. All I care to share about that publicly is that I now know what it feels like to learn at the feet of the Savior. His perception was undeniable, and greatly humbling.

        I have had multiple other personal encounters with GAs and “lesser” priesthood leaders, interviewing to go to the temple, receive a sealing cancellation, and other experiences, with Temple Presidents, Mission Presidents, my Stake Presidents and Bishops. Though some of these were not ideal, and many exhibited some of the same problems so vociferously agitated against in the short term, I have invariably found that when I give my leadership time, when I have patiently and personally continued to speak what was in my heart, inspired by the Spirit and by hours of prayerful supplication, issues have invariably been resolved, often in miraculous ways.

        These people who have been called as our leaders are people, not perfectly infused with all wisdom. I have encountered pride, ignorance, judgmentalism, and disdain. But I have felt the indubitable hand of the Lord in teaching them and in teaching me, and I have been greatly humbled by it.

  6. Howard says:

    Great post!

    Sure, GAs travel the world, visiting stakes and missions. Yes, and depending on who they are they travel in the Huntsman Jet with several body guards! But who do they talk to This is a great question. I have searched Google Images looking for photos of President Monson with common members, there may be some, I’m sure he meets with them but I couldn’t find any, however there are plenty of images of him with VIPs! Their celebrity, age, income and Utah centric life really isolates them! Then there is the twice a year no questions please GC top down monolog show followed by their general inaccessibility to us for the rest of the year. She called Daddy, and DMBA picked up the tab Would Christ act this way?

  7. Diane says:

    What is DMBA?

  8. Mhana says:

    I actually don’t agree on the building cleaning thing but our ward has it down to an art. The woman in charge of it is very…disciplined. I’m not sure how to put it. Sometimes she comes off a little abrasive but she gets the job done. Our ward usually has five or six families assigned to building cleaning each week and since another ward meets in the building, as well as a branch, they have to provide people too. The result is that building cleaning typically takes half an hour and your obligation is quite limited. Last time my husband and I put away the hymnals and vacuumed the chapel. Our youth have assignments after church each week, emptying the garbages and picking up any loose paper or garbage that may have fallen.

    For us I think it has not been so much a burden as a change in attitude. When you realize how much work goes in to cleaning it (and you do that work yourself) you take better care of the place and feel more pride in it. Of course as I said the work goes quickly because of how organized the director is. Our turn comes up about quarterly. You never ever get to miss either. If you can’t be there on Saturday you have to come on a weeknight in advance and if you miss both you’re up for the next week. No weaseling. It took some getting used to and a lot of complaining but now everyone is on board more or less.

    On the other hand we don’t live in Utah so we don’t have these assignments to do temple work or the other things you described. Occasionally people are supposed to help at the Bishop’s storehouse, and obviously we’re supposed to do temple work on our own but I’ve never heard of anyone being assigned to go do sealings.

    • KLC says:

      We have 16 assignments this year to do sealings, 3 men and 3 women for each. On two separate months this year we have back to back assignments on consecutive days. About a third are at 5pm but two thirds are at 10am and 12:30pm, you can imagine how hard it is to fill those assignments.

  9. Jettboy says:

    It took me about the same amount of time to clean the LDS Church house as it did my own tiny house. At most it took about an hour and a half, or the length of a typical movie. To say “no” is good if actually necessary, but why we would say no is equally as important to question.

    Still, I couldn’t help but wonder something when reading the title. Is the leadership out of touch with members, or are the members out of touch with leaders?

  10. Diane says:

    I didn’t know that this was now mandatory because of budget constraints, the last time I attended, they made it seem like they were extending me a calling, a now after reading this, well let’s just say I feel used, and given the last OP on honesty I feel like this was less than well honest, had they told me the truth, I probably still have done it, but, now, that I know it was really because there’s not enough money in the budget, HMM

    • heidikins says:

      Course Correction clearly states it was her assumption that ward members clean the buildings due to budget cuts, she does not provide any hard evidence to support her assumption.

    • DefyGravity says:

      When they announced it in the ward I attend, the reason they gave was to save the church money.

      • Shelley says:

        Huh, the reason I was told in church was that if the members clean it, they would put more effort into keeping it clean.

    • Rachel says:

      I think it has very little, if anything to do about the money. I believe that it really is more about granting the members opportunity to be involved in their own houses of worship, with those they worship with. There really is something nice about serving together that can bring people together. Some of the best experiences I have had have been serving at church buildings or temples (pulling weeds, planting flowers), etc. Could the things I did have been done by a professional person? Of course. But I would have missed the opportunity of growth.

      And, one more thing concerning the money, it might just be possible that the brethren are very aware of the Worldwide members of the church, and recognize that localized tithing from other areas will not be sufficient for the costs of their own worship houses. Maybe they are being prudent and saving money where they can so they will better be able to meet the needs of members in the very poorest areas.

      It might also do well to remember that there was a time were local buildings were paid for Entirely by local people. My parents have many stories of personal (and other’s) sacrifices to pay for the stake center where I was baptized. A few extra hours a week, every few months (for those of us in more optimal wards) does not seem like a huge price to pay, especially when many of us have promised much more than that in sacred places. I do feel for those who live in wards where the burden is greater, and think there could be some help or changes made there.

  11. Eric says:

    What Anon said about Elder Oaks is true. A couple years ago, he dropped in on my daughter’s Relief Society meeting in the Salt Lake area (the teacher that day felt relieved that she had prepared her lesson!). Also, when he came to visit my stake (outside of Utah), he made a point of having a meal with regular members, not just the leadership. And at a Saturday evening stake meeting, he took unscreened questions from the congregation. I was impressed with his willingness to listen, not just to expound. There may be other leaders out of touch, but I don’t think he is.

    And as to church activities, I have to agree with MB. We’re entitled to our personal revelation, and if that means saying no, it means saying no.

    As to church cleaning, in my ward the person in charge is extremely well organized. When it’s our turn (once every four or five months), we’re asked to allow for about 90 minutes. But it has never taken more than half an hour.

    • Mhana and Eric,

      You are both fortunate to live in wards with such well-organized people in charge of the cleaning schedule. I suspect not everyone appreciates the reminders they get.

  12. heidikins says:

    I have been insured by several major health insurance companies, and not a single one of them will cover birth control–pills or IUD–until I have six children. This is not a church insurance issue, this is a universal healthcare issue.

    • Diane says:

      I’ve had the exact opposite problem, I’ve worked for several health insurance companies, the ones that were private,(i.e) Catholic run, refused to cover Birth Control and it was made Known from the first day. In fact, the Human Resource officer, came in the room and said and I quote,” Ladies, your birth control will not be covered.” and one of my male counterparts asked if Viagra was covered, he was told yes, Viagra is to men’s health, what birth control is to womens’

      Does anyone know if Viagra is covered under church health insurance?

      On the flip side when I worked for Public health insurance companies,(i.e) Aetna, United Health Care and Blue Cross/Shield, they (birth Control) was covered.

    • ECW says:

      It’s certainly not -universal- healthcare policy – I’ve had birth control covered by insurance under several plans.

    • DefyGravity says:

      As a student at BYU, birth control was not covered because I was on DMBA. That remained true when I was on DMBA as a dependent. But now that I’m on my own insurance it is covered.

  13. mraynes says:

    For all those who say cleaning the church is no big deal and not a burden I have to wonder where you live? Do you live in a suburban area with a strong and fully functioning ward? If so then it probably is true that cleaning the church building is not a burden. You maybe have to do it once every three or four months and then only for the year that your ward is in charge. I live in an urban ward with very intense needs. my husband cleans our building every. single. week. He does this along with five other people who have the resources and capabilities to do this. So not only does he have a full time job, he has mid-week meetings to go to because he’s in the bishopric, Sunday morning meetings and tithing responsibilities after church. So being gone from our family for two hours on Saturday to clean the building does present a very big burden for our family.

    And this is Course Correction’s point, for those with privileged backgrounds or with good ward support the Church’s policies present no problem. But those of us who have different circumstances do experience significant burdens from policies designed to address the needs of those in the Mormon corridor. I don’t believe this was malicious, only that the general authorities probably did not consider that the majority of the church membership has a very different experience than they do.

    • mraynes,

      I am certainly not accusing the GAs of being malicious or deliberatelyl insensitive. But how can they know the burden they place on families like yours when they get so little feedback from the trenches?

  14. Steve says:

    When I was at BYU, I was told that GA children get to attend tuition free. I knew one (who was a grandchild of President Benson) and he told me it covered tuition and associated fees and that he could live in housing at half cost.

    • Diane says:

      I don’t have a problem with that, because quite honestly its’ a common policy at any academic institution, children of professors get to go free or a reduced cost.

      • Rachel says:

        This is not to say that I have a problem with it, but just to say that General Authorities are not professors.

  15. anon says:

    In my area certain members are exempt from cleaning the building. This policy definitely causes hard feelings. I won’t clean the building again. I clean up after myself and my children anytime we use the building and that’s it. If I have to use the bathroom I go home.

  16. DefyGravity says:

    I just got a phone call saying that we have “signed up” to help clean the church. I know I hadn’t since we haven’t been in a while and I”m in the midst of about 3 different jobs. I asked my husband and he hadn’t signed up either. I thought this was really manipulative; saying that we had volunteered when we actually hadn’t. We were also given about 2 days notice that we had “volunteered.” I generally need more notice then that if I’m going to find the time. It irks me that it’s is just assumed that everyone can and will drop everything at 8 am on a Saturday to clean the church.

    The person I talked to on the phone told me to “bring the kids.” We don’t have any. This man works with my dad in High Priests but clearly hasn’t got a clue who I am. That’s fine, but you might want to at least find out basic information about who you are calling so it sounds like you at least sort of know who they are and care who they are. The whole thing felt manipulative and rude.

    As I was talking to him, all I could think was, “They church can spends piles of money on a mall, but can’t afford to clean their own buildings. You’d think taking care of the religious buildings would be more important then building huge new ones that have nothing to do with religion.”

    • Rachel says:

      My initial reaction was that that individual was clearly out of line, but a second later I wondered if he was necessarily the one who “volunteered” you. It is possible that he received a list with instructions to call, and that your name was placed on it by some other well meaning person. Maybe they noticed that you hadn’t been around for awhile. (This is not an excuse, just a hunch.) Or: it could be that in your ward certain families are assigned at certain times. I have been in wards that choose to do that assignment alphabetically, so the same 5 people are Not the ones to do it each week. I wonder if something like that happened, but even if it did, calling it “volunteering” is duplicitous at best.

      Lastly: I don’t actually think it is very much about the money. Does it save the church money? Of course, but I am almost certain that that is a positive by product for them. I genuinely believe it is more about giving people the opportunity to serve locally and be involved in where they worship, with those they worship with, which both seem to me to be very good things indeed. I have seen families that bring their kids with them, and make it about service that they do together, so while the gentleman should have had a better clue about who he was calling, my guess is that his intentions were pure-ish.

      • DefyGravity says:

        I don’t doubt he was trying to be nice. It’s the mentality that irritates me. First, if you are assigned people, say as much. Don’t call in volunteering. That just really rubs me the wrong way; it feels like guilt tripping. I’ve had similar beating around the bus and making people feel guilty experiences in this ward, and it drives me nuts. If you want me to do something; ask. Don’t try to make me feel bad or tell me I’m volunteering.

        Since my ward was told that cleaning the church was a financial issue, I’m taking them at their word. That’s what we were told, and frankly I think it’s ridiculous.

        Since we don’t go to church a lot and aren’t very involved with this ward, it also seems strange to be asked to clean up a mess we had no part in making. That, combined with asking us to bring more manpower and being told to volunteer feel extremely self-serving to me. That and the disrespect for people’s time by assuming we can just show up with a day’s notice is very off-putting. If you want someone to do something, be polite enough to ask in advance and don’t try to guilt them into it a day before.

    • Natsy says:

      Our ward just assigns people. They gave up asking for volunteers because it was the same people every week. I don’t ever go. I hate cleaning the church building. I attend a singles ward in a family ward building and sometimes it’s disgusting. I’m not cleaning up after other people’s children. That might be a bad attitude, but it’s the way I feel. I don’t make a mess. When I attended a singles ward in a building where only other singles wards went, I sometimes dropped by to help. There was a HUGE difference in how dirty the building got.

  17. jingleheimer says:

    A more significant issue in terms of “out-of-touchedness” has to do with fellowship. Think about what the 3-hour block does to opportunities for fellowshipping. Nobody lingers like they used to. Particularly if you are a primary worker who just spent two hours corralling kids. You are more than ready to go straight home at the end.

    The problem is this–most church leaders, from bishoprics on up, and maybe even local auxiliary presidencies, have a significant amount of fellowship that occurs as part of their callings. But a regular member is not going to have that. So its not just about GAs, but of course GAs are at the pinnacle, and they have always experienced deep fellowship with those they have worked with intensely over their careers. How could they ever recognize that there is a mass of people who do not get that fellowship at church? The bottom line is that church meetings are not remotely designed for fellowship, and this need is invisible to the vast majority of church leadership, from the local level right up to the top. There is no conspiracy or malevolence–it is just totally outside their experience. Of course they could pray about it–but first you have to feel a need.

  18. A bishop says:

    I can feel your frustration with certain aspects of how the church is being run. I agree that the church asks a lot and doing everything that is going on can be too much. There are things that frustrate me about the church. I understand how easy it is to feel like there are big disconnects going on. I have listed below a few comments on why I think GAs may be aware of our lives.

    I am currently serving as a bishop, and it is searing to see so much suffering in the lives of my members and to be so ineffective at providing solutions. Often, the best I can do is to be kind and listen and pray for them. My stake president sees many times more misery than I do. The really difficult situations get discussed with area 70s. Most full time 70s have spent decades in the bishop/stake president/regional 70s callings. The Area 70 involves huge amounts of time away from family and is unpaid. If you know one you can ask him about it. GAs have seen every kind of ugliness and human suffering and been the minister that tries to struggle through it, pray, and receive guidance in order to bless the lives of others. I have had several experiences where my best judgment was totally wrong and the Holy Ghost kept trying to break through and finally got the message through to me before I caused damage due to my stupidity. It is very humbling. Most GA’s have had these kind of experiences for decades. I dont’ think GAs have forgotten their years struggling with members who are facing the most vexing problems in life. Plus they have been facing their own sins and weaknesses–they are not fundamentally different from us.

    Also, I think that most successful spiritual people discover in their 40s or 50s that life is no longer about them but about the people they love and serve and the causes that they feel passionate about. I don’t know many GAs, but this fits my take on most of the ones I have known.

    An unrelated aside: There are 15 area presidencies (35 70’s) that live outside the US. The total # of GAs is 3+12+3+70+15 = 103. So about 1/3 of them don’t live in the US and many of them have lived outside the US at some point.

    • Howard says:

      Thanks for the balance we don’t have much access to that kind of experience.

      It is difficult for me to watch and hear about leaders struggling with the Spirit because I know many outside the church who receive Him easily and clearly. While seeking the Spirit is encouraged, I wish this skill were actually taught by the church it would make things so much better for everyone!

      Mormons love to hate their suffering but non-physical suffering is caused by craving for and clinging to the way we want things to be instead of how they are. It is a combination of lust and denial. As soon as we accept the way things are the suffering stops!

      • Diane says:

        So are you saying that we, more specifically, women in the church should just stop hoping for change and then we will all be happier? because to me that’s not happiness, that’s just quiet desperation

      • Howard says:

        No. I’m addressing suffering not working for change. It is possible to work to change things without suffering as a result of them. If you’re being physically tortured and you cannot stop it you will suffer, but non-physical suffering is optional.

      • Annie B. says:

        Non-physical suffering is optional? That doesn’t make sense to me at all Howard. There are cases where we can lessen our suffering by focusing on solutions, or other positives, and sometimes remove ourselves from painful/harmful situations. If you mean that self-inflicted suffering is optional then, yeah, I can agree with that. Suffering caused by an outside source can be healed from and minimized, but the initial suffering is not optional, unless you’re a pile of sand.

      • Howard says:

        By pile of sand I assume you mean emotionless, if so, no that’s not it and it’s not focusing on solutions or positives although both of those are great ideas, it is acceptance. Try it, it works!

      • Howard,

        Overcoming craving and accepting things as they are–these great Buddhist teachings work for members of any religion.

      • Annie B. says:

        Howard, so if I’m raped or beaten or abandoned I don’t have to suffer from it emotionally at all if I just accept the circumstances? I’m still not with you. Can you give an example?

    • A bishop,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. You are right that GAs are not fundamentally different from the rest of us. I think part of the problem is the pedestal on which we place them. Several readers have commented about the need for our own personal revelation and affirmation of Church policies, and I totally agree.

  19. Davis says:

    I’m sorry, but having met multiple GAs in many different situations, your conjecture about what they do and know make you much more out of touch than any of them are.

    • Howard says:

      Please share!

    • mraynes says:

      As I said to another commenter, can you give examples of this? I doubt Course Correction is trying to malign the Brethren she is just sharing her experience. If you have a different experience then sharing it might give us a more complete picture and help us have more compassion when it seems like general authorities don’t get it.

      Additionally, your tone and actual words are in violation of our comment policy. specifically #3. Please share how your experience differs from the OP’s but leave the name calling out.

  20. Cari says:

    We recently moved from an area with high economic needs in Salt Lake County. The ward we attended was chronically understaffed with one of the bishops serving 3 times as bishop. We were lucky if 100 people attended sacrament meeting and 10 children in primary total was a good day. Many of the people were elderly with health reasons making it difficult for them to serve. We also had a high mobility rate. Getting people to clean the building was difficult let alone callings and other assignments that the ward was asked to – canning, temple work, cleaning, etc was incredible difficult.

    I really wish the ward had combine with another one and that we paid someone to clean the building. Thanks for the post Course Correction – I think you bring up some valid points.

  21. Rachel says:

    In the very best situation, cleaning the church with ward members gives people the opportunity to be more closely involved with their places of worship, and the people they worship with. In the very worst situation, where it is the exact same (few) members every week, I wonder is something could be done, such as having youth or others take out the trash on Sundays immediately after church. That was one of my responsibilities as a youth that each class (beehives, miamaids, deacons, etc.) took turns with each week, no one group was doing it too often, but it made the work for Saturday helpers more bearable.

    Concerning the out of touchness of leaders: it may not be as bad as it seems, if only because those leaders also have families (in addition to those leaders being human). Many of their children and children’s families are practicing Latter-day Saints and see and experience some things that their father, grandfather, brother, husband, etc. may not. They can talk to them about their experiences, and I suppose I am very hopefully assuming that they do this.

    Other General Authorities (including Apostles) have family members that are not practicing, and they can talk to them about that too. I intimately know about 6 grandchildren of Apostles, and 5 of the 6 are not active. Of those 5, 2 are homosexual and 3 are atheists and drug users. This is not a critique of any of those things, just an acknowledgement that GA’s lives and relationships may not be as cushy as we think.

    They also likely have family members who are without work, or who are struggling in school, or who may be single parents, etc. etc. Everyone suffers. Everyone’s family suffers.

  22. Annie B. says:

    I think the level of out-of-touchness is less than what this post states it is, and I have to say that I think whatever out of touch-ness is there, is not necessarily for the same reasons stated in this post (although I think the reasons stated in this post are worth consideration). I think the divide is partly generational, (which wouldn’t be remedied by having younger family members because, well, the generational divide is still there between me and my dad even though we know each other really well and converse with each other frequently). And I think the divide partly has to do with all male leadership (which wouldn’t be remedied by a leader being married to a woman, because even though my husband and I know each other really well, that doesn’t automatically make him able to empathize with me on everything and know all of my struggles). I feel like church leaders are out of touch with some of the things I struggle with, not because their privileged and never had to struggle like I do, but just because their struggles were/are different than mine.

    I have to say that most of the leaders I’ve come in contact with have been compassionate, but some have not. I don’t have as much of a problem with leaders not being compassionate (no one’s perfect) as I have a problem with leaders not being compassionate on the basis of the remnants of faulty church doctrine, or faulty personal interpretations of doctrine or policies.

    • Rachel says:

      Annie: the two issues you brought up (generational, and all-male) are exactly where I think any real out-of-touchness live. I agree that those things cannot be fixed simply by living with, or knowing, others in other categories.

    • Natsy says:

      Interestingly enough, my Dad was talking about this just the other day. He thinks there should be a cut off age for ALL GA, so that they can get some young(er) blood in there.

      I was talking to my sister about the differences between her generation and mine and even they were quite pronounced (we’re six years apart). I thought “I can’t wait till her age group gets into the leadership” because her group seems so much more open-minded than even mine.

  23. E says:

    I haven’t read the other comments, so forgive me if this is repetitive, but what leads the author of the OP to her conclusions about what general authorities are exposed to? My impression is that overwhelmingly they are “regular people” who have had pretty ordinary life experiences prior to being called as GA’s. Except for the First Presidency and Q12, they seem to continue to have ordinary life experiences after they are called. They have spent a lot of years serving in their own wards and stakes prior to being called, and I imagine their spouses and children continue to serve in their wards and stakes. I get the feeling that the GA lifestyle described in the OP is the product of the author’s imagination rather than any actual knowledge or experience.

    • E,

      My personal knowledge of GA’s is limited to residing in the same ward with one, the same stake as another, and knowing a couple of children of GA’s. If you read the Ensign, you are aware of the background of GA’s before their callings. Most are successful business or professional men. More recently, many are CES employees. I don’t recall many from the ranks of more ordinary members–such as men whose jobs have been phased out by changes in the modern economy.

  24. Rameumptom says:

    Given that most of the 12 apostles were not called until their 50s or 60s, they spent most of their lives in the real world. They went to college, raised their children, suffered illnesses, sent their kids on missions and college, paid their bills, etc.
    I don’t see anything remotely similar to Catholic bishops, most of whom entered the seminary when they were young, never married, never had to pay their own bills, never had to do many of the things each of the apostles had to do for decades.
    So, your entire OP is a non sequitur.

  25. Diane says:

    I think former D.A of Philadelphia Lynne Abrams said it best this morning, the problems that we are seeing today has to with institutions, whether it be the Catholic Church, Penn State, ( and I’m going to say the Mormon Church) places institution image above the people that they are meant to serve. When leadership fails to act appropriately(i.e) reporting abuse, or failing to take into account members needs they need to be sent a message that this will not be tolerated and this week, as least in terms of the Catholic Church/ Penn State, the message has been made clear. Looking the other way will not be tolerated, indeed, it will get you a jail sentence.

    What will it take for the Mormon Church and its Leaders to stop treating its members so carelessly and hold themselves to the same accountability they hold their members to?

    • Diane,

      I love your idea of accountability for leaders. Members are held accountable for beliefs as well as behavior in TR interviews. The only way leaders are accountable to members is by members giving up and leaving. Surely, not the best method of feedback.

  26. lanwenyi says:

    After he retired, my father worked for the church in the PM group caring for the buildings in my (then) stake. He loved it. When the church changed the policy he, and all but one other person in the PM group, were laid off. They were read a letter from the GAs stating that the reorganization was due to a need to save funds. I heard the same thing in a similar letter read over the pulpit. It was only recently that I heard the “get everyone involved in caring for the buildings b/c it makes them more connected to it, and they’ll treat it better”. It struck me as trying to make the policy more “palatable” to most people.

    I, like most others in my area, would prefer a return to the PM group taking care of the building. My area is relatively affluent and we share the building care with another ward (alternate months). My ward does the alphabetical roster for assignments. My group comes up once each month that my ward is assigned (6x/yr). About half my group shows up and it takes about 3hrs to clean. I’m told some of the other groups have much lower attendance and it takes 4+ hrs to clean.

    I never sign up for the Temple, DI, or Bishop’s Storehouse assignments. I simply do not have time. My own family comes first. When I was a SAHM, I wanted to help at the DI or Storehouse assignments, but couldn’t bring my kids, so I never did. I’m fairly certain the same families end up doing those each month b/c the signup sheets are always empty.

    I have no idea how out of touch GA’s are, but I suspect that many are limited by their own experiences (just as I am by mine). I do know that every time a GA has come to my stake, no one but the upper-echelons (all wealthy, with older children, and only 1 working parent) have access. I think that GAs need more exposure to un-censored questions/concerns from regular members without fear of reprisals to those members for asking those questions or voicing those concerns. I’m happy to hear that Elder Oaks does that, but I have never experienced it with him or any other GA.

    • Ianwenyi,
      Your experience with GAs visiting your stake matches my own. You’ve pointed out that the problem is not only little contact between GAs andregular members, but the fear from members that questions and doubts would bring reprisals.

      • MB says:

        My experience in my far away stake is that when a general authority comes he specifically asks to visit members in their homes and that the local leadership let him know who would find that to be a blessing. The result is that the well-to-do and the comfortable have less access than some of the not-so-well-off and the ones dealing with major challenges whom he or she spends time with.
        I don’t think they think that’s enough. There’s not enough time in the few days they are here. But I do see it as a concerted effort to understand and to help.

  27. Brem says:

    I like the idea of time limits, though I also see benefits of the tenure system. I think one of the main problems (as pointed out in another recent Exponent post) is that women have limited terms of service and the men are in for a long time leading to an imbalance of influence and power.

    I personally like that members are asked to clean the buildings and I think slowing down temple building would be a step in the wrong direction. I also think that leaders are far more in touch than this post gives them credit for. But I definitely agree that the homogeneity is a problem. That may have even more to do with being out of touch than the fact they are so busy with Church service.

  28. Glenn Thigpen says:

    I think that the General Authorities are much more in tune with the Lord than most other members of the Church. And I think that the Lord is pretty much in touch with all generations.

    I do not know if any of the readers of this blog remember just why the three hour block was instituted in the first place. It is because some “out of touch” General Authority found that there were members in poor countries such as Brazil that were spending some like a quarter of their income attending meetings.


    • Annie B. says:

      “I think that the General Authorities are much more in tune with the Lord than most other members of the Church.”

      I disagree. I think the general membership of the church, and even general population of religious people outside the LDS church are as in tune with God as the population of General Authorities. I think the idea that church leaders have a closeness to God, or a knowledge of God greater than that of non LDS church leaders is a false one.

      • Dave says:

        Interesting perspective that completely discredits the sacred callings these men have. They are called to represent Christ. To say they are no more in tune with God than any other people and have no “closeness to God” entirely discredits that. I listen to these men at general conference with the full belief that they receive inspiration and are in tune with the Lord more than any other group of people on the planet. I look for what wisdom I can learn from them. It seems that is the whole purpose of conference and why we sustain them as our leaders, even prophets, seers, and revelators.

      • Annie B. says:

        I also took upon myself the name of Christ when I was baptized. Am I discrediting the sacred callings of church leaders, or are you discrediting mine and other’s just like me? I believe church leaders are just as fallible as any other member of the church (or any non-member) and serve in their callings, not because they are more in tune with God, or have a monopoly on God, but because they are the ones called, and willing to do the job, and that is very honorable of them. I do not discredit the sacred callings and services church leaders perform, but I do very strongly value the sacred callings and services of each individual who is an active disciple of Christ in their daily lives, and I believe Christ strongly values their sacred callings as well, just as he values the sacred callings of Church leaders.

        And I did not say that church leaders have no closeness to God. I said I don’t believe they have a closeness to God greater than that of non-LDS church-leaders.

  29. Emily U says:

    I HATE the cleaning schedule!!!!!!

    Mostly because our building (especially the bathrooms) is never really clean anymore! I’ve done my time cleaning and I try to do a good job (and I always take a bathroom or two) but seriously, to get such a big building really clean takes longer than a few hours once a week. Especially since most of us have small children in tow!

    How about getting professional cleaners in AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH and having members do maintenance?

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  30. Dave says:

    Your post starts with the assumption that only those who regularly attend the 3-hour block can understand the issues of day-to-day life associated with our beliefs. I think that couldn’t be further from the truth.

    Second, you say general authorities only minister to the strong and active members. Again, that is also not true and probably based on the assumption that sine you don’t see or hear about what they do other than the public meeting appearances, they aren’t doing those things.

    Third, you claim that general authorities are not subject to the worries other members are, such as losing their jobs, etc. These are men who have lived long lives encountering and battling with all the trials and struggles of live. In their current situations, where most are retired (but not all), they have a wealth of experience to draw on.

    My observation is that church demands on family life has decreased over time, not the other way around.

    Regarding church cleaning, as so many other have said, it has been a wonderful thing for me and my family. Yes, it eats into our weekend, but every time I clean the church, I am reminded of how blessed we are to have nice facilities and how wonderful that our church operates so efficiently exactly because members chip in. It is not just about saving money. Rather, participating in the building cleaning helps each of us feel responsibility for the care of the building and grow through service. The church could easily afford professional cleaning. I suspect the main motivation for it is NOT a financial one.

  31. Diane says:

    Second, you say general authorities only minister to the strong and active members. Again, that is also not true and probably based on the assumption that sine you don’t see or hear about what they do other than the public meeting appearances, they aren’t doing those things.

    I can testify with 100% veracity that no, they only minister to strong members. I wrote my leadership and they did me the disservice of basically only sending me what basically amounted to a form letter. They receive letters from members like me who are having problems with leadership and they ignore it.

  32. Ziff says:

    Good points, Course Correction. For me, a related issue that just grates is the letter from the First Presidency that’s periodically read in sacrament meeting that says “Don’t write to us. Talk to your local leaders.” To me, the not-so-subtle message of this letter is “We don’t know about what’s bothering you, and we don’t care to know!

  1. July 27, 2012

    […] Check out my post “Out of Touch Leaders,”  on the exponent.com  here. […]

  2. July 29, 2016

    […] Out of Touch Leaders BY COURSE CORRECTION […]

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