Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker

I’ve brought my children west from the alluvial soil of Missouri to the sandy chapparal of Southern California for a few weeks. The first-order pleasures of being home include conversation in our domestic dialect marked at every intersection by shared memory and emotional habit, and free babysitting. Among the second order pleasures, though, are the stacks of wedding announcements at the counter to be perused at lunch and the piles of old Church News issues beside the recliner.

I’ve heard it suggested that the Church bureaucracy takes its structure from the corporate world, and thus tends to promote and reward successful professionals—lawyers, businessmen, doctors—with special status. This frequency with which I’ve heard this asserted suggests to me that it’s become a sort of received wisdom in the Church, and indeed experience often supports the idea: I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had a stake presidency composed of two attorneys and a judge. But an issue of the Church News plucked at random from the pile beside the recliner offers a nano-set of data that suggests it might be time to revise the received wisdom. Four new stake reorganizations were announced in the June 17th edition; the new stake presidencies include one ophthalmalogist, two small businessmen, three managers of small businesses, a clerk, a registered nurse, two office managers, a low-level banker, and an auto technician. Hardly the implacable phalanx advancing through the corridors of corporate power that one might expect.

A more interesting question, though, might be why the Church News includes this information in the first place. It could be nothing but a relic from a time when the Church was small enough that a phrase like “general manager at Nave Trading” signified something specific to most Saints. It could be, precisely, a demonstration of the disjunctions and conjunctions between worldly and Churchly power. It could be an aspect of the sociological function of newspapers in creating imagined communities: “Lyman William Willardson, 56, registered nurse at Mountain View Hospital” is significantly more suggestive than merely “Lyman William Willardson.” At the very least it’s a published reminder of our lay priesthood. Or it could be—and this is the explanation I prefer—an acknowledgement that the stakes of a latter-day Zion are driven into earth, and that the integrity of the tent depends in part on the security of those stakes in loam, clay, or granite. Pitch the tent, drive the stakes, and stretch wide the curtains; bring in the earth on your feet.

54 comments for “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker

  1. This makes me really curious. One could gather a bunch of Church News reports, note the occupations of each one, assign them the median salary of their profession and then see how this occupational income relates to callings.

    Not that this would prove any deep theory about corporate power or the unholy influence of money. Showing a correlation isn’t causality. But it would be sort of interesting to know how, in this regard, wealth and callings relate.

  2. I love the Grondahl cartoon that shows the church parking lot during different leadership meetings. During EQP meetings, the cars are beaters with coat antenna hangers. During bishopric meetings, the cars are Cadillacs and Lincolns. And during SP meetings, the cars are Mercedes, BMWs, Rolls and Bentleys.

  3. Most priesthood leaders I’ve known in my 13 years as a convert member in the South & Midwest have been low- to mid-level in income and “professional status”. Not all, but most.

  4. So, if there is a positive correlation, what theories might explain this finding? The one I’ve heard the most among “liberal intellectuals” is that the Church is tending toward the antithesis of encouraging the Christian humble servant ideal and becoming corrupted by the corporate mileau it finds itself in. Amongst “conservatives” the theory I’ve heard the most is something to the effect that Christ-like attributes lead to success in spiritual realms as well as secular realms.

    Personally, I think exploring such theories (and their historical roots, e.g. Weber’s Protestant ethic) would be more interesting than an empirical analysis itself (my casual empiricism suggests there is positive but far from perfect correlation).

  5. Obeying the law (usually) brings the promised blessings of said law. We are encouraged to be successful in the world so that we can use riches to bless the lives of others. Success usually brings financial, intellectual, and \”people networking abilities\” wealth.

    If you were God, who would you pick to run your church? The perpetual student? The \”I don\’t like this job\” quitter? The one who can\’t even tie his own shoes? Generally I would pick the successful person. Don\’t get me wrong a \”lowly\” plumber, mechanic, farmer, etc. can be very successful (and occasionally are called into positions of authority) and even if these professions don\’t normal develop \”people skills\” (as USUALLY does lawyers, managers, etc) they can be blessed to fulfill their position.

    My point is that unless a specific person is required for a particular leadership position, why not use someone who already has leadership experience?

  6. It is a huge mistake to think that your average lawyer has gained any sort of meaningful leadership experience on the job. I won’t speak to the other professions, not having had the chance to observe them.

  7. I can’t help but be a bit flippant here, ed – “why not use someone who already has leadership experience?” Because we are taught not to rely on the arm of flesh, but on The Spirit. Though leadership experience does not preclude one from being led by The Spirit, such experience does not guarantee that one will be more sensitive to The Spirit or open to His promptings. Trying to establish a causal relationship here is pure folly. For every Moses raised in a king’s court, there is a Korihor who was, by all accounts, a great leader of men. For every Enoch, raised from simplicity to greatness by The Lord, there is a King Saul, esteemed in the eyes of man, but far from the thoughts and intents of God. Success in the world does not equal success in God’s kingdom, nor does failure in one necessarily lead to failure in the other.

    If I were God, I would pick the person that drew closest to me and listened to my communications to run my church, those that kept themselves pure and unspotted and humble . . .

  8. “Success in the world does not equal success in God’s kingdom”

    This is certainly true, but are the two positively or nagatively correlated– and how strongly?

  9. I remember reading once someone discussing Christ who introduced him as, “Jesus, the late carpenter from Nazareth,” but I don’t think that this is entirely accurate, since Nazareth doesn’t seem to have existed as such during Jesus’s lifetime. Still, I think the carpenter part does apply…

  10. Frank McIntyre are the two [success in the world and success in God’s Kingdom] positively or negatively correlated–and how strongly?

    I submit that if there is any correlation, then it is negative. As for the large number of people who have worldly success who fulfill high-level callings in the church, my guess is that a large number of these people fall into the category of those who perform miracles in God’s name, but who (at judgment day) Jesus will repudiate.

    A key sign of apostasy throughout the Book of Mormon is the development of a class system. It’s worth noting that any claim that worldly qualifications correlate to spiritual qualifications implicitly claims that a lack of worldly qualifications correlates to a lack of spiritual qualifications. Those wishing to venture down such a road might be better served by a church where people meet weekly to give thanks to God for being so much better qualified than their poor, unsuccessful neighbors. The Book of Mormon describes one such church in some detail.

  11. The correlation is probably more positive at the general authority level than at the local SP and under level.

    DKL, where do you get that Nazareth didn’t exist in Jesus’ day? The archaeology of the place has it predating Jesus, as described in the article in the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Indeed, many scholars believe, contra the NT, that Jesus was actually born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem. (I remember Bible Review published a debate on this subject once.)

  12. Kevin, Yeah, I’ve read all that stuff. A pretty good summary/cross section of it is in the Wikipedia article on Nazareth. But it’s all part of the sophistry that is Bible Commentary. If you read carefully, you’ll see that, in a very subtle way, they’re avoiding the basic issue that if you showed up in Israel in the first century AD and asked how to get to Nazareth, nobody would have had the faintest idea what you were talking about.

    The place currently known as Nazareth was basically a trading stop. It was never known as “Nazareth” until much later, so even if it was a village by Christ’s time, it was not a village known as “Nazareth.” It’s odd to read “archeological” accounts of Nazareth, because they discuss the presence of bones in nearby caves that are up the mountain from the “village” as evidence that the village was inhabited in Old Testament times. It’s not in the Old Testament, the Talmud, the Apocrypha, Paul’s writings, or the accounts of any ancient geographer.

    The Old Testament does, of course, predict that the Messiah will be a Nazarene. Given the fact that there is abundant evidence that the authors of the Gospels lacked even a cursory familiarity with the landscape and geography of ancient Israel and that they often misunderstood key points of Judaism, Jewish politics, and Jewish tradition (As I pointed out in a comment I made at BCC in discussion I had with Nate on Historicity on the New Testament–I’ve evan argued at length that Paul cannot possibly be a Pharasee, because he doesn’t seem to have the vaguest clue what it means, but I can’t find that link), it seems to me that someone, somewhere made a mistake analogous to supposing that all Mennonites hail from Mennon.

  13. Oops, that first sentence in the final paragraph should use the term Nazarite, as in Samson the Nazarite, who took a vow, etc., not Nazarene.

  14. Purposeful ignorance is not the ideal of humility the Lord had in mind. Should we seek out those who have tried to avoid reading the scriptures the most and call them to positions of authority? I think not.

  15. Mark Butler, A friend of mine has a book with articles on obscure religious movements. One such movement that I read about (I think they were called Abcedarians) taught that since the spirit was the ultimate source of knowledge, illiteracy was desirable. This struck me as a brilliant non sequitur, and I find this position to be attractive for reasons that are best described as vaguely Monty-Python-esque. Besides, I’m only barely literate, so it’s not quite too late for me to join. (Just imagine the blogs…)

  16. DKL, Personally I think the implicit advocacy of scriptural and religious illiteracy, not so far from Abcedarianism is one of the greatest threats the Church faces. Elder McConkie once said that “This generation has not distinguished itself as students of the scriptures”. And that was the generation that Nate referred to as scriptorians. Think what he might say today.

    I believe President Hinckley feels the same way, and that is part of the reason for “Be Smart” and the Perpetual Education Fund, that education on the whole, with an adequate focus on scripture study, makes us better members, better leaders, better parents, and of course better providers. The education == materialism thing is unwarranted. The Lord had something much more in mind when he revealed that the glory of God is intelligence.

    I look on true intelligence as a force multiplier, something that makes our meager mortal efforts more effective, like sharpening a blade, to use a scriptural metaphor. Many do not want members to waste time studying the “mysteries” – I say the consequence of soteriological minimalism is far worse.

    The influence of the gospel, and the best theology in particular should proceed outward like light from a city on a hill. Soteriological minimalism says to me, comply with this list of ten or twenty rules, then do whatever the *expletive* you want. Doesn’t sound like a Zion society to me – certainly not the way the nineteenth century LDS thought of it either.

    Medieval scholasticism, for all its limitations is a better model than this no man’s land we have created between religion and secularity, a DMZ that we zealously defend even within the Church. I say that we should clear up the mine fields and establish a bustling traffic each way, with pre-eminence to revealed religion, of course. That means lots of education, not purely after the manner of men, nor the diluted fideism of the soteriological minimalists, but extensive intellectual enterprises from a perspective of faith.

    That is what BYU and FARMS really ought to be good for. If not, they are probably not worth the investment. One can get an education with a secular bias anywhere.

  17. I was reminded of the power of the spirit as it relates to inspired leadership when a high counselor, though maybe a product of “the diluted fideism of the soteriological minimalists”, spoke in our ward yesterday. This man, an employee of the state corrections facility, spoke persuasively and with the backing of the spirit, if not eloquently, on fasting and Sabbath Day worship. Many of his comments were cliche on the surface, but when coupled with this brother’s sincerity and love, translated powerfully at the moment I chose to listen.

    It made me wonder how much I have missed by choosing to not engage those speakers/leaders I have pre-judged to be unsophisticated. I think Mark Butler’s aspirations are probably okay, but I think that establishing some pattern of acceptable knowledge will carve out a large contingent of potentially great Church leaders.

  18. Rosalynde–

    I read that section of the Church News every week, and my sense is that the most common occupation for stake presidency members is … CES coordinator. Particularly in the developing world, it seems that a very high percentage of stake presidents are employed by the church in some capacity or another. Which is natural, I suppose, but it seems to undercut our claim that we have a lay ministry to a certain extent.

  19. Mark, never did I equate humility with “purposeful ignorance” – you’re Zeezromizing my words (if your comments were aimed at mine – hard to tell, given the chronology of entries – if not, my apologies). My point is that no amount of worldly recognition, whether in the realms of business, academia, or even popular culture, qualifies one to be led by The Spirit.

    And how does one judge “purposeful ignorance” (not that its our place to render judgement on such a matter, unless you’re the Bishop of the person in question)? In my ward, for instance, there are several elderly Hmong and Laotian members, most of whom are illiterate. They can’t even read the scriptures in their own language, let alone in English. One is my home teacher, and he has taken occasion on a couple of visits to tell my children (through a translater – his son) that they shouldn’t read too much or they’ll go blind. So, is he purposefully ignorant? I’m not sure, but I will say one thing – he comes and brings The Spirit into our homes and our meetings. I’ve asked him to give a sacrament meeting talk in a few weeks and I very much look forward to hearing his testimony, as he’s born powerful testimony through The Spirit in the past. Incidentally, he was a Hmong shaman before becoming a member of the church – highly respected (still highly respected) by the elders of his clan, despite his utter lack of education. In any case, he will *never* be a scriptorian, but he will *always* be welcome in my home and in my ward.

    And given the expansion of the church throughout the third world, we’d better get used to learning to have charity for those who we deem “ignorant”.

    “Wherefore, I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thrash the nations by the power of my Spirit”. D&c 335:13

    Brace yourself . . .

  20. All spirutal things being equal, which would you rather have as a middle manager in your business, someone with “people skills” (USUALLY required of bankers, lawyers, and perhaps other “white collar” workers etc.) or someone without (generally not required of “blue collar” workers)?

  21. I enjoy reading those biographies, knowing what these people do. I always read the ones that they put at the back of the conference issue. I don’t make anything of it, I simply find it interesting. I also find it interesting how many kids they have. Some have one, some have ten. Sort of gossipy interesting.

  22. Forresta, I did not intend to address your comments specifically, rather I was setting a hard limitation on the all too common ideal of non-education bordering on Abcedarianism.

    Now in the more subtle domain in between, we are really playing a metaphysical game here. Of course secular qualifications, honors, credentials in and of themselves do not qualify a person for spiritual administration, and any one who excludes those who do not have them because of that is guilty of the grossest credentialism – the type that would exclude the Savior himself, and most of the prophets throughout history.

    However, in a modern society where one generally has to be well educated to support a good sized family, and furthermore where one would expect that any diligent member would make a lifelong study of the scriptures, thus arguably increasing his or her ability in many secular areas, the very fact of correlation is hardly evidence of malfeasance.

    I think the correlation is real. I believe that most LDS men, in particular, desire occupations where they can exercise their abilities to the fullest, and rightly so. We have an obligation to develop our talents, and if exercising them with a reasonable balance of Church and family obligation leads many among us to be called to secular positions of prominence and authority like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I think in general that is a good thing. We want to change the world, and if we can be in the world and not be corrupted by it, but rather an influence for good, that is a wonderful thing. The Church and the world are better off for the J. Reuben Clark’s, David M. Kennedy’s, Ezra Taft Benson’s, Kim Ho Jik’s, etc. among our membership. If it were not so we might as well retire to our cloisters and pray to die.

  23. Mark: (Perhaps like DKL does?) Do you see the book of Daniel as being faith-inspiring fiction? (And if you’d see any relevance to asking this, what would it be — ??)

  24. I don’t know why you would ask that. I am inclined to see all canonized scripture as historical and spiritual fact unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise. And I have no reason to doubt the account of Daniel, including his prophesies, in any particular.

  25. Forresta, Another thing – I said “purposefully ignorant” for a reason. There is no shame in being ignorant per se, only in purposefully avoiding the responsibility to expand ones knowledge of the truth and capacity to do good. One might say the same of someone who never exercised, or refuses to sing or give talks in church, or accept callings, without a compelling reason.

    Some people use the scripture to almost glory in incapacity – I don’t think that is what the Lord had in mind, rather that the knowledge of God is not after the manner of the world. That doesn’t mean that intense study from the perspective of faithful service is not required. Some people think that if you serve, you never have to read the scriptures, that you get a magical brain download. That is not what Joseph Smith taught when he said that “the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out” (TPJS, 137).

    Joseph Smith could hardly talk on a gospel subject without paraphrasing some scripture – he truly had the law of God written into his heart. That doesn’t happen by osmosis through attending Sunday School alone – it requires an involved program of personal study and pondering, not after the manner of worldly scholarship, but after the manner of the Spirit.

    The principles of God are rational in the true sense – there arguably is no such thing as irrational revelation. We do not believe in a God of contradiction. Truth is the way things *really* are, and mute silence or explicit contradiction do not qualify. Indeed the Lord has said the latter is of the spirit of the devil. Contradictions are so very dangerous to uphold because they can be used to justify *anything*. And silence or a fulness of emotion with no semantic content is not much better. True inspiration is always *about* something – in confirmation of the truth. Fuzzy feelings are futile, and Joseph Smith made a point of that on a pretty regular basis.

    In the long run, a correct, inspired understanding of gospel principles is particularly important for Church leaders because it prevents so many serious errors, some extremely subtle and yet pervasive and deleterious in the worst way. Sometimes inspiration can lead one to avoid such errors, but understanding beats inspiration alone. The reason why we have inspiration is to lead us to true understanding. No one who does not pursue understanding of gospel principles to the best of his or her ability is properly qualified to occupy a position of leadership in the Church.

    The hazards and spiritual consequences of mistakes, sometimes mistakes made by pursuing an improper or unbalanced doctrinal schema, are much too severe for anyone to give anything less than their best. Abcedarianism or anything like it is spiritually fatal in the long run, causing people to lose their testimonies, promoting undue dissension and controversy, and members to be cast about by every wind of doctrine. The same may be said for nearly any rigid or relatively uninspired system of theology. If we do not learn the lessons of history we are doomed to repeat them, right?

  26. Contemporary scholars must come to terms with canonicity is why (as have so many scholars within Catholicism); for example, my understanding of Faulconer’s rationale is that the Scriptures teach necessary beliefs, yet secular history and scripture represent two necessarily distinct ways of understanding reality.

  27. I don’t quite agree with that Kimball. I think the problem of secular history is purely methodological – that given sufficient evidence secular historians could verify all the non-spiritual questions of fact, and that the process of time will eventually demonstrate the spiritual reality of what occured as well.

    So I admit that there is often error in some scriptural accounts, and don’t care about it too much unless it has serious implications for doctrine, practice, and belief.

    Theological error is usually much more serious than minor errors of historical fact. The historical reality of Jesus and the apostles, and their life and times, and the doctrines that they preached, and the fact they actually beleived them, and that those doctrines are actually correct and will be proved out in due time in power and great glory, is what matters.

    Secular historians tend to be methodologically faithless, so their investigations tend to be of rather limited value in all contexts where they lack hard evidence. I have no reason to take the scholarly consensus seriously when the scholarly consensus is a matter of opinion proceeding from uniformly naturalist assumptions.

  28. Which begs for me the question of what, in general principles, IS the Scriptures’ ways of understanding reality.

    I was on my mission and taught people the first discussion who were Holiness and they’d say, (With reference to their having seen visions of Jesus)Yes! That’s happened to me! I’d also have people say that they received answer to prayer telling them that the Book of Mormon was not of God.

    Yet we found one lady tracting who joined the Church who’d been devoutly Episcopal yet had been traumatized by recently discovering her otherwise loving husband to have been guilty of philandery (and yet her priest was currently having an affair with a member of her congregation as well!) And when we presented her the discussions, she just immediately believed.

    I liked her and felt a connection with her, but to this day I marvel that this intelligent and sophisticated woman so quickly came to belief (whereas my mission experience was for me the nail in the coffin of my own belief (Which I yet miss — else why would I be here in the blogo-‘nacle!) . . . due MY personal trauma that I had to doubt the inspiration of priesthood leaders since my mission president felt me evil for feeling troubled by a mission system that rewarded deceit. From which I’d generalized to believe all of religion to be based in some measure on deceit. Hence my initial question above. (if ya can follow all that!))

    I remember introducing her to brother Ballard at a Church function soon after she’d been baptised. I was expecting to witness finally some pastoral “guru gems.” But the Spirit instead merely sought to administer to HER needs (as what he’d seemed to have done with her was to have SOCIALIZED! lo– that is, he made chit chat to form commonality with her: Where she went to school?, who she knew that he might know, et cetera. (Which is fine, but that was my only general authority moment, ever, as a member in good standing, and so it’d be like the only time I’d chanced to meet Simon was when I’d brought a friend for us to meet him — but instead of Simon’s displaying the holy grail for us all I got to witness is Peter’s conversation for a few moments with my friend about their mutual love for fishing. I do like elder Ballard though. I’m just pointing out that I was more doubting the church than having faith yet occasionally we could present lessons to people who could just believe! Strange, no?)

  29. Well the proper way to interpret the grand sum of all scripture isn’t exactly obvious, and is only made known by degrees, by the gift of prophecy and inspiration. I have a couple of theories as to why the Lord didn’t just lay it all out from the beginning, mostly that certain types of knowledge tend towards serious misunderstandings and moral weaknesses in the insufficiently prepared.

    The doctrine of exaltation is an excellent example – it either tends to people puffing themselves up to much based on an improper understanding of God’s character and perfection, or it tends to an improper minimization of God’s character and perfection, and the only way to solve the finite-absolute-plural problem is no doubt a mystery that is rather difficult for us to comprehend, perhaps even if elaborated in full.

    As a result we end up with numerous parables, allegories, and so on that have one straightforward moral interpretation for “beginners”, and a secondary levels of interpretation learned by inspiration and experience. Not any interpretation will do of course, but only that gained by the spirit of prophecy, as the Apostle Peter said.

  30. The classic scriptural account of this principle, though it does not go into the detail one might like, is in the preamble of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

    “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

    For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

    For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

    For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

    But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

    And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”
    (1 Corinthians 1:17-29)

  31. And Paul continues in the next chapter:

    “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

    Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

    But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

    Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

    the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
    (1 Corinthians 2:6-16)

  32. Delightful post, Rosalynde!
    I will say that to my ears your list doesn’t sound as counter-exemplary to the principle you mentioned as your post seems to suggest. But there’s an auto mechanic in my bishopric right now if I’m not mistaken, and my EQP is a bricklayer, and they seem to fit the jobs just great. Philosophers, of course, are another problem . . .

  33. My grandfather was a cattle rancher all of his life and held positions as bishop, member of the stake presidency, and patriarch. He was not one to neglect his spiritual and scriptural education, however.

    Abraham was a “rancher” as well, and he knew more than just about anyone. So a high status secular position is hardly required, but I would say a serious pursuit of spiritual things is.

  34. In my stake the 3 members of the stake presidency do not have flashy jobs.

    We have retired military man as SP
    Mid level banker
    Middle School principle (adult convert from So Baptists)

    My money says that the next SP is the middle school teacher

  35. Mark, I had thought about bringing up the example of Abraham earlier, but I think he actually was what one would consider, in the modern day, a successful business man and manager. Not at the beginning, but later on down the road.

    In any case, thank you for clarifying your thoughts. I actually agree with you, for the most part. I think my discomfort originally arose from the feeling that you were coming from a decidedly western, 1st world perspective where education is readily accessible and, largely, encouraged. I’ve lived in a lot of places in my life (Air Force brat) and opportunities for education and advancement are just not the same outside America. Taking your logic in 1980’s South Africa (an admittedly fallacious example, to be sure), the church itself would have been clearly stratified with white leadership and majority blacks sitting in the pews, despite Official Declaration 2. Of course, this bleeds off into the discussion on another thread regarding blacks in leadership in the church, but it’s hard to separate race and opportunity for educational advancement on either the local or the global scale.

    That said, you are clearly right in feeling that those who don’t take every advantage they *can* to learn the gospel probably ought not to be leading. For those of us who are educated, there’s no excuse for purposeful ignorance. In fact, we’re under more condemnation for not using our gifts and opportunities to take advantage of our resources, than if we didn’t have that access in the first place.

    I think that another point of my discomfort has nothing to do with your posts at all. A few of the early posts posed the possibility of trying to correlate education/secular success with leadership in the church, which, to me, rejects the beautiful subtleties of how The Lord chooses leaders for His church and how The Spirit speaks to those who extend callings to other leaders. Flip the analysis on its head and you’re asking if there’s a correlation between people being unsuccessful “in life” and the lack of being extended leadership callings – which would just be wrong-hearted, sick, and a rejection of the redemptive power of the Atonement.

  36. BBELL:

    If, after that moment’s arrived, it’s stake conference and the apostle or whatever rises and goes up to the podium, it’s the middle school teacher who receives the call, I’d eat my hat — !

  37. An individual makes calls as directed by the Spirit; but several people could fulfill the calling well so he seeks confirmation to choose among the several candidates, all of whom seem well qualified. Yet doesn’t there exist (as is referenced, sort of, in Rosalynd’s blogpiece?) a real and genuine sociological hierarchy among the Saints in a community? Just as in animal societies? People with social capital and accrued status who’d feel slighted were someone perceive of a lower social tier were called ahead of them, other factors being equal? So to avoid this tension, the caller senses that conservative maintanance of the status quo has the potential to foment the least chaos from the subtle egos only pretending not to be jockeying for position, the least bad feelings from folks quite “rightly” according to the calling? So, the caller seeking inspiration would probably on average to tend to reinforce the existing hierarchies rather than disturb it? If Jesus in the New Testament were a sort of revolutionary, once His Church’s been established it’s a very conservative.

  38. I agree Forresta. However correlation is not causation, in either direction, even though social science seems forever condemned to “post hoc ergo propter hoc”.

  39. Kimball, I think there is a status “system” of a sort, but I think it has more to do with perceived spirituality, devotion, and willingness to accept callings than purely secular ability, though that helps from time to time, especially at the stake presidency level. I think that in general one can get all the experience he needs through faithful service in the Church and diligent study of the scriptures. Further study helps on some tricky theological questions – indeed a little education is often a dangerous thing.

  40. I typed “quite rightly according” for “quite rightly to be accomodated” with the calling. Diction’s hard!

    But since my box is again open for me to type in here: People prefer making decisions they won’t have to explain later.

    “You mean you hired the high school drop out?”

    Yes, but, you see . . . ”

    It’s easier just to make the safer bet with such decisions, all other considerations seeming fairly equal of course. At Times & Seasons, among permabloggers, there’s an invisible hierarchy. Were I to come and appoint a leader and to seek the Spirit’s guidance in my selection, I’d tend to feel inspired to select a candidate whose selection would most likely and naturally receive the others’ approval and acceptance. A candidate who subtly would seem to enjoy a consensus. I have no idea what criteria on all of their resumes would scream out “consensus candidate” to me. Successful academic achievements compared to the norm? Good people skills? Knowledge or experience in this facet or that? Or how about my just noticing their competence and level of achievement in society in general? Those might represent safe indicators of what might be a “safe” pick.

  41. Kimball,

    Start eating your hat. The School admin is already 1st counselor in the stake Presidency

  42. OK. Yes, thanks! (But wasn’t the invisible-yet-inpenetrable ceiling I’m actually speaking aloud here about, full s/p??)

  43. The current speculation is that the educator is a shoo in for full SP next Stake Conference. If you can be a counselor why not a SP?

  44. By “perceived spirituality,” do you mean the “right” hair cut, the “right” demeanor, the “right” manner of speaking, etc? It’s fascinating to me how many members of the church get appearances and worldly success tied up with their perception of what a “spiritual” person ought to be – not to mention how some members bite and kick against anyone who matches that cultural paradigm in order to represent the under-represented, fight against “the man,” or whatever. To knot things up even more, it seems that many of those who find fault with those who fit all the “right” criteria are often well-educated thinkers themselves.

    I might be hijacking the thread and, if so, just let me know where I can read/discuss more on these issues.

  45. (Sorry, but I’ve been watching too much Donald Trump on Apprentice.) You’d, for rhetorical effect, put in middle school TEACHER in the final line of your post and I’d been lamely riffing on that. But with principal all bets are off.

  46. Forresta, I think that attitude is unusually cynical. First impressions matter, and again *purposeful* non-conformity in relative trivialities is often views negatively, but in any ward I have lived in (Wasatch Front) active LDS adults rarely behave like that to any degree more than wearing say a blue shirt instead of a white shirt, or growing a beard. Spirituality is properly to be judged by the gift of discernment, and I think most faithful Latter-day Saints -especially in the leadership echelon – have spiritual discernment in abundance, given any reasonable shared experience with the the person concerned, at any rate.

  47. Sorry if you took my comments as cynical. Now that I look at it, I see that I’m mixing my metaphors. I din’t mean to impugn church leaders that faithfully seek and receive spiritual discernment – I meant to point out that peoples’ perceptions of spirituality, when not judged by the gift of discernment, cut both ways. I’ve spoken with many who “look the part” that pre-judge, without reasonable shared experience, those who are purposefully non-conformist. I’ve also spoken with many purposeful non-conformists that pre-judge, without reasonable shared experience, those who “look the part”. It’s a two-edged sword that cuts the weilder as well as the intended target.

    But I find that we, as a people, are generally uncomfortable talking about how we judge others, which gives justification rein and makes it difficult, sometimes, to really assess our behavior towards one another as brothers and sisters in the Gospel. Personally, I find that analyzing how I judge others (on *both* edges of the sword) helps me to ponder my relationship with them and figure out what it is I need to change to improve it.

  48. The only way to judge righteously is with the gift of prophecy and discernment:

    “The Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
    (1 Samuel 16:7)

    “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;
    And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
    But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.”
    (Isaiah 11:1-4)

  49. One more:

    “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
    (Hebrews 4:12)

  50. The occupations of the stake presidencies don’t tell us anything unless we know the occupations of the potential stake leaders. These may still be among the wealthiest or best educated in the stake.

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