Christian Religion vs. Non Profit Corporation
I think we can all agree that the LDS religion is unique.
If we compare it to a mainstream Christian religion, like the United Methodists – it is very different. Even LDS missionaries would be happy to point out the many doctrinal and organizational differences. Case and point, Methodists have paid clergy – while the LDS religion has a lay ministry.
There are similarities, but there are also many differences. To my mind, that’s the essence of the “restored” gospel and the first vision – none of the other “existing” religions had gotten it right – so a new religion was needed.
As a religion/church, what moral or ethical obligations are implicit?
As a company or organization (not for profit), what moral or ethical obligations does the LDS church have?
This territory is uncharted.
Often in debates here (and elsewhere), many people question why someone has a certain opinion or perspective. Whenever someone tries to assert that the LDS church has moral or ethical obligations either as a religion OR as a not for profit organization – they are shot down.
Again, because of the unique nature of the founding of mormonism and its’ governing structure.
Questioning the “board of directors” – the general authorities has spiritual consequences.
The U.S. has a long standing separation between church and state. Yet there are still laws that any church (non-profit) organization has to abide by. The question seems to be which laws it has to abide by.
I will freely admit – most of my current criticism of the LDS church falls into these categories. I believe as a church it has certain obligations. I am comparing those obligations with those of other mainstream Christian religions. Some of which actually publish their budgets (the amount of money they intake and what they spend it on) to their memberships or even publicly on the internet.
Other religions have a very different understanding of missionary work – building homes for habitat for humanity or building sewers. We can disagree about whether or not a new sewer or the “good news” gospel have a greater impact on someone’s life – but they are very different approaches to service.
But is my comparison a fair one? Simply because the LDS religion claims to be different than those organizations, should it be held to similar standards?
If you look at not for profit organizations, many are forced to follow the U.S. laws for financial reporting, affirmative action, Americans with disabilities, etc. Churches appear to be exempt from some of these requirements.
On Equality’s blog http://equalitysblog.typepad.com/equality_time/2008/02/lds-church-reit.html, there is a long discussion currently about the Danzig situation and the recent press release. There were some comparisons with the obligations that a company would have towards its employees – and whether or not an employee could (without fear of reprisal) write a letter to the editor in disapproval of company policy.
Upon further reflection, however, I’m not sure this is a valid analogy.
To my mind, I shouldn’t have to compare the LDS religion to a company – it shouldn’t operate like a company as it is a religion. The goals for a company (for profit or not for profit) are very different from a religion.
But I can’t compare the LDS religion to some of the other mainstream Christian religions – because it doesn’t operate like them either.
I’m not suggesting that U.S. legislators create legislation solely for unique LDS situations.
But somehow, throughout the 21st century, the LDS leadership is going to have to address some of these issues. Like any company, it needs to shore up its base to move forward. It’s got to figure out a way to deal with disagreement and social change – without attacking those who call for re-examination and change. It’s got to reconcile the missions of service with other mainstream Christian religions – who by all accounts appear to be doing a better job of service. And if I’m wrong about that – I call on the LDS leaders to prove it – by publishing financial statistics, increasing any service missions (instead of gospel oriented missions), opening up the buildings to preschool/mothers’ day out programs etc.