Christian Religion vs. Non Profit Corporation

Christianity Ethics Mainstreaming Obedience

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.

18 thoughts on “Christian Religion vs. Non Profit Corporation

  1. It’s somewhat an irony that those of us (me, at least) who come to similar thoughts if not conclusions about LDS, Inc. … that it’s more like a McDonalds franchise than a church… we think it should publish their financials… like a corporation does? ah, Irony….or is that karma?

  2. Interesting thoughts, Aerin. Thanks for pointing us to Equality’s essay.

    The LDS leadership is Janus faced. Internally, they are operating their church like a business. With respect to members and investigators, LDS leaders are presenting a religious rather than a business face.

    For example, it’s alright to be less than truthful because everyone would put forth their best foot in a job application situation (Dallin Oaks). Likewise, church officers are supposed to follow their leaders even at the expense of their charges (Boyd Packer). On the other hand, church officers demand that members sacrifice everything for the church.

    The problem with such a double standard is not only hypocrisy but that faithful members can be easily exploited by leaders who operate with a market mindset while claiming to act with neighborly motives.

  3. Thank you for the post, Aerin.

    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.

    I think it is a valid analogy. 🙂 To the extent that corporations and religious organizations are social in nature, they are alike. Every social institution exerts pressure on its members to say or refrain from saying certain things. The fact that one may be ‘for-profit’ or ‘non-profit’ makes little difference in the analysis. Many non-profit organizations are structured exactly the same as for-profit organizations. It is not uncommon for the executives and directors of non-profit organizations to receive large salaries and perks. This would also include churches. (And if you’ve been to the South and seen some of the mega-churches, you’ll realize that they are quite well-to-do).

    In order to function as cohesive unit, social organizations can only allow so much opposition to the leadership of the organization itself. Where dissenting voices call into question the legitimacy of the leadership of the organization itself, especially when that legitimacy is granted by divine revelation (Doctrine and Covenants 28), I think that is where the line has to be drawn.

    Questioning the “board of directors” – the general authorities has spiritual consequences.

    I don’t think that’s an accurate statement. First, the ambiguity of the word ‘questioning’. In the Danzig case, the spiritual consequences were not for ‘questioning’ the GAs, but because he was ridiculing them and attacking them as intellectual tyrants in a very public forum while using his position with the Temple Square Orchestra to boost his ‘credentials’. Open and notorious opposition to GA has spiritual consequences. Even in President Hinckley’s ‘Loyalty’ talk, he mentions that he questioned the appropriateness of church leaders getting involved in certain public debates. There is a huge difference saying that ‘I don’t think the church should encourage its members to do something with which I disagree’ and saying ‘the Church is run by neo-Nazi scum who are crushing us under their heels’. The first is a neutral statement of a differing opinion. The second is an emotionally-charged, ad hominem attack.

    As far as ethics of an organization are concerned, I think that’s a fair question and one on which I will have to give more thought.

  4. dpg: The only ‘ethics’ church leaders have… is to preserve the church and those who support it. basic Christian values are NOT a consideration, and I am the Living Proof of that.

  5. dpc: The only ‘ethics’ church leaders have… is to preserve the church and those who support it. basic Christian values are NOT a consideration, and I am the Living Proof of that.

  6. I have it on good authority that Boyd K. Packer feeds endangered spotted owls through a salad shooter on Thursday evenings for amusement value.

  7. Seth R:

    your comment trivializes the intentional hate & harm that some LDS ‘Christian’ church members do to each other ‘in the name of God/Christ/’religion’, as exampled by what was hatefully done to me, then endorsed by tscc. Your statement is personally offensive.

  8. Boyd Packer, extreme owl feeder.

    boyd the shooter

    (Sorry, best I could do on short notice and with limited time. Do note that is Mountain Meadows in the background… Boyd, Boyd, Boyd 🙁 )

  9. No, no, no.

    I didn’t mean he FEEDS the owls via salad shooter. I meant he feeds THE OWLS through the salad shooter.

    Real messy. Lots of feathers.

    Guy, if you want to be taken seriously (by me anyway) quit trying to make the claim that the Church Office Building is the literal equivalent of the seventh level of hell. The statement that self-preservation is the ONLY value guiding the general authorities simply isn’t one I’m going to take that seriously.

  10. SR:

    For years, I volunteered with the Red Cross; my job was to answer the phone at ( ) a.m. and go help people whose house was on fire/had burnt. As hard as I might try to put myself in their place, I eventually realized that unless/until MY HOUSE caught fire (or flooded, or gas leak, etc), I would Never be able to understand 100%. So it is with having tscc throw you under the bus; you ‘gotta’ be there.
    Of course writers use hyperbole; I’m sure you’ve heard of it.
    The LDS church (I think anyway) would be jealous of people inflicting harm/hate/greed on others in the name of Christ’s gospel… Not so, they don’t even object.
    Being in ‘the only true & living church’ emboldens – empowers some Uber Nazi TBMs to inflict wrongs on each other with a particularly Sharp Vengeance; the scriptures tell ME that Only belongs to God….

    What do YOU think of the focus on white shirts, tattoos & earrings?
    I say, it is a distraction-dilution of the important matters of faith. And, top it all off, it could be changed; it’s DEFINATELY a man-made construct.

  11. sethR: LDS, Inc., presents ‘Everything’ as though it came down to earth in a shaft of light….
    dpc: Hmmm. you might have me speechless; at least temporarily, that is. I’m guessing here that white shirts aren’t a challenge 4U; therefore, were the tats & earrings? Sad, IMHO.
    BUT it does fit into the scheme of Endless focus on the Outward Appearances….

    Can’t church/leaders admit – be up front that a lot of what they’re teaching is more cultural than ‘doctrine’ ?(whatever that is). They seem to think they have ALL the answers to ALL the questions.
    advice: leave the trivia, the minutia for us to figure out as individuals; probably no one will wear earrings so big/so many that others will trip on them…
    Tattoos (a few decades ago) were mostly associated with military ppl & prisoners ‘chasing a Wild Hog’… Today, ‘even nice people’ have them, but even that’s judgmental, isn’t it?

    LDS practice loves focus on the outward appearances; the judgmentalism of members follows as surely as a cart follows the horses (mules, oxen, whatever) that pull it.

  12. Seth, oh Seth….
    It wasn’t me that brought those things into LDS practice (or was it?); LDS practice is Highly Scripted, Highly Structured. That appeals to a certain percentage of the population which is LDSs ‘bread & butter’.
    the BoMormon says that the plain & precious part of Christ’s gospel were left out of the Bible, but I find that Kindness, Mercy-Compassion, Charity, Honesty, Love for God & neighbor are much more clearly taught & explained-exampled (for example, by the parables of Christ) than anywhere else.
    Studying the BoM often brings one to the question: Where did this happen?…. Another distraction, since it’s Never been resolved. Mormonism if FULL of these things; the outward appearances dilute attention-focus to the basics, what I call the Core Essentials of the Christian gospel. There is Little if not No delineation between the basics & the superficial.
    I know you ‘can’ deny that, but really.. aren’t those things Obvious?

    I worship with Mennonites; in spite of having teen-agers and other ‘non-conformists’ (such as me), it’s pretty clear that people can come to church pretty much appropriately dressed & groomed WITHOUT treating them heavy-handedly as though they couldn’t make any rational decisions-choices (like children).
    I suggest readers take a look at Matthew ch. 22,23…

  13. Sorry I didn’t get back to this earlier – I had just about the worse case of flu I’ve had in quite some time.

    My point was to try and determine what standards the LDS church should live up to. They don’t really fit in any of the different pigeonholes of mainstream Christianity, not for profit or for profit corporation.

    And (to my mind), when you try to say a non profit should do X, it doesn’t work because they’re a religion. And because they’re a religion – they get to make all the rules.

    AND – to dpc’s comment (here and on equality’s blog), recently in Indianapolis there was a public discourse about city employees talking about the mayor’s policies on a local radio program.

    At first, the mayor had sent out a memo discouraging employees from talking to the press. Later – he had to rescind it. Now, perhaps there are different rules for public vs. private employees..but I still thought the exchange was interesting – particularly because of these discussions.

  14. I read this line:

    Questioning the “board of directors” – the general authorities has spiritual consequences.

    And thought it read “Board of Dictators” instead of “Directors”.

    I just thought that was funny.

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