Rookie Mormon

How Much Money Does a Mormon Apostle Make? The Principles that Answer the Question

Some LDS church members may read what critics of the Church say about LDS church finances and apostle pay, and become frustrated by a lack of transparency. They think, "hey, somebody said our apostles are living a lavish life, making a lot of money, and this caught me off guard! It's surprising, and now I'm frustrated that I was never told this!"

Certainly no one is asking you not to educate yourself. So let's continue with that line of thought.

Remember that you can take up questions like this and run with them if you feel like doing so. Just remember to rely on objective, first-hand data. The web is full of people who are in posession of partial information, zero objectivity, and often, in fact, an agenda. Using Google to dig deep on any Mormon church-related subject can be like visiting a Toyota car dealership and asking what the deal is with Hondas.

If you really want to get to the bottom of this, if you want God to deliver your answer, please do some objective research! Googling around to see what other people think is just asking to be buried in subjectivity.

"Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask [Google]."

--Not an actual quote from Doctrine and Covenants 9:7

I have included some possible questions as starting points below.

In my experience, once I answered a more objective set of questions, my curiosity was satisfied. In fact, based on what I've seen, the idea that anything lavish is going on is absurd. I refuse to entertain "anecdata" that suggests otherwise, especially now that I've read so much of it from every angle. From true believers to critics, everyone has their story.

Please take a minute and watch this Bob Marley interview clip:

In fact, by all accounts Bob Marley made quite a bit of money by the end of his life, even millions.

But who really remembers Bob Marley as leading a lavish lifestyle? Those who paid attention to him did not see a love of money in his actions. They saw his emphasis on important values. They saw in his example something worth following.

So let's continue! I've included some of my own thought processes below, numbered so they're a bit easier to follow.

Exploring the question: Are Mormon Apostles living a lavish lifestyle?

  1. As Mormons, we believe that we should be living "in the world, but not of the world." Because we live in the world, there are legitimate expenses to cover.
  2. Are we OK with the church covering living expenses? To include any expense incidental to the lifestyle of someone in a leadership position? (Many feel that the tradeoff, to engage someone who serves the body of the church 365 days a year, is worth it.)
  3. Still, this should not allow for a lavish lifestyle. Are Mormon apostles living lavish lives?
  4. What is an objective standard for the term "lavish"? Does that mean a milliion dollars spent on living expenses per year, per apostle family? More than that? 
  5. Where might we find an objective standard for lavishness?
  6. What evidence can be gathered to support the proposition that the standard of lavish living is met by one or more apostles?
  7. What evidence is there against that proposition?
  8. Reviewing the evidence, is the evidence anecdotal, or is it first-hand, from the original source?
  9. If you cannot find source evidence, or decide not to research further, which side will you tend to land on: Lavish lifestyles, or not? And what factors influence your choice? Do you decide to err on the side of extreme caution, and quit the LDS church just in case? Do you decide to think about it longer, and give yourself more time to watch the future unfold? Or do you just have a trusted gut feeling that things are on the level? (In my opinion, these are worth asking!)

The Greater Principles: Do you detect a love of money in the LDS church?

  1. What are the physical signs that the love of money is present in the high leadership positions of the LDS church? (For example, elaborate mansions, car collections, yachts, ever-increasing spending on things without lasting value)
  2. What are the spiritual signs that the love of money is present? (Lack of regard for spiritual truths, lack of spiritual depth, lack of sacrifice, lack of humility, deception, hypocrisy)
  3. If either one of these signs indicate a love of money, we should see these values ripple through the organization.
  4. The presence of these values in the organization should lead to an objectively measurable standard.
  5. By what measurable standard is there a love of money present in the LDS church? (Remember, having money is not the same as loving money.)
  6. By what measurable standard is any deception happening? Is that the same as a lack of transparency?
  7. How do we tell if any lack of transparency is deception, as opposed to e.g. advice from an ambitious legal team to minimize legal risk?

Has the love of money caught ahold of you, as someone who lives the LDS value system?

If you are a member of the Mormon church, you should be able to answer the following:

  1. Have you been taught by the church to love money? What evidence makes you feel like you were or were not?
  2. Have you discovered hypocrisy in those who taught you about money? Were they lavishing themselves with gifts, for example, instead of giving to the poor? If so, what kind of gifts? Did you ask them why they were doing that, or can you find out more about the situation now, through additional research?
  3. What life goals have you created for yourself, based on what you've learned as a church member? Do any of them suggest a love of money? Hypocrisy?
  4. If you loved money before you joined the church, how did that change after you joined?
  5. What are you taught about money in general, in the church?

I don't know about you, but as a lifelong Mormon, I'm happy with my answers to those questions. I certainly do not lust after a lavish lifestyle. I try to live within my means and make the best use of my time. The church has taught me to share what I have with others, and to teach others how to lead a reasonable life without coveting what their neighbor has.

While there are certainly people of all faiths who believe in their own "prosperity gospel," they have their own reasons. I have never seen anything but warnings about the love of money in the LDS church's annual and semi-annual general conferences. There are no split-off sessions on how to maximize profit or care for investment portfolios. Instead there is sound advice: Be careful with debt. Save a reasonable amount of money. Beware of speculation.

In my opinion, the question of LDS apostles leading lavish lifestyles or performing their services because of money has already been answered by a wide body of evidence.