The church makes a big deal about having no paid clergy. They proclaim that the church is led by a lay ministry of volunteers and no one is compensated for their work or service in the church.
Church Led by Volunteer Service
The missionaries are taught this fact, and all the missionaries are required to pay their own way for their mission trips. They work full-time for the church for 2 years (or 18 months for Sisters), and pay their own way. The church is transparent that these missions are subsidized (or more accurately equalized) in a way that everyone pays the same amount today. So an Elder serving in an inexpensive third-world country like the Ivory Coast or the Philippines, living locally pays the same amount as an Elder serving in an expensive area like LA, London or Tokyo. Currently, missionaries or their families pay $400 monthly to support the missionary. This amount was about to change to $500/month and then COVID hit and the church held off on the change, but this could be updated at any time. At these rates a mission comes to $400 x 24 months (for Elders) or 18 months (for Sisters) roughly $9,600 or $7,200. This is no small amount for young adults of 18-21 years of age, and many have been putting money aside for their missions since they could walk or do any household chores.
The church allocates a certain amount to the mission office which pays rent and supplies travel to the missionaries, and then disburses a fixed amount to the missionary to buy groceries and such. This is not being paid by the church though, it comes from the general missionary fund which is funded by the payments of families. What happens if a missionary returns home? They stop paying the monthly dues. Sometimes families will pay the full mission balance as their missionary leaves for service (especially if there is no family support at home), and if the missionary returns home early for whatever reason would reasonably expect a refund of the amount not spent in service… but the church provides no refunds – ever.
“All of the work in the Church is voluntary. No one is paid for such service.”Preach My Gospel: Study and Teach: Laws and Ordinances: Service, Page 87. 2004
Missionaries are Not Paid
The missionaries are taught that there is no paid clergy. They are taught to teach this. They feel empowered that they are among this host of volunteers promoting the Kingdom of God on earth. They readily share with contacts and investigators that they themselves are volunteers. They may even share that they are paying their own way to serve a mission. They share that there are no paid clergy in the whole church. That the local Bishop has a day-job, and serves as Bishop for a few years and then the baton is passed to someone else. The Wards are organized into Stakes with leaders who are also serving as volunteers in each leadership position. That when joining the church there is expectation that they themselves will receive a calling and serve in the church too. There is no pay for this service, and there shouldn’t be, since it’s the work of God. All the way up to the top, the church is led by volunteers who are not paid. It clearly states in the scriptures even that being paid for preaching the word of God is called priestcraft and is evil. Members do not get paid, and in fact pay 10 percent of their
increase income to the church to “keep the lights on.” They serve locally in the church, be it primary teacher, bishop, or anything in between. They even must arrive on Saturdays to help clean the church since there is no janitor service, they must learn to take care of the sacred buildings of the Lord.
This is the way! There are plenty of quotes and passages that reinforce this teaching and understanding.
No Professional Clergy
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is no paid ministry, no professional clergy, as is common in other churches.Boyd K. Packer, Follow the Brethren, September 1979 Liahona
Boyd K. Packer stated in 1979 that the church has no paid ministry and no professional clergy. He is clear on this. There are no asides or qualifying statements. He would have his readers believe that he is among this group. It sets a clear expectation that he is not being paid for his work, just like local Bishops are not paid for their time. The conference talks, publications, lesson manuals and training material is all clear and consistent on this, ther is no paid clergy in the church. It prides itself on this fact. It states that service in the church is voluntary and is a calling from God. This is set up as the correct scenario and approved by God. It even points out that in other religions or Christian denominations, the preacher or pastor may be paid for his time and is a man of the cloth as his career, it’s his job and how he might support himself and his family. They point out that this is not the way of God, and may relate it to the priestcrafts mentioned in the Book of Mormon.
No Paid Ministry
Thomas S. Monson, shares a story here where he was able to explain to the State Secretary of East Germany that the church can afford to build temples and buildings all over the world because the members pay tithing and also that the church has no paid ministry. Would he consider himself part of this ministry of the church? If he were being paid this isn’t something he could have said in all honesty. He could not then state emphatically that this was an opportunity for him to “declare a truth” to the Secretary. He declared the truth that as a leader in the ministry of the church.
I was visiting with the East German state secretary, Minister Gysi. At that time our temple at Freiberg, in East Germany, was under construction, along with two or three meetinghouses. Minister Gysi and I visited on a number of subjects, including our worldwide building program. He then asked, “Why is your church so wealthy that you can afford to build buildings in our country and throughout the world? How do you get your money?”
I answered that the Church is not wealthy but that we follow the ancient biblical principle of tithing, which principle is reemphasized in our modern scripture. I explained also that our Church has no paid ministry and indicated that these were two reasons why we were able to build the buildings then under way, including the beautiful temple at Freiberg.
Minister Gysi was most impressed with the information I presented, and I was very grateful I was able to answer his questions.
The opportunity to declare a truth may come when we least expect it. Let us be prepared.Thomas S. Monson, Our Sacred Priesthood Trust, April 2006 General Conference
No Trained and Salaried Clergy
We have no professionally trained and salaried clergy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a result, the lay members who are called to lead and serve our congregations must carry the whole load of our numerous Church meetings, programs, and activities. They do this in more than 14,000 congregations just in the United States and Canada. Of course, we are not unique in having lay members of our congregations serve as teachers and lay leaders. But the amount of time donated by our members to train and minister to one another is uniquely large. Our efforts to have each family in our congregations visited by home teachers each month and to have each adult woman visited by Relief Society visiting teachers each month are examples of this. We know of no comparable service in any organization in the world.
The best-known examples of unique LDS service and sacrifice are the work of our missionaries. Currently they number more than 50,000 young men and young women and over 5,000 adult men and women. They devote from six months to two years of their lives to teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and providing humanitarian service in more than 160 countries in the world. Their work always involves sacrifice, including the years they give to the work of the Lord and also the sacrifices made in providing funds for their support.
Those who remain at home—parents and other family members—also sacrifice by forgoing the companionship and service of the missionaries they send forth. For example, a young Brazilian received a missionary call while he was working to support his brothers and sisters after his father and mother died. A General Authority described these children’s meeting in council and remembering that their deceased parents had taught them that they should always be prepared to serve the Lord. The young man accepted his missionary call, and a 16-year-old brother took over the responsibility of working to support the family. Most of us know of many other examples of sacrifice to serve a mission or to support a missionary. We know of no other voluntary service and sacrifice like this in any other organization in the world.
We are frequently asked, “How do you persuade your young people and your older members to leave their schooling or their retirement to sacrifice in this way?” I have heard many give this explanation: “Knowing what my Savior did for me—His grace in suffering for my sins and in overcoming death so I can live again—I feel privileged to make the small sacrifice I am asked to make in His service. I want to share the understanding He has given me.” How do we persuade such followers of Christ to serve? As a prophet explained, “We [just] ask them.”Dallin H. Oaks, Sacrifice, April 2012 General Conference
Dallin H. Oaks at least points out that the church has “professionally trained and salaried” clergy. It’s not quite the brag he thinks it is. Is it a trick statement though? Spoiler alert, there are in fact salaried clergy in the church, but here he’s clarified that they are not professionally trained, so his compound statement is still technically and legally true. Misleading, but true, and as a lawyer who is careful with his words, he likely knows this and chose these specific words for this reason. Notice that he didn’t say that there are no professionally trained OR salaried clergy. At least they admit they are not trained and do not train any clergy. Wouldn’t it be nice if the church was interested enough to train their lay members? It’s too much to ask the church to even do a background check on those they call, let alone train them for the calling. Any Bishop is asked to fill the role of valued counselor for anyone in the ward, what training do they receive to give loving, healthy, and helpful counsel? None. They are told all the training they need is in the church handbook and in praying and listening to the guidance of the divine in doling out any council. They are to trust their own gut feelings to advise others who are struggling. The church is proud to proclaim they give no training as long as they can also proclaim they give no compensation either.
Top Mormon Leaders Are Paid
The church quietly admits living allowance or stipend for the top General Authorities, That is the First Presidency (3) Quorum of the Twelve (12), First Quorum of the Seventy (105?), and the Presiding Bishopric (3). Somewhere it was decided that this level of leadership receives a check, but the rest do not.
General Authorities leave their careers when they are called into full time Church service. When they do so, they are given a living allowance which enables them to focus all of their time on serving in the Church. This practice allows for far more church members on a worldwide basis to be considered for a calling to serve as a General Authority, rather than limiting considerations to only those who may be financially independent. The living allowance is uniform for all General Authorities. None of the funds for this living allowance come from the tithing of Church members, but instead from proceeds of the Church’s financial investments.Do General Authorities get paid?
Imagine then that a missionary or convert, or even life-long member learns that in fact that all these statements from the church are not true. The top leaders in the church are compensated for their time. There are even a few instances where the church has been forthcoming about this. More importantly, some recent pay stubs have been leaked that reveal how much they are paid.
The church employs many people, as there are many tasks in the corporation. There are lawyers and secretaries, web developers, and actors who create films for the church. Many of these fine folks don’t work directly for the church, but many do. The church is a complex web of businesses and organizations. We’re not saying that those who are employed by the church shouldn’t be paid for their profession. It becomes gray space however when the leadership proclaims that there is no paid clergy, and they place into teaching manuals that there is no paid clergy and “All of the work in the Church is voluntary. No one is paid for such service.” But, these same leaders who place this teaching in the manual and preach it from the pulpit are receiving a monthly check. They don’t call it a salary, or pay, perhaps to wordsmith things and rationalize the lies. They call these a “living allowance” or a “stipend.” What is the real difference though between a paycheck and a regular check of money for living expenses?
It’s not really about the leaders being paid. They do a lot of work for the church. It really is more like a job than a calling since it is so high profile. It’s about them being paid while proclaiming that the church has no paid clergy. It’s about even when they do admit to receiving funds, they refer to them as a “modest living allowance” or “stipend.”
This imposing 28-story building completed in 1972 (and the smaller older administration building to the right) is in Salt Lake City, Utah. Until 1998 it was the tallest building in Utah. These buildings contain the offices of the Prophet of the Mormon church, the other 14 Apostles, 105 General Authorities, and the three members of the Mormon Presiding Bishopric, who are all paid, no matter the semantics used by the Mormon PR department.
According to Mormon apologists FAIR, “Some members of the Church are unaware that some General Authorities receive a modest stipend [my emphasis] as a living allowance. Nevertheless, it cannot be said that the Church has a professional ministry in the traditional sense.” They sound very convincing, don’t they? Even Wikipedia suggests the Mormon church office “. . . houses the administrative support staff for the lay [my emphasis] ministry of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) throughout the world.” Members are regularly taught that the Mormon church leaders are a lay priesthood and therefore receive no wages. The full-time Mormon missionaries also teach this idea to new members and those investigating the Church. The emphasis is always on “lay.” Sometimes, we learn of a stipend or a small compensation for all they have lost by giving their time freely to their God. That is not true at all.https://stevearrowsmith.medium.com/what-does-the-mormon-church-pay-its-leaders-8b732589f51a
They also claim that the funds for this do not come from tithing. They state that these funds come from other church businesses that are for-profit, or revenue-generating. Very similar to things like City Creek Mall, which they claim are not funded by tithing but the interest on surplus tithing that was invested… What, dear reader, is the difference between tithing funds and the interest received from extra tithing funds? Nothing is different if the money was generated from tithing money, then the interest is inseparably connected to the principal funds. Perhaps that’s one reason the leadership was so eager to fund City Creek, it will generate more revenue from which they can pay themselves.
Is the Church an institution of great wealth, as some claim?
The Church does have substantial assets, for which we are grateful. These assets are primarily in buildings in more than eighty nations. They are in ward and stake meeting facilities. They are in schools and seminaries, colleges and institutes. They are in welfare projects. They are in mission homes and missionary training centers. They are in temples, of which we have substantially more than we have ever had in the past, and they are in genealogical facilities. But it should be recognized that all of these are money-consuming assets and not money-producing assets. They are expensive to build and maintain. They do not produce financial wealth, but they do help to produce and strengthen Latter-day Saints. They are only a means to an end. They are physical facilities to accommodate the programs of the Church in our great responsibility to teach the gospel to the world, to build faith and activity among the living membership, and to carry forward the compelling mandate of the Lord concerning the redemption of the dead.
We have a few income-producing business properties, but the return from these would keep the Church going only for a very short time. Tithing is the Lord’s law of finance. There is no other financial law like it. It is a principle given with a promise spoken by the Lord Himself for the blessing of His children.
When all is said and done, the only real wealth of the Church is the faith of its people.
Why is the Church in commercial business of any kind?
Essentially, the business assets which the Church has today are an outgrowth of enterprises which were begun in the pioneer era of our history when we were isolated in the valleys of the mountains of western America. For instance, a newspaper was then needed to keep the people advised of what was going on at home and abroad. The result was the Deseret News, which has been published now for 135 years. In the 1920s, government officials encouraged newspapers to set up radio stations. That was in the infancy of the broadcasting industry. One such radio station was established by the Deseret News here in Salt Lake City. From that has grown, by the natural process of development, holdings of a number of broadcasting properties.
As all of you will recognize, the ability and the facilities to communicate are among our great and constant needs. The ownership of these properties, both newspaper and broadcasting facilities, while they are operated as commercial entities, both directly and indirectly helps us in our responsibility to communicate our message and our point of view.
The Church was a pioneer in the sugar beet industry to help our farmers who needed a cash crop. One of our present properties is an outgrowth of that.
A beautiful hotel was constructed adjacent to Temple Square seventy-five years ago to provide a comfortable hostelry for visitors to this city.
Merchandising interests are an outgrowth of the cooperative movement which existed among our people in pioneer times. The Church has maintained certain real estate holdings, particularly those contiguous to Temple Square, to help preserve the beauty and the integrity of the core of the city. All of these commercial properties are tax-paying entities.
I repeat, the combined income from all of these business interests is relatively small and would not keep the work going for longer than a very brief period.
I should like to add, parenthetically for your information, that the living allowances given the General Authorities, which are very modest in comparison with executive compensation in industry and the professions, come from this business income and not from the tithing of the people.Questions and Answers, President Gordon B. Hinckley (then Second Counselor in the First Presidency), General Conference October 1985
We can see that leaders have been paid by the church for at least 100 years. In 1907, Joseph F Smith boasted in General Conference a defense to enemies of the church who were publishing that the leading officers of the church were “consuming the tithes of the people”. He clarifies that the money leading officers are paid is not related to tithing money. He claims that “not one of the general authorities in the church” “draws one dollar from the tithes of the people for his own use.” He explains that the church invested into some businesses early on and has interest in them, which pays dividends. He explains that “tithing funds were invested” and now the church receives “dividends from these investments.” He clarifies that the leading officers of the church as paid with these dividends, and not tithing (even though the dividends are only possible by investing tithing).
Our enemies have been publishing to the world that the Presidency of the Church and the leading officers are consuming the tithes of the people. Now, I am going to tell you a little secret, and it is this: there is not one of the general authorities in the Church that draws one dollar from the tithes of the people for his own use. Well, you may say, how do they live? I will give you the key: The Church helped to support in its infancy the sugar industry in this country, and it has some means invested in that enterprise. The Church helped to establish Z.C.M.I., and it has a little interest in that, and in some other institutions which pay dividends. In other words, tithing funds were invested in these institutions, which give employment to many, for which the Trustee-in-Trust holds stock certificates, which are worth more today than what was given for them; and the dividends from these investments more than pay for the support of the general authorities of the Church. So we do not use one dollar of your tithing. I thought I would like to tell you that much, so that when you hear men talking about Joseph F. Smith and his associates consuming the tithes of the people you can throw it back into their teeth that they do not use a dollar of the tithing for their support. I would like our “friends,” if I might be permitted to use a vulgar expression, to “put that in their pipe and smoke it.” (Laughter.)President Joseph F Smith, 77th Annual Conference April 1907, General Conference Opening Remarks
How Much Do Top Mormon Leaders Get Paid?
We have seen that in 1999, Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve received regular “living allowance,” “parsonage,” and “child allowance,” as well as reimbursements for covered expenses like travel.
Then in 2014, we see via a leaked letter that top church leaders were informed that their pay would increase (as it seemingly does annually) to account for inflation. They would now receive a $120,000 “living allowance.” The letter doesn’t seem to distinguish the “living allowance” from a normal salary, as they refer to their checks as a “paycheck” and a “pay period.” The letter also shows that these leaders are receiving medical benefits, which fits right along with a normal paid professional job. They clearly receive all kinds of money from the church, and would certainly consider themselves to be part of the ministry or clergy of the church. How can they say repeatedly that there is no paid ministry in the church when they all get paid regularly!? It appears that they have been paid for a long time too, this is nothing new. It likely started with Joseph Smith, as he was always looking for ways to benefit from his position at the top of the church. The financials of the early church are fraught with mishandling funds, just look at the Kirtland Safety Society’s Anti-Bank for a clear example.
What Top Mormon Leaders Get Paid Today?
So, we have Henry Eyring’s pay stub from 1999 and the increase from $116,400 in 2013 to $120,000 in 2014. How much have things changed in the 25 and 10 years since? We know the church wealth has grown exponentially. They are so wealthy they have taken to illegal methods in attempt to hide the wealth. They have hundreds of billions of dollars in their rainy day fund alone. Educated estimates put the top church leadership compensation up to an annual $178K. They’re doing pretty well for themselves. Remember this is on top of all their travel being reimbursed. There are even rumors of “signing bonuses” for when leaders are called into new positions at the top.
For 2024, we estimate $178k* in equivalent taxable salary for the living allowance offered to the LDS Church’s 117** General Authorities (GAs).
With vehicle & per-child allowance, we estimate direct GA compensation at $188k, plus retirement & health benefits. Apostles may receive extra perks.
These payments have historically risen by 3.1% each year, roughly matching long-term inflation.
We estimate the Church will spend ~$29M on General Authority compensation in 2024 (~$19.5M on base allowances & ~$9.5M in benefits).Widows Mite Report https://widowsmitereport.wordpress.com/comp/
Some will argue that this is no big deal, since these men (yes, all men) are serving in the church and gave up their successful careers – and relatively the amount they receive for a living allowance is very small to what they could be earning or to what executives of similarly sized corporations are paid. Again, the point here isn’t that they are paid (even though it is against the doctrines presented in the scriptures and could easily be argued that this is priestcraft), but that they are paid, while proclaiming that they are not. This is dishonest. The majority of the church membership believes that these men are volunteers, happy to serve because they are so convicted that they gave up a paycheck to serve God!
The reality is these men receive a very comfortable payment for their church service. They also receive royalties from church-owned companies like Deseret Book for any publications they allow to be ghostwritten in their name or any collections of talks that they want to organize into a book or product of any kind. These books are also sold in other book stores and online on amazon.com. These leaders also receive fully reimbursed travel to anywhere in the world. First-class airline tickets, vehicles, drivers, and vacations (mingles with church visits) are all fully reimbursed and do not detract from their “stipend.” It’s enough to make many want to flip some tables. Maybe Jesus would even join in.
When did you learn that the leading officers of the church are paid? Did you always hear and feel proud that the church does not have a paid ministry? Have you ever considered how much more effective the leaders in the church could be if they were trained? Does it feel honest that the church proclaims so loudly that there is no paid ministry in the church, but that the top leaders do get paid? Is getting paid any different than receiving a “living allowance”? How did you reconcile all these questions? Does it bother you more that the leading officers of the church are paid or that they claim there is no paid ministry while they happily receive their paycheck from the church? Does the claim that they are paid only with dividends on investments made with tithing money feel any different than if they were paid with tithing money? Are these dividends any different than the tithing that was invested to create the dividends? Do you wish the church were more transparent with its finances and how it spends tithing money? Answer these questions in the comments below, or register for an account here and share your full story in your very own “I was a Mormon” profile on wasmormon.org.