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Ask A Mormonish Girl: Are There Paid Clergy In The Mormon Church?

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Hello and happy Sunday!

We're back for another "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl" post! For anyone new, this is a series where I talk about my feelings on religion, being member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka "Mormon"), and reconciling all of this with democrat/liberal values. My goal of these posts is to help you know you're not alone with your questions and concerns AND to actually talk about them and create some conversation past "just have faith and it will work out". Overall, I believe in imperfect relationships, both with people and institutions. This series documents my very imperfect relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  

If you don't see your question answered this week, please keep submitting it! I will get to all of them eventually! Every Sunday I post a question box on my Instagram (@emmycoletti) and I will save it in the highlight "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl". If your question is too long (or you don't have Instagram), feel free to email me instead at emmycoletti@gmail.com

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I was talking about callings on my Instagram stories this week, and the subject of paid clergy came up. I mentioned how one of the things I like about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that it is entirely volunteer based and we have no paid clergy. 

Shortly after, I got a wave of people informing me that the top leaders actually are paid, and a hefty amount at that. I wrote out a whole response, but figured I'd just dive deeper into it today! So, let's begin our dive: 

Are there paid clergy in the mormon church?

The short answer is: yes. However, it is only the top authorities and it is called a "living allowance" rather than a salary per se. The top authorities is comprised of about 100 or so people and includes: 

  • The prophet (1 person)
  • The first presidency (3 people)
  • The quorum of the twelve apostles (12 people)
  • The first and second quorums of the seventy (140 people)
  • The presiding bishopric (3 people)

The living allowance is currently about $120k via leaked documents. I know to some people this may be considered a lot. However, this is pretty on par with the average CEO salary of non-profit organizations. So, knowing they get a living allowance of $120,000 amount honestly doesn't bother me too much for these reasons. 

Plus, there's also the question of accessibility: It seems to me that if there wasn't a living allowance, only wealthy people would have the financial privilege of being able to leave their careers to serve as full time leaders in the church. So, I do appreciate that the living allowance makes those positions available to a wide variety of individuals. 

Ok, next: I have heard so many people claim they get a "1 million sign on bonus" in addition to their living allowance. However, I have yet to see any sources/receipts of this beyond word of mouth or anonymous forums online. I feel like that is hefty enough a sum of money that something would have been leaked by now lol. So, until is see actual proof that they are paid 1 million dollars as a sign on bonus, I'm going to be cautious about that claim. 

Overall, there, I think there are a lot of things to fry the church over (LGBTQIA+, racist history, sexism, patriarchy, etc.) But this issue of the tippy top leaders getting a relatively modest living allowance isn't one of them for me haha. Especially considering it's a church of 16 million people being relatively effectively run by people volunteering their time. Idk, I just think that's cool and a pretty big feat. 

These discussions can frustration me, because I often feel pulled by both sides. I am not Mormon enough for the Mormons, but not ex-Mormon enough for the ex-Mormons. I'm a weird middle ground of a person, and I think people sometimes feel drawn to try to get me to their side. Orthodox Mormons are quick to excuse and belittle concerns I have about the church in order to pull me into orthodoxy. But, on the opposite side of that same coin, ex-Mormons are quick to criticize and devalue any positive thing about the church. 

I'm not here to tell anyone else what to think. Nor is it my job to validate each person's individual journey with religion. I'm just here to share some gray area thoughts on a typically black-and-white conversation. I'm here to be "mormonish". To me that means being able to acknowledge the good AND the bad of this religion. 

And for me, when it comes to our volunteer run organization and few paid clergy, this is one of the good things. 

Until next week!

Your Mormon-ish Internet Friend,
Emmy Coletti


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