Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Yes, My Stake President is a Lawyer

It is the written policy of our stake that some are forbidden from having internet access and watercraft of any sort. Are these desperate preventive measures against the expanded dominions of the destroyer who, nowadays riding in power not only upon the face the waters (see the section heading to D&C 61, and verses 14-19), but upon cyberspace as well, is ready to consume both literal and virtual surfers?

No, it turns out these are not severe prophylactic measures against the wiles of the adversary, but remedial elements of our stake’s welfare policy, from which I quote (capitalization is in the document as I received it from our high councilor):
When is a person ready to receive welfare assistance from the Lord's sacred funds?

Church assistance is available only after the members have:

1. exhausted all personal resources

2. eliminated all expenses not essential to sustain life (i.e.. cable TV, cell phones, internet services, most pets (cats, dogs, birds etc.) monthly payments not necessary to sustain life, including but not limited to furniture or other rentals, etc)

3. have sold off all items of value not necessary to sustain life (i.e.. second, third or even a single expensive vehicle, watercraft of any sort, expensive electronic equipment, jewelry other than wedding rings, etc)

4. have downsized their housing, if possible,


6. are willing to work,

a. paying a full tithe
b. living the Word of Wisdom
c. living the law of chastity
d. attending church meetings
e. fulfilling church assignments, including home and visiting teaching

When members have met these seven standards, they are ready for temporary assistance from the sacred funds of the Church. When they do not meet one or more standard they are not ready. That a bishop may help someone when they are not ready and will benefit less is always possible, but the Bishop must make sure that such aid from the Lord's sacred funds is no more than is needed to sustain life and that the member is working towards meeting all seven standards.
This policy got me into trouble. The problem was not that we’re on Church welfare and were found in violation, but the lack of decorum characterizing my response when it was read over the pulpit in our ward. Knowing that our stake president—a lawyer—authored the document, and hearing the lawyerly turns of phrase (“including but not limited to”) and exhaustive bills of particulars, my amusement grew until it broke through the surface in audible laughter at the phrase “watercraft of any sort,” earning me a sharp elbow from my wife.

(The phrase “watercraft of any sort” is actually a nontrivial matter that merits the specific mention it receives in the above policy, because of its impact on fishing, which is mostly done from boats on lakes and rivers in east Tennessee. As in the book and movie A River Runs Through It, fishing takes on a near-religious importance for some in this region, as exemplified by a bumper sticker on our ward mission leader’s pickup truck: “Everyone believes in something. I believe I’ll go fishing.”)


wonder if we could take some type of poll. my last stake pres. was an attorney. my best guess is about 23% of Stake Presidents are lawyers.  

Comment by lyle stamps | 7/19/2005 02:27:00 PM  

Well, I guess publicly announcing that policy does serve a valuable purpose in disabusing the members of your stake of the foolish notion that any of them might actually be able to qualify for getting any of the sacred funds of the Church they have spent so many years contributing to. Unless they sell every item they have first. Do they have to sell their dental fillings too? I didn't see that in the list but it must be there somewhere. I can't imagine anyone depleting the sacred funds of the Church while still walking around in possession of precious metals worth almost a hundred dollars. And so easily accessible too. 

Comment by Dave | 7/19/2005 04:15:00 PM  

lol. Dave, somehow you make understatement so blasted funny! :)  

Comment by lyle | 7/19/2005 11:17:00 PM  

This is just nuts. I recently attended a leadership training session at which Pres. Faust addressed this issue. Although he did not get into this level of detail, his general counsel was quite the opposite of your penurious stake president's standards for giving. I am pretty sure that King Benjamin's famous speech would have never surived Mormon's editorial scrutiny if he had taught what your stake president is teaching. They actually read this from the pulpit in the stake? Unbelievable. 

Comment by gary | 7/20/2005 05:37:00 PM  

Some assistance recipients in my own ward still have cable and Internet access. 

Comment by Someone in Washington State | 7/20/2005 08:24:00 PM  

I wish a policy like this were more universal in the church. There is so much suffering in the world, and we here in the US have such an elevated sense of entitlement. How selfish is it to insist on church funds to help support payment of cell phone bills, cable internet, etc., when those in the third world ask for help in getting clean water and mosquito nets?

The fact is, even if the church won't directly pay "unnecessary bills," funds given to those who have such bills and expenses indirectly subsidizes those bills. I personally would never even consider requesting access to these sacred funds until I had done all of the things on that list and more .

This is not a savings account. You aren't entitled to funds at your discretion simply because you "paid in" over the years. King Benjamin would probably be disgusted at the economic disparity in the world. I highly doubt the average american asking for help to his boat payment would meet King Benjamin's definition of a "beggar."

Christian, the level of confidence you display in openly laughing at a decision made by your stake president is alarming. Even if he is a lawyer, and even if you have convinced yourself he is out in left field in this topic, he is called to make these decisions, and if you raise your hand at stake conference to sustain him, then an attitude like the one you seem to have over this is troubling at best.

I have served in bishoprics and have seen some of the difficult decisions bishops have to make regarding use of fast offerings. There is certainly a wide variety of strategies, and this stake president's decision does seem to be on one extreme, but there is a purpose behind it. If that is the way he wants things to be in your stake, then you should go with it and not serve as a detractor. People in the ward who respect your opinion might see your attitude and find it all the easier to disregard this counsel.

Why not stand up and support this decision in every way you can? That is certainly what the General Authorities would want from you. They can decide if that is a wise strategy, and can correct the stake president if he is not in the right. Personally, I think at the end of the day, his policy will enable the most good to be done with the these sacred funds.

Blast away at me if you want, I can take it.

I am not a lawyer, BTW. 

Comment by Jeff | 7/23/2005 09:59:00 AM  

Greetings, everyone, from the free internet access at the Albuquerque airport. Thanks for the witty and insightful comments. Sorry it's taken so long to respond—work and pleasure in and around Santa Fe have kept me from blogging hardly at all the past two weeks.

Jeff,  for the record let me emphasize that I didn't mean my post to interpreted as railing against the policy. I meant the post to be neutral towards the policy (though I thought it might provoke discussion); my amusement was at the lawyerly way it was written. I don't think being a lawyer had anything to do with the policy itself; for example, Dave—who disagrees with the policy—is a lawyer.

I have mixed feelings about the policy. Having grown up a Republican, it's somewhat natural for me to be sympathetic to its basic thrust; however, I also feel badly about people having to live a vastly different (and today, quite unnatural) lifestyle than their immediate neighbors. In the end I don't think a policy like this can be anything approaching universal. I think it depends greatly on the individuals, the communities in which they live, whether the stake is producing a surplus or deficit of fast offering funds (I suspect our stake has a deficit), the duration of the difficulty, etc. In our stake I wouldn't dispute that there are many who could really use some lessons in better lifestyle and financial management. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 7/23/2005 12:23:00 PM  



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