Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

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Linked
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Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

Post by Linked » Mon May 02, 2022 4:10 pm

Stephen Dubner recently interviewed Yuen Yuen Ang on the Freakonomics Radio podcast about corruption and her "unbundled corruption" metrics which add some nuance to discussing corruption. The main gist of the podcast was that commonly-used Corruption Perception Index (CPI) fails to capture a lot of details about corruption, including different types of corruption and legal corruption. Also, that the US has high levels of Access Money corruption, similar to China, and that this kind of corruption can be helpful for short term economic growth.

She defines 4 types of corruption:

Petty Theft - Local law enforcement pulling someone over and demanding $20
Grand Theft - Higher level officials draining the country's back accounts
Speed Money - Low level bureaucrat taking a bribe to speed up permitting, etc
Access Money - High level government official giving time and attention if you pay (Lobbying, political donations)

Image

I thought it would be interesting to consider how the LDS church might look from an "unbundled corruption" perspective.

Petty Theft - As noted in Hagoth's Widow's Mite thread the church locks down hard on Petty Theft with swift and severe punishment for any local official messing with the money. The church does not seem to have a petty theft problem.

Grand Theft - Since the church audit's itself, it would be particularly difficult to find grand theft issues at high levels. Some GAs get a paycheck, but it is not enough to consider it grand theft. Maybe the funneling of funds to temple builders or the gains on real estate near temples could fall here. Also any cushy gigs on company boards. All speculation, but these seem to be a straightforward way to get rich off of church activity.

Speed Money - I wonder if any bishops or stake presidents have ever taken money or other bribes for temple access or callings?

Access Money - I suspect this is where you might find corruption/unfairness in the LDS church. Access to all higher callings go through the GAs, so they have the ability to select by dollars donated. Bishop, Stake President, Mission President, GA. They also have 2nd annointings they can offer. There is little evidence that any of the top guys are individually getting ultra-rich from their efforts, but they can do anything they want with church funds without regard to money as long as it can be justified. Just look at the Rome temple.
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blazerb
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Re: Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

Post by blazerb » Mon May 02, 2022 7:08 pm

How does nepotism play into this? I'm thinking of Holland's son getting the gig as university president without a CV that justifies that. Or the numerous family ties that help get callings or church employment. Maybe the currency of corruption in the church is not always money. I'll listen to the podcast.

Also, I think GA's getting about twice the median household income in the US ought to be considered grand larceny. They are taking money from families with two people working full-time to get half what they pay themselves in addition to whatever they give themselves on their expense accounts.

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Hagoth
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Re: Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

Post by Hagoth » Tue May 03, 2022 7:25 am

But BlazerB, you forget how much money they are turning down by choosing not to be powerful corporate CEOs. Just think how much people like Hinkley and Packer, who never worked for anyone but the church, could make if somehow they were magically transformed into CEOs of Apple and ATT&T. Or if Uchtdorf was promoted from airline pilot to CEO of Delta. And don't forget how many 90-year-olds, with the impressive corporates resumes as the Q15, are running major corporations right up until the day they die. These men must truly love the Lord if they are willing to settle for a mere stipend and the fawning adoration of millions of worshippers and sycophants.
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Re: Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

Post by Linked » Tue May 03, 2022 9:49 am

I was thinking more about this and I don't think the comparison to a government makes sense. With government corruption you have powerful people trading political or policy favors for money. They need the support of the rich to get ahead.

In the church's case, the organization is now wealthy enough to not need outside funds. As long as they can avoid losing their pile of cash they will have plenty of money to support the current church leadership lifestyle indefinitely. They don't need to offer anything to the wealthy because they don't need money. I doubt they would turn money down, and there is value in having private entities buy certain things to keep the name of the church out of transactions, but they can be more selective. They do need the support of the government though, so them screaming about freedom of religion makes a lot of sense.

This is a fairly recent shift, so we may still have some inertia from a different era where they needed money. But I would expect as things move forward church policies will move more toward looking like descendants of an ultra-wealthy person, i.e. Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, etc. Just stay quiet, invest well, and avoid getting scammed.


blazerb wrote:
Mon May 02, 2022 7:08 pm
How does nepotism play into this? I'm thinking of Holland's son getting the gig as university president without a CV that justifies that. Or the numerous family ties that help get callings or church employment. Maybe the currency of corruption in the church is not always money. I'll listen to the podcast.

Also, I think GA's getting about twice the median household income in the US ought to be considered grand larceny. They are taking money from families with two people working full-time to get half what they pay themselves in addition to whatever they give themselves on their expense accounts.
I would consider any benefits to family members equivalent to personal gain for the church decision makers. So nepotism by a church leader would be equivalent to taking it for themselves. I would probably put it in with Grand Theft, though it may not be illegal.

I get your point about the GA income being high. It is disgusting that they would take a very comfortable living for themselves and their families to be celebrities on the back of the widow's mite. But the amounts are so small compared to what they could be. I find it surprising and impressive that we don't have any billionaire families built our of the church's fortune yet.
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

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Re: Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

Post by nibbler » Tue May 03, 2022 12:00 pm

Linked wrote:
Mon May 02, 2022 4:10 pm
Petty Theft - Local law enforcement pulling someone over and demanding $20
Is that like being pestered by the executive secretary to go into tithing settlement and the bishop is happy with your tithing contributions but then hits you up to make better fast offerings?
We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.
– Anais Nin

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Linked
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Re: Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

Post by Linked » Tue May 03, 2022 1:37 pm

nibbler wrote:
Tue May 03, 2022 12:00 pm
Linked wrote:
Mon May 02, 2022 4:10 pm
Petty Theft - Local law enforcement pulling someone over and demanding $20
Is that like being pestered by the executive secretary to go into tithing settlement and the bishop is happy with your tithing contributions but then hits you up to make better fast offerings?
Hahaha, it's amazing that people do that. It seems completely crazy now.

I think that would be more like a cop that pulls you over and gives you 2 tickets instead of 1. The money is going where church leadership directs for the most part. The bishop doesn't see much personal gain in any scenario.
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

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Re: Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

Post by moksha » Tue May 03, 2022 7:01 pm

One of the Church's early experiences with influence buying was when they saw how successful Leland Stanford (California railroad magnate) was when he spread LDS Church money around to eastern newspaper editors in exchange for softening newspaper editorials on polygamy and Utah joining the states. Not sure what Leland's cut was, but it worked and didn't cost the Church much in excess of $100,000 and the promise to vote Republican evermore. That was an initial blow for the Church since the Republicans were progressives way back when. Now they are the party of QAnon and it meshes well.
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Re: Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

Post by stealthbishop » Wed May 04, 2022 8:06 am

This adds a lot of nuance to the other thread on the widow's mite etc. And I agree with it. At the local or micro level there are harsh punishments but at the macro level I suspect it is may be a different story especially in terms of benefits for GAs in addition to their salaries. The corruption may be sort of more religious corruption in terms of making the poor pay (so that they will be blessed) when it is not needed at all while the upper hierarchy get paid to write books for instance and have all the FREE marketing and distribution they could ever need for their books for example. Thanks for sharing this. This is more in line with my experience and how I see it FWIW.
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Emower
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Re: Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

Post by Emower » Wed May 04, 2022 5:34 pm

I recently made a career switch out of a job that felt quite important in it's arena. It allowed me to hobnob a little bit with politicians, it was smack in the middle of some contentious social and economic policy arenas, and was considered one of the level and knowledgeable heads in the room. I set my own agenda and projects and it felt a little important. When I left I kept up with it a little bit. As I have followed from afar and gotten a bit of distance it has become apparent to me that the position only felt important to me and from outside it looks like those people are playing at being relevant in the arena but they really aren't.

I think the church is a lot the same. I don't think there is much about the upper echelons of the church that is inherently corrupt for that reason. The guys who are in charge of policy and money flow really feel like it's important and they are doing gods work. They are amassing wealth for God, not for themselves. GAs don't have mansions, yachts, secret lovers (well, one comes to mind), or trust funds for their kids. They have access to more than your average Joe, and there is certainly some nepotism going on. Yes they can do whatever with the money, but when your membership supports it and eats it up, why not build massive opulent buildings?

I think the church was founded with less than stellar motives, and that direction has continued to this day. It's kind of interesting to me that it hasn't gotten more corrupt with time.

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Red Ryder
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Re: Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

Post by Red Ryder » Thu May 05, 2022 8:11 am

Emower wrote:
Wed May 04, 2022 5:34 pm
(Snip)
They are amassing wealth for God, not for themselves. GAs don't have mansions, yachts, secret lovers (well, one comes to mind), or trust funds for their kids. They have access to more than your average Joe, and there is certainly some nepotism going on.
I think you would be surprised. They can maintain images of thrift all the while funneling money into their bank accounts through legitimate back channel investments.

GA Relative #1 becomes a real estate investor in a newly set up company. Let’s call it Moroni’s Trumpet LLC. Each LLC member contributes $5,000 and begins to look for commercial real estate investment opportunities.

A property is located and another partner is brought in who can provide financing. Let’s call that partner Ensign Peak. You’ve probably heard of them.

The building is purchased and rental income from all the corporate tenants becomes a steady income stream to the LLC. Each year, GA relative #1 gets a distribution of profits in the amount of $250K.

My example is rudimentary of course.

But think of all the ways the insiders and their families can be a leach on the income streams generated by the Billion Dollar Organization.

Any part owners/investors in large accordion door companies that specialize in partitioning chapels from basketball courts?

Any part owners/investors in burlap wall design and manufacturing?

I believe the real theft occurs under the guise of legal arms length transactions.

The real problem is transparency. Where are the financial statements that require disclosure of these type of arrangements? Where are the independent audits? Where is the accountability to the widow who donates her mite?

The insiders may not be flaunting their wealth under the guise of a cheap Mr. Mac suite or a shiny new 12 passenger kid hauler, but I have no doubt the insiders are constantly suckling off the capitalistic teet of the Mormon empire.

And who would ever know under the constant environment of secrecy of LDS finances?

One last thought. Throw out the word theft and replace with wealth transfer. That’s how I see it happen.
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Re: Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

Post by Linked » Thu May 05, 2022 3:53 pm

I think there are definitely corrupt things happening, but the scale is surprisingly small. They are engaging in Grand Theft, but with tiny amounts compared to what is available to be stolen. Maybe that is part of the big temple building push, increasing the scale of the operation but using the same mechanisms. They need to get more creative.
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

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Re: Unbundled Corruption and the LDS Church

Post by Emower » Thu May 05, 2022 6:26 pm

Red Ryder wrote:
Thu May 05, 2022 8:11 am

One last thought. Throw out the word theft and replace with wealth transfer. That’s how I see it happen.
I certainly get that and agree. But, at that point, it becomes pretty much similar to how merica' operates and not especially unique to Mormonism. I realize that the point of the OP was not how uniquely corrupt the church is, but I think some level of base corruption is to be expected and the church doesn't display much above the base level. There is maybe a lot due to the scale of the church's finances, but it's still a base amount. Although your point of who benefits and who doesn't (i.e., access) is well taken. There is probably more than a base level of nepotism.

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