Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
182: LDS Inc. and the Commodification of Faith:  Ron & Josh Madson

182: LDS Inc. and the Commodification of Faith: Ron & Josh Madson

Credit: Stacks by Damian Gadal @Flickr

How did The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints become an over-bloated corporate bureaucracy?  What are the implications for the way in which the church practices religion, and for the way it inspires faith? Ron and Josh Madson address these questions and share some reflections about how all of this squares up with the God’s passion for justice and Jesus’ call for the relief of the poor.


  1. I enjoyed listening to the podcast as I am bothered by the centralization of the Church. These days I became to agree with the idea of calling the institution a ‘business corporation.’ We have very small strength to influence the Churcch to a different direction as we are situated at the margin. But I try to stay in the community here in Japan and stay in touch with the progressive circles on the Internet. And I will keep observing and participating. Thank you Gina Colvin, Ron and Josh Madson for your contribution.

    1. Gina Colvin

      Thank you for your comment Jiro! I love it when people reach out from beyond the US. Let me know if you would like to have chat sometime! Blessings from New Zealand!

  2. Jean Bodie

    Once again the message brought me to tears. I discovered on my mission that it was ‘already raining’ Gina.
    The poverty and malnutrition suffered by members in South Africa appalled me enough to send me back to try to alleviate this because I could see that ‘my’ church was NOT doing it.
    I felt compelled to leave my faith community at first due to its false historical claims but eventually coming to the realization that the corporate church does not care about individuals, especially those in poorer nations.
    I cry for all the wasted tithes that could have helped those people who loved the church enough to give up their gold teeth. Thank you, thank you to your guests and to you for clearly showing that the corporate model does not help ‘true saints’.

    1. Jean, I appreciate your input here. In my opinion, any false and/or fabricated historical claims could be endured/overlooked if the church were actively engaged in doing good and serving the least. By the same token, if the church was 100% historically accurate but was not doing good works, engaged in exclusion/judgment then it would not be something we should support or associate with no matter how accurate/true its narrative.
      If tithes and offerings were primarily reinvested in alleviating human suffering with only a little kept back for administrative overhead our ability to do good in the world and communities would be overflowing. Third world communities would also thrive both temporally and spiritually imo if they could retain tithes/offerings locally and not be focused on buildings of stone.

      Gina asked Josh and I a question near the end of the podcast that I was not prepared to answer and even now it is weighing on me—“Is this institution worth being a heretic?” I have played that role but not sure anymore.

  3. A Happy Hubby

    Oh boy. I got a sore throat shouting “AMEN”. The final discussion on, “is this worth keeping/reforming?” is a question I have been pondering for a while. Does God want me to try and help reform this corporation back into a church or is the best thing for me to just personally withdraw and focus my Christian efforts elsewhere. Good food for thought.

  4. Cherice Godard

    I just finished listening to this podcast. I’ve never commented on one before, but feel that this one deserves my stamp of approval. Thank you to Ron and Josh Madsen in putting some context around the tensions I’ve been feeling for years. Serving in administrative positions within my wards over the past 10 years has brought up some big questions that have made me feel heretical for my opposing views. I’m now beginning to see that most of my issues stem from the structure of the church and implementations of policy that are truly un-Christlike. Thank you so much for allowing me to listen to your discussion. It’s giving me much to consider. Stay or go? I’m not sure at the moment, but like it was said in the closing, I am sure that my community is worth fighting for.

  5. Chip Browne

    Mormons are not trained to put personal revelation before priesthood counsel. This is a problem of both sides. The denial of responsibility by members, and the desire FOR the responsibility OF others by leaders (unrighteous dominion). Agency requires the responsibility that comes with personal revelation. Mormons release this responsibility when they put priesthood cancel before personal revelation. They do it willingly, and they believe themselves righteous. They are somewhat confused by the counsel, “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” They bypass the step of personal revelation in discerning what is inspired. I wish leaders would enforce this personal responsibility instead of the “take my word and you will be saved” line that many leaders think.

      1. Chip Browne

        Thanks! The spirit of prophecy and revelation is available to all of us. It is how we know Christ. It is how we discern. Our receptivity to this testimony of Jesus is how God will differentiate those of His Kingdom. I would love it if we held this to be our standard as opposed to the sometimes blind obedience to men.

  6. I have been asked by some as to what I meant by my reference to an “1/8th of an Inch.” I realized that in our back and forth in this podcast that I was often using references to things that I knew Gina, Josh and I would be familiar with without taking time to provide context.
    The “1/8th of an Inch” was a blog post I wrote a couple years ago referring to a GC address where the GA referred to a window in the temple that was off an 1/8th of an inch and that time/cost was necessary to make it right “for the Lord”
    Here was my blog post using that address as a springboard which lays out much of my thoughts I tried to express in this podcast:

    And I appreciate all the responses and feedback

  7. Gina, Josh & Ron…Thanks for this wonderful podcast. I listened to it 3 times over!!! It was informative and insightful. Highly validating of what I’ve been thinking. I also found it full of opportunity. The opportunity to step up to the plate of Common Consent. Here’s what I heard. Sorry if I get some of your names wrong.

    Josh: “I don’t know if we can change? Moving everything from local to general. Most of the things local members used to have to make changes have been wrested from them.” Sam: They didn’t wrest all things. We are actually the ones who have ceded common consent. But, that we can easily take back. It just waiting for our action.

    Ron: “Something must die so that something can live.” Sam: Something must first come to life…common consent, before something will die…our reliance on central control to dictate all policies and practices.

    Josh: “Change will have to come from the margins. From the bottom up. It will involve people questioning authority. Until those things are challenged we will always be under the thumb of central rule and we’ll continue to have to take marching orders.” Sam: Doesn’t this just scream common consent? that is the bottom up method that Jesus himself established.

    Gina: “It needs people to put on the brake and say, “Whoa…hold on. I didn’t sign up for this kind of corporatized Christianity.” Sam: That’s exactly what common consent expresses. By simply voting to sustain we are saying, “Whoa…hold on…you have my approval to continue to do anything you darn well please.”

    Ron: “More than anything the church needs more and more Samuels, people from the margins challenging it. We need Samuels and others from the margins to keep us in check.” Sam: OK…I’m not a Lamanite. But, I am a Samuel. At present, I’m the only one on the wall calling for Common Consent. You are right. We need more & more Samuels on the wall. Come join me. What would happen if Gina, Josh and Ron climbed up on Samuel’s wall and encouraged compliance to the law of Jesus Christ…the law of common consent? Here’s what would happen…a few more Samuels would appear…and then a few more…then a lot more…

    Gina: “Wouldn’t it be nice to have Samuel the Lamanite to give us some direction.” Sam: Ditto my comments above. Come be a Samuel on the wall. After all, during my faith transition, YOU, Gina, had a great influence on my decision to stay with the church.

    Ron: “We need a wake up call.” Sam: Exactly right. A wake up to OUR responsibility. It’s OUR responsibility to exercise our god-given right, & privilege of common consent. But, who is going to make that wake up call? How about you 3 along with little ol’ me? At present there are 321 members who have put their names on the register of Common Consent as being opposed to various policies that have yet to be presented for the required vote. What is needed is more members at the forefront leading the charge.

    Ron: “I’ve never had a faith crisis. The church has a truth crisis.” Sam: The entire membership is going through a responsibility crisis. No one is stepping up to their duty. “All things MUST be done in the church by common consent.” That’s us. Jesus is talking about our vital responsibility in church governance. We are shirking it very badly.

    Finally, Gina posed the ultimate question which goes something like this: ‘Is the church, as it’s currently organized, worth saving?’ Here’s my answer—YES!!! There is so much good in and about the church. However, I would add another question, “Is the church, as it’s currently practiced, worth saving? Nope!!! At least not for me. And…not for the boatloads of members who have left and will continue to leave. The church is organized with common consent as a powerful principle. But, it’s practiced as an essential that has been eviscerated. We need to eviscerate our complacency to this essential law.

    So there it is. We have tons of complaints. The solution is embedded in our founding, canonized documents. The key is hidden in plain sight. We all see it. A commandment calling out for our courageous embrace.

    Thanks again for this wonderful podcast. Ya’ll are awesome.

  8. Pingback: Commodification of Faith – Tocubit Is Invisible's Cubit

  9. Russ

    I’m listening to this podcast right now, and something came back to mind I thought I’d share. I don’t remember my source, but I’m fairly certain that every LDS Temple has a sizable endowment to fund its maintenance and upkeep in perpetuity on the interest of those monies. This makes enormous economic sense for a corporation interested in operating these facilities in perpetuity. The comment on the den of thieves, I think, is what brought it to mind. There’s not simply treasure tied up in the facility itself, but in the accounts dedicated to it.
    And of course, money doesn’t magically generate interest on its own. That’s why the church invests in commercial ventures. This large temple building effort has help make the church the investment firm it is today.

  10. KarlS

    Josh and Ron thanks for your insights. I am appalled at the lack of transparency, like you. That is part of the problem. The leaders, though, will say just “trust us,” but it’s hard to do that with little to go on but what we see and that seems to run on both sides of the spectrum. But, while I understand your concern, you offered no convincing evidence or data to back up your opinions. Some of them may be self-evident, but how can you make such conclusions when you have little to no data (or at least didn’t give any or even reference any exist)? Granted, it doesn’t take any “data” to see that expensive temple adornments could go a long ways towards alleviating suffering of individuals elsewhere. But, how can you be sure you understand the bigger picture? That is where the lack of transparency comes in. But, since we don’t know what is really going on or the real plan of the Church, how can you be so judgmental? How do you know how much tithing and fast offerings are returned to those in Africa or SA? Is your information from a sample size of anecdotal experiences of one or two, or what? I was told by a Stake Pres that the first 15M members came primarily from N & S America and that the next 15M will come from Africa. How much will that cost the rest of the Church to maintain? How do you know that the Church past and current investments and frugality toward helping poverty won’t end up being the “better part” in the long run? i.e., we’ll need that saved money for the masses in third world countries to help them spiritually and physically? I’m not saying we couldn’t and shouldn’t be doing more to alleviate suffering and spending less on 1st world issues, but to come out and criticize as if you have a lot of facts to base it on, when few if any were given, seems irresponsible and makes your message fall on deaf ears to all but those who already feel the same as you do, so it’s not going to do much good. Please let me know if I’m missing some information said or alluded to.

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