Emeritus general authority Tad Callister recently published an essay in the Church News called A Fence at the Top or an Ambulance at the Bottom making a fairly standard LDS point:

 you were asked, “What is the greatest challenge facing our nation today?” how would you respond? The economy, national security, immigration, gun control, poverty, racism, crime, pandemics, climate change? While each of these is a valid concern and deserves attention, I do not believe that any of them strikes at the heart of our greatest challenge — a return to family and moral values. To put our prime focus on other challenges is to strike at the leaves, not the root, of the problem. It is, as some have noted, to put an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff rather than a fence at the top.

Good stuff but pretty bland.  Elder Callister got at least a little bit feisty later one.

 He [Satan] disguises his plan of attack with alluring labels such as “pro-choice” for abortion, “love and compassion” for endorsement of same-sex marriage, and “environmental emergency” for promotion of a zero-growth population agenda.

Fair enough.


This caused the usual suspects to shriek and wail.   And the editor of the Church News responded to them favorably.





She implied that the article had slipped through the cracks and said she had “adjusted the process” to ensure that future articles better “represented the church.”  She apologized for how the article had made people feel.




Well.  (In reality’s puckish humor, she has the initials ‘SJW,’ I am not making this up, still chuckling to myself about it).


Which brings me to the point of this post.

The bureaucratization of everything including the gospel.


The managerial revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.


I think this is obvious.  Its as bad as the sexual revolution, though less obvious because the evils of the sexual revolution are more directly experienced and felt at the individual level.  The impersonalization and the lies and ‘official truth’ and reliance on credentialed experts of the managerial revolution do have a personal effect, but its less visible, and most of the evils happen structurally.


I strongly believe the Church would be better off without the bureaucracy.


I keep hearing persistent rumors that President Kimball tried to downsize the bureaucracy substantially and was defeated, though I cannot confirm that.


What I hear from people who have worked in the Church bureaucracy and my own professional contact with one part of it have made it look as bad as and in some ways possibly worse than any stereotype of secular bureaucracy.


The problem though is that bureaucracy and managerialism is like the ring of Sauron.  You don’t seem to be able to do without it.


So here I am going to brainstorm wild ideas for alternatives.  If you expect them to be good or well-considered ideas, you don’t know this blog.  But it has to start somewhere.  Someone has to suggest that the impossible may be possible.


Managerialism is death.


But first, lets clear the ground a little bit.


This is the Lord’s Church.


The priesthood is true.


The brethren are anointed by God to lead.


Sometimes the way God inspires inspired leaders is to let them make a bad decision and quickly see that it is bad.  (See, e.g., the recent reversal on the Manti temple and Elder Holland’s talk about praying with his grandson to know which route to take).


The corporate structure is not as true as the Church nor the gospel.


We can all recognize that the prophets and people of old had their understanding of the gospel constrained by the deep assumptions of their times.  The same is true of us.


There is a lot of slothfulness and even outright heresy and evil that passes itself off as a testimony of how true the Church is. “All is well in Zion.”


The idea that we are immune from normal organizational dynamics because This Is the Lord’s Church ™ is false.


The idea that we are immune from the normal consequences of stupidity and tolerating evil because This is the Lord’s Church ™ is false.


The idea that mercy can rob justice because This is the Lord’s Church ™ is false. [The Catholic Church just did a big report concluding that with the sex abuse scandals but also in other areas, they have focused on giving sinners second chances within the organization in a way that was incredibly destructive. Yep.]

The idea that our culture is basically sound except for a few obvious markers like abortion and we can run secular software with an LDS skin because This is the Lord’s Church ™ is false.  The gospel is not Disney plus Vidangel.


The idea that the scriptures saying all is not well in Zion do not apply to us, or only apply to us in socially acceptable ways, because This is the Lord’s Church ™, is false.


The idea that the apostasy, internal heresy and evil, and wickedness and lies from near the highest levels to the lowest may have happened in the church in scripture days but not anymore because This is the Lord’s Church ™ is false.

The idea that the combinations found in the Book of Mormon only now occur in ghettos and foreign countries and could not possibly have any effects for us because This is the Lord’s Church ™ is false.


The idea that we will be protected from the consequences of being nice (gullible, naive) in a deadly world because This is the Lord’s Church ™ is false.


The idea that we can collectively throw ourselves off the roof and the angels will catch us because This is the Lord’s Church ™ is false.
(On the other hand, beware overcorrecting these false ideas).

The problems

Managerialism is probably as fundamentally a part of the enemy as the sexual revolution is. There is a mountain of evidence that bureaucracies stultify quickly, are very resistant to control from the top, invariably filter information from those on the top, and form group consensus systems and status systems divorced from real world performance that are characteristic of the great and spacious building.


The only things that seem to make a difference are serious and sustained outside threats that have visible real world consequences. Militaries can function in war time. We are not under this kind or level of threat. The threats are terribly real but they are not the kind that keep bureaucracies sane. They are the kinds of threats that big corporations experience in their long process of going bankrupt.

Newly created bureaucracies often seem to work fairly well. But after a few decades . . .

An extremely decisive leader who freely hires and fires and who gives the bureaucracy an extreme amount of attention can sometimes reset a bureaucracy back to its initial days, but the effect wears away very quickly once he stops supervising them that closely.


Brainstorming Alternatives
(Brainstorming means not all of these ideas fit together or are meant to.  Not all of these are good ideas.  Maybe none are.)


As long as we have to have bureaucracies, probably the only solution is to literally dissolve everything and start over with a new organizational map and new employees every few decades. “But that’s extreme!” Yep. Survival is extreme. Health is extreme.  There would be huge downside costs. Pay them. “But insurance is expensive!” “But earthquake proofing the temple will cost a ton!”

Decentralizing is a partial solution to bureaucracy.  Home church, friends.  But only a partial solution.

Here’s one thought.  No permanent Church employees.  Make them all temporary gigs.


Don’t have organizations outside the structure of the priesthood. Farm out the necessary bureaucratic functions to stakes and alliances of stakes.


Or make most Church bureaucracy functions paid callings like being a mission president.


Have church workers be service missionaries.

This could be expanding the mission model, using retirees more, or just repurposing our missionaries who if we are being honest are mostly wasting their time in many parts of the world. If the mission model works, then it works. If we think the way we run missions is non functional, then why are we running missions that way?


Or a hybrid model–call department presidents where the staff consists of missionaries.


Or here’s a thought. We already have a precedent for quorums that just meet with the Elders and function normally as part of the Elders’ quorum. That’s what the high priests do. We also know that the seventies are fairly flexible in what they can be used for. So what if we had Church service missionaries and we took our former service missionaries and made them part of ‘the auditing department seventies” and for the rest of their life they would have a calling to help out the auditing department. Depending on how its done, this could also involve a lot of women who are wanting to primarily be homemakers but would like to retain a small professional footprint.


A greater use of outside organizations, a much greater use of competition, and a much greater use of rewards and incentives. Skin in the game as much as possible. We don’t like competition and incentives and consequences because it isn’t nice. “Who would Jesus allow to go bankrupt?” But it has to be done.


Instead of having apostles step in and out of assignments, make them permanent, give them a budget, and let them have full responsibility and hiring/firing/reorg authority within their area of responsibility.


The church university system is probably too important to be run at less than the apostolic level.


Probably the number one idea would be a lot more Church support and backing for outside efforts by members. They could take risks that are harder for the Church, its an easier way to allow for competition and rewards, and its a lot easier to let an organization fail by withdrawing support than it is to get rid of your own organization and fire your own people. Like the idea a friend had for a subdivision where people work together to build their homes and the chapel and ‘lean in’ on traditional sex roles and other things. It wouldn’t work as a Church project. But if the Church gave a nice sum to a non-profit and offered some qualified verbal support at the beginning, and then let the thing sink or swim, that would be great. LDS DARPA.

Bonus material: Hugh Nibley, Leaders and Managers




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