How Much Does a Mormon Apostle Make?

FPHenry Eyring tries to read Thomas Monson’s bank statement.  Apparently, he too wants to know…

by Marcello Jun de Oliveira

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prides itself in depending exclusively on a volunteer, lay, and non-salaried clergy. Although this is largely true at a local and regional level, where ecclesiastical functions are filled and fulfilled by volunteer leaders, the administrative functions of the Church depend largely on a veritable army of professionals, and the topmost religious leaders of the Church clearly constitute a distinct class of professional clergymen.

Ask any Mormon (i.e., Latter-day Saint, or member of the Church), and s/he will invariably demure from any suggestion that the top leadership of the Church are either professionals or even remunerated, simply because they are not salaried per se, but rather receive stipends or “living expenses” (after all, not everyone can live on 5 loaves and 2 fishes). This person wouldn’t be technically incorrect, seeing as this is the official position of the Church, which is that is merely supports its leaders, but not as salaried professionals.

However, how accurate would this explanation correlate with the facts on the ground? In actual fact, how much does the President of the Church make? What about the Counselors in the First Presidency? The Apostles? The Presidents of the Seventy? The Seventies in the First Quorum?

For the time being, I believe it is literally impossible to answer these questions appropriately, especially because the Church is far from transparent with its financial information, or with any detailed information from which such answers could be deduced. The Church views such financial data as sacred (that is, secret), and thus off limits.

Nevertheless, a friend recently shared with me some relevant information that offers important clues or insights into what the Church remuneration policies might be.

Recently, the Church’s sacred (that is, secret) official Mission President’s Handbook (2006 edition)  has been leaked anonymously to the netherworlds of the internet! [1]

In Appendix B of this manual, the Church discusses, quite openly and tellingly, financial stipulations for the men presiding over its many missions across the world.

mormon-missionaries-men2Mormon Missionaries are volunteers who are supported by their families and congregations. Their mission presidents, on the other hand…

For those less familiar with the Church, it maintains a vast army of young volunteer male and female missionaries in different parts of the world, who proselytize the globe for 18 months (females) and two years (males). These young people are not salaried and must support themselves from their own savings for these 2 years, although more often than not, their families and their home congregations pull together to help them.

For every group of 180-240 young missionaries, an adult is called to lead them for a period of 3 years, as their Mission President. In theory, the mission president is also a volunteer, non-salaried, position.

However, the aforementioned Church manual (written as an instructional booklet for these mission leaders) clearly establishes that, although the Church will not pay them salaries and will expect them to support themselves and their families, it will offer considerable help with their living expenses.

“Considerable” is the operative word here. For instance, the Church will offer full reimbursement for the following personal and familial living expenses of the Mission President and his family, while he serves this volunteer, unsalaried 3 year-stint:

1     Medical expenses, including dental and eye care, though not orthodontics (except in specific cases) and cosmetic surgery (unless covered by the insurance provider);

2     Rent (usually quite upscale);

3     Living expenses proper, including utilities, food, household supplies, dry cleaning, phones, internet, dry cleaning, etc.;

4     One official car, with maintenance and gas;

5     One second official car for the wife, with maintenance and gas;

6     Clothing for the mission president and his family;

7     “Family activities” (unspecified, possibly purposefully vague);

8     Long-distance personal phone calls;

9     One round trip for each unmarried child under 26 to visit the parents out in the mission field;

10  “Modest gifts (for example, Christmas, birthdays, or anniversary)”;

11  Support for children serving full-time missions;

12  Elementary and secondary school expenses (including tuition, usually in upscale private schools, including fees, books, and materials);

13  Extra-curricular activities for the children, such as music lessons, dance lessons, sports, etc.;

14  Undergraduate tuition at an accredited college or university (tuition cap at BYU’s rate, tuition waived at Church-owned schools);

15  Part-time housekeeper/cook (20 hours/week);

16  Gardener, if necessary;

17  Income Tax and Tithing exemptions.

Wear Pants DayDoes the Church also  subsidize pants for women, or just Sunday-appropriate skirts?

Technically, none of this constitutes salaried remunerations. No excess monies or savings can be accrued from them. None of this can be carried over into retirement funds. None of it is attributable by law as personal income for income tax purposes. None of it can be invested for further gain. Nevertheless, it cannot be affirmed that these allowances do not add considerable costs to the Church, nor can it be ignored that they constitute more monetary compensations than the average — okay, the majority — of Latter-day Saints. Put another way, I know very few members of the Church who wouldn’t gladly exchange their current salaries for these “stipends.”

One other interesting revelation from the manual is the Church’s preoccupation with avoiding government taxes and preventing the public discussion of Church financial practices:

Because you are engaged in volunteer religious service, no employer-employee relationship exists between you and the Church. As a result, any funds reimbursed to you from the Church are not considered income for tax purposes; they are not reported to the government… To avoid raising unnecessary tax questions, please follow these guidelines closely: 1) Do not share information on funds you receive from the Church with those who help you with financial or tax matters… 2) Never represent in any way that you are paid for your service… 3) If you are required to file an income-tax report for other purposes, do not list any funds you receive from the Church, regardless of where you serve…

Furthermore the sacred (that is, secret) nature of these fund transfers is expressed unequivocally:

The amount of any funds reimbursed to you should be kept strictly confidential and should not be discussed with missionaries, other mission presidents, friends, or family members.

General Authorities

Much like mission presidents, the General Authorities of the Church do not receive salaried remunerations, but rather stipends and living expenses. Unlike mission presidents, however, these ecclesiastical leaders have tenure, that is, they enjoy life-time appointments that include retirement benefits, which one might suppose differ little from these non-salaried “living expenses” during active duty as a mission president.

Furthermore, it is a well-attested fact that the Apostles serve on the boards of the many varied multi-billion dollar for-profit entities owned and run by the Corporation of the President, such as Deseret Management Corp. ($1.2 billion in annual receipts), AgReserves, Hawaii Reserves, Polynesian Cultural Center ($59 million in annual profits, with a president earning a 300k annual salary), Ensign Peak Advisors (multi-billion dollars investment fund management company), Beneficial Life Insurance (a $3 billion dollar fund insurance company), Intellectual Reserve Inc., Deseret Trust Co., etc. [2][3]


Corporation Sole (Businessweek) Organizational Structure of the Corporation Sole of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Source: Businessweek)

All of these multi-billion dollar operations are under direct control of the Corporation of the President, who himself allocates board control to his fellow Apostles and Presiding Bishops, and whose stocks and shares are distributed among the many General Authorities. Most, if not all, of the finances and ledgers (profits, assets, investments, payments, etc.) of these corporations are closed to public scrutiny by deliberate design from the Church (i.e., the Corporation Sole of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is not quite the same thing as the entity of the Church), making disclosure on board payments nearly impossible to discover.

Estimates based on those few factors that are publicly known (assets ownership, locations and real estate comparisons, volume of sales and transactions, mergers and acquisitions, etc.) have helped some researchers calculate possible earning scenarios, and based on similar trends in the private market they allow us to make reasonable, educated guesses on what these Church-owned corporations might pay their board members, and as such, the Apostles sitting on those boards.

mitt-1 Millionaire Mitt Romney sets up a non-profit to use the LDS Church to shield himself from paying federal taxes and ends up paying almost more in tithing to the Church than he does in taxes to the Federal Government he so wanted to preside over…

According to LDS anthropologist and former Church employee Daymon Smith, the Church can invest its religious funds (i.e., money from tithes and offerings) into its own for-profit companies, circulate the monies in multiple investments and other high-yielding portfolios accruing considerable profits, and subsequently return said funds to the Church for religious use, all the while eschewing government taxes along the way because of its religiously-based tax exempt status. Furthermore, the Church can accept donations (i.e., tithes and offerings) in the form of stocks and bonds, which can be sold for profit, allowing the donors to evade federal taxes (Mitt Romney famously established such a non-profit to use the Church to shield himself from federal income taxes). [4][5]

Therefore, the Church can legally claim to pay “stipends” and “living expenses” to its ecclesiastical leaders and still boast of an all-volunteer clergy, while maintaining its top clergy with extremely generous living conditions through benefits (as documented for mission presidents) that are tax-exempt, and at the same time paying them wealthy bonuses through its for-profit corporate subsidiaries. All this can occur outside of public scrutiny, through a corporation semantically distinct from the actual religious entity of the Church. The Church itself hasn’t allowed any public disclosures of its financial and accounting practices, making a specific, detailed analysis impossible. The entire network is, by now, so convoluted that Mormon historian Michael Quinn estimates that possibly no one person truly — and honestly — knows just how much every other Church leader (aside from himself) actually makes from the Church’s multiple organizations. If Quinn is correct, one is then left to wonder whether this is not by design. [6][7][8][9][10][11]

In 2009, the LDS Church in Canada filed the annual earnings of its employees there with the federal government. Out of 184 full time employees, the average salary was $83,000, with 2 of them earning between $80,000 and $120,000, 6 of them earning between $120,000 and $160,000, and the top 2 earning between $160,000 and $200,000. Considering that such salaries were way above the national pay average ($50,000 for business administrators in the private sector, which normally pays better than the non-profit third sector), plus taking into account the “living expenses” benefits that the Church seems to be quite liberal with (as per our earlier discoveries regarding mission presidents), it is safe to presume that the Church generally pays above-average wages with lavish benefits.  It then stands to reason that Apostles may earn something between $300,000 and $800,000 a year, if not much more in the higher echelon (i.e. First Presidency and Senior Apostles). [12][13][14][15]

However, it is extremely important to note that, due to the extreme culture of secrecy surrounding finances in the Church, these estimates can only be treated as speculative. The little data we have thus far been able to piece together offers only glimpses and a general notion of Church finances, but this understanding is far from concrete. We are left to implore insiders to come forth with hard numbers and evidence to help us further illuminate the subject and shine a light into this hitherto unanswered question in Mormonism. Are there any takers?

-Submitted by Marcello Jun de Oliveira.  Original text posted in the Brazilian Vozes Mórmons website.

ANNOUNCEMENT:  The Associação Brasileira de Estudos Mórmons (ABEM, the Brazilian Mormon Studies Association), which runs Vozes Mórmons, is having a conference on January 19th in Sao Paolo–Marcello is one of the speakers.  The program is on this page: