Alan Waterman of “Pure Mormonism” blog recently posted his thoughts on “How Corporatism Has Undermined and Subverted The Church of Jesus Christ“. Many Latter-day Saints might disagree with his conclusions, but the issues he brings up are interesting ones, and are worth us studying and coming to our own conclusions about.
Although some might find the commentators language to be disrespectful, the story below is an interesting insights in to how some programs and policies are created.
The Vanishing LDS Church
Without a doubt the most startling discovery in Daymon Smith’s book is his revelation that the church that Joseph Smith established in 1830 no longer even exists. At all.
What we think of as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says Smith, operates today as a mere trademark of the corporation that owns the name to it. The actual church that used to go by that name, and which claims Jesus Christ as its head, does not exist today in any legally recognized form.
I realize that sounds impossible for some people to grasp. Well, I’m here to help.
As it so happens, I know something about corporate law as it applies to churches, so allow me to back up a bit here and give you a quick crash course so you can understand how a government chartered corporation can own a church that no longer even exists. I promise to make it easy to understand.
Corpus Descriptum (See, it’s getting easier already!)
A corporation is an organization chartered by the state and given many legal rights separate from its owners. You with me so far? Didn’t think so.
Okay, think of Frankenstein’s monster. No, scratch that. Too evil.
Think of a robot that you and your friends control. It has no brain and no soul, but it can walk around and pick things up; it can do stuff for you. That’s a corporation. It can do stuff for you.
Except unlike a robot, a corporation has no actual form. No body. No robot hands or robot feet. So if you can visualize a robot that has no mechanical parts, you’re close to mastering the concept. A corporation is an entity. What is an entity? It’s a thing. What is a thing? It’s an entity.
Welcome to the world of law.
A corporation is an entity that you cannot touch. It is neither inherently good nor inherently evil, but it has a life of its own, and if the batteries are good, that robot can live on after you and your friends are dead and gone. Sometimes that can be a problem. Originally corporations in America were not meant to outlive their creators. Today they do.
One of the biggest problems with a corporation is that under the law, a corporation is actually considered a “person.” That’s why it is often defined as a legal fiction. That is, this “person” is legal, but he isn’t real. It’s a fictional person. It isn’t flesh and blood. It has no soul.
And that’s the rub. Although it is treated like one, a corporation is not a human being, and usually no real live person within a corporation can be legally held responsible for the harm a corporation might do. The corporation can be fined, but that fine is usually absorbed by the stockholders. The board member’s salaries remain sacrosanct.
Indeed, the directors of a corporation can, in a way, transfer their sins to the corporation, which will absorb them without much consequence. In the words of the British Baron Edward Thurlow, the problem with corporations is “they have no soul to save, nor body to incarcerate.”
Most tellingly, a corporation is not something that can stand accountable before God. So if you believe in the doctrine of personal accountability, you can see the crack in the plan right there.
The American colonists were particularly leery of corporations because England’s East India Company had in many ways become more powerful than England herself, and was a prime instigator behind England’s imperialist ambitions.
When our country was young, there were very few corporations in existence here; when one did appear, it was for the purpose of accomplishing something monumental. Charters were granted for a specific purpose and always for a limited time. The construction of the Erie Canal is one example of the granting of an early American corporation. When the canal was finished being built, the founding corporation expired, as all corporations were meant to.
Corporations certainly weren’t the common mode of doing business that they are now. And as far as churches went, incorporation was simply not done, as a corporation derives its existence and all of its power from the state.
Since Jesus Christ is the head of the church, it would be incompatible for a church to petition the government for permission to exist. The church, as Paul taught, is the body of Christ. He governs it with His laws, principles, and directions. It is not subject to man’s laws. No Christian pastor in colonial times would have thought to place his church under political control.
As the Supreme Court explained in the case of Hale v. Hinkle:
“A corporation is a creature of the state…It receives certain special privileges and franchises and holds them subject to the laws of the state and the limitation of its charter. Its powers are limited by law. It can make no contract not authorized by its charter. Its rights to act as a corporation are only preserved to it so long as it obeys the laws of its creation. There is a reserved right in the legislature to investigate its contracts and ascertain if it has exceeded its powers” (Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43)
“Corporate existence,” according to Roberson’s Business Law, “is a privilege granted by the sovereign upon compliance with specified conditions.”
So that’s a problem for any church that gets a hankering to incorporate, because in the church, Jesus Christ is supposed to be the sovereign. When application is made to incorporate a church, the will of Jesus Christ becomes subordinate to the will of the state. “For a church to become a corporation,” goes the maxim, “in effect divorces the church from Christ.”
All of this incorporating of churches is unnecessary in America anyway, because churches automatically operate in a sphere separate from the state. Governments have no jurisdiction in the church whatsoever. There is no tax advantage for a church to incorporate, as some mistakenly believe. But there is if that “Church” actually wants to operate as a business. Then it can trade its sovereignty in exchange for special privileges granted by the government.
Which is what the President of what used to be the LDS church did in 1923.
… [Skipping some interesting history which the reader might wish to look at the original post to read]
How I Love Ya, How I Love Ya, My Dear Old Mammon
After the bust-up of 1890, and after bowing and scraping to their government masters so that they could retain some of their assets, the Church hierarchy eventually made peace with Babylon. As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
With only a hint of exaggeration, Daymon Smith cheekily summarizes the situation:
“No longer members of any legally recognized religion, Mormons organized a focus group to re-brand their identity. So they called around to some California railroad lobbyists, New York ad-men, and brainstormed and out-paradigm-shifted a totally innovational re-branding of Mormonism.”
“The Trustee thus offered bonds to Eastern bankers with the promised collateral being the Mormons themselves.”
The Mormon people, you see, had untapped value: a sense of community, a uniquely productive work ethic, and best of all, a built-in propensity to be obedient to authorities.
These Mormons were made to order. The Mormon leaders offered up the future tithes of the Mormon people as guarantees against their investments. The members of what used to be The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be unwitting cash cows for the benefit of their leaders. And the leaders of what used to be that church were now climbing into bed with the whore of Babylon.
Catholic Pope, Meet The Mormon Pope
Some time around 1900, the office of Trustee-in-Trust was reformed, then a few years later the financial interests of the “Church” were protected under the “Corporation of the Presiding Bishop.” Finally in 1923, church lawyers found The Holy Grail: a rare, little known, and hardly ever used mode of incorporation known as The Corporation Sole.
Virtually unknown in America, and tracing its origins to ancient Roman law, the corporation sole was the way the vast riches of the Holy Catholic Church had been protected under Emperor Constantine. All financial power was vested in one man -in their case the pope, in our case, the prophet.
Or, as he was named in the corporate charter, “the President.” The word “Prophet” doesn’t appear in the charter. This wasn’t a real church, after all. It was just a way for the leadership of the, ahem, “Church” (wink, wink) to control the member’s money.
In the original LDS church from the time of Joseph Smith, all members were considered of equal worth. They were called “members” because in the ancient church the scriptures called them “members of the body of Christ.” All parts were of equal importance to the Lord. You know the words of Paul in 1st Corinthians 12: “The head cannot say to the feet, I have no need of you.”
Likewise church property bought with member’s tithing was considered held in common by all the members of the church, with common consent required for the purchase or disbursement of that common property.
But not anymore. Under the corporation sole, the head could tell the feet to go take a hike. The president of the church could do whatever the hell he wanted with the member’s money without asking permission from the members whatsoever. It’s spelled out right there in the charter. The president of the corporation needs no authorization from any mere member of the Lord’s church. No show of hands, no vote, no “all in favor please manifest.” Like the Pope, his power is absolute. He is the Sole Brother.
Also written into the charter of the Corporation of the President as amended was how the line of succession was to operate within the Church. In order for there to be no question as to who held the purse strings following the death of the president (the “Sole” in a ”Sole Corporation”), the Senior Apostle automatically becomes the next president of the Corporation.
You thought somehow God maneuvered certain chosen men into these callings over the years so that they would one day be at the head of the line at the exact moment when God was ready to call them as the next prophet? You are so naïve.
The line of succession is outlined in the state approved charter. God’s will isn’t mentioned anywhere in it.
Systemic Within The Body
Now, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I see the general authorities of the Church as a group of sinister businessmen gleefully rubbing their hands together plotting their next takeover.
Far from it. I believe those men take very seriously their commitment to doing good works. They try very hard to be worthy of their responsibilities, and I’m positive they pray for guidance daily. With the obvious exception of Boyd K. Packer, none of these men is inherently evil. On the contrary, most of them are exceptionally good and fine men.
As Paul James Toscano has said, individually the general authorities of the Church are fine and wonderful people. “The problem,” he says, “is that when they get together, they act like a corporation.”
Exactly. It’s not so much the people within the system, it is the system itself. This Church is a corporation. It is chartered as a corporation, and it behaves like a corporation. Before they were called to their positions of leadership within the Church, most of these men made their livings as lawyers and businessmen in the corporate world. Not in the last hundred years can I think of an actual theologian who has been invited to join their ranks. They are in these positions because the talents and skills they developed on the outside are needed on the inside.
When each of them came aboard to serve in this corporation, even though they believe it is ecclesiastical in nature, they soon learned that things are run here very much the way things were run in the corporate world they left.
Thus, the areas that the corporate Church tends to focus on are, by and large, the same things any corporation lends its attention to: Growth, Image, and Control. …
Another excerpt from this entry will be posted tomorrow.