Elder Holland's talk on helping the poor

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DevilsAdvocate
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Elder Holland's talk on helping the poor

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 07 Oct 2014, 07:25

It was interesting that Jeffrey R. Holland chose to talk about a real problem we don't hear about nearly as much as some of the same ideas that are typically repeated. The basic content of the talk was actually better than many other conference talks I have heard in recent years but for some reason it still bothered me. The problem is that the Church already asks for so much out of members that it comes across as just one more guilt-trip at the bottom of the list that is unlikely to make much of a long-term difference sort of like the occasional nagging about home-teaching numbers. If you are going to claim to follow Jesus Christ's example then it seems like treating people as well as possible should actually be a higher priority than many of the current temple worthiness points like the WoW, tithing, chastity, and testimony of the restoration (Matthew 25:32-40) but instead it still seems like an optional afterthought compared to some of the traditional LDS doctrines that are emphasized so much more at this point.

If Jeffrey R. Holland really wanted to make the maximum positive difference possible it seems like he should be preaching to the other top Church leaders that actually have decision-making power, not the rank-and-file members. Some other churches have set up soup kitchens and homeless shelters, and/or spent a significant percentage of the money they have to help to poor or add value to society while the LDS Church hasn't spent very much compared to the billions of dollars they have that they have spent on things like the mall, hunting preserves, land in Florida, etc. and they also laid off all the janitors and asked members to clean the church buildings for free. Also, some of my neighbors are relatively poor and I can't honestly say that the Church wasn't a factor in this because of the idea of paying tithing before basic living expenses and the tradition of women being stay-at-home moms and having as many children as possible as soon as possible. I guess I would just like to see the Church show that they care about the poor more than what we see instead of telling us that it is our problem to worry about and deal with.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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Re: Elder Holland's talk on helping the poor

Post by Curt Sunshine » 07 Oct 2014, 07:48

I guess I would just like to see the Church show that they care about the poor more than what we see instead of telling us that it is our problem to worry about and deal with.


That is simply inaccurate. It also isn't what Elder Holland said in his talk.

Three things:

1) The LDS Church gives more in humanitarian aid than ANY other Christian denomination in the world except the Catholic Church. It's not close. Seriously, actual comparisons in terms of total dollar amount, total aid in dollar equivalency (in all forms) and total dollar equivalency per member all show that the LDS Church gives FAR more than other denominations. I know, because I did the actual research a couple of years ago. For example, the comparison between the LDS Church and the Methodist Church (which was the foundation of the most common attack on LDS Church giving) is stark and obvious that the LDS Church gives exponentially more than the Methodist Church in every measure. The numbers from the attack piece were interpreted intentionally in the ONLY way possible to make it looks otherwise. It was a blatant case of twisting statistics horribly to make a point that simply didn't match the facts.

2) The talk should be evaluated on its own merit, and every single person here who has commented except this post loved the talk.

3) Do you seriously believe members can't give more than they do, as a collective whole, to help the poor? Heaven knows there are LOTS of us, you and I included, I'm sure, who don't give as much as we could. Do you really want to complain about the prosperity gospel culture of so many members and then criticize a talk that says we need to give more as a collective people?

You have your view, and you are entitled to it, but I for one have NO problem with asking members to evaluate their own giving and focusing on everybody helping the poor "as much as you can". "Lord, is it I?" is a great question for this topic.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Elder Holland's talk on helping the poor

Post by Steve-o » 07 Oct 2014, 09:12

That is simply inaccurate. It also isn't what Elder Holland said in his talk.

Three things:

1) The LDS Church gives more in humanitarian aid than ANY other Christian denomination in the world except the Catholic Church. It's not close. Seriously, actual comparisons in terms of total dollar amount, total aid in dollar equivalency (in all forms) and total dollar equivalency per member all show that the LDS Church gives FAR more than other denominations.
What is your source on this?

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Re: Elder Holland's talk on helping the poor

Post by SilentDawning » 07 Oct 2014, 19:54

DevilsAdvocate wrote: I guess I would just like to see the Church show that they care about the poor more than what we see instead of telling us that it is our problem to worry about and deal with.
I read Mormon America a couple years ago. One thing that struck me was the ratio of funds donated to causes outside the church to its total membership. Dollars donated outside/member. This gives a rough estimate of each church's giving on a "per capital" basis.

Mormon church gave about 1/2 as much compared to other churches of a similar size. And with all of its business assets, etcetera, I think the church itself could be doing more for the poor.
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Re: Elder Holland's talk on helping the poor

Post by West » 07 Oct 2014, 20:42

Not too long ago, one of my really awesome non-Mormon friends posted on Facebook about his disappointment and disgust at seeing the LDS temples in dry states using up so much water to keep the lawn and landscape green. He broadened the topic, though, and wondered how a church could spend so much money on these buildings and other things rather than helping all the people who desperately need help.

Speaking from a devil's advocate (lol) type of viewpoint, from what I understand, it seems the church does believe that it is using its money for the best, at least in the case of the temples -- they are built so grand, because from the church's viewpoint, the spiritual blessings that come from having a temple far outweigh anything earthly that the money could otherwise contribute to. Also, the church, in theory and from what I've heard from people, invests in various financial things in order to ensure it keeps minimal to no debt while also providing a means to fall back on during prophesied end times. In short, a lot of the church's use of money stems from the belief that the spiritual blessings that may result from tithing/investments/financial stuff are worth more in the end than using the finances for earthly matters.

Does that mean that viewpoint is right? Depends on who you ask and what you believe. Does that excuse the church from not doing its absolute best to help people with earthly matters here and now? No. The church does much to help with those in need, and there are many more things the church could be doing with its resources to better the earthly conditions of people here and now. I would like to see that someday. And we have to remember, the current church leaders aren't always going to be there. The people who are listening to the talks and raising their kids with these ideas will someday be in the church leaders' places. It might be too late to change the minds of older men and women, but we can still hopefully teach something to the younger generations. And a lot of that teaching has to come from the regular, run-of-the-mill members like us. :)
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Re: Elder Holland's talk on helping the poor

Post by Curt Sunshine » 07 Oct 2014, 22:19

The information about denominational giving was compiled personally from reports of denominational giving, mostly from the denominations themselves. It was quite an extensive, time-consuming project. Also, fwiw, I've done quite a bit of high-level statistical analysis in my life, including a couple of things that were ghost written for and published by state-level agencies, so it wasn't a project undertaken in ignorance. I simply wanted to see for myself what the numbers actually showed.

SD, comparing total humanitarian giving to total contributions is a really bad statistical model for discussions like this - unless we are willing to say that buildings (that absolutely help the poor in multiple ways), and educational expenditures (including subsidies that absolutely help the poor directly), and in-kind assistance (given directly to the poor), etc. should count against one's commitment to care for the poor. Every comparison I've read (and I've read a LOT of them) among denominations ignores total dollar amount and equivalency given by the LDS Church and instead focuses on humanitarian cash aid as a percent of total contributions - and that is the ONLY way to evaluate the actual numbers to make it look like the LDS Church gives less than other denominations. That is really flawed statistical analysis.

Seriously, the Methodist comparison is striking. The two denominations report very similar membership numbers, but the LDS Church gave roughly 10 times as much in actual dollar equivalency as the Methodist Church that year. Yes, that is 10 TIMES as much, with essentially the same membership totals. That didn't even count fast offering assistance - either cash payments or in-kind assistance. It counted only what was classified under "humanitarian aid" - which generally is the Church's contributions to disaster relief. Statistically, the conclusions were brutally bad.

It is ONLY when tithing is factored into the per member equation that the results change - but it is easy to argue that the uses of tithing help all members have access to equal worship experiences, as well as extensive educational opportunities for poor members through the church school subsidies that simply aren't available to members of most other denominations.

The only way to make the LDS Church look bad in this area is to stack the deck against it from the start. Approaching it any other way (and there are multiple other ways) makes the LDS Church look exemplary.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Elder Holland's talk on helping the poor

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 08 Oct 2014, 07:33

Ray DeGraw wrote:
I guess I would just like to see the Church show that they care about the poor more than what we see instead of telling us that it is our problem to worry about and deal with.


That is simply inaccurate. It also isn't what Elder Holland said in his talk...The LDS Church gives more in humanitarian aid than ANY other Christian denomination in the world except the Catholic Church. It's not close. Seriously, actual comparisons in terms of total dollar amount, total aid in dollar equivalency (in all forms) and total dollar equivalency per member all show that the LDS Church gives FAR more than other denominations... For example, the comparison between the LDS Church and the Methodist Church (which was the foundation of the most common attack on LDS Church giving) is stark and obvious that the LDS Church gives exponentially more than the Methodist Church in every measure. The numbers from the attack piece were interpreted intentionally in the ONLY way possible to make it looks otherwise. It was a blatant case of twisting statistics horribly to make a point that simply didn't match the facts.
I wasn't talking about the total amount given for welfare, humanitarian aid, etc., I was thinking about how much the Church really does to help the poor in proportion to how much they realistically could do without much effort or hardship. In reality, the LDS Church probably has more accumulated wealth than any other church except for the Catholic Church mostly due to the fact that it has been collecting tithing all these years without having paid clergy at the local level whereas it looks like some of these other churches rely more on goodwill than obligation compared to what we see in the LDS Church (2 Corinthians 9:7). So what is basically a drop in the bucket to the LDS Church could easily end up being more than some of these other churches are able to spend for that reason alone.

That doesn't change the fact that it still looks like the LDS Church is currently hoarding literally billions of dollars and we already know that they have spent some of it on things like the City Creek Mall and various other business and real estate investments. I don't see how you can claim that this is inaccurate when they won't even release detailed financial information about how much money they are getting and what they are spending it on in the US, only in some countries that legally require it. Why won't they release this information? To me it looks like they have something to hide because the amount of money they are taking from members and the details of what they are spending it on and how much they keep would be embarrassing if exposed.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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Re: Elder Holland's talk on helping the poor

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 08 Oct 2014, 07:35

Ray DeGraw wrote:Do you seriously believe members can't give more than they do, as a collective whole, to help the poor? Heaven knows there are LOTS of us, you and I included, I'm sure, who don't give as much as we could. Do you really want to complain about the prosperity gospel culture of so many members and then criticize a talk that says we need to give more as a collective people?...You have your view, and you are entitled to it, but I for one have NO problem with asking members to evaluate their own giving and focusing on everybody helping the poor "as much as you can". "Lord, is it I?" is a great question for this topic.
No, I just don't believe that this talk will actually result in members giving very much more to charity than they already do anywhere near the way that top-down decisions regarding how to spend some of the money they already have available and/or organizing specific volunteer efforts would if they were really serious about making more of a positive difference. Maybe a few members will make more of a conscious effort after hearing this but I suspect that this talk will be largely ignored or forgotten fairly quickly just like some of the other guilt-trips about things like home-teaching numbers and the idea of, "every member a missionary."

As far as I'm concerned this approach boils down to what increasingly seems like Church leaders' answer to almost everything, that the rank-and-file members should just try harder to make it happen and it can't ever be top Church leaders responsibility to consider doing something different than they already are. At what point is it enough and at what point is it too much to realistically ask for? I have no doubt that one of the main reasons that many members are not going to give much more to charity is simply because they have already given so much in the form of tithing and even if they could technically afford to give even more I don't see how it is fair to expect them to especially if they are already in debt, struggle to support their family (1 Timothy 5:8), don't have enough money for retirement, etc.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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Re: Elder Holland's talk on helping the poor

Post by Curt Sunshine » 08 Oct 2014, 07:59

1) The LDS Church's giving for the poor and needy (in all ways) has been rising steadily and significantly for the past 25 years. Many people don't realize that, but it's a simple fact. I have no problem with someone believing it should give more (and I personally hope it continues to give more), but it already gives MUCH more than any other Christian denomination in the world except the Catholic Church, so to even imply that others give more is . . . simply inaccurate.

2) Saying that a talk won't change anything about individual giving isn't a problem with the talk; it's a criticism of the people who hear it. You might or might not be right with that conclusion and criticism, but just because something might not be followed universally or widely doesn't mean it shouldn't be said.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Elder Holland's talk on helping the poor

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 09 Oct 2014, 07:30

Ray DeGraw wrote:Saying that a talk won't change anything about individual giving isn't a problem with the talk; it's a criticism of the people who hear it. You might or might not be right with that conclusion and criticism, but just because something might not be followed universally or widely doesn't mean it shouldn't be said.

I don't think it's a criticism of Church members if they don't pay much attention to guilt-trips about home-teaching, missionary work, fast offerings, charity, etc., I think it is mostly an indication that the Church is already asking for too much and it's simply not very reasonable or fair to expect many members to do this on top of everything else the Church is telling them they should do. If you have limited energy, bandwidth, resources, etc. then you need to work with what you have available but the Church acts like there is almost no limit to the heavy and tedious burdens members should be expected to endure.

Maybe if there were only a few clearly worthwhile and realistically achievable goals for members to focus on then you could legitimately criticize them for not doing what they should but when it is literally one thing after another with no end in sight then I don't see why it should surprise anyone if some members lose interest and motivation in trying to do every single thing they supposedly should according to the Church. Another problem is that the priorities are mixed up in the Church based on what Jesus said in the Bible (Matthew 23:23-24) and practically any other widely accepted ethical standards.

For example, I think the single simplest change the Church could make to help the poor would be soften the hard-line stance on tithing and re-interpret it as being 10% of surplus income after necessary expenses because they are currently asking many members to pay money they can't really afford and basically adding to their unnecessary hardship and financial difficulties. I realize that this is probably not going to happen anytime soon largely because the Church has already been teaching that this traditional doctrine came directly from God for so long but at the very least it seems like they could make better use of the billions of dollars that have already been pouring in for decades before telling members that they need to give even more and it's supposedly their job to worry about all the poverty and suffering in the world after they have already been giving away thousands of dollars per year.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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