“Success” and the Priesthood

“….Such devotion, coupled with her regular weekly letters, motivated Elder Packer to propose marriage less than three weeks after his return. Two weeks prior to their marriage June 1, 1970, Elder Packer was called to serve in their BYU ward bishopric at age 21 and then ordained a high priest.”


“The Lord prepares his leaders when they’re young.”

Referring President Monson’s calling as Bishop at age 22, from video “On the Lord’s Errand: The Life of Thomas S. Monson”.  (President Monson would serve as counselor in Stake Presidency at age 27 and mission president at age 31.)


Mitt Romney first took on a major church role around 1977, when he was called to be a counselor to Gordon Williams, then the president of the Boston stake. Romney was essentially an adviser and deputy to Williams, helping oversee area congregations. His appointment was somewhat unusual in that counselors at that level have typically been bishops of their local wards first. But Romney, who was only about 30 years old, was deemed to possess leadership qualities beyond his years. 


We know so little about the process of calling new mission presidents and General Authorities. John Dehlin mentioned a General Authority Candidate Database which he worked on years ago, so there is more formality and structure to these calls than we would be inclined to think.

From the same comment:

I wonder though whether some of these folks who have relatives already serving in the hierarchy struggle with a reduced sense of authority as they exercise their callings, as many will think they know why they were really called.

Another comment further in the comments:

there are dozens if not hundreds of men in the church qualified to fill these positions. So why not pick someone you know? So I guess the question is, is nepotism a problem when qualified men (or men as qualified as would be called otherwise) are being called?

And yet another comment: 

Leadership positions in the church are determined by how much money you make, your profession, or how big of a house you live in.


“Believing Blood” and “Royal Blood”

  • Of course, in the terms economists use, this is a perfectly good equilibrium that makes sense for the Mormon women as well. If not completing a mission is a sign of failure for a Mormon man, then a man who does not serve a mission will not look like attractive marriage material. (It is still unclear what the October 2012 reduction in the age at which Mormon women can go on missions to 19 from 21 and the reduction of the minimum age for Mormon men from 19 to 18 will do to this equilibrium.)
  • During their time on a mission, Mormon young men are motivated partly by altruistic motives, but also in many cases by desire to gain the honor of moving up in the ranks from junior companion to senior companion to district leader to zone leader to assistant to the mission president. The (usually middle-aged) mission president can seem like a godlike figure who regularly interviews all of the missionaries and every month decides which missionaries will move from one station and rank to another station and rank. (I am speaking from my own experience as a missionary in the Tokyo North Mission from 1979 to 1981 under a very good mission president.)
  • The same kind of desire to become (sociologically speaking) a minor local godling by gaining church rank helps to motivate people to take on the job of bishop, which, while totally unpaid, involves most of the counseling and leadership responsibilities that a minister in another church would have. That is not so say that these considerations of honor and rank are the main motivation for the onerous unpaid service one takes on as a Mormon bishop, but that the motivations of honor and rank sometimes fill in where more idealistic motivations fall short.

The lesson I draw from all of this is that, for better or worse, it really is possible to motivate people to do a lot by the assignment of honor and rank instead of the payment of money.



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