Many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints take some pride in the claim that there is no paid ministry in the church. This is true enough on the local level, where local leaders volunteer all of their time without financial compensation. But I understand that it is also true that many (if not all) full time general leaders of the church do get paid – something along the lines of what a college professor might earn. If this is not true please correct me, but it is my understanding, and I will proceed as if it were true.
I have been reading some Kierkegaard recently, and he pointed out two areas of worry regarding a paid ministry. And I believe that what little paid ministry there is in the church, it avoids both areas of worry.
Actually, there is only one area of worry – corruption. And this worry can come from two sources – the state and the congregation. Kierkegaard made accusations of apostasy against the church of Denmark, and perhaps Christianity as a whole, and he felt that corruption from paid ministry was part of the cause of such apostasy.
Kierkegaard felt that if a minister were paid by the congregation, then he might preach what the people want to hear – rather than the gospel as it is. If the minister were paid by the state, then he may be pressured to preach what the state desires him to preach. Either source of pay can lead to a corrupted gospel.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, local people do almost all of the teaching and preaching. They do not get paid a dime for this. And while the forces of correlation place suggested boundaries on what is taught, there is still a lot of freedom to teach what one feels ought to be taught. The general church leaders do not depend on weekly collections for their pay, and such a modest ‘salary’ approach allows them to avoid much of the corrupting influences Kierkegaard speaks of.
Additionally, since the source of the pay is not from the state, it has little if any influence on what is taught or done in the church.
So while the absence of a paid ministry is not absolute in the church, I believe there is a lack of financial based corruption, which is an important safeguard in keeping the restored gospel pure.