Tuesday, July 28, 2015

White Collar vs. Blue Collar Leaders in the LDS Church: Two Qualifying Points

There was a group discussion last year about the percentage of local church leaders who are white collar vs. blue collar workers.  It was an interesting discussion, with input from quite a few people.  The following was one of my comments, highlighting two things that I rarely, if ever, see mentioned when this topic arises - and which I believer are critical to a full conversation: 

1) It’s interesting that (when I saw the figures last year) Salt Lake City is the most upwardly mobile city in the United States, meaning a higher percentage of people who are raised in the lowest socio-economic quartile end up moving into the highest quartile as adults. (Just for the sake of information, Seattle was #2.)  The LDS Church itself mirrors this, when viewed broadly compared to other religions.

We tend to look at where leaders end up and ignore where they started. I think that’s an important element of this conversation, because not including it places Pres. Uchtdorf and others at the top as “white collar workers” while ignoring the fact that they started their adult lives with blue collar roots. I know a lot of local leaders about whom that could be said (white collar workers as adults who understand blue collar issues very well) – and if I ever become a Stake President (God forbid), people will chalk me up as just one more white collar worker, not realizing I came from a background of significant poverty. (My father was an elementary school janitor with eight kids, and my mother didn’t work outside the home. At the end of many months, my parents counted their available balance in coins, not bills.)

2) Another overlooked element is that we tend to misrepresent (or, at least, forget how little we know about) the financial situations of Jesus’ closest disciples – the ones that became the leading apostles of the early Christian Church. We emphasize the fishermen – but that isn’t an accurate characterization. Of those about whose professions we know, there was a physician and a tax-collector – and the “fishermen” (James and John) appear to have been business owners and not time clock laborers. Those four would be considered white collar workers of their time – a time when the white collar work population was significantly lower, as a percentage, than it is now. Off the top of my head, I can’t remember if the others’ employment prior to following Jesus is mentioned, but Judas had enough financial knowledge to be the group’s Treasurer (and we also tend to ignore the implications of why a treasurer was necessary, in our tendency to think of the group as poor, uneducated itinerants).

Perhaps this isn’t as new a discussion as we tend to believe - or maybe it simply wasn't an issue back in the day. 

No comments: