I’ve brought my children west from the alluvial soil of Missouri to the sandy chapparal of Southern California for a few weeks. The first-order pleasures of being home include conversation in our domestic dialect marked at every intersection by shared memory and emotional habit, and free babysitting. Among the second order pleasures, though, are the stacks of wedding announcements at the counter to be perused at lunch and the piles of old Church News issues beside the recliner.
I’ve heard it suggested that the Church bureaucracy takes its structure from the corporate world, and thus tends to promote and reward successful professionals—lawyers, businessmen, doctors—with special status. This frequency with which I’ve heard this asserted suggests to me that it’s become a sort of received wisdom in the Church, and indeed experience often supports the idea: I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had a stake presidency composed of two attorneys and a judge. But an issue of the Church News plucked at random from the pile beside the recliner offers a nano-set of data that suggests it might be time to revise the received wisdom. Four new stake reorganizations were announced in the June 17th edition; the new stake presidencies include one ophthalmalogist, two small businessmen, three managers of small businesses, a clerk, a registered nurse, two office managers, a low-level banker, and an auto technician. Hardly the implacable phalanx advancing through the corridors of corporate power that one might expect.
A more interesting question, though, might be why the Church News includes this information in the first place. It could be nothing but a relic from a time when the Church was small enough that a phrase like “general manager at Nave Trading” signified something specific to most Saints. It could be, precisely, a demonstration of the disjunctions and conjunctions between worldly and Churchly power. It could be an aspect of the sociological function of newspapers in creating imagined communities: “Lyman William Willardson, 56, registered nurse at Mountain View Hospital” is significantly more suggestive than merely “Lyman William Willardson.” At the very least it’s a published reminder of our lay priesthood. Or it could be—and this is the explanation I prefer—an acknowledgement that the stakes of a latter-day Zion are driven into earth, and that the integrity of the tent depends in part on the security of those stakes in loam, clay, or granite. Pitch the tent, drive the stakes, and stretch wide the curtains; bring in the earth on your feet.