Monday, August 07, 2006

Why DO so many Mormons enter MLM schemes?

Why do so many Mormons get into MLM schemes or other direct selling schemes and try to sell Amway, Noni Juice, Nu Skin, Mary Kay, Nature’s Sunshine Products, Herbalife, Nutra-Smart, XanGo, Living Scriptures, 4Life Research, NSA, Pharmanex, Quixtar, Shaklee, Kirby, Unicity International, USANA Health Sciences, Inc., and Old Mother Jones’ Baked Goods by Mail? (OK, although it sounds like a good idea, I just made that last one up!)

Now, some ex-Mormons say that this is because Mormons are stupid. This must mean that either they, the ex-Mormon, is also stupid, or somehow when they became an ex-Mormon miraculously became non-stupid and magically intelligent.

However, as most ex-Mormons do not believe in miracles or magic (they drag out that lovely little hobby horse, the Invisible Pink Unicorn) then we must look for another explanation as to why so many Mormons get involved with MLM schemes and scams. The answer is so simple that I am surprised the “Mormons are stupid/gullible” theory has held sway for so long.

The real answer is, I believe, because the Mormon church, in relative terms, keeps its membership ‘dirt poor.’

Every faithful (and some less-than-faithful) Mormon pays 10% of their income to the Mormon Church in a tithe. Now, in strictly Biblical terms, the Mormon tithe is not “legal”. This is because it tithes income before tax; Federal, State, Income Tax, Sales Tax, VAT and Council Tax in the UK, so it tithes gross income and not net/increase as a genuine tithe would.

Therefore the situations for Mormons is worse than it would at first appear to be. Depending on local taxation regimens, the real cost of a Mormon tithe could be anything up to 25 to 50%. And this does not take into account mission fund, fast offering, etc., which takes an even larger chunk of money out of the typical Mormon family budget.

So in comparison to their non-Mormon neighbours (even those of other Christian denominations who might pay a tithe based on increase, rather than gross income) many Mormons are “dirt poor.”

So in order to live any kind of meaningful life and to not have to rely on food stamps, social security handouts or Mormon church welfare, an extra source of income is required.

What about a second job? An attractive idea, true. But as for the practicalities of a Mormon getting a second job? As Austin Powers would say: “Oh, behave!” Most faithful Mormons spend almost all of their free time in meetings, or even in meetings about meetings. Not to mention, home/visiting teaching, missionary splits, etc., etc. They would not have time for an extra job.

So what to do to ensure their children have some luxuries in their life, such as food to eat, a roof over their heads, and so forth? Try MLM. You can run it in your spare time. (What spare time?!) and even if you do not have spare time, you can try to have a whispered conversation in the hall in between three hour block meetings with Brother Zee or Sister Wye, about how you are SURE that Wonder Cure Mineral Drink will just change their lives forever! (And all for only two cans a week, at $14.00 per can.

Do they make any money? The answer varies from not much to zero. So not only do they not get out from the Mormon Church poverty trap they end up even more miserable and depressed. And then what happens? More Prozac, anyone?

So, next time someone says to you that Mormons are stupid for getting into MLMs, ask them where they parked either their Bible or their Invisible Pink Unicorn? Ask them when (or if!) THEY stopped being stupid. Or point out that Mormons are not necessarily stupid, but are kept in the Mormon poverty trap. After all, a poor person is often more pliable than a wealthy one.

20 comments:

syntaxpunk said...

Excellent comments! My wife an I are cradle Catholics who joined the LDS church in 2001 and have since returned to Catholicism in the last year. We were both graduate students during our "Mormon phase". Most of our "Mormon friends" already had a ton of kids (unlike us). The grad students in our ward were proud of the fact that they were on Medicaid, WIC, food stamps, you name it. They even BRAGGED about it; it was sickening. They would discuss, at church nonetheless, the best ways to cheat the system and to milk it for all it was worth. Whenever we would attend functions, couples would always offer us juice because "they were on WIC." So much for a self-sufficient people, huh? :)

At this time, my wife and I were both graduate teaching assistants. Together we made roughly about $14K. That's pretty lean and we still paid a tithe. Sad thing is my tax money supported these Mormon freeloaders. Did I mind funding programs so that their kids could eat? No, that's fair in my book. What really sent me over the f*ckin' edge was that these welfare cases took 4-6 week vacations to Utah or all over the West because they had enough money saved up to pay rent for the summer.

As for the money schemes, I think you are right on target. Mormons are always looking for a way to scrape up a couple of bucks through some get-rich-quick scheme. They all study law, business, finance, not because they enjoy what they do; no, it's because these are the only professions that could pay enough so that after their tithe they at least can afford a house payment and groceries.

That's my $.02's worth...

Simeon's Peep Stone said...

Great post. This is the exact reason why so many members get sucked into these thing, myself included. When you have 3 or 4 kids by age 28, have a stay at home wife, pay 10% tithing plus other offerings and are 2 years behind the curve career wise due to serving a mission, it all adds up. This is the same reason why bankrupcy rates are so sky high in Utah.

Chris Varvaro said...

Thanks For The Great Information. Good Luck!

Mike said...

It may also have something to do with too much trust in other "worthy" members (who are temple recommend holders), and "priesthood" leaders, like bishops, etc, who are suppose to have "discernment."

MLM suckers may think their local bishop or priesthood quorum leader is immune from deception, and therefore a trustworthy channel for an MLM sales line.

Ex-mormons generally shed all that sort of trust in their fellow humans when they abandon mormonism.

So in a sense, ex-mormons do become smarter, perhaps.

Aaron said...

I think you're on to something here. Some of your info is off target.

Yes, Mormons have poor among them. No, we are not all poor.
And (after ten years as a financial clerk and auditor in the LDS church), I can certify that tithing is not what makes the poor mormons poor. That's a topic for another day.

The idea that the church deliberately keeps its members poor is also broken by the fact that Mormons are actually wealthier than most other religions, on a per-person basis. (If you take the top ten Judeo-Christian religions in the US, Mormons are #2 behind the Jews).

Also, on a much smaller point, the Mormon directive on tithing is does not define whether the 10% is before or after taxes.

But you are on to something here - the 'promise' of MLMs does always seem to be attractive to the poorer part of the population in general, and specifically to poor mormons. Why the typical poor mormon fails to demonstrate the same amount of skepticism towards an MLM 'opportunity' as, say, a typical poor catholic is well worth exploring. Perhaps they're just trying to keep up with their peers, the wealthy mormons, or perhaps the evangelical nature of the religion has created level of self esteem and faith (or whatever you'd like to call it) that overcomes fear of rejection.

By the way, the church also explicitly discourages taking state-based welfare and it discourages dishonesty, including with government program. So if you've been in a ward where those types of trashy behavior are rampant, I'm very sorry for the example you were exposed to, but it is not a reflection of the church's teachings or policies, implicit or explicit. People do tend to go astray in groups.

Matt said...

Thank you, Aaron.

Here is a point for you to consider. If you get the same pay as your non-Mormon neighbour you are always going to be 10% poorer than your neighbour.

And I was always taught we should to pay tithe before taxes and other deductions.

The idea that the church deliberately keeps its members poor is also broken by the fact that Mormons are actually wealthier than most other religions, on a per-person basis. (If you take the top ten Judeo-Christian religions in the US, Mormons are #2 behind the Jews).

interesting point. Could you provide a source for this information, please?

geocreationist said...

I know this is an old post, but I Googled on Mormon MLM, because I recently learned that Salt Lake City is the center of MLM, and that Utah itself is the center of Mormonism. So, I was curious if there was a connection.

Your angle on it was interesting, but it doesn't answer what appears to be a chicken-and-egg thing to me: Are Mormons in MLM because MLM is centered in Utah, or is MLM centered in Utah because some interest in the LDS church? I guess I still don't know.

One thing to consider about the tithe however. I am a protestant who tithes, and whether you tithe before or after taxes does not make a mathematical difference. Suppose you pay 10% tithe and 20% taxes, and have no other deductions. To compute how much your net income is for tithing on the gross, you can compute gross*90%*80%. (The 90% is 100% - 10%). For tithing on the net, it's income*80%*90%. Notice that what you keep is the same. On the other hand, the split between government and church is different, and so tithing on the gross favors your church more... so tithing on the gross gives your church more money, the government less money, and for no additional out-of-pocket. In fact, if you are close to the break-off in tax brackets, then tithing on the gross could push you into the lower tax bracket, hence resulting more income than taxing on the net would.

The only wild-card is your other deductions, and in my opinion, you should compute your tithe before taking those into account, because that is money you're spending, as opposed to taxes which are taken. (Don't get me wrong; I approve of taxes, just not at the levels we pay). The problem is that you don't know your taxes until you know your deductions, and while computing it all out is possible, it's a pain... and your net income isn't impacted anyway. So, I tithe on the gross.

Of course, there are also 401K contributions, IRAs, FSAs, and other things that impact your tithe, but at that point, I think it's crossing over too much into legalism, which I don't believe is God's intention. I think through the easy part, and then tithe accordingly from my heart.

rob said...

Knocking Mormons for tithing 10% and saying that is why they are always looking for a quick buck sounds like some bigotry that came out of 1937 Germany about Jews. I know a lot of mainstream Christians that are HUGE suckers for MLM. Heck its all over Christian radio now a days. And Tithing 10%, hmmmm is this a sin??? I know a lot who give much more and if I didn't give at least 10% I would feel like a fake. Time and Money only two ways to really know if some one is putting their money where their mouth is. My support to my church goes to great causes. I don't call it a tithe because that is the legal term. But if we are under grace instead of the law are we not on a higher plateau. And giving and receiving is the bogus too. I give because I love I receive because He loves me. The biblical principal of giving and receiving is open to all Christian or not. Its a law like gravity.

rob said...

Knocking Mormons for tithing 10% and saying that is why they are always looking for a quick buck sounds like some bigotry that came out of 1937 Germany about Jews. I know a lot of mainstream Christians that are HUGE suckers for MLM. Heck its all over Christian radio now a days. And Tithing 10%, hmmmm is this a sin??? I know a lot who give much more and if I didn't give at least 10% I would feel like a fake. Time and Money only two ways to really know if some one is putting their money where their mouth is. My support to my church goes to great causes. I don't call it a tithe because that is the legal term. But if we are under grace instead of the law are we not on a higher plateau. And giving and receiving is the bogus too. I give because I love I receive because He loves me. The biblical principal of giving and receiving is open to all Christian or not. Its a law like gravity.

Matt said...

In fact, Rob, if you knew your Bible, you would know that, yes, tithing IS a sin! As it flies in the face of the teachings of Jesus.

Study the Bible and find where Jesus abolishes the law of the Tithe.

It surprised me when I found it and realised the implications of what Jesus taught.

As for your comment: "Knocking Mormons for tithing 10% and saying that is why they are always looking for a quick buck sounds like some bigotry that came out of 1937 Germany about Jews..."

That's very silly and a hurtful mockery of the suffering of Jews at the hands of the Nazis.

Don't mock the Jews, Rob! They have done nothing to you.

geocreationist said...

>> Rob, if you knew your Bible, you would know that, yes, tithing IS a sin! As it flies in the face of the teachings of Jesus.

As a protestant, I know that Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. This doesn't make following the law a sin, but rather unnecessary for salvation.

To say that tithing is therefore a sin seems to then to mean that honoring your mother and father is a sin... which it clearly isn't.

Or are you saying that requiring a tithe is a sin of the church, and giving in makes us complicit?

Matt said...

Jesus came and fulfilled the law. And his coming brought about changes. The dietary laws were abolished as was the law of the tithe.

Rob posed the question if tithing were a sin. I think that in the context of Rob's meaning the answer would be yes it is.

If not a sin certainly not required, as you so clearly pointed out.

AlexisAR said...

Dear Notamormon,
I came across your blog and am finding your posts very enlightening. I've never been an official Latter-day Saint, though my twin brother and I were blessed without our parents' blessing or knowledge when we spent a weekend in the care of our paternal grandparents. My parents really should have suspected something was up, as my father's parents had never shown the slightest interest in looking at us, much less in babysitting us for an entire weekend. Those blessings supposedly made us LDS children of record until our eighth birthday passed without the required baptisms.
I just started blogging. In the very near future, I plan to share some of my more choice experiences with my Mormon relatives. I haven't spent a great deal of time with most of them, but even my limited interactions left me with a few fairly interesting stories. These are some strange people --my LDS relatives, not Mormons as a whole. I wouldn't make assumptions
about the entire group based on what might be the strange DNA that I share through my father with some rather peculiar people. I couldn't begin to sort out which weirdness is inherently LDS and which part is unique to my family.
Seth, I seriously doubt that you are interested in the rantings of a sixteen-year-old almost-Mormon girl, but you are more than welcome to critique anything I blog in relation to the topic. It would probably be my first evidence that anyone other than I read my blog.
Respectfully,
Alexis

Matt said...

Thanks, Alexis.

Welcome to the world of exmo blogging!

Russell said...

As an ex-mormon I can agree with the notion that they are used to rejection, so going out and trying to sell crap and be rejected (and likely lose money) doesn't dissuade them.

Second, I also know how social the church is and how easy it is for a mormon to see all their fellow mormons (most of which are nothing more than acquaintances) are easy potential customers or recruits. They just simply have to pick up their ward phone directory and start at A and probably do a bit of business in no time.

guth said...

When you label tithes as a sin, you forget to take into account the LDS belief in additional scripture.

Even if Jesus had ended tithes and offerings in the bible (which i haven't seen a viable arguement for such a proposition) LDS members believe it was re-instated by Jesus Christ himself in the revelations given to Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants.

As a member of the church, I can say that I pay tithing not because I am being swindled. It's my choice after all.

As for those who join MLM's, they are the ones being swindled. God help them. haha.

Matt said...

Guth, I did not label tithing as a sin. That was in response to a comment from a Mormon.

Jesus Christ came to fulfil the law of Moses. That meant, amongst other things, no more dietary laws and no more tithing. Not "no more tithing until Joseph Smith arrives". But no more tithing.

Anonymous said...

I live in Utah, and I can tell you that it is a cultural thing, not about tithing! (BTW, I am NOT Mormon)...After spending two years on a mission "selling" a product that is difficult to sell, it is just natural to start a company that is similar. Take a look at Vivint Corporation (a legit, non-MLM company). Vivint uses a "missionary" style sales model, why you ask, because the founders of the company know that it works in the LDS church to gain membership, so why not use the same model to grow your business.

Second, MLM is about growing your network (not actually selling products). When you have 10 brothers and sisters, 15 aunts and uncles, and 48 cousins, and all the members in your close knit ward, you have a network to grow. That does not work for someone like me that only has 1 sister, and 1 brother and a couple aunts and uncles.

Although I do agree that the tithing part as ONE contributor to mormon being "poor", but there are other problems. Mormons in Utah (not sure about outside Utah), live above their means, they buy houses they can't afford, and many of them take out second mortgages to buy rental properties, and IF one of those properties cannot be rented, it puts them in a very tight spot.

From talking to mormon co-workers, Utah mormons are VERY different from mormons outside of Utah, and they believe that many of the problems are cultural problems that is instilled by an elite mind set in Utah Mormons.

Andrew said...

Just wanted to point out that tithing *before* taxes is a good thing - for you, the taxpayer.

Your entire 10% contribution is deductible. So if, for example, you making 100k/year and pay 30% in taxes:

No tithe:

Earn 100k, pay 30k in taxes, keep 70k.

With tithe before tax:

Earn 100k, tithe 10k, pay 27k on the 90k, keep 63.

With tithe "after tax"

Earn 100k, pay 30k in taxes, keep 70k, tithe 7k, end up with 63k.

Obviously you end up with less than no tithe because you're giving something away, but it works out the same either way, just donating before taxes means you get to contribute more (presumably because you want to financially assist an organization, I hope not because you feel like a slave or cult member).

If a member is donating 20%+ of their income, I hope it's voluntarily and not a result of poor math skills.

The rich often use this to reduce income for tax purposes. Ultra rich can set up family foundations and donate most of their taxable income to them, write it off, etc. - while still exercising some degree of control over the financial assets and how to distribute them to various charitable causes.

Jo said...

I find it very sad that people need to "bag out" religion or religious people because you don't agree with it. If you're not interested why do you have to try and convince others to go along with your way of thinking? If you've had a bad experience and have changed your religious opinion why do you feel the urgency to blog or post your now negative view and then argue every point with someone of a different opinion or experience. Life is wonderful and a blessing that you get to wake up and live everyday. If you don't like something (or someone for that matter) move on and live positive things and thoughts. And let others do the same. Does it really affect you if anyone wants to do something in their own life that they feel is bettering them - whether it works or not, isn't that their choice. The day will come when we will all know who was right and who wasn't and we will all face the day where we will stand in full recognition of the things we have done in our lives, good or bad. Maybe we should just take a good look at ourselves and what we do say or think and ask ourselves why we do what we do? And leave everyone else to do that for themselves too. Are we just justifying all we are doing to make ourselves feel better? It we are happy in ourselves and our own lives we are happy for everyone else and with the world.