Mark W. Cannon
December 6. 2009
World class organization and management guru Peter Drucker told me that “the Mormons are the only Utopia that ever worked” at a Harvard seminar on volunteerism in 1989. The word Utopia was invented by Sir Thomas More to describe a mythical island, discovered by a Portuguese sailor, with ideal economic and social conditions -- where everyone was educated, wise and prosperous. There have been numerous descriptions of utopian or ideal societies by many philosophers going back to Plato.
Of course, actually living the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ that were exemplified in his life, which even people like Thomas Jefferson saw as marvelous even though he was skeptical of Christian clergy, would represent an ideal Christian society. These fruits of Mormonism were what Peter Drucker saw in the multitude of effective service and educational activities that were successfully carried out by the Mormon Church and particularly by the close at hand large Mormon population in Southern California where Professor Drucker lived while teaching at Claremont, whose graduate school of management is named after him.
Peter Drucker has been widely recognized as the father of modern management and as one on the most astute observers of organizational and managerial effectiveness of modern times.
The November 19th, 2009 issue of The Economist celebrated the Century since Peter Drucker’s birth declaring that “four years after his death Peter Drucker remains the king of the management gurus.” “He illustrated his arguments with examples from medieval history or 18th Century English literature. He remained at the top of his game for more than 60 years, advising generations of bosses and avoiding being ensnared by fashion. He constantly tried to relate the day-to-day challenges of business to huge social and economic trends such as the rise of ‘knowledge workers’ and the resurgence of Asia.” He saw management as “the organ that converts a mob into an organization and human effort into performance.”
The November 2009 Harvard Business Review also commemorated “The Drucker Centennial” with 30 essays that assembled “some of his classic contributions, as well as new perspectives on Drucker’s influence.” The essay of Alan M. Kantrow on “Why Read Peter Drucker?” answers “Because a manager can profit both from the ideas and from the discipline of mind by which they are formulated.” Kantrow states that Drucker’s books command attention, and ears perk up “to catch the wisdom of Drucker’s animating ideas. So generally receptive has the audience been and so long lived their influence that many of his ideas have become part and parcel of today’s common sense understanding of business.”
The Financial Times headlined a story on 11-23-09 “Drucker’s ideas stand the test of time”.
Particularly in his latter life, he focused on the independent, non-profit sector and the enormous social benefits that can be accomplished by volunteer uncompensated human effort to help others. He was a promoter of the mega-church movement that produced thousands of churches with over a thousand people attending and he was a general adviser to them.
Perhaps the most remarkable example of successful volunteerism is the singularity of Mormonism in operating almost 3,000 stakes and 25,000 wards and branches in more than 150 countries which function with no paid clergy or staff, yet carry out a rich variety of well organized, effective educational, spiritually enriching, advisory and service programs for people of all ages. Even janitorial tasks are performed by volunteers (often people who rank high in their professions) to encourage people to perform a wide variety of service activities and to save custodial fees.
As a result -- not counting the value of the volunteer activity of over 50,000 full-time missionaries and a larger number of part-time missionaries -- literally billions of dollars that would have gone to personnel costs are saved and available to expand the mission of the Church more rapidly, such as in the building of chapels (including recreational and athletic facilities) and Temples that beautifully teach the importance of developing all of one’s talents and abilities to serve others and striving to live the life exemplified by Christ. The new chapels and Temples are in major metropolitan areas of the U.S., but are also heavily in low income areas of the world that might otherwise never be able to afford them. On average, a new chapel has been completed every day in recent years. In the decade 1996 through 2005, 75 new Temples were completed and dedicated in such locations as Hong Kong, China; Fukuoka, Japan; Accra, Ghana; Aba, Nigeria; Campinas, Brazil; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Oaxaca, Mexico; Cochabamba, Bolivia; Manhattan, New York; and Newport Beach, California. By contrast, during the first Century of the Church, to 1930. only 7 Temples had been built: one in Hawaii; 5 in Utah, Idaho and Arizona; and one in Cardston, Canada. Now 85% of all Mormons worldwide are within 200 miles of a Temple with its spiritually enriching ordinances.
Each ward typically has between 400 and 700 members and is directed by an unpaid Bishop and two unpaid counselors. These leaders do typically 15 to 20 hours of volunteer work for their congregations each week. They pay all their own expenses through their occupations ranging from being a farmer to an educator, scientist, financial executive or business manager. With no paid clergy these volunteers organize their congregation so that all willing members are paired to make monthly visits to specified members to teach lessons in their homes and see if they have any special needs. Several dozen uncompensated members in each congregation also accept a variety of callings in leading or teaching in organizations such as Relief Society, Priesthood, Sunday School, Young Men, Young Women, Primary and the early morning seminaries for high School students, or the Boy Scouts and special service projects like vaccinations, sanitation and emergency relief.
It is not surprising that the astute Peter Drucker came to his remarkable conclusion about the fruits of Mormonism
There is a very thin layer of a modest number of people who are called to be full-time General Authorities for much, or all, of the remainder of their lives with responsibility for leadership of the worldwide Church. Also, mission presidents are called for full time three year stints to supervise around 150 full-time volunteer missionaries, mostly in regions outside of the United States. The General Authorities are not permitted to take on positions such as corporate board memberships that could distract them from their full-time callings and their families. Since they are called full-time, they receive a modest subsistence stipend that does not come from the members’ tithing, but comes from the investment income of the Church. One of the effects of this is that many active Church members live prudently to save money for unpredictable emergencies or in case they should be called to an uncompensated local position, as a mission president, or to be a General Authority.
The Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is their Savior through his atoning sacrifice. Thus they try to follow His example to the degree that they can by sacrificing time and resources to love and help others and build the Kingdom of God. This practice of giving without compensation follows the Savior’s instructions when His disciples preach: “freely ye received, freely give:” (Mathew 10:8.)
Intuitively, people might suspect that sacrificing so much time and resources for the Gospel would interfere with the ability to gain a good education and earn a decent income. However, the Bible, as well as the Book of Mormon, promise blessings to those who adhere to God’s commandments. This is demonstrated by the fact that a one fifth higher share, 60%, of Mormons obtained higher education than the national average. For Mormons born in the Church, where they have typically had education emphasized from their infancy, 64% had higher education. This is 28% higher than for the general population. Also, whereas 48% of American households have income from all sources of $50,000 or higher, the figure for Mormons is 54% -- which is 12 ½% higher than the general population. The Mormons are also somewhat higher than the averages of most of the other Christian traditions, both Protestant and Catholic. This data was developed by The Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (2007) of the Pew Forum on Religious & Public Life.
A dramatic example of what some people give up when called to be General Authorities occurred to Donald L. Staheli. He was chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Grain Company, the largest private corporation in America. He had previously served in many uncompensated leadership positions including as Bishop of the New Canaan CT Ward and as Stake President. He accepted a calling as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. He was born in St. George in southern Utah, graduated from Utah State University, worked his way up the corporate ladder with his reputation for integrity and his accomplishments. Yet when the Church called him to give full time service, he resigned, at the age of 65, from his corporate positions, which would have earned many millions of dollars had he continued there. He is currently President of the Draper, Utah Temple.
Another of many examples of sacrifice for Christian service, the influential Dean of Harvard Business School, Kim Clark, resigned and accepted the invitation of President Gordon B. Hinckley of the LDS Church to become President of Brigham Young University-Idaho in 2005. The Harvard Business School had grown into a major international institution with campuses abroad during Dean Clark’s ten years as Dean. Some of Professor Clark’s colleagues were surprised at his giving up his prestigious position, but as a typical Mormon, he valued Christian service. He had filled such volunteer positions as Scoutmaster and Bishop during his 26 years as a faculty member and Dean of the Harvard Business School. He was a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. He and his wife have seven children. Now he is expanding the student body and innovating in strengthening the education at BYU-Idaho. He is also filling a General Authority position as an Area Seventy in the Idaho area.
Similarly Steven C. Wheelwright, Associate Dean of the Harvard Business School, accepted the position of BYU-Hawaii President, and is helping expand training, preparation and opportunities for Polynesians from the Pacific Islands and for others from around the Pacific rim.
At the time Peter Drucker shared his extraordinary conclusion about the Mormons, I was a guest scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. I did not want to quote him without obtaining his approval. So, I wrote him the following letter:
May 18, 1989
I thoroughly enjoyed your outpour of ideas on voluntarism and the independent sector at Harvard. I was up there last week to discuss voluntarism and the Bicentennial Commemoration and could see that your ideas are still reverberating.
As a hobby, I have also done some speaking and writing on voluntarism and Mormon programs. Enclosed for example, is a copy of the Innovative Heritage of Mormonism in case it is of any use in your current writing and thinking about what organizations that rely on voluntarism can accomplish.
Would you have any objection to my using the statement you made that: “The Mormons are the only Utopia that worked.” If not, would you please sign or initial the enclosed statement?
You certainly have led a magnificent life of contribution. Keep up the good work!
Mark W. Cannon
Peter Drucker responded to me by sending back my letter with three comments written by pen.
1) By my reference to The Innovative Heritage of Mormon lecture, he wrote: “Thanks – Very enlightening”
2) He added the word “ever” to strengthen his sentence that I was quoting: “The Mormons are the only Utopia that ever worked.” That was actually the way he had said it, but I stated it in a less all-encompassing way to avoid stating it too strongly for him. However, he wanted his conclusion to be sweeping, and put “ever” back in!
3) He wrote: ”Permission gladly granted Peter Drucker”
One more evidence of the singularity of continuing Mormon success based on virtually total volunteer effort occurred from a conversation decades ago with Julian Steward, a distinguished anthropologist who taught graduate classes at Columbia University and had an endowed professorship at University of Illinois. He was the author of Theory of Culture Change. He was given the Viking Fund Medal, the top award of the American Anthropological Association, and was the youngest person to be made a member of the American Academy of Science. He asserted that Mormon tithing and Church attendance were going down. I asked what caused him to think that. In essence, he responded “because every organization based on volunteer effort in history has gradually faded downward. People’s demand for economic benefit ultimately overpowers their willingness to contribute without compensation.” I subsequently saw an LDS Apostle who dealt with the financial affairs of the Church at an airport and passed on what had been asserted. He confirmed what I was confident was the case – that percentage of tithe payers had been gradually rising, and Church attendance had been rising.
There is an active marketplace of religious competition and 28 % of Americans have left the faith of their childhood. While the Mormon Church loses some members, they baptize and re-activate far more. When I left Washington in 1960 where I had served as Administrative Assistant to a Congressman, there was only one stake in the whole region of northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Today there are approximately 18. Phoenix is a western example. In 1950 it had one stake. In 2000 the Phoenix region had 50 stakes -- and has created several additional ones since then.