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The LDS Church recently announced layoffs affecting its headquarters workforce. Known as the "laying off of hands," paid church workers were given their leave/release to seek employment elsewhere, though probably not with another church.

The exact number of employees was not specified, but a church spokesman said it was between "5 and 8 percent" of two departments.

Because the church is a large but secretive employer, this could be anywhere from 14 to 5,000 individuals. It's a good bet all of them are Mormon.

This normally wouldn't bother me because even though I'm a Mormon, it's generally understood that I work for Satan, or at least his newspaper.

Personal note to Tribune publisher Dean Singleton: I'm not talking about you right now, OK?

Where was I? Oh, yeah. The layoffs do concern me because I have friends and family employed (for actual money) by the church. Also, I have been laid off before by my church. It's not always as fun as it sounds.

For those unfamiliar with LDS Church doings, there are three kinds of jobs or employment available to us.

1. Jobs we get paid to do (church headquarters, BYU types).

2. Jobs we do for free (ward and stake callings).

3. Jobs we actually pay to do (missions).

Correspondingly there are also three kinds of church job separations: formal release, reduction in force and outright excommunication.

I've only had the nonpaying or paying-for church jobs. And I've never been disfellowshipped (suspended) or excommunicated (cast out) from any of them.

Currently I have a stake job and a ward job. Fortunately both are non-paying gigs that I actually like doing. If I didn't, I wouldn't wait to get released/laid off. I'd quit. That's the good part about working for free.

Some fellow Mormons will assert that we actually do get paid for doing these jobs. We receive blessings from the Lord for our efforts.

Possibly. However, because these are the same sort of people who will testify to all sorts of horribleness being actual blessings in disguise, I'd much rather work for free, thank you very much.

Maybe it's just me. But if I accept a church job, I don't consider getting my leg bit off by a shark later as either a blessing or fair compensation for services rendered. I'd rather have the cash.

Years ago a friend was called to be my bishop. We stayed friends anyway. One day he summoned me to his office and asked me to work with the Scouts.

I agreed to do it for five bucks. Surprised, the bishop insisted that holding him up for money wasn't how this sort of thing was done.

I said that if I accepted a job that had every guarantee of going wrong, I wasn't satisfied with arguable blessings later. I wanted something up front.

I didn't get it, but I was right to insist.

Two months later I was released by popular ward demand for taking a dozen boys on a camp-out wherein we worked on their Explosives Merit Badges by tossing homemade bombs down the shaft of an abandoned silver mine.

Note: Yeah, I know. There's no such thing as an Explosives Merit Badge. So what?

It was a valuable lesson in church jobs. By not taking money from my church, I've never had a job that I minded walking (or being sent) away from.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or

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