Multilevel Mormonism

I was pained by a post from an anonymous poster about problems of multilevel marketing in the Church. Yes, I think it really can be a problem. The Church provides lots of ties to fellow members, and those who are looking for recruits for marketing schemes may find it an irresistible temptation to tap into fellow Latter-day Saints. Well, I guess that’s what networking is all about, but I have also had some concerns about certain multilevel marketing programs that are pushed by members. Some groups, including new members, might just be too trusting to see through the business pitch of a smooth-talking fellow member who seems “righteous” or is their home teacher or something. After all, they are a brother in the Gospel – surely that business deal is honest, fair, inspired, and likely to provide miraculous blessings just like the literature says, right? Frankly, Latter-day Saints need to be a lot less naive about the risks of business ventures with fellow members, and quit assuming that just because someone has a temple recommend or a Church calling that he or she can be trusted in business deals.

Below is the insight provided by our poster – does it sound like something that has happened in any of your stakes or wards?

I have often wondered if any other Wards/Stakes have been affected by multi-level marketing strategies “raging” through the ward. About five years ago we had multi-level marketing people move into our Ward. Many Ward friendships for many quickly turned into how to get rich together. People were invited to join [the name deleted] team while sitting in the chapel waiting for Sacrament to begin.

Many of the poorer/weaker members joined the scheme. When they failed in sales they did not come back to church. They were embarrassed that they let the upline people down. . . .

This was unfortunate. Has anyone else experienced this kind of problem?

Now look, I know the critics will want to jump all over this about Mormon deception and all that, but any close-knit social or religious group offers opportunities for those looking for business connections with others. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but some multilevel marketing schemes are notorious for taking advantage of trusting relationships, whether associated with religion or not. And yes, some Mormons are just too trusting of other Mormon. How sad that this should be a problem.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

19 thoughts on “Multilevel Mormonism

  1. yeah back in my hometown the members of the korean branch have fallen victim to multilevel mormonism. it’s too bad, it’s hurting the branch and the would-be members

  2. Everybody is looking to make a comfortable living. If we make a comfortable living we have time to home teach, minister, pay a generous fast offering.

    Greed sneaks in to all of our minds at one time or another.

    If Quickstar is harming the Korean Branch the Stake and High council need to get involved immediately. If there are language, communication, cultural hurdles to jump with the gospel—-Imagine how greed and money can make the gospel more difficult.

  3. Thanks for the URL – but it’s for a Google cached document that is no longer present at the site. Here is a similar current document that I think LDS people need to read:

    Wow – it looks like multilevel marketing is a HUGE problem in Utah, especially in Utah County. Latter-day Saints, stay away from this! My two cents.

  4. While I would warn anybody to stay out of MLMs, especially Saints, I think a far greater problem is the predatory marketing and debt associated with groups like Living Scriptures.

  5. J.

    I understand that the salespeople for the Living Scriptures can be, and often are relentless in their efforts to get in your wallet.

    1. Are Living Scripture products part of a multi level marketing.

    2. Are they approved by the church?

    3. Do families that buy them do better learning the scriptures?

  6. The problem is not just multi-level marketers, but also other Mormon salesmen who exercise what I consider priestcraft to try to push a sale – somehow tying in their experience as a former Bishop, for instance, with your “need” to buy their product, implying strongly that you will be a poor Mormon and provider for your family if you don’t buy this product and from them.

    As you say, probably true for pretty much any close-knit kind of group.

    We had the multi-level marketing problem within the family as one brother tried to get us into his company and came across as arrogant and aggressive. This created quite a rift for a time. (Which reminds me, did you hear about the recent felons who were caught because they took a cab and claimed to be going to an Amway meeting, but the cabbie became suspicious because they were nowhere near annoying enough to be bonafide distributers?)

    The abuse of our affliation is really too bad, especially as on the flip side, I have often wished I knew if any local Mormons were involved in particular products or services. I seldom have any money to contribute to the economy, but when I do, I would like to patronize “my own people” and I would like to think that I might get honest service from them. Unfortunately, I am more likely to hear from those who abuse our religious connection than about the existance of the more honest ones.

  7. A couple good points about Amway/Quixtar.

    One time on my misison I made a disparaging remark about Amway, their products, and their distributors. My companion then stated that his family’s Amway profits helped pay for his mission. [gulp] So apparently, at least one distributor did sell products to “end users” or “real customers.”

    Years later I started to poke fun at a close friend of mine for being a Quixtar distributor, since that is just another re-incarnation of Amway. However, she just buys stuff for herself, and swore to me that it was a good price on stuff she was going to buy anyway, and she liked their products. Well hey, if she’s happy with the products, and happy with the prices, and she’s not trying to recruit people, that’s fine by me.

    In remote areas of the west, where there are no stores, and you have to drive long distances, or have things shipped to you, sometimes buying Amway/Quixtar stuff in bulk, and reselling to your neighbors can be beneficial.

    But you do have to compare the unit price, or per use prices of the items.

    One friend (non lds) years ago tried to recruit me to Amway, and I looked at the price sheets that distributors would pay for the products.

    For stuff like laundry detergent, it’s hard to figure out the per-use price since it’s “concentrated”, and they don’t tell you how many ounces is in a “capful”. You would actually have to buy it, and measure a capful, and divide it into the total ounces in a bottle of the detergent to get the number of uses per bottle.

    But after comparing most of the stuff, and factoring in shipping, I found you could buy name-brand stuff at Kroger cheaper if you used a coupon or just shopped the sales.

    I realized that for *most* things, just about everything I actually compared, Amway was no better than what you’d pay at a name-brand grocery store. And you could regularly get better prices than Amway at the discount grocery stores.

    Here’s a web page that compared Amway price-per-ounce and price-per use with other products. This was done in the late 1990’s. On a few things, Amway was cheaper, but on most things, they were not.

    Also see the web pages in the upline. (ha ha. pun intended.)

  8. Good points on Amway. Some of the finest, most decent LDS folks I know were in Amway for quite a while, and I think it was just for better access to products they liked. They weren’t trying to recruit others or getting people to spend hundreds of dollars buying books and tapes on how to get rich with Amway. So I don’t have any inherent objections to Mormons being in Amway, though with all the competition today it may not be the most economical product line. And I don’t think I can condemn multilevel marketing per se, in spite of my suspipcions, but there have been so many abuses of that system and repeated cases of harm to members of the Church through multilevel schemes that I think it’s fair for members and leaders to be wary.

  9. To me the biggest issue is exploiting the ward directory or the social events/relationships within the church to market or find ‘hosts’ for ‘parties’ (captive audience pitches). I haven’t seen issues with folks leaving the church for it, but I roll my eyes everytime my wife gets an invitation (in my experience, this is more prevalent amongst sisters) for Pampered Chef, Discovery Toys,StampinUp (sp?) or the like from another member. It’s not recruting to sell … but it’s the social pressure to buy in many instances.

    Fortunately, there’s usually something else available to create a conflict in the schedule and if she doesn’t want to attend that party etc., she takes the other option … or in some cases has been frank enough to just tell them flat out that she is not interested.

    It does create an awkward situation in many cases. And this goes beyond just our church … but the whole ‘market to your friends to make money’ business.

    I’ve had Member friends (roomies even) who bought and sold Amway .. but were not pushy. I’ve also had a family member who tried to give me the pitch … and finally admitted on the 5th or 6th time that I asked “Is this Amway?” … that it was. If the prices were as good as they were claimed to be, I would have tried it … but the prices didn’t impress me. Two things that irked me

    1)they had been told to say that it wasn’t … or to not admit it until the pitch was done. Needless to say … we didn’t sign on.

    2) Part of the pitch included reference/inference to some well-to-do Stake President in Utah (where we lived as poor students at the time) who did Amway.

  10. Living in California and for the past few years Hawaii, I had no idea this was such an issue until seeing it lampooned in the movie “The R.M.”.

    I have in the past been involved in selling insurance as a MLM. I was recruited by a member into an organization which was almost entirely made up of members of the church. I even recruited members… I mean that was my circle of association right?

    I quit the MLM scene for a few reasons.

    The first is such businesses don’t return much unless you have the time to make it an actual business 24/7. Most people take it on as a part time thing to suppliment thier income. This rarely works.

    The second is I saw people going out into public places and attempting to recruit and talking to everyone about thier service and business.

    This made be begin to wonder. Would these same members be so quick to go out and proclaim the gospel? Would they waste a great missionary opportunity by trying to sell them something instead?

    What would happen if all of these members put as much time into preaching the gospel as they do trying to sell something to the people they meet.

    This was my wake-up call. I suppose it was a “two masters” thing for me.

  11. When my wife and I were first married and moved into our first family ward, it wasn’t long before we got a call from another ward member offering us a “business opportunity” (code words for “Amway”).

    Through the years we’ve received dozens of invitation to in-home parties. Right now we receive an unsolicited monthly newsletter from a real estate agent in our ward.

    None of these people seem to understand that when the bottom of each ward list instructs “FOR CHURCH USE ONLY”, it means just that.

    The gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t about accumulating wealth or working on your downstream. Unfortunately so many have bought into the “if I’m righteous the Lord will bless me monetarily” line. And when it doesn’t happen, testimonies are destroyed.


    If it really means for Church Use only—–would I be in trouble using it to promote business?

  13. I don’t think it’s proper to use the ward list to produce mailers or cold-call people. If you want to network with someone you know personally at church, that’s one thing; sales pitches to people who just happen to be ward members should be off-limits.

  14. The fundamental problem with m.l.m. programs is that it attempts to blend the sacredness of human relationships with the conquering spirit of the almighty buck (however awkward the union might be).

    I had a very good friend (still a friend to this day) who faced just such a conflict. When I asked him what he did for a living (I hadn’t seen him for a while, so I wanted to get caught up), he gave me the typical bob-and-dart manuever by referring me to a recorded conference call. Try as I might, he would not tell me what he did, other than that was a kind of salesman. As with Amway, it seemed to be veiled in a shroud of mystery (although my friend was willing to acknowledge how mafia-esque it all sounded).

    It was sad. My friend obviously wanted to tell me but felt bound by “procedure” to commodify our relationship to the contours of his company’s protocol. While I acknowledge that m.l.m. can be a honorable enterprise (aside from the secrecy of the program, my friends business seemed completely legitimate), when such an enterprise tries to streamline human relationships, deception and greed depreciate the bonds that our religion holds dear. Considering our view the unique LDS view on relationships, this cheapening of relationships cannot be lightly passed over.

  15. We lost friends when AMWAY attacked our Ward.

    Then we learned that AMWAY people are told not to hang around non-AMWAY people.

  16. In my opinion, Any one who trys to promote any business on sunday in church, should be reminded that this is the lords day.They should promote on monday-saturday.

  17. Mormon level marketing is out of control. This is why I have NO Mormon friends. My whole ward hates me because I won't join their rampant schemes, which change from year to year. I have nothing but non-member friends, who are my friends and nothing else, who don't expect me to join their satanic Mormon level marketing schemes where NO ONE makes money!

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