Years ago, a friend of mine was called to his stake president’s office. He assumed it was for a church calling of some sort. He was wrong. He was called because another member of his ward didn’t like what he did for a living and wanted his temple recommend and church membership revoked. When I was told the story, I was appalled. I’d never heard such a thing before. Was that even possible? Can someone lose their temple recommend over their employment, even if it is legal and no laws are being broken?

My friend had the unfortunate problem of being a very accomplished complimentary health care provider and was highly sought after for his skills in chronic illness. Like Jesus healing the masses, people waited months to get an appointment him and he was very good at what he did. He earned his following the right way, with a proper European medical education focused on natural health. His success completely ticked off his fellow ward member, a medical specialist who was tired of losing patients to my friend. There was nothing the physician could do about my friend legally; he was well within his rights to practice in that state. The only thing that he could do was complain to the stake president on the grounds my friend was a charlatan who was not honest in his business dealings. The stake president (whose wife was a client of my friend and had enjoyed excellent results from his care) was not impressed by the accusations of wrong doing.

Not only was my friend not stripped off his church membership and temple recommend, at the next stake conference, he was made 1st counselor in the stake presidency. The 2nd counselor was also an interesting pick. He was a in top management at a nearby beer manufacturing plant, where several other faithful members also toiled to produce the very finest beer in the area.

Lastly, while I was in college, I babysat in the evenings for a single mom with 3 kids. Her ex husband was deadbeat and paid no child support. She was desperate for money and got a great job as a waitress at a local bar. She kept her job a secret as long as she could but as these things go, someone from church saw her in her bar uniform (modest top with shorts, we’re not talking Hooters here) and reported her to the bishop. The bishop demanded she quit her job and go on welfare (which was possible back then) rather than continue working in such a heathen place. He threatened to take away her church membership if she kept the job, saying that she could work anywhere and had no need to work at a bar.

Over the years I’ve thought about these situations and wondered about them. Was my friend the complimentary health care guy acceptable because he was educated and successful? What about the other stake presidency counselor, was he also ok because he was in top management at the brewery? What was the difference between the single mom as a waitress at a bar vs. the stake counselor at the brewery? She was legally able to serve beer , just as he was legally able to manage the production of it and neither of them drank the stuff so why was one ok and not the other?

As mormons, does our place of employment matter as long as it is legal? Can you work in a factory rolling cigarettes all week and then pass the Sacrament on Sunday? How much say do church leaders have over our employment, anyway?