I'm active LDS, a believer, but I have always been bothered by the fact that, since the mid-90's or so, GAs seem to be getting paid a lot of money. Some of the Twelve, for example...some were wealthy, or at least well off, at the time of their calls; others, however, were not. Elders Holland and Packer were educators, for example, but Elder Holland has a very nice up-market vacation home in Hobble Creek (I assume it is his vacation home, it may be it is his primary residence), and I have seen Elder Packer's compound in the south valley. Pres. Monson was an advertising exec for Deseret News at the time of his call...hardly a highly paid position, so I doubt he came to the Twelve with any money, also considering he'd spent three years before as a mission prez in Canada. But today he appears to be a fairly wealthy man. I've heard he has a vacation home in Washington County, and quite a spread of land, home, etc., in Salt Lake.
Where did the money come from for all of this? There is not a single one of the Twelve you would characterize as living modestly, the way, say, Elder McConkie always lived, or Prez Kimball, Joseph Fielding Smith...all those old guys. They really did live modestly, and they never had much money. But not so today. This modest "stipend" we are supposed to believe they receive? How much is this really, how much are they getting paid? And why isn't this info available to us, tithe paying members? When we go into tithing settlement every year, we basically declare how much money we made in the year before. Why doesn't the church disclose to us how much GAs are paid? Are they hiding something? Would it be a cause for embarrassment?
I think the whole City Creek thing, Prez Monson cutting the ribbon while declaring, "1, 2, 3...let's go shopping!"...it has all bothered me and is partly the reason I'm thinking about any of this.
I believe the Apostles take in about $70k a year via a stipend, or "living expense" - which is money received by the for-profit entities of the church, never from tithing.
However, one must realize that the key to living "well" is not by revenue but by expenses. For example, my revenue is quite generous and i consider myself blessed...and some may consider that i "spend" a lot, but there is effort required in acquiring what i have, and this effort is not by spending but by not spending. Coupons, tax deductions, necessities, etc..all play a more important role than my income.
I would imagine that creative tax strategies, available to anyone, are what enable some of these "perks" you perceive.
As for tithing settlements...they in no way are a disclosure of your yearly income, they are personal and unpublished. I have never been asked if i tithed "10% of income"...it has always been if i was a full tithe payer, and i have always been honest in response...and have never objected to the tax benefit it affords my family.