The first chapter of Alma talks about priestcraft and how those who preached priestcraft thought that the priest should be supported by the church and esteemed above others in the church. And reading that, I could see that priestcraft is alive and well in today's society.
There are many churches where there is a paid clergy; the priest (or pastor or whatever s/he is called in that particular denomination) is supported by the members of the church. Being the priest is their job and they don't have to support themselves otherwise. Now in some cases, I can see where this is not such a bad thing. In a small congregation where the priest is supported modestly by tithes and offerings of the members, s/he then has the ability to focus completely on the needs of the members and the church.
But what really struck me was verses 5-6:
5 And it came to pass that he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money.
6 And he began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a church after the manner of his preaching.
It made me think of megachurches and televangelists and other instances where the preacher seems less concerned for the good of the church members and more about the size, income, and power of the church.
The lay-clergy in our church have to work at a separate job to support themselves and their families. And while you could argue that this splits their focus so that they can't do as much for the church, I think the more important part is that it helps them to stay humble and to remember that it's the church that's important, not the leaders.
I think that right there also explains a lot about some of the controversy swirling around the whole Mitt Romney for President situation. So many people seem to worry that Mitt Romney would be taking orders directly from Salt Lake and be some kind of puppet allowing the church to take control of his presidency. Supposedly this is because Mitt Romney is a "high-level church leader." I've seen a lot of articles that focus on that... and it's true, he has at times been a church leader. Stake president, bishop I think...
But what those who don't know the church have a hard time grasping is that this lay-clergy of ours functions differently. The man who is stake president today may be a teaching the 3-year-olds in Sunbeams tomorrow. And no one would see it as a demotion or loss of prestige of any kind. Somehow I doubt that some of these famous televangelists would be just as willing to teach a children's Sunday School class as to pontificate grandly from the pulpit.