If I Were In Charge: Tithe the Church’s For-Profit Businesses

By: Mike S
June 7, 2011

We belong to a rich church.  Exact numbers are hard to come by, but the assets are likely worth tens of billions US$.  While there are obviously a lot of assets in things like temples, BYU campuses, institute buildings, Church headquarters and buildings, chapels and other land, there are also a lot for “for-profit” assets.  Some examples of these include:

  • Deseret Management Company (an umbrella organization)
  • Beneficial Life (which was worth $3+ billion, but which recently cost $600 million to “bail out”)
  • Hawaii Reserves (including an estimated $80-100 million remodel of a hotel)
  • Farmland Reserve (including the largest ranch east of Mississippi)
  • Bonneville International (large broadcasting company – markets
  • Bonneville Communication (which markets what sounds like missionary work – “Our unique strength is the ability to touch the hearts and minds of our audiences, evoking first feeling, then thought and, finally, action.”)
  • Deseret Book
  • Several for-profit private hunting preserves (boasting access to private airstrips)
  • Etc

While exact numbers are private and unreleased, these assets generate a lot of income.  How much?  When the Church has talked about the mall / condo project in downtown Salt Lake City, they have emphasized that no tithing or other sacred funds were used for the project.  They also have a policy of not borrowing money.  The cost is therefore covered by profit from other for-profit businesses.  According to most recent estimates, the Church is spending around $3 BILLION on this project.  They are also spending tens of millions redeveloping Ogden, UT, as well as tens of millions buying up random parcels of land in downtown Salt Lake City.  So, given all of this, the Church’s for-profit businesses have profits in the BILLIONS.  And this is especially successful given the roughly 4-5 million active Mormons that this represents.

So what?  A lot of churches do the same things.  There are mega-churches besides ours throughout the United States and the world who also have media companies to spread their message, access to private jets to fly their leaders around efficiently, investments in buildings and land, etc.  What is wrong with having successful people investing money to make more money?  As some people say, we should invest the money to make more so we can someday use it to help the poor or for something else.

I suppose this is a good answer if your goal is to be a corporation and make money.  But I think we could also do more as a church to help the unfortunate around us.  We could do more to help the poor and downtrodden.  When I think of Christ in mortality, it seems that he didn’t really care about money or buildings or business.  He seemed to mostly care about helping the less fortunate.

But wait, we are doing that.  We have humanitarian efforts.  We have bishop’s storehouses.  We have fast offerings.  We do all that already.  I agree.  We DO do that already.  But it’s a question of magnitude.  As the old adage says: “Put your money where your mouth is.” Given how much we make in business, how much do we give in humanitarian aid?

This is one area where there are actually some figures given by the Church.  The Church actually publishes an annual Welfare Services Fact Sheet.  Here is a link to the one from 2009.  To see what these figures mean, let’s examine what is covered.  On the left side of the sheet is a column that lists things that “Welfare Services” include.  Items listed include fast offerings, bishop’s help, bishop storehouses, welfare assistance, humanitarian relief and development projects throughout the world.

To see how much we spend on all of these things, look on the bottom of the right column.  There are two numbers: “Cash donations” and “Value of material assistance”.

  • “Cash donations” includes actual money spent by the Church.  It is not broken down further, but this likely includes cash donated for fast offerings and redistributed by the Church.  It also likely includes actual cash spent by the church on all of the things listed above
  • “Value of material assistance” includes the cash value of other things donated.  This might include humanitarian kits put together by members, blankets sewn, etc.  It also likely includes the value of member’s time donated to work on Church farms, in warehouses, etc.

Looking at the numbers, we see $327.6 million in cash and $884.6 million in material assistance, for a total of $1.2 billion in Welfare Services.  This sounds like a big number, and it is.  But when you look at it further, it is for the years 1985-2009, or a 25 year period.  This works out to $48.5 million per year total, and a cash amount of around $13.1 million annually.

Now, contrast this with the numbers from the beginning of this post.  We spend $3 billion cash on a mall from Church profits, yet only $13.1 million a year on welfare services (including humanitarian aid, fast offerings, welfare assistance, etc).  The $3 billion number is 229 TIMES more than the amount of the annual cash donation for humanitarian needs.  Wow.  I think that the Church realizes how paltry this number is, so on the 2010 Welfare Services Fact Sheet, they wrap the actual cash amount into the material assistance number to make it appear bigger.

And even if you include the value of “material assistance”, we spent 61 TIMES as much on a mall project than the $48.5 million annual figure.

And this is just one project.  This doesn’t include the $600 million spent to bail out an insurance company, or the $80-$100 million on a hotel in Hawaii, or the tens of millions on various other land purchases around Utah.  To me, this seems strange.

Now, there are various arguments that can be made that things are just fine like they are:

  • We argue that Time Magazine is misleading when it prints a cover article entitled “Mormons, Inc”, yet when you look at where we put our resources, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
  • We argue that farms and communication companies and other things help serve a higher cause, yet when they are making billions of dollars in profits while we spend tens of millions directly helping people, the “higher cause” becomes lost.
  • We may claim that we are investing to make more money so we can “someday” help more people, but this makes about as much sense as a billionaire keeping all of his money to invest so that “someday” he can donate even MORE to those in need.
  • We may claim that we are helping the poor by creating jobs, but any for-profit corporation can make this claim.
  • We argue that we are “beautifying” the area around the temple, but the Vatican could have made the same argument over the past few millennia.
  • We may say that the poor are always among us, but this didn’t stop people like Mother Theresa.
  • We can come up with all sorts of excuses, but at the end of the day, we are spending over 200x as much cash on a mall than we spend each year directly helping people.

I recognize that the Church is always going to have businesses.  I recognize that being a good steward of money involves investing it and being a “profitable servant”.  I recognize that taking ALL of the profit of these businesses will never happen.

For some people, having the LDS Church make billions in profits makes good sense and is a sacred molehill.  I would tithe the profits.

  • I would take AT LEAST 10% of the profits of each business each year and spend them on actual humanitarian needs.  For the $3 billion in profits used just to build the mall, this would be $300 million, or 22 TIMES the amount of cash they spent last year.
  • Accounting games can always make things look non-profitable, so I would approach this the same way we are asked to approach tithing.  If we are expected to pay tithing on gross, before taxes, etc., I would do the same for the for-profit businesses.  If business “tithing” should be on profit after taxes, etc., then it should be the same for individuals.
  • This may cause a bit of hardship, but we should rely on God.  Perhaps, with faith, by giving more away, we will be more blessed.  Perhaps the businesses will prosper even more.  Perhaps the declining rate of Church growth will turn around.  Perhaps, by being a part of an organization that does even more good in the world around us (as opposed for our own members), we will all also turn outward and make more of a difference.  Perhaps, we can generate good karma.
  • We can make a much bigger difference than we currently do. Imagine the good that could come if we gave away 10-20 times as much as we do.

Questions:

  • Given the numbers above, do you think the amount the Church gives away makes sense?
  • If so, what are your reasons?  If not, why not?  How much makes sense for a church to give away?
  • For the fiscal conservatives who think the government should do less while individuals and churches should do more, does it make sense for a church to act as a corporation and keep its profits, or should they give some of them away?
  • Do you think tithing Church-owned for-profit businesses makes sense?
  • Would it be helpful if the Church was more transparent about its finances?

(NOTE: This is part of a series of posts about “Sacred Molehills”.  If you are interested in reading any of the other posts in the series, you can click on “Mike S” in the Authors box near the top of the right column.  I’d be interested in any comments there as well.)

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135 Responses to If I Were In Charge: Tithe the Church’s For-Profit Businesses

  1. Jeff on June 7, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    Great article. The one thing I wonder, though, is where that $3B came from. How long did it take to acquire? What percentage of the cash on hand does it represent? Did the Church even have it on hand, or did it come from for-profit investors? There are a lot of unanswered questions, and while I don’t claim that those answers would belie your post, it would certainly help us have a better idea of what, exactly, is going on here.

    Peace!

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  2. Jeff Spector on June 7, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    The sole purpose of the for profit businesses is to assist the Church. There are no stockholders to appease, no multi million dollar executives to pay. All the resources go toward the goals of the Church.

    The welfare part, we discussed before and we want the Church to do more. But the farms and ranches are primarily in business to supply goods to the Welfare program. they apparently do contract work for other companies, but the money is funneled back into the program.

    So, they more than tithe, all the money goes to the Church. The lion’s share of the wealth of the Church is tied up in property and facilities.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 9

  3. Dan on June 7, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    Forget giving money to the church to help the poor. Your money is better spent through taxes into governmental services which ACTUALLY help the poor at a far greater number.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 25

  4. Dan on June 7, 2011 at 1:58 PM

    Just imagine if FDR and the Democrats of the 1930s didn’t force the church’s hand in creating the Welfare program…where would the church be today in terms of helping the poor?

    It’s really sad that on most of the important issues facing our society, particularly those who are otherwise either somewhat or completely defenseless, our church is not at the forefront of solving those problems but have to “catch up” just to keep up.

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  5. CatherineWO on June 7, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    I appreciate what you are saying (and how you came up with your figures), but until the Church releases full financial reports, I don’t think we have any way of knowing where the money goes or how it flows to and from the profit and non-profit accounts and holdings of the Church.
    I would like to see much greater transparency in LDS Church finances. I contribute money to several non-profit organizations every year, and the LDS Church is the only one which does not send me a yearly financial statement. I know that churches are legally excempt from doing so, but it would seem like the more honest things to do.

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  6. Will on June 7, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    Mike,

    I admire your desire for humanitarian aid. It is expensive. It requires a sound organization to provide for the needs of the poor as well as the church does. The church is effective in its humanitarian efforts. They are an enormous help to the poor and to other churches and shelters in the world.
    The 3 Billion in cash for the project downtown is for an income producing property. Simply put, it will generate revenue, not consume revenue. Let’s say after absorption it produces 10 % cash on cash return (not greedy, not unrealistic). That is 300 Million a year in passive income. Income they can use to help the needy.

    I am grateful for the financial responsibility of the Church. I am grateful they spend and invest their money wisely. Would you prefer they create massive deficits like the Government in their effort to help the poor? As we both opined in our last discussion the Government’s way will collapse. It will cause more damage to those it is intended to help then it will actually help them because they do not have the financial stability to provide such aid. People will be left in the cold.

    Another issue. The investment by the Church was inspired. It is the main reason Utah is not suffering as much as the rest of the World. That 3 Billion dollar injection was critical at a critical time. It kept people employed. It kept our economy going.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 14

  7. Dan on June 7, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    That 3 Billion dollar injection was critical at a critical time. It kept people employed. It kept our economy going.

    I would never have imagined Will a closet Keynesian…

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 8

  8. Will on June 7, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    Jeff,

    It was Cash. The Church does not enter into debt service unless, like the Boston Temple Land, the seller wants an annuity.

    They purchased a 500,000 square foot building from my company and paid cash. They bought the land to the West of our building and are currently adding 1,500,000 square feet. The 2,000,000 square feet will be used as a humanitarian center distribution warehouse. It will be bigger that Walmart’s distribution center in Southern Utah.

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  9. Will on June 7, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Dan,

    The Church is a private investor, not the Goverment. Wrong again Dan.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 6

  10. hm on June 7, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    my opinion is that large organizations without transparency eventually become corrupt. the church went bankrupt in 1890s, and in the 1960s. it can happen again. i see no reason not to disclose all finances.

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  11. Mogal on June 7, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    the dollar numbers you cited were for humanitarian assistance. This is over and above all the assistance that is provided through bishops – ie bishop’s storehouse, money used to pay for rent, utilities, etc.. of members in need. That number has to be exponentially higher, but it’s not included in that figure.

    I also don’t follow the logic of why the church should pay taxes. Because they use their resources wisely and do well business wise they must pay taxes even though they are tax-exempt because they are large and the numbers are big?

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 8

  12. Howard on June 7, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    Even as marble is being hung on the City Creek temple of spending about half of rural Africa is without clean water for drinking and irrigation about two thirds lacks sanitation a situation is unique in the world today how can this juxtapose be justified in God’s sight?

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  13. Will on June 7, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    Howard,

    Again, it is an investment. It will provide a return. It will generate wealth — wealth they can use to provide more aid.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 8

  14. Paul on June 7, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    Mike, I enjoy reading these posts as you’ve written them (rather than getting snippets in comments of other posts).

    I don’t know what the evidence is that for-profit businesses do not “tithe”, since, as Jeff said, their income goes to the church. It may be that those profits are held in separate accounts and not used for day-to-day expenses of the church or for other church projects.

    I agree with #11 that the fact sheet seems to describe humanitarian service only, not day-to-day fast offering assistance used in the welfare program. Even so that might not change your calculus much.

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  15. Paul on June 7, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    #8 Will — I think Jeff’s question was whether the $3B came from the church alone or whether there were other investors / donors who participated in that figure, not a suggestion that the church had borrowed.

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  16. Will on June 7, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    Paul,

    The church has to be careful who they climb in bed with or they risk losing thier 529 status.

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  17. Kullervo on June 7, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    Jeff is right.

    If you own a for profit business, you get the profit from it. That’s how “profit” works.

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  18. Cowboy on June 7, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    We shouldn’t fail to note that even though the Church has a self-perpetuating financial arm, the underlying investments ultimately came from “consecrated funds”. The business side is just profitable now (in the billions) so it doesn’t need to borrow from the current tithing coffers.

    Furthermore, local charitable contributions are at least offset by fast offering funds, which are charitable donations above and beyond tithing reciepts – so, suggesting that the business arm is the main source of charity is debatable. It still comes directly from the members pockets.

    Lastly, Jesus Christ is said to have had the authority to command the elements and do many more things to aid the poor, the sick, and the sinful. He allegedly demonstrated more than once that if he needed/wanted to, he could have dominated the economic classes by conjuring money from a fish’s mouth – or he could effectively out produce any fishing boat, or feed the multitudes. The fundamental claims of Mormonism are Priesthood authority and revelation. Priesthood is alleged to be the very authority by which Jesus performed his miralces – and in fact, as per section 107, the very name of the Priesthood is the “Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God”. Yet, I see a Church actively engaged in “money getting”. To defend this point many argue that money is required to do the works of Christ – yet, one message from the New Testament is clear, and that is Jesus Christ has no need for our money. If there was ever a sign that the emperor has no clothes it is this, the Church depends on money – evidenced by the way in which they zealously pursue it!

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  19. dog lover on June 7, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    Will,
    I’m not sure that the church plans to make a return on City Creek. They had to dramatically lower the price of the condo’s and even at that I don’t think they are selling well. Also I’m not sure how many stores will really lease when they have to be closed on Sunday.

    I would like to see disclosure by the church. Disclosure keeps everyone honest. I think the church does so much good yet I think we could do so much more and I’m not sure building a mall/high end condo project is that helpful in bringing others to Christ.

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  20. Homer on June 7, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    “But the farms and ranches are primarily in business to supply goods to the Welfare program. they apparently do contract work for other companies, but the money is funneled back into the program.”

    JS: That is simply not true. They are not “primarily” there to supply goods for the Welfare program, in fact they are “for profit” businesses. Just ask the “missionaries” who return from their voluntary indentured servitude who serve there, and even they will tell you it’s largely a “for profit” business model.

    In fact, I largely see this as an example (as Cowboy suggests) of business men wearing the religious cloth. As Nibley stated in one of his articles on Ernest Wilkinson:

    “I got to know [Ernest L. Wilkinson] quite well, beginning with our clash at the very first faculty meeting. He had given a degree to a friend in Washington, and some of the faculty protested that degrees should be bestowed or at least approved by colleges, such being the immemorial practice of universities. Well, a paper was circulated to that effect, and some people signed it. Wilkinson stormed into that first faculty meeting in a towering rage: This has nothing to do with right or wrong, whether it was moral or immoral is irrelevant. The only question is, was it legal? Who would dare question him on a point of law? Who signed this protest? I had signed it, so I stood up, and I was the only one. “Come and see me in my office!” I did, and we became good friends—being a lawyer, he was not at all upset by adversarial confrontation; in fact, he enjoyed it. I was his home teacher at the time, and he started out at the “Y” by familiarizing himself with the students with a fireside at his house, followed by other such firesides, some of which I attended. The theme of his discussion in all of these was, “What is the difference between being dishonest and being shrewd?” He illustrated each time by his own case. When he was in Washington fresh out of law school, he was looking for a job, and so found himself in Senator King’s office. The senator was not there, but the secretary allowed him to use the phone for what he said was an urgent call. It was urgent indeed, for he called up the office of Justice Charles Evans Hughes and said, “This is Senator King’s office speaking. I would like to recommend a certain young man, etc., of high qualifications to work for the Justice.” And so he became a clerk to the celebrated Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes—not dishonest, just shrewd.

    At the second faculty meeting we got another shocker. The family that owned the farm on Temple Hill where President Wilkinson wanted the land for expansion refused to sell. President W. would appeal to eminent domain, but it was his introductory remark that rocked us: “I never yet saw a contract I couldn’t break,” he boasted”

    The vast majority of lawyers and businessmen largely work for the same motives: money. As such, any argument that suggests that the church is merely going to plow the profits back into the church is naive in the extreme. All of the businesses are separate profit centers, all of which are out to make money. At the end of the year, they are to show a profit and increasing %’s, and the next year do the same. Neither the ranches nor Bonneville nor any other “for profit” firm is giving money back to the church in any way when they make a profit, rather they’re using that money to pay their board of directors and grow the business the next year.

    So, perhaps the church is only being shrewd in suggesting that our tithing funds aren’t funding projects like City Creek Center. Not dishonest. Just shrewd. Maybe I should use that logic on my wife and see how she takes it. I’d be willing to bet that distinction isn’t recognizable in my household, but then I don’t have billions of dollars burning a hole in my pocket.

    In thinking on this, I did a few calculations, just to see what kind of tithing funds would be needed in order to produce enough investment income to pay for a $3 billion project. Here is the math. For ease in calculations, I assumed that the church held the tithing funds in an interest bearing account earning a relatively conservative 10% interest per annum for three full years. This will necessarily underestimate the total tithing funds in play, but will give the reader a glimpse of the figures we’re looking at coming into the general tithing fund. And, likewise, this helps out on the back end where the full $3 billion wouldn’t be spent all at once, but rather over the life of the project.

    So, in order for the church to generate a $3 billion fund at the end of three years, at 10% annual interest, compounded monthly (see, that Babylonian education does provide dividends – pun intended), the church would need to set aside no less than $861,6xx,xxx each of those three years. Now, according to what the church tells us, 100% of these funds are entirely devoid of any tithing. That means that the church is generating at least $860 million per year in investment income, for this project alone. Think on that for a minute. This analysis assumes that 100% of the investment income for that 3 year time period was being dumped into one account, that the church had no other “for profit” needs at the time. (Yes, that’s a ludicrous proposition. If the church is generating that kind of investment income, one would do well to ponder where else the money is going.)

    If we continue this cat and mouse game, that would mean that the church was generating somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion per year in tithing income. And, that’s assuming that no other money was going to any other project of any kind for any reason. And, it’s not like transparency is a big deal over at the COB, so we have no idea what projects they have going on. City Creek just happens to be one of the more (if not the most) prolific projects the church has done in sometime.

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  21. Will on June 7, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    Dog Lover,

    They know something. I think they see the same thing as Mike and I – a collapse of the US Government. Or at least, a massive reduction in aid the Government can provide. A broke organization can’t provide much help. As indicated they are adding 2,000,000 square feet of warehouse space for humanitarian aid. I was personally involved in this deal. This is not second hand knowledge. You don’t add this much space unless you are expecting some problems. They could not provide this type of building or aid if they didn’t have the resources. They know what they are doing.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 10

  22. Homer on June 7, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    Will:

    “The church has to be careful who they climb in bed with or they risk losing thier 529 status.”

    You mean like how they climb in bed with the likes of Chase to mortgage the temple block (SLC temple, JS Memorial Building, Tabernacle, etc) from the early 1920s through the early 1970s, or getting in bed with Amex to make sure the tithing funds are invested ASAP in order to earn as much interest on those funds as possible, or any other business venture church authorities have engaged in while offering the tithes of members as collateral? You mean that kind of “getting in bed”?

    More info:

    As of 2005, the church owned Deseret Ranch, a different cattle ranch in central Florida, was the largest working cattle ranch in the United States. That ranch, valued at an estimated $500 million when purchased back in the 1950s, covers approximately 300,000 acres of Florida swamp and pasture land. It includes 1,000 miles of canals, 250 miles of roads and 1,400 miles of fencing. The ranch employs approximately 75 full-time employees (and their families), most of which live in houses across the ranch. On-site amenities for the employees that stay on the ranch include a swimming hole, campgrounds and a rodeo arena. As of 2005, the ranch maintained a herd of 44,000 heifers and purebred cows. One article estimated annual income to be in the neighborhood of at least $16 million just from the calves they sell each year at cattle auctions.[12]

    Cynthia Barnett, in an article entitled, The Church’s Ranch, discussed what she called “ecclesiastical entrepreneurism” and the church and wrote:

    “While the church is committed to stewardship of the land, it is just as committed to squeezing profits out of its private companies. …

    And eventually, those two missions; are sure to clash on this prime central Florida property. Real estate sources estimate Deseret’s spread is worth some $900 million, though the assessed agricultural value is far lower than that. For decades, the family cattle ranches that once made up Osceola and outlying Orange counties have been gobbled up by housing developments – a pattern that’s repeating itself throughout Florida and the nation. But because the church is so rich, it has not yet buckled to pressure to sell any of its Florida land to developers. Ten years ago, the church backed off a plan to develop 7,000 acres near the Bee Line Expressway under sharp criticism from environmentalists.

    Often at odds in other parts of the country over issues such as animal waste and grazing, the tree-huggers and the cowpokes in central Florida have for now become allies. For example, environmentalists helped Deseret fight a huge landfill Brevard County wanted to put adjacent to the ranch. That area is also home to one of the largest bird rookeries in the state.

    Squires says the church’s long-term plans for the majority of Deseret Ranch are to keep it agricultural. But he acknowledges the business-savvy church will develop the fringes – particularly its property outside Orlando – as the land becomes more valuable. “The pressure is here,” Squires says. “But we want to be responsible and be good neighbors.” It’s in his church’s ecclesiastical and entrepreneurial missions to do so, he says.”[13]

    Interesting, I wasn’t aware of an “entrepreneurial” mission to the church. At least not an official one, but it should be noted that while outsiders view the church as “business-savvy” and striving to “squeeze” as much profit out of whatever private business their running these days, members are largely clueless as to the holdings the church has on its books.

    As part of the Deseret Wildlife plan, some 45 hunt clubs lease portions of the ranch to hunt (the favored politically correct term of these articles seems to be “harvest.” It sounds much more humane when you say we’re “harvesting” animals versus “hunting”) animals. The ranch also harvests timber and leases TV and radio towers as a way to increase revenue.[14]

    Sunstone Magazine[15] posed a thoughtful question on the matter, as well as an interesting mp3 listen, of these for-profit “hunting preserves” sometime back:

    “To what degree should the principle of ‘respect for life” be extended to bird and animal creations? What do the scriptures, Joseph Smith, and other early Church leaders teach about the grand design and purposes of God’s non-human creations? Does having “dominion” over the kingdom of creatures mean we are their predators and exploiters or does it suggest a “stewardship” relationship in which we become their caretakers in order to help them “fulfill the full measure of their creation?”

    If the scriptures teach, “woe be unto man that sheddeth blood or wasteth flesh and have no need,” and “the blood of every beast will I require at your hands,” what rationale could be used to explain Church-owned, revenue-generating enterprises such as Deseret Land and Livestock and the Westlake Hunting Preserve? Do these operations constitute sacrificing principle for profit?”

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  23. Mike S on June 7, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    #1 Jeff: The one thing I wonder, though, is where that $3B came from.

    Good question. We don’t have a lot of transparency. We have been reassured that it does NOT involve tithing or other sacred funds. We have also been told in the past that the Church does not get into debt either.

    So, all I can assume is that it is profit from other for-profit companies.

    As far as how long it took to accumulate it, who knows?

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  24. Mike S on June 7, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    #2: Jeff Spector: So, they more than tithe, all the money goes to the Church.

    I suppose this depends on what you mean by “goes to the Church”.

    If you mean “goes to other money-making ventures of the Church” such as malls and condos and hotels and other businesses that the Church owns, I would agree with you.

    If you mean “goes to humanitarian aspects of the Church”, I would disagree with you.

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  25. Mike S on June 7, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    #5 CatherineWO: I contribute money to several non-profit organizations every year, and the LDS Church is the only one which does not send me a yearly financial statement. I know that churches are legally excempt from doing so, but it would seem like the more honest things to do.

    I agree.

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  26. Mike S on June 7, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    #6 Will: Let’s say after absorption it produces 10 % cash on cash return (not greedy, not unrealistic). That is 300 Million a year in passive income. Income they can use to help the needy.

    This is nice in theory. They theoretically COULD use the money to help the needy. That’s actually the point of this post. But the track record isn’t good.

    Using your example, that is $300 million cash annually to “help the needy”. The Church has averaged $13.1 million cash each year in the past to “help the needy”.

    Maybe they will have a change of heart in the future and stop using business profits to fund other businesses, but to this point, it hasn’t happened. But I’m not in charge.

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  27. Mike S on June 7, 2011 at 5:10 PM

    #10 hm: I agree. At the least, it would make us seem less like a corporation.

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  28. Mike S on June 7, 2011 at 5:15 PM

    #11: mogul: the dollar numbers you cited were for humanitarian assistance. This is over and above all the assistance that is provided through bishops – ie bishop’s storehouse, money used to pay for rent, utilities, etc.. of members in need. That number has to be exponentially higher, but it’s not included in that figure.

    Unless you have a better source, I would disagree with you. If you look at the Welfare Services Fact Sheet, all of those things you mention are listed on the sheet in the left hand column. They also give a dollar amount on the same sheet.

    So, you say the number HAS to be exponentially higher. I would like it to be exponentially higher (rather than being spent on malls), but there is NO information to support your claim.

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  29. Mike S on June 7, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    #14: Paul: I don’t know what the evidence is that for-profit businesses do not “tithe”, since, as Jeff said, their income goes to the church. It may be that those profits are held in separate accounts and not used for day-to-day expenses of the church or for other church projects.

    If there are billions left over in profits that can be used for other for-profit ventures AND they are giving ALL of their money to the Church, this is a logical contradiction. For tax reasons, the Church keeps its business profits in a separate holding company, and reinvests them in additional businesses.

    I’m not even asking to give ALL of the profit to the non-profit Church for humanitarian things – even just 10% would be a staggering amount, at least an order of magnitude above what is currently spent.

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  30. Mike S on June 7, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    #18 Cowboy:

    Absolutely. I agree with this entire comment.

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  31. BeansDude on June 7, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    #6 Will: “The investment by the Church was inspired. It is the main reason Utah is not suffering as much as the rest of the World.”

    If I understand you correctly, your saying that God inspired the Church to invest in Utah’s local economy in preparation for the Great Recession of 2008?

    That might make some of you over in Zion feel all warm and fuzzy, but its a weak argument if you ask me. Are there not good people (members and non-members) all over the world whom the Lord cares about just as much as those who live in Utah?

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  32. Dan on June 7, 2011 at 6:38 PM

    Are there not good people (members and non-members) all over the world whom the Lord cares about just as much as those who live in Utah?

    nope. Remember, the rest of the world is in sin. Babylon. All that crap.

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  33. hawkgrrrl on June 7, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    From the OP: “When I think of Christ in mortality, it seems that he didn’t really care about money or buildings or business.” True, but Jesus essentially ran a 3 year vagrant ministry; he didn’t establish a church so much as tap a few fishermen on the shoulder, preach, and heal people. You can’t compare a 3 year traveling mission with the establishment of a sustainable church. Jesus also didn’t write anything – the earliest of the booked in the NT were written no less than 40 years after his death. Jesus did plenty, but he did not establish a sustainable church. Rather, one was founded by others based on their handed-down memories of his teachings.

    I tend to agree with Jeff that some of the “for-profit” businesses are 1) funneled back in perpetual support of the Welfare program, and 2) that having a perpetual source of income (profit) is what makes the church as a corporation sustainable. I would add that our wealth is fairly piddly compared to the Catholic church. The artwork alone puts them ahead. Of course, those are arguable less liquid assets.

    My next point is that this is one area where we have learned from history. JS was horrible with money and incessantly criticized for it. Now we have leaders who are good with money, and they are likewise criticized.

    But finally, I absolutely agree that transparency is critical to avoiding corruption. I am completely convinced of that. And the church should have the faith to “tithe” its increase (profit) annually, just as we all should. Hear, hear, Mike! Well done, sir!

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  34. Steve on June 7, 2011 at 8:12 PM

    Does anyone think it is kind of odd that the Church calls missionaries to work on its for-profit properties?

    That has always struck me strangely.

    I’ve known folks called to run cattle operations (not for welfare use), handle property management of apartment buildings and offices, etc.

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  35. Mike S on June 7, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    hawkgrrl:

    Good points. Jesus’ ministry was much different than a modern religious organization. And Joseph Smith was criticized for his “management” of money.

    I am thankful for the people we have running things. The ranch in Florida is run using environmental principles. Etc. My issue isn’t with the success the Church has had in various areas. As I mentioned above, for a church with a few million active members, to have the financial success we have had is pretty amazing.

    Perhaps more than anything else I am embarrassed. It is estimated we take in $4-6 billion / year in tithing. We obviously make billions in business if we can do expensive projects with just our profits. $13.1 million annually out of, for example, $5 billion is 0.26%.

    It’s wonderful that we have fast offerings and storehouses where church members donate money and food to other church members, but outside our own little microcosm, when we as a Church spend 0.26% on humanitarian needs:
    1) I am embarrassed. I think we can do much more, and
    2) It’s hard to try to convince the world that we are a Christian and humanitarian organization with numbers like that.

    I am absolutely NOT saying the Church shouldn’t be involved in businesses like they are. If I were in charge, however, I would spend A LOT more on humanitarian things and perhaps a bit less on imported marbles and fine woods. But that’s just me.

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  36. hawkgrrrl on June 8, 2011 at 2:38 AM

    The overarching question of how to drive transparency remains. I think there are only a handful of reasons the church would become more transparent: 1) peer pressure from other religions (do we really want to play “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” with the Catholic Church? I don’t think so!), 2) government requiring it (e.g. reclassifying the church as a publicly traded company?? can you imagine the church on the stock market?), 3) a leaked scandal (e.g. one of the Q12 embezzles and is caught and prosecuted), or 4) to clarify damaging misinformation (e.g. if it was widely suspected that the church funded a war or ran an online porn business).

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  37. hm on June 8, 2011 at 6:49 AM

    #36 – I think you are missing one more thing that could drive transparency. if the members refused to pay tithing until they got it. unlikely, but it would be very effective. in fact, i imagine this would be effective in driving almost any change.

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  38. Aaron L on June 8, 2011 at 8:13 AM

    The church has failed to convince me that any money made from its for profit businesses are used for humanitarian aid, simply by the fact the such little money has been spent on humanitarian aid compared to the estimated profits it is making from its businesses.

    Also, in a recent EQ lesson on tithing, the manual listed all of the uses of tithing and humanitarian aid wasn’t one of them. The church doesn’t even claim to use tithing in that manner.

    It seems that the only source of humanitarian funds is funds donated with that specific cause in mind based on how the contribution form is filled out. Even then, we don’t know for sure that all of those funds are always spent on their intended purpose and not invested otherwise, since there is no transparency from the church on how much money they take in. I have heard (but not yet substantiated) that in other countries that require transparency from the church by law, that more money is typically taken every year as humanitarian aid than is spent on that cause. Anybody able to speak on this issue?

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  39. Jeff Spector on June 8, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    Mike S,

    ” suppose this depends on what you mean by “goes to the Church”.

    If you mean “goes to other money-making ventures of the Church” such as malls and condos and hotels and other businesses that the Church owns, I would agree with you.

    If you mean “goes to humanitarian aspects of the Church”, I would disagree with you.”

    You don’t really know that. The Church pays taxes on its ‘for profit” businesses.

    The “profit” aspect of the downtown mall project is not going that well because of the economy but I suspect that is less of a concern since the main reason for the redevelopment had to do with the preservation of the area surrounding the Temple square area.

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  40. Jeff Spector on June 8, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    hm,

    “unlikely, but it would be very effective. in fact, I imagine this would be effective in driving almost any change.”

    The great majority of members trust Church Leaders with their funds. It is generally a small faction that does not. Hhaving said that I am intersted in knowing the picture behind the finances.

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  41. Mike S on June 8, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    #39: Jeff Spector

    If you mean “goes to humanitarian aspects of the Church”, I would disagree with you.”
    You don’t really know that.

    I suppose I don’t really “know” anything. However, we “know” that the Church has profits in the billion $ range. I only say this because we have been assured that “tithing and sacred funds” were NOT used for the mall. We have been told that the Church doesn’t go into debt. We have been told that the mall is being paid for by profits from the business interests of the Church. Hence, it is a reasonable assumption that the Church has billions of dollars in business profits.

    We also “know” (with even more surety, because it is actually published on the Church’s own Welfare Fact Sheet linked above) that the Church spends an average of $13.1 million a year in cash on humanitarian issues.

    Given these two “facts”, it is very reasonable to “assume” that the Church is spending 200-300x as much on the mall as they spend annually on humanitarian needs.

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  42. Jettboy on June 8, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    hm, that may be true, but I don’t think most members who pay tithing have concerns about the transparency. Those who don’t pay tithing usually don’t out of lack of faith in the very idea of tithing, don’t feel they can afford to pay, or other reasons not attributed to lack of faith in the money management.

    The reason for this is that an amount of trust has been formed at the local level leadership. I am not aware of any tithing scandals at a Ward or Stake level. If there has been than they have quickly and quietly been taken care of without major developments. As a lay leadership that members deal with directly, the members know where their money is going (at first) and who to contact if there is any questions. This trust I feel extends to the higher office holders and top leadership; mostly because there haven’t been any grumblings of corruption from any point along the bottom up lay leadership participants. Adding to the overall trust is that the top leadership might have money, but they don’t flaunt wealth. Even the critics don’t find fault with the leadership over “enrichment” issues, although making blanket statements about the Church as a whole.

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  43. Jeff Spector on June 8, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    Mike S.

    “We have been told that the mall is being paid for by profits from the business interests of the Church. Hence, it is a reasonable assumption that the Church has billions of dollars in business profits.”

    Actually, it is not a reasonable assumption. Since you and I would agree that the Church is run very much like a business, let’s look at the Fortune 500 as an indicator of profit and loss.

    If we assume that the church takes in a grand total of $10B from Church members and “for profit” businesses, they are close to 246 on the list Ameriprise Financial whose revenue was: $10,046 and whose profit was $1,097. Financial companies most often have better profit because they have less in plant and facility, production cost and other overhead associated with most businesses. The Church, itself, has mostly plant and facility costs as it runs thousands of Temples, Chapels and other facilities. And it has no other income per se than Tithing and donations. So, if we say that Donations are $6 Million, than how much do you think it costs to run the Church?

    The church is in the newspaper and broadcasting business. Not very profitable. Insurance, can be very profitable, though the bulk of the Church’s insurance clients are themselves as all church facilities are self-insured.

    Not a very thorough analysis but I do not see how the Church makes billions in profits each year? Good investments and money management, yes. High profits, I do not think so.

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  44. LuluBelle on June 8, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    •Do you think the amount the Church gives away makes sense? NOOOOO. And I haven’t for a long time!!
    •How much makes sense for a church to give away? While the church is spending BILLIONS on incredibly ornate temples and one ward building after the next that mostly sit empty ALL WEEK, while millions of people are starving, have no access to clean water, and not even the most basic medical care, it is SHAMEFUL. The church can, and OUGHT TO DO MORE– much, much more. I often wonder what Jesus would think walking into some of our temples while people are in such dire need. I can’t imagine he’d be comfortable there.
    •Do you think tithing Church-owned for-profit businesses makes sense? Of course. Why should they be exempt?
    •Would it be helpful if the Church was more transparent about its finances? ABSOLUTELY. When they are, I might consider paying tithing again and not just making donations to causes that fit my interests (cancer research, exploited children).

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  45. Homer on June 8, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    Jeff:

    “And it has no other income per se than Tithing and donations. So, if we say that Donations are $6 Million, than how much do you think it costs to run the Church?”

    Stop patronizing Mike. Your analysis and response makes absolutely NO sense. Are you really suggesting that the Church only brings in $6 million in income per year via tithes and donations? If so, I have a bridge to nowhere in Alaska I’d like to sell you.

    Mike is operating off the publically available information we have. When the Church states that it’s building things like CCC and other projects without any tithing, and that it is using money made off of investments or other for-profit businesses, then you have to somehow reconcile how they are able to build a $3 billion facility – with cash, supposedly – while only making the $6 million in donations as you suggest they make.

    In order to pay $3 billion for the CCC, as I’ve noted previously, the Church would have to have made over $861 million in each year over the 3-year rolling investment periods the Church uses. They gather all the tithing they collect, invest it for 3 years and then siphon the interest earned on that tithing to use for projects like CCC or other projects. In order to make $861 million annually in investment income, you have to be bankrolling a LOT of donations and tithing – and, no, $6 million (as you suggest) isn’t that much to these guys. There is simply no other way.

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  46. Homer on June 8, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    “The “profit” aspect of the downtown mall project is not going that well because of the economy but I suspect that is less of a concern since the main reason for the redevelopment had to do with the preservation of the area surrounding the Temple square area”

    No one, including the Church, is going to pour $3 billion into a development without the expectation of gobs of profit. It just doesn’t happen. On the face they suggest they’re making downtown nicer in order to “protect” the Temple, but no one is going to outlay that much cash on a fancy-dancy real estate investment without an expectation of profits exceeding 10% annually. It just won’t happen.

    Then, throw into the mix the hiring of Taubman and spending millions on websites and advertising, and you’re really going to sit back and say that profit isn’t a “main reason” for this development?

    Maybe you overlooked Cowboy’s comment above (#18), but perhaps he’s onto something: namely, why do we need fancy real estate developments to “protect” the temple if Jesus Christ – who can command the elements – is the head of the Church?

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  47. Homer on June 8, 2011 at 10:57 AM

    @ Aaron L (#38):

    Here’s a conversation W&T had on the Humanitarian Funds in other countries (the UK, specifically)… the amounts collected + spent (looks like that portion of the conversation starts at comment #31-ish).

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  48. Cowboy on June 8, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    So, Hawkgrrrl – If I am reading your comments correctly, Jesus ran a vagrant traveling mission with low overhead, whereas we have a much different Church. In effect we don’t believe in the same organization that existed primatively, nor is this a “restoration” of “Christ’s Church”??

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  49. Mike S on June 8, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    Rock Waterman has an interesting article on the corporate nature of the Church as well. It’s a bit different slant than here (where I suggest spending profits on humanitarian things), but it’s worth a read:

    http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2010/10/how-corporatism-has-undermined-and.html

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  50. Mike S on June 8, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    #45 Homer: Your analysis and response makes absolutely NO sense. Are you really suggesting that the Church only brings in $6 million in income per year via tithes and donations?

    Thank you for your comment. I don’t really know how to put it any clearer. The Church came up with $3 BILLION+ just to build a mall. It came from business profits.

    I don’t know exactly WHICH businesses they took the profits from, but they came from somewhere. But, we know that the PROFITS of these businesses are in the BILLION $ range, not in the MILLION range.

    I’m not sure how people suggest otherwise.

    We can certainly disagree about WHAT we should use the business profits to do? Should we invest in even more businesses (like City Creek Center)? Should we build more temples and buildings? Should we buy more land? Maybe these are all correct answers.

    My preference would be to increase the $13.1 million we spend each year on humanitarian needs. But, I’m obviously not in charge. I also doubt I ever WILL be in charge, so everyone worrying about diverting business profits to humanitarian needs can sleep easy – it won’t happen.

    But, siempre hay esperanza.

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  51. SteveS on June 8, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Pretty much any organization that gets money wants to hold on to that money. Human beings in charge of managing that money can come up with whatever moral or ethical arguments they need to both continue revenue streams and justify decreasing outflow for the sake of future earning potential. I’m no expert in economics or finance or business; I’m just noting that in general, organizations and people have an inherent propensity to hold on to money they have and make more money with the money they’ve got. The more money there is, the greater the temptation.

    And there’s the rub: money is a temptation. It doesn’t matter who is managing it, from the most corrupt drug dealer to the a church organization that claims to be directed by God. The temptation of money (and the power and influence it buys) is the root of the problem. Corruption and domination soon follow.

    It is against corruption and domination that Jesus preached so strenuously against, and which ultimately resulted in his execution. I don’t mean to recast all of Jesus’ message into a model for an ideal economy–indeed, Jesus’ teachings about money seem to be counsel for individuals vis-a-vis overwhelming political and economic realities present in their lives rather than a coherent, scalable economic plan–but the Kingdom of God referenced by Jesus doesn’t seem to include the amassing and allocation of large sums of money, and of gaining ever greater political clout as the coffers grow and grow.

    Rather, Jesus taught to give away that which you have freely. He taught his disciples to take no thought for tomorrow (and not just to the Twelve). He encouraged the forgiveness of debts, the feeding of the hungry, the clothing of the naked, the support of those incapable of supporting themselves (in his day, children and widows), the healing of the sick, the rehumanizing of the marginal, the outcast, the downtrodden, the subjugated, the lonely, and on and on and on.

    If a church organization must exist at all (as others have pointed out in previous comments, it doesn’t appear Jesus organized such an entity during his lifetime), that church must constantly guard against the temptation of money, and the best way to do that is to give away all that they have as quickly as possible after it comes in, directing it both toward the internal, functional needs of the organization (building costs, maintenance, utilities, programs, salaries of full-time employees, etc.) as well as externally to positively impact the world around them (charitable giving, welfare programs, humanitarian aid, training programs to give people skills and dignity, even funding advocacy of human rights such as peace, justice, education, access to sanitary food and medical supplies, as well as care for the earth and all its inhabitants.

    Although I’m impressed by how prudently the LDS Church seems to have been able to manage its for-profit ventures (as evidenced by paying cash for a $3B building project), I’m not convinced that such ventures are necessary for the life and vibrancy of the church, or for its future security. Indeed, as any middle- or lower-class family who has struggled with lay-offs or health problems can attest, uncertainty in economic security can lead one to humility and reliance upon God, as do the lilies and sparrows, if you will. Fancy that, a church that must trust in God instead of the arm of flesh. Such an economic policy would seem foolishness in the minds of the businessmen who lead the current Church, I’m sure, and a misuse of “sacred” funds. But Paul had something to say about wisdom and foolishness (see 1 Cor. 1:18-31)

    And I agree with Mike S, whom I believe has said a couple times in the post and comments that the Church could realize so much benefit from giving more of it’s money away in humanitarian activity. TBMs would have their faith strengthened as what would seem like overwhelming amounts of giving could be referenced as evidence for their Church’s goodness; members who don’t pay tithing because they are concerned about how little of their donations are going to help solve the world’s problems might be encouraged and consider donating again. People who are not members of the Church would begin to notice the sheer volume of the Church’s humanitarian giving programs and be inclined to investigate further. Overall, it could provide a focus and vision for the future that seems to be desperately needed in this time when Church activity rates are from 20-30%, and when the vast majority of young people in the Church (who incidentally seem to care more about issues of human rights, justice, environmentalism, etc. than previous generations) fall into inactivity after they turn 18.

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  52. John Mansfield on June 8, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    What did Jesus personally do for the poor? The same thing he did for everyone: he preached to them, and he miraculously healed some. Not much that was comparable to humanitarian aid.

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  53. John Mansfield on June 8, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    Also he suffered and died for them. That is also an unconventional form of charity.

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  54. Paul on June 8, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    #44 Lulu Belle — you should note that the church spends 100% of money donated to humanitarian relief on humanitarian relief — none of those funds are used to pay overhead costs (those come from the general operating funds of the church, aka tithing). None of your other chosen charities can likely make that claim.

    #51 Steve: The desire to hold money (in the latest round, at least) came from the defecit spending in toward the end of President McKay’s administration where spending on buildings worldwide and BYU overtaxed the church’s resources. One can argue about whether that spending was prudent or necessary to the mission of the chuch, but the desire to build a reserve grew out of that time (and the more management-trained types who joined the church’s administration, such as N. Eldon Tanner).

    One might also wonder whether it’s gone too far afield — without public disclosure we will not know.

    Jeff S — I can’t make sense of your $6 million in tithing either — that would be about $1-2/active member. Seems like you’ve misplaced a decimal point in your calculation.

    Homer, not sure why you assume the $3 B comes from interest on donations. Why not from the profitable businesses as Mike suggest? (and not from the PROFIT of those businesses, but the cash flow, which is all that is required to make that kind of investment). Further while we know it was a cash investment, is there evidence it was made at once or in installments based on completion (the way one would pay for the building of a house)?

    Mike, your ongoing point hasn’t changed, and it’s an interesting question: why not spend more on humanitarian aid worldwide?

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  55. Homer on June 8, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Paul: It might have come from other for-profit businesses, but at the end of the day that profit is derived from tithing somewhere along the line. With tithing probably being the largest revenue producer in the church, and with the church publicly declaring the CCC is being built with “investment income”, I make a few assumptions.

    It’s very easy to segregate “tithing funds” (restricted in their use) and “investment income” from those tithing funds.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a three-year system for collecting and spending tithes.

    In the first year the funds are collected.

    In the second year the funds remain invested while a budget is prepared for spending the tithing.

    In the third year the funds are spent.

    During the time when the funds are collected (first year), they are put to use in investments or deposits which yield a return. Similarly, while they remain invested during the second year, they also yield a return. When the third year arrives, and the funds are being spent on budgeted expenses, until the day they are spent they continue to collect interest or a return.

    The amount of tithing collected in the first year is the amount designated “tithing” contributions. This is the amount that is budgeted and spent in the third year. All of the return on tithing yielded in the form of interest or return on investments is treated as “investment income” not tithing.

    When the church spends “tithing” on temples, chapels, publications, etc. those monies are confined to the original amount collected as “tithing” only.

    When the church spends “investment money” those include the interest, return, etc. collected on the tithing money during the three year cycle from when originally collected until the time it is spent. It also includes the returns on the returns as they accumulate over the years.

    Therefore, when the church announces that a project (like the large reconstruction of downtown Salt Lake City) is not “tithing” but is “investment income” of the church, this is the distinction which is being made.

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  56. Jeff Spector on June 8, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Should have been $6Billion, not millon

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  57. Cowboy on June 8, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    “#44 Lulu Belle — you should note that the church spends 100% of money donated to humanitarian relief on humanitarian relief — none of those funds are used to pay overhead costs (those come from the general operating funds of the church, aka tithing). None of your other chosen charities can likely make that claim.”

    Paul, quite to the contrary – any Church or charitable organization CAN make that claim. So far as it stands, with non-transparency, all it is, is a “claim”! Why would the Church be so secretive if were not keep the public, even its paying membership, intentionally unaware of its detailed financial standing and dealings. It really isn’t more complicated than that.

    Of course, in response we will say that it is all matter of business. That Church leaders are simply guarding over the Lord’s treasure for when he returns. Perhaps, but at best it bespeaks a Church that fancy’s itself as a business. One that is at least equally invested in a rate of return that is measured in dollars, as well as “souls”. At worst, it is a concealment of something duplicitous – but without transparency who would know? Of course, I should feel guilty for demanding something so basic to business ettiquite, as transparency, from God’s Prophets, right?

    SO – I suppose the Church does claim that, you are right.

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  58. Jake on June 8, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    The church has adopted the corporate model of growth. It needs more customers and more revenues in order to “grow”. Humanitarian efforts must be public and bring a return in good will as a sort of advertising. Temples have to dot the earth because temples bring in tithes since nearby temples drive up the demand for temple recommends. We got one a couple of years ago in Sacramento when the Oakland temple is just down the street and underutilized. Sacramento is well known for its large homeless population. I think Sacramento could have used services for the homeless like the church provides in Salt Lake City where those same homeless people would otherwise be panhandling outside of temple square if they didn’t have somewhere to shuffle them off to. Instead we got a temple we didn’t need to save the dead while the living suffer and starve.

    This isn’t a religion anymore, its been reduced to ammoral factors about contributions to the church’s building and aquisition fund (fast offerings are optional), special underwear, and a dietary law that actually restricts things that are good for you. To be a member in good standing has nothing to do with being moral. We have armies of Yes Man elders who say they will do anything but usually do nothing.

    One other thing I wanted to point out. People don’t need to stop paying their tithing in protest for this to work. It would work just as well if people took their tithing and checked the Fast Offering box instead. That way the money could be used by the bishop to address local needs. Who could complain? I’m not interested in contributing to a corporation that can’t even release its financial records, I just want to know that no one in the ward is getting their gas turned off during the winter. If I were running the church, it would be less tithes and more fast offerings. Less temples and more homeless shelters.

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  59. Mike S on June 8, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    I think people would be more likely to donate if they knew their money was going to help people and not build buildings. Here is an example from another church.

    And other churches are living this. Here is a quote from an excellent article. This is what I’d like to see us doing. I doubt this congregation is building shopping malls, million dollar condos, or using the finest materials including granite from China, Makore wood from Africa, and limestone from France for their places of worship. I think they have a different priority than us.

    In my own faith family, the Church at Brook Hills, we have tried to get out from under the American Dream mindset and start living and serving differently.

    Like many other large American churches, we had a multimillion-dollar campus and plans to make it even larger to house programs that would cater to our own desires. But then we started looking at the world we live in.
    It’s a world where 26,000 children die every day of starvation or a preventable disease. A world where billions live in situations of such grinding poverty that an American middle-class neighborhood looks like Beverly Hills by comparison. A world where more than a billion people have never even heard the name Jesus. So we asked ourselves, “What are we spending our time and money on that is less important than meeting these needs?” And that’s when things started to change.

    First we gave away our entire surplus fund – $500,000 – through partnerships with churches in India, where 41 percent of the world’s poor live. Then we trimmed another $1.5 million from our budget and used the savings to build wells, improve education, provide medical care and share the gospel in impoverished places around the world. Literally hundreds of church members have gone overseas temporarily or permanently to serve in such places.

    This is one congregation. Imagine if our whole Church did this. And when they say that hundreds of church members have gone overseas to “serve”, I think it’s different than us. We go overseas to “serve” a mission to convert more members. I dare say these people “serve” in a completely different way.

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  60. SteveS on June 8, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    #59 Mike S: Thanks for sharing. Reading this comment has produced the closest thing to “the Spirit” that I’ve felt on the interblogs in a while.

    I think the actions of the Church at Brook Hills represents the power of decentralized autonomy within the umbrella of the larger Christian movement. No one can deny the impact their monies have had on the world. Sure, it didn’t solve the world’s problems, but it appears to be helping in significant ways that don’t involve making more sumptuous accouterments for their congregants. Would that we could do the same!

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  61. Dan on June 8, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    Mike,

    #49.

    Thanks for sharing that. Not sure what to think about the church as a corporation. Maybe that was the only way they could have survived. I don’t think Joseph Smith would have approved, but he probably would have continued the good fight.

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  62. Paul on June 8, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    #55 Homer: you also make the assumption that the church uses interest earned on one “rotation” of the three-year plan rather than assuming it may have multiple cycles’ worth of reserves (either from interest earned on tithing being held as you describe, or on interest from other cycles, or other cash reserves generated from the other businesses of the church).

    #59 Mike, thanks for sharing that excerpt about the Brook Hills congregation. It is inspiring.

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  63. Cowboy on June 8, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    Well said Mike S – I don’t even care if your religion is “true”, it just feels good. Even if you are wrong, it would be hard to look back regretting the wastefulness of money paid as tithing to a business that sells nothing, or time invested in meetings with very little meaning. Sounds true enough for me. Go out there and just solve some problems – I think we’ve established that this is pretty much what Jesus is said to have done!

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  64. Bishop Rick on June 8, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    If there are 5 million tithe paying members with an average annual salary of $50K per year, that equates to $25B in tithing receipts per year.

    Just sayin

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  65. SteveS on June 8, 2011 at 4:25 PM

    Bishop Rick: I think your numbers are a bit off. If activity is around 5 million, that’s 5 million men, women, and children. They don’t all pull down $50K per year. In fact, given that at least half of these are in countries outside the US with often significantly smaller salaries than those in the western industrial nations, it might be better to estimate that there are 1 million “members” paying tithing on an average salary of $50K/yr. That’s $5B per year. This jives with Mike S’s estimation of $4-6B/yr.

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  66. SteveS on June 8, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    What is remarkable is that with 14 million members of record worldwide, that breaks down to $357 for each member of record per year from $5B in tithing funds. This covers building costs, maintenance of buildings, ward budgets, salaries for church employees, printing of materials, running universities, and other stuff about which we are not informed. The number rises to $1,190 per person if you only count active mormons at 30% activity rate. Sounds like not a lot, but if you look at ROI for church activity, a family of 5 making $50K/yr gets all they pay into tithing back each year in buildings, activities, programs, promotional literature, etc., and even more if some of their children attend church-owned universities and benefit from VERY low tuition rates. Of course, later the empty nesters continue to pay out until the end of their lives, but then again, tithing donations drop off after retirement, too.

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  67. Cowboy on June 8, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    There’s little doubt that the Church uses some of its for profit income to bolster up Church activities. Sustaining BYU, making payroll to the Church employees, etc. Still, it has enough to invest three billion into more growth. That should not be the trouble – the trouble is that the Church is dependent on money. Perhaps I am asking too much, afterall what person or business can sustain themselves withouth engaging in business? Admittedly I can’t! Still, I don’t claim the Priesthood authority of Christ, nor to be a kingdom established preparatory to his coming. Remember, his Kingdom was not of this world. I expect a Church that claims such things to be able to put its money where its mouth is. I expect it to be true. So, I don’t blame the Church for not being able to leave concerns over its sustenance on the same God who notes the fall of a sparrow, or clothes the lillies of the field. I instead fault them for claiming to be that Church, but not doing it.

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  68. hawkgrrrl on June 8, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    “So, Hawkgrrrl – If I am reading your comments correctly, Jesus ran a vagrant traveling mission with low overhead, whereas we have a much different Church. In effect we don’t believe in the same organization that existed primatively, nor is this a “restoration” of “Christ’s Church”??” Not just if you are reading my comments – if you are reading the NT correctly!

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  69. Bishop Rick on June 8, 2011 at 8:12 PM

    SteveS: What I said was correct. Go back and read my comment again. That said, I understand your point about my numbers being off, but I think you mention the wrong number. If there are 5 million active members, 4 million of them are paying tithing. Everyone in my family pays tithing, not just me. Where my numbers might break down are in the average salary. My 2 kids don’t average $50K, and I certainly don’t make enough money to bring their average up to $50k, but the number is not as far off as it might seem on the surface. A part time job (20 hrs/wk) at minimum wage brings in around $7500 per year. A $10/hr full-time job brings in $20K, and there are a lot of very high paid LDS execs that more than bring that average up. I would not be so quick to dismiss the 5 mill / $50k scenario. For kicks lets drop it to 4 million tithe paying members. That’s still $20B

    I guarantee it is a lot higher than $6B.

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  70. Bishop Rick on June 8, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    SteveS #66: You are assuming Tithe payers only pay tithing and do not pay Fast Offering, Perpetual Education Fund, Don’t pay over $5,000 per year for missionaries.

    You are also totally ignoring all the time donated for callings and janitorial cleaning, meat packing, cannery, etc. etc. If you pay yourself for the time donated at an average salary of $20 per hour, that pay out adds up quickly.

    It seems that family of 5 might not be getting what they pay in after all.

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  71. Homer on June 8, 2011 at 10:55 PM

    Rick:

    You’re probably right about the $6 billion figure. Heck, back in 1997 when the “Mormon, Inc.” article came out in Time Magazine the Church’s estimated gross income was at $5.9 billion.

    It’s now 14+ years later and, while incomes have stagnated the past few years, they’ve still risen substantially since 1997 and membership has grown from a little over 10,000,000 to now a bit over 14,100,000. So if you add 4,000,000 new members, and add incomes that have risen ~15%-20% since 1997 (Median AMI was roughly $46k in 1997 to now $56k in 2010 in SLC County at least), do we really think tithing receipts have fallen below $6 billion?

    Mike: Thanks for that example. It would be nice to see our focus redirected helping people here, now, in substantive ways… and at a macro perspective.

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  72. The Mall on June 9, 2011 at 1:03 AM

    Good article. Sounds like you’ve seen the light and the truth of how thing$ work. The question to ask is whether the Lord is really pleased with all these Church busine$$ shananigans, among other things. What did it take to get the Pope’s ble$$ing so that the Church could open a temple in Rome? What past Church leaders do you think have been rolling in their graves these days?

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  73. jmb275 on June 9, 2011 at 6:30 AM

    In principle I agree with Mike S. I think the church should put more money into humanitarian aid and set a better example. I also think it’s more honest to be financially transparent. I also think it’s the lazy approach (no need for damage control) to NOT disclose finances.

    Nevertheless, for me personally, this is just one of those things I just don’t feel passionate about. I don’t pay tithing on my gross or my net. I do pay tithing, but I pay what I feel is appropriate tithing. I suppose I’m sufficiently divested from and in the church on my own terms that this issue just doesn’t bother me.

    Lots of organizations I support do things I don’t necessarily agree with, even the U.S. gov’t. Yet I am loyal to it, and support it. I understand that the difference is that the church has a lot of truth claims and some feel that means it ought to be held to a different standard. For me, I already don’t necessarily believe all those truth claims anyway, so I don’t feel a need to hold them to any different standard. And on that note, compared with many other organizations, the church does do many things much better.

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  74. Cowboy on June 9, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    ““So, Hawkgrrrl – If I am reading your comments correctly, Jesus ran a vagrant traveling mission with low overhead, whereas we have a much different Church. In effect we don’t believe in the same organization that existed primatively, nor is this a “restoration” of “Christ’s Church”??” Not just if you are reading my comments – if you are reading the NT correctly!”

    Well stated!

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  75. Ron Madson on June 9, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    The mall and all these wonderful, extravagant buildings have ironically increased my testimony that we really are the Holy Church of God in these last days. A fulfillment of prophecy…

    “37For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.

    38O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the HOLY CHURCH OF GOD?

    So our for profit businesses/malls/hunting playgrounds, etc. may on one end turn a wonderful profit while creating a blowback when long time giving/sacrificing members decide to no longer donate to a “charity” that is not transparent and gives no more to charity in percentage then Wal-Mart and other such self absorbed corporations?

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  76. jks on June 9, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    I do not have a problem with how the church spends its money. First of all, the church needs to function and be self-reliant. If they spent all the excess then they risk going bankrupt or not being able to support the huge number of buildings that they own. Wouldn’t that be a crisis if our church couldn’t pay the utility bills? The church was in this situation previously and I believe they are wise to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
    Everyone who wants to can donate additional funds to humanitarian aid. I, for one, am going to still pay my mortgate and someday own my house and still save for retirement. Self-reliance is an important concept of church welfare.
    If the church leaders think it is wise to save/invest some church funds I completely support that.
    The church is in the business of feeding SOULS not mouths. Yes, the chuch is committed to members not going hungry. They do that. But what the church does for all the non-hungry members is important. We can’t throw away that purpose. My teenage daughter, for instance, needs the gospel and it is unfair to say that the church shouldn’t provide spiritual education and enrichment and support for her and for the rest of her family. The love and support that the church can give is worth it.
    And yes, I even support the SLC buildings. Cities can get scary pretty fast. It is a good investment for what I hope is a good overall investment strategy for the church to manage funds wisely.

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  77. Jeff Spector on June 9, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    “gives no more to charity in percentage then Wal-Mart and other such self absorbed corporations?’

    They do it for a completely different reason. To avoid paying taxes, not because of their altruism.

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  78. Ron Madson on June 9, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    #77, Jeff
    You are correct, sir. Which should make how the church handles it much more bothersome, imo. You know what Wal Mart is about, the church professes/proclaims altruism/charity—but the results (% of giving to the least) is the same—and Wal-Mart does not glory in having its’ patrons digging out their gold fillings or going into debt in order to meet its’ corporate or political objectives…

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  79. Cowboy on June 9, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    “Self-reliance is an important concept of church welfare.”

    Agreed, that is an important concept of Church welfare. Jesus however taught his Apostles to live in contravention of surplus economics, and to instead rely on God.

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  80. Justin on June 9, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    jks:

    Self-reliance is an important concept of church welfare.

    Is self-reliance even a principle of the gospel?

    When I do a scripture search for the word “rely” — I only find that we are to rely upon the word of God, on God for strength, on the Redeemer, on the Lord, on the Lord thy God, upon the spirit of prophecy, upon the merits of Jesus Christ, and upon the mercies of the world and God [for traveling missionaries].

    The only place I’ve seen self-reliance taught in the scriptures is:

    And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.

    Also, when I look up the word “depend” — I find that depending upon oneself [one’s own strength, wisdom, judgment, etc.] is considered wickedness — while depending on God is considered righteousness.

    Essentially — ditto what Cowboy said.

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  81. Homer on June 9, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    Jacob, the prodigious younger brother of Nephi, had a knack for saying things in a cutting, concise manner. In just a few chapters his relativity runty disquisition dissects the history, fore and aft of his corporeal career, of the whole family of Israel with surprising sagacity. He gives us this promise about his work;

    Behold, my beloved brethren, I will unfold this mystery unto you; if I do not, by any means, get shaken from my firmness in the Spirit, and stumble because of my over anxiety for you.

    That’s quite a courageous promise, considering his remarkable understanding of Isaiah and the poetic shoes he had to fill of his elder brother, not to mention how few chapters which were prepared for and by him. Then again, the most intricate Olive Tree allegory we have was covered by this young man in just a few well spoken pages. Within the confines of his book he “unfolds the mystery” of our lives. Here we find the penetrating promises that keep a glimmer of hope in the watchful eye of those resolutely waiting for the day dawn to break, as well as the cancerous curses which doom an entire blind race of the Children of God to the darkness of endless night. He lived a unique life, having been born in the depths of the desert to an itinerant family. He had no choice but to be literally dropped into exodus out of a fallen people. As such, his existence was representative of an individual who is starkly separated from the world. We see this in the fact that he saw his Lord as a yearling still wet. He witnessed great conflict between his siblings and their parents. As he here describes, he felt the sting of wandering an unknown wilderness and living a disconsolate life,

    “the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days.”

    Perhaps not the words you would expect of a man who knows his Lord to a degree which few of the billions of men on earth ever have. To contrast that decrepit description of an entire people, Jacob gave us one of the most inspiring promises written, anywhere, to the seeking individual;

    “But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction. O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.”

    The dichotomy I mean to delve into is tiny, written in classic prophetic form, telling us bluntly what we need to know.

    But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

    These two ideas are interestingly austere antonyms in my minds eye.

    Here we have the lives of two men. Their courses are described by their targets. Both are looking, living, to ‘make a living’ of some sort. Both are building a kingdom, one of the riches of the world, the other the riches of God. This isn’t unique to Jacob, other similar warnings have been given. Twice in the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord tells us;

    Seek not for riches but for wisdom; and, behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.

    Again, the dichotomy is poignantly portrayed, Riches versus Wisdom. Does no-one else find it at least slightly intriguing that an economic pursuit, that of making money, is paired with a spiritual pursuit, obtaining wisdom for God. I guess there really is no such thing as immaterial matter, since making money and learning of God seem to be conniving cousins. Essentially, taking this depiction directly and literally, if we are trying to “labor for money” we can’t be simultaneously laboring for money. The two pursuits are different prongs of a one fork, terminating in opposing places. A fruit is here described, telling us that those we see searching for money and giving advice on how to obtain that economic self-sufficiency are really teaching us the doctrine against Gods kingdom. But the Lord wants us to succeed, right? He wants us to be men who are that they might have joy, right? Intent is nine tenths of the Law as they say. Only a person who has sought to build the Lords kingdom knows that his intent, while laboring in these babylonian fields, is to build a better kingdom separate of the world. If he seeks and earns a ‘living’ in the Lords name, he will know the Lords name. If he is blind to the Lords economy and seeks for his own gain, to save up for himself some kind of self sustaining storehouse, his labor will manifest a diluted desert so common in our copycat culture.

    “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?”

    So then, that must be our aim, our employ, in this life. To know the thoughts and intent of the heart of our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. In that there is wisdom and riches. Now, back to Jacob, we see that he throws in a MONSTER loophole. This loophole has been used as the hangman’s noose for many a justifying job-seeker raised in our present economically aspiring ‘Zion’. He throws in the word BEFORE. You know, like ‘before you get rich, get an education son’.

    Funny, whenever I seek to find something I would generally believe that it can be found. And if it can, which is true in the case of the kingdom of God, I would look for it ’til i found it. Being pervasively forgetful myself, I often find myself literally tearing apart unsuspecting couches and cleaning out restful closets anxiously looking for a truck key to help me get somewhere. Since we live so spread out but still plan our lives in minute-increments I have to find that key before I can get there. If I don’t find that key, I’m not going to arrive at said destination. Yet, I hear often that our pursuit is to find riches while building the kingdom. That getting those riches actually helps build the kingdom.

    Ahem. Technically, considering the fact that the two masters which we bow to are not in agreement, according to the scriptures above, IF we are seeking riches while not IN the kingdom of God, we are building Babylon. We just can’t serve both at one time! So, that caveat Jacob gave us, ‘before’, needs some explainin’.

    The next thing he says is,

    And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good–to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.

    So, the qualifier given to his ‘before’ loophole is that ‘after’ ye have obtaining a hope in Christ, ye shall obtain riches. And THEN if ye seek them ye will obtain them, to feed the poor and the afflicted, etc… He didn’t leave much for you did he? Even when you are allowed to search for the riches and obtain them, they aren’t for you. They aren’t for your barns, your accounts, your college funds and pensions. They are for those around you who haven’t found the riches of the world. They are for the Lord to use you as a tool in his belt in blessing his children. You are already blessed. Thankfully, in his concise treatise, Jacob gave us a definition of who has ‘obtained a hope in Christ’.

    “Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith became unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.”

    Basically, if you have that faith, you know it. And the Lord can trust you with the riches of the earth, knowing that you will bless his children and not yourself with them.

    So now I ask you, have you done so? What kingdom are we seeking? Are we searching for the kingdom of God, with all the tiring intent that Lehi sought the promised land with, until you find it? Or are we finding a sidetrack, a brighter road into the mists of the worlds promises, to distract you from the cause of Christ, the economy of Zion? The promise we have is that if we seek we will find. If so, are we seeking until we find? Or are we justifying our preposterous path of careerism in the name of ‘building the kingdom’, simultaneously thinking to walk with Enoch while Sodom’s salty strivings tug at our oblivious overalls? For a man who saw very little of what we would term the classic enterprising mercantile economy Jacob left no doubt what a mans life looked like who sought treasure in heaven versus the riches of the world. Perhaps it should seem likely that we, being immersed in that society, should be able, with a wee bit of practice, to be as discerning as he who could reduce the whole fight, the whole struggle, to one syrupy thirteen word stanza.

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  82. Dan on June 9, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    Jacob, the prodigious younger brother of Nephi, had a knack for saying things in a cutting, concise manner. In just a few chapters his relativity runty disquisition dissects the history, fore and aft of his corporeal career, of the whole family of Israel with surprising sagacity. He gives us this promise about his work;

    Behold, my beloved brethren, I will unfold this mystery unto you; if I do not, by any means, get shaken from my firmness in the Spirit, and stumble because of my over anxiety for you.

    That’s quite a courageous promise, considering his remarkable understanding of Isaiah and the poetic shoes he had to fill of his elder brother, not to mention how few chapters which were prepared for and by him. Then again, the most intricate Olive Tree allegory we have was covered by this young man in just a few well spoken pages. Within the confines of his book he “unfolds the mystery” of our lives. Here we find the penetrating promises that keep a glimmer of hope in the watchful eye of those resolutely waiting for the day dawn to break, as well as the cancerous curses which doom an entire blind race of the Children of God to the darkness of endless night. He lived a unique life, having been born in the depths of the desert to an itinerant family. He had no choice but to be literally dropped into exodus out of a fallen people. As such, his existence was representative of an individual who is starkly separated from the world. We see this in the fact that he saw his Lord as a yearling still wet. He witnessed great conflict between his siblings and their parents. As he here describes, he felt the sting of wandering an unknown wilderness and living a disconsolate life,

    “the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days.”

    Perhaps not the words you would expect of a man who knows his Lord to a degree which few of the billions of men on earth ever have. To contrast that decrepit description of an entire people, Jacob gave us one of the most inspiring promises written, anywhere, to the seeking individual;

    “But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction. O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.”

    The dichotomy I mean to delve into is tiny, written in classic prophetic form, telling us bluntly what we need to know.

    But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

    These two ideas are interestingly austere antonyms in my minds eye.

    Here we have the lives of two men. Their courses are described by their targets. Both are looking, living, to ‘make a living’ of some sort. Both are building a kingdom, one of the riches of the world, the other the riches of God. This isn’t unique to Jacob, other similar warnings have been given. Twice in the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord tells us;

    Seek not for riches but for wisdom; and, behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.

    Again, the dichotomy is poignantly portrayed, Riches versus Wisdom. Does no-one else find it at least slightly intriguing that an economic pursuit, that of making money, is paired with a spiritual pursuit, obtaining wisdom for God. I guess there really is no such thing as immaterial matter, since making money and learning of God seem to be conniving cousins. Essentially, taking this depiction directly and literally, if we are trying to “labor for money” we can’t be simultaneously laboring for money. The two pursuits are different prongs of a one fork, terminating in opposing places. A fruit is here described, telling us that those we see searching for money and giving advice on how to obtain that economic self-sufficiency are really teaching us the doctrine against Gods kingdom. But the Lord wants us to succeed, right? He wants us to be men who are that they might have joy, right? Intent is nine tenths of the Law as they say. Only a person who has sought to build the Lords kingdom knows that his intent, while laboring in these babylonian fields, is to build a better kingdom separate of the world. If he seeks and earns a ‘living’ in the Lords name, he will know the Lords name. If he is blind to the Lords economy and seeks for his own gain, to save up for himself some kind of self sustaining storehouse, his labor will manifest a diluted desert so common in our copycat culture.

    “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?”

    So then, that must be our aim, our employ, in this life. To know the thoughts and intent of the heart of our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. In that there is wisdom and riches. Now, back to Jacob, we see that he throws in a MONSTER loophole. This loophole has been used as the hangman’s noose for many a justifying job-seeker raised in our present economically aspiring ‘Zion’. He throws in the word BEFORE. You know, like ‘before you get rich, get an education son’.

    Funny, whenever I seek to find something I would generally believe that it can be found. And if it can, which is true in the case of the kingdom of God, I would look for it ’til i found it. Being pervasively forgetful myself, I often find myself literally tearing apart unsuspecting couches and cleaning out restful closets anxiously looking for a truck key to help me get somewhere. Since we live so spread out but still plan our lives in minute-increments I have to find that key before I can get there. If I don’t find that key, I’m not going to arrive at said destination. Yet, I hear often that our pursuit is to find riches while building the kingdom. That getting those riches actually helps build the kingdom.

    Ahem. Technically, considering the fact that the two masters which we bow to are not in agreement, according to the scriptures above, IF we are seeking riches while not IN the kingdom of God, we are building Babylon. We just can’t serve both at one time! So, that caveat Jacob gave us, ‘before’, needs some explainin’.

    The next thing he says is,

    And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good–to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.

    So, the qualifier given to his ‘before’ loophole is that ‘after’ ye have obtaining a hope in Christ, ye shall obtain riches. And THEN if ye seek them ye will obtain them, to feed the poor and the afflicted, etc… He didn’t leave much for you did he? Even when you are allowed to search for the riches and obtain them, they aren’t for you. They aren’t for your barns, your accounts, your college funds and pensions. They are for those around you who haven’t found the riches of the world. They are for the Lord to use you as a tool in his belt in blessing his children. You are already blessed. Thankfully, in his concise treatise, Jacob gave us a definition of who has ‘obtained a hope in Christ’.

    “Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith became unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.”

    Basically, if you have that faith, you know it. And the Lord can trust you with the riches of the earth, knowing that you will bless his children and not yourself with them.

    So now I ask you, have you done so? What kingdom are we seeking? Are we searching for the kingdom of God, with all the tiring intent that Lehi sought the promised land with, until you find it? Or are we finding a sidetrack, a brighter road into the mists of the worlds promises, to distract you from the cause of Christ, the economy of Zion? The promise we have is that if we seek we will find. If so, are we seeking until we find? Or are we justifying our preposterous path of careerism in the name of ‘building the kingdom’, simultaneously thinking to walk with Enoch while Sodom’s salty strivings tug at our oblivious overalls? For a man who saw very little of what we would term the classic enterprising mercantile economy Jacob left no doubt what a mans life looked like who sought treasure in heaven versus the riches of the world. Perhaps it should seem likely that we, being immersed in that society, should be able, with a wee bit of practice, to be as discerning as he who could reduce the whole fight, the whole struggle, to one syrupy thirteen word stanza.

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  83. Dan on June 9, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    Recently the term “provident providers” has been thrown around by the brethren. Also, we are recently hearing much from our talking heads about becoming and being self-reliant or self-sufficient. President Marion G. Romney (1897–1988) taught:

    “Without self-reliance one cannot exercise these innate desires to serve. How can we give if there is nothing there? Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves. Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse. Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally starved. Teaching cannot come from the unlearned. And most important of all, spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak. (Ensign, Nov. 1982)”.

    President Ballard stated this earlier this year, “Helping people to think straight and use common sense will, in my judgment, always be a very important step in helping them to reach economic self-reliance…”

    Marion G Romney in 1981 stated,

    “If we have been frugal and saved for a time of need, then we can more easily get through financial problems. If we have spent more than we earned, then we pay the consequences of our own actions when the bills come. If we have increased our knowledge and developed our skills in our chosen field of labor, then we can anticipate advancement or increase in pay (money obviously) as opportunities come to us. Thus, it is through our own efforts and decisions that we earn our way in this life.”

    Luckily, someone in the scriptures believed the same way, always nice when your beliefs are validated in scripture. We should all work really hard on our own, relying on ourselves, our education and hard work, to secure a better future for those around us. Or, as Korihor puts it, every man fares in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospers according to his genius, and that every man conquers according to his strength (Alma 30:17).

    I’m not inclined to agree wholly on this thought pattern. Alas, I believe it my duty, as one who sustains, to raise my voice when the need arises. One of the greatest downfalls of our present society is the desire and goal of reaching this very plateau, economic self-sufficiency. This search has caused the frenzied mind of man ever since Cain took things into his own hands with the inspiration of a liar and took his brothers life. In so doing he thought he would be “free”, that he now had the riches to sustain him, giving him independence. His brother’s flocks had fallen into his arms and he now had all he needed. He no longer had to rely on a man and worry not about the future. This is the Mahan principle; we sell ourselves, our time and energy, as well as the time and energy of others, to economic means in order to secure self-sufficiency. That same search has proliferated our ranks to such a stench today so as to be the aim of a Godly life, with the ulterior motive of helping others once we have the means. Isn’t this precisely the meaning of being a provident provider in temporal things?

    Having food and raiment be therewith content. When you then labor, labor for Zion. If you labor for money you will perish (2 nephi 26). Jacob informs us to seek first for the kingdom of God, for Zion today. After you have done this you may receive riches. But then remember that you have received them, they are a gift. They are not yours and were not given to you for you to use on yourself. Be familiar with all and free with your substance that they may be rich like unto you. For what reason then would they be sought? To clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to liberate the captive, administer relief to the sick and the afflicted (Jacob 2). Not for you! Not for your bank account, not for your savings.

    This need to selfishly gather like a squirrel in October is primarily driven by fear. Fear that some day storm clouds will arise and you will be left awash in the flood. Fear that economic hardship will befall you and you will have to be poor like other people. Fear that you cannot plan for everything, so its best to do all you can.

    Yet, Christ promises us through Benjamin, “And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.”

    The Lord in fact addressed this very topic incredibly succinctly in a few verses in Luke 12 (inspired version);

    And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully; And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do; I will pull down my barns and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits, and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided? So shall it be with him who layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

    Bank accounts, 401ks, barns, missile silos, all the same thing. The man in the Messiahs parable became a provident provider! He saved up for a future time. He took ease in knowing his future was secure, had nothing to fear. Yet the Lord said he was covetous. Worrying about the things you need in the future while ignoring Zion and the poverty around us is coveting in fast-forward! You’re not only coveting what you can have now, you’re also assuring that your covetous desire is fulfilled in the future. If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast in the oven; how much more will he provide for you, if ye are not of little faith? Therefore, seek not what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. Else, you are bending to fear becoming idolatrous in your desires. As was said to David Whitmer, “you have feared man and have not relied on me for strength as you ought. (DC 30)”

    The parable in Luke 12 above also gives us another key-word to tie in. What song does a person who is seeking to be economically self-reliant sing? Eat Drink and be Merry! The same song sung by the wicked of the Lords people in 2 Nephi 28, who cry All is well in Zion! Zion prospereth, all is Well! And thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

    In essence, we are cheating Zion by not imparting of our gifts to others, beyond what is meat for our existence. I believe this to be a very personal quest, but reading the Lords instruction, can there be any doubt that to save as chipmunks for a bad winter, at the expense of your suffering neighbor in the summer, is to deny him salvation? It is to deny the establishment of Zion. Personally we should all be taking stock as to what is really frivolous and could be used better by another in order to live up to the covenant NOW of consecration, or in other words the “law of tithing”.

    We hear that it is OK to go into debt for a few things i.e., a home, a Babylonian degree and a car. Yet, the scripture states, “Behold, it is said in my laws, or forbidden, to get in debt to thine enemies” (D. & C. 64:27). In verse 24 of the same chapter he says he will not spare any that remain in Babylon. Yet, all we have done is shake hands and make covenants with that very entity. Any debt derived from a bank in Babylon is building Babylon and hindering Zion. It is going into debt to our enemies, the enemy of all righteousness and the kingdom he has built on this earth. Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon (section 133).

    In what is perhaps the most open mouthed poignant denouncement of this erroneous doctrine, President Young gave us this and relied on the word of Joseph Smith to cap it off.

    “If they enter upon their business without God in their thoughts, it is `How much can I get for this? and how much can I make on that? and how much will the people give for this and for that? and how fast can I get rich? and how long will it take me to be a millionaire?’ which thoughts should never come into the mind of a merchant who professes to be a Latter-day Saint. But it should be `What can I do to benefit this people?’*** And our mechanics, do they labor for the express purpose of building up Zion and the kingdom of God? I am sorry to say that I think there are very few into whose hearts it has entered or whose thoughts are occupied in the least with such a principle; but it is, `how much can I make?’*** Brother Joseph Smith gave us the word of the Lord; it was simply this: `Never do another day’s work to build up a Gentile city never lay out another dollar while you live, to advance the world in its present state; it is full of wickedness and violence; no regard is paid to the prophets, nor the prophesyings of the prophets, nor to Jesus nor his sayings, nor the word of the Lord that was given anciently, nor to that given in our day. They have gone astray, and they are building up themselves, and they are promoting sin and iniquity upon the earth; and,’ said he, `it is the word and commandment of the Lord to his servants that they shall never do another day’s work, nor spend another dollar to build up a Gentile city’” (Brigham Young,
    J.D. 11:294-295)

    If we get rich, we do it as a people. If we are poor, we are poor together. If the community of Zion is our aim and wealth temporally is gained, it will enrich all NOW, not me in the future.

    Relying on money in the bank for salvation in the future is misplaced faith. It is leaning on something which has no ability to save. Self Reliance, Reliance on Provident Providers and self-sufficiency are the arm of Flesh. This teaching then is Anti-Christ. Christ alone will save and he promises to provide if we take care of His people. Ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save (2 Nephi 31:19).

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  84. SteveS on June 9, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    #69, 70 Bishop Rick: I concede that the Church almost certainly takes in more than $5B annually in tithing receipts, and that this figure doesn’t include other types of contributions (I’m not sure its up to $20-25B–that sounds like sooo much money for 4.2M active members of the church to contribute, only 2M of which are in the US and have something like an income like $50K/yr). I think we both agree that the Church has tons of money at its disposal, and saves and invests a ton of it each year instead of dumping back in to the activities of the Church, and into humanitarian programs.

    Like jks mentioned in #76, I too believe that the Church should be sure to meet its ongoing financial obligations to maintain buildings and pay utility bills and salaries and such out of the tithing funds it receives each year. Given the estimates about total tithing receipts mentioned above, however, the Church is far, far, far away from having a problem meeting those obligations. The rather obvious amounts of excess it stores or invests away, and with which it probably puts into its for-profit ventures are what are troubling to most of us. Like I said before, money corrupts. It causes people to bend their sense of ethics in its favor. The selfishness that arises from ideals of self-reliance are inevitable the greater the money one has in the coffers. All it takes is to look at that dentist or lawyer or executive in your ward who just got a motor boat for their family (or a $60,000 Escalade, or a 6,000 sq. ft. home or a cabin in Aspen, etc.) because they “deserve it” for all of their hard work, or because it will come in handy in the apocalypse as a means of escape from marauding hordes or whatever (yes, I’ve heard justifications like this!).

    The best thing an organization that claims to be part of God’s Kingdom can do with money is spend it first on meeting the internal needs of keeping the organization running (without frills and excesses as much as possible), and second spend the rest on humanitarian service to the world. At the end of a yearly or bi-yearly cycle, there should be a net income of zero. Year-to-year fluctuations in donation receipts should be absorbed by the amount of humanitarian monies that can be given out. This protects the internal operational needs while achieving the outreach and humanitarian missions of the Church.

    Mike S’s post and most of the comments here show just how little of the money given to the Church or generated from its private business ventures gets expended in humanitarian programs. It is this glaring lack of balance that largely favors the few (active Church members) instead of the masses of the world’s poor (about 25,000 people die every day (over 9M per year) of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations) against which we all must agitate.

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  85. Jeff Spector on June 9, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    I don’t think the Church has a winning position on this. If they gave all the money away, people would start complaining about how bad the carpet was in the building and how they were ashamed to bring friends and investigators into the church.

    It’s a no-win.

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  86. SteveS on June 9, 2011 at 1:58 PM

    @Jeff Spector: I’d rather have douches complain about fraying carpet than feel angst about the hungry, the sick, the fatherless and widows.

    But listen, the point isn’t about how much is being spent on chapels. Its about the money that’s NOT being spent at all, or that is being spent as investments in for-profit businesses and luxury materials in temples.

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  87. Jake on June 9, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    Has anybody looked at the legal aspect of this? Is it the federal constitution that protects churches from being required to disclose their financial records, or is it merely a matter statute? Anyone know? Could a state pass legislation to require the church to make financial disclosures? I don’t think anybody is looting the place and blowing it in Reno or anything, but reading Daymon Smith’s The Book of Mammon made it sound like they inadvertantly waste a significant amount of money conducting poor research to develop materials that no one uses. That book also mentions some fiascos involving bribing immigration officials in South America and a counterfeiting operation that was broken up that had been making visas for Mormon missionaries (it was not suggested that anybody in the church knew they were paying a counterfeiter). I’ll bet there isn’t anything really earth shattering, but I bet their are more than a few suprises regarding the use of church funds.

    Does it seem possible that this could be happening in America in 2011? That someone could be sitting on all that money and not have to release an audit? I don’t see how that protects anybody’s freedom of religion, even tangentally. It almost seems immoral to give money to an institution without knowing what they are doing with it.

    Also, didn’t Jesus say to let the dead bury the dead? Perhaps the money we spend on temples, and the amount of time people spend serving in those temples, are resources that would be better suited towards the needs of the living?

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  88. Brent on June 9, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    Mike, your calculations compare a multi-year investment on the mall to annual cash donations. Is that right? Shouldn’t the comparision look at the annual investment on the project if you are going to compare it to annual cash donations? I know the investment number will still be much, much larger than the annual doanations but it’s not as drastic as you are suggesting. Also, another unknown in the equation is how much of the profit generating revenues are spent each year sustaining non-revenue generating assets (i.e. paying utilities on church buildings, subsidizing BYU, building churches and temples…etc). My sense is that the for-profit revenues contribute a VERY significant portion of those total bills. If the church is as cash rich as you are saying I don’t think we would be seeing the church slow down in building temples like it has or implementing a hiring freeze like it did. While this topic is interesting, it’s very hard to conclude that the church isn’t spending enough on humanitarian efforts when you don’t really know the financial position of the chuch. We can piece together the information that is available but I think presuming that we then have the full picture, or at least enough to make a judgement on, isn’t sound argument.

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  89. Cowboy on June 9, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    A note:

    “But listen, the point isn’t about how much is being spent on chapels. Its about the money that’s NOT being spent at all, or that is being spent as investments in for-profit businesses and luxury materials in temples.”

    That really is the point.

    A comment to everyone – In spite of disagreement, just looking back, I seemed to have tried to dominate the conversation with trying to get my points across. That is poor conversation etiquette (even for a blog). I am sorry.

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  90. Jeff Spector on June 9, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    “I’d rather have douches complain about fraying carpet….”

    I so enjoy this discussions….

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  91. Jeff Spector on June 9, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    I can’t wait to see what happens when We are actually called upon to consecrate everything we have….. if I am around for that.

    One can only imagine the pushback on the blogs to that one…

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  92. Jake on June 9, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    Brent – I think you might be right about the church being strapped for cash. Its holdings are largely in real property and buildings and so the church could have felt the hit to the economy much more than other corporations. Maybe that is why we have to clean the meetinghouses and the temple?

    As an aside, since I’m really interested in the question of whether we really need all these temples. I recall that when my Uncle was the Branch President in a remote Northern Alberta town, they had been talking about putting ordinance rooms into meetinghouses and then went with smaller temples instead. That would certainly be more cost effective than building temples, which at the current rate of proliferation, seem wasteful to me (see my post above). That, and I think using a movie projector and keeping everyone in the same room for the whole endowment dilutes the drama and meaning of our creation myth, which should be kept interactive (I personaly think the Mormon creation myth as developed by JS is one of our strongest features). I just don’t see what these new pre-fab temples are doing for anybody.

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  93. Kullervo on June 9, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    Has anybody looked at the legal aspect of this? Is it the federal constitution that protects churches from being required to disclose their financial records, or is it merely a matter statute? Anyone know? Could a state pass legislation to require the church to make financial disclosures? I don’t think anybody is looting the place and blowing it in Reno or anything, but reading Daymon Smith’s The Book of Mammon made it sound like they inadvertantly waste a significant amount of money conducting poor research to develop materials that no one uses. That book also mentions some fiascos involving bribing immigration officials in South America and a counterfeiting operation that was broken up that had been making visas for Mormon missionaries (it was not suggested that anybody in the church knew they were paying a counterfeiter). I’ll bet there isn’t anything really earth shattering, but I bet their are more than a few suprises regarding the use of church funds.

    Jake, I would imagine that any attempt to force churches to disclose financials would be met with a stiff First Amendment defense.

    As it is, the baseline is that no entity has to release financial information, unless there is a law that says they have to. There are some very large American corporations, for example, that do not release financial informationa t all because they are closely-held (as opposed to publicly-traded) and thus not subject to federal securities laws.

    Most states (all states?) have laws requiring charitable organizations to disclose financial information. Most states (all states) have an exception for religious organizations. Could they repeal the exception for churches? I doubt it. First Amendment protection of churches is an extremely robust area of jurisprudence.

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  94. Dan on June 9, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    I don’t think the Church has a winning position on this. If they gave all the money away, people would start complaining about how bad the carpet was in the building and how they were ashamed to bring friends and investigators into the church.

    It’s a no-win. …

    AND …

    I can’t wait to see what happens when We are actually called upon to consecrate everything we have….. if I am around for that.

    One can only imagine the pushback on the blogs to that one…

    Please, Jeff, let’s be a little less dramatic.

    My responses: I personally would love to see some fraying carpet if it meant there were people in Africa or South America or, God forbid, my neighborhood (including non-members), who were actually being helped in substantial ways. I would love to see some dated paint. Some gym floors that weren’t waxed yesterday. Some gyms that didn’t have scoreboards. Some chapels that weren’t built to appeal to our sense of entitlement. To be honest, I’d love it if we sold every single chapel, gathered the money and started some serious donations (a la microfinance) to help people living in true poverty. Then, I’d have absolutely no issue meeting at my neighbors house for “church” or, Heaven forbid, meeting in nature. H#ll, if the Church did that, I wouldn’t really care just how the money was spent so long as we could see it going to help the poor, wherever they’re found.

    And, if the Church actually wanted consecration, I think you’d be pleasantly surprised just how many people signed on to it if it meant living for a higher purpose. As of now, I’m sick of our teachings that tell us to get as much education as we can in order to make as much money as we can so we can pay that much more in tithing and offerings. Start living the laws of Zion and you might just be surprised how many people sign up for it.

    The problem with the current scenario is that I have no trust in the leadership (financially wise) because they don’t show anything. They pay the apostles and first presidency and many others, but I don’t know how much. Hinckley suggests its much less than a Fortune-500 company – and it sure as heck better be – but he likewise didn’t give us any information on how much it is. Is it $250k/annually like I’ve heard? Is it $100k/annually? What is it?

    When the members of FP, Qof12 and Presiding Bishopric can have real estate holdings averaging over $1 million each, I think there is a significant disconnect that behooves a “them” versus “us” attitude. When men that retain the title “Prophet of God” have over $1 million in real estate holdings each, especially if/whentheir lives have been spent working for the Church, is it unfair for us to ask how it’s coming to that?

    I for one would applaud some actual consecration. Let’s get away from the 7,000 square foot homes, the Escalades and Beamers teaming our church parking lot and actually start paying attention to D&C 49:20.

    Maybe that’s too much to ask for you.

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  95. Jeff Spector on June 9, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    “Please, Jeff, let’s be a little less dramatic.’

    Really, Dan? Coming from you, that is funny. :)

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  96. Jeff Spector on June 9, 2011 at 7:20 PM

    “Maybe that’s too much to ask for you.”

    I live in modest Colorado Springs, Not New York City…… :)

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  97. Dan on June 9, 2011 at 7:32 PM

    Jeff,

    I’m not the other Dan here.

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  98. Jeff Spector on June 9, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    Multiple Dan personalities?

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  99. Dan on June 9, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    Sadly there are more than one Dan out there…

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  100. Dan on June 9, 2011 at 7:43 PM

    oh and I’d love to live in Colorado Springs. I hear it’s pretty there. But it will be hard to give up New York City. This city rocks!

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  101. Jeff Spector on June 9, 2011 at 8:49 PM

    “Sadly there are more than one Dan out there…”

    I have to apologize for mixing you up withe the other Dan or whoever he is.

    I’d love to live in NYC but I cannot afford it!

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  102. Homer on June 9, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    I live in modest Colorado Springs, Not New York City…

    I live in modest St. George and our parking lot is filled to the brim with Escalades, BMWs and all sorts of tricked out vehicles [mostly brand new Suburbans with 20-24" chrome wheels]. Showing up to Church driving a beat up 70s pickup can be a bit embarrassing, especially when it doesn’t want to start. It’s like I step onto the fancy showroom floor every time I pull into the parking lot.

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  103. Dan on June 9, 2011 at 9:21 PM

    no worries Jeff. I’ll always link to my political blog with my avatar on the right.

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  104. Mike S on June 9, 2011 at 10:52 PM

    Regarding the posts about the amount of tithing: I’d still stick to my estimate of around $4-6 billion annually.

    13 million members. 30% active = around 4-5 million. 30% full tithe payers = 1-2 million. Average several people per household = 0.5-1 million full tithe payers earners maximum.

    Now, for high end, suppose each of these 1 million earners makes $50,000 USD = $50 billion = $5 billion tithing. There are obviously some that make more, but there are many outside the US who make less.

    I think the estimates of $10-20 billion are likely quite high.

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  105. Mike S on June 9, 2011 at 10:57 PM

    #87 Brent: …We can piece together the information that is available but I think presuming that we then have the full picture, or at least enough to make a judgement on, isn’t sound argument.

    I would absolutely love to be proved wrong. The main REAL fact we have is an average of $13.1 million cash spent each year on humanitarian needs.

    I would guess profits are in the billions. We have a lot of assets. At some point, I could put together a list of the commercial properties the Church holds just in Salt Lake City.

    There are billions to build a mall.

    The Church came up with $600 million to bail out Beneficial Life when their insurance business went belly up.

    They recently bought land from Deseret News for cash, which Deseret News used to pay severance packages.

    In any event, whether the profits are in the hundreds of millions or billions annually, it is still 1-2 orders of magnitude higher.

    And best of all, I’d like to see the Church to which we donate billions of dollars voluntarily have any transparency at all. The fact that we don’t know ANY of this seems wrong to me.

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  106. Mike S on June 9, 2011 at 11:00 PM

    Jeff:

    Worn out carpet. Faded floors. Seriously?

    I never mentioned tithing or other sacred funds, which are used for the things you mentioned. They can continue as is.

    I also never mentioned getting rid of businesses completely. The do technically meet some needs of the church (ie. KSL broadcasting conference) and they act as a sort of financial buffer.

    But … instead of saying that ALL profits should be reinvested so we can make more money to help later, how about using some of that to help people now.

    And we can keep our shiny buildings too. As long as we clean them ourselves.

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  107. Mike S on June 9, 2011 at 11:08 PM

    Dan (without the picture) and Ron and others:

    You mentioned that the Church has perhaps drifted towards being the “Holy Church of God” that is potentially being corrupted by riches.

    Maybe – maybe not.

    I started to think about this, but didn’t have time. It seems the church has been fairly aggressive in the past decade or two in creating businesses and wealth. We have seen the church buying up land in Hawaii and Utah (and other places). We have seen them shuttle off janitorial work to members. We have seen them call people on “missions” to work in for-profit ventures. We have seen them call people on “missions” to do things that used to have someone paid to do. We have seen a half billion dollar conference center built.

    It also seems that over the last 20 years or so, missionary work has slowed significantly. The convert rate as a percentage of membership has slowed about 50%. The people leaving has increased. It is slowing down as pointed out in the General Conference statistics post.

    Is there causation or just correlation? I don’t know. But it does make you wonder…

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  108. Mike S on June 9, 2011 at 11:10 PM

    Also, Dan (without the picture). I enjoyed reading your comments, as long as they were. Feel free to use whatever name you want here but realize that there is another Dan that has posted here for a while as well.

    We can tell you apart because his has a picture, but it can be confusing. If there was an initial or some way to differentiate your tag, it might be nice. But whatever – it’s up to you.

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  109. Jake on June 9, 2011 at 11:37 PM

    Dan w/o a picture, your last comment really spoke to me in a big way. Gave me the Holy Ghost. This conversation is really getting interesting. I haven’t heard half of this stuff.

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  110. Bishop Rick on June 10, 2011 at 2:01 AM

    Let’s end this tithing income debate right now. I actually did some research on worldwide household incomes per country and matched that against the LDS population per country (I know, I have no life) then figured 1/3 activity and cut that in half again to reflect tithe payers (remember, those under 8 are not counted on membership rolls).

    After going thru this exhaustive exercise, I came up with a worldwide figure of $6B in tithing income per year.

    Looks like team Mike S wins.

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  111. Jeff Spector on June 10, 2011 at 6:28 AM

    Mike S.

    “But … instead of saying that ALL profits should be reinvested so we can make more money to help later, how about using some of that to help people now.”

    I never said that, either. I think the profits are funneled back into the Church which is used to help people and maintain our facilities and build new one to accommodate the growth of the Church.

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  112. Dan2 on June 10, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    My apologies for the mix-up. I knew there was a regular Dan here, but didn’t know that 2 Dans were such a problem. ;)

    Jeff:

    “I think the profits are funneled back into the Church which is used to help people and maintain our facilities and build new one to accommodate the growth of the Church.”

    Like most assumptions about Church finance, that’s an entirely unfounded assumption. Do you honestly think that for-profit businesses – whose soul [pun/misspelling intended] goal is to maximize profit – give anything back to the parent corporation in order to fund non-revenue projects? It’s a preposterous idea, IMO, and one that ignores that the very reason tithing is harped on so much is because there are projects where the church needs the money – hence the “restricted funds” designation on the UK financial reports.

    They use those funds on chapels, salaries, BYU and who knows what, but there is simply a 0.0001% chance that the for-profit arms are siphoning revenue off to fund other church projects when the church has $6 billion in annual tithing revenues… there’s simply no need for it, to say nothing of the dynamics of a for-profit institution.

    People are largely helped through fast offerings, buildings are maintained through volunteer labor and tithing monies and financed through more tithing monies.

    Edifices like the Conference Center are built by donations from private individuals (I, for one, would like to know who those individuals are…), and not through any Church means (profit or tithing related), at least if you are to believe the tour guides there at the CC.

    I find this quote by Gileadi interesting, when thought about in the context of this post:

    “…we must not presume that people worship only false gods. Among the Lord’s people, worship of the true God is rarely done away. Rather, they often worship the true God alongside the false gods. They maintain a careful equilibrium in order to preserve an identity with ..the God of Israel. At the same time, the people follow their own gods as they please. This compromise enables people to satisfy both their carnal instincts and their spiritual aspirations…”

    “Laying stress on outward observances is often a symptom of alienation from the true God. When false gods are the order of the day, people feel the need to scrupulously preserve the exterior of true worship. Those who reach that point confuse righteousness with actively congregating and religiously performing ecclesiastical duties. In such worship, institutional convention may become the enemy of spontaneity, resulting in dead, stereotypical devotion.”

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  113. Jeff Spector on June 10, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    Dan2,

    “Like most assumptions about Church finance, that’s an entirely unfounded assumption. Do you honestly think that for-profit businesses – whose soul [pun/misspelling intended] goal is to maximize profit – give anything back to the parent corporation in order to fund non-revenue projects? It’s a preposterous idea, IMO.”

    So, just what would the profits be used for when the only shareholder is the COP? Yo might hold something back for investment, but profits are generally distributed to parent companies and shareholder.

    BTW, I am just as entitled to my preposterous ideas as you are….

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  114. Brent on June 10, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    #104 Mike S

    You are still working with very limited information and making big judgments based on your assumptions. I can understand an argument for more transparency so a more educated opinion can be made but that’s a separate point from what I’m making. Do you think that if you gave me incomplete information about your investmetns last year along with your cash donations information but didn’t tell me what your annual income is, what your living expenses are, what other investments you had to liquidate to make your investment, how long it took you save up the investment money, or any prior years’ financial information that I would have sufficient information to judge whether or not your cash donations where sufficient as a Christian? Of course not. It’s the same with discussing church finances. You know about a handful of investment transactions but not the full picture. You know what cash donations were but don’t know what the church’s operating expenses are, you don’t know what other investements were liquidated (if any), you don’t know to what extent the church relies on investment income to cover operation expenses or to fund the growth of the chuch. I can continue the list of the unknowns but I think you get the point.

    Also, I’m not sure why material assistance is excluded from your calculations. Is donating a wheelchair less noble than hard cash? You noted the materials contribution in your article but threw it out in your calculations as though church resources aren’t funding those donations.

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  115. Mike S on June 10, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    #113 Brent: You are still working with very limited information and making big judgments based on your assumptions.

    I absolutely agree.

    Let’s take the best case scenario.

    - Even though the material assistance portion of the humanitarian figure likely includes donations by members above and beyond tithing (ie. hygiene kits, blankets, value of time, etc.) let’s include it with the cash amount as if it actually WERE costing the Church every penny.

    - And let’s assume the Church actually DOES use money from its profitable businesses to support chapels and temples and missionary work and everything else that people suggest MUST be happening. There is absolutely no evidence to support this, but let’s suppose that it’s true.

    - Given this assumption, the Church must be doing even BETTER than I thougth in business. Even after siphoning off all the money being used to “run the Church”, they still have at BILLIONS let over in profit to build malls, hotels in Hawaii, finance various land purchases around Salt Lake City, rebuild part of Ogden, and everything else they do to make even more money. But let’s ignore all of that except the mall.

    - For the City Creek Center, the Church is spending around $3 BILLION. This over a several year period. And this is financed by profit. The only way it isn’t is if (a) the church is instead using tithing funds or other donations to build the mall or (b) the Church is going into debt of some sort to build the mall.

    - For humanitarian needs (including “material assistance), the Church is counting $1.2 billion OVER 25 YEARS.

    Even in this best case scenario, I still disagree. $1.2 billion on humanitarian needs over a quarter of a century vs $3 billion on a mall with high end stores and million dollar condos.

    It still tastes bad to me. And if I were in charge, I’d change it. I think there is a different role for religion than building malls.

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  116. Mike S on June 10, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    Dan2: No problem. Like I said above, no one really cares what name you use. It’s just when you say something (much of which I quite like) and someone replies to you as “Dan”, and the other “Dan” replies to the reply thinking he was misquoted, and it is goes back and forth… Whew.

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  117. Quixotequest on June 10, 2011 at 6:48 PM

    To compare a charity, World Vision, that I donate to, I get a public report like this ( http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/about/ar-financials ) that shows in 2010 they spent over 850 million in charitable service, which represents that 81.8% of the income was spent actually getting services provided. And of the support World Vision provided 50.7% came from real cash revenue. The LDS church humanitarian expenses in comparison are 33.8% cash. And remember, only 1.2% or less of the LDS annual revenue went for humanitarian services. World Vision: 81.8%.

    For a comparison to our community church, since a religious church isn’t a raw charity, say, like World Vision, Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity, etc. My local church, where we worship, gives about 12% of annual budget to charity and missions work not related to our church. We get reports of income and expenses in regular business meetings. No one asks me to set up an annual meeting with the pastor to review my donation amount. I am not withheld any spiritual blessings (i.e., a temple system) by the amount I pay or don’t. Furthermore, we are encouraged to give generously and directly to charities we choose ourselves and not merely funnel that effort through our church; In other words donating to our local church, even knowing we will budget at least 10% to non-church charity work, I still give direct to other organizations without guilt that I am shorting my religion.

    Would the LDS church consider it a proper observance of “tithing” if a member gave 5% of their income direct to Red Cross as a portion of their expected tithe? I don’t think so based on my past experience. Mormons practice the tithe as a required law for salvation mediated by the church organization. It’s not practiced as opportunity to grow with liberty in the “grace of giving” as something we all observe a little differently as we are able and led by God (2 Cor. 8:1-7).

    I’m not saying LDS persons shouldn’t have some pride in their charitable works but they should also realize that the accountability of their organization is very poor, and far below in effectiveness to other organizations that ALSO provide transparency and who have a higher portion of revenue go toward the charitable services performed. It is within the power of the LDS church to clear up the perception they’re so miserly by being more transparent.

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  118. Dan on June 10, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    Mike,

    Yeah, I only intervened because Jeff thought the other Dan was me, and I just wanted to make sure Jeff didn’t heap upon the other poor Dan all my New York baggage. :)

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  119. Jeff Spector on June 10, 2011 at 9:36 PM

    Dan,

    “I just wanted to make sure Jeff didn’t heap upon the other poor Dan all my New York baggage.”

    I think I did. :(

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  120. Jeff Spector on June 10, 2011 at 9:42 PM

    One of the other things not taken into account is the amount of money expended in Fast Offering funds to local people. I have a friend who as Bishop dished out over $250K of cash over a five year period. That’s $50K per year in one ward. if you had 10K Wards and branches giving out $10K in funds, that’s $100M a year. Over the 25 year period, that is $2.5B to add to your total. that does not count the food assistance given.

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  121. Homer. on June 10, 2011 at 10:41 PM

    Jeff:

    I have a brother who was bishop and they took in tithing receipts of roughly $500k annually. For that, they got back a $7k ward budget while the remainder went to SLC to be never heard from again. Members were then asked to donate money to the fast offering fund, which was used, but the total paled in comparison to the amount of money shipped off to church HQ.

    So over 5 years, they collected approximately $2.5 million in tithing, were graced with $35k in funds for ward programs and then collected fast offerings to pay for other things. I think it’d be sheer stupidity for the Church to claim those fast offerings as something they gave to people and tally the totals. All they do is facilitate an exchange – rich member x donates $50/month in FO, which is then given to poor member y so they can buy groceries.

    How about the $493k siphoned off the Church HQ annually? Take that over 25 years and you have $12.4 million (or 98.5% of the funds donated at the local level with gifted to the Corporate black hole otherwise known as the COB). Multiply that by 10k wards and you have $123.25 billion heading up to the COB, while $1.75 million is gifted to local wards to use for local programs.

    Man, what a bargain.

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  122. Homer. on June 10, 2011 at 10:43 PM

    Sorry, decimal error… that last total should contrast $123.25 billion with $1.75 billion. My bad.

    Still, what a bargain. I should just sit here and be grateful we have a $100 budget for the year and stop whining about transparency.

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  123. Mike S on June 10, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    This could all be solved very easily if the Church wanted to. They could be like many other organizations and voluntarily let us know where the money goes that we donate to it each year.

    We are the ones that donate it – don’t we deserve to know…?

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  124. Homer. on June 10, 2011 at 11:02 PM

    No, Mike, the answer is very, very clear on your question: we deserve neither the right to know, nor the right to question. The very premise of this article is little more than apostate behavior.

    =========

    I think someone should open up a blog and solicit anonymous information from those “in the know” at the local level. Have bishops or clerks send in anonymous information (perhaps a digital dropbox a la Wikileaks), then have it segregated by region (i.e. this report was from the Northwest U.S.) in order to prevent blow back. Then publish the results for all to see.

    Start compiling and eventually you’ll have a statistically significant amount of information from which you could draw educated guesses/assumptions.

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  125. Ron Madson on June 10, 2011 at 11:19 PM

    Homer says “We deserve neither the right to know, nor the right to question. The very premise of this article is little more then apostate behavior.”

    Fascinating and revealing comment. In a church that was/is supposed to be governed by Common Consent such a comment, albeit well sustained by many if not most in our church culture today, I interpret ironically as an apostate state of affairs—from the original intent. Comment Consent can not occur without informed consent (which includes not only the right to know but full disclosure) anymore then democracy can occur without freedom of speech and a free, unbridled press/access to information (Freedom of Information Act).

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  126. [...] gathering isn’t very different from one form to another in churches, although how it is used can be a contentious issue. Jesus was reprimanded (see Matthew 26:6–13) for how he allowed a [...]

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  127. Quixotequest on June 11, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    The humanitarian services 2009 fact sheet that the OP used for generating comparison numbers ( http://www.providentliving.org/welfare/pdf/WelfareFactSheet.pdf ) and the sponsoring LDS church website (providentliving.org) would lead one to believe those numbers of cash and material donations are funded significantly (possibly wholly) by the Fast Offering and Special Offering donations program, not the tithe income since the services are carried out under the auspices of the Church Welfare program.

    I am unsure whether the general income estimate for the LDS church (4-5 billion, sometimes 6 billion per annum) includes the Welfare Program income and special humanitarian donation estimates in them. I would guess not since those funds are specially earmarked funds. Nevertheless, even if they were included in the $4-5B/annum basis the LDS effort does not appear very impressive when you consider 1) Welfare and humanitarian efforts as a percentage of the income budget (1.2% or less) compared to annual budget of most major 501(c)(3) charitable organizations (usually around 75-80% or better – you can check out charities’ overhead at sites like charitychoices.com), and 2) that many of those reported LDS welfare services are carried out for members in need from within the organization rather than the broader intent and scope of most major charities.

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  128. Bishop Rick on June 11, 2011 at 11:02 PM

    Ron Madson,

    I’m pretty sure Homer was speaking tongue-in-cheek.

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  129. Ron Madson on June 11, 2011 at 11:08 PM

    dooohh….so I created my own “tongue in cheek” straw man…my bad

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  130. Homer. on June 12, 2011 at 10:54 AM

    Fascinating and revealing comment. In a church that was/is supposed to be governed by Common Consent such a comment, albeit well sustained by many if not most in our church culture today, I interpret ironically as an apostate state of affairs—from the original intent. Comment Consent can not occur without informed consent (which includes not only the right to know but full disclosure) anymore then democracy can occur without freedom of speech and a free, unbridled press/access to information (Freedom of Information Act).

    I was speaking tongue-in-cheek with that comment… mainly because I have been told by family members and others in church that we have absolutely no right to know either how much money is received by the church or where that money is being spent. Once we give it, they say, it’s in the “Lord’s hands” and to ask for such information is, indeed, apostate behavior.

    Seriously, though, I would love to have an anonymous blog/website up where people could go to donate and gather information, seeing as how the COB will likely never again reveal that information.

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  131. Bishop Rick on June 12, 2011 at 11:38 PM

    Set it up and advertise it. You never know who might show up and provide data.

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  132. [...] If I Were In Charge: Tithe the Church’s For-Profit Businesses – People want their church to act more like a charitable organization and less like a corporation.  When the impression is the opposite, many people get a bad taste in their mouth.  We can talk about how much we are doing, but do we “put our money where our mouth is”?  This post suggests we could perhaps do better. [...]

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  133. [...] series based on this idea — covering topics such as who can be “Mormon”, the church’s for-profit ventures, and [...]

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  134. [...] em perspectiva, a Igreja gastou em ajuda humanitária e doações para caridade USD 1,212 bilhões entre 1985 e 2010, inclusive. [...]

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  135. [...] you want to read the entire article, here is a link to French’s article.  With all the talk of the Mall, I have to say I was intrigued with NBC’s recent coverage of Welfare Square, and [...]

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