Are you Nephi or Lemuel?

By: Stephen Marsh
June 29, 2012

One of the striking things about the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon is that it appears that both Nephi and Lemuel claimed them for support. As you read through 2 Nephi chapters 17 and 18 you are hitting a favored text of those who claimed that Jerusalem had nothing to fear. When Nephi is later challenged about how they “know” that Jerusalem is still standing and that the Lord must have delivered them because of their righteousness, Lemuel and his brother are reprising a national resurgence that went on about that time.

I know, you think it is more striking that Lemuel tied Nephi up and tried to kill him more than once.

But seriously, Lemuel was coming to conclusions and supporting positions that were part of a national resurgence. That same resurgence is why Jeremiah was called, from outside the hierarchy, to call the people to repentance. Of course, it is also why 2 Nephi 20 is included in the Book of Mormon – that is the position that Lehi and Nephi took as to what was going on in Jerusalem.

But it is interesting to compare the two brothers and ask, which of them fits us. Who is in the great and spacious building and who is not.

You can see real differences in their approach.

When Lehi announces a vision, one of the brothers seeks to have God confirm it to him, the other contends that it is foolishness and an obvious mistake. When they are sent to get the brass plates, when Nephi goes to build a boat, at a number of junctures, they rely on their own interpretation and conclusions, because, after all, they are older, wiser and smarter than Nephi and their logic makes much more sense to them than his.

I got to thinking about this in the context of the City Creek Mall.

From business journals, we know that the estimated cost of the mall was from 450 to 570 million dollars to construct. There were three major outside investors, plus the investments made by the tenants in finishing out space. If the three major investors all invested about the same 76 million dollars each and if the floor renovations by the tenants came to about half of the cost (which is typical – though not always) or about 200 million, and if the project came in below budget, then we have $428 million in outside investment and construction costs on what was probably around a 500 million estimated construction cost. We know that the Church provided the land underneath the project and put things together.

But, you say, the project is announced as having a value or an impact that is much larger. Which is typical of the way projects are communicated in the press.  The typical sort of multiplier  “means that a $1 million increase in investment creates a $2.5 million increase” – and if the value of the land goes up (which it typically does) then the construction costs come to a “value” plus the land increase value –> investment = impact or value of the project.

For multiplier effect applied to a local economy, where they claim a factor of eight, visit this progressive link. The claim a factor of around twenty for “local.”

Perhaps an easier way to see that sort of thing in action is the Shoes for Kosovo project involving Nike.

If the original retail value of the shoes was $380,000.00, the project might well be reported as having a price of $380,000.00. Since the shoes went to people who were shoeless and bloody in the snow, it might well be reported as having a larger impact value. Of course, since Nike’s tax rate is probably around 35% it only probably resulted in a refund of taxes in the amount of $133,000.00 or so. Since the wholesale value of the shoes started at around $120,000.00 (which is an estimate), you could claim that the project actually cost Nike a -$13,000.00. Even more if you look at the cost to manufacture the shoes (which I would guess at $30,000.00).  Instead of a donation you could say Nike made a hundred thousand dollars.

Since for a number of reasons the shoes could not be sold at retail and would have otherwise been scrapped, you could even claim that the shoes had a basis of $0.00 (their next best use to being donated).

So, should a shareholder complain about how Nike wasted $380,000.00 of company assets on charity? Or should they be proud that Nike turned $0.00 in marginal value into a tax refund of around $130,000.00?

With the mall, should people be pleased that the Church turned some decaying infrastructure land and some other land that was fallow and a drag on the SLC tax base into a commercial center, jobs and increased tax revenue and an investment that makes a return, or should they be complaining that the Church spent $12,000.00 a square foot to build retail (according to the way some people interpret the numbers)?

After all, we know that when you generate a redevelopment project, you capture 100% of the total value to the community and have it to spend. So that by investing what turned land worth about break even into significantly valuable land, critics, the Lemuels I am referring to above, claim that the Church had between three and five billion dollars to spend – and should have spent it the way that they insist.

I know. If you are familiar with similar projects you might be puzzled at how someone could come to that conclusion. You would wonder how anyone would think that the cost of a project in actual hard dollars spent (the construction costs) is the same as the “value” or the “impact” of the redevelopment on the community, which includes the multiplier effect and the change in overall value of property in the community? How they could consider any criticism based on that sort of conclusion valid. How they would think that you could put land and pull out the impact value of the project to the community in cash.

The answer is simple. They just have to think like Lemuel instead of Nephi.

Now, this does not mean that there is not legitimate criticism to be had, just that some of the mind bending criticisms are based in presuppositions and predispositions that have nothing to do with reality and everything to do with perspective and personal orientation.  Even more than criticism, there are lots of legitimate questions.  What about the choice of the retail establishments and the mall target, what about the related projects (should they have focused on slightly less expensive housing, for example).

What sort of revenue are they expecting.  Is there any specific commitment to the use of the revenue?  How much of a savings or safety net should they have?  Is the commandment to individual apostles at a time they can all expect to die martyred the same that the institutional church should plan on?  Would Brigham Young have been better served telling people to be like the lilies of the field rather than to plan before they crossed the plains?

Better, as the Church comes from an era, such as the David O. McKay era where it spent every dollar in advance (with the problems they had when bond rates dropped), to one that was established by Spencer W. Kimball where they have a more balanced approach (albeit one where most of the money still goes into maintaining buildings and the missionary fund), what sort of accounting and public discussion is appropriate?  How much second guessing should they invite?

What sort of knowledge does it take to have common consent?

What should we personally be doing?

Those are all good questions, but I would suggest that the very first question we should ask ourselves are we acting like Nephi or Lemuel?

35 Responses to Are you Nephi or Lemuel?

  1. Howard on June 29, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    I was COO for two medium sized corporations so profit and investments were very desirable goals for me, not dirty words.  But the church now has a four-fold mission to fulfill which includes caring for the poor and needy and I just wish the Corporate ROI church had the same lust for saving poor human lives that it has for baptizing self sustaining people and building buildings!

    Sure, historically the church has had some difficult times with money and we don’t want to repeat those, but today given it’s ability to take on sizable urban renewal projects it’s clear the income is exceeding the near term demand for meeting houses and Temples.  Btw, Temple building peaked in 1999/2000.  So when will the time be right if it isn’t now?  How much longer shall dying third world non-members wait for the church to finally notice and invest in them?

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  2. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 29, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    Howard, those are good questions, especially in a world where third world aid runs hundreds of billions of dollars and often does more harm than good. I talked a lot with my dad about that, especially after his mission to Kenya.

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  3. Howard on June 29, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    Sure there are problems but let’s not made it out to be any harder than it is.  Here are a couple of small well managed groups I’ve been personally involved with that are getting it done now and at a very reasonable price.  

    Sponsor a South African AIDS orphan for $80.00 per month total cost including school:  

    Started by a Christian father and son team high School kids raise money to provide a large water filtration system at a cost of $10,000 per village of up to 3,000 people, villagers participate by building a small shelter for the filter.  They just installed their 36th! .

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  4. Stephen Marsh on June 29, 2012 at 8:16 PM

    Oh, I’m not saying it is not possible. But the small, slow projects are much more successful than many other approaches.

    BTW, for a good link on the multiplier effect (from a progressive outlet):

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  5. Howard on June 29, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    Sure local businesses are better for local economies but economies of scale give  most well managed larger businesses a competitive advantage.  The church effectively project manages multiple simultaneous high quality building projects around the globe producing something around a building a day!  I think they can handle drilling wells, building aqueducts, installing water filters, sanitation, providing vaccinations and establishing vegetable gardens and small farms.  Don’t you?  How much could it possibly cost given no direct labor expense! 

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  6. An Imperfect Saint on June 30, 2012 at 1:54 AM

    Howard #5

    I think that the church does a lot of those projects, just as long as the local governments asked for, or at least allowed, those projects to happen.

    A couple from our stake were church service missionaries in Africa, and most times they were able to get a project done in 6-12 months AFTER the local government approved it. The frustrating part for them was that they only got one, out of every seven or eight projects suggested by local church leaders, approved by the governments that had jurisdiction.

    It wasn’t quite as difficult to set up medical clinics in the areas that they worked in, but in those cases the church was doing all of the coordinating for a variety of other NGOs to come in to those communities and use church buildings as a place to set up their clinics.

    So, the church itself wasn’t injecting the immunizations, but the church paid for or sent donations of, the vaccines and other supplies, members had the medical volunteers stay in their homes, the church building housed the clinics, but the official credit went to the organization that sent the medical volunteers and equipment.

    I am not sure who the quote originally came from, but when I went on a tour of Welfare Square, when I visited Salt Lake about 10 years ago, I remember it being up in a huge quote on the wall.

    It said, “There are lots of things you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

    That quote has made a huge impact on my life. It is why our family tries to participate in fundraising activities and other organizations that are important to us, but when we want to truly serve the Lord, we serve others without taking or asking for any credit.

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  7. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 30, 2012 at 6:15 AM

    Howard, hope that AIS’s comments explain part of the problem.

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  8. Howard on June 30, 2012 at 7:12 AM

    It depends on what you mean by “a lot”, certainly they are involved in some of these projects.  I read a Deseret News article that stated the church is involved in dozens of water projects around the world manned by dozens of missionaries.  Is that a lot?  The Christian father and son team of H4O and a bunch of school kids mentioned above just completed supplying clean water to 3 dozen villages! Is it a lot compared to the need?  Is it a lot compared to the church’s cash flow?

    Wars, military violence against civilians, civil unrest and extortion seem to be the biggest obstacles to human aid.  Government approval can be withheld due to high “taxes” amounting to extortion and even outright extortion.  “No” may just be the opening round of negotiation.  How do we get missionaries into so many countries now, is aid somehow fundamentally different?  So you go where the violence is minimal and you get as worldly as you need to be to get your equipment and materials into country.  Shall we assume that the church is doing everything possible to provide aid and their only limitation is violence and Government approval?  Shall we all tell God on judgement day it was just too hard to do?

    Interestingly, I think the church does care who gets the credit, they want it!  Not that I care, it’s good PR I guess and probably helps to keep the faithful criticism down, I’m not sure what other value it might have.  Ths issue was addressed by some of the comments near the bottom of The Cost of Being a Mormon W&T thread.

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  9. Jenn on June 30, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    Lemuel was not willing to be led by God- he was thinking with his logical, empirical mind, just as many of us critics are, but he was not aligned with God on the matter. I’m going to say my perceived revelation from God on the matter should apply to the whole church, but I don’t feel a bit like Lemuel for saying I sincerely doubt the decision to build a mall was divinely inspired or commanded. If I thought it was, then I could step back and say “well, it doesn’t make sense to me, but God knows best”. Instead, I think it was a business decision- and I feel no guilt in disapproving of a business decision.

    I was thinking this morning of the young rich man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to have eternal life: “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” Note, he didn’t say, “go invest what thou hast so that you can have even more to give to the poor.” At what point do we stop investing and start funneling that money into the truly poor and needy (and I’m not talking about the SLC community that likes higher land values).

    I don’t mind sound financial decisions. I applaud the church for being debt free. But we would never have millions- or billions- sitting around, able to be invested, if the church’s priorities were more Christ-like and less businesslike.

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  10. An Imperfect Saint on June 30, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Howard #8

    I do know that the church has a policy against paying bribes to get project approval. I don’t know how often that is an issue, but as far as I know, the local communities are required to partner with the church when the church comes in to build wells, do major construction projects, like schools, or bring in resources. That partnership doesn’t have to come in the form of money. The projects, that the couple I mentioned previously, were involved in, that made it to the stage where they were completed had a lot of community and governmental support. Local leaders were able to get that approval because they had the ability to mobilize a community around something that was important to them. The projects that didn’t happen really frustrated them, as humanitarian missionaries, but they personally were able to make peace with the fact that sometimes people, or governments just are not at the point where they will let projects go forward. They had good friends who served in the same capacity in Central America who were able to get five times the number of projects approved and implemented. The sister who was serving in Africa said it was hard not to feel jealous everytime they got a letter updating them on the progress and number of projects that were being made in a smaller geographical area.

    Each country and area of the world is different. In areas of the world where corruption is rampant, the church does not allow governments to distribute supplies, but insists on either church leaders or NGO partners are the method of distribution. I personally don’t know how that effects the effortss of the church in particular areas, but I know that there are a lot of areas that no NGOs are allowed by the local governments to distribute supplies.

    At your suggestion, I looked again at the thread on the Cost of Being a Mormon. I didn’t find anything in your comments there to be more helpful, but it does seem that you have an ax to grind with the church’s humanitarian priorities, and the projects that you think should be done, and aren’t.

    I guess my questions to you would be: Have you filled out your papers to do a church service mission, or are you preparing to? Have you talked to those who have? In the areas of the world that you think the church should be doing more, have you talked to the missionaries who have been there, or any members who are living in those countries? Have you talked to other NGOs in those countries to see if they are having more success there, and whether they coordinate efforts with other organizations? If they do coordinate, is the church one of those partners?

    For a world-wide church there are always going to be choices that are made. Would I like to see less money put into the Wasatch front, since I don’t live there? Sure. Am I thrilled that a fund has been started, to allow families that need to travel long distances to attend the temple, not have to personally pay all of the costs? Absolutely, it is already on my yearly donation list. Do I make charitable donations to organizations other than the church? You bet. Do I think that one organization, LDS or not, should be the only organization working on charitable work in any community? No.

    I think there are a lot of things that are easier to do in the US because there are a lot more members here. The governments federal, state and local, see us as a pretty known quantity. And, whether we like our current leaders at any of those levels or not, the procedures for getting a project done (building codes, costs of labor, ability to purchase local supplies or having them arrive at their destination securely) are pretty easy to estimate and plan for.

    In some countries those same things are fairly easy to navigate, either because the government is fairly transparent or there are a large number of members who have the clout to help move processes forward. In other countries, figuring out all of those elements for a project can take months or years.

    I have volunteered with Northwest Medical Teams for a number of years. One of the “jobs” I did was to help prepare the crates that would be sent out to a locations where the medical professionals were going to be setting up free clinics. About 2/3 of the countries we put together crates or boxes of supplies for. Those countries had a track record of all, or most, of the supplies arriving safely. The other 1/3 of the countries, we had to literally pack suitcases for each volunteer on the team, to take with them on their trip, so that the supplies weren’t “appropriated” by some level of government in that country. In those cases the volunteers literally took the cases of supplies, the clothes on their backs, and some extra money to buy scrubs once they were “in country,” since that was the only way to be sure that there would be enough supplies to perform the surgeries and other medical procedures that the medical teams were being sent to do. NWMT didn’t do that because they thought it was the best and fastest way to get all the items they wanted to have available, but after several groups that ended up without critical supplies, like antibiotics or anesthetics, they had to decide whether they could get enough supplies in suitcases to be able to make it worth the effort to go to those countries. A few years into volunteering with them, there were several third world countries that had to be completely taken off the list because they couldn’t count on get the supplies in, even in the volunteer’s bags.

    I have also worked with several other international NGOs on a more limited basis, but many of them have a policy of not sending volunteers into countries that are involved in armed conflict, or that have a history of misappropriating funds or supplies that have been sent previously.

    I don’t think anyone should feel they get a “free pass” on serving outside the church, just because they serve inside the church. I honestly hope that you are putting your time and money where your passion is, and working with organizations that fit into your definition of helping “a lot.” If you like the way that another organization builds wells, and you want to volunteer your time and money to help them, I think that is a great idea!

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  11. Howard on June 30, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    At your suggestion, I looked again at the thread on the Cost of Being a Mormon. I didn’t find anything in your comments there to be more helpful, but it does seem that you have an ax to grind with the church’s humanitarian priorities, and the projects that you think should be done, and aren’t.. The comments I was referring to are about the church’s use of helping hands t-shirts for PR and my comment about church related news articles.  Sorry the iPad I’m using doesn’t show comment numbers.  Ax to grind isn’t what’s going on, it may be difficult for the faithful to swallow, but I’m actually being lead by the Spirit in my all criticisms of the church.  The church does many things well but some not well at all.

    Have you…(etc)? Thank you for asking.  After living a worldly life for many years outside the church a 2003 spiritual epiphany lead me to almost do what Jenn suggested “…go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”.  I say almost because I retained enough to furnish a bedroom which are my furnishings today.  I have a motorcycle which was my sole Southern Calif. transportation until until a few months ago when I inherited the use of a car.  I also have a computer and a cell phone no TV.  I spent 9 months living with the homeless to learn that experience and other lessons while being tutored by the Spirit.  Today I donate most of my time and some of my money to a variety of causes and I’m currently looking at third world humanitarian mission options outside the church.

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  12. Bonnie on June 30, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    You’re having a lovely conversation, and I have nothing pertinent to add, but was I the only one who burst out laughing at the first photo because it looks like she’s yelling at him sufficiently to blow his neck shade full tilt? Ah, the power of Nephite women must have been something to behold.

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  13. Ray on June 30, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    “When Lehi announces a vision, one of the brothers seeks to have God confirm it to him, the other contends that it is foolishness and an obvious mistake.”

    Actually, the other one says something that might have been perfectly true and honest:

    “The Lord maketh no such thing known to us.”

    If Nephi and Lehi assumed everyone could have a vision like the ones they had, and if Laman and Lemuel simply weren’t visionary people (like the VAST majority of people who have lived and live now) . . .

    We judge people so easily when we have so little information from which to reach our conclusions. I have had some amazing spiritual experiences, but, to this point in my life, I also can say honestly that, “The Lord (so far) maketh no such thing known unto me (in that manner).” Therefore, I would say I’m a combination of Nephi and Laman in a very real way.

    I’m not wading into the other discussion. Howard and I have gone the rounds before about it. I respect his view deeply, but I think his last comment illustrates that the real issue is every bit as much, if not more, an issue of the hearts of the members than of the Church itself. I’ll leave it at that.

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  14. Mike S on June 30, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    I guess I’m Lemuel, because I don’t believe your estimates. I believe the articles suggesting it was a $2-3 billion project.

    In any event, the numbers are somewhat meaningless to the principle. Whether it is hundreds of millions or billions, is it the role of a Church to build malls? Ironically, perhaps the best answer for how the Lord considers this is from Isaiah 3:

    16 Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:

    18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,

    19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,

    20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,

    21 The rings, and nose jewels,

    22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,

    23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.

    I don’t know what all of those things are in modern terms, but the sure sounds like what the Church has decided to do with its money. I don’t know that Isaiah would be pleased with Tiffany’s (world’s premiere jeweler*) and Porsche Design (one of world’s most famous luxury brands*) and Brooks Brothers (fashion innovation, fine quality, and unparalleled personal service*) and Michael Kors (jet-set luxury*) and TUMI (catering to successful professionals, influential thought leaders, celebrities and discerning travelers*) and etc. (NOTE * descriptions are from City Creek’s website).

    Perhaps God no longer condemns those things in general, and especially as a place for church to spend its money.

    But who am I to say – I’m obviously Lemuel.

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  15. me on June 30, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    the city creek decision finally allowed me to stop paying tithing, and have a clear conscience about it. for that, i am grateful

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  16. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 30, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    Ray, well said. I think each of us has elements of both.

    Mike, it sure is a “project” of a value, but that is far different from one where that much money was spent.

    Me, each finds their own comfort.

    All, there are obviously more issues than how much the mall cost. Or the pretension of the retailers (many of which just are not high line by local standards).

    Howard, respect your dedication.

    Bonnie, glad you liked the picture.

    AISaint, again, thanks.

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  17. Howard on June 30, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    Thank you Stephen it comes with a lot of rewards!

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  18. Mike S on June 30, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Something also ironic about this post. The Nephites started out righteous, and the descendants of Laman and Lemuel were the more wicked. But what ultimately led to the downfall of the Nephites? From 4 Nephi:

    …the people had multiplied, insomuch that they were spread upon all the face of the land, and that they had become exceedingly rich, because of their prosperity in Christ.

    24 And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.

    Hmmmm. Any similarities here?

    Ultimately the Nephites all died away and the descendants of Lemuel lived. So, with regards to this particular post and the mall, I actually WOULD side with Lemuel.

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  19. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 30, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    Mike S — you are starting to sound like you have been reading Brigham Young and his warnings of what he foresaw happening with the saints in the future.

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  20. Mike S on June 30, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    No. Haven’t really read Brigham Young in a while, to be honest.

    It’s just that I have grown up Mormon. Mormonism is my church as much as anyone else’s church. And I really want my church to look and act and be a church – and not a business or a corporation.

    If a bunch of people want to get together and build a mall to make money – great, let them do so. But I don’t want a church spending hundreds of millions or billions (or whatever it ended up being) on a luxury mall and million dollar condos – especially MY church.

    And despite their accounting tricks, as to whether they used “sacred funds”, or else just profit they made on previous “sacred funds” of my parents or grandparents, it makes me sad now each time I pay tithing. I still pay faithfully, but it makes me sad.

    Also, it seems very hypocritical. I can’t find anywhere in the scriptures where it suggests churches should do this type of thing. But I can find numerous places (a few of which are quoted above) that suggest it is wrong. It is interesting that the Nephites fell into the trap of costly apparel, etc. approximately 200 years after Christ’s church was set up among them. It’s been around 200 years since our church was started as well.

    And actions speak louder than words. We will hear leaders tell us not to drink wine, yet the church will be making money off restaurants at City Creek that sell wine. We will hear talks about the Sabbath, yet the church will be making money off restaurants open on Sunday (with “separate” entrances). We will hear talks about staying out of debt and avoiding “appearances” and covering our shoulders and whatever, yet the church will try to make back hundreds of millions selling these very same things.

    It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It may be a wonderful business. The returns you cover above may be stellar. There may be really smart businessmen leveraging things.

    But I want a church.

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  21. Howard on June 30, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    Excellent observations, well said Mike S!

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  22. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 30, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    Mike, for what it is worth, it is a small part of what is going on in the church.

    But I fear what could happen, I fear it too. Brigham Young warned that it would come some day. I just so want it not to be in my day.

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  23. An Imperfect Saint on July 1, 2012 at 1:01 AM

    Howard #11

    I am glad that you have found a way to live and serve in a way that is authentic, and that works for you. I am not saying that I think you are anything but sincere, and I am certainly sincere in my admiration. I sometimes wish that I were in a position to do something similar, but until my kids are grown, I won’t be in a position to do that.

    I think that you and I may always have different places that we view church efforts in humanitarian service, but I think that both views are valid. They just come from different starting points, and are informed by different experiences in our own lives and those experiences shared by others close to us.

    I personally believe that the individual members who are involved with serving, either as church missionaries, or as members of the communities they live in, are doing as much as they can. I think you are right that we may have different definitions of “a lot,” but I run into that in discussions about whether my ward is doing “a lot” to support the scout program. I think that there are a lot of areas where each of us have to figure out what “enough” is for what we individually can do. It sounds like your ability to do “a lot” in international service, is very different from my “a lot” in terms of time, resources and opportunities. I suspect that the Lord will accept both of our efforts, but we won’t know that for sure in this life. I think that is okay, since it encourages us to reach a little farther each time we do something.

    Thank you for sharing your personal story, and your process in coming to where you are today.

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  24. Howard on July 1, 2012 at 6:42 PM

    An Imperfect Saint,
    Thank you for the kind words. When one approaches the LDS faithful regarding humanitarian aid for chronic third world situations the considerable resistance, deflection and push back they counter with goes through predictable stages: The church is already doing that! It’s my church right or wrong don’t criticize it, or the brethren! The welfare state is wrong! Teach a man to fish, don’t give him a fish! Third world humanitarian aid is very expensive and it’s almost impossible to accomplish anything lasting or worthwhile, it’s just a hole to pour money in and accomplishes very little. Extortion and government resistance is the problem, not the church. And so on until we finally arrive at; well then, who are YOU to insist that the church help? I suppose that is one of the reasons the Spirit lead me through the lessons and experiences he did while training me for this calling.

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  25. Howard on July 1, 2012 at 9:16 PM

    Wonderful! 12 June 2012 Ghana: GAVI Commends LDS Church for U.S.$ 1.5 Million Gift The donation will be doubled as part of the GAVI Matching Fund by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation…LDS Charities plans to introduce the GAVI Matching Fund to other private sector players…LDS Charities has designated immunisation as one of its major humanitarian initiatives…will be used to purchase vaccines and support immunisation programmes in GAVI-supported countries…Immunisation becomes the LDS Church’s seventh major humanitarian initiative, joining emergency response, clean water, wheelchair distribution, neonatal resuscitation training, vision care and food production.

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  26. Stephen Marsh on July 2, 2012 at 6:16 AM

    Howard — 24 — those are the problems, but there are efforts at overcoming all of them.

    Which Howard — 25 — illustrates ;)

    Most of the time projects are ones where someone has led off and conquered the problems or shown a way through them.

    It is not the need so much as the path to solutions that is hard to find.

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  27. Mike S on July 13, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    Looks like the $2 billion estimate (comment #14) is a fairly accurate one. From the latest Businessweek article:

    According to Spencer P. Eccles from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the mall cost the church an estimated $2 billion. It is only one part of a $5 billion church-funded revamping of downtown Salt Lake City, according to the Mormon-owned news site KSL

    I suspect the Utah Governors’s Office of Economic Development has fairly accurate numbers.

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  28. Stephen Marsh on July 13, 2012 at 6:51 AM

    Mike S, that businessweek article is hackwork. Note that LDS per capita spend more in actual dollars than Methodists. Yet that article puts Methodist spending at 29% of their total revenue, LDS at .7%.

    Unless you think the LDS Church has a cash flow over 5000% larger than the Methodists …

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  29. Mike S on July 13, 2012 at 11:15 AM


    The article may be hackwork in many ways as it attempts to draw conclusions that are likely over-reaching. At the same time, however, the $2 billion cost from the Utah Governor’s office is probably as official and correct a cost as we will ever get.

    So, I still stick my by claim that the church spent billions on the mall, and not the few hundreds of millions that you estimate based on the costs of other malls. It’s an order of magnitude difference.

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  30. Bill on July 13, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    I’m a former employee of the construction company (Okland Construction) holding the lion’s share of the prime contracts for the construction of City Creek (aka as Block 76). I was not involved in the project but I was told in 2009 by other Okland employees that the value of Okland’s contracts at that time exceeded one billion dollars. That amount represented the shell and infrastructure contracts held by Okland. It is not unusual that for high end retail, office, and restaurant the tenant improvement cost are equal to or even slightly exceed the shell costs. In this case the shell numbers are probably higher than normal because of the additional site prep and infrastructure cost associated with the project. Based on that knowledge and those assumptions an overall cost of two billion dollars is probably accurate.

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  31. Stephen Marsh on July 13, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    Thanks Bill.

    Do you have an idea of the distribution, including the tenant improvement payments (who paid for what)?

    Thanks again.

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  32. Stephen Marsh on July 13, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    Mike S, I stand corrected on the total project cost vs. the retail only part of the mall costs. I mistakenly applied one against the other.

    So, not 8 billion for the mall, but not just the mall cost for the entire project.

    Two billion total cost, now for the break down of who paid what and for what portions.

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  33. Stephen M (Ethesis) on July 13, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    Being clear none of our commenters have used the largest number. And clear vis a vis the impact number vs the cost number, which are different between total project and the mall part.

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  34. Bill on July 13, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    I have no information about the distribution (who paid for what portion of the project and how much each portion cost.) On a typical project of this sort the tenants pay for their own improvements (aka TI) and as such they hire their own contractors to do the work. Sometimes the builder who built the shell will pick up some of that TI work as well but most of the national chain retailers already have a list of preferred contractors they work with. It is rare for the developer to pay for the TI’s, although many will make concessions in the rental price to try and attract preferred tenants. The accounting on projects of this nature is very complex and the distribution can be driven by how the developer defines costs. For instance, if there is significant excavation work is that defined as part of the shell construction or is it part of the site preparation? Even a public project of this size, where every cost must be revealed, it can be difficult to parse. If you are trying to find out the true cost of private project where public disclosure is not required you have to have inside information and make a lot of assumptions. That or you just have to take the word of the developer. And to that end it helps build confidence if the developer has a history of transparency in its financial dealings. Some developers are publicly trades companies and are required to publicly and honestly disclose certain information. That disclosure though is usually in aggregate and parsing the exact cost of specific items is still problematic.

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