Mall or NothingBy: hawkgrrrl
- Mormons, Inc. The church looks like a corporation, a business not a charity. Worldly retail makes a strange bedfellow for charitable churches. You can’t serve both God & mammon.
- Priorities. Churches should only give money to the poor. I’m too poor to shop at a place like this, so why did my tithing go toward this? Don’t I get a say in where my tithing money goes? (Short answer, no you don’t. Check the new tithing slips.)
For some, the church’s investment in the mall is the straw that broke the camel’s back when it comes to either their membership or their willingness to donate to the church via tithing. In this paradigm of extremes, the lack of transparency when it comes to church finances is a deal breaker. To listen to the critics, it’s hard to imagine a valid reason for the church to be involved in such an investment. What were church leaders thinking?
Stewardship. Members of the Q12 are stewards of the church’s funds. We donate to build up the kingdom of God, part of which is donating to help the poor, part to build and maintain churches and temples, part to provide support to missionaries, part to publish the gospel message through manuals, hymnals, scriptures and the internet, etc. The church also invests funds through a variety of enterprises. By doing this, the church avoids financial crises of the past. Those who would like to see the church only donate to the poor should consider the parable of the talents:
Matthew 25: 14-29. For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he agave five btalents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, andareckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou adeliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithfulaservant: thou hast been bfaithful over a few things, I will make thee cruler over many things: enter thou into the djoy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and afaithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an ahard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was aafraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo,there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked andaslothful servant, thou knewest that I breap where I sowed not and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with ausury. Take therefore the atalent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be agiven, and he shall havebabundance: but from him that hath not shall be ctaken away even that which he hath.
Public Relations. As a missionary church, leaders are often concerned with our public image. While the gospel message should be compelling in and of itself, if it’s in a tatty, torn envelope, it’s less likely people will open it to read it. Missionaries and church employees are required to present a clean-cut conservative “Sunday best” image. Our boys are required to wear crisp white shirts to pass the sacrament. Church sites like Nauvoo and Kirtland that used to be run down or underdeveloped have been renovated, redesigned, and manned with smiling representatives ready to answer questions (or bear testimony in response to questions) in a cheery manner. Our temples are a public image of our focus on the divine. Given the presence of church headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City, a run-down neighborhood doesn’t reflect well on the success of the Lord’s one true church.
At the crux of the question is who makes the decisions what to do with our tithing money. If we are giving it to God, then there’s no real room for criticism. But if it’s to man, then well-intentioned people will disagree as to how the funds should be spent. If the answer lies somewhere in between, people get caught between the need to feel like a good person for donating charitably toward the church’s and God’s interests while questioning the wisdom of human leaders who are the stewards of the donations.
My own view of the spiritual practice of tithing is that donating a tenth to God is more about letting go of control as Jesus admonished (Luke 12:22): ” Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.” Criticizing how our tithing donations are spent is the opposite of letting go of control. I don’t personally view my tithing as strictly a humanitarian charitable contribution because it is presently conflated with the cost of running the church; when ward budgets were done separately through direct donation, maybe the situation differed.
Yet of course I would agree that those entrusted with the widow’s mite will be held accountable for how they handle those precious sacrifices, whether they are invested or used directly. I’m just not the one who will hold them accountable; if someone misuses my donation, that’s not to my condemnation but to their own.
I can see how I could have been persuaded to invest in a high-end retail mall if I ran the church. Generally, I’m a fan of both investments that pay back and urban reclamation projects that beautify cities and often reduce crime. I understand the discomfort some feel with it, but if I were on the board of directors (er, twelve apostles, whatever) I would not be immune to the appeal of the project, and I would probably have been oblivious to the concerns people would have until after the fact.