Mall or Nothing

By: hawkgrrrl
October 2, 2012

There are quite a few people who are very critical of the church’s investment in a high-end retail mail in downtown SLC.  Their reasons differ, but include things like:

  • 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.

Conclusion

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.

Discuss.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

165 Responses to Mall or Nothing

  1. Brian on October 2, 2012 at 7:40 AM

    The only financial question I would like answered is how much do the 15 men at the top make. After everything that has been said and culturally handed down, I truly believe it would be a devastating revelation for many. I must say, I am really impressed that these numbers (whatever they are) have not somehow leaked out.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 11

  2. Mike S on October 2, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    Building a mall makes sense if you look at the makeup of the church leaders. From an article at BCC, we see the degrees of the current General Authorities:

    Business (includes finance, etc.): 54
    Law: 23
    Medicine: 9
    Accounting: 8
    Education (I mean degrees like Ed.D): 7

    We don’t have many theologians; we don’t have many scientists; we don’t have many social workers or teachers or other more “service” oriented industries. Instead, our leadership is largely businessmen and lawyers. It makes sense that our Church looks like a business filled with legal language. So building a mall is a very logical activity for our modern corporate church.

    It is somewhat ironic. When I was around the age of my mission, it seemed that we talked about the intermingling of religion and commerce in Rome as symbolic of the corruption of the early church. I’m sure the exact same conversations took place back then as we are having now. And it seems we’ve certainly accomplished more business in our first 2 centuries as a church than the Roman Catholic church did. Perhaps over a few millennia, Salt Lake City can overtake the Vatican in the grandeur of its businesses and buildings. We’re off on a good start.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 15

  3. Mike S on October 2, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    #1 Brian:

    It’s probably not as “devastating” as you might think. There are no exact numbers publically available, but numbers in the low six figures are probably likely for the most senior GAs.

    While this is above the average salary of church members, many of the men made much more than this when they were working. For example, I’m sure Elder Nelson made close to $1 million a year as a cardiothoracic surgeon when he was practicing. For the majority who WEREN’T working for the church, I’m sure that quitting their job and devoting themselves full-time to the church was actually a “step-down” in salary.

    And it’s probably who you want. If the primary goal of the church leaders was spiritual, occupation wouldn’t matter. But the reality is that the church is a multi-billion dollar business. You’d certainly want leaders who can run multi-billion dollar businesses running it.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 7

  4. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 8:14 AM

    To me it is a matter of priorities. We should be far less concerned about investments and image and far MORE concerned about helping the poor, especially abroad. If there are members of our church who can’t get clean water to basic food for their children, then building a mall is a huge slap in the face.
    For me, the problem with the mall was not the mall itself, it’s that it raised the issue to me of just how much (or how little) good we are doing with our money beyond building pretty temples and meeting centers.
    For my husband, by far the biggest issue is the fact that the mall is supporting a whole culture and mindset that is contrary to the gospel. We preach the importance of financial responsibility, of moderation, of building up treasures in heaven rather than earth… yet we have no problem enabling the purchases of porsches and tiffanys and 400 dollar handbags.
    Where are our priorities?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 16

  5. Paul on October 2, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    HG, I agree with you: once I pay my tithing, I am not accountable for how it’s used. And I’m ok with that.

    Of course, the church has repeatedly and publicly stated that the mall was not financed through tithing funds. I guess we will endlessly speculate about the origin of the funds, at at what point they were tithing funds, or if they are simply interest from older tithing funds (and why those funds were not dispersed differently and instead were allowed to produce income that could be invested in the subject properties).

    I think your parting shot is an interesting one: did anyone along the decision chain consider the public complaint that would arise from such a development?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  6. Jon on October 2, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    To say that we shouldn’t care where are tithing funds go is to say we need not have spiritual liberty, isn’t that what Christ taught?

    The Mormon Stories podcast with Daymon Smith on this subject was really good.

    Are we not to look at the scriptures and see where it says that the modern church will apostasize? Why do we pick and choose? It is difficult to own our actions in relation to the institutional church but when will we? Is is not the members that truly make up the church? Is it not the members who have the final say? Is it truly the members that have led to this and not the leaders?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  7. Jon on October 2, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    Also, aren’t there other ways to beautify the square without embracing mammon? Couldn’t the church done what it does with the Mesa, AZ temple, i.e., encourage members to buy up property around the temple and keep it well kept?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  8. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    I do see the parable of the talents (which is a METAPHOR, not investment advice), but I also think of the rich man coming to Jesus and asking how to get into the kingdom of Heaven. Did Jesus respond “go, invest your money, so someday you can have the resources to help the poor”. No! He said, “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”. He makes it quite clear what the priorities should be. And remember Christ wasn’t exactly a big fan of moneylenders.
    If we are concerned about the image of the church, you know what would do SO MUCH for it? Charity. Visible, transparent charity on a huge scale. People notice when the church gets involved in good works. I guarantee more missionary work comes about because people see the church using its resources for good, than because people are impressed with our mall or the church’s “capital” city.

    As for the salaries of the GAs- it was devastating to me to realize it was indeed a salary and not a “modest stipend”. These are generally retired professionals who have had a lifetime to accrue enough to live off of in retirement. I know they put a lot of time into their callings, but so do Stake Presidents and Relief Society Presidents (who often ARE doing it on top of a “normal” job). I had thought the stipend was along the lines of 40k… not 6 figures. We can’t have it both ways, where we talk about our “lay clergy”, and discuss the evils of priestcraft, and also discuss “modest stipends for GAs” that are far more than the average member makes. So yes, it was devastating to me.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 12

  9. Howard on October 2, 2012 at 8:54 AM

    Having actually given up control as Jesus admonished, I can assure you that donating 10% is simply a token gesture providing very little learning in this regard. A mission probably comes much closer to this ideal but even then you knew you would have daily food, drink and shelter.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  10. Paul 2 on October 2, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    I think that most of the time when someone makes a large-scale mistake it is not a new kind of mistake. It is just the size that is notable. When the Spaniards went on to enslave the Native Americans, they were re-implementing their very recent project of enslaving the natives on the Canary Islands, but on a bigger scale.

    I think that the best explanation for The Mall is that there were 2 church malls there beforehand and they wanted to renew them. From Wikipedia: “The ZCMI Center Mall was a shopping center near Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah that was owned by Zions Securities Corporation” (subsidiary of Property Reserve, which is owned by the church), “which opened in 1975 and closed in 2007. At the time of its opening, it was the largest downtown mall in the country.” Check out http://www.deseretnews.com/article/650197260/Salt-Lake-project-has-familiar-ring.html The original malls seem like Harold B. Lee or N. Eldon Tanner projects to me. Does anyone know?

    The Mall is just more of the same, and that is important to understand. I don’t think anyone powerful rethought the underlying idea of having a large mall there because they were used to the ones that were already there, and to their revenue streams.

    The only thing that has changed since 1975 is the size of the project and that members are more willing to publicly criticize the church than they were in the past.

    If I were in charge, I would have made a botanical garden. I don’t like shopping, and I didn’t like the old malls either.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  11. Howard on October 2, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    Paul,
    Those men claim divine guidance. We can attempt to explain away the mall as just more of the same but does that mean God doesn’t understand the difference or the irony of this project vs. the gospel? Or does it mean that divine guidance was missing from this decision? And if this one perhaps others?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  12. Brian on October 2, 2012 at 9:19 AM

    The fact that the GAs salaries are referred to as “living allowances” is comical. Because of the way the salaries are characterized, members are led to believe they are modest by any and all standards, which I am sure they are not. They are referred to as living allowances for the reasons that Jenn states they made her uncomfortable.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  13. John Mansfield on October 2, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    For those interested in what the church pays the apostles, here’s what Spiegel reported when Uchtdorf joined the First Presidency:

    “Uchtdorf, for example, lives off his Lufthansa pension. And he says he has no right to a house or other comforts in Salt Lake City. At most, apostles like him receive compensation for their travel costs.”

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/a-mormon-goes-west-the-german-apostle-a-491890.html

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  14. Casey on October 2, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    Brian, can you source what you’re saying about GA salaries/living expenses/whatever? I don’t mean that to express skepticism, but I’ve just heard about this before and given, as you say, that the information is not public, I’m wondering where you’re getting your numbers.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  15. Will on October 2, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    Just like you can’t get a job from a poor person, you can’t get financial help from the poor either. I guess the church could be run like our government and we could borrow money from another entity to pay our people to be poor like the current welfare system in the US; or, we could do it the Lord’s way and create a financially stable entity that is ABLE to help the poor and needy when they call.

    I am extremely grateful the church follows its own counsel – spend less than you make and wisely invest the difference. It is God’s path to wealth. It works. It works for individuals, families, churches, businesses; and state and local and federal governments. Unfortunately, some (the so called compassionate crowd on the left) aren’t happy unless we are following the path of destruction by our federal government – spend more than you bring in (1.6 trillion more – more than any federal budget of any country in the world except Japan) and borrow the difference.

    The latter plan (our current federal plan)
    will collapse and the people that will be damaged the most are those that are dependent on this aid. It is a sad commentary.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  16. John Mansfield on October 2, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    The “Mormon Inc.” reference above brought to mind Dominican Nuns Inc. That’s the actual name of the entity from which a lot was purchased in my stake to build an LDS meetinghouse. They are a group of cloistered nuns who go to bed at 7:30 and get up at 3:30 for the first prayers of the day. They needed more room for novices to their order, so they moved out of the city to where they are now constructing stone buildings without strucural steel or wood that won’t decay in only a couple centuries. In other words, they are a very unworldly group of women who still found it useful to conduct business as Dominican Nuns Inc.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  17. hawkgrrrl on October 2, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    I also am struck by Jesus saying “The poor ye have always with you.” I take that to mean that the poor aren’t going anywhere. You can help the poor (individually), but Jesus didn’t cure poverty; he certainly didn’t have the means to do so. And even if you sold the Vatican, you can’t solve poverty with money, but with opportunity. And part of opportunity comes from change within.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  18. Howard on October 2, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    So replace selling all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me with the LDS prosperity gospel?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  19. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    We don’t give to the poor to solve poverty- I think a huge reason is for ourselves. There is nothing like charity to remind you of priorities and gratitude. It’s hard to feel that when focusing on our own financial gain.

    Also, there is a huge difference between being financially stable and self-reliant, and having 2.5 billion dollars sitting around for investment.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 8

  20. hawkgrrrl on October 2, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Jon: “Couldn’t the church done what it does with the Mesa, AZ temple, i.e., encourage members to buy up property around the temple and keep it well kept?” The area around the Mesa temple is a pit. My sister was chased by a knife-wielding homeless man in the parking lot.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  21. Henry on October 2, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    Jenn:
    It takes money to help the poor.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  22. Howard on October 2, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Henry,
    Glitzy malls coat a lot of money.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  23. Howard on October 2, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Henry,
    Glitzy malls cost a lot of money.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  24. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Henry,
    I understand we can’t give if we don’t have. But by the church’s own documentation (the 2009 fact sheet), we have spent more on this mall in one year than we have on humanitarian aid since 1985 (“From 1985 – 2009, $327.6 million in cash and $884.6 million in commodities of aid was given throughout 178 countries”).

    At what point do we stop investing/making money to do good with, and actually start DOING GOOD with it? (and no, building pretty buildings and meetinghouses does not count). If we have enough money sitting around to invest 2.5+ billion, or to build lavish and expensive temples… then we have enough to start helping the poor in a more meaningful way. We do a fine job of caring for the poor within the US but outside of the US it’s a different story.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 11

  25. Henry on October 2, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    1. Job creator
    2. Stimulates economy

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  26. Howard on October 2, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    Henry,
    The mall will generate few incremental sales and jobs, instead it will steal sales and jobs from surrounding malls.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  27. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    So now the economy of the Utah valley will increase (despite having 2 already-nice malls within a 20 minutes drive).
    But what about the economy of our… Sao Paolo members? Our african members? Our philipino members? Or haitians? Heck, screw the economy of the members, what about the economy of the non-members as well? Create jobs- awesome! How about creating more jobs creating crops or providing access to water in poverty-stricken countries? Something about creating jobs to Porsche salesmen doesn’t exactly leave me feeling warm and fuzzy.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  28. Henry on October 2, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    Many people on blogs say how sad life is and why can’t this person or that entity help the poor? There was a blog about a certain issue and a guy commented that nothing will ever change. I replied to him and told him that if nothing changes, it’s because YOU didn’t do anything. Why don’t some of us start our own foundations to help the poor instead of wringing our hands and blaming others for the sad state this world is in? I guess we are happy just twittering our lives away.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  29. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    I’m not starting a foundation for the poor, because I don’t have the resources to do so. You know who does? The multi-billion dollar CHARITABLE organization that I’ve donated 10s of thousands of dollars to in the last decade, with the expectation that it was doing the Lord’s will, not mammon’s.

    So now instead of wringing my hands about it, I give that 10% to other charities that will do more Christ-like things with it, that have priorities more similar to my own and show their priorities through their actions (transparent accounting is a huge bonus too).

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 8

  30. Howard on October 2, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    Henry,
    Doesn’t the gospel tell us to help the poor? Isn’t the church an approved gospel supplier? Therefore shouldn’t the church help the poor?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  31. Paul 2 on October 2, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Howard, I can clarify my position: “More of the same” was my way of explaining the cause of why the Mall is either “not inspired” or “not as inspired as it should have been”. The reason why I think it was not inspired is because I like being in botanical gardens and malls just feel wrong to me.

    I think it’s ok for God to let people exercise their best judgment and then to let them and others see how things turn out, even prophets. So I am sure that some decisions by church leaders are not inspired. I am also sure that some decisions are inspired. My all-time favorite quote about the church is by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who said that if you could find a church that was 5% inspired, you should run to it. I am sure that church authorities exceed the 5% threshold, so I am staying. I would like to personally exceed the 5% threshold, so please pray for me.

    I am sure that God understands the irony of the situation very well. There’s irony all around, as far as He is concerned.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  32. Henry on October 2, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    Jenn:
    One may not have the resources but one can get them, fundraising, etc.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  33. Howard on October 2, 2012 at 10:47 AM

    Thanks Paul! I’m sure they exceed 5% as well. The church does many, many things well but this mall, while beautiful and well built isn’t one of them.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  34. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    Henry-
    Not everyone needs to be their OWN charity. Plenty of fantastic charities exist. I just did a charity consulting project for the website Charity Navigator- it rates charities on how much goes to overhead costs, transparency, and how much good they do.

    It’s ok to be someone who gives to other worthy causes rather than spearheading a foundation yourself. I had always hoped that church tithing was one of those “worth causes”.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  35. Brian on October 2, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    Casey–I don’t have any numbers. The only things I see are the ones thrown around on the internet, which in my mind are probably unfounded. My problem with is with the characterization of them, not so much the amount. Encyclopedia of Mormonism says, “Because the General Authorities are obliged to leave their regular employment for full-time Church service, they receive a modest living allowance provided from income on Church investments.” (p. 510)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  36. Wil on October 2, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Jenn/Howard:

    You make is sound like the church took 3 Billion dollars and flushed it down the toilet, or they spent it on a lavish vacation. You make it sound like the money has been spent and is gone forever. It is an investment. It generates revenue – recurring, monthly passive income. It grows when you sleep, eat or our engaged in other activities It provides a return on investment. It creates wealth. It creates jobs. The church does not bury (spend it foolishly) the talent; rather, it takes that talent (which is actually a unit of value “INVESTMENT” in the new testament) and makes it grow just as Jesus taught us to do with the parable of the talent. Hence, It seems like they are doing as Jesus asked.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 9

  37. Jon on October 2, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    hawkgrrrl,

    Yes, I agree, it isn’t the nicest place, but members do own property around it and keep the properties decent looking, transients are a whole other issue, SLC temple solved it by telling members not to give to the poor around the temple. Don’t know how to solve it around the Mesa temple.

    I don’t think we need new buildings to make a place look nice, otherwise we’ll always have to be moving to the new place.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  38. Jon on October 2, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    I agree with the sentiment that a botanical garden would be nicer. I’ve never felt comfortable in malls either. But I know some people like them. If it did turn into a garden would they ban people from it like they do the roof of the conference center?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  39. Jon on October 2, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    Jenn,

    Small charities have their advantage, big charities have their advantage, individual charity has its advantage. They all serve important, separate roles.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  40. Jon on October 2, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    Will,

    They did flush it down the hole. Remember the other member that built a new mall not so long ago not so far away from the church’s mall that is now not worth nearly as much for that member now? If the church is going to be spending money on projects you would think they would want to help its members not some corporations with no relation to the members.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  41. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Again, the parable of the talent was a METAPHOR. The actual, literal advice Jesus gave on the subject of wealth was “go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven”. He didn’t even give the advice “go and give to the church that it may give to the poor”.

    I don’t feel like the church has thrown money away. But based on historical precedent, I have very little reason to believe the profits made from this will be turned around to good, charitable efforts any time soon, rather than just re-invested again.

    I don’t view it as a waste, but rather a good-better-best discussion.
    Good? Trying to be financially stable, building a local economy.
    Better? Doing so in a way that promotes the gospel (IE, not selling porsches)
    Best? Doing so in a way that helps the church be financially stable but has the primary focus of doing spiritual good for the world.

    However, when we are discussing this sum of money, and the people involved are supposed to be the most divinely inspired on earth, and the decisions they make impact the eternal salvation of many… “good” isn’t good enough. When compared to other worthy things that could be done with the money, I’d say “good” begins to look quite pathetic. Again, it’s a matter of priorities. We need to show what our priorities are by our actions.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  42. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    PS, the presiding Bishop went so far as to hint that financial stability for the church itself was NOT the goal of city creek (IE, we didn’t build it to make the church stronger financially):

    “No one would undertake the City Creek project if the financial rewards were the only thing they were looking at because it will not “pencil out” to great return numbers,” Bishop Burton said. “We hope that the return comes from the community, the preservation of our heritage, our legacy in the downtown area and all that it means to a culture such as ours.”
    He said concerns about potentially “losing money on the project” were considered along the way, but the long-term benefits outweighed the economic risk.

    (taken from http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765560418/LDS-Presiding-Bishop-H-David-Burton-says-part-of-City-Creek-project-goal-has-been-met.html?pg=all)

    Again, these are worthy goals. But should it be a top priority for a Christ-centered church though? Probably not. Sounds like something a corporation primarily worried about the Salt Lake valley would do, not something a church worried about the WORLD and the ETERNITIES would do.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  43. Henry on October 2, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    Jenn:
    All is see are a bunch of complainers and not enough doers.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  44. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    To be fair, this is a blog- a place for discussion, and we are discussing something that many people view negatively, hence the “complaints”. Maybe we should have a post where we can all brag about the good deeds we’ve done this year to qualify us as “doers” too?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  45. Frank Pellett on October 2, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    Jenn, the direction to sell all was given to a specific person, not to the Church. Even in Christs time, the Church had a treasury, managed by one of His Apostles. It may have been small, but it wasn’t a case of constantly giving everything away. Even then, the Church needed money, though we have almost no information on how it was kept, invested, or spent. Some of it could even have been spent on stipends for the Apostles who didn’t have means to care for their families without their previous occupations.

    Yes, the Parable of the Talents can be called a metaphor, but it is directly applicable to the management of Church funds – workers being given stewardships from the Lord, for which they are responsible to show an improvement upon.

    Balancing between improving on what the Lord has entrusted you with and giving to the poor has got to be one of the hardest tasks, both in the Church now and in the Church in the past.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  46. Paul on October 2, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    Jenn, you remind us, “and the people involved are supposed to be the most divinely inspired on earth.” Is it possible that they are indeed divinely inspired, and that their investment was the right decision for those funds?

    The injunction to sell all that thou hast was instruction given to one particular disciple, not to all of them.

    Of course you may donate your funds where you like (and I suppose you can sell all that you have if you like). And you may use whatever rubric you choose for making that decision.

    I don’t think anyone could reasonably argue that investing in a mall is the same as giving the money to the poor. Similarly, it has never been the practice of the church (even though you might wish it should be) to divest itself of all of its resources and give them to the poor.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  47. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Well said, Frank. I suppose I look at the jewish law of the time (which was against usury- the practice of lending money with interest, which the person in the parable who doubled his money must have done) and think that it really was meant more metaphorically. As a matter of fact, there has historically been some confusion around that parable (experts have said Jesus must have been speaking about Gentiles since jewish law would not have allowed lending for interest- or there is http://paulswritings.wordpress.com/2007/08/10/howard-wrong-on-parable-of-the-talents/ who has a completely different interpretation).

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  48. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    I feel like I’ve said it a billion times in here, but it really is a manner of priorities. I don’t expect the church to give all it has to the poor, even to the point of debt (though that is precisely what happened in Joseph Smith’s time). But the church’s actions have shown that financial strength is higher priority than giving to the poor. And I can’t see any way for that to be right.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 7

  49. Jon on October 2, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    I believe the bible says one should give money to church leaders. I always took it to mean separate from tithe funds though.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  50. aerin on October 2, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request to have a detailed listing of all the tithing income, other investments, land holding available to members who tithe. Many other mainstream churches do this AND publish this information on the internet.

    Other countries (Canada, U.K.) also require the publication of this data.

    Whether or not it’s okay to ask for this information from one’s spiritual leaders is something that each person needs to determine for themselves.

    I think it would be relatively easy to embezzle funds on all levels. Just because everyone is faithful and holds a temple recommend does not mean that theft doesn’t happen. IMO, the more eyes, the better protection.

    Finally, from the scripture quotes, is Christ saying you must tithe to the church? Or give to God? There’s a distinct difference. With one, you are compelled to give to the LDS church without any record of where the funds go. With the other, you give your tithe to organizations that best represent Christ’s mission and who clearly publish where their money goes.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 9

  51. Howard on October 2, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    Wil,
    You make it sound like those lives that could have been saved with the mall money aren’t worth saving and that investments are more important than people!

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  52. Will on October 2, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    Howard,

    I am saying the church can and does help millions rather than hundreds because it has the resources; and, it has the resources because of wise investments like City Creek.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  53. whizzbang on October 2, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    One thing to remember is that Jesus blessed Zaccheus who was rich for giving half his goods to the poor. it seems that discipleship is required for everyone but how specifically is unique. I don’t see a problem with the Church spending money on this mall. I may have other concerns with the Church but this isn’t one of them!

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  54. KT on October 2, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    On the topic of what Church leadership makes – it’s not just what they receive as a salary/living stipend/whatever they want to term it. It’s also the $$ they make off of book deals, sitting on boards, etc. The building of the mall brought about more of those types of opportunities for individual income to individuals in Church leadership. So, to anyone that’s talking about how brining $$ in will benefit the Church as a whole and also charities, well, it also benefits individuals in Church leadership. So, yes, it’s self-serving.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 10

  55. Mike S on October 2, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    From Jana Riess’ article, “The LDS Church, The Prophet Amos, and the City Creek Mall“:

    Given those facts, spending a billion and a half dollars on a den of luxury consumption is a moral failure. It just is. A more modest, scaled-down plan to revitalize Salt Lake’s once-thriving downtown would have been enough. The rest is vanity, calculated to impress. It is palpably ironic that the mall contains a luxury store called True Religion jeans (opening Summer 2012). Whatever else it may be, this mall is not true religion.

    Amos prayed, “But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (5:24). Somehow I don’t think he was referring to the Bellagio-like fountains that grace the City Creek Mall, which I sat watching, mesmerized.

    I agree with this. The true cost is actually probably closer to $3 billion, but that’s neither here nor there. Either figure is orders of magnitude than what we spend annually on humanitarian aid.

    The price tag is more in line with buildings designed to make a flashy statement:

    - Burj Khalifa, Dubai: Tallest building in the world (2717 feet), $1.5 billion

    - Shanghai World Financial Center: Has highest hotel in the world, 1622 feet tall, $1.2 billion

    - Taipei 101: Elevation 1670 ft, tallest at time it was built, $1.8 billion

    - New South China Mall, Dongguan, China: Largest mall in world – 9.58 million sq ft, $1.3 billion

    - Etc.

    So, the City Creek Center is a great thing if you’re comparing with other massive projects that scream – LOOK AT ME!!! It is a great thing if you want exclusive stores that cater to the 1% richest in the United States.

    To me, it just doesn’t seem like a thing a religion should be doing. An organization run by businessmen and lawyers – sure. But not a church.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 16

  56. whizzbang on October 2, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    if the General Authorities were making bucks over book deals then you would think they would be writing books by the dozens. But they don’t. Some of the brethren years ago were prolific writers but not the current ones. Elder LeGrand Richards even wrote in his Marvellous Work and a Wonder book,
    “This book has been prepared and published without any monetary remuneration to the author. It is dedicated to the great missionary work of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which is so dear to the author’s heart.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  57. Cowboy on October 2, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    I don’t think anybody could/should argue that the mall was a “bad” investment, from the standpoint of producing ROI. Particularly seeing as how the Church is required to fund a lot of the “things” that it does.

    I recently had this conversation with a friend, who was pointing out that he doesn’t believe that “…I [me] actually ever had a testimony”. He doesn’t seem to believe, for example, that any of the classic Church history issues could cause me to lose that. Surprising to him, I agreed with him. I didn’t quit going to Church because of polygamy, race issues, gender inequalities, seer stones, or any other reason. I quit going to Church because I simply didn’t believe it. What these issues, and I place the building of a mall into this same category, do is expose us to our own uncertainties, and provide us with conflicting criteria that is used to evaluate our own subjective probablistic expectations. The Church doesn’t cease to become true because a mall was built, rather it exposes many of us to the liklihood that it never was. It also forces us to contend with the realities of our own uncertainties that have alway’s been with us.

    So why is the mall a big deal? Is it because of bad finance? Is it because “God” doesn’t seem to have his priorities straight when it comes to the poor? Or is it because the mall stands in stark contrast to the ministry and teachings of Jesus? Because it fosters the very class systems which he struck down in numerous situations? Is it because it betray’s the fact that the Church cannot survive on Priesthood Power, begging the question that such a power exists at all? I would argue that in most instances, people object not because they believe God to be wrong, but because they believe that God wouldn’t actually do this were he in charge. After all, even the more liberal Mormon’s who take a “nuanced” view of the Prophet’s as human beings, are conceding that they believe the Prophet’s are somewhat out of touch with God. Furthermore, for these liberal Mormons (I’m not referring to political associations with “liberal”) to make such a claim either directly or implicitly, is to suggest that the Prophet’s are wrong whereas the liberal members are more closely aligned with God.

    FYI-

    Cleaning up the streets doesn’t reduce crime, it just tends to move it. Perhaps a trivial point, but I would expect the Gospel of Jesus Christ to purify and sanctify souls, not just resort to economics to force the problems out.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 13

  58. YvonneS on October 2, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    I understand what it is you are all saying. But I also understand what Hawkgrrl says.
    The leaders do the best they can. They make mistakes.

    I have been to the mall. It is amazing. I didn’t buy anything and I most likely will not go back there since I live a long way away, but compared to what I see in the second most well off county in the US the mall isn’t all that showy.

    It is my understanding the water comes from a creek that flows underneath it, the price paid for the mall was not born solely by the church, and the GAs have long lived in their own homes in areas around the valley and down into Lehi. And while the are business men and lawyers the 12 apostles are a diverse group including medical people, a scientist, a former airline worker/business man and educators as well as lawyers. Presidents Hinckley and Monson each spent most of their lives in public service. I can think of a lot of other things that are not so big that cause me to wonder and work to increase my own spirituality.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  59. Cowboy on October 2, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    “Will,

    They did flush it down the hole. Remember the other member that built a new mall not so long ago not so far away from the church’s mall that is now not worth nearly as much for that member now? If the church is going to be spending money on projects you would think they would want to help its members not some corporations with no relation to the members”

    John! Thank you for seeing this! I have mentioned this before, but this ought to give pause. I’m no expert on Jewish custom, but as I understand the OT, part of the reason for the tithes, was so that the levite priests who were a full-time religious body, would be able to be sustained while ministering to Israel. What if however, those priest’s decided to compete against the rest of common Israel, but still wanted tithes??? Ouch! Why should anybody pay tithes to an organization like the Church, that owns billions in business’s right here in Salt Lake, that may directly compete against my own business? I must pay a 10% tax directly to my competition? Seriously, this ought to be so obvious.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 7

  60. Cowboy on October 2, 2012 at 2:46 PM

    Yvonne:

    “But I also understand what Hawkgrrl says.
    The leaders do the best they can. They make mistakes.”

    But that is exactly my point. How is it possible that this inconsistency (the “mistake”, as you called it) between God’s will and the Church leaders actions,
    exists, when the gap is so apparent to the rest of us…yourself included? What is it that we know that the Prophet’s don’t? Bear in mind, you didn’t use the word “mystery”, or anything like it, you used the word “mistake”. By your own admission, this mall should not have been built, and represents some kind of error in judgement among the key decision makers.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  61. Heber13 on October 2, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    I wonder if when the Lord asked the rich man to sell all he has and follow him, if that was because he had only fisherman with him, and he was hoping for someone with more financial awareness to help with buying a bunch of loaves to go with fishes that was going to be needed. When the man did not, but went away, the Lord just made the fishes and loaves appear anyway.

    The Lord’s work can be done in many ways. Just because it is practical and non-miraculous doesn’t make it mammon’s work.

    Bottom line for me, I agree with Hawk that once I give my money, I don’t feel the need to micro manage upwards and demand where I think it should go. But that is because I have trust in the leadership. Should that trust be too severely broken, I might rethink how much I give to an organization I can’t trust. The mall makes me raise my eyebrow a bit, but it doesn’t dash my trust by itself.

    Just like in many marriages, money often reveals emotions, but the problems are usually deeper than money issues.

    I hope the downtown SLC area benefits from this and it is not wasted money, as well as the church’s ability to increase humanitarian efforts ten fold beyond this amount to build a mall well into the future. I will watch and see.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  62. Jon on October 2, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    Heber13,

    So what does it take, the leaders of the church marrying 16 year old babes? No, I agree with Cowboy on this one, people believe because they believe or they don’t believe because they don’t believe. If the leaders of the church can justify marrying 16 year old girls and a member still believes then there really isn’t anything that would make the membership flinch, unless they already don’t believe.

    I don’t think most people have predefined limit which allows most to excuse pretty much anything. The gospel is beautiful, unfortunately though, it can also be blinding.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  63. Heber13 on October 2, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    Cowboy#57:
    I really like this part of your comment:
    “I quit going to Church because I simply didn’t believe it. What these issues, and I place the building of a mall into this same category, do is expose us to our own uncertainties, and provide us with conflicting criteria that is used to evaluate our own subjective probablistic expectations. ”

    I think this well said, and I think it is hard for some people to realize, it isn’t always a doctrinal issue or lack of caring why some people don’t believe…to some, it just doesn’t make sense. Period. That is hard for some who think it makes sense to consider it couldn’t, so they try to come up with reasons from their believing perspective to ease their fears.

    This part of your comment, I’m not so sure of:
    “I would argue that in most instances, people object not because they believe God to be wrong, but because they believe that God wouldn’t actually do this were he in charge. After all, even the more liberal Mormon’s who take a “nuanced” view of the Prophet’s as human beings, are conceding that they believe the Prophet’s are somewhat out of touch with God. Furthermore, for these liberal Mormons … to make such a claim either directly or implicitly, is to suggest that the Prophet’s are wrong whereas the liberal members are more closely aligned with God.”

    Hmmm…not sure about this. Can a person disagree with a prophet on an issue, believe the prophet is fallible, but still believe the prophet is a good leader and closer to God than the masses? Just because I disagree with this part of your post, doesn’t mean I think I’m elevated above you. Only that this part of your post I disagree with, other posts you give are brilliant (seriously, I think you’re brilliant at times…just not all the time).

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  64. Heber13 on October 2, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    #62, Jon.

    First, I think you’re overplaying the marry 16-yr old thing. I’m sure for some, that is disturbing enough to break the trust and not want anything to do with the church. But if you ‘re trying to make it sound like all the prophets have done that and continue to do that, I think you’re hung up on it.

    That is a puzzling historic thing, like polygamy and other things I completely don’t understand nor approve of and would be outraged to find out if it happened today. But it doesn’t sound like that or other historical facts are what caused Cowboy stopped going to church.

    It is one element, one factor. There are other factors, like MMM for me to consider as well.

    To me, all those teach me the leaders absolutely are human, and fallible, and sometimes wrong. But the gospel will be true based on its own teachings and how they help me or not help me, regardless of a mall being built or not. I choose to believe the gospel is true for me, and that the church is a pretty good earthly organization trying to get closer to its teachings.

    Everyone has their own limit. I haven’t reached mine yet. I still believe some of it to be true, and God can help me figure out what is and isn’t. I believe General Conference will benefit me…and it will have nothing to do with a mall investment.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  65. Jon on October 2, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    Heber13,

    That was my point, what you said and Cowboy said. A bunch of old men could marry young girls and people will still believe those old men to have some authority. I’m not saying what you or I believe is wrong, just saying that the threshold is so high to stop believing because of historical, or even contemporary issues that there might as well not be a threshold.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  66. Heber13 on October 2, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    Ok, I see your point. But I think there is a threshold for me. Its not that high really, it is just that I can see so many good things currently week to week, and over the past 5 years have tried to keep a balanced view…good and bad and if it is balanced toward good from my view. If I hit the threshold where I consistently see more bad than good…I won’t turn my brain off and just believe anyway just because I always have. But seriously, this mall does not overshadow all the good I see. If it did, I’d stop believing. I want to own my religion, not fear I must believe in it or else.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  67. Phoenix on October 2, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    I think it has to be remembered that the church has very specific teachings on how to conduct one’s personal economic affairs. These teachings could be argued to be in direct contradiction to the “sell all thou hast” idea. Then why is it taught? Proper economic behavior keeps people out of poverty. We avoid debt and build assets, which allows us to be independent and actually have the ability to help others.

    Interestingly enough, the church is following its own teachings by developing real estate. This behavior is very similar to economic recovery programs (accept unlike the gov’t, the church doesn’t go into debt to do it). Projects like this are designed to create economic growth in their communities and are actually favored by most governments. Considering that the church has a great deal of power in Utah, it makes sense it would have an urban development plan during a recession.

    Also, it must be remembered that historically the church has always been involved in such efforts. Joseph Smith started banks, printing offices, hotels, stores, and many other economic projects that for the most part were based on the economic development of the community and not on directly helping the poor (by the way economic development does help the poor). This project is within church precedent.

    However, on a doctrinal level we must not forget that God often gives seemingly contradictory commandments. Nephi was told to kill, even when Moses commanded not to. This is because almost every moral rule has its exception. If the church is accumulating financial assets, it must be that this is the proper time to do so.

    In the end, anything which causes doubts must be treated with patience. The faith to rely on previous experience in spite of new doubts usually results in those doubts being resolved. “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not to thine own understanding” is perhaps the best piece of advice to live by.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  68. Rigel Hawthorne on October 2, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    If City Creek had a Ross Dress For Less, A JC Penney’s and a Sears, then there would be more of an issue of stealing business away from neighboring malls. One may mock the renting of space to a Porshe dealership, but does that dealership create massive competition to other malls and dealerships?

    If the goal is to lure people to live and work in downtown SLC, they are going to need to work jobs that provide higher starting wages than your Ross Dress for Less stores. I worked with a fashionable doctor in California who drove regularly 90 minutes to shop in Newport Beach, passing multiple malls along the way, because it was the type of shopping experience that suited her. That kind of shopping experience wasn’t for me, but it provides an example of creating a niche market for shoppers that may, for example, leave Sandy and go downtown to shop. For those out of towners visiting Temple Square, they can hit a well-stocked bookstore, enjoy a city block stroll, and find a bite to eat much as they have always done, but without the dreary basement food court in the old Crossroads.

    If the Levite’s were responsible for maintaining the countryside around the tabernacle from urban blight and the surrounding tribes were more interested in building attractions in their own lands to divert the attention of their tribal members from making trips to the tabernacle, would it be offensive for the Levite’s to use a return on investments made to provide relief from the blight, increase the wages of those working in the tabernacle zone, and encourage people to live where they can be inspired by the tabernace?

    As to the Mesa temple, although there have been some buying and improvement of properties by members, not all of the purchases resulted in aesthetic improvements. Some have just added extra rooms onto older smaller homes. This hasn’t created a uniform degree of blight relief. There isn’t a very good prognosis for that area of Mesa in general, despite the street signage letting one know it is the “Historic Temple District”.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  69. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    “Joseph Smith started banks, printing offices, hotels, stores, and many other economic projects that for the most part were based on the economic development of the community and not on directly helping the poor (by the way economic development does help the poor).”

    Let’s see, how many of those endeavors were successes, financially or otherwise? The “bank” not only tanked, but it landed Smith in a (quite legitimate) lawsuit and it left many members, who had essentially been commanded to invest in it, penniless.
    The stores sold alcohol (including hard liquor). Joseph Smith felt that it was revealed to him that going to Salem, Massachussetts would lead him to a stash of treasure in a basement somewhere. Joseph Smith was swindled out of church funds and property time and time again. He filed for bankruptcy and spent much of his last years fleeing creditors.
    There was a brothel in Nauvoo operated by Smith’s then-right-hand man, John Bennett. Brigham Young operated whiskey distilleries, rented out property in SLC to be used as brothels, and allowed Utah to be a “slave state” during the civil war.

    In other words, there is much precedent in the church for the MORTALS in charge to make bad decisions that impact the members both financially and spiritually.

    Lastly, “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not to thine own understanding” is fantastic advice- close to another favorite, “34 O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.”

    In other words, trust GOD- not man. Not investors, and unless you have a witness to do so, sometimes not men acting in a role of leadership in the church. If I felt God wanted me to support the church in the endeavor to not only be one of the wealthiest corporations int he world but also provide Salt Lake Valley with porsches and 400 dollar purses, then I may be able to go along with it. But everything in me gets a dark, nasty feeling (which mormons traditionally define as the LACK of the spirit) when I think about President Monson shouting to the masses in the middle of a recession “let’s go shopping!”

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 11

  70. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 7:24 PM

    I’ll add to my previous debbie-downer of a comment: I am not arguing against the prophetic position of President Monson. After all, the church made historical mistakes but the work of God continued on. I’m just saying there is precedent for fallibility here, and we need to ask our selves and God if this is something we should support.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  71. hawkgrrrl on October 2, 2012 at 7:33 PM

    Do intentions make a difference? Because for me, I see good intentions behind the mall. Maybe not as good as humanitarian efforts, but not directly impacting those either (in an either / or fashion). Does a mall bring out the best or worst in people? I suspect not the best – materialism, focus on appearance over substance, debt. But not the worst either. Just kind of neutral.

    Church leaders are mostly from the silent generation (like my parents are) – people raised in the aftermath of the depression. They are not fiscal risk takers. They will always always save for a rainy day. They think it a moral failing to ever be in a situation where financial insolvency happens, and given the church’s history, they (I’m sure) feel it’s vitally important to avoid that. They are willing to kill and eat their own food as well as weeds from the yard. There’s something admirable about all that even though it’s a completely different mindset from subsequent generations.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  72. Phoenix on October 2, 2012 at 7:42 PM

    Jenn,

    First of all, the Bank of Kirtland went down because there was a general economic recession (beyond Joseph’s control), the idea itself was not a bad one. Second, the other instances you cite don’t refute the wisdom of this plan nor the principle of being economically involved as a church considering there are other successes, such as the economic success of nauvoo and Salt Lake in its aggregate form, assuming all the instances you cite are valid.

    Secondly, I find it inconsistent to impugn prophetic abilities and then quote the Book of Mormon. Interestingly, this scripture is saying to not trust yourself and instead rely on the Lord and his instruction. Considering the context of LDS doctrine (which you legitimize through quotation), this means listening to the prophets, regardless of personal feelings and judgement.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  73. Cowboy on October 2, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    Heber13:

    My point about the “liberal Mormons” was not to create a zero-sum game out of the “are Prophets fallable” question. Rather, just to point out that even though some might accept the premise that the Prophets are ordinary men with an extraordinary calling, we tend to do so abstractly. When we apply it to an issue such as the mall, and label it as an error, we are implicitly saying two things:

    1) The Prophets made an error on an issue x (the building of City Creek, for example). They either didn’t understand God’s will, or acted on their own accord.

    2) We (the common liberal member) know better than the Prophet what God’s will is. After all, it’s not like God stands on the Salt Lake Temple and publicly waves his finger at the leadership. We are assessing their actions on the basis of our paradigm on God. If we didn’t believe that we knew better, we would be reticent to correct…but we don’t ask what our basis is for objecting. And even if we do, we wonder why the thing we see so clearly, wasn’t seen by those who should have a clearer view.

    Jon & Heber13:

    My point about the common debates is not that the historic evidence isn’t a factor in what course we take. Rather, it’s that the very fact that these issues are factors in our decision making, suggests that we were never actually appealing to any kind of higher epistemological sensibility. If God, manifested himself to me with the Holy Ghost, then it seems unlikely that I would counter that experience with some historical data-point. What would it mean, for example, if I “knew the Church was true” and found out that Joseph Smith married a 16 year old according the divinely sanctioned doctrine of plural marriage? It would mean that God and heaven are a lot different than I thought. It would mean that morality, and the social customs which I held are not Eternal. In effect, it would mean that in the grand scheme of things, according to God this is not offensive. The same thing would apply to every other issue. What about race? What if it could be proven that God was a racist by our standards? It would simply mean that “…our ways are not God’s ways”! As morally offensive as that may sound, I think the logic is fairly sound.

    So…if I object, is it because this new information invalidates the Holy Ghost (I mean the actual Holy Ghost assuming such a thing existed), or does it only invalidate our subjective explanations for defending a belief in the Holy Ghost? Since good information and logic doesn’t generally invalidate true facts, the only real explanation is to concede that we were alway’s wrong and to admit that our beliefs had far more uncertainty attached to them then we would have generally admitted to. In other words, it is to concede that we are making decisions not on the basis of some kind of high divine threshhold of spiritual evidence, but rather according to some probablistic estimation based on how we subjectively weigh the informatio we currently have. When confronted with something like polygamy, it is not logical to say, “well, I guess the Church isn’t true”, because again, “God’s way’s are higher than our ways”. I’m confident that if most people believed that, then polygamy wouldn’t be the issue. The tipping point is that many people find Polygamy reprehensible, so they do gut check and say “okay, now do I really believe this”, at which point all of their uncertainties are finally allowed to surface. Or to say it simply, they never did have a “testimony”, but they are finally ready to address that issue.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  74. Jared on October 2, 2012 at 7:48 PM

    I not able read through all the comments, so if I repeat something that has already been pointed out, you’ll know why.

    The prosperous middle and even the lower class in capitalist societies thrive in part because of the so called “rich”–upper class.

    The gene pool produces a certain number of talented people who have the ability to create wealth. These people, along with a form of government that creates laws that channel prosperity in a manner that reaches nearly everyone to provide opportunity is what has come about under the Constitution of the United States.

    It’s a delicate relationship and can be lost when creativity and hard work cease to exist in the hearts and minds of society.

    Prosperity can product hedonism and when that becomes the objective of the masses then prosperity will be replaced by misery.

    How does this relate to the mall. The church injected several billion dollars into the our community. This has helped to keep the goose who lays golden eggs from being lost in our community. All classes benefit from it, including the poor and needy. The poor and needy suffer the most when the upper and middle class dwindle.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  75. Cowboy on October 2, 2012 at 7:52 PM

    Phoenix:

    You stated it clearly. The economic principles of divine subsistence do not jive with the current economic teaches of the modern Church.

    It is strange, because I agree with the financial principles taught by the Church. I think people who attempt a subsitence economy are doomed to starve at some point…but that is also because I don’t have any reasonable expectation that there is a God who busy’s himself by dressing the lilly’s of the field.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  76. Cowboy on October 2, 2012 at 8:05 PM

    Jared:

    I tend to wonder whether it’s possible to break down the class system, and whether we should even try. However, I just don’t see this in the teaching’s of Jesus anywhere. “Blessed are the upper class, for in them are the genes to create wealth”. So, I can agree enough with your observation about American capitalism, but I can’t find a NT theological basis for justifying God’s Church in facilitating classism.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  77. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 8:27 PM

    Pheonix:
    “First of all, the Bank of Kirtland went down because there was a general economic recession (beyond Joseph’s control), the idea itself was not a bad one. ”

    If only Joseph Smith had had some way to know if it was a good or bad decision… seems like something where direct access to divine guidance might come in handy.

    “Secondly, I find it inconsistent to impugn prophetic abilities and then quote the Book of Mormon. ”

    That’s just the point you missed- I’m not impugn prophetic abilities, I’m saying the presidents of the church aren’t always divinely directed in all they do. And when they aren’t, (even perhaps sometime when they think they are), they, like all mortals may make mistakes or get their priorities mixed up. I don’t see any other way to account for much of church history than to say “eh, they were mortals, they made mistakes, all I can do about it is make sure I do the best with what is in my stewardship”. Thank heavens that our religion does NOT ask for blind obedience to people in positions of leadership. We believe in personal revelation, in a direct line to God where we can ask if a principle or action is correct. In the words of Alma- “Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.” The seed of the prosperity Gospel has not been “good” for me, so I’m taking Alma’s advice and casting it aside. The seed that HAS been good, that I take from the gospel and from current church teachings? Be financially responsible. Don’t buy frivolous things (like one finds at high-end malls). Stay out of debt. Give the extra that you have to those in need. Don’t allow a love of money to take a higher priority, or cloud your gratitude for material blessings.

    Our actions must set an example, and help realize the unimportance that wealth has in the grand scheme of things. Giving away our wealth not only helps the poor (especially if done right to help the poor get to s place of self-reliance), but it helps us remember that once we are self-reliant ourselves, money just isn’t that important.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  78. Jenn on October 2, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    PS, it’s getting late, please don’t judge my numerous typos. I get a nervous twitch each time I post something with that many errors and I can’t edit it;)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  79. Jared on October 2, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    Hi Cowboy–

    Check this verse out. There are others but I in the middle of working on deadline.

    13 For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.
    14 I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.
    15 And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
    16 But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
    17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
    18 Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.

    (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 104:13 – 18)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  80. whizzbang on October 2, 2012 at 8:37 PM

    I just wonder if personal wealth is a factor when they pick a GA. Granted Pres. Monson isn’t by far the wealthiest member by a long shot but none of the brethren were coming from humble means either.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  81. Cowboy on October 2, 2012 at 8:37 PM

    Hi Jared:

    NT scripture – I could just as easily write a book of my own revelations, given by Christ to me, teaching the doctrine of homosexual polygamy. From there anytime I wanted to, I could justify homosexual polygamy by the teachings of Jesus.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  82. hawkgrrrl on October 2, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    whizzbang, I definitely think it is. It’s about having your own house in order before we put you in charge of the coffers of the church, and I think it’s a sound principle. But it’s also like this book title I once read: If Democrats Were in Charge, They’d Be Republicans. Once you are financially comfortable, your viewpoint on how to get there changes.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  83. Phoenix on October 3, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    Cowboy,

    The new testament was written in a time without banks, capitalism, and 401ks. Obviously, the directions given by God will be different because the circumstances are different. While the base principles are the same (love thy neighbor) that doesn’t mean the behaviors need to be.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  84. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 12:34 AM

    Heber13,

    I agree, there are many beautiful things in the gospel.

    Jared,

    There is a difference between an investor putting their money into an investment and the church (and even the government for that matter). An investor takes calculated risks with a hope of return thereby providing a product that people want. Government and the church have money that isn’t gotten by this type of risk and, therefore, there products aren’t always for the better and can be for the worse, products that no one really wanted nor asked for.

    Cowboy,

    You make a lot of sense to me sometimes, I suppose, if we aren’t talking economics :).

    hawkgrrrl,

    Do good intentions matter? Yes and no. It depends if someone is harmed through the initiation of force. I’m sure King Bush had good intentions when he bombed Afghanistan and Iraq to a democracy, but in the end his good intentions harm people that shouldn’t have been harmed. In lesser extents our intentions can harm and we need to look at what are actions will cause to others.

    I can spank my child with good intentions to make the child a “better” person, but if we took the time to consider the psychological problems with spanking we would realize that spanking actual harms the child. Does a child get off when he says, “I was only trying to help Billy by letting him look at my test paper.” Well, no. So why do we let adults off easy when they do something that they shouldn’t?

    I know it isn’t entirely black and white like that but you get my point.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  85. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 12:36 AM

    Rigel,

    But City Creek mall is God’s mall, so we’ll have to start shopping there now. I know that sounds ridiculous but I can imagine some members doing that.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  86. Hebee13 on October 3, 2012 at 12:42 AM

    There is that tipping point, Cowboy. Sometimes it makes people re-examine the other things on the scale in a different light, and sometimes they re-evaluate their beliefs. I can understand that. I think that happened for many with Prop 8 and with City Creek. It has happened ever since JS days with banks and stuff Jenn brought up. It happened with BY and WW. My guess is it will continue to happen as the church struggles to truly be global. City Creek may just be a blip in history for the church.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  87. Heber13 on October 3, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    Hawkgrrrl, are you suggesting the road to City Creek is paved with good intentions?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  88. Will on October 3, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    The moral of the story is that the save the poor crowd is not happy until the entity or program that is designed to help the poor is completely broke. We have spent as a nation over 20 trillion on the poor since LBJ’s war on poverty in the early 1960′s and the percentage of poor is about the same. In other words, it is not working. It is a bad situation for everyone involved as our government is over 16 trillion in debt.

    The church on the other hand is solvent and had programs that really help the poor. Programs that teach self reliance and personal responsibility with out breaking the bank — a win-win situation.

    I am happy to pay for the one that works and do everything I can to avoid ( legally of course) paying others to be poor via the US government.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  89. Jenn on October 3, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    This is NOT about politics. If the govt isn’t capable of doing a good job helping the poor (or shouldn’t be doing it in the first place), then churches need to step it up.
    “The church on the other hand is solvent and had programs that really help the poor. Programs that teach self reliance and personal responsibility with out breaking the bank — a win-win situation.”
    Agreed, the church has good welfare programs. What it does in that area, it does well. But it does VERY little, considering the resources it has. The amount of money the church has dedicated to helping the poor is a tiny pittance compared to what it has put into investments.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  90. Bob on October 3, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    #88: Will,
    I don’t see how you think the government has no programs for the poor__yet has spent 20 trillion dollars on them?
    I would think at least 1/2 got into the hands of people in need.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  91. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    Phoenix:

    I’m not sure that I see the relevance of your comment. Does it follow to think that because of modern banking (there was ancient banking, btw) that somehow the injunction to:

    19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

    20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

    21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

    (Mathew 6:19-21)

    Can you picture Jesus saying:

    “You have heard it said in old time, “sell all thou hast and give it to the poor. But I say unto, accumulate as much as you can and reinvest the surplus.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  92. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    wishing for an edit feature:

    In comment 91, I was intending to ask how modern banking somehow changes Jesus charge articulated in Mathew 6:19-21.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  93. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    Will:

    That is not the problem. The problem is that the ringleader for the save the poor crowd was Jesus Christ. The fact is, saving the poor is not really feasible me thinks – not necessarilly because the resources aren’t available, but because people don’t really want to…and in many instances that includes the poor.

    Of course, if I have had the Priesthood authority of Jesus and could multiply fishes and loaves, or collect coins from the mouth of a fish, perhaps things would be different.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  94. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    Jon:

    As I recall, our economic views in total weren’t all that different. Were we differed was on a few very fine details. (Smiley Face)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  95. aerin on October 3, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    Another thing not discussed here, the church does not pay any taxes on its landholdings or non profit ventures. It does pay taxes on for profit. Does that include the mall? I can’t say. But if churches were taxed and held accountable for how they spent any profits they had (ensuring that they did not make a profit and only had charitable giving in mind) we would have a very different financial situation in the U.S. Other churches ( like the Roman Catholic church) also do not pay taxes, so it’s not just the LDS. But it’s worth considering that all churches get a reprieve from the U.S. government because the assumption is that they are non profit organization and all the money goes to sustaining the organization and those less fortunate. Not into real estate investments.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  96. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    Many times the poor can help the poor more than any rich man could help since the poor understand each other’s situation better and are more willing to put someone up in their house. Many times the government gets in the way by making all sorts of regulations which stop people from helping each other, like this person that was going to become a midwife:

    http://supportmidwifekatiemccall.wordpress.com/about/

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  97. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    aerin,

    Any institution or person that manages to not have the government steal from them has my full support. Let us not hurt one another by saying one institution/person has more freedom than another and should have this freedom taken away.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  98. Will on October 3, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    Bob,

    You missed the point. The point is if you have spent 20 trillion on helping the poor and there are still the same percentage of poor, then the programs are not working and all you are doing is paying people to be poor. I would argue this is the whole plan of the democrat machine, but that’s another issue.

    The point put another way is that the programs should help people get out of poverty with out breaking the bank and the church has done a good job of this and have been able to do this because they practice very conservative economic principle — yes the church is run by conservatives, politically and economically and this is why they are financially sound.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  99. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    Jon:

    #97 – This is one of those fine points. Why should religions get a tax break that no other entity gets? It’s precisely because of the assumptions that Aerin explained. If the the Church is going to be a business enterprise, perhaps it ought to be taxed. Fairness ought to be key. I’m in agreement with you to a large extent that overall the tax burdens imposed across the board are too onerous, and the use of funds is too poor. But, I disagree that an organization that operates like a business ought to be given tax breaks for holding the label “Church”.

    I usually don’t contribute much to the question of Church taxes, because you’d really have to see the books to know what is going on. The for-profit entities are individually taxed, for example. It’s all of the fine points in the tax code that I don’t know about. For example, does the Church pay capital gains on the return on investment it recieves from these organizations? I don’t have a clue.

    I do agree mostly with your point in 96, though to a large degree. There are institutional hurdles that maintain poverty, etc…but, heck if a person in poverty doesn’t have the will to try and get themselves out, what could I possibly do to help them. This again though is a point that forces us into generalizations, which is my only apprehension against accepting it in total.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  100. Jenn on October 3, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    I’m really confused about how politics came into this. I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the LDS church has a good welfare program and a great approach to helping the poor (it’s about teaching and giving opportunity for self-reliance, not hand-outs). So why did this become a rag-on-the-govt thread?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  101. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    Cowboy,

    My main point is, even if it is a business and they figure out how to not pay taxes I applaud them and don’t say, “to be fair they should pay taxes.” Because I don’t think taxes are fair to begin with.

    Jenn,

    Aerin brought it up.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  102. Mike S on October 3, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    #88 Will: The church on the other hand is solvent and had programs that really help the poor.

    There are several BIG differences:

    1) On the receivables side, the Church gets 10% from everyone – even the poor. And it’s not under threat of law, but under threat of withholding eternal blessings and things like not even letting you see your child get married.

    2) On the expenses side, the Church picks up a few pieces in the cracks. They DON’T have a program that helps the elderly stay out of poverty. They DON’T regularly pick up health care expenses for those who need it (even missionaries are expected to use their parents’ insurance).

    Don’t get me wrong – I think welfare square is great. And I think the humanitarian things we do are admirable. But giving a bit of food works because the government is ALREADY functioning as a safety net for the vast majority of members. The Church is a “safety net for the safety net”. And for humanitarian things, the Church’s own figures suggest the actual cash outlay is less than 1% of what they take in each year.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  103. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    That ringing in my ears is starting to come back. Some taxes are not fair, and the tax code is a joke. Fairness does matter when it comes to taxes, in terms of how and to whom they are imposed. If the Church is a business, and it were true that it’s for-profits didn’t pay taxes (though I think probably is more convoluted then we think), then that would mean they have an unfair advantage in the market, because they would have more money to reinvest into productive capital. If you want to throw out most taxes, I would probably offer very little resistance. If on the other hand you wanted to pick and choose which business’s pay taxes vs those that don’, then we disagree.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  104. Samuel Rogers on October 3, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    I think it’s interesting that it was even stated by church leaders that tithing funds were not used to fund the mall. It implies that church leadership sees a clear distinction between how tithing funds should be used and how the for-profit funds should be used. The ideology behind a for-profit branch of the church is a deep concept that has not been fully investigated here. I would be interested in reading scholarly investigation into this topic.

    **If** the goals of the for-profit branch are to prepare for the future, then I could care less how those funds are used as long as they are used wisely to prepare for rainy days in the future. The idea that the money could be used to help the poor is irrelevant, since helping the poor is not the mission of this branch of the church. To me, that is missing the point. God knows all the calamaties that lie ahead, and it’s entirely plausible he created this branch of the church to store up resources that can be used in the future for much good. I’m not about to jump in and condemn how the stewards of this for-profit branch have fulfilled their mission.

    There are, of course, concerns about where the original money came from for the for-profit activities. Were original investments donations? Tithing? Impossible to say. But I don’t think it is necessarily a problem if they are.

    Here is why.

    Imagine that, 100 years ago, the church was inspired to allocate several million dollars into a for-profit branch, and imagine that this money came from tithing. Imagine that the church invested in cows and land, reasonable things that will build the kingdom. Imagine these investments turned a profit, so the church continued investing. This cycle continues and now the church has billions of dollars due to wise investments from it’s for-profit branch.

    Should the original people who donated tithing money 100 years ago be mad that their money has generated such large returns in helping the church expand its assets and be prepared for a rainy day? Doubtful.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that if the church indeed does separate out and clearly distinguish between how for-profit money is used and how modern tithing is used, it seems that most of the perceived anger about the issue would subside. Granted, since the church doesn’t reveal much about its finances, it’s understadeable that people don’t appreciate this distinction (if the distinction actually exists).

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  105. Mike S on October 3, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    Also, this whole discussion completely baffles me.

    The Church collects money from its members, including the poorest. It builds an ostentatious mall that is designed for the top 10% of society. Yet it is praised because it provided some construction jobs and made an area prettier.

    The government collects money from its citizens, primarily the richest ones. It has programs that use this money to help the poorest members of society. Yet the same people that praise the mall generally look down on this.

    Doesn’t anyone else see this as backwards thinking?

    Somehow people have twisted logic to where they see the first example (taking money from the poor to support the rich) as being aligned with Christ, and the second example (taking money from the rich to support the poor) as against Christ.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 12

  106. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    Cowboy, Yes, that is my preference too, no taxes for anyone, but, since that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, those that can get out of the burden, I’m glad they can, as long as they aren’t on the receiving end of monies obtained from taxes, that’s mostly for the rich (corporate welfare) but, to a certain extent for the poor also.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  107. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Mike S,

    I see the irony also. But that brings us back to Cowboy’s discussion on belief and how, it really doesn’t matter since people will believe what they believe (I know that isn’t quite as nuanced as Cowboy said it but you get my point). Both use coercion to get money, at least the church doesn’t use violence like the government, but still, it isn’t good how the church goes about it either.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  108. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    Jon:

    That is highly debatable. First it isn’t really apples to apples to say that the Church doesn’t use violence. They the only violence they have at their disposal, threats of eternal damnation with an idiosyncratic twist of holding families for ransom. The government violence has at least a tinge of democratic cooperation. So, I would spin it the other way around. Secondly, I have no reason not to expect that in a hypothetical universe where the Church was the government, that they would excercise any restraint against using violence, as you say, to “promote” “virtuous living”.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  109. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Cowboy,

    Well, the government has guns, hence violence. The church has words, hence coercion. Yes, the church’s position uses perhaps maybe a more pernicious form of coercion but in the end it is 100% voluntary interaction, the interaction with the government isn’t voluntary. Yes, there are deep psychological issues with it, and both government and religion share much of the same false belief in authority.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  110. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Jon:

    I hate to sound like a broken record, but we are really just arguing fine details and perhaps a little semantics. I agree with what you are saying, but the caveat I would make is that the Church does not use physical military violence only because it can’t. In other words, I am of the opinion that they would use military violence if they could. Seeing as they can’t, they have opted to use the only method of violence (or “coercion”, as you say) at their disposal. I operate under the assumption that if a group operates to the limit of it’s potential that it is most likely because their ambitions exceed their limits.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  111. Mike S on October 3, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    #107 Jon: Both use coercion to get money, at least the church doesn’t use violence like the government

    I would argue that the coercion the Church uses is WORSE than the government (although I wouldn’t describe either as “violence” – a word you’re using merely to inflame emotions – but in reality, you only cheapen the real meaning of “violence”).

    The government may fine you if you don’t pay taxes, or in very rare cases it may throw you in jail. These are all temporary material things.

    The Church will deny you entrance to the temple. It will keep you from watching your child get married. It will tell you your entire eternal existence is in jeopardy.

    In terms of scale, the threats of the Church are MUCH worse than the threats of the government.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  112. aerin on October 3, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    I’m comfortable with the LDS church or any religious organization not paying taxes just like non profits do. Non profit organizations have to PROVE to the IRS that they are non profits and in the public good.

    BTW, anyone can start their own church to get out of taxes. Talk to a lawyer… you have to prove you have a religion and some other things but it can be done.

    It’s a loophole I’d like to see fixed, personally. Why should I pay property taxes but some person who started their own church out of their home not have to.

    To respond to the political comment, this issue is political. Where each of us gives our money is political, whether or not that giving is voluntary. And I feel that people who don’t agree with any taxes should not use roads, call the police, attend public school, attend private universities or public universities, use health care over 65, buy food or medicine. We can debate which services should be funded and how much (probably not in this thread), but taxes are part of modern life. Also, I believe that the US tax burden is significantly less than in other western countries.

    With that said, I wonder how much the pope spent on the Sistine chapel ceiling. If the goal of the mall is to compete with the vatican, I can’t say if it’s working or not.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  113. Jenn on October 3, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    It’s amazing how much would be cleared up- and probably HELP the church’s image- if they would just be more transparent about finances.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  114. Will on October 3, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    Mike S,

    Which one is solvent, and which one is bankrupt?

    I am also greatful for citizens like you that make enough money from your talents, hard work AND investments that you are ABLE to help the poor.

    It is NOT about making a pretty mall, it is about maximizing the return on your investment by creating a product people want so that you are ABLE to help others.

    The church has the right answer. If Romney is elected hopefully he will eliminate the programs we have and will run it like the church. From is 47 percent comment, it looks like his heart is in the right place

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  115. Jenn on October 3, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    There is a huge difference though- the church is not expected to help everyone- as a matter of fact, the number of people the church DOES help is so infinitesimally small int he grand scheme of things, especially considering their resources. The government is currently aiding hundreds of thousands of mormons, as a matter of fact, in areas that the church could or would not help them. Internationally, the church has an AWFUL record for helping the poor- either within the church or not. We can’t expect the church to not let people slip through the cracks.

    Nor could they. We either need to be ok with people dying for lack of food or healthcare, or we need to have something in place that everyone has access to, and input into. Something like… the government. It may be flawed (I certainly won’t pretend it isn’t), but simply saying “run it like the church” or “run it like a business” completely misses that the government is different from either churches or business for very good reason.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  116. Jenn on October 3, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    Aerin, I don’t mind politics being brought into it, or even the discussion of if the church should be taxed. I just didn’t want to see this thread turn into a “let’s discuss everything the government does wrong” thread- just don’t see the relevance.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  117. Mike S on October 3, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    #114: Will: If Romney is elected hopefully he will eliminate the programs we have and will run it like the church.

    In other words:

    - Close the books
    - Have a small group of men (no women) secretly decide where our tax dollars go
    - Suggest that anyone who questions where the small group allocates our money is un-American
    - Spend the majority of our money on buildings and shrines to capitalism
    - Spend minimal money on humanitarian issues
    - Before someone can get food help, have a government worker go to their house and look through their cupboards to make sure they aren’t cheating
    - Eliminate the child care credit
    - Eliminate the homeowners’ deduction
    - Make even the most poor pay 10% of their income
    - Make the rich pay only 10% of their income (instead of 35%)
    - Make the REALLY rich pay only 10% of their income (OK – not much change really needed there – maybe that’s why Mitt is for this plan)

    This is a very illogical plan.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 7

  118. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    Cowboy, I agree, but there is still a big difference. The church doesn’t use violence. Up and until they do use the initiation of force it is a voluntary organization. I agree that they probably would resort to the initiation of force if they could, I would hope they wouldn’t, but it is impossible to know with the modern church until it would actually happen, so we need to focus on what is.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  119. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    I would argue that the coercion the Church uses is WORSE than the government (although I wouldn’t describe either as “violence” – a word you’re using merely to inflame emotions – but in reality, you only cheapen the real meaning of “violence”).

    I’m using the word violence because, when I use the word force people tend to say that there is no such thing as force (because we all have a choice), so, in order to make it clear, I use the word violence. That is the main reason. The thing is, if people don’t like something they hear they tend to justify it away, like the word force. I have an aunt who is very liberal that pretty much got me using the word violence. So, if you would like you can replace the word violence with force. It all goes back to the non-aggression principle.

    The government may fine you if you don’t pay taxes, or in very rare cases it may throw you in jail. These are all temporary material things.

    That is the point, isn’t it? You don’t find people not paying taxes because they are afraid of fined, thrown in jail, or, in extreme cases, killed. There is a reason for it. I pay my taxes because I don’t want to be kidnapped and thrown in a cage.

    The Church will deny you entrance to the temple. It will keep you from watching your child get married. It will tell you your entire eternal existence is in jeopardy.

    Yes, but this is voluntary. If you choose to believe and you choose to teach your children to get married in the temple and not outside of it then that is what you will get if you change your mind later and your child still believes. But you won’t be thrown in a cage for not paying, like you would if you were working with the government.

    In terms of scale, the threats of the Church are MUCH worse than the threats of the government.

    I don’t think this is true. There is a reason you get higher compliance with the government than you do with the church, like I already explained.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  120. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    Aerin,

    Frederick Douglass, a former slave and long dead, got a job when he was a slave. His master would take his earnings, feeling guilty, he would give Fred some of his earnings back and said Fred should be grateful. Fred should be grateful because his master let him live with him, gave him a roof over his head and food to eat and clothes to wear. So, I guess Fred should have run away (well I guess he did eventually). But wait, there is nowhere to run to. Since others will put him back in his place.

    Fred considered this type of slavery worse than the traditional type because he thought he had liberty for a moment, until he realized he was still a slave. Likewise, just because government steals from the populace and then provides “bread and circuses” with the money doesn’t make the government right. It’s just a more pernicious form of slavery, the false belief in authority.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  121. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Jenn, #113,

    Pure Mormonism did a post on this. I guess the transparency ended in the 50s or 60s.

    There was a good mormon stories podcast that talked about it also, that I posted before on this thread, here it is again:

    http://mormonstories.org/149-152-daymon-smith-on-correlation-the-corporate-lds-church-and-mammon/

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  122. Jenn on October 3, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    Oh, I’m well aware of the history (loved that episode of mormon stories too)… I just don’t think losing transparency was a positive change.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  123. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    We must remember also, that when the government crowds out voluntary relationships people tend not to help one another as much as they would in aforetimes. It is estimated that the amount of money meant for redistribution by the government to the poor only $0.30 on every dollar actually makes it to the poor. You don’t see any charity with that bad of turn around. Also, charities typically have people that are passionate about what they are doing, government typically just has people that are there for a paycheck and an 8 hour job.

    My other aunt (also a liberal) talks about her friend that won the “Most Productive Employee of the Year” award at her government job. Well, that year that lady would only work half the day and then she would write her book the other half of the day. Government doesn’t have the proper incentives in place to get people to perform and produce valued products as well as the private sector.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  124. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    Jenn, #122,

    I agree, I think losing transparency was an awful thing also. It was probably the time that we all should have stopped paying tithing on a matter of principle (or at least our parents).

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  125. Will on October 3, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    Mike S.

    And?

    Sounds good to me. It is working for the Church and is why they are financially sound.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  126. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    Mike S,

    Speaking of word usage and people making words into what they want them to be instead of what they are (hence the great importance of defining terms). I was talking to my mother-in-law about public weddings vs a temple wedding and I brought up the scripture that says we should be doing public weddings. Her response, “A temple wedding is a public wedding, there’s witnesses.” I then showed her the definition of what public means (including the 1828 definition). Needless to say the conversation ended there. Hence the reason I try and use words that describe reality rather than what we are used to, like slave vs citizen, etc. It’s not necessarily to try and get people’s blood boiling, but to reflect the reality of the situation.

    This was brought up in a recent TedX talk on political speech. One example given was calling the executive branch holder president vs king. The point was to show that the president wasn’t supposed to have the power of a king. But we see today that the president has become a king (can start wars on his own, assassinate whom he will, etc.). The early governmental officials believed you could have a king that is elected for periods of time. So you will see me using the word king Obama or king Bush now, because it better reflects reality.

    Here’s the link to the TedX talk if you are interested:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te3u3MSpk1c&feature=plcp

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  127. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    Jon:

    I think we’ve stated this before. I get the logic you are arguing for with political semantics, I’m just not sure you persuaded very many people that you are using the correct terms. Rather you seem to be using the terms that advance your ideology. I’m happy to agree with you that the tax code is horrendous, and in some cases perhaps it violates constitutional ideals. At the same time, blanket statements such as “taxes are slavery” is a bit over the top. There is no government without some level of taxation, and your ideology doesn’t seem to discriminate against worthy taxes and corrupt taxes. For example, I could easily use your argument to argue that the funding of national defense is violence on two counts:

    1) The violence you keep calling for, that taxes are imposed on the threat of incarceration (no one is executed for even extreme tax violations).

    2) Because the taxes that are “robbed” from us are used to fund the very means of the violence we fear.

    Yet, even at a constitutional level, very few of even the most extreme class of libertarians would suggest that we shouldn’t collectively fund an army, or police, or courts. You have to be an anarchist to argue for that.

    Lastly, you are making the argument that there should never be any kind of violence period. I don’t know that any of the great thinkers on social organization have ever advocated that. Indeed we have military’s, and courts, precisely because there are times when I would prefer violence. I want all would be murder’s, thieves, etc, to be fearful of a violent reciprocity. There must be some level of cooperation if a community is to exist. We can concieve of the City of Enoch, or the society described in 4th Nephi, but I wouldn’t place my chips on actually accomplishing that. So, State controlled violence under democratic ideals is still preferred over anarchy, in my book. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t susceptible to corruption, just that in anarchy it is an unrestrained force…which is why even the Libertarians can’t go that far!

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  128. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    Cowboy,

    Yeah, I don’t really expect people to be persuaded anymore. But reality is what it is. Taxes are slavery is what it is, just because you put a velvet glove on and put the false appeal of authority doesn’t change what it is.

    People are executed for tax violation, if they choose to defend their property. Rarely happens, since most value their life over their property. But even at the beginning of this nation people died to protect their property, it was called the Whiskey Rebellion.

    Isn’t ironic, we want to protect ourselves from people that will steal from us and in so doing create a monopoly of thieves? Kind of idiotic if you ask me.

    There is a whole class of libertarians that are ordered anarchists, many times referred to as voluntaryists to differentiate from the chaotic anarchists.

    I don’t suggest that we don’t have enforcement/protection agencies nor that we don’t have courts. I just suggest that we fund them like we fund Intel microchips, voluntarily without the initiation of force. I only suggest that we adhere consistently to the non-aggression principle.

    I don’t think that we will rid the world entirely of violence, but I think we will start getting a lot closer to it when we throw off the oppression of statism and stop believing in the false belief of authority. We don’t need a perfect world to live this way. It is aptly described in “Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression” on how much better the world would be without the initiation of force.

    OK, that’s it for politics. I’ll stop talking about it now.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  129. Jenn on October 3, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    I’ll pay taxes happily, because I enjoy the services they provide. I like roads, schools, and public transportation. I like being safe in the most powerful country in the world. I’ve been fortunate to never need govt assistance aside from a pell grant- I was born into a wealthy-enough home (both parents’ salaries were paid for by tax dollars), and when we did have economic struggles we had non-govt resources to turn to. I liked my pell grant and am proud to be able to pay back into the system. I like knowing that if worse comes to worse, we will always have opportunities and options. And if my tax dollars are used to pay for the medical expenses of someone “undeserving” instead of allowing me to buy another car or TV- eh, I can think of worse uses for it. I am blessed and provided for, in part because of my skills, but hugely because of luck and the opportunities I was given. Now that I’ve moved up a few tax brackets, I will happily pay back into the system that has benefited me, while at the same time agitating for change so it can be more effective.

    If you think the govt is stealing from you, then I hope you aren’t using the streets, schools, police, defense… and that you are a-ok with sick children dying for lack of food and water because no one else has the resources to help them and people didn’t want their wealth “redistributed”.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  130. Rigel Hawthorne on October 3, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    Jon,

    Are your average thrifty Salt Lake Valley Mormons going to stop shopping at Ross, Target, and Nordstrom Rack to go to Macy’s and Nordstrom (or was it ‘Needless Markups’–I forget)to shop at God’s mall? Well, I guess they might, in order to go to ‘True Religion Jeans’. :)

    I enjoyed your comment though. Thanks for the chuckle.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  131. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    Jenn,

    Please refer to comment #120.

    We must look at the unseen and the seen. When we use force to obtain those goods that you described we end up coming worse off than we were before even though it appears we are better off. We would have to delve into economics to talk about this, and, like I said, I didn’t want to go this much into politics either.

    This attitude is similar to the stockholm syndrome.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  132. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    Rigel,

    :) Awesome.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  133. Will on October 3, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    Jenn:

    Here is the problem and Mike S knows this too because I have read his comments to this end. Government spending is out of control. We are bankrupt. Not kinda, or almost, or close to, we are bankrupt. There will come a time in the not so distant future where there is general acceptance of this reality and we will have one of two options (and no, raising taxes is not a viable option):

    1)Massive cuts to entitlement programs, like they are now doing in Greece and Spain. Huge cuts, like 40 percent. So if you are receiving $1,800 in social security, you will now get $1,020 per month.

    2) More printing of dollars that exceed the general output of the GDP translating into heavy inflation; and, depending on how much we print possible hyper-inflation.

    In either instance, this will damage the poor and needy the most. They will be damaged most by this. So if the save the poor, soak the rich crowd is really for helping the poor then they should be in favor of gradual spending cuts and social security extention to avoid a total melt down.

    When this reality, they are the least compassionate.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  134. Bob on October 3, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    #133: Will,
    What more is SS or Meicare than giving little people back their taxes? Isn’t that what you want? There will be no melt down. The checks will keep coming. They will be then be spent at Walmart or Walgreens. That’s what happens to entitlement money.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  135. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    Jon:

    “This attitude is similar to the stockholm syndrome.”

    There we go, now the nonsense has finally been ratcheted up to peak performance.

    Yes Jon, if you shoot your employer (or anybody else) for garnishing your wages, I guess you’ll be shot. I guess you’re right.

    There’s the old saying, that “nothing is certain other than death and taxes”. Most of us accept this as being fairly,axiomatic. So to the extent that you are bristling at the reality that taxes are an external imposition, I see your point. Where you lose as, alway’s have, is when you jack up the rhetoric with this talk of “slavery”, and “oppression”. Most people tend to view these issues on some kind of a sliding scale, where the corruption of today’s political/economic landscape is nowhere near the region where those terms tend to reside.

    Lastly, in reality if I were to contend with the reasonableness of the non-aggression principle, I have to view it in a few contexts. I was one of the survivors in LOST, and had the opportunity with small handful of people to organize on “the Island” community from scratch, I’d be willing to entertain some discussion about this. Seeing however that we already have a very well developed society, that probably stands apart as one of the highest (if not “the” highest) historical benchmarks for a nations success, measured by the degree of personal liberty (because despite what your arguments imply, freedom isn’t binary), and the degree and distribution of wealth, this idea of scrapping the whole system and starting over on a new experiment isn’t all that enticing to me. After all, applying the non-aggression principle, particularly at the scale of the United States, would in fact be an experiment, not necessarilly a proven solution.

    So yeah, conversation headed in the same place as always.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  136. Mike S on October 3, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    #133 Will: raising taxes is not a viable option

    This is a fallacy.

    I have been gathering a bunch of numbers from different sources in a large spreadsheet. It goes back to 1917. I wanted to see if doing good (ie. helping the poorest among us) helped the economy or hindered the economy.

    In the next week or two I’m going to try to have a post regarding everything. Just some preliminary facts:

    - Times when there have been a higher top marginal rate have actually been associated with MORE growth in the GDP, not less.

    - The lowering of capital gains rates has NOT been associated with an increase in percentage growth of the GDP – in fact the converse has occurred.

    - Despite Democrats traditionally being associated with increased spending, increased in spending as a percentage of the previous year’s spending is actually more closely associated with Republicans.

    ONE OF THE KEY FINDINGS:

    - We are going increasingly bankrupt because of tax cuts that largely occurred in Republican administrations. They didn’t work to stimulate the economy – they just made our debt bigger. This is largely why Romney’s promises ring so hollow. The plan that he is claiming to support (cut taxes -> economy grows -> helps poorer) hasn’t worked. It doesn’t work. It’s been tried multiple times over the past decades. It makes people feel good about keeping their money. It justifies not taking care of our neighbor. But it’s wrong.

    —-

    So, rhetoric aside and personal feelings aside, the facts show that increased marginal tax rates and increased capital gains are actually GOOD for the economy. It may make sense with the idea that a society taking care of its members is more productive, or it may NOT make sense (which seems to be what you are explaining).

    But it is reality. Stay tuned in the next week or two to see actual data.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  137. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    Sounds great Mike! I’m excited to see the data you have compiled.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  138. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Cowboy,

    I wasn’t really thinking of someone shooting their employer, I was thinking they would shoot the goons that come up their door to drag them to prison. Most people like to live, so they won’t shoot other people. Including myself.

    What I am proposing is the ideal. I’m not saying we should go there overnight, I’m saying that we should understand and seek for the ideal and slowly head that way.

    When you design integrated circuits you design as best you can to the ideal. It’s not an ideal world so you need to make some changes to make the circuit work, that stays within the laws of nature.

    Scrapping slavery wasn’t enticing to people of old. They thought that that is how it was always done, who would pick the cotton if they didn’t have slaves? But some people were dreamers and they saw that the means to the production of cotton was just as important as the results and so they said, “No, we will not have slaves! It is immoral and unethical!” Likewise, I understand the future may be uncertain, but I also understand that it is wrong to hurt others and I say “No, let us live peaceably one with another! Let freedom reign!”

    That is where I am coming from Cowboy. It may be difficult to comprehend what liberty and freedom would look like but I think it would be worth it.

    I’m reminded of the man that went to Norway from Russia. He couldn’t stay long because he couldn’t stand all the freedom he had, he couldn’t stand the choices he had to make for himself. It may be difficult at first, but our children will love us for it.

    I don’t see my “ideal” world (it won’t be perfect) coming around in many generations. The foment of freedom is just starting to bud now. Let us answer the call.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  139. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    Mike,

    Don’t forget the Laffer curve in your analysis. Also, remember just because someone is being taxed 90% doesn’t mean they are actually paying 90%, there are other “income” streams when that happens.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  140. Will on October 3, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    Mike S,

    I have analyzed the data for the past 30 years of my life (probably some of the same data) and have found a non-Keynes approach is the best by a country mile.

    When you say republican be careful to consider congress, who really has the power of the purse. Also, lets not forget basic human nature and that is people are much more careful with their own money than they are someone else’s money. These wod be my cursory counter arguments to Keynes.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  141. Jenn on October 3, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    “This attitude is similar to the stockholm syndrome.”

    Let’s see which is the healthier viewpoint: Both of us have to pay taxes. Both us of would like to see tax dollars spent differently and more responsible. Both of us would be thrilled to see the country be run well, while simultaneously using fewer of our dollars. Both of us have access to the same services and protections. Both of us have the same options for improving the way tax dollars are spent. I’m assuming both of us have jobs, food, medical care, and a roof over our heads.

    Yet you feel like a slave, and I feel like I’m lucky to live in a great nation. So please, try to convince me why your point of view is better?

    The fact of the matter is, aside from all the reasons I already mentioned for why I like paying taxes, liking it or not doesn’t matter. It is the price we pay for living in our country. I am paying the country for the right to live and work here. If I lived here and enjoyed the privileges of being a US citizen without doing my civic duty in return, it would be stealing. If I stole from anyone else, and the cops came and took me away, no one would say “she’s a slave because she is obligated to pay for the products she consumes”. If I steal a soda from Walmart, I can’t get off the hook by saying “well, I don’t like the way walmart spends their money, so I’m not going to pay them, I’m just going to take the products I like and leave”. Whether I agree with them or not, I still owe them money. That’s not negotiable. I also can’t negotiate the price based on how much I think they should charge or how much I would charge if I ran the business.
    I can, however, hope and try to change the way walmart spends its money, in legal and ethical ways. If I really don’t agree with walmart, then I can take my business elsewhere.

    So, if you don’t like paying taxes to the US for the right to live here, feel free to take your business elsewhere. But it’s NOT slavery- we have a choice, it is an exchange of services. Regardless, telling yourself and others you are the victim is counter-productive.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  142. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 5:20 PM

    Jon:

    ???

    Why would you be concerned about which marginal tax rates maximize government tax revenues??? If taxes are slavery, isn’t every rate above 0% just some measure along a slavery index?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  143. Cowboy on October 3, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Will:

    In seriousness, I’m not sure how to take your comment about the “non-keynes approach”. I don’t know if you have seriously been collecting data, or whether that was just some sort of “I have Ph.D. in life/I attended the school of hard knocks” kind of comment.

    If you really have data, it would interesting to see how it compares to what Mike will present. I mean that seriously.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  144. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    Jenn,

    Please refer to comment #120.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  145. Jenn on October 3, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    Wow, I’m dumbfounded by the debate skills. We should just continue the thread like this:

    Jenn,
    Please refer to comment #120.
    -
    Jon,
    Please refer to my response in comment #141.
    (repeat ad nauseum)

    I didn’t agree with the way my tithing money was spent. Did I continue going to the temple while whining that I was a slave? Nope, I took my money and sought my blessings elsewhere. Again, if you don’t like the services/right-to-live-here you are purchasing from the country, take your business elsewhere. I hear Columbia is lovely.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  146. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    So, if you don’t like paying taxes to the US for the right to live here, feel free to take your business elsewhere.

    From others that encounter this response:

    That statement implies that the political entity in question owns all land within its claimed boundaries. Hence all people there are serfs.

    No. This is my home

    So if I broke into your house and stole your stuff, it would be okay because you can just move to Wyoming?

    It is true that:

    There are no rights, norms, and laws [i.e., man's laws not to be confused with natural law] that exist outside of (or that are unsupported by) a majority’s perception of legitimacy. If you live in Afganistan, and you prefer not to get stoned for adultery, you have two choices:

    1. Educate the majority to adjust their norms to more closely suit your own.

    2. Move.

    So I’ve chosen #1.

    Also, remember that it was common in the past for Kings to give their serfs “bread and circuses” to make them feel like they were getting something for their taxes. In reality it was just a pittance. Likewise, it is just a pittance. The bureaucracy eats up vast amounts of the money that the private market would use much more wisely. So people are still being fooled by the “bread and circuses.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  147. Jon on October 3, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    Jenn,

    One more:

    Taxation is theft, so why blame the victim? Why, in effect, tell the victim of assault-by-taxation “if you don’t like it you can leave”? That position simply affirms that opposition to the violence of taxation will beget more violence. Why not say the same things to victims of physical and sexual assault?
    — Chris Leithner, personal correspondence 2009

    Is this making sense yet?

    You haven’t responded to comment #120, that is why I asked you to read it again. Yes, we are going in circles it seems. I had addressed your concerns multiple times. I don’t know what else to say.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  148. hawkgrrrl on October 3, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    We seem to like to quote Jesus a lot as if he only said things in one direction. Jesus’ teachings are always paradoxical. He says things that are true but in both directions. He says to the rich man to give up all he has (because the rich man’s heart was set on riches). He says to Judas the poor ye have always with you (because sometimes there is something more important than giving to the poor). The trick to Christianity is understanding these paradoxes, not cherry picking one half of the paradox as “what Jesus said.” Jesus is complex and enigmatic which is why his message is still being contemplated 2000 years later.

    I suspect Romney would run the country more like the pre-correlation version of ward budgeting. He seems like a powerpoint guy to me. He’ll bring slides.

    When it comes to the mall, though, if the mall were a bank account with a specific return would there be an objection? It’s just because it’s a mall, a high end one at that, and it symbolizes something to people because of that. If it were a stock portfolio there would be no hullabaloo. People are visual creatures after all. But I do think it’s likely the Q12 had no idea people would feel upset about it. Likewise, I suspect they didn’t expect people to be outraged by Prop 8. Although I know from many sources that there are debates in the Q12, that doesn’t mean that 12 older white men will generate the same debates the entire population of Mormons will. The less diversity in that group, the less some viewpoints will be represented.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  149. Jenn on October 3, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    If someone told me “the church has 2.5 billion in a fancy bank account somewhere, but has spent a fraction of that in the last decade on humanitarian efforts- and keeps all their finances secret”, I’d still make a hullabaloo.
    The mall sure does make it easier to get people passionate about it.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  150. Douglas on October 3, 2012 at 9:15 PM

    Those who get on their self-righteous high horse about how they think the real property company owned by the Church ought to make business decisions manifest much the same attitude as did Iscariot when the Savior was annointed with some very expensive oil (I suppose our Lord would’ve made do with Jergens for treating dry skin, but when you’re going to atone for the sins of the world, you ought to get the best).
    It seems that the objective isn’t so much a commercial property venture as it’s to keep downtown Salt Lake viable. Same as the portly pipe-smoking bureaucrat assured Indiana Jones about the Ark of the Covenant: “We have TOP people working on it.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  151. Cowboy on October 4, 2012 at 12:37 AM

    I’m not so certain that Jesus is all that paradoxical. I would see the direction of his speech to be more hierarchical than paradoxical. He made clear the order of things when he taught the two great commandments. Once this hierarchy is taken into account, the distinction between the “rich man” and Judas isn’t all that conflicting. I agree with the sentiments that bristle against the popular characterization of Jesus as some kind of carefree hippie. He was willing to show his teeth when something made him angry (ironically to this discussion, the only recorded time he did this was to chase out the money changers), but he wasn’t all over the map with these things. Furthermore, his position on money and money seeking was always one directional.

    It should also be noted, that while Jesus spoke a great deal about the “poor”, The Book of Mormon tends to adress the issues of classism more directly. It speaks quite vehemently about the spacious buildings, and the ornaments, and the “fine twined linens and precious apparell”. This makes the mall all the more strange, both as theological consideration as well as a “did they really think they could this” kind of move. Granted, everybody isn’t bothered by this, but for me it was about on par with John Edwards really thinking he could maintain an affair while campaigning for President. I mean seriously, he thought he could pull that off? The Mormon Church really thought it could build monument to mammon with out raising eyebrows?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  152. Mike S on October 4, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    You can proof-text just about anything you want with the scriptures.

    For the people who are interpreting the parable of the talents as a justification to make money – you are by far in the minority. The vast majority of people who believe in the Bible see this parable differently. From Wikipedia: Traditionally, the parable of the talents has been seen as an exhortation to Jesus’ disciples to use their God-given gifts in the service of God, and to take risks for the sake of the Kingdom of God

    So it’s NOT about money.

    If you look at the things that actually DO have to do with money:

    - All of the highest ideal societies (ie. Enoch, Christ’s disciples in meridian of time, Nephites after visit of Christ) that are presented to us have all things in common. This necessarily means a massive wealth redistribution from the rich to the poor. Period. Like it or not, that’s what happened.

    Joseph Smith tried to implement this ideal among his followers. People’s greed is waht got in the way. Period. It’s the same greed we here in some of these comments. I want mine. I deserve mine. Other (lazy/poor/non-motivated/dependent/choose your derogatory adjective of choice) people shouldn’t get what’s mine.

    - Things that represent conspicuous wealth are routinely and almost universally condemned. This occurs in the Bible, in books like Isaiah, and throughout the Book of Mormon. And what does our church do – build a shrine to these exact same displays of wealth.

    Yet people have things so twisted around they have honestly convinced themselves that making a lot of money is good because you can use it to help people “some day”. People have things so twisted around that they have honestly convinced themselves that a luxury mall that sells alcohol, has restaurants open on Sunday, and sells clothes that would be airbrushed if they were to be presented in a Church situation, is a great thing for a Church to do with its resources – because “someday” they might use it to help the poor (or maybe they can just re-invest the profits into yet another luxury development)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  153. hawkgrrrl on October 4, 2012 at 8:00 AM

    Americentric Bible-thumpers on Wikipedia who read the parable of the talents in English and assume talents are “talents” (their God-given gifts), not money, are not convincing to me; I agree that can be a way to apply the parable, but the simple fact that most people think that’s what it means is an indictment of the American educational system, not evidence that it actually means that. The parable is (on a literal level) about investing money, although like all parables, it is multi-faceted and can be applied to a variety of meanings. Certainly we’re not anti-investment or anti-solvency.

    I’m not sure I agree that a high-end mall is a shrine to wealth. It is commerce and therefore useful and worldly. It’s not like some of the priceless works of art squirreled away in the Vatican that never even see the light of day. It’s putting money to use and expecting it to pay off and ensure future solvency.

    It’s true that united order is all about wealth redistribution, and that it is presented as an ideal system throughout scripture. But I’ve also heard it said that tithing & church welfare is our modern version of that – you pay in (but only 10%), and if you need to take out due to an unforeseen temporary setback, you are covered. Distributing wealth outside the group (those who participated) was not part of those united order systems either.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  154. Jon on October 4, 2012 at 9:19 AM

    It’s the same greed we here in some of these comments. I want mine. I deserve mine. Other (lazy/poor/non-motivated/dependent/choose your derogatory adjective of choice) people shouldn’t get what’s mine.

    Once again, you are mischaracterizing what people believe with this statement, I think people’s believes are much more nuanced than that. It’s a typical mischaracterization that liberals do against conservatives and others that believe in the free market system. This belief of forced wealth redistribution is completely contrary to the gospel, there is no place that Christ has said this, in fact the scriptures teach the opposite, they teach that the offerings should be given of the persons free will.

    Even in the United Order people owned their property and they chose to give their extra. And what is extra? That is another topic. Paul even talked about, if you don’t care for your own family then you have denied the faith.

    The way I see the law of consecration is that people are willing to share all that they have. But we don’t need to all have all the same things, that would be crazy. Some people like living in small houses, some like bigger houses. Some like boating every weekend, others like going out once or twice a year, others don’t like going at all. If the people that like going boating own the boat but share it with other, i.e., bring friends with them boating, then that is living the law of consecration in the here and now, we don’t need a central authority to be kind to one another.

    I do agree that people shouldn’t be making tons of money without abandon, that money should be reinvested into a business, or given to the truly destitute, both things help those that don’t have that same business talent. We need to respect each others talents and desires, we are not all the same, if we were what a horrible world this would be. I don’t want to be a doctor and I expect others don’t want to be programmers.

    This idea of forced redistribution is such a repugnant idea that is entirely antithetical to the gospel of Christ. This is the idea that Lucifer himself gave when he said he could save all.

    I’m OK if people believe in forced redistribution, it is your choice, I am not OK when people try and pass it off as if it was Christ’s idea, nor am I OK when someone tries to use the initiation of force to make that idea come to pass.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  155. Cowboy on October 4, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    The parable of the talents was about money, but not just money, it was a discourse on return on investment from our mortal stewardships (incidentally, in justification of Mormonism I always felt that the pre-existence was a helpful implication in this parable). The first thing to remember is that the parable was just that…a parable. Meaning Jesus took a convention that his disciples were already familiar with, and used it to make a point on a completely different subject. In other words, he used a certain financial model to make a point about life and man’s relationship to God. No one should assume that Jesus was telling us how to invest, or that we should invest. He didn’t lay out a strategy, he simply articulated the relationship between a master and certain servants. The depth of the financial allegory is limited to two points:

    1) Each servant was given a measure of money (talents), though they were not all given equal amounts.

    2) The Master expected a return on investment from each servant regardless of their starting principle. If the servant failed to garner an acceptable ROI, that person was fired.

    Simply put, the purpose of the parable was to say that God has certain expectations of us (another NT Mormon theological plug for “works”, I would think). It acknowledges the disparity in personal situations and circumstances, and creates a model where God is supposedly justified in expecting an ROI from every person created, as a ratio of their mortal starting principle (the initial deposit on talents), as opposed to requiring that all people regardless of circumstance must perform to some fixed threshold.

    Jesus never said, “do not seek treasures”. Rather he contrasted “earthly treasures” with “treasures in heaven”. Again, in this context, the parable of the talents is completely devoid of paradox.

    When Jesus told the Rich Man to sell everything, he in effect told him to give up earthly treasures, and instead invited him take up his own cross and to follow him, where the Rich Man’s cross could easily be construed as a treasure in heaven. Interestingly, he didn’t say “take all thy wealth, and establish a revenue generating foundation, that the poor might be perpetually filled”. Rather Jesus was constantly drawing dichotomies between finite treasures/resources, and his ability to endlessly supply to the want’s and needs of all people.

    So yes, financial models were employed by Jesus, but only for the purpose of opportunity costing a man’s time on earth as he/she chooses to pursue “treasures on earth” or “treasures in heaven”. According ot him we have to choose, because “…no man can serve two masters…”.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  156. Cowboy on October 4, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    Jon:

    The idea Christ didn’t use “force” is a bit untrue. You keep talking about cooperation and non-agression, but how non-agressive is the threat of eternal punishments? The entire Christian theology, whether Mormon or otherwise, is supported by system of extrinsic motivators.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  157. Jon on October 4, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Cowboy,

    You are correct, but, here on Earth during the probation there is no use of force to make people be good beyond natural law.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  158. Cowboy on October 4, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    I’m not sure what significance that distinction holds. Are you suggesting that the use of “force” is a necessary condition in the government of heaven, but not mortality?

    Also, so long as a person believes in the cause and effect of mortal behavior and Eternal rewards, the threat of force is very real. It’s worth noting because even in our “probationary” State here and now, most of the “force” that you oppose only exists as a demonstrable threat, rather than a literal act. You oppose the force, for example, that requires you to pay taxes. Even so, I would assume that you actually do pay taxes. You just tend to resent the threat that compels you to do so. Again, not because you’ve experienced it (Admittedly I’m making an assumption here), but because of fear you act so as to avoid experiencing it.

    I see no difference between this and religious threats, unless you are like me and do not believe those religious threats to be legitimate.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  159. Jon on October 4, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    The eternal force could be considered more “natural law” force rather than the initiation of force where the threat of going to hell is more of a threat to be thrown off the property of God.

    But, really, the more I think about it the more I think I lean to agnosticism with a leaning towards atheism. After listening to the last Mormon Stories podcast it really pushed me toward the latter.

    But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have somewhat of an understanding of the Mormon religion.

    Here’s a poem about my beliefs in God that I wrote (if you are interested).

    Some days I’m an atheist.
    Some days I’m a deist.
    Some days I’m a Christian.
    Some days I’m a Mormon.

    Sometimes I believe Joseph.
    Sometimes I believe Christ.
    Sometimes I believe God.
    Sometimes I don’t.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  160. Cowboy on October 4, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    Not a problem – we are much more similar than you think. This isn’t intended to be any kind of a pat on the head, but I can sympathize with your feeling’s in the poem, I’ve sort of been there done that. These days I’m usually just an atheist, unless I’m dealing with somebody who is trying to paint me into a fine corner of their definition of “atheist”.

    I also feel like I have a reasonable grasp on Mormonism, and I am making my points from the standpoint of how religious threats generally impact those who believe them. I don’t feel that the Church imposes any violence against me personally, but that is because I don’t trust in the reality of their threats. The big however though, is that I believe that they would like me to! So it is a threat in the sense that it is a measure of force they are trying to apply.

    This is important because it is me making an idictment against the intentions of Church leaders. Though yes, to your point (perhaps now that I might understand your position better) the threat of religious force would be less impactful…or at least easier to escape should you choose to rebel.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  161. Jon on October 4, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    The power of belief is pretty powerful, that is for sure. It would definitely be easier to just believe, but once you take the red pill it is harder to go back. I still think there are beautiful truths and ideas in the gospel and that many of the people are good. I question how much we can judge the actual people though that are the leaders, because they have been raised with the same thoughts, and if your desire to believe is so strong that one is willing to put off all things that point to the contrary. In a sense, we are all damaged goods in this world, as outlined in the series “The Bomb in the Brain.” The hard part is just recognizing the contradictions and then being willing to reject them.

    Thinking about it. You may be right, religion and statism can be pretty close in its use of psychological force. Although I don’t necessarily think that religion is quite as bad since they don’t have actual guns, although the effect, in the end, can be the same. But, from an ethical viewpoint, what matters most is not the results. That is why I try to focus on what the actions are vs the results.

    I don’t care if the slave population does good by getting us all cotton or food, what I care about is that it is wrong that slaves exist. So, even if Mike is right about his statistics (which I already don’t believe, but I’ll do my best to see if there is counter evidence to muddy the waters) it doesn’t matter, because it is still wrong to hurt others.

    So, yes, we are probably more alike than different.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  162. Cowboy on October 4, 2012 at 2:46 PM

    I live in Provo, and so I would be a fairly miserable person if I believed that Mormon’s were bad people. In fact, to that extent I consider myself a Mormon, because it is the community of people I belong to. At the same time, I reject the theology. I’m not sure exactly what I think about the Higher Leadership, though I admit that my attitude tends to be cynical. I don’t know exactly what goes through their mind, but I am suspicious of their sincerity.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  163. Cowboy on October 4, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    To keep the previous comment relevant to the post, it is precisely things like this mall that cause me to doubt their sincerity.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  164. Jon on October 7, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    Cowboy,

    I don’t know what goes through their minds either, but listening to them I think they do believe, like Eyring talking today about hearing a voice tell him what he should do after praying. I think these are real for them, but probably come from within themselves and not from something outside like they think. I think some people are prone to this so it makes them into more believers, but us who aren’t prone to feel or hear voices are less prone to believe. Like in the latest Mormon Stories podcast, when what one hears from the voices actually happens it backs up belief but when they diverge then that is when they realize that maybe it all really is just made up. But, I think the subconscious mind has a wonderful power of being able to foretell the future, for, for most people, it will continue to be correct, with rare deviations that are only then just explained away in order to continue with what a person “knows.” So, I think, for the most part, they are sincere. They may have doubts, but continue in belief.

    It is like that discussion we had some time ago where we talked about the apostles seeing God or not. The TBMs posited it doesn’t matter and that non-TBMs posited the point, then what is the point of having a special witness?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  165. Dave on October 12, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    Tithing should be something we all use as sacred funds and agree to by common consent. There is a movement to have the church provide full disclosure of its funds as it did through most of church history. http://bycommonconsent.org/

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting

Archives

%d bloggers like this: