The LD$ Church vs. The LDS Church:
Does the Mormon Church Really Only Care About Money?
August 25, 2010
LDS Church critics, Mormonophobes and antiMormons love to portray the LDS Church as a cold, corporate entity that's run by greedy old men who care more about putting the $ in "LD$" than they do about the spiritual and temporal welfare of the Mormons. But is this an accurate characterization of the church?
The Mormon Church is currently financially affluent. This wealth comes from 10 percent tithing donations by members and from successful business investments. This affluence, combined with the publics overall unfamiliarity with the LDS Church, and a general weariness of money-mongering televangelists, corrupt ecclesiastical leaders, and salvation for-profit ministries makes the LDS Church an easy target for critics. So where does the money go?
The money the Church earns through donations and business income is used to support the church members by providing facilities, buildings, learning materials, employment and welfare programs. The members benefit more from the church's money than the 15 men at the top do. Even nonmembers benefit through charitable aid donated by the church during natural catastrophes. But some leaders must be making a good living off the members, right? Wrong.
People who are not familiar with the Mormon Church don't realize that the church has a lay ministry. Bishops and local ecclesiastical leaders serve on a volunteer basis, for about 5 to 10 years, without receiving pay or tangible compensation. Bishops do not live off donations from their congregations. They don't even get tips for conducting weddings or funerals.
Mormon bishops, and other local priesthood leaders, have full-time jobs apart from their church duties. Most of the LDS Church General Authorities, the church's full time hierarchical priesthood leadership, also serve as unpaid volunteers. The priesthood of the Mormon Church is not a career path. No one goes to school or starts a career to be a bishop, stake president or general authority.
The First Presidency, which is the Mormon Church President and his two counselors, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles usually live off of retirement from their professions and vocations. Apostles have been teachers, college presidents, doctors, lawyers, farmers, salesmen or other such professions prior to their callings. If an apostle doesn't have adequate retirement income he may receive a living allowance. This is a far cry from living off the backs of the members.
Some criticize the Mormon Church for getting involved in businesses ventures. These criticisms are short-sighted. The business revenue the church receives benefits the members by supplementing tithing donations. The church couldn't maintain its vigorous worldwide charitable aid program, print free scriptures, maintain church properties and facilities, or even continue the temple and church construction program of the last 15 years and remain solvent if it were 100 percent reliant on tithing donations. Not every church member pays tithing like they should, and in some parts of the world the membership is just too poor to be self sustaining.
But with all this in mind, let's suppose the LDS Church leaders were in it just for the money, and only cared about milking as much money from the Mormon people as possible. If this were the case, then the LDS Church would be doing the following:
The LDS Church would charge a rental fee to use chapels and church facilities for weddings, funerals and social events. Mormons, and even nonmembers, can reserve church ward houses free of charge. The Mormon Church has over 17,000 chapels across the world. Think of how much money the church is losing by not renting them out. Evidently, money isn't a priority.
The Mormon Church would charge members a rental fee to use temple sealing rooms for weddings. Despite what some movies have portrayed, there are no fees for temple weddings. There isn't even a charge to use the temples as backdrops for wedding photos. Now think about this. There are 133 temples and counting across the world. If there were an average of 5 temple weddings daily, 5 days a week, charging a $75 room rental fee, the church would make around $12 million a year. A church that only cared about money would definitely capitalize on this.
The LDS Church would charge temple attendees for parking. Temple parking is free for attendees. Even temples in downtown metropolitan locations, like Los Angeles, have free parking for temple patrons. A money-grubbing church would never offer free parking, especially without a purchase validation.
The Mormon Church would charge members to submit family names or to extract names for temple work. Thousands of names are submitted and extracted for temple work daily. That's a lot of cash the so-called money loving church is losing by not charging for this.
The LDS Church would only have revenue generating properties, not revenue depleting properties. Churches, temples, the Conference Center, tabernacles, welfare farms and ranches, employment centers, family history libraries and bishop's storehouses cost a lot of money to maintain and operate, but they don't produce profits. A greedy church wouldn't have property where commodities are just given away freely.
Now, a cantankerous critic might say that chapels produce a profit because Mormons pay tithing donations there. If the church only built chapels to collect donations then it would make more sense to build mega-churches that seat thousands of donating people, rather than chapels that only seat a few hundred. The church keeps congregations small to keep them more community-oriented. The Mormon Church is people-oriented, not money-oriented.
A skeptic may even mention that there are items charged for in the temple. Mormons pay a couple of bucks to rent white clothing if they don't have their own. They can also buy food in the temple cafeteria. Both of these costs cover the operating expenses of the laundry or eating facilities. Some temples are built without cafeterias and clothing rental areas. So apparently the money returns aren't a big deal.
The Mormon Church would have ATM machines or credit/debit card readers in the churches. Currently, tithing and other donations are paid discretely by members bringing cash or checks to the bishop in an envelope. No point of sale machines and no automatic withdrawals. It's a chapel, not an insurance office. Well, maybe it's a fire insurance office if you count the whole "burned at His coming" scenario.
The LDS Church would charge for people to use Familysearch.org, or the Family History Libraries. The LDS Church has one of the largest genealogical repositories on the earth, with over a billion names and records. Thousands of people, both Mormons and others, use the website and visit the church's family history libraries free of charge. The LD$ church of the critics would collect on this source of revenue, but the real LDS Church does not.
The Mormon Church would sell banner ads on LDS.org, Mormon.org, and all other official church websites. Groups that focus on profits, not prophets, exploit every possible revenue generation option available. These two church websites get millions of web visitors a month. The church could make a lot of revenue monetizing the sites by selling banner ads or doing Google Adsense. They don't because the sites are about building the spirit, not building revenue.
The LDS Church wouldn't give away free food and commodities at the bishop's storehouse. The bishop's storehouse is like a small grocery market where needy members can get free food and other goods. There are no cash registers in the storehouse. All food orders are predetermined by the family, the ward relief society president (the church's women's auxiliary) and the bishop. If the church were just about money then the storehouses would instead be mini-Walmarts where people pay for food and goods.
The Mormon Church would charge a fee for men to receive priesthood ordinations. If the church really wanted to make money, then they would start charging men to be ordained to various priesthood offices. The higher the office the higher the cost could be. Heck, if it is just about the money then the church would give the women the priesthood so they could charge them too. No sense in losing out on 50% of a potential priesthood sales market. Fortunately, the priesthood in the LDS Church is not for sale.
The LDS Church would charge admission for visitor centers. The church operates free visitor centers at temples and historical sites all over the world. Over a million people tour the Salt Lake Temple visitor center annually. Think of how much the church would make by charging admission to see the films and displays. But they don't. The church doesn't even sell souvenirs at the centers. That's because the focus is on spreading the message of the restored church of Jesus Christ, not about spreading people's wallets.
The Mormon Church would send out professional, commission paid sales reps as missionaries. Now, let's be brutally honest. Most Mormon missionaries are 19-21 year old twits that can barely wipe their own noses, much less take care of themselves and build a church. They aren't paid, they have to cover the bulk of their own mission costs, and they barely have any life skills. Yet, God has miraculously used them to share the gospel, and bring thousands of people into the church.
Contrast this reality to if the church really only cared about selling salvation as a product and getting more money. Instead of these young twits, the church would send out trained, seasoned, commission based sales people. The professional salvation peddlers would say anything to close the sale so the church could collect that all important money. They may even charge a baptism or church entry fee. In reality, this isn't the case because the church is more concerned with souls, not $oul$.
The LDS Church would sell tickets to watch Music and the Spoken Word. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is world renown. They've performed at US Presidential Inaugurations, sold millions of albums, have won several Grammy Awards, and are in the Radio Hall of Fame. Their weekly TV show "Music and the Spoken Word" is one of the longest running broadcasts in radio/TV history. And anyone can see a taping or hear them perform free every week at Temple Square in Salt Lake.
The Choir also performs a free Christmas concert that has featured celebrities like Jimmy Stewart, Peter Graves, Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight and Edward Herrman. If the church were truly all about the money they would be charging top dollar for tickets to these events.
The Mormon Church tithing settlement would be the IRS style shakedown Mormonophobes portray. Once a year at tithing settlement, church members have the opportunity to voluntarily declare themselves as full tithe payers to the bishop. Tithing settlement isn't required and is entirely on the honor system. A person just says yes or no. If the church were really just about the money then tithing settlement would involve bringing in pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements and financial papers and would be handled by an auditor or an accountant, instead of the bishop.
Some "well-meaning" critics would say that a person's tithing is only between them and God. This is true. However, if you don't have the guts to face a bishop and account for your tithing offerings, how are you going to handle facing God?
The LDS Church would also charge interest or penalties on delinquent tithing payments. The church doesn't track member's income so they have no clue how much 10 percent of their income is. And if a member is behind on their tithing, they're not going to get collections calls and bishops won't show up on their doorstep demanding money. This doesn't happen, and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.
The Mormon Church would make welfare recipients pay the church back for services. The church welfare program pays for member's bills and food when needed, and is primarily funded through fast offerings. A fast offering is when Mormons fast for at least two meals one Sunday a month then donate the money they would have spent on food. The church does not ask people to pay back welfare they've received. If the church were run by the Scrooge caricatures they're made out to be then bishops would keep a careful accounting on who received what and try and collect on that later.
Church leaders do ask that welfare recipients continue to pay into the fast offering fund, and to do some volunteer hours at a church welfare farm, grain mill, and storehouse or welfare facility. Recipients pay back with service, not with cash
The LDS Church would charge for General Conference tickets. General Conference is a bi-annual event that takes place at The Conference Center, in Salt Lake City. Conference consists of six 2-hour sessions over three days. During the sessions the church president, apostles and other priesthood and women's auxiliary leaders address the church members. All sessions are free of charge to attend.
Now consider this. The Conference Center holds 21,000 people. If the LDS Church really only cared about money they would be charging $10-$50 per ticket, per session. This would bring in approximately $1.3 to $6.3 million per conference! That's not even including if they charged for parking.
And on top of that they don't even sell souvenirs at General Conference. Think of the money to be made selling bobble-head apostle dolls or Joseph Smith t-shirts. They don't even sell popcorn and non-caffeinated sodas for conference goers. If the LDS Church were truly only concerned about money they'd be merchandising and concessioning the heck out of General Conference. But it's not, so they don't. The church doesn't even charge when the apostles speak at area and regional conference out of state, like when President Hinckley spoke at Madison Square Garden, in New York.
The Mormon Church leaders would have all the luxuries of corporate America. The church doesn't even own a private jet or limousines. The apostles and church presidents own their own cars, which are not Aston Martins, Lamborghini or Rolls Royce. Billionaire-Philanthropist John Huntsman Sr. lends the church leaders his private jet on occasion. He also does the same for cancer patients that need to be rushed to his cancer treatment center in Salt Lake.
LDS Church leaders wouldn't stay with members and eat at members houses when they travel either. Instead they'd stay in extravagant hotel penthouses, and live the lifestyles of Wall Street elite.
The LDS Church Presidents would live in multi-million dollar mansions. Compare the houses of the prophets to those of televangelists and career politicians. Some of the apostles and prophets have had nice houses, but those same apostles and prophets were successful in their professional careers as doctors, lawyers, presidential cabinet members, scientists, college presidents, etc. They don't deserve to be faulted for what they earned.
The Mormon Church would expect more than the scripturally dictated 10% tithing, and fast offerings wouldn't be used for welfare. Why waste money on the poor when they could pocket the money? Governments demand more than 10% in taxes, why not the money-mongering church? That's the way critics are trying to portray them. The fact that the church spends millions of dollars annually on charitable distribution should be proof enough that it's not about the money.
The LDS Church wouldn't subsidize enrollment to BYU and other church universities with tithing funds. Mormons attending BYU pay less in tuition than students at comparable private colleges because the church uses tithing money to offset the tuition costs. If it were about the money, the church would not spend its own money and would be charging students Ivy League rates to fill the coffers higher.
The Mormon Church wouldn't care about the quality of the community. The latest en vogue attack by critics, antiMormons and Mormonophobes against the church to prove its greed is the new City Creek Shopping Plaza being built in Salt Lake City. Critics ask accusingly, "Why does a church need to spend billions on a shopping center instead of giving it to the poor?" Critics always like to wave the poor around, especially those critics who don't lift a finger to help the poor themselves.
Anyway, the answer to why the church is spending billions of dollars on a shopping center was answered in a FORBES magazine article. "The driving force here is not economics," wrote columnist Joel Kotkin, "but the desire of Salt Lake's most powerful institution, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to salvage its immediate neighborhoods."
Years of mismanagement and poor planning by Salt Lake City mayor's office and government was turning the downtown area around the temple into a dive, complete with strip clubs and decrepit buildings. Since the city was inept to do anything about it, the church took it upon itself to clean up the area. The church is not using tithing funds to pay for the City Creek project.
And as far as helping the poor, the City Creek project does that too. The City Creek project is taking years to complete, and is employing hundreds of construction workers, subcontractors, and equipment and materials suppliers. In the middle of a huge recession, the LDS Church is keeping the potentially employed working. And when the redevelopment is finished, it will be the source of hundreds of jobs. So you tell me, which helps the poor more? Giving them a one-time handout, or giving them some self respect and gainful employment?
So if you've made it to this point, you should know by now that the LDS Church's primary focus is not money and greed, and any such characterizations of the church are grossly misleading. This is evidenced by the 15 lucrative money making opportunities I listed that the church isn't cashing in on. The primary focus of the Mormon Church is to further the work of Christ's ministry and to benefit the people.