Late on Wed/early Thursday I wrote and posted a treatise on the Political history of the LDS church and how it might affect Mitt Romney if he were elected. The biggest concern with Romney has been that he's hiding his taxes and claiming that it is his right to keep "sacred" (or secret) his donations to God. Mitt has used his church as an example of why he doesn't need to disclose his taxes: “Our church doesn’t publish how much people have given... we had never intended our contributions to be known.”
There's something rotten in dumb-mark. The LDS hides its money for good reason. Let's take a look at the scant record they have offered. First, start with LDS stats from one of their many websites:
This kind of document is the only official source on the value the church gives to helping the poor. They do not disclose their financial worth, expenses, income or any other indication of financial responsibility in the US.
The LDS church since 1985 has given a combined $1.4 Billion in cash and service value to the poor as humanitarian assistance. (this breaks down to about $400M in cash and about $1B in non-cash service & in-kind donations. In any event, $1.4 over 26 years is about $50 million a year in value.) That comes out to be, on average, about $3.5 per year per current member. That’s extremely low.
Ask a Mormon bishop, is this all the church gives? For more than five years I worked with bishops as financial clerk in a congregation. I know what the income was and what we spent helping the poor. The income to help ratio was about 15:1. The bulk of the income was sent to HQ coffers in Salt Lake City by wire transfer.
The public should know that a few months ago, it was reported that Elder Holland, top LDS official, had this to say:
Holland: There is no money in our church except what the members offer.
That’s the source of the $3.5 per member per year donation? The rest goes to building campuses and other buildings. I found this one, that the church is building:
The $2-3 Billion mall is owned by City Creek Reserve, Inc (one of dozens of companies held by the LDS Church) according to their own website (http://www.downtownrising.com/ ) Selling penthouse apartments for $1.5M and stores that will sell liquor, which even wealthy Mormons aren't supposed to drink.
So if Holland says all the money comes from the members, and the church spends about $50M a yr on Humanitarian aid, and it spends $3 billion on a mall in a few years (2008-2012), where are its priorities?
Certainly not with the poor. What kind of steward would I be to give money to building a mall instead of helping the poor? How many millions has Romney given? He won't say. It's sacred and because it's on the IRS forms, he can't show you them. I wonder if the IRS has an NDA with the LDS church.
More research shows the church owns (or has owned):
- AgReserves Inc. - the largest producer of nuts in America (circa. 1997)
- Hawaii Reserves, Inc. - Miscellaneous church holdings in Hawaii. Along with the Polynesian Cultural Center (the leading paid visitor attraction in Hawaii) and Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Hawaii Reserves generated revenue of $260 million for the Hawaii economy in 2005.
- Farmland Reserve Inc. - 228,000 acres (923 km²) in Nebraska; 51,600 acres in Osage County, Oklahoma; and over 312,000 acres (1,260 km²) in Florida (dba Deseret Cattle and Citrus).
- Bonneville International Corporation - the 14th largest radio chain in the U.S.
- Deseret Morning News - a daily Utah newspaper, second-largest in the state of Utah.
- Beneficial Financial Group - An insurance and financial services company with assets of $3.1 billion.
And MANY more -- This is all outlined well in the Bloomberg article on the Mormon Finances
Still, the land alone is estimated worth $20 Billion. The profit-companies are estimated worth another $15 Billion. The Church owned land, campuses and temples are worth billions. When all is said and done, conservative estimates put the combined wealth of the church and its affiliated corporations at around $60 Billion
This is not hard to believe. Tithing collected from $14,000,000 members, where say 2 million are temple going, full tithed, active US workers, puts the estimate at ($50,000/yr avg US salary X 10% X 2M members = ) $10 Billion per year in tithing collection.
Over 25 years, that would easily make up $60 Billion, if not considerably more. Out of that, in 25 years, they gave $1.3 billion to the poor. That’s barely 2% of their interest to the poor. Isn't helping the poor one of the main missions of a charity & church?
How do normal, non-religious consumer-oriented corporations do in their giving?
Taking a look at these:
We can see that for-profit corporations give more than the LDS church. If you look at the net profit before taxes, some companies that earn 1/20th what the LDS church gets in tithing each year, and they pay MORE in donations that does the LDS church, which is supposed to be a charity in the first place.
I would do better to buy groceries at Target, Safeway or Smiths, donate the groceries to poor families in Provo and feel safe that more than 2% of the profits they earn from me are also going to the poor.
Until the LDS church provides me with more transparency on their financial operations, donations and expenditures, I don’t feel comfortable giving to them.
Why would I ever trust the owner of the City Creek Mall to wisely use my tithing donations?
Members hear a constant mantra of "pray, pay, obey and don't be gay". In contrast, one of the most telling world-wide stats, if true, is the "every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger".
Which says, "...$3.2 billion is needed per year to
reach all 66 million hungry school-age children. Of this,
US$1.2 billion would allow WFP to reach 23 million
children in Africa."
I ask you, what would it take for every American to give up in order to feed these 66 million kids? Just one pizza per year and the 66 million hungry kids could have food. How the Catholics could sell a few artifacts each year out of the thousands they have and almost perpetually feed these kids. Or the Mormons could donate 30% of their tithing/offerings income and feed all the hungry kids currently in the world.
Think about these numbers as you park your car subterraneously to the Mormon Mall compound. Upon arriving at the north ground entrance of city creek mall, the first thing July tank-top goers notice--besides the dress code they're violating--is the blast of cold air flowing through the large open doorways leading into the mall. One girl was overheard commenting on how wasteful and hurtful to the environment this is.
If you tour the storefronts you'll note that the opulence is staggering by most standards. That the kinds of stores they have there are meant for the 1% types. For example, in the one end, they had an cul-de-sac of Rolex, Tiffany, Porsche Design, Nordstrom, etc. I bet my daughter that the cheapest watch in the Rolex store was $5000. We went in and asked, and sure enough a woman's watch was the lowest at $4800. She began to crack at that point.
It was an eye opening experience for a tween girl to realize the Lord's mall is selling watches that can feed ten-thousand kids for many many days.