Insight: U.S. donors like Romney made Mormon church wealthy

August 13, 2012

(The LDS Church’s Mormon Temple in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, is seen January 27, 2012. MORMONCHURCH/ REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)

If the Mormon church were a business, wealthy adherents like Mitt Romney would count as its dominant revenue stream.

Its investment strategy would be viewed as risk-averse.

It would also likely attract corporate gadflies protesting a lack of transparency. They would call for less spending on real estate and more on charitable causes to improve membership growth – the Mormons’ return on investment.

Those are a few of the conclusions that can be drawn from an analysis of the church’s finances by Reuters and University of Tampa sociologist Ryan Cragun.

Relying heavily on church records in countries that require far more disclosure than the United States, Cragun and Reuters estimate that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings in some $7 billion annually in tithes and other donations.

It owns about $35 billion worth of temples and meeting houses around the world, and controls farms, ranches, shopping malls and other commercial ventures worth many billions more.

The church claims 14 million members around the world, more than half outside the United States. All are supposed to tithe, or give 10 percent, of their income, which Mormons frequently interpret as pre-tax earnings. But only about 40 percent of Mormons counted by the church actually attend weekly services in the United States and Canada, and in many countries, including Mexico and Brazil, only a quarter of nominal members are active, according to Cumorah, an independent research group headed by a devoted, active Mormon.

These active members are most likely to tithe, and the result is that from a financial standpoint at least, the church remains largely a venture of active American members, says Cragun, who adds that U.S. Mormon men tend to be wealthier than the average U.S. male.

Read the full story by Peter Henderson here.
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One comment

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Let me count the ways I dislike this article:

1.Reuters posted it over a Sunday and immediately closed it to comments before Monday. I guess that’s one way to keep the trolls quiet, but you’re also protecting your link-bait article from being called out on what it is.

2.”If the Mormon Church were a business”…nice job assuming the thing you so transparently wish to prove. A church isn’t a business, no matter how you paint it. It’s not “wealthy” (the money doesn’t inure to anyone – who’s getting rich?), and there are no shareholders to require transparency – because as long as they’re obeying the law and acting ethically, who’s to say what the organization should or shouldn’t do with the funds it has accumulated?

3.”They would call for less spending on real estate and more on charitable causes to improve membership growth”. The real estate purchases are to meet the needs of a growing membership — you have it backward. And the claims about charitable cause expenditures have already been documented in the Bloomberg article and also thoroughly debunked in the subsequent discussions and rebuttals of the article.

Forgive a Mormon for feeling snarky, but these articles are like weeds: one pops up and generates good discussion (and a good amount of corrections and rebuttals). Then the news agencies, seeing that the public attention has been turned to the topic, spin out hundreds of riffs and regurgitations of the original article — thus perpetuating stereotypes and quelling discussion through brute force. 8980/LDS-Church-explains-financial-histo ry-philosophy.html

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