Another $5 million purchase by the church

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I’m starting to wonder if the LDS are really just a real estate tycoon in prophet’s clothing…

See the full story here

Is this the beginning of some sort of LDS Vatican? ;)

Does it bother members that their tithing money is being spent on weird things like malls and community colleges?

46 thoughts on “Another $5 million purchase by the church

  1. I don’t get the distinction between using “tithing money” and using other money. Money is completely fungible, and any money you use for one thing can’t be used for something else. Anyway, all the money the church has ultimately comes from tithes and offerings, or returns on investing such.

  2. I’m not sure I understand what the concern is. The church owns several universities, so them purchasing a community college is great. More ways to help members increase knowledge. As for the mall, they might be looking at the land, not what is on the land. They might tear the building down and put up something of their own. Sounds pretty normal to me.

  3. “How do you know tithing is being used to make the purchase?”

    Kim, how do you know it’s not? ;)

    My point in general is that I am simply astounded that members do not seem to care where their tithing money goes or what the leaders decide to spend it on.

  4. I’m guessing two reasons why the members do not seem to care.

    1. the church has a good track record. Sure, it’s not totally transparent, but no interesting abuses have been reported.
    2. members are used to it. They’re not participating in the kind of money decisions a board of elders at the local protestant church would be involved in.
    3. Where contributing to any other charity usually is accompanied by a feeling of responsibility that the money is spent well, tithing is only accompanied by a sense of having checked the box.

  5. uh, three reasons. Maybe the fourth reason is that some members can’t count.

  6. I don’t, rick. But then again, I never claimed it wasn’t tithing being used.

    I’m less concerned about tithing being used to purchase real estate than I am about it being used to support political campaigns.

  7. 1. the church has a good track record. Sure, it’s not totally transparent, but no interesting abuses have been reported.

    I doubt any interesting abuses would be reported just like numbers are never mentioned in conference reports.

    Like Kim, I am concerned when church funds are used to support a political campaign.

  8. Johnna, we don’t know if the church has a good track record or if there have been any abuses because there is no transparency at all.

    The best one can do in North America is to do some correlative study of press releases, because the CoB doesn’t do full disclosure.

    …and I too am wary of contributions that are supposed to be used for the common good being used for political reasons; regardless of the type of donation.

  9. I have some land in south calgary I would gladly sell the church for $5 mil.

    I’m sure they could house some missionaries there or something…

    ;-)

  10. Since the Church is one of the largest institutional donors in the world to all sorts of causes, it causes me no concern that those spending the money may not be using due diligence, and proper procedures in the spending of any monies that the Church has.
    The results speak for themselves, and I doubt that any money would be “wasted” on real estate if it wasn’t going to serve a useful purpose.
    I worry infinitely more about what politicians do, because they have no accountability at all – at least in their minds; whereas those who handle Church funds know that they are accountable to a higher power.

  11. “The results speak for themselves…”

    Where precisely are they speaking?
    Are you referring to press releases, heresay, or ‘common knowledge’?

  12. Go to http://www.lds.org/newsroom/displaytopic/0,15343,3898-1-612-19,00.html

    One thing that the Church does not do is blare their generosity to the world. When aid is sent it is often done in cooperation with other agencies.
    There are no banners and press conferences held to announce that the LDS are here.
    Whether you choose to acknowledge the Church’s generosity is for you to decide.
    It is interesting that a measely $5 million dollar real estate purchase would raise someone’s hackles, when many times that amount are being sent overseas by religious groups to fund terrorist organizations bent on killing us … and not a peep.
    Straining at gnats…?

  13. Would we rather that the funds sit in a bank earning low interest?

    I’d like to see church education expanded to serve the needs of all members, but there’s a stalemate among the GA’s on the subject. We all have our opinions on this. At the end of the day, they’re people like us, just doing the best they can. I think that’s why most of us give them a break on this stuff

  14. Actually Steve, that’s one thing that always bothered me about the PEF. With the costs of tutition rising, education is becomming more and more out of the reach of many kids in Canada and the U.S. as well.

    I understand the need to help those in developing countries, but one would think that this program could be applied to everyone in the church equally and we would see an increase in the benefits to everybody.

  15. Once my tithing check is cut, I no longer worry about where the money goes or what it is used for.

    People get all hot and bothered about how “their” tithing money is spent – they miss one very important point. It’s not their money any more.

    The Lord has promised us many blessings for obeying the law of tithing. Transparency isn’t one of them. I’ll take the windows of heaven being opened. Thanks.

  16. The church used to own most of the land around BYU-Hawaii in Laie, including the strip mall on the highway. (That sounds much more impressive than it actually is.) I remember when a Domino’s opened there, I think it was the only Domino’s in the world to be closed on Sunday. It was part of the lease that they couldn’t open on Sunday.

    I heard that in the early 90’s the church started selling a lot of the homes it owned there to residents who had been renting them. But that was after I moved away so I don’t know exactly.

  17. “Would we rather that the funds be sitting in a bank earning low interest?”

    Exactly, SteveEM. The key word here is INVESTMENT.

    Why not make our tithing money worth more than it originally was? Real estate (especially retail in downtown SLC) is a smart way to multiply the sum of money you started out with. Then each dollar contributed may actually be multipled and go toward much, much more church buildings, temples and charity etc. than the original sum could have. I think it’s a great way to make our tithing money worth alot more than the original contribution. This way the church can get a lot more than 10 percent from us, to use towards worthy causes, without asking us to actually give more than 10 percent. Why should I have a problem with that?

    Meanwhile, until I see evidence that chuch leaders are living secret extravagant lifestyles on a secret private island, I’m not too worried about abuse.

  18. It doesn’t matter if tithing money is fungible or not. So are electrons and protons. I could swap most of the electrons in my body with most of the electrons in yours and no one would be able to tell the difference.

    What matters is that the electrons in my body were co-located by a different process than the electrons in your body.

    So what matters here is that the Church had or maintains a different source of resources than tithing contributions. This source of resources is largely derived from the original real estate holdings of the Church dating back to the pioneer era, plus its share of ownership in several former United Order enterprises, notably Zions Bank, ZCMI, and the Deseret News. There have been many assets donated to the Church in excess of tithing funds as well and dedicated for specific purposes.

    So draw two virtual accounts however you like, and if no money crosses the boundary between them, then surely you can say that the funds are not co-mingled, every bit as much as we can say that my electrons are not co-mingled with the electrons in the nearest refrigerator, even though they are statistically identical and interchangeable.

    I would personally think it strange if the Church made a long term non-educational, non-ecclesiastical real estate investment with tithing funds, but this is not one of them. This will be used for educational purposes, which is nearly as charitable purpose as any.

  19. Actually, I too was of the understanding that these business investments are not being done with tithing money, but rather from other profit generating business ventures such as deseret book and others, including those businesses mentioned by Mark Butler above. One could argue that these business ventures were initially founded on tithing money, but no matter, it didn’t come out of my pocket and I don’t think the original church investors would come back in time and complain about it either. One could also argue, as has been done above, that this money still could have been used for something more noble and worthy, which brings me back to my point about the long term advantages of investing, thereby ensuring far more money to go towards noble causes that what was originally donated.

  20. It makes one wonder why B.Y. didn’t claim a one/five/ten mile radius around temple square as belonging to the church in the first place.

  21. Why are people assuming that investing in real estate is a bad thing ?

    I’m GLAD the church is investing in real estate. It’s a very smart investement and will have a very high return.

    Every other major non-profit corporation in the world has things like endowments, reserves, investments, etc. It’s a way of making your money work.

  22. Personally, I am less comfortable with a non-profit organization that builds up investemnts and assets than one that uses all assets to fulfill the non-profit’s mission.

    That being said, I’m sure that the LDS Church had a reason for making this purchase, and that it fits in with the Church’s mission. What is that purpose? No clue. But I doubt that it would have been okayed without that being the case.

  23. Re: #22—the Edmunds-Tucker Act disincorporated the Church and seized all its assets. For a while the Church had to rent its own buildings back from the federal government that had seized them. I’m not sure, but I think that’s one reason much of the property that may have been the Church’s at one point had to be bought later.

  24. The project is a private development which will not require any public funding, and no tithing dollars will be used from the Church. Some costs of the project will be recouped from the sale of residential units and revenues will be generated from leasing retail and office space.

  25. You can probably find out on the web site you linked through the side blog.

  26. I have some serios reservations about where tithing goes. I really dont feel the church is honest in how the tithing is distributed. I came by chance on a web site called exmormon.org and occationally read it. Seems a bit old and dated but in it there seems to be some discussion about church tithing used to buy a mall?
    Care to comment on this?

    I know also a few years ago Time magazine made a article the church was worth 2 billion dollars. It never dicussed a total breakdown at least that I can recall where all these assets are located at.
    In the bible “I grew up christian” It dicusses were tithing is normally spent but nothing about buying a shopping mall :)

    Any comments on this? Also, how do I start a new subject. I want to ask some personal qwestions about my wife and finaces that to this day four years after our marrige she never wants to show her debt billing statments to me and is deep in debt in her name only.

    Thanks

  27. The Mormon tithing is nothing but a membership fee; it is certainly not
    optional or voluntary. If one does not pay a “full tithing” one cannot
    fully participate as a church member. Example – one is not allowed to enter the church’s temple and have certain “key ordinances” performed, which are supposed to be the full measure of a LDS member.

  28. You can be a member without paying tithing. And it’s not “Mormon Tithing”. It’s scripturally based (besides that, it isn’t the “Mormon Church”, it’s the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).

  29. Only If I can have a job or even a decent job could I pay my tithing in full it would be good. There was a time that I did but fell on hard times. My wife recently paid her full tithing and also dipped into her credit card to pay the ballance owing this past december 2006 :/.

    I wonder what the effects would be if the church were to overhaul its tithing structor and did it on a slidding scale based on whats left in a members checking account after basic expenses were paid. Would more cash come in as a total to the church if EVERYONE paid thithing because thay COULD?

    What I dont understand is when senior members of the church states “pay your tithing first then loans second” that companies you owe debts to are second place.
    What would these loan companies thing if thay heard this? I think that thay may steer away from giving a loan to a member if thay found out.

    BTW what are the effects if you are a partial tith payer? 25/50/75%?

    And can you donate time or resources to the church ie, loan a crane you own to build a temple or chappel is that considered a tith?

    On the other hand the money is good thing to be spent on the chapels, on somone struggling to feed there familly..Very important! or a temple being built.

    Last question,
    What does the church say about the enviroment and global warming? I have yet to see any discussion on it and its a SERIOS concern. I would hope the church would demonstrate that thay to are good stewards of mother earth and find way to demonstate it with such examples as give the missionaies a VW diesel and run biodiesel in it :)
    I run it in my truck and my emissions are so low the emissions readings are hardly even readable! Smeels sweet at the tail pipe to!

  30. I’m having an ongoing debate with a friend about the 10% thing.

    10% of a low income house means a lot more than 10% of a high-income house.

    The low income house is actually giving up essentials to tithe, while the high income house is not.

    The flat percent tithe is high-biased, in my opinion, and doesn’t make much sense; putting the greatest onus on those who can least afford it.

  31. Tithing actually, believe it or not is an obedience commandment. We have been dirt poor and we have been comfortable and always, ALWAYS when we pay our full tithing we have enough. I know, it sounds like a cliche, but it is very true. The year we moved here and I was pregnant with our first we had a total income of about $6000 for the year. Yes, only $6000. I still don’t know how we survived. Well, yes I do. The Lord blessed us, and looked after us through others. We still paid our tithing in spite of the fact we had so little money as to be next to nothing. I don’t regret it one bit. Tithing is a sacrifice, but when we compare that with what the Lord has given us, it cannot come close.

    Tithing is something one must have a testimony of. If you don’t, then you won’t see the blessings that come from paying it. It isn’t the Church that asks it, it is the Lord who asks it. And yes, you both might argue that as well, but it is scriptural, and I do have a testimony of it. These blessings have been spiritual and temporal. But you have to experience the blessings to know what I am talking about. I know I can’t convince you, nor do I want to. But it is a wonderful, blessing filled commandment with a humbling promise. Tithing may seem to be about money, but it really isn’t.

    Faith. Sometimes that is harder than it seems. But it is what it takes to pay tithing.

    Joesmonday, I do not believe the Church has taken a stance on Global Warming or the environment, except that we should respect and take care of our world. We are expected of course to be socially responsible. I know for me that means to be concerned about environmental issues and definately global warming as well as other issues.

  32. Not having a temple recommend can also be related to not sustaining the leaders of the church.

    It would amaze me to find that someone is an active member of the church and accuse the leaders of the church of knowingly being dishonest in their dealings.

    Remember that they have to answer the same questions to have a temple recommend as everyone else.

    Seems a bit odd to me to believe an ex-Mormons website over the leaders of the church.

    Am I missing something?

    By the way, buying real estate is not against the law. In fact, what smarter place to put money than in real estate? Not only is the return solid, but there’s also returns related to costs of upkeep and depreciation expense.

    Personally I get excited to hear about the growth of the church in any fashion.

  33. Jonesmonday, I don’t know if you’re still watching, but I’d like to address your concern:

    there seems to be some discussion about church tithing used to buy a mall?

    What they’re probably referring to is this story: http://www.lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=f78676e6ffe0c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1

    No tithing funds were used in this purchase, and none will be used in developing and maintaining the property for commercial uses.

  34. I guess my fundamental questions follow the following line of reasoning:

    As long as there are members, there will be tithing.

    Why does the church need to ‘invest’ any money at all? It should always have a source of income.

    Why not spend most of it (every single year) on humanitarian programmes? Investing for returns is what organizations with shareholders do, generally. Members are not, by any stretch of the imagination, shareholders.

    Is the church a church or is it a business?

  35. My comments were made somewhat in jest as that’s just part of my personality.

    They were also made with the thought in mind relative to the wise use of the money (I think of the parable of the talents).

    I don’t remember seeing anything that said that the purchase of the property was for investment purposes.

  36. Actually, Garry, the reasons for the purchase of the property and the development are already given in the article for which I provided the link. If Rick actually did want to know the answer to his question, he could simply read it.

  37. My problem is that churches do not need to buy real estate unless it is for a church function.

    Churches are not like mutual funds, or investment portfolios. They are not supposed to be managing your tithing and returning a profit, they are supposed to take tithing to support the membership and spread the faith – if that’s in their doctrinal mandate.

    This purchase does absolutely nothing for Joe-Member.

    If, in fact, they’re just purchasing it to secure the redevelopment of the downtown Salt Lake area, that is something best left to the municipal planners.

    It is my personal opinion that that is the last thing on their minds, as I have clearly stated before.

    The church has no need for profit generating vehicles since its requirements scale proportionately with the numbers of members it has.

    If membership is down, then it has less tithing, but also has less members to support. If membership is up, then they have a proportionally greater source of operating income from the tithing of those members.

    Additionally, if the church wanted to remove all suspicions of business-like empire building, all they’d have to do is open up the books to the public.

    Nothing clears the air like full disclosure.

  38. I found that the link I provided seems not to work well. To find the article, look up “The Condition of the Church” in the May 2003 Ensign.

    But here’s the part I’m having trouble with: President Hinckley gives the following as the reason for the purchase of the mall property:

    We feel we have a compelling responsibility to protect the environment of the Salt Lake Temple.

    But rick says:

    If, in fact, they’re just purchasing it to secure the redevelopment of the downtown Salt Lake area, that is something best left to the municipal planners. It is my personal opinion that that is the last thing on their minds…

    Now, the reason I’m having trouble with it is that I’ve been frequently and soundly chastised for calling someone a liar on this ‘blog. That isn’t a nice thing to do, I’m told, and it’s inimical to civil conversation. But rick is calling President Hinckley a liar. He says that Hinckley is lying about the motives for this purchase.

    So someone please help me understand: Is it OK to call someone a liar, or not?

  39. For those interested, here’s another article that gives an explanation of Church-owned businesses.

    http://www.lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=ff1b6a4430c0c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1

    If the link doesn’t work for you, look up “Why We Do Some of the Things We Do” in the November 1999 Ensign. (And ge ready for rick to dismiss it as “damage control.”)

  40. Can the “church” serve God and mammon?

    The excuse used for this Mall of Mammon is that it is “to protect the integrity of temple square.” Well, that could be done with a botanical garden as well. Or even better, you could make another BYU salt lake campus.

    I guess mormons need to ask themselves whether they want to be a church or a business? If it is going to be a business, then it should issue stock to tithe payers. It should become a retirement fund.

    If they’re going to be a business, then it shouldn’t be tax-exempt.

    All assets that LDS Inc has ultimately come from tithing and donations. So, it’s dishonest to say that it’s not being funded with tithing funds. All money that the “church” has is not the Lord’s money right? Then why should the Lord’s money be used to buy malls?

  41. All assets that LDS Inc has ultimately come from tithing and donations. So, it’s dishonest to say that it’s not being funded with tithing funds.

    Not true. The funds used for this purpose come from the operation of businesses, and never from tithing.

    I guess mormons need to ask themselves whether they want to be a church or a business?

    No, that’s a false dilemma. We can be a church that also happens to operate businesses.

    If they’re going to be a business, then it shouldn’t be tax-exempt.

    The Church’s businesses aren’t tax-exempt. They all pay taxes.

    Well, that could be done with a botanical garden as well. Or even better, you could make another BYU salt lake campus.

    Yes, a botanical garden is one of the choices that could be made. That’s one of the reasons the Church operates an extensive garden atop the Conference Center as well as a park and a landscaped pedestrian area, all in the same vicinity. On the other hand, the downtown Salt Lake area is probably better off having some businesses to keep it vital. I don’t see how the choice to maintain business space in the area is worse than what you suggest.

    It’s kind of funny that you mention a BYU Salt Lake campus, because that’s one of the things the Church is doing in the area, as well as relocating the LDS business college to the area in question.

    All money that the “church” has is not the Lord’s money right?

    Do you mean that none of the money the Church has is the Lord’s or that some of the money the Church has is not the Lord’s? Your meaning isn’t clear to me. In either case, however, I think everything is the Lord’s. Psalms 24:1 But that doesn’t mean we should never differentiate between categories of money.

    Then why should the Lord’s money be used to buy malls?

    I’d say, for the reasons the Prophet already gave.

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