There are many critics of the LDS Church’s wealth. Is the LDS Church guilty of serving God and Mammon? I asked Dr. Michael Quinn that question, and I think you’ll be surprised by his answer.
Michael: The accusation is there, but typically it comes from people who don’t recognize that the church makes no distinction between God and Mammon. The church is a money making operation, but it plows the money into the building of the Kingdom of God on Earth, which is a Mormon phrase that most members, even disaffected ones, will recognize. A member of the church, whether former member or current member in good faith, may feel uncomfortable with this huge portfolio that involves billions of dollars a day in transactions over the computer with only one of its investment houses.
It may be [that] members of the church and devout members and certainly ex-members of the church are uncomfortable, or may be uncomfortable with the commercial real estate that produces and the commercial investments in mines and oil, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which would be fossil fuels. For people who are concerned about that. And the Church has heavily invested in fossil fuels. Nonetheless, it’s a part of building the Kingdom of God.
We’re going to talk about the City Creek Mall. The LDS Church paid $1.5 Billion dollars to make it. Michael Quinn says that this enormous income allows the church to spend enormous sums of money to support LDS Church growth. It’s not just in poor countries like South America and Africa. Quinn says that the LDS Church has deficit spending even in rich countries like England.
Michael: In 2006, the LDS Church headquarters gave a cash supplement to the church in the United Kingdom of nearly half a billion dollars, $450,000,000 and change. And that was in one year to one of the countries in which the church has had a significant presence since 1837. It is an industrial country. It is not a third world country. Its members are generally thought of as being comfortable. This is not the case in any country. Mormons can be poor even in the United States and there are poor members of the church who live on government welfare and church welfare in the United Kingdom. Well, the tithe payers in the United Kingdom couldn’t pay all of their responsibilities, all of the building and the maintenance and the missionary work and everything else, the aid to the really poor that occurs in the United Kingdom. And so in one year the church gave nearly half a billion dollars. I mean, I don’t know the total number, but I know it’s more than 100 countries throughout the world the church is in.
In third world countries, and there are at least 50 and there could be far more than that. The church, and I have the reports to demonstrate this, is paying 90 to 95 percent of their expenses are being paid in cash from church headquarters on a year by year basis in the developing country or what in during the Cold War used to be called the third world. The church could not do this if it didn’t have billions of dollars, not only of tithing, but of commercial income from for-profit businesses, which the City Creek Mall is intended to be for.
Is it true that the City Creek Mall is subsidizing churches in poor countries?
GT: So let me ask this question. I’ll phrase it this way. Would it be accurate to say that the City Creek Mall, and maybe even Victoria’s Secret, is subsidizing some of these buildings in Nigeria?
Michael: Without question. I mean, in the book, I lay out those that I’m aware of through the Internet. And there is a remarkable openness on the Internet to the Church’s investments in a variety of areas, whether it’s land where the produce is primarily going for the welfare program. But what they can’t use for the welfare program would spoil if they didn’t sell it to the general public. And that’s for profit. So there are profits that even Deseret Ranches of Florida, which is a welfare outfit in its original definition, it’s also for-profit and it’s making millions, maybe billions.
Dr. Michael Quinn has noted that church members no long pay building fund, ward budget, and many other expenses due to this large income. Is there enough income to support a paid ministry? Is there a scriptural prohibition against paid ministers?
Michael: Even though the 19th century church frequently used the insulting phrase “hireling priests” for Catholic and Protestant ministers, the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants which maintain these “thus sayeth the Lord” documents that Joseph Smith provided during his lifetime. They provide for a paid ministry. They say the laborer is worthy of his hire and that could justify having a thorough paid ministry all the way down to the local level. However, there has always been this discomfort with providing for the living of the leadership of the church, whether it’s general leadership or the local leadership.
How much money does the LDS Church spend in foreign countries?
Michael: In 2006, the LDS Church headquarters gave a cash supplement to the church in the United Kingdom of nearly half a billion dollars, $450,000,000 and change. And that was in one year to one of the countries in which the church has had a significant presence since 1837. It is an industrial country. It is not a third world country. Its members are generally thought of as being comfortable.
Could/will LDS income ever support a paid local ministry? What are your thoughts that the LDS Church is “a money making operation?” Is the LDS Church serving God and Mammon?