Business Week’s erroneous claim about LDS charitable giving

Caroline Winter’s new article is a must-read. She examines many facets of the church’s estimated income, its property ownership, and its use of funds. I thought many portions of it were very, very good.

Readers seem especially focused on a few key portions of the article. However, one of her key fact claims is based on a factual error. Here is why.

Winter writes that:

According to an official church Welfare Services fact sheet, the church gave $1.3 billion in humanitarian aid in over 178 countries and territories during the 25 years between 1985 and 2010. A fact sheet from the previous year indicates that less than one-third of the sum was monetary assistance, while the rest was in the form of “material assistance.” All in all, if one were to evenly distribute that $1.3 billion over a quarter-century, it would mean that the church gave $52 million annually. A recently published article co-written by Cragun estimates that the Mormon Church donates only about 0.7 percent of its annual income to charity; the United Methodist Church gives about 29 percent.

If true, this is pretty damning information. The LDS church takes in billions of dollars (Winter estimates about $8 billion annually) and gives merely $50 million a year to charity. But is that claim accurate?

Winter’s “recently published article co-written by Cragun” with this estimate appears to be this article, which was published in Free Inquiry, the quarterly magazine of the Council for Secular Humanism. Cragun is a co-author, and the Free Inquiry article indeed makes the monetary claims in question.

Where does Cragun get this information? He draws from a single source: This fact sheet, published by the church. It’s a single-page document, well worth a look. In fact, you should go take a look at it right now. In particular, watch the nomenclature.

The damning language is found in these lines:

Humanitarian assistance rendered (1985–2009)
Cash donations $327.6 million
Value of material assistance $884.6 million

That shows that the church gave about $1 billion in total humanitarian aid over 25 years. Or does it?

Look at that sheet again. It highlights numbers of food storehouses, food production for the needy, employment training, church-run thrift stores, and so on. The sheet states _also_ discusses global work worldwide on disaster relief (such as responses to tsunami or earthquake victims). It uses different nomenclature for each type of donation. That is donations to worldwide emergency response are classified under the humanitarian label. But the extensive ongoing infrastructure to feed the needy is classified under the church welfare label. I contacted the church today and was able to verify that this is correct.

In fact, these paragraphs from the sheet show this usage:

The purpose of Church welfare assistance is to help
people to help themselves. Recipients of these
resources are given the opportunity to work, to the
extent of their ability, for the assistance they receive.
The Church also sponsors humanitarian relief and
development projects around the world that benefit
those of other faiths. These projects include emergency
relief assistance in times of disaster and programs that
strengthen the self-reliance of individuals, families,
and communities.

(emphasis added)

Another fact sheet also illustrates. Take a look at this second short fact sheet on the church’s humanitarian efforts. This breaks out what those efforts are: Emergency response. Clean water efforts, wheelchairs, and neonatal care in developing countries. Immunization projects. That’s what the church spends $50 million a year.

The church’s extensive network of food storehouses, employment assistance, Deseret Industries thrift stores, are not included in the tally — because they are not seen as church humanitarian assistance, but rather as church welfare assistance. (And even the broader church welfare numbers do not seem to include the extensive educational subsidies the church provides to students at BYU and other church universities.)

Given this crucial misunderstanding of the fact sheet, Cragun’s factual claim is incorrect and in fact very misleading on an important point, and so is Winter’s use of Cragun’s claim.

This is not to say that there are no potentially valid critiques of church finances or of church charitable giving. I would love to see more transparency here. In addition, I think valid questions can be raised about how to weigh church welfare. In particular, one could certainly argue that church welfare is “not really charitable” if it distributed in ways that tend to limit it to certain subsets of people. There are also complicated questions about how to value the volunteer hours involved. And so a variety of nuanced claims and arguments could be made about the efficacy and ultimate societal benefit of church welfare programs. But Cragun’s claim does not engage at this level. Cragun simply accepts at face value (but misunderstands) the initial church statement about humanitarian aid. In doing so, he inadvertently makes a highly misleading factual claim. Winter’s uncritical reliance on Cragun’s erroneous fact claim then perpetuates the error.

I don’t want to overstate this conclusion, because I think Winters’ article is part of an important conversation, and that observers can certainly still make critiques of church financial practices. Such critiques, however, should be based on accurate statements of fact.

144 comments for “Business Week’s erroneous claim about LDS charitable giving

  1. July 11, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    I have had questions about the numbers on the fact sheet ever since people started talking about the cost of City Creek Center in relation to monies spent on “charity”. There seemed to be something that possibly was not being accounted for. Thanks for helping me put my finger on it.

    That said, if the church is willing to publish the humanitarian aid info, why wouldn’t they also publish the other? They want to toot their horn, but not too loudly?

  2. CC
    July 11, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    I think this Newsweek article had some great information but I can also see your issue with this particular point. In addition to the examples you provided above, I think you could also include assistance with adoptions. A typical domestic adoption in the United States can be anywhere from $20,000-$50,000. Those who are able to adopt through LDS Family Services pay only 10 percent of their income up to $10,000 (10,000 is the most that is paid). That is incredibly cheap and unheard of in the adoption world. From my limited understanding, the discrepancy in cost is subsidized by the church. I don’t know that you can label adoption as a humanitarian effort and those who can benefit from this service is also limited but it does provide another small piece to this larger picture.

  3. Tiago
    July 11, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Kaimi, thanks for breaking this down. The question of how much the church gives as a % of total income has been on my mind recently as I’ve seen numbers thrown around. We Mormons seem to love to talk about how much the church gives and we are also sometimes quite proud about how we don’t do it for praise or recognition. It seems the church is trending toward more disclosure of it’s charitable giving and sometimes, like with the yellow “helping hands” shirts, we are hoping people see it. As a stakeholder, I prefer to hear real #s and facts than vague references like “we give quietly and generously.” Not being specific I think leads some members to assume too much like one commented in a recent EQ lesson who stated that he had on good authority that most relief products distributed through Catholic charities are funded by LDS money. It looks like the facts are that the church is giving generously–maybe more than critics realize but less than members assume. I support the mix of internal and external giving. It would be nice to increase the external giving. I hope we continue to have greater visibility and member participation in this. I

  4. July 11, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    I too want to say thank you for clarifying why it seemed fishy. Though I don’t doubt for a minute the church’s overall charity aid comes anywhere close to 10% of its income (most money is spent on structures is my understanding), but at least 5% (which is what I suspect) sounds better than less than 1%.

  5. July 11, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    I absolutely agree that more transparency would be a lot better. I definitely don’t want to appear to say otherwise.

    But ultimately the Cragun article was pretty awful in its methodology. And I don’t think bad facts help anyone.

    It’s pretty clear from the sheet (and I confirmed) that the 0.7 represents disaster relief, third-world projects like vaccinations, and the like. It is the functional equivalent of the U.S. donations to UNICEF. Which are of course dwarfed by domestic expenses.

    Total charity is 0.7 + some X, and I don’t know what that X is. But it includes church food storehouses, employment specialists, and DI. And probably other things.

    I think it would be a huge step forward if the church would discuss what exactly X is. And maybe after this, they will. Maybe? Fingers crossed.

  6. Rob Holmes
    July 11, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Would disbursement of fast offering contributions by bishops be included in the overall welfare number or is that another # that is not being included?

  7. Matthew
    July 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    It’s difficult to make hard-and-fast statements about what should be considered “charity”; what’s less controversial is that we should use the same standards when comparing churches. Presumably UMC undertakes its own efforts to care for its own, even if they are not as extensive as church welfare efforts. Are these counted in the UMC total?

    If I’m reading UMC’s financial statement correctly (, 29% of their expenditures corresponds exactly to the amount spent on the United Methodist Committee on Relief, which appears to be a worldwide humanitarian organization similar to the Red Cross. If this is the 29% we’re talking about, then it seems unlikely that they’ve included internal welfare, and we have a reasonably fair, apples-to-apples comparison.

  8. July 11, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Hmm. It’s true that worldwide-humanitarian-relief is a neutral metric, but I’m not sure that all neutral metrics are apples-to-apples. The Red Cross does a lot more worldwide-humanitarian-relief than the United Way. I wouldn’t say that one is more charitable than the other.

    I agree that we should have the conversation. But I don’t think it should be framed as, “look how lame the LDS church is compared with the Methodists.”

    If the Methodists have an extensive worldwide-relief program and a minor domestic program (I don’t know, just saying as an example), and the Mormons have a minor worldwide-relief program and a major domestic program, I’m not sure we can easily say that one is a whole lot better than the other.

    But yes, let’s absolutely have that conversation. Let’s talk about how the church uses its resources. Because accountability matters. But it should be accurate accountability.

  9. July 11, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    This hardly makes me feel better about the situation. The .07% is the best the Church can do for those most in need around the world, while building multiple malls and running an extensive network of very profitable businesses? Great that they help so many people in Utah, but I’d imagine God could forego so many extravagant buildings to keep a few more third-world children alive.

  10. rah
    July 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    I agree the article should have clarified the .7% + some X. Of course, without the X it still points out how absolutely opaque even the Church’s most charitable expenditures are. I agree Mormon’s probably overestimate how much X is. There is no way it hits the 29% the Methodists give (though I would like more context on why the Methodists are a good comparison).

  11. Matthew
    July 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm


    Agreed that not all neutral metrics are created equal. However, supposing they *have* made a neutral comparison, it’s hard to argue that the BW article is erroneous; they’ve just used a metric for ‘charitable donations’ that is particularly disadvantageous for the LDS church.

  12. David M
    July 11, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Fast offerings, food storehouses, employment assistance, and Deseret Industries thrift stores (among other things, like adoption assistance) make up the portion that is above the 0.7%, right?

    So the difference with these items is that they are largely only available to members of the church. I’m not saying they are not good programs. On the contrary, I believe they are very beneficial, but the money does not leave the church. Many years ago, bishops had the discretion to spend fast offering funds on anyone with a need in the ward boundaries. But today’s handbook discourages bishops from providing aid to non-members. Only under very limited circumstances is it considered, such as when a non-member has children who are members.

    Members helping members is good, and even charitable, when viewed from the perspective of the individuals donating. But viewed from outside the church, I think this may be viewed differently.

  13. ji
    July 11, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    I don’t pay any attention to the work of general church officers — they have their callings, and they magnify their callings to the Lord — I don’t require them to explain themselves to my satisfaction.

    In the old days, surely no one in Ephesus expected Paul to give an accounting of whatever monies he collected in Sardis, or expenditures he made in Damascus. Today, everyone wants to know everyone else’s business — they think they have some right to know these things.

    I regret hearing that hearsay and guesses, and partial information, are being presented in some manner for comparison with numbers with different meanings from other organizations, all in the name of informing the public and a mistaken notion of accountability. Well, this is the world we live in.

    May God bless the leaders of the Church as they magnify their VERY difficult callings.

  14. July 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    DI makes money. How is that charity? I guess since the church is a charity, everything that goes to itself is charity or so they say

  15. Widespread Panic
    July 11, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    #13 – “Today, everyone wants to know everyone else’s business — they think they have some right to know these things.”

    Actually, tell that to GBH. He’s the one who said the members who do the giving have the right to know the details.

    We’re still waiting.

  16. Widespread Panic
    July 11, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    #14 – Good question.

    My FIL, as a member of a SP, was touring welfare square as part of some welfare training for SPs. They were told that the church (DI) takes in enough money from the sale of rags to cover the costs of the entire DI operation. It was very profitable.

  17. July 11, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Kaimi — the Cragun article was pretty awful in its methodology

    Do you think that was intentional or the result of gross incompetence? I often can’t tell which.

    Would disbursement of fast offering contributions by bishops be included in the overall welfare number or is that another # that is not being included?

    Indeed. Fast offering is generally at about 10% of tithing.

    And the “expenditure” on the mall that the article used was the “total value” number, not the cost to build number. For the cost to build number, you can look at the Wall Street Journal article, then understand that for the “total value” they applied an economic multiplier and an increase in value. I discuss that fallacy at — which is another reason I find myself wondering if the article counts on incompetence or malice for its conclusions.

  18. Jonathan Green
    July 11, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    DI makes money, which it then uses to fund its employment-training and other welfare services, which are open to all community members, Mormon or not.

    I was shocked to discover in the Businessweek article that executives in the church-owned for-profit enterprises were being paid prevailing market salaries. What scandal will they uncover next?

  19. David M
    July 11, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Bishops are advised to refer individuals who are not members of the church to local community resources if they need welfare assistance. Only in rare circumstances is aid permitted to non-members, like when they are parents or caregivers of member children. You can see this for yourself in the Bishop’s handbook of instructions. The bishop will generally allow you to view it in his office.

  20. Widespread Panic
    July 11, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    #19 – “Bishops are advised to refer individuals who are not members of the church to local community resources if they need welfare assistance. Only in rare circumstances is aid permitted to non-members, like when they are parents or caregivers of member children.”

    Funny, it sure doesn’t stop them from sending the Deacons out on the first two Sundays of the month knocking on EVERY door in the ward boundaries, member and non-member alike, soliciting fast-offering donations.”

  21. Kevin Barney
    July 11, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Well done, Kaimi.

  22. July 11, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Widespread panic (16), it’s actually not that good of a question. In addition to job training, DI provides goods at below-market prices, in the same way that the Salvation Army and Goodwill (both generally considered charitable organizations) do.

    Moreover, here in Chicago, we have a thrift store called the Brown Elephant. It (apparently) makes a profit, which then goes to support (IIRC) a particular hospital (the charitable nature of which, BTW, is a much more interesting question than the charitable nature of churches).

    Stephen M, my impression is that Cragun’s mistakes are not intentional, and I don’t think I’d characterize them as gross incompetence. I think he sees questions that interest him and looks for answers. That he arrives at half-answers is probably the result of these areas being outside of his core knowledge base, but I don’t see any reason not to read his mistakes charitably.

    Great post, Kaimi!

  23. July 11, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    So DI makes a profit and you have no idea where that profit goes but lets call it a charity? Absent that info can we really call it a charity? DI apparently ships unusable items to China and call that charity as well. The problem is that so long as there is no transparency everyone is just guessing

  24. July 11, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    DI exists principally to help people with poor job skills to get better job skills and then pays for them to get vocational training (and gives them a salary) so they can get a better job quickly. Is really that hard to see the charity there?

  25. J. Stapley
    July 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    I also imagine that the percentage is largely a function of how church finances are managed. I suspect that the United Methodist Church is not centrallized, with all buildings and local budgets ans staff administered by headquarters. Tne denominator shrinks quickly in such cases.

  26. Howard
    July 11, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    The church does a great job of taking care of it’s own, a good job of participating in disaster relief but a poor job of saving third world non-member lives due to malnutrition, thirst and easily curable disease where it’s contribution is token compared to it’s income and to the need. Unfortunately buildings have a much higher priority than human lives, hardly a Christian choice!

  27. christine
    July 11, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    this might sound simplistic and awful but the buildings to me are simply an aesthetic necessity. coming from Germany the country of the Cologne Dome and many many almost equally magestic religious homes of god and even homes of men and homes of businesses, I am appalled by the negligent unaesthetic ugly architecture in North America. We all help each other in the wards so any aid paid by the church is for third world etc. I am TOTALLY for majestic buildings. not enough of them in the western hemisphere. I admire the courage to spend the money on these buildings, even if, like the Navoo Temple, we cannot be sure it will have any longevity or even must be sure our enemies will destroy it. Let us reach for the stars until that happens

  28. Howard
    July 12, 2012 at 12:04 am

    So let them die while we build sky high!

  29. christine
    July 12, 2012 at 12:06 am

    hey it is not like people are not going to die. if need be with the aid of obamacare

  30. Howard
    July 12, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Thanks for clearing that up christine.

  31. christine
    July 12, 2012 at 12:31 am

    @ Howard. I knew you knew that…I think the Mormon Church is helping lots in the third world and is competing with many other charities trying to wipe out deaths or crolonged illness due to imhumane living circumstances, albeit without any superbly stellar success…or so it seems. that being said humanity has been able to fulfil the need for access to water if only by wells, to almost all humanity

    I will say this and will change my mind if any really good arguments are made (not just on this blog but at any point in my life):
    I am not sure many of you realize many well heeded people in , for instance, Mumbai (as an example chartered accountants) choose to live in a slum with no running water and no legal electricity just because that way they can enjoy a larger portion of their income as disposable. A propos legal electricity. Remember Enron. the abysmal financial losses Enron faced with their venture into Mararashtra are a result of them hoping for their government contract for a powerplant to pay off. After Enron built and powered up the plant, the Indian government decided not to pay Enron, because all the Indians do is steal electricity, for which, as per the above loss of life in third world country debate, usually at least one life is lost when tapping the high voltage wire….

  32. Cameron N
    July 12, 2012 at 12:41 am

    People are so used to governments throwing trillions of dollars away in mis-allocated or wasted charity that whatever sum the church likely uses for humanitarian aid probably seems petty. Unfortunately, many are just looking for ammunition, so they won’t bother to understand how much bang for the buck church humanitarian aid has.

    I really love how focused the church’s humanitarian aid efforts are. Helping people with fundamental needs and helping them help themselves. It’s beautiful.

  33. Howard
    July 12, 2012 at 12:41 am

    50% of rural Africa still needs clean water and 2/3 needs sanitation! Also, I doubt many people are choosing to die of malnutrition, thirst and easily curable disease to enjoy a larger portion of their income as disposable.

    Yes I remember Enron, but I’d rather not.

  34. Howard
    July 12, 2012 at 12:52 am

    The church has dozens of humanitarian missionary supervisors working on dozens of water projects underway or recently completed around the world.

    If you think dozens is a lot then you will be very impressed with these Santa Barbra school kids who have raised money to provide 36 villages with clean water.

    Similar performance but there is quite a difference in resources between the LDS church and school kids!

  35. MikeInWeHo
    July 12, 2012 at 2:45 am

    re: 22
    The Brown Elephant store in Chicago doesn’t support a hospital, but rather the Howard Brown Health Center. HBHC is a non-profit healthcare provider to the gay/lesbian community in Chicago. There are similar charities in other large U.S. cities. Here in L.A. we have a chain of Out Of The Closet thrift shops that are similar. The main difference from LDS charitable giving is that all of these charities disclose their finances.

  36. 36
    July 12, 2012 at 6:44 am

    Kaimi, first let me say I’ve respected every bit of writing of yours I’ve ever come across. You have an all-too-rare, and highly important, ability to write rationally and moderately on contentious issues. I know that your purpose with this piece is to add what you saw as missing information, for greater fairness to the issue. I have to add what I know to this.

    When I read the Businessweek article last night, at first I felt kinda nonplussed. As time has worn on, I’ve come to realize that first reaction was actually to go numb. The shock – the turning upside down of what I’d believed to be true – was so great it’s only coming to me slowly.

    One thing I’ve always held to is how very charitable the church I was raised in is. I have been told throughout my life that the LDS church donates generously to humanitarian causes and is always there with food aid and emergency aid in disasters. I’ve been told smugly that we give far more because we have far more to give – LDS church members are far more strict about following the law of tithing, and that’s why we give the most aid and send it faster than anyone else. We’re the first ones on the scene to help, I have always been told, and now I realize – along with a lot of other crashing realizations – that I have always heard that from within the church.

    No one outside seems to mention how our church is the most generous and giving and kind, or how we are the first ones on the scene with our generous giving kindness.

    I remember in 2010 when we were given a presentation of church activity in Haiti following the devastating earthquake. I felt great about that, which I realize now was exactly the point. In my memory, this comes across now as more of a marketing presentation. We have no evidence of how fast our aid got there or how much help we actually offered.

    My non-member husband was with me that day – he participates in various LDS activities with me. He was particularly impressed, too, and he’s equally upset about all of this. He was raised Catholic until his teens – and when he read Tiago’s comment: “Not being specific I think leads some members to assume too much like one commented in a recent EQ lesson who stated that he had on good authority that most relief products distributed through Catholic Charities are funded by LDS money,” he was particularly bothered by that sort of blatant misinformation going around. While the LDS church is on record as having donated to Catholic Charities, this seems to be a really twisted up, backwards version of the reality that LDS often uses the much larger Catholic Charities infrastructure to distribute its material assistance.

    My parents recently returned home from a humanitarian mission. They spent 22 months (max allowed before some visa requirement expired) in far east Russia in what can be described as pure hell. Prior to this, they worked for five years to save for this mission following the sale of their house. They bought and paid for Deseret Insurance during their time there, which lasted three months after the end of their mission. After they came home, having not had access to Western doctors for the duration of their stay, they proceeded to have all the tests and preemptive checks done that are appropriate and requested of people their age. Turned out Deseret Insurance covered none of it and they have paid almost $5000 out of pocket for these tests. I think my dad’s colonoscopy was covered because they discovered some polyps, but nothing else. I am angry. I asked my mom, “Why aren’t they covering basic, routine preventative care?” She said she was angry too, but she never connects her frustrations to structural problems.

    While there, my parents’ greatest triumph as the humanitarian missionaries was getting 50 wheelchairs made at a Russian factory, shipped to them, and distributed to an orphanage of disabled children. It was heartwarming when they were finally able to do that, and the pictures they sent back. But in the face of this information – knowing how many more wheelchairs could be made and distributed to these people, how much more good could be done – I’m askance. Aghast.

    I am galled that there are highly paid positions in the church engaging in for-profit activity. I think of my parents, who have been dirt poor their entire lives and still are now, scrimping and doing without and donating 10% of everything they ever made to the church, and then saving up and paying their own way to go on a mission, and once there being told to sit in a van and travel eight hours on bumpy roads to Vladivostok, with one too many people squeezed in, and no air conditioning.. my mom thought she was going to die. She said, nicely, “Our mission president just can’t understand. He works in an air conditioned office all day.” I didn’t know being the mission president was a paid position, I really didn’t. I see now this whole class system laid out before me I wasn’t aware of before. Despite being the truest of TBMs for decades, my parents are definitely on the bottom of it.

    From the article:

    “Asked about the $1.3 billion estimate of the church’s humanitarian efforts over the last quarter-century, LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy writes in an e-mail, “Though the church’s monetary donations are significant, much of the ‘value’ of our service is not monetary, but in the hundreds of thousands of hours of service and the talent and expertise given by church members to help others around the world.” “

    Wait a minute.. the $1.3 billion valuation isn’t dollars donated but actually includes volunteer service, like that my parents rendered? The church was not giving that service. My parents were. It cost the church nothing – it cost my parents a great deal. This diminishes even that .7% of church income being donated to charity. So even what little accounting we know is skewed. Michael Purdy is now on record as admitting that the .7% is a vast overestimate because the volunteer labor is being included.

    I see now better what people mean when they say the church likes to take credit for what its members do. For instance, whenever you see an article about generous LDS giving, they mean the members in their private lives, not the church itself being generous with giving.

    The things you mention as being welfare for the needy – I quote from your post: “food storehouses, food production for the needy, employment training, church-run thrift stores, and so on,” – are any of these things donated by the church to the people who need them? Or are storehouses, production, employment training, and thrift stores operated by volunteer work of members asked to contribute their time and effort? I recall my family volunteering at one of the thrift stores. I recall using the services of the church employment office, staffed by volunteers. I don’t recall us receiving food from the bishop’s storehouse but I know people are asked to work in exchange for what they receive, if they are physically able. Does the food come from the church’s for-profit farms? If so, are they still making a profit over and above what the managerial staff, who are paid, make? How much money does Deseret Industries make off of its donations from church members?

    D.I. is an interesting case.
    “In addition to donations, Deseret Industries also sells new furniture, much of it received from its manufacturing plant in Salt Lake City.” Oh, well that is generous of them. Wait, what?

    “Those in training are called associates. Some associates have disabilities or elderly, making it difficult to get jobs at other places”…”Trainees of Deseret Industries do not receive benefits such as retirement, medical coverage, vacation, or sick leave (except for the above-mentioned full-time professional staff). Deseret Industries notes that this is the case because its goal is to prepare them for the workplace and encourage them to work in the community.” Do you still want to present D.I. as an example of charitable giving by the church?

    We don’t know the answers, and won’t until the books are opened, but I think these things were accurately excluded from charitable giving by the church. If anything, given that so much of that figure is massive volunteer labor by people paying their own way to go give and give, the .7% is a vast overestimate. The church “gives” a lot directly through the members, and divests itself of its monies little and infrequently.

    I am curious what the language was in the confirmation you got from SLC before posting this. If it hadn’t been for Michael Purdy’s quote in the article, I’d have never realized the “material assistance” included my family’s volunteer labor.

  37. Ben S
    July 12, 2012 at 7:18 am

    “I didn’t know being the mission president was a paid position, I really didn’t.”

    Uh, typically it’s not. There may be a living stipend, if necessary. Where did you see this in the article?

  38. Jon
    July 12, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Your correction seems rather petty. The article was reporting the amount of humanitarian aid given. The author got the number directly from the church, as defined by the church. And yet you criticize the methodology.

    There is an argument to be made that church welfare assistance could be considered charity. But strictly speaking, it fails to meet some of the standard requirements for charitable work as it is usually defined. It is not available to the public but rather to a very small group, it often has strict requirements for recipients, and generally requires membership and participation in a religious organization to receive the assistance.

    Would it count as charity for Scientology to provide Dianetics counseling to some of its own members, but refuse it to the general public? If the Catholics gave employment training, but limited it to people who were baptized, attended mass regularly, and frequently paid indulgences, would it still be considered purely charitable?

  39. Researcher
    July 12, 2012 at 8:51 am

    it fails to meet some of the standard requirements for charitable work as it is usually defined. It is not available to the public but rather to a very small group (Jon 38)

    If I took the opportunity to provide help to the handful of beggars I saw almost daily back when I lived in a large city, your definition would exclude that act being labeled charity.

    What would you call it?

    And how about Ronald McDonald Houses? They only provide help to families with severely ill children, and only a small subset of those. What would you call the actions of Ronald McDonald House?

  40. David M
    July 12, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Researcher, are you serious? Do you not see the difference here? I think it is ok to discriminate on the basis of NEED. The fact that you only gave to beggars and Ronald McDonald Houses only gives to the severely ill children is not a problem.

    The problem, in this case, is that eligibility for welfare assistance in the church is based on something other than need. It is based on membership in the church.

  41. Researcher
    July 12, 2012 at 9:09 am

    The problem, in this case, is that eligibility for welfare assistance in the church is based on something other than need. It is based on membership in the church.

    Huh? I’ve never noticed church welfare assistance being distributed to those not in need.

  42. Jon
    July 12, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Of course it’s distributed to those in need. But the other requirement is that they are members of the church (and too often tithe-paying members). So it’s not a simple consideration of whether or not the person is in need.

    Your Ronald McDonald Houses example doesn’t have that secondary requirement.

  43. JP
    July 12, 2012 at 10:10 am

    You address a deeper problem among church membership when you wrote, “The shock – the turning upside down of what I’d believed to be true – was so great it’s only coming to me slowly.” I believe this is all-too-common within “the church” today. Modern members seem to try and believe that the organization we know as the LDS church is this amazing, benevolent organization that takes care of the world’s problems; and they love “feel good” stories and cling to them, basing their faith on them. The reality is that this organization is run by men called to be Apostles, and exists to fill that role. You stated several erroneous beliefs that you held before, such as that tithing is used to help others, when it is specifically NOT meant to be used in a charitable way. The goal of the organization of the church is to spread the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, providing our brothers and sisters with the opportunity to perform saving ordinances under the authority of the restored priesthood(Study up on the calling of the apostles, which is essentially “the church” that you are referring to). It is NOT to help those in need. That responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the members of Christ’s church, not the organization (Mosiah 18, 8-10). “The Church,” in this sense, is you. It is me. It is everyone who has been baptized. It is NOT the organization in Salt Lake. That organization has a different responsibility.

  44. Mark B.
    July 12, 2012 at 10:10 am

    The criticisms implicit in the Businessweek piece and in several of the comments above are based on the incorrect premise that the Church exists principally as a “charitable” institution–an organization that gives aid to the poor. But that is not the Church’s principal mission–its principal mission is to bring souls unto Christ.

    Those who lead the Church (and, for that matter, all members of the Church) will be answerable for how well they (and all the rest of us) accomplish that mission–to One who is a wiser judge than either the editors of Businessweek or even the self-appointed guardians of the Church’s virtue in the Bloggernacle. It would probably be well for us to be less concerned about how they are fulfilling their responsibilities and more concerned about how we are fulfilling ours.

  45. j
    July 12, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I highly recommend that you read this article, it is extremely enlightening:

  46. Stephen M -- Ethesis
    July 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Sam — thanks, that makes sense. He is just sloppy and headed towards confirmation bias at full speed.

    Stapley–Sir, you make an excellent point. By separating the national organization’s budget from all the local budgets the number gets rather skewed. is worth viewing for perspective.

  47. Jettboy
    July 12, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Thank the Lord the LDS Church main business is saving souls and not lives. Its a religion and not a charity organization. Tax exemption is based on that criteria and not how much money spent on the needy. What have you done or how much of your money have you used to help others? If you haven’t done much yourself then nothing the church does or not is of any value for your own salvation.

  48. David K
    July 12, 2012 at 10:38 am

    The money has to be going somewhere. From Winter’s article she states that in 1997 Time magazine estimated that the church was worth $30 billion and took in $5 billion a year in tithing. Now Rueters claims in is worth $40 billion and takes in $8 billion a year. So from 1997 to 2011 the church took in (at $5B a year) $70 billion just from tithing ignoring all other business income. If the value has gone up only $10 billion in those 14 years, where did the other $60 billion go. Either the tithing income numbers are grossly over estimated, or the church’s value is grossly under estimated, or it costs much more to the run the church then one might think, or the church spends billions on aid of various types every year.

    Note that building a church, temple, buying a ranch in Florida or building a mall does not reduce the value of the church as they are assets. If the church had used all of the money for those purposes, then it would have resulted in $60 Billion more in value.

  49. Researcher
    July 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Jon, Ronald McDonald Houses have all sorts of secondary requirements.

    At the RMH I am most familiar with, you can’t just show up and expect a room. First, you have to be referred after an interview with a social worker at the hospital. Your child has to be under age 18. If there is a high demand for the rooms, your child has to have certain life-threatening conditions for his parents to qualify for a room, and you are expected to pay a small sum for the room (usually $15 per night) unless you can prove dire financial need.

    And then once you have a room, there are very tight restrictions on your behavior while in the House. You can’t bring anyone into the House without prior approval from the staff. There are cleaning responsibilities, and responsibilities for attending House meetings. There are whole lists of requirements and rules that have to be signed before receiving services. You have to have one parent staying at RMH each night in order to hold your room. (And that can be a hardship, if both of you feel the need to be at the hospital with your child or one parent has to be at home working, or if it is a situation with a single parent.)

    And in the case of the RMH that I’ve sometimes described as my “home away from home,” many of the parents are there by choice. They could have had the heart surgery or transplant or cancer treatment at a local hospital, but they decided that they needed to see the specialists at [top Mid-Atlantic children’s hospital]. Should their self-selection as part of the group seeking the service remove them from the pool of recipients?

    Beyond the example of RMH, there are all sorts of charities in this country. Common categories include those addressing community, sports, religion, science, and educational needs. It seems naive to suggest that a charitable organization — even a religious one — shouldn’t set secondary requirements to decide the recipients of its charities.

  50. Stephen M -- Ethesis
    July 12, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Researcher — bless your heart. I have spent too much time at RMH myself. Wish you well.

    Also wish you luck in being heard.

  51. Mark B.
    July 12, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Note that building a church, temple, buying a ranch in Florida or building a mall does not reduce the value of the church as they are assets. If the church had used all of the money for those purposes, then it would have resulted in $60 Billion more in value.

    But all those churches and temples are non-income-producing assets, and they depreciate. And they are expensive to operate and maintain, and they require maintenance and, sometimes, major renovation or replacement. And, since real property values are subject to the market, they can lose value substantially faster than any depreciation schedule would predict.

  52. Mithryn
    July 12, 2012 at 11:10 am

    But, you’ve confused the data, not clarified. Other churches don’t get to count “Disaster relief” etc. as charitable aide.

    The article compares apples to apples by comparing dollars donated, to dollars delivered. It immediately compares the same numbers to the methodist church’s 29%.

    Simply throwing more numbers in to say “See the church does donate more” does not help the case that in cash donations, as defined by the IRS, the number stands at .7%, or an “F” rating on

    If I told you that if you give me $100, all if it will feed the homeless, and then I do $10,000,000 of disaster relief, but blow your $100 on cocaine, I’m not suddenly a good person. Nor do I get to claim $9,999,900 on my IRS filing in donations. It’s great that I gave a lot in disaster relief, but I still lied, and used the money in ways that deceived the donor.

  53. brian larsen
    July 12, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Help me out, 2 serious questions and 1 snark.

    1) I’ve read that the church has just altered the donation slips to read: “Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated all donations become the church’s property and will be used at the church’s sole discretion to further the church’s overall mission.” So, what I thought I was donating to clear charity (humanitarian aid), may now be going to build a mega-mall? Do I have that correct?!

    2) Also, what about McMullin’s claim, that “we believe that a person who is impoverished temporally cannot blossom spiritually.” Anyone want to make sense of that one to me? I mean, I could see, in one sense, how limited resources can limit the kind and perhaps even the “amount” of service one can render. Any other ways to read this?

    3) Will President Monson go down to the rest of the world as being known as the Mormon Prophet with two soundbites: 1) take care of the widows, and 2) “let’s go shopping?”

    Finally (rhetorical), from what I heard in this last conference, the church was tooting its horn quite aggressively about how, basically, nobody does as much as we do (a couple of talks at least addressed this idea – in, what I felt what a PR ploy but arrogant and naive) in regards to humanitarian efforts. Were those comments not begging for someone to explore the issue?

    Jettboy @47. Your last sentence is most confusing to me: “If you haven’t done much yourself then nothing the church does or not is of any value for your own salvation.” So, what the church does or doesn’t do directly effects the salvation if someone gives “much?” I’m sure you have a clear point in there, but I can’t figure it.

  54. Mithryn
    July 12, 2012 at 11:12 am

    ” Its a religion and not a charity organization. ”

    What a comment! A religion that claims that it is there to feed the homelss and the needy. I just can’t even…

    Do you think that Jesus saying “The poor you have with you always” was a jab at the poor, or that he was saying “You have a duty to them when I am gone.”

    It just… gah!

  55. David M
    July 12, 2012 at 11:12 am


    Yes, being under 18 (for a children’s charity) and obeying the house rules while you stay at a RMH is EXACTLY THE SAME THING as agreeing to be baptized, proclaiming belief in the claims of the church, and pledging lifelong allegiance to its leaders. You got us there!

  56. Manuel
    July 12, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Thank you for this clarification. I was a bit skeptical at first when I read the figure because I have participated in distribution of humanitarian aid by the Church, and while I assumed something was not being accounted for, I didn’t bother to look at the numbers available.

  57. Howard
    July 12, 2012 at 11:21 am

    In 43 JP wrote: The goal of the organization of the church is to spread the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, providing our brothers and sisters with the opportunity to perform saving ordinances under the authority of the restored priesthood(Study up on the calling of the apostles, which is essentially “the church” that you are referring to). It is NOT to help those in need. The church recently increased it’s three-fold mission to a four-fold mission: 1) Proclaim the Gospel, 2) Redeem the Dead, 3) Perfect the Saints, 4) Care for the Poor and Needy

  58. Researcher
    July 12, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Mithryn: The Church isn’t a charitable organization. It is a religion, which by dictionary definition means: “a particular system of faith and worship,” and a church “a particular Christian organization, typically one with its own clergy, buildings, and distinctive doctrines.” As Howard just noted, charity is one part of its mission.

    David M: Let me use a different example. A local organization has set up a sports/educational charity. Proceeds go to scholarships for outstanding athletes in the local school district. Is a student athlete in the next school district going to cry foul? Perhaps, but that doesn’t change the mission or outreach or organization of the charity.

  59. Manuel
    July 12, 2012 at 11:27 am

    “Note that building a church, temple, buying a ranch in Florida or building a mall does not reduce the value of the church as they are assets.”

    While malls and ranches are most likely self sustained, I think it would be interesting to know what is the actual annual cost of maintaining temples and chapels. The increment in the number of temples in the last 20 years is remarkably exponential, and I can only assume aging buildings (which the church owns plenty) also bring significant costs. It’s hard to find out where money is really going without information as to what the cost of running the Church actually is.

  60. David M
    July 12, 2012 at 11:44 am


    I still do not see your new example as being particularly applicable. Let’s try this one: I have a family – wife and 5 kids. We decide it would be good to put money away in case someone needs it. When anyone has a bit extra, they contribute to the fund. When one of us is down on our luck, we can request some of the money to help out.

    First of all, I think this is great. It allows us to spread the risk around and makes our family more self-sufficient. We are taking care of each other. But when viewed from the outside, would other people count this as “charitable giving” if the money never leaves the family?

  61. FredL
    July 12, 2012 at 11:53 am

    I was a ward clerk for a couple years. Our ward collected in tithes and offerings $30-40,000 a month. The assistance given to members was typically under $2,000 a month. Sometimes far less.

  62. Howard
    July 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    How much of the $30-40k/mo. stayed local or returned and how much did Salt Lake get?

  63. FredL
    July 12, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    SLC got all except fast offerings paid out and the ward budget of about $11 k.

  64. FredL
    July 12, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I need to clarify that. Some, I’m sure, came back to support the Stake and pay for buildings. That is probably fairly significant.

  65. July 12, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    My understanding is that everything goes to SLC first including fast offerings.

  66. Howard
    July 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    How much comes back?

  67. Jeffrey
    July 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    This article is a tad misleading, as well, on the other side of the argument, since the Church doesn’t really spend any money on their church welfare programs. They do, of course, but it’s paid for, essentially, by the programs themselves. Deseret Industries, for example, is a non-profit, and the salaries of its employees are paid by the income from the business, with the extra then going back into their overall goal. Employees which run the various programs are certainly paid, but that should not count as humanitarian giving any more than paying the CEO of the Red Cross should count as humanitarian giving.

    Tithing funds don’t pay for Deseret Industries, if memory serves correctly.

    Which is all misleading because it implies that the church is spending far more than 0.7% of its finances on humanitarian aid, when they aren’t. The church takes in roughly $8 billion in tithing, but welfare programs are not paid for with tithing money; they are paid for with fast offerings.


    So that money isn’t really the Church’s, anyway, to claim credit for. Obviously it is legally, as members have given it to them, but members pay that money completely voluntarily outside of tithing, the same as with humanitarian aid. If I give someone $20 to buy a homeless man food, who is deserving of the credit for the service? The middleman, or me?

    So stating that the Church only pays 0.7% of its own resources to humanitarian causes is entirely accurate, because it is based on them contributing $50 million out of roughly $8 billion of tithing funds received every year.

  68. July 12, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    In light of the fact that the Church does not have traditional paid ministers working full-time in every chapel, which makes it strikingly different from mainstream organized religion in the US today, I have a question about the entire comparison. Reading this passage of your post: “A recently published article co-written by Cragun estimates that the Mormon Church donates only about 0.7 percent of its annual income to charity; the United Methodist Church gives about 29 percent.” begs the question. How much of the 29% goes to salaries? I worked full-time for a non-profit organization for years. Do not assume that “charity” excludes salary for full time staff.

  69. Jeffrey
    July 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    By the way, another point raised in that article which is not addressed in this one, is that the general authorities, including the prophet and the apostles, are paid salaries in that position.

    I have seen some estimates, one from a church employee involved with Ensign Peak Advisors (so take that for what it’s worth), that apostles are paid $600k and the seventies $120k per year.

    If that is true – and while those numbers may be off, there is enough evidence to say with surety that the GAs are paid – it is more damning information, since the Church consistently proclaims how they have no paid ministry, yet the top leaders are paid substantial sums of money, and are given access to various perks like private secretaries, transportation, and, in some cases, housing.

    The apologist excuse would be that they aren’t paid for the religious callings, but that they are paid for the professional callings they serve in for the Church, which just so happen to coincide with their religious callings.

    If true, however, there is only one response: when the Church claims to have no paid ministry, they are lying, and the leaders of the church have a vested interest in both maintaining its interests (religious or otherwise), and keeping the members in the dark about it.

  70. Fenrisulfr22
    July 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    You would think god’s one true church would be able to clear this up with some financial transparency. If they are going to attempt to hide their data, they can’t complain when speculations are made on what is published and available. I have a feeling that the membership wouldn’t like what they see if that was done. Also, “Let’s go shopping!”

  71. Researcher
    July 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Is this Times and Seasons or the comment board at the Salt Lake Tribune?

  72. Zippers
    July 12, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Grateful for your correction.

    One thing the article, and many of the commenters, are missing, is the philosophy of self-reliance. The most orthodox member in the world can go to the most orthodox Bishop in the world for welfare needs and he will be directed to work at the cannery or provide other volunteer service for the money. The Church doesn’t give handouts. Would you prefer they give most of that money away to folks who aren’t working for it? I understand humanitarian need in third-world countries, but understand the Church’s desire to teach self-reliance.

  73. July 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    For what it’s worth, our ward gives out far more in welfare assistance than we receive in fast offerings.

    Both Bishop’s I’ve served with in the last couple of years follow very closely the church policy of not taking worthiness into account at all when providing for families in need. This means that much of the money that is spent is on behalf of people who are in a bad economic situation but who have never come to church and are unlikely to come to church in the future. In many circumstances they have also authorized welfare funds to be used to care for those who need it but are not members of the church. I’m sure there are potentially some Bishops out there who are stingy with regards to welfare funding, but I have yet to come across one.

    Jeffrey (69), the church has always been open about the living allowances given General Authorities. They are modest, and they come from the for profit activities of the tax-paying businesses that the church owns. See here: for example.

    36: The living stipend given to mission presidents is indeed quite modest. Both of my mission presidents needed us to pay for the food we ate while at the mission home eating dinner around their table because of the modesty of the stipend; they essentially lived off their savings accounts for the 3 year duration of their tenure as mission presidents.

    In general, I think both of these articles: and clearly delineate a lot of things that people seem to be confusing in this thread and in others on this issue (perhaps in part because of the confusion in the article itself?). The church’s for profit businesses pay taxes.
    They don’t operate as non-profit entities and they aren’t supported by the tithing and offerings of the church members.

    And being a long time DI customer and general lover of all things DI I am still completely floored by all of the DI hate in the comments here… People: the DI is not some kind of ingenious capitalist hoodwinking organization… It pays people who have poor job skills or otherwise impoverished resumes for work they do selling second hand goods while simultaneously paying for them to get vocational training for other jobs outside the DI so that they can improve their future job prospects. It pays for medical assisting training, truck driving training, woodworking training (that’s where the furniture comes from, 36, from people who are learning wood working so that they can get better jobs outside of the DI system), it helps people with little or no English skills improve their grasp of the language, etc. etc.

    I tried so hard to not feed the trolls on this thread, but I guess the DI is my Ardis Pashall-like sweet spot. It is essentially unconscionable to me that anybody could give a sincere look at the DI and how it works and see anything other than Christian charity. Plus, the number of great jazz LPs I’ve bought there is unparalleled.

  74. Howard
    July 12, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I completely agree with and support the concept of self-reliance, teach a man to fish, etc. The problem with chronic third world malnutrition, thirst and disease is they must have life-saving aid first, then must have a viable local economy or the ability to live off the land to eventually become self-reliant. The Church doesn’t give handouts. This attitude causes the death of a lot of people daily and needs to change for those who cannot reasonably be self-reliant in the short run with out vital aid now. Of course is out of sight, out of mind so “Let’s go shopping!”

  75. July 12, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    A. Nonny Mouse,
    Okay, now I’m totally jealous. I managed to get some pretty decent books at DIs when I lived places that had them, but I never saw their jazz LP selections. (I’d have to get a record player, of course, but it would be totally worth it.)

  76. Jonathan Green
    July 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    But, A. Nonny Mouse, as D. Michael Quinn explained in the Businessweek article, it’s different when Mormons do it. Other thrift stores that support job training programs are charities, but when Mormons do it, it’s a sinister conspiracy and WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING?

  77. J Town
    July 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Self-reliance is fine. I will admit, however, that it often worries me is how close we can come to “Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor import unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just…”

    The scriptures are pretty unequivocal about giving freely and not just to those who are, in our limited opinions, worthy of the help. Thus I’m skeptical to a degree of the “self-reliance” mantra that is so often touted when we speak of charitable giving. It’s a very dangerous line that we’re walking.

  78. mapman
    July 12, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    I found the article to be a little troubling. I hope that the Church responds to this to clarify things.

    What is really disgusting is the cover for the magazine:
    Business Insider says that this cover is “ballsy”. I’d say that mocking a religious story that has nothing to do with the article is cowardice, especially when everyone knows that Mormons are going to more or less turn the cheek.

  79. Douglas
    July 12, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    All this bickering over exact figures is awesome. What is the number which we should aim for that will make us better than the Methodists and everyone else so we can say we are holier than them? Is that the indication of what sets the Church aside from the rest? How the money is spent? (Not that we would ever know, because they don’t tell us).

    What about the things the Book of Mormon talk about? What about the gifts of the Spirit and the miraculous manifestations? What about the ministering of angels? Have we received His image in our countenances? Have we experienced a change of heart? Do we exercise faith in the redemption? Are we filled with joy and had our guilt swept away? Has our corruption put on incorruption? If these things even could be measured, I think that sadly, our numbers would be even lower than the paltry .7%.

  80. July 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    ” the church has always been open about the living allowances given General Authorities. They are modest, and they come from the for profit activities of the tax-paying businesses that the church owns. See here: for example.”

    This makes it worse in my opinion. Paying from the for-profit is a way to decrease the tax load. Essentially the church uses the for profit side for expenditures that are deductible.

  81. July 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    “The Church doesn’t give handouts. This attitude causes the death of a lot of people daily…”

    Howard, you should be careful with your usage of the word “cause” here. By your logic, you not sending your life savings to Africa is also “causing” people to die.

    A. Nonny Mouse is exactly right about DI. It’s a self-sustaining model, not a penny comes from the Church and not a single person is getting rich. The purpose of the existence of the institution is to help train those with barriers to employment. And I’m damn proud of the Church for developing the organization in a way that can continue on its own rather than having to continue to draw from the “charities” of the Church. If only all charitable programs could be so valuable to the recipients and efficient in their usage.

  82. prometheus
    July 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Dive bombing here at the end, haven’t read all the comments, but I wonder if we obsess too much about self-reliance. The idea of Zion is not individuals, but community. Interdependence rather than independence. Self-reliance is to some extent a good thing, but can’t be the end point or we are not a chain but individual links shooing away every other link….

  83. Howard
    July 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Would you prefer replacing “cause” with “results in”? You really don’t want to get into my life savings etc. My money and my time are firmly where my comments lead! I have followed the Spirit since 2003, I live very frugally donating most of my time and much of my money to humanitarian causes. It would be wonderful to see the church do the same.

  84. David M
    July 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    A. Nonny Mouse wrote, “the church has always been open about the living allowances given General Authorities. They are modest, and they come from the for profit activities of the tax-paying businesses that the church owns. See here: for example.”

    Always been open? Then why did you have to go back 27 years to find a reference to it?

    “In many circumstances they have also authorized welfare funds to be used to care for those who need it but are not members of the church. I’m sure there are potentially some Bishops out there who are stingy with regards to welfare funding, but I have yet to come across one.”

    I am not challenging you on this, because I have no doubt that you are being honest, but I can confirm that bishops who do not give to non-members are not being stingy. They are following the guidebook that has been given to them, which clearly states that non-members needing aid should be referred to other local sources.

    As for DI, I also like the concept, and hope that the church is not using it for profit. While I am no longer in Utah, some of my member friends in Utah have relayed stories to me in the past year that some of the paid staff at some DI stores were let go and ward members were asked to contribute more time there. I hope that this was only a misunderstanding. It was near the time when most of the ward janitorial staff was let go and replaced with volunteers, so the combination of the two was a bit disheartening.

  85. WMP
    July 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    So, who is the great beneficiary of all of this shady money-making the Mormons are doing? Isn’t this really the implicit charge: someone must be lining their pockets from this. So, who?

    I assume the church is paying its employees prevailing market wages. Because, well, that’s how you get competent people to work for you. I have not seen anything close to credible to suggest that the General Authorities are making off like bandits (they live in SL Valley–gossip central–I’m guessing I would have heard). And the one statement from President Hinckley on the matter suggests precisely the contrary. I can’t help thinking of Alma talking to Korihor. Can you imagine Elder Nelson saying: Yes, I gave up my career as one of the world’s finest cardiac specialists so I could really make it rain as an LDS apostle??

  86. Manuel
    July 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    “If that is true – and while those numbers may be off, there is enough evidence to say with surety that the GAs are paid – it is more damning information, since the Church consistently proclaims how they have no paid ministry, yet the top leaders are paid substantial sums of money, and are given access to various perks like private secretaries, transportation, and, in some cases, housing.”

    I don’t think our GAs being paid or provided means to fulfill their callings is “damning” by any means. However, I support the notion that the Church needs to drop the claim that we have “no paid ministry.” When presented in such simplified statements, it is most definitely false.

    The claim could be better worded to be clearer and more honest like “Our local leaders such as Bishops and Stake Presidents do not receive payment for their services.”

  87. WMP
    July 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    There are almost 30,000 units in the church. Each with a bishop or branch president, RS President, EQ President, counselors, etc., etc., etc. Not to mention the stakes with the same sorts of leaders. None of these people are paid for their service in the church. Not a one.

    So, we say the claim is false because there are a handful of full-time leaders (100? less?) that have been asked to abandon their occupations to serve who receive some payment to be able to live?

  88. July 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    David M, I went back 27 years to show that it is not yesterday’s news that GA’s get a living stipend. It is in fact the news of many many moons ago (many before the 27 years of age of the reference I quoted…).

    I suppose I should probably have also noted that the Bloomberg article itself state that the General Authorities all receive the same allowance, which seems to me to show that Jeffrey really was trolling, since he didn’t even bother to read the article contradicting the hearsay numbers he was quoting of different salaries for different … but I didn’t.

    The portion you are quoting from the guidebook is couched (as is most of the guidebook) in repeated language indicating that it is up to the bishop’s discretion, guided by good judgement and inspiration from the spirit as to which people to give welfare assistance to. So, while you’re right in asserting that the welfare assistance program is primarily intended to help members of the bishop’s ward, I made my point principally to take issue with the commenters above who seemed to be asserting that there were stringent worthiness requirements imposed upon the welfare assistance the church gives out, which is simply not the case.

    Using the handbook clause about aiding non-members with welfare funds outside of the context in which it is placed in the handbook (now and for at least the last 14 years that I’ve had access to church handbooks and likely for many years before that) as a means of incorrectly insinuating that Bishop’s are instructed to turn up their noses at those who aren’t members of the church seems disingenuous and down right trollish at best to me and at worst is dishonest and a whole lot of other things that start with dis-.

  89. Manuel
    July 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Yes WMP. If the statement is made that way, it is false. While there is context and background information as to why GAs get paid, there are better ways to word the statement.

    I am a manufacturing engineer. I can say, HotWheel vehicles sold during 2011 contained no heavy metals. Would this statement be true if “a handful” (about 100 or so of them) had lead and mercury in them? Nope.

    It sounds cool to make claims that are “almost true” or 99.99% true, but under the lens of public scrutiny, 100% honest is always the best way to go.

  90. David M
    July 12, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    WMP wrote, “So, we say the claim is false because there are a handful of full-time leaders (100? less?) that have been asked to abandon their occupations to serve who receive some payment to be able to live?”

    If there is one that is paid, the claim is false. Honesty is honesty. I suppose their statement is “mostly honest.” I don’t fault them for getting paid. I think they should be paid, considering the time commitment. I like the statement that Manual suggested: “Our local leaders such as Bishops and Stake Presidents do not receive payment for their services.” It is clear and it is true.

  91. David M
    July 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    A. Nonny Mouse,
    I did not insinuate that bishops are instructed to “turn up their noses” to non-Members, but I did want to make it clear that bishops who do not provide aid for non-members are making this decision with the guidance provided to them by the church, not simply because of personal stinginess.

    I agree with you, however, regarding the requirement for worthiness. The guidebook clearly states that personal worthiness should NOT be a determining factor in providing welfare assistance.

  92. Jordan
    July 12, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    This article is a bunch of feel-good fluff. The author points out all the other “aid” the LD$ church gives, yet no facts or figures are given. No specific dollar amounts.

    This is a song and dance meant to distract people from the truth.

  93. Nelson Phillips
    July 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    All of this dissection and number guessing is interesting, but it both highlights and dances around the big issue…


    The fact that they don’t do this suggests they have something to hide.

  94. clark
    July 12, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    David K (48) I think that would be an excellent thing to have at least asked about. Too bad the article didn’t. I’m not sure but outside of the cost of building upkeep and the like (which in aggregate is undoubtedly large) there is also the fact that the Church is an international Church and most units outside of the US end up drawing more money from the Church than they return to the Church. (i.e. costs are more than collected in tithing and offerings) Since the likelihood is that this will accelerate with more and more of the Church being outside the US it would seem to be wise to save money for that time. One can debate how much should be set aside for these future needs but once you are talking about saving and investing then it seems reason to treat it as investments. I think Nate did a good story on that point here a few months back.

    Nelson (93) The reason the finances aren’t public is due to mismanagement back in the 60’s that nearly bankrupted the Church. (The Businessweek article would have been better had it noted the problems of financial mismanagement and overspending in the Church’s past and how that affects present views of saving) Pres. N. Elden Tanner was brought in to “save” the Church’s finances and put the emphasis on investing and saving and most importantly not overspending. i.e. fiscal conservatism.

    Personally I would like a bit more openness but at the same time since almost anything they put out would just be second guessed by critics why should they put it out there? If the Church was saving and investing billions of dollars for future need we’d just get a bunch of stories about how selfish that was.

    David M (84) Probably he brought up an Ensign article from 1985 because it was easiest to find. I’ve read it in various places since then. It’s not exactly concealed information.

  95. David M
    July 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Clark, since when is the elimination of financial transparency a solution for mismanagement? This makes no sense.

    As for the money paid to General Authorities, it may not be “exactly concealed,” but it is effectively concealed. Are you honestly of the opinion that most members are aware that the General Authorities are paid?

  96. July 12, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    The fact that they don’t do this suggests they have something to hide.

    Or that they don’t need 14 million Nelson Phillips second-guessing every single financial decision they make. The fact-sheet that Kaimi refers to is a tiny portion of what a full-disclosure would include and how many disagreements and misunderstandings do we already have of that? All of the sudden we have every Jane, John and Jimmy asking their bishop why DMC is taking their tithing and giving it to Catholic Charities and who is paying for the chili at the ward activity if my fast offerings are put into Pepsi stock.

    Yes, exactly what our (both local and church-wide) leaders need to be spending their time clarifying.

  97. Stephen M
    July 12, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Mr Green, ah, I can see you understand it exactly.

    As for Howard, he practices what he preaches which makes typical criticism of him problematic.

    I do know that the lawyers and accountants working for the church are expected to take pay cuts to do so.

    Anyway, this has been interesting.

  98. Raymond Takashi Swenson
    July 12, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    The United Methodist Church has about 12 million members worldwide, about 7.8 million in the USA. The church arm for humanitarian aid is the United Methodist Committee on Relief. According to the web site Charity Navigator, which rates charitable organizations, in the last year of available data (2010), UMCOR received about $80 million in donations, and distributed about $40 million in humanitarian aid worldwide. A bar chart for the years 2007-2010 indicated that in some years the expenditures are as much as twice as high, or $80 million, utilizing funds carried over from prior years’ donations. So in those four years, the average expenditures in aid were about $60 million a year (including the cost of personnel involved in aid distribution).

    The Bloomberg Businessweek article claimed that the average annual expenditure of Mormon humanitarian aid was $52 million. In other words, the actual dollar amount of humanitarian aid from each church is fairly comparable.

    If the $60 million in annual average Methodist aid is divided by the 7.8 million Methodists in the US, the amount of charity per member is about $7.69 per year. The $52 million in Mormon humanitarian aid divdied by 6 million US Mormons comes to $8.67 per member per year. Again, that looks pretty comparable, and that is over and above fast offerings, and labor donated to grow and pack and distribute food.

    The theory that some commenters have offered here that welfare aid to someone within the church organization is NOT charity, but the same aid to someone outside the church IS, makes no sense at all. If you donate to a charitable fund that is designed to operate ONLY in your own town, THAT IS STILL A CHARITY.

    If the $60 million UMCOR revenues are 29% of all United Methodist expenditures, then the total annual revenues of the UMC are $206 million, or less than $30 per US member. That does not speak ill of the UMCOR program, but $30 per member per year seems awfully anemic as a revenue stream to maintain churches and pay salaries for pastors. Is that ALL the UMC takes in each year?

    I don’t think Mormons have any reason to be ashamed of our humanitarian program, which is comparable in value to that of the United Methodist Church, both as a total, and as contributions per member. And we should not forget that Fast Offerings and contributions to Church Welfare, including our work in helping to produce food for those in need, provide a significant aid where it is needed.

    The fact that the Church has some properties that produce income bothers me not at all. I don’t think there is spiritual virtue in losing money and having to borrow it, despite the Democrats’ dedication currently to the country spending more than it takes in (the millionaires don’t make enough to cover the insatiable appetite of the Federal government). No individual is getting wealthy, and the Church is not buying jet skis for the Boy Scouts or making other luxury expenditures. Being able to maintain its programs despite the recession of the last several years is a testimony to wise financial planning. City Creek employed thousands of people during its construction, a period when my company employed about the same number of people and spent a billion dollars a year (with just a single groundwater treatment plant and a lot of bare ground as the product).

    I frankly doubt that any of the critics of the Church’s finances have taken a St. Francis of Assissi vow of poverty and given away all their assets to the poor. At least they have the leisure to sit around on someone’s computer, instead of scrabbling for food and other basic necessities. The fact that an organization of our size can operate without paid employees for 99% of its infrastructure is a remarkable achievement. Nobody is working for the Church in the expectation they are going to get rich thereby. And when it is growing by almost a thousand members a day, you definitely need to build a new meetinghouse every day to provide a place where those three wards can meet. That is something the United Methodist Church in the US does not have to worry about.

  99. Stephen M
    July 12, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Rusty, but we know that they live to be distracted by second guessing of a hostile or critical sort. ;)

  100. July 12, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    David M: I just asked the Nonny Spouse if she is aware of this. She has little interest in anything to do with Church History or Apologetics. When I bring the kinds of discussions that happen on times and seasons or anywhere else up in the ‘nacle up she looks at me, rolls her eyes and goes: “Are you on about that stuff again?”

    I said: “Are you aware that General Authorities receive a living allowance?” She said: “I have known this since before I was like 10.”

    I really think this is an uncontroversial fact to the majority of church members.

  101. David M
    July 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    A. Nonny Mouse,
    My experience has differed, but thank you for an additional data point.

  102. Vanessa
    July 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Just as an update, the church has posted a response:

  103. Zippers
    July 12, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Official Church Response, which hits directly upon my point about self-reliance.

    “On occasion someone will try to estimate the Church’s income and determine how much of that is used to care for the poor and needy. Again, they rarely capture the whole picture. The bedrock principles underlying the Church’s welfare and humanitarian efforts are Christlike service and self-reliance.”

  104. Rigel Hawthorne
    July 12, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    What level of church leadership does one have to ascend to to be inducted to the sinister behaviors that some people attribute to the Salt Lake leaders? I’ve worked in ward councils with various bishops and though their leadership styles may not match the way I would do things, I do not see a sinister motive behind their decisions. I’ve attending trainings with the stake presidency and am aware that they sometimes have onerous tasks to deliver new programs and challenges designed to infuse new enthusiasm into age old tasks, and I see that sometimes there is pressure that they take on with those tasks, but it doesn’t change, in my experience, their basic, gospel centered reason for doing so. I just had a chance to visit with a newly called member of the seventy for a few minutes and he was feeling challenged to keep up with the pace of service set by the Apostles, and feeling, obviously, some pressure to catch on to the many new things he was learning, but he seemed to be doing so in the mode of reconciling it with his own life skills, leadership style, and identity and not with a brainwashing or personality transforming change. So would commenters really say that there is a certain level of leadership where you are taken behind doors and initiated into a world where the few are encouraged to live off the donations of the needy and the goal of service changes to the goal of amassing wealth and using it with the prime goal of making more money so that the few can live even more luxurious lives? Is the lifestyle of traveling the world on church business in your 70s and 80s, eating meals prepared by local church members, shaking hands with the masses, and giving talks of encouragment repeatedly really such a valuable prize? The glimpses I have had of the Apostles would lead me to believe that their attitudes about service are as noble as are those of the local leaders that I have observed more closely, but then again, maybe I’m just being naiive.

  105. Manuel
    July 12, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    What I am curious about the transparency thing is regarding global money. Is the tithing being paid by members in Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines going to Pepsi stock? Did it go to City Creek, which I am not critical of, since it is an enterprise that generates employment and boosts the economy of Downtown Salt Lake City, but I do have a problem if these enterprises are benefiting Utah and not Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines. Is there a Church owned megamall in Mexico City that is also generating employment there and boosting the economy in that area?

    I agree. Transparency would help. Yes there will be a lot of people who would be critical of anything done, but those people will always exist no matter what. The important thing is that it is morally correct to let people know what is happening with their donations. The excuse that “some will be critical” seems well… stupid.

  106. Howard
    July 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    A couple of comments about the article; The Church and Its Financial Independence:

    Tithing funds are used to support five key areas of activity: The fifth is Supporting the Church’s welfare programs and humanitarian aid

    But every time The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints builds a place of worship, the building becomes a consumer of assets and a financial obligation that has to be met through worldwide member donations. This is misleading these buildings are built in response to membership growth, they will soon house new tithe payers. So this is more like opening a successful new chain store than say a new library. After the initial investment and a brief start-up period there is a net *income gain* not a net expense as suggested by this PR statement. I would guess something similar happens but less quickly with a new Temple as the much more convenient location and the vacuum of under attended sessions encourages a greater percentage of members to become full tithe payers to qualify for their Temple Recommends. Btw, Temple growth peaked in 1999/2000 and has dropped significantly since then. This is predictable my guess is that they know the demographics well and can easily and accurately estimate the ROI well in advance of ground braking. The biggest unknown would be the general state of the economy and how it would effect tithing receipts. But a successful church has a much bigger safety margin than a successful company because it’s equivalent gross profit margin is much higher that most companies and they pay no taxes.

    Nearly 30,000 bishops who oversee their respective congregations have direct access to Church funds to care for those in need, as they help members achieve self-sufficiency. Notice that non-members are omitted from this statement.

  107. jimbob
    July 12, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    “I was a ward clerk for a couple years. Our ward collected in tithes and offerings $30-40,000 a month. The assistance given to members was typically under $2,000 a month. Sometimes far less.”

    I am the current clerk in my ward, and we do comparable numbers. My guess is with that income number and with some exceptions, your ward membership is doing reasonably well financially, and therefore doesn’t contain a ton of need for welfare. That said, I’ve also served in poorer units where month after month and year after year our welfare expenditures significantly outstripped not just fast offerings intake, but tithing itself. We were told to address needs in the Lord’s way and not to worry about income versus expenditures.

    My point here is that you can’t take your ward’s numbers and assume that the church as a whole is pocketing all the fast offerings for some other purpose. That may be happening, but one ward’s numbers don’t get you to that conclusion.

  108. Cameron Nielsen
    July 12, 2012 at 5:55 pm


    I’m not sure how everything works, but my in-laws are now serving a humanitarian mission in Quito, and their full-time job is to find good local humanitarian organizations to donate to/work with.

    Based on their explanation, the requirements for approval are VERY tough, much tougher than even we would expect. It’s not easy to give tons of money away when you are so ridiculously cautious about wasting it, let alone wasting it and it being leaked to the general public.

  109. July 12, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    The excuse that “some will be critical” seems well… stupid.

    No, I’m saying that some will be stupid. Like suggesting that a Brazilian’s tithing is going to pay for City Creek.

  110. Howard
    July 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    The faithful criticism of church critics is often something like; if it isn’t virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praise worthy, just shut up about it! Or sometimes when they’re feeling young just; you’re stupid! But financial transparency and clearly de-conflated unobscured easy to understand messages from the that actually convey the facts would be a welcome relief and go a long way toward removing the tension of these discussions. But they put out deceptive messages instead that play to the faithful base who’s default position is; all is well in Zion and they gloss over what they actually say, or don’t say. So in the absence of facts the critics attack those grey areas the the church spinmeisters so carefully craft with double entendre.

  111. christine
    July 12, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    if the LDS does not have to be constantly bailed out I am happy. i.e. Kirtland bank

  112. Manuel
    July 12, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Well Rusty, since there is no transparency, there is no way of knowing how the money is distributed. So no, it is not stupid to speculate that (due to the lack of transparency), and yes it is very stupid to use criticism as an excuse (in that case we should stop missionary work and stop building temples all together).

    Also, with the amount of members in countries like Mexico and Brazil, it may actually be a big chunk of that money that went to that mall.

    But you are right, the money for City Creek most likely came from California. In any case, it would be nice to know.

  113. wreddyornot
    July 12, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I hope revelation and the like isn’t received and held back because someone would criticize it. Makes me wonder how we got the BoM, D&C, PofGP, etc. Of course there has been, will be, and is criticism, about everything. It is the boon and bale of agency. Transparency. Let the light shine.

  114. clark
    July 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    David (95) Clark, since when is the elimination of financial transparency a solution for mismanagement? This makes no sense.

    As for the money paid to General Authorities, it may not be “exactly concealed,” but it is effectively concealed. Are you honestly of the opinion that most members are aware that the General Authorities are paid?

    I’m of the opinion that people will call anything “effectively concealed” if it isn’t force fed them with speakers blaring. It’s been regularly discussed and most people I know know about it. It’s not hard to find out – even easier now with the internet. So I’ll put it on par with such concealed things as seer stones, mountain meadows massacre and changes to texts between the Book of Commandments and the Doctrine and Covenants.

    If people want to learn about their religion it’s not hard and every bookstore in Utah has tons of books that will go through all this stuff.

    As for transparency, all that was eliminated was the reading of some financial statistics in conference. I think N. Elden Tanner wanted time to be able to get the financial house in order without being second guessed. And now (unlike before) they have much stricter accounting rules and a conservative view about investments.

    I’d love more financial openness, but considering how many people second guess everything they do already I can understand why they don’t.

  115. July 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Why would it be nice to know?

    Was the fact sheet that Kaimi referred to not clear and factual? And yet, here we are with seven different interpretations on it. The Church releases a statement clarifying the difference between humanitarian giving and welfare programs and you’re crying “deceptive messages” and “double-entendre”. Um, if what you’re doing is “interpreting” the facts, then I understand why the Church has no interest in releasing a full report of facts.

  116. Manuel
    July 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Because I personally believe it is the right thing to do: to let people know how their donations are being used.

    Because it is OK for Church leaders to know if members object to their choices.

    Because transparency is part of good ethics.

    Because it is OK for members to make choices and decide whether they want to support a certain cause or not.

    Because at least, the leaders will have a tool to use when members or non members have inquiries about Church finances: honesty.

  117. Howard
    July 12, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Was the fact sheet that Kaimi referred to not clear and factual? It’s obscured. It’s always a shell game attempting to get information from the church! For example “Humanitarian assistance rendered” is presented in total for the 24 year period 1985-2009. You cannot glean trend information from this kind of reporting. Is assistance increasing or decreasing: 1) in real dollars, 2) in constant 1985 dollars, 3) as a percentage of church income, etc? What does “Value of material assistance” mean is it material? Is it donated time? Is it both? We are beginning to find out more about what that term means from the latest article but one cannot tell from the first fact sheet. So this sheet is crafted to give a positive PR impression that all is well without providing enough information to parse out what is actually going on. It’s the difference between providing an accounting snap shot and an accounting video. Who knows what that single frame means?

  118. Nelson Phillips
    July 12, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    @ Rusty, and others who think HIDING financial information saves the church from accusations…

    No, it doesn’t. Hiding the facts is MUCH MUCH MUCH worse than whatever truth could be found and criticized.

    Just like hiding the truth of Church history from members and investigators has far worse repercussions down the road than full disclosure up front.

    The Church leadership is like a stubborn politician… They refuse to see that the COVERUP is often worse than the crime.

    Admit you sent the nudie pictures, Wiener, and move on. Stop lying about it.

  119. July 12, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    This post certainly has brought out some strong feelings.

    I think we should remember that tithing is not charity. When Romney’s “charitable donations” wowed everyone, we should have reminded them that tithing is not charity. Obama’s charitable giving was more than Romney’s because tithing doesn’t count as real charity, for those of us who know the true definition. Tithing is merely the returning to God of a portion of what He has given us. Tithing is a commandment for the saints, a token of our covenant with the Lord. Charity is something entirely different.

    Charity is personal. We give of our substance to help the poor and the needy, whether through humanitarian aid, fast offering, beggers on the street, or helping out a friend. It is a sin to expect our tithing contribution to abdicate our personal responsibility to give charity.

    Tithing pays for the building up of the Kingdom of God. Missionary work is a far more important mission for the Kingdom of God than eradicating malaria. The members are supposed to eradicate malaria with their charity, not their tithing. The church teaches men to be better men, and they change the world. The priesthood decides what to do with the tithing, either in their wisdom, or foolishness. They can spend it all on Parisian chandeliers for temples if they want.

    The church leaders made reckless and foolish decisions with their funds during the Kirtland Bank crisis. No matter. If the church’s new mall goes bankrupt next year, no matter.

    During the Kirtland Crisis, Heber C. Kimball remarked that there were not 20 persons on earth who would declare Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. What brought about the deepest apostasy in the history of the church? Money. Possessiveness. We should learn from that lesson to truly abdicate any sense of ownership or follow-up to our tithing funds. And let’s try to make sure that our own charitable contributions are sufficient enough so that the church doesn’t have to dip into the sacred tithing funds for that purpose.

  120. Howard
    July 13, 2012 at 12:05 am

    The church now has a four-fold mission that includes caring for the poor and needy According to the 7-12-12 Newsroom Commentary tithing funds are used to support the Church’s welfare programs and humanitarian aid.

  121. H. Bob
    July 13, 2012 at 12:26 am

    Howard, from the same commentary, “Published numbers related to our humanitarian efforts include only dollars spent directly on humanitarian service. The Church absorbs the administrative costs. Furthermore, these numbers do not reflect the Church’s extensive welfare and employment services that serve many thousands worldwide. They also do not represent Deseret Industries thrift stores that provide vouchers to other charities for their use, donations to food pantries, or humanitarian- or welfare-focused missionary service or support given to aid other relief organizations in their missions. Hundreds of thousands of hours of donated service underpin Church programs such as these.”

    A couple of examples: the 2009 Utah Food Bank report, here:

    The building that the Utah Food Bank resides in and the land underneath it were donated by the LDS Church (in the report, they’re credited as donating more than $2.5 million to the capital campaign). They’re also credited in the report as being one of the top tier “commercial food donors,” with more than 500,000 pounds of food donated (yearly).

    As the church points out in its commentary, Welfare Square could certainly be more automated, but self-reliance and voluntarism are more important to the mission of the church as just buying food and giving it away would be.

    Also, the Road Home shelter in Salt Lake, their annual report:

    Again, the LDS Church is on the top tier of those giving aid. I have it on good authority as well that the church, when someone moves out of shelter into housing, supplies free furniture and three months’ worth of food. Those are all things that “care for the poor and needy,” and do it in the inimitable Mormon way of teaching a man to fish, not just supplying fish all the livelong day.

  122. Howard
    July 13, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Thanks H. Bob.

    Again, the LDS Church is on the top tier of those giving aid…Those are all things that “care for the poor and needy,” and do it in the inimitable Mormon way of teaching a man to fish, not just supplying fish all the livelong day. That’s great! It’s getting to be a long thread, perhaps you missed my comments 26 & 74? The church does a great job of taking care of it’s own, a good job of participating in disaster relief but a poor job of saving third world non-member lives due to malnutrition, thirst and easily curable disease which only receives token support from the church. That is the area I am critical of. The problem is they must have life-saving aid first, then must have a viable local economy or the ability to live off the land to eventually become self-reliant.

  123. 36
    July 13, 2012 at 1:09 am

    Out of respect to Kaimi, I want to try to strike the same kind of moderate tone that he does in ‘splainin’ what I really think is going on behind those financial reports we don’t have access to. The link given in #45 was helpful, but almighty gosh this blogger could use bullet points. There’s a lot of vital information in there wandering amidst the 12,000 word essay, much as I’m sure there are a lot of people who dismissed my 9,000 word wall of text.

    I do not believe that the Church Office Building is a wretched hive of financial scum and villainy, nor do I believe that they float about on inspired clouds while building up the One True Church on Earth in robes of pure most exquisite whiteness. I DO believe that the problem, at its core, is exactly what everyone on *both* sides keeps saying when you strip all emotive language away: The Church is a corporation, and is run like a corporation, with all that entails.

    So what does that entail? This is a sticking point, because understanding the construct that is a corporation is difficult. I guess I’d recommend the documentary film The Corporation (2003), but no one who needs to see it is going to watch it.

    I’m going to go ahead and make a prediction. Maybe this archived comment will even exist for me to revisit at that time. If the books should someday be opened – I mean true financial transparency, even if only a snapshot from some February day in 2003 or something – we’ll find that all the interworking parts of church finances have been extremely corporation-y to each other, as spelled out by the above-quoted blogger whilst relating tales told by those who’d worked at COB.

    Let’s take the example of DI. The Church owns a lot of stuff, sellable for cheap to other Church subsidiaries because of all the volunteer labor. The Church has materials that are sold (at the very least on paper; see the blog post) to the Church-owned furniture factory; the factory sells furniture to the DI stores; the stores sell new furniture, and other used goods that were donated. Few paid positions with no benefits, everlasting requests to volunteer.

    #73 – “It pays people who have poor job skills or otherwise impoverished resumes for work they do selling second hand goods while simultaneously paying for them to get vocational training for other jobs outside the DI so that they can improve their future job prospects. It pays for medical assisting training, truck driving training, woodworking training (that’s where the furniture comes from, 36, from people who are learning wood working so that they can get better jobs outside of the DI system), it helps people with little or no English skills improve their grasp of the language, etc. etc.”

    This kind of reverentialism for how great and wonderful DI is because the idea of what you think they’re doing makes you happy, combined with lack of any first-hand knowledge or proof, is exactly what I just had a terrifically rude awakening from. Here’s a news story I was given about the works of the Church following the Haiti earthquake that I formerly felt so good about:

    We’re talking about a corporation. We should approach dissection of the issue with all the emotion of a certified public accountant.

  124. July 13, 2012 at 1:25 am

    We say that we take care of our own. Not entirely. Depends on whether you live in a first world or third world country.

  125. 36
    July 13, 2012 at 1:32 am

    Then there’s this, which I don’t even.

  126. July 13, 2012 at 2:10 am

    …combined with lack of any first-hand knowledge or proof…

    What are you talking about, how do you know he doesn’t have any first-hand knowledge or proof? It’s really, really easy to get first-hand knowledge/proof about how DI operates and where its money goes. Which, by the way, he’s exactly right.

    I DO believe that the problem…is…The Church is a corporation, and is run like a corporation, with all that entails.

    Nah, not true. The problem is that some people believe corporations are the devil (as communicated on the cover artwork of said documentary, which is also the foundational message of the film, which I have seen) and others believe corporations to be the most productive and efficient mechanism for the creation of goods and services in a free society. You see, when you say “with all that entails” you are thinking of the negatives, whereas I’m thinking of all the benefits of the corporate church. Half of those on this thread default at “corporations are bad” and the other half default at “corporations are good”. If I refuse to get on board with your insistence for transparency and you refuse to admit that helping your own is considered charity, then it’s kind of a useless discussion.

  127. July 13, 2012 at 2:22 am

    Wow, 36, that is some of the greatest righteous indignation I’ve seen in a long, long time. I love it. The Church has a perfectly clean history of donations to this Chinese organization, in one shipment there is some expired/used equipment, (clearly unintentional, the Church embarrassingly offers to replace with cash), and you can’t even finish your sentence. Scandal of the highest order! There’s likely a great irony here, it was probably a refugee working at the welfare location in which this stuff was put together that forgot to check expirations and now that damn, heartless corporate church gets the blame.

  128. 36
    July 13, 2012 at 2:29 am

    1) Then I’m sure you’ll have no problem furnishing this proof.

    2) The Church is a corporation. No matter where on the spectrum of belief or disbelief you fall, no member should be unaware of this fact. This, along with GA pay, is something I’ve known since childhood, like Mrs. Nonny Mouse.

    3. Corporations are neither evil nor good. That is the fundamental misunderstanding cleared up by research, the previously mentioned blog post, and the film “The Corporation.”

  129. Sam Brunson
    July 13, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Of course the Church is organized as a corporation. In the US, in order to be exempt from tax, an entity must be organized as a corporation. That said, it isn’t much like corporations discussed in the movie. Unlike for-profit corporations, 501(c)(3) corps cannot distribute profits to stakeholders. This nondistribution reqrement significantly changes the dynamics of corporate operation. A huge percentage of the purpose behind corporate law is to deal with the fact that corporate managers and corporate equity-holders may have differing goals and incentives. The Church, like other 501(c)(3)s, does not have those divergent stakeholders and, as a result, saying, “It’s a corporation” and invoking The Corporation (undoubtedly a model of academic analysis) is not only meaningless but, frankly, disingenuous and utterly irrelevant.

  130. July 13, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Manual — if you were actually concerned you could check to see if Brazil’s currency export controls on churches were still in effect. Those sorts of controls exist in a majority of the countries the LDS Church has a presence in.

    If they are, then no, no funds flowed out of Brazil at all. If you haven’t checked, I have serious questions about the depth of your question.

    36 — read the same article. Interesting how the other charity pointed out that the real problem is that they refused to pay some bribes and suddenly there were issues … Rusty’s comment was more than kind, vis a vis your link and comment there.

  131. July 13, 2012 at 7:58 am

    frankly, disingenuous and utterly irrelevant.

    So much is, though the issue is realizing that much of that is unintentional.

  132. Terrie Bittner
    July 13, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Those who complain that much of the charitable help comes only to members are missing the point. Every person who is helped by the church is one person who does not need help from another charitable organization or the government, allowing those organizations to provide more help to those who do not have a church that helps them. I have volunteered in community food banks and in the storehouses. The food banks will give a family one or two bags of food, usually chosen by the workers, and they can only come once every two weeks. There is never enough in the bags to sustain them for two weeks, so they have to go from place to place. This is because these groups have to help everyone who asks and therefore must ration what they give. When I volunteer at the storehouse, I see people walking out with a shopping cart full of everything they need–food, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, fresh meat and produce…the food is all top quality. They need nothing else to survive. Even housing and utilities can be covered. This is possible only because they help a small number of people. The people they help are in the community. If more groups limited the number of people they helped, they could provide more complete services to those they help. Helping their own doesn’t mean they aren’t charitable. It means they are caring for their own–and if they didn’t, they would be attacked for that. Those looking for a reason to hate will twist every fact whichever way they choose to support their message.

  133. Howard
    July 13, 2012 at 8:31 am

    My default is: corporations are good but corporations are gospel limited because corporations are designed to be efficient productive entities and vehicles of capitalism, the best economic system in the world, but capitalism is efficient precisely because it is greed based and myopically ROI and/or profit focused which would be why under theocracy we should be living the Law of Consecration.

  134. Howard
    July 13, 2012 at 8:37 am

    From the #124 link:
    Dr. Brad Walker, who founded and operates the Liahona Children Foundation, offers these sobering numbers: “We estimate 80,000 active LDS children suffer from chronic malnutrition, and about 900 die from malnutrition each year.” These children (usually about 100 per stake) are then placed on a daily nutritional food supplement for an entire year. The cost for each child is only $50 a year…member children can bring a non-member friend

    The Liahona Children’s Foundation is a federally recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It is not endorsed by nor affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    If each of us even gave a little consistently we would have the ability through the Liahona Foundation to make sure that every child in our faith had the nutrition necessary to live a happy and fulfilling life. Please consider donating and then pledging (whether $5 a month or sponsoring in whole or part with others an entire stake) a consistent amount to the Liahona Foundation.

    It seems the Liahona Foundation would benefit from a forth-fold mission LDS church donation!

  135. July 13, 2012 at 8:59 am

    36: My first hand knowledge comes from repeated volunteering and from seeing several people go through the program. The DI takes volunteers any day it’s open and if you talk to a Local bishop near a DI facility, I’m sure they would be happy to sign you up as a sponsor to someone in a ward or stake near you who is currently going through the program. Each employee has a sponsor to help support them as they go through the process of deciding what their next career move is.

    I have several friends who have been through the process, and I was a sponsor to one of them. You are right in asserting that I don’t have any first hand knowledge of the actual finances of the organization, but knowing what people are paid and the ways they are helped in terms of schooling and other funding and seeing the revenues that they take in, it’s extremely difficult to see how anybody could be getting rich off the DI, including the DI itself.

    The DI is the reason why I couldn’t help but comment here. The DI and its inner workings are something that when I’m feeling down restore my faith in humanity. I’ve sat across the desk from the supervisors as they tried to help a young adult who was somewhat down on employment luck understand the massive opportunities available in life if they would just straighten up and fly right. It was patient, calm, understanding and completely done with an eye to how the _employee_ could be most benefited from everything the DI had to offer so that he could get a better job. I’ve seen how it directed the path of another friend who had a hard time figuring out what he wanted to do with life figure out how to best achieve his potential.

    I’m not saying it’s perfect. I’m saying that it is 100% about helping people who need help get on their feet. They don’t have some underlying sinister profit motive… If you haven’t gone in and helped sponsor an employee there, seriously, check it out. You sound like a very wonderfully educated person who has great critical thinking skills. They could probably use your help in one of the many classes they teach there reviewing resumes or doing other basic job skill things that people desperately need. The DI is a rewarding place to be associated with.

    With regards to your link on, I would just direct your attention to this statement in the middle of the description of the problematic shipment:

    ‘According to China News Agency, the group has pledged to make an equivalent cash donation to make up for the loss. None of LDS’s past donations to China, either in material or cash, have been found to be problematic.’

    The article itself highlighting the issue also points out that none of the past donations have found to be problematic. That sounds like a pattern of behavior which is exactly the opposite of what you seem to find distressing about the article (the unusable equipment and donations). Maybe you overlooked that, or maybe you have other evidence which indicates that that statement is false. But either way, while it is obviously unquestionably disappointing that there might have been a shipment of low quality sent, it certainly seems like many people are making a prolonged effort to be repeatedly charitable in meaningful ways here. We can talk all day about how we’re not doing enough, but let’s at least countenance the fact that the Church (both as a formal organization and as its individual members individually) is unquestionably doing some good things already.

  136. stephen hardy
    July 13, 2012 at 9:35 am

    A. Nonny Mouse: Thank you for your careful description of DI and its mission. I haven’t lived in SLC, or in the Great Basin area for many years and I no longer have contact with DI. I am glad to know that such an organization exists. I wish that there were more like it.

  137. Manuel
    July 13, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Stephen M (Ethesis),

    “…If you haven’t checked, I have serious questions about the depth of your question.”

    LOL! Hum…ok.

    So I guess there are methods accessible to the public(allegedly)that are detailed enough regarding the specific exports to “churches” (which I still doubt will provide details on what enterprises funds go to).

    And I guess by my not knowing how to engage in a furious investigative cruzade of global funds movements makes my question much less deep and less serious (especially in the context of this blog and its posts of utmost seriousness and importance)…

    OK, I get it: I should have exhausted every single resource available before I dared to give an example in a blog of why I feel the church should be more transparent with the management of donated funds. I probably could have also hired an imports/exports customs law expert to find out for sure. Well, I apologize for such a lack of depth and responsibility on my part (yes, I am being sarcastic).

    Nevertheless, my position remains it would be more ethic, more helpful and yes, more beneficial (even for the Church) if the Church provided this information with adequate detail in regular and consistent reports (say, not one report that allocates in the same number the last quarted of a century).

    I am perfectly fine if the Church is a corporation. I am perfectly fine if the church manages other corporations. I am aware of the church’s financially beneficial programs and ventures around the globe (I myself have participated in such organizations). However, since a lot of the funds used in these enterprises and programs come from the faithful donations of faithful members, who sometimes make serous sacrifices to make these donations; I still believe it is just fair and of good ethics to provide adequate information as to what is being done with those donations (I don’t care if anyone here calls them charity, tithing, or taxes).

  138. Manuel
    July 13, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Oh, I just bothered to check out the actual cover of the magazine where the above mentioned Caroline Winter article appears. I guess the actual content of the article is going to be devalued anyway due to the cover of the magazine. It is amateurish, unprofessional, and clearly intended as a blatant insult to the Church as a whole, so, my guess is the seriousness and character of the author may be overshadowed by the tasteless editorial work.

  139. Stephen M
    July 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Manual, it is not that hard to check if a country has currency export controls. If the do, then they pretty much apply to all NGOs in country.

    Been a while since I looked at it, but most third world countries have them to keep charities and churches from raising money in country and spending it elsewheres.

    No furious effort required.

    I raised that in context of the depth of your question, not the sincerity.

  140. Shane
    July 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Very poor journalism by Ms. Winters. The article is filled with inaccuracies and only contains 1/2 the story. The cover is a whole different story….clearly meant to offend. Poor taste by the author and BusinessWeek.

  141. 36
    July 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Sam Brunson – saying, “It’s a corporation” and invoking The Corporation (undoubtedly a model of academic analysis) is not only meaningless but, frankly, disingenuous and utterly irrelevant.

    Your insults aimed at me in a thread where it has been revealed that each year 80,000 active LDS children have chronic malnutrition and 900 active LDS children die outright of starvation while in the other thread we’re talking about whether the $2 billion mall wasn’t really an investment per se but a rehab project to downtown SLC isn’t an attitude I thought I’d ever get from a fellow Mormon upon such information being put before us.

  142. July 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Thanks for your comments, everybody. A lot of folks have raised a lot of really important points and added useful information to the conversation.

    You may have seen, the church has posted a response to the Business Week piece (at ), which makes some of the same points I’ve made here about specific omissions in the Business Week numbers.

    I think that there are indeed a _lot_ of underlying issues relating to church use of resources. A lot. And many commenters here have pointed out many of these issues. I’m no expert. There are a lot of pieces of the puzzle that I just don’t know. And I think it’s very important to keep the spotlight on those issues.

    In this post, I was articulating a very specific critique of Cragun and Winter’s specific statement. Because that statement was, I think, so problematic methodologically that it needed to be discussed.

    (I mean, to recap: Cragun didn’t actually _raise_ any of the complex substantive points about the $1.3B number. He took it completely at face value. But then, he also completely missed the rest of the picture on church aid.)

    And so, yes. Let’s talk about how DI is run. Let’s talk about how church resources are used. I didn’t mean at all to say that everything is fine-and-dandy in church welfare. I’m just saying, it’s deceptive to not include church welfare at all in a discussion of church contributions to charity. If someone wants to bring it up and discuss the details and say why they’re discounting it, sure, absolutely. But Cragun didn’t do that. He literally did not realize that it even existed. And that’s what my post pointed out.

    I don’t know how many dollars the church spends; I don’t know how much labor is donated; I don’t know how that is all accounted for. I don’t know any of these details for _either_ the humanitarian number ($1.3B) or the welfare numbers (undisclosed). And yes, it would be fantastic to have that information.

    So yeah, I’m not saying, all is well. I am saying that the particular claim made in the Winter article gives a very misleading appearance of precision. In fact, we really don’t know what the number is. And I do think that that’s a problem; and hopefully, at some future point, the church will move towards more transparency in its finances.

  143. Stephen M
    July 13, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Thanks for the clear point.

    Otherwise, extrapolation is risky business.

  144. July 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    It seems like the discussion has run its course, so I’m going to close it now. Thanks for your comments, everyone!

Comments are closed.