Skip to comments.Mormon church earns $7 billion a year from tithing, analysis indicates
Posted on 08/13/2012 4:11:37 PM PDT by greyfoxx39
SAN FRANCISCO -- If the Mormon church were a business, wealthy adherents like Mitt Romney would count as its dominant revenue stream.
Its investment strategy would be viewed as risk-averse.
It would also likely attract corporate gadflies protesting a lack of transparency. They would call for less spending on real estate and more on charitable causes to improve membership growth -- the Mormons' return on investment.
Those are a few of the conclusions that can be drawn from an analysis of the church's finances by Reuters and University of Tampa sociologist Ryan Cragun.
Relying heavily on church records in countries that require far more disclosure than the United States, Cragun and Reuters estimate that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings in some $7 billion annually in tithes and other donations.
It owns about $35 billion worth of temples and meeting houses around the world, and controls farms, ranches, shopping malls and other commercial ventures worth many billions more.
The church claims 14 million members around the world, more than half outside the United States. All are supposed to tithe, or give 10 percent, of their income, which Mormons frequently interpret as pre-tax earnings. But only about 40 percent of Mormons counted by the church actually attend weekly services in the United States and Canada, and in many countries, including Mexico and Brazil, only a quarter of nominal members are active, according to Cumorah, an independent research group headed by a devoted, active Mormon.
These active members are most likely to tithe, and the result is that from a financial standpoint at least, the church remains largely a venture of active American members, said Cragun, who adds that U.S. Mormon men tend to be wealthier than the average U.S. male.
"Most of the revenue of the religion is from the U.S., and a large percentage comes from an elite cadre of wealthy donors, like Mitt Romney," said Cragun. "(It) is a religion that appeals to economically successful men by rewarding their financial acuity with respect and positions of prestige within the religion."
The church is full of successful businessmen, including chemical billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr., the father of the former presidential candidate, J.W. "Bill" Marriott Jr. and his hotel-owning family, and even entertainer Donny Osmond.
Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, gave $4.1 million to the church over the past two years (amounting to 9.7 percent of his gross adjusted income, according to the two years' worth of tax returns he has released). He would tithe on his IRA, valued at as much as $102 million, only when he withdraws from it and pays taxes.
Crunching the numbers
Several countries around the world require religious groups and charities to file financial reports, including Canada. The country has only 185,000 Mormon members but a wealth of statistics on them. Taking total reported Canadian donations and dividing by the estimated number of active Mormons and family financial data from the World Bank indicates that active Canadian Mormons give slightly less than 8 percent of their income to the church.
Assuming that active U.S. Mormons give at a similar rate and adjusting for higher U.S. income, total U.S. tithing would amount to more than $6 billion, or about $6.5 billion annually between the United States and Canada.
Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which also require financial disclosures, all have sharply lower donation rates than Canada. Based on data from those countries, tithing outside the United States and Canada totals several hundred million dollars, taking global total donations to about $7 billion.
Canada also requires the church to disclose the value of its assets and spending. Using those figures as a basis suggests the total value of church buildings, including temples and meeting houses, would be about $35 billion globally.
Church spokesman Michael Purdy declined to comment specifically on the estimates but said that the church was different from a corporation.
"Other projections are speculative and do not reflect an understanding of how the church uses its income to bless the lives of people," he added, saying the church was financed primarily from member tithing and offerings.
Focus on business and buildings
Concerned or disgruntled current and former Mormons complain that the church spends too much on real estate and for-profit ventures, neglecting charity work.
The Mormon church has no hospitals and only a handful of primary schools. Its university system is limited to widely respected Brigham Young, which has campuses in Utah, Idaho and Hawaii, and LDS Business College. Seminaries and institutes for high school students and single adults offer religious studies for hundreds of thousands.
It counts more than 55,000 in its missionary forces, primarily youths focused on converting new members but also seniors who volunteer for its nonprofits, such as the Polynesian Cultural Center, which bills itself as Hawaii's No. 1 tourist attraction, and for-profit businesses owned by the church.
The church has plowed resources into a multi-billion-dollar global network of for-profit enterprises: it is the largest rancher in the United States, a church official told Nebraska's Lincoln Journal Star in 2004, with other ranches and farms in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and Great Britain, according to financial documents reviewed by Reuters.
Ranching and farm industry sources say they are well-run operations.
It also has a small media empire, an investment fund, and is developing a mall across from its Salt Lake City headquarters, which it calls an attempt to help revitalize the city rather than to make money. These enterprises are also part of a vast nest egg for tough times. The church expects wars and natural disasters before Christ returns to Earth in the Second Coming, and members are encouraged to prepare by laying in stores of food. Farms and ranches are part of the church's own preparation.
"The church teaches its members to live within their means and put a little money aside for life's unexpected events. As a church, we live by the same principle," Purdy said. The rainy-day fund and operating budget rarely mix, officials say.
Cost-cutting is a top priority, church documents show. It has even laid off janitors and called on members to clean temples and meeting houses, but the buildout of temples continues, including one under construction in Rome.
Those temples take a lot of money to operate, Purdy points out, and many of the grand church buildings are short on congregants, says David Stewart, a physician who leads the research group Cumorah.
"I have been to beautiful church buildings in Hungary and Ukraine, and Latvia and other places, and there are these huge buildings and 35 people there, and you say, how can this work financially? The math - it just doesn't work."
In contrast, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which had about 17 million members a year ago, appears to be getting a better return on investment: It builds smaller meeting houses and lots of schools and hospitals, and its numbers are swelling faster than the Mormons', said Stewart. The Adventists claim a million new members join annually, compared with every three years or so for the Mormons.
"The Seventh-day Adventists clearly have a much more expansive humanitarian project in terms of building hospitals and medical schools and schools and universities and long-term developmental infrastructure around the world," said Stewart. "It's paid off for them."
The Mormon church, meanwhile, appears to be decreasing transparency and member control of donations. New tithing slips give fewer donation options and come with an expanded disclaimer saying the church has sole discretion over spending, even though it will make "reasonable efforts" to follow donors' wishes.
"Hey, where's the slot of 'shopping malls'?" a poster said of the new slips on exmormonforums.com, one of several dissident sites.
Many faithful have no such issues. On chat boards and in private conversations, they emphasize that volunteering for the church and giving to it are worthy deeds in and of themselves.
"The funds are used to build and maintain temples and meeting houses, as well as take care of the many expenses associated with helping the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ roll forth. I love to pay tithing," Carl Ames said on one church site.
Purdy did offer a list of spending priorities: building houses of worship, supporting Brigham Young University and a seminary system, operating nearly 140 temples and the world's largest genealogy research program, and humanitarian aid for both members and non-members.
Since 1985 the church has spent a total of $1.4 billion on relief for disasters such as Japan's earthquake and Ethiopian famine, and it operates 129 "bishops' storehouses" with food and household items for the needy.
obama 2012!! Yeah!
What would you be doing if Romney were a Conservative?
Mormons tithe? Who would’ve thought? The Media attacks Romney.
The difference is that Mormon tithing buys you things, like becoming a God, but to get those benefits, you are required to give 10%, required.
Ok, NBC, so speaking of Obama, how much are Muslims supposed to tithe, and is it more than the 1% that the Obama’s gave to charity last year?
If Romney runs the government anything like this you can be thankful.
....as we have been warning for months. It's just now beginning.
BTW, did you read the article?
Wow, wealth envy on FR, now I’ve seen it all.
My thoughts exactly. If the Mormon Church were a puppy, they’d need a whole lot of Puppy Chow but make a whole lot of kids smile. It’s not a business, nor is it a puppy. It’s a church, but I’m more interested in what the President will do in his role as head of the executive branch of government than I am in hypothetical stories about a church.
Not bad, they are pretty smart with their money.
Not a whole lot of difference in how they operate as the Southern Baptist Convention (just much larger numbers for the LDS).
If you're going to hurl the MSM libtard BS dialog here, go all out.
Headlines if written by the Anti-Mormon Creeper,... err Freeper:
The Mormon Church steals $7 billion a year from people walking by Mormon Churches; they sneak up from behind, bash them over their heads with the “Book or Mormon”, take their money and possessions, stuff them into their backpacks and then make a fast getaway on their Schwinn Bicycles....
Oh well, we can always donate to TBN to help Paul Crouch get a new gold chair or Jan Crouch more make-up and wigs.
Yep. FR does get a bit ridiculous sometimes. Too many “true believers” I guess. We seem to keep forgetting Reagan’s old dictum that “Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.
On a personal note, my wife and I visited Salt Lake City for the first time on our way up to visit my son and his family at his AFB in Idaho (got back not long ago from flying missions in Afghanistan). We were, to put it mildly, extremely impressed with the city. The people there were great (as were those in Boise as well... go to a restaurant called “Fork” if you can. And of course “Cabelas”).
I was wondering how that worked. I am going to Salt Lake City in a few weeks for a conference (no, not a religious conference). I’ll be sure to watch out for muggers brandishing books.
Closet obot, eh?
Ridiculing Ryan too, go back to DU fool.
“Not a whole lot of difference in how they operate as the Southern Baptist Convention”
Whoa, gotta jump in here. Southern Baptists aren’t anything like the Mormons. Mormonism is a top-down controlling religion, where the one “Church” owns and controls all their subsidiaries. It is an authoritarian organization.
Southern Baptist churches are completely, 100% independent of any higher controlling authority. The national Convention has zero control — and I do mean zero — control of a local church. The local church calls the shots, and either gives, or doesn’t give, to the national, state and local Baptist associations. Local SBC churches don’t take orders. If they cooperate with other Southern Baptists, they do it because they want to, not because they have to.
Southern Baptists are fiercely independent. Mormons take their orders from headquarters.
I find it amusing that we have all these contributors claiming that their god is true and the others’ are false despite their inability to prove their own case.
Wealth envy is just downstream from those judgments; there’s more to come as the water goes through the pastures.
It is allocation of resources and expense versus revenue ratios I was referring to. In other words the financials are in line with other religious groups that have public reporting of their finances. Nothing to do with theology or even hierarchical structure.
What if Reagan was a Mormon...what if Romney were more Conservative?
I wonder if the relentless bashing of Mormonism would still be allowed?
If Romney were true blue Conservative, would the bashing of his beliefs be tolerated here or considered bigotry?
May I give a shout out to Baraq...?
So what? Why would NBC care. Oh yeah, they belong to Obama. How many roundabout taxpayer’s dollars wind up in Obama’s cult of soviet liberation?
The government has already taxed the income of members before they make tithing contributions. Not to leave out the principle of "no taxation without representation". Want to tax them? Prepare to have the taxed parties insist on direct representation.
I don't know who they are, or what TBN is but when it comes to gold, they aren't globally famous for acquiring it, but buying yourself into becoming a God, and with a house full of wives, and a planet of worshipers, that is something bigger than gold.
LDS Hospital (formerly Deseret Hospital) is a general urban hospital and surgical center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The hospital was originally owned by the LDS Church but is now owned and operated by Intermountain Healthcare. LDS Hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission.
Oh wow, I just noticed that this was a Peter Henderson article. Back in the 90s, he was a Russian corespondent for Reuters covering the ‘collapse’ of the Russian economy and decrying their leaving the Communist system.
It makes sense then anything that makes a profit he would go after and not see it as a good thing.
IMO, they are the weakest in their faith. I, personally believe the The Lord Jesus Christ is my Savior, but I don't belittle others for their beliefs to justify my own.
Just a bigot, aren’t you Joe? You are pathetic and useless, worse than an obami supporter. You disgust me.
“It is allocation of resources and expense versus revenue ratios I was referring to.”
Oh, ok. I misunderstood, my bad.
Care to find something similar showing the "estimated" net worth of the Catholic Church or maybe all of the Muslims worldwide?
You do know don't you, that all Muslims are required to donate a part of their income/wealth to "charity?" Only one catch: Any contributions or donations are forbidden to help or go to any "non Muslims" or as we are better know, "Infidels."
Is this supposed to turn us off on holding our nose in order to remove the POS commie and voting for Romney or worry us that if elected those evil, "non-christian" Mormons will exert undue influence on Mitt and move to take over the country if not the world? Oh wait, that is what those who Obama supports (Islamists) have vowed (very openly) to do.
Good for you and welcome to FR!
Just giving a taste of what the media has planned. Of course, if you read the article you will see some interesting financial info regarding the corporation, but most of you don't want to hear that.
Wait till they start on the mormon race history!
You make me feel like dancing
Thats just part of such a large religious organizations fiscal picture.
How much have they spent on court settlements?
That will give you a better sense of it’s care for its flock.
Are you going to ask Peter Henderson and NBC News the same Q...or do you only take aim at 2nd-hand linkers?
Well at least you admit you're trolling...
Why are you supporting Obama?
That’s just weird.
Hey, why not post a thread about that?
It would be interesting.
At least to me it does....
As a Conservative I have two honest choices, do I vote for the ticket that seems like they might lead us out of the ditch....Or do I not vote at all.
Please, please please tell me you’re not that dense.