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In our opinion: Out of bounds: Businessweek cover story distorts

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  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    July 13, 2012 1:17 a.m.

    I totally disagree this this editorial. First, how does the writer (or anybody for that matter) know that Businessweek was not dead-on since the Church does not disseminate financial information (even internally)?
    Regarding temples and meetinghouses being a financial drain, I wonder what the FMV of all church properties are today compared to when they were acquired? I'm sure the LA temple property alone is worth thousands of times its original purchase price today.
    The article suffers from not being comprehensive, but the complaints about it lack specifity or any proof regarding the alleged inacurracies.

  • JM Lehi, UT
    July 13, 2012 1:27 a.m.

    It is expected that the hired activists (posing in comments) will dishonestly malign, but it is sad when a mainstream media source has to stoop to such things. It seems they have nothing to offer, so simply fabricate, embellish, intentionally hide, and distort. This only exposes haters for what they are.

    LDS are among the most charitable of people, giving billions of hours, dollars, etc to others. They make and distribute food, and more importantly, help keep people from needing handouts.
    In some emergencies, the few Mormons give more than anyone (more than "aid" concerts; liberal governments; dishonest, yellowish business magazines ; )etc).

    Today, more Americans are on government welfare than ever before, but Mormons have no such need, no failing misguided economy.

    Even anti-Mormon Maher says there are no poor Mormons. If he’s right it is astounding, and not simply because he’s never been right about Mormons before.

    Most Mormons live outside of the U.S., but LDS don't just take our children's fish and give to CEO's or poorly invest with rich friends, etc.
    Mormons educate, teach job skills, and so on. Mormons have many wonderful programs for those in need.

  • Brother Chuck Schroeder A Tropical Paradise USA, FL
    July 13, 2012 6:04 a.m.

    I see DNews sensationalized it again and makes it seem as if they never distorts anything. We all know that Washington has dramatically increased spending on anti-poverty programs, by about $500 billion adjusted for inflation, between 1980 and 2011. The spending for each person in poverty jumped from $4,300 to $13,000 during that same time period. And for what? So poor people today would have an even tougher time climbing up the ladder than in the '60s? Do politicians ever stop to examine the record to see where all this spending has gotten us?. LDS Church resources are used to provide food and clothing for the needy, and to provide ways for people to lift themselves up and be self-reliant?. Tithing has thus proved to be an enormous blessing to the Church and its people, along with simple but sound economic principles such as avoiding debt, living within one's means and setting aside funds for a rainy day. IF YOU CAN THAT IS. Ongoing maintenance and upkeep, utilities and use of the building can only be achieved as long as faithful-members-continue to support the Church. Lift burdens of-those-who-are-struggling.

  • Liberal Ted Salt Lake City, UT
    July 13, 2012 6:14 a.m.

    The trouble with Americans, is that most do not understand money and how it works. They don't understand the difference between a non-profit and for profit.

    Tithing donations to build churches, temples, print scriptures etc is not a money making venture. No one is charged to enter a church or temple (which consumes electricity, maintenance, heating and other costs). Missionaries handing out pamphletes or scriptures do not receive money. Donations that are given to those in need, doesn't bring a dime in.

    Now the mall, stocks, polynesian center that is on the cover are for profit branches of the church. The church has to pay taxes on anything it does that makes a profit. So when people state the church needs to be kicked out of the tax exempt status, what they are thinking is that these businesses are operating tax free, when it really is just the non-profit (which unions and many liberal organizations operate under).

    If they want to take away tax-exempt status from religion, then religions will be free to participate fully in politics. And your union fees will no longer be tax deductible....

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    July 13, 2012 6:53 a.m.

    Dr. Mouw is correct. "a journalistic examination and analysis regarding the financial practices of any group is always fair game. But . . . this is out of bounds."

    I understand that folks can misunderstand the businesses held by the church. A good example might be Beneficial Life. A century or so ago, many immigrant groups started life insurance companies to serve their members but those companies folded or were sold as life insurance became more generally available. Now, Beneficial has stopped selling new policies.

    Media companies help influence the dialogue. Heaven knows, we need media companies with a few standards. Also, many church groups own media of various types. The farming and ranching operations support the storehouse operations. The much talked about City Creek Center is a key in stabilizing downtown Salt Lake City. Many cities have significant blight or crime (lots of offices, but no one wants to be there after 6:00). Downtowns need a lot of care to keep them livable.

  • Cinci Man FT MITCHELL, KY
    July 13, 2012 8:03 a.m.

    laggie and others:
    It does not take but a few minutes of casual thought to sit down and make a list of priorities and focus points of any church. Everyone knows of the LDS buildings, temples, humanitarian effort, welfare program (which is massive), missionary program, perpetual education fund, seminaries, institutes, higher education, employment services, social services, the organization itself, training, and more I have not mentioned. How difficult is it to understand that a religion with THESE points of emphasis will be different that those of a non-religious business? I don't need disclosure of the numbers to write about that. I need a good goal in my writing, which this article lacked. It comes across, by its cover alone, as insensitive and shallow, and I'm sure the article will also disappoint because of this first impression. I think that the church's Newsroom statement on church finances is far more journalistic and accurate than this BW article is. You should read it and try to become enlightened by it. It is excellent and is all you or I need to know.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    July 13, 2012 8:17 a.m.

    Get a clue --- the magazine is called; BUSINESSWEEK.

    They weren't interested in Spiritual or Temporal matters.
    Their audience is business, and business 99.999% of the time only about ONE thing = $$$ Money.

    ...and to them, $Money is their God, $Money is what they worship, and Human Beings and Life in general are Liabilities to the Bottom Line to be exploited in order to maximize their Quarterly Earnings.

    If you wanted to know only about the $$$ involved, this was a good article.

    If you were looking for a feel good humanitarian story - look somewhere else.

    [Sheez, when will conservatives realize Business is no friend to humanity? business rely on People only because they have to.

    And BTW - No Mitt - Corporations are NOT People.]

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    July 13, 2012 8:46 a.m.

    1aggie,

    I am unfamiliar with the LA temple. But I am quite familiar with the valuation of churches. The more liturgical the structure, the less utility to an alternate user and the lower the market value it has.

    Although there are a few denominations that build relatively open and flexible use structures that are more usable to a non-religious buyer, LDS buildings do not so qualify. They are built for a very specific use.

    Often the value of these properties is the land less the cost to scrape the ground and remove the structure. This is not to say the structure is always removed (they can be converted to other uses but at a significant cost), but there is little value in them from a market perspective.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    July 13, 2012 9:06 a.m.

    This attack on the LDSchurch is unfair. The focus of the LDS church is religion. With them money is a means towards this end. Unlike so many Mega churches LDS leaders do not get rich off of the church. Their leaders who need it are given a modest middle class sum of money to live on so that they can focus full time on their calling.

  • a bit of reality Shawnee Mission, KS
    July 13, 2012 9:31 a.m.

    The cover art is biting, and it reminds me of what Jesus said; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    July 13, 2012 9:44 a.m.

    This article addresses an age old problem of public slander. What do you do when someone slanders you? When you suddenly see your name in print with all sorts of lies and half truths? This happens to be a national news magazine that is in bed with Obama and the left. Slander is a always a mixture of half truths and out right lies and mixed together in such a way that it takes time for people to remove all the mud and see the truth. I suspect there will be even more vicious attacks against the Church and its doctrine and done in the same slanderous way. It's all Obama has to run on since he has no record of his own. Pitiful economy and ugly tax increases going forward don't sale too well.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    July 13, 2012 9:58 a.m.

    The Lord gave his servants several talents.

    One spent them,
    One buried them,
    and One invested and Doubled them to give them back to the Lord.

    To whom the Lord replied, "Well done my good and faithful servant."

    I see nothing but what the wise servant is expeced to to.

  • Mike in Cedar City Cedar City, Utah
    July 13, 2012 10:03 a.m.

    One general authority some years ago was asked why the church was not more forthcoming in reporting its financial dealing even to its own membership. His response, "They don't expect us to do that". The implication was that the level of trust was so high that disclosure was not necessary. I, for one disagree, "Trust buy Verify" as the old Russian adage goes.

    And, radical as it may be I think all churches should be taxed as for other business entities with tax exemptions for any funds tendered for legitimate charitable reasons.

    If the Mormon Church is a "Sole Corporation" does that mean its a person, since as Mitt says, Corporations are people. If the Church is a "person", does that mean it can sin, repent, be baptized, and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost and then get married in the Temple?

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    July 13, 2012 10:16 a.m.

    I just read the article. Other than the sensational cover, the article itself seems pretty factual and straight-forward. I would be interested in a factual rebuttal, not the emotional wringing of hands of defensiveness that seems to be evident.

  • Seronac Orem, UT
    July 13, 2012 10:56 a.m.

    It's clear that the Bloomberg article is not about money, or the LDS Church, but about getting Obama re-elected so he can continue their freedom-killing Socialist agenda.

  • Uncle Charles Where freedom and liberty reign, utah
    July 13, 2012 12:31 p.m.

    @Esquire: what was factual about the article, especially since the Church does not release the numbers? Was the quote about what it says on the Tithing Slip accurate? Are all quotes from the disgruntled ex-Mormon Quinn all factual? Are there no LDS members who have no interest in seeing the financials of the Church?

    Titillating? Yes
    Factual? Not so much

    As John Sununu said to Andrea Mitchell recently, "You are struggling Esquire. You are struggling!"

    Worth looking up that exchange regarding facts!

  • CynicJim Taylorsville, UT
    July 13, 2012 12:56 p.m.

    More than anything else, this article represents the liberal Democrat Michael Bloomberg striking out at the conservative Utah Church and its members who refuse to support the redistribution of wealth of the current liberal administration.
    It is frustrating that there are those that, rather than offering help to the sufferers without involving a government that can't abide aiding those in need without their approval and a little cash in offing. It seems they refuse beans,rice and powdered milk.
    The cheerleadering corps of Bloomberg and his ilk will always strike to demean rather than compliment those that live outside the 'help of the government.'
    Subscription numbers should show our dislike.

  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    July 13, 2012 1:33 p.m.

    @Cinci Man
    "I think that the church's Newsroom statement on church finances is far more journalistic and accurate than this BW article is. You should read it and try to become enlightened by it. It is excellent and is all you or I need to know."

    I did read the Church's Newsroom statement and it somewhat enlightening, but it raises a few obvious questions too. Since you think it is "all you or I need to know" then perhaps you know the answers or can explain why my questions are not valid.

    1) The statement explains that some businesses (like Zions Bank and LDS Hospitals) were necessitated by the fact that they didn’t exist elsewhere in the community and were sold off as private businesses developed. Why does the Church currently own a large insurance company (when there are zillions of private insurance companies)?

    2) The statement says the Church’s business assets serve as a rainy day fund in the event of a global food crisis. Is there not a global food crisis right now? Millions of people are currently threatened with starvation in Africa right now according to the World Bank.

  • The Taxman Los Angeles, CA
    July 13, 2012 1:47 p.m.

    The interesting issue to me (which nobody has touched on) is the source of unlimited capital and low interest loans supplied by the "religious" branch to the "business" branch. Say 8 billion of tithing is collected in a year and only 5 billion is spent for buildings, BYU etc. The other 3 billion is available to lend at low rates to the businesses. We in the private sector must raise our own capital - at higher rates - and compete with the LDS for-profit businesses on an unlevel playing field.

    People within the Church boast of the great business stewardship, but give me an unlimited source of cheap capital and I will produce great results too.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    July 13, 2012 2:27 p.m.

    1aggie,

    See my 6:53 post reference Beneficial Life. It stopped selling new policies in 2009 and is slowly being wound down (there are current customers so you can't just shutter the doors).

    .

    The Taxman,

    First, no source of capital is unlimited.

    Second, despite whatever the actual cost of funds may be, wise business practice would require a rate of return commensurate with market rates in order to enforce rigor in the decision making process.

    Third, I assume you got the 8 billion dollar figure from the interview (at least that is where I heard it). Whatever the source, such a figure is laughable. There are roughly 14 million members. Let's assume about half attend regularly. If every single one of those attending paid a full tithing (trust me, they don't), the tithing collected per person would have to be $1,143 indicating they have an annual income of $11,430. That would be throughout the world (including all of the third world membership) and would apply to every man, woman, and child (of the attending membership). Such a figure is unrealistic to say the least.

  • Henry Drummond San Jose, CA
    July 13, 2012 2:42 p.m.

    I think the cover art was in bad taste, but the article was not. It was clearly a well researched piece. The Church was given ample opportunity to participate and were quoted extensively in the report. I would encourage folks here to read it before they make a judgement.

    I'm sorry to see the Deseret News retreating to their usual world of ad hominem attacks rather than dealing with the important issues Businessweek raises. This was a chance to tell an important story. You blew it.

  • Schwa South Jordan, UT
    July 13, 2012 3:43 p.m.

    I notice that neither the Deseret News nor the LDS Church itself went so far as to say that the Business Week story was factually incorrect. They just didn't appreciate the narrative under which it was told.

  • andyjaggy American Fork, UT
    July 13, 2012 4:46 p.m.

    JM:

    Today, more Americans are on government welfare than ever before, but Mormons have no such need, no failing misguided economy.

    Even anti-Mormon Maher says there are no poor Mormons. If he’s right it is astounding, and not simply because he’s never been right about Mormons before.

    Really? Just where do you find that information? There are no poor Mormon's? That's so laughable it would be funny if it wasn't so scary that you actually seem to believe it.

    And you really think that anyone who shares alternating points of view on these threads is a paid activist? I must go looking for my check then, they must have deposited it into the wrong account!

  • andyjaggy American Fork, UT
    July 13, 2012 4:52 p.m.

    What drives me nuts about this is how riled up everyone is getting. The only thing I see to be upset about is the extremely bad cover choice.

    Other then that it mostly just seems to be facts. If facts are left out and it's an incomplete picture then the church has no one to blame but themselves. You can't be non transparent about your finances and then get all riled up when someone paints an incomplete picture.

    The fact is I know MANY member who have questioned the choice to build a 2 billion + dollar mall and stock it with the world's most worldly and expensive stores. Frankly it's a conversation that needs to happen. Maybe if the church was more forthcoming and released information on their own terms they wouldn't have these kinds of articles and they could start being action based instead of reactionary.

  • The Taxman Los Angeles, CA
    July 13, 2012 5:03 p.m.

    @ Twin Lights
    The notion that the farming and ranching operations exist to support the storehouse operations is not completely accurate. The farming operations way eclipse the storehouse need and only a tiny percentage goes to the storehouses while the lions' share is sold in grocery stores.
    Regarding your comments:
    1. "no source of capital is unlimited."
    True. Give me a few million (or billion) dollars of cheap capital and I will produce great results.

    2."wise business practice would require a rate of return commensurate with market rates in order to enforce rigor in the decision making process."
    Agreed.

    3.Regarding the $8 billion figure, it doesn’t matter what the numbers are. The concept is more money is taken in each year than spent (as illustrated in the published UK financials) and the excess is loaned to the businesses. Pick whatever numbers you want.

    The result is:
    Widow contributes mite to the Church.
    Church loans mite to its huge agricultural business at low interest rates.
    Ag business uses cheap capital to buy more Ag land (pushing out more small farmers).
    Widow buys her fruit and nuts at the grocery store from huge AG business.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    July 13, 2012 6:30 p.m.

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

    No church, including the LDS Church, has to bow before the government. No church, including the LDS Church, has to justify how it spends its money. No church, including the LDS Church, has to provide millions of dollars in relief to suffering people worldwide - but the LDS Church, and other churches, do that without the permission or the help of the government.

    BusinessWeek can report anything that it wants. Have you seen the magazine? How many subscribers do they have? How many advertisers? Why?

  • coltakashi Richland, WA
    July 13, 2012 7:05 p.m.

    The Bloomberg Businessweek story is just one of a series that have attacked Mitt Romney and Mormons, which are all listed on their web page next to the story. The magazine has decided to become a left wing rag like Time. The story is totally unbalanced in failing to explain the many ways in which the income the LDS Church receives from the business assets it owns are used to care for needy church members and provide houses of worship and universities and Institutes. Even the information it does give is distorted, claiminig that the Mormons give far less to humanitarian causes than the Methodists, when the actual annual figures are Methodists $60 million from 7.8 million members versus Mormons $52 million from 6 million members, in both cases about $8 per member. The story is just plain dishonest.

  • gcrobmd GADSDEN, AL
    July 13, 2012 7:49 p.m.

    What is unfathomable to me is the criticism towards the Mormon Church for spending 5 billion dollars to renovate an aging downtown Salt Lake City. If this were any other organization or corporation (except possibly Bain Capital), then the praise would be overflowing for their exceptional civic mindedness.

    If Mormon’s are so money minded, then why is there no paid ministry, and everyone expected to help? Where else does that happen? For our faithfulness, we receive the grace of God, waxing strong in Spirit and knowledge, that we might teach with power and authority.

    But if the Church is so financially successful, then perhaps we need a good Church man in office, proved in the world of business, to share a successful business model with a floundering country, states, cities, and individuals who obviously need help to become self-reliant once more.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    July 13, 2012 10:11 p.m.

    The Taxman,

    I understand that the farming and ranching operations may exceed the needs of the storehouse today such that the excess would be sold. A few points.

    First, it is for the storehouse that these business interests were originally started.

    Second, needs may one day be significantly greater and there may not be any excess to sell. Some excess capacity is prudent from a planning as well and possibly from an operating expense standpoint as well.

    Third, there may well be an investment component here. A friend invested his parent's estate into farmland (when it was cheaper) in order to diversify away from stocks.

    Reference tithing I would assume more money is taken in than is spent especially in places like the US and UK. But church growth in the third world consumes a lot of that and likely will continue to do so for the next several decades. I think the cash flow has been that way for awhile now.

  • The Taxman Los Angeles, CA
    July 14, 2012 12:01 a.m.

    @ Twin Lights
    "First, it is for the storehouse that these business interests were originally started."

    Okay... that's obvious, but I believe irrelevant to our discussion.

    "Second, needs may one day be significantly greater and there may not be any excess to sell."

    Again obvious, but people are starving in the world right now. I don't know what can be "significantly greater" than people dying right now.

    “Third, there may well be an investment component here. “

    Again... very obvious.

    “church growth in the third world consumes a lot of that [US and UK excess funds] and likely will continue to do so for the next several decades. I think the cash flow has been that way for awhile now.”

    You are speculating here without proof I believe.

    What stands, of course, is my original point that it is hard for normal businesses to compete with Church-owned businesses because the Church-owned businesses enjoy low interest loans supplied by the "religious" branch. The playing field is not level. I have seen this up-close in the agriculture industry.

  • Shaun Sandy, UT
    July 14, 2012 4:21 a.m.

    I am sure the LDS does a lot good things but I think a lot people wonder why any church should own or operate a business. Are they a church or a business? If they decide to operate a business should that business earn money tax free?

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 14, 2012 3:10 p.m.

    When God evaluates your performance in this life, what do you think will be the criteria that you will be measured against?

    Will you be judged by the things you do because of the built in directives of your body and mind or will you be judged by how well you do the things that other men have told you to do?

    If every religious dogma tells a different story about humans and the purpose of their existence it must be that all cannot be true. And yet all could be false.

    Business men tell us that the reason and purpose of a business operation is to make the owners/managers rich. And believing such are prone to do anything and everything they can to accomplish that goal.

    The desire to survive is the most needed, wanted and sought after thing in the world. Is it just possible that some businessmen would create their own religion to fill that need.

    It is likely that the business of religion will someday diminish as the result of the enlightenment of men. A smart businessman seeing demand for his product waning will start to switch to other products.

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    July 14, 2012 5:39 p.m.

    As usual, there is a lot of "misinformation". One poster seems to think that churches don't pay taxes on business operations. Where did he get that idea? Churches pay taxes, just like you and I pay taxes, on business operations. They are not exempt any more than you or I are exempt.

    Good people donate their time and their "talents" to help others. They don't have to be LDS to contribute. Those who try to tell us that only the LDS Church responds to disasters are lying. Many churches respond. Many people of faith respond. That's just the way things are. Good people who love God don't need to be told by the government to help each other.

    The cover of the magazine was not appropriate. The people who designed and approved that cover should be "educated". The article itself was neither good nor bad. Space limitations may have contributed to what was printed.

    Information about the LDS Church is easily available. Anybody can get almost any question answered.

    Taxing churches for non-business activities is prohibited by the Constitution to keep the government from controlling churches.

  • Screwdriver Casa Grande, AZ
    July 14, 2012 7:57 p.m.

    I don't care that the church doesn't open it's books to the world, but in a world where people still believe that Elvis is alive, the moon landing was faked and Obama was born in Kenya, there will never be a shortage of conspiracy theories about it. Especially when the books are closed.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    July 15, 2012 10:05 a.m.

    Ok, i see lots of complaints that the article was "slanderous" or full of half truths. Ok, I read the article. Please edify me, what were they? What did the article say was so horrible? I am lost on all this anger, and claims that we as LDS are being picked upon.

    If you feel the article stated something inaccurate, state it, and then present the facts. Everyone would benefit from that much more than cries of "they aren't being nice".... particularly from a crowd that on a daily basis does the same toward other groups labeling them as socialist, communist, and sometime much worse.

    We as LDS have nothing to hide. Lets act like it.

    Talk about playing the religion card.... sounds like other groups so often criticized here.

  • bigelhad TAYLORSVILLE, UT
    July 16, 2012 2:48 p.m.

    I thought this editorial would discount at least some of the facts brought out in the origional Businessweek article. Instead, I must assume the article is factual and the Mormon church is portrayed accurately. What part of the truth do the Mormons find offensive? It they take offense, maybe they should change their practices.

  • Dennis Harwich, MA
    July 17, 2012 5:47 a.m.

    Any article written about the "Church" as always viewed as "distorted" when it doesn't come from the Church itself.
    Reading through these comments all I can feel is fear. What's the matter? What do you have to hide that makes so many of you bristle at the very thought of criticism? You kind of scare me a bit.

  • Sank You, Doctor Salt Lake City, UT
    July 17, 2012 8:42 a.m.

    J Thompson
    SPRINGVILLE, UT
    As usual, there is a lot of "misinformation". One poster seems to think that churches don't pay taxes on business operations. Where did he get that idea? Churches pay taxes, just like you and I pay taxes, on business operations. They are not exempt any more than you or I are exempt.

    --------------

    BUT all those business operations can and do make donations to the Church, thus keeping their taxes very low or non-existant. It is written off as an expense and the business then shows very little profit.

    Now, does that seem fair?