Church or Corporation?

Why do churches sometimes act like corporations? Isn’t there something fundamentally at odds between the ostensibly otherworldly business of saving souls and the dollars-and-cents mindset of 21st-century global capitalism? Questions of this kind these seem to undergird discussions of church finance, covering such matters as the property dealings of American Catholic dioceses, the uses of monies donated to Islamic charities, or the investment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a shopping mall across the street from historic Temple Square in Salt Lake City, or, now, a 32-story mixed-use structure in downtown Philadelphia.

From a (Western) historical point of view, the answer to the question of why churches act like corporations is that churches have not only been corporations for over 1600 years, but may even in some respect be corporations par excellence.

As we were all reminded by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, a corporation is a fictitious legal person. Such fictitious persons, as critics of the ruling like to point out, enjoy certain benefits that their flesh-and-blood counterparts do not. For present purposes, one relevant difference is that corporations, unlike people, have the innate potential to live forever.

I find it fitting that entities invested in the possibility of something after death are not subject to the same transience as their believers. If one test of any religious movement is whether it can outlive its founder, legal incorporation can be a useful tool in carrying the message forward through time, and messages that aspire to be deathless require institutions with at least a shadow of that potential.

This conjunction of mortal people and immortal churches actually gets to the heart of the matter, because the idea of churches as corporate persons arose in Roman law out of individual desires to will property to religious institutions—a right guaranteed by Constantine in 321 CE.[1] Over the following centuries religious institutions acquired additional legal privileges. In 412 Honorius and Theodosius declared them free from impositions above and beyond the regular tax.[2] Valentinian and Marcian decreed in 451 “that the privileges, which former emperors by general constitutions granted to all holy churches of the orthodox religion, shall be maintained in perpetuity,” thus giving churches a chance at institutional immortality.[3] Then, in 470, Leo and Anthemius stripped all persons charged with the government of church property “in this imperial city” of the right to alienate it, meaning that property once granted to a religious institution must remain perpetually in its hands.[4] These laws established the legal basis of ecclesiastical landholding for centuries to come.

Fast forward to thirteenth-century England, governed by feudal law as imported by the Normans: the monarch ultimately held all land under his jurisdiction, but he granted land to other people in exchange for services of various kinds—and this system continued down the social ranks. [5] When a landholder died, his estate owed relief—a kind of tax—to his feudal lord, upon receipt of which the lord might grant the land to the heir of the deceased. Using the basic framework established by the Romans, this tax might be diminished through a charitable donation, that is, by granting land to a religious institution in exchange for spiritual services such as the singing of masses in memory of the deceased.

Of course, immortal churches never have to pay estate taxes, with the consequence that, by the late thirteenth century, one third of the land of England was in religious hands, with little or none of the resulting revenue reverting to the ostensible overlords.[6]  This fact understandably troubled the one other entity in England that also enjoyed corporate status: the crown.[7] Thus, Edward I issued a statute in 1279 forbidding such charitable donations without a license (which eventually came to require paying a fee to the crown). Part of the problem was economic: revenues from church lands often left the country, pinching the economy generally and crown finances in particular. The crown certainly valued spiritual services, and continued to grant lands to religious institutions, but from 1279 through the break with Rome in the 1530s it placed increasingly strong restrictions on charitable donations and the flow of revenues to Rome.[8]

Though the present moment certainly differs from this medieval past more than it resembles it, something recognizable remains in the tensions related to church property-holding at that time. Like their modern counterparts, medieval religious institutions engaged in normal economic activities that helped to sustain their existence: they grew crops, made products (e.g., Trappist preserves or Christian Brothers brandy), and so on, thereby generating revenue. Without this revenue, they could not provide the spiritual services that were (or were at least supposed to be) their raison d’être, and yet the dedication of these revenues to spiritual purposes did not exempt these institutions from economic and political realities—including the potential for self-aggrandizement and abuse. Then as now, the balance between serving God and mammon can be difficult to strike.

The issue, therefore, is not with corporate status per se; nor is it with the engagement of religious institutions in “worldly” activities. Both of these are more or less inevitable consequences of existence as institutions in whose relative immortality so many mortals have an interest. The issue, rather, lies in working out an ethics of the “good life” for corporations, much as religions present ideals of the good life for their adherents.

My opening question grows out of two assumptions: the first, borne out by much recent experience, is that corporations all too often live by the narrow ethics of crabbed self-interest and boundless acquisition; and the second is that churches ought to answer to a higher standard. The problem is not that churches act like corporations, but that corporations all too often fail to act like churches, or at least fail to act as churches ought. Thus, it seems that churches need to take an interest in the salvation of fictitious persons, too, by modeling responsible corporate existence. In this way, profoundly, churches might realize their own assurances that a good life is in fact possible amidst the mundane realities of temporal existence.


[1] Fred H. Blume, Annotated Justinian Code, ed. Timothy Kearley, 2nd ed., University of Wyoming George W. Hopper Law Library, 1.2.1. The text of this and the statutes cited subsequently can be read here. I refer to “religious institutions” rather than “the church” because these entities, while related, often had separate legal existences. That is, one typically granted property to X abbey, rather than to “the church,” although legal provisions existed for circumstances when such specificity was lacking; see 1.2.25.

[2] Ibid., 1.2.5; modified by 1.2.7.

[3] Ibid., 1.2.12.

[4] Ibid., 1.2.14.

[5] See A. W. B. Simpson, A History of the Land Law, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), 1-6. Simpson, 3, observes that “in England alone was feudalism so universalized.”

[6] Yes, I know about the Statute of Quia Emptores (1290), but I’m trying to minimize the wonkiness as much as I can, so cut me some slack.

[7] On the complexities of how the corporate fiction developed in relation to ecclesiastical and political entities during the Middle Ages, see Ernst Kantorowicz’s magisterial The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957).

[8] The information in this and the preceding paragraph is drawn from Sandra Raban, Mortmain Legislation and the English Church, 1279-1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980).

Comments

  1. Let me add that from what I’ve heard, the Philadelphia development came about in response to needs expressed by the community, instead of on the Church’s own initiative. So this might be a good example of the corporate ethics I’m talking about. I’d be interested to hear others’ ideas about what the “corporate good life” might look like.

  2. Well done, Jason.

  3. I think a key distinction that I don’t think you make is between profit-focused vs. mission-focused corporations. Of course, the danger is that the mission will always be compromised or co-opted by the need for monetary support (i.e., profits!).

    IMHO, some really good work in business ethics and org studies has been done on this front, esp. by Geoff Moore and Ron Beadle who build on the work of Alastair MacIntyre (Moore has an article on ecclesiology, though I haven’t read it yet). A good place to start might be this paper. Fascinating questions, I hope you write more on this topic.

  4. Thanks, Robert C. That’s a useful distinction, and it does get to the precise tension I’m describing at the end of the post. Also, your link seems not to work.

    To clarify: I’m not a lawyer—just someone with a wonky interest in medieval church property law—so input from people who know the contemporary lay of the legal land better than I do is especially welcome.

  5. On the local level the LDS church looks and behaves like a church. At the Salt Lake headquarter level it behaves as a corporation. In fact if you follow the money it looks much more like a construction company funded by donations than it does a church. See City Creek. Perhaps that’s why in an apparent architectural Freudian slip so many meeting houses actually look more like banks than chapels!

    No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. I think we’re watching this scripture play out.

  6. Sorry for the bad link above, Try #2:

    “In Search of Organizational Virtue in Business: Agents, Goods, Practices, Institutions and Environments” in Organization Studies v. 27 no. 3, pp. 369-389

    Link: http://oss.sagepub.com/content/27/3/369

  7. Thanks, Robert C. Looks like a welcome contribution to the discussion.

  8. Thanks, Jason. There’s a lot of value to digging into why a church might want corporate existence and, for that matter, why society might want churches to be corporations. And we do: a church basically cannot qualify as tax-exempt in the U.S., for example, if it is not incorporated. Why not? There may be all sorts of reasons (including historical ones) but, among other things, without some sort of legal personhood, churches couldn’t be held responsible for bad actions (through, for example, lawsuits), and any church property would have to be held by natural persons, which risks their expropriation of the property for personal, not church-related, reasons.

  9. I liked your post quite a bit. One question I have is about responsibility. In a corporation, the fictitious person really translates to the sum total of the actions, behaviors, ideas, etc. of many people. Right? So how do you hold these people responsible? I understand that corporations have to answer to the law, but on the plane of ethics we’re talking about here who is ultimately going to effect the behavior of the church? The President? The Qo12? I’d say they’re the biggest players but I think a lot of that responsibility gets shoved down the ladder to the many offices in the CoB such as the correlation committee, etc.

  10. Your last point is particularly salient. I mean, what if a bishop went rogue and tried to sell off the local meetinghouse and abscond with the funds? Corporate status also keeps the concept of stewardship in play. Kantorowicz talks a lot about fiduciary responsibility, including the (to us) somewhat bizarre concept of “the holy fisc.”

  11. I would like to see the corporate entity of the Church do more to help the poor, sick, and suffering throughout the world. This seems to be the mission which Christ tasked the Church and its followers to fulfill. Clearly, the Church is not following its stated its three- or four-fold mission statement or the directives of Christ in the way it is spending its corporate money.

  12. Just read this article this morning, seems relevant: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/rich-pastors-peoples-stupidity/

  13. @Howard: Do you not actually understand that no donations to the Church were spent on the City Creek Purchase? Not one penny. So many people express this complaint that donations are spent on investment purchases, that I wonder if they actually try to do research and don’t understand or just drink the Kool-Aid. The Church’s independent business is fully self-sustaining. Investments are made from profits saved. They don’t rely on any religious tax breaks. They are a corporation, not a church.

    @ Chris: How do you see that working? Again I point out the distinction that there is a corporation of the Church and a number of independent, for-profit businesses owned by the Church. Those businesses exist to develop assets and generate financial security for the Church. A portion of the profit made is in fact returned to the Church and used as other donations would be. The remainder of the profit is used to maintain the growth and sustainability of the business itself. We would expect ANY business to do the same. That’s like refusing to investing your retirement because you believe the money should be yours. With an investment, it not only remains yours, it grows, providing you with more later.

  14. Chris, query what an acceptable amount of helping the poor, sick, and suffering would be. Are you talking large-scale disaster relief? Or do you include paying a member’s cell phone bill so that she can wait to get a call for a job? How about job interviewing courses?

    I don’t know what percentage of the Church’s time, effort, and assets go into aid and assistance for the poor. I do know, though, that I’ve been in a number of wards where the distribution of fast offering funds greatly exceeded the inflows of fast offerings.

    Ultimately, of course, money is fungible. Of course the Church could spend money it spends on buildings on food instead. But without some sort of standard, saying the Church should spend “more” is roughly meaningless, because the Church could always spend more, as could we all.

  15. Kevin L,
    Well, sure we shouldn’t get the ear marked pockets confused, should we? I guess it would have been more accurate to write something like; See meeting houses and temples and the Conference Center, oh and don’t forget City Creek built from church investments and/or profits that, well must have been the result of donations from an earlier time.

  16. The church does a good job taking care of it’s own members and humanitarian disaster relief. Hard numbers are difficult to find but where they appear by comparison to carry a lower donation and participation profile is where third world populations meet malnutrition, thirst and easily curable disease (except for vaccinations). More help there would literally save lives. How much is enough? Maybe when they stop dying from these relatively simple to cure causes?

  17. ” In fact if you follow the money it looks much more like a construction company funded by donations than it does a church. See City Creek. Perhaps that’s why in an apparent architectural Freudian slip so many meeting houses actually look more like banks than chapels!”

    Howard, I have major issues with that math. During the span between the announcement of City Creek Center and the time it opened, the church built many hundreds of chapels (mine included) and several temples. The office of the Presiding Bishopric (which handles the temporal — or most “corporate” aspects of the church) handled most of the church’s interests in City Creek Center AND of the chapel building. City Creek Center occupies a small fraction of the Church’s financial and building efforts even in a single calendar year. The church’s business partners shouldered much of the implementation. As a fraction of the brethren’s time, CCC was likely barely a blip on the radar over that period. It probably looms much larger in your mind than it ever did in the minds of the church leadership.

    Furthermore, the money for City Creek Center came from the funds raised by tax-paying business corporate holdings of the church — not from tithing funds — and was initiated largely for the purpose of keeping the area around church headquarters viable and appealing to visitors. And, more important, it was intended to be profitable. Whatever profit comes from the investment (over and above keeping Temple Square a viable visitor destination) can be invested back into other church interests. That’s wise stewardship, and it doesn’t bother me at all.

    If you think the church leadership is more concerned about funds than the work of the Lord, I submit that CCC is not evidence of such. As big and expensive as the venture seems to be, I think you’re straining at a gnat in the big picture of what the church is doing and trying to do.

  18. FYI you guys, church & corporation is a false dichotomy. Churches are corporations.

  19. What Steve said. Howard’s comment (8:57 am) uncritically employs a distinction that the OP is meant to complicate. If you think that I complicated it wrong, that’s fine, and please do make your case, but commenting as though the OP never happened is trolling. As usual, don’t feed the trolls.

  20. Lorin,
    I believe I addressed your 2nd paragraph concerns in my comment to Kevin, perhaps you missed it or cross posted?

    Regarding: Furthermore, the money for City Creek Center came from the funds raised by tax-paying business corporate holdings of the church… Well, maybe, what do you know about the genesis of these businesses? Were donations or interest or profits resulting from donations ever used to start or sustain them? Had no one EVER donated a penny to the church would these businesses still have produced the funds to build City Creek?

    If we take several $ million worth of tithing funds and invest it at an attractive interest can’t we argue the interest isn’t donation? Yet without the donation the interest wouldn’t exist, would it? So did these businesses spring up via borrowed funds and are they self sustaining without the existence of the church? As i understand it the church had some hard times financially during it’s history and it’s difficult to see how the entire empire could have been built without donations unless we’re simply splitting semantics hairs here.

  21. To reiterate, the Church is a corporation, and as such it unavoidably has temporal interests. I have some sympathy with arguments that Constantine scotched things for Christianity, but on the other hand that would leave Christianity (if it still existed 1600 years later) as a loosely organized underground movement, or quasi-anarchistic groups assembling in private houses. As interesting as such exercises in historical fiction might be, as I tried to show in the OP, corporate status for religious entities is both old and fairly normative.

    I actually think that Mormon theology, with its propensity for collapsing the sacred and the secular, could have a fair bit to say about a kind of sacred corporate existence. Can we talk about that instead of rehashing arguments about the mall?

  22. Jason K.,
    You set this up: Why do churches sometimes act like corporations?… corporations all too often live by the narrow ethics of crabbed self-interest and boundless acquisition…churches ought to answer to a higher standard. and you answer it with The problem is not that churches act like corporations, but that corporations all too often fail to act like churches, or at least fail to act as churches ought. While I agree I would like to see more Godly actions from corporations i think it’s also a problem when churches too strongly act like corporations and I’m pointing out a bifurcation in the LDS church whereby the local units act more like a church and headquarters acts more like a corporation. Acts like. Yes of course churches are corporations in their legal form but I don’t think that describes how they act except legally and for tax purposes.

  23. (Jason, at the risk of being obnoxious by simply posting more links to articles rather than directly joining the discussion, your most recent phrasing of these issues, posted in the comments, sharply brings to mind another couple articles that might be of interest.

    One is more explicitly Mormon, although it is about discourse rather than legal status–however, I think it shouldn’t take too much thinking to draw out the interesting links between the way discourse and legality mutually shape our social reality. The article is by Joseph Spencer published in BYU Studies: “The Four Discourses of Mormonism”.

    Also, upping the risk now to self-promotion, I co-authored an article with Joe titled “Economy Suspended: The Possibilities of a Badiouian Business Ethics” wherein we apply the same Badiouian philosophy to questions regarding business ethics.

    At a very theoretical level, i think these articles are grappling with the same questions and tensions that you are.)

  24. Drat, here’s the BYU Studies link which I goofed (again!): https://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=8666

  25. The point is that “acting like a corporation” isn’t ipso facto a bad thing, which your comments seem to imply it is. The bifurcation you point out is banal: of course HQ handles more of the corporate aspects of the church than the local wards. This goes all the way back to the United Firm in the earliest days of the Church. If you have a critique you’ll have to find other terms in which to articulate it. “Corporate” as a bad word just won’t fly.

  26. Robert C.: Ahh, an application of Badiou’s ethics to business situations? Interesting!

  27. Jason K.
    I think you’ve misread me, I enjoyed a long career as a COO, I don’t think of corporations or profits as bad words. I was using YOUR description “My opening question grows out of two assumptions: the first, borne out by much recent experience, is that corporations all too often live by the narrow ethics of crabbed self-interest and boundless acquisition”

  28. I apologize for “feeding the tolls.” I wanted to help separate the for-profit and ecclesiastical branches of the Church “Corporation.” However, in the end, I agree that we can’t too fully separate the two branches as they are both contained under the umbrella of the Church.

    As far as Church/Business ethics, I found this quote from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism interesting:

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation receives from Church businesses contributions from their pretax earnings, which in turn are given to the community as contributions to the arts, education, and charitable groups, and other beneficiaries. The LDS foundation coordinates the distribution of major portions of the charitable contributions designated by Church-owned businesses. In recent years, the Foundation has been a significant contributor to the new LDS Hospital wing, the new Primary Children’s Medical Center, the new Holy Cross Hospital, the Salvation Army, Saint Vincent De Paul Center soup kitchen for the homeless, the Salt Lake City Homeless Shelter, the Utah Symphony, Ballet West, the United Way, and related organizations. Income from Church business operations permits participation in local community causes without using the tithing of members from around the world. Those tithes are dedicated to continuing the primary work of the Church, which includes teaching the gospel to the world, building faith and testimony and promoting activity among the membership, and helping members to complete sacred temple ordinances in proxy for the deceased.

    . . . .

    Operating management is in the hands of professional managers, who need not be Church members. The Church requires them to operate the businesses in harmony with its principles and values of honesty, integrity, sensitivity, and service.

    The Church expects its businesses to return something back to the communities from which they derive their revenues, and it encourages managers to participate actively in community activities and in business and professional associations. The Church expects them to set standards of excellence, to be leaders in their particular industries, and always to be conscious of the values of the ownership that they represent.”

    In my experience working for part of the for-profit AgReserves, this holds true. Even in rural Nebraska, member and non-member employees were expected to adhere to the highest professional ethics and we all knew that a portion of profit would be contributed to the Church’s charitable causes.

  29. Howard: My apologies if I misread you. The rest of my post did go on, I thought, to trouble the distinction with which it began. If we’re on the same page we should just let it rest.

    Kevin L.: Thanks for the very useful information. I think it’s easy to shout “MALL!” and miss the interrelation between even for-profit activities and the spiritual mission of the church.

  30. “Why do churches sometimes act like corporations?” You never really say what it means to “act like corporations,” but you seem to assume that acting like a corporation is undesirable based on some unstated assumptions. Maybe the profit motive makes acting like a corporation bad or perhaps acting in a practical manner to perpetuate an entity’s existence, which may sometimes involve making the choice between bad and worse, pleasing nobody, makes acting like a corporation bad. Is this a critique of capitalism, a lament that sometimes practicality requires us to make unsavory decisions to preserve the institution, or something else?

    And I’m not really sure what you’re trying to say by asserting that church corporations are corporations par excellence. Do you mean that their corporate actors are less likely to behave in a way that undermines the corporation’s stated mission (e.g., making and selling goods, providing professional services, providing worship and humanitarian goods and services)? Or do you mean that their corporate actors are less likely to breach the duties inherent to a corporation (e.g., turn a profit, refrain from intentionally or negligently harming others, whatever else)? Or do you just mean that you tend to like their mission statements and the potential elimination (or at least reduction) of the profit motive better?

    Finally, what would it even mean for a church to model responsible corporate existence when a church’s mission statement and duties are so different from those of a for-profit corporation (I think that’s true for at least some duties, but my corporations class was boring and I don’t do corporate law so please feel free to correct me)? I get that we Mormons believe all temporal things have a spiritual component, but providing worship services and humanitarian goods and services without a profit motive is so different from making and selling goods and providing professional services to turn a profit for the owners that I’m not sure one has much to say about the other.

  31. The post is responding to people who uncritically assume that “acting like a corporation” is a bad thing. From the comments it would seem that I could have been clearer about expressing my disagreement with this assumption. In saying that churches are corporations par excellence, I’m pointing to the centrality of churches in the history of the corporation since Roman times. That is, any corporation owes something of the concept that enables it to exist as such to churches.

    Your last question is a good one. As Kevin L. observed above, the Church does participate in for-profit enterprises, partly as a way of funding humanitarian efforts of various kinds. As another instance, the Church is in the insurance business (as Deseret Mutual Benefits Association) because it was having a hard time finding for-profit insurers willing to pay out the maternity benefits incurred by employees. In such ways as these, the Church leverages its corporate status to benefit the communities in which it is embedded and the employees who do its work. I think this an example that other corporations would do well to follow—just as the Church would do well to learn from good things being done by other corporations, even in the for-profit sector. The particulars of how these different kinds of corporations are run might be quite distinct, but there’s surely some overlap in matters of community involvement and treatment of employees.

  32. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a corporation. Officers and members of the Church organize corporations to facilitate the business of the Church, but the Church itself with its general priesthood quorums and stakes and so forth is not a corporation. Members of the Church around the world are not members of a corporation. Rather, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a voluntary association. The term “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is not the name of a corporation, but rather is a trademark owned by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. (http://www.lds.org/legal/terms).

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not own any land and buildings — it can’t, as it isn’t a corporation. But officers and members of the Church organize corporations to own land and buildings for Church purposes.

  33. These are useful distinctions. Thanks for adding them to the conversation. It’s long been the case that “the church” as an umbrella legal organization doesn’t really exist (see fn. 1).

  34. In Salt Lake City and other cities throughout the world, there is a great need for medical and dental care for the poor, drug rehabilitation for the addicted, and housing for the homeless. I am saddened that in the heart of Zion, it is often the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church, or the Rescue Mission that feed the poor, welcome the refugees, and care for the destitute. I believe there is more the Church can do than build malls and condos. I truly do.

  35. Thomas Parkin says:

    City Creek Center is a travesty. Of all the cool things that might have been built, a mall was built. They could have built The Hanging Gardens, or whatever. Something that might actually continue to exist in Zion. Something that a poor man could delight in right alongside a wealthy man. No ROI on a wonder of architecture, but that’s just the point – some area of life needs to be free of consideration of ROI, and the space right there next to the temple seems like a great place to demonstrate this. And it’s not just any ole mall. It’s a mall where no one with a annual income less than six figures can buy anything. Not a shirt. A nice middle class family can walk around and observe that first, it’s a pretty nice mall and condo set where, second, they can’t live, and third, they can’t buy a pair of shoes. My mom and I walked around, finally decided to buy a little cube of fudge, and it cost like $8.

    In short, Mammon.

    I think H.Burke Peterson was released not because the mall exhausted him, but because it broke his heart.

    On the same hand, that same time in SLC we observed ads for the mall around town showing a woman wearing a backless dress and drinking a glass of wine. It’s hard to stop laughing over that one.

  36. ” I am saddened that in the heart of Zion, it is often the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church, or the Rescue Mission that feed the poor, welcome the refugees, and care for the destitute. I believe there is more the Church can do than build malls and condos. I truly do.”

    Wow. And wow. Is this a serious comment?

    Talk to the Utah heads of the Salvation Army and Catholic charities and ask them what organization provides the majority of the food and clothing that they distribute. Count the people shopping in a Bishop’s storehouse grocery store (sans cash register). Go to the MASSIVE humanitarian center and count the number of refugees (virtually all non-LDS) gaining a pay check there while they fill shipping containers with clothing and other goods destined for third world countries. And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.

    This City Creek Center fixation some people have is kind of amusing. I hope these aren’t the same people who complain about how much ink the the church’s PR department gives the church’s humanitarian mission. The word apparently isn’t getting out.

  37. Lorin,
    I was on the streets in SLC a couple of years ago for several months studying the homeless there and other western cities and from the street view it appears just as Chris says. If the food and goods being distributed are actually coming from the LDS church it isn’t apparent to either the recipients or those handing them out.

  38. Apropos the homeless in SLC, it’s worth noting that the Church is directly involved in Utah’s current efforts to eliminate chronic homelessness. Getting credit is less important than being involved in the first place.

  39. Jason just mentioned this, but people who argue that the LDS Church doesn’t do enough about homelessness have no clue how much the LDS Church is involved in trying to eradicate homelessness in Utah. The Church is one of the most active participants in that effort, it’s contributions are massive and the result thus far is exemplary.

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