LDS Inc.

mormons incSo the first thing to do is admit that I don’t always get internet-speak. That said, is there any way that “LDS Inc.,” written in implicit (or explicit) disparagement of the church isn’t stupid?[fn]

I mean, I see it occasionally. And I kind of assume that its provenance is the Aug. 4, 1997, Time magazine cover.

The thing is that while contextually, the use of “LDS Inc.” is clearly meant as a criticism, I can’t figure out what is being critiqued. Saying “LDS Inc.” may make a (vaguely) factual assertion, but it makes no substantive moral or ethical assertion. 

As best as I can tell, saying “LDS Inc.” is meant to communicate one of three things: (a) churches shouldn’t be organized as corporations, (b) the church is too money-focused, or (c) the church is too bureaucratic. Let’s look at each of them.

Churches Shouldn’t Be Corporations

Look, religions weren’t the first groups to incorporate. (It looks, from a quick search, like municipalities or other political subdivisions were.) But they incorporated early on.

Why? Largely for property reasons. A corporation is a legal person. As such, it has the ability to own property, among other things. Without the legal personhood, church property would have to be owned by a natural person; when that person died, it would somehow have to be differentiated from that person’s personal property, and would have to be passed on to some other person. That passage could potentially create problems.

As a corporate entity, a church can continue to own its property indefinitely; there are no worries about who to trust and who to pass it on to.

And there are other advantages, too: a legal person (including an incorporate church) can sue and be sued. That is, if a church is incorporated and causes harm to you, you can sue it. If it’s not incorporated, that’s a lot harder.

Finally (for these quick-and-dirty purposes), in the U.S., any entity that wants to be tax-exempt has to be incorporated. That applies to churches, and also to universities and museums and non-profit hospitals and all sorts of other charitable entities.

The Church is Too Money-Focused

So two things about this. First, there’s a problem lumping all corporations together. For-profit corporations are owned by shareholders who presumably invested to make a profit. Shareholders share in the corporation’s profits, either through dividends or capital gains (or, in closely-held corporations, through employment or other streams of income).

The church, though, doesn’t have shareholders. Because it is tax-exempt, it could not distribute profits to to shareholders, even if it had shareholders. A tax-exempt corporation is something entirely different than a for-profit corporation.

But even for-profit corporations aren’t required to pursue profits at the expense of all else. While shareholder primacy is a theory of corporate governance, it is not a tenet of American corporate law. Corporations can pursue a wide range of un- or less-profitable endeavors. (In fact, benefit corporations and B corps, both types of for-profit corporations, can also have explicit social benefit obligations.)

The Church is Too Bureaucratic

That may well be true, but it has nothing to do with its status as a corporation. True, for-profit corporations have to follow certain formalities. But outside of that, they can be as hierarchical or informal as they want. There’s nothing about incorporation that creates bureaucracy.

Incorporation is also not necessary to create bureaucracy. Law firms, often organized as limited liability partnerships, can also be bureaucratic. State and local governments can be terribly bureaucratic (see, e.g., your local DMV).

Specificity, Folks

I realize that typing “LDS Inc.” is quick. And it’s probably satisfying. But it’s also imprecise and lazy.

Look, I don’t have any problem with criticisms of Mormon practice and organization. The church isn’t perfect; thoughtful critique helps the church—and its members—improve.

But specificity, folks. That’s the key. And “LDS Inc.” as an assertion just isn’t specific enough to be valuable.


[fn] Note that, in its conception, this was going to be much more comprehensive, linking all over the place. But “LDS Inc.” as an assertion doesn’t justify that much work on my part; this post would probably work just as well if I simply wrote, “LDS Inc. is a meaningless assertion; if you have a complaint about the church, please be specific.”

Comments

  1. I think a general extreme leftist take is being a corporation makes something evil in and of its self. Its easy to idealistically dismiss corporations if one does not understand that they are essential for a civil society to exist. Continuing legal rights for a business helps it survive, and can bring stability. I don’t want to live in a country that doesn’t have corporations.

    Where Mitt Romney got it wrong was in explaining that corporations are people is that under the law they also have rights and responsibilities including contribution the greater good.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    On your first point, it’s too bad the Church wasn’t actually a corporation when Joseph Smith died. Brigham and Emma ended up hating each other, and while half of that was grounded in polygamy, the other half was grounded in property rights. They obviously had very different views of how much of the property Joseph owned in his own name actually belonged to the Church and how much actually belonged to him (and after death, to his family) personally.

  3. You’re thinking way too much like an attorney, and not nearly enough like a (regular? normal?) non-attorney human being. For the rest of us, the “X, Inc.” pejorative isn’t even as clear as your three categories. When “ Inc.” is used with a name that usually doesn’t carry it in the colloquial use, then I think it’s more of a shortcut way of saying “organization focused so much on its own self-interest that its morals become malleable, and cares more about itself than about the people with whom it is associated.”

  4. HDP, that’s certainly fine as a criticism, and much more valuable the way you phrased it. (Is it true? It doesn’t matter—it sets out a proposition that can be debated and illustrated and adjusted, and could ultimately be productive.)

  5. orangganjil says:

    I don’t particularly like the fact that the church is organized as a corporation and prefer the way it was setup by Joseph Smith. It seemed to have been more egalitarian, where common consent was more than mere lip service. I long for that type of community.

    However, I do see the downsides of that type of organization (Kevin’s example above, for instance). How could a church organize to obtain the benefits of property holding that we see in a corporate organization while holding onto Joseph’s egalitarian organization? Is there some other way to organize where the benefits of both can be had?

  6. Clarification: the truth of the criticism does matter; what I meant is, as a criticism, the specificity you bring is valuable, even if it turns out that the organization isn’t overly-focused on its self-interest, etc., because it allows actual evaluation of the proposition.

  7. orangganjil, not really. I mean, if we ignore that tax consequences to focus just on the property ownership, I suppose it could be a partnership or LLC, but it has to be some sort of legal entity. And corporate status for churches goes back at least to medieval England (and perhaps earlier), so the body of law is well-developed for corporate churches. Also, whatever the negatives you perceive with respect to corporations, they don’t really go away by choosing an alternative entity structure.

  8. Sam, I like this post. But maybe some of the concerns with respect to the use of the term aren’t about corporations per se, but about the unitary nature of it, i.e., schism is very difficult in the LDS church from a property perspective, and less so in other churches, where property ownership is much more diversely and locally held. This is not simply similar to other churches – Catholic property is held by a dizzying array of entities and associations (with a grandfathered umbrella tax exemption), and many other churches devolve property ownership to local councils or congregations, which may be organized as corporations or trusts. The complete centralization of property ownership is unique in the LDS church.

  9. John Mansfield says:

    I’ve shared the following observation before. An LDS meetinghouse in my stake (on 16th Street in Washington, D.C.) sits on land purchased a decade ago from a group of cloistered nuns. The nuns needed more room for novices to their order, so they moved out of the city to where they are now constructing stone buildings without structural wood or steel that would decay in only a couple centuries. Their main occupation is prayer, and they go to bed at 7:30 and get up at 3:30 for the first prayers of the day. In other words, they are an exceptionally unworldly group of women.

    And what is the name of the entity that sold their old property to the LDS church and owns their current property? Dominican Nuns Inc.

  10. I didn’t quite get how your explanation RE the second point was an explanation. In my experience, LDS Inc refers to all the ways church-owned corporations compete with other businesses for customers, land, and clout. People wonder what a church needs with cattle ranches and a newspaper, and why leaders’ opinions often seem to trump what voters prefer.

  11. If you simply wrote “LDS Inc. is a meaningless assertion; if you have a complaint about the church, please be specific.” then I would have no comment. Agreed.
    But in attempting a catalog, what “LDS Inc.” might mean as a criticism, then I think you miss one or more common meanings. Actually the very first that comes to mind is the backlash against Mitt Romney’s “corporations are people” statement. This is a culture war artifact. For some half(??) of the U.S. population corporations are evil and inhuman, operate to maximize in the short-term without care for human rights or the environment or long-term welfare of anybody, and are felt to have a growing number of rights without responsibilities. “LDS Inc.” captures all of that.

  12. Mark N. says:

    Wouldn’t some reference to the actual content of the Time article in question possibly be helpful in determining exactly what they had in mind by “LDS Inc.”? Maybe you did and I didn’t catch it. Maybe there’s an assumption that everyone here has already read it. I’m just not convinced that this rebuttal rebuts anything.

  13. What Owen said. It’s not that having some degree of non-profit pursuits is troubling; it’s the extent. I think we can all see the wisdom in having the church out of debt and easily able to fund its efforts. But does profit reach a point where it distorts us? Where your treasure is, there is your heart also? Etc.

    Of course, since we are blocked from seeing the actual finances, we can only guess what’s going on (and maybe that in and of itself is another problem in this category).

  14. Mark, I don’t think the Time article has anything to do with current usage, or any relevance to my post, other than being a possible origin point for the phrase in question.

    dclorenzen, thanks. Again, I think there’s value in your formulation (though, even though it’s not my direct area of interest, my understanding is that church schism almost always creates huge property issues, whether it’s owned by the umbrella church or the local church).

  15. And Owen, the church certainly owns corporate entities that compete in the marketplace on a level playing field with other for-profit businesses, and pay taxes and do all the other things for-profit corps do. If that’s what people mean by “LDS Inc.,” it’s beyond a nonsequiter.

  16. Mark B. says:

    I don’t know if your first question was simply rhetorical, but the answer is “No, there is no way that writing simply “LDS, Inc.” as a criticism of the church isn’t stupid.”

  17. I think LDS Inc. has a negative connotation because it implies that the entity that has the keys to the only gate leading to exaltation is a business. It implies (to me) a buying and selling model, a so-called worldly model, disconnected from spiritual. That’s my $0.02 anyway.

  18. Q, it’s clearly meant to convey negativity toward the church, which is clear from the context in which it is used.

    What is not clear is the substance. I laid out and critiqued the three possibilities that occurred to me (which, to Chris’s point, weren’t meant to be exhaustive). Ultimately, I wanted to highlight why insider shorthand is a poor substitute for actual clarity in criticism.

  19. Mark B. says:

    I wonder if those who use the tag as a criticism would prefer that the church be less wise (than serpents, even?) when it comes to handling its property.

  20. Both churches and corporations are in the business of promoting powerful collective fictions, so I’d say it’s a good match and ought to be taken as a compliment.

    “People easily understand that ‘primitives’ cement their social order by believing in ghosts and spirits, and gathering each full moon to dance together around the campfire. What we fail to appreciate is that our modern institutions function on exactly the same basis. Take for example the world of business corporations. Modern businesspeople and lawyers are, in fact, powerful sorcerers. The principal difference between them and tribal shamans is that modern lawyers tell far stranger tales.”
    Harari, Sapiens, p.31

  21. Last Lemming says:

    I agree with those who maintain that the term has nothing to do with legal form of organization. It simply captures the perception that the Church is more concerned with accumulating wealth than it is with distributing it. I’ve never found it confusing (although if my interpretation is wrong, then so is my characterization of my lack of confusion).

    As for the perception itself, I understand what gives rise to it (malls and ranches and whatnot), but I think it is too simplistic–the Church distributes huge amounts of wealth, but does so less in the form of transfer payments than in the form of access to free or reduced-price goods and services (meetinghouses, FamilySearch, BYU, etc.) I am not remotely disturbed that it does this as a corporation rather than some other form of organization. Greater transparency, however, would make it much easier to explain all this to people.

  22. Bryan S. says:

    The comments seem to illustrate exactly what Sam’s point is. That no one really knows what is being argued with LDS Inc. because everyone has their own interpretation. Here are 4 interpretations from commentors.

    Also, I like that Sam is classy enough to create a footnote for the tl;dr summary.

    HDP
    “organization focused so much on its own self-interest that its morals become malleable, and cares more about itself than about the people with whom it is associated.”

    Dclorenzen
    “The complete centralization of property ownership is unique in the LDS church.”

    Owen
    “In my experience, LDS Inc refers to all the ways church-owned corporations compete with other businesses for customers, land, and clout. People wonder what a church needs with cattle ranches and a newspaper, and why leaders’ opinions often seem to trump what voters prefer.”

    Christiankimball
    “Actually the very first that comes to mind is the backlash against Mitt Romney’s “corporations are people” statement. This is a culture war artifact. For some half(??) of the U.S. population corporations are evil and inhuman, operate to maximize in the short-term without care for human rights or the environment or long-term welfare of anybody, and are felt to have a growing number of rights without responsibilities. “LDS Inc.” captures all of that.”

    Q
    “I think LDS Inc. has a negative connotation because it implies that the entity that has the keys to the only gate leading to exaltation is a business. It implies (to me) a buying and selling model, a so-called worldly model, disconnected from spiritual. That’s my $0.02 anyway.”

  23. orangganjil says:

    I agree that the comments have proven Sam’s assertion that the term is ambiguous and complaints should be more specific. So, in that spirit, here is something specific:

    From my perspective, the “LDS, Inc.” moniker is used to paint the church with the perceived cold aspects of a corporation. Corps typically are seen as self-interested, faceless, etc. The fact that regular members are essentially powerless in the church sort of engenders that employee-corporation asymmetry. We’re certainly not shareholders or owners and modern expectations are much more aligned with top-down, take-it-or-leave-it, corporate hierarchy than the egalitarian principles behind ideas such as common consent, Zion, or community.

  24. This is not to take away from the thrust of the post regarding the general understanding of what LDS, Inc., means, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Church”) is not a corporation. It is a Utah unincorporated religious association.

    There is no requirement for a non-profit to be incorporated. There are other churches who function as unincorporated associations, some because they don’t want to acknowledge the “sovereignty” of a state, but that doesn’t seem to be the Church’s primary motivation for not incorporating.

    The Church was a Utah corporation in Brigham Young’s time. It was dis-incorporated by the anti-polygamy laws, and was not reincorporated.

    Members of the Church are members of an unincorporated religious association, not a corporation. The Church has as its officers the First Presidency, the General Authorities, Bishops, etc. I don’t know whether there are “Articles of Association” or something similar for the Church or whether it is governed solely by the Doctrine in Covenants and tradition–there is someone at Kirton McConkie who could answer that question if they would. For example, the conference audit report states that the authorization of the expenditure of Church funds is in accordance with Section 120 of the D & C, not some other association document.

    The Church (the religious association) does not own any (or many) assets. The assets used by the Church in its religious mission (such as meetinghouses and temples) are owned by various corporations such as the Corporation of the President, the Corporation of Presiding Bishop and Corporations of various stake presidents, such as the Corporation of the President of the Santa Rosa Stake. These asset owning corporations are “corporations sole” consisting of the person who holds that office from time to time. These corporations don’t have boards of directors or officers or shareholders. They just consist of whoever holds that particular office at that time. Obviously, it is the Church (the religious association) who determines who those officers are from time to time, and therefore who controls those assets.

    The corporation sole was a form of ownership used by the Catholic Church and adopted by Franklin S. Richards (the Church’s first general counsel who was heavily involved in the legal battles over the dis-incorporation of the Church and the confiscation of its assets by the federal government in connection with polygamy). It is a distinctive and little used form of corporation.

    The Church also uses other corporations in other countries where required by local law to operate. The Relief Society and Young Women were also separate corporations at one time (but that’s a different story).

    The Church may sometimes act like a corporation, but legally it isn’t one. (Again, this comment isn’t about what LDS Inc. means, only to keep the facts straight about the Church’s legal structure.)

  25. I agree with the thrust of the OP that LDS Inc and related terms are often too vague to be often be useful. It is really a tragedy because of the challenges facing the church I think many are rooted in what the use of the logic of American corporate managerial practice and logic within a gospel/religious context. Such analysis needs to be nuanced and careful though because corporate logic has also brought many benefits to the church and its members.

    For me opacity and lack of a good governance model are a real concern – or maybe I should say make me really concerned for the church. Opacity and large sums of money are a toxic mix for organizations (and individuals). Eventually, problems arise – and not just things like outright fraud or embezzlement. I would worry more about things like mission drift. The LDS church comes nowhere near best practice for religious institutions when it comes to transparency and governance with its congregants. It does beg the question as to why. I personally don’t believe that personal greed or profit motive is at the heart of whatever may be driving these unhealthy tendencies. However, the question still hangs and the potential for organizational or personal behavior the scriptures repeatedly highlight as a threat to the gospel remains. Definitely something worth ponderizing…

  26. orangganjil says:

    MJP: Thank you for taking the time to write out that wonderful explanation.

  27. Brother Sky says:

    I think I’m with rah and orangganjil. The “Inc.” moniker attached to the church has always seemed to me to be about recognizing the corporate culture of the church, what orangganjil calls the “top-down, take it or leave it, corporate hierarchy.” Other aspects that I find “corporate” about the church are: lack of access to leaders, the fact that said leaders’ emphasis on strict obedience seems (IMHO) more aligned with keeping the machine functioning smoothly than community building, and the, to my mind, absurdly overzealous push towards conformity/correlation. This corporate aspect of the church, to my way of thinking, creates obstacles to God and Christ rather than removing them.

  28. Rockwell says:

    The term LDS Inc is usually a rhetorical device used to add pathos to an argument that is made with logic.

  29. It occurs to me that LDS Inc in governance terms is quite ironic since modern, public corporations run under much higher standards of transparency and accountability than our church does. In some sense, we might be better off if the LDS church was governed a bit more like a modern corporation…

  30. I have seen “LDS Inc” on ex-Mormon boards, and I have always viewed it as a derogatory term meant to de-legitamize the LDS Church. It is also a short hand, because writing out the full name of the LDS Church is cumbersome. “LDS Inc” is a way of saying that the organization is a corporation with some church-like tendencies, instead of a church that happens to have a legal corporate structure. That distinction is ultimately an individual value judgment and not something I think can be objectively established. As other commenters have pointed out, the LDS Church does have a very strong corporate culture. There are a significant number of general authorities with corporate backgrounds, with JDs and MBAs. How many have theological degrees? None I’m aware of.

  31. From what I’ve seen, when the term LDS Inc is used, it is not accompanied by constructive criticism. I think the post assumes that those who use it want to change the Church. I’m not sure this is the case. All instances in which I have seen it used are an attempt to convince others to leave, to vent anger at the church, or to share in ex Mormon camaraderie. In those situations I don’t think it really needs to make sense in the way you would like it to make sense. It is essentially an expletive and makes about as much sense as most expletives.

  32. Thanks for all of the comments so far. A couple responses:

    Last Lemming, I think there’s a broader problem (not limited to church members by any stretch of the imagination) that Americans don’t really understand what a corporation is, why it is, or how it functions.

    Brother Sky (and others), I get what you’re saying about corporate culture. Except that there’s nothing particularly corporate about the distance of leaders, about transparency (or its lack), or obedience. Any of those things may appear in corporations, but I haven’t seen any of them as particularly indicative of corporations.

    MJP, anything you can point to for the proposition that the church is not incorporated? I sincerely doubt that, for a couple reasons. Primarily (given my professional inclinations) is that to be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Code (and thus capable of receiving tax-deductible donations), an entity has to be a corporation (or one of a couple other things, but basically a corporation). Further, all of the litigation I’ve seen the church involved in includes a corporate entity; there is, to the best of my knowledge, no legal relevance or consequences to our membership in the church (in the US, at least).

    Joel and EBK, that’s been my impression, too. And it irritates me to no end, not only because it doesn’t actually say something, but because it evinces an utter lack of understanding of corporations. And, given that I also teach Business Organizations classes, the utter lack of understanding bugs me.

  33. Kevin Barney says:

    Google Nate Oman “the church as a corporation” for his three-part series at Times and Seasons.

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    Here’s a cite for the Church being an “unincorporated religious association”: “The US Supreme Court has described LDS Church structure thus: “The CPB and the COP are religious entities associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church), an unincorporated religious association.” Corporation of the Presiding Bishop v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327 (1987).”

    To be honest, it’s not clear to me how the “Church” relates to the two corporations sole (of the President and of the Presiding Bishop). If the “Church” has to be a corporation to take advantage of certain tax rules like deduction of contributions, my guess would be that the contributions are deemed to be made to one of the corporations sole as in effect “the church,” but I’m just guessing.

  35. Jason K. says:

    My understanding is that ecclesiastical corporations developed under Roman law, basically because people wanted to leave property to the church in their wills, and some clarity as to who exactly held said property became necessary. The corporations tended to be fairly local, often administered by the bishop. So, Church, inc., has been around for a very long time, and for eminently practical reasons. And there have been problems with it for almost as long, such as the eventual stipulation that ecclesiastical entities couldn’t alienate property, which got all kinds of inconvenient for all kinds of people and prompted complicated medieval regulations of charitable donations.

    tl;dr: it’s basically inevitable that churches will have some kind of legal corporate form; the real questions all have to do with how that corporation is administered. They’re old questions, and they aren’t going anywhere.

  36. Jason, I think that’s right. I saw a reference to their developing in medieval times to prevent religious property from escheating to the state when the religious person who owned the property died, but it was from Google searches at the library while my son was at school (that is, without access to my academic library), and I didn’t feel like putting in the hard work of running down whether that was right or not.

    But basically, yes, there needs to be some entity form, and there’s a long enough history with and tax advantages to the corporate form that it makes the most sense to adopt that.

    And the question of whether to incorporate seems, from a quick Google search, to be fairly broad across Christianity in general. (The reasons differ–my first hit is a Christianity Today article that is looking at forming a separate corporation to receive federal social services money, which is a different question than the many we might be talking about here.)

  37. Sam, MIke R. (a Keepa reader and attorney) wrote a Keepa guest post a while ago about the Church and corporations sole, which might be of interest.

  38. Thanks, Ardis! For anybody interested, the piece is here.

  39. So basically this post is akin to criticizing a bully for saying “who” instead of “whom” in hopes that will stop him punching you in the nose. However much this use of the idea of corporations might earn someone a failing grade in Sam’s class, it is an effective rhetorical tool for conveying the speaker’s (admittedly broad) criticism of the church, and the church hasn’t been able to make it stick any less easily. My attempts as a public administration scholar to correct my acquaintances’ use of the word “bureaucracy” as a pejorative are equally quixotic.

  40. Owen, I fundamentally disagree. Saying “LDS Inc.” is a tool for communicating discontent with the church, but no content to the discontent, if you will (or, for that matter, even if you won’t). As we’ve seen in the comments, it’s not hard to articulate an actual substantive complaint, irrespective of the validity or real-world valence of that complaint. And actually articulating the complaint is part of a conversation; obscuring the complaint stops the conversation before it starts.

    Which I guess if you just want to complain and avoid conversation, that’s fine. But that strikes me as a waste of both time and pixels.

  41. I haven’t got time to read all the comments, so I don’t know if anyone has pointed this out, but technically, the Church isn’t a corporation. The Church itself does not own anything, even the building you attend meetings in. That is likely owned by an entity called the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop. Another corporation associated with the Church is the Corporation of the President. That is the corporation that used to issue my paychecks when I was employed in the COB. A third corporation associated with the Church is Intellectual Reserve, Inc., which owns all the intellectual properties of the LDS enterprise. Then there is Deseret Management Corporation, which is an umbrella corporation that oversees all the for-profit entities. But the Church itself is not a corporation, although it certainly acts like one!

  42. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a trademark owned by Intellectual Reserve, Inc., which is wholly owned by The Corporation of the President of the Curch of Jesus Christ, a corporate sole vested in President Monson.

    I perceive the name of LDS, Inc being applied because the leaders of the Church are typically successful businessmen. The Church is run in a very businesslike fashion and even missionaries dress like businesspeople. Also, the Church (meaning the corporations for which President ?Monson is chairman often he board) has a lot of business interests and reputation for such ( largest land owner in Florida, etc).

  43. Bambi, most of that’s honestly not worth responding to (the name of the church is trademarked?!?); fwiw, though, even if the church were run by successful businesspeople (and I’d likely contest that–I haven’t looked specifically, but my impression is that a plurality of the Quorum of the Twelve were attorneys in their careers), as I’ve said repeatedly here, that has nothing to do with its being incorporated. Incorporation is neither necessary nor sufficient for operating in a businesslike manner.

  44. Mike R. says:

    The thing I like about considering the Church as an unincorporated association is that I’m a member of it. I’m not a shareholder or director or officer or even employee of any of the corporations involved, but I’m still a member of the Church, and I participate in the things the Church does. If the church is the body of Christ, it exists in members like you and me, not just in a Salt Lake bureaucracy. By contrast, the thing about “LDS, Inc.” is that it always seems to refer to the Salt Lake bureaucracy that owns property, decides what to print in manuals, etc. I guess I hear “the Church” used the same way, though — and have probably used it that way myself. If I complain about the Church publishing another “Presidents of the Church” manual full of out of context quotes from when someone wasn’t even the President of the Church, it’s whoever makes that decision that I’m complaining about, not all the members of the Church together.

  45. Mike R. says:

    The thing about “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” being a trademark is that, fundamentally, a trademark or service mark is used in commerce to identify goods or services, distinguishing them from the goods and services of others, and to indicate the source of the goods or services, even if that source is unknown. So, the words “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” or their arrangement in a logo, may be used to indicate that scriptures, Mormon Tabernacle Choir recordings, educational services, etc. all come from the same source. In that case, it’s just a mark — words, or a logo. The words “The Church of …” are a mark. Outside of the quotes, though, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a church, not a mark.

  46. Sam: I think you’re taking the “Inc” too literally to interpret it as “Incorporated under American legal procedures”. I’ve never seen it used as an argument about whether the church should be structured as a corporation, LLC, partnership, or other structure…. maybe just the crowd I hang with… Rather, I see it used as Mike R. above references… as a way to distinguish between the little ‘c’ church consisting of the membership, and the Big ‘C’ church as the “businesslike” central hierarchy making the decisions centrally. I know that there’s nothing specific about incorporation that necessitates hierarchy and central control of everything, but I would argue that’s the general perception among the public as to “corporate” culture.
    I think of it somewhat analogous to “Monsters, Inc.”: It’s just a funny idea to make a business out of monsters scaring kids, with profit, meetings, production targets, etc…. not a debate about what structure the business takes.
    Different people are going to use the term to point out whatever difference they see between those two groups, so I agree it does lack in specificity, but I think it still holds utility; Much like the shorthand of using church vs Church… except in a long blog post it can be easy to misread the two, so using LDS, inc. is kind of a way to more easily draw the distinction.