Wait: the Church Has Money?!?

Every time[fn1] I write about the church’s investments, I get pushback. Usually that pushback involves asserting that there is something immoral or wrong about the church accumulating wealth. The implication is something like, it’s not that the church can’t have money, but it should use its money to promote good things,[fn2] and it should promote those good things now.

Often the justification for this mindset consists of scriptural exhortations to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, etc. 

The thing is, I don’t find that kind of argumentation convincing. And I don’t for a simple reason: in Mormonism, we haven’t come up with a satisfying theology of institutional monetary duties.

That’s not to say that the scriptures don’t talk about financial responsibilities. But they talk about the financial responsibilities of individuals; they largely don’t anticipate institutions. And frankly, institutions have different duties and responsibilities than individuals do.

An analogy: pretty much every discussion of the federal budget will hit a point where somebody asserts that households have to stick to budgets, so the federal government should have to do the same thing.[fn3]

The thing is, that’s stupid. There are substantive differences between the federal government and individual households. (For example, the federal government can print money; my family, at least, can’t. The federal government has to worry about the effects of its policies on the economy at large. My family’s spending has very little impact on the economy at large.)

Similarly, there are substantive differences between individual Mormons and the Mormon church. The things that I’m obligated to do are different from the things the church is obligated to do. That’s as true in the financial realm as in any other.

That’s not to say that the church can do whatever it wants with its money. But the proposition that a church having and managing money is de facto immoral and wrong strikes me as just as naive and reductive as the proposition that everything the church does in the financial realm is per se right and endorsed of God. Neither represents a careful or nuanced understanding of money, of institutions, or of the difference between individual and institutional obligations.

So what is are the church’s moral obligations with respect to its money? I don’t know. I’ve been delaying writing this post in hopes of being able to assemble a theology of institutional money, but, it turns out, I have a family and a day job and I haven’t worked out any kind of framework yet.

That’s not to say that no frameworks exist: the EFCA has established “Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship” for churches and other Christian organizations.

But here’s an important thing: while these standards are derived from scripture, they’re not self-evident. The EFCA had to use scripture, look at the world we live in, and adjust the standards so that they were relevant to the mission of churches, a mission that differs from the mission of individual Christians.

And to the extent we discuss the church’s money, we need to do the same thing. It’s not enough to say that Jesus said to sell all we have and give to the poor. Yes He did, but he was talking to an individual, not an institution.[fn4]

How do we translate that command to institutional monies? With fear and trembling, and a real dose of humility, I hope.


[fn1] (Note that this is probably slightly hyperbolic—it’s very possible that you can find a time I wrote about the church and money and didn’t get pushback. But I often do.

[fn2] Those good things might be feeding the poor, or they might be building temples. It doesn’t really matter for this post—what’s important is the idea that investment is bad, while current expenditures are good.

[fn3] And the assertion is bipartisan. E.g.Pres. Obama:

Families across this country understand what it takes to manage a budget.  They understand what it takes to make ends meet without forgoing important investments like education.  Well, it’s time Washington acted as responsibly as our families do.

John Boehner:

Every family in America has to balance their budget.  Washington should too.

[fn4] And frankly, of all the imperatives He gave to individuals, I suspect that’s one of the most-not-followed.

 

Comments

  1. A Happy Hubby says:

    Sam,

    You bring up some good points and this is an area I can’t say I have landed somewhere that I feel I have a position.

    I certainly give quite a bit of praise to humanitarian efforts (monies and manpower) that the church gives. I even read that the church had given “approximately $1.2 billion on welfare and humanitarian efforts over the past 30 years” (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865657898/LDS-Church-welfare-humanitarian-efforts-average-40-million-per-year-apostle-says.html?pg=all). A big round of applause for this.

    Then I look at the ~$2Billion spent on City Creek and even something closer to me where the church just purchased a est $45 Million apartment complex. I can’t say I feel comfortable with that.

    I certainly can mark a bit of this as some institutional insecurities due to financial issues in the past, but this is an area that bothers me when I think of it, or when I fill out my tithing slip.

    I certainly would like some more openness and desire for feedback from above. I work for a very large tech company and I feel that I have more opportunities from my management for giving feedback than even in my own ward.

    I appreciate your thoughts and points and look forward to other’s comments that may help me in this area.

  2. Interesting way of looking at it. I don’t object to the church investing funds so that it stays financially sound long term. I certainly don’t object to the church using funds to pursue the three (four, five, twenty?) fold missions of the church. I think my objections start in when we’ve moved past investing for security to investing for wealth ‘gain’ or investing for influence. For some reason, this is related to passive investment (sticking funds in the stock market where they sit and accumulate – on an individual level 401ks, IRAs, etc.) vs active investment (shopping malls, cities in Florida, farms, etc.) I can see that the line between the two isn’t particularly clear cut, but it is at least a starting place for me.

    And then the next place for me to go is the moral value of the active investment. Not a whole lot of moral value to a giant shopping mall (Shopping!? To build a financial support for Jesus?). There is a great deal of moral value to food production though. Of course, the line becomes fuzzy quickly here as well.

    Above all, it’s interesting to think about. Even as I accept I have zero say in what the church does financially anyway.

  3. I can tell you what I think the Church considers its duties: to use the money to further the work of God on the earth. That isn’t so simple as just throwing it all towards feeding the hungry. It requires balance and wisdom, and struggling through mortal perspective in how to best focus on various aspects of the work of the Lord

  4. To add to the above, how we invest also reflects deeply on us as a church and can set the stage for how Christ-like people (members and non) view the organizational church. If nothing else clearly the SLC mall proves how much damage we can do to our reputation through our investment choices.

    Confidence in the brethern is low for so many people right now. I keep wanting to wave a giant flag that says ‘prove them* wrong.’ Focusing on financially sound, charitable giving rather than excessive building of wealth is one way to do that. I’d like to see us be the world leader on helping the poor.

    *prove those with low confidence wrong, not prove the brethern wrong – to be clear.

  5. I’ll also say that the term “the Church spent” is overly simplistic. Tithing (sacred) funds and for-profit (investment) funds are separated and handled very differently. The former is tax-exempt, the latter is not.

  6. Thanks, Sam. Good points. The one element of Church financial stewardship I would like to see change is the secrecy. I believe that since this is not just the Church of Jesus Christ but also the Church of the Latter-day Saints, the institution has a responsibility to share its financial dealings with the members, at least in broad detail. It used to publish financial statements, so there is obviously no scriptural or theological reason for the secrecy. The Brethren also frequently push back against claims that the Church is secretive. But it is. If they want the Church to stop being accused of secrecy, they should stop being secretive. And the best way would be to open up about the finances. I’m a tithe-paying member, but I have no clue about what the Church actually does with my donations. Yes, general massive categories, like missionary work and building temples. But we don’t even get totals for what the Church spends on temples. What harm would it do to publish, along with the annual statistical report (maybe even a more informative one), a summary statement regarding the Church’s finances, so that we members can actually see how much money the Church is bringing in and how the General Authorities are spending it?

    It’s disingenuous to protest that the Church isn’t secretive and yet keep even the members in the dark about the finances of the institution. This would also prevent the speculative magazine articles that pop up now and then, estimating the Church’s wealth. All the Church says in response is that they are not accurate. Well, what about opening up in this regard, much as the Church has opened up about its history so we can see how inaccurate these estimates have been?

    The Church does publish its finances in certain countries where the government requires such disclosure, so there is already a precedent. Why not do it in the U.S. as a sign that it really does intend to be open and not secretive?

  7. “throwing it all towards feeding the hungry”
    throwing it all?
    What a strange concept.

  8. Thanks for your comments so far.

    ReT and Happy Hubby, I don’t entirely understand why people differentiate active from passive investment, though technically, all of the church’s active investments are, in fact, passive (because the church doesn’t operate for-profit farms or a mall; rather, it invests in a for-profit company that operates them). Honestly, if you have the money to spread around, it seems to me like putting some money in passive investments and other money in actively-managed investments is a good diversification tool.

    I’m not arguing that, e.g., building City Creek mall was a moral use of the church’s money. But (and this is important) I don’t see any reason that it was immoral, either. To assert its wrongness or immorality requires some theory of moral institutional investment, and building a mall has to violate that theory.

    Like I said, I haven’t articulated such a theory yet. And the theory cannot derive directly from scripture, because scripture never speaks to church-institutional morality. But I think we can use scriptural and theological principals to get to a theology of institutional money. And, frankly, as the church becomes larger, it will become richer, and I think there is significant value in getting to that point.

    At the same time, decrying particular investments prior to figuring out what constitutes moral investments strikes me as self-defeating. If City Creek is wrong because it feels wrong, then we’ll never develop a framework to measure future investment against.

  9. Wally, I’m not particularly interested in talking about financial secrecy here. It exists, but it is a separate issue from the content of investment (which can be moral or immoral, whether or not people know about it).

    Also, I’ve written extensively about the church’s history of financial disclosure here. Mine isn’t, clearly, the last word on the issue, but I’d prefer people not to lay out the same arguments without understanding the nuances in greater detail.

  10. I’m not a lawyer, but I have worked in corporate finance for a big regional bank in downtown Salt Lake City. In my current job, I oversee a couple of billion in annual purchases for a major corporation and determine if each purchase is a good decision for the company.

    From my perspective outside the Church Office Building, I can see a few things. The Church buys stuff.

    1. They buy temples. These are very expensive and the standards are ridiculously high. A construction firm that bid on the Rexburg temple didn’t take the high standards into account, and the company ended up going bankrupt. Temples also consume a lot of cash, even when they can pay their labor nothing or next to nothing. But, they have found that building a temple in a region will result in a significant increase in tithes and fast offerings on an ongoing basis.

    2. They buy churches. These are expensive, but the standards are lower. In my current building, it’s possible to see drill holes where they installed the WiFi routers, and there are exposed studs and unpainted drywall in the attic. Much lower standards, and your typical chapel doesn’t have a diesel generator in the basement to keep the power going when there’s a tornado. Low labor costs – just a fraction of an FTE per building. Find a guy with some facilities skills, give him a missionary name tag, and let him do the building maintenance on his own time. Utilities and repairs are high, though. You just can’t believe how much wear and tear occurs on a chapel every time the Scouts meet there. In out building, we even have to replace acoustic ceiling tiles when they’ve been punched to shreds. These things consume money.

    3. They buy other stuff. You can’t sneeze in downtown SLC without hitting a Church-owned parking garage or parking lot. While the expense looks really high, it’s not like the money has been thrown away. Yes, they can buy farmland in Florida or a mall complex in Salt Lake City, but there’s two factors. First, the asset can produce revenue or reduce expenses. Cattle farm in Florida? The beef fills the Bishop’s Storehouse across North America so the church doesn’t have to pay someone else to produce it. Mall? There’s tenant rents to come in. If the day comes when you need the money for something else, sell the asset. It might take some time to recover the cash, but it’s largely still there.

    It’s comparatively easy to sell a commercial property. The Church can even sell a chapel or two, especially when demographic shifts render a chapel obsolete, or (better yet) too small for current needs. Can’t really sell a temple, though. I know they might have liked to sell Ogden at some point, but it’s a hard thing to justify.

    Us finance types have some really easy formulas to evaluate these things. I run a big database where we keep track of all the stuff my company buys. Everything has to pass a few tests. If a manager wants to build/buy something, we can quickly evaluate if we’d be better off putting the money into an S&P500 index fund. Does her project have a better return for the company? Yes? Okay, go ahead. No? Okay, find a way to lower costs or increase the expected returns. We can sit here and do it all day. I’d guarantee the Church has similar ways of looking at places to hold their money. It’s taught in every business school in the world, even the ones that advertise on daytime TV.

  11. Wait… the church has OUR money, donated in good faith. Current church leadership view is that the priority to pay supersedes any and all financial considerations of my own budget. Donations are required even of those under disciplinary restraint and are otherwise being shunned. The sinners are not allowed to pray in public or raise their arm to sustain their leaders but they are required to pay tithes and offerings if they want to return to full fellowship.

    We agree at the point of donation that the church can do anything it wants with what we give. The church does with those funds as the corporation sees fit. The bottom of the tithing slip says as much. Sometimes I help those in need with a direct contribution, as I am moved by the spirit. As Jesus pointed out, I don’t need an institution to disperse funds on my behalf or invest those funds for me, thereby reducing the tendency to judge the morality of the institution’s investments.

  12. Thanks, Sam. Nate Oman wrote something along these lines a few years back which influenced my thinking. I’m linking it, in case anyone wants to see it: http://www.timesandseasons.org/harchive/2012/04/city-creek-and-the-choices-of-thrift/

  13. Sam – I don’t entirely disagree with you. My previous comment tried to emphasize the fuzziness in all of this. What I stated is my starting place with the idea that I can’t articulate a bigger theory yet. The shopping mall feels wrong for me because it doesn’t fullfill any mission of Christ and for many, many people is a spiritual trap (debt, vanity, and pride that is – not a problem in Utah of course). Food production is the opposite. It provides the necessity of life.

    Again though, I’m working this out for myself and am open to additional ideas.

  14. Sam,

    I agree that the institution should articulate some sort of theology or principles for its investment and usage of donated funds (and their proceeds). In the absence of a clear statement from the institution, that leaves us all to create our own expectations and interpretation in how we relate to it. That in and of itself a transparency issue. I don’t know what the guiding principles are of the organization I donate to. It’s a lot of “trust us” and then leaving us to respond to the usage that we can see. Any attempt by any of us to suggest a set of principles for the institution seems like it is asking for the normal “don’t council the brethren” and “you don’t know enough to judge/suggest”. That last part is true. It’s hard to come up with a pragmatic sense of principles or judge the actions of the church in the absence of basic financial information. I think that is where a lot of the frustration comes in, even from people that are predisposed to defend the church.

    This whole set up is also a huge risk for the church. It will amplify any mistakes they have made when they come to light and continue to undermine the trust in the institution which is already taken a huge beating. The best case for transparency in both the principles (as you are calling for) as well in execution (which you want to bracket out of the discussion) in my opinion is a protective measure for the church. It would decrease both the probability of mission drift (or outright misallocation) as well as decrease the fallout from any mistakes. The current status quo has increased both those risks in a huge way. Large sums of money plus opacity just never end well. The natural man is the natural man. And now when something does happen the church will have trouble absorbing the pain of that mistake because it will be amplified as people, critics and defenders alike are less likely to accept the claimed limits of those mistakes.

    In my opinion, transparency should be one of THE fundamental moral principles of religious money handling and investment. I think that is why you are getting so many people that put transparency in the forefront of the discussion though you seem to want to table that particular topic. I personally don’t think there is a lot to substantiate some overt profit motive in church leadership. However, that is not the only thing transparency guards against and I don’t think you can very neatly exclude discussion from financial ecclesiastical principles.

  15. rah, you can actually separate the issue quite easily. My question here is, what types of investments do the church’s theological commitments require/exclude.

    I think people are focusing on transparency because it’s an easier question, and one they’ve thought about in the past. The question of how our religious beliefs should guide institutional investment is a much harder question, but it’s the one I’m interested in addressing.

    So to keep this a clean discussion, going forward, I’ll delete comments on financial transparency. (Note that if that’s the discussion you want, there are plenty of other places to have it, including, inter alia, here and here.) I’m not going to delete them because I’m opposed to or afraid of the topic. But it seems to be a distraction to what strikes me as not only a harder question, but a much more important one.

  16. The only real question for me is how the profits of things like the mall investment are used. My assumption is that some profits go towards new investments and some go towards the core missions of the church. If so, that’s just smart institutional charity. More good can be done over the long term by building wealth and using the interest/profit for charitable work than by giving away the initial capital. If you just disperse all the donations you receive, your ability to provide support in the future will always depend on the ups and downs in your donors’ ability to give. It’s a lot like the give a man a fish va teach him to fish thing, except you’re building a fish hatchery and a cannery to preserve the resource and even out changes in the seasonal availability of fish.

  17. D Christian Harrison says:

    Are you very familiar with the work of St Paul’s Institute—associated with St Paul’s Cathedral, London—and their many contributions to the discussion of financial ethics.

    http://www.stpaulsinstitute.org.uk

  18. Owen, I think focusing solely on the question of outputs is insufficient. The ad absurdum hypothetical: does spending money to relieve poverty justify making money by investing in a company that profits from slave labor? I’d argue that it doesn’t. What about making money by investing in a producer of pornography, or of alcohol, or of weapons? The questions get harder, but there are undoubtedly some investments that are per se immoral.

    Thanks, Christian. I’ve seen St. Paul’s Institute, though I haven’t spent a lot of time reading their material, and they’re really interesting. I’m curious if Mormonism has anything additional to bring to the table, and I’d want to spend more time with them before endorsing their theological conclusions.

  19. Or I guess you’re building an amusement park next to the hatchery and cannery and using the profits so you can give the canned fish away to people in need who can’t just go fish for themselves. The whole thing is less A River Runs Through It than the original metaphor, but it feeds a heck of a lot more people.

  20. The common law has a doctrine that there is generally “no duty to rescue”. As best I can tell, this is supported with a slippery slope argument. If I’m legally obligated to pull a drowning man from a river right in front of me, am I still obligated if he’s 100ft away? Or 1000ft? What if I can’t swim? What if saving him makes me late for an important appointment? What if instead of a drowning man right in front of me it’s a starving person on the other side of the world?

    It seems that if there’s a duty to rescue, it’s very hard to put principled limits on it to avoid ending up penniless. The needs in the world will always exceed our resources.

    That’s what’s so radical and challenging about Jesus’ command to the young man to “sell that thou hast and give to the poor.” He’s saying that following him means taking that duty upon ourselves and going all the way to its logical extreme.

    While I agree that comparisons of household budgets with national budgets are specious, I don’t think that lets the church off the hook with regard prioritizing the poor and needy over commercial endeavors. If anything, the church is *more* obligated than we are to devote its resources to charity.

    I don’t have a framework that makes it all work either. The legal one explored above suggests that Christians will always fall short. Maybe that’s the point.

  21. Two aspects of the Church’s financial management with which I think we all can agree have been beneficial are (i) the unifying of local church building expenses (i.e., local units don’t have to come up with the funds to build their own meetinghouse) & (ii) the standardization of monthly missionary expenditures. I don’t think either of those would be possible without some advanced financial planning by the Presiding Bishopric – planning that may include not only cattle farms but commercial shopping centers as well.

  22. (Lost a relatively long comment. !@#$$%^ My fault for not assuming the worst every time.)
    There are a number of issues or topics to be addressed, including (in no particular order):
    1. Three of the big ones (for most churches), i.e., meetinghouse construction and maintenance, clergy compensation, and missions, seem to me to be pretty well under control and appropriately modest. [I know there are arguments and complaints, but they don’t move me.]
    2. What about temples and central (COB/Temple Square) buildings? There’s a case for elaboration and celebration (cf cathedrals, nominally just the seat of a bishop but commonly elaborated “for the glory of God”). [I would cut down significantly, but I suspect this is controversial, especially for temples which we’ve come to expect will be really nice.]
    3. What about the periphery, one step removed from worship and ordinance work, by which I’m thinking schools/education, visitor centers, arguably the genealogy program, arguably the welfare farms. [I suspect this to be very controversial, including whether “one step removed” is warranted or meaningful. Many will argue that these are, some or all, central to fulfilling the mission(s) of the Church. I have mixed feelings and find this the most difficult part of the discussion.]
    4. What about protecting and building the center (Temple Square, or environs, or Salt Lake City)? [I think this is not nothing. Rome and Jerusalem deserve some kind of special treatment. I also think it can be oversold quickly and expensively.]
    5. How much to humanitarian aid? And since ‘according to need’ is a recipe for penury, should we think percentages (of revenue? of wealth? measured by what the Church has? or by what the collection of all members has?) Or residual, after modestly and appropriately meeting the central needs of the institution? And how to allocate between inside (the Church) and outside needs? And how to allocate between crisis response (with attributes of expense) and development (with attributes of investment)? [I would use a residual concept, measure by Church income on a pay-as-you-go basis, bias toward development over crisis, and bias development funds toward insiders and crisis funds toward outsiders.]
    Yes, it would be nice to have gospel principles or scriptural references (even proof texts) to support any of my positions. But I’ve got nothing top-of-mind (and no time to search). Just opinions.

  23. What allows the church to do more good, selling a piece of land and giving the money to the poor or building a shopping mall on the same land and using the rent revenue to give to the poor? I expect the latter sum to be larger or shopping malls would not be built. If so, I don’t see how there is anything controversial here.

    As far as I know, the church doesn’t hold any stock in Playboy magazine. Their investments are utterly run-of-the-mill.

  24. Sam,

    Clearly, you can set the boundary of the discussion as you see fit. I am a big fan of imposing such boundaries as a way to push for depth as opposed to depth in a discussion and to avoid repetitive discussions.

    So if I understand what you want, you want us to propose some sort of theology of financial management/investment. It will, of course, be impossible to responsibly judge the church against any proposed set of principles for “the reason that we will not discuss”. Maybe that is better because we won’t be biased to make our principles justify or indict the church depending on our where we are in relation to it. I looked at the example you provided as a guide to what you wanted. This is what I discovered:

    1) The entire document begins with a meditation on this scripture from 2 Corinthians 8:20-21 :
    “taking precaution that no one should discredit us in our administration of this generous gift, for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.”

    2) Transparency is one of the 7 standards

    3) Of the remaining 6 standards at least 3 (#s3,4,6) make transparency sometimes referred to more as accountability a key theological and pragmatic point throughout the commentary and explanation.

    4) When analyzing the content of the commentary of their 7 standards, by far discussions around transparency either in the transparency standard or for example in the “financial oversight” standard have the most doctrinal content as represented by direct quotes and references to scripture. The other standards have very little scriptural content and read a bit more like normal legal documents, even in the commentary.

    So I just wanted to note that in passing while trying to play by your rules and focusing on the other aspects covered by their standards. Ones I found really interesting for us to consider in the LDS church (and not related directly to transparency).

    1) An obligation to make sure that gifts given to the organization are in the best *broad* interest of the giver. In other words, the organization has the responsibility to proactively monitor and evaluate gifts to reject gifts (especially large gifts) that would be harmful to the donor.

    2) Organization must have not only a benevolent effect but must be set up so that the primary purpose is benevolent toward the poor and needy.

    These seem like interesting principles to incorporate.

  25. I have no issues with the church’s investment approach. I have a couple friends who work at Ensign and the approach is conservative, staff is underpaid, overhead is lean, and returns seem standard and run of the mill. I’ve never heard the negative feedback from the investment in the mall outside of Utah, so I don’t consider it any better or worse than buying/developing other commercial property. Was it something the church should have passed on from an optics perspective? Sounds like that might have been a good idea. But immoral seems a stretch.

    I would like to think the church wouldn’t hesitate to liquidate its portfolio if the need arose. I would like to see articulated what those are, and they might be high-level, but it helps understand what the assumptions are. It might just be a rainy day, which also fine by me. I can’t think of anywhere the church is deficient in begin charitable or building the kingdom.

  26. Archer_of_Loaf says:

    Two recent observations have put two big finance-related questions at the forefront of my churchgoing mind:

    How is the wealth earned? A recent Trib article titled “Mormon church plan for Daybreak-like project in Riverton clears hurdle” gave me pause. I feel like out-building Daybreak and its model of centering environmentally unsustainable homes around commercial centers represents the Church’s tacit approval of the middle-class consumerism that other recent Utah communities like Traverse Mountain embody. The discomfort I feel over the Church basing its revenue on ventures that further enable worldliness has long been at the center of the debate surrounding City Creek.

    How is the wealth spent by those who accumulate it? Even without a definitive theology of institutional monetary duties, do Christ and his disciples not give us a clear model of administrative austerity? I work for the federal government, and I was recently struck with the realization that Church leaders require as much, and often more (sorry, Guyana), resources and luxury as international diplomats do in their day-to-day. I don’t want a member of the Twelve stepping off a Greyhound in a hair shirt when he visits my nephew’s mission, but something about the offices, the fleets of the latest-model black GMCs, or tunnels at Temple Square (and the upkeep required of all these things) make me question their relevance as priorities. These are the overt signs of the leadership’s administration, which is to say nothing about the areas of General Authority stipends/finances that are surrounded by opacity (I am aware that transparency is another topic, so I’ll stop here).

  27. Anne Chovies says:

    Franky, it is enough for me to hear the auditors report at conference and know that church funds are handled and disposed of in the manner the Lord set forth in Section 120. It seems to me that of the seven standards set forth by the EFCA (which, while they may be sound business practices, are not necessarily binding revelation) the only one that may be lacking is #5, transparency. The Lord’s voice to the Council on the Disposition of the Tithes gives direction but as we all know the Lord does not always explain His reasons for how or why He does things. It’s a matter of trust.

  28. rah, thanks for trying to play by my rules. You’re right—I’m interested here in depth, not breadth.

    Archer_of_Loaf, I have no idea what Daybreak or Traverse Mountain are (or, for that matter, where Riverton is). Do you mind explaining what the issue is and why it gives you pause from an institutional investment standard?

    Anne, I’m happy that the auditors’ report is good enough for you. But an auditor’s report doesn’t speak to my question of what a viable theology of institutional investment looks like; it merely says that the way the church spent its money meets the church’s internal guidelines and procedures. That’s important information to have, of course, but its goals are unrelated to the question of appropriate investment.

  29. Sam: Daybreak is a big neotraditional housing development on former copper mine land in western South Jordan.

    There’s irony in Archer_of_Loaf talking about Daybreak being an “unsustainable” model when it’s won numerous awards for walkability, has a light rail station for a car-free connection to downtown SLC, etc. I think his problem is that the houses are big and that just seems wrong to him, even though 1) per-square-foot housing construction costs have fallen pretty significantly in recent decades and 2) large modern dwellings often are dramatically more energy-efficient than smaller, older ones. (Using the same thermostat settings, the 3600-sqft mid-2000s house I rent uses 1/3 less electricity in summer months than does a coworker’s 1800-sqft ranch house from the early ’60s in an area with the same climate, because my house has dual-zone climate control with dramatically more efficient air conditioners, double-paned windows, a well-insulated attic, etc.)

    The really “unsustainable” model is strictly use-separated suburbs, which is what prevailed for most of the second half of the twentieth century and requires people to drive preposterous distances for short as-the-crow-flies trips, due to poor street network designs.

  30. mbentonhoopes says:

    Sam: Thanks–the issue relates to how the wealth is accumulated and how certain methods may indicate institutional approval of principles that could run contrary to Gospel principles. Both Daybreak and Traverse Mountain are communities south of Salt Lake whose urban layout is centered around commercial centers (strip malls) and whose community-wide and individual home footprints would frustrate many in the budding Mormon environmentalist community. Both embody a sort of double-whammy of suburban American consumerism and poor environmental practice.

    Maybe too nuanced of a concern, but we’ll see if others comment on whether they too view this type of investment as an extension of their City Creek angst.

  31. BTW Traverse Mountain is precisely the sort of unwalkable post-WWII suburb that I’m talking about. Same with all of the new development west of Utah Lake.

  32. “2) Organization must have not only a benevolent effect but must be set up so that the primary purpose is benevolent toward the poor and needy.”

    If you’re defining “poor and needy” in monetary terms, as I assume you are, given the context of this thread, then I, and I’m sure many others, would instantly and permanently reject this as an element in “a theology of institutional money.” That might be appropriate for the Red Cross or a thrift store, but not for the Church.

    Yes, the Church ought to have the material needs of the poor and needy in mind and address them to a reasonable extent. But “primary purpose”? No. *Anybody* can address that need, and nearly *everybody* ought to be doing so. Who else but the Church, however, can even begin to address the real purposes of the Church — salvation for the living and the dead? Nobody else. And that’s the Church’s primary raison d’etre. It isn’t now and never was and shouldn’t ever be primarily a food bank, or a health clinic, or an employment office or a clothing depot or a readin’ and writin’ school, although it joins other charitable institutions in helping to meet some of those needs. If you’re a believer in the mission of the Restoration, then the Church is the only organization that can address its core mission. It takes money to do that. You may not like how it raises or spends its money to do that, but that’s an entirely different question from reforming the organization to cast its primary purpose as caring for the poor and needy … unless you meant “poor in spirit” and “in need of the gospel and its fruits,” in which case I withdraw my objection.

  33. I was under the impression that tithing donations go toward “building the kingdom” and not humanitarian aid per se. I thought that’s what the “humanitarian aid” section on the donation slip is for. The real question is how much money church members are donating to that specifically.

  34. Daniel, the issue is that “building the Kingdom” is a nebulous enough concept to leave open the possibility of great mischief. We haven’t seen any of that: as mentioned upthread, there certainly is a level of luxury provided for those who travel on Church business that (say) the current Pope would find distasteful, but those of the Brethren who didn’t have successful careers in private business prior to becoming full-time General Authorities live quite modestly. The Church certainly doesn’t pay its professional employees very well at all. An enormous amount of money goes to the BYU system; we’ve had the BYU tuition subsidy argument a number of times on BCC, though, and presumably everyone’s said their piece on that particular matter. (We can all share the common hope that the catastrophic proliferation of new, highly-paid academic administrators in private and public university systems alike, which is the primary driver of the explosive growth of college tuition costs in recent decades, has not spread to BYU.)

    To answer your second question: having been a finance clerk in a Northern California ward full of affluent professionals, I can state with some confidence that Humanitarian Aid donations are essentially a rounding error compared to tithing and even Fast Offering. If they’re that low in the Bay Area, I can’t imagine them being a whole lot bigger on the Wasatch Front.

  35. No credible citation here, but my parents, who are humanitarian missionaries, have been told that the average donation is $5.

  36. Ardis, good point: “Who else but the Church, however, can even begin to address the real purposes of the Church — salvation for the living and the dead?” To those who object to expensive temple building, to understand the “why” you probably have to have some spiritual appreciation for the ordinances. Which is probably why the Church doesn’t want to get into financial openness and to have to spend the time, money, and ink to defend tax exempt status. The government isn’t going to understand it.

  37. I give to the church for the purpose of building up of Zion — Zion meaning, in part, having no poor among us. That suggests to me that addressing poverty is core to the mission of the church.

  38. tbennion says:

    If I can comment on a different premise, that it is “stupid” to assert that the Federal Government and individuals are different in their need to stick to budgets because the Federal Government can print “money”. No. The Federal Government could print currency, but after printing that currency the nation will be no wealthier in any fundamental way. The currency will simply be less valuable – or more accurately, every citizen will have had their wealth reduced proportionately to the relative amount of the printed currency. For reference sake, please look at Venezuela, they are printing currency like mad – where is the wealth? (For that matter, where is the food…medicine…or toilet paper?) Meanwhile, the wealthy will have socked away their wealth in real assets, while the poor will suffer disproportionately.

    Nations, like people, like churches, need to establish budgets and stick to them or bad, often very bad, things happen sooner or later. “This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly” by Reinhart and Rogoff offers a summary of how bad.

    The church has been broke in the past, those were not good times and they constrained what the church could do to fulfill its mission. There will be bad times to come. I hope they are budgeting accordingly, while also hoping that they are expanding as fast as possible in areas like South America and Africa where membership isn’t able to sustain the growth locally.

    As for my view, I think this discussion also shows the pitfalls of too much openness on the Church’s investments, or at least why leadership would prefer to not get into specifics. I see no need for long, involved discussions on whether investing in, for example, soft drink manufacturers, is compatible with the commandment for moderation under the Word of Wisdom. I think that sort of discussion will only prove another stumbling block for people looking to nit pick and find fault with leaders decisions. More importantly, I do not wish to see the church itself become a target, or for that matter, see our missionaries become targets internationally. How much open talk of the church’s net worth, which is considerable, before we see special taxes assessed on church buildings, or worse, missionaries kidnapped? I would prefer to leave those details and decisions to leadership. As for the question of whether Church’s investment decisions are all good, without having the faintest clue, I would gamble my entire net worth that their investment decisions have NOT been all good, either financially (making a profit) or morally (at least from the perspective that firms in which they have invested have made morally questionable decisions). But I will continue to base my testimony on other matters closer to the core of the gospel.

  39. Farms4me says:

    There are a few places where you assert precisely what you need to prove – essentially that institutions and individuals have fundamentally different duties, and are therefore subject to fundamentally different standards.

    I’m not convinced by your assertion. For example, the negative commandments surely apply to institutions as they do to individuals. A church needs to abide by the commandments not to murder, steal, lie, promote adultery, etc., even though these commandments were initially directed towards individuals, right? Could the church enter the porn industry to make profits for use in other charitable endeavors? Surely not.

    Are you saying that unless ethical principles of the scriptures are specifically directed to institutions, institutions do not need to abide by them? Surely not, I hope, as it seems absurd.

    Moreover, it seems unlikely that the authors of scripture would have intended their writings only to apply to individuals, rather than institutions. Churches certainly existed at the time of the writing of the New Testament and Book of Mormon, The church was seen as a means of carrying out the mission of Christ, and the scriptures were the authoratative documents explaining how to do so.

    Ergo, I think you bear the burden of proving why and where the scriptures don’t apply to institutions.

  40. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

  41. Ardis,

    I was quoting from the EFC as something I found interesting and worth considering. Your point is well taken, however, that the poor and needy aren’t the only thing a church should necessarily spend funding on. I think the broader principle they were getting to was that the organization was supposed to spend its money and effort on organizations that are directly connected to its primary purpose. In our case we could add missionary work, temple work and the other missions of the church (to which we added uplifting the poor and needy not to long ago).

    Such a principle might bring into question the use of money to do things like become a developer of Florida real estate. Of course, there might be other principles that falls into, though I am hard pressed to think of one. Interestingly, your particular list would seem to call into question the huge amount of money we know the church spends on the BYUs. Should we be putting huge resources into running institutions of higher, worldly education and to subsidize our people’s professional aspirations? Interesting question. I tend to be fairly supportive of the church’s education endeavors though I think they have some significant problems and I feel bad that the church hasn’t substantially invested equal resources in providing those opportunities to the saints of Central and South America where the need is even more acute and the payoff even higher.

  42. Farms4me, as I said in the OP, we can certainly take principles from scripture and from them derive mandates. But there are no scriptural mandates that apply to churches without some sort of interpolation.

    You use, as an example, the commandment not to murder. The church quite literally could not break that commandment: the church, as a legal entity, has no fingers to pull the trigger. So we interpolate—perhaps, as applied to the institutional church, the commandment means not to ask members to murder. Or perhaps it means to publicly support policies that decrease the possibility of untimely death. Or perhaps it means something else. But the commandment cannot literally apply to the church qua church. (And ditto for your other negative commandments.) So we have to use what we read in scripture to derive a moral and ethical code that applies to the institutional church.

    Silfo, and? I mean, quoting scripture is fine and all, but basically everybody here knows that particular verse. How does it apply to the institutional church’s investment strategy?

  43. rah,

    Such a principle might bring into question the use of money to do things like become a developer of Florida real estate.

    Why? As long as developing Florida real estate provides a rate of return greater than inflation, financially, the church can do more good, as measured by the net present value of its future spending, by investing in Florida real estate today and spending the return to fulfill its mission.

    Which is why I don’t think your argument works, and which is why I think we need to develop a theory of ethical institutional investment. Again, go with City Creek: it apparently cost the church $2 billion to build. What else could the church have done with that money?

    (1) It could have spent the $2 billion to relieve poverty (or build temples, or otherwise pursue its charitable mission).

    (2) It could have put that $2 billion in, say, money market accounts, earning a rate of return roughly equivalent to inflation, and spend the money over time to pursue its mission. If it did that, the net present value of the good it did over time would be roughly $2 billion. So choice 2 allows it to do roughly the same amount of good as choice 1.

    (3) It could put the $2 billion in an investment that returns an amount greater than the inflation rate. (I presume it expected this kind of positive return from City Creek.) To the extent the return exceeds the rate of inflation, the net present value of its investment is something greater than $2 billion. Thus, it can do more good through this kind of investment than it could through either spending down the money immediately or putting it into a plain vanilla investment vehicle.

    That is, if our only criterion is the amount that can be spent to do good, my hypothetical City Creek is clearly the most moral investment. Which is why arguing that an investment is immoral because it substitutes for giving money to the poor starts with an incorrect premise.

  44. Sam,
    The scripture expressly sets up two mutually exclusive concepts of either serving God or serving money. Doesn’t it? Isn’t the church’s investment strategy serving money? Why would anyone or any organization that actually believes in the Bible think they can do both? How do you reconcile this without ignoring this scripture? How does the church?

  45. See, Slifo, you’re leaving several steps out of your analysis. In the first instance, the “ye” that Jesus is referring to is men (or, perhaps, people—I don’t speak Greek, so I don’t know if the “men” is gendered or not). Natural persons. The “ye” does not literally include institutions, including churches. So to assert that such a command applies to churches, you need to explain why it is applicable to them. It may be, but it’s not immediately obvious (a) that it does, or (b) why it does.

    But you need to go one step further: what do you mean by serving mammon? You seem to imply that it includes making any profitable investment at all; if that’s the case, we all lose. But if it’s something less than that, what is it? And is it the same for institutions as it is for individuals? Why?

    Simply laying out (part of) a verse of scripture, and assuming the conclusions that you want, is lazy and unhelpful. But if you want to connect your dots, I’d be interested in how you get there.

  46. Sam,
    I disagree with the assertion that little is written in the scriptures about institutional financial duties.

    The scriptures are replete with responsibilities and criticisms of churches (institutions) who adorn themselves, oppress, promote elitism, foster pride, overlook the poor, etc. (Mormon 8, other places in BoM, D&C, and NT). Jesus frequently spoke to individuals about individual duty to the poor (e.g. Nicidemous), but he also overturned the money changers in the temple, and called out church leaders as a whole (institutionally) in his many reprimands of the Pharases and Sadducees.

    The scriptures are replete with financial and charitable exhortations and roles for churches. There are nuanced similarities and differences in the directives and examples given to individuals and churches. Conducting a literature survey of the scriptures and categorizing them would be illuminating (packaged as a blog post, presentation, or article.)

  47. Mkng 1,
    I too would like to believe that the church would divest all its holdings of the need arose, but our persecuted history makes that possibility extremely unlikely. After multiple expulsions and the trek west, early church leaders soon found themselves in political and legal battles (re: polygamy, statehood, publicity, territory, property, etc.) that again threatened their very existence and sustainability. As a survival mechanism, early prophets (notably Lorenzo Snow) began building security and political capital through financial coffers. Our massive holdings are a relic of our history and self-preservation. It’s unlikely that we would let go of that security blanket for any temporal crisis…the reflex would instead be to squirrel.

    And therein is our Achilles heel and failing (Mormon 8).

  48. Jack Hughes says:

    Not too long ago, LDS Family Services stopped providing adoption services for reasons that are not entirely clear, but probably had something to do with cultural shifts away from adoption and added legal scrutiny of longstanding practices. Whatever the case, the Church heavily subsidized that process and facilitated placement. With that gone, I would like to see the Church redirect that money to subsidize IVF/fertility treatments, which are otherwise cost-prohibitive for many deserving, childless LDS couples. This would be a worthy investment in the future of the Church, as they have historically depended on birth rate as the most reliable source of future members; GAs have made recent public statements to the effect that they are appalled at declining birthrates (delaying marriage/family). Helping fund fertility treatment will demonstrate that they are serious about promoting family values, rather than treating infertile couples as a footnote in patronizing talks about motherhood.

  49. Sam,
    I have no problem at all with businesses making a profit, they need to to survive and to flourish, but businesses generally don’t claim to be serving God at the same time and when they do I find their claim highly suspect. But I am willing to entertain evidence to the contrary, do you have any? Lazy? Sam what are institutions if they are not made up of men (people)? It seems to me if institutions are to be given a pass here that individuals are not, you need to explain why.

  50. I second Mortimer’s comment (@ 8/2 11:39 PM). The scriptures spend a non-trivial amount of ink decrying institutions built for getting gain, not caring for the poor.

    For me, the rule should be, “Are we investing in people or merely in things?” The former is fine, the latter not so much. Thus, BYU or PEF or Scouting or canneries/Bishop’s storehouses all pass this test though we could argue about the relative worth of these programs (e.g., would it be better to drop Scouting and spend more on duty to God?) Apartment buildings generally would not pass this test, unless they were subsidized housing units for low income residents. DI would pass the test but City Creek would not.

  51. The JST for Genesis 14 (where Abram pays tithes to Melchizedek) is interesting: And he (Melchizedek) lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God; him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor.

    Tithes FOR THE POOR.

    If I, as an individual, have an obligation to tithe my increase to help the poor and needy, why should I direct my donations towards the Church/City Creek if they will not be used for the poor? I know we’ve all heard the conference talk where one of the prophets corrected this line of thinking. But perhaps the talk is wrong. Perhaps we ought to seek personal revelation about where the Lord wants us to direct our charitable contributions.

  52. Sam,

    I totally get it. The morals of development of Florida real estate in your argument is dependent on what the church does with the return to “fulfull” its mission. I think reasonable investments in different vehicles – real estate, stock etc. can be fine but it all depends on what the proceeds go toward and in what amount. So if the assumption is we invest and then use the returns on that investment to build necessary temples or ward houses or pay for the missionary program or whatever that is one thing. Let me ask though, do ANY of us know in aggregate what proportion of the church’s returns on its various investments go toward paying for the missionary program, temples, refugee programs etc. The answer is NO! I have no idea whether in aggregate the proceeds of the church investments go toward these things or whether it goes just towards more investments. Well, really I think I have some idea based on the very little evidence I have been able to gather. But that is outside the current rules of discussion.

    In the absence of such knowledge I really like the proposal that on its face investment in *things* outside of temples, ward houses etc. should be looked on with suspicion ie there should be a burden of proof on the church to demonstrate that returns on these investments are put to use for the mission of the churh while investment in people should be seen as good and the burden of proof should be on others to demonstrate how they are negative.

    Lets say the church earmarked all the proceeds from City Creek – a luxury shopping mall – to go to say the Liahona project or something similar. I would feel far more ok about that. It would be a way of funneling money from rich people to the needy in a way that has a sustainable funding mechanism.

    Now lets say it turns out the church uses the proceeds to increase its REIT investing accounts to buy more Florida land. Then it uses the Florida land proceeds to increase investments in hedgefunds and the hedgefund proceeds to buy more Florida land. Capital can simply accumulate in perpetuity. At that point the bigger moral question to me isn’t about whether a given investment is morally neutral or good but about whether investing anymore at all is moral given other alternatives.

    Let me ask you this moral hypothetical, and its a hypothetical since I don’t know this is true though I think a plausible one:

    Lets say that since the 1970s the Church has accumulated enough capital that if they put the money in safe interest returning investment vehicle that it could pay for *all of church operations* out of the interest alone with money left over, would that impact the way you think about would be moral for the church to do with its finances? In other words, lets posit that the church could simply stop collecting tithing, its major source of new income, and live off its accumulated wealth without touching the principle. To me that would fundamentally change the way I evaluated the morality of church finances.

    Now lets say the opposite is true and it turns out that these investments return only the smallest fraction of the what the church needs to operate temples, ward houses, the COB, the missions etc. Then I get far more comfortable with plausibly neutral moral investments (still wouldn’t want the church say directly investing in Phillip Morris or what not).

    I don’t know for a fact which world we are closer to living in. Wish I did.

  53. it's a series of tubes says:

    rah, I have some well-placed sources, and have seen some interesting data. While not comprehensive, I can say that the materials I have seen lean heavily to your second scenario.

  54. Clark Goble says:

    I suspect the Church is stockpiling money for the time approaching when a significant majority of the Church lives not in rich western nations but poor 3rd and 2cd world nations. Getting them the resources they need will be challenging – especially when viewed over a time frame of dozens of years and millions of people.

  55. Kevin Barney says:

    I agree with both tubes and Clark. The Church’s operating expenses far exceed its return on its investments, and it simply could not operate as it does now without the tithes of the people. And in much of the world the church operates at a deficit vis-a-vis tithing collections, so prudent financial management is essential assuming we don’t want to limit our reach to wealthy western nations only.

  56. Mortimer says:

    The church’s operating expenses are only slightly higher than revenue? I don’t know how the cash flow turns out in the global wash, but my wards have always been massive cash cows and operated on essentially nothing.

    I heard through the rumor mill that church industries (Deseret Book, real estate, City Creek, etc.) operated by returning tithing (10%) back to church humanitarian/tithing coffers, and used the other 90% as operating/reinvestment capital.

  57. Clark Goble says:

    Mortimer, remember that half of all members live outside the United States. Those cash cows are highly subsidizing wards in other parts of the world.

  58. Interesting. I have some inside sources I trust from the world of people that invest the churches money that point to the church being closer to the first scenario these days (though it would cause *significant* pain to restructure its assets to achieve enough stable income from interest). However, I am *totally* willing to be wrong given the dearth of information and potentially conflicting reports from other credible insiders. Most probably it is somewhere between these two poles. I would point out that from an insiders and church perspective – there is a lot of incentive to both believe the second scenario as well as present the second scenario as what is going on. I think it is clear that all areas of the church are given budgets and act as if they are significantly resource constrained. This is part of what I think we can all agree on – the church is very financially conservative in how it spends whatever money it has. It feels it fiduciary responsibilities over its assets with deep moral weight and this expresses itself in part through frugality throughout the organization. I actually wonder how many people in the organization can actually see the overall financial assets and health of the church. It may be that this number is very, very small and not include people that are responsible for their own large chunks of it.

    I do think it is telling that each of our assumptions/beliefs about where the church sits is a major driver of how we tend to approach a moral framework for church investment.

  59. I heard through the rumor mill that church industries (Deseret Book, real estate, City Creek, etc.) operated by returning tithing (10%) back to church humanitarian/tithing coffers, and used the other 90% as operating/reinvestment capital.

    According to President Hinckley (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/10/why-we-do-some-of-the-things-we-do?lang=eng&_r=1), as of 1999 Church-owned businesses donated 10% of their profits to the LDS Foundation (now LDS Philanthropies).

  60. The 10% number makes sense—taxable corporations can only deduct up to 10% of their taxable income as charitable contributions. (IRC s. 170(b)(2), if you’re interested.)

    That doesn’t mean, of course, that the church doesn’t benefit from the other 90%; while I’m sure that church-owned business plow some percentage of their income back into the business, to the extent the church needs cash, the business can dividend as much cash as necessary to the church qua shareholder.

  61. I think this discussion of whether the church is barely meeting its operating expenses or has more than enough (and to spare) is somewhat tangential to the original post. The Church clearly has enough money to buy a large portion of Florida. The question is, just because they have these resources, is this where they should invest?

    The discussion of budgets and frugality however is interesting. I have heard many anecdotes about waste in the Church. (And I have seen it personally.) Often at the root of these stories is the fact that the Church is not accountable to anyone and therefore operating efficiency is not always the top (or even a high) priority. Any discussion about where to invest should include an axiom about accountability.

  62. Clark Goble says:

    MTodd, issues of waste are significant. How to put more accountability there without necessarily opening everything up so critics of the church can criticize more isn’t clear. But within the church bureaucracy there are probably a lot of improvements that could be made. I can but at best say that while they have a ways to go, from my admittedly limited viewpoint they seem to have made great strides since the 80’s and 90’s.

  63. Clark, I get that accountability is difficult without the arm-chair quarterbacking (propheting?) that comes with full transparency. But the Church could do more. 1.) They could outline detailed principles, perhaps not too specific, that they will live by. Those could be submitted to the Church for common consent (something lost last century). 2.) Then they could create very detailed T&E like policies based on the approved guiding principles. I’m sure the Church already has these. My suggestion is to based these on principles decided in suggestion #1. 3.) The Church should hire an independent third party accounting firm to monitor whether or not the policies are being followed.

    This last point, hiring an independent auditor, should be done even if the first two are not done.

  64. Clark Goble says:

    My sense is that there is regular auditing going on. The problem is more management culture and a willingness to fire people for performance. Friendship and relations, while not the problem they once were, are rumored to still be a problem getting performance out of management. But again one needn’t look very far in the past to see how far management has come.

  65. I’m sure there’s auditing. Wouldn’t it be nice though if the Church were audited by an independent firm? Even if it were no more likely to find any financial wrongdoing than the internal auditing department, an independent auditing function adds at least a veneer of impartiality.

  66. Clark Goble says:

    I’ve no idea how they audit. It sounds like you know they don’t use a 3rd party. Why assume that?

  67. Good point. It is an assumption. I have no other proof than the fact that the audit report is presented annually by the internal department. So of they use Deloitte to perform the audit, why not let Deloitte present their findings in General Conference?

  68. Or better, let Deloitte publish a high-level summary.

  69. Brother Sky says:

    Clark Goble, A quick, sincere question: I’ve often heard that line about accountability/not opening up because of fear of critics. Why would that even be a fear? If all is done according to the Lord’s plan, why would anyone in the church pay any attention to critics? Just be open and accountable and let the consequence follow.

  70. A Happy Hubby says:

    Bro Sky – I keep looking for the LIKE button on your comments!

    I am right there with you on this one. I am not saying the church needs to release every detail. Just release the same information level that the church used to release. And stand proud and own it.

    The church leadership seem to be willing to stand up and say, “We need to protect religious freedom” after losing the battle in the US to stop legalized Gay marriage. I don’t agree with all parts of this, but I can admire the boldness and sticking to their guns.

    But it seems to me that I see that is the exception. I wish they would stand up and say, “Sisters asking about obtaining the priesthood, we have been discussing this for months and pleading with the Lord for an answer and we have been told the answer is no.” Instead they ignore it and won’t even acknowledge the request made to the office they hold.

    Stand up and say, “The church still believes polygamy is of God and could be practiced again and will be in the afterlife for those in the highest heaven” – or stop the pain that is creating and remove/adjust D&C 132 and clearly state, “oops – Our bad.” But I have already heard them say they are not going to apologize for anything. Organizations are not 100% the same as individuals, but if I ever meet someone that said, “I will never apologize” I would make sure to stay far away from such a person as to me they have a serious lack of humility.

    Own it Brethren. Show that you have faith. Don’t repress information that doesn’t bode well for the church. Don’t whitewash EVERYTHING. OWN IT!

    Getting off my soap box now.

  71. Clark Goble says:

    Sky, it just seems like critics blow everything they can out of perspective and create artificial myopic perspectives – often by not comparing it with similar organizations. I can’t see any good coming out of it and suspect most people familiar with corporate relations would tell companies not to be that open.

    Put an other way, what’s the upside? If there’s only downsides, why do it?

  72. rah,
    Are you aware that CES is gearing up to provide secular educational opportunities for the needy on a global basis? Elder Kim B. Clark recently gave a speech revealing the elements of the plan.

    https://video.byui.edu/media/Kim+B.+Clark+%E2%80%9CCESA+The+Lord%E2%80%99s+Educational+System+for+His+Church%E2%80%9D/0_xl0zwja3/21751142

  73. Brother Sky says:

    Clark: Thanks for your response. I understand your point, though I am much more troubled by the lack of accountability than perhaps you are. That the church that bears Christ’s name acts like most other corporations seems not quite right, to me. I appreciate your perspective, however.

  74. Old Man,

    That’s great. Kim Clark is a very smart and able guy. It’s a world he knows. These types of innitiatives have great promise!

  75. MTodd, the big 4 do rotate auditing the church, didn’t think this was a secret.

  76. Clark Goble says:

    jpg, I think what some are requesting is more than an accounting audit but a deeper audit such as what the GAO (Government Accountability Office) does with various parts of the government. That is not just audit the books but audit the processes, efficiencies, and problems. I don’t have a problem in the least with those sorts of audits. Far from it I think they’d be quite important. I just think the audits should be kept private.

  77. Clark G. That’s exactly the type of audit I would like. I agree the nitty-gritty details should not be released to the public, but a high-level summary (including a rough overview of what the Church does well and where it can improve) would be nice. But it’ll never happen.

  78. Stephen Miller says:

    The Church isn’t here to build shopping malls or oversee large multinational corporations. This is why Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. We need to throw the modern day money changers out of the temple now as well and get back to the business of clothing, feeding and housing the needy of the Church. And to say the Church doesn’t have a clear mission for giving help is to admit you need to read/study carefully the scriptures.

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