The recent Occupy Wall Street movement and its ongoing spread, along with the cover essay in the October 2011 issue of Harper’s that draws what the author of that piece sees as a direct link between Mormonism’s economic ideals and its rise in influence in society at large, and certain factions of the Republican Party in particular, provide excellent springboards for a great discussion about LDS views about wealth, prosperity, business principles, economic systems, cultural attitudes that sometimes suggest a connection between righteousness and personal prosperity, and much more. And that’s what this podcast episode contains.
In dialogue with each other and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon, panelists Joanna Brooks, Todd Decker, and Jason Brown provide a far-ranging discussion that draws important distinctions between an LDS culture that seems to writers, pundits, and many outsiders to be quite like the picture painted by the Harper’s article (which is, of course, accurate in certain ways) and the long history of Mormon theological teachings about the dangers that are inherent in wealth and prosperity and divorcing oneself from the labor of one’s own hands, the sacredness of community, and economic systems that forefront care for one another. These are difficult issues, and this podcast is full of terrific observations, both light and serious, and wonderful invitations for deep self-examination. Can and will those who find themselves recognizing that they a sympathy with the Occupy movement or have other hesitations about capitalism as it operates today do more than just talk?
Please listen. We welcome your comments below!
Links to sites recommended by podcast panelist Jason Brown:
The Corporation–a documentary in several parts available through YouTube
Gadianton, by Eric Samuelsen. An incredible and powerful story and critique of the idea that something can be “just business,” that corporate decisions don’t have high personal costs. It wrestles with a Mormon-led computer firm that chooses to downsize in order to increase company profits. It is set in St. George, Utah, and the action of the play is interspersed with characters reminiscing on the atomic explosions in the Nevada desert and the radiation fallout that affects families in the area still today–government decisions that didn’t adequately count personal costs. And you simply have to experience for yourself all that comes from the inclusion of Gadianton!, a play within the play (that leads to its title character coming to life and whispering in the ear of one of the main play’s protagonists). Highly recommend! Potentially one of the best hours of reading you’ll ever spend.
Note: This file contains the play, as well as a short follow-up essay by the author about the controversies that surrounded Gadianton when it was produced at BYU. Sunstone also somehow saved the file in the same grouping as a commentary on Mormon culture that is also excellent but not related to the play. So if you want to go directly to the play, it begins on page 6 of this file.
Amazing. This morning I thought to myself “I wish that Mormon Matters would do a podcast on Mormonism and Capitalism”. I can’t wait to listen!
Ha! I like how a Mormon could defend “the dangers inherent in wealth” when their church just used millions of dollars of so-called sacred tithing money to build a mall. That’s right. Not a church, not a themple – a mall.
No way–are you serious, Post Mo? Did the Mormon church really spend millions on a mall instead of a themple? I’m sure this will come as a shock to everyone in the Mormon Matters listening demographic… Thanks for giving us the alert.
Not millions, Postmo, the number you want is BILLIONS. The City Creek Center is estimated to cost two billion dollars….
This is stupid and misleading. The church put resources into City Creek Center to prevent urban blight in downtown SLC. They wanted Temple Square to continue to be in a part of town people feel safe visiting (as millions do).
At the end of the day the project will probably make money. No tithing funds are being spent building a mall. Look at the big picture.
A brief lesson on the way of the world for the naive and uninitiated:
Money is received from a source that is considered unseemly and the person/corporation/organization seeks to change the public appearance of the source so it will “invest” the money in something over which it has real/complete, but often hidden control, and then once “invested” it receives back the money and calls it a “profit” or income from something other then the original source.
Our church employs the same technique. ALL funds received by our church, now or in the past, originated from “tithes and offerings” of one form or another. All contributions must be “charitable” or we would lose our 501 (3) (c) tax status. One does not purchase stock in this Corporation Sole. The funds that are charitably given are then either used directly for charitable purposes as required per our tax code OR they are invested in for profit corporations/entities (see nice list below for example–also Ensign Peaks Advisors and such that are really creative launderers of money). Then once invested the profits of said businesses are reinvested in such things as the “most expensive square foot building in the history of mankind” mall —a million dollar a day project and counting. So viola–one can “technically”, though very misleading, say that no tithing funds were used. This is called laundering money to make it appear to have origins other then its’ true original source. The irony here being that the original source of all money of our church is a noble/virtuous source, ie, the widow’s mite, families that in many cases must choose between basic necessities (food, clothing, utilities, dental and medical for them and children or pay their tithes and offerings in order to be in good standing with the church). These sacred offering one would historically (see Leviticus, Deuteronomy and NT primitive church) find being used/plowed back into the suffering humanity, so when it is used to adorn churches with fabulous trappings or worse to create a urban plight free zone (code for we want all the poorly clothed homeless, beggars as far away from our Rameumptons as possible) then it might appear to those that see parallels in the scripture to be something revealing as to our current spiritual values.
So while an investment of our sacred funds in for profit adventures might be graded by the Harvard Business School as a first rate investment plan/scheme, for some it hardly fits the model of a church that professes to be a reincarnation of the Kingdom that Jesus exemplified in word in deed during His ministry.
So we are told that no tithing funds were used to build the great and spacious multi billion exquisite shopping experience next to temple square. But we do know that it is our church that is spending the money. Therefore, given that we are a law abiding church the origin of the funds had to be charitable and the laundering the money through profit corporations did not change its’ true nature—only how it is represented to the public.
J. Reuben Clark was prescient as to what happens when a church or any organization decides to no longer provide financial transparency (tell me which other church hides its’s finances from its’ adherents?)–whether the Kirtland Banking Society or the present day illusion: “no tithing being used here so all is well” —such misleading tactics have a serious blowback and keep us mired in Babylon with only a illusion of approaching Zion.
Ron you should probably just assume everyone isn’t so naive or that every move the church makes is cloaked in conspiracy. Any financial activity the church engages in is the result of tithing. What I meant by my comment that no tithing was used to build a mall is that the City Creek Center (or whatever it is called), was that the project was designed to be minimal risk investment to avoid blight in downtown SLC and will ultimately not cost the church a mite of tithing. From what I have read the project will generate money for the church and the vibrancy of downtown SLC will be secured for the foreseeable future. Does that make sense?
Now to whether trying to discourage blight is a worthly activity to have the church involve itself with, I guess that is up to everyones sensability (obviously not to yours). Given that Temple Square is such a important missionary tool for the church as well as the “capital” of mormonism, I think it was a worthy effort. Like it or not, blight discourages visitors. If you want blight you are welcome to come down to Arizona and visit the Mesa Temple. The area around the temple has all the blight you can handle.
What about all the construction workers it has employed?
I believe it is actually over a billion dollars of Church money, and we can’t be sure if any of those monies came from tithing funds.
Speaking of wealth in the church – so much to say, but
My husband, as a missionary is serving as branch president
of a congregation of mostly very poor people in a South African township; I’m
his lovely companionless wife. Some of these members live in cardboard and tin
shacks and most of the others are crammed into very small, cinder block houses
with grandmothers and grandchildren of all ages including adult children.
As Branch president my husband encourages the young people
who make up a huge percentage of the branch, to attend the CES satellite
broadcast from SLC. They once again obediently walk to the poorly built chapel
to sit for yet another hour with grumbling stomachs, knowing that at the end
they are likely to get something to eat provided by the CES missionaries. The
chapel is about half full of hungry, beautiful, poverty stricken black church
members. The broadcast begins; the speaker is talking about keeping the Sabbath
day holy and these are basically his words.
“You all have fridges; there is no need to shop on Sunday.”
I am deeply offended for these; my brothers and sisters sitting with me in the
pews, very few of whom are even employed. This is a worldwide broadcast. These
provincial idiots who do these talks have absolutely no concept of who their
audience is. I’m ashamed of my church; I want so much to apologize to my
friends for their church which doesn’t even know they exist; they are mere
numbers. They are so faithful and many of the people who do find a job here or
there pay their tithes, while they SHOULD be receiving them OR their tithe
should go to the members of their families who struggle to buy food.
The Christian mandate is to feed the poor and needy, and I
serve among them watching and sending email after email to humanitarian
services asking for shovels, seeds etc. so that our members can grow food. I
serve there for 9 months; time enough for a few more babies to be born into
poverty and AIDS; nothing is done on either that score or my request that the
couple over the perpetual education joke should come to train some of our young
adults with regards to applying for this aid.
This was my experience and my shame working in the South
Africa Cape Town Mission – knowing that the missionaries’ homes, while not
luxurious by North American standards, were luxury suites by township
standards. I know that many North American young missionaries wore their ‘poverty’
like a badge of honor. Meanwhile the mission president who lived in what I
would call a mansion was angrily demanding that all the missionaries’ beds were
to have headboards. When I protested this ‘excess’ saying that the young
missionaries do not want to tract in poverty ridden areas and go home to
luxury; he responded with; “I will not let the township set the standard for
our missionaries.” Why not?
Thank you Sister Bodie!
We all need to hear that. I remember wondering whether the storefront branch in the most poverty stricken part of Washington DC was there not to minister to the members there, but to keep the poorest members from attending the wealthy suburban wards…
We need to realize that we all need to act to rid the world of poverty, and should not expect the church to do it for us.
And yet how often do we hear members say that they pay their tithing and fast offerings and so they feel like they’ve done enough? Frankly, in my experience, if the church isn’t sponsoring it, they ain’t donating to it.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I remember being the “rich american” on my own mission and being disgusted by some of the excess and abuses that the church’s money brought on. Many of the missionaries from “zion” acted very entitled, even complaining that their funds weren’t sufficient for food or necessities, while the people we taught lived off 1/4 of what we were receiving a piece. We didn’t live in “luxury”, but we often had apts that were bigger or more nicely furnished than the people of the area. And we had lots of leftover funds that many just wasted. And that spirit was actually promoted by the area leadership. It was really sad.
Does the church have a humanitarian component there? If so what is their budget?
I couldn’t agree more in regard to tithing. We cite an OT prophet (Malachi) to justify the demand for the payment of tithing, but then completely ignore the spending laws of the OT wherein most of the money/offerings were to remain local for local needs (widows, orphans, sick, hungry, afflicted) but instead have it all sent to the LDS, Inc. corporate headquarters so that, among other things, we can meet our massive advertising budget to self promote our “christian” image to the world—that and meet our million dollar a day budget for the City Creek Mall.
but take heart, all this confirms the veracity of the BOM (Mormon 8) that we really are the “holy church of God” mentioned by Mormon that adorns our churches/image while ignoring and/or leaving a paltry 1% or less spent each year on direct humanitarian relief.
Thanks. Very enjoyable. Josh Madson, Will Van Wagenen and myself were at Occupy Wall Street: Salt Lake City last Friday. Each of us recorded a statement while there and Josh Madson and myself will be putting together a another post with the Mormon Worker soon outlining the Mormon Worker’s perspective/support for this movement.
Despite all the rhetoric by the “occupiers” (which I largely agreed with) I do want to mention that it was the kitchen/food services that really caught my attention. The organizers stated that the food was available to ANYONE who needed—no questions asked. I was struck by the Zion like nature of the camp. Pioneer Park is often inhabited by the homeless/displaced of SLC. They were there and being welcomed and fed. I could not help but consider the juxtaposition of this environment that was inviting ALL to come and eat and be a part of this community as compared to the downtown City Creek Mall/Temple Grounds that is designed to turn out the poor, the hungry, the poorly clothed, the homeless, the least. When we sing “Today I walked where Jesus walked” do we picture ourselves strolling through City Creek Mall shopping in their fine store after our temple session or do we see Jesus more likely ministering/occupying Pioneer Park? That is the question, imo, that addresses the soul or Mormonism and its future.
I am interested to find out if there was any affordable housing included in the City Creek project. Does anyone know?
The answer Bill, is an emphatic No. The condominiums at City Creek are easily some of the priciest in the state. “…designed to reflect the first class feel… amenities at every,” are some of the ways City Creek is promoting itself.
I’m reminded of Sarah Silverman’s ‘Sell the Vatican, Feed the World’ video. (link below)
Good podcast, but I wish there had been more attention to the role of Mormon history, especially polygamy, in creating the Mormon version of the prosperity gospel.
Polygamy was Mormonism’s most important distinguishing characteristic for the first half of the religion’s history. It was constantly preached from over the pulpit as the hallmark of righteousness. D&C 132 states that its practice is vital to the attainment of the Celestial Kingdom.
Since there are almost always about an equal number of men and women in any society, polygamy simply cannot be practiced by a majority of men, or even by a significant plurality. In any society in which polygamy is permitted, it is never practiced by more than approximately 20% of men. A higher rate of participation would cause social disruption by denying wives to too many men. This was as true in old Utah as it is in parts of present-day Africa and the Middle East.
Those men who practice polygamy therefore tend to be the wealthiest and most powerful. Again, true in Utah and true elsewhere. Polygamy therefore served as a connector between righteousness and wealth in Mormon culture. Though polygamy is gone in mainstream Mormonism, the connection seems to still be strong.
Excellent point, Kevin. Thanks for adding this to the discussion!
Great podcast! Oh, how things have changed! I would love to see the 1875(?) first presidency statement mentioned but am having no luck finding it. Any hints? I couldn’t find it on the Mormon Worker site….
You can find it here:
Just scroll down to bottom of the post.
That’s pretty awesome! Thanks for posting the link for that.
Thanks! I was looking too.
So I saw that the text on the Mormon Worker contains excerpts from the 1875 document. And it really has the juiciest parts 🙂 But in case anyone is interested in reading the document in it’s entirety I posted the text on my blog. A lot of the document talks about ZCMI and encourages members to participate in it. It’s pretty interesting history if your interested in this sort of thing. http://explorationsinfaith.blogspot.com/2011/10/1875-document-on-zcmi-and-economy.html
Another approach to wealth in Christianity:
This article by David Platt, which led me to his book “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream”, completely changed my views about religion and wealth. It is the Law of Consecration in practice today.
I listened to the podcast today and I have a few comments mainly toward Todd Decker. There is a reason the united order was abandoned. A very simple reason. It wasn’t working. You site Leonard Arrington regarding the United order but in his book about Brigham Young that I have read he paints a far different picture. A lot of Brigham young’s projects that involved central planning were massive failures including the Iron smelter in southern Utah and the Sugar mill in Salt Lake. To have an effecient economy a person needs a free market not a command economy like they tried to establish (and failed) in 19th Century Utah. I too think Communal living would be nice but it is not possible due to the realities of the global economy. The only time I have seen success in such endeavors is in places such as Communal Hutterite Farms here in Montana where I live. Everyone works and they all share in the fruits but the are also dependant on the Capitalist system for their equipment such as Tractors and other things they can not make on their own.
I will tell a little story to illustrate that the market will always dictate the price of goods. When the Wikileaks memos were realeased it was found that Hugo Chavez had been trying to do a favor to China and selling them Oil for only $3 a barrel. What ended up happening was China refined the Oil and unbeknownst to Chavez they were selling and exporting the fuel at MARKET price.
We can have the best of intentions but in the end just like the law of gravity the laws of economics have to be followed or disaster will be guaranteed. It is CAPITALISM that has brought millions of people out of poverty and in the last decade alone it has brought 500,000,000 Chinese people out of poverty.
You bring up some good points Brian. It may appear that since I was participating on a podcast talking about wealth and the scriptures regarding it that I might be anti-capitalist. I am certainly not anti-capitalist and I agree that free markets are the way to go. You may have sensed my hesitation at giving a full-fledged endorsement of the Occupy Movement. I hesitate because I do not see a all-out attack on free market capitalism as very productive. Free markets are an excellent way to deliver goods and services to people. My main concern is that as we participate in the economy that we do so honestly and with regard to people as children of God rather than resources to be exploited. I actually think this is more likely to happen in a free market than in a command economy where individual rights are trampled under the cause of the “common good”. I see religion as providing that positive influence on behavior rather than the use of force. As I said at the end of the podcast (and Jason pushed back a little on this) I think that the word of God has a more powerful effect than the sword, i.e. force.
Regarding the United Orders, I agree that almost all failed. I say almost all failed because Brigham City was quite successful for a number of years. But I don’t even advocate something like the Brigham City model. The only point I was trying to make in the podcast was that the Harper’s article was wrong to say that we have an “ethos of accumulation” or a prosperity gospel. As Mormons we have tried all sorts of different stuff to promote equality in our communities. I still agree with Leonard Arrington that our unique economic systems were part of the reason for our persecution and general cultural separation during the nineteenth century (though polygamy was the big one for sure).
I don’t think we need to return to older models or reject capitalism. But I also think that our religion calls for us to care for the poor and promote equality. This is quite clear in the scriptures. You don’t have to abandon free markets or capitalism to do this. In fact I don’t think we should. The way of Mormonism was always to try new things. Our attempts at United Orders were always evolving and experimental.
It’s difficult to share complex viewpoints in just a couple hours during a podcast so I am glad we have the opportunity to talk here on the blog. My ideas are far from solidified. I am looking for ideas and solutions all the time. But if there is one message I wanted to get across on the podcast it is that as Latter-day Saints we have an obligation to care for the poor and needy. That is one of the missions of the church. I’m looking for real solutions and looking inside our faith to find them.
I’d love to hear some more of your thoughts on this. I would also like to know more about the Hutterite Farms you mentioned.
Actually you weren’t the guy I was talking about. I meant the guy who runs the Mormon Communist website with a depiction of Brigham Young in the likeness of Murderer and Gadianton type Robber Che Guevera. I really had no quarrel with what you said. Sorry for the mixup. It was late at night. : )
I would like to Respond to something that Dan Said. He brought up King Benjamins speech and about how we should take care of each other and stuff like that. I would like to point out that in that same speech King Benjamin said he worked to keep Taxes LOW so the people would not be burdened.
I have a minor thing to bring up to Joanna. She was speaking of Utah and how their is not a lot of support for Labor in their laws and even though she did not say it she was sort of disparaging Utah for it. If the conservative Republican policies including being a a right to work state are so bad why is Utah the 8th richest state with the 3rd lowest Poverty? I think they might be doing something right don’t you think?
One other thing I was thinking about was the fact that our society is far too wicked right now for the United Order to work. It will only work in a Righteous society. I remembered the Words of D Todd Christopherson from April conference of last year:
The Part that struck me most was where he said that as we get more wicked we need to have more and more laws. If we want more liberty and less Government intrusion in our lives we will have to get more righteous.
Jason Brown here. I wanted to weigh in briefly. First, I am not interested in defending socialism or communism as an historical achievement of the human race. In that sense its just as flawed as capitalism. All manner of -isms for that matter. Neither am I interested in the tired polemic that you set up between demonized communism and savior-ized capitalism. While the politicos duke it out people starve, people die because they don’t have health insurance, toxic sludge desecrates, and palm oil plantations raze the earth, and this mostly because men love money more than each other, the earth or God. There are no Laws of economics. Economics are the emergent properties of our social institutions. There is nothing inevitable about profit, exploitation, corporations, minimum wages, CEOs or Wall Street.
Many of us believe those institutions should simply reflect the love and compassion embodied in the person Jesus of Nazareth, not the Idol of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. There is plenty of common ground for those of us who can get past the political slurs and start making the world into the Kingdom of God rather than the Kingdom of Mammon.
Your last point is well said, and proves that the reason there IS government intrusion is because our economic institutions have failed to act with even a small amount of ethical regard for our fellows and the earth. So when folks like you say we need to give those institutions more freedom, more tax breaks and more power I am understandably skeptical. As Pete Seeger once said of Barry Goldwater something to the effect of I am more conservative than Mr. Goldwater, he wants to go back to a time before the FED, I want to go back to a time when we all lived in villages and took care of one another.
At least stop comparing Brigham Young to Che Guevera. Che is not in any way a man anybody should venerate and it is an insult to Brigham Young to portray him that way.
I can not agree with you more.
CCRI officials have said the roof will add a “huge cost” to the project, which is now estimated at $1.5 billion. Dale Bills, spokesman for CCRI, declined to reveal the exact cost of the retractable roof or the estimated price tag for the entire project, saying the LDS Church and its affiliated organizations do not disclose financial information. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/695242891/City-Creek-Center-can-start-rising-below-ground.html?pg=2
Since I listened to Andrews interview I have been trying to peice together what holdings we have as a church. The below list doesn’t include temples, ward houses or stake centers. This is all I could find. If you know of more let me know and I will add it to the list. untitled.JPG (109.95 KiB) Viewed 382 timesCommercial http://www.zsc.com/office/properties.aspx click under each classification as well A, B, Lowrise, retail etc.Residential http://www.zsc.com/residential/directory/Parking http://www.zscparking.com/map/Land Development http://www.zsc.com/land/directory/Deseret Management CorporationBonneville International http://www.deseretmanagement.com/?nid=14BIC is now a major national broadcasting group. The company owns and operates radio stations in eight major markets across the U.S.:Deseret Bookhttp://www.deseretmanagement.com/?nid=16Deseret News http://www.deseretmanagement.com/?nid=15Deseret Digital Media http://www.deseretmanagement.com/?nid=15Beneficial Financial Group http://www.deseretmanagement.com/?nid=19Beneficial Financial Group was established in 1905 in direct response to Heber J. Grant’s recognition of a community’s responsibility to protect its widows and orphans.Temple Square Hospitaliy http://www.deseretmanagement.com/?nid=17hawaii.JPG (72.12 KiB) Viewed 375 timesHawaii Reserves , Inc http://www.hawaiireserves.com/Hawaii Reserves, Inc. manages and owns property affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, located primarily in Laie on the north shore of Oahu. These include Laie Shopping Center as well as other commercial and residential properties; Laie Park, Laie Cemetery and Hukilau Beach Park; subsidiaries Laie Water Company and Laie Treatment Works; and other common-area infrastructure such as roads and street lights. HRI is also developing property in the Laie area, including a hotel redevelopment project next to the Polynesian Cultural Center.AgReserves Inchttp://www.fmc-slc.com/The largest producer of nuts in America.We have felt that good farms, over a long period, represent a safe investment where the assets of the Church may be preserved and enhanced, while at the same time they are available as an agricultural resource to feed people should there come a time of need. Gordon B HinckleyDeseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch in Orlando, Florida.http://www.deseretranchflorida.com/r-mining.html The world’s largest beef ranch (312,000 acres). The land alone is worth $858 million. • 44,000 cows & 1,300 bulls• 12 cattle management units• 1,700 acres of citrusEnsign Peak Advisors – http://www.imno.org/articles.asp?qid=123Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators (DMBA) – http://www.dmba.com/Brigham Young University (BYU) – http://home.byu.edu/webapp/home/index.jspBYU – Idaho -http://www.byui.edu/BYU – Hawaii – http://www.byuh.edu/index.jspLDS Business College – http://www.ldsbc.edu/The Inn at Temple Square – http://www.diningattemplesquare.com/Lion House Pantry – http://www.diningattemplesquare.com/The Roof Restaurant – http://www.diningattemplesquare.com/The Garden Restaurant – http://www.diningattemplesquare.com/Passages Restaurant – http://www.diningattemplesquare.com/Deseret Management Corporation – http://www.deseretmanagement.com/Beneficial Financial Group – http://www.beneficialfinancialgroup.com/Bonneville International – http://www.bonnint.com/Bonneville Communications – http://www.bonneville.com/Bonneville Interactive ServicesBonneville Satellite – http://www.bonnevillesatellite.com/35 Radio Stations1 Television Station (KSL)Deseret Book – http://deseretbook.com/Excel Entertainment – http://www.xelent.com/Deseret Morning News – http://deseretnews.com/dnHawaii Reserves – http://www.hawaiireserves.com/Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) – http://www.polynesia.com/ and http://www.polynesia.co.jp/La’ie Shopping CenterLa’ie ParkLa’ie CemetaryHukilau Beach ParkLa’ie Water CompanyLa’ie Treatment Works (sewer)Mstar.net – http://www.mstar.net/preportal/index.aspTemple Square Hospitality – http://www.htsc.net/ and http://www.hoteltsc.com/Weddings (JSMB and Lion House)The Inn at Temple Square – http://www.diningattemplesquare.com/Lion House Pantry – http://www.diningattemplesquare.com/The Roof Restaurant – http://www.diningattemplesquare.com/The Garden Restaurant – http://www.diningattemplesquare.com/Passages Restaurant – http://www.diningattemplesquare.com/Zions Securities Corporation – http://www.zsc.com/Farm Management Corporation (commericial farms and agricultural properties)Deseret Land and Livestock200,000 acres of land in Rich, Morgan and Weber counties (Utah)Sun Ranch (Martin’s Cove)Deseret Ranches of Florida (Orlando) (largest ranch in Florida)http://www.deseretranchflorida.com/Deseret Farms of CaliforniaRolling Hills (Idaho)West Hills Orchards (Elberta, Utah)Cactus Lane Ranch (Arizona)(more)Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (CPB)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presiding_Bishop_%28LDS_Church%29Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Deseret Trust CompanyLDS Family ServicesProperty Reserves Inc. (PRI)Ensign Peak Advisors – http://www.imno.org/articles.asp?qid=123Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators (DMBA) – http://www.dmba.com/Brigham Young University (BYU) – http://home.byu.edu/webapp/home/index.jspBYU – Idaho – http://www.byui.edu/BYU – Hawaii – http://www.byuh.edu/index.jspLDS Business College – http://www.ldsbc.edu/some of these may be outdated.Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile InstitutionState Bank of UtahZion’s Savings Bank and Trust CompanyUtah Sugar CompanyConsolidated Wagon and Machine CompanyUtah Light and Power CompanySalt Lake and Los Angeles Railroad CompanySalt Air Beach CompanyThe Salt Lake Dramatic AssociationSalt Lake Knitting CompanyUnion Pacific Railway CompanyBullion, Beck and Champion Mining CompanyThe Deseret News Publishing CompanyAgreserves Australia LTD Kooba Station,Australia.Deseret Ranches of Alberta Raymond,AB CanadaAgreserves LTD Cambridge,EnglandAgroReservas, S.C. Los Mochis, MexicoDeseret Farms of CA Woodland, CADeseret Farms of CA Modesto,CADeseret Farms of CA Chico,CASouth valley Farms Bakersfield, CADeseret Security Farms Blythe, CANaples Farms Naples,FLDeseret Cattle & Citrus ST. Cloud, FLDeseret Farms of Ruskin Ruskin, FLKewela Plantation O’ahu,HIRex Ranch Ashby, NERiverbend Farms ST.Paul, ORDeseret Land & Livestock Woodruff, UT http://www.dlandl.com/pages/RanchHistory/index.htmlWasatch-Dixie Farms Elberta, UTAgreserves Cottle CO.,TXAgrinorthwest kennewick,WAHandcart Ranch Alcova, WYDeseret Ranches of Wyoming Cody,WYThe church has become the biggest foreign landowner in Britain.http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/mormons-pay-acircpound30m-for-prime-british-farmland-677836.html
Can we turn this into a graphic?
the church also owns a motel near the Temple in Sydney Australia, for patrons. Disn’t see it on your list.
I just want to compliment you on another great podcast! I really liked Jason Brown’s comments. They were fascinating to think about. And I really love the spirit you bring of honest inquiry without rancor. I am also a fan of Nibley’s social commentary about the direction the saints are (have been) taking.
I haven’t read the Harpers Article, but everywhere I have lived, monetary success has been a precursor to church leadership. I have never known a poor stake president. That doesn’t mean that those men haven’t been good leaders, but it does feel like the leadership pool gets limited to men of means. I have also always gotten the sense that in our practicality we prize monetary success in this church. I have often heard things said by the membership that shows an attitude of temporal wealth corresponding to righteous living. It seems like every time I had a lesson on “be aware of mammon” there was someone pulling out a Mosiah scripture saying that god allows us to be rich if he knows we will use it the way he wants us to, therefore we are completely justified to want riches.
I would love to read the play you mentioned. You said it was in Sunstone, right?
Thanks, Rachel! Glad you enjoyed this and other MMs!
Your prompt got me thinking fresh about how I could bypass the Sunstone site’s search feature (still not fully working as they re-build the site) and still grab the file, so I have now added a link in the podcast description section to that play, GADIANTON. Would love your (and anyone else’s responses to it)! Even ten years since I first read it, it still stands as one of the most powerful things I’ve ever encountered on this most difficult subject.
I had a hard time listening to this podcast. It seemed to give only one point of view and bent on basing the church.
When I look at the church, I don’t see a money obessed culture. I don’t see leadership determined by individuals balance sheets. I see a lot of consecration. The missionary program is a good example. Everyone pays the same and $ are allocated based on need. Wards are allocated funds roughly the same across the country and it is not determined by the amount of tithes and offerings collected in that ward. Fast offerings and church welfare are very communial. EQ helping families move, wards/RS bringing meals to families in need due (whether due to child birth or other needs), plus many other acts seem to point to an organization that is very communial to me. I think perhaps Mormons are too comunial (some see Mormons as only taking care of their own).
I’m disappointed I only heard Joana Brooks point of view.
I’m sorry you heard this discussion as bashing the church in any way, shape, or form. Everyone on this podcast is firmly rooted in Mormonism, and we all have great affection for our fellow Latter-day Saints and the goodness of their lives, the service that is freely rendered, its many strengths. I saw a very small slice of that first hand just yesterday as I took a shift at the Bishop’s Storehouse in Magna, Utah, stocking shelves, etc. and noting with a full heart the absence of any cash registers as many people wheeled out two full shopping carts of everything from meat and vegetables and cereal to diapers.
But as much as things often work well in the church and are centered in highly admirable and inspirational sentiments, surely there are many things in LDS culture that don’t fully match with certain gospel ideals. I wish we had taken the time to speak more about the great things you mention above, so thank you for bringing them up in this discussion, but I in no way equate having an open, vibrant discussion about economic models and certain sensibilities about wealth and prosperity (so often unconsciously imbibed) that arguably have come into Mormonism via the larger culture (rather than the other way around) with bashing the church.
Dan, I enjoy the MM podcast and the open discussion that it brings to a variety of subjects. I also appreciate the objectivity and mild nature approach you bring to these discussions. Thank you.
I also enjoy J Brooks and other commentators perspective as I don’t often hear them. That said I thought this last podcast was a little jumbled and lacking in different viewpoints. Of course we aren’t perfect (glad such isn’t required to be LDS) and I think introspection is healthy and needed. I just felt the conversation moved quickly into the space of since the Relief Society isn’t organizing shifts at the Occupy (choose your site) that Mormons aren’t living up to their ideals or doctrine.
It is hard to understand the ideals of the Occupy Wall Street crowd as the movement isn’t really defined beyond a general commendation of crony capitalism (which I 100% agree with the movement) and uneven income distribution (Im not sure what they are getting at with that one). Since it is so undefined it is hard to compare to Mormon thoughts, ideals, doctrines in regards to economics. More balance would have been nice.
Thanks, Russell. Know that I am concerned about balance when it comes to panels, but I’m really far more concerned to get voices involved who approach Mormonism from a constructive viewpoint and who I sense will be lively conversationalists. If there are a few holes left open at the end of our 60 to 90 minutes, we love having this comments section to work to fill that in, much like you’re helping with here.
I am also starting to learn that with these MM discussions, whatever we use as a springboard for doing a topic really drives a lot of what happens. For instance, if we’d simply said “Let’s do a podcast on Mormons and economics, views of wealth, etc.” we’d probably have ended up with more of a full-spectrum kind of discussion. But since Mormon Matters typically grabs its topics from things happening in the news very recently or right then, and/or themes being emphasized in the church at the moment, etc., we tend to focus less on the big picture in favor of sharing reactions, challenges, critiques, and analyses. In the midst of our commentating (again, we’re not really serving as “reporters”), we will occasionally try to fill in background or quickly add some 10,000-foot view sort of stuff, but generally we’re on trajectories suggested by our springboards (in this case the Harpers article and the Occupy movement activities), and we’re moving pretty fast. As you can imagine, when we’re done, I still have tons of things in my notes that were potential things to talk about but just didn’t happen, and I’m sure all of the other panelists feel that too. Again, that’s why these comments sections are awesome to have!
I’m sorry we came accross that way to you. The whole reason I wanted to do this podcast was to challenge the claim in the Harper’s article that our church is obsessed with wealth and money. I believe we are a very charitable religion with a strong concern for the poor (it’s part of our four-fold mission). This is the stuff I love about the church.
You say that we are a very charitable religion. I do agree that members are very, very giving as Russell pointed out. But as a church are we ‘charitable” based on what? Most churches give the lion share of all money collected directly to the least/suffering/humanitarian needs. While based on the numbers we have been given our church only gives approximately 1% of all monies collected to humanitarian needs. That puts us in the category of Wal-Mart, Exxon and others who give about–or maybe a little more then— what we spend on direct humanitarian relief.
Yes, we advertise our giving very effectively among ourselves and to others, but in actual dollars it is very, very pathetic and borderline unethical given that we represent ourselves as a charitable organization. I know, I know we build building, temples, etc. but buildings are inanimate objects and poor substitutes for investing in human temples, imo. sorry, but the numbers just do not add up. We should consider honestly what we do as a church and apply our common consent and occupy this topic until there is real change.
When I talk about “the church” I am usually talking about church members. Of course I shouldn’t expect people to read my mind so that’s my bad. I usually distinguish between “the church” and “church leadership” in my speech. I don’t know much about the finances of church leadership so I don’t really have much to say or add there. I’ll defer to others who knows more about that.
Interesting point of view. When I look at this topic I think about the 3 fold mission of the church; perfect the saints (why we build all those church houses and boy do I need the opportunities to mingled, learn, and serve together. Money well spent), preach the gospel (missionary effort is a significant part of the money spent by the church), and redeem the dead (why we spend so much on temples). Mormons do a lot of service. True a lot of it is towards our own but I see this changing over time (it is easiest to provide that service where there is visibility). Hopefully people like yourself will keep tension in the system there.
When I look at poverty (although this is subjective; 21st century poverty is the 18th century’s top 1%) the solution isn’t so clear cut. The want we see in Africa is a political issue, not economic (hard to alliviate poverty with warlords running things). I feel like the best thing Mormons can do to alleviate poverty is teach the gospel. If you look at it like that, the church spends a majority of its resources on it.
Offnote, the city creek thing was a good thing. At the end of the day it will not cost the church one widow’s mite and SLC downtown will not have urban blight. Not sure where the hypocracy is.
1% in charitable donations. I am curious as to where you are getting this info. I would like to look in to this a little more.
Another wonderful panel. Thanks for all your hard work Dan!
I’m excited to read “Gadianton” now. It looks really interesting. Thanks for posting that Dan.
Just finished reading “Gadianton”. Superb!
Excited you liked it! It’s wonderful how the theater artform provides so well for including the kinds of juxtapositions of voices and themes that Gadianton has.
As an individual that works in my job with primarily Catholics, I can tell you that many members of the Catholic church question where all the money goes in their church too.
It’s hard to speculate where all the money goes in the LDS church since it has not been made publich since 1959. At the local level I think most members believe the church does a huge amount toward humanitarian aid. I personally believe it is a very small percentage. Of course I am only speculating.
I believe the church spends a lot of it money on profit operations so that the church can “build up the kingdoom.” By building up the kingdoom it means more temples, more correlated activities and more standardized operations.
Smooth operation is the word from church headquarters to individual SS classes at the ward level. I think most of the capital is targeted “inward” with a bigger chunk going to public relations.
I read a post somewhere else on this topic where an individual pointed out that the church could collect more revenues in order for salvation:
1. Charge a fee for usage for temple weddings & ceremonies.
2. Charge fees for parking at the temple.
3. Charge a fee to extract names.
4. Charge fee at family libraries.
5. Sell bannar ads on lds.org
6. Charge a fee when men get ordinations.
7. Charge fee for all visitor centers.
8. Charge interest on delinquent tithing.
9. Stop subsidizing BYU.
Now, THAT, would be religious capitalism… who knows maybe all of the above are coming down the road.
Jason, I one hundred percent agree with you on the corporation secret combination connection you made–so glad to hear someone else say it!
Ayudar a los pobres y NO pagar diezmos es lo mas sensato
I don’t know if you guys check this after the fact but…Something I’ve been wondering about is how monies are divided up amongst the countries. I ask this because as a traveler and a researcher in other countries, it is obvious that people in Latin America aren’t given hymn books for their chapels (maybe it’s only in the places I’ve been, but seemed like too many buildings that didn’t have hymn books to be a coincidence). Also, I ask because the members in Latin America where I have lived have always had to pay to rent a bus to get to the temple. I don’t remember ever having to “chip in” for the rental bus going to the temple. Anybody have a different experience? Are their any insights as to why there would be such a discrepancy?