Missionary Chat: Philadelphia Apartment Building

I had another question I wanted to run by some Mormons: Why is the LDS Church building a for-profit, 32 story apartment building in Philadelphia?  Same rules as before…

Bob (me): Hello?

Ken: How can we help you today?

Bob: I have a question about the LDS Church.

Casey: Great! We’ll do our best to help.

Bob: Why is the LDS Church building a multimillion dollar, 32 story apartment building in Philadelphia?

Casey: The Church practices what it teaches when it comes to finances. They have a couple for profit companies that pay taxes and such that the Church uses as a sort of “rainy day fund”. If something were to happen, the Church would be able to take care of a lot of people for a long time.  That being said, when good investment opportunities come up, they take them, in addition, property ones like this, I have noticed are used to help areas economically as well.  The lot that the high rise will be built on will help the area around the Temple that the Church is also building there.

Bob: Okay. Thanks.

Casey: Does that make sense.

Bob (Since he asked me a question, I decided I would ask another): Well, how exactly does the LDS Church “take care of people” with this money?

Casey: Most of the for profit businesses the Church has are farms and land and such. They could easily turn that into a way to feed a lot of people in an emergency.  As far as I understand as well, some of the farms are used to supply our Church’s welfare program, where they help feed member families that are struggling as well as humanitarian efforts where our Church sends tons and tons of food and packages to countries in need (e.g., the typoon in Phillipines

Bob: And the apartments in Philadelphia contribute to that effort?

Casey: I’m not sure what the apartments in Phili will be used for. Sometimes I’m sure the church does it to build up their actual cash rainy day fund, I’m not sure exactly.

Bob: Okay. Thanks. Much obliged.

Casey: You bet, can I ask what sparked your question originally?

Bob: Sure. I read the news article about it in the New York Times.

Casey: Great! Do you know much more about our faith?

Bob: A fair amount, yes.

Casey: Yeah, the way the Church handles their finances really adds to my testimony that it is ran by inspiration. The Church will never go into debt. They won’t dedicate a Church building unless it is paid for in full. They are good stewards of what God gives them. Money is just another opportunity to take care of something that God has given us.  Especially in today’s society when a lot of Americans and businesses, or governments are not very responsible with money.  We know that everything we have and every opportunity we get is from God and so we should treat it that way.  I hope that all makes sense?

Bob: Sure.  Though, how do you know how the LDS Church manages it’s finances. They aren’t public record, are they?

Casey: No, dollar amounts are not public, but some of the principles they follow are.

Bob: Okay. Thanks.

Casey: You bet!  Bob, would you be interested in talking to full-time missionaries in your area?

Bob: No. But thank you for asking.

Ken: ok. well is there anything else we can assist you with today?

Bob: Nope. That’s plenty. Thank you.  Have a good day.

Casey: You as well Bob, thanks for coming online to ask!

Bob: Bye.

Do Mormons really believe these explanations?

Views: 1773
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12 Comments

  1. 1
    chanson says:

    Do Mormons really believe these explanations?

    I think they do, judging from the comments back on that long ago thread on this subject. I haven’t re-read all 256 comments, but doing a quick search for the word “invest” yields:

    Because it is run as a “for-profit” organization, the Mormon church (as the sole shareholder, presumably) can declare dividends and reinvest that money elsewhere, possibly for humanitarian goals.

    and:

    The for-profit arms of the church help provide stability, such as during an economic down-turn where the profits from businesses are used to provide funds to the church to supplement declining tithing revenue. In times of good they are reinvested as any good steward – especially since those involved feel that they are stewards of the Lords funds.

    and:

    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.

    and:

    Wake up people the operations provide jobs, food for sale, investment opportunities and help welfare principles in many areas. Yes they also provide funds for the church as do the other investments.

    and:

    I do not have a problem with the ranch (or any business) turning a profit. I look at it as an investment for those who can give to those who need.

       0 likes

  2. 2
    profxm says:

    chanson, I agree. I think they do believe it. It’s just amazing that they do. The apartments in Philadelphia aren’t going to feed or even house anyone if there is a “downturn” or “disaster”. They are a for-profit venture by LDS, Inc. They will make the religion money. Pure. Simple.

       0 likes

  3. 3
    chanson says:

    @2 I think a big part of it is that the right wing values making money for the sake of making money as an intrinsically good, even righteous, thing to do.

       1 likes

  4. 4
    Alan says:

    They are a for-profit venture by LDS, Inc. They will make the religion money. Pure. Simple.

    making money for the sake of making money as an intrinsically good, even righteous, thing to do.

    The money isn’t just about profit in and of itself, in my opinion. It’s about growing the Church. If the aim of the faith is to spread the Gospel to every ear, and to do so in a way that doesn’t require going into debt, there has to be investment capital. Perhaps the apartments really are a “rainy day fund” for years when tithing isn’t enough to pay for the Church’s overhead, but mostly I think it’s because the tithings aren’t enough to pay the overhead and grow the Church. It’s kind of like the US government… it both collects taxes and makes investments in order to function.

    Right wing Mormons complain that the federal government is too bloated — that it’s overstepping its intended function — but they would never say the Church’s government is too bloated, because the expansion of faith is a good thing. Basically, it’s better to feed the poor Mormon alms rather than US Gov’t alms, because if the poor are already warm and fed, then there’s less incentive for them to enter the warm embrace of the Church.

       0 likes

  5. 5
    profxm says:

    @4 I’ve been reading a number of books about the LDS Church recently and most of them suggest that the purpose behind making so much money is to put that money toward growing the Church, along the lines of what Alan is saying.

    I’ve heard other people suggest that the Church is worried about a time when tithing revenue is not going to be sufficient to cover expenses (due to shrinking numbers, most likely), and that these are therefore rainy day funds.

    I get those arguments. And I find them largely compelling. It’s probably, mostly the case.

    But I’m also cynical. Could it also be the case that the leaderships’ heavy background in business and its investments in for-profit enterprises have become self-perpetuating? Now that they have for-profit corporations and the existence of these is semi-public (without a backlash from the members), why not continue to expand? In other words, they are expanding just to expand, not because they actually need the revenue.

    How much money does the LDS Church actually need to bring in each year in order to be self-sustaining? Quick, back of napkin calculations:
    ~150 temples at $100,000 a year in upkeep = $15 million
    ~30,000 local churches at $20,000 a year in upkeep = $600 million
    ~various other buildings and visitors centers at a total of = $100 million total in upkeep
    ~pay for the roughly 20,000 employees (average salary of $50,000) = $1 billion
    Total = $1.7 billion (round up to $2 billion)

    In the Reuters piece, tithing revenue was estimated at $8 billion per year. Other estimates have suggested that profit from various business enterprises is somewhere on the order of $2 to $6 billion per year. So, if we round up and say that the LDS Church needs $2 billion per year just to run and it’s bringing in anywhere from $10 billion to $14 billion at present, that’s excess revenue of at least $8 billion per year right now. That’s why they can drop more than half a billion dollars on a ranch in Florida without blinking an eye, or build a new apartment building in Philadelphia and mark it off as a minor expense. They are flush with cash. Perhaps they are putting this cash toward a “rainy day” when tithing revenue drops below $2 billion per year.

    But, when that happens, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to just close up shop? And when Mormonism is no more, who gets to keep all of these for-profit enterprises?

    My cynical perspective is that the Hinckleys, Monsons, McConkie’s, and other Mormon royalty will enter the ranks of the Forbes billionaires list.

       1 likes

  6. 6
    Parker says:

    The Church leadership fully expects one day for countries that have largely been closed to missionaries to break wide open. These largely poor countries will not be self-sustaining, but will require resources from elsewhere. Consequently the Church wants to generate wealthy members who can afford to make huge financial contributions as well as having its own deep pockets to carry out the mission of extending the gospel to all people. It is what the Lord wants, you know.

       1 likes

  7. 7
    profxm says:

    Parker @6…

    I dig it.

    But missionaries pay their own way. Well, many do. Not sure what the actual percentage is, but how many missionaries could you send on missions with $565 million?

    At $10,800 a piece ($450 per month X 24 months), that’s 52,314 missionaries who could be fully funded for two year missions. Instead they spent that on a timber ranch in the Florida panhandle. Hmm…

    And with an extra $8 billion in revenue, how many missionaries could they fund…

    (Blonk, clank, bloop, carry the 1…)

    740,740!

    So, basically almost as many as have ever served. And that’s with one year’s extra revenue. Hmmm…

    The day the LDS Church has 740,00 full-time missionaries is the day I close my ProfXM account for good.

       0 likes

  8. 8
    Parker says:

    According to the member of the 12 I spoke to ( I did and I’m only half a name dropper) they, according to him, were concerned about purchasing mission homes, and constructing and maintain church buildings. Then there are the increased number of paid employees to support the growth. You have to have the paid CES people, and the physical facilities employees, and who knows what other support people. It takes a lot of money to support all of those low tithe paying converts. Even the self-supporting missionary has to have a paid back up staff to handle the logistics.

       1 likes

  9. 9
    chanson says:

    Regarding growing it for a rainy day, one funny observation I read somewhere is the following (if it was one of you here who said it, tell me):

    Imagine if a member were to go to tithing settlement and say, “Instead of paying tithing now, I’m going to take this money and invest it wisely in real estate, so that I’ll have even more money that I could potentially pay to the church at some indefinite point in the future…”

    Maybe they’re saving for a rainy day or for some future church-related expense and maybe they’re growing the church’s wealth for the sake of growing the church’s wealth. But at what point does it stop being a church with a rainy-day fund and start being a for-profit corporation of which one department happens to be a religion?

       1 likes

  10. 10
    Alan says:

    profxm, if you weren’t around for this earlier MSP conversation, it was kinda funny.

    “HeartSell”® : Not even the Holy Spirit is non-commercializable.

       0 likes

  11. 11
    Anon says:

    What’s so bad about it if the apartments eventually become self-sustaining financially and make up for any losses? That’s just taking tithing money and making even more money from it, which is really enticing. And dare I say, “good”

       0 likes

  12. 12
    chanson says:

    @11 I have thought about your question for a long time, and I don’t really have a good answer. Maybe taking tithing money and making even more money from it in order to become self-sustaining financially is what churches are supposed to do with the tithes they collect.

       0 likes

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