City Creek Center – breeding cynicism

I’m an alumnus of the University of Utah.  As an alumnus, I get their alumni magazine, Continuum.  With all of the other stuff I have to read, I rarely read the magazine all that closely.  I typically just skim through the articles, looking for anything that might seem interesting.  The latest issue was fine, but one thing did catch my eye – an advertisement for City Creek Center.

We all know that City Creek Center is a for-profit shopping center owned by the LDS Church.  That, in itself, breeds a fair amount of cynicism about the motives of the Church.  But the ad went so, so much further.  Here’s the full page advertisement in its entirety:

Full page advertisement in Continuum.
Full page advertisement in Continuum.

You’re probably already seeing some of the issues with this ad, but, in case you don’t, let me go ahead and point out the most obvious ones for you.

First, the women (presumably – I don’t want to gender people, but let’s go with that intended perception) in the upper left quadrant aren’t dressed “modestly” by Church standards:

No garments.
No garments.

I, of course, think there is nothing wrong with this.  But, in a church that photoshops sleeves on little girls to make them appear more modest, this seems a little cynical to me.  It’s like the Church is saying, “City Creek Center isn’t really for Mormons.”

On to the guy on the right.  See any problems given what the LDS Church teaches its members about “proper” dress?

Who is this ex-Mormon?
Who is this ex-Mormon?

It doesn’t get much more “heathen” than this guy.  No garments, obviously!  A man-bun?  And facial hair?  My old stake president would be calling him in for a worthiness interview instantly.  Yeah, he may be physically fit and attractive, but temple recommend holder he is not.  Again, what message is City Creek Center sending with this particular picture?

Now for the coup de grace, this smaller photo:

That's not water in that glass.
That’s not water in that glass.

The two glasses on the right very well could be water.  Of course, vodka and a variety of other liquors are transparent, too, so it may be something else.  And giving that they are clinking their glasses together and saying something like “cheers,” I’m inclined to think it’s not water (though the middle individual sure has a lot of whatever is in her glass if it’s not water).  Regardless of the two on the right, the glass on the left is definitely not water.  Perhaps it’s carbonated apple juice, ’cause, sure, that’s what they have in stock at the various restaurants in City Creek Center, right?  But cynical old me is thinking that’s a white wine.  What, then, is the take away from this last image in the advertisement?  Come to City Creek Center where we have alcohol, you can get inebriated, and have fun doing it (they are all smiling, even if the guy on the left is more smirking than smiling).

Overall, then, this ad for City Creek Center – the for profit shopping center run by the LDS Church – is conveying all of the following: we sell clothing that isn’t garment friendly for all genders, it’s okay for men to have long hair and beards, and drinking is fun.  Hmmm… Isn’t that interesting.  Seems like a rather cynical ploy by LDS, Inc. to increase the bottom line at the expense of the values they teach their members.  I can’t help but also note that this ad was in an alumni magazine from the University of Utah.  I’m sure LDS, Inc. would run a different ad in a BYU alumni magazine.

The cynicism of the leaders of LDS, Inc. to put out an advertisement like this should be pretty shocking to me (but it’s not).  It’s like their not even trying to hide their profit-seeking behind “family values” any more.  This ad is a straight up sales pitch to get people to come to City Creek Center and violate the moral teachings of the Church.  Congratulations, LDS, Inc., you win the award for most cynical advertisement of the year!

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?

Missionary Chat: Florida Property

In case you didn’t catch it, the LDS Church now owns 2% of the state of Florida.  Since I try not to bug my still Mormon family members about the LDS Church very often, I decided to go to the always available source for thoughts on this: Missionary Chat.  My rules for the chat were simple: ask the missionary (turns out there were two) why the LDS Church was buying so much property in Florida, wait for the answer, then say goodbye.  I wasn’t trying to pick a fight or anything, I just wanted to know what a missionary would say (so convenient).  Here’s the transcript (I’m Bob):

David (Really?  Isn’t it Elder Johnson or something?): Hi, how are you?

Bob: Fine. How are you?

David: great thanks! How can we help you today?

Bob: I have a questions about the LDS Church. I’m wondering why the LDS Church owns 2% of the state of Florida.

David: I wasn’t aware of that… What do they own in Florida?

Bob: Hundreds of thousands of acres of property. Deseret Citrus and Cattle Ranch.

David: Oh ok.

Bob: And they just bought another ranch in the panhandle used for timber. Why does a church own so much for-profit property?

Kevin (his companion, I suppose): So a lot of this ties into the churches welfare program. The food or objects produced goes to help people where they need it. Here is a link that expalians a little more on this.

Bob: Okay. Thanks.

Kevin: Ya no problem! Are there any other questions that we can help you with.

Bob: Nope. That’s it. Have a good day.

Kevin: Okay! Have a great day Bob!

So, David had no idea, and Kevin gave the apologetic response, which doesn’t make sense.  Can’t feed timber or shell rock to people without food.  Off to a good start.  I’m going to keep asking my ever-present missionaries questions to see what they know.  Should be fun.

Mormon finances

In case you missed it, Caroline Winter at Bloomberg Business Week recently published an investigative piece on LDS Church finances that is pretty detailed. It’s pretty well-balanced, though I’m sure many Mormons will dismiss it as anti-Mormon based on the cover image alone:

Apparently the article hit a little too close to home for LDS Inc. They have now responded, at length: The Church and Its Financial Independence. Anyone care to estimate what percentage of Mormons are bothered by how opaque Mormon finances are?

MSP post stolen and Mormons stumping

I caught two interesting news stories in my news feed this morning. First is this article in the Tampa Bay Tribune about the LDS Church being one of the largest land owners in the state of Florida: Mormon church is large landowner in Florida. The information provided in the article is EERILY FAMILIAR, as in, it’s basically a duplicate of my post here on MSP from 2009: LDS Inc owns .7% of Florida. I guess it wouldn’t look so good for the reporter, Kevin Wiatrowski, if he cited a website critical of the LDS Church as his source for the article, but plagiarizing a blog post for a news article probably wouldn’t look so good on a resume either. Do me a favor, if you would, and go comment on that article asking Mr. Wiatrowski where he came up with the idea for his article. My guess is that he did a Google search using the words “Mormon” and “Florida” and saw my post as the #1 link, then stole my idea. I could be wrong though.

The second news article that caught my attention didn’t get as much play in the big press as did the fact that Mitt was “Newt-ed” in South Carolina: young Mormons arrived by the busload to stump for Mitt. Since they were young, loud, and energetic, it gave the impression that Mitt had momentum in South Carolina. Um, yeah, not so much. When a reporter questioned their enthusiasm, they admitted they weren’t from South Carolina but rather from D.C. and Utah. It didn’t help Mitt in the end, but I call shenanigans nonetheless.

Pity Party for LDS, Inc./City Creek Reserve Inc.

The Salt Lake Tribune has an article up noting that LDS Inc./City Creek Reserve is having a hard time selling its downtown condos. I know I feel bad for LDS, Inc. I mean, why build condos except to make a profit, right? And City Creek Reserve Inc. really doesn’t have enough money. According to the Salt Lake County Assessor’s Office, they only have $422 million in property they own in Salt Lake County. God needs more. And that means selling condos. And who doesn’t want to live in a condo in a tower owned by LDS, Inc.? What could possibly be wrong with that?

I can’t help but also mention that they started construction in 2008, just after the beginning of the economic recession. They are now lowering prices on the condos. So much for the gift of prophecy on that one…

All those who would like to join me in a vote of thanks to City Creek Reserve Inc. for wisely using the Lord’s money, please do so with a raised hand. All those opposed, comment below. 😉

Sitting on a shelf gathering dust

Food storage is a good example of the divide between liberal and conservative schools of thought. Not all LDS believe in keeping a three months’ supply of food, of course. While it’s been discussed as recently as 2007, I think food storage was always a “soft” commandment. Like journaling and genealogy, some LDS keep a three month supply and some don’t.

A person can be considered a faithful LDS and not have shelves full of canned goods and drinking water. It’s not part of the temple recommend interview (that I know of).
Continue reading “Sitting on a shelf gathering dust”