mindless, outwardly moral, drones

Appearances Politics Power

I recently read the book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. While the book itself is over-rated and not as good as I had hoped, there was a point made in the book that made me think of Mormonism. The author, John Perkins, talks about the “new army” of empires being substantially different from the old army. When empires wanted to expand prior to the industrial revolution (and even for about a century after the industrial revolution), they used traditional warfare – thousands and thousands of soldiers, equipped with the implements of war were sent to invade a territory, killing and terrorizing all to gain a little more land, some additional power, and greater contributions to the treasury of the empire.

While this method is still used on occasion today (okay, probably more than on occasion, but certainly less frequently than it used to be), Mr. Perkins argues that empires have a better army now: businesspeople. These individuals travel around the world in business suits negotiating and manipulating the citizens of developing countries with the interests of their multi-national companies in mind. Those multi-nationals (e.g., Proctor & Gamble, Toyota, Wal-Mart, etc.) are, in themselves, empires of sorts. The great irony in this new trend is that, where traditional soldiers had a very specific aura about them (both awe and horror at what they stand for: semi-legitimated violence), the new soldiers are typically considered moral, ethical, benevolent, humane, and without reproach. These are upstanding individuals who have nice homes, wives, kids, and a vested interest in their local school and community. These are “good global citizens.” All the while they are, in some sense, enslaving the citizens of developing countries to increase the profits of multi-national corporations (and, typically, making millions for the corrupt leaders of developing countries in the process). They are almost as effective in their “military campaigns” as are the traditional armies.

What does this have to do with Mormonism? Think “missionary.”

Missionaries are no different than the new army of the multi-national, and by “no different,” I quite literally mean “no different.” They travel the world in business suits negotiating and manipulating the citizens of developing countries with the interests of their multi-national company – the LDS religion – in mind. The ultimate goal is to turn Mormonism into an empire, with holdings, power, control, and ever-increasing profit bases throughout the world. The great irony is also identical: Mormon missionaries are traditionally seen as the paragons of virtue – no smoking, drinking, rabble-rousing, carousing, or otherwise unethical behavior (all bullshit if you’ve ever served a mission, but the image is nice). Yet, these same, outwardly moral individuals, are actually the pawns in a much larger game. That game is called, “Making Gordon Fat and Happy.” The scariest part is that virtually no one involved in the religious empire building seems to realize it is taking place, unlike multi-national corporation empire building (think World Bank and G8 protests). The people who sign on to Mormonism drink the kool-aid and begin recruiting themselves. And the process continues.

Even though upwards of 70% of the converts leave within 5 years, they don’t generally leave because they realize the kool-aid is laced with cyanide; they leave because they don’t feel welcome, they are bored, or their interests change. Often, they end up becoming members of a different religious empire – Pentecostalism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Roman Catholicism.

Mormon missionaries are not paragons of virtues. They are mindless, outwardly moral, drones with a unitary focus: expanding the global empire of their evil overlords to bring more money into the coffers. If there was a list of the most immoral jobs in the world, and there should be, Mormon missionary would be in the top 10. #1 – Pope. #2 – Mormon prophet.

22 thoughts on “mindless, outwardly moral, drones

  1. I’m not convinced there’s been all that big a change.

    Colonialism has always had a huge component that is commerce and trade. Those doing the colonizing typically look virtuous to the people back home who sent them, whether the colonizers are traditional (Christian) missionaries, soldiers, or (pious) traders/businessmen. And the foreigners typically get a mixed reaction from the locals (some impressed and grateful, others suspicious).

    Then as now, imperial/colonial stability is ensured by a civilian population who have a strong economic interest in promoting trade (especially in their own favor) and consequently have a strong interest in making themselves appear just, virtuous, and deserving. Then backing up their position with military might only becomes necessary occasionally.

    I’m oversimplifying a bit, but it is my impression that this has been a standard (if unintentional/unconscious) strategy for many centuries.

  2. I agree, to some extent at least. What I think has changed is that these businessmen now represent companies that are, for all intents and purposes, disassociated with governments (though they still often use governments when they can/need to). For example, Halliburton just moved its headquarters to Dubai. Does it really matter where Halliburton is headquartered, though? 50 years ago it probably would have. Today, I don’t think it does. They can be located wherever they want and still wreak havoc on the citizenry of countries.

    The same is true of Mormonism. Mormon missionaries don’t represent the U.S. government (though some foreigners certainly see them in that light). They represent a multi-national corporation that has corporate offices in dozens of countries around the world.

    It’s kind of an intricate argument, when you think about it. Were these large companies more closely allied with governments in the past than they are today? I think they were, and, as a result, they had the backing of government force (e.g., traditional military might) when things didn’t go their way (not true of Mormonism, but true of Catholicism). Today, as Brazil loses hundreds of thousands Catholics to Pentecostalism every year, there is no military beholden to Roman Catholicism that is going to stop the conversions. Go back a couple hundred years and that may actually have taken place (hell, just 30 years ago Roman Catholicism was so closely tied to the government that it probably played a role in killing some of its own priests who supported Liberation Theology in Latin America).

    The same is true for corporations, like Standard Fruit, that used U.S. military resources to exploit Central American governments. That probably still happens on rare occasions, but much less frequently. The multi-nationals are now working alone or use economic sanctions to get their way. So, have things changed? Probably not a lot, but a little – multi-nationals either work independent from government (some even hire their own soldiers) or use economic sanctions as bludgeons to get their way.

  3. Interesting if provocative post, Exmoron. I think that you are fundamentally correct that the border between righteousness and self-righteousness is narrow. I do disagree, however, with several of your details.

    As a return missionary, I still don’t see my former self as a thoughtless drone. If I had been a thoughtless drone then the mission experience would have hurt a lot less.

    My problem was rather that the Mormon program made it quite difficult for missionaries to convert people rather than just to baptize another statistic.

    I also do not see my fellow missionaries as thoughtless drones. Just as I was disoriented by my Mormon environment, there were a lot of people who had trouble figuring out Germany. A lot of us tried to do the right thing, work hard, treat people humanely, and help them to obtain their salvation.

    Disorientation played a big role and in some cases, there were missionaries that really did not want to be there. In hindsight I wish, I would have understood them better and treated them with more respect.

    The only missionaries that acted unethically were really the careerists who pandered to their peers all month long by ridiculing the rules, embarrassing the Church in public with their boisterous behavior, and then squeezed their tear ducts accompanied by some drivel about success and positive thinking during zone conference.

    They were the only self-righteous ones who strategically created impressions of piety to promote themselves. The rest of us might have been implicated in self-righteous but we were sincere.

  4. Hellmut — Your story reminds me a bit of some things Rudi recounted about his mission. (Like you, he’s a European who served an LDS mission in Europe.)

    He seemed to indicate that there were some differences in culture and behavoir between missionaries from the Mormon corridor vs. missionaries from elsewhere. The difference seemed to center around the fact that for the one group it is a big deal to be able to say “I was ZL” or “I was AP” whereas for the other group it is a big deal to make the choice and effort to go on a mission at all. Naturally this leads to a certain amount of pious self-promotion in the former group and a certain amount of disillusionment for the latter group.

  5. Hellmut… That’s an intriguing, but slightly different interpretation of what I was suggesting (I think). I think you’re right about sincerity, but what I’m arguing is basically the difference between “latent” and “manifest” purposes. This is distinction Merton introduced in Sociology. Basically, people can have a “manifest” reason for why they are doing something, which is basically whatever reason they give. The “latent” reason is either the “true” reason or a way that they benefit without actually knowing it.

    Now, let me use your examples. The missionaries in your mission who were sincere in their interest to help people had a “manifest” reason for being there – they really wanted to help people. Likewise, the missionaries who didn’t want to be there and just messed around also had a “manifest” reason for being there – either their parents made them or they felt obligated to be there. In both cases, the reason for doing what they were doing was the “manifest” reason – the reason they would actually give.

    But there are also latent reasons, reasons they either don’t admit or don’t necessarily know about it. In the case of the sincere missionary, a possible latent reason would be to fulfill an obligation or maybe because, at some level, they believe they will reap some rewards as a result. For the insincere missionary, they probably have many latent reasons – to ensure their girlfriend will marry them, to look good to their parents and friends, etc.

    What I was really trying to argue, however, is that the LDS religion actually has manifest and latent reasons for sending missionaries out in the first place. The manifest reason is obvious – to convert people to the religion. But the latent ones are far more sinister, even if subtle. The first and most obvious is to reinforce the beliefs of the missionaries themselves (and there is evidence to indicate that returned missionaries are more orthodox in their beliefs and more active than non-returned missionaries). Another latent reason is the one I was arguing for – empire building. It’s crass and not very flattering for the LDS religion, but I really see them as using missionaries to build up their financial base. The more members, the greater the income – pure and simple.

    What’s more, in this last, latent sense, the missionaries are pretty much completely oblivious to the reason. I’m guessing you rarely, if ever, thought while a missionary that what you were doing was actually empire-building for a multi-national corporation. And you probably didn’t think much about how the converts you brought in would contribute to the coffers of LDS Inc. In that sense, missionaries are mindless drones. They believe they are doing right, but are actually serving the latent purposes of a religion primarily interested in watching its bank accounts grow.

    Does that make more sense?

  6. Exmoron, your explication is very interesting and quite on the money, but I guess where I would take issue (and I think this may be where Hellmut is coming from–though I certainly won’t speak for him) is in terminology.

    I think rather than “mindless drone,” a more accurate term would be “unwitting tool.” I think that still works with your analysis.

  7. exmoron,

    If the LDS church is sending out missionaries to build up its financial base then it is run by the worst business people on earth. The church could get a better ROI in any number of places–even a simple index fund pegged to the S&P 500.

  8. Belaja… Exactly! I agree – that is a better term – unwitting tool! Thanks for the terminology.

    Matthew… Okay, I have a good sense where you are going (and where you are coming from). Absolutely there are other ways to invest money. And, as a matter of fact, the LDS religion does invest billions of dollars. It holds stock in hundreds of companies and owns others outright. It also owns billions of dollars worth of land and buildings. The LDS religion is worth a lot of money – A LOT!

    Now, never has the manifest purpose of the religion been claimed to be to make money, but it’s latent purpose has been to do so since day one (can you say Kirtland Bank scandal?). And if you look at what the religion has been doing in the last 20 to 30 years, it’s hard not to see it as a financial empire. How else do you explain a multi-billion dollar mall? Seriously, how else do you explain that in a way that makes sense? (Even modern megachurches haven’t turned to such hardcore merchandising to actually hold services in a mall 😉 How else do you explain the many corporations owned by the religion?

    As for your point about better ways to invest money, again, sure, there are some good ways. But think about it this way:

    First, where do you get your money to invest? If you’re a sorry sap like you or me, you probably work at a back-breaking job (okay, my job isn’t really back-breaking, but it’s a job). If you could just convince people to give you money so you could invest it and make yourself a profit without ever giving anything back to the people who gave you the money, would you do it? That’s exactly what the LDS religion is doing. It is taking money from members and investing it – no strings attached. Members have absolutely zero say over the investments and see none of the returns.

    Second, 10% guaranteed rate of return on every member’s salary is pretty damn good. The S&P doesn’t return that good of a rate consistently – it’s closer to 7% averaged over decades. Seriously, a 10% rate of return (the actual rate for Mormons is closer to 7% to 8% based on self-reported data – reference available upon request) is amazing! And there is basically zero risk! You don’t get that with a CD, a bond, stocks, etc. You don’t even get that by carrying home loans. The only corporations that can beat that are credit card companies, who can charge up to 25% on balances.

    The LDS religion gets money from its members for a pittance in return (a place to worship, crappy lesson plans, and a brain dead dogma) and as long as the members continue in the ponzi scheme, the religion is guaranteed 10% of all their future earnings. It then takes that money and invests it in other ways – large corporations, stock, land, buildings, etc. So it gets free money for investing and keeps all of the return. That is nothing short of criminal!

    In short, free money (or as near to free as you can get) is better than taking risks in the stock market. 10% blows the S&P out of the water. Your assertion, Matthew, is, in my opinion, wrong. There is no better investment than religion – if you are the person running it. If you’re the person being scammed, you’re better putting your money in a CD – no risk, decent return, and no boring meetings to attend 😉

  9. exmoron:

    Most of the church’s growth comes in places that are not able to sustain themselves from the donations of the members. The result is that most of the church’s growth is paid for via members’ donations in a few rich countries such as the United States. If an organization’s liabilities continuously grow faster than assets then an organization eventually goes insolvent. This is the situation the church is facing now–liabilities are growing faster than assets, a trend that has accelerated as growth rates in the U.S and Canada have fallen. It reminds me of the joke from the dot com bubble: “We lose $.25 on every widget we sell but we plan to make it up on volume.”

    If the purpose of the church was to maximize profits it would direct more of its resources towards its “profit centers” instead of spending resources on areas which are unlikely to ever be self-sustaining.

    The church accumulated assets for many years–probably in anticipation of a time when its liabilities would grow quicker than its assets. As you point out, the history of the church has not been one of uninterrupted prosperity–rather through hard experience the church has learned the benefit of investing wisely in the present in order to prepare for the future. The future is now and while the church’s balance sheet is still purportedly strong if it is going to sustain itself at current rates it will likely need to draw down on some of its investments in the future.

    Your theory of latent vs. manifest purposes basically boils down to you getting to decide what really motivates individuals or institutions–all protestations to the contrary. Thus Hellmut’s objections are unimportant–you know why he really served a mission. This is completely self-serving means of providing yourself with a narrative that fits your world view.

    The advantage, of course, is that anyone can do it. For instance–I could postulate the latent reason you spend time thinking up reasons why the church is into empire building is because you have a latent desire to overcome a sense of powerlessness left by your interaction with the church. But while the answer may appeal to me personally, it doesn’t serve to advance the ball. Likewise your ‘insights’ into the church’s real motivation are useless to anyone not already predisposed to believe them.

  10. Matthew, your argument might almost make sense except your fundamental argument is not based on accurate data. The church takes more money from developing countries than it gives to them. Check these two articles for verification:
    -Walker, Bradley. 2002. “Spreading Zion Southward, Part I: Improving Efficiency and Equity in the Allocation of Church Welfare Resources.” Dialogue 35(4):91-109.
    -Walker, Bradley. 2003. “Spreading Zion Southward, Part II: Sharing Our Loaves and Fishes.” Dialogue 36(1):33-47.

    Bradley Walker clearly illustrates that the LDS religion does not give back to developing countries nearly as much as it could. The flow of money is to the U.S., not from the U.S. You drank the kool aid on that one; that’s precisely what the LDS religion wants you to think. Unfortunately (and I mean that sincerely), it’s just not true.

    As for the latent and manifest purposes, you did raise a good point – you could just randomly assign purposes that suit your agenda. I wasn’t really trying to do that, just pointing out that we all tend to have both manifest and latent purposes in the things we do. I never said Hellmut served a mission exclusively for latent or manifest purposes – I just gave examples. I don’t claim to know his reasons for serving a mission. For all I know, his sincerity is without reproach. Even so, one of the latent purposes of him serving a mission, whether he was aware of it or not, was to recruit future tithes into the coffers of the LDS religion. Sincere or not, that’s what he did.

    I like how you end your last comment with an ad hominem, claiming I just have an ax to grind, so I deny the truth, blah, blah, blah. That’s a logical fallacy – attacking the person, not the argument. I believe my argument stands: The LDS religion is a money hungry corporation. You never answered why it needs a mall. You never answered why it owns hundreds of corporations (including radio stations as far from Salt Lake as Missouri). No need for ad hominems – just address my points. Thanks!

  11. “The church takes more money from developing countries than it gives to them. Check these two articles for verification:”

    I checked. Neither article states or shows the church takes more money from developing countries than it gives to them. This isn’t surprising since it isn’t the case. They are both interesting articles though and I like their general message about better allocation of welfare resources and humanitarian aid.

    “Bradley Walker clearly illustrates that the LDS religion does not give back to developing countries nearly as much as it could.” True.

    “The flow of money is to the U.S., not from the U.S.” False. You and I are making global claims about the flow of money. Walker is focusing on a very small portion of the flow of money–and even then the claim is not that money flows from poorer countries to the U.S., but that more money should flow from the U.S. to poorer countries than currently does (which I have no problem supporting if Walker’s data is accurate).

    “I like how you end your last comment with an ad hominem, claiming I just have an ax to grind, so I deny the truth, blah, blah, blah.”

    I don’t recall saying any of that. In particular I take issue with your characterization that I said you denied the truth[fullness of the church]. I haven’t taken a position on the truthfullness of the church here and questions of religious beliefs are extraneous to the discussion. The purpose of my hypothetical was to illustrate the useless nature of trying to discern “latent” reasons or purposes for doing something. I used you as a subject to drive home the point because you know more about your own motivations than some random guy on a blog. I’m sorry you felt personally attacked as that was not my intent.

    “You never answered why it needs a mall.” I did: The church accumulated assets for many years–probably in anticipation of a time when its liabilities would grow quicker than its assets.

  12. You’re right, those articles don’t explicitly state that the LDS Church takes more in total dollars (tithing and fast offerings) from LDCs than it gives, though it gives back in fast offerings about as much as it gets – close to a 1:1 ratio (only 2% of fast offering money goes to Less Developed Countries (LDCs) while the remaining 98% goes to Well-Developed Countries (WCs)). I read those articles several years ago and thought they said more about church finances… I should have glanced over them again. Anyway…

    As for tithing, Walker doesn’t delve into that in any depth. If the same ratio holds true, which we may never know is the case, then there is a net flow of funds between the LDCs and the WCs of 0. In other words, the membership in the well-developed countries basically doesn’t give anything to the membership in the less-developed countries. That’s a sorry state of affairs (and I think you agree with that).

    Overall, given the secrecy surrounding the finances of the LDS religion, we probably can’t say whether there is a net flow in or out of church coffers. Fine.

    My original point in the post was that Mormon missionaries are unwitting tools (new terminology) of the LDS religion to bolster its international empire. I also still believe that the religion is interested in building its economic assets and financial prowess, none of which is returned to the members. I don’t find your argument about accumulating assets in case of future economic shortfalls very compelling. If the LDS religion experiences an economic shortfall, it can always ask for more money from members. But when members experience economic shortfalls, how often does the religion give to members? How often are bishop’s storehouses tapped? Additionally, how does a billion dollar plus mall prepare the religion for future economic shortfalls? Isn’t it a liability and a potential asset? And couldn’t a billion dollars plus save the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of starving children in LDCs around the world? That doesn’t seem like a charitable religion, but a greedy religion.

    Returning to Walker’s article about charitable giving, he makes a number of really great points about other religions that make charitable contributions and illustrates that the LDS religion gives much less as a percentage than do other churches (e.g., Lutherans give about 4 times as much relative to the money they take in). Mormons spend more on proselytizing than charity. How should I interpret that? That, to me, indicates the religion is more interested in taking than giving. My opinion. You may not agree (probably won’t), but that seems like the only logical interpretation to me.

  13. Walker doesn’t delve into global finances except to recognize that WC countries materially subsidize LDC countries:

    “It is not entirely clear why the church has allocated fewer missionary-years to the LDCs, where converts per missionary are the most numerous. One reason might be economic, in the sense that more rapid growth in the LDCs could outstrip the ability of WC members to sustain the material subsidies requried by that growth–or, at least such might be the fear among church leaders.” -Walker, Bradley. 2003. “Spreading Zion Southward, Part II: Sharing Our Loaves and Fishes.” Dialogue 36(1):33-47, 40.

    If rich countries did not give anything to poor countries I would agree that is a sorry state of affairs. Since that is not the case it doesn’t keep me up at night.

    “But when members experience economic shortfalls, how often does the religion give to members? How often are bishop’s storehouses tapped?”

    The only time I was in a position to know I was stunned at how much money flowed to needy members–some in the form of food but most in the form of checks make out to power companies, landlords etc. Some weeks thousands of dollars. Anedotal to be sure–but powerful enough that it changed the way I viewed the institution.

    “Mormons spend more on proselytizing than charity. How should I interpret that? That, to me, indicates the religion is more interested in taking than giving.”

    You’re right, I disagree. This indicates that Mormons and the church take its truth claims seriously. This has been my point all along–if Mormonism was about maximizing wealth, the church could pursue any number of strategies that would yield a better return than investing in missionary work, building non-income producing buildings and printing Books of Mormon. But the church believes it has been entrusted with the unique mission, part of which involves preaching the restored gospel. Whether or not you believe that the church is true will likely determine whether you think it is allocating its resources wisely when it spends more on missionary work than other churches. You don’t believe in the church’s truth claims and so don’t think it is giving anything when it sends missionaries out to preach to the unconverted. Others will see things differently. At the end of the day, however, it is evidence the church, at least, thinks it has something incredibly important to share with the world.

  14. We do know from the British Charity Commission that the LDS Church has to subsidize even its subsidiary in Britain with several million dollars a year.

    In 1984/85 Elder Hales shared at the priesthood meeting of the Düsseldorf Germany stake that Britons were raising about half of their budget while Germany raised about twice its budget. May be, the German surplus has been decreased since unification.

    To me, it seems plausible to assume that US tithes are supporting LDS infrastructure in developing countries.

  15. I served part of my mission in the Düsseldorf Stake! Most of it was in the Dortmund Stake, though. Common wisdom was that Germany was heavily dependent on US tithing funds. But that might have been biased USian missionary “common” wisdom.

  16. I lived in Cologne at the time, Kullervo.

    Keep in mind that you served your mission in Germany’s rust belt. In light of Hales’s declaration, I am pretty confident that German contributions were sufficient. In places such as Munich, Salzburg, Heidelberg, Hamburg, and Frankfurt, Mormons were decidedly more middle class than in the Dortmund stake.

    I would also expect that Japan and Canada generate surpluses. Other than that, I cannot imagine that the LDS Church is making money abroad.

  17. A couple if/then’s for this thread:

    Q1: If the leaders of the Mormon religion know it is not true, then why are they spending so much spreading the gospel?
    A1: They are increasing tithe payers.

    Q2: If the leaders of the Mormon religion believe it is true, then why are they spending so much spreading the gospel?
    A2: They are trying to share what they believe as they believe it is true.

    We don’t know if Q1 or Q2 is the case. In my more cynical moments, I think it is exclusively Q1, but it is probably a combination, mostly favoring Q2 (most probably believe it). I think Matthew and others would agree with these assertions, if Q1, then A1. If Q2, then A2.

    As for whether the LDS religion supports itself in developing countries, why not fiddle around with some numbers. I served my mission in Costa Rica, so let’s play with that country. Per capita GDP is $12,000 per year. The LDS religion reported 32,790 members in 2003. If Knowlton and Phillips are right, the actual number is about 50% of that, or somewhere around 15,000 members. Of those, let’s say 1/3 are children, so only about 10,000 actually pay a tithe (assuming both husband and wife work). If we go with these numbers, the LDS religion brings in $12 million per year in Costa Rica, alone (assuming a full tithe from 10,000 members). Certainly there are expenses – there are probably 100 to 150 buildings in the country (which translates into only 100 to 150 members per building). All are tax free, but maintenance and utilities certainly take up some funds. Cleaning is done by members, of course, so we can rule that out. And expenses are cheaper in Costa Rica. So, let’s say each building costs $1,000 per month in utilities, upkeep, etc. That’s $1.2 million per year in building upkeep. Salaries for CES people and other employees probably make up another couple million. I’m not trying to fudge numbers here, but this leaves a surplus of about: $12 million – $3.2 million = $8.8 million. Even if we revise these numbers down substantially and say only half of the amount I estimated comes in, the LDS religion still has a $3 million dollar surplus. Those tithing funds don’t go to the missionaries or anything else – most LDS missionaries pay for themselves (at $375+ per month).

    I welcome others to play with these numbers, but these seem to indicate a substantial surplus in the favor of the LDS religion. And this isn’t even taking into account the fact that Mormons (at least in the U.S.) tend to be above average in level of education and tend to make slightly more money (and there is some evidence to indicate this is true in Central America – see the work by Henri Gooren). I also happen to know that one of the owners of Rey Coffee, the biggest coffee manufacturer in Costa Rica, is a Mormon (such irony), and that he gives far more than $1,200 per year in tithing.

    We could probably repeat this analysis country by country and find a surplus in all but the poorest countries (e.g., African countries). Try it with Germany:
    members = 36,704 in 2003 (actual members, 15,000; 10,000 tithe payers)
    per capita GDP = $35,072
    total “donations” = $35 million
    buildings = probably 100 to 150
    upkeep = more than Costa Rica, probably triple – $3.6 million
    salaries = $6 million
    surplus = $35 million – $9.6 million = $25.4 million

  18. Exmoron,

    We know for certain that England, a wealthy country, runs a deficit. That is far better data point than anything you have provided above.

    Query: What percentage of the adult members of Costa Rica are active? What percentage of the active members pay a partial or full tithe? What does it cost to build a building Costa Rica?

  19. You should also probably consider that the majority of active adults in the church are women who are much less likely to earn a substantial or any income at all–especially in more traditional places such as Costa Rica.

  20. I’ve seen the claim that the UK runs a deficit before (http://www.mormoncurtain.com/topic_money.html#pub_-1445867013) and (http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/AccountListing.asp?charitynumber=242451).

    Just because I’m hard-headed, I thought I’d take a closer look at those reports. Turns out, surprise, surprise, I think they are total BS. Let’s toy with some more numbers.

    In 2004 the LDS religion claimed total donations of $26,151,000 (all $ = pounds; bear with me on my US keyboard). Now, according to the LDS religion, there were 176,226 members in the UK in 2003. If every member were a tithe payer, that would translate into $148 per person (that’s less than 8% of what each person should be tithing).

    Since we believe members will pay more than that in tithing, let’s try something else… We know the per capita GDP in the UK is $19009.75 (that’s in pounds, converted from dollars; see Wikipedia). That means a full tithe for the average Mormon in the UK is $1,901. How many full tithe payers would it take to make up the amount of donations claimed by the LDS religion in the UK? The answer: a whopping 13,757! Yep, if every tithe payer in the UK is a full tithe payer, then there are only 13,757 Mormon tithe payers in the UK. If we assume only men work in the UK (which is pure BS), then we can multiply that by 3 (supporting wife and kid) and we get a total Mormon population in the UK of: 41,270. That’s 23% of the claimed total by the LDS religion.

    So, either everyone is paying 8% of what they should be or only 13,757 people are paying all they should be. That is, of course, a false dichotomy. The third option is: there are only about 1/2 the claimed members in the country (88,113) and 1/3 of those are kids, leaving 59,036 adult members. If those remaining 59,036 paid just 7% of their income rather than the obligatory 10%, total donations would be: $78,557,766. That’s 3 times what the LDS religion is claiming. Where the hell is all the money?

    Either Mormons in the UK don’t pay hardly anything in tithes, the claimed number of Mormons in the UK is actually far lower than the religion claims, or there is one other option: the LDS religion is fudging the donation numbers.

    I’m not an accountant. Even so, those financial sheets are extremely fishy. Has anyone pointed out that the UK branch of the LDS religion is taking two depreciations – one for general assets, which it factors into its cash flow (misleadingly) and the other for buildings and land? And we’re not just talking a minor depreciation… We’re talking over $6,000,000 per year in general asset depreciation (it has that many computers?). Additionally, the alleged “loan” from Utah isn’t a loan at all but a “cancellation of debt.” That sounds like finagling numbers to come up with a financial report.

    So, what do you say, Matthew? Is the LDS religion in the UK:
    1) lying on its financial reports
    2) severely over-reporting its membership
    3) or full of non-tithe-paying leeches
    The answer has to be one of those three.

    As per your other comments:
    1) The majority of active members are women. True, but in most religions this majority is, at most, about 60%. Let’s not make more of this than should be made of it. And, Mormon women are just as likely to work as are non-Mormon women, they are just more likely to work in part-time, low-wage jobs. (Heaton, Tim B., Kristen L. Goodman, and Thomas B. Holman. 2001. “In Search of a Peculiar People: Are Mormon Families Really Different?” Pp. 87-117 in Contemporary Mormonism: Social Science Perspectives. Illinois : University of Illinois Press. See Heaton’s new book as well.)
    2) What percentage of the Mormon population in Costa Rica are active? I estimated half. If you read Knowlton and Phillips you’ll see that is about accurate: (Knowlton, David Clark. 2005. “How Many Members Are There Really? Two Censuses and the Meaning of LDS Membership in Chile and Mexico.” Dialogue 38(2):53-78. Phillips, Rick. 2006. “Rethinking the International Expansion of Mormonism.” Nova Religio 10(1):52-68. )
    3) I don’t know how much it costs to build a building in Costa Rica. I never built one.

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