In a comment thread on a previous post at Latterday Mainstreet (see here) I got into a debate about LDS finances and how much the LDS religion brings in from tithing and other donations. I had heard/read the claim before that the LDS religion actually has an operating budget deficit in the UK (see: http://www.mormoncurtain.com/topic_money.html#pub_-1445867013). That just didn’t make sense to me. So, I fiddled around with some numbers and decided I don’t buy that claim. Here’s what I came up with, and please, if you don’t find these ideas compelling, please tell me where I’m mistaken in my analysis…
In 2004 the LDS religion in the UK claimed total donations of Â£26,151,000 (see here: http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/AccountListing.asp?charitynumber=242451). 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 Â£148 per person (thatâ€™s less than 8% of what each person should be tithing (not 8% of their total, but 8% of the 10% they are supposed to be paying, or .8% of the total based on average incomes; see below).
Since we believe members will pay more than that in tithing for two reasons, letâ€™s try something elseâ€¦ (What are the two reason? 1) Mormons are supposed to pay a full tithe, 10%. 2) This study Hoge, Dean R. and Fenggang Yang. 1994. â€œDeterminants of Religious Giving in American Denominations: Data From Two Nationwide Surveys.â€ Review of Religious Research 36(2):123-150. found that Mormons do, on average, pay more than most, but only around 6% (naughty Mormons).)
We know the per capita GDP in the UK is Â£19,009.75 (thatâ€™s converted from dollars; see Wikipedia’s entry on the UK). 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 absolutely not true; well over 50% of the women in the UK work), then we can multiply that by 3 (supporting wife and kid) and we get a total Mormon population in the UK of: 41,270. Thatâ€™s 23% of the claimed total by the LDS religion.
So, either everyone is paying a .8% tithe 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: Â£78,557,766. Thatâ€™s 3 times what the LDS religion is claiming. Where the hell is all the money?
Iâ€™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 weâ€™re not just talking a minor depreciationâ€¦ Weâ€™re talking over Â£6,000,000 per year in general asset depreciation (it has that many computers?). Additionally, the alleged â€œloanâ€ from Utah isnâ€™t a loan at all but a â€œcancellation of debt.â€ That sounds like finagling numbers to come up with a financial report.
So, which is it? 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 (or a combination).