LDS Inc. owns .7% of Florida

Money Tithing

My brother-in-law came to visit last weekend. As science geeks, we tried to see a shuttle launch while he was here (the launch was canceled 11 minutes before liftoff because of weather – ugh!). On the way to watch the launch we stopped by Deseret Citrus and Cattle Ranch to see the Mormon Church’s ranching operations:

sign by main entrance
sign by main entrance

Alas, as former Mormons, we failed to consider that they wouldn’t offer tours on Sunday. But we stopped by the Visitor’s Center anyway and drove around a bit. Here’s the Visitor’s Center:

the Visitor's Center
the Visitor's Center

I knew from the Deseret Ranches’ website and this wikipedia page that the ranch was big, but actually driving around the ranch made me wonder just how big it is. So, I spent a good 10 hours or so trying to see if I could map out just how big the ranch is. After all that time, I realized it was simply too big for me to easily map out by myself. But, the research I did do provided me with some fascinating information.

First off, thanks to a corporation registration website in Florida, I was able to track the name changes of the holding companies for the ranch over the years, eventually finding the current name. It used to be Deseret Properties of Florida, Inc., Deseret Farms, Inc., Deseret Farms Inc., Deseret Ranches of Florida, Inc., Deseret Livestock Company, Deseret Properties of Florida, Inc., Deseret Ranches of Florida, Inc. (1), Deseret Ranches of Florida, Inc. (2), but it is now called Farmland Reserve, Inc.. Once I finally found the current holding company, I was able to visit the property tax appraisers’ websites for the three main counties where the ranch is located: Osceola, Orange, and Brevard. On those sites I found all the property listings of Farmland Reserve, Inc. Here’s a summary of what I found after I added them all up:

County Acres Value
Osceola 182,685.50 $763,252,812.00
Orange 64,843.57 $208,286,252.00
Brevard 41,559.66 $12,552,680.00
Hillsborough-FRI 3,952.94 $30,145,012.00
Total 293,041.67 $1,014,236,756.00

Yep, you’re eyes do not deceive you – LDS, Inc. has more than $1 billion in for-profit property in Florida. The acres convert to 457 square miles, or .7% of the State of Florida. I can’t say for certain, but my guess is that LDS, Inc. is the largest landholder in the state behind the government. For comparative purposes, Disney owns 25,000 acres (that’s all of their properties, not just Disney World), or about 1/12th of the land owned by the LDS, Inc. holding company.

To tally all of this information, I actually built a spreadsheet that you’re welcome to download and peruse. I also started drawing the land parcels in Google Earth, but once I realized just how many there were, I decided I just didn’t have the time. I did complete all the land in Orange County and started on the land in Osceola County. If you want to see the maps or, better yet, if you’d like to improve/complete the maps, you can download them here: Orange County, Osceola County. If you do download them and improve them, please send me a copy of the updated versions as I’d like to have them.

As I was searching through these listings, on a whim I decided to see if Farmland Reserve, Inc. owned any property in my county, Hillsborough, FL, which is all the way across the state from Osceola and Brevard Counties. Turns out they do (see above table). That’s in addition to the $12 million owned by “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Corporation”, which is the company that holds the churches. This makes me wonder just how much property Farmland Reserve Inc. owns. I checked a couple additional counties in Florida but didn’t find any more property.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit the ranch is because my aunt and uncle recently completed a mission there (I should have gone while they were there, but never made it). The amazing thing about the fact that they served a mission there is that they did zero proselytizing and they paid to serve their mission. So, what did they do? My uncle was a high school shop teacher. He knows how to build and repair homes. So, they put him to work building homes on the ranch. He’s round 70 years old and was working 12 hour days 6 days a week for 18 months. His wife ran some of the tours and did other odd jobs around the ranch. When I found out that my aunt and uncle were paying for the opportunity to work for Farmland Reserve, Inc., a billion dollar for profit company, I was not very happy. Not only did the LDS Church use tithing money to buy the ranch (I’m assuming, maybe it was profit from some other business venture), but now it makes people pay for the opportunity to make one of their subsidiaries money. How is that at all ethical?

To wit, the obvious question is: How does the billion dollar ranching operation of the LDS Church further its religious aims? Why does a religion need a billion dollar ranch? Anyone?

Finally, all this searching around for property owned by LDS, Inc. led me to realize that we, the MSP community, could probably put together a pretty good estimate of the property holdings of LDS, Inc. (in the US at least) fairly easily if we distributed the work among us. If each person looked up the holdings of LDS, Inc. in their county and put them in a spreadsheet, we could aggregate them and keep a running total of known property value of the LDS religion. It would make a cool little widget for MSP to display. Thoughts?

259 thoughts on “LDS Inc. owns .7% of Florida

  1. I find the whole “money” aspect of Mormonism unseemly–from tithing to ranches to malls. I know we live in a world where money is required to achieve just about everything, but still, UNSEEMLY.

    It was actually the priority my Bishop and Stake President put on the amount of tithing I was contributing, before my temple wedding, that was one of the earliest alarm bells that went off in my head regarding Mormonism. It was like paying to get to the next level of the gospel. Made me uncomfortable then and makes me mad now. LOL

    The whole mission thing to further the financial earnings of the church just boggles the mind.

  2. Wow. This is amazing research. Great work.

    The part about your parents’ mission is pretty shocking. You’re right; that doesn’t strike me as ethical at all. I guess the LDS Church figures that if it can’t convert the world, maybe it can buy it. 🙂

    After a little poking around on the web, I figured out how to search for corporate data in my state. Plugging in Deseret gives a couple dozen entries, most of them suspended, forfeited, or dissolved. Suspension and forfeiting apparently occur due to a failure to pay taxes or a failure to file the required paperwork. The companies named “Deseret” include telecommunications, farming, mortgage, gift card, and construction companies. Some of these, though, may not be Church-owned. I’ve never done this sort of research before, so I’m really not sure what I’m doing. 😉

    We have Farmland Reserve here, too. I’ll have to do some more searching and see if I can find out what their holdings are.

  3. Wow! I’d heard that LDS Inc, has huge for-profit land (and business) holdings, but it’s shocking how much it really is.

    I assume that (being a religion) they’re exempt from having to report or declare (to the public or anyone) how much the corporation of the president of the CoJCoLDS owns…

  4. It is too bad you didn’t visit your aunt and uncle while they were there. They might have cleared up some of your questions, if not your cynicism. They might have told you that the beef and agricultural product from these farms is sent to storehouses, where the food is given free to people who need it to live. In other words, it is the backbone of the non-governmental welfare system in the world. I’m not sure how any of this constitutes “for profit.”

    Nut that shouldn’t stop anyone from throwing bombs anyway. It would seem a shame to work up all that hate and not be able to share it.

  5. Good to meet you, Rick. I am aware of welfare farms. But I find it implausible that those corporations are welfare farms.

    If they were welfare farms then the LDS Church could incorporate them as non-profits and save the property taxes.

    Anyways, I would love to know what is actually going on. Unfortunately, there is no way to find out for sure because, unlike many other religions, our church is refusing to open the books.

  6. By the way, Rick, nobody here “hates” the LDS Church, especially, not ProfXM. Some of us do think, however, that the LDS Church would benefit from a little accountability.

  7. Hi Rick,

    You’re right that I should have visited when my aunt and uncle were there. They may have been able to explain where the beef went. I doubt it goes to storehouses, exclusively, but I could be wrong.

    However, your optimism as to the charitable aims of the operation seems a bit unfounded. The website of the ranches openly admits to selling seashells (http://www.deseretranchflorida.com/r-mining.html) for roadbeds and other industrial uses. Of course, they don’t report their profits from that operation, but I’m guessing they aren’t giving those seashells away as part of their charitable operations. Unless there is some charitable component to seashells of which I am unaware? Are they useful for food storage? Maybe they make nice necklaces for tsunami victims? 😉

    They also sell sod (http://www.deseretranchflorida.com/r-sod.html) and timber (http://www.deseretranchflorida.com/r-trees.html) on the ranch, neither of which seems like an ideal candidate for charitable donations or a non-governmental welfare system. But, then again, my “hate” may be keeping me from seeing how sod, seashells, and timber can be used for charitable purposes.

    As for me “hating” the LDS Church, well, that’s an easy dismissal of the point of my post and an ad hominem. I raised a question about the ethics of a religion owning a billion dollar ranch. You accuse me of hating them. How does your accusal have anything to do with the ethics of the LDS Church owning a billion dollar ranch? To answer my own question: it doesn’t. What it does do is say, “Oh, you’re criticizing the church, so you hate it, that makes you anti-Mormon, ergo I don’t have to listen to your criticisms.” IMO, the criticism is quite valid: Why does LDS Inc. need a billion dollar for-profit ranch in Florida? The answer has nothing to do with whether or not I hate the religion. Answer the question; don’t attack my motives.

  8. Chris,

    The place to look for holdings is on your county’s property appraisal website, not the corporation registration website. So, let’s say I live in Los Angeles County California. I’d search here:
    http://maps.assessor.lacounty.gov/

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though this site lets you search by owner, like the counties do here in Florida. But I did a search for the address of the LDS Temple in Los Angeles (10777 SANTA MONICA BLVD) and found out that it is worth $21,715,193.

    If the county doesn’t let you search by the name of the owner of the property, figuring out all the property owned by LDS Inc. in your county will be virtually impossible.

    Try your county’s website and let me know if it works. At the very least you can look up addresses for known LDS, Inc. property (e.g., churches, temples, etc.).

  9. FYI, you can search by owner in Salt Lake County:
    http://www.assessor.slco.org/cfml/Query/query2.cfm

    I’m still trying to figure out which corporation owns which buildings, but I figured out a few:
    CORP OF PRES OF CH JC OF LDS
    CORP OF PB OF CH JC OF LDS (this is the corporation under which most of the buildings in Salt Lake County are held)

    A lot of the properties don’t list the value of the buildings, but Church Headquarters does:
    http://www.assessor.slco.org/cfml/Query/detail_com.cfm?Parcel_id=09313520110000&link_id=448702

    It’s a cool $130 million!

  10. I think there might be a few misconceptions in the post and comments here — which I’m a bit surprised at given that the general knowledge about Mormonism is usually as high as the average active LDS Church member.

    First, profxm, I’m not quite sure what you meant by “they paid to serve their mission.” I am sure your grandparents simply meant that they were paying their own way for their mission — i.e., purchased their own food, paid their rent and other living expenses. I DON’T think that they meant that they paid a fee to the Church so that they could serve a mission. (In case anyone thought that was what was meant.)

    Just in case it isn’t well known by those here, LDS missionaries pay their own way in general. My family and I certainly paid my way for my own mission. This has been the case for at least 100 years — and before that the missionaries left “without purse or scrip.”

    Second, we should probably observe that the values you are using are tax assessment values–which are an estimate of the property’s value at the point in time the assessment was done. Since you don’t indicate the date of the assessment, the value today could be different. Depending on the community, county or state, the assessment can be done as frequently as every few years or as infrequently as every 5 to 10 years. Usually this means that the value is actually higher than the assessment, but with the recent recession, the opposite is probably true.

    BUT, having said that, I agree that the ranch is valuable, and I would be surprised if the value was less than $750 million. I can certainly accept the $1 billion figure as a good estimate.

    I should also note that this is simply the value of the property (i.e., land, buildings and improvements), NOT the value of the arm as an ongoing business, which is certainly higher, depending on the sales and profits that can be obtained from the normal operation of the farm.

    As or the welfare farm aspect of the discussion, I’ve always assumed that the Church does distinguish between welfare farms and its for-profit farms. It is my understanding that the for-profit farms do sell goods on the market and that they are operated just like any other for-profit farm.

    Finally, let me ask what makes you wonder about the ethics of a church owning a $1 billion farm? What exactly could be a problem?

    I can see the same possible ethical problems that might arise with a corporation owning a $1 billion farm. I can also see possible ethical problems if a Church owned a farm that was producing something that it taught against (such as tobacco).

    But, assuming that the above aren’t done, what would the ethical problem be? I can’t really see what that could be!

    Of course, the real issue is how the proceeds of the for-profit operations are used. While I certainly don’t claim that I know how they are used, but I do know that the Church says the funds are used to support the Church’s operations (buildings, missions, printing of materials, etc., etc.) and for some investment for the future.

    With the proportion of the active members of the Church shifting to less wealthy countries, I think these investments will be increasingly important to supporting the Church and its members around the world.

    Of course, I do recognize potential problems if these funds are used improperly–and the principle fear I have is rooted in the fact that the information about these funds aren’t made public. Given how much controversy the values raisse when they are released, I do understand the Church’s reluctance to disclose them. But my preference would be for more disclosure.

  11. One additional fact that is, I think, relevant.

    The Deseret Ranch in Florida was originally purchased in the 1930s, IIRC. Clearly the Church has purchased surrounding farms and land to expand the operation in the ensuing decades. But, I’ll bet much of the value in the farm represents the increase in value over many years, not the amount paid to purchase the farm (just like the $130 million value of the Church Office Building is not the amount paid to build the building in the 1970s). So, we should probably not think of this as some huge and unwarranted use of tithing funds.

    And without knowing what the Church gets out of the farm (earnings and all other kinds of benefits), its hard to make any case for suggesting that keeping $1 billion of value in the farm (instead of selling it) is a bad idea.

  12. Kent Larsen did a good job of summarizing so I won’t repeat his comments. I do want to add that
    1) Deseret Ranches are run on a for-profit basis primarily. However, they do provide the church welfare system with some resources.
    2) 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.
    3) The church primarily invests in ventures in support of its mission – farming & communication being the primary areas of investment. It also divests itself of stocks that are donated to the church which do not fit within its teachings (thus the rumors that the Church holds “Coke” stock – since the church does not “fire sale” the hodlings, but makes a slow divestment over time like any wise investor would.)

  13. Hi Kent,

    I do appreciate you clarifying what I meant by “paying” to serve. I didn’t mean to imply that my aunt and uncle paid an actual fee to work there. What I meant is what you described – they paid their way (food, clothing, rent, vehicle, etc.). So, I’m not trying to give the impression that they paid a fee, just that they paid to work for a for-profit corporation.

    As for the ethical issues, I think we generally agree, but let me see if I can paint them more clearly…

    As I see it, there are several ethically questionable practices here. First, my aunt and uncle were “called” to serve a mission. Now, perhaps this is naivet on my part, but when I think of a calling to serve a mission in the LDS Church, I generally assume that the person or couple called to serve will serve for the LDS Church. The majority of missionaries are called to proselytize. That type of mission is widely accepted as an appropriate missionary calling and is considerate a legitimate use of a charitable contribution of both time and money on the part of the missionaries. Other missionaries are called to service missions. Again, a service mission for the LDS church seems like a completely legitimate use of both donated time and money on the part of the missionaries. But there is a hitch here. When I think of a “service” mission, I think that such a mission should focus on either: proselytizing or somehow building up the LDS Church or serving people in the mission area. Again, this may be my naivet, but to take volunteers who are volunteering for their church and to put them to work for a for-profit company seems unethical to me. From a consequentialist perspective, the actions may seem perfectly fine, but the ends are the problem. The goal is not to serve others or to build the kingdom of god (whether or not I agree with doing so, I think I can agree that it is noble goal), but to generate profit for a corporation. That seems unethical to me. Taking charitable contributions from people who are willing to give and using it to generate profit seems both dishonest and unethical.

    The second ethical issue is that of a religion owning a for-profit corporation. First off, what is a religion? As I understand it, it’s a set of beliefs shared by a group of people regarding the supernatural. There are certainly a lot of different ways to think about such institutions, but let’s give such a social institution a positive spin and say that the aim of such an institution is multi-fold but noble: (1) to share this message of “truth” and (2) to help people. Is that an acceptable understanding of religion or do you have a different interpretation of such institutions? If you disagree, that may explain why you have no qualms with the actions of the LDS Church. But based on my understanding of what religions do, or should do, it does not make sense for a religion, whose aims say nothing about earthly profit (in fact, as a Christian institution one might assume that the very notion of earthly profit would be anathema based on Christ’s teachings in the Bible), to focus on earthly profit. So, for a religion to own for-profit corporations suggests that the goals of the institution are not those outlined above but rather to generate profit. What does god’s religion need with profit? Again, this rests on a consequentialist approach. I don’t think the methods used are unethical – there is nothing inherently unethical in raising oranges or cattle. But the ends seem unethical FOR A RELIGION. If it was just a for-profit ranch, I wouldn’t have a problem with the generation of profit as corporations exist solely to generate profit for their shareholders. But Farmland Reserve, Inc. exists solely to generate profit for a religion. Again, why is a religion in the business of generating financial profits? Based on my understanding of religions (which may be wrong, I’ll grant that), that shouldn’t be their goal. So, I find it objectionable and even unethical for a religion to pursue financial profit.

    The last issue is: Who are the shareholders who benefit from these profits? This is a tricky issue precisely because of where the money came in the first place. This issue is similar to the one outlined above with my aunt and uncle. The money given to the LDS religion was donated with a charitable motive – either to build the religion or to help people. The religion then turned around and bought for-profit land with that money (your caveat above about when it was purchased duly noted). The action of donating to a religion is not inherently unethical. But taking money donated for charitable reasons and using it to buy companies or land that generate a profit does seem unethical.

    The obvious rebuttal to these assertions is the following: But the religion uses the profit to fund its other aims, like missions, spreading the word, and helping people. Maybe that is true. But how do I know that? The religion is notorious for being opaque in how it manages its money. I have no way of knowing if people are simply enriching themselves using the religion (which is certainly possible in light of the investigations of Senator Grassley last year into prosperity gospel congregations in which the pastors were using religion to enrich themselves) or using the money for charity. I’m not asserting that apostles or other higher-ups are enriching themselves, so don’t misconstrue what I’ve said here. What I’m asserting is that NO ONE OUTSIDE THE RELIGION KNOWS WHERE THE MONEY GOES! Unless the LDS Church agrees to open its books and show where the money goes, I don’t think anyone can use the defense that the religion is using its profits solely for charity. At best you and I can say we don’t know. And because we don’t know, the practice of buying land and corporations for profit seems particularly unseemly.

    To wit, there is clearly a money motive among some family members of the leadership:
    http://www.mormoncurtain.com/topic_richardghinckley.html
    I won’t go so far as to say that money is the sole motive for any or all leaders, as I don’t think that is the case. But the point remains that we don’t know where the money goes.

    So, in summary, these practices are unethical because the religion: (1) takes contributions donated with charitable goals in mind and turns them toward generating a profit, which (2) no one except those in the higher leadership in the religion knows where it ends up. Additionally, an institution whose aims should be a model of respectability are suspect because of their pursuit of property.

    I welcome debate on these points.

  14. Thanks for educating us about the official policy, Jim. In my opinion, it is wrong for a billion dollar corporation to demand that even the destitute tithe 10% of their income.

  15. After seeing the house that the late David B Haight lived in on So. Temple St., I have doubts that the money is going to lavish living of LDS Leaders. Nice, but no where near lavish.

  16. Not only did the LDS Church use tithing money to buy the ranch (Im assuming, maybe it was profit from some other business venture), but now it makes people pay for the opportunity to make one of their subsidiaries money. How is that at all ethical?
    .
    How did the LDS Church *make* them pay for anything? Your question about it being ethical hinges upon that red herring — if they volunteered to help out and pay their own way, your questions about ethics evaporates.
    .
    I helped a dear friend with her business in SoCal for years without pay becase I wanted to do it. Was she unethical during this time?

  17. It is unethical (aka “wrong”) for a church to take money designated for a Christian purpose and use it to purchase diamond tiaras. It isn’t unethical for a church to take money designated for a Christian purpose and use it to feed and clothe the destitute.

    It is unethical for a church to take money designated for a Christian purpose and invest it in an annuity whose yields will be used to purchase diamond tiaras. It isn’t unethical for a church to take money designated for a Christian purpose and invest it in an annuity whose yields will be used to feed and clothe the destitute, nor is it unethical for a church to take money designated for a Christian purpose and invest it in an annuity, a portion of whose yields will be used to feed and clothe the destitute and a portion of which will be used to invest in another annuity with the same purpose.

    It is unethical for a church to promise a full accounting of funds donated to it for a Christian purpose and to subsequently use the money to feed and clothe the destitute but fail to provide its donors the promised accounting. It isn’t unethical for a church that has a known-but-opaque means of accounting for the funds donated to it for a Christian purpose to use the money to feed and clothe the destitute even as it continues to provide minimal accounting of how it uses the funds.

    Both disclosure and property are simply tools that, like all tools, possess a neutral moral value. A church may use either one for a good or bad purpose–or even an ethical or unethical purpose.

    None of this is to say that the Mormon church always behaves ethically, but I don’t find compelling an argument that equates non-disclosure itself with unethical behavior. This argument strikes me as a cover for something like “I don’t know what they are doing with the money other people are giving them, but because I don’t trust the institution, I’m pretty sure they are doing something sneaky–and that is unethical.”

  18. You know, after I wrote my comment last night, I sat thinking about this while drifting off to sleep and realized basically what Mathew is saying: If the profits are used strictly for “Christian” purposes, then it is hard to argue that such enterprises are inherently unethical. So, in my earlier post, whether or not each of the three things I described are unethical or not is contingent upon the ultimate disposition of the profit.

    As Mathew rightly points out, two things are required for the LDS Church’s investments to be seen as ethical:
    1) the profit must be used exclusively to further the “Christian” mission of the religion, and
    2) full disclosure of the donated money and its investments

    At this point, I think it is fair to criticize the LDS religion for not disclosing the disposition of its profits and to suggest that it is in questionable ethical territory for not doing so. I don’t think you can go quite as far as saying that it is absolutely behaving in an unethical manner because we simply don’t know.

    I’m fine leaving it like that: this is questionable ethical territory. If the LDS Church wants to be completely ethical in its actions, it would provide a full accounting of the money and property it has and how profits are used. Until then, this is going to remain ethically murky.

  19. While I appreciate profxm’s taking my argument seriously, he misunderstands part of it. Full disclosure of the uses to which the church puts donated money is not necessary in order for the church to behave ethically. The church must only behave consistent with the information it supplied to those who donated money.

    You could say the church currently tells its donors two things: (1) the money will be used to build up the Kingdom, and (2) you will receive at best an opaque accounting of how the money is employed. In order for the church to behave ethically it must in fact use the money to build up the Kingdom (a usefully ill-defined term but which easily encompasses most of the scope of the church’s activities and obviously does not include purchasing apostles diamond tiaras). It does nothing unethical by not providing a full accounting which its established conduct made clear would not be forthcoming.

    In modern times we tend to believe that more disclosure is desirable, but it is a logical fallacy to equate “desirable” with “ethical”. As I stated above, disclosure itself is a morally neutral tool.

    There are obviously good reasons for the church not to provide a fuller accounting of its finances separate from the desire to hide diamond tiaras. There are scriptural injunctions which the church naturally takes seriously in relation to its charitable works. The church does not want to provide its critics with ammunition (and why should it–if we are honest it is obvious that regardless of how the church deployed its money, a sub-set of the population would criticize it as long as their favored means of distribution was not used–to wit, criticisms over church investments that allow the type of long-term planning any large organization whose leaders are not completely feckless seeks to engage in). The church does not want to add another layer of beauracracy onto its operations.

    I can also speculate that if the church did provide a fuller accounting, it would see a drop in contributions–not because of the existence of diamond tiaras, but because a significant portion of a membership with not a few nativists might react negatively when they saw hard numbers showing capital flowing out of wealthy countries to non-wealthy countries (Mormons are as subject to feelings of petty jealousy as any other group after all).

    Taken all together, from an institutional stand point, better instead to tell the membership and the rest of the world the money will be used to build the kingdom and then use it to that purpose without getting into specifics. Nothing ethically murky about that at all.

  20. Thanks profxm. I agree with Kent #12 (and the other comments) that full disclosure would be welcome. There are religions (the Roman Catholic church) that own quite a bit of property. I’m not sure if the RC church also owns for-profit entities as well.

    The difference between the LDS church and a corporation (that we’ve discussed here before) is also the tax liability.

    I’m assuming that the LDS church pays taxes on this for-profit ranch? If they do not, I believe that may be unethical. (What would stop anyone with a for-profit company from claiming to be a protected religion to avoid paying taxes?)

    I agree with the comments about members who are struggling who still try to pay their tithing. And they are also counseled and told to pay their tithing no matter what. In an ensign article some months ago, a single mother mentioned that she would first pay her tithing before food and shelter for her children.

    That’s what I personally find distasteful.

    There does not appear to be equity or charity towards those less fortunate about this counsel for tithing. IMO, the message to those who are struggling should be – pay what you can, take care of your obligations and then pay tithing. And if the LDS church has such for-profit arms, it should be able to allow a single mom of multiple children to not pay her 10%…

    I am not suggesting that it’s unethical to ask for funds from one’s membership. I’m just suggesting that it may be distasteful to ask for an exact accounting of 10% (gross or net, depending on who you talk to) from the members no matter what financial situation one’s members are in. Without that exact accounting from the central organization of where that money is going.

    btw – it is also my understanding that a member will not get food from the bishop’s storehouse OR financial assistance without being a “full tithe payer” or confirming to the bishop that they pay 10% tithing.

    And – just to make this comment longer – many other mainstream Christian religions DO publish their financials on a congregation and global level. Some, like the Methodists, publish this information for everyone on the internet. It is possible.

  21. Our ward boundaries (Orlando Hunters Creek Ward) butt up directly on the west side of the ranch in Orange County. If you have ever taken SR 528 from Disney to Cape Canaveral, you have passed through the ranch. The north and south sides of 528 are the ranch.

    We also have a youth camp on the ranch for the youth from Central Florida. They just finished painting the buildings last year and used it for the first time shortly thereafter.

    The land is also leased out to ranchers, sod growers, and others who may or may not be members. There is a lot of cattle on the ranch. This particular ranch does not serve too much as a welfare ranch.

    The reason that Orlando has not grown to fill in the area between the city and Cape Canaveral / Cocoa is because the ranch and the St. Johns River basin stand in the way.

  22. Word is that the Church purchased the Florida land in the ’30s and ’40s to serve as a re-location spot for European Saints when fascism and communism were on the rise. The Church also purchased the Australia ranch for the same reason for the Asian Saints. (I don’t know how accurate this information is, however.)

    Remember, when they purchased the Deseret Ranch in Florida there was NOTHING in Central Florida and Orlando was a small, insignificant town.

  23. Im assuming that the LDS church pays taxes on this for-profit ranch? If they do not, I believe that may be unethical. (What would stop anyone with a for-profit company from claiming to be a protected religion to avoid paying taxes?)

    This is my big question as well. If the Corporation of the President of the CoJCoL-dS is a for-profit corporation (no pun intended), then it should be subject to the same tax and disclosure laws as other for-profit corporations. If it’s a non-profit, then it should be subject to the same tax and disclosure laws as other non-profits.

    This isn’t merely a question of their privileged status violating the establishment clause. Frankly, the privilege of secrecy and tax-exemption hurts the reputation of religion in general. Since religion is currently the best tax shelter in the U.S., it attracts all sorts of shady and dishonest dealings (such as the prosperity gospel mentioned by ProfXM).

    I’m sure the religious folks who have joined the discussion will debate me on this, but I mean it as a very serious constructive criticism. The “unaffiliated” category is the only religious category that’s growing in all states of the U.S., and it’s growing by leaps and bounds. I don’t think that it’s because the “new atheists” are so attractive — rather it’s because so many people within organized religion have discredited organized religion, both by ensuring that religion is associated in people’s minds with extremist right-wing politics and through highly questionable financial dealings. Lots of people who believe in God and were raised religious no longer want to be associated with religion.

    If LDS Inc. is concerned about bringing people to the gospel, then they can demonstrate that they’re trustworthy by opening up their books and showing “their fruits” by which we shall know them.

  24. This is in response to Aerin. Your information is wrong. The LDS church does not require you to be a full tithe payer to receive food from the bishops storehouse or financial assistance. What you don’t understand is thatin the teachings of the church, paying your tithe is asked of God not a leader in the church. No one in the church would let a single mother pay her tithing and then let her or her children go hungry. Along with tithing, members are asked to donate to Fast offerings. From these funds if assistance is needed a member will be helped. Anything from house and car payments, utilities, insurance and yes food for the table. I am not saying that mistakes aren’t made and that some over zealous bishop might get it wrong. But if this program is run according to the teachings of the church, members, and they don’t have to be full tithe payers, are taken care of in their hour of need. Also while everyone is questioning the ethics of this church why don’t you ask some of the people that were hit by hurricane Katrina or the tsunami that hit Thailand? i believe you find that the LDS church were some of the first help to arrive with plenty of clothing and food. Don’t just take the words written by me or anyone else here. Do some research and find out where the money goes. it’s not hard just look for worldwide disasters and I’m sure you will find the LDS church helping in any way they can.

  25. If LDS Inc. is concerned about bringing people to the gospel, then they can demonstrate that theyre trustworthy by opening up their books and showing their fruits by which we shall know them.

    Or perhaps “LDS Inc” realizes (correctly) that the only people particularly obsessed enough to want to audit their books have no interest in joining their church, and that their current proselytizing model seems to be working well enough…

  26. Dave,

    I wish that you were right.

    I have served on several bishoprics and branch presidencies. I was also a financial clerk.

    Every bishop I have served with told me that you have to be a full tithe payer before you can receive support from the bishop’s store house.

    I have also witnessed repeatedly how single mothers were send away empty handed for failing to pay a full tithe.

    You may not be aware of Elder Lynn G. Robbins who scolded the destitute for failing to pay tithing. In fact, Robbins compared poor people who cannot afford tithing to Mr Scrooge.

  27. Queuno,

    I am not sure that the LDS missionary program works all that well anymore. I have not seeing any growth in my ward during the last twelve years.

    In Britain, the Church is selling chapels.

    Elder Holland has had to close over 400 wards in Chile. Similar actions have been taken in the Philippines. Check it out on LDS.org.

    According the CUNY Religious Identification Survey of 2002, I believe, we lost one member for every convert in the United States. The figures of the Pew survey on religion indicate that, today, we for every four converts, five members cease to identify as Mormons.

    Retention is at best zero.

    The LDS Church is a strong organization that can endure atrophy for quite some time but in the long run, Aerin is quite right. There needs to change to return Mormonism’s vitality.

  28. Or perhaps LDS Inc realizes (correctly) that the only people particularly obsessed enough to want to audit their books have no interest in joining their church, and that their current proselytizing model seems to be working well enough

    “Obsessed” huh? Oh please, another ad hominem.

    My comment was sincerely constructive criticism. The knee-jerk response of responding to all criticism by attacking the character of the speaker does not improve the church’s credibility.

    Why not take a moment to consider my point about secrecy and credibility? Why do you think religion is losing ground? Could it be a credibility issue? Think about it.

  29. You have a strikingly protestant view of what a church is, and how it should operate. Certainly, for you, the RC church (which owns its own country, let alone a bank, newspaper, radio stations, etc and is deeply involved in Italian politics) would be acting unethically all the time. And it is far more secretive than the LDS church. The Orthodox churches follow a similar model. So, pretty much you’re unhappy that the LDS church doesn’t act like the methodist, unitarian, or episcopalian churches (oh wait, I hope you never visit a bishop’s house). But that’s an awful narrow view of how a church should act.

  30. Regarding the church’s non-profit status and non-payment of taxes:

    Like all churches of any size (meaning more than a few dozen people), the Mormon church has a corporate entity which allows it to exist as a legal person independent of any individual. Nate Oman provides a good history of the legal history of the corporate side of the church in the following posts:

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2004/04/the-church-as-a-corporation-part-i/

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2004/04/the-church-as-a-corporation-part-ii/

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2004/04/the-church-as-a-corporation-part-iii/

    As he (and Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deseret_Management_Corporation ) notes, the church’s for-profit operations are housed in the Deseret Management Company which is not tax exempt. As a privately held corporation, Deseret Management has much, much lower disclosure requirements than a publically held corporation.

    In summary, then, as far as the US government is concerned, the Mormon church pays all taxes it is supposed to pay and the Mormon church discloses all information it is required to disclose. Whether the Mormon church ought to disclosure more information than is legally required or it currently does is a separate question which I have discussed above.

    Regarding tithing and the bishops storehouse:

    Bishops are given guidelines in the Church Handbook of Instructions on how to administer the welfare program at the local level. The church’s guidelines to bishops say nothing about making assistance contingent on payment of a full tithe or other types of participation in the church. The Church Handbook of Instruction DOES direct leaders to not wait passively for people to come to them for assistance, but to seek out those in need and provide assistance. It also acknowledges that bishops may provide assistance to transients. The guidelines allow and encourage bishops to not only provide assistance to members regardless of their participation in the church, but also to non-members.

    Because bishops are given wide latitude in the admininstration of the welfare program on the local level, it is not hard to believe that some bishops may require a member to pay a full tithe before he makes welfare resources available to that person. I can easily imagine cases where I would agree with this decision. I can also easiliy imagine cases where I would disagree with this decision. Because I take the view that being a bishop is extrememly difficult and because I tend to feel sorry for the poor guys who take on a very time consuming, often thankless call at the expense of their careers and families, I tend to give bishops the benefit of the doubt. Your mileage may vary.

    Anecdotally, in the two instances in which I had unobstructed insight into the income and outgo of welfare funds, I observed on an annual basis tens of thousands of dollars in cash being provided to cover a variety of needs–all separate from the provision of food or other in-kind assistance. The active membership in those wards were each around 100 people.

    Finally, it is worth noting that the church’s for profit activities allow it to provide a much wider spectrum of services to its membership than it otherwise could if investments now providing a regular yield were not made fifty years ago.

  31. Thanks Mathew (#34) about the taxes. That was my assumption. Thank you also for the clarification about welfare and tithes. I do know that the bishop’s storehouse and welfare do help many members – including my own family when my father was unemployed some years ago.

    It is an interesting question, however, about volunteer labor being used for a for-profit corporation (in the question of the original post). I guess that’s legal? It seems to me, it’s one thing to volunteer (and personally pay for) a “mission” trip to Mexico to build sewers.

    It’s another thing to volunteer to build houses on a ranch owned by a for profit corporation. Now, a person can, of course, choose to volunteer their time to a for-profit organization.

    And from the comments in this post, most active LDS members are not demanding an accounting of the privately held corporation (where the money goes).

    queno – just because I may not be interested in being an active shareholder of, say, Enron, doesn’t mean that I don’t think they need to follow some laws. And that their actions do/did impact me. Publishing the data is simply the right thing to do, to further prove where the LDS church is spending its money, and where the money is coming from.

    It also prevents fraud – something that is not discussed but is VERY possible given the secretive nature of all these funds. And with the comparison of Enron, who was not reporting information, it cost some people millions and devastated many people. Calling for accountability is not always a bad thing.

    Which leads me to #27 – chanson – I agree. I want to get in on this. I would love to start a for profit corporation, telling my volunteer employees that we were doing good work, and not being accountable to anyone (including them!) How much good work? What percentage was donated to Hurricane Katrina (for example) out of my overall profits? That’s not important for me to share. It’s enough to state that I donated.

    It must sound like I’m being demanding and flippant – and perhaps I am. Maybe demanding accountability is not my business as a citizen and taxpayer.

    And for me, it’s not just the LDS church. I don’t think comparing churches or religious organizations in terms of tax policy and accountability is unreasonable. Every non profit organization would be required to track and publish this info.

    And I believe that volunteers for for-profit corporations should know that’s where their effort is going – in the least.

  32. Nate Oman provides a good history of the legal history of the corporate side of the church

    Thanks, now we’re getting somewhere. Though his posts are a little light on the details of the current situation. The wikipedia article you linked says the following:

    Deseret Management Corporation is the holding company which owns the tax-paying companies that fall under the umbrella of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. DMC’s Board of Directors is made up of The First Presidency, three rotating members of the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric of the Church.

    It’s not clear to me what “fall under the umbrella” means in this context in terms of who specifically owns the private, for-profit Deseret Management Corporation, or what the laws are regarding the transfer of funds between the CoJCoL-dS and this for-profit corporation.

    In summary, then, as far as the US government is concerned, the Mormon church pays all taxes it is supposed to pay and the Mormon church discloses all information it is required to disclose. Whether the Mormon church ought to disclosure more information than is legally required or it currently does is a separate question which I have discussed above.

    There’s a third (and IMHO far more important) question: should the law be changed?

    So the CoJCoL-dS is itself tax-free and able to accept tax deductible charitable donations, and is able to transfer funds to a privately-owned for-profit corporation at will and (as far as I can tell) with no oversight or disclosure requirements. I have no doubt that what the church is doing is legal, my question is: Why is that legal?

    I don’t mean this as an attack on the CoJCoL-dS in particular, I mean this as a general principle. I’d like to ask you do to a little thought experiment with me: Imagine we’re not talking about the CoJCoL-dS. Imagine we’re talking about someone else, someone you don’t necessarily trust, receiving funds as tax-deductible, charitable donations, and then transferring the funds to his private, for-profit corporation. Would you say “That’s A-OK, I’m glad he has this wonderful tax shelter!”?

    And this gets back to my credibility issue. When religions are routinely doing things that would be illegal and unethical for anyone else to do, it affects people’s perception of what religion is like.

  33. aerin,

    I’m not sure why you think people who serve missions at Deseret Cattle Ranch aren’t aware it is a for-profit corporation. Any particular reason?

    Of course just because an entity takes the form of a for-profit corporation does not mean the entity’s mission is to accumulate a bunch of money so that apostles can purchase diamond tiaras. Profits can be put to a Christian use. As I noted above, it is perfectly consistent with the church’s mission to operate for-profit entities if the profits from those entities are used to further the mission of the church. There is a nice web site where you can learn more about the ranch’s activities and operations: http://www.deseretranchflorida.com/ You’ll note that, among other things, the ranch states it pays federal, state and local taxes.

    I don’t understand what you are saying when write that you are entitled to accountability as a citizen and taxpayer. Do you care to elaborate?

    chanson,

    If you spend a few minutes with teh google you can find answers to your questions–I did. Suffice to say, the idea that a non-profit can transfer donations to a for-profit corporation at will is a canard and Gordon B. Hinckley’s estate doesn’t own Deseret Management Corporation.

    Your thought experiment assumes that there are currently no laws in place to prevent abuses of the type you refer to. That assumption is incorrect–again, a little research with teh Bing would go a long way. As a general rule, you are safe assuming the IRS is not going to let people, even churches, screw it out of taxes and work backwards from there.

    As long as we are conducting thought experiments, here’s one: Imagine that someone is worried about an organization failing to disclose information. Imagine further that the person then states the organization is behaving unethically by abusing its legal status. Imagine that this claim is demonstrably wrong based on publicly available information. Do you conclude that the person is being intentionally misleading or just interested enough to level an accusation but too lazy to substantiate or debunk it? Should that person suffer from a credibility issue in the future? Were his actions unethical?

    My point, which I admit I am making rather pointedly, is that lobbing rhetorical bombs at the church is fine if all you are interested in is appeasing the rump crowd. If you are as interested in arriving at the truth, whatever that may be, you have to be willing to invest time and effort.

    Finally, one last interesting tidbit–according to the IRS, non-profits with for-profit subsidiaries “bear a very heavy burden” to demonstrate by “contemporaneous and clear evidence” that they have plans to use substantial assets in such a subsidiary for an exempt purpose. In other words, all the assets in the for-profit subsidiary must be in the service of the non-profits activities.

  34. Do you conclude that the person is being intentionally misleading or just interested enough to level an accusation but too lazy to substantiate or debunk it?

    I am growing very tired of your ad hominem attacks on my character and motives. You assume I just have it in for the LDS church, but I have more than four years of posts here and on my personal blog to demonstrate otherwise. One more strike, and your comments will no longer merit any response.

    Suffice to say, the idea that a non-profit can transfer donations to a for-profit corporation at will is a canard and Gordon B. Hinckleys estate doesnt own Deseret Management Corporation.

    I know that the president’s personal estate doesn’t own Deseret Management Corporation. However, it is a privately-owned corporation that by charter is run by the officers of the CoJCoL-dS. If my claims are “demonstrably wrong” and “a canard”, then are you claiming that there’s no transfer of funds between the tax-deductible charity and the for-profit corporation? Or that churches are subject to the same financial disclosure laws as secular non-profits?

    If so, then I’m done debating and I’m happy to agree with you. To see churches subject to the same rules as any other non-profit organization is all that I ask.

  35. chanson,

    It’s obvious you are Mormon because every time someone challenges you you get upset and offended. I have no idea whether you have it in for the Mormon church and I haven’t made any ad hominem attacks. Lighten up.

    Yes, your claims are demonstrably wrong. As I suggested above, spend 15 minutes on google and you can find out how (and the strict limits on) transfer of funds between a charity and a for-profit corporation work and why your “thought experiment” is not applicable to the Mormon church. Also, can you clarify what do you mean by tax-deductible charity?

  36. Who cares? If you’re a tithe-payer and you don’t like the nondisclosure, quit paying. If you’re not a tithe-payer, shut up.

  37. That’s one way to look at it, It’s Not Me. Bear in mind, however, that every tithe payer gets subsidized by the general public because contributors to the LDS Church get a tax deduction.

    Furthermore, when people’s children do go hungry because their parents put tithing before feeding their off-spring, the bishop will require their extended family to step up. Other tithe payers rely on the welfare state and collect food stamps. And creditors cannot stop tithe payments to recover their property. Then non-believers have to step into the breach so that a billion dollar corporation can collect tithing from poor people.

    Whether we are Mormon or not, all Americans are affected by how non-profits conduct their business.

  38. I suppose so. And lots of other people/organizations get subsidized through tax breaks, so I’m not sure singling out the minuscule number of people the church makes go hungry* really supports you point as well as you think it does.

    *In my ward, nobody has gone hungry because they paid their tithing. We have fast offerings that we use, as well as food orders for those who need food–and they’re used quite liberally. Tithe-payer or not, nobody in our ward goes hungry.

  39. #37 – Mathew, thanks for your questions. I’m not sure why I thought that the people serving at the Deseret Ranch didn’t know they were serving for a for-profit corporation. I guess I would have thought they were serving a mission for the LDS church, not for Deseret Management. When I hear of older couples who serve missions, they usually mention serving for the church, not for a for-profit company. But as I mentioned in one of the posts below, that’s just not my experience, it could have happened that way.

    Mathew also asked:

    I dont understand what you are saying when write that you are entitled to accountability as a citizen and taxpayer. Do you care to elaborate?

    This is a subject (accountability and transparency) that we’ve discussed here at MSP before. Please see this post: In addition to touring the temple. Or this post about Charitable giving and this one about a religion vs a non profit corporation.

    Just as chanson was saying, the call for accountability isn’t limited to the LDS church, but to all religions and non profit organizations. Some already voluntarily publish all of their good works.

    And it’s not just religions. I think there should be accountability in my government as well. There are many people who were very concerned about accountability in the current stimulus package, for example.

    To further Hellmut’s point #41 – Churches and non profit organizations get many tax breaks from the U.S. government. The value of the land that churches are on is not taxed. This leaves more of a burden to support the building of roads, schools, maintenance of public services (police, fire, etc.) on the general population.

    It seems to me the reason that churches and religions were given this break was the assumption that they would not be able to contribute fully to these public works. They were too busy giving their time and funds to those less fortunate, to those without food or shelter. In a way, the tax breaks are a way the government supports these charities, and allows them to continue to operate (which they might not be able to do without the breaks).

    Again – this may in fact be going on. The majority of these sums may indeed be going to those less fortunate, and to other countries – in all religions. But without that accounting, we can only make assumptions.

    We may need to agree to disagree on this, on the call for greater accountability and transparency for non profit organizations and religions.

    I do think I can find plenty of scriptural basis in the new testament (through the wonders of google and/or bing) where Christ talked about giving to his sheep, giving away wealth, not worshipping money, etc.

    I’m not suggesting that the LDS church is doing any of these things, but it does seem incongruous. It also doesn’t seem like good stewardship (to me) to not be open about your funds and where you send them.

  40. Thanks, It’s Not Me, that was very helpful. On to the real comments…

    Once again I was pondering this issue as I drifted off to sleep last night. As I was thinking about it, I realized that Mathew’s assertion that LDS Inc. using tithing money to buy for-profit entities that generate a profit is perfectly ethical rests upon a key assumption, which he has not stated: That both industrial and financial exploitation are ethical.

    This may not be the place for a debate on the ethics of capitalism, but I do think it’s kind of intriguing to think that the LDS Church is exploiting people to “help” people. The LDS Church takes donations (the ethics of which are questionable for different reasons, which I’ll discuss below) and uses those to buy for-profit entities. Those for-profit entities hire people and pay them less than they are worth, generating profit for the owner of the entity (LDS, Inc.). That profit is than used for some purpose (let’s be kind here and say it is the building up of the Kingdom of God – e.g., missions, churches, BofMs, etc.). Regardless of how you look at it, the LDS Church is exploiting people to generate a profit. Is that really what a religion should be doing?

    As for the exploitation of tithing… A popular way of thinking about religions in the Sociology of Religion today is to think about them as pseudo-corporations: they have a product/service and they have customers. Mormonism basically sells exaltation (variously interpreted, but the basic idea is eternal life as a deity with one’s family). The price: 10% of your income plus various other expenses (time, etc.). But here’s the beauty of this exchange: Mormonism doesn’t have to provide the product/service until you die. And then, of course, there is no guarantee that such a product/service even exists. And, the institution that exists in this plane of existence isn’t the one providing eternal life in the next plane of existence. It’s more like a middle-man providing information as to where to find the person who will give it to you in the next life. Oh, and one more thing: Even if you pay your 10%, the LDS Church doesn’t guarantee you get your product/service; you still have to negotiate that with the entity that provides such rewards (i.e., Heavenly Father). Since people willingly pay into this system, it’s hard to argue that LDS Inc. is exploiting them. But it is quite a deal for LDS Inc: literally promise worlds without number, get paid, give people a knowledge endowment that might help them earn those worlds, then put the burden of success on the individual. Kind of reminds me of Bernie Madoff… 😉

  41. Interesting discussion. At some point, when I’m not so overcome with nostalgia for the United Order, I’ll try to leave an intelligible comment. Until then, for the record, “teh Bing” translates as “iced milk tea” in my neck of the woods, and a tall glass of the same is always welcome. Attempts to sound hip by referring to a certain Microsoft search engine as “teh Bing”? Not so much.

    Anyways, it seems like it’s all heading to familiar territory. Critics under attack for relying on a shorthand appeal to basic principle versus defenders engaging in another round of Calvinball.

    I’m guessing that some of y’all are thinking this is an old discussion. I tend to agree, but only because I’m getting old, too. Just like you.

    Well, here are my two wheat pennies worth of advice: If you’re gonna throw out neologisms like “teh Bing” … how about demonstrating some cognizance that we’re ALL operating (individually and institutionally) in The Bing’s new reality:

    “Privacy” (on the personal level) no longer means whatever it used to mean.

    And “transparency” (on the institutional level) is now required more than ever before as part of our new social contract.

    The demands haven’t changed, but the terrain has.

  42. “Thanks, Its Not Me, that was very helpful. On to the real comments”

    Are you the one who keeps harping about ad hominem attacks? Either way, I am deeply hurt that you would not take my response to this ridiculous argument seriously. Truly. Deeply.

    And since you don’t really take my comments seriously anyway, let me just say the LDS Church doesn’t give a rat’s &$#@!*&! what you think about transparency. You don’t like it? Don’t pay. You don’t want to be a member of the LDS Church? Don’t joint, or leave. You don’t like any organization being given tax breaks? Lobby your congressman to do away with ALL tax deductions.

    Good luck.

  43. I am glad to hear from you, It’s Not Me, but remember that you joined the conversation with the demand that everybody shut up.

    If you dish it out, you have got to be prepared to take it.

    I can empathize with your frustration but telling other adults to shut, that’s not cool.

  44. The LDS Church providers much more than the promise of exaltation, Prof. The most valuable service it provides is, probably, community.

    If you are a Mormon, you can move half around the world, call a total stranger who will be happy to advise you about the neighborhood. If you ask for it, there will be a group of strangers waiting at your new abode and unload your moving truck.

    That’s really quite remarkable. Not every club or religion can offer that.

  45. I’m quite curious as to what swear word has “&$#@!*&!” letters. Even “fuck” is far more concise. 🙂

    I for one think that churches should have exactly the same rules, laws and strictures to obey as non-religious non-profits.

    The LdS Church has many billions in for-profit ventures which would in my mind, void it from being able to claim non-profit status. Until it is truly a non-profit, it should be required to pay taxes like any other corporation, because regardless of it’s religions status, it is first and foremost a business (or even cult) and deserves to be treated as such.

    I’m sick to death of religions getting special treatment for no good reason. Either you’re a completely non-profit organisation which exists solely to help people or you’re a company for profit. There should nothing exist in-between these two – regardless of whether they’re called “religon” or not.

  46. aerin,

    I don’t know how a couple serving a mission on the Deseret Cattle Ranch could not be aware the ranch is a for-profit corporation owned by the Mormon church. I doubt very much that this has ever caused anyone to consider their mission as being anything other than a mission for the church–nor should it since the for-profit arm of the church is used to further the church’s mission. For-profit or non-profit status is simply a secular, legal designation under the US Tax Code and not a reflection on the mission of an entity’s purpose.

    Perhaps proxfm can contact his aunt and uncle and ask them if they knew whether Deseret Cattle is a for-profit entity and see if they still considered their mission to have been for the church and whether they considered the work they performed to be in behalf of a benevolent purpose. That would provide us at least some anecdotal evidence about what we are discussing.

    Regarding disclosure–you are correct that average citizens have legitimate reasons for wanting to obtain fuller disclosure. As I have discussed above, organizations that do not provide fuller disclosure also have legitimate reasons for wanting to not disclosure some things. As a tax payer, I also have legitimate reasons to want to know whether my neighbor is making sound financial investments or considering having another child. Our society has collectively decided, however, that my neighbor’s interests in keeping those things private are stronger than my interest in knowing them. I am, as has been pointed out, free to try to change that calculus which will involve a discussion of liberty and privacy.

    Usually we only require disclosure when their is a wider public interest that can be served not outweighed by other concerns. We don’t ask, for example, that all for-profit corporations disclosure their financials even when they are multi-billion dollar corporations.

    Personally I’m mostly agnostic about the church and disclosure–although there are a few issues where I am not.

    Proxfm,

    You risk slipping into unintentional parody when you connect the ethics of the church’s mission and capitalism–especially if you are a willing participant in the capitalist system (but of course you are probably typing from the comfort of your house in Cuba :). I find convincing arguments that capitalism is the most efficient means of distributing resources and providing the greatest good for the greatest number. I’m not an economist, however, so, with apologies to Winston Churchill, I’ll just give my unqualified opinion that capitalism is the worst form of economic distribution except all those other forms.

    Craig,

    What rules don’t apply to churches that apply to other non-profits?

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