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. Capitalism, we should try it once. I am not sure if we can refer to America as capitalist anymore after two bubbles where executives have not only exploited consumers by marketing defective products but also the stock holders who own the capital.

    With regard to my neighbor’s investments, there is no analogy with respect to my interests in the behavior of non-profits. If the state subsidizes my neighbor’s property and revenue then certainly his business would be my business.

  2. There is an essential difference between market interactions and charitable activities, Mathew. Neuro-science and experimental social science show that human beings know that they have to protect and pursue their self-interest in the market place (see Froehlich and Oppenheimer, for example).

    When it comes to charity, people assume a different mindset. Rather than protecting themselves, they want to help others.

    Therefore, it is problematic to conduct business under the guise of charity.

  3. Well from what I understand, religions own all sorts of for-profit ventures and are still considered “non-profit” simply because they’re religions. I don’t believe non-religious non-profits can do that – but I certainly could be wrong. I have read (and will try to find documentation) that religious non-profits are given more leeway in certain areas.

    I pulled the following from About.com (which is certainly not a scholarly source, but I didn’t want to spend an hour looking)

    Churches, however, tend to benefit the most from the various tax exemptions available, in particular because they qualify for many of them automatically, whereas non-religious groups have to go through a more complicated application and approval process. Non-religious groups also have to be more accountable for where their money goes, while churches, in order to avoid possibly excessive entanglements between church and state, do not have to submit financial disclosure statements

    The specifics of where churches get preferential treatment I don’t have, but just the two reasons above are enough to show me that religions get special treatment just for being religions, and for no other reason.

  4. Its obvious you are Mormon because every time someone challenges you you get upset and offended.

    Lovely.

    It’s not a question of being “upset and offended.” This site welcomes discussion between believers and non-believers, and, as such, needs to maintain very high standards of civility in order not to descend into unproductive fighting. If you have a valid point, you can make it without implying that anyone here is lazy, or is intending to deceive, or is upset/offended. Valid points can also be made without tossing in irrelevant character generalizations about Mormons.

    If and when you’re ready to have a civil and constructive discussion, we can start this over.

  5. Mathew — OK, I changed my mind about the whole “one more strike” thing (#38). Despite the fact that I don’t appreciate the whole “upset/offended deer in the headlights” remark any more than I appreciate the “lazy or intentionally misleading” thing. (And calling me Mormon — is that supposed to be an insult…?)

    Anyway, whatevs, let’s go with “lazy” since I really am too busy with my work to research this. As far as I can tell from your comment, my only implication that was wrong was the phrase “at will” — since the transfer of funds between Deseret for-profit and the CoJCoL-dS is, in fact, regulated.

    But since I since I still don’t get what you think is wrong with what I said, let’s just do a true/false to spell it out so that there is no further confusion. You can tell lazy little me which are true and which are false:

    1. The for-profit Deseret Management Company is owned by the CoJCoL-dS.

    2. The board of Deseret Management Company is the same as the leadership of the CoJCoL-dS, and they have complete control over how those funds are managed and spent.

    3. Contributions to the CoJCoL-dS (tithing, offerings, missionary fund, etc.) are tax-deductible as charitable donations.

    4. The CoJCoL-dS is legally permitted to transfer funds to Deseret Management Company and vice-versa.

    5. #4 without notifying anyone except the IRS.

    6. A secular non-profit is required to keep its accounting public.

    7. A church is not required to keep its accounting public.

    8. A secular charity is not allowed to own a for-profit corporation.

    9. All of the property of the CoJCoL-dS and all of its administrative costs (except the Deseret Management Company) are completely tax-free.

    **** SUPER BONUS POINTS **** If you can answer all of these without saying anything at all about my character and motives. Let’s see if you can do it! 😀

  6. Hellmut,

    The state does subsidize your neighbor’s property and revenue–six ways to Sunday. Your neighbor gets a tax break on his mortgage interest which renters, usually people who make less money, do not. Your neighbor get a deduction for every child he has. If your neighbor has more children than he can afford, the state will provide him with food stamps, health insurance, free school lunch and Section 8 housing. The state pays for your neighbors kids to go to school regardless of his income–and when they graduate and head off to a private university like Harvard, the state subsidizes his kids loans. The list goes on. Since it is the tax payers who must collectively bear these burdens, what is the solution? Eliminate the subsidies? License conception? Require poor people to disclose their finances? Saying that tax payers subsidize an activity is the start of an argument but not itself enough to overcome the competing interests that have resulted in a particular policy decision.

    If I wanted to argue that the church ought to provide more disclosure, I would set aside the legal arguments and focus on the moral arguments–they look a lot more promising to me. Maybe something along the lines of “members are all part of the body of Christ that is the church etc. etc. etc.” This argument has the added advantage of engaging believing members of the church as a faith community rather than trying to impose unwanted regulation from the outside.

    I think I agree with your 53.

  7. Craig,

    Non-profits which are not churches can have for-profit subsidiaries.

    You are correct that it is easier for a church to qualify as a non-profit than most other types of organizations. You are also correct that churches don’t have to submit the same disclosure documents including disclosures relating to finances.

    chanson,

    I’m so glad you gave me another chance. But why do you keep trying to get me to do your research? I know you can get answers to your questions without me. When you do give us a report. Maybe do a post on it. To provide an accurate picture, you are probably going to have to spend some time on No. 4. How the Mormon church conducts its business is clearly important to you–don’t begrudge the time or effort it takes to get a complete and accurate picture. I know you can do it!

    All,

    I’m probably going to take a break from responding as much as I have as it has taken up more of my time than I want to give it. I’ve enjoyed your willingness to engage and especially appreciate aerin, proxfm and Hellmut’s comments. I’ll check in on this thread to ensure I log any final salvos in my direction but likely won’t respond. Just wanted to give fair warning before anyone invests any time in something they may want a response to. You are all obviously going to hell:)

  8. “Heaven for the climate, hell for the company.”
    – Mark Twain

    I’ll organize the MSP reunions! 😉

  9. Those are good points, Mathew. I am sure that you are aware that we do require poor people to disclose their income and property when they apply for welfare, which is means tested.

    I am not sure what children and welfare have to do with discussions about property but since we are at it, you might find it interesting that the Nobel Price winner Amartya Sen has discovered that the prevention of starvation is an essential feature of liberal democracy.

    With respect to children, state and society are involved in families in a number of ways. From vaccination requirements to child protective services, the government regulates families and requires disclosure.

    Likewise, one of the best indicators of a communities health is the willingness of neighbors to discipline each others’ children so that they are safe and stay out of trouble. In a dysfunctional neighborhood, on the other hand, everyone is afraid to keep other parents’ children on the straight and narrow.

    Your strongest point is the home owner subsidy. Notice, that the value of every home in the United States is a matter of public record, which is usually available on the Internet.

  10. I’ve been an active member of several Christian faiths, the last 1 or 2 decades spent as a Latter Day Saint.

    Regarding my tithing; I’d not have had a problem having a portion of it spent in an investment that would allow the church to build meeting houses and temples as needed. 60 years ago, the church did just that.

    30 years ago the members built their own meeting houses; as the Church funds were insufficient toward every need and plan. As such, the Church was roundly criticized for putting the members through such onerous requirements; just so they could have a place to worship. The members, however, were proud and happy to have fulfilled an opportunity to sacrifice; still are. Oddly enough, any interviews with ‘overburdened’ members were consistently left out of such editorials.

    Now the Church has the funds to build meetinghouses and they do. So, with the demands of the original complaint having inadvertently been satisfied, the criticism shifts to the funding. Looking at a hundred year history of obsessing and complaining about the LDS Church; the common factors that survive are obsessing and complaining.

    There’s no history of statements like “Oh. That’s all better now. I guess we can forget about it and move on with our lives.” This, even though the temporal facets of the Church have undergone all sorts of changes. I expect I know why.

    30+ years ago, I was a born again Christian who aligned with the faction of Evangelicalism whose primary purpose was to attack and demean other Christian faiths; with the not-quite-stated purpose of destroying those faiths.

    In that day, the waning focus in my circles of worship was on attacking the Catholic church (other Christian faiths are popular to berate now… you can guess which ones). I was consistently trained on methods and scenarios I could use on Catholics to degrade their beliefs. Any objective evaluation of the positive actions of Catholics themselves was actively discouraged.

    So, 30 years ago, my goal was never to evaluate the RC church and opine accordingly, but to hurt it and it’s membership. It’s a goal I wouldn’t have had the courage to admit to myself at the time. Since I wasn’t changing my views as I came across empirical evidence of the good works Catholics were doing in the world, the only conclusion to draw is that I was obsessed – just as my handlers designed me to be.

    To be fair, I was drawn to an anti-Faith sect because of my pre-existing mentality. I got off on attacking others. There are reasons I was that way, but this post is long enough already.

    But since then I’ve come to realize
    that compulsory criticisms of entities
    that I am not a part of
    and minimally impact my own life
    is a clear form of addiction.

    Adversarialism is a drug I have to put down every day. But at least I’m aware of my weakness and it’s been a long time since I let it rule me. The 13th Article of Faith had a lot to do with me being able to heal up. It’s unique among all the Christian faiths as a point of doctrine.

    My basic learned lesson is that it isn’t good for me (or even my country) to target any ideology or theism that doesn’t present an unambiguous and sweeping threat to my society.
    My society is filled anti-Faith addicts that are a testimony to just that.

    I made a better choice. I freed myself from being bound by the addiction of compulsory attacks. I wish the same liberty for everyone.

    Doug

  11. Doug,

    Thanks for contributing.

    Correct me if I’m wrong here, but it sounds to me like you’re saying the equivalent of, “Unless the LDS Church starts sacrificing babies, leave it alone.”

    I think I can kind of understand that perspective, but, at the same time, I disagree with it. The Mormon Church’s denial of the priesthood to blacks was bigoted and wrong. Turns out, the Mormon Church eventually realized as much and changed its policy. I believe, with a substantial amount of evidence to support my position, that a contributing factor to that change was criticism, both internal and external.

    So, here’s my response to your point: The world is not black and white but all shades of gray. Sometimes the LDS Church does things that are not positive and not beneficial for society. Sometimes it does. When it acts in ways that I think are morally reprehensible (e.g., denying gays the right to marry), it should be criticized. To simply say that institutions only warrant criticism when they are clearly evil is to deny a fundamental right in the U.S. and a powerful tool – criticism of inappropriate action.

    Based on your assertion, Doug, it sounds like you’d be fine with the U.S. government detaining terrorists indefinitely without a trial, because that is only a little evil (habeas corpus notwithstanding), but not with the U.S. government blowing up a state, because that is really evil. Is that accurate?

    So, I shouldn’t criticize the LDS Church for denying gays the right to marry (which I actually see as a serious problem), but if it started killing babies, then I should? Where, Doug, do you draw the line?

    Also, maybe this isn’t an addiction for some of us. Maybe we’re just concerned world citizens who want to see a religion that was very influential on us become a better religion. While there may be an occasional assertion on this site that the world would be a better place without the LDS Church, I think they are few and far between. No one on here is trying to destroy the religion, just raise what we think are honest points of inquiry about morally ambiguous (or morally repugnant) practices of the religion. What’s wrong with trying to improve the world with a little carefully aimed criticism?

  12. This is in response to Doug’s comment #64.

    I don’t think anyone was arguing with the LDS church (or any organized religion) pooling funds to build churches, establish homeless shelters or to pay the clergy, for example.

    I think the argument (at least my argument) is that this information is not public knowledge, even to the members who donate their funds to the LDS church. And having a for-profit arm of a non profit religion can be problematic, for the reasons stated above (transparency, etc.)

    Many religions do good works all the time. Again, I’m not sure that anyone here was arguing that religions don’t help people.

    I am not sure that anyone has shown that asking for transparency is harmful for any organization, or that asking for transparency shows compulsion or addictive tendencies.

    I disagree that criticism of the LDS financial policies is an addiction. This is the wikipedia definition of addition, which I agree with.

    Discussing a difference of opinion is not being adversarial. On this website, it’s not even done without respect. A person can respect the Roman Catholic church, or other christian faiths and still take issue with some of their policies.

    From the wikipedia article:

    The term addiction is also sometimes applied to compulsions that are not substance-related, such as problem gambling and computer addiction. In these kinds of common usages, the term addiction is used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences, as deemed by the user himself to his or her individual health, mental state or social life.

    I disagree that participation at MSP is compulsory, or that discussion of LDS policies is an addiction. I can’t say I’ve had cravings, irritability or insomnia after making observations about the LDS church, other faiths or politics on the internet or among family or friends.

  13. It’s good to meet you, Doug. I agree with you that the anti-Catholic bigotry cultivated by evangelical fundamentalists is pathological.

    However, that is not what is happening here. We are Mormons who are concerned about other Mormons because there is evidence that we are hurting each other.

  14. I realize my response may be stale at this point. If there is a more appropriate venue to post, let me know and I’ll post there instead.

    Anyway, regarding this quote: “it sounds to me like youre saying the equivalent of, Unless the LDS Church starts sacrificing babies, leave it alone.”

    To attribute that sentiment to something I’ve said would be somewhat disingenuous. I’m not telling anyone to do anything.

    My oft repeated thought is that
    a purposeful campaign
    against an entity
    that you are not a part of
    and that doesn’t meaningfully impact your life
    is a classic indicator of unhealthy compulsion.

    Lets look at it this way.
    Can you clearly enumerate
    the benefit you receive in pay
    for the emotional and mental investment
    that you’ve dedicated
    toward demeaning and discrediting
    the faith and church of Latter Day Saints?

    Can you tell me about the happiness and joy it brings to you? Can you share how attacking a faith makes your children more balanced or your community more positively involved in itself?

    I understand you have reasons that translate into motivations for you. I am not addressing them; I imagine there are others who will engage those topic in lieu of myself.

    Instead, I am weighing the value of entering into an anti-Faith commitment. I choose to not engage in negative diatribe over other people’s faith in God, and those institutions that preserve it.

    That’s not for reasons of piety, it’s self preservation. Twenty-some years of reflection revealed I received no reward worth keeping.

    So, do I speak out against anything? In the matter of Faith, a couple of groups come to mind. One group is Islamists; that faction of Islam that attack people because their religious beliefs do not line up with their own.

    The second group would be adherents to an anti-Faith ideology. Many of them belong to a faction of Christianity (or secularism) that attack people because their religious beliefs do not line up with their own.

    I target those groups because they yield consequential damage that impact me and my society in this day. I can outline clear and unambiguous damage that they consciously orchestrate with the goal of harming others.

    Ok. That’s enough for now.
    I’m going to read the scriptures to my son, now.

    Good night all.
    Doug

  15. “I target those groups because they yield consequential damage that impact me and my society in this day. I can outline clear and unambiguous damage that they consciously orchestrate with the goal of harming others.”

    [cough] Prop 8 [cough]

  16. Let me see if I can explain, Doug. You said,

    “My oft repeated thought is that a purposeful campaign against an entity that you are not a part of and that doesnt meaningfully impact your life is a classic indicator of unhealthy compulsion.”

    So, if I attacked the Ocala, FL Elks Club for no reason other than I have an obsession with Elks Clubs, I would agree with you.

    But your argument falls apart based on one of your qualifiers: “doesn’t meaningfully impact your life.” So, here’s the question: Has the LDS Church meaningfully impacted my life?

    Um, yeah! All my family are LDS. I spent 25 years LDS. I served an LDS mission. Most of my childhood memories are laced with LDS seasonings. I’m basically still cultural LDS.

    Does it continue to affect my life? Of course. And one prominent way is in the LDS Church’s campaign to prevent homosexuals from marrying? Has this impacted my life? The answer is: YES!

    How? Well, I’m not homosexual and I am married. But I have many friends who are homosexual who cannot marry. The LDS Church’s campaign against equal rights for homosexuals has affected their lives, which, in turn, affects my life as I watch them be treated as second class citizens. Ergo, for me to speak out against them is perfectly justified based on your own argument. This is not an obsession, based on your argument. This is me criticizing an institution that has done things I think are wrong.

    As most of the regular posters here will tell you, we don’t single out the LDS Church, though it is most often the focus because of our histories. We also criticize: other religions, government, people, other immoral groups, etc. We are concerned citizens who criticize what we don’t like. I can see how it might become an obsession for someone. But I don’t think it has become such for anyone posting here.

    Though I guess we can ask everyone here: Hey, anyone posting on MSP suffering ill effects from your interest in Mormonism? Anyone not spending sufficient time with your family or friends as a result? Anyone suffering poor health as a result? Anyone lost your job as a result?

    If the answer is “NO”, then I think you’re barking up the wrong website, Doug.

  17. I’m not quite sure why people think it’s ethical to have unpaid missionaries volunteer to support for-profit businesses. That seems pretty obvious. What’s the difference between these ranch workers and those who serve missions at the church’s big-game reserve, where rich folks pay thousands of dollars to shoot trophy animals?

    When I worked for the church, I occasionally ran up against the boundary between non-profit and for-profit entities. Only once, however, did we blatantly cross the line, when we did work for a business (one that wasn’t church-owned or affiliated) and billed it as work for the church. At the time I thought it was wrong to do that and still do. Saying so doesn’t mean I “hate” the church.

  18. Doug,

    The question is not whether you, personally, “target” anyone via Prop 8. The question is whether the LDS Church meets your own expressed criteria for justifiable “targeting,” for speaking out against. And it clearly does.

  19. The church has alot of money there is no getting around that, the estimates run over 100 billion. I am not bothered in the least by this, a huge worldwide church costs alot of money to run. The Deseret Ranch in Florida may well be worth more than 1 billion dollars, i don’t have a problem in the least with this. I would rather belong to a church that had a well funded bank account than belonging to a church that is forced to run “beg-a-thons” to try and raise money to fund themselves.

  20. Even if that church has no accountability, never releases it’s financials and you have no idea where your donations are going, what they’re funding, or what your church has bought on your behalf with your money?

  21. Ok, since there is an avid look into what is going on with the one group how about checking All groups and getting an accross the board review. Only fair to apparis them all, and since it was mentioned as a sugestion to look at “other” ares of holdings in the World, then the same should be applied to those concerned. One might be suprized as to how much of the rest of the Planet is under the influance of the many groups and organizations out there that have holdings, property, and associated them selves to a particular… Let’s look at it in these terms. The work involved might be overwhelming and yet provide us all with a better perspctive on the whole. Good luck in this adventure.

  22. I live on this ranch and I got to say it is big. A lot of people don’t like the ranch and then they take it on the Latter Day Saints (mormons) saying that we don’t like people from town to come on the ranch, but it is’nt true. I mean the ranch is the best thing that has happend in my life so far. The ranch is just so COOL if you ever get a chance to go, do it. I garentee that you will have a good time, just like I am now.

    p.s. do not read or listian to the Orlando Setnal, they twist up the story.

  23. Just wondering how you ended up there. You moved there with your parents, then? Do they work on the ranch? Do you?

  24. I moved here with my grandparents. My grandpa works for the ranch. I work as a cowboy over the summer, I work for 8 hours with a 2 hour lunch break. If you look at the picture of the visitor center at this site, you can see a little bit of a handicapped ramp on the left of the building I built it.

  25. I’m assuming your LDS. Yes?

    Do you know much about the management of the ranch? Any sense of the financials?

  26. Groovy. Do you get paid for the work you do on the ranch? What about your grandparents; do they get paid?

  27. I think your research is great, though it seems your reasons for doing the research are not so great. You clearly don’t want to know because you’re curious; you want to cast dispersions on the church. Fine. Let me set you straight on a couple of things. First, the ranch that you are talking about is operated as a not-for-profit entity. All of the food that is produced there is used in the Church’s welfare program to help the needy.

    The Church does have a for profit arm which is called Deseret Management. Look it up. The businesses that are run for profit are things like radio stations, insurance companies, shopping centers, real estate development, etc. You will never see a missionary working in a for profit company.

    Yes, missionaries pay their own way. I was a missionary, but you’re casting an unduly negative light on the experience. Contrary to your assessment, no one is forced to serve a mission. Your aunt and uncle asked to serve a mission, and they worked only the hours that they were willing and able. The Church did not profit from their work; however, poor people did benefit from their work, which is probably why donated their time. I bet if you asked them, they would say that it was an experience that they will always cherish.

    So, bottom line: the Church does not profit from free labor. The Church does own a ton of land, and it will continue to prosper. The church operates without any debt, so it will continue to buy new businesses, and its revenue will grow exponentially. BUT none of this will come from tithing money.

    Furthermore, no one is pressured into paying tithing, and no one profits off of the tithing money. None of the ministry is paid. Tithing money is used solely for the religious work of the church such as buying new buildings and yes operating its not for profit welfare centers.

  28. Good to meet you, Law Student. Thanks for your comment.

    Generally, it is bad form to engage into an argument and to question people’s motives. Since no one is asking for your money, there is every reason to engage the argument on the merits without suspecting people’s intentions.

    Just because people disagree with you about the goodness of the Church that does not mean that they are evil. They may be right or wrong, which can be usually be determined in light of the evidence.

  29. With respect to paid staff, it does not seem to me that the LDS Church pays a smaller ratio of staff to members than the Roman Catholic or Lutheran Church.

    Once you take full time CES personnel into account, there does not appear to be much of a difference. True, we don’t consider CES teachers clerics but that makes no difference for the budget.

    Second, the brethren like to say that no tithing money is being spend on their commercial ventures. Notice, however, that all the money that the LDS Church owns ultimately comes from members’ contributions or the investment of members’ contributions.

    The brethren’s statements to the contrary are not entirely honest.

  30. Third, of course, Mormons will say that their mission was a great experience. I used to say that even though my mission were the worst two years of my life: worse than the army and worse than living with my alcoholic father, by far.

    There are considerable pressures for us to convince ourselves that our missions were the best two years of our lives. You cannot well get up during your home coming sacrament meeting and say that your mission was horrible.

    You would become an outcast and might as well forget about getting married in the temple.

    The most realistic depiction of what a mission is really like is probably the PBS documentary Get the Fire.

  31. LDS Law Student, I think you might be mistaken. My understanding is that Farmland Reserve Inc. is operated as for-profit company, not directly as part of the church’s welfare system. I could be wrong, though, so if you could provide a reference (internet-accessible if possible) to support your claim, I think we’d all appreciate it.

  32. Hellmut,

    “Just because people disagree with you about the goodness of the Church that does not mean that they are evil.”

    “Evil” is your word, not mine. I said your intentions are not great. I wouldn’t call you evil. That being said, I don’t need to question your intentions; they are quite clear. Would you deny that you are intending to cast a negative light on the LDS Church?
    By all means, state your intention if this is not it.

    I have no problem with the fact that we have different world views, and I can respect that, but that does not make your purposeful attempts to discredit and rouse disfavor towards the LDS church honorable.

  33. “With respect to paid staff, it does not seem to me that the LDS Church pays a smaller ratio of staff to members than the Roman Catholic or Lutheran Church.”

    Well, I currently attend a Catholic law school, and I completely disagree, but it’s not worth arguing as it is a trivial point.

  34. Helmut,

    “Third, of course, Mormons will say that their mission was a great experience. I used to say that even though my mission were the worst two years of my life: worse than the army and worse than living with my alcoholic father, by far.”

    I am sorry to hear that. I had the opposite experience. I genuinely loved my mission!

  35. Kuri,

    “LDS Law Student, I think you might be mistaken. My understanding is that Farmland Reserve Inc. is operated as for-profit company, not directly as part of the churchs welfare system”

    Kuri, you are right. I was wrong. I was going off a wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finances_of_The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints. So much for trusting Wikipedia 🙂 From my latest research, it seems the farms in Utah and Idaho are welfare, but the farms in Nebraska, Florida, etc. are not.

    In his talk, “State of the Church,” Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The Church does own a number of farm properties. As you know, we have some welfare properties whose produce is used to supply food for the needy. These are operated strictly for charitable purposes and legally qualify for tax-exempt status.

    Then we have some commercial farm properties. I spoke earlier of the reserves of the Church. Prudent management requires that this money be put to use. In that process, we have purchased and hold some good, productive farms. They are well operated under capable management, and they yield a conservative rate of return. We have felt that good farms, over a long period, represent a safe investment where the assets of the Church may be preserved and enhanced, while at the same time they are available as an agricultural resource to feed people should there come a time of need.

    Again, all such commercial properties are taxed under the government entities where they are located. Not only do they pay property taxes, but also income taxes on any profits. So it is with all of the commercial operations of the Church.”

  36. The preceding quote illuminates the Church’s stance on its finances: it views itself as a steward of the Lord’s Kingdom; and much like servants in the parable of the talents, the Church desires to wisely use and multiply the Lord’s reserves.

    So, in regard to your relatives that served a mission, I suppose to them and to the Church, it doesn’t matter whether their mission work was on a not-for-profit farm or a for-profit farm because the reserves from the commercial entities are used to further build the Kingdom of God. This would only be disturbing if certain persons received more money based on the Church’s income, but such is not the case and never will be.

    I think the Church’s financial machinations ought to be a model for all. They got out of debt. They saved enough to be able to run the Church for two years without any income. And now, they are buying land and businesses at an ever increasing rate with cash (not with loans), which makes their operations stable during times of recession and creates an environment where the business purchased can immediately return income, allowing the process to self-perpetuate. If only our government could operate similar to the LDS Church, we would be vastly more wealthy as a nation than we are today.

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