Last Update: 2/2014
In this section, I will briefly discuss if a “lay clergy” is biblical and highlight the vast financial empire of the Mormon church.
This all stems from a basic question: Is the leadership of the LDS church objective or do they have incentive to hide damaging doctrines and church history? I think you will find with some easy research there is a lot the Mormon church has to lose if its members knew the truth.
As a member of the Mormon church, I had always been taught the LDS leadership was a “lay clergy” as everything they did in the church was out of service because that was the way Jesus and His Apostles operated. This was yet another point the LDS church made to separate themselves from other churches, since they were not run by professionally paid clergy, that made them like the original New Testament church, and therefore, the only true church. First, not having professionally paid clergy is not biblical under the new Covenant of grace Christians are under.
1 Timothy 5:17-18 “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer [is] worthy of his reward.”
The context of ‘honor’ here is financial support. So if the leadership of the church (pastors, etc.) does well in delivering the gospel, they should be financially supported with a double honor (no, this does not mean they should be wealthy). This point is made clear by the apostle Peter:
1 Peter 5:2 "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;"
This verse clearly indicates the motivation which should be driving the pastors who preach the word of God (feeding the flock) - it's because they have the desire to willingly share the gospel out of pure love and not out of pressure or for any financial gain (filthy lucre). Are there religious institutions who are lead by "pastors" who are in it for "filthy lucre"? Absolutely, but this is why we have the word of God which is very clear on the motivations driving a real Christian pastor and why he goes into full-time ministry.
Yes, the offerings or financial giving of a Christian church do in part (sometimes a large part) go to help feed, shelter and clothe the needy. But those who are truly the needy need to feed and drink from the spiritual well, which is why pastors and church leaders are paid so they can devote 100% of their time to help the spiritually needy. Who is going to be more likely to be effective in teaching the church the word of God, a pastor who is 100% devoted to full-time ministry with a motivation purely out of love, or a Mormon bishop who works a full-time job and can spend 5 - 10 hours a week tending to his church out of love, but also intense pressure to maintain or exceed specific requirements set forth by his leadership if he wants to not only earn higher leadership roles, but maintain his worthiness?
This verse from Luke also provides support that having a paid clergy is biblical.
Luke 10:4-7 “Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace [be] to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.”
Jesus informs his disciples to not carry money with them as they will be provided for by God through the generosity of others. Jesus then tells them to regard the financial support they receive not as charity, but as payment for their efforts and work on behalf building the kingdom of God.
There are many other verses in the Old and New Testament which support a paid clergy as being biblical. However, the LDS church presents any paid clergy as Satan's representatives. Prior to its removal in 1990, when one went through the LDS temple endowment ceremony, a video showing Satan hiring a Protestant minister to preach to the children of Adam and Eve was shown. This was an obvious message to the viewers that having paid pastors, preachers, clergy, etc. to teach the message of the gospel is evidence of Satan's work on earth.
Even though Mormons are vehemently against a paid clergy and proudly claim this is one of the reasons which makes their church the only true church, they don't realize how ridiculously hypocritical their stance is on this doctrine.
Below I explore the finances of the LDS church and the "benefits" of being a General Authority in the church.
LDS Financial Empire
Having a finance background, I was always curious as to how much the Mormon church received in tithing, fast offerings, the missionary fund, etc. since most churches are financially transparent and publish their budget, revenues and expenses to their congregation. I never stopped to do any math on just how much the church might be bringing in, mainly because at that time, I completely trusted the D&C scripture the Lord would never let the Prophet lead the church astray. It was not until after I left the church I actually did some basic math to figure out roughly what the church brings in annually in tithing income from its over 14,000,000 claimed membership. Most estimate (even LDS estimates) the active membership in the LDS church to be only 3-5 million (about 1% of the US population and 0.05% of the world population).
14,000,000 claimed membership
4,000,000 estimated active membership (~30%)
2,000,000 Tithe Paying Working Members @ 50%
x $40,000 Avg. Salary
= $8,000,000,000 Tithing Income @ 10%
Yes, that is $8 billion. So what does the church do with this massive inflow of money every year? If it were charitable and acted under the direction of Jesus’ teaching to give to the poor, then you would expect a considerable portion of this money to go to help feed, shelter and clothe the needy. Even though the LDS church keeps extremely private what money it rakes in, they have shown at a high level what they give out. At the lds.org, website you can see the 2011 welfare services fact sheet which shows a total combined labor hours and financial support of $1.4 billion they have given from 1985 – 2011. Records from the previous year show the financial giving of this $1.4 billion is only about $400 million. Even if you use the entire $1.4 billion in charitable donations (labor and financial support), this amounts to a paltry $50 million per year in total support by the LDS church, or about $25 per year per active working member of the church. This compares to about $4,000 tithed to the church per year per active working member, or about 0.6% of total labor hours and tithing are effectively given to charity. There are dozens of for-profit corporations who give significantly more to charity that earn many times less than the LDS church.
So, where does all this money go? This is the point at which you want to make sure you are sitting down. Based on the LDS website ldsphilanthropies.org, all money received goes to the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is a "corporation sole," meaning everything is owned by one person, Thomas Monson, the President of the LDS church.
Although the LDS church does not like to openly discuss its worth through owned corporations, real estate holdings, investments, etc., there are articles and records showing exactly what the church owns. Before listing out many of their holdings, I want you to keep in mind what LDS Apostle Jeffery Holland said regarding money the church receives in the LDS church news article published December 18, 2011:
“There is no money in the Church except what our members offer.”
Likewise, in 1999 Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley stated in the Ensign, "We have a few business interests. Not many. Most of these were begun in very early days when the Church was the only organization which could provide the capital needed to start certain business interests designed to serve the people in this remote area. We have divested ourselves long since of some of these where it was felt there was no longer a need. Included in these divestitures, for instance, was the old Consolidated Wagon and Machine Company, which did well in the days of wagons and horse-drawn farm machinery. The company outlived its usefulness.
The Church sold the banks which it once held. As good banking services developed in the community, there was no longer any need for Church-owned banks."
This is so you may know how your hard-earned tithing money is spent, or rather invested.
Knowing all money the church receives comes through donations from church members, let’s take a look at some of the recorded holdings/investments of the LDS church as revealed by a July 2012 Business Week article on the Mormon Church. A chart in this article shows the LDS church is and its corporations/trusts (each corporation below may have several subsidiary companies reporting to it) are set up as follows:
A $5 billion investment in Downtown Salt Lake City spent over a span of five years called “Downtown Rising,” which includes a $2-3 billion mall that caters to high-end stores and boutiques. This is owned by City Creek Reserve Inc., one of the many for-profit companies owned by the LDS church. The church also owns and operates other malls, parking lots, and residential buildings.
Deseret Management Corp. (DMC), a for—profit umbrella company, owns the six subsidiary companies show above, which pull in an estimated $1.2 billion in revenue. The LDS church sold 17 radio stations in 2011 for $505 million. According to the CEO of DMC, Keith McMullin (a Mormon hand-picked for the position), DMC employs about 2,000 – 3,000 employees. DMC is overseen by 10 directors, the three members of the First Presidency, the Presiding Bishopric, three senior apostles and Keith McMullin.
AgReserves Inc., another for-profit company owned by the LDS church, owns approximately 1.4 million acres in the continental US. This land is used for farming, hunting preserves, orchards and ranches. This includes a $1 billion 290,000-acre ranch in central Florida that has 44,000 cows and 1,300 bulls. It also owns hundreds of millions of dollars in land investments in Britain, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. **UPDATE**: In November 2013, AgReserves Inc. purchased another 383,000 acres in northwest Florida for $565 million to officially become the largest private landholder in Florida.
The Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii is a non-profit company owned by the church that is a 42-acre tropical theme park on Oahu’s north shore. The assets are valued at $70 million with $23 million in ticket sales per year. They also collected $36 million in tax-free donations. The admission prices range from $50 - $230.
Ensign Peak Advisors is an LDS owned Investment Company which has billions of the church’s money in various types of investments and trusts.
**UPDATE**: The latest investment the LDS church has made is the construction of a 32-story residential tower in Logan Square, Philadelphia, PA. The estimated cost of the project is $120 million and will be complete in 2016.
I have listed only some of the vast holdings of the LDS church. There is no telling exactly how much the LDS church is worth as it has billions more in other companies, investments and real estate. Some estimates reach as high as $80 billion of net worth for the LDS church. Whatever it is, Apostle Jeffery Holland wants you to know your hard-earned money tithed to the church paid for all these corporations and investments. This is all going on while in a video interview, a smiling David Bednard says the church is not a “large corporation” and the Apostles are not the “board of directors.” I could not disagree more with Bednard as the structure of the church is set up exactly like a large corporate parent company managing dozens of subsidiary companies under its umbrella. Additionally, the LDS Prophet and Apostles are directors of many of these companies contrary to what Bednard states in the interview. Deseret Management Corporation CEO Keith McMullin confirms this in his interview I mentioned above.
What Would Jesus Do?
Is God really revealing to the LDS Prophet and Apostles the best use for the tithing income is to have an investment portfolio Warren Buffett would be jealous of? Jesus was constantly telling people to sell all they had and give it to the poor because our treasures are not earthly, but heavenly. Jesus came not to accrue power, but to give it up. This is a huge reason why the LDS church is subjective in nature as to what it wants you to know and not objective in providing the members clarity in their history and financial positions.
Is it starting to make sense as to why many of the Apostles and Presidency of the church are formerly successful businessmen? As you can see from the directors of the for-profit Deseret Management Corporation (DMC) above, all are the highest ranking members in the LDS church along with Keith McMullin. Is this a real church or a church using religion to masquerade as a tax-free corporation?
Why do you think the church changed the tithing slips in February 2012 to include the following print?
“Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated, all donations become the Church's property and will be used at the Church's sole discretion to further the Church's overall mission.”
This means no matter what box you check for your donations to be appropriated to, the church will “invest” the money how they best see fit. I guess the “Church’s overall mission” is an investment strategy revealed by God to be a global financial empire.
Think of how many starving people in the world could have food if the LDS church gave just $1 billion of their annual tithes to charity. It could save millions of people, yet Jesus must have revealed to the Prophet the better investment is a revitalization effort and mega-mall in downtown Salt Lake City that caters to the wealthy. I guess a stroll through the mall with new expensive jewelry from Tiffany & Co. to match the new Coach bag from Coach for the lady and a nice Rolex from the Rolex boutique for the man as you window shop at Nordstrom is more important than feeding, clothing and sheltering the poor. Be sure to look up and see the absolutely expensive but necessary retractable glass roof while shopping which will be open when it’s a beautiful day. Don’t worry if it is raining or snowing outside though because you are parking in the underground parking garage; that is, unless you valet parked. But since there is so much high-end shopping to do here in one day, maybe you should not try to do too much and just stay at the Marriott hotel adjacent to the mall and spread it out over multiple days.
Why would Jesus inspire the leadership of the Mormon church to build a mall catering to the wealthy, that sell clothes Mormon women cannot wear and alcohol in restaurants Mormons cannot drink? This is not what you would expect from people would supposedly have had a special witness of Christ considering they are proclaimed Prophets, Seers and Revelators. Then again, after Joseph Smith, the Prophets are not Prophesying, the Seers are not Seeing and the Revelators are not Revealing.
Paid Lay Clergy
After coming to the realization the Mormon church is one of the best run and diversified investment corporations with the best tax breaks available, I realize now why the First Presidency and 12 apostles in the church are generally former successful businessmen. They need them so they can direct all the companies the church owns. The General Authorities may not be “salaried” employees of the church, but don’t let that deceive you. Rest assure they are paid handsomely by the companies of whose directors’ seats they hold. Actually, they are paid by the church and are not a “lay clergy” as the church leads its members to believe. All General Authorities (Seventies and up) receive what they call a “modest living allowance” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p.510) instead of a “salary.” You can call it whatever you want, but the fact is the church tells you they don’t pay their leaders when they most certainly do, and in many ways. Yet they claim having an unpaid clergy is one of the reasons which make the LDS the only true church on earth.
If the LDS church or any members disagree, then they need to open their financial records and provide more clarity into what they own, how much they donate and how much the General Authorities earn.
Benefits of General Authorities
Here is another nice benefit the church Prophet received which is shown in an August 1st, 1994 Salt Lake Tribune article on p. E1: the church president lives in a “downtown condominium, the official residence of church presidents.” The Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 8, 1988, reads “The $1.2 million condominium at 40 N. State that is home to the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be exempt from property taxes, Salt Lake County commissioners ruled Tuesday.” I wonder what the value of this property is today?
From property research made by David Twede, the current LDS prophet, Thomas Monson, has a modest 3 homes in Utah alone worth a combined total of over $1 million. Monson also has a personal bodyguard and driver to escort him around in a security edition Audi which has a price tag just under $1 million. How in the world does Thomas Monson afford all this when he has been an employee of the church virtually all his working life, making what the church refers to as a "modest living allowance"?
Not even the Pope mobile costs anywhere near this (about $550K) and I would suspect the Pope would be at a much higher security risk than the Mormon Prophet.
LDS Apostle Dieter Uchtdorf is the proud new owner of a $782,000 estate in the prestigious gated community of Red Leges. This is not his primary residence, but his summer vacation home. His primary residence is in another prestigious community in North SLC. Tax records on this estate show the value at $778,000. Obviously, anyone who owns two properties that have a combined value at over $1.5 million will also have a lifestyle that parallels such wealth. This begs a few questions though. How does a man who has not worked a day in almost 17 years (retired pilot/SVP flight operations) afford to live so lavishly? It is also interesting these properties were not acquired before or even just after his retirement in 1996, but closer correspond to his General Authority callings. His primary residence was purchased after he was called to be a General Authority and the vacation estate was purchased in 2012. The timing sure is interesting as it looks as if there was a financial “raise” (promoted to General Authority) so he could acquire the first estate and then another big “raise” (promoted to Apostle) allowed him to acquire the second estate. Even if he could afford all this, why, if he is an apostle of God, would he want to display such wealth when the gospel speaks out against wealth so much? Also, why is his tax bill being mailed to the LDS church headquarters? Who is footing his property tax bill?
LDS Apostle Boyd K. Packer is a lifelong church employee who went straight from teaching and administrative roles in the Church Education System (CES) to being called as a General Authority. Its no secret teachers and administrators in education do not earn anywhere near enough to support a wealthy lifestyle, so we could expect Mr. Packer to be living in accommodations which would be relatively modest, reflecting the smaller salaries teachers earn and the "modest living allowance" he has been earning as a General Authority. So let's see what properties Mr. Packer owns (reminder - this is just Utah alone). Again, David Twede's blog shows the records from the Salt Lake County Tax Assessor's Office for the two properties Mr. Packer owns. The first is a stunning $1.24 million estate (was worth over $1.7 million in 2008) and the second is a $424,000 property. Are you kidding me? How in the world can anyone who was a seminary teacher and now earns a "modest living allowance" afford to have over $1.6 million in Utah properties alone? You could not afford to pay the property taxes alone and still maintain a poverty level lifestyle on a teachers' salary!
Let’s see what the Mission Presidents Handbook (©2006 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.) details what financial support they receive while serving. David Twede, a former managing editor at MormonThink.com, shares quotes and his thoughts from the Mission President’s Handbook from his blog:
It begins with this statement:
“While you are serving as mission president, the Church reimburses the necessary living expenses for you, your wife, and your dependent children.”
Note the term “necessary” prefixed to “living expenses”.
These “necessary” living expenses include: “food, clothing, household supplies, family activities, dry cleaning, personal long-distance calls to family, and modest gifts (for example, Christmas, birthdays, or anniversary).”
Housing expenses include “rent (if leased), utilities, telephones, and Internet connection”; “gardening and repair or replacement of household items” which includes hiring a gardener if needed for larger lots; “one part-time housekeeper-cook”; “one mission automobile assigned exclusively to the mission president”; and any assigned mission vehicle can be used by the wife or licensed dependents for “shopping, taking children to school, or other needs.”
The following “necessary” costs are also reimbursed (or provided directly in the mission home):
•Medical expenses (dental, eye care and medically necessary orthodontia)
•Support for children serving full-time missions
•One round trip fare for each child under age 26 to visit the parents’ mission
•Elementary and secondary school expenses for tuition, fees, books, and materials
•Undergraduate tuition at an accredited college or university (Tuition is waived at Church-owned schools.)
I was not aware that tuition, paying for the child’s mission, modest Christmas gifts and more were “necessary living expenses”. Also note, mission presidents are requested not to pay tithing on funds (income) reimbursed by the church.
The handbook advises the mission president that “any funds reimbursed to you should be kept strictly confidential and should not be discussed with missionaries, other mission presidents, friends, or family members.”
Mission presidents are warned that they “should not open a local bank account for personal funds received from the Church ... especially if the account would produce interest (and thus raise income tax questions).” Instead of allowing mission president control over their personal funds, “a joint personal bank account at Church headquarters is established for you and your wife.”
The tax issue raised is addressed more fully in the handbook. The Church avoids tax issues by carefully defining the relationship between themselves and the mission president as a “volunteer religious service” so that “any funds reimbursed to you from the Church are not considered income for tax purposes; they are not reported to the government, and taxes are not withheld with regard to these funds.”
In order to keep quiet the situation, not only are the mission presidents told not to discuss any funds they receive with any member (as quoted above), but also to “not share information on funds you receive from the Church with those who help you with financial or tax matters.” To “never represent in any way that you are paid for your service.” And “do not list any funds you receive from the Church, regardless of where you serve or where you hold citizenship.”
This secrecy listed in a secret handbook that was formerly only accessible to mission president and general authorities raises the question about the church’s lack of financial transparency. First of all, if mission presidents get the benefit of all living expenses (necessary and beyond) paid by the Church, including highly expensive benefits like college tuition and gardeners, what do the Quorum of the 70 receive? What do the 12 apostles earn?
For further reading regarding the Mission President Handbook, please visit David Twede’s blog site.
Exactly what LDS Apostles and the lesser General Authorities get paid, excuse me, receive as a “modest living allowance,” has been a question many have speculated on. A recent blog from David Twede was posted that, in part, alluded to this topic. Grant Palmer, a 34 year veteran of the LDS Church Educational System (CES), shares information from meetings with Mission Presidents and a first quorum of the Seventy member. What is revealed is extremely interesting regarding what the General Authorities know about the truth of the church, the financial perks ($1 million “gift” for all Apostles), that the properties and homes are purchased by the church for Apostles, that there are life-long Non-Disclosure agreements for anyone with access to financial information, and many other interesting findings.
You have to be hiding under a rock to not see the LDS Presidency and 12 Apostles are typically wealthy and successful businessmen (at least they are now) whom have very little, if any, formal theology background. These men are perched in their ivory towers, unapproachable, revered and treated as royalty by the LDS membership. Was Jesus living so lavishly and is this really how He wants the church run? Building a vast financial empire while there are millions of people all over the world dying from starvation and disease? Not only does it make me ill the church feels this is appropriate, but also they hide this wealth from their own members. I wonder how the membership would feel about all this if they knew the truth about how tithing and other funds are appropriated.
Even if the top leaders knew the truth about the church (which I personally think many do), there is not much they could do to bring it to light without significant repercussions. They would not only lose their calling and lifetime “modest living allowance,” and book deals, but potentially their friends and families. Since they are like rock stars in the LDS world, the better careers their family members reap would likely end. They may have legal repercussions as well with revealing anything tied to their signed NDA agreements. Their world and reputation as they know it would end. Instead of revealing the truth, they become apart of a long-term plan to slowly change the church, transitioning away from damaging historical doctrines and history into a more socially acceptable church that masquerades as Christian.
As any former missionary knows the high pressure put on them and would attest to, the bottom line is growing church membership through new converts. This is the only way the leaders can continue to grow wealth of the church. But the massive problem staring them straight in the face and threatening to bring down the “only true church on the face of the earth” is the internet and the truth it holds. The internet is a vast repository of information where there is a significant amount of objective and unfiltered church history and doctrine the church does not want its members to access, especially the youth. That is why there is a major focus from the top of the church to focus on the youth and do what they can to keep them away from finding out the truth regarding historical church doctrines and issues. This is not going to come from the upper echelons of the church as a warning to stay away from the internet; the General Authorities and the youth are too cunning to buy that approach as it fails today. No, they will be using smoke screens through their “testimony” and other psychological methods.
Trouble is brewing in the LDS church headquarters and the rapid membership attrition is the target. The church has published short essays attempting to address the issues that have been the cause of members leaving in “mass droves.” Of course, they are not completely objective and honest if you read the unbiased responses from www.mormonthink.com, as that would cause a faster exodus, but what this does is confirm is the LDS church suppresses, distorts and outright deceives. How many times have you heard the only reasons why church members leave is because “they want to sin,” temptation, or any other stereotypical justification? How many times have you heard from church leadership when you find something damaging or even questionable about the church's history, it is all "anti-Mormon lies"? Why in the world would the church want to now bring up the issues which have plagued it since its inception they have always attempted to ignore? The answer is because these are the very reasons members are leaving in “mass droves” and not because of the canned reasons they provide to questioning members.
At this point you should ask yourself if the Mormon church and its leaders want what's best for your eternal life or for them and the expansion of their vast wealth from owned corporations, real estate holdings, investments, etc.? Is this really how Jesus would run His church, letting starvation and disease kill millions which could be saved with a fraction of the LDS church’s vast financial resources? This shows me the church leadership is made up of narcissistic men rather than people who truly care for their members. I am shocked and appalled these men can look themselves in the mirror and their families in the face everyday thinking they are doing the Lord’s work.
For more information and insight into this topic please visit the following links:
THE CROSS UNVEILED