"Furthermore, I want to say to you, we may not be able to reach it right away, but we expect to see the day when we will not have to ask you for one dollar of donation for any purpose, except that which you volunteer to give of your own accord, because we will have tithes sufficient in the storehouse of the Lord to pay everything that is needful for the advancement of the kingdom of God. I want to live to see that day, if the Lord will spare my life. It does not make any difference, though, so far as that is concerned, whether I live or not. That is the true policy, the true purpose of the Lord in the management of the affairs of His Church."
"...And there is the moral question of the brethren asking church members in Africa and Latin America to pay a full tithe, when doing so would mean their own children would go hungry. 'Pay the church first,' members are counseled - even when the money derived is only being used to make more money - or worse, prop up failing investments. Where is the morality in that?"
A question that often arises in ex-Mormon forums is just how rich the Mormon church really is. The answer is more interesting than most people might suppose. Some folks claim it is living hand to mouth. Others claim it has a net worth of $1 trillion or more. The reality revealed by careful and persistent investigation is actually quite interesting. Even fascinating.
Until the late 19th century, the Mormon church was generally forthright and open about its finances. It published most of its financial affairs and no one had any reason to question what it was doing, because it was mostly out there for everyone to see. And so, when the United States Congress decided to liquidate the Mormon church as a criminal enterprise during the finality of the polygamy persecutions, due to its failure to comply with the Edmunds-Tucker Act, it wasn't hard to identify the church's assets.
In the case of Late Corporation Of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints versus United States, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was legal and justified to extinguish the church corporation and seize its assets. And it wasn't hard for the federal government to do it. All the church's financial affairs were all hanging out. It was easy to find and seize everything the church owned - the Utah Territorial government was ordered by congress to do so, including all temples and wardhouses (which the Territory somehow never got around to actually seizing).
The church was stripped clean of its non-ecclesiastical assets, about $3 million in assets were seized, and it was left penniless. It literally owned nothing other than the wardhouses and temples, which technically it didn't own, but continued to occupy under the legal doctrine of "adverse possession" (commonly known as squatters' rights), until they were eventually reconveyed to the church. And the privations that were visited upon the brethren in trying to cope with this situation were substantial.
By the time Joseph F. Smith ascended to the presidency in 1901, the church was technically bankrupt. With only half a million members, it had debts equivalent to $70 million in 2019 dollars, and revenues of only a few million. Debt service alone was eating the church alive. Franklin S. Richards, born in Salt Lake only two years after the arrival of Brigham and the pioneers, and a lawyer by training and something of a financial wizard in his own right, was brought in originally to sort out the mess left in the wake of Brigham Young's co-mingling his own finances with the funds belonging to the church. The estate claims by his 50+ wives and numerous creditors with those of the church meant that his death in 1877 had created such a colossal mess that, even after the turn of the century, it was still being sorted out.
Richards' job was to finish cleaning up that mess and to put the church's financial house in order after the polygamy seizures. In only seven years, he'd gotten the debt paid down and then proceded to put the financial legal structures in order so that the church couldn't be "Brighamized" by a corrupt leader again. That was why the Corporation of the President was formed - it owned the entirety of the church's assets and whoever was installed as the president basically had signature authority over the assets, but, under the terms of the corporate charter, didn't own them, though the president of the church was the corporate sole (sole legal owner) of the corporation itself. An additional entity, the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop, was formed to hold actual titles to real estate and equity assets, making it much more difficult for a corrupt leader to misappropriate them. It was a brilliant solution. But when Richards passed from the scene in the mid 30s at the height of the Great Depression, financial mismanagement once again ensued.
It's known that as late as the 1940s, the investment assets of the church were modest compared to other churches of its size, and income from those investments was insignificant and fiscal mismanagement, including large and increasing amounts of debt service, was awful. An example of the mismanagement is the fact that, after World War II, the church invested heavily in a large amount of land in Europe, in the expectation it would be needed for welfare farms, wardhouses, stake centers and temples, because it expected a huge increase in church membership in Europe in the wake of the war. That didn't happen. A similar farmland acquisition program happened in the United States, with similar expectations of a huge increase in church membership. It didn't happen in the U.S., either. So many of those holdings, both in Europe and North America were eventually sold off, frequently at a loss. Accumulated losses were so high that there were several instances in which church employees were asked not to cash their paychecks.
The church was operating a continuous deficit in the many millions most years - ballooning from $8 million in 1959, the last year it published its accounts, to $32 million in 1962 alone (1962 dollars), and the deficit was being financed with bond flotations, floated by Wall Street. Obviously, that wasn't sustainable. The final straw was the construction of the Church Office Building, whose $31 millon cost practically bankrupted the church when it was being very slowly built, beginning in 1962 and stretching into 1972. The decision to build it, by Hugh B. Brown, a notorious spendthrift ("If he had a nickel, he'd spend it" said one apostle of him), was the act that forced the issue - Wall Street began balking at taking on any more church debt.
So a decision was taken in the last years of the David O. McKay administration to deal with this problem by bringing in some businesspeople from among the membership into positions of leadership, and put the church's financial affairs in their care to put the church on a more solid financial foundation.
Brought in to lead this effort in 1973 was N. Eldon Tanner, a successful Canadian businessman and member of the Seventy, who was made an apostle for the specific purpose of being put in charge of the church's business affairs. The church soon began appointing seventies and apostles with business experience to run its affairs, both by supervision of church finances, but also by placing them on the board of directors of the for-profit corporations which the church privately held. That's been an informal qualification for becoming a general authority ever since.
Besides the measures used for getting the church out of trouble, Tanner established three inviolable principles that the church was counseled never to violate in the future: 1. Never spend more than is received in tithing revenue, 2. never borrow money - always keep your spending within your current means, and 3. always take part of the tithing revenues and squirrel them away for a rainy day, so that borrowing would not be necessary in the future, even in a crisis.
Tanner's efforts were a spectacular success, and the procedures he established for building the wealth of the church have continued to the present day, long after his death, and long after they were no longer needed, or, it might be said, appropriate. It wasn't long before all the church's debts had been paid down, and the church began in earnest to invest any available tithing money in for-profit enterprises that could build the wealth of the church. From unspent tithing funds alone, the church invests an additional $1 billion to $2 billion every year. Those efforts continue to this day, and a half century of them, with compounded reinvestment, have made the church one of the wealthiest organizations in the world.
So, that raises the obvious question: Just how rich is the Mormon church in this modern day and age? That's an exceedingly difficult question to answer, given that, for the reasons explained above, the church has deliberately made itself one of the most opaque churches in the United States if not the world.
The first thing we need to analyze is the for-profit corporate holdings known to be owned outright by the church. Since the church has a habit of placing all of its intellectual assets in a corporate subsidiary known as Intellectual Reserve, Inc., it was noticed by someone that one of the corporations he knew was wholly owned by the church, had its domain name registered to Intellectual Reserve.
So this sparked an idea - if the church was registering its domain names to Intellectual Reserve, simply searching for all the domain names registered to Intellectual Reserve should produce a list of corporations owned by the church. A "whois" search quickly turned up about 200 domain names registered to Intellectual Reserve. Going through the list showed a lot of duplicates (such as domain.org and domain.com referring to the same entity), but when these were winnowed down, about 60 entities who were clearly individual corporations, were identified. Then began an investigation of who these entities are and what they were worth.
It turned out that the sum total of their asset valuations came to $32 billion, a figure that has been widely publicized as the corporate value of the church. But it's misleadingly low, as we shall see.
So, by that valuation, we know that, for an absolute minimum, the Corporation Of The President Of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints owns outright, as wholly-owned assets, a group of corporations worth a total of $32 billion. That alone makes it a Fortune 100 company - as of this writing (October, 2019), coming in just below Phillips Petroleum, and just ahead of 3M Corporation. And that's just the corporations it owns and controls outright. It does not include minority positions the church owns, either in bonds or equities, in other corporations.
On December 16, 2019, the Washington Post published a remarkable article, in which it said that a whistleblower had defected from Ensign Peak Advisers, the holding company (formed in 1997) that holds the church's for-profit assets. EPA was registered as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt corporation, meaning that its principal business is supporting charitable activities, and, to qualify for that status, a certain minimum percentage of its revenue MUST, by law, be committed to charitable activities on an annual basis. The whistleblower went on to note that not a single dime of EPA revenue had ever been spent on charitable activity since its founding, a gross violation of the spirit, if not the law of IRS regulations as detailed below.
EPA holds title to all of the for-profit corporate equities (and a limited amount of associated real estate) owned by the church. The current (December, 2019) value of the assets directly held by EPA amounted to $101 billion. To remain tax exempt, Ensign Peak Advisers must invest a certain minimum percentage of it in religious, educational or charitable work. The minimum has never been defined in law, but the IRS generally holds that 5% is a reasonable minimum amount. But not one thin dime of the money EPA has ever controlled has been so spent. Nor has it provided a liability stream backstop to the church, it has on only two occasions provisioned any capital calls (both made from uncomingled tithing revenue, and both went, illegally, to for-profit ventures, as described below), and has no published plan for future investment of its assets, all requirements that are supposed to be met. EPA tells employees that the assets being accumulated will be used either during the Second Coming or after the Second Coming has occurred. The IRS regulations do not recognize accumulating assets for the return of Jesus as a valid reason for a 501(c)3 corporation to not expend money on its stated charitable purpose. EPA's income must, by law, be used in the here and now to support religious, educational or charitable activities. It has never, in its entire history, ever done so. Not even a dime.
Other gross IRS violations include EPA's use of $2 billion in un-comingled tithing contributions, received by the church from its members who gave it in good faith with the reasonable expectation that they would be used for ecclesiastical activies, but it was, instead, used to prop up two failed investments. The first was the use of $600 million of its funds to bail out the for-profit Beneficial Financial Group from a pending bankruptcy in 2009 (resulting from of its excessive exposure to dodgy mortgage-backed securities), and the use of $1.4 billion in tithing revenues to pay for cost overruns on the construction of the for-profit City Creek Mall in downtown Salt Lake City near Temple Square.
In both cases, the money was laundered by passing it through the Deseret Management Corporation, a for-profit entity, which then paid it out to Beneficial and to the contractors on the City Creek Mall. In both cases, the money was paid out directly from non-comingled tithing funds received by Ensign Peak from the church treasury for the purposes of investment.
A YouTube video produced by the whistleblower went on to note that EPA had been the beneficiary of at least $20 billion in tax exemptions over the years, tax exemptions to which it was not entitled under the law, given its total lack of charitable activity. This sort of thing has not been uncommon - the church has co-mingled the receipts from its for-profit corporations so frequently and extensively with its legitimately tax exempt ecclesiastical operations, that its tax exempt status itself is now open to question under a reasonable interpretation of IRS rules.
We do know, from an internal slide presentation (found in the video linked above) that was included as an appendix to the IRS whistleblower complaint, that as of February 2018, the church valuated its Ensign Peak valuations as U.S. domestic corporate equities at 35.7%, and its international corporate equities (foreign corporation stocks) at 9.9%. 5.2% are held in private equities - money invested directly in mostly small or private companies, or in public companies with the intention of taking them private. 7.7% are in a hybrid public/private equity investment. 21.7% of Ensign Peak's investment portfolio is invested in debt instruments, from which it is deriving interest income. There is typically about $2.9 billion sitting in cash, waiting to be invested. Consider that the church has, on hand it its church treasury, about $4.5 billion, ready to meet the expenses of its ecclesiastical operations. So, typically, anywhere from a seventh to about a third of what the church takes in from its ecclesiastical operations (mostly but not limited to tithing revenue), ends up at Ensign Peak Advisers, ready to be invested as surplus tithing receipts.
The Internal Revenue Service allows charitable and religious institutions to use "auxiliary organizations" (of which Ensign is specifically defined as one in its charter) to squirrel away surplus funds for future contingent needs of its parent. That's reasonable and prudent, but that raises the question of what is to supposed to happen when an auxiliary organization has done what EPA has done and is doing, and has accumulated vast resources far in excess of any concievable need of the organization to which it is an auxiliary?
The IRS allows squirreling away resources as long as the accumulated amounts are "commensurate in scope" with what the needs of the supported organization actually are. The problem is that the IRS has never defined what "commensurate in scope" actually means. And that ambiguity is what EPA appears to be exploiting. It alone currently holds "reserves" sufficient to fund the entire operation of the church for at least 17 years, without a dime of any other revenue ever being received. And that's just EPA assets, and doesn't include other assets the church owns that are at least twice that size. Even if EPA were to be stripped of its tax exempt status, taxation of most of its accumulated capital would not be possible, because the statute of limitations has run out on the accumulation of most of it.
That's just the Ensign Peak Advisers side of things - internal to the church's operations, EPA is called the "reserve of the reserves." So there's still the reserves themselves to consider. EPA's assets does not include its non-corporate (i.e., non-EPA) for-profit real estate holdings that are not part of the EPA universe.
Dwarfing its corporate equity holdings is what it owns in commercial and agricultural real estate. And it owns a lot of real estate. A lot. In cattle ranches alone, it is one of the largest operators in the United States.
The IRS Whistleblower revelations list the church real estate assets as being 17.4% of Ensign Peak Adviser's assets. That means that Ensign Peak Advisers alone is worth $124 billion. But that does not include the bulk of its real estate assets, which it apparently holds separately, and are not a part of the EPA universe.
In Florida, the church owns a total of more than 1500 square miles (in several parcels), in its Deseret Cattle And Citrus ranch operation, located near Orlando, in that one entity alone. That ranch is the largest cow and calving operation in the world and one of the state's largest citrus producers, as well as producing landscaping palms and other agricultural produce. It also includes a mining operation, producing shell-bed limestone used in paving the state's roads. One parcel alone, near Orlando, amounts to 296,000 acres or 462 square miles. In 2015, the church announced plans to urbanize 133,000 acres of it, making a home for 500,000 people. But that plan is on hold after drawing howls of protest from environmentalists, since it would destroy a lot of valuable wetlands and wildlife habitat. The Deseret holdings are currently run as a cow-and-calf operation, running 44,000 head of cattle.
In 2013, it acquired (for $535 million) an additional 382,000 acres (596 square miles) stretching across nine counties in the Florida panhandle soutwest of Talahassee. It is currently primarily timberland. That acquisition made it the largest owner of private property in the state, bringing it up to owning a total of 2.2% of the entire land area of the state of Florida.
It also owns similar, though smaller cow and calf operations in Iowa (one percent of the land area of Iowa, according to a state official there, where it is the state's largest private property owner) and a smaller operation in Nebraska. In Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Indiana, it confesses to the ownership of 38,540 acres of farmland, most of which it acquired as small (200-300 acre) parcels during the 1970s. Most of those parcels are rented out to local farmers, often the farm families from which they were purchased. It owns more than 19,000 acres in Missouri alone, mostly in Jackson and Daviess counties, acquired in anticipation of the Second Coming, which it expects to occur in the latter county.
In Hawaii, of which it seems to be particularly fond, it owns at least 35 square miles of land on Oahu. Given that the average price for undeveloped rural raw land in Hawaii is currently averaging $14,000 per acre, that works out to $313 million for that one holding. And it has other large holdings in Hawaii as well - Hawaii Reserves, Inc. owns 7,000 acres in Laie (worth $98 million at median raw land prices), as well as the Laie Water Company, a utility providing 1.2 million gallons of water per day to thousands of private customers in Laie, and a sewer/sewage treatment facility providing sewer service to the same area.
In Montana, it owns the Winnecook Ranch, near Harlowton (roughly half way between Helena and Billings), which consists of 48,000 deeded acres, along the Musselshell River running along the south side of US highway 12. It was acquired from the Winnecook family which had owned it from its founding in the 1880s, for an undisclosed amount of money. But you can be sure it wasn't cheap.
In Oregon, it owns the 15,000 acre Boardman Tree Farm, stretching along the Columbia River for six miles in the Columbia River Gorge near the town of Boardman. It used to be a stretch of dense hybrid poplars, much loved among locals for many years as a picnicing spot along the river, and the site for several festivals and cultural events, as well as a much-needed source of employment: a sawmill for producing dimensioned lumber from the trees employed 100 people. But alas, the poplars are being cut down, over a 12-year period. A third of the original 25,000 acres was sold for $65 million to Willow Creek Farms, who now uses it for grazing dairy cattle, and the remainder is being ripped out and replaced with cattle ranching and potato farms. More money in cattle and potatoes, apparently.
In Washington state, it owns a 34,000 acre farm, the largest irrigated farm in the state, on which it grows corn, wheat and potatoes. And that's only a small part of the 120,000 acres of farmland it confesses to owning in just the southeastern part of the state.
In California, its largest single holding is South Valley Farms, near the town of Wasco, in Kern County. It is a major producer of almonds and pistachios, processed on-site and sold mostly to food processors, netting the company an average of $5.5 million in sales annually. It produces large quantities of 10 different varieties of almonds, processing them in an enormous building, and generating 30,000 tons of hulls and 6,000 tons of tree-trimmings annually, sent to a power generating facility nearby to be burned. I haven't found out how large the holding is, but its web site claims it is the largest producer of almonds and pistachios in California. I can believe that, from the arial photo of its enormous on-site processing plant, which itself covers several acres.
At the other end of California's Central Valley is the 13,000 acre Deseret Farms holding near Chico. It also produces almonds, but principally walnuts. They are processed on-site by another church holding, the Berberian Nut Company.
With its rich real estate market, in California, it's not just ag holdings. The church-owned Deseret News web site has a page stating: "California records show the church owns $67 million in commercial properties, including $15 million in apartment buildings in Stockton and Glendale, a $10.6 million office building in Anaheim and a $4.5 million retail development in Fresno County." That's what we know. We also know there's a lot more that is not on that list.
In Arizona, that same Deseret News page says "In Arizona, the church owns at least $117 million in commercial and agricultural properties and vacant land, including about 6,000 acres of farmland and orchards in Maricopa County." That's what it fesses up to. It actually is known to own considerably more than that, in addition to the 500 parcels it owns in Arizona alone for what it calls its "ecclesiastical operations."
Purposefully overpaying for land being bought from favored church members or other people to whom the church owes favors or from whom they seek influence is a favorite tactic of the church when it needs to compensate a member or pay back a favor to or seek influence from someone and they don't want to have to explain things - and that is how much of this land has been acquired. For example, in 2008, the church paid $72 million for 1900 acres of raw land in Pinal County, Arizona, 35 miles south of Phoenix, roughly half-way to Tucson. That works out to $37,800 per acre for totally raw, undeveloped, desert land with no water rights, no utility access, a long way from anywhere. The article in the Arizona Republic about that purchase quoted several puzzled real estate professionals as saying it was worth only a small part of that, and they were mystified as to why the church paid so much - as finished lots (already legally subdivided and with paved streets and utilities in, ready to build) right on the outskirts of Phoenix don't sell for that much. The church has never explained that high purchase price.
In Philadelphia, it owns the 32-story residential complex at 1601 Vine Street. It has 277 residential rental units (ten of which are townhomes), 12,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, two levels of underground parking, and is next door to a large stake center built to accomodate the city's Mormon population.
In Texas, in early 2020, for about $50 million, it acquired the KB Carter Ranch from its three owner-families. It consists of 15,000 deeded acres along Interstate 45, about midway between Houston and Dallas in Leon and Freestone Counties. On the property is a 3500 square foot owner's home, two homes for employees, barns, a horse facility and a workshop. It has considerable riverfront woodlands and acres of lakes. It has a private airstrip. Besides running 10,000 head of cattle, it also grows corn and sorghum. During purchase negotiations, the church promised not to subdivide it.
In Utah, it will surprise no one to learn that the church is by far the largest single private property owner.
Some years ago, the Salt Lake Tribune sent some reporters around to poke through the public records in the County Recorder's offices scattered around the state of Utah, carefully recording land and real property owned by entities known to be church-owned corporations in each county. When the results were tallied up, the total assessed taxable value was $110 billion - about 11% of the assessed taxable property value of the entire state of Utah.
A recent article in LDS Daily, a website that is pro-church, but not owned by it, listed a handful of the church's for-profit businesses, but also the following real estate properties as being held by Utah Property Management Associates, which is one of the subsidiaries of Property Reserve, Inc., one of its several real estate portfolio managers. It listed the following properties (most, but not all in Utah, predominantly in Salt Lake City):
Some of the holdings in Utah are enormous. The church owns, for example, a 200,000 acre (312 square mile) deeded, for-profit private hunting reserve known as the Westlake Farm Commercial Hunting Area near the town of Elberta, and it is titled to the Deseret Land and Livestock Company, a holding company for ranch properties that is, itself, a subsidiary of the LDS Farm Management Company, a subsidiary of AgReserves, Inc. Ranging in elevation from 6300 to 8700 feet, the "Livestock" part is relevant, because in addition to the private hunting operations, that holding also grazes 8500 head of cattle in a cow and calving operation.
The Elberta holding includes a 2600-foot airstrip, so that the rich bastards that hunt there don't have to drive very far to kill their elk and moose, for which they pay as much as $8500 for a permit, including guides and a stay in the luxurious hunting lodge. And they have been selling as many as 250 permits per year for access to the 4,000 deer and elk, 500 antelope and 500 moose. The labor that runs this for-profit playground for the rich are its nearly-cost-free volunteer LDS missionaries, who work there for as much as 18 hours per day, six days per week, totally for free, a fact that the church doesn't even try to hide.
Adjacent to the hunting reserve is a 60,000 acre farming area (mentioned but not described in the link above), which is wholly-owned by the church and has been planned for gradual urban development, which has already begun. The plan is to eventually develop the farmland into an urban area, accomodating as many as 750,000 people when the entire planned development is completed. The entirety of Utah County, where it is located, has a current population of only about two thirds that. To provide the jobs, the church is already reaching out - and has signed a $250 million development deal with First Quality Enterprises, to build a pulp-products mill there, which will produce paper towels and baby diapers, from trees on the hunting reserve property.
Along the Utah-Wyoming border, it owns a 201,000 acre ranch which is currently supporting 3,000 head of cattle.
The church doesn't actually own all of its holdings. Sometimes it leases them. Turns out it's been a significant player in coal leases on federal lands in Utah. It holds coal leases on 3483 acres of federal land in the Manti-LaSalle National Forest, in three leases acquired in the 1960s, the first acquired for $1 per acre, the second for $25 per acre and the third for $76 per acre. Even at ten times the price, Newsweek says they were a steal - but in spite of their value, there's only been one operating development on those leases. It was known as the Deer Creek Mine, and was leased by the church to PacifiCorp, an energy-producing subsidiary of Berkshire-Hathaway, which operated it from the 1970s until it was shut down in 2015, during which time it produced as much as 2.1 million tons of coal per year. The coal was consumed by PacifiCorp's Huntington Power Plant, which is still in operation and is still operated by PacifiCorp, supplying a bit over a gigawatt of power to the Utah Power and Light utility system. No word on whether PacifiCorp will do the site remediation at the Deer Creek mine, but as the federal lease holder, ultimately it will be the church who will be legally responsible for putting the federal land back into its original state. Current satellite images show empty buildings and parking lots at the underground Deer Creek Mine site, but little activity, though the nearby Huntington power plant is still in full operation. The coal it uses is currently being supplied by three other mines in the Price/Carbon County area.
Outside of the United States, the church owns considerable properties as well, though I have not yet found many details about them. It is known to own sizeable cattle ranches in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Argentina, an enormous sugar plantation in Brazil (the only remaining place where its legacy U&I Sugar Company still operates), as well as smaller ag holdings in Europe. To date, I have not found any details about these holdings, other than an 88,000 acre cattle ranch the church owns in Alberta, Canada.
And that's just getting started. The church's apostles have often said that the church owns more real estate outside of Utah than inside. So that makes it easy to come up with a minimum estimate - outside of Utah, it must therefore own at least $110 billion in real estate not held by Ensign Peak Advisers, and that's likely way low.
Add Utah and non-Utah real estate assets together. You come up with at least $220 billion, and that is apparently apart from Ensign Peak holdings. Minimum.
So now we have some idea of the minimum value of the commercial income-generating assets of the church. $220 billion, absolute minimum, in real estate. $101 billion in corporate equities held by Ensign Peak Advisers, and another $24 billion in real estate assets held by EPA. That's a total of $345 billion.
But how reliable is that number? Good question. The only reasonable way to evaluate that is to take the church's known investment results ($23.4 billion) and divide it by an average rate of return for mixed capital investments - 7% - an approximation widely used by investment advisers. Doing that yields a number that's reasonable, and in reasonably good agreement with the above - $331 billion, as of February, 2018.
According to Roger Clarke, the head of Ensign Peak Advisers, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the annual rate of increase of the size of the investment fund is 7% - the industry average, as I estimated above - so that means that, as of this writing (February, 2020), the value of the investment fund would be $379 billion. And if the investment results are increasing proportionately, they would now equal $26.8 billion annually. That income does not include ecclesiastical receipts - only investment results.
We know that the church has substantial real estate and corporate equity holdings outside the United States - for example, it recently acquired for US$119 million, an office building in downtown London. We have no way to even produce a reasonable estimate of such assets. But from the whistleblower documents, the numbers we do have include the total income and assets of the church, so it's not really important that we don't know the percentage of its assets held abroad, nor is it important to know the percentage of assets held in real estate versus corporate equities, versus income-producing securities.
So where does that rank the church with regards to other large corporations? Well, I did a quick Google search, and (in October, 2019) came up with a ranking of corporations by the income-producing assets they own. Number two was the Bank of America, which owns a paltry $215 billion in income-producing assets. The Bank of America, folks, which, compared to the Mormon church, looks like the Salvation Army. Blackrock, the world's largest hedge fund, owns $135 billion in owned assets (though it manages $7 trillion in other peoples' money). The largest pool of capital, anywhere in the world, is the sovereign wealth fund of Norway, coming in at $1 trillion, and second to them is the sovereign wealth fund of the Peoples' Republic of China, coming in at $895 billion. So you're not the biggest pile of cash anywhere in the world, Mormons, but your church is Number Three and closing in fast.
It should surprise no one that a corporation as disgustingly rich and obsessively paranoid as the Corporation Of The President would seek to spirit assets out of the U.S. of A. and hide them abroad. So the IRS Whistleblower did a survey of the church's accounts, and identified 452 foreign accounts, which had received at least $11.1 billion in funds from the accounts of the Corporation Of The President and the Corporation Of The Presiding Bishop over a ten year period. His comment: I dont have any direct evidence of COP dark money, but I cant disprove it. I hope not. But that is the nature of dark money; you dont know what you dont see.
This, of course, raises the question of any other evidence of dark money. The whistleblower did, in fact, find evidence of it during his employment at Ensign Peak Advisers. In one instance, he found an example of a "worst practice" of an accounting abuse - the deliberate deletion of accounts receivables in the Corporation Of The President itself.
The whistleblower identified the mechanism by which it had been done, and called its attention to top level management, who immediately removed the mechanism and reinstated the deleted receivables. But, as soon as the kerfuffle died down, the mechanism was quietly put back in place and the receivables disappeared once again. Some years later, when the reinstatement was discovered, the person who had actually set up the mechanism in the first place was put in charge of "investigating" it, and it was "corrected." Only to be reinstated. Again. It was clear that it had become a means to make untraceable "payments" - not by Ensign Peak Advisers, but by the Corporation Of The President itself, which is also a 501(c)3 company, and is the legal entity that owns all of the church's assets including all of its subsidiaries. And the COP can get away with that kind of corruption, because it is a tax-exempt religious U.S. corporation, and therefore faces virtually no reporting requirements. For hiding corruption, it doesn't get any sweeter than that.
It should also not surprise anyone that, rich as the church is, it's doing what it can to encourage rich gazillionaires contribute to the church. So it's created an organization, called LDS Philanthropies designed to help rich bastard members of the church (or any non-member who wants to contribute) set up their own "philantropic" operations that help the member avoid/evade contributing to Mammon while helping themselves grow richer - as part of a system of "philanthropy" designed to help the world's richest church grow even more rich, of course.
So how much tithing and other ecclesiastical revenue do the ecclesiastical operations yield?
The church, of course, doesn't say. But the revelations from the IRS Whistleblower say that the church takes in $7 billion in ecclesiastical receipts (tithing, fast offerings, etc.) each year. That's not a number that the church itself has questioned, though in subsequent discussions, it has used a figure of $6 billion on occasion, so I suspect that the actual number varies from year to year. But the $7 billion number appears frequently enough in both the whistleblower documents and elsewhere that it's the one I am using here as the basis of the calculations that appear in this document.
The whistleblower informs us that the $7 billion in ecclesiastical receipts represents 23% of the church's total income. Given that we have the dollar value of the ecclesiastical receipts ($7 billion) and we know that it is 23% of the church's total income, we can very easily calculate the church's total income by dividing $7 billion by 23%. That yields a figure of $30.4 billion in total income. Subtracting out the $7 billion in ecclesiastical income means that $23.4 billion appear to be from investment results alone, plus whatever other incidental non-investment income the church may have (which is not significant, so it is ignored here). Bear in mind, this was as of February, 2018. Assuming that the 7% return figure is still valid as EPA chief Roger Clarke says it is, we can easily calculate what the income is now (February 2020) by simply adjusting the numbers upward by 7% for two years in a row. Doing so, yields a current return on investment of $26.8 billion, and combined with $7 billion in ecclesiastical income, yields a total current income of $33.8 billion (assuming no increase in tithing receipts).
Expenses is another question. The church doesn't publish this either, but we do have some information provided in this regard by the IRS whistleblower. He tells us that the church expends between $5 billion and $6 billion each year on funding its ecclesiastical operations. The balance of its $7 billion in ecclesiastical receipts, we are told, is handed over to Ensign Peak Advisers for its investment operations. Recently, the church has stated, on several occasions, that it is spending $5 billion per year on its ecclesiastical operations.
On its taxable investments, the church has stated that it is spending $40 million per year on taxes, which is equal to 0.15% of its known investment income. It also claims it spends $64 million per year on its LDS Charities charitable operations, equal to 0.21% of its investment income (though it has, on occasion, claimed to be spending $1 billion per year on charitable operations, without providing any detail on what is actually included in that number).
The filings it has made with foreign governments, where the church is required by law to be more transparent than in the United States, get rather interesting to say the least. And they get more and more interesting, the closer and closer you look.
Among these countries are the United Kingdom, where some of its most extensive filings occur. For the filings dated December, 2018, the church listed 187,415 members in the U.K., in 45 Stakes comprising 280 wards and 43 branches. The significant part is that this consisted of 274 wardhouses. Operating expenses for the wardhouses were given as £13,913,196, and that works out to about £74 per member. But it must be remembered that that includes children and inactive members, so figuring that the activity rate is about 30%, this works out to a building maintenance cost of £274 per active member, or roughly US$329 per active member per year. Given that they show 2.42 million square feet of occupied meetinghouse space, that works out to a maintenance cost of £5.80, or about $7 per square foot per year for maintenance costs. I'll leave it to the commercial real estate people to decide if that's a realistic number. The statement also lists £9,471,082 spent on missionary activities, or £7,394 (or US$8,873) on average spent on each of the 1,281 baptisms. That works out to about £50 (roughly US$60) spent for each current member per year on missionary activities.
But having said that, those numbers don't quite add up here. Not even close. If the church were spending at that same rate worldwide that it is on the U.K., its churchwide operating costs would calculate out to $2.4 billion. We know, in fact, they're between $5 billion and $6 billion per year.
Additionally, we have been told by at least one apostle, addressing the flock in the UK and begging for tithing compliance (so take this with a grain of salt), that the church loses about $450 million per year on its ecclesiastical operations in the UK alone. And it has said that the numbers for Canada, Australia and New Zealand are similar. Given that there are 188,000 members in the UK, that works out to a cost of roughly $2400 per member per year. That would include everything - the costs of new buildings, services and activities the church provides, the building maintenance and depreciation, all of that.
Assuming that the UK costs are significantly higher than the worldwide church average, you could probably reasonably assume that the church's ecclesiastical operations cost it about $1,800 per member, per year on a church-wide average. That's a long way - by nearly a factor of six - from the US$329 it claimed on its December 2018 UK charity statement. Admittedly, the apostle's comments include more than the cost of buildings and maintenance - they include all the ward activities, missionary work and other programs that the church runs. But that much difference?
On that basis, $1,800 per member per year times the 16 million members the church counts, would yield a total ecclesiastical operations cost of $28.8 billion per year. I don't believe it. Not for a minute. The IRS Whistleblower documents suggest that the real cost of ecclesiastical operations is more on the order of $5 billion to $6 billion per year, with the balance of the $7 billion in ecclesiastical operations receipts, is going to Ensign Peak Advisers for investment operations, and that balance, of course, can't be funding ecclesiastical operations directly.
If one assumes that one third of the members of record are actually active, $6 billion divided by the active membership yields an actual ecclesiastical operational cost of $125 per active member per year.
If one assumes that it would cost an average, church wide, about $30,000 each to hire a single full-time janitor to maintain its buildings, that would yield a cost of $540 million per year for it to scrub its own toilets in all of its 18,000 wardhouses and stake centers around the world, rather than asking you to do it.
That means that, even if it scrubbed all of its own toilets, the cost to the church will only be about 30% to 50% of the surplus tithing revenue alone it is currently sending to Ensign Peak for investment (read: hoarding).
And that doesn't include any of the investment results at all, which we now know were $26.8 billion per year as of February 2020. And that's 49 times as much as they would spend hiring someone to scrub their toilets.
Think about that the next time your bishop asks you to go scrub the toilets down at the wardhouse for free. Do you really believe they need to have YOU do that, because they can't afford janitors like they once did, when they were nowhere near as rich as they are now?
Especially when those janitors were once considered employment assistance for members who desperately needed it, who couldn't do much of anything else to earn a living?
One has to wonder why they ask you to do their janitorial work - and what the brethren must think of the members that actually are foolish enough to agree to go do it for free, when the church is so rich it's taking in 5 times as much in income as it spends on all of its ecclesiastical operations. Or 4.6 times as much, if they would just spring for the money to hire janitors to scrub their own toilets so you don't have to.
In asking you to scrub their toilets for free when they obviously don't need to, the brethren clearly don't hold you in very high regard, do they?
Source URL: http://www.bidstrup.com/ldsfinances.htm
Return to Scott's Home Page
Write to Scott
Copyright © 2019 by Scott Bidstrup. All rights reserved. Todos derechos reservados.