Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

The "Hoarding" Church

Hordes of critics are wringing their hands, often gleefully, about the uncharitable "hoarding" of the Church, based on shocking claims that the Church has been saving some of the money that members donate to it.

"Hoarding" is one of those emotion-laden terms often used to win an argument without the need for logic and evidence. A Church is "hoarding" its money -- the shame! Such misers! That word is sometimes used to advantage when politicians, mobs, or other criminals want to take something that somebody has diligently saved.

"Hoarding" was the key term used for a remarkable episode of looting in the 1930s when President Franklin D. Roosevelt discovered that the President somehow had power, much to the shock of the Founding Fathers on the other side of the veil, I suppose, to take away the gold that citizens had earned and saved. He declared that those vile citizens were "hoarding" gold and thus would be required to sell it to the government at the low price of $20.67 an ounce, after which the official price was $35. See Wikipedia's article on Executive Order 6102. They were not only deprived of the right to hold and pass on to prosperity their own legally acquired property, but were forced to sell it in effect at nearly a 50% discount to its value. "Hoarding" gold became a crime with a 5-10 year prison sentence. It was a dark day for property rights, especially in a land where the Constitution, still routinely ignored these days, specifically declares gold and silver to be legal currency (Article 1, Section 10). For further background on hoarding and the Great Depression, see "The Virtue of Hoarding" by George Ford Smith, 2009. (To be fair to both parties, note that FDR's predecessor, Herbert Hoover, had also done the work of the banking interests by denouncing savers holding their money at home in 1932 as "hoarders," even "traitorous" hoarders, who were hurting the economy by not putting their money into dangerously fragile US banks.)

Shameful as hoarding may be, I hope our anti-hoarding critics will have the wisdom to do a little hoarding in their own lives. May they hoard a little cash, some food, some clothing, some drinking water, some flashlights and batteries, and some sustainable ink-jet paper to be prepared for trouble ahead, whether it's a blizzard, a power outage, economic collapse, or violent retribution from nations who don't think that one lone Very Powerful Man in the US has the legal right to arbitrarily kill their political or military leaders (and anyone standing nearby) at will anywhere in the world without any kind of trial if those leaders have done or are said to have done very bad things. (e.g., terrorism, killing people with drones or other means, bombing or invading foreign countries, and perhaps even hoarding for all we know). There are many reasons individuals should recognize that there might be trouble in the future. Smart folks prepare now -- or "hoard," if you insist.

A whistleblower claims the Church has been saving about 1 dollar of every 7 received, and investing it rather than spending it. With successful investments over many years, the savings have accumulated into a sizable stash that can support the Church's charitable work in the future even if grave economic trouble again strikes us and the Church. But since that stash is not being spent rapidly now to keep the Church as close to insolvency as possible, we are "hoarding" and should be ashamed (frankly, our most vocal critics would certainly prefer that we spent $10 for every $7 received, ensuring eventual economic disaster, contrary to the  entrenched Keynesian views of our government leaders who think that explosive debt will never be a real problem). Think of all the good that money could do if it were handed over to, say, random people on the street or to our critics and the whistleblower (who hopes to get 10% of some huge amount) or to the Clinton Foundation or if it were used to buy carbon credits or to save the earth by investing in green energy scams companies like Solyndra. Better yet, we could work a real miracle by giving it to Congress, whose financial wizardry can turn $1 billion of revenue into $2 billion or more of spending on noble causes that help solve global problems by supporting brilliant initiatives from our politicians that are only occasionally linked to their friends and relatives.

Giving out lots of money in ways that don't line the pockets of drug dealers, warlords, corrupt politicians, gangsters, scams, and the like is not as simple as it sounds. Major charities can easily spend 30% of their income on finding appropriate places to spend and in managing the spending. It's hard work and requires lots of professionals. I can only imagine the outrage if the Church started adding hundreds of millions in overhead to do find ways to more rapidly spend down its surplus.

For an organization that had all of its assets seized a little over a century ago, was having severe financial challenges in the late 1950s as I understand,  has had its assets seized in recent years for a while in Ghana (thanks to agitations from some thoughtful anti-Mormons), faces constant threats of costly lawsuits, and faces greatly expanded costs as it expands in poor nations that will require significant investments, one of the most prudent things the Church can do in this time of relative prosperity is to prepare for the future by setting aside a small amount of its income to sustain its ongoing charitable mission. Spending it all now and then being one lawsuit or one recession away from disaster would be foolhardy.

The Church should be held up as an example of frugality, of prudent investment, and financial responsibility. The money saved and the funds donated are not being used to enrich its leaders or buy them mansions to live in. Those funds are used frugally, yet at the same time, the Church is able to be generous in aiding the poor and in helping the needy in many lands. The criticism from those who think they know better is misguided.

As for the shaming of those who encourage the poor to give voluntarily to a charity that doesn't really need their money, how would you have reacted when Christ, the true Owner of the treasures of the earth and beyond, looked on passively, even approvingly, and utterly failed to prevent a poor widow from casting in her last bit of cash into the donations box (or "hoarding" box) at the Temple in Jerusalem? What would you have shouted in response when He dared to hold her up as an example of faithfulness? The Creator of the Cosmos did not need her money. The hoarders at the Jewish Temple and its charitable branches did not need her money. How dare Christ allow her to make such a huge sacrifice and encourage others in poverty to do the same?! But many Latter-day Saints know the answer. The prime purpose of the principle of sacrifice and tithe paying is not about giving God or the Church more money to "hoard," but about changing our lives and priorities to more fully follow the Savior. It's not about taking money from us, but giving us a chance to better follow Him and, indeed, to gladly take even more from Him.

In their criticism of the Church's teachings on tithing and the experiences shared by so many members, some critics mock the idea that a community, family, or individual might be better off in some way by giving charitably to the Church, in spite of the frequent experience of those who tithe faithfully that they don't miss the money and feel blessed and helped, even if it is only by learning how to be frugal and spend less. While they mock the idea that voluntary sacrifice might bring benefits, I note that many of our critics tend to wholeheartedly endorse compulsory sacrifice, i.e., raising taxes on others, as the way to economic prosperity. If voluntary giving does not help, why is compulsory sacrifice so magically beneficial? Greatly increased compulsory extraction of wealth from those capable of creating it and putting into the hands of politicians so they can redistribute it their way is touted as the miraculous but ever-failing panacea to poverty and social ills. Yet it's nonsense to think that there could be any benefit to voluntarily giving to a charitable organization that helps people strengthen their lives, families, and communities? As always, I guess I'm missing something.

Daniel Peterson has given us some wise guidance on these issues in his series, "LDS, Inc." See, for example, his recent "LDS, Inc., Part 21." For a solid overview of the non-scandal with some wise legal and financial observations, see Aaron Miller's "The $100 Billion ‘Mormon Church’ story: A Contextual Analysis."

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jeff you still haven't explained why you continue to twist the story of the widow's mite to excuse this sort of behaviour. The way the Mormon church teaches tithing today is a) not consistent with scripture and b) not consistent with how your own church taught it 50 and 100 years ago. The doctrine has changed in recent years. Anyone can find sources for this. Right from the church's own archives. You need to address it.
Your attempts to be clever in the face of the obvious are damaging and unconvincing. But I guess that's always been your M.O.

Anonymous said...

It's clear you've never seen how your leaders live. Look it up sometime. Check out Packer's estate. Check out the cabins in Park City, Heber, and Midway. They do not live like Peter, James, and John of old. The truth is available to anyone willing and able to look. You can't fight it with your wall of self-righteousness, Jeff.

Anonymous said...

You will "convince" the faithful who, honestly, never question and follow like sheep anyway. You won't convince anyone who can think for themselves that there's anything redeemable about this miserly and exploitive behavior which utterly turns its back on the needs of humanity suffering in countless ways.

If this is your idea of a "church" or a way to "salvation" or any approximation of a moral exemplar then there's no talking to you. The rest of us are disgusted. If you don't care about anything else than how your "church" will ever attract another rube, then you should be concerned. Or else give up and let all those poor kids living in dangerous and substandard conditions getting lousy responses to their medical needs around the world come home and marvel with you at how rich your "church" has become.

Anonymous said...

Once again, Jeff, citing OTHER MORMONS, no matter their expertise, to justify this activity, is illegitimate. Find the non-Mormon tax and financial experts who think this is fine. Good luck in your search. Maybe peeking outside your bubble will lead to additional enlightenment.
-yet another anonymous commenter

Jeff Lindsay said...

"It's clear you've never seen how your leaders live. Look it up sometime." Many Latter-day Saints see and know how our leaders live. The suggestion that they are serving out of greed and exploiting tithe payers to gain mansions is ridiculous.

I have been in Elder Packer's home and was slightly acquainted with one of his children when I was in high school. The living room where I sat in his home for a seminary-related discussion with some other youth was modest, not excessively large, but nicely adorned with some of his beautiful carvings. There was nothing that cried out "mansion" there and the family members that I saw or knew showed no signs of being from a wealthy family. The Packers have had the property for at least 5 decades, probably longer. Their mistake was buying cheap land in a remote part of the Salt Lake Valley, not knowing that 50 or 60 years later Salt Lake would have a booming real estate market. I know of one home not far from there that was purchased for $17,000 in the early 70s that now goes for about 20 times that much. So because the Packers now have a property that has become much more valuable over the decades, you want us to be angry at the Church and despise its leaders for their extravagant lifestyle? Sorry, you're being unreasonable.

I also visited another General Authority while I was working in Salt Lake this summer. I knew him in a different state as one of the nation's leading experts in his field where salaries are quite high. Accepting the call to be a General Authority has surely meant a huge drop in income. His current residence is small, modest, and close to headquarters. He did not come to Salt Lake to expand his financial resources.

Jeff Lindsay said...

"Once again, Jeff, citing OTHER MORMONS, no matter their expertise, to justify this activity, is illegitimate." Do you know how unreasonable you sound when you say that? An expert's opinion provided with logic, evidence, reason means nothing to you because he's a Latter-day Saint? So those with a vested interest in attacking the Church, such as the whistleblower and his anti-Mormon brother, with clear financial incentives hanging in front of them, are reliable, unbiased sources, and long-standing enemies of the Church are reliable witnesses because they have the virtue of not being LDS? All that matters is what their religion isn't, not what their reasoning is?

One of the problems of refusing to read and consider carefully reasoned thoughts from LDS sources like Aaron Miller (cited above) is that you'll miss the fact that the analysis cites the very non-LDS sources that you demand to see. Miller, for example, refers to two non-LDS experts in this paragraph:

After looking at the facts and allegations involved, Peter J. Reilly, a non-Latter-day Saint CPA and tax specialist, observed in Forbes that “Ensign is not a private foundation. It is an integrated auxiliary of a church. And there is nothing in the tax law that prevents churches from accumulating wealth.” Reilly reached out to Paul Streckfus, another tax expert who runs a trusted publication focusing on tax-exempt organizations. He too concluded that the “matter does not merit IRS attention.”

But I suppose the next step may be to argue that they aren't non-LDS enough, since they don't appear to be overtly hostile to the Church, and thus their opinions can't be trusted. Would that be correct?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Anon, when you say you're disgusted, can you tell me what % of an organization's income is too much to save? When does saving for the future move from being wise and prudent to being deplorable and disgusting? Is saving 8% of income wise but 9% is morally outrageous? Or do you see the dividing line between good and evil saving to be around 12 or 13%? Obviously 14% is deep into the demonic side of financial management, but I'd like to know where you draw the line, and why.

Anonymous said...

"Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."

daddo said...

Great article Jeff. I would like to link to it, but since that would also link to the usual swarm of negative commenters (I will forego commenting on the quality of said comments) that accompany most of your posts I have long desisted. Maybe you could post this on your LDS FAQ page too?

MrShorty said...

Jeff: " what % of an organization's income is too much to save?"

That is a good question, but I wonder if it is losing significance. 60 or so years ago, when the Church needed to right its financial ship, that would have been more pertinent. At this point, the question that seems more pertinent to me is "when should a church stop feeding into its rainy day fund because the fund is large enough to absorb any reasonable disruption to income/expenses?"

The analysis of all this that I found most interesting was by BYU professor Miller who explained that $100E9 represents about 16 times the Church's annual expenses (estimated to $6E9-$7E9 by most that I come across). He explained that most charitable endowments operate at 10 to 20 times the charity's annual expenses, so the Church seems to be right in the middle of this "peer group".

It seems to me that we are reaching the point where the question is less "how much of its income should the Church deposit in its rainy day funds?" and more "when should the Church slow or stop feeding a portion of its income into its rainy day funds?" I don't know the answer to these questions, but they seem pertinent to the situation.

MrShorty said...

Forgot to include a link to Miller's essay: https://publicsquaremag.org/editorials/the-100-billion-mormon-church-story-a-contextual-analysis/?fbclid=IwAR2esMr6KeXYqOTbdCFR1EsVlWbLKOkWwlIdMI_MGm2fPdey9vvCmT03YaE

Rozy Lass said...

Very good post. Interesting comments. You have some awfully prejudiced readers.

MrShorty--perhaps our prophets know more than the analysts and "experts". After all, this is the Lord's church and He is directing it without our input or approval. I believe we can trust the brethren and watch as the preparations for the Second Coming unfold. There are still hundreds of temples to be built and plenty of missionary work to be done on both sides of the veil.

Anonymous said...

"Hordes of critics are wringing their hands, often gleefully" When I read that opening, I thought how immature, what imaginary scenes run through a full-grown adult's head. Then I saw some of the anon comments.

Anon 10:00 - Jeff hasn't twisted. Jesus, unlike Peter (if the rich don't go to heaven, then nobody can), found poverty to be a virtue. Not finding poverty a virtue is like salt in the wounds for thoroughly subjugated peoples. Mormons do not find poverty to be a virtue, like Jesus did, mostly because they live in functional societies and governments.

Anon 10:34 - "needs of human suffering in countless ways" What? Most of humanity lives better than Pontius Pilate. Where it doesn't, is beyond any power of the LDS Church.

The LDS Church could have used the bankruptcy laws around '59, but chose to heavily tax its members instead of face hypocrisy. The current hoarding is to make sure it never places such a huge tax on its members again. Unlike the federal government, the LDS Church can not just print money to solve its mismanagement.

It is curious how Jeff demands sympathetic consideration for LDS governance, but not of the actual Government. The same institutions he criticizes for EO 6102, eliminated debtors prisons, gives bankruptcy laws, and subsidizes his religion with tax-exempt status. Though, EO 6102 should give you an idea of what will happen to your one-year food supply when everything hits the fan.

"voluntary sacrifice "? Raising children from birth, telling them tithing is fire insurance. If you are going to play that game, then technically government taxes operate under voluntary compliance.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Re: "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."

This personalized command to a covetous rich young man could be good advice for anyone consumed with desire for material things, but was not given as a command for everyone. Nevertheless, if you do want to do more than just 10% and give everything to the poor, the fast offering program awaits your kind contribution.

Anonymous said...

"covetous" rich young man. Ouch, that was harsh. Coveting usually applies to things not currently in one's possession. I not sure the well-off young man made the wrong decision. What purpose is served by following Jesus into essentially committing suicide by cop?

Martin Scorsese's adaption of The Last Temptation of Christ shows Jesus tempted to abandon martyrdom and live the 30 years before Roman obliteration of Jerusalem finally with a wive and children, only to see the children lost in the Roman suppression of the rebellion. That is probably why St. Paul counsel the unmarried to stay unmarried because the end of their world was coming. I don't think the recommendation is for all us to stay unmarried. The best way to end poverty is those commanded to marry and multiple is to be productive first, create trust funds and then have children. If everyone did that, there would be no poverty.

All those age 20+ students who don't even have regular employment or money and in debt, getting pregnant ... now that is just crazy, or faith depending on how you look at it.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It's incredible that the story of the widow's mite is a lesson for all of us, but the rich young man was a lesson just for him. Weird how the Bible works how we want it to when we want it to.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Both stories are lessons for all of us, but He isn’t commanding all of us at all times to give away everything to the Church or other charities. Not every direction He gave to specific people in specific situations is a blanket command to all, but the principles of sacrifice and putting God first certainly apply, which is why He did not stop the widow from giving when her money was not needed. But whether you think he wants us to give away 109% or 10%, either way it does not support the shaming of Church leaders for teaching those principles to members on poor countries. Quite the opposite. The poor are encouraged to also receive the blessings of tithing not because God needs their money.

Anonymous said...

Mormonism adopts the restoration themes, so it seems odd that Jesus would advocate it is a good thing for the widow to donate to the old corrupt Church instead of the new Church he restored.

In the story is of the young rich man Jesus doesn't tell the man to give his money to the Church, he tells him to give it to the poor. The story does not say the poor should then give 10% to Christ's restored Church. Also, if you believe the widow's mite story, the poor will only waste it giving it to the Pharisees.

In the passage immediately prior to Jesus taking a seat opposite the Temple treasury, he is portrayed as condemning religious leaders who feign piety, accept honor from people, and steal from widows. "Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation."

The same religious leaders who would reduce widows to poverty also encourage them to make pious donations beyond their means. In Wright's opinion, rather than commending the widow's generosity, Jesus is condemning both the social system that renders her poor, and "… the value system that motivates her action, and he condemns the people who conditioned her to do it."

Quentin Quesnell sees in this account "… a rebuke and rejection of the wrongdoers."[9] Quesnell notes that if Jesus' statement was to be seen as an endorsement of the widow's action, it bears none of the usual comments, such as "Go, and do likewise."

Jeff Lindsay said...

Thanks for sharing the opinions of two recent Bible scholars, as cited in Wikipedia, for their non-conventional but interesting views. Wright may have a point, but the article you copied from also points out that some other scholars find his argument unconvincing. But his view is a point worth considering.

There's no doubt that Jesus did not accept the teachings, authority, or much of the behavior of his critics, the scribes and Pharisees. But that episode where he criticized them may not be related to the scene in the Temple. He continually reverences the Temple and did not dispute it sanctity nor the work that occurred there. Shortly before this episode He also teaches that we should "render to Caesar the thing's that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Mark 12:17). He certainly disliked the scribes, but He was not teaching people to stop charitable giving through the sacred Temple or synagogue organizations and, in the traditional and arguably still reasonable reading of the story, is approving of the woman's deed, and everyone can certainly agree that He did not seek to discourage her or anyone else from giving.

Jeff Lindsay said...

But if Wright is correct and Christ was highlighting the harmful consequences of corrupt religious leaders of his day, that needs to be contrasted with the activities of the early Church where generous donations were clearly made and funds were managed for its charitable work. Generous giving to the Church was not taught against by Christ, but he did condemn those who exploit others for their own gain. This is the critical point. Is the LDS Church using tithing donations to enrich its leaders? The humble abode of Thomas S. Monson is a strongly visual witness against that argument. The excess funds are not going into the pockets of Church leaders, but are being saved wisely for the future.

JoePeaceman said...

Great post Jeff! One touching thing about all this is that haters finally care about charitable donations and little old ladies.
...perhaps their lives will be complete if they can find a way to take the little old ladies’ charitable donations, tax them again, get rich, and donate to needy attorneys? 🤔

Joe said...

And, as far as mainstream Christianity, I believe they understand that the principle of tithing is Biblical (if I can generalize from mainstream family members and others), but are saddened that they can't get members to follow it (as discussed below). Perhaps this is due to the fact that they don't always know where it's going or that all of it is going to forward the work of Christ.

One nice thing about having apostles is that we understand that saving is an important part of the Lord's work today.



The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience
Why don't Christians live what they preach?
By Ronald J. Sider

"The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. "Gallup and Barna," laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, "hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general."1 Divorce is more common among "born-again" Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their nonevangelical peers."


Anonymous said...

Joe - A rabid hater like you finally cares about real charity? Taking little old ladies money they would other wise give to real charities and giving it to the LDS Church is what makes you complete?

Anonymous said...

So did Jesus tell the young rich man to give his money to the Church, poor members of the Church only, or to the poor in general?

Jeff Lindsay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Lindsay said...

Re: "Quesnell notes that if Jesus' statement was to be seen as an endorsement of the widow's action, it bears none of the usual comments, such as "Go, and do likewise."

Sounds like "Go, and do thou likewise" is the Lord's oft-used phrase to signal approval. Strange, then, that it only occurs once in the New Testament (Luke 10:47). "Go and" occurs multiple terms, but as part of a phrase of approval, there isn't anything else, though at least with a sense of not condemning, the Lord does say, "Go, and sin no more" in John 8. Of course, in the episode at the Temple where Christ calls attention to the widow's donation, there's no need to point out that it's good to "do likewise" and sacrifice much to serve God given the audience that Christ is speaking to, for the audience is his disciples, who have already left all, giving up their livelihood to follow Christ.

If Wright is correct and Christ here is condemning Jewish leaders rather than praising the widow, why does He not say, "they have taken all that she has" or otherwise make reference to those being condemned or give any clue that she is under duress, a victim? What He refers to is her choice to give generously. Wright raises an interesting point, but to think that Christ intended this to be a condemnation of Jewish leaders seems a stretch. They aren't referenced. We don't see any hint of injustice here, such as the scribes now devouring her house because she can't pay them rent or her sick son going hungry because mom yielded to the pressure of the greedy scribes (who I think were not the ones administering the donations in the Temple).

Rather than being a continuation of the Lord's clash with his corrupt enemies, other commentators note the significance of this event as a positive story relative to surrounding events described in Mark and Luke. Patrick Henry Reardon makes this observation:
"It is further significant that the gospel accounts of this poor widow in the temple place her in the context of the Lord’s Passion. In Mark she comes at the end of five stories of conflict between Jesus and his enemies (11:27—12:40) and immediately prior to his final great discourse (which commences with a remark about the grandeur of the temple!—13:1), while in Luke she appears in the chapter before the Sanhedrin’s plot to kill Jesus (21:2–4; 22:2–6). Giving her all for God, this widow thus becomes a symbol or type of Christ himself, who will lay down his life (bios) to advance God’s cause."

I find that more convincing than the hypothesis that Christ is condemning the scribes, who aren't present, aren't mentioned, and I don't think are the ones profiting from the donation or driving it.

Finally note that Christ encouraged putting God first in many ways, endorsed or required sacrifice and service, etc. As for tithing in particular, He recognized the law of tithing when He criticized wicked Jews for thinking they are righteous based on scrupulous tithing in Matthew 23:23: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." Tithing remained a valid principal, but there were weightier matters of the Law that they had transgressed.

Anonymous said...

Everyone's approaching this as though this Ensign Peak Advisors $100,000,000,000 or $124,000,000,000 is all there is to the church's miserly hoarding. The truth of the matter is that when the IRS gets into it, they're going to find that there are layers and multiple entities hiding and hoarding the wealth of the church. They're going to find that tithing is shoring up all kinds of church-owned, for-profit projects and companies.
,
If they ever looked into temple construction program they'd find that it's a screen for distributing tax-free income into the hands of family- and close associate-owned companies. Classic money laundering. $17,000 rugs are about more than god's glory. They can also be about lining pockets.

Joe said...

Hi, anonymous Critic: my understanding is that Jesus first reminded the rich that he needed to keep the commandments He gave through the prophet Moses: don’t cheat anyone, honor your father and mother, etc. and then, when the man explained that he did those things, Jesus gave him a higher commandment: “sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.”

Of course, I’m not the “rich man” (in fact, after reading “Approaching Zion” I made some covenants to help me avoid seeking riches, and I’m currently a factory worker helping make food) but I'd like to think that, if asked, I would sell all that I have. However, I haven't been asked to do this yet. And, I've felt this was a specific test to a single individual, similar to Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son. I believe that some of his disciples, though willing to give up all, still had wives, families, homes, fishing boats, etc.

My belief is that, in our times, the living, speaking, proactive Christ has asked us to donate to the poor, tithe, etc. (working toward the law of “consecration” wherein there are no poor among us and all things are shared in common) and to save some of that for "a time of need," as in the times of Joseph in Egypt etc.

It seems that you may be trying to find fault with this, or to be discouraging those who freely give, and, so, I have some questions for you...

Joe said...

When I posted that Jeff’s post showed up. I agree with Jeff Wiki “Others see the widow’s contribution as an act of radical self-abandonment in service to God, an act of strength on the part of a poor widow.[7]

Also, I agree there are a couple of issues. One, the idea that people of faith are guilty of crimes even if proven innocent. The other isn't as clear, but seems to be that it doesn't matter if those specific people of faith have good intentions, they should be stopped from donating at all, since it's wrong?

I have family members who donate to Presbyterian, Methodist and other Churches. Much of that money goes to helping with the building, the pastor, youth programs, etc. Some of these family members have a lot of money. After reading the scriptures, listening to a Catholic “Why Giving Matters - Arthur C. Brooks - BYU Speeches” I agree that “Charitable giving is more than a good idea. Science and faith agree that giving makes us happier and better people, families, and communities.” In fact, there is some research showing that, when elderly people gave massages to babies, the elderly actually benefited more than the babies, and so on.

So, the question: It seems you may feel none of what Christ told the rich man applies to you (since, at the very least, you possess a computer which you haven’t sold, and you, instead, unfortunately (intentionally or not), prefer to keep it and use it to fight against Christ’s Church), therefore I must assume that you would agree that Christ hasn’t, at this time, given you or me the commandment to sell all that we have. However, you seem to condemn members of the Church of Jesus Christ for giving some of what they have.

Do you personally believe that giving to a Church is good, even if only 10% or less?

Joe said...

I might not have time to present the second question tonight, but it begins with:
My wife, for example, spends countless hours in callings where she (as Primary President), helped people with their children, taught them to give, be kind, avoid drugs, love and take care of the earth and their bodies, and so on; and (as Relief society President), she took Christmas to approx 24 anonymous families in our neighborhood, takes food, rent, diapers, etc. etc. to many people in our neighborhood. This giving by members of our congregation is not dependent on Church activity or even membership.

We, the Church of Jesus Christ, save tax payers billions with our support for the poor, schools (ranging from one of the largest private Universities in the USA, to one room school houses), etc. Much research shows that members of the Church of Jesus Christ donate more than any other comparable group. Yet, those on the outside want to stop that, and sometimes they excuse this by claiming we are doing something illegal, or we just don't do enough....etc. gotta go ❤

Anonymous said...

Oh, good! Jeff's a new testament expert now! Just what we need around here. Do your skills know no bounds, sir?

Jeff Lindsay said...

All our Anonymous critics seems to fancy themselves as experts on the New Testament, finances, tax law, ethics, Latter-day Saint doctrine and history, etc., so we lone bloggers need to do our best to keep up, inadequate as we are. At least I dare to reveal my identity. And as far as my expert credentials go, I can read Wikipedia just as well as they can. I can note when they are not disclosing information from the article they cut and paste from, and with my highly advanced Bible search skills and counting skills, I can see that "go and do thou likewise" isn't actually a high-frequency term based on its sole use in just one verse. And believe it or not, I can find meaningful arguments from scholars that seem to make sense and copy and paste an argument or two. I know, such erudite ruminations are the domain of those who have been properly trained for the ministry with advanced degrees in New Testament studies, which I'm sure all my critics here must have. Forgive me for daring to think and respond. I have not yet learned the important lesson: when the anonymous scholars have spoken, the thinking is done.

Charmer said...

He was talking to an individual. That means YOU need to sell everything and give it to the poor! I happen to know that as an inner city missionary the need is growing because of refugees and the church gives unheard of money to the poor every month. Thousands (40,000 +) each month just in some wards a lone by themselves.

Anonymous said...

For every obscure idea some supposed "critic" in some hypothetical universe you guys find, there are 10 latter-day saints in the current real-world still grasping on to dearly held errant beliefs like the iron rod. I guess it only takes two to form a mutual admiration society with a eschewed set of priorities.

Anonymous said...

Jeff 6:49 - I think that was Anon 7:25's point, that anyone can play your silly game, not that you would quit playing it.

Contrasting what Jesus taught against what other early Christians taught is interesting. I suppose we could play that all day long also. St Paul said to stop acting like a child, Jesus said to become like a little one. James had some ideas on pure religion, etc.

We could play the what Jesus DIDN'T teach game all day long also. After all Jesus produced and offered alcohol to drunks. Even if Jesus let party goers party, it is undisputable that Jesus advocated a monkish life style of poverty for himself and his followers, a reality Protestants have struggled to rationalize for centuries.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, if it's worth knowing, I think there are many of us who appreciate how hard it is for one man to hold the line against reality and decency. We just don't know why you choose to do it in the face of a church that takes the jobs of hardworking janitors in a very tough job market and jetting around the globe telling Third World people to break their cycle of poverty by giving them what they can barely afford while spending the greater part of their time counting money and pretending that there's something high-minded about their avarice.

Currency for Jesus' Second Coming, indeed! Like Jesus needs $100 billion sitting in a vault.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:04 -

I think the disconnect here is recognizing different circumstances demand different approaches. The LDS Church is trying to apply a universal standard with one prophet to 200 different cultures. Even the BoM declares there were 2 sets of apostles at the same time to deal with different parts of the world.

One area in my mission was a tourist resort town. The Stake President began a Sunday Night sacrament service for 50% of the Stake whose employment require Sunday work. An American Area Authority came through and shut the whole thing down embarrassing a perplexed Stake President. When I return from the mission I was invited to a special foreign language ward. I thought interesting, in America the Church accommodates special circumstances, but not outside.

Anonymous said...

As a former believer who holds no grudge against the church, I think I have a somewhat unique perspective. All of the bruhaha around this issue, to me, seems to originate in greed and envy. People see that the church has cash holdings in the hundreds of billions and decide that they have a say in the morality of that circumstance. They know better how that money should be treated and the way it’s currently being handled isn’t how they think it should be done. I’m baffled by the chutzpah of this assumption.

Now the issue I see that may be an issue is whether or not charitable church funds were used to subsidize commercial enterprises and how that may violate the law (or not—I’m no expert). That the church saves the money and spends it or doesn’t is nobody’s business but the church’s.

One thing to keep in mind is that this discussion is merely about cash investment. The church likely has trillions in real estate holdings worldwide (I can think of two or three off the top of my head that are in the mid-to-upper hundreds of millions). If you want to boggle your mind and stroke your self-righteousness pole even further, think on that!

Anonymous said...

From the church's newsroom on the topic "Who Are the Mormons":

96% donate to religious causes per year
80% donate to nonreligious causes per year
70% participate in religious volunteering
Once a month, Mormons go without food and drink and donate at least the cost of two meals to charity


Note that in extolling these charitable virtues the church refers to church members. And we can assume the great majority of that money and time goes to the church or benefits the church's operations. Hence, that 100 billion gathering even more wealth at Ensign Peak Advisors.

Now ask yourself how does the church perform by the same measurements?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Anon at 3:13 (immediately above), is your point that by saving a fraction alleged to be about 14% of the income, the Church is not spending the other 86% on proper causes? Because it seems that 100% of Church expenditures are for the religious causes of the Church as well as charitable operations that help many outside the Church as well, and I strongly suspect that nearly 100% of those overseeing the Church fast, sacrifice, and serve others in many ways. So I would say the "Church" as the central organization does at least as well as the worldwide Church as a collection of individuals.

Or is your beef the standard one that the Church has resources that they aren't using the way you would prefer? Or is the real beef that you don't like the Church, so anything they do is going to bug you? I think that reminds me of an excellent argument AGAINST transparency: "anything you say can and will be held against you," so it's best to say as little as possible.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Anon @12:59, thank you for sharing that reasonable viewpoint. I think you are exactly right.

As for the use of investment funds to subsidize a business, strengthening an investment is a normal and legal use of investment funds. If you have invested in an apartment building, for example, doing maintenance or upgrades of the building would seem like a reasonable step to take. That investment doesn't have to be about making money, though. In the case of City Creek Mall, the primary motivation for the $1.5 billion investment was preventing decay of downtown Salt Lake, which directly impacts the community and certainly the environment of Church headquarters and other key properties. The investment was not made with tithing funds and is a reasonable and apparently successful investment that is helping to strengthen the community where the Church has its headquarters. A reasonable business decision with social benefits. I know some critics love memes about malls, but in terms of managing investment funds wisely, it's not really the kind of thing that necessarily merits outrage. But outrage will always find a way for those who want it.

Check out the details on the City Creek Mall and the Church's investment there.

Thanks again for dropping by!

Anonymous said...

I wonder what will become of you once you stop toeing the line, Jeff? It's incredible how to you the church never has and never will do any wrong in any capacity no matter what. This attitude makes you incredibly untrustworthy. You probably don't see or realize that.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Your point suggests it's a foregone conclusion that having successfully saved a portion of its income is an obvious moral outrage, and that anyone who doesn't share your view is blind and disingenuous. But what is the basis for that, apart from the animosity that is looking for any angle to jab?

What is the actual problem in saving 14% a year, and wisely investing it, keeping the Church prepared for growth in poor emerging nations, prepared for the twice-experienced specter of having property seized bu governments in various places (the U.S. and Ghana) that could induce huge losses and costs, prepared for economic downturns and war that may disrupt operations and economies globally, prepared to avoid the risk of bankruptcy that it once faced, prepared for ongoing charitable work no matter what comes?

The whistleblower has no legitimate case and shows a grotesque misunderstanding of tax law. So scream all you want, but what is the crime here? There is no crime, mo moral turpitude, no pocket-lining of Church leaders acquiring mansions with the loot. Even critics like Michael Quinn, after looking carefully into Church finances, recognize that the Church's approach has been praiseworthy.

I've discussed a number of past problems and mistakes here and on my website. I've emphasized that mistakes have happened, sometimes serious ones, and that it's impossible to avoid mistakes with mortal leaders. I noted in this post that the anger stirred over this case may result in greater transparency or other changes, but there's nothing here that points to tax fraud, illegal activity, financial mismanagement, personal gain by dishonest leaders, or moral offense by saving diligently for future needs.

Is there a problem with saving and preparing for the future? I understand that may not be how you and other anonymous voices think people should live. Some people think they are helping the economy by spending every dime they have and more by going heavily into debt, but in the end, they frequently end up failing, requiring help from others, and being unable to muster the capital needed to bring meaningful change in the world. There are valid reasons for saving diligently. It's actually good for an economy to have people and organization who save and build capital to later create things. Living on the brink of bankruptcy is not healthy for an individual, an organization, or an entire economy.

Anonymous said...

My point (at 3:13) was that the church seems to value the charitable activities of its members but doesn't hold itself to the same standard.

There's a word for that behavior. Hypocracy.

Anonymous said...

Michael Quinn produced critical writings (in the academic sense), does that make him a critic? If it does then all Mormon authors are critics. When you write "Even critics like " is sounds like you mean to use the word critic in a pejorative way. Why? Quinn is not only opening gay, he openly professes deep belief. Do you think he is lying?

MrShorty said...

Jeff: "What is the actual problem in saving 14% a year, and wisely investing it,..." I don't see anything wrong with such a savings plan -- if we are still in the "build nest egg" phase. The discussions that have caught my eye on this are the "what should we do when we reach the "maintain nest egg" phase." I don't know when to transition from "build nest egg" to "maintain nest egg" -- maybe as Rozy Lass said in her earlier reply it is just about a trust/don't trust the leadership binary. If Miller's analysis is correct and we have at least 16 years of expenses saved up, then it seems to me that the question of transitioning to the "maintain the nest egg" phase is something worth thinking about.

Anonymous said...

You're completely overlooking what's really happening. Since the church got involved in the issue of gay marriage equality membership has taken a hit. Not that there hadn't already been disaffection. ExMormon sites were already well-established and there to help people make a softer landing. The Prop 8 debacle was followed by reaction to the church's cruel and backward attitude about the children of gay parents. The first dibble of resignations has become a tidal wave so overwhelming Membership has to turn the processing over to Kirton McConkie and then try to slow it by making people wanting to leave the church jump through hoops. Nevertheless, the formerly faithful keep resigning.

The leadership has been scared about what they've set into motion and have no control over for the last 2 decades. They've been increasingly worried about the loss of tithing income since so many of those resigning are college educated high earners. So they hedge their bet with hedge funds. Secretly. Always in secret.

Now a portion of the wealth they've been shoring up has been disclosed. And it's not going down well. People who have tried to buttress their sagging shelves have a new issue that's the final straw for some and another heavy object for many many more.

Everything else is PR spin. The church, at its prophetic best, has stabbed itself repeatedly and this is just more evidence of the bleed out. Pretend if you must. Pass on the rationalizations if you will. The damage is already done.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:22

It is always a concern when members leave the Church but some of your thoughts and conclusions don't entirely line up:
- The Church started investing in 1997 (IIRC)
- Prop 8 was in 2008
- To remove oneself from the Church has always been just as easy (write a signed letter to your bishop asking for removal)
- The process that you are describing is where a law firm gets involved so the Church has its own law firm for the communication process
- While it does appear that more members are leaving now (this does appear to be the case but without seeing numbers, it really is anyone's guess), it could be that the local wards and stakes are being removed from the process in favor of this law firm that helps people remove themselves from the Church
- A loss of membership means less resources that the Church has to manage. Less resources means less expenditure on said resources so I doubt that the Church is hedging its bets with this investment fund.

I reply only that your conclusions about why the investments are happening appear to be off. Again, it is always a concern when members decide to leave the Church.

Steve

Anonymous said...

Steve-

You relate this as though there were no resignations and no drop in tithing before Prop 8. That's simply not true. It is true that that was the beginning of what's become a tsunami if entire families resigning together. And this won't be the end either.

It's also true that you and I can only assume what the actual facts are as little information comes out of the church and much information that does such as membership numbers has almost no credibility.

Anonymous said...

I'd add that the percentage of church income going into these wealth-building as opposed to charitable efforts isn't static either.

When was it that the church fired all the janitors and loaded that responsibility onto the membership? Often a large part of that burden falls on the elderly who are more apt to be unquestioning despite multiple health issues and disabilities. How much cash were they sitting on while they cried poverty?

Anonymous said...

The fact is the leaders of the LDS church have lied to the faithful from the pulpit. It's undeniable.
I know Jeff is always quick to move on from these posts so he can talk about Chinese Christmas or nonsensical GAEL scribbles so he and Joe can get their cuddle party back on, but the real issue facing the church today, the one which must be dealt with if it is to survive, is the hemorrhaging membership. Jeff doesn't see the full flow from China, but it's happening here in the Happy Valley in unprecedented ways. You can't lie to people's faces and expect them to stay faithful. It's historically proven to be impossible. The emperor's naked, folks. Which is incredibly odd considering the amount of money in his coffers.
The wonderful thing about all of this is that you really don't need to be a Mormon to have faith in Christ. All they can really promise is polygamy heaven. If you don't want that then you're good to go.

JoePeaceman said...

😐 and, once again, we see that Samuel Johnson is right---

"Prejudice, not being founded on reason, cannot be removed by argument."

luv ya all :)

Anonymous said...

Joe - we see that u r the best for example of the SJ quote. Luv ya

Anonymous said...

After Ezra Benson died the Mormon church Salt Lake City leadership has consistently gone down the wrong path, steering the church and members in the wrong direction. Many men high up in the Mormon church have even said this very thing.
Russell Nelson is a horrible leader.
Nelson is not called by G-d, and Nelson does not receive revelation.

The Mormon church is no different than any other church and it is as corrupt as the Catholic church.


Anonymous said...

But they're such good investors! Surely that demonstrates that god is on their side!

Anonymous said...

"If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing." to a church with $100,000,000,000 "If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing." to a church with $100,000,000,000 " Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing."" to a church with $100,000,000,000.

Yeah! That sounds responsible. Responsible to give that advice and responsible to follow it.