New Zealand Mormon Church Finances: A Case Study

Last Sunday our RS teacher asked, “What prevents us sharing the gospel with others?”.  My immediate thought was, “Nothing prevents me from sharing the gospel, but a thousand things seem to prevent me from actively recruiting for the church”.

We have a wonderful ward, full of very bright, thoughtful and open-minded women.  A couple of months ago one of the more mature women in our ward stood and expressed her gratitude for the church for the support it gave her over the years as she coped with the challenge of raising two lesbian daughters.  The church for her was her soft place to fall in a world of judgment and bitterness.  When our current RS president taught a lesson she once famously stated with legendary fervor, “If you go home after our services today and have a smoke, guess what?  God still loves you!!”.  And so I had no hesitation raising my hand and sharing my thoughts.

“I don’t recruit other prospective members because I’m still confused about my religion. There are things I love about it but there are things that bother me.  Why would I bring anyone else into this mess?”

Trying to be helpful, a sister missionary from the Utah Valley lent over and asked me what problems I had in particular.  “Too many”, I replied. “But right now, the use of church finances bothers me”.

“Why so?” was her next question.

 “Because I can’t reconcile the fiscal behaviour of the church with its stated theological position.  There is a moral dimension to financial behaviour and I can’t resolve the gospel of Jesus Christ with the laissez-faire, neo-liberal, free-market financial ideology of the church.  I’ve tried, I can’t, end of story.  If it wasn’t so deeply American I think there would be some space to rethink its fiscal operations.  As it is – I’m ashamed of it, and in the case of the City Creek “let’s go shopping” fiasco there are $3billion USD more reasons compounding my suspicion and disappointment.”

I’ve blogged about this before and I’m doing so again in response to the ripples currently occurring in the US as a result of the last week’s media event over the church’s finances.   Look, I can deal with historical inconsistencies in the record.  I’m into discourse analysis – I understand somewhat how stories are told, untold or retold over time.  Our language is always constituting social realities and reforming them.  As W.I Thomas observed, “if people define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”   But the way that money is harvested from its members and used in the operations of the church gets my goat, and that issue is with us now and needs to be addressed.

I’ve watched thousands and thousands of dollars flow out of our coffers into  those little brown envelopes now for years.  We’ve given up meals (as students), we’ve tried the patience of power companies with late payments so that tithing could be paid first, we’ve scrimped on family holidays and thought twice about music lessons, while at the same time being more generous with the church than we have been with our supply of healthy food for our dinner table.  Having said that however, the giving doesn’t necessarily bother me.  However, the fact that I don’t really know what I’m giving to after making these massive sacrifices of thousands and thousands of pingers a year bothers me considerably.  So lets do a breakdown of the New Zealand church finances – just as a case study.  At least here in New Zealand we get to publicly audit the annual return – which is more than can be said for that silly  ‘Corporation Sole’ entity that is the US church.

Lets look out the New Zealand Church income for the 2010 financial year:

I note the receipt from the Church Head Office in the USA is approximately $20m.  Because there are no notes attached to it I can only surmise that it has something to do with the operational costs involved with the management of the church in the Pacific Islands.

Here is the statement for church expenditure in New Zealand for the same period:

So lets see how this shakes down with respect to the NZ tithing receipts specifically:

  • Average salary per employee (at 149 EFT positions)         NZD$109932.00  (USD $87500.00)
  • Percent of NZ tithing receipts used for remuneration:  49%
  •  Percent of NZ tithing receipts used for administrative, general and operational costs:  61%
  •  Percent of NZ tithing receipts used for the stated purposes of the NZTB as a registered charitable entity:   19%

With increasing attention paid to the church’s finances as a result of a Bloomberg Businessweek article the LDS Newsroom produced a press release (12 July 2012) to explain their financial activities.  They are as follows:

So if these are the stated key areas of activity supported by the tithing funds, why is it that in the New Zealand context they don’t report on these five key areas in their annual returns?  Furthermore, given that these are the officially stated purposes for tithing, the annual return of the New Zealand church should surely address the following questions:

  1. How many buildings are currently being constructed, repaired and refurbished in New Zealand and what is the cost?
  2. What education programmes are being offered in New Zealand since the closure of CCNZ?
  3. How much does it cost to run the seminary and institute programme given that only a handful of folk are actually paid and the rest are volunteers?
  4. Given that we aren’t constructing any temples in New Zealand at present, how much does it cost to maintain and operate the Hamilton temple?
  5. What is New Zealand’s welfare programme and how much does it cost to run?  At the ward level our welfare programme has consisted of our bringing a few cans every week and contributing it to the Bishop’s storehouse.
  6. How much does the church contribute to humanitarian aid and what are those causes?  If an organisation is seeking financial assistance from the church how might they go about doing that given that the church doesn’t publish a process on their websites?
  7. How much does the church contribute to each local unit?  Is this a fixed sum or percentage or is this amount decided from year to year?

Looking at the 2010 annual return therefore,  it would seem that none of these key areas of activity are being directly and specifically addressed and there is still the question of the huge amounts spent on salaries for bureaucrats on the North Shore who we never see and have little idea as to their job descriptions or the services they offer.

Now lets do a comparison:

The Anglican Diocese of Canterbury spends 40% of their income on remuneration.  That is a 9% difference from our own organization AND theirs is a paid clergy, all of whom are available for community and parish work on a full-time basis.  My assessment of the Anglican Diocese (Cathedral politics aside) is that they are community focused, run several important social services, are fiscally transparent, and use their resources to make themselves locally relevant.

My assessment of the New Zealand LDS church is that it is bloated with petty bureaucrats who lack the kind of accountability that is required by us at the stake and ward level when we front up on a yearly basis to declare ourselves financially generous.   There is a problematic murkiness in their expenditure on wages, salaries, operational and administrative costs that they need to come clean about.  Their annual returns are woeful and reflect a sense that they imagine themselves to be a Corporation Sole, and merely ‘tick-box’ their public obligations as a New Zealand registered charity.

In April this year the Commerce Minister, Craig Foss called for higher levels of transparency and accountability from registered charities in New Zealand.  This, he suggests,  should be in the form of a requirement for the church to complete an audit or assurance engagement.   I’m hoping that Takapuna are paying some attention to this and don’t decide to shift the Pacific HQ off-shore in order to escape the kind of scrutiny that is so desperately needed.

So, my suggestions are these:

  1. Use local suppliers. There is too much Auckland and SLC control over contracts for good and services.
  2. Devolve more administrative work down to the local level.
  3. Contract out non-ecclesiastical professional work in a transparent tender system.
  4. Keep more money locally so that units have the resources to develop community services.
  5. Make a General Handbook of Instructions for Church employees available to the ecclesiastical units of the church so that they can see who does what and why.
  6. Institute contribution levies on more wealthy stakes to an international or domestic fund that poorer areas can access giving them the same level of church services as anywhere else in the world.
  7. In New Zealand work closely with the Charities Commission (now included in Internal Affairs) to ensure that the church operates on all levels like a charity.  A concerted effort to disentangle themselves from ‘Corporate Sole’ thinking also needs to be made so that we can feel locally relevant rather than somehow wedded to an American corporate monolith.

I’d personally like a church that I can be proud of particularly in the way in which it uses its money.  To me that includes more than being the perfect corporate entity with stock and property holdings enough to prop up a small nation and invest heavily in the retail sector.  It includes being able to explain to prospective Mormons – “If you go to the NZ Charities Register you will see that our donations are used for the betterment of our society,  and for the enrichment of our communities”.     At the moment any evidence of this is very, very difficult to apprehend.

And BTW – if you are in the NZ church offices – your Annual Return for the 2011-2012 financial year is late.

  • http://gravatar.com/antoniotrevisanteixeira Antônio Trevisan Teixeira

    I am totally surprised to see that audit results are made public. I can only guess it is related to specific laws in New Zealand. Where/how are they published?

  • http://www.facebook.com/cwhumphreys Charles William Humphreys

    I guess the thing that doesn’t bother me is the tithing. This sounds too simple but I have paid tithing all my life. Even recently I have noticed how the Lord continues to look after me and my family and I believe that is in part due to the fact that I am a full tithe payer. However, I do not pay for a reward I just know that I am better having put that 10% away. I also believe that He would bless me without paying the tithing but it is something I won’t let slip. It is like we are simply acknowledging his hand in all things. My wife and I are very firm about it.

    I have never given it much thought – what does the Church do with it? Heating gets paid, so does Electric, manuals are printed, a really good web-site is produced and loads of great faith promoting videos and a 75% funding of BYU so that people can get educated for less.

    We may even be paying the fuel for the Marriott Jet to take President Monson around the world.
    My wife’s Young Women’s activities get paid for and when I was on the Bishopric back in the UK we use to help a woman with her food shop and sometimes pay her power bill.

    I am not bothered too much about the Churches financial statements only because I do see money being used to do good. Even when I was serving my mission I got an anonymous donation to sustain me and never knew where it came from but I was able to serve because of it.

    I get your point but not sure if I am too bothered but I am thankful that you have taken time to write it because I guess somebody has to ask the question. I have brought people in to the Church and what I know is that these people are happier in it then they were out of it. In fact my wife is one of them and some others have actually told me that they are indebted for life and forever for sharing it with them.

    So – yes – there may be problems but the church as a whole is a fantastic organization at bringing people together and developing relationships and a testimony of Jesus Christ and so for that reason I do not have a problem sharing the Gospel even when the Church is full of its own less attractive Americanisms – if you know what I mean.

    Keep them coming Kiwi Mormon – Food for thought indeed.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      I know what you are saying Charles. I think that most Mormons might agree that after it leaves the coffers one has done their duty and the blessings will come. I simply think the church could do a better job by trimming down the bureaucratic fat and freeing up more resources so that the church can become a locally relevant religious community. Think of what more money could do to develop a vibrant youth programme, a community outreach, social services etc. if we had more money in our community. Yes we get reimbursed for our paper doilies and Mutual at the local pools, but that tends to be where it ends. I just think we are capable of much, much more!

      • http://www.facebook.com/cwhumphreys Charles William Humphreys

        Well I understand that too and I agree with you but also I find the other side of the argument. We are not a professional organization and we are all (pretty much) volunteers. I tend not to think that tithing is a duty – I have a relationship with my Father in Heaven and duty is very much a foreign word.

        I read some posts by others about how Tithing is a Temple Tax. Well that is not how I see it. My relationship with my God says that if I have nothing and can give nothing then I can still go but because I have, I can give. To be honest, I haven’t been to the temple for around 4 years but I still pay a tithe because the blessings flow to my family.

        If the Church has to be accountable then yes be accountable and if the law asks for it then at some point the Church will have to give it up.

        I like your posts and your straight talking – it helps us who want to be apart of the Church question ourselves in a safe environment – thank you!

    • http://nickleus.com Nick Humphrey

      CHARLES WRITES:
      “I am not bothered too much about the Churches financial statements only because I do see money being used to do good.”

      NICK RESPONDS:
      a big issue is *how much money* is being used and “how it is being used”. according to the recent business week article, july 10, 2012:
      http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-07-10/how-the-mormons-make-money
      “the Mormon Church donates only about 0.7 percent of its annual income to charity; the United Methodist Church gives about 29 percent.”

      and a very interesting quote from a former bishop, in the same article:
      “Members of our faith are very generous and very sacrificing, very charitable—they pay tithes and fast offerings, and when they see needs, they address those needs,” says Madson, the former bishop. “When we see the church not doing the same things it asks the members to do, we recoil. We wonder, is this looking more and more like a corporation and less and less like a church?”

      it also strikes me as odd that the church no longer publishes specific numbers about their humanitarian aid on their newsroom website:
      http://newsroom.lds.org/facts-and-stats

      when the numbers were up in the past (last seen april 6, 2011), total humanitarian aid from the church *over the last 25 years* was valued at $884m, whereof only $327m was cash (which only shows figures up to 2009):
      http://web.archive.org/web/20110406004043/http://newsroom.lds.org/facts-and-stats

      CHARLES WRITES:
      “We are not a professional organization and we are all (pretty much) volunteers.”

      NICK RESPONDS:
      the church is very much a professional organization. all of the Q15, except Nelson and Packer, are professional, successful businessmen. general authorities are also *paid* a salary comparable to a good, private sector salary. it is a complete myth that the church does not have a paid clergy–that is only true for the local level of branches, wards and stakes.

    • http://nickleus.com nickleus

      CHARLES WRITES:
      “I am not bothered too much about the Churches financial statements only because I do see money being used to do good.”

      NICK RESPONDS:
      a big issue is *how much money* is being used. according to the recent business week article, july 10, 2012:
      http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-07-10/how-the-mormons-make-money
      “the Mormon Church donates only about 0.7 percent of its annual income to charity; the United Methodist Church gives about 29 percent.”

      and a very interesting quote from a former bishop, in the same article:
      “Members of our faith are very generous and very sacrificing, very charitable—they pay tithes and fast offerings, and when they see needs, they address those needs,” says Madson, the former bishop. “When we see the church not doing the same things it asks the members to do, we recoil. We wonder, is this looking more and more like a corporation and less and less like a church?”

      it also strikes me as odd that the church no longer publishes specific numbers about their humanitarian aid on their newsroom website:
      http://newsroom.lds.org/facts-and-stats

      when the numbers were up in the past (last seen april 6, 2011), total humanitarian aid from the church *over the last 25 years* was valued at $884m, whereof only $327m was cash (which only shows figures up to 2009):
      http://web.archive.org/web/20110406004043/http://newsroom.lds.org/facts-and-stats

      CHARLES WRITES:
      “We are not a professional organization and we are all (pretty much) volunteers.”

      NICK RESPONDS:
      the church is very much a professional organization. all of the Q15, except Nelson and Packer, are professional, successful businessmen. general authorities are also *paid* a salary comparable to a good, private sector salary. it is a complete myth that the church does not have a paid clergy–that is only true for the local level of branches, wards and stakes.

      • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

        Some excellent points Nick. I think one of the issues is the tension between our metaphysical understanding of tithing as a kind of divine sacrament and the very real material consequences arising out of the accumulation and use of those funds. Understandably there are many members who feel justifiably disinterested in their money after have performed their sacred duty. I think they feel that to ponder upon the church’s financial management somehow sullies their sacrifice and makes it less. Yet there are those who are more inclined to see the use of that money as just as sacred and sacramental. Charles, I think represents in some ways the former position, which is valid and probably the way it ought to be IF there weren’t ongoing issues.

  • John

    Below is another take on this whole issue, I tend to agree with your side but I think it’s important to show various sides. Honestly, I wish the church was transparent about how it spends money, considering I have given what for me was a great deal. However, as we are so often reminded, “the church is not a democracy!” Nevertheless, I feel that if we aren’t thick skinned enough for some constructive criticism, or we are constantly quieting our members who question the ethics of leadership, then we run the risk of being the Cult we are so often accused of being.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peculiarpeople/2012/07/everything-is-spiritual/

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Good article! Thanks John. Interestingly in New Zealand we don’t get the same advantages as US members. In the US there are all kinds of welfare provisions, DI, Welfare Square, BYU, farms, media, holdings etc. There seems a lot of community investment in the US generally and Utah specifically. Not so in NZ. Yet there is a lot of money generated but little that comes back into local communities to enrich and support. I just see no justification that keeps the administration cash rich but the parishes impoverished.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Good article! Thanks John. Interestingly in New Zealand we don’t get the same advantages as US members. In the US there are all kinds of welfare provisions, DI, Welfare Square, BYU, farms, media, holdings etc. There seems a lot of community investment in the US generally and Utah specifically. Not so in NZ. Yet there is a lot of money generated but little that comes back into local communities to enrich and support. I just see no justification that keeps the administration cash and asset rich but the parishes impoverished.

      • John

        amen

  • anders tronsen

    while tithing is ‘voluntary’, the Intimidation & coercion that accompany it aren’t to be Denied in the LDS Culture… It truly is a “Temple Tax”, because one Must meet their requirements to attend.
    The LDS Refusal to be transparent with its financial information is nothing short of arrogance; the church expects its members to ‘trust them’, but there’s No trust, No accountability offered in return.
    These days, ‘top down’ organizations just aren’t listening to the people they’re supposed to serve, the roar of the Tide just hasn’t been heard. Secrecy benefits only a few, those at the Very Top;
    Q: What are they seeking to hide, and Why?
    A: the LDS church Lies to its members, and leaders Know the only way to survive is to Demand unquestioning loyalty from the membership, else they examine the underpinnings of the faith in All Matters. they’re so BRAZEN, so ARROGANT, they even tell the members that the truth is being filtered ‘for them’, that ‘truth’ can be altered, revised, superceded without notice.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      I have to agree that lack of transparency is HUGELY problematic as is the tendency to create hierarchies and expect a lock step march by the little folk to the beat of the brass. Without conflict and challenge the only outcome will be a kind of social implosion. I also think that it is problematic to withhold information. We actually have a very good Stake President who is very, very transparent and thoughtful and because he is inclusive and honest it motivates the best in people. Would that every unit of the church could learn this lesson.

  • Ron Madson

    KiwiMormon, thank you for this post. To reinforce your sentiments that our duty does not end at just giving, church government places upon us as members an ongoing requirement that we give our “voice and common consent” as to any monies expended from the church treasury. First, we are to give our “common consent” as to “all things” (See DC 26:2). More to point, DC 104:71,72 requires that no monies are to be taken out of the treasury of the church without our giving our “voice and common consent” to such expenses. Meaningful consent could not be given without a full financial disclosure which was given historically until 1960 it was suspended. It must be re-instated if our Common Consent is to have any meaning. This is a right and privilege that our church should not have taken away.

    I personally see our church finances as significant evidence as to the prophetic nature of the BOM. The BOM prophecies that us gentiles will “sin against the gospel” after its restoration (3 Nephi 16) and how so? Mormon 8 tells us that we will “pollute the Holy Church of God’ by spending more on our buildings (vanity, pride, etc) than on the poor and those in real need. It is not that we will not provide it is just it will not be our priority…and so it is.

    I spoke with Caroline Winter before the publication of her story and she did provide a couple of quotes from our visit, but as she indicate to me after publishing so much was edited out. The story she wanted to share was that of the Zoramites of Rameumpton fame. How we cannot read that story and think of how we have just spent billions to make sure “urban blight” (code for the less desirable and poorly clothed/bathed homeless) away from our synagogue hits the mark.

    I hear you and share your sentiments as to this issue. thanks

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      This is awesome stuff Ron! That D&C reference is brilliant. The thing that is extraordinarily vexing about being LDS is the BOM and its very clear and exacting prescription for healthy divine communities. I read it and I wonder how on earth our community has become so entangled with a contemporary political economy which is the very antithesis of Christ’s ideal society?????? How does the core social message of the BOM not scream out with a challenge to rethink our corporate structure? It continues to beat me. I’m a big fan of what you and Josh are doing! Keep up the great work.

  • GAP

    I want to know how much was donated towards Chch EQ rebuild or even towards emotional support for those living through this. Chch has had over 10000 aftershocks – compared that to the 2000 in Japan. What has the church done to alleviate the suffering of these people.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Hi GAP – it has made a $125,000 donation to the mayoral fund, and a $50,000 donation for a school lunch programme in one of the hardest hit areas. The SP has been instructed to be generous with those in need. We did have some LDSS counsellors stationed here for a bit. There has been a leadership change in the last year which has had a really positive impact on the way that the church currently deals with the issues. I think our opportunity to really be useful to our community has passed unfortunately. I was disappointed that the giving of donations seemed more of a PR exercise than a real recognition of a community in need. But I can’t be too churlish there are some real heroes here.

  • PostScript

    Before you call the corporation sole that is the church in the U.S. “silly”, it might be a good idea to find out why it even exists:
    In 1887 the U.S. Congress disincorporated the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and also confiscated much of its property. (See this Wikipedia article on the Edmunds-Tucker Act, which wasn’t repealed until 1978! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmunds%E2%80%93Tucker_Act) Because the LDS Church didn’t exist in any legally recognizable form in the U.S., the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formed in 1916 in order to have a legal entity that could lawfully own property. In 1923 the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formed in order to have a legal entity that could lawfully receive and distribute money. Because “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” doesn’t (and couldn’t before 1978) legally exist in the U.S., these two corporations sole were very much necessary to ensure that the church could conduct its affairs without violating laws in the U.S. It’s not “silly”, it’s very much necessary. Outside of the U.S., of course, the church is legally organized according to the laws of whatever nation it operates in.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Of course! I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t make sense in the US context. It just doesn’t make sense in the context of the international church yet it does appear to be the way the church is understood even here in NZ where it is a charitable trust. By silly perhaps I mean – ‘not universally relevant’?

    • http://gravatar.com/cayblood Carl Youngblood

      I think she’s taking issue with the lack of transparency more than the specific legal structure the Church uses. There is nothing preventing the Church from being more transparent about its finances than the law requires.

      • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

        Yes she is!!!!

      • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

        However, having said that – being a registered charity in NZ requires the charity to be publicly transparent and accountable. A corporation sole isn’t required by law to do this – which I think is daft.

    • Carl Youngblood

      I think she is more concerned about the Church’s lack of transparency than its specific legal structure. There is nothing preventing the church from exceeding the disclosure requirements of the law.

  • Sam

    Hi Kiwimormon!

    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis!! I tend to agree with those on the “I pay tithing for my relationship with God and don’t care as much about what happens afterward because I’ve seen enough good from that money to know it works” group. But I like discussion in the church and you’re doing a good job of that!

    Two comments:

    1. I’ve been a researcher and consultant for several years. I’ve found that sometimes we think we have all the data when we don’t. I’m not saying your analysis is wrong. I REALLY like efficiency and love your recommendations! But there may be more to the story than you see in the numbers you provided. Often, the conclusions we jump to are simply confirming out current biases…even when we have all the data.

    2. Are the institutional failures of the church (which do exist) truly large enough to prevent you from sharing the gospel with others? I mean, I don’t want you use the “ya, we’re not perfect but have you compared us to everyone else” line here. And I’m not trying to excuse the church for failures. But it seems a bit unfair to withhold a gospel that is so beautiful simply because of the failings of the institution. Do organizations exist on the same scale as the church that are devoid of failures?

    We expect great things from a gospel that calls itself divinely directed. But the organization is ultimately run by imperfect people doing there best to seek guidance from God. Unfortunately, they sometimes come up short. But perhaps, in the end, that doesn’t matter.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Hi Sam

      I found it! Don’t know why it didn’t come up on the usual comment section. I agree with the notion that people are imperfect – but institutions are merely a cluster of social norms, values that meet a particular social need and therefore reflect that identity of those it serves. The lack of transparency in the church administration does make my buttons beep and in many ways it is the antithesis of what I believe the original project (as envisioned by JS) intended. So that is largely my issue. Yes, I agree that there may indeed be more to the figures presented in the annual report -but whose to know? I asked them for clarification and they refused to give it me – so we will all just have to contest it, speculate or accept it. Everyone has a choice in this respect and I choose the former!

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.r.marsh Stephen R. Marsh

    I did look at what you posted, had a few comments.

    Facility cost and operating expense/depreciation :: providing buildings and places of worship

    Etc.

    Interesting where the transfer payments to cover NZ expenses: An amount that seems to fluctuate (the 20 to 36 fluctuation seems a lot to me), but comes close to averaging half of the money spent. So overall, NZ is running in the hole — except, you are probably right that NZ accounts for and finances the various South Pacific area employees. But if that is so, pulling that number into the rest of the calculations is problematic.

    Which would make the Anglican Diocese comparison is not very apt, unless they are shipping people out into other Dioceses?

    Much of your criticism seems to be that the way that the reporting is characterized in the reports in the governmental required format do not match the way the Church identifies its own goals and are not broken out the same way.

    “Yet there is a lot of money generated but little that comes back into local communities to enrich and support.” — yet look at the transfer of funds? Does NZ draw funds in or send them out?

    Anyway, interesting to read your take and your approach to it all.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Does NZ draw funds in or send them out?

      I can only surmise that the $20m comes in from the US as an operational grant to cover the expenses incurred by having an area office in NZ which covers several countries. I can’t see why – with local donations at $32m – we would need to draw funds in. I did ask for clarification from the church trustees – and they “respectfully declined to respond”. So who would know?

  • http://postmormon.org NeverMrs

    Hi KiwiMormon,

    Aue! I’m a kiwi too, albeit transplanted into another country now. ;o)

    The area we were in before we left was so corrupt (one bishop was stealing tithing funds and got removed from his position, but no charges for theft were laid; the SP thought he was Tony Soprano, and would explicitly try to influence the local mayor, by promising that he’d have the members of his stake voting for the incumbent if he’d just do x y and z before the election)… it was a nightmare.

    The local financial/political issues were one thing, but the weekly diatribes over the pulpit about EVILS of science, women working, and how it’s important to use physical violence to “love” your kids into obedience, just became too much. I couldn’t go with the flow, because it wasn’t my flow. I don’t think that b.s. like that should be anyone’s flow.

    I made the decision to sever my ties with the church because of doctrinal and historical reasons, but the context was the bizarre mismanagement and corruption issues, and that’s what opened the door to me leaving.

    As someone who now considers herself liberated, I can’t help but hope that things DON’T change; maybe these issues will help people to see for themselves that the church is not the community of do-gooders the members think it is. ;)

    Anyway, discount my view as “an embittered apostate” if you must, but I don’t see the church in NZ flourishing on any account. I think the messages of the oldies are sounding increasingly bizarre to the youth, who can smell hypocrisy and know how to Google. I hope their collective wisdom will help them to see that it’s not THEM with the problem, the church itself is a joke.

    Getting up at 5am to be growled at by someone’s embittered Nan every morning at seminary, in a freezing cold building smelling of mildew, with barely any resources, and then comparing that to the videos they show you in seminary, of smiling, happy, white youth on time-release seminary in the U.S.A. — it’s gotta make them wonder why it’s so sh!tty for them. It’s a recipe that I hope doesn’t change, because the message is so offensive (you dirty brown kids don’t deserve to have any of the church’s vast wealth spent on you to make you warm, have resources, a kind teacher, or meet in a clean building; on the other hand, BYU “needed” a new stadium so the church funnelled $100m+ of tithing money from Canada), it will hopefully turn them against it all.

    May the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s noodley appendage break them (and everyone else) free,
    Ramen

    ;o)

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Kia ora e hoa! Man if I was in your stake I think I’d do a bunk as well!! I think you raise some really interesting points about the ethnic/race/class allocation of church resources. That’s worth a separate post in and of itself eh?

  • malkie

    I hope you don’t mind a Canadian apostate jumping in. One of your suggestions struck a chord with me, because I put a similar idea to my (active) wife recently. You said:

    “Institute contribution levies on more wealthy stakes to an international or domestic fund that poorer areas can access giving them the same level of church services as anywhere else in the world.”.

    The church has the information available that would allow it to promote the idea of relatively wealthy units (need not be stakes) “twinning” with the poorest units.

    For me, the biggest advantage over a (presumably anonymous) levy would be the presumed connection that the twinned units would share.

    Do we even need the involvement of the church bureaucracy to do this? After all, “we” also have sources of information that would allow us to make a start.

    Of course, as an inactive apostate I’m in no position to act on this – who would listen?

    Any thoughts?

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Well there is the perennial question -’who would listen?’ I don’t think you need to be an embittered Canadian apostate to feel that frustration. Perhaps that is one of the problems with setting up an institution that functions as a trickle down rather than a trickle up. History tells us however that it can’t continue to be this way and be a viable, relevant community – so lets watch this space eh?

  • Jeff

    Gina
    Once again you fail to account for the fact that the remuneration of the Church Area Office covers the numbers of professional staff needed to administer the entire Pacific Area which includes all of Australia and the various nations of the South Pacific and all of their buildings and church activities. The Charities Commission return only reports on the tithing receipts from the just under 100,000 members New Zealand and DOES NOT report the tithing receipts from the 135,000 members in Australia or the 40,000 members across the South Pacific nations. The receipts from Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti etc will be modest but the receipts from Australia will be per member higher than NZ due to higher wages/salaries in Australia and the anecdotal evidence that the Australia tax department’s treatment of tithing deductibility is closer to the more favorable tax deduction situation religions enjoy in the US which has led to a higher level of tithing faithfulness in Australia versus New Zealand.

    If you are going to compare the costs the church incurs in running its operation to the Canterbury Diocese of the Anglican Church then you need to compare apples with apples. You need to either apportion the overheads of the Auckland Area Office operation to the actual membership and assets in New Zealand OR if you choose to fully allow for all the staff salaries and administrative costs that the church discloses in the return because all these staff are employed in NZ and paid in NZD$, then it is only fair to put the percentage of tithing receipts into the proper context of the Area wide tithing receipts which I would venture to say would be three times the figure of the NZ only tithing receipts. That would put the true percentage of tithing spent on administration well below that of the Anglican Church.

    • snowpunter

      The UK finances are much more detailed. I know they include info about building maintenance as well.

    • Carl Youngblood

      Good points. I still think that the answer to these challenges is more transparency rather than less. Nobody is arguing that good is not being done here, but I think that the Church administration could be far more effective if it were more accountable to its members.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      That seems to be beside the point. The NZTB includes in its report the number of employees it pays salaries for – which is 149. Are you suggesting that they are under-reporting their personnel figures?

      • Jeff

        To the contrary – the number of employees reported will be 100% accurate. Let me repeat what the point is. The NZ Charities Commission return accurately details the total salary cost incurred by the NZ Pacific Area Office based in Takapuna. But it only details the NEW ZEALAND tithing receipts. From the NZ tithing figures only you deduce that the church’s NZ admin costs are bloated due to too many high cost employees. What you fail to mention or realize is the fact that the staff employed at the Area Office in Auckland have jurstiction over the church’s temporal affairs for not one but TWELVE countries (Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Tahiti, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Tahiti). The Church’s Newsroom LDS Statistics and Facts section lists total NZ church membership at 106,000 and the total Pacific Area Membership at 486,000. The staff employed by the church in New Zealand have juristiction over the temporal affairs of a region that has a church population of 4 times the population of New Zealand. To properly calculate the percentage of tithing income spent on staff you must include the tithing revenue the church receives from all of the twelve countries that the NZ domiciled staff adminster – the tithes the church receives from the other eleven Pacifc Area countries are NOT included in the Charities Commission return.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Let me be clear – the number of employees that are declared in the annual return – which is 149 – is tied to the money that the annual return has declared to be spent on their remuneration. One doesn’t need to speculate about where these people are based, nor the administration costs incurred for employees outside of NZ. The Charities Commission annual returns is only concerned with New Zealand charitable giving, expenditure and the local staff involved in that organization – not their off-shore activities. What you seem to be suggesting is that there are more than 149 employees who are based outside of NZ which accounts for the $17m spent on salaries. If this is the case then they have some serious faults and flaws in their reporting!!

      • http://gravatar.com/cayblood Carl Youngblood

        I may have misunderstood, but I thought Jeff was saying that these 149 employees are handling the administrative workload for twelve different countries in which the Church operates, not just NZ, so to compare only NZ’s tithing revenues with their salaries is not fair. Rather, their salaries would need to be compared with the total tithing revenues for all twelve of the countries. Even then, I suppose it could be argued that the Church subsidizes the administrative costs for this area from other areas’ tithing revenues. Jeff, is that sort of what you’re saying?

      • Jeff

        No clause in the Charities Act nor any portion of the Annual Return form http://www.charities.govt.nz/assets/docs/forms/form-4-annual-return.pdf specifically ties the staff employed in New Zealand to the revenue received in NZ so this is a connection entirely of you own making. The return merely asks how many employees the charity employs asking for a breakdown of full time, part time and voluntary. Part 25 of the Annual Return asks for no international allocation of work time for staff remuneration in NZ. The Act merely requires the church to make an accurate accounting for revenue received into its NZ Corporation of the President (or NZ Trust Board) bank account(s) and for the expenses paid out of the same account(s) – the returns posted on the Charities Register do just that. This is very simple and speculation about offshore employees is a red herring – the church employs only a handful of key staff in service centres in seven of the eleven non New Zealand countries in the Pacific Area and their remuneration would not feature in the NZ return and in any event the number employed at these centres is small. The vast bulk of the key professionals who are paid the higher salaries that you question are domiciled in Auckland and receive a NZD$ pay cheque from the very NZ bank account that the church is required to account to the Charities Commission (now Internal Affairs). I happen to personally know five of the professional NZTB employees (all NZ citizens) who perform professional work for the church (accountants, lawyers, architects etc) whose positions regularly take them across NZ, Australia and the various Pacific countries. They used to do this work from the Sydney Area Office (which then only covered NZ and Australia) and when the church amalgamated the Australasian and Pacific Area Offices into the one location in Auckland, they were offered a transfer to Auckland or redundancy. They took the transfer. Another very close friend is the church’s Pacific Area Employment Manager. He is based in the church’s Auckland employment office in Manakau. He has jurisdiction over all the church’s employment offices and activities across the Pacific Area necessitating periodic travel to Australia and Pacific nations. He gets a single pay cheque from the church’s NZ bank account. If we were to follow your logic and assume that Area Office staff salaries were only remunerated based on the share of NZ tithing revenue then we’d have the farcical situation of these people receiving maybe 30% of their pay in NZD$ from the church’s NZ bank account maybe 60% from its Australian account and the rest a mish mash from Fiji Samoa and Tonga. That of course is not what happens – he’s paid in NZD$ from the church’s NZ bank account. There is not hidden in the office in Takapuna or anywhere else in Auckland a shadow army of NZ domiciled professionals whose sole job it is to administer the non NZ functions of the church and who are paid from non NZ bank accounts – if there were the church would be in breach of NZ employment laws. Whilst there will be a few office manager jobs whose span of control will be limited to strictly NZ work, the professionals I know seamlessly integrate their work across the Pacific Area without the delineation you infer.

      • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

        Well then Jeff – that would account for the reason why the Commerce Commissioner is calling for a compulsory external audit. Besides – you don’t actually know any more than I know. Yours is mere speculation – unless you can put your hands on their ‘real’ figures as opposed to the reported figures I’ll go with what they declare in their return. I’ve invited them to correct me but they have declined to respond. So as far as I’m concerned 149 employees are remunerated in the vicinity of $17m – end of story. But this points to the bigger problem – and that is a lack of public accountability and transparency which is rife across the church and mark my words if it doesn’t cause endless woes for them until they shape up. I understand that you don’t see the necessity and you trust the church/market nexus to work miracles in expanding profit margins and if that’s your bliss then all power to you and may the corporation reign as the Kingdom of God!! But perhaps our endless debates indicates that we understand Jesus differently. Perhaps that’s what we need to nut out. So how about you provide a scriptural exposition to defend your position instead of using a language your learned in your commerce degree to explain the divine??

  • Stephen Marsh

    I had someone at Church today note that the missionary funds are probably a large part of the funds transferred in and that they are probably treated as salary without the elders being counted as full time employees.

    A lot there, and more comments than I can reliably type in on a smart phone, but you have a number of us thinking.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      It could be! But they have an obligation to report their number of employees they pay salaries for which I would have thought ought to be tied to their remuneration figures.

    • Jeff

      Gina
      The disagreement I have with your analysis is not over whether the 149 employees are paid $17 million. I agree with those figures or I should say – they appear to be correct to me and I don’t believe they are in need of correction. It is your claim that $17m represents a bloated staffing expenditure amount because you divide it by only the stated NZ tithing income amount of $32m. On the face of it that IS a bloated figure if the activities of the 149 related only to the church’s affairs in NZ. My point is that the $17m (for 149) staffing figure is spent on people like my friends who perform professional work for the church in most or all of the twelve countries in the Pacific Area and not just New Zealand. It is only fair to include the tithes received from all twelve countries (even though the Charities Commission is legally only concerned with the tithes and other income received in New Zealand) when you calculate what percentage the church actually spends on salaries. If there is anything improperly reported then an external audit would be a good thing and if the church needs to tidy up it’s reporting then that is a good thing.

      You make various pertinent points regarding transparency but your position is undermined if you exaggerate the church’s true expenditure percentage. I’m more OK with the status quo because I’ve known enough people in senior positions inside the temporal heirarchy to know that on balance funds are protected and expended correctly.

      You couch your opposition in theological terms when I believe your objections are mostly ideological. The church (and those who run it) fit more comfortably with my centre right capitalist world view whereas the policies and procedures sit far less comfortably with someone like you with a left leaning socialist world view. We both love the Lord and adore the temple and do all we can to serve in the kingdom but in a free society we are free to support the ideologies of our choice and those ideologies colour how we see many things including the church. Your tliting at the church’s windmills will seem threatening to some but never to me. I enjoy what you write but you ought to avoid the tendency by some on the left to assume that their world view is THE world view when it is only A world view.

      • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

        Jeff – how is it that I’m suddenly ideological but you aren’t? I’m utterly open about my political philosophy – always have been. Ideologies are merely clusters of ideas that form a basis from which people assemble their world view. Are you suggesting that you don’t have one of those clusters informing your world view?

      • Jeff

        Gina
        I totally admit that I am ideological – I too am open about my political leanings – as are you. My ideology totally influences my world view. My point was so does yours and that your socialist world view lies more at the heart of your objections to ‘corporate Mormonism’ than theology. Its why I’m more comfortable with the brethren actively managing the legacy assets through potentially money making projects. My driving philosophy is philanthropic capitalism – I use my skills and experience and opportunities to generate maximum profits so that I can do even more good. It’s an extension of what our old mate Mike Moore once said as PM in 1990 – “I can’t tax losses”. As a former socialist Mike realized that governments cannot make a difference in the lives of the underprivileged unless it can tax the profits of capitalist companies – the less profit companies make the lower the tax revenue and the fewer options governments have in trying to alleviate the plight of the poor and needy. The same is true in the church – the more individual LDS members make (in wages/salaries/business profits) the more tithes and offerings the church can use to further its work. Leveraging off the legacy assets (the vestiges of the vast economic infrastructure that the church developed as a consequence of owning so much land and economic assets as it developed the Utah territory) enables the church to get more bang for its philanthropic buck expanding and enlarging its charitable and humanitarian outreach. The extent to which the New Zealand governments can balance some of the inequities inherent in market economies is determined by the tax revenue it can levy off he productive business sector – failing unprofitable businesses means falling tax revenues and programme constraints. The poor in NZ should have a vested interest in profitable companies because the more profit they make the higher the tax revenue then government has to play to expand its programmes. Likewise the more successful I am in business the more lives we can touch with the programmes that my business partner and I operate to achieve good spiritual outcomes. The fact the the church does this with its legacy assets should be applauded not denigrated in my opinion.

  • http://antimammon.wordpress.com day2mon

    The $32m was probably the “donation” made to the Polynesian Cultural Center in 2010, and not a direct cash contribution to the NZ Area. There are so many advantages to having a corporation sole, and it has nothing to do with legal necessity; at any time they could’ve incorporated as a non-profit, and so the apology for corp.sole status as somehow forced upon them is pure nonsense. But as a non-profit they would be required to have some transparency, and that is the end of it.

    The “local” areas seem like beggar states, but only because so much is actually spent on “administration” of these areas, by non-local PAID CLERGY who have no religious obligations to their flock, but enjoy religious authority: in the BoM such arrangements are called priestcraft, and are forbidden by God. We have a paid Clergy: if you doubt this, decline to follow the invitations of Area Reps who are on payroll, and you’ll see an ecclesiastical solution being provided. That is Priestcraft, and this article gives a good reason why it is forbidden: the big fish will always eat the little fish, and blame the little guy for not being self sustaining.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Yes, yes and yes! You have so hit the nail on the head. There is a real blurring of the lines between the ecclesiastical and the corporate arm of the church. It has turned our ‘area’ offices into rogue entities with little accountability to those who pay for their salaries. Yes – priestcraft!!!!!

  • Jeff

    The City Creek project is a very large and easy target to demagogue – comments like “how many struggling earthquake victims in Haiti or schools for poor members in Vanuatu could the church build with $1.5 billion” are almost motherhood and apple pie type question. The reality is far more nuanced.

    All churches of reasonable size separate their donations and outreach work from their capital base that may arise from business activities or bequeathments. The difference is that the Episcopalians (Anglicans), Catholics and Presbyterians for example choose passive investment strategies for these assets such as passing the responsibility for asset management to professional external fund managers. The LDS Church has for some decades now chosen to actively manage its own assets and part and parcel of that strategy is to re-invest income received from church businesses into new profitable ventures. There is nothing sinister or wrong with this approach. The insinuation is however that the church is diverting funds from its core charitable activities into the City Creek project. If the church had not chosen this project to back it likely would’ve spent the same money on the acquisition of less high profile assets. Somehow if the Catholic church invests the proceeds from the sale of valuable property with JP Morgan Chase who in turn invest in some umbrella balanced managed fund it is fine but when the LDS Church thinks its senior managers and hierarchy can beat the market professionals and make a better profit some how that is something to be frowned on.

    The entire City Creek project will end up being overall a very profitable project for the church. The City Creek project was undertaken to revitalize what was becoming a tired and run down part of the downtown area. The church was looking to protect the image of the Temple Square area. Because some of the $1.5 billon has been spent on roading and parking infrastructure for the entire South Temple block from West to East Temple and other things such as walkways to connect to later commercial property projects, there has been some front loading of the overall revitalization cost loaded into the mall development. But even taking that into consideration the mall project as a stand alone investment will still make a return.

    We don’t know how much of the development cost was debt funded but it is a matter of the public record that the management company Taubmans tipped $76 million into the project. Apparently the mall is 92% leased – a stunning achievement in the current economic climate.  I spoke to a business colleague who has been building malls for much of his professional career. 92% means the owners of City Creek are receiving rents off 645,000 square feet. Base rentals for a premium mall like this are about $40 sq ft plus 15% of the gross sales revenue of the tenants. Premium malls in the US right now are averaging $400 per sq ft in sales revenue. Add that up and deduct the 10% management fee paid to the mall managers and the investment company will pay annual profits to the church’s property owning/development holding company approximately $57 million annually which equates to a 4% return on investment (assuming no debt funding). That is at the low end for a mall but justifiable because of the protection of the image of the whole precinct.

    However when you add the returns from the condominiums being (and about to be) built, it becomes apparent why from a business point of view the church would prefer a project like this to giving its capital and investment funds to a Merrill Lynch type Wall Street firm to manage. The 300 condos will average in size approx 1,100 sq feet. Being a premium product means construction costs will be at the upper end of the per unit average in Utah (currently $180,000). With an average sale price of $500,000 the church stands to make a $90 million+  eventual profit from the condo side of the project alone. Add into the mix planned office accommodation for the 1st South side of the block and the premium commercial rents that will generate and the church gets to kill 2 birds with one stone – to preserve the ambience of the S Temple block AND make a very tidy return on its investment.

    The funds deployed in this undertaking never came from the tithing funds of the church and to suggest that the church should spend its capital and it’s income on its ecclesiastical and humanitarian efforts is a recipe for rapid bankruptcy. It’s tantamount to telling the various Community Trusts in NZ to stop being so chintzy and distribute to all the needy charities throughout out community not just the return on their investments (as is the case now) but to sell the assets and distribute the CAPITAL as well. 

    Gina makes a virtue of her socialist ideology but her indignation over the church investing capital it earned from its business activities in new and profitable ventures such as City Creek (rather than cashing up those assets and donating it to the poor) merely fulfills Margaret Thatcher’s famous remark about the problem with socialism is that in the end you run out of other people’s money. If the church were to do as she suggests and divert its capital assets away from preserving and enhancing them to dispersing the lot and relying wholly on its tithing and other donation income, the scope and outreach of the church’s core mission would be severely curtailed. 

    • http://antimammon.wordpress.com day2mon

      Jeff, all your figures (based on guesswork and estimates) only say: We think our responsiblity is to turn a profit; to invest what was given for charitable purposes into whatever endeavor we like. Do you have proof no tithing was spent in this manner? No, of course not. Why didn’t Jesus set up a mall when among the people at Bountiful? Your defense assumes this isn’t a church, and its claims to have a unique relationship with Heaven are false, and that one must build a rainy day fund, a mall, and so on, for that time when God ceases to send rain on the just and the unjust. Perhaps that time has come, and your sort will at last see that arguments based on “other churches” and returns from other investments are utter nonsense. I’m not surprised at your lack of faith being the basis of your defense, but to propose that a lack of faith among all parties involved in the construction is a little bit surprising, and sounds like apostate thinking. $5B is apparently the cost of lacking faith.

      • Jeff

        day2mon
        I invite you to correct any of the figures I used. They are based on industry averages for mall base and turnover rents, current per square footage retail sales, costs of construction of Utah units (top end estimate) and the average sales price based on numbers of condos on offer and the respective prices achieved.

        Do you have proof that tithing was used on this transaction? There weren’t malls in Bountiful at the time of Christ so your analogy is a little silly. How the church was financed in the meridian of time has not been detailed in any surviving records so you cannot assume that the church leaders of the time did not use sound business investment practices appropriate for the times.

        Your attack assumes that the church must operate as some small anarchalistic commune. The City Creek project is an investment pure and simple. Over the decades the church has made considerable income from its various business activities many a legacy from the time the church dominated economic activity in Utah and owned substantial economic infrastructure. Believing this is to believe undisputable facts of history not to lack faith as you allege. Up until the late 60′s the church pretty much spent all its income (whether from businesses or tithes) almost entirely on its mainstream ecclesiastical and spiritual mission and it almost went bankrupt. The intervention of Henry B Moyle and later N Eldon Tanner in conjucntion with the Presiding Bishops Office managed to put the church’s finance on a stable and strong foundation.

        Please share with us your vision for the church’s finances.

        • http://antimammon.wordpress.com day2mon

          All things in common, no poor among them, seeking first the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t think we are opposed fundamentally, only that our vision of the means are.

        • http://antimammon.wordpress.com day2mon

          All things in common, no poor among them, seeking first the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t think we are opposed fundamentally, only that our vision of the means are. I would share with you what I have.

    • http://nickleus.com nickleus

      “Somehow if the Catholic church invests the proceeds from the sale of valuable property with JP Morgan Chase who in turn invest in some umbrella balanced managed fund it is fine”

      says who? nice strawman argument.

      “but when the LDS Church thinks its senior managers and hierarchy can beat the market professionals and make a better profit some how that is something to be frowned on.”

      the whole issue is that many people feel that *”jesus christ’s”* *church* shouldn’t be in the *business* of *making profit*, but rather “healing the sick”, “feeding the poor”, “lift[ing] up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees”, etc.

      • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

        Yes – strange that some Mormons struggle with accepting that a large and spacious retail centre across from the temple is the natural extension of Christian discipleship!

    • http://nickleus.com nickleus

      JEFF WRITES:
      “All churches of reasonable size separate their donations and outreach work from their capital base that may arise from business activities or bequeathments.”
      “The LDS Church has for some decades now chosen to actively manage its own assets and part and parcel of that strategy is to re-invest income received from church businesses into new profitable ventures.”
      “If the church had not chosen this project to back it likely would’ve spent the same money on the acquisition of less high profile assets.”
      “but when the LDS Church thinks its senior managers and hierarchy can beat the market professionals and make a better profit some how that is something to be frowned on.”
      “The entire City Creek project will end up being overall a very profitable project for the church.”
      “With an average sale price of $500,000 the church stands to make a $90 million+ eventual profit from the condo side of the project alone.”
      “the premium commercial rents that will generate and the church gets to kill 2 birds with one stone – to preserve the ambience of the S Temple block AND make a very tidy return on its investment.”

      NICK RESPONDS:
      a non-profit focused on making profits. seems legit. it’s no wonder why the exmormon community refers to church’s president as “The Profit”.

      JEFF WRITES:
      “The entire City Creek project will end up being overall a very profitable project for the church.”

      NICK RESPONDS:
      you obviously haven’t read the business week article:
      “McMullin explains that City Creek exists to combat urban blight, not to fill church coffers. “Will there be a return?” he asks rhetorically. “Yes, but so modest that you would never have made such an investment”

      JEFF WRITES:
      “It’s tantamount to telling the various Community Trusts in NZ to stop being so chintzy and distribute to all the needy charities throughout out community not just the return on their investments (as is the case now) but to sell the assets and distribute the CAPITAL as well.”

      NICK RESPONDS:
      it’s also tantamount to jesus commanding the rich man to sell all he owns and giving the money to the poor, and telling his disciples to bring neither purse nor scrip nor bag nor sandles ;)

      JEFF WRITES:
      “If the church were to do as she suggests and divert its capital assets away from preserving and enhancing them to dispersing the lot and relying wholly on its tithing and other donation income, the scope and outreach of the church’s core mission would be severely curtailed. ”

      NICK RESPONDS:
      but then it would *look and act like a church*, not to mention *”jesus’”* church ;)

    • Bryce Dixon

      The problem with capitalism is that it is inconsistent with the law of consecration. No individual can serve God and Mammon. You seem to believe the church can serve God and Mammon. That is the questtion. Can the church do what Christ prohibited an individual from doing?
      We as individuals are commanded to consecrate. Many of us have made solemn covenants to consecrate all that we possess to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the biilding of Zion. The purpose of our consecration is to build up Zion. That is our hope and trust. Those who have received those consecrated funds have an awful responsibilty to care for the poor and to use those funds for one purpose only. Those who seek an accounting of those funds desire that they be used for the building of Zion and for the care of the poor. When they hear of those leaders of the church making expressions such as “let’s go shopping” at a temple of Babylon situated across the street from the most prominent symbol of Zion, it makes them wonder about whether the
      mission to establish Zion has gotten side-tracked. So they demand an accounting. I am not so bold. I will let the Lord judge them because I am not willing to jeopardize my covenant to consecrate all that I possess to the LDS church. But I may well be wrong in my difidence.

  • wyoming

    Who are you implying is becoming rich off of church finances? I know senior leaders, CES leaders and others church employees. They live modestly and are very, very generous.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      I’m not sure I suggested that any one person is getting wealthy -although there is pretty good evidence that when it comes to church salaries CES and other employees are at the bottom of the food chain and that there are those in ‘higher’ positions in our ‘unpaid clergy’ who are the blessed recipient of some not inconsiderable benefit for their service. My problem is in its use and the systems of public accountability. So often we hear at the ward and stake level that tithing funds are sacred and proper procedures need to be followed in their handling. That is of course until that money hits the general pot – then it seems that the church offices don’t feel the same obligation to be transparent or even very careful with those ‘sacred tithes’.

  • Ron Madson

    The most recent statement by our church in regard to Church Finances reveals that the massive accumulation of wealth/investments is based on the wisdom that we must have plenty in store for a “rainy day fund” or an economic crisis–in the future. So when do we know when the “rainy day” is here? The economic crisis? And most importantly, for whom? For many saints in less developed countries that “rainy day” and “economic crisis” is here and now.

    http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/for-i-was-hungry-and-you-gave-me-food/

    Many children in our covenant are suffering today with varying degrees of malnutrition, lack of basic medical care, and an economic crisis is a way of life. So again, what “rainy day” and for whom are we amassing this wealth for? The answer is so patently obvious that it need not be spelled out. Otherwise, we would have opened the storehouse and even emptied it if need be for those who live each day without basic necessities. And then do something really novel in today’s world—–trust that like the miracle of the fishes and loaves that the baskets in the church’s treasury would continually refill as we feed our Father’s children.

  • http://nickleus.com nickleus

    imagine the respect and admiration for the church and the amount of good that could be done in the world if the 0.7% figure represented “percent of annual income earmarked for investments” instead of “percent of its annual income [donated] to charity”? ;)

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      I would have to say that that for me would make all the difference in the world.

  • http://nickleus.com nickleus

    JEFF WRITES:
    “Do you have proof that tithing was used on this transaction? ”

    NICK RESPONDS:
    the church wouldn’t have any assets/cash if it first wasn’t donated/tithed in by members in the beginning of the church’s history, so yes technically/historically one could assert this.

    • Jeff

      NICK WRITES:
      you obviously haven’t read the business week article:
      “McMullin explains that City Creek exists to combat urban blight, not to fill church coffers. “Will there be a return?” he asks rhetorically. “Yes, but so modest that you would never have made such an investment”

      JEFF WRITES:
      I make the same point as McMullin – the projected return on just the mall would be 4% being at the low end of returns for this industry and so the improvement to the S Temple area is clearly the primary goal. The point I was making that once the entire project is completed (condos and office space) the return for the whole project will be very attractive. The mall all by itself is indeed modest.

      NICK WRITES:
      it’s also tantamount to jesus commanding the rich man to sell all he owns and giving the money to the poor, and telling his disciples to bring neither purse nor scrip nor bag nor sandles

      JEFF WRITES:
      Jesus wasn’t telling the church to sell all IT owns to give to the poor merely the rich man. Proselyting without purse or scrip worked well in Palestine 2000 years ago and in the early days of the church – it would severely hamper the church’s missionary efforts today hence the current methods used.

      NICK WRITES:
      but then it would *look and act like a church*, not to mention *”jesus’”* church

      JEFF WRITES:
      The trap you’ve fallen in to is the same the Jews at the time of Christ fell into – demanding that past precedent can never be modified. There is a raft of procedures in the modern church that differ from the ancient church by virtue of the demands of the modern world. The whole premise of the church is that it is built on revelations to a LIVING prophet/apostles. The Jews only revered dead prophets and could not countenance a replacement for the Law of Moses. Likewise you seem to want to hamstring the church with the procedures appropriate in a small non mobile agrarian society. If the church followed your suggested pathway it would be broke within a few years and its global outreach capacity would be severely curtailed.

      NICK WRITES:
      The church wouldn’t have any assets/cash if it first wasn’t donated/tithed in by members in the beginning of the church’s history, so yes technically/historically one could assert this.

      JEFF WRITES:
      The fact that the church enjoys a considerable non chapel and temple asset base is a function of its primary economic development role in the emerging Utah territory. Husbanding THAT asset base wisely does not prevent the church from rendering fast offering assistance to any and all needy members globally. If you have evidence that starving members in Haiti were told there was insufficient fast offering assistance because the church had to divert funds to build the City Creek Mall then let’s have it because that is the constant inference. I asked for proof that the church went beyond the base of property and business assets it owned from the time it settled Utah and dipped into tithing funds to ‘top up’ the investment on City Creek and of course there is none.

      This is not so much a theological difference of opinion as an ideological one – Gina (and I’d venture to say perhaps you as well) is an avowed socialist and the church operates more on capitalist modern economy methods and so it is automatically an anathema to socialist leaning types – this is a clash of world views.

  • Aj70

    Hi love the comments Day2mon .
    Jeff the purchase and investments in city creek make sound business sense for a large multi national corporation.but this is supposed to be a church not a business. It was set up by Christ with a prophet not to make a profit. When the Church(TM) worries more about is business portfolio and it’s PR image it has lost it’s way and Mormons prophecies have indeed come true.

    • Jeff

      Aj70
      The church has a large non chapel/temple asset base that came as a consequence of it being the major economic catalyst for setting the Utah territory. It is merely managing that stewardship in the wisest way possible. As stated earlier, other churches achieve this through mostly passive investment stratgies via large fund managers – the church taps the talents of the many successful business people and actively manages these assets. This strategy enables the church to do more and better humanitarian work, to more rapidly expand the building of chapels and temples than if it relied solely on donations and to expand its welfare provision capacity. The profits you malign enable the church to more rapidly fulfill its God given global mission.

  • Aj70

    In addition , we should stop the emphasis on building temples to do work for the dead and instead do more work for the living.Ammon the poster boy of missionaries is known for his service not his business acumen or door knocking. Let’s get back to sleeves rolled up Christianity and ,by the way loose the helping hands T -shirts. True servants of Christ don’t advertise their good deeds

    • Gap

      Amen!

  • Mike S

    Rome has riches beyond compare. There are literally priceless works of art, buildings, plazas, etc. And I’m sure the justification for all of these things is exactly the same as people above as using to justify spending billions on malls and condos. If we have already progressed to this state in the 160+ years since we arrived in Utah, with only 15+ million members, imagine what we’d be like with a 2000 year history and a billion members. We’re following in the footsteps of the Catholic Church. Perhaps that’s what we want, but our prophets and apostles haven’t necessarily held the riches of Rome up to the highest regard over the years.

    Someone might claim that “we’re different” – but how? How is our justification different than any that might have been done then?

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Amen Mike! Well said.

  • Sam

    Gina,

    I posted an earlier comment that was never posted. I’m not sure why. Could you check? It went somewhat counter to your comments….there seems to be a dearth of such comments.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Hey Sam – I haven’t censored anything if that’s what you’re asking. My brother-in-law has tried to post on various occasions and he’s had a similar issue of it disappearing. It would be great to hear from you – even if you are a filthy capitalist!!!??? (wink, wink)

  • Daeyel

    It is a Kingdom. Kingdom’s require an economic foundation, regardless of the king. Follow your Millennial doctrine, and you will understand the seamless (haha!) transfer of government from the current political factions to that of the theocracy of God. Even God’s kingdom is going to need a solid economic base to operate and fulfill the work with.

    Think of it as merely increasing the endowment of the church. There is going to be some serious expenses incurred very soon, as Elder Bednar reported mentioned in a recent discourse.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Does the building of a sound economic base necessitate a lack of transparency? How much is going to be enough? If God is directing the accumulation of funds against a rainy day and has a figure in mind for the corporation perhaps he would like to tell the members when this might occur, give us an exact figure (inflation and CPI adjusted of course) and provide the heads up on worthy investments so that we too can be wealthy. If we are part of the Kingdom surely he would want each member to have a decent economic foundation as well?

  • Jeff Mitchell

    I pay my tithing and leave it at that. I do not worry how it is spent. Once money is in the churches’ hands, it isn’t my problem any more. Its as easy as that. They are free to use what they earn from their for-profit companies for anything they like. Good accounting practices would make sure each allotment of money is separated from the others to maintain integrity. I don’t see much problem with the churches’ handling of money.

    On the other hand I do see a problem with them soft pedalling behavior of illegal immigration, and the inability to conceal carry in chapels for self defense. We’re supposed to obey the law of the land, and they want to fudge on that. Gun free zones are great places to stage massacres. The real issue, is that this is small stuff, not worth worrying about. Be a bit peeved for a while, then let it go.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      We don’t carry in New Zealand so I’m a bit out of my depth with this one. I suppose you could exercise the same faith you have in the payment of your tithing as you might in your desire to be protected at church from gun-wielding illegal immigrants?

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      We don’t carry in New Zealand so I’m a bit out of my depth with this one. I suppose you could exercise the same faith you have in the payment of your tithing as you might in your desire to be protected at church from gun-wielding illegal immigrants?

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      We don’t carry in New Zealand so I’m a bit out of my depth with this one. I suppose you could exercise the same faith you have in the payment of your tithing as you might in your desire to be protected at church from gun-wielding illegal immigrants?

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.jerdon John Jerdon

    I was a member for @ 40 years. One thing I noticed was leadership changed doctrines outlined in the “Standard Works”. There also seemed to be a concerted effort to distract members from what the scriptures actually say by producing course outlines and study manuals to direct the topics of discussion. Jesus and His teachings were rarely mentioned and replaced by the teachings of Mormon prophets. (Isaiah 55:8)

    · Are you a full-tithe payer?
    D&C 119:3-5
    3 And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.4 And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually [NET GAIN]; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.5 Verily I say unto you, it shall come to pass that all those who gather unto the land of Zion shall be tithed of their surplus [NET] properties, and shall observe this law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you. [disfellowshipped/excommunicated]

    The modern LDS does NOT follow this. The first strange thing is if tithing will remain a standing law unto them forever, then why do they make an oath and a covenant to live the Law of Consecration in the Endowment Ceremony? This also makes it clear that once you reject the Law of Consecration you don’t get a second chance to mock God yet again. (D&C 1:15-16;104:52-53; 105:2-10) This protocol was previously expressed when the Jews rejected the Higher Law contained on the 1st set of tablets that Moses broke when he found the Jews worshiping the golden calf. (JST Exodus 34:1-2; see picture of Salt Lake Temple Baptismal Font)

    Secondly, the modern church tells its members to pay tithe on their gross income, not their surplus (net). This verse is the opposite of what they tell the members today. Thirdly, these verses state if you don’t tithe you are to be cast out of the church, which certainly does not happen today! The Law of Consecration involves the sacrifice of one’s time and talents but the Law of Tithes (Moses) does not accept that as a form of payment from those who cannot afford to pay tithes. One shouldn’t have to choose between the basic necessities of life and tithing. The Widow’s Mite was all that she had and all some have to contribute is time and talents. Requiring the poor and needy to pay tithes is oxymoronic and counter productive to self-reliance. What is hypocritical in their thinking is they require Church Welfare recipients to work chores (if you will) for receiving the aid, yet won’t apply the same logic to tithes and temple recommends.

    What is even more puzzling is:
    D&C 85:3 It is contrary to the will and commandment of God that those who receive not their inheritance by consecration, agreeable to his law, which he has given, that he may tithe his people, to prepare them against the day of vengeance and burning, should have their names enrolled with the people of God. 4 Neither is their genealogy to be kept, or to be had where it may be found on any of the records or history of the church. 5 Their names shall not be found, neither the names of the fathers, nor the names of the children written in the book of the law of God, saith the Lord of Hosts.

    Here the LDS are told that unless they live the United Order and it’s Law of Consecration they are NOT numbered among the people of God, yet they still believe they are God’s chosen religion. Furthermore, tithers are told their genealogy is worthless and therefore their ordinances for the dead are in vain total negating one of the main purposes of LDS temple worship. Ironically, their Baptisms for the Dead are declared dead works. Now it makes sense why the Kirtland Temple never had baptismal fonts or sealing rooms. It was in Kirtland, Ohio were the early members were first introduced to the ideology of the United Order and the Law of Consecration. It was there that they also rejected it and ever since every LDS Temple has had a different intended purpose than the Kirtland Temple.

    http://christianpf.com/the-story-of-the-widows-mite/ The setting for story of the Widow’s mite is at the temple, where Jesus condemns the attitudes of the rich Pharisees and Scribes. The word Pharisee means – “set apart”. Those that sit upon elevated stands looking down upon those in the congregation set themselves apart from those assembled. Those in the congregation have to look up to their leaders. Consider that the next time you are “set apart” for a church calling! You might also want to consider the many parallels between the Jewish & Mormon religions. http://marvelousworkandawonder.com/q_a/contents/3lds/q01/JewishLDSParallels.pdf
    BTW, ALL of the LDS Church’s assets are controlled by The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, not the other way around as most think. Yep, its a business disguised as a religion. LUCIFER to ADAM in the Endowment Ceremony: “You can buy anything in this world with money…You want religion do you?”

  • Jeff

    John
    Where do you worship since you imply you’ve left the church?

  • YvonneS

    My goodness, what a fuss. Before correlation local members paid priesthood quorum dues, Relief Society dues tithing, fast offering, building fund, and missionary fund this was used to help pay for people who did not have the means to pay for a mission. It continues to pays for mission homes, missionary training centers, etc.

    At present, in the US all parents who send missionaries pay the same amount. This makes it possible to disperse funds more equitably around the world based on the cost of the area where a missionary is serving. Building fund has been discontinued. The costs of utilities and maintenance of church buildings is a continuing expense that is no longer born by the local wards. Local congregations are no longer required to raise half the cost of a new building in order to break ground. The Primary no long collects birthday pennies. Each ward is allocated money for activities etc. based on attendance at sacrament meeting. If you want your ward to have more money go to sacrament meeting more often.

  • Michael

    The church pools money globally to meet the wider church needs. It is not really fair to compare tithing receipts locally to how the tithing is actually spent in New Zealand, on a percentage basis, by the way your percentages don’t add up. There is a wider organisation being funded here, not just the quarterly activity at your ward. So, the church needs more money here than what is paid in in donations. That’s how it is organised.

    The real questions, in my opinion are, for the amount contriubted by local units, what amount should be spent locally? I mean, how much should we have for activities above what is already given? Should we have more to participate in local charity and the local community to raise the profile of the church locally? Our building, and any building I have been in in New Zealand is well below the standard of a North American building, even those I have been in in England and the one in the Bahamas, was pretty nice too. It was properly air condtioned. Why do people in our branch, wear hats, scarves, gloves, coates to sacarament meeting? Why has the building not been renovated to the same standards as North American buildings and as frequently? The stake I come from recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. A booklet was put out that described each unit in the stake and when its builidng was built and renovated. The buildings were all renovated on average each 7 years if memory serves. I just don’t understand why its different here. Clearly, based on the financials, New Zealand is generating a tithing surplus if the Pacific area administration is removed. Why don’t we get the same treatment as North America which also generate a surplus.

    None of these questions will receive an answer from anyone. Further, if you withhold your tithing, the church won’t care, they will proceed without you. If you are fine with that, then don’t pay. If you don’t think that God will bless you in kind don’t pay. And really, if we could control God through the things we do, then why does he not instantly heal all those people who for example crawl on their knees up the steps of shrines, self mutilate etc in an attempt to get God’s atteniton and forgive them or bless them or do what they want Him to do? Simple, it doesn’t work that way, we don’t control God, he is independent. Forced tithing is wrong, it belittles people, devalues their talents and treats them in a totally unchristian manner besides. The value of a person’s talents to the church and their community is defined by more than how much they contribute. The practice of tithing, how it is practiced in the mormon church lacks theological soundness and is ethically unsound. Never-the-less you must accept that you have no influence and can exercise no influence, you may only make the best decision for yourself.

    But if this practice is wrong in application, you must ask, what else does or doesn’t make sense. Does a religion based on performance really strike you as the way to go? It seems Pelagian to me.

  • Pingback: Fifth Nonstandard Discussion – Tithing | Exploring Mormonism

  • Brett

    Amen again and again. This is exactly how I feel. I haven’t seen such a comprehensive breakdown. Look up New Zealand mission and Queenstown and it will really blow your mind.

  • Steve Dude

    There is no LDS run welfare in New Zealand, like the heiracy that run this business in Utah is how it goes here, really how many unemployed stake presidents is there or there have been? nothing like NZ teachers to be bishops, for a teacher does he is told to teach and not question. Unfortunetly mormons are scared shitless of their leaders in case they get on the wrong footing and get in trouble, then their men get in-between you and your God.
    Be careful that your hard earned testimony dont get treated like soap on a rope, over zealous bishops are just as much the enemy as demons which explains a B.O.P bishop losing his calling cause all he did was condemn for no good reason and to hand out personal revelation to everyone which in the end proved to be wrong but LDS’s always come up with excuses ‘it was the human side blah blah etc’.
    Notice everyone gets uptight about how Brian Tamaki ‘s lifestyle well wakey wakey folks, can you honestly see todays 1st presidency sitting in economy? and is there much difference in their lifestyles?…mass idol worship on the point of hysteria, financed by the people….and if this comment upsets LDS well sook on this I got disfellowshipped by a Mens quorum leader who was told by a bishop to do just that, no protocols followed so I know that this ex-bishop had no discernment of faith or of spirit [scream injustice or whatever you may ]
    the church rules were not followed so I ask “why is the stake president not bich slapped for his slack of spirit of discernment in picking an incompetant sod to do work for God?’ I came to this church with an intense testimony, they sure aint going to take it from me with all kinds of spiritual threats, they tried though.

    Yeah I’ve lived in the valley of death, been part of it and had only my faith to keep me & my family alive, it comfirmed my relationship with God and now I when I see lipservice to God generally most God fearing people arent as tough as their testimony… most of you’s talk God till your ego pats you on the back but you best hope that if the devil looks you in the eye you can stare back with faith….until then you truly know not faith or soul crushing terror.

    • Gina Colvin

      I’m hearing you. Sometimes church leaders just outright fail and carry on oblivious to the pain it causes. I wish there was a way of protecting our people from these kinds ecclesiastical abuses that sometimes trample so wantonly over peoples most tender feelings. But what to do eh?

  • Brett

    Hopefully the government put through major reforms to help balance out the disappointing annual reports of the Church. The lack of substantial welfare programmes outside of the MorCor is disappointing.

  • Pingback: 044: Tithes and Fasting; Doctrine & Covenants and Church History | Mormon Stories Sunday School


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