As I observed at the end of “LDS Inc. (Part Three),” when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invests money that has come into its possession in stocks or bonds or real estate, it isn’t really spending it. It’s simply storing those funds for future use.
Thus, to say that the Church “spends” more on investments than it spends on the poor, as certain critics like to say, is to commit a logical fallacy of equivocation. The meaning of the verb to spend is fundamentally different in the two cases.
At this point, though, some critics raise an accusatory if typically implicit question: Should the Church store funds for future use? Or, given the many needs that exist around the world, should it rather spend all of its revenues as soon as they come in, or at least close to their time of receipt?
One can easily understand those who contend that the money ought all to be spent right away. There are, after all, lots and lots of sick, poor, and hungry people.
But are there any reasons for not spending all of the Church’s money immediately? (And let there be no doubt that, in this case, the money would really be spent — on medicines, housing, clothing, and/or food. It would be gone.)
Let me begin to suggest some reasons for retaining reserve funds that seem to me plausible:
- If the Church were to give away all of its money, doing so would scarcely make a dent in world hunger, disease, and poverty. It would then be, at least intermittently, unable to do any more.
- Important though they are, there are many other things for which the Church needs to expend funds. And these are ongoing expenses that can’t simply be paid off at one fell swoop, such as the construction and maintenance of chapels and temples and schools, the sponsorship of family history research, the support of missionary efforts, and so forth. (The fact that many if not most critics of Church finances disdain these as unworthy causes is irrelevant.)
- It seems important that the Church maintain reserve resources in order to meet unexpected needs and crises.
- Times of economic downturn, when unusual strains will be placed upon Church resources, will be precisely the times when tithing and other voluntary donations will also decline and when saved reserves will be of most urgent value.
At this point, I interrupt my list in order to call your attention to a brief article by Nate Oman that I have often cited in connection with discussions such as this, and with which I agree completely:
But I’m still not done with this topic.
To be continued.