I pass on to you a message from my friend Scott Gordon, the president of FAIR LDS, about FAIR’s upcoming virtual conference on “Defending the Book of Mormon,” which will occur on 22-23 September (commemorating the 200th anniversary of the appearance of the angel Moroni to the young Joseph Smith):
Join us September 22-23 for a FREE virtual Book of Mormon conference with keynote speaker Richard Bushman
Please join us for this event commemorating the day in 1827 when the prophet Joseph Smith received the gold plates from Moroni from which the Book of Mormon was translated. We will be pleased to hear a presentation from our keynote speaker, Richard Bushman, on the evening of September 22 at 7:00 PM MDT, followed by a day of presentations on September 23. The entire event will be streamed free of charge on our YouTube channel. More information is available here.
Brother Bushman’s presentation will stream here. Click “notify me” to get a reminder from YouTube when the session is about to begin.
Saturday’s presentations will be:
Jake Billings – All things denote there is a God: Lehi’s discourse on natural theology in Second Nephi 2
Matthew Roper – The Book of Mormon and Archaeology Challenges: Questions and Perspectives
Stephen Smoot – Is the Book of Mormon a “Translation” or a “Revelation”?
Joshua Gehly – The Cross of Christ and Golden Plates – Using an Established Historical Method to Authenticate Ancient Artifacts
Morgan Deane – Greater Portion of the Word: The Decisive Book of Mormon in the Debates on War and Peace
Charles Dike – Observations on Jaredite Ships and Travel to the Promised Land A Peculiar Journey
Spencer R. Marsh and Spencer Kraus – The Lehites’ God-Imposed Affliction by the Red Sea: A New Solution to the Puzzling 2 Nephi 19:1
Brent Schmidt – The Restoration of Relational Grace Through the Book of Mormon
Neal Rappleye – “Written Upon Gold Plates” – Comparing Witness Descriptions with Artifacts from the Pre-Modern World
During the conference, you can send questions for the Q&A by text at:
Help us commemorate 200 years since Moroni’s first visit to Joseph Smith as these scholars share their insights on defending the Book of Mormon.
Critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continue to carp, caterwaul, and complain about the size of its financial reserves, which seem (by the way) to have expanded dramatically over the past year or two, in the way that telephone-game tales often do, from an unconfirmed 50 billion dollars, to 100 billion, to 150 billion, to 200 billion, and, from what I’ve recently heard, to an unconfirmed and probably hallucinatory 250 billion dollars. (I can only wish that my investments would do one quarter so well!)
With that in mind, and with his very kind permission, I share the following, which Richard Winmill first posted on Facebook:
Now that the Wall Street Journal has recognized BYU-Provo as among the top 20 universities in the US, what endowment fund level should BYU maintain? The answer helps explain why the Church has such a large reserve fund managed by Ensign Peak Advisors.
I compared the endowment funds per enrolled students of the top 20 universities to determine what endowment BYU would be should maintain. BYU should have between $26 billion and $45 billion whereas it presently has only $2.7 billion.Fortunately there are ample reserves available to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who operate BYU.Based on the endowment per enrolled student of all universities in the top 20 WSJ universities, BYU should have the following endowment reserves:Median $26 billionAverage $ 45 billionIt presently has $2.7 billionLikewise BYU-Idaho should have an endowment fund of $4.6 billion whereas it now has $143 millionCombined endowment reserves should be $30 billion to $50 billion for all the Church colleges.Top 20 university endowment funds:Endowment funds support the teaching, research, and public service missions of colleges and universities. The income generated is intended to finance a portion of the operating or capital requirements of the institution.Earlier I crunched the numbers to estimate the cost to repair and eventually replace the church buildings needed to house 33,000 wards. That number is about $50 Billion. Prudent property management principles applicable to HOAs (I have served on three HOA boards) and commercial property require maintaining a replacement cost reserve of not less than 30%. The general rule for HOAs is “The percent funded range is as follows: 70% and above = “Strong” and 30% and below = “Weak”. An association with a “Strong” reserve fund has low risk of special assessments and deferred maintenance. The opposite is true for associations with a reserve fund of 30% and below.”Thus, I conclude that a reserve account of $35 billion would be prudent.Taken together, then, an endowment fund of $50 billion and a building replacement reserve of $35 billion is prudent. A similar reserve fund for temples would be prudent. A contingency fund for rapid expansion in less developed nation in Africa, Asia, and South America also seems prudent.A $100 billion reserve fund does seem prudent and not excessive by any means .
Following my request to share on my blog what he had written, Brother Winmill added the following:
The obvious next criticism is we spend too much on education BYU-Provo, but an awful lot of money goes to what amounts to a substantial scholarship for every member at all Church colleges and a substantial amount is going BYU-Pathway international “for the perfecting of the saints.”
“Despite already providing tuition rates significantly lower than other higher education institutions, BYU–Pathway Worldwide announced that it will be extending even greater tuition discounts to more students..“Beginning this fall semester, BYU–Pathway’s Heber J. Grant Tuition Discount will now be extended to BYU–Pathway students pursuing online degrees and certificates from BYU–Idaho and Ensign College.“(The PathwayConnect program is designed to provide students with entry-level, preparatory coursework, including courses in math, English and religion. Afterward, students can work toward a certificate or degree, facilitated through a partnership with Ensign College or BYU-Idaho.)“Cost is the leading reason people give for not attending college, and many BYU-Pathway students continue to struggle to afford a degree.”
To the items listed above could be added substantial humanitarian aid and philanthropic activity, support of missionaries, and many other entirely legitimate (and by no means small) expenditures.
But I close here with links to three very good, because unsensationalized, analyses of Church finances:
- “Perspective: I teach tax law. This is what I wish reporters understood about church finances: This is a call for higher journalistic inquiry and thoroughness on complicated matters related to tax and religious organizations”
- “The $100 Billion Question — A Conversation with Aaron Miller”
- “”Mormon” Church: Taxes, Trust, Transparency: Deeper Context”