The Fortune of the Mormon Church

By Lewis Willis

The Akron Beacon Journal (6-30-91), published an article about the Mormon Church. The article was based on an investigation by another newspaper, the Arizona Republic. The thrust of the investigation had to do with the finances of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Arizona Republic reported that the Mormon Church is “an $8 billion-a-year corporation, comparable with Union Carbide and Borden Products.” If you should place them on the Fortune 500 list of industrial corporations, they would rank about 110th.

The “newspaper said that it was able to conclude that the Mormon Church controls at least 100 companies or businesses. . . Never borrows money to finance its acquisitions. It pays cash, using a portion of its members’ contributions and its business income. . . Has become one of the nation’s largest private landowners, with holdings in all 50 states . . . Has an investment portfolio of stocks and bonds in excess of $1 billion . . . Appoints spiritual leaders who can double as business leaders to oversee real estate, communications, tourism, insurance and education operations.”

Two of its investments, ZCMI Department Stores and Beneficial Life Insurance Co., have grown into multimillion-dollar operations. They have amassed more than $1 billion in farm, ranch and other real estate holdings. Among these holdings are 315,000 acres near Orlando, Florida, said to be worth $250 million.

The newspaper said, “The diversified corporate organization built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is apparently free of financial fraud or personal wealth-building among top officials.” Mormons are required by religious doctrine to tithe 10 percent of their gross income. About 1/3 of Mormon families are thought to do so. The majority of the church’s money is spent for religious purposes: worship, missions and education, according to the newspaper.

“The newspaper said the figures (about the financial worth of the Mormon Church, LW) were conservative estimates based on an eight-month investigation. Accurately assessing the church’s finances from the outside is impossible, however, because Mormon leaders in 1959 stopped releasing financial reports, even to their own members.”

From these facts and figures, it is rather evident why the Mormon Church has such clout in our country. It is also obvious why the state of Utah bows to their wishes, since Salt Lake City is their headquarters and their members dominate the population. But, is all of this scriptural?

The New Testament Church is clearly different from such operations as the Mormon Church. If one knew nothing of the doctrines of the two churches, the difference between them would still be evident. The Mormon Church is either a church which has gone into business, or, a business which operates a church. The New Testament Church is content to be nothing but the church.

You can look through every page of the New Testament and you will be unable to find anything indicating that the First Century Church was also a business enterprise. There are no commands, approved apostolic examples or statements that necessarily infer that God intended the church to be in business. In other words, the Scriptures are silent on this matter.

Some think that they are authorized to act if the Scriptures are silent. Nothing could be farther from the Truth. In fact, the very opposite is the case. Does God’s silence about mechanical instrumental music mean that it is alright to use it? I believe God was silent about using cornbread and buttermilk on the Lord’s table. Does that mean that it is alright to use these elements, instead of the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine? God was silent about infant baptism. Does his silence constitute authority for us to start baptizing babies? He was silent about sprinkling as an acceptable form of baptism. Does his silence indicate consent?

The answer to all of the questions above is evident. God’s silence is not consent. In fact, God’s silence is a prohibition against action, because such action is unauthorized. The Lord’s church recognizes such, and limits its action accordingly. Therefore, it does not own land, department stores, insurance companies, or stocks and bonds, etc. When a church is engaged in such business enterprises, that becomes one way of identifying that it is not the New Testament church.

The church of Christ will continue to teach its members that God said, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Cor. 16:2). We will continue to exhort, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). We believe that such is sufficient to enable the church to do the work that God assigned to it: evangelism, benevolence and edification (Eph. 4:12). The commandments of the Lord shall remain in force in the church of Christ, thus distinguishing it from the churches of men, which set themselves up in business. And, we shall note the difference so that all can see.

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 21, 641, 663
November 7, 1991