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The true impact of Mormon charity

If you ask LDS Inc. how much money their church has donated to charities in the last two decades or so, a big number is thrown out: $1 billion. That’s right, an impressive billion dollars donated around the world since 1985, when the Mormon Church first started to track their donations and make a significant effort to make their kindness known publicly.

Mormon.org proudly displays this number and touts the absolute brilliance and Christ-like nature of their donations, averaging more than $37 million a year. What it doesn’t talk about is the way those funds are allocated. There are various projects within the Mormon Church, including fast offerings, mission programs and other programs that are considered donations.

One of the main ways of divvying out donations is through fast offerings. These are monies that are donated by Church members who want to give directly to those who need food and other basic necessities. As someone who has been on the side of deciding who gets these funds and who doesn’t, I can tell you the recipient’s activity in the Mormon Church is a main deciding factor.

Mormon missionary funds go to pay for young men, and some young women, to circle the world preaching their faith. This is considered a vital piece to each young man’s salvation and much emphasis is placed on its importance. Donations are given for these young people to walk the streets of foreign countries, and yet most of these funds are not given to directly help the poor and needy. In place of service, the average Mormon missionary’s day consists of talking to people in bus stations and preaching repentance.

There’s no way of knowing exactly how much money LDS Inc. has donated to charities in the last quarter-century. But we know it wasn’t actually $1 billion. You see, the Mormon Church doesn’t have to disclose its finances or how much money it has in reserves.

What we do know is that it’s in the business of agriculture and owns one of the largest peanut producing companies in the nation. It also owns more than 500,000 acres of farmland around the nation and has one of the nation’s largest radio chains. Its private business holdings put the Church’s financial worth at more than $30 billion with an annual revenue of more than $5 billion, according to a Time investigation. Meaning over the last 27 years, the Mormon Church donated less than 20 percent of one single year’s revenue to charity.

The newly opened City Creek Center is part of an estimated $5 billion revitalization project in Salt Lake City. Even given the benefit of the doubt and following all the Mormon Church’s own numbers, over the past seven years of construction, the church has donated $260 million to charities, or about 20 times less than the single real estate project in Salt Lake City.

Admittedly, the mall is gorgeous and provided thousands of jobs in a down economy. The mall’s stunning walkways and fountains are a beautiful spring companion. But stop the charade of altruism and Christ-like mantras condemning gays and advocating for so-called morality. The Mormon Church is a business.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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