Wealth, Tithing and My View of “The Lord’s Financial System”

It is often said, among LDS faithful, that tithing is the “Lord’s Financial System,” or something that conveys the same meaning.  It’s seen as the way we build chapels and temples, finance the administrative functions in the Church (i.e. all that goes on inside the Church Office Building) and pay the bills required to keep all of it running.  There is, it goes without saying, a litany of things required to keep something with 14,000,000 members (approximately) running.

Further, it is argued that the church would simply cease to function if tithing – at least according to the official interpretation – ceased to roll into the church’s financial coffers.  Gordon Hinckley said as much when he argued that the income from the Church’s™ business interests would “keep the Church going for only a very short time.”[1] In this same speech, Hinckley stated that tithing was none other than the “Lord’s law of finance” and the epitome of “simplicity.”  Hinckley further contrasted the simplicity of the “law” of tithing with the “complexity” of our current income tax structure.  Men, Hinckley argues, derive unfathomably complex “laws of finance” while the Lord operates in simplicity.  I actually tend to agree with his argument regarding simplicity, though not for the reasons he asserts.  But, perhaps one should wonder whether our modern day interpretation of tithing is accurate.  I’ll get to that later.

Elsewhere, other church leaders affectionately refer to tithing as “the best investment,” arguing that “if you always pay an honest tithing, the Lord will bless you.  It will be the best investment you will ever make.”[2] Ignore that grammar, focus on the conclusion you draw from that statement.  An investment is nothing more than money laid out with the expectation of profit.  If we apply that logic to the gospel, then we’re left with the conclusion that we invest tithing [money] with the expectation that the “windows of heaven”[3] will be open and we’ll be blessed [profit].

The Promised Land that Isn’t

In a commencement address to BYU graduates this past summer, Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy stated the following:

“You who graduate today stand on your own riverbank or your own ocean shore, on the edge of your futures. You look off into the distant years before you, searching the horizon for your own promised land that flows with milk and honey. In a sense, we all do, every day.  … unemployment is higher than it has been in many years. Unresolved wars and stifling deficits obscure our view of tomorrow. … One could lose heart, seeing a future that awaits but doesn’t entice. It could look like a land of promise without much promise. But the Lord always offers each of us a promised land. You can be sure of that. The promised land—your promised land—really is there. If you follow the admonition of the Lord, you really will inhabit that rich land and harvest its blessings—milk, honey, and all. Everything you have learned at BYU points toward a land laden with promise, luxuriant in opportunity, and waiting with wonder. … the promised land today is not likely to be a place like it was in Old Testament times or even for the pioneers. Instead, the promised land is a way of life.”[4]

Later, Clayton argues that the generation has no equal in terms of training and preparation.

“Today you cross a modern Red Sea or River Jordan as you graduate from BYU and move on. No generation has been better trained or more richly prepared for its future.”[5]

This is merely one example where we’re taught, today, the idea that the doctrine of gathering is no longer.  Today we’re instructed that the promised land is merely a way of life that comes about when we take advantage of our training and preparation.  Then, as we take advantage of those things we’re promised a rich land and harvest – “milk, honey, and all.”  I’ll leave the meaning of that verbiage to the reader.  It seems to me, though, that Clayton is suggesting that wealth, among other things, is waiting for those who use the preparation and training the church gives.

When I read that this past summer I was taken aback, unsure of the logic of relating the promised land with a way of life.  Granted, for a people who’ve been toiling in Babylon for 180+ years, perhaps it’s to be expected.  After so many years have ticked away on the calendar of life, at what point to we start forgetting about Zion.  Approaching Zion, a collection of a number of Hugh Nibley essays, was published over 20 years ago.  It’d be hard to argue that those 20 years have produced a better understanding of Zion and/or a Church™ that is closer to Zion.

And yet, on one hand, Clayton is correct.  The way we live our lives is the start of something and it necessarily begins with us.  No one else can lead our lives for us.  No one else can dictate what we do, choose or are.  That lies – and necessarily so – with us.  It’s a matter that is strictly between us and Christ.  And yet, that is merely a starting point.  Whereas Clayton (and many others) imply that this way of life is an end all and represents Zion – after all, Zion is the pure in heart and can be found wherever we are.  Zion, it is correct, is the pure in heart.  However, to suggest that Zion is found wherever we are ignores an integral part of Zion.  Namely, retuning to Approaching Zion, Nibley argues the following:

“[Zion] is not a society or religion of forms and observances, it is strictly a condition of the heart.  Above all, Zion is pure, which means “not mixed with any impurities, unalloyed”; it is all Zion and nothing else.  It is not achieved wherever a heart is pure or where two or three are pure, because it is all pure – it is a society, a community, and an environment into which no unclean thing can enter. … It is not even pure people in a dirty environment, or pure people with a few impure ones among them; it is the perfectly pure in a perfectly pure environment.”[6]

It should be said that I tend to agree with Nibley on this.  It’s one thing to say that Zion begins with the pure in heart, and an entirely different thing to suggest that Zion ends at that point without discussing the doctrine of gathering, which just happens to be one of those “lost” doctrines.  Lost in the sense that, today, it’s largely ignored and when it is taught it’s taught in a way that disavows any real communal gathering, instead focusing on such gatherings as take place in church buildings on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  This would be all well and good, were it merely described and labeled as a precursor, but with teachings like what Clayton shared to BYU graduates, it seems that the idea of a precursor is nowhere in sight.  And that, to me, is most unfortunate.

“Money … Should Be Used as a Means of Achieving Eternal Happiness”

Previously, I shared a portion of a transcript which related the idea that the promised land, today, is one which gives us material blessings – food, money and wealth.  This, however, isn’t a new idea or teaching.  It’s been around for eons or, at the very least, centuries.  The goal of our existence, it would seem, is to create, engender and facilitate the growth of wealth.  Just now, as I opened up Yahoo.com, the lead article was little other then how we can go from “mowing laws to building multi-million-dollar businesses.”[7] The subject of that article recounted how he “was always motivated by making money” – from selling night crawlers as a kid, to mowing lawns, to selling multi-million dollar businesses.  The first comment to the story reinforced this idea:  “…oh how I wish I could replicate what you did,” while others laud him for his hard work.  The interview retold in that article isn’t actually that bad, and I can see myself in a lot of the things this man shared.  After all, all too often we’re told that our hard work is what is needed in this economy – stop siphoning off all that is the welfare state and get to work, you lazy bum!

Indeed, it has been said:

“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known.  All around you is competition.  You need all the education you can get.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world.  That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you can education and proficiency in your chosen field.”[8]

Others have reiterated the idea that we must “complete as much formal, full-time education as possible” and that any funds we use on such education is “money well invested.”[9]

While Hinckley compares our true worth with education and monetary value, Ashton tells us that we must “repent” in order improve our “money-management skills.”  In this same talk, Ashton reiterates that we simply must “teach family members early the importance of working and earning” money (emphasis is mine), not to mention the importance of “involv[ing] yourself in a [life] insurance program,” while also counseling us to “cope with existing inflation.”[10]

But, ironically, this is not all.  Ashton concludes his thoughts on money with this beauty:

“Money in the lives of Latter-day Saints should be used as a means of achieving eternal happiness. … God will open the windows of heaven to use in these matters if we will but live close to Him … .”[11]

Hugh Nibley once related the following story on this topic:

In my latest class a graduating honors student in business management wrote this–the assignment was to compare oneself with some character in the Pearl of Great Price, and he quite seriously chose Cain:

Many times I wonder if many of my desires are too self-centered. Cain was after personal gain. He knew the impact of his decision to kill Abel. Now, I do not ignore God and make murderous pacts with Satan; however, I desire to get gain. Unfortunately, my desire to succeed in business is not necessarily to help the Lord’s kingdom grow [a refreshing bit of honesty]. Maybe I am pessimistic, but I feel that few businessmen have actually dedicated themselves to the furthering of the church without first desiring personal gratification. As a business major, I wonder about the ethics of business–”charge as much as possible for a product which was made by someone else who was paid as little as possible. You live on the difference.” As a businessman will I be living on someone’s industry and not my own? Will I be contributing to society, or will I receive something for nothing, as did Cain? While being honest, these are difficult questions for me.

They have been made difficult by the rhetoric of our times. The Church was full of men in Paul’s day “supposing that gain is godliness” (1 Timothy 6:5) and making others believe it.  (Leaders and Managers.)

Not only, are the “windows of heaven” assumed to mean financial prosperity, as shown in Ashton’s last quote, but we’re also instructed that whatever money we earn here on this earth should be used to achieve “eternal happiness.”  It’s as if money could, indeed, buy happiness.  It is true that it’s all too easy to pick and choose statements from Church™ leaders on these subjects, but I’m specifically not trying to do this.  Statements like these are everywhere and can be found in virtually any general conference – I found the above quotes within less than two minutes on LDS.org.  The Church™, it would seem, is merely reflecting the world we live in.  Given how easily the lost-doctrine of gathering was abdicated during the Great Depression, members across the world were forced to live and adapt to the Babylonian society around them.  Now, approximately 80 years later, there’s nary a blip on the radar when we link money to the “windows of heaven” and suggest that wealth and prosperity are not only necessary, but recommended courses of action for all of us.

Wealth Can’t Possibly Be All That Bad, Can It?

That’s a good question.  I’ve long thought that there wasn’t anything wrong with being wealthy, of having more than was needed.  Nearly every American is likely viewed as “wealthy” by those living in Africa, where per capita GDP is somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 annually.  True, their “expenses” are likely less, but if you thrust an average citizen of Liberia[12] into an average American neighborhood odds are they’d be shocked at the bounty they’re confronted with – that is until they acclimate to their surroundings.

Avoiding those nuances, the scriptures decry wealth, riches and everything in between.  Nephi, for example, states, “”wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world.  For because they are rich they despise the poor.[13] In other words, the very fact that you (or I or anyone) are wealthy demonstrates your sinfulness.  In order to become wealthy, you have to despise the poor.  Or, at least that’s how Nephi phrases it.  Paul[14] seems to suggest that anything beyond food and clothing is more than we need.  Jacob tells us that we should be share all of our substance with those in order that there are no poor among us.[15] In other words, we’re supposed to give away all of our excess wealth until all are equal.  Excess wealth, by definition, is anything above and beyond our basic needs.  Joseph Smith was told that the entire world is in sin because we’ve allowed people to possess more than others.[16] Further, the Lord himself stated that when we fail to impart our portion to others, we assure ourselves of being counted among the wicked and experiencing the torment of hell.[17] Elsewhere Christ reiterated that we’re not to lay up any treasures at all while here on earth.[18] The love of money is the root of all evil[19], but what exactly is this love?  Strong’s Concordance suggests the Greek word used in this instance is Philarguria and derives from what we know today as avarice[20] and greed.  Others, still, have defined this “love of money” as little more than “the desire to have money in the bank.”

Elsewhere, again, Christ deplored the mentality we have to set aside those things which ensure our bounteous living.  In giving this, perhaps one of His most poignant parable, Christ responds to a fellow who was hoping Christ could convince his brother to share an inheritance with him:

“And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?  And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of acovetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.  And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:  And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to abestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, aSoul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, beat, drink, and be merry.  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy asoul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?  So is he that layeth up atreasure for bhimself, and is not rich toward God.”[21]

Later on in that same chapter, Christ reminds us to sell what we have and give alms.[22] But, before continuing on, it might be instructive to pause and re-read that last bit of Luke 12.  The parable is of a rich man who was, once again, richly blessed – so much so that he found himself with no room to store his goods.  So, like any normal human, he decided that it was in his best interests to build bigger and better storehouses (yes, plural) for his goods.  Then, after laying up his goods in his newly built retirement account, he can say to himself, “Soul, thou has much goods laid up …,” it’s now time to rest and enjoy.

Perhaps it’s also instructive that the Lord’s prayer reminds us that we’re to pray for our “daily bread[23],” an oft overlooked reminder that we’re truly dependent on the Lord and no one else.

Moroni, similarly, condemned our day, practices and churches – especially with regard to our use of money.  In ripping us up and down for our selfish ways, he stated:

“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.  And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.  For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.  O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?  Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?”[24]

In other words, we think we’re pretty special, wear what we consider to be special clothes, our churches (yes, all of them) are polluted because of this pride and, unfortunately, we love our money, material possessions, nice clothes and our fancy chapels/churches more than we love the poor, needy, sick and afflicted.  And, because of these behaviors, we’re considered both polluted and hypocritical.  No mincing of words there.

A similar article on this subject suggests that there’s a rather simple test to decide whether our hearts are set on riches:  do you possess or desire costly apparel?[25] I think it’s a bit more complicated than that, but it’s a significant indicator.  I’d also expand that question to include imparting our substance to the poor and needy, among others[26].  The original author also suggests that “for each excess penny (i.e. the smallest unit of monetary measure) one has to decide whether he will accumulate it, or give it away.”  Likewise, it’s impossible to simultaneously accumulate excess and give it away to the poor, hence the Lord’s injunction that we can’t serve two masters.  Either we’re serving Him, or we’re serving ourselves (via riches and money).  Indeed, serving the Lord implies that we’re focused on the present and our present needs.   When we concern ourselves with future needs and obligations – from a monetary perspective – we’re forgetting these teachings and, unfortunately, despising the poor.

So Just How Does This Relate to Tithing?

Thought you’d never ask.

As discussed previously, tithing is synonymous with the “Lord’s law of finance” or the “Lord’s monetary system,” or even the “Lord’s revenue system.”[27] Paying your tithing, per our current interpretation of Malachi 3:10, will result in the “windows of heaven” unlatching themselves and dumping material blessings down on you and your loved ones.  In fact, James E. Talmage went so far as to say that the blessings of tithing are “beyond estimate, as gaged by the coin of the realm, [and] are assured unto him who strictly conforms to the law of the tithe because the Lord has so commanded.”[28] When it comes time to paying your bills or paying your tithing, tithing comes first.  When it comes to feeding your family or paying your tithing, tithing comes first.  Why?  Simply because we’re promised blessings in the form of the “coin of the realm” (i.e. our currency).  Tithing is, after all, fire insurance.  In fact, Marion G. Romney, as a member of the first presidency, once stated that “tithing is worthwhile as fire insurance.”[29] Indeed, Romney continues, “tithing is, in a very real sense, a form of fire insurance – insurance against burning, both in this life and in the life to come.”

That’s the logic these days.  And it’s the same logic that’s been around for decades, if not longer.  It’s the way I was raised and the way I thought for many, many years.  Only recently have I began to see a movement afoot, if only a cyber-movement which is beginning to challenge the status quo.  More and more, various blogs and writings have started to call into question both the way and the method with which we pay our tithes – and rightfully so, I believe.

WeepingForZion, after sitting through a Sacrament meeting where the speaker reiterated that we pay our 10% tithing no matter how hard it may be for us, discussed D&C 119 and stated, “…there is no tithing without consecration, as consecration is the beginning of the tithing of the people.  However, we have left that law out and made tithing a law to itself.”  One of the comments to this entry replied with an interesting analysis on 3 Nephi 24:7-12 and 4 Nephi, following which that author replied:  “… the true principle of tithing is only made possible by consecration.”[30] Zo-ma-rah, in discussing the differences between D&C 119 and the “law” we preach today, responded, “if there is a contradiction between the Lord’s Word and what a prophets speaks then the Lord’s Word trumps everything.”[31] PureMormonism likewise has discussed tithing frequently in recent months, shedding light on Daymon Smith’s book (The Book of Mammon), wherein he points out, “When instituted by Joseph Smith in the 1830’s tithing wrought a very small revenue stream, and it was designed to be small in order to prevent just the sort of dominating ‘Church’ that now governs and patrols, steals the very name, and surveys and takes and gives what it believes best to congregations.”[32] It should go without saying that others[33] have discussed tithing in past years, but the frequency with which the topic is being discussed in recent months has given me some food for thought.

What I would like to focus on, though, is the point emphasized in Daymon Smith’s book – shared by PureMormonims – namely, that tithing was meant to produce a very small revenue stream.  When Lorenzo Snow gave his talk on tithing back in 1899 the impetus for his talk was to help alleviate the financial struggles of the church – not enough tithing was flowing in to cover the obligations the institution was taking on.  A CES manual suggests that members simply stopped paying tithing because they feared the federalistas would confiscate whatever property they gave as a tithe.  This same manual further states that “the Lord revealed to President Snow” that the church needed to pay a “full and honest tithe” in order to rid the church of its debts.

LeRoi Snow, Lorenzo’s son, reported to the Deseret News (the church owned newspaper):

“…the law of tithing had been neglected by the people, also that the Saints, themselves, were heavily in debt, as well as the Church, and now through strict obedience to this law – the paying of a full and honest tithing – not only would the Church be relieved of its great indebtedness, but through the blessings of the Lord this would also be the means of freeing the Latter-day Saints from their individual obligations, and they would become a prosperous people.”[34]

Lorenzo’s exact words, as reported in the Millenial Star, were:

“The word of the Lord to you is not anything new; it is simply this:  the time has now come for every Latter-day Saint, who calculates to be prepared for the future and to hold his feet strong upon a proper foundation, to do the will of the Lord and to pay his tithing in full.  That is the word of the Lord to you, and it will be the word of the Lord to every settlement throughout the land of Zion.”[35]

The CES manual concludes by reminding readers that:

“…the saints obedience to that call eventually brought the Church out of debt … and established a firm temporal foundation for the kingdom of God.  Much of today’s growth in temples, chapels and other buildings and Church programs around the world is the direct result of the temporal prosperity of the Church that came, and still comes, as the result of Saints living the law of tithing.”

To me, these statements raise several questions that should probably be answered.  Namely, (a) Lorenzo Snow reminded members in “every settlement throughout the land of Zion” to pay a full and honest tithe, but what does that mean, especially if he’s referring to the “land of Zion” and, (b) is tithing supposed to be used to fund the vast construction projects of the church – chapels, temples, other buildings, etc.?

As discussed previously, D&C 119 specifically notes that there is no tithing absent consecration.  Likewise, Snow himself declared that his statement was “the word of the Lord” on this issue.  If that is the case, then I find it unfortunate that there is no mention of consecration outside the settlements of Zion and, further, it should be noted that shortly following this statement the church morphed from an “in-kind” donation form of tithing to a cash based system.  Based on the last question, this statement by Snow is essentially asking individual members to pay off the loans the church took out to buy many of the businesses Joseph F. Smith[36] discussed in the Reed Smoot hearings in the early 1900s, among other things.

Biblical Comparison

In order to better understand the purposes for tithing, I turned to the bible to see if it said anything on how it should be used.  In doing so, I came across an interesting article that gives an entirely different viewpoint I thought needed to be brought up.

In responding to Malachi 3:10 (the “robbing God” scripture), the author of this article suggests that the context of that scripture is often lost on us.  He reminds us that Malachi 3:7 tells us how everyone had “gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them.”  But, what were those ordinances and how were they not being kept?  Further, turning to Deuteronomy 14:22-23, Deuteronomy 14:24-26, and Deuteronomy 12:17-19, we read, in each instance, how there was a commandment to “EAT” the tithes.  In each instance the Israelites were instructed to eat their tithes, in a spirit of rejoicing, together with their families, their servants and the Levites.  Or, as the author notes it, “to have fun.”  At no point in these verses did the Israelites leave any portion of their tithes at any appointed place, instead the tithes were to be consumed in “an atmosphere of celebration, sharing, and communion with God.”

Before continuing on, it might be worth reading the entirety of the following verses:

And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.  At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the atithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:  And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the awidow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.[37]

Based on this scripture (as well as Deuteronomy 26:12), the Levite is allocated a tithe every third year, or, on average, not 10% every year as we currently understand the practice.  Placing this “tithe” “within thy gates” was a way of placing the tithing in a storehouse – indeed, the same storehouse referenced in Malachi 3:10.  But, as referenced above in Leviticus 14, the Levites (the “ministry”) weren’t the only ones with access to the storehouse:  so were the poor AND the fatherless AND the widowed.  This every-third-year tithe was specifically given to bless the widows, the fatherless and those in church ministry.

The original author further states,

“Levites were allocated cities within each tribal land (“within your gates”) in which they were to live with their families and, apart from houses, they were allocated “pasture land”. This pasture land was a part of the storehouse in which the tithes were deposited: some of the tithes were in the form of grain, seed, wine, oil and other farm produce, and some were actually live domestic animals, rather than killed meat. These animals which were received as a tithe were to be pastured till they were taken and killed for food, either by the Levites, or by those in need. Therefore, the storehouse mentioned in Malachi 3 is not the place of worship, but rather a place within each tribal land, easily accessible to the local Levites, the poor and the strangers on their journey.”

Later, in discussing the issue of “increase” as it relates to tithing, an interesting scenario is presented:

“If we check Numbers, chapters 1-3, we will find that there were approximately 30 to 33 Israelites to one Levite. Now, assume 32 Israelites with an ‘increase’ of 100 sheep a year each. If each Israelite would give his tithe of 10 sheep to the Levite, the Levite’s total income would be 320 sheep, of which he would have to give a tithe of 32 sheep to the priests, as per Num.18:26. Each Israelite would be left with 90 sheep out of his ‘increase’. Let’s assume, that was what was needed to feed an average family for a year. On the other hand, each Levite would end up with 288 sheep. If we add the tithe of every third year, the year of tithing, the balance in favour of the Levite would swing even further.

What would the Levite do with all these sheep? If he would use the whole lot to feed his family, the tribe of Levy would become extinct in few generations: they would be dying from overeating at a much higher rate than the rest of Israelites. The second possibility would be that there were so many poor people and strangers, who would consume about two-thirds of tithes, that is, God planned that two-thirds of tithes belong to the poor and strangers.

The third possibility could be that the Levite would consume about 90 sheep, give some to the poor, and be left with a healthy surplus. This surplus sheep would breed and very soon the Levites would have income of their own. By continuing with collection of tithes, they would very soon run out of the pasture land and would be forced to exchange some flock for land. Continuing with this practice for fifty years would probably result in Levites owning all the land in Israel! And then the Jubilee year would come and they would have to return the land to their original owners – back to square one! Would this make sense?

And, of course, there is a fourth possibility: the Levites would consume as much of the tithes as they needed, give some to the poor and the strangers, and sell the rest, get the money into their hands and go and proselyte (evangelise) the world. A real possibility, however, the Word of God makes no mention of it. … The conclusion is obvious: Tithes were not supposed to be used to proselyte (evangelise) the world.

Now imagine, as I concluded from the Scripture, that Israelites give 10% of their income to the Levites every third year only. 32 Israelites with an annual increase of 100 sheep each, would have 300 sheep of increase each in three years. Each one would give 10 sheep (a tithe of the third year) to the Levite, and be left with 290 sheep (for three years) as his increase. The Levite would receive 320 sheep, of which he would have to give his tithe of 32 sheep to the priests, and be left with 288 sheep as his after-tithe income over three years – nearly an EXACT number with which each Israelite would be left. THIS does make sense – this is the principle of equality! … ”

It should be noted that I don’t agree with all of the author’s arguments, but the information is compelling enough that it should be shared.  Returning to Deuteronomy 26:12, this scripture suggests that those tithes (“the THIRD year”) provide the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow with enough to “be filled.”  Paying it every 3 years is somehow enough to satiate their needs.  This suggests that what is given every third year fully provides for each group – none would be left wanting, none would be left poor and, perhaps more importantly, none would be left with gobs and gobs of money to invest for three years and then spend on lavish building programs (which seem to receive funds that were never intended to be used in such a way).

In concluding the article, the author offers the following as the most important points of tithing:

“First of all, it is obedience to God: there is no need to elaborate on this any further.

The second important point is that, through tithing, Israelites expressed their thankfulness to God Who provided for them all those earthly goods that they needed to sustain their lives. Tithe was a token of that appreciation.

The third and important point is that tithing was a vehicle of sharing. This sharing was demonstrated at two levels. Firstly, sharing between the Israelites who received their inheritance from God (the life sustaining land) and those who did not posses such inheritance, the Levites, the strangers and the poor. If we examine the figures, the number of Israelites versus the number of Levites and the percentage that the Israelites were to give to the Levites (one third of 10%) we will find that each would end up with an equal share. This is the principle that was observed in the distribution of manna: one who gathered much had nothing left over and the one who gathered little had no lack.

The second level of sharing was the community sharing, where people would come together with their families and neighbours and share in the atmosphere of joy and celebration before the Lord.

It is worth observing that tithing was not a vehicle to ‘build the kingdom’ or to ‘save the souls’ or to support some other ‘godly’ project.”[38]

When the scriptures discuss the principle of giving and sharing, it speaks of giving and sharing to the poor and needy; taking care of those who have less than we do; alleviating their burdens, their struggles, their perceived injustices.  I’m still looking for a reference on how tithing funds are obligated to be spent on building programs, by the way.

Returning to the previous points, we rob the poor when we focus on wealth; we rob the poor when we insist that we need to build beautiful churches and temples around the world; we rob the poor when we focus more on our clothing than on sharing our abundance with them; we rob the poor when we think of tithing as solely a mechanism whereby we enrich ourselves, as a means of “fire insurance,” all while non-tithe payers become more impoverished.

The True Purposes of Tithing

Deuteronomy 27:19 provides a thoughtful rejoinder on the true purposes of tithing:

“Cursed be he that aperverteth the bjudgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow…”

Christ, likewise, reminds us:

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give TO THE POOR, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”[39]

And:

“Sell what you have and give alms … for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[40]

Among many, many others.

In the past, I’ve frequently misjudged the evils of Sodom and Gomorrah, focusing largely (solely, in fact) on their sexual trespasses.  Ezekial 16:49, though, gives us some much needed insight, going so far as to suggest that the following was the iniquity”:

“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister aSodombpride, fulness of bread, and abundance of cidleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”

They had plentiful food, were filled with pride (nice clothing tends to do that) but, perhaps most importantly, they forgot about the poor and the needy.  Much like us today, we focus on our own balance sheets, we review our annual financial condition,[41] and then we give token appreciation for the poor and needy on major holidays (i.e. Thanksgiving or Christmas) while largely forgetting them during the other 363 days of the year.

Daymon Smith noted in his Book of Mammon this same tendency among the Church™:

“Rarely does your money feed the hungry, clothe the poor, or provide for other non-religious forms not published by the Church Office Building or sent forth from the COB.”

“By the time the money comes back from the COB, the Church has generously tithed to the needy from its multibillion dollar revenue stream something on the order of one percent, often in used, tattered clothing and rice and wheat and so on…For all its bluster and public relations about humanitarian aid, The Corporation, in other words doesn’t follow its own rule of tithing.”

Perhaps it’s no wonder why people the likes of Heber J. Grant have lamented that the “heavens are as brass” to them.  When we forget the poor, the needy and the widowed while pillaging church coffers in order to run myriads of businesses we shouldn’t expect anything else.  And, on a personal level, when we reject the poor, needy and widowed while funding our 401(k)’s we shouldn’t be surprised when the Lord looks the other way in our time of need.

It should, perhaps, be noted that almost one year ago, today, the Church™ announced it was adding “caring for the poor and needy” as an “official” purpose of the church.  One can argue the timing of the announcement, but at least it’s there.  Whether that translates into giving away more than 1% of annual tithing revenue remains to be seen – i.e. whether it’s just lip service to quell the feelings many have about the exorbitant investment in things like City Creek Center and other odd investments for a “church.”  Until we refocus our teachings on tithing to discuss giving the majority of that money to the poor, needy and widowed, I’ll continue to have my doubts.  LDSA recently stated that, “Charity is an over-whelming desire and willingness to share all that you have with everyone else.”  I whole heartedly agree and, it would seem, this is the underlying motive behind tithing and giving all of our abundance to help the poor, the needy, the fatherless and the widowed.

Returning to the discussion on one of the reasons why we should be more focused on giving of our substance to the poor, Isaiah penned these words:

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:… Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him… And if thou draw out thy soul to the ahungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light brise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the Lord shall aguide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in bdrought, and cmake fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a dspring of water, whose waters fail not.  the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord shall answer…”[42]

I discussed these verses elsewhere and would direct you there for further discussion on those.

To me, tithing used to be about doing something measureable, about purchasing “fire insurance,” about making sure I was doing everything I could to unlatch those windows in heaven, sure of the bounteous monetary blessings that would follow.  To me, tithing used to be about doing something that allowed me to get a temple recommend, about “not robbing” God and about doing my part to fund the massive church building, curriculum and administrative programs.  That is what it used to be about.

No longer is tithing about funding a system that takes that money and siphons it directly into interest bearing accounts that toil in Babylon; no longer is it about financing large real estate ventures; no longer is it about using money to achieve happiness.  Those are misdirected motives.

Now, tithing is in the process of being redefined.  And rightfully so.  Hopefully it’s more than just lip service on my end, too.

“But it is not given that one man should apossess that which is above another, wherefore the bworld lieth in csin.” – D&C 49:20.


[1] Hinckley, Gordon B.  The Widow’s Mite.  17 September 1985.

[2] Child, Sheldon F.  The Best Investment.  April 2008 General Conference.

[3] See 3 Ne. 24:10; Malachi 3:10.

[4] Clayton, Whitney L.  Promised Lands.  12 August 2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Nibley, Hugh.  Approaching Zion: What is Zion?  A Distant View.  1989.

[8] Hinckley, Gordon B.  New Era.  April 2009.  Page 17.

[9] Ashton, Marvin J.  One for the Money.  July 1975 Ensign.  Page 73.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12]Liberia at a Glance.”  GDP for Liberia is actually $170US per year.

[13] See 2 Ne. 9:30.

[14] See 1 Tim. 6:8.

[15] See Jacob 2:17.

[16] See D&C 49:20.

[17] See D&C 104:16, 18.

[18] See Matthew 6:19, 21.

[19] See 1 Timothy 6:10-11.

[21] See Luke 12:13-40 for a more in-depth discussion on this and subsequent teachings on this same issue.

[22] Alms are little more than money or goods contributed to the poor.  See this to begin your study on alms.

[23] See Luke 11:3, Matthew 6:11, among others.

[24] See Mormon 8:35-39 for a good old fashioned lecture.

[25] See SearchingforZion.com for this (entitled:  Wealth and the Gospel), and other articles.

[26] See Alma 1:27, 30 for a good idea on where to start.

[27] Talmage, James E.  The Articles of Faith, 12th edition.  Pages 526, 528-529.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Romney, Marion G.  The Blessings of an Honest Tithe.  Jan-Feb 1982 New Era, page 45.

[30] See What Have We Done to the Poor? for more detail.

[33] See The Law of Tithing (4 Part Series) over at LDS Anarchy for more detail, among others.

[34] Snow, LeRoi C.  “The Lord’s Way out of Bondage Was Not the Way of Men,” Improvement Era, July 1938, 439.  It is interesting to note that this report was given some 40 years after the fact.

[35] Snow, Lorenzo.  Millenial Star, 24 Aug. 1899, 533.  See also this CES Manual, pages 86-88.

[36] An entire transcript of the Reed Smoot hearings and Joseph F. Smith’s responses can be found here.

[37] See Leviticus 14:27-29.  Emphasis is mine.

[38] See The Truth About Tithing – Old Testament Perpective by George Potkonyak to read his entire article on this subject.  In fact, I’d recommend it to just about everyone.

[39] See Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21 and Luke 18:22.

[40] See Luke 12:33-34.

[41] Marsha, daughter of Russell M. Nelson, was once quoted as saying the only time she remembers her father watching television was on New Year’s Day when he would spread out papers and review the family’s annual financial condition while watching football games.

[42] See Isaiah 58:6-12.


I’d like to direct interested parties to a couple of things:

A)  A discussion on the Church Handbook of Instructions (considering that the new one – the 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions – will be given out on Nov. 13th), it’s history and how it relates to us.

B)  A really good interview (available for free until Friday) with Clif High of HalfPastHuman.com.  Think it might be good to listen to it while it’s still free.  Quite pertinent to life, if I do say so myself.  And, since it’s only free for another day or two, I’d advise reserving some time tonight or tomorrow night to listen to it.  It just might be that important.


Church Finance – Part IV

When I concluded part III of the Church Finance series I fully believed that it was complete.  Well, not complete, but finished as far as I was concerned.  I had dug up as much information, and tried to tie as many loose ends together as I thought I could.  And, frankly, I wasn’t even interested in looking into too many details of the seedy side of church finance.  I was semi-determined to move on to other topics, if not take a break for awhile.  As Justin mentioned in his comment in Part III, this isn’t uplifting material and certainly weighs on the mind, mine included.  It’s rarely pretty digging up some of this information, even though it may be “out and about” and readily findable.  I concur.  And, yet I thought I had moved on from it.

In fact, I had even toyed with closing this thing altogether, not because of what I was writing on, or its effects on me, but because I thought my time was finished in the “blog” world.  In beginning this blog I mentioned how I had set out to do a “one year” commitment, though far from set on that 365-day timetable.  I’m not a full-time blogger by any stretch.  I’m even embarrassed to mention that I have a “blog.”  (Pride issue, methinks.)  And yet, in pondering these topics and what I wanted to do with my time prior to some of the coming changes we’re about to see, I thought it might be best to shut up shop, leave it “live” so anyone/everyone could read, continue to comment and hopefully find something worthwhile in their personal searching.  In fact, just this morning I started writing the “conclusion.”  Some people can carry on for years writing these things and on their blogs, maintaining a “following” and keeping their blogs alive.  I’m not one of those people.  I don’t particularly have an interest in continuing something like this for years on end, though I do maintain it as a way to fulfill my feelings prior to the clock rolling over into 2010.

And yet, as I started writing the “conclusion” I stopped, if only because I didn’t want to do it the way I was doing it.  Then, today, I decided to sit down and listen to an interview and see if my earlier impressions on something I discussed in Part III of the Church Finance series were right or wrong, or perhaps inadequate.  And, based on what I listened to, I’d have to give a hearty assessment of it being entirely inadequate.

I found the mp3 interview thanks to a search term someone had used to find my blog.  In the backroom of the site, I can see what people enter in some search engine in order to find my site.  Occasionally I’ll replicate those terms to see if I can find something interesting to read.  This particular day, two people entered the following search term:  “Paul Drockton Monson Oct 2010.”  Performing that search in a site – like Google – produces a result (the top result) that takes you to the Morningliberty.com website and a link therein to an interview with the very Paul Drockton[1] I sarcastically thanked in my last article, thanked for utterly blowing me off.  In fact, I found his website to not only be entirely too noisy (ads, bold font and crazy color schemes that just look like they were thrown up by a high schooler with no internet experience whatsoever.  I find it difficult to meander such sites as they’re so clogged with information that has nothing to do with the site, or are too overcrowded to make even the simplest searches annoying.  But, I digress.).  As such, I didn’t really give too much thought to his site, or his information (though the latter was largely due to information that couldn’t be verified anywhere else).

And yet, it turns out that his blowing me off (and his insanely annoying website) may have been the best thing for me as it provided me with an opportunity to find an interesting connection that I may have otherwise overlooked.  Prior to getting to that connection, I’d encourage everyone to at least listen to Drockton’s interview.  It’s 2 hours in length, but I feel it’s a good way to get to know someone and see/hear for yourself what they’re saying and whether they are someone worth listening to.  Part 2 is likely more useful, though you will miss out on some of the background behind how Drockton came to this stage of life.  If I may assert, I find it’s much easier to dismiss someone (like me) who only writes something, somewhere on some topic.  Getting to listen to some interview with that same person, though, gives everyone a chance to listen to a voice, a frequency and see if your impressions of digital ink match up with the actual voice.  And, I must say, listening to Drockton was well worth the 2 hours.  He came off a likeable, normal person who’s been through some small measure of hell for what he felt like he should expose.

Now, that being said, I found a couple of interesting comparisons on Drockton’s website that I thought I’d peruse here, if only for a couple of paragraphs.[2] I took a total of 6 buildings or developments to compare to the City Creek project that is currently being developed by the LDS church in downtown Salt Lake City.  The following represents those comparisons:

Building 1:  Taipai 101, Taipai, Taiwan[3]


· Built in 2004

· 101 floors tall (1,667 feet)

· Total Cost:  $1.8 billion, or $405/square foot

· Total Square Feet:  4,440,100

· Interesting tidbit:  The tower’s design specifications are based on the number ’8′, a lucky number in traditional Chinese culture. The design and planning of the tower was carried out by a Feng Shui master. The elevators in the building are the fastest in the world, rising at 1008 metres per minute (60.48 km/hour) and descending at 610 m/min (36.6 km/hour).  The Taiwan Stock exchange is housed in this building

Building 2: Petronas Twin Towers – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia[4]


· Built in 1998

· 88 floors tall (1,483 feet)

· Total square feet:  4,252,000

· Total Cost:  $1.6 billion, or $376/square foot

· Interesting tidbit: The towers are the world’s tallest twin buildings. Completed in 1998, they are connected on the 41st and 42nd floors by a sky bridge, which was designed as a safety corridor. The skybridge constructed by Kukdong Engineering & Construction between the two towers is the highest 2-story bridge in the world. Petronas Towers, designed by Argentine architect Cesar Pelli, has a beautiful blend of Islamic art, design and architecture.

Building 3:  Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower) – Chicago, Illinois[5]


· Built in 1974

· 1,451 feet tall

· Total Cost:  $150 million ($645.3 million in 2009 dollars, or $142/square foot)

· Total Square Feet:  4,560,000

Building 4:  Burj Khalifa – Dubai, United Arab Emirates[6]


· Built in 2009.  Officially opened on 4 January 2010.

· 2,717 feet tall (tallest manmade building ever built)

· Total Cost:  $1.5 billion, or $450/square foot

· Total Square Feet:  3,331,100

· Interesting tidbits:  holds the current world records for (a) tallest skyscraper, (b) tallest structure ever built, (c) building with the most floors, (d) world’s fastest elevator, (e) highest outdoor observation deck – 124th floor, (f) world’s highest mosque – 158th floor, and (g) world’s highest swimming pool – 76th floor.  The Burj Khalifa is also home to a $217 million fountain that is illuminated by some 6,600 lights and 50 colored projectors.

Building (Development, really) 5:  Mohammed Bin Zayed City Development – Dubai, United Arab Emirates [7]


· Built in 2012 (estimated).  Construction started in 2009.

· Project will consist of 349 residential towers, all between 12 and 22 stories tall.[8]

· Project will included public, commercial, retail and recreational facilities

· Total Residential Units:  50,000 (to house approximately 85,000 people.)

· Project will include infrastructure, landscaping and community amenities

· Project will cover approximately 5,000,000 square meters (53.8 million square feet).

· Total Cost:  $7.1 billion, or $132/square foot

Building (Development, really) 6:  City Center – Las Vegas, Nevada[9]


· Opened in 2009.

· Total size:  76 acres (1,560,500 square meters, or 16,797,000 square feet)

· Total cost:  $11 billion, or $655 per square foot.

· Features a Tram with a 2,100 foot elevated track which can handle 3,266 passengers per hour in each direction, a 6,900 car parking garage, approximately 5,000 hotel rooms and 2,400 condominium units.  All of the buildings are LEED certified “Gold.”

Building 7:  Atlantis – Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  • Opened in 2008
  • Total cost: $1.5 billion ($750k per hotel room)
  • Total size: 2,000 hotel rooms + 20,000 sq. ft. of retail space.  Approx. 114 acres in size.
  • Two towers:  one 18 story tower and one 28 story tower

Building (Development, really) 8:  City Creek Center – Salt Lake City, Utah[10]

· Total size:  20 acres – 2.5 city blocks (81,000 square meters) .

· Total residential units:  700 (to house approximately 1,200 people, or 1.4% of the total size of the Bin Zayed project).

· Total retail space:  2,274,000 square feet

· Total (estimated) cost:  $6.0 billion (or 84.5% of the total cost of the Bin Zayed project).  ~$,3000 per square foot (it’s rather hard to pin this number down, it seems.  Taubman lists the overall office space at 1.4 million square feet, while the Church lists it at 1.6 million square feet.  On top of that the total residential square feet has been virtually impossible to locate.  So, let’s assume it’s around $3,000/ft.  Even if we’re overly conservative this figure would be well north of $2,000/ft…figures that are hard to find anywhere).

As the comparison shows – at least to my mind – is that City Creek Center (in Salt Lake) isn’t quite up to snuff with the other developments.  I understand that certain economies of scale come into play in developing real estate (perhaps better known as the “works of men”), but even so, would you rather have the Burj Khalifa sitting in downtown Salt Lake City, or perhaps City Center (Las Vegas’ – by comparison – huge development), or perhaps the Petronas’ Twin Towers?  Sure, they’d be out of place for the most part, but by seer architectural standards, you sure do get a lot more bang for your buck.  The most expensive of the comparison properties was built at $655 per square foot, whereas the “towers” were all built at $450 per square foot or less.  City Creek Center, by contrast, was/is being built at ~$3,000 per square foot, or nearly 5x more expensive than the next nearest comparable property, and that’s assuming that the City Creek Center utilizes every square foot of the approximately 20-acre development site.

If you compare it with the Mohammed Bin Zayed project, they are getting nearly 350 towers, all between 12 and 22 stories tall.  Think about that for a minute.  An entire city for nearly the same price that Salt Lake City is getting City Creek Center.  As far as “bang for the buck,” it’s hard to ignore building an entire city versus a two and a half city blocks. The City Creek Center is only 1.6% of the total size of the Bin Zayed project and offers only 1.4% of the total housing units, and yet costs nearly 84.5% as much as the Bin Zayed project.  Perhaps that should be highlighted:  City Creek Center is producing nearly 49,000 fewer housing units and yet has the price tag that’s nearly as much as the Bin Zayed project.  The Burj Khalifa will offer some 3,000,000 square feet of interior space, while City Center will merely offer 674,000 square feet.

For the price, assuming a final price tag of $6 billion for the City Creek Center, Salt Lake could be home to no fewer than four Burj Khalifa’s, or four Petronas’ Twin Towers, or four Atlantis the Palm hotels cordoning off downtown, or … .  Imagine four of those structures gracing the Salt Lake City skyline, as opposed to the rather pedestrian development it now seems to be.

Yes, we’re talking about billions of dollars, but there is simply no comparison.  The Church is either getting bilked out of its “sacred” tithing “investment funds,” or the publicized scope of work is far greater than is being published, or some serious funds are changing hands under the table.  This is the idea that Drockton’s work clued me in on.  Some are even alleging that the Church is either facilitating a money laundering scheme, someone(s) are getting some serious kickbacks or lining of their pockets, or perhaps worse[11].  Or, perhaps there’s some huge underground structure being built “hidden in plain sight.”  Whatever it may be, what’s plain to see is that the numbers and the currently published (and available) information simply don’t match up.

In one of the first (if not the first) news conferences where H. David Burton announced the City Creek Center he stated that the church had “sought advice from some of the best minds in the country” as a way to create the best development they could.  Either those minds weren’t very good (i.e., is this the best our minds can produce), or those minds were merely inflating the cost of the budget through some exorbitant fees, or those minds were the ones crafting the financing of the project and had ulterior motives.

What’s worse – the incredible lack of creativity and ingenuity when given a $6 billion budget, or the money laundering that has to underpin a project of this size when the sources and uses simply don’t match up?

I declare a draw.

What say you?[12]


[1]Mormons – Freemasonry Illuminati Taking Over.”  28 September 2010.  Retrieved 10/22/2010.

[2] See, “World’s Tallest Buildings.”  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[3] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taipei_101 for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[4] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petronas_Towers for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[5] See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willis_Tower for more details.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[6] See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burj_Khalifa for more details.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[7] See:  http://www.keoic.com/projects/master/zayed/pdf/RFS-9275-SPU.pdf for more details.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[8] See:  http://www.estatesdubai.com/2009/04/mohammed-bin-zayed-city-residential.html for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[9] See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CityCenter for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[10] See:  http://www.downtownrising.com/index.php/city-creek-introduction for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[12] P.S.  My apologies to Drockton for my rather terse comments in the previous post.  I have not yet reached out to him again, but have found some measure of satisfaction listening to his Morning Liberty interview, as well as a few other articles on his **still** overly crowded website.

 

Church Finance – Part IV

When I concluded part III of the Church Finance series I fully believed that it was complete.  Well, not complete, but finished as far as I was concerned.  I had dug up as much information, and tried to tie as many loose ends together as I thought I could.  And, frankly, I wasn’t even interested in looking into too many details of the seedy side of church finance.  I was semi-determined to move on to other topics, if not take a break for awhile.  As Justin mentioned in his comment in Part III, this isn’t uplifting material and certainly weighs on the mind, mine included.  It’s rarely pretty digging up some of this information, even though it may be “out and about” and readily findable.  I concur.  And, yet I thought I had moved on from it.

In fact, I had even toyed with closing this thing altogether, not because of what I was writing on, or its effects on me, but because I thought my time was finished in the “blog” world.  In beginning this blog I mentioned how I had set out to do a “one year” commitment, though far from set on that 365-day timetable.  I’m not a full-time blogger by any stretch.  I’m even embarrassed to mention that I have a “blog.”  (Pride issue, methinks.)  And yet, in pondering these topics and what I wanted to do with my time prior to some of the coming changes we’re about to see, I thought it might be best to shut up shop, leave it “live” so anyone/everyone could read, continue to comment and hopefully find something worthwhile in their personal searching.  In fact, just this morning I started writing the “conclusion.”  Some people can carry on for years writing these things and on their blogs, maintaining a “following” and keeping their blogs alive.  I’m not one of those people.  I don’t particularly have an interest in continuing something like this, though I do maintain it as a way to fulfill my feelings prior to the clock rolling over into 2010.

And yet, as I started writing the “conclusion” I stopped, if only because I didn’t want to do it the way I was doing it.  Then, today, I decided to sit down and listen to an interview and see if my earlier impressions on something I discussed in Part III of the Church Finance series were right or wrong, or perhaps inadequate.  And, based on what I listened to, I’d have to give a hearty assessment of it being entirely inadequate.

I found the mp3 interview thanks to a search term someone had used to find my blog.  In the backroom of the site, I can see what people enter in some search engine in order to find my site.  Occasionally I’ll replicate those terms to see if I can find something interesting to read.  This particular day, two people entered the following search term:  “Paul Drockton Monson Oct 2010.”  Performing that search in a site – like Google – produces a result (the top result) that takes you to the Morningliberty.com website and a link therein to an interview with the very Paul Drockton[1] I sarcastically thanked in my last article, thanked for utterly blowing me off.  In fact, I found his website to not only be entirely too noisy (ads, bold font and crazy color schemes that just look like they were thrown up by a high schooler with no internet experience whatsoever.  I find it difficult to meander such sites as they’re so clogged with information that has nothing to do with the site, or are too overcrowded to make even the simplest searches annoying.  But, I digress.).  As such, I didn’t really give too much thought to his site, or his information (though the latter was largely due to information that couldn’t be verified anywhere else).

And yet, it turns out that his blowing me off (and his insanely annoying website) may have been the best thing for me as it provided me with an opportunity to find an interesting connection that I may have otherwise overlooked.  Prior to getting to that connection, I’d encourage everyone to at least listen to Drockton’s interview.  It’s 2 hours in length, but I feel it’s a good way to get to know someone and see/hear for yourself what they’re saying and whether they are someone worth listening to.  Part 2 is likely more useful, though you will miss out on some of the background behind how Drockton came to this stage of life.  If I may assert, I find it’s much easier to dismiss someone (like me) who only writes something, somewhere on some topic.  Getting to listen to some interview with that same person, though, gives everyone a chance to listen to a voice, a frequency and see if your impressions of digital ink match up with the actual voice.  And, I must say, listening to Drockton was well worth the 2 hours.  He came off a likeable, normal person who’s been through some small measure of hell for what he felt like he should expose.

Now, that being said, I found a couple of interesting comparisons on Drockton’s website that I thought I’d peruse here, if only for a couple of paragraphs.[2] I took a total of 6 buildings or developments to compare to the City Creek project that is currently being developed by the LDS church in downtown Salt Lake City.  The following represents those comparisons:

Building 1:  Taipai 101, Taipai, Taiwan

· Built in 2004

· 101 floors tall (1,667 feet)

· Total Cost:  $1.8 billion, or $405/square foot

· Total Square Feet:  4,440,100

· Interesting tidbit:  The tower’s design specifications are based on the number ’8′, a lucky number in traditional Chinese culture. The design and planning of the tower was carried out by a Feng Shui master. The elevators in the building are the fastest in the world, rising at 1008 metres per minute (60.48 km/hour) and descending at 610 m/min (36.6 km/hour).  The Taiwan Stock exchange is housed in this building

Building 2:  Petronas Twin Towers – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

· Built in 1998

· 88 floors tall (1,483 feet)

· Total square feet:  4,252,000

· Total Cost:  $1.6 billion, or $376/square foot

· Interesting tidbit: The towers are the world’s tallest twin buildings. Completed in 1998, they are connected on the 41st and 42nd floors by a sky bridge, which was designed as a safety corridor. The skybridge constructed by Kukdong Engineering & Construction between the two towers is the highest 2-story bridge in the world. Petronas Towers, designed by Argentine architect Cesar Pelli, has a beautiful blend of Islamic art, design and architecture.

Building 3:  Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower) – Chicago, Illinois

· Built in 1974

· 1,451 feet tall

· Total Cost:  $150 million ($645.3 million in 2009 dollars, or $142/square foot)

· Total Square Feet:  4,560,000

Building 4:  Burj Khalifa – Dubai, United Arab Emirates[3]

· Built in 2009.  Officially opened on 4 January 2010.

· 2,717 feet tall (tallest manmade building ever built)

· Total Cost:  $1.5 billion, or $450/square foot

· Total Square Feet:  3,331,100

· Interesting tidbits:  holds the current world records for (a) tallest skyscraper, (b) tallest structure ever built, (c) building with the most floors, (d) world’s fastest elevator, (e) highest outdoor observation deck – 124th floor, (f) world’s highest mosque – 158th floor, and (g) world’s highest swimming pool – 76th floor.  The Burj Khalifa is also home to a $217 million fountain that is illuminated by some 6,600 lights and 50 colored projectors.

Building (Development, really) 5:  Mohammed Bin Zayed City Development[4]

· Built in 2012 (estimated).  Construction started in 2009.

· Project will consist of 349 residential towers, all between 12 and 22 stories tall.[5]

· Project will included public, commercial, retail and recreational facilities

· Total Residential Units:  50,000 (to house approximately 85,000 people.)

· Project will include infrastructure, landscaping and community amenities

· Project will cover approximately 5,000,000 square meters (53.8 million square feet).

· Total Cost:  $7.1 billion, or $132/square foot

Building (Development, really) 6:  City Center – Las Vegas, Nevada[6]

· Opened in 2009.

· Total size:  76 acres (1,560,500 square meters, or 16,797,000 square feet)

· Total cost:  $11 billion, or $655 per square foot.

· Features a Tram with a 2,100 foot elevated track which can handle 3,266 passengers per hour in each direction, a 6,900 car parking garage, approximately 5,000 hotel rooms and 2,400 condominium units.  All of the buildings are LEED certified “Gold.”

Building (Development, really) 7:  City Creek Center – Salt Lake City, Utah[7]

· Total size:  20 acres – 2.5 city blocks (81,000 square meters, or 871,876 square feet in total, or 1.6% of the total size of the Bin Zayed project).

· Total residential units:  700 (to house approximately 1,200 people, or 1.4% of the total size of the Bin Zayed project).

· Total retail space:  674,000 square feet

· Total (estimated) cost:  $6.0 billion (or 84.5% of the total cost of the Bin Zayed project).  $6,881 per square foot.

As the comparison shows – at least to my mind – is that City Creek Center (in Salt Lake) isn’t quite up to snuff with the other developments.  I understand that certain economies of scale come into play in developing real estate (perhaps better known as the “works of men”), but even so, would you rather have the Burj Khalifa sitting in downtown Salt Lake City, or perhaps City Center (Las Vegas’ – by comparison – huge development), or perhaps the Petronas’ Twin Towers?  Sure, they’d be out of place for the most part, but by seer architectural standards, you sure do get a lot more bang for your buck.  The most expensive of the comparison properties was built at $655 per square foot, whereas the “towers” were all built at $450 per square foot or less.  City Creek Center, by contrast, was/is being built at $6,881 per square foot, or nearly 10.5x more expensive than the next nearest comparable property, and that’s assuming that the City Creek Center utilizes every square foot of the approximately 20-acre development site.

If you compare it with the Mohammed Bin Zayed project, they are getting nearly 350 towers.  Think about that for a minute.  An entire city for nearly the same price that Salt Lake City is getting City Creek Center.  As far as “bang for the buck,” it’s hard to ignore building an entire city versus a two and a half city blocks. The City Creek Center is only 1.6% of the total size of the Bin Zayed project and offers only 1.4% of the total housing units, and yet costs nearly 84.5% as much as the Bin Zayed project.  Perhaps that should be highlighted:  City Creek Center is producing nearly 49,000 fewer housing units and yet has the price tag that’s nearly as much as the Bin Zayed project.  The Burj Khalifa will offer some 3,000,000 square feet of interior space, while City Center will merely offer 674,000 square feet.

For the price, assuming a final price tag of $6 billion for the City Creek Center, Salt Lake could be home to no fewer than four Burj Khalifa’s.  Imagine four of those structures gracing the Salt Lake City skyline, as opposed to the rather pedestrian development it seems to be.


/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin-top:0in;
mso-para-margin-right:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
mso-para-margin-left:0in;
line-height:115%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;}

Church Finance – Part IV

When I concluded part III of the Church Finance series I fully believed that it was complete.  Well, not complete, but finished as far as I was concerned.  I had dug up as much information, and tried to tie as many loose ends together as I thought I could.  And, frankly, I wasn’t even interested in looking into too many details of the seedy side of church finance.  I was semi-determined to move on to other topics, if not take a break for awhile.  As Justin mentioned in his comment in Part III, this isn’t uplifting material and certainly weighs on the mind, mine included.  It’s rarely pretty digging up some of this information, even though it may be “out and about” and readily findable.  I concur.  And, yet I thought I had moved on from it.

In fact, I had even toyed with closing this thing altogether, not because of what I was writing on, or its effects on me, but because I thought my time was finished in the “blog” world.  In beginning this blog I mentioned how I had set out to do a “one year” commitment, though far from set on that 365-day timetable.  I’m not a full-time blogger by any stretch.  I’m even embarrassed to mention that I have a “blog.”  (Pride issue, methinks.)  And yet, in pondering these topics and what I wanted to do with my time prior to some of the coming changes we’re about to see, I thought it might be best to shut up shop, leave it “live” so anyone/everyone could read, continue to comment and hopefully find something worthwhile in their personal searching.  In fact, just this morning I started writing the “conclusion.”  Some people can carry on for years writing these things and on their blogs, maintaining a “following” and keeping their blogs alive.  I’m not one of those people.  I don’t particularly have an interest in continuing something like this, though I do maintain it as a way to fulfill my feelings prior to the clock rolling over into 2010.

And yet, as I started writing the “conclusion” I stopped, if only because I didn’t want to do it the way I was doing it.  Then, today, I decided to sit down and listen to an interview and see if my earlier impressions on something I discussed in Part III of the Church Finance series were right or wrong, or perhaps inadequate.  And, based on what I listened to, I’d have to give a hearty assessment of it being entirely inadequate.

I found the mp3 interview thanks to a search term someone had used to find my blog.  In the backroom of the site, I can see what people enter in some search engine in order to find my site.  Occasionally I’ll replicate those terms to see if I can find something interesting to read.  This particular day, two people entered the following search term:  “Paul Drockton Monson Oct 2010.”  Performing that search in a site – like Google – produces a result (the top result) that takes you to the Morningliberty.com website and a link therein to an interview with the very Paul Drockton[1] I sarcastically thanked in my last article, thanked for utterly blowing me off.  In fact, I found his website to not only be entirely too noisy (ads, bold font and crazy color schemes that just look like they were thrown up by a high schooler with no internet experience whatsoever.  I find it difficult to meander such sites as they’re so clogged with information that has nothing to do with the site, or are too overcrowded to make even the simplest searches annoying.  But, I digress.).  As such, I didn’t really give too much thought to his site, or his information (though the latter was largely due to information that couldn’t be verified anywhere else).

And yet, it turns out that his blowing me off (and his insanely annoying website) may have been the best thing for me as it provided me with an opportunity to find an interesting connection that I may have otherwise overlooked.  Prior to getting to that connection, I’d encourage everyone to at least listen to Drockton’s interview.  It’s 2 hours in length, but I feel it’s a good way to get to know someone and see/hear for yourself what they’re saying and whether they are someone worth listening to.  Part 2 is likely more useful, though you will miss out on some of the background behind how Drockton came to this stage of life.  If I may assert, I find it’s much easier to dismiss someone (like me) who only writes something, somewhere on some topic.  Getting to listen to some interview with that same person, though, gives everyone a chance to listen to a voice, a frequency and see if your impressions of digital ink match up with the actual voice.  And, I must say, listening to Drockton was well worth the 2 hours.  He came off a likeable, normal person who’s been through some small measure of hell for what he felt like he should expose.

Now, that being said, I found a couple of interesting comparisons on Drockton’s website that I thought I’d peruse here, if only for a couple of paragraphs.[2] I took a total of 6 buildings or developments to compare to the City Creek project that is currently being developed by the LDS church in downtown Salt Lake City.  The following represents those comparisons:

Building 1:  Taipai 101, Taipai, Taiwan[3]

· Built in 2004

· 101 floors tall (1,667 feet)

· Total Cost:  $1.8 billion, or $405/square foot

· Total Square Feet:  4,440,100

· Interesting tidbit:  The tower’s design specifications are based on the number ’8′, a lucky number in traditional Chinese culture. The design and planning of the tower was carried out by a Feng Shui master. The elevators in the building are the fastest in the world, rising at 1008 metres per minute (60.48 km/hour) and descending at 610 m/min (36.6 km/hour).  The Taiwan Stock exchange is housed in this building

Building 2:  Petronas Twin Towers – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia[4]

· Built in 1998

· 88 floors tall (1,483 feet)

· Total square feet:  4,252,000

· Total Cost:  $1.6 billion, or $376/square foot

· Interesting tidbit: The towers are the world’s tallest twin buildings. Completed in 1998, they are connected on the 41st and 42nd floors by a sky bridge, which was designed as a safety corridor. The skybridge constructed by Kukdong Engineering & Construction between the two towers is the highest 2-story bridge in the world. Petronas Towers, designed by Argentine architect Cesar Pelli, has a beautiful blend of Islamic art, design and architecture.

Building 3:  Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower) – Chicago, Illinois[5]

· Built in 1974

· 1,451 feet tall

· Total Cost:  $150 million ($645.3 million in 2009 dollars, or $142/square foot)

· Total Square Feet:  4,560,000

Building 4:  Burj Khalifa – Dubai, United Arab Emirates[6]

· Built in 2009.  Officially opened on 4 January 2010.

· 2,717 feet tall (tallest manmade building ever built)

· Total Cost:  $1.5 billion, or $450/square foot

· Total Square Feet:  3,331,100

· Interesting tidbits:  holds the current world records for (a) tallest skyscraper, (b) tallest structure ever built, (c) building with the most floors, (d) world’s fastest elevator, (e) highest outdoor observation deck – 124th floor, (f) world’s highest mosque – 158th floor, and (g) world’s highest swimming pool – 76th floor.  The Burj Khalifa is also home to a $217 million fountain that is illuminated by some 6,600 lights and 50 colored projectors.

Building (Development, really) 5:  Mohammed Bin Zayed City Development[7]

· Built in 2012 (estimated).  Construction started in 2009.

· Project will consist of 349 residential towers, all between 12 and 22 stories tall.[8]

· Project will included public, commercial, retail and recreational facilities

· Total Residential Units:  50,000 (to house approximately 85,000 people.)

· Project will include infrastructure, landscaping and community amenities

· Project will cover approximately 5,000,000 square meters (53.8 million square feet).

· Total Cost:  $7.1 billion, or $132/square foot

Building (Development, really) 6:  City Center – Las Vegas, Nevada[9]

· Opened in 2009.

· Total size:  76 acres (1,560,500 square meters, or 16,797,000 square feet)

· Total cost:  $11 billion, or $655 per square foot.

· Features a Tram with a 2,100 foot elevated track which can handle 3,266 passengers per hour in each direction, a 6,900 car parking garage, approximately 5,000 hotel rooms and 2,400 condominium units.  All of the buildings are LEED certified “Gold.”

Building (Development, really) 7:  City Creek Center – Salt Lake City, Utah[10]

· Total size:  20 acres – 2.5 city blocks (81,000 square meters, or 871,876 square feet in total, or 1.6% of the total size of the Bin Zayed project).

· Total residential units:  700 (to house approximately 1,200 people, or 1.4% of the total size of the Bin Zayed project).

· Total retail space:  674,000 square feet

· Total (estimated) cost:  $6.0 billion (or 84.5% of the total cost of the Bin Zayed project).  $6,881 per square foot.

As the comparison shows – at least to my mind – is that City Creek Center (in Salt Lake) isn’t quite up to snuff with the other developments.  I understand that certain economies of scale come into play in developing real estate (perhaps better known as the “works of men”), but even so, would you rather have the Burj Khalifa sitting in downtown Salt Lake City, or perhaps City Center (Las Vegas’ – by comparison – huge development), or perhaps the Petronas’ Twin Towers?  Sure, they’d be out of place for the most part, but by seer architectural standards, you sure do get a lot more bang for your buck.  The most expensive of the comparison properties was built at $655 per square foot, whereas the “towers” were all built at $450 per square foot or less.  City Creek Center, by contrast, was/is being built at $6,881 per square foot, or nearly 10.5x more expensive than the next nearest comparable property, and that’s assuming that the City Creek Center utilizes every square foot of the approximately 20-acre development site.

If you compare it with the Mohammed Bin Zayed project, they are getting nearly 350 towers.  Think about that for a minute.  An entire city for nearly the same price that Salt Lake City is getting City Creek Center.  As far as “bang for the buck,” it’s hard to ignore building an entire city versus a two and a half city blocks. The City Creek Center is only 1.6% of the total size of the Bin Zayed project and offers only 1.4% of the total housing units, and yet costs nearly 84.5% as much as the Bin Zayed project.  Perhaps that should be highlighted:  City Creek Center is producing nearly 49,000 fewer housing units and yet has the price tag that’s nearly as much as the Bin Zayed project.  The Burj Khalifa will offer some 3,000,000 square feet of interior space, while City Center will merely offer 674,000 square feet.

For the price, assuming a final price tag of $6 billion for the City Creek Center, Salt Lake could be home to no fewer than four Burj Khalifa’s.  Imagine four of those structures gracing the Salt Lake City skyline, as opposed to the rather pedestrian development it seems to be.

Yes, we’re talking about billions of dollars, but there is simply no comparison.  The Church is either getting bilked out of its “sacred” tithing “investment funds,” or the publicized scope of work is far greater than is being published, or some serious funds are changing hands under the table.  This is the idea that Drockton’s work clued me in on.  Some are even alleging that the Church is either facilitating a money laundering scheme, someone(s) are getting some serious kickbacks or lining of their pockets, or perhaps worse[11].  Or, perhaps there’s some huge underground structure being built “hidden in plain sight.”  Whatever it may be, what’s plain to see is that the numbers and currently published information simply don’t match up.

What say you?[12]


[1]Mormons – Freemasonry Illuminati Taking Over.”  28 September 2010.  Retrieved 10/22/2010.

[2] See, “World’s Tallest Buildings.”  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[3] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taipei_101 for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[4] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petronas_Towers for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[5] See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willis_Tower for more details.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[6] See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burj_Khalifa for more details.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[7] See:  http://www.keoic.com/projects/master/zayed/pdf/RFS-9275-SPU.pdf for more details.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[8] See:  http://www.estatesdubai.com/2009/04/mohammed-bin-zayed-city-residential.html for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[9] See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CityCenter for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[10] See:  http://www.downtownrising.com/index.php/city-creek-introduction for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[12] P.S.  My apologies to Drockton for my rather terse comments in the previous post.  I have not yet reached out to him again, but have found some measure of satisfaction listening to his Morning Liberty interview, as well as a few other articles on his **still** overly crowded website.

Yes, we’re talking about billions of dollars, but there is simply no comparison.  The Church is either getting bilked out of its “sacred” tithing “investment funds,” or the publicized scope of work is far greater than is being published, or some serious funds are changing hands under the table.  This is the idea that Drockton’s work clued me in on.  Some are even alleging that the Church is either facilitating a money laundering scheme, someone(s) are getting some serious kickbacks or lining of their pockets, or perhaps worse[8].  Or, perhaps there’s some huge underground structure being built “hidden in plain sight.”  Whatever it may be, what’s plain to see is that the numbers and currently published information simply don’t match up.

What say you?[9]


[1]Mormons – Freemasonry Illuminati Taking Over.”  28 September 2010.  Retrieved 10/22/2010.

[2] See, “World’s Tallest Buildings.”  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[3] See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burj_Khalifa for more details.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[4] See:  http://www.keoic.com/projects/master/zayed/pdf/RFS-9275-SPU.pdf for more details.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[5] See:  http://www.estatesdubai.com/2009/04/mohammed-bin-zayed-city-residential.html for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[6] See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CityCenter for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[7] See:  http://www.downtownrising.com/index.php/city-creek-introduction for more information.  Retrieved 10/25/2010.

[9] P.S.  My apologies to Drockton for my rather terse comments in the previous post.  I have not yet reached out to him again, but have found some measure of satisfaction listening to his Morning Liberty interview, as well as a few other articles on his **still** overly crowded website.


This is Part III of a three part series.  Part I can be found here.

Now, the “other endeavors” I discussed in Part II are generally well documented, or at least in your average, run-of-the-mill newspaper outlet (i.e. Deseret News, etc) has covered these topics in some degree or another.  Pretty much anyone can find some information on these items if they but know what they’re searching for.  This next section deals with a slightly more nuanced, and hidden topic, one that is hard to pin down and find good information upon which to base this write-up.  Perhaps that is how it should be.  Perhaps I just haven’t searched using the correct terms or have not, as of yet, been led to something more concrete.  In any case, it does touch on some of the issues of this article thus far, but none more so than the Deseret Ranch in Florida.

Namely, this section discusses the possible link between larger, more nefarious financial connections and the LDS Church, as initially connected through the Deseret Ranch, at least through the point of view of someone.  It’s even slightly more difficult to pin down because of the scope of this article (generally speaking, the discussion of church finance) is a topic that is altogether avoided in Mormondom.  Outside of the COB, very few people actually know any details regarding church finance.  I count myself among the very many who know next to nothing about the details of church finance.

Cultural Hypocrisy

As some have noted elsewhere, I am likewise bewildered at how the wider church membership, which trends toward the conservative side of the political spectrum, react and respond to the church at large.  While this conservative mass decries “secret combinations” in the government, decries the lack of transparency at all levels – from local and state governments to the federal taxing authority and to the behemoth that is the (not so) Federal Reserve – and generally belittles any public figure who feigns ignorance on any given topic or those who plead the need for privacy.  Those special whipping boys include Ben Bernanke, Harry Reid and others, but the story is generally the same:  give us details on where our tax money is going, who owns or controls you, disclosure on balance sheets, etc.

One recent example included the call by many “conservative” thinkers to get full disclosure of those banks receiving money from the recent federal stimulus programs.  Those against public disclosure stated, among other things, “Our member banks are very concerned about real-time disclosure of information that could cause a run on banks.”[1] And, who is to say it’d be wrong to call for such disclosure?  But, alas, that’s not the point of my raising the issue.  My point is to suggest and point out that Mormons by and large were joining in on these requests by the boatload, led chiefly by their ringleader Mr. Glenn Beck.  [Aside:  I did find it interesting that in going to that link, the only advertisement on that page was for the “…And, I’m a Mormon!” campaign.  See this:  Mormon Advertising (1).]

It seems incredibly ironic that Mormons in general (especially those who lean conservative) usually lament the lack of transparency at governmental and corporate levels of all shapes and, and yet blindly accept what goes on inside the Church Office Building.  For example, if a Mormon gives $10,000 to any given charity, or pays $10,000 in local and federal taxes, you’d be right to assume that that Mormon (or anyone for that matter) is going to monitor that money to ensure its being used as efficiently as possible.  And, if it isn’t, that Mormon will at the very least petition the taxing authorities or whomever it is through letters to the editor, complaints, calls, or by voting those members out of office.  If it’s a charity, and the Mormon isn’t happy with where the money is going or what’s happening with it, they’ll move on and donate to a different charity the next time around.  Point is:  they vote with their pocketbook, and rightly so.

But, place that same Mormon in a temple recommend interview where they just wrote out a year end check for $10,000 in order to officially be recognized as “worthy” and this member won’t think twice about where the money is going.  That money enters the black hole that is the Church Office Building, never to be seen or heard from locally.  Whereas the member will require accountability on behalf of anyone not named the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ™, inside Mormondom we Mormons somehow develop an amazing ability to not only forget about the money given to the church (or at least the details of what happens to it), but also never think twice about it.  Some would even readily give more were they able (and some do – it’s a pay-for-rewards scheme.  You pay your tithing and miraculously you purchase fire insurance and receive a key to unlock the windows of heaven).  To hell with the “poor and needy,” what we need here is a few extra billion pouring into projects like the City Creek Center.  It seems the transparency issue only works outside the walls of church.

And, if that weren’t enough, bishops near and far neither question nor think about what’s going on.  They routinely see sums in the tens of thousands of dollars (if not much more) leaving their ward or branch on its merry old digital way to Salt Lake City, never to see, hear or touch these funds again, and never stop to think about what’s happening, or if it’s the way the Lord would want it to be.  Tithing paid locally not only does not help local congregations, but is often spent on things that just don’t matter at all.  Whereas the 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions suggests that “The Lord has given bishops the sacred trust of receiving and accounting for the tithes and other offerings of the Saints (See D&C 119; 42:30-33),”[2] these same bishops “may not use tithing funds for any purpose.”[3]

Did y’all catch that?  The Church™ states that local bishops are entrusted with the “sacred trust” of “receiving and accounting” for local donations, no matter their reason, but in no way can they use these same funds “for any purpose.”  So, what does a bishop do if he needs funds to help his ward members?  Ah, fear not dear reader, the church™ has answered this question by providing wards with “budget allowances.”  Who needs tithing when the church has graciously allotted various “budget allowances.”  These budget allowances are based on “attendance” at Sacrament meeting, Young men and women classes, primary and young single adults.  If your attendance is high, your budget amount goes up.  If it’s low, it goes down.  It’s that simple.  These budget allowances were created to “reduce the financial and time burdens” on members.[4] Yes, that’s right, a ward – for example – might pay $100,000 in tithing over the course of the year.  Based solely on attendance (and notably based neither on the needs nor wants of its individual members)[5], and is then allotted a budget allowance of $5,000 or so to spend amongst its various organizations (Young mens, Young womens, Primary, Relief Society, Sunday School, activities, etc.).  The remaining $95,000 is shipped off to Salt Lake City and then invested in Babylonian investments (i.e. stocks, bonds, businesses, hedge funds, etc) for two to three years.  At the end of the two to three years, the Church™ uses the original $95,000 for “church” purposes (i.e. Temple construction, meetinghouse construction, general upkeep of properties, salaries of Church Office Building employees, and God knows what else), while approximately $25,000 (the “investment income” earned while the tithing funds were invested) is spent on for-profit projects (i.e. City Creek Center, the new Laie, Hawaii hotel[6], etc.).

So, somehow shipping 95% of local funds (my estimate, though I doubt the “actual” ratio is much different) off to a “black hole” where things go to never be heard from again is not viewed as a “financial and time burden,” but allowing the local congregations to keep the other 5% is viewed as a way to “reduce” these same financial and time burdens.  Holy smokes, Batman, is that some funky, contorted logic.  How about keeping 95% of all tithes and offerings local, while sending in 5% for the collective good of the organization?  How much help could a righteous local bishop provide with $95,000 at his disposal, versus $5,000, spread across ~300 members or so?  Act local should be the mantra (in my opinion), but instead it’s “ignore” local and think “global.”  After all, the COB knows better than we strangers in Babylon ever could.  They do employ, after all, financial advisors and investment managers to manager untold billions of dollars and are thereby much more qualified than I or you are.  Trust me.  They have the certifications to prove it and, after all, certifications are certified by some certifiably certified body of certified certifieds.

Institutional Insanity

In this scheme, and many other, the current status quo reinforces is the supremacy of the institution at the expense of the individual.  Wayne Jacobsen wrote about the “institution” in his book, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, and couldn’t have penned more appropriate words:

“The institution provides something more important than simply loving each other in the same way we’ve been loved. Once you build an institution together you have to protect it and its assets to be good stewards. It confuses everything.  Even love gets redefined as that which protects the institution and unloving as that which does not. It will turn some of the nicest people in the world into raging maniacs and they never stop to think that all the name-calling and accusations are the opposite of love. … Institutionalism breeds task-based friendships. As long as you’re on the same task together, you can be friends. When you’re not, people tend to treat you like damaged goods. … Any human system will eventually dehumanize the very people it seeks to serve and those it dehumanizes the most are those who think they lead it. … Over time institutions … become abusive when the demand for conformity takes over. … Once people are in love with the program and grow dependent on it as the spiritual component of their lives, they won’t see its limitations. It cannot substitute for their own life in him and it can only produce an illusion of community because it is based on people doing what it takes to sustain the institution … ”[7]

Ah, but I digress.

Paul Drockton on the Rothschild’s and Dick Cheney

Returning to the whole “secrecy” issue and high-finance, a fellow named Paul Drockton has written a few articles on the subject at large.  In researching this topic, I reached out to Drockton and found him to be far too short on offering any further details to a virtual (literally) stranger.[8] And, as a result, you’re left reading my words as opposed to some other fellow, who is more than likely much more in tune and smarter than I.

In order to understand this topic, one might start by thinking back to a few years to where Dick Cheney (of all people) was awarded an “honorary doctorate” from BYU and BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson.  The background information leading up to Cheney giving the commencement speech is perhaps worthy of its own discussion, elsewhere, but those readers familiar with Stephen Jones’ work on 9/11 may know some of these details.  And, while at this same commencement ceremony where Cheney was lauded and applauded, J. Craig McIlroy, then president of the BYU Alumni Association, offered the following words of praise on the Rothschild family[9], of all families:

“As new graduates, many of you may be focusing on the possibilities that lie ahead to create wealth for yourselves. Might I suggest that you consider wealth creation as a commodity made up of financial, human, and intellectual capital.  Business people know that they must spend 70 to 80 percent of their time growing assets. In families, growing the human and intellectual assets is often overlooked. The members in the family are the human capital. Their collective life experiences and knowledge make up the intellectual capital. The financial capital supports the growth of the other two. James E. Hughes, Jr., suggests these concepts to us in his book, Family Wealth.

He reminds us that:

In the mid-eighteenth century, Mayer Amschel Rothschild founded the House of Rothschild. This creator of the Rothschild fortune had five sons, each of whom he set up in the banking business in one of the era’s five principal European financial capitals: Frankfurt, Vienna, London, Paris, and Naples. He lent them the money to get started at lower than normal interest with the proviso that they pay him back. He directed that each son keep the profits of his individual bank once the original loan had been repaid. He also charged interest in the form of intellectual currency. He requested each of his sons relay to him every bit of financial information he gained in his city. He agreed to share this intellectual interest with his other sons. In modern terms, he created an effective information network.

Mayer Amschel Rothschild also used a powerful investment technique to manage the risk to his family’s human capital. By sending each son to a different city, he diversified his human assets into five separate investments, thereby increasing the probability that at least one of the branches would survive political and economic risks. Ultimately, only the London and Paris branches survived and continue to prosper. Today, some 250 years later, the name Rothschild is synonymous with wealth. [James E. Hughes, Jr., Family Wealth: Keeping It in the Family: How Family Members and Their Advisers Preserve Human, Intellectual, and Financial Assets for Generations (Princeton: Bloomberg Press, 2004), 32; adapted by permission]

Mayer Amschel Rothschild understood that two important elements of a family’s wealth are its human and intellectual capital. He saw to it that all family members were well educated and that they worked. He also provided specialized mentorship opportunities as his sons entered the workforce.

Like the Rothschild children, you have been given a figurative loan, if you will, in the form of a financial subsidy of your tuition by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You represent the human and intellectual capital of your own families and, in a broader sense, of the Church.

I’ll excuse you if you need to go vomit after reading that drivel.  In my book, equating humans as “capital” is as nefarious and heretical a doctrine or idea as there is, but certainly one not lost on your average member or your average congregation.  Life is, after all, about making money, ascending the corporate latter and, as a result, giving back of your time and money to the “church.”  Ironically, this very mindset fits in with the “Rothschild” mindset where humans are mere tools to use to make money.  I’m not so sure that Christ would ever refer (or insinuate or imply or even think about) to us as “capital” to both society and the church, and think that we should do more to ponder such statements.  And yet, irony abounds within this context.  Mormons are known as some of the more industrious and obedient people there are.  Right-wing Mormons (if I may resort to categorizing) who are entirely against “secret combinations” yet give people like McIlroy and Cheney standing ovations (as was done at Utah Republican Conventions dating back to the mid-1990s where Cheney was present).

Perhaps it should be noted that McIlroy is a Certified Financial Planner who just happens to live in a $500k home in the Denver area whose entire career is predicated on people amassing large sums of wealth, and thus the idea that (a) defining people as “capital” and (b) amassing “wealth” is in his best interests.[10] I’m sure there’s no coincidence there.  Or, perhaps he’s merely positioning himself to manage the untold billions in church investments somewhere down the line.

Likewise, perhaps it’s just mere coincidence, but the championing of the Rothschild’s at a BYU commencement ceremony the very same day that Dick Cheney received his honorary degree from the “hallowed” institution seems a bit bizarre.  Then again, there are no real coincidences in life.  Just opportunities for us “capital” to miss out on underlying meanings that are too nuanced for our pea brains – after all, if all we’re good for is capital then we’d be better off spending our time thinking about how to make a dollar or five for our employers and the church.  For those of you unfamiliar with the whole fiasco created by Cheney’s insistence that he be the commencement speaker[11] and the resultant wake it left for Dr. Steven Jones and his career there at BYU, here’s a footnote[12] to a good article on the topic.  Dr. Jones offered his own account of the story, stating that he was placed on administrative leave on Sept 7, 2006.[13]

It All Revolves Back to Henry Moyle

But, getting back to the financial aspect of the Rothschild’s and the LDS church, one would have to go back to the mid 1900s, if not earlier, to understand what was going on.  Back then Henry Moyle was running the church into financial ruin with an “if you build it, [church growth] will come.”  Some even credit Moyle, and the aggressive building program, with the rather infamous “baseball baptisms” of the 1960s[14] that troubled many a missionary in the latter half of the 20th century and probably even today.

This very same Moyle, incidentally, was the same to teach Boyd K. Packer the principle that it’s OK and acceptable to ignore inconvenient questions and, in lieu of answering the inconvenient questions, it’s perfectly OK and reasonable to provide answers to those questions someone should have asked instead:

“Later, as we were returning to the car, I said, “President Moyle, that was marvelous, just marvelous.  How did you do it?

“President Moyle asked, “What do you mean?”

“I said, “All those antagonistic questions he asked you; it was just marvelous the way you handled them.  He was so antagonistic and bitter and yet the interview itself was successful.”

“I have never forgotten his answer.  He said, “I never pay any attention to the questions – that is, if the interviewer is antagonistic.  If he doesn’t ask the right questions, I give answers to the questions he should have asked.”[15]

“That short statement from President Moyle held great wisdom, and on a number of occasions I have been rescued from difficult situations by referring back in my mind to his comment.”

Should I ever meet Packer, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he’d give me answers to the questions I “should have asked” if I were to ask him about this building programs, or about the Deseret Ranch, or some other topic wholly unrelated to the whole “follow the prophet” meme.  Even so, Moyle was the one in charge of buying the Deseret Ranch in the swamplands of Florida.  Barnett describes the purchase in the following terms:

“After a visit to the Sunshine State in 1949, western cattleman and church leader Henry D. Moyle became convinced that Florida’s climate would make it an ideal place to raise cattle. (The key to the industry, as uncomplicated as it may seem, is growing grass.) Moyle pitched his idea for a Florida ranch to fellow members of the church’s first presidency – the Mormons’ worldwide leadership council. The council bought the original 54,000-acre tract in 1950. In 1952, a dozen Mormon families sold their homes out west and moved to the property to help the church turn wetlands and tangled forests into roads and pasturelands.”[16]

Moyle, it seems, was an avid businessman (who’d have known that the church and business go hand-in-hand?), as well as a successful cattleman.[17] Combine his business, cattle and church interests (and positions) and perhaps the investment in a huge cattle ranch, somewhere, was all too certain.  Throw in a location near Orlando where Disney was out buying up land to build its own empire and speculation and profit-making motives are more than likely going to get a hold of people’s best interests.  So, in 1950 Moyle spearheaded the church’s efforts to purchase the Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch by buying some 54,000 acres, or roughly 85 square miles worth of land in central Florida.  There are some who suggest that this land deal, when combined with the additional acreage the church purchased later on to equal today’s total of 312,000 acres, nearly 500 square miles of land, nearly pushed the church to insolvency in the early 1960s.   Paul Drockton is one such person.

It’s no secret that the church had some severe financial problems as a result of its massive building program under Moyle.  What we don’t know, unfortunately, is what details contributed to this near-insolvency.  Was it this land grab or that land grab, or everything lumped together?  Drockton’s article suggests that this land deal indeed pushed the church to the precipice of insolvency, only to be rescued by one Roberto Vincent de Oliverri – and, if you’ve never heard of this man you wouldn’t be alone in that thinking.  De Oliverri, according to Drockton’s article, was a billionaire who somehow was tracked into by the local LDS missionaries.  De Oliverri was taken by the message (or taken by the opportunity to infiltrate the LDS church, depending on who you blieve), accepted baptism and then proceeded to infiltrate the church in behalf of the Rothschild dynasty by helping repay the $500 million loan on the Deseret Ranch once it reached default status.

The problem I have with this article is that De Oliverri doesn’t exist, at least according to the Google seerstone I have before me, outside of this article.  This is the only article (though it’s been picked up by the likes of Rense and others), where he is ever mentioned in any context.  I understand anonymity, but for someone quoted as being “the second richest Rothschild in the world at the time” who somehow met the missionaries who knocked on his door, I would think there’d be a few more details somewhere on the internet.  Perhaps that’s asking too much, but one would think that he exists somewhere outside of this article.

And, when was the last time you knew of a missionary to proselyte in the richest of the rich neighborhoods?  I served my mission along the Mediterranean amidst the richest of the rich.  While there I spent approximately seven months among the richest city in the particular country where I served.  We’d frequently see Lamborghinis, Ferraris and every other car imaginable drive up and down the streets where we lived.  We also walked some of these “richest” neighborhoods – after all, we were 20 year olds who loved a big house and fancy car as much as any other 20 year old guy – to see just how big these houses were and spot whatever fancy car we could spot.  These were houses overlooking the Mediterranean amongst reinforced steel gates, walls taller than we were in order to keep our eyes off of their stuff and lush vegetation wrapped around the houses to further obstruct our views.  Now, I only mention this to discuss some of my skepticism regarding this story.  We simply didn’t proselyte in these rich areas and, when we did, it was either a “no answer” (95% of the time) or a maid/butler/employee who answered our intercom calls.  If De Oliverri was indeed the 2nd richest Rothschild at the time, then odds are he’d be approaching the 2nd richest person in the world at that time.[18] And yet somehow not only did the missionaries find his home, but they also managed to get into his house and teach him the gospel?  A few dots aren’t lining up.

But, even so, suppose Drockton’s reporting is even remotely accurate.  Suppose somehow De Oliverri did join the church.  Would his records then be accessible via FamilySearch.org?  Perhaps, but the only thing I could find that even remotely resembled his name, as reported in Drockton’s article, was one “Robert Bra Oliveri”[19] who was born in Maryland in 1920 and died in 2002.  This Robert would have been around the right age to match the article and perhaps it was indeed him.  I don’t know.  Or maybe he’s not yet dead.  Maybe he’s still alive today shrouded in secrecy and anonymity.  I only raise these questions as a way to verify what Drockton wrote/reported in his original article.[20]

Knee Deep in Mud (that link will take you to Joseph Smith’s last recorded dream, which is well worth the read.)

It’s entirely possible that this person exists and that this story happened, but I tend to believe that the church’s financial dependence on, and co-mingling with, Babylon happened long before De Oliverri would have or could have came along to rescue Moyle and the Church™ from insolvency.  Susan Staker, in compiling Wilford Woodruff’s biography, wrote how Woodruff was then (1880s and 1890s) courting financial power brokers to help stave off “temporal” disaster with the church.  In fact, in Waiting the Worlds End Staker relates a vision/story Woodruff had on 23 August 1868 wherein he stated his belief that by 1898 Logan, Utah, would be home to over one million “Saints” and these “Saints” would already have been to Jackson County, Missouri, with President (of both the church and the U.S.A.) Brigham Young and built the temple at New Jerusalem.  Instead, almost 30 years to the date, Woodruff was cozying up with the financial power brokers and the Bohemian Club in San Francisco.  Staker describes it this way:

“In fact thirty years later on 27 August 1898, Wilford was in heathen territory – at a meeting of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco, California – rather than in New Jerusalem’s temple in Jackson County, Missouri.  He died in San Francisco a few days later on 2 September.  The distance could scarcely have been greater between the scenario predicted by Wilford and warranted by Young and the very different story which unfolded for Wilford and the church during the 1890s (with Wilford not Young as prophet).  A temple did stand on the Logan bench as Wilford predicted, but in an ironic twist, temples, rather than the signs of power he predicts, displayed church weakness within fin-de-siècle political and economic arenas.”[21]

Less than 30 years after Woodruff’s initial meetings with the Bohemian Club / Grove, one of his eventual successors, Heber J. Grant, was meeting with his own financial power brokers.  In 1923, President Grant and his associates took out a $30 million loan, using the entire temple block in Salt Lake City as collateral[22].  [For those interested, $30 million in 1923 would, today, be worth the equivalent of $374 million and change.  Let’s not be too bashful about it, shall we.]  The tabernacle, the lands, the Salt Lake Temple, Deseret Gymnasium, the Beehive House and everything in between was mortgaged to the hilt in order to finance various “business ventures.”  And, it was a mortgage that lasted into the 1970s.  One of the chief financiers of this venture was Chase National Bank.

An official affidavit of this event reads

“… one mortgage document issued by the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company in the year of 1936 to the Wells-Fargo Trust Company of San Francisco; and also one mortgage … issued by the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company to the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the purpose of securing certain debts contracted by the latter corporation form the Chase National Bank.”

So, whether the dabbling in Babylon began with Brigham Young and the multi-million dollar empire he created thanks in large part to his access to the church’s coffers, interest free[23], Wilford Woodruff and his cozying up with the Bohemians and financiers in San Francisco, Heber J. Grant and his penchant for using temples built by others as collateral on multi-million business loans in order to invest in sugar beets and God knows what else, or Henry Moyle and his leading of the church to the brink of insolvency through expansive building programs that may or may not have required a “bailout” from the Rothschild’s, I don’t think it really matters.  Suffice it to say that this sort of dabbling has been going on for decades, if not centuries and is far from an “once-in-a-lifetime” type of endeavor.

Neither Deseret Ranch and Cattle Company, nor City Creek Center is the beginning, nor, unfortunately, the end of the church’s investment in for-profit enterprises that have nothing to do with Christ, nothing to do with Zion and nothing to do with creating a gathering of saints.  Whereas the church initially began creating and starting businesses as a way to help members and to help create a Zion which had zero reliance on Babylon, however misguided they may have been,[24] today the church contents itself on creating businesses and business models that have little-to-no relation with the church or church members at all.  The only real relation has to do with using membership rolls and obligating tithing in order to make an extra dollar or two.

Heaven help us.  We sure need it.

Yea, verily I say unto you again, the time has come when the voice of the Lord is unto you: Go ye out of Babylon; agather ye out from among the nations, from the bfour winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

– D&C 133:7


[1] Madrak, Susie.  “Banks Vow to Fight All the Way to Supreme Court to Keep Fed Aid A Secret.”  April 15, 2010.  Retrieved 10/15/2010.

[2] Church Handbook of Instructions, Handbook 1 (2010), 14.6.1

[3] Ibid, 14.4.1.

[4] Ibid, 14.7.2.

[5] Mosiah 18:29 – “And this he said unto them, having been commanded of God; and they did awalk uprightly before God, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants.”

[6] This hotel is estimated to cost at least $30 million as of 2007, though Hawaii Reserves, Inc. (the land management arm of the church in Hawaii) admits this cost is outdated.  The 220-room hotel will supposedly be operated by Marriott International and operated as one of Marriott’s “various brands.”  Given Marriott’s penchant for allowing “adult” channels within their hotels, it will be interesting to see whether this particular hotel follows suit.  See “Hawaii Reserves plans 220-room Laie Hotel” for more information.

[7] Jacobsen, Wayne.  “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore.”  2008.

[8] In preparing for this article, I reached out to Drockton on several occasions (via email) in hopes of getting more information on some of the questions I had about his articles.  My biggest concern largely revolved around the sources, lack of corroborating information and scanty details in many of his articles.  His only response to my various inquiries was, “All info is on the website.”  Needless to say, that was about as clear as mud.  (Cue sarcasm.) So, if any of you that read this know Drockton, feel free to pass along my appreciation. (End sarcasm.)  For a man dedicated to truth and exposing certain things, he sure wasn’t willing to share any details or open up about anything to a stranger like myself.

[9] McIlroy, J. Craig.  “Stewardship, Sacrifice and Ownership.”  Apr. 26, 2007.

[10] It’s quite amazing just how much information you can cull from the internet given a few extra minutes.  For example, in a matter of five minutes, I was able to find out where McIlroy lives (a 3000 sq. ft. house on ½ an acre valued at $500,000 in a bucolic suburb of Denver) and works (Lincoln Financial Group as a CFP).  Heck, I even know how much McIlroy donated to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign a few years back.

[11] Nadar, Ralph.  “Cheney and the BYU 25.”  Apr. 30, 2007.  In this article Nadar opines, “Could anyone have imagined that the major commencement protest at a University graduation thus far occurred April 26 at Brigham Young University (BYU)? Probably not.”  But then could anyone have imagined that the Vice President with the lowest approval rating in modern American history would request and receive an invitation to be the commencement speaker?

[12] Allan, Sterling D.  “Silencing Cheney Dissent – How BYU Obstructed 911 Justice,” Greater Things.  Feb 7, 2010.

[13] Jones, Steven.  “BYU and Prof. Steven Jones Revisited.”  May 9, 2010.

[14] See this article on Baseball baptisms for more information.  Retrieved 10/04/2010.

[15] Packer, Boyd K.  “Teach Ye Diligently,” page 63.

[16] Barnett.  “The Church’s Ranch.”

[18] Drockton, Paul.  “Did Rothschilds Buy Mormon Church.”  Retrieved 10/11/2010.

[19] See www.familysearch.org for more details and to perform your own search.

[20] It should also be noted that Drockton’s original article was based on news from one Steven Davis whose father, Clyde, happened to be cozy with the Rothschilds (at least according to Drockton’s article).  Steven Davis, if the names are correct, penned a lengthy letter to then U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales regarding some rather fishy business going on over at the COB.  His letter can be read here, though I admittedly haven’t had the time (or interest, at least not yet) to delve further into its contents and accuracy.

[21] Staker, Susan.  Waiting the World’s End.  Pages VIII-XXI.

[22] Salt Lake County Recorder’s Office, Deed No. 501, 787, Bk. 11 U, page 440, dated Nov. 19, 1923, and recorded Nov. 21, 1923. Issued by Heber J. Grant, Trustee in Trust for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Two other deeds followed: #501,790 and #502,184 also issued by Heber J. Grant. Despite this legal documentation, President Grant publicly denied it had occurred – Deseret News, 4 April 1936.

[23] See “Brigham Young’s Estate” for more information on his money issues.  Leonard Arrington, LDS Historian, once wrote, “This ability to draw, almost at will, on church as well as his own funds, was a great advantage to Brigham Young and was certainly one of the reasons for his worldly success…. while Brigham Young was probably the largest borrower of funds from the trustee-in-trust, he was certainly not the only one.” (“The Settlement of the Brigham Young Estate,” 1877-1879, Reprinted from the Pacific Historical Review, vol. 21, no. 1, Feb. 1952, p.7-8)

[24] Brady, Rodney H.  “Church Participation in Business.”  1992.  Retrieved 10/16/2010.