LDS Church: $100 Billion Endowment?

I created another post here that details the parsonage/stipend that our up to 108 full-time leaders are eligible for. That discussion — do LDS leaders get paid? — has tended to be poorly understood topic, in my experience.

This post below, however, will more broadly focus on the full scope of LDS finances, tithing, etc.

These videos and articles provide useful context:

This might be the best summary on the topic of the LDS Church’s endowment I’ve ever seen:


Major subtitles in the article above:

– Are the Church’s reserve funds illegal or somehow evading taxes?

– Is saving $1 Billion a year for a “rainy day” fund wrong or abnormal?

– Why would the Church have a rainy-day fund?

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– What about the two alleged distributions, those must be illegal, right?

– Are there other public policy concerns?

– Should a church hold $100 billion that could otherwise be spent on helping those in need?

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– Should a church have the freedom to avoid transparency into its finances and should it avoid “opening its books”?

– Is asking the poor to tithe morally wrong?

– Should wealth escape taxation because it’s owned by a church?

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– What about just taxing the excess wealth of a church? If the money is just sitting around, why not have the government put it to better use?

– Why not tax huge endowments, where the nonprofits have more than they could ever need?

Final paragraph: In the meantime, Latter-day Saints can appreciate the impressive arc of a church that was once on the cusp of financial ruin, and now, thanks to faithful tithing and prudent management, appears to have all it needs and more to carry out what they believe is a divinely-appointed mission.

Jeff @ LDS Q&A:

Kathleen Flake at the U of Virginia wrote this: Mormonism and its Money.

First paragraph here: ” The Washington Post’s recent news story, captioned “Mormon Church has misled members on $100 billion tax-exempt investment fund” is likely to be met with little resistance to its message. It is a familiar one: Mormonism is too rich and stays so by exploiting its members. The old canard takes its new form in a former employee and devotee’s complaint to the IRS that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is hoarding money, which should be given to charity.

Indeed, it has hoarded so much, according to an accompanying video, members would not have to pay tithing if that money were used instead of saved. What’s wrong with this picture? A lot and, not least, the facts. Forbes has already responded to the fallacies related to the legal claim: “there is nothing in the tax law that prevents churches from accumulating wealth.” [See also a subsequent analysis here.]  However, the moral claims in the complaint – miserliness, dishonesty, and exploitation – invite us to investigate further. …”

Michael Quinn, a credible Latter-day Saint scholar, shares additional context in these interviews with Rick Bennett:

LDS Church Finances

Good place to start (article below from 2/14/20):

What the Presiding Bishopric Has to Say about the Finance of the Church and the Faith of its Members

Jeff at Latter-day Q & A discusses Church finances:

Dan Peterson presents his view on the wide topic of how money is handled in our church.   So far, Dan has written 11 parts.  The series will likely continue. 

Each part provides a broader contribution into implications surrounding LDS finances, tithing, taxes, non-profits, and other subtopics:

LDS Inc. (Part One), Dan Peterson  (December 2019)

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Bro. Roger Hendrix is an active Latter-day Saint who was a mission president in the 90s before he started working as a board member at Deseret Trust Company.  His career was in construction and consulting in Southern California before he was a mission president.

This fellow, Roger Hendrix, went onto LDS critic John Dehlin’s podcast to discuss the Church’s finances. 

They discussed a range of topics, including auditors of the Church, Deseret Management Company (Church’s holding company), Bonneville, Ensign Peak and other investment entities, management of tithing, the Church real estate entity, financial transparency, the Church’s net worth, and other related issues.

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John repeatedly asked about conflicts of interest, nepotism, possible fraud, directing money to General Authorities’ kids’ startup businesses, the City Creek project, and other common critics’ claims and innuendo.

Bro. Hendrix repeatedly swatted those and related conspiracy theories away.  Where Bro. Hendrix worked for 18 years — Deseret Trust Company — was a business that followed the law.  And all his time around others in Church management operated just as he did:  ethically, professionally, and legally.

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Roger explained that he got a stipend when part of the trust company, but not close to what he earned on other boards.  In fact, Roger stated on other boards he’s “made a lot of dough.”   His stipend at the trust company didn’t change in 18 years.   Sounds like it was around $10K/year.  His colleagues who worked with him gave up lots of “dough”, according to Roger to work in a Church environment.

President N. Eldon Tanner

Further, no General Authorities sit on these boards.  But back in the 1960s, N. Eldon Tanner started this trust company.  And other LDS leaders did sit on the board.  But not any longer.

No, the Church doesn’t steal money from ex-Mormons’ inheritance, though John Dehlin suggested otherwise.  Dehlin also suggested General Authorities’ families and companies directly and inappropriately benefited from the trust.  John made all these claims and pushed innuendo, all without evidence.  Out of thin air.

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Short answer to these claims:  no.  Such actions are unethical and illegal.  This trust company, like any other, is run according to state and national laws.

Roger described the bright, trained people that work for the Church.  He included that these same bright people have the Spirit, pray, and practice their faith.

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John repeatedly asked questions that revealed John’s ignorance of trusts, non-profits, and investments in general.

In my opinion, John is looking for a boogey man.  He believes in a sort of Bigfoot.  Something the Church is hiding, lying about.  Something he’ll never find. Cuz the Church doesn’t operate that way.  Never has.

More questions about Church finances, tithing, etc.

John Dehlin tried another gotcha interview with Michael Quinn.  Michael was excommunicated in the 90s, but despite not being a member today, still has faith in the Church.  He is an excellent researcher/historian and shares a lot about the Church’s finances.

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Michael details the history of stipends for LDS leaders and how the Church got onto solid financial footing.  He further shares details of the multiple entities the Church uses to invest and handle its assets and overall portfolio. The Church behaves ethically and in line with its mission throughout the globe.

In addition, Michael takes the side of transparency, saying that this would be faith promoting.  He quotes others who were connected to all Church finance details who suggest the Church has nothing to hide and would benefit from sharing financial information.

Michael even discusses the few financial abuses in our history:  Brigham and his son accumulated wealth, an accountant who embezzled in the 60s.

Yet, he explains that the values of our leaders have been exemplary in their attempts to manage the Church’s assets.  He finishes by saying faithful members should likely adjust their view by understanding Quinn’s data (book), but in his view, should remain faithful.

Gospel Tangents interviewed Quinn: