Censorship, Church Finances & President Hinckley
In November 2013, Church Historian Elder Steven E. Snow acknowledged the Church’s censorship and pointed to the advent of the internet as the contributing factor to the Church’s inability to continue its pattern of hiding information and records from members and investigators:
I think in the past there was a tendency to keep a lot of the records closed or at least not give access to information. But the world has changed in the last generation — with the access to information on the Internet, we can’t continue that pattern; I think we need to continue to be more open.
CES Letter, Page 116
The above paragraph is a new addition to the latest CES Letter.
There is zero transparency to members of the Church. Why is the one and only true Church keeping its books in the dark? Why would God’s one true Church choose to “keep them in darkness” over such a stewardship? History has shown time and time again that secret religious wealth is breeding ground for corruption.
The Church used to be transparent with its finances but ceased disclosures in 1959.
CES Letter, Page 116-117
The church discloses its finances to the Australian and UK governments each year. One can find the finances from 2013 forward by clicking on the Australian government website here. and on the UK government website here.
The church also submits financial disclosers to Canada, Hong Kong, and New Zealand.
One estimate put the church tithing intake each year at $6 billion
ESTIMATED $1.5 BILLION LUXURY MEGAMALL CITY CREEK CENTER
- Total Church humanitarian aid from 1985-2011: $1.4 billion
- Something is fundamentally wrong with “the one true Church” spending more on an estimated $1.5 billion dollar high-end megamall than it has in 26 years of humanitarian aid.
- For an organization that claims to be Christ’s only true Church, this expenditure is a moral failure on so many different levels. For a Church that asks its members to sacrifice greatly for Temple building, such as the case of Argentinians giving the Church gold from their dental work for the São Paulo Brazil Temple, this mall business is absolutely shameful.
- Of all the things that Christ would tell His prophet, the prophet buys a mall and says “Let’s go shopping!”? Of all the sum total of human suffering and poverty on this planet, the inspiration the Brethren feel for His Church is to get into the declining high-end shopping mall business?
CES Letter, Page 116-117
This is simply not true. Per Deseret News, "The church conducts myriad other humanitarian and welfare projects, including its fast-offering program. Together with Latter-day Saint Charities, the total humanitarian and welfare spending of the church approaches $1 billion per year, according to the Presiding Bishopric."
Additionally, "three entities in Laie affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- Brigham Young University of Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center and Hawaii Reserves Inc. -- pumped more than $173 million into the Hawaii economy in 2005, according to a new report."
PRESIDENT HINCKLEY’S DISHONEST INTERVIEW
President Hinckley made the following dishonest statement in a 2002 interview to a German journalist:
In my country, the...we say the people’s Churches, the Protestants, the Catholics, they publish all their budgets, to all the public.
Why is it impossible for your Church?
Well, we simply think that the...that information belongs to those who made the contribution, and not to the world. That’s the only thing. Yes.
Where can I see the Church’s books? I’ve paid tithing. Where can I go to see what the Church’s finances are? Where can current tithing paying members go to see the books? The answer: we can’t. Even if you’ve made the contributions as President Hinckley stated above? Unless you’re an authorized General Authority or senior Church employee in the accounting department with a Non-Disclosure Agreement? You’re out of luck. President Hinckley knew this and for whatever reason made the dishonest statement.
CES Letter, Page 117
The finances of the Church are the low hanging fruit for critics who are not driven to assure proper spending patterns by Church leaders, but instead seem frustrated they are denied access to another area where they might raise their contrasting opinions.
While full transparency would provide another layer of audit from non-professionals, it can’t be argued that critics are primarily concerned that the funds are being used appropriately. As observed in The CES Letter generally, Church history and doctrine can be easily misrepresented—over and over. A full financial report would provide yet another focus of criticism from individuals who possess little concern for the Church’s success. They already seem unimpressed that the Church has contracted with a credible, independent, third party auditor.
For decades, the Church has acquired investments that can generate additional income or be liquidated if needed to meet the financial needs of a growing Church. Opinions will vary on how much income to invest verses how much to spend on Church projects or on feeding the poor. The Savior commented “the poor always ye have with you” (John 12:8). It is a true observation that all resources could be given to those in poverty without alleviate the poverty currently present on earth.
People may criticize the City Creek Mall as a Church investment, but it is on solid financial footings and has the added bonus by contributing to to efforts to create a favorable environment around the Salt Lake Temple, Tabernacle, visitors’ centers, Church History Library, Conference Center, Church Museum, and Family History Library. These buildings are essential to fulfilling the Church's mission locally and throughout the world.
Producing a comfortable atmosphere around the Church's headquarters is consistent with Joseph Smith’s original vision to build the Nauvoo House that was to “be a delightful habitation for man, and a resting-place for the weary traveler” (D&C 124:60).
Financial statements as required by law for public corporations do not provide detailed information and are not designed to demonstrate fraudulent accounting.
The LDS Church files financial statements in the United Kingdom as required by UK law. They show that the Church brings in more than it spends, and 97.66% of their expenses are related to “Charitable Activities.” It doesn’t tell us the most basic things us financial watchers might want to know.
Critics may look at the (non-released) financial situation of the LDS Church and claim, “surely they can do better helping the poor.” However, the question emerges regarding reality. Could the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better allocate its resources to give more to the poor? Perhaps missionaries could be asked to cut back, but they are already working on a shoestring budget. Building could be built more plain, with fewer extravagances, but then it is difficult in these very-functional buildings to identify any extravagances. Temple are exempt because they are the “House of God.” Leaders are not paid except for the highest echelon of sustained authorities who receive basic stipends and live meagerly compared to salaries they might have claimed in the secular world. There doesn’t seem to be any obvious places to cut back.
It seems that the outcome of full financial transparency would be additional criticisms with little advantage gained. The cost/benefit ratio for leaders making the decisions whether to release the financial records or maintain them private seem somewhat obvious.