August 14, 2012

The Business of the Mormon Church

MormonThe more successful a religion is, the more closely it seems to resemble a massive corporation. A successful religion tends to amass great wealth, and its leaders come to yield considerable influence. This influence often includes what we might characterize as political power.

When most of us think of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e., the Mormons), we think of a religion rather than a business. Perhaps we'd better recognize it as both. According to Peter Henderson of Reuters, the LDS Church brings in roughly $7 billion a year in tithes and donations.

Where does all this money come from? Here's how Ryan Cragun, a sociologist at the University of Tampa, put it in the same article:
Most of the revenue of the religion is from the U.S., and a large percentage comes from an elite cadre of wealthy donors, like Mitt Romney.
What would possess obscenely wealthy individuals like Mitt Romney to fund this church instead of supporting charitable organizations directly? Perhaps the church offers something in exchange for their financial support that charities cannot offer. Cragun explains,
(It) is a religion that appeals to economically successful men by rewarding their financial acuity with respect and positions of prestige within the religion.
It sounds like charity is often secondary to real estate investment, massive temples, and even for-profit ventures. I suppose this is exactly what one should expect from an American religion: business comes first.

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