Finances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This 15-barreled silo at Welfare Square contains enough wheat to feed a small city for 6 months.[1]

Finances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) are similar to other non-profit and religious organizations, in that their funding comes from the donations of its members and the principal expense is in constructing and maintaining facilities.[2]

When the LDS Church takes in more donations than it pays out in period expenses, it uses the surplus to build a reserve for capital expenditures and for future years when period expenses may exceed donations. The church invests its reserve to maintain the principal and generate a reasonable return and directs its investments into income-producing assets that may help it in its mission, such as farmland- and communication-related companies and the City Creek Center (see below).[3]

The LDS Church has not publicly disclosed its financial statements in the United States since 1959.[4] The church does disclose its financials in the United Kingdom[5] and Canada[6] where it is required to do so by law. In the UK, these financials are audited by the UK office of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The LDS Church maintains an internal audit department that provides its certification at each annual general conference that contributions are collected and spent in accordance with established church policy. In addition, the church engages a public accounting firm (currently Deloitte) to perform annual audits in the United States of its not-for-profit,[7] for-profit,[8] and some educational[9][10] entities.


In the 1880s and '90s, the LDS Church fell into severe financial distress due to several factors that were exacerbated by the nationwide economic depression that began with the Panic of 1893.

Under the provisions of the anti-polygamy Edmunds–Tucker Act of 1887 which were upheld in the 1890 Supreme Court ruling Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. United States, the U.S. government had confiscated LDS Church property, including tithing money donated by members (real estate such as churches and temples was never seized, though the Edmund-Tucker act allowed for such seizures). Additionally, the LDS Church had borrowed extensively to finance a variety of infrastructural developments such as gristmills and after the 1893 financial crisis the LDS Church was unable to make timely payments on their loans. Wilford Woodruff, church president from 1889 to 1898, privately expressed doubt that the church would ever pay its debts.[11] Eventually the LDS Church obtained the backing of investment bank Kuhn, Loeb & Co. to issue bonds backed by the labor of Utah residents.[11]

By the time Lorenzo Snow became church president in 1898, the church was $2.3 million in debt.[12] Snow reemphasized the payment of tithing (giving 10% of one's income to the church) and by 1907 the church was completely out of debt and since then has not used debt to fund its operations, even for capital projects.[13][14] An early pioneer venture of the LDS Church was ZCMI which lasted from 1868 to divesting ZCMI Center Mall in 2007.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the church greatly increased spending on buildings under the leadership of Henry Moyle. Moyle's reasoning was that by building larger meetinghouses the church would attract more converts. The accelerated building program led to a $32 million deficit in 1962. It was Moyle who convinced David O. McKay to discontinue publishing an annual financial statement in order to hide the extent of the spending.[15] Eventually, McKay relieved Moyle from his administrative responsibilities and spending was reined in.[16]

Moyle is also responsible for acquiring what is today one of the church's most valuable properties: the Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch.[17] Another highly profitable asset is the Polynesian Cultural Center that became one of Hawaii's most popular tourist attractions under the leadership of Howard W. Hunter during the 1960s and 1970s.[18]

Current source of funding[edit]

Most of the LDS Church's revenues comes in the form of tithes and fast offerings contributed by church members.[19] Tithing donations are used to support operations of the church, including construction and maintenance of buildings and other facilities, and are transferred from local units directly to church headquarters in Salt Lake City, where the funds are centrally managed.[20] It is estimated that about ten percent of its funding also comes from income on its investments,[citation needed] mostly direct investments.

Fast offerings donations are used to assist both church members and non-members in need. As part of the church's welfare program, the funds may be used to stock a local Bishop's Storehouse or food bank to assist in caring for those in need.

Use of funds[edit]

The LDS Church uses most of its financial resources to construct and maintain buildings and other facilities. The church also spends its funds on providing social welfare and relief and supporting missionary, educational, and other church-sponsored programs.[21][22] Additionally, mission presidents,[23] who serve full-time in these capacities, can receive compensation from the church in the form of housing, living allowances, and other benefits while they are on assignment. No funds are provided for services rendered.

Construction of facilities[edit]

The LDS Church builds additional chapels (structures used for weekly worship and for baptisms) and temples (structures used for eternal marriage and ordinances) as wards and branches of the church are organized. The church built about 40 smaller temples between 1998 and 2001. There are 164 dedicated temples (153 currently open; and 9 previously dedicated, but closed for renovation), 16 under construction, and 29 announced (not yet under construction). (See List of temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

Maintenance of facilities[edit]

The LDS Church pays to maintain its chapels and temples around the world. These costs include repairs, utilities, grounds maintenance, and specialized custodial work. Members also assist with cleaning local chapels by providing general custodial work. These facilities are cost-centers for the church, and maintaining them represents a significant use of the church's funds.[24] The materials used in church classes and the budgets to run activities and other things done by the various congregations of the church are also centrally funded. It also funds the printing and distribution of manuals for classes, and funds all congregational activities through centralized budgeting.[25]

Social welfare and relief[edit]

The LDS Church operates a welfare distribution system, as it encourages members to seek financial assistance from family and the church first before seeking public or state-sponsored welfare.[26] AgReserves Inc., Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch, and Farmland Reserve, Inc. are part of its welfare distribution system. Welfare resources are distributed by local bishops but maintained by the Presiding Bishopric. See Preparedness. It also sends relief aid to victims of earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and other natural disasters around the world. The relief effort has been recognized through many organizations and political leaders, including the United States leaders in reaction to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort by the church.


The LDS Church uses donations to support all, or part, of the Church Educational System (CES). As part of CES, the church owns, operates, and subsidizes education at Brigham Young University, BYU–Idaho, BYU–Hawaii, and LDS Business College. These four institutions of higher education provide religious education, for both church members and those of other faiths, in addition to regular university and college-level degree programs.

CES also includes the seminary program for secondary students (typically, ages 14–18), and institutes of religion for post-secondary students and adult learners. In 2011, approximately 730,000 individuals were enrolled in seminary and institute programs in 147 countries.[27] CES courses of study are separate from religious instruction provided through church congregations.

The church also operates a handful of elementary and secondary schools[28] in the Pacific Islands and Mexico.

Other programs[edit]

The LDS Church also spends tithing funds collected on missionary, youth, and other programs which the church considers to be within its mission. Although the families of LDS missionaries (usually young men ages 18–25 or young women above age 19) generally pay US$400 a month for missions,[29] additional general funds of the church support missionaries unable to pay for their own missions. Church members may donate to assist in supporting these missionaries. Additionally, the church provides a mission office and mission home for each of its 405 missions and pays for television advertising offering free copies of the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and church-produced videos and DVDs. The cost of printing or producing these materials is covered by the church and the materials are distributed for free. Throughout the world, it also supports Scouting programs for young men[30] and a youth organization for young women. The church also runs a large family history organization which collects records of genealogical import from many archives worldwide and allows online family tree collaboration. It also creates and publishes curriculum and audio/video (church films, etc.)[31], and has a "church history" establishment to collect and preserve record of the church.

Volunteer labor[edit]

The LDS Church tempers its cash expenses through the use of volunteer labor. In 1995, the church's human resources department estimated that the 96,484 volunteers serving at the time contributed services having an annual value of $360 million. This data did not include those serving as full-time church missionaries.[13]


Time magazine estimated in 1996 that the church's assets exceeded $30 billion.[1] This figure represents only one side of the balance sheet and does not include current liabilities for maintenance, although the LDS Church incurs virtually no long-term liabilities.[13] After the Time article was published, the church responded that the financial figures in the article were "grossly exaggerated."[32] Three years later, annual revenues were estimated to be $5 billion, with total assets at $25 to $30 billion.[33] Whatever the actual figure, some estimate that about two-thirds of it is made up of non-income-producing facilities and the land they sit on, including temples[34] and thousands of meetinghouses the church operates worldwide, as well as educational institutions, such as Brigham Young University.[citation needed] The remaining assets include direct investments in for-profit businesses largely managed through Deseret Management Corporation. Although the church is a tax-exempt organization, its for-profit entities generate "unrelated business income" that is subject to federal, state, and local income and other taxes.

Officially the church states that its commercial businesses make a "relatively small" amount of money and are "primarily an outgrowth of enterprises which were begun when the Church was isolated in the West. The commercial businesses owned by the Church help serve the needs of the Church in accomplishing its mission."[19]

Holdings include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Biema, David Van. (August 4, 1997). "Kingdom Come". 150 (5). Time Magazine. Retrieved 2006-09-02. With unusual cooperation from the Latter-day Saints hierarchy (which provided some financial figures and a rare look at LDS church businesses), TIME has been able to quantify the LDS church's extraordinary financial vibrancy. Its current assets total a minimum of $30 billion.
  2. ^ Hinckley, Gordon B. "Questions and Answers - Gordon B. Hinckley". LDS Church.
  3. ^ Hines, Alice (22 March 2012). "What Would Jesus Buy Here?".
  4. ^ Stack, Peggy Fletcher. "Order to release financial data has LDS Church, courts on collision course". Salt Lake Tribune. July 13, 2007. Accessed 13 July 2007.
  5. ^ [1][2] - provided by the Charity Commission based on the Charities Act
  6. ^ "Charities Listings - Basic search results".
  7. ^ "Why Deseret Trust Company?" Accessed 16 Sept 2018.
  8. ^ Belo Corp Form 8-K. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-04-30. Retrieved 2008-06-04.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link). Accessed 16 May 2007.
  9. ^ "Financial Planning". "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-05-27. Retrieved 2008-06-04.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link). Accessed 16 May 2007.
  10. ^ "Finance". See page 9 of pdf document available at "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-12. Retrieved 2009-02-05.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link). Accessed 16 May 2007.
  11. ^ a b Taylor, Samuel W. (1978). Rocky Mountain Empire: The Later-Day Saints Today. NY: Macmillan Pub. Co., Inc., 1978, p.65-69.
  12. ^ "Lorenzo Snow". Accessed 2013-04-03.[unreliable source?]
  13. ^ a b c Hinckley, Gordon B. "Of Missions, Temples, and Stewardship". Ensign. November 1995, p. 51.
  14. ^ Godfrey, Matthew C. (2007). Religion, politics, and sugar: the Mormon Church, the federal government, and the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, 1907-1921. Lehi, Utah: Utah State University Press. pp. 42–43. ISBN 0-87421-658-3. OCLC 74988178.
  15. ^ Quinn, D. Michael. "The Mormon 'Baseball Baptism' Era". Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  16. ^ Prince, Gregory A.; Wright, William Robert (2005). David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. University of Utah Press. ISBN 0-87480-822-7.
  17. ^ Barnett, Cynthia. "The Church's Ranch". Florida Trend Archives. December 2001.
  18. ^ "President Howard W. Hunter: The Lord's "Good and Faithful Servant". Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  19. ^ a b "Church Finances—Commercial Businesses". Retrieved 2013-04-03.
  20. ^ Edgley, Richard; Edling, Wilford G. "Finances of the Church". In Daniel H. Ludlow (ed.). Encyclopedia of Mormonism. 2. New York: Macmillan. pp. 507–9.
  21. ^ "Commentary: The Church and Its Financial Independence",, LDS Church, 12 July 2012
  22. ^ Nadauld, Stephen D. (1992). "Financial Contribution". In Ludlow, Daniel H (ed.). Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing. pp. 509–510. ISBN 0-02-879602-0. OCLC 24502140.
  23. ^ Day, Gerald J. (1992). "Mission President". In Ludlow, Daniel H (ed.). Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing. pp. 914–915. ISBN 0-02-879602-0. OCLC 24502140.
  24. ^ Hinckley, Gordon B. "The Widow's Mite". BYU Speeches. 17 September 1985.
  25. ^ "Budget allowance - LDSTech".
  26. ^ Haight, David B. "The Stake President's Role in Welfare Services - Ensign Nov. 1978 - ensign".
  27. ^ Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Annual Report for 2012 (PDF), LDS Church
  28. ^ "Mormon church earns $7 billion a year from tithing, analysis indicates". CNN.
  29. ^ Acts of Faith: 2005 The News & Observer
  30. ^ "History of Scouting in the Church". Retrieved 2007-11-07.
  31. ^
  32. ^ Hinckley, Gordon B. (November 1997). "Latter-day Saints in Very Deed". Ensign. 27 (11): 85. Retrieved 2013-04-03. A recent magazine article praised us as a well-run financial institution of great wealth. It grossly exaggerated the figures.
  33. ^ Ostling, Richard and Joan. Mormon America. pp. 395–400. ISBN 0-06-066371-5.
  34. ^ There are 164 dedicated temples (153 currently open; and 9 previously dedicated, but closed for renovation), 16 under construction, and 29 announced (not yet under construction).
  35. ^ Financial Information. Beneficial Financial Group. Retrieved on 2006-01-25.
  36. ^ Deseret News Publishing Company is a Subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation a for-profit corporation affiliated with the Church [3].
  37. ^ Duggan, Joe, Mormon land holdings rise. Lincoln Journal Star 2004-10-03.
  38. ^ 2008 Osage County Plat Book, Osage County Conservation District
  39. ^ Deseret Cattle and Citrus Ranch east of Orlando, Florida is the world's largest beef ranch, and the land is worth an estimated $858 million. (Biema, 1997)[full citation needed]
  40. ^ History from Polynesian Cultural Center website
  41. ^ Pacific Business News (Honolulu), 6 March 2007. Mormon entities contribute $173M to economy. Accessed 2013-04-03.

Further reading[edit]