Friday, June 20, 2008

Tithing and the LDS Mall and City Creek Center Project

Since the unveiling of the LDS Church's plan for the downtown Salt Lake Crossroads Mall project (City Creek Center), there has been some vocal complaining. Some feel like the church shouldn't be involved in these kinds of projects. Others feel like the money for such extravagant projects could be put to better use helping the poor. Not that they have any idea how to help the poor, but this kind of thing ain't it, according to them. The LDS church should start a soup kitchen, women's shelter or have a van that passes out hygiene kits. That is helping the poor, not extravagant shopping mall with a retractable roof (nice touch; to bad Gateway didn't think of that). While shelters and soup kitchens are great ideas and Salt Lake has those programs, and I have personally participated in them, I think the complaints against the new City Creek Center are based on some unfortunate misunderstandings.

First off, no tithing dollars are being used for the City Creek Center. This Downtown revitalization project is being funded by Property Reserve which is the LDS church's commercial real-estate arm. This company functions like the LDS Foundation which gets its money from the profits from church associated companies like Bonneville Communications and Beneficial Life as well as dividends and interest from other investments. LDS subsidiaries like Property Reserve and the LDS Foundation are used to maintain the churches non-profit status by using earnings from investments to contribute to the local community.

Many donations are made to local charities by the LDS Foundation in addition to the Corporation of the First Presidency or Cooperation of the Presiding Bishopric which run the church's welfare and humanitarian aid programs. The problem with the LDS church is that it is managed well. The church invests its tithing money very conservatively. However, invested money earns interest. So, to maintain the church's tax-exempt status, subsidiaries like the LDS Foundation use those earnings to give to support local soup kitchens, women's shelters, and even in several instances has contributed to repair fire-damaged or time-worn churches of other denominations in the Salt Lake City area. LDS Foundation donations are not reported in conference. Like the LDS Foundation, Property Reserve uses earnings obtained by being major shareholders in several businesses. This money represents earnings from dividends and interest on investments but it is not the tithing itself. Also, the LDS church does not feel a need to set up competing programs in the community. If there is a program that works, the LDS church is happy to fund it and support it instead of competing against it.

The City Creek Center and other downtown revitalization projects are a great service to Salt Lake City. Crossroads mall was not built to any kind of seismic code. The entire mall and parking structure would have collapsed in even a moderate earthquake. Salt Lake couldn't find any investors or developers who were willing to touch this project with a 10-foot pole. So, the city does what it always does when it gets into a financial pinch and turns to the LDS church for a bail out. And the LDS church comes through in a spectacular way. Crossroads was such a disaster that the church just demolished the entire mall and parking deck and needed to start from scratch. However, because the church is doing such an excellent job, they were able to attract Taubman Centers, Inc. as a partner-owner in the project. Taubman Centers, Inc is the #1 upscale mall owner-development company in the United States. This mall project is a benevolent action on the part of the LDS church that will create jobs and improve the image of downtown Salt Lake and support increased commerce and tourism. The increased residential space downtown will also support those who wish to live and work in close proximity saving money on the increasing costs of gasoline and transportation.

That said, there is another major and even more fundamental misunderstanding at work here involving the purpose of tithing. The purpose of tithing is not to feed or assist the poor. Tithing is to be used to build the kingdom of God. It is wrong to think that just because you pay your tithing, that you no longer have responsibility to care for the poor and needy. Tithing is Gods money and is used specifically for building the Kingdom of God and is not to be "double-counted" as providing for the poor. Tithing is used to build temples and churches worldwide and maintain buildings and church programs. For this precise reason, the LDS church collects a fast offering, in addition to tithing, which is used to fund local, church-wide welfare and worldwide humanitarian aid programs. These programs are overseen by the Corporation of the First Presidency and the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop. Sometimes it can be easy to be generous with Gods money then your own money.

Above giving tithing and a generous fast offering, LDS members are encouraged to join local service organizations like their local Rotary or Kiwanis Clubs and donate money and time to local and worldwide service projects. The Rotary Club in Salt Lake operates an extensive child reading and tutoring program and worldwide they are building wells, and building grain mills so that young women don't have to spend all day grinding grain by hand. By employing such simple technology like a grain mill, it allows young women who used to spend all day grinding grain by hand, the time to attend school. The Rotary Club also sponsors a vaccination program with the goal to eradicate polio by 2010. Programs sponsored by private organizations like the Rotary Club are needed because many countries will allow programs sponsored by the Rotary organization while they do not allow government or religious group sponsored programs.

Again, feeding the poor is not the purpose of tithing. Tithing is to build the kingdom. It is our responsibility to feed the poor with our own money and not Gods money. Sounds like some are generous with Gods money which they hope will cover their responsibility for the poor. That is just like many liberals who when asked if they help the poor say they pay taxes and think that that should suffice and that It is the governments job to help the poor. Yes, the government has an obligation to alleviate suffering, and churches generally are more efficient than the government at helping the poor. But, that is what fast offering is for and not tithing. However, no one does a better job at helping the poor than families, neighbors, and individuals.

Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house.

Some critics quote Malachi to support the idea that tithing is to be used to feed the poor. However, they do not understand that God does not need literal food in His house which is the Temple. The food spoken of in Malachi 3 is not edible food. This verse is speaking figuratively for resources for Gods temples to be built. And that is why LDS church members pay offerings on top of a full tithing. Tithing does not get us out of our responsibility to care for the poor. I know many would like to "double dip" and use tithing and taxes to satisfy their "rich guilt." This is why on top of paying tithing the Early Christians lived "with all things in common." That is, they lived the law of consecration. Tithing alone was not enough to care for the poor. Tithing is to build the kingdom. Everything else you have is to care for the poor. Remember that Christ told the the rich young man to sell everything he had, not just 10% and give it to the poor and come and follow Him.

Matt. 19: 21 (Mark 10: 21) Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

Finally, in accordance with Malachi 3, tithing money is used precisely to build and support the house of God. "My house" in Malachi 3 is referring to the temple. And the LDS church uses its tithing to build temples all over the world making the everlasting temple covenants and sealings available to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples. The temple more than any other program serves to empower people to pull themselves out of poverty. The temple breaks the poverty cycle. To be worthy to enter the temple one must forsake the destructive societal plagues of promiscuity, substance abuse, and dishonesty.


Latter-Day Sustainablist said...

Thanks for sharing. I have been wondering about the funding for the City Creek Development.

Green Mormon Architect just wrote a post regarding the environmental qualities of the development.

My favorite quote from the post:

“'The decision to pursue LEED certification was a natural outflow of the values of the LDS faith.' CCRI Director of Architecture and Engineering Bill Williams says long term sustainability is central to the project. ‘As you look at the tenets of our religion, there is a notion that we must be good stewards in all that we do,’ explains Williams. ‘It is our hope that this project will be prosperous, while standing true to our values of wise stewardship and giving back to the community.'"

Anonymous said...

To say that no current tithing is being used to fund this project is technically correct. But, somebody's tithing at some point in the past helped to establish the organizations that are currently paying for this project. so I think it is accurate to say that tithing has helped pay for this project, even if it is tithing from generations ago.

Stephen said...

The project should (a) keep Salt Lake City a sustainable city, (b) turn a net profit, (c) have a positive impact on the Church's ability to use its existing superstructure.

BRoz said...

These businesses were started with bank loans and not tithing money. Money spent on the City Creek Center is from profits, dividends, and interest from church investments. The interest from investments is paying for the mall but not the principal. This project and others like it benifit the community and help the church to maintain its non-profit status.

Anonymous said...

The church is building a new world Vatican. This money could have been invested in any number of countries in the same way that would reap much greater benefits. The church is still asking members to work with meager budgets.

Derek said...

The LDS "church" is not a church. It's a corporation that doesn't pay taxes.

Anonymous said...

I am consistently saddened by those who seek only to put a negative light on the church. THANK YOU for explaining the city creek center project to me and those seeking actual information about it. I think if you were to put everything into perspective financially speaking the money invested in this particular project that was earned by the church through other legitimate businesses(BUSINESSES not the church itself) vs. the money used for welfare and humanitarian services every year as donated by the church members, it would be laughable to even try to compare. Additionally many people fail to recognize that 100% of the money given by the members of the church, as "fast offerings" is spent directly on welfare and humanitarian aid. Sadly you can't say that about many major charities.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for having a comment section.

I really love the doctrine , the scriptures, and the rich heritage of truth we have as Latter Day Saints... but let's be honest. No, I'm not trying to be negative and put the church in a dark light (it has done that for itself). I'm just gonna say that this City Creek Mall really makes it hard for me NOT to separate "the Church" from the doctrine I still believe in.

Seriously, how is building this development really building up God's Kingdom? Someone please help us make sense of it. I mean, how much more mainstream are we gonna go to chase after new converts? Are we really that peculiar anymore? And don't pretend that only us Mormons have good moral standards.

A mall is like the center for wasteful spending, a place to satisfy one's covetousness.

When does Christ stoop down to the sinners' level to invite them to come to him? So why is the church playing the world's game in hopes to win over new converts?

And since when does a non-profit organization (at least I thought our church was non-profit) start investing in FOR profit developments?

I'll say one thing ... if it turns out that this mall really is completed by 2012 AND it brings in enough business to recoup the investment cost during this failing economic system, I will really have a renewed testimony that Monson is a true Prophet and not merely the CEO of this LDS corporation. Because I really do look forward to a true Zion. The kind of Zion that is described in the scriptures.

a little bit angry said...

I cannot understand why our church leaders would invest our money into something so worldly. It might not be from tithing funds directly, but without tithing it wouldn't have happened. What should we say to those in different poor countries who dream of going to church in a nice building, or attending a temple? I guess that profits and our wealthy western city are more important that those who would give anything for their faith. It is a despicable thing for us to build this mall.

BRoz said...

The LDS church is graciously bailing out Salt Lake City yet again. Crossroads mall was a disaster in architectural design and needed to be condemed. Malls are not inherently evil. City Creek Center is an investment in which the LDS church is already projected to make a healthy return. The mall, housing, and parking will be a wonderful asset to the city of Salt Lake for years. It is important ti be concerned with people in Africa but one should never forget his responsibility is for his family first and neighbor second. The greatest difference we can make are to the people who we see and associate with every day.

Jon said...

I think it is a wondeful thing that the Church is going to invest in this Mall, because now we will be able to do something about all this shopping going on during the Sabath. I remember hearing the prophet talk in conference about how dismayed he was when he looked at all of the cars in the parking lot at the mall, and not in the church parking lot. Well, now the church can extend its influence on the fully-owned subsiaries to place convenants on the tenants of this mall that they will not operate on the Sabbath, or sell pornography, or give tatoos, or do body piercing, or other things that we do not want to use the resources of the Kingdom to build a venue for, right? Surely the wise stewards of the Kingdom's resources were listening in conference, and built those covenants into the tenant agreements and got everyone on board with the idea when we selected a mall construction partner, right? I refuse to believe that anything else could be the case. It would be unthinkable.

Anonymous said...

It is important ti be concerned with people in Africa but one should never forget his responsibility is for his family first and neighbor second

Yes ... it's much more important for our family and neighbors (in Utah) to have nice, new, shiny malls, than for children in Africa to have hope.

David B said...

Children in Africa suffer due to HIV, and tribal conflict. One tribe may control the fertile land and exclude other tribes. LDS do help in Africa and the LDS church used non-tithing money to bail out SLC yet again after Crossroads mall was abandoned due to sub-standard building and competition from gateway.

The biggest way to help Africa is to give them the gospel of Jesus Christ which elevates man to lift himself out of poverty instead of just taking handouts. They need handups not handouts. They also need DDT to stop malaria, and vaccines to contol disease, chastity to stop HIV, wells for clean water, grain mills to grind grain, micro credit for loans, and business investment to industrialize.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time beliving that

everyone who wrote negative

comments, read, and understood, the

hole text above..!

Anonymous said...

I "read the hole text" and have some points that I disagree with. I, as a church member, have never been encouraged to join a club like Rotary or Kiwanis. One major point is how LDS members are encouraged to join those and donate their money, and Rotary does so much good, therefore, the Church is responsible for all that good that Rotary is doing. Huh? No matter what they say that money was originally tithing money.

The church is currently telling members who need financial help that they can't because of the bad economy and low donations. One of my clients at a social service agency became homeless with her children because the church wouldn't help. She was told that they just couldn't help because donations are really down.

sugarbunny119 said...

I really enjoyed your article. I'm an inactive member because I do not believe the church is working for God, but rather, is an extension of the Republican party. Unfortunately, however well informed your post was, and despite how positive it did make me feel about the church, it only continued to prove my belief is true. The Mormon church is supposed to be "everyone's church" and it would do well to stop actively alienating everyone who isn't a hardcore conservative like yourself, and rather, simply teach the word of God.

David B said...

Please read my political blog at Most LDS are Republican because of the abortion issue. But I personally disagree with many other policies of the current Reagan Sean Hannity Conservative Movement.

I consider myself a Lincoln and William McKinley Republican. I also have respect for JFK for precisely the reasons that got all 3 assassinated.

Lincoln, McKinley, and JFK were all assassinated for the same reason.

Anonymous said...

The church does so much behind the scenes that NO ONE even realizes. So to say that they don't do anything for haiti, africa, etc. They do all of this and more, people just done know it. So, maybe instead of finding fault...What are you doing to do your part?

Anonymous said...

"These businesses were started with bank loans and not tithing money"

Do you have a source for this BROZ? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Use the money for "one of many countries worldwide?" When will Americans realize citizens HERE need help!! There are hungry, sick people (no insurance) here- lets help them first!!!

AK said...

How can anyone say what the Church does with their money? They closed the books to the members 50 years ago. So for anyone to say anything is a fact, it is really just what they believe.....

Lynn said...

I think it's good to look beyond the City Creek Center and recognize the humanatatian help the church gives throughout the world. They do it all. How can this happen if the Lord isn't at the helm?


Michael said...

ALL money held by the LDS corporation is either donations or money made on donations, no matter how long ago.

This is beside the point however, if the LDS church has billions to invest in real estate, it has billions to build hospitals or fund education or do SOMETHING for people, kinda like Jesus would.

Anonymous said...

It would seem that there are two choices on how to feel about this issue. As I see them: The Leaders of the church are either inspired of God or they are not. If you beleive they are inspired men of God, then you can accept how they manage the Lords financial rescources. If you think they are not inspired, then it is possible for you to feel that money has been misappropriated. I choose to feel they are inspired. Today Tithing, Fast Offerings, etc. all are catagorized to be spent specifically as donated. I think what is forgotten is that once the money is given, it becomes the Lords and He can administer it as He sees fit. I recall that He once sent His deciples to pick corn on the sabbath. He was persecuted for this, but reminded those pointing the finger that He was Lord of the Sabbath. Is He not also Lord of the Churches Finances? What if one day all accounts were combined as one? Does Christ himself have to tell us in person that he is Lord of the Churches Finances just as He told those anciently that He was Lord of the Sabbath? I sincerely hope this is not the case.

Anonymous said...

My heart breaks everyday for those who have been enslaved in the disguise of freedom I'm not here to insult Mormonism or its followers for I use to be one myself ,all I ask of you people is to use your God given intellectual minds and think

Marty Cerisano said...

@Michael, you said:
This is beside the point however, if the LDS church has billions to invest in real estate, it has billions to build hospitals or fund education or do SOMETHING for people, kinda like Jesus would.

Yes we have plenty of evidence that Jesus spent his money building hospitals and funding education. This is a solid criticism.

Sarcasm aside, the problem I have with naive and uninformed criticism is that fact that, is naive and uninformed. There is no basis of a well researched arguments or facts found in your comments. Do you have any idea what efforts the LDS church goes to in assisting those in need, both foreign and domestic? Do you have detailed accounting reports with established facts that indicate the church is irresponsible in its stewardship?

On the tenable side of the argument, a solid basis for wise stewardship and smart investing is indeed structurally based...see Matthew 25.

Anonymous said...

Good article but I think you are missing the point. I know that the Church didn't use tithing to build the mall. They used returns from for-profit companies that they own. Companies that grow orchards or raise cattle. These are great as they help with food for those that are in need.

The point is that the Church is building a mall. Mall. There is no need to build a mall. There is no need to come to the aid of a failed mall. Spending 2 billion dollars (USD) on a project that the average member cannot afford. Can you afford to shop at Tiffany's or eat daily at the Cheesecake Factory? Both of which are in the mall. We were taught to be frugal and not go into debt. But now we are to support a mall that will entice modern fashions and ideas?

Does the Church really need these companies?

Anonymous said...

Well written I must say. I do believe though that you are missing the very central point. This church, this people(LDS members) are not to build Zion off of Babylonian principles. It never has been nor never will be that way no matter how hard you rationalize.

Mormon 8:36-39
36 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.
37 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.
38 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?
39 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?

2 Nephi 28:13
13 They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.

Max Sweat said...

Christ said we should let our light shine before men, and not hide it under a bushel. He also said, when some Pharisees and Judas complained saying: "Why was not this ointment sold ...and given to the poor?"; when expensive ointment was being used to anoint the feet of Jesus:
"Then said Jesus , Let her alone... For the poor always ye have with you, but me ye have not always."

To those Pharisees, Judas', and others, who complain that the money used to build the mall should have been used for the poor, perhaps the words of Jesus would suffice: "Leave her (My Church)alone...for the poor always ye have with you; but my Church ye have not had always.

If the Lord sanctioned the use of expensive ointment to bathe his feet, why not bathe the feet of His Church with beauty and excellence that will not only keep downtown SLC from falling into disrepair, becoming a slum area, but also aid in helping the city and the Lord's Church become a shining city set on a hill, for all to see? Or, is that what you are fighting against, after all?

Let us all, lift up our eyes and beware of pride.

Redwriter said...

Luke 13:10-17 The woman was stooped over for 18 years and the synagogue leaders complained. 2 kings Elisha helped the widow pay off her debts through the selling of oil. We as believers cannot shy away from helping people. There are so many ways to helping people from a mall that will help a community with unemployment to helping individuals start a business. What would be more shameful a man stealing to feed his family or the church providing the same man a job in a mall. i see too many believers who are critical of people trying to do something to better a community

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this is true or not. I know somewhere in the Doctrine & Covenants, several church leaders were commanded to buy stock in a church owned boarding house, right? Do you know how any of the church's for profits were actually started?

Anonymous said...

Ew...the big bad boogie man corporations. I'm wondering what kind of point you think you have here.

It's a church buddy. Spinning the narrative into some pointless complaint about corporations isn't going to change that and even then, it doesn't matter. The church has a fit peopl fit division and a non-profit division. Why don't you put your mental energies into topics that are actually worth discussing?

Anonymous said...

This article is not quite accurate about the legal implications. It states that "LDS subsidiaries like Property Reserve and the LDS Foundation are used to maintain the churches non-profit status" this is not true. The statement implies that somehow these for profit subsidiaries are part of complying with the tax code, but in fact they exist in a very controversial grey area in the tax code. Other churches have been severely punished for similar financial dealings, and even lost their 501(c)3 status. This exact scheme has not been litigated, but it does not help the church maintain tax free status, it is a carefully crafted loophole to the rules against for profit enterprises by churches. Other churches have investment income, but they spend those proceeds on non profit purposes. Making a distinction between tithing, and the interest earned from investing it, is something other churches simply do not do. All of the donations, tithings, and offerings, any church receives, including and dividend on those funds, are supposed to be spent on non profit purposes. That is not only legal, it is expected, maybe even required. The fact that the church is attempting to get around this rule is the reason for the controversy. Of course there are legal arguments that can plausibly be made for why this should be legal, and it is very profitable, and gives the church huge financial leverage, that is why the church is doing it, but that is very different than saying this is legal. It could be legal, or it could be illegal, only a lawsuit from the IRS would really establish which it is, and in the mean time it provides billions of dollars annually to the church. These billions can forward the cause of the church in many ways, so it is easy to see this as good management. It may in fact be good management, but it is not a clearly legal, or clearly ethical move. That is why there is a controversy. And pretending their are not two sides to this conflict, and two legitimate viewpoints about the morality and legality of the issues is not reasonable. This author attempts to say that there are not two well reasoned perspectives here, or any legitimate legal problems, as such the thesis of the article is a fallacy.

David B said...

I LDS Church is managed excellently. That's why it garners so many haters on this issue, I suppose. Many hospitals and hospital systems divide up their business into for-profit portions and non-profit portions. Is this ethical? Salt Lake pleaded for the LDS Church to bail out the failing Crossroads Mall. The City Creek Center is a stunning $250 million/yr in taxable retail sales success. Real estate is a worthy investment like stocks or bonds. In reality, no money has been spent but invested in the community and providing a good return.