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whistleblower on Church finances


Nofear

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Just now, Amulek said:

The Jurat is the part of the tax return where you sign, under oath, that everything is on the up-and-up. Here's the sort of boilerplate language for what that would look like (pulled from a couple of random returns I had laying around the office just now):

I declare under the penalties imposed by law that this return, including any accompanying schedules and statements, has been examined by me and to the best of my knowledge and belief is a true, correct and complete return. 

I hereby declare under the penalties of perjury and applicable penalties set forth in Chapter 431, HRS, that I have the authority to sign this statement on behalf of the above named insurer and that this statement, and the accompanying exhibits, to the best of my knowledge and belief, are true, correct, and complete and made in good faith, for the taxable year states.

Sometimes there will be a notary requirement and the language will be a bit different because the return will be set up to have you list your name, title, etc., swear to it being true, correct, complete, etc. and then have the notary sign and indicate that you have represented the same.

Regardless, the point of the signed Jurat is merely to remind you that you filing an official document with a governing entity. But, in and of itself, it isn't the sort of thing that the government comes after anyone for. It's more like an add-on crime that gets included when they have found you to have been doing something actually wrong and are looking to pile on additional charges. 

 

Thanks for the extra info. Out of points unfortunately.

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34 minutes ago, ttribe said:

You may have better information than me...I'm currently stuck in a continuing education program all day and can't spend much time on this today.

Ugh, CE's - everyone's favorite. Try to have fun...or at least stay awake. ;) 

 

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28 minutes ago, The Nehor said:

Yes, but you said it was taught by the Church institutionally. It is not.

Not to carry this on - but here is what I said in full: Sorry, I just can't resist commenting on this. I have heard in ward meetings and in church publications that Church members hesitate to associate with non-Church members or allow their children to associate with non-Church member children because the faithful Church member has higher standards than non-Church members. Thus, associating with non-members might influence them to lower their standards. As a non-member, that has always bothered me. Then in the very first post on this thread I see someone who is apparently a church member offering advice on how to defraud The Washington Post of its income from subscribers - how to read articles you are not entitled to read without having to subscribe! Hmmm . . . now what about those standards? 

I didn't say it was taught by the Church institutionally. Methinks either I didn't say it well or you misread my post or a subsequent one by someone else. 

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Just now, rockpond said:

Just trying to understand your comment:  What does a doctor choosing to go on a humanitarian health mission have to do with our Church finances and charitable contributions?

Generally, Donations are measured as cash or donations in kind.  A proper accounting of outlays for a service or humanitarian activity needs to account for both, otherwise you get very skewed results.

I ran into this problem a few years back when working with a Habitat for Humanity affiliate.  People would just show up or drop off supplies and work on the houses and no one would account for it. It made it look like they houses they were building had really low values. Some of these houses had only 10K or so on the books. This had the affect of making it look like the affiliate was not contributing very much, when in actuality, these houses, if properly accounted for were valued at 10 times the amount expended on as shown on the books. 

We had to make sure controls were put in place to record all of the in kind donations of supplies and labor so that the public, the homeowners and the county assessors could have real values.

Not accounting for the volunteer labor by members of the church could also distort the valuation of the churches humanitarian and charitable efforts. 

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8 minutes ago, Bob Crockett said:

Some observations:

1.  The article is strangely incoherent.  It is difficult to see exactly what the wrong is that is alleged.   

2.  The fact that the whistleblower is out for the money is rather irrelevant.  Congress set up the whistleblower statute to encourage people to come forward and get a share of the penalty assessed against the taxpayer.  It is frequently done.

3.  The fact that a lawyer is not handling the matter is very suspicious and suggests that no lawyer thought the case had merit.

4.  The sheer size of the unspent fund is irrelevant.  Harvard has a huge endowment fund and the university lives off the interest, and not the corpus.  In other words, it is standard to amass a huge corpus and use the interest to meet the non-profit objectives.  I used to raise funds for a university.  We would never touch the corpus, ever.

5.  Comparing the Church's charitable funding with, say, the Gates Foundation, is irrelevant.  The Church's mission is to spend money on the Church and its programs and not on charities.

6.  Pointing to money spent for downtown office buildings and the likes is irrelevant.  These are investments which are part of the corpus.  The corpus may be held in cash, the stock market, or income-producing assets. 

7.  Pointing to the rip-off of tithe-payers -- don't you want to contribute to the advancement of the Church?

This is great!

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11 minutes ago, Bob Crockett said:

 

4.  The sheer size of the unspent fund is irrelevant.  Harvard has a huge endowment fund and the university lives off the interest, and not the corpus.  In other words, it is standard to amass a huge corpus and use the interest to meet the non-profit objectives.  I used to raise funds for a university.  We would never touch the corpus, ever.

Except the church isn’t doing anything with the money except making more money. 

11 minutes ago, Bob Crockett said:

5.  Comparing the Church's charitable funding with, say, the Gates Foundation, is irrelevant.  The Church's mission is to spend money on the Church and its programs and not on charities.

If the church were doing anything of a religious, educational or charitable nature with even some of the earnings from the investments you might have a point. 

 

 

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11 minutes ago, Danzo said:

Generally, Donations are measured as cash or donations in kind.  A proper accounting of outlays for a service or humanitarian activity needs to account for both, otherwise you get very skewed results.

I ran into this problem a few years back when working with a Habitat for Humanity affiliate.  People would just show up or drop off supplies and work on the houses and no one would account for it. It made it look like they houses they were building had really low values. Some of these houses had only 10K or so on the books. This had the affect of making it look like the affiliate was not contributing very much, when in actuality, these houses, if properly accounted for were valued at 10 times the amount expended on as shown on the books. 

We had to make sure controls were put in place to record all of the in kind donations of supplies and labor so that the public, the homeowners and the county assessors could have real values.

Not accounting for the volunteer labor by members of the church could also distort the valuation of the churches humanitarian and charitable efforts. 

All true.  But what does a doctor choosing to serve a humanitarian health mission have to do with the Church's expenditures on humanitarian aid or charitable contributions.  It is the doctor's time and opportunity cost, not the Church's.  

In other words, if someone is trying to assess how much the Church spends on humanitarian causes (setting aside the question of whether humanitarian aid is something the Church even needs to do), a member choosing to donate his/her time and talents is not relevant.  The Church doesn't get to claim that they contributed some dollar value for the member's time.

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4 minutes ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

Except the church isn’t doing anything with the money except making more money. 

And then spending that "more money."  

What are your thoughts about the Church opting "to invest its cash and run operations off generated interest"?  Is that wrong in your view?  Immoral?

Just trying to sort out what your point of view.

4 minutes ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

If the church were doing anything of a religious, educational or charitable nature with even some of the earnings from the investments you might have a point. 

How do you know the Church is not doing any of these things?

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 hour ago, Michael Sudworth said:

Did you not see the leaked documents, brother?

The Church has amassed 100B in assets without spending a nickle on religious activity.  This is a clear violation of the law.

Clear? To you maybe. To me, not even factual.

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26 minutes ago, Navidad said:

Not to carry this on - but here is what I said in full: Sorry, I just can't resist commenting on this. I have heard in ward meetings and in church publications that Church members hesitate to associate with non-Church members or allow their children to associate with non-Church member children because the faithful Church member has higher standards than non-Church members. Thus, associating with non-members might influence them to lower their standards. As a non-member, that has always bothered me. Then in the very first post on this thread I see someone who is apparently a church member offering advice on how to defraud The Washington Post of its income from subscribers - how to read articles you are not entitled to read without having to subscribe! Hmmm . . . now what about those standards? 

I didn't say it was taught by the Church institutionally. Methinks either I didn't say it well or you misread my post or a subsequent one by someone else. 

I think the confusion arose because we would assume you were including the opening poster as someone who likely did not associate with nonmembers because of lower standards and therefore he was a hypocrite since he had low standards himself...or rather you saw Nofear as generic church member who held the generic church culture standard of not associating with nonmembers. 

It doesn’t really make sense to use the opening post to demonstrate hypocrisy if not associating with nonmembers isn’t typical church member behaviour and it is actually something the Church leadership preaches against, imo. 

From Nofear’s past posting, I suspect he is one of the last members who would ever view nonmembers in such a way.

Edited by Calm
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39 minutes ago, juliann said:

What is the value of the volunteer work, say, a doctor going on a humanitarian health mission for 18 mos? It is intellectually dishonest to not acknowledge what is left out of those figures. The two figures aren't comparable. If the human salaries were removed from the Gates' awesome contributions, what would it be? 

Yes and no. Before this information was released, I'd never have supported an argument in this direction. The church does not exist for humanitarian purposes, it exists for religious purposes. It spends a ton of money maintaining the infrastructure that support the kind of work that you are outlining. 

With that said, the church is sitting on an endowment (excluding its other for profit businesses and for-profit property management) that is worth in excess of 100 billion dollars). It is not about humanitarian spending per say, but the church is not doing anything with the money except reinvesting. To understand the scope of what they are doing compared to similar not for profit entities it is worthwhile to make a comparison. The church has an endowment of 100 billion and spends zero. Bill and Melinda Gates have an endowment of 46.8 billion and spend 5 billion while taking in 2.4 billion. 

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28 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Okay.  Wow.  One little word sure can make a difference ("do" instead of "should").  Thank you for clarifying.

I would still like to see some examples of this, though.  Two reasons: First, acknowledging a flawed behavior (shunning or refusing to socialize or interact with those not of our faith) for the purpose of offering corrective counsel is a very different proposition than advocating for or encouraging that flawed behavior.

Second, I would be surprised to see LDS Living single out non-members as having "lower" standards of behavior.

What, then, "bothers" you here?  That Mormons can be clannish and snobby?  Insufficiently kind and attentive and welcoming to new neighbors?

Thanks,

-Smac

Somehow I am just not saying this right. The discussions were by members in the ward that indeed this kind of thing happens and that Saints do indeed think they have higher standards than non-Saints and that they do indeed sometimes shun new people, especially non-members. The articles in LDS Living were written by non-members sharing their pain and loneliness when moving into Mormon enclaves. As I remember the comments to the article by Saints were generally in affirmation that this does happen. What bothers me is the assumption inherent in the shunning (to use an Anabaptist term) that members of the LDS Church have higher standards than non-Members and that to associate or allow kids to associate would have a corrupting influence. That was the clear message in both the ward discussions and in the articles/comments.  We have had these discussions in the ward. It is characterized by the folks here as a bad thing but as something that no kidding, does happen. 

In fact, just a week or so ago we had a discussion over a fellowship dinner in the ward about the theory that the LeBaron children became dysfunctional to the point of psychosis during their twenty year time living as children in Colonia Juarez where they (as children) were routinely ostracized, picked on, and abused by the local Saints, especially at the academy. More than half of the LeBaron children (who became so dysfunctional as adults) graduated from the academy. As you can imagine, the death of the folks here has caused a lot of discussions in our area. There is a large degree of inter-relatedness among the colonies. Almost everyone at the table agreed that they had heard stories, especially in the writings of Nelle Spilsbury Hatch about how mean their parents and grandparents were to the LeBaron children during their twenty year sojourn in Colonia Juarez. It seemed to be common knowledge that the LeBarons were treated very badly by both adults and kids from 1924 when they arrived to 1944 when they left. That has nothing to do with my original post about standards. I just thought it was a very interesting insight into the later mental health issues prevalent in so many of the LeBaron siblings. 

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15 minutes ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

Except the church isn’t doing anything with the money except making more money. 

If the church were doing anything of a religious, educational or charitable nature with even some of the earnings from the investments you might have a point. 

Isn’t it more the total picture of church expenses vs income that matters though?  This is only one prong of the Church financial system. If one looked at a department of the Church that was in the red every year, one might believe the Church was foolishly overextending. 

We don’t have access to all the institutions involved, but that is a separate issue imo even if it prevents us from being able to judge whether or not there is a reasonable use of funds for expenses being balanced by cautious savings. 

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35 minutes ago, Lemuel said:

Are the poor mormon kids not our people?

Who are these Mormons of which you speak? Some kind of weird Restorationist spin off?

You cite as proof of our “failure” to feed “our children” the existence of an organization that provides aid and that aid is not exclusive to LDS children. You are just throwing accusations at the wall at this point and hoping something sticks.

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10 minutes ago, smac97 said:

And then spending that "more money."  

What are your thoughts about the Church opting "to invest its cash and run operations off generated interest"?  Is that wrong in your view?  Immoral?

Just trying to sort out what your point of view.

How do you know the Church is not doing any of these things?

Thanks,

-Smac

Per the documents contained in the whistle blower submittal, there have been no distributions from EPA with the exception of spending money to prop up church enterprises during the 2008 crisis. So tithing money goes in, gets invested, re-invested in perpetuity. The church doesn't spend the money on anything.

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From an opinion piece in today's Deseret News: The Washington Post says the Church of Jesus Christ has billions. Thank goodness

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Monday’s Washington Post story about the finances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has already gotten a lot of attention. We think it deserves more.

Not because the topic of church holdings is somehow new — it’s not (Time magazine once ran a cover story titled, “MORMONS, INC.”) — but because the renewed focus on the church’s extensive holdings once again proves that, well, the church actually practices what it preaches regarding provident living and self-reliance. They take seriously the biblical story about Joseph and Egypt’s seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.

Hmm.  If this is such a scandal, why is the Church-owned paper publishing an opinion piece that more attention should be paid to it?

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In an age of ballooning federal deficits, massive student debt and failed pension promises, we should perhaps be a bit slower to blow whistles when an organization — once on the brink of financial ruin — actually stays out of debt and saves for a rainy day. This is especially important for a church, a common place to which people turn for help during times of economic distress.

As a nation, and especially as individuals, we would all do well to try harder to model this behavior.

Instead, we are seeing shrill histrionics.

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Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal ranked church-owned Brigham Young University the No. 1 school in the nation in terms of value for the price. Thanks to church assets — and specifically the financial investments highlighted by The Washington Post’s article — tuition for BYU students remains astonishingly low ($2,895 a semester for church members). Even more recently, the Journal has applauded Utah for having the best economy in the country (with a state government that runs a surplus and also saves for a rainy day). Meanwhile, researchers such as Raj Chetty have highlighted how Utah communities sustain some of the highest rates of upward mobility in the country.

Much of this success is influenced by the prudent financial and charitable principles taught (and evidently exemplified) by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Church is being pilloried for being a wise steward of its funds.  Weird.

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Hopefully, by underscoring the church’s holdings, the Post article and the story’s whistleblower will draw some attention to an institutional model that’s actually working. The church’s financial standing — once squarely in the red only a century ago — is now, by some estimates, on par with entities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Harvard, the Catholic Church or the Church of England. The Post’s whistleblower puts the church’s financial holdings at $100 billion, but more substantiated financial leaks from last year put the numbers closer to $32 billion.

Doesn't matter, though.  In the end, for some folks the Church is darned if does, darned if doesn't, darned no matter what it does.

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Of course, it’s fair game to question whether the reserves are adequate or excessive, or whether specific actions with funds are proper, as the Post article and the whistleblower does. Vast assets require controls and nonprofit reserve investments can be controversial. In recent years, for instance, Congress passed a tax targeting large university reserves at institutions with at least 500 enrolled students and endowments totaling more than $500,000 per student.

For perspective, Harvard has a financial endowment nearing $41 billion, serving the higher education needs of some 20,000 students. The church, by contrast, serves 16 million members with the scope of its work, often spilling beyond its own membership. The church supports international humanitarian and welfare efforts, extensive education services, food banks, addiction recovery and employment programs, family therapy and counseling services, genealogical and self-reliance initiatives, and, of course, its broad ecclesiastical functions, which include more than 30,000 congregations worldwide.

In education alone, the church runs a university system with total enrollments — both online and through four brick-and-mortar campuses — of nearly 90,000 students. And the church’s high-school-level church education program provides daily religious instruction and other services to more than 400,000 students each year. 

In other words, a lot of money is going into the Church, and a lot of money is being spent.

Meanwhile, is there any evidence that those with access to and control over the Church's funds (the General Authorities) are living profligately?  Jets and mansions and yachts?  Nope, nope and nope.  Many GAs take a substantial pay cut when they are asked to serve in that capacity.  

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Though this renewed focus on church finances will undoubtedly draw attention to the buzzier elements of its asset portfolio (hey, look, the church invests in a mall), it’s unlikely to change attitudes among those in its congregations who see how the money from investments and tithes funnel back to carrying out a global-sized mission. Their kids go to BYU or church seminary classes. They serve missions in foreign lands or receive financial assistance through unpaid clergy when they fall on hard times. They participate in disaster relief efforts, helping throngs of co-religionists in delivering food and other essentials.

Yep.

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After publishing an exhaustive 1,000-page deep dive into the church’s finances, noted historian and long-time church critic, D. Michael Quinn, characterized the sweeping narrative history of church finances as “an enormously faith-promoting story.” He said that if people understood the “the larger picture” on church finances they would “see the church is not a profit-making business.” Yes, the church saves and invests its surplus pennies, but it also helps vastly reduce the debt of college students, gives to the poor regardless of background and supports one of the largest non-governmental welfare programs in the country. Most importantly, it does all this without enriching those at the top.

Good points, all.

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Before we face the next recession, our governments and other institutions of civil society would do well to follow the church’s example. Although some will call this most recent round of headlines about church finances “news,” the wisdom remains as old as Egypt.

Again, yep.

Thanks,

-Smac

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2 hours ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

Yes. Again, the church is currently earning more than 6 billion a year off its investments. So in actuality the amount saved allows the church to operate in perpetuity with no tithing income.

Is there a reason that we should assume that the expenditures of the church are going to stay stagnant at 6 bn for the next 16 years?

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44 minutes ago, Bob Crockett said:

Some observations:

1.  The article is strangely incoherent.  It is difficult to see exactly what the wrong is that is alleged.   

2.  The fact that the whistleblower is out for the money is rather irrelevant.  Congress set up the whistleblower statute to encourage people to come forward and get a share of the penalty assessed against the taxpayer.  It is frequently done.

Agreed, agreed. To find out what is going on, you should read the report or watch the video.

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3.  The fact that a lawyer is not handling the matter is very suspicious and suggests that no lawyer thought the case had merit.

I'm not sure. Lars Nielsen has a Harvard Ph.D. and MBA, and claims that before submitting the whistleblower report to the IRS, they had it reviewed by tax accountants and attorneys.

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4.  The sheer size of the unspent fund is irrelevant.  Harvard has a huge endowment fund and the university lives off the interest, and not the corpus.  In other words, it is standard to amass a huge corpus and use the interest to meet the non-profit objectives.  I used to raise funds for a university.  We would never touch the corpus, ever.

The complaint is that the church doesn't use any of it for any religious education or charitable purposes. Ever. None. Zero. Zip. Literally zero. What we are talking about specifically is the 501c3 Ensign Peak Financial Advisors (EPA). They have received something on the order of 35 billion of donations from the Corporation of the President of the COJCOLDS (COP), and have about $90 billion of capital gains that they have not paid taxes on. So here is the legal question: can a 501c3 hoard hundreds of billions of dollars, tax free, without ever spending a single penny on any religious or charity expense ever.

Yes, the COP spends some money on its religious mission. But according to its charter and the spirit and letter of the tax laws, is EPA allowed to earn hundreds of billions of dollars in interest as a 501c3 that never spends any money whatsoever on any charitable causes?

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5.  Comparing the Church's charitable funding with, say, the Gates Foundation, is irrelevant.  The Church's mission is to spend money on the Church and its programs and not on charities.

If the Church's mission is to spend money on the Church and its programs, how come EPA never spends a single penny on any of the Church's expenses or programs? In its entire 22 year existence, there have only been two times when the church has dipped into the EPA funds--to bail out the mall, and to bail out the insurance company.

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6.  Pointing to money spent for downtown office buildings and the likes is irrelevant.  These are investments which are part of the corpus.  The corpus may be held in cash, the stock market, or income-producing assets. 

The corpus of the EPA or the corpus of the COP? They are different entities.

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7.  Pointing to the rip-off of tithe-payers -- don't you want to contribute to the advancement of the Church?

Contributing to the advancement of the church, or contributing to its problem with hoarding resources with no plan to ever spend any of its wealth on the church's mission?

Edited by Analytics
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6 minutes ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

Yes and no. Before this information was released, I'd never have supported an argument in this direction. The church does not exist for humanitarian purposes, it exists for religious purposes. It spends a ton of money maintaining the infrastructure that support the kind of work that you are outlining. 

With that said, the church is sitting on an endowment (excluding its other for profit businesses and for-profit property management) that is worth in excess of 100 billion dollars). It is not about humanitarian spending per say, but the church is not doing anything with the money except reinvesting. To understand the scope of what they are doing compared to similar not for profit entities it is worthwhile to make a comparison. The church has an endowment of 100 billion and spends zero. Bill and Melinda Gates have an endowment of 46.8 billion and spend 5 billion while taking in 2.4 billion. 

And you just did it again. Like I said, intellectually dishonest. 

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2 minutes ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

Per the documents contained in the whistle blower submittal, there have been no distributions from EPA with the exception of spending money to prop up church enterprises during the 2008 crisis. So tithing money goes in, gets invested, re-invested in perpetuity. The church doesn't spend the money on anything.

Yep.  There is a bit of a catch to consider here though, the money going in to the investments, well money could be used before that lot is allocated to go in.  Special programs, donations, or expenses outside it's operating expenses could happen, then whatever is left goes in for more investment.  It does appear, though, if all of this is true (and it does make sense) that the Church is a large corporation interested in building wealth.  

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2 minutes ago, smac97 said:

From an opinion piece in today's Deseret News: The Washington Post says the Church of Jesus Christ has billions. Thank goodness

Hmm.  If this is such a scandal, why is the Church-owned paper publishing an opinion piece that more attention should be paid to it?

It's good public relations on the Church's part:  The opinion piece communicates to members that there is nothing of concern in the article.  It re-directs to the positive while downplaying (or ignoring altogether) the actual accusations.

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4 minutes ago, Calm said:

Isn’t it more the total picture of church expenses vs income that matters though?  This is only one prong of the Church financial system. If one looked at a department of the Church that was in the red every year, one might believe the Church was foolishly overextending. 

We don’t have access to all the institutions involved, but that is a separate issue imo even if it prevents us from being able to judge whether or not there is a reasonable use of funds for expenses being balanced by cautious savings. 

I can't fathom what that would be. The church takes in 7 billion. It uses 5-6 billion to run its operations. It invests the rest. If there is some purpose for not using at least a portion of the earnings off that 100 billion for good in the world, I am all ears. I really hope the church speaks up on this. 

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3 minutes ago, The Nehor said:

Who are these Mormons of which you speak? Some kind of weird Restorationist spin off?

You cite as proof of our “failure” to feed “our children” the existence of an organization that provides aid and that aid is not exclusive to LDS children. You are just throwing accusations at the wall at this point and hoping something sticks.

You make a solid point--the Bountiful Children's Foundation no longer makes any reference to helping LDS children.  They used to:

http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/64094-liahona-childrens-foundation/ 

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I am a board member for the Liahona Children's Foundation. I'm coming to this pretty late, but I hope those of you on this thread will see this. The Liahona Children's Foundation always works with local church members. Our success depends upon the organization of the church at the local level. Each area (usually a stake) is run by local church members, who receive a small stipend for their work. They screen new church units to determine malnutrition rates, and implement a delivery system for nutritional supplements for LDS kids and their friends under the age of 6. Eliminating malnutrition is seen as many in the international development community as one of the most efficient ways of eliminating poverty (see this article for example).

Currently, we work with Area Presidencies and Area Welfare Managers to operate the program around the world. Thus, our reception largely depends upon these players on a case by case basis. One of the reasons why malnutrition exists in the church is that our local, and even general leadership don't know what malnutrition looks like or the far-ranging impacts it has on one's ability to become self-sufficient. We hope that by raising awareness of this issue with general leadership and local leadership, we can address this issue with the very effective structures and systems the church already has in place.

They used to say that for $6000 you could 'Adopt a Stake'; now it says you can 'Adopt a Community'. https://bountifulchildren.org/how-to-help/adopt-a-community

So perhaps the problem is solved among the LDS children?  Or perhaps they removed the reference to LDS kids because it makes the church look bad.  I can't say.

 

 

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