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"A few have stated that the Church is not a corporation and therefore have no need to disclose their finances. This statement is in error."

The legal low down on the church, as I understand it, is as follows.

1. The church is organized as a corporation sole. A corporation sole does not have any shareholders or legally stand in a fiduciary relationship to any other person or entity. Rather, a corporation sole is a legal device for conferring immortality on a particular office so that office can continue to hold and manage property regardless of who occupies it. Examples of corporations sole might be the pastor of a church, which owns the church and rectory. The oldest corporation sole in the common law world (which developed the concept) is the King of England. For example, the Castle of Windsor is not owned by the British Government (the Crown). Rather, it is owned by the King (or Queen) of England. However, the "person" that owns the castle is not the natural person -- Elizabeth Windsor -- who happens at this moment to be Queen of England. Rather, the "person" that owns the castle is a corporation that has not shareholders, trustees, directors, etc.

2. The only corporations (as far as I know) that are required by law to publically disclose their financial statements in the United States are publically traded companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In addition, share holders have a right to inspect the books of commercial corporations that they own shares in regardless of whether those corporations are required to disclose financial statements to the public.

2. Interestingly, some foreign countries require non-profit corporations to issue finacial statements. The church for legal reasons frequently must organize domestic corporations in other countries to handle its affairs there, and these church corporations DO file publiclly available financial statements. Thus, the UK corporation that owns and handles Church property in Britian has filed public disclosure statements, and I think that they are even available on the net through some UK government site.

You guys have never had parents serving as missionaries overseas where the locals want bribe money. Any disclosure of finances would only increase that pressure.

If you want general accounting, read the Arizona Republic. They get a lot more mileage out of their estimates of how much money the Church has than their investigations looking for abuse in the way the money is spent.

As for charitable expenditures, well, the moment a writer decides that fast offerings don't count, donations in kind don't count (the Church has shipped more than the dollar value reported in "stuff" but not dollars) etc., the numbers are going to go down. I'm not sure what significance that has.

I do agree that It's pretty predictable that if the Church finances were completely transparent to the membership (and thus the World), the Church would come under intense scrutiny and criticism. There's no way that this would be avoided.

So, the question really is, does the curiousity of some justify the hassle to others?

The real discussion should be the value of trouble for me and mine vs. the value your curiousity has to you. How much pain should you get to inflict on me for your self-gratification?

It is a fascinating concept, with lots of real world applications and examples of personal pleasure creating costs for others, from throwing dye on people wearing furs to encouraging shake-downs of missionaries (luckily my parents are home again and with their health problems not likely to serve a fifth mission, so they are probably not going to have to face those pressures again).

If there was something juicy, I'd count on the Arizona Republic to report it. But generally they just stick to estimates of how much money the Church has since tracking spending is harder and turned out to be boring.

As for CES employees, LDS bureaucrats, and GA salaries paid out as "living expenses" last time I looked (back in the early 80s or so) that information was pretty freely available. There is a reason that President Hinkley is so handy with home repair and working around the house with tools.

If you visit web.archive.org, and do a search on lds.org, you will find that for several years the LDS church published a general synopsis of it's finances. Here is an excerpt from their site (same wording for several years):

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


The greatest portion of Church expenditures goes toward meetinghouse construction and maintenance (375 chapels were under construction in 1995) and to the education system, which includes Brigham Young University (all campuses), Ricks College, LDS Business College, seminaries and institutes of religion, and the limited number of Church schools in less-developed countries.

The remainder is spent on other activities, including missionary and temple work, curriculum materials, and global administration of the Church.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So there you have it. If the finances were listed in order of highest expenditures first (and they certainly appear to be), then the bulk of tithing is spent on meetinghouses and LDS education (BYU, Ricks, etc.).

According to the information submitted by reliable investigative reporters, quite a bit of tithing money, millions of dollars, has been, and is being, paid in settlements, and compensatory damages imposed by judgements, to [settle lawsuits filed against the Church]. The Utah Church pays millions of dollars to law firms to defend the Mormon Church against actions [including sexual abuse allegations].

At last count, over 60 million dollars has been paid by the Mormon Church, out of the general tithing fund, in judgements and settlements. This is very comparable to the large amount that has been paid by the Roman Catholic Church to victims of sexual abuse by priests, bishops, arch-bishops, and other high ranking clergy. I think that if the rank-and-file Mormon Church realized where their tithing money actually goes, many Mormons would think twice, and perhaps thrice, about paying a tithe to Salt Lake City.

[edited 6/25]

Interesting remarks, Norton. Since you give no sources, I had to edit some of your more speculative statements. Every big organization deals with lawsuits. Of course the Church defends itself -- everyone does. What do you expect?


Even if I knew that it was being used to provide legal defense of the LDS Church, even in cases where the LDS Church was clearly in the WRONG, I would still gladly pay my tithing.

For a better idea where Norton is coming from, go review J. Stapley's post at BT entitled Predators and the Mormon Church, which includes a link to an opinion piece authored by Norton.

You said we didn't know where our money was going but I am only 14 years old and I know where it is going. It's going to do the Lord's work. I know it goes to build buildings, I know it pays our leaders. How else are they to live, they commit their whole lives to the Work. I know it goes to buy land, where would we build temples and churches and such! I can assure you I don't "naively assume much of the money goes to aid the poor," I know it goes where the Lord wants it. So I really don't see why you are confused as to why we have a "complete lack of interest" in our financial situation. We have faith which is "to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true"(Heb. 11:1).

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