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Mormonism and church finances/Twenty-first century/Disclosure
Public disclosure of Church financial data
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- Question: Why does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) not provide public disclosure of its financial data?
- Question: How does the Church decide where to spend money? Shouldn't they use the money instead to feed the poor and help the needy?
Question: Why does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) not provide public disclosure of its financial data?
The Church complies with all legal requirements for reporting income, business profits, and donations
Some have claimed that the Church ought to provide full disclosure of its financial records to members or interested on-lookers.
Believing members typically believe that their tithes and offerings are consecrated gifts to God, and do not feel that they need a detailed accounting of their use.
That said, the Church complies with all legal requirements for reporting income, business profits, and donations. These laws vary by country and political jurisdiction. But, the Church has no duty to provide more information than that required by law.
Providing "full disclosure" would not provide much more information than is available now without considerable time and expense
"Full disclosure" is a nice slogan or buzz-word, but those who advocate for it do not seem to realize the difficulties with it, or the fact that doing so would not provide much more information than is available now without considerable time and expense. Many critics would also likely be impossible to satisfy on this front, and complaints would then turn to micromanaging and Monday-morning quarterbacking Church expenditures.
Financial experts discuss these and other issues here:
- Tim Gordon, "The Folly of LDS Church Financial Transparency," Tim's Accounting blog (25 February 2015).
- Samuel D. Brunson, "The Present, Past, and Future of LDS Financial Transparency," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 48 no. 1 (Spring 2015), 1–45.
Accusations that the Church does not provide "full disclosure" are often intended to cast questions on the honesty of the Church or its leaders
These accusations are often intended to cast questions on the honesty of the Church or its leaders. Similar strategies are employed in other such complaints, such as:
For a detailed response, see: Mormonism and church integrity/City Creek Center Mall in Salt Lake City }}
Question: How does the Church decide where to spend money? Shouldn't they use the money instead to feed the poor and help the needy?
The Church manages an extensive humanitarian effort
Some have insisted that funds would be better if directed to charitable works such as feeding the poor. The Church does have an extensive humanitarian effort. Critics on this point often overlook the fact that Church funds are best managed not by sitting in a bank account, but through prudent investment. Investment in land and real estate development is often a wise and ultimately profitable investment approach.
It is entirely possible that the City Creek Center Mall will eventually become a money making venture, as the Church collects rent from mall merchants. This investment strategy would allow the Church to, over time, recoup its initial outlay or even make money that could be further dedicated to the Church's religious and humanitarian goals.
Church funds are best managed not by sitting in a bank account, but through prudent investment
Critics also overlook the fact that if money is spent to feed the needy, that money is gone. On the other hand, if the Church reinvests in Salt Lake City's downtown core, this provides jobs and economic stimulus (for example, via construction and then the service-industry jobs which will fill the mall upon its completion). While providing fewer short term gains, this long term "teach a man to fish" strategy could ultimately benefit many more people, by allowing them to "help themselves." Presiding Bishop H. David Burton noted:
Reflecting on City Creek, Bishop Burton said that if he'd known seven or eight years ago that "we'd be facing the second-worst recessionary period in our history, I may have not suggested we proceed this quickly with the City Creek project. But knowing there would be on any given day upwards of 1,700 jobs in the community — and that could bless the lives of a lot of families," the church decided to move forward.
"And when you get the secondary impact of those 1,700 prime jobs and the multiplier effect, it is a substantial contribution to this state and this community and its tax base, Bishop Burton said. "Any parcel of property the church owns that is not used directly for ecclesiastical worship is fully taxed at its market value." 
Investment of funds and service efforts are not mutually exclusive
Further, property investment does not preclude the Church from continuing its service efforts with other monies. This is not an "either/or" question.
If Salt Lake can avoid the fate of so many other inner cities--a lapse into disrepair, poverty, and crime--this will likewise benefit all the city's inhabitants. The Church seems to be taking a longer view to preserve the city core for the future. One observer has noted economic and social benefits already:
Natalie Gochnour, the executive vice president of the Salt Lake Chamber, points out that the development will include 524 residential units and is already pumping life into downtown. Over the last two years, more than a dozen new restaurants have opened within a two-block radius of the development. 
- "Mormon leaders and Salt Lake City work together to transform land," Deseret News (7 March 2010).
- Deseret News (7 March 2010).