“How the Mormons Make Money” Speaks Volumes About Romney

Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Caroline Winter is out today with her highly-anticipated article “How the Mormons Make Money,”a profile of LDS Church financial operations which features interviews with everyone from high-ranking executives of LDS Church-owned enterprises to leading scholars of Mormonism and rank-and-file members.

The article is a must-read both for its factual disclosures about the extent of LDS Church wealth, its analysis of LDS Church-owned business operations, and its insights into a Mormon institutional-entrepreneurial mindset that has unquestionably impacted Mitt Romney.

Here are a few major takeaways: 

  • According to Bloomberg, the LDS Church has not made its financial holdings public since the 1960s and offers “little financial transparency” to its members who are “not provided with any financial accounting” of the use of their donations.
  • Current LDS Church worth is estimated at $40 billion, with an estimated $8 billion in tithing receipts annually.
  • LDS Church for-profit holdings include media, hospitality, and insurance companies; malls, office parks, residential real estate, and tourist resorts; and citrus, sod, timber, and cattle operations in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil.
  • As a religious organization, the LDS Church is exempt from paying taxes on leased real estate properties and donated stock holdings.
  • The LDS Church gives an estimated $52 million annually in humanitarian relief, about .7% of its annual income. Bloomberg notes by comparison that the United Methodist Church gives about 29% of its annual income to charitable relief.
  • LDS Church for-profit holdings are run as competitive businesses. According to the Bloomberg report, religious considerations do not drive day-to-day decision-making.

I’ve argued frequently here that those who fear Romney’s religion impacting his day-to-day conduct as president purposefully misunderstand his career. The Bloomberg-Businessweek article shows that Mormon institutional culture fully supports Romney’s profit-oriented, value-neutral approach to financial decision-making.