Mormon Empire: Steve Caplin, Image: Courtesy Library of Congress

“How the Mormons Make Money” (Features, July 16-July 22, 2012), on the financial operations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, generated a large volume of reader response.
We were deeply disturbed by the cartoonish religious imagery and sensationalist headlines Bloomberg Businessweek used to illustrate the cover story on Mormon Church-owned businesses.

The depiction of the moment when John the Baptist appeared before Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, as instructing him to “build a shopping mall and own stock in Burger King …” is insensitive and offensive, particularly to those of the Mormon faith. There are certain subjects that should be beyond the bounds of satire; the deeply held religious beliefs of others should be one of them.

The nature and scope of the Mormon Church’s business holdings and finances may be a legitimate subject for a business magazine. But the sensationalist branding of your story, with headlines such as “Holy Holdings” and “Latter-day Lucre,” gives the impression that there is something inherently nefarious and illegitimate about the Church’s business dealings, and supports the notion that the LDS faith is primarily motivated by greed for money. The cover imagery compounds the problem by seemingly mocking the Church’s core beliefs and founding prophet.

There can be no justification for being so tone-deaf to the sensitivities of those who practice Mormonism by delegitimizing and mocking the founding tenets of their faith.
Abraham H. Foxman
National Director
Anti-Defamation League
New York

I’m sure my e-mail will be drowned out by the thousands you are sure to get over “How the Mormons Make Money.” But before Utah wakes up this morning to read it, I hoped to send you my sincerest congratulations on the article. It was well researched and very accurate regarding the Church’s leadership organization, and I feel you captured the blurred lines between the Church’s secular and ecclesiastical endeavors perfectly.
Ruben Urias
via e-mail

I read Caroline Winter’s article with interest after a flurry of opinions spread across our state. The article was generally correct, although she missed some aspects of Mormon culture and beliefs that led her to make some erroneous assumptions. Her article was worthy of review, but the efforts of your editors to produce possibly one of the most tacky covers (insulting, bigoted, and totally insensitive, not only to Mormons but to most people of faith) has reduced any sense of professionalism. I appreciated Ms. Winter’s effort not to sensationalize the information she gathered, but her work has been diminished by the thoughtless cover.
David Greenwood
American Fork, Utah

First, let me congratulate you on a well-researched article. In the interest of full disclosure, as an active, practicing Mormon, I found your article to be quite eye-opening and enlightening. In my 28 years as a practicing Mormon, I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much information come out about LDS finances. I’m very active in the online Mormon groups (Mormon blogs, Facebook groups, and podcasts), and I can tell you that this article is creating huge tidal waves in those communities in a very short amount of time from being published. I’ve been involved in Mormon podcasting for a few years as a faithful member discussing the difficult topics with ex-Church members or disaffected Church members, and Church finances is one of our most popular topics that we have been asked to speak about. I can tell you that your article will be a great source.
Brandt Malone
via e-mail

Please follow up your excellent article with an article explaining U.S. taxing: nonprofit and non-political churches versus for-profit political churches, businesses, and individuals.

The U.S. government needs to step in and separate the taxing of strictly spiritual religions from the money-making ones and the political ones. While my husband and I agree with the Mormon leader quoted as saying, “We believe that a person who is impoverished temporally cannot blossom,” we still pay taxes in the highest bracket, which confounds me when many who earn much more than we do pay less. Am I alone in thinking those businesses and individuals earning the most should contribute the most?
M.S. Broussard
Santa Monica, Calif.

As contrasted with running soup kitchens, clinics, or schools, it seems that many if not most of the enterprises described in your article have no charitable purpose in their own right, although undoubtedly some of the profits are used to finance charitable projects. As a former consultant to the retail industry, I remember the 1980s, when New York State forced Catholic Charities to discontinue its ownership and operation of a well-known upscale department-store chain, B. Altman & Co., because our attorney general deemed the store to be unrelated to the charitable purposes of the Catholic Church and Catholic Charities. How do we explain this discrepancy?
Dan Cooper
Pound Ridge, N.Y.

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