The stakes in the 2024 election couldn’t be higher. On the one side, there is Your Candidate, trying to preserve all that is good about America and help this nation fulfill its potential. His opponent, most likely the willing dupe of a hostile foreign power, whose incompetence, corruption and authoritarian instincts are a matter of public record, represents a dramatic threat to democracy.
Now imagine that Your Political Party announces that, through thrift and prudent investing and donations both large and small from dedicated supporters, it has built up a reserve of $100 billion, not just for 2024, but for 2024 and beyond so that Your Political Party can consistently promote its vision over the long term instead of desperately rebuilding its election infrastructure every two or four years.
You’d be ecstatic. With such long-term strategizing and far-sighted thinking, maybe this country won’t go completely to hell in 2024. You would perceptively recognize that anyone who was aghast and outraged at Your Political Party’s wealth, even people claiming to argue objectively that $100 billion was far more than any political party should be allowed to have, were clearly just supporters of The Other Guy, shiftless types who support a fraud and traitor and can’t manage their own money anyway.
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So let me say that I think it’s fantastic that the church has $100 billion. The church teaches the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, offers saving ordinances to the living and dead and is building the kingdom of God. It’s much better for the church to have all the resources it needs to further its mission than not to have them. Let’s make it $200 billion, or, heck, why not a trillion? The more the church is able to carry out its missions, the better.
Beyond a general inclination to want people I like or institutions I support to enjoy material plenitude, there are other things that make me think that the church having $100 billion is a good thing.
- No one’s getting rich. The figures that are tossed around for general authority stipends are chump change compared to compatible compensation in the nonprofit sector for an organization with millions of members. The figures suggest that the general authorities aren’t even the highest-earning church employees. What the apostles receive is within shouting distance of what I earned as a CES employee in a temporary junior faculty position, not an order of magnitude greater. The signs of the apostles’ wealth bandied about at one time or another by commenters here—like drivers for 80+-year-old apostles, a house in the foothills of Salt Lake, and, I kid you not, the wearing of business suits—are laughable compared to actual wealth. People should take a look at what it takes to create a real scandal these days. If the general authorities don’t have to worry about their personal finances so they can focus their attention on the needs of the church, then the stipends are accomplishing their purpose.
- I’ve seen how the church’s resources help people. As a financial clerk several years ago, nearly every week I would sign multiple checks that would help people instantly and unbureaucratically. There was never a question of whether the ward or stake welfare fund would run dry. Funds that went toward helping with rent, utilities, urgent maintenance, medical care, counseling and other needs for people in difficult financial situations were replenished instantly. That too is a byproduct of the church having all the resources it needs.
- It’s scriptural. Both the support for individuals in full-time church service (D&C 42:71-73) and the long-term accumulation of funds are supported by modern revelation. D&C 45:65-67: “And with one heart and with one mind, gather up your riches that ye may purchase an inheritance which shall hereafter be appointed unto you. And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God; And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion.” This isn’t some nebulous event to be accomplished in some far-off End Time. It’s something that the church has been doing in specific and concrete ways since the early 1830s. I don’t know if the next iteration of building Zion will take place in the tropical forests of Alberta or the asteroid belt, but when it does, the church has been commanded to have the funding available.
- External pressure to donate is low: you can enjoy all the (earthly) benefits of a full tithe payer by responding “yes” to one question twice every two years, with no verification or follow-up beyond your own conscience. You can say “yes” an extra time each year if you want to attend tithing settlement. You will be pressured to donate more by Wikipedia than you will by the church.
- Thrift, careful stewardship and long-term investment is both prudent and consistent with what the church teaches its members. The church isn’t teaching one thing and doing another. It’s doing exactly what it’s been telling us to do for a long time.
- There are many good things that could be done in the world with $100 billion, and there’s nothing stopping any other nonprofit organization from following the church’s strategy: ask people to donate; set aside some of the money for long-term investment; and wait. You should recommend the same strategy to your favorite charitable cause.
If you like the church, you’ll like the fact that it has lots of money (yay us); if you despise the church, you’ll despise the fact that it has lots of money (ha ha burn); if you have a conflicted relationship with the church, you’ll probably have a highly nuanced take. If my positive reaction sounds like motivated reasoning to you, what I’m trying to tell you is: on this topic, unless you’re a legal academic specializing in tax law (a tribe among whom news of the church’s billions provoked intense chin-stroking and fervent pondering of some interesting issues involving church and state, nonprofit taxation, and organizational structure), there’s nothing but motivated reasoning all the way down.