An Unemotional Analysis of the Recent "Whistleblower" on LDS Church Finances

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Minyan Man
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Re: An Unemotional Analysis of the Recent "Whistleblower" on LDS Church Finances

Post by Minyan Man » 22 Dec 2019, 11:17

Reflecting on Jesus Christ, his life seemed to be an open book. When it comes to our day of judgement, our life
will be an open book too. Shouldn't Christ's church be as open to the membership with their financial transactions?

My personal belief is: when my money leaves my bank account, it's not my money anymore.
For me to think otherwise will make me angry & resentful.

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Katzpur
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Re: An Unemotional Analysis of the Recent "Whistleblower" on LDS Church Finances

Post by Katzpur » 22 Dec 2019, 13:03

Minyan Man wrote:
22 Dec 2019, 11:17
Reflecting on Jesus Christ, his life seemed to be an open book. When it comes to our day of judgement, our life
will be an open book too. Shouldn't Christ's church be as open to the membership with their financial transactions?

My personal belief is: when my money leaves my bank account, it's not my money anymore.
For me to think otherwise will make me angry & resentful.
My feelings EXACTLY.
"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." ~Rudyard Kipling ~

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desertghost93
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Re: An Unemotional Analysis of the Recent "Whistleblower" on LDS Church Finances

Post by desertghost93 » 22 Dec 2019, 14:04

I am just confused about this story however. Are people upset with how much money the church has, or how they get all that money?

I tend to struggle with stories like this. There is just so much misinformation that gets spread around. I really don't know what is true, what the whistle blowers motivation is and so forth. It is however never good to keep anything in the dark. If the church violated tax laws then bad on them. Pay the proper taxes where they need to be and so on.

I tend to trust users on this site more than I do the media's these days. The media is in the business of shock and awe. Almost never about getting to the full truth. And therefore OP and others, thanks for trying your best to explain this without any bias one way or another.
You can’t base your knowledge of a church off-broadway plays and the media, or even comments from church members because there are millions of them and they are all different and have different opinions, just like everybody else in this world.

Minyan Man
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Re: An Unemotional Analysis of the Recent "Whistleblower" on LDS Church Finances

Post by Minyan Man » 22 Dec 2019, 14:31

There are many ways to view financial issues. What concerns I may have are different to someone else.
For example, there are some very rich people in the church who donate to BYU or other charities. For
their donation, they will get their names attached to a building, receive publicity or attention from General
Authorities. Yet according to the story of the Widow's Mite, her donation is the bigger sacrifice. (Plus, there
is no tax benefit for her donation.)

Curt Sunshine
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Re: An Unemotional Analysis of the Recent "Whistleblower" on LDS Church Finances

Post by Curt Sunshine » 22 Dec 2019, 14:47

This is not a defense of the Church, directly, but we have romanticized Jesus' ministry in many ways.

His disciples included a physician, a tax collector, and a treasurer. It solicited donations from wealthy individuals. It was a ministry that was funded by donations. In many ways, it could be considered a "professional" ministry. It served the poor and the helpless, but it did so by taking donations to cover its expenses.

One more point:

Paul was able to travel so much for one or two reasons. His travel either was funded by member donations or his own personal wealth obtained from his previous job (being a lawyer and kind of a hit man for the Sanhedrin). Either way, there had to have been funding sources that aren't recorded explicitly in the summaries focused on the mission alone.

Also, as a bit of a defense, the Church has been increasing its non-LDS charitable donations regularly for the last 10 years, at least. I assume there is an attempt to donate more as the assets grow.

Again, I personally am concerned about multiple issues relative to this story, but it still appears to me, after reading multiple analyses by financial and tax experts, that the Church did nothing illegal in any way. As others have said, the core issue for me is the morality of such massive assets - but I do believe the leadership is sincere in its focus on managing the resources properly. I have a personal connection to that opinion (that is not my own, personal experience), and I am satisfied the intentions are pure.

I understand everyone's concerns, and I share some of them, but it is important to me that I try to be as balanced as I can be when considering the overall issue.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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desertghost93
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Re: An Unemotional Analysis of the Recent "Whistleblower" on LDS Church Finances

Post by desertghost93 » 22 Dec 2019, 16:47

Curt Sunshine wrote:
22 Dec 2019, 14:47


I understand everyone's concerns, and I share some of them, but it is important to me that I try to be as balanced as I can be when considering the overall issue.
I think you said it best right there
You can’t base your knowledge of a church off-broadway plays and the media, or even comments from church members because there are millions of them and they are all different and have different opinions, just like everybody else in this world.

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mom3
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Re: An Unemotional Analysis of the Recent "Whistleblower" on LDS Church Finances

Post by mom3 » 23 Dec 2019, 11:46

There is an additional painful side to this story - A broken family.

The "Whistleblower" didn't want this to become public knowledge. His brother or cousin who is an attorney was the real "Whistleblower" - he was the one who went public with it.

Sadly, I could spend hours on how painful and complicated this entire thing is - from the church's choices to individuals. What I do know is that it is proof to me that when we engage in anything, that doesn't have real love and caring behind it, we create war, strife, and sorrow. This is our world. We've made it what it is.

The entire exposure, awareness, etc, breaks my heart - for all of us.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

grobert93
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Re: An Unemotional Analysis of the Recent "Whistleblower" on LDS Church Finances

Post by grobert93 » 24 Dec 2019, 10:08

nibbler wrote:
20 Dec 2019, 09:44
LookingHard wrote:
20 Dec 2019, 08:09
...especially comments like "if you don't have money for food, pay your tithing." That feels to me like forcing lower-income people to be dependent upon the church. If you pay tithing THEN we will give you food from the bishop's storehouse.
Piggybacking on this.

I don't think having a rainy day fund is at the heart of any question over morality, it's perhaps more related to how that rainy day fund is obtained.

To take the morality over having a massive rainy day fund out of the equation, let's say that having a rainy day fund is best practice and given the nature of anxiety people have over the uncertainty of future events, it's also okay to have a rainy day fund in any amount; no amount is too large. Individuals and organizations alike should have and attempt to build up a rainy day fund.

When leaders preach that members should pay tithing even when they have no money for food in a way they are putting their rainy day fund ahead of a member's ability to meet their current basic needs. The church truly doesn't need the money. What's more important, growing a $100 billion portfolio so the church can take care of themselves in the event of a decades long emergency, or a member dealing with an emergency they are currently facing?

Preaching that tithing should be paid before the basics also creates an environment where it will be very difficult for the member to build up their personal rainy day fund. It can set up a system where the church's already enormous rainy day fund takes priority over a member's rainy day fund.
This is why i think it's a bigger deal for those of us who are mentally out.I "don't care" how much the church makes from tithing, we can chose to pay or not to pay. The problem for me, which has been pointed out, is that those who are trying their best to do what they think is right in the church are being "hurt". The church did indeed publish statements through general conference that "tithing before bills", "tithing before rent". The church in certain areas has been pounding the idea that if you don't pay your tithing not only do you "lose blessings" and aren't worthy to enter the temple, but your choice will affect others. This attitude was put in my mind on my mission. I was taught to assume it was my responsibility, and thus fault, if I didn't say the right words to an investigator who ended up not getting baptized. We'd hear the stories of the one person we didn't try to contact "meeting us in the afterlife and asking why we didn't tell her if it was all true". This toxic culture has expanded into the commandments. But worse of all, in my opinion, is the denial and/or "confusion" the church has claiming to have when these issues become public.

For example, president Ballard earlier this year stated "Church leaders don’t know where these practices began" when referring to a quote in preach my gospel that instructed missionaries to consider inviting investigators to baptism after just the first encounter / lesson. Ballard said to avoid that. This "controversy" wouldn't have been anything if he had simply said "we have mentioned in the past to find opportunities to invite investigators to baptism during the first lesson, but we have learned that this is not effective. We now ask that you avoid doing so unless the spirit specifically prompts you otherwise". Instead, they jabbed at not just the currently serving missionaries but those of us who HAVE served in the past -raises hand- and were told to do just that. "Church leaders don’t know where these practices began" is a way to say "it never happened, this was your imagination and you are wrong for thinking it's right. stop it and repent."

Another example of this was when Nelson spoke at BYU's fall semester devotional. For some reason he felt the need to remind everyone about the church's ugly November policy conflict and controversy. But for me what really sold the attitude was when he said "We knew that this policy created concern and confusion for some and heartache for others. That grieved us. Whenever the sons and daughters of God weep—for whatever reasons—we weep." The for whatever reason statement seemed to say that the number of youth lgbt suicides in the church, in utah and in general (many as a reaction to the policy) either never happened or were irrelevant to the policy. He could have said "we are mournful for those who have identified in the community and have chosen or felt otherwise to leave us from this earth. We recognize that recent policies have created separations in families and we wish to find a way to honor and obey god's commandments while avoiding these terrible tragedies." instead, he said "for whatever reasons".

I guess my point is, as someone who was fully active and believing most of my life, i now see problems with the way that the church responds to controversies that end up worse than they should have been. While i really don't care about how much the church has collected, i do wish that the church were to realize that they have told struggling families and individuals to "pay tithing before..." and when these faithful struggling members see the church holding onto so much money, and feeling unable to get the help they personally need because "tithing before...", but to then see the church deny that there is anything wrong with what they have done (in their recent videos where they tried to defend their spending procedures), just makes me realize why there's emotion in this.

We are taught to confess our sins and repent. But i just have not seen the church admit as much as i think they should, that they have made mistakes, said the wrong things and hurt families.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: An Unemotional Analysis of the Recent "Whistleblower" on LDS Church Finances

Post by Curt Sunshine » 24 Dec 2019, 12:14

Amen, Mom3. Thank you for that reminder.

Just like Ed Smart being forced to deal with his sexuality publicly by a family member broadcasting it, people do terrible things to other people with all kinds of excuses.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Roy
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Re: An Unemotional Analysis of the Recent "Whistleblower" on LDS Church Finances

Post by Roy » 24 Dec 2019, 13:51

I know that I am beating a dead horse here but I find it fascinating. I am providing a link and excerpts from tax experts on the legality of the church's investment/securities holdings. Underlining for emphasis is added by me. (Spoiler alert: The church will not likely be in any kind of trouble with the IRS).

https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterjreil ... e8bc237f41
The Washington Post Expert
I heard from Professor Phillip Hackney who was quoted in the Washington Post story:
“`If you have a charity that simply amasses a war chest year after year and does not spend any money for charity purposes, that does not meet the requirements of tax law,’ Hackney said in an interview. Hackney, who served in the IRS chief counsel’s office, has been retained by The Post to analyze the whistleblower documents.”
I wrote to Professor Hackney citing my article and soliciting his opinion. I wrote:
“My thinking was that if it was an integrated auxiliary of the church it is really the church accumulating and there is really no rule about that. I consulted with a couple of people who should know and that seems to be the common view.”
He responded:
“Yes. I saw your piece. I actually generally agree with what you say. In some sense I think what we are witnessing is the asking and answering of different questions. Reality is the church likely has sufficient technical reasons to pursue the path it has pursued. But what I was being asked was whether the brothers raised legitimate concerns. I think they do and still think so.....
Now, Ensign will almost surely argue that it is an integral part of the church. Furthermore the church pays out lots of money every year from its tithing. If we view total expense in comparison to endowment if there were some payout requirement it would be met. That may be so and because of that the IRS would almost surely never challenge this situation. Nevertheless I do think that as a charitable tax law matter such an endowment that only ever invests money and never pays out raises real questions of the moral ought of the law. And I think that has to be the case even with a church...
I thought when I reviewed the WB complaint it would be a nothing. In a very technical sense I think it is a nothing. But, I still thought and think now that the brothers raised legitimate concerns worthy of raising attention to.....
So if the question is will the church lose its status, the answer is almost surely no. But if the question is whether the brothers raised real and legitimate questions that touch seriously on tax law in its largest sense, the answer is yes.”
Bottom Line
Of all the experts I have communicated with Professor Brunson is the one with most serious concerns about Ensign. So I looked to him for the bottom line on the chance that there will be a tab in the billions for Ensign to pay if the IRS takes the whistleblower complaint seriously. Here is our email exchange in interview format:
Reilly - Suppose there was no separate tax exempt involved. Is there any question about how much wealth the church could accumulate?
Brunson - No, not really. I mean, there may be moral/religious/ethical questions, but if it invested in-house, it would qualify under 501(c)(3) as an exempt org with a religious purpose. I suppose at some point, investment goals could swamp religious ones, but I’m not sure at what level that would be.
Reilly - It seems like the commensurate thing would be based on a charity that was formed to raise and invest to support the religion in general and never spent anything. Ensign has a problem there. But if it is integrated maybe it is just a pocketbook for the church which puts it back to the previous question.
Brunson -Right. I’m not completely sure how the commensurate-in-scope rule applies to integrated auxiliaries (or even if it does). In most situations, it would need to qualify as exempt on its own, but if it can rest its exemption on being really tightly connected to the Mormon church, then there’s probably not a problem.
Reilly - Assuming IRS were to revoke Ensign's status, is there any chance at all that it would be retroactive? Or would they just turn the money over to the church and fade away?
Brunson - There’s always a chance, I suppose. But the law as it applies here seems ambiguous at best; to the extent Ensign Peak was on the wrong side of the line, I think it has a strong argument that it wasn’t deliberately there. I would think retroactivity would be really unlikely here.
The SLTribune comes to a similar conclussion
https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2019/12 ... tleblower/

Again, these opinions address the legality of the holdings and do not really spend much time on other effects of the Whistleblower's claim.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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