Question: Aren't tithing funds from "long ago" ultimately the source of all current Church funds?

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Question: Aren't tithing funds from "long ago" ultimately the source of all current Church funds?

A review of the history of such funds and Church involvement in business suggests that this is not the case

Some have wondered whether tithing funds (even from long ago) aren't the "ultimate" source of the funds used in the redevelopment. A review of the history of such funds and Church involvement in business suggests that this is not the case.

In the first place, it should be remembered that to mix tithing (tax-deductible) funds with taxable funds from other sources would cause major issues with the IRS, something which the Church would be unlikely to risk--both because to do so would be dishonest, and because the legal and public-relations consequences would be severe, even if they were inclined to do so.

The church has a number of for-profit businesses including real estate, ranching and agriculture, media, mercantile, etc. They have carefully invested for over a century in order to have a good financial cushion in order not to be severely in debt as they were in the late 1890s-early 1900s, nor to be on the verge of financial distress as they were in the late 1950s-early 1960s from over-spending building church meeting houses and other church-related ventures and expenditures.

Church and state businesses were all intermingled during the Great Basin period leading up to statehood

In the 19th-century, funds for church and state, church and business, etc., were all intermingled during a good portion of the Great Basin period leading up to statehood. This was because when the Saints arrived in Utah there was no pre-existing community. There was no infrastructure nor corporate entities providing for even the bare essentials of life. Everything had to come from the church and its members. And for the first few decades, none of the church's members were really in a position to invest large capital on projects like roads, bridges, canals, mills, and other necessities. Therefore, the church stepped in and was not only a source of spiritual aid but physical aid as well. Most of the "investment" made by members came in the form of goods and labor, not money deposited into a bank or brokerage account.

The church used what precious funds it could to build infrastructure and provide for the needs of the people. In the process, the church and its leading members created companies like Deseret Bank and Zion's Bank, Deseret Produce Company, Deseret Salt Company, Deseret Telegraph, Deseret Manufacturing Society, Deseret Iron Company, Jordan River Canal Company, Davis Canal and Irrigation Company, Utah Central Railroad, Utah Southern Railroad, Utah Northern Railroad and a host of other companies. Some companies were successful and others were complete failures.

It is simply a cop-out for critics of the Church to simply go back in time until they can equate everything that the Church has to a tithing or offering donation. This does not make President Hinckley a liar.

  • How many of you reading this have ancestors that owned slaves? Does that mean that you must consider slavery acceptable?
  • How many of you have ancestors who were polygamists? Does that mean that you actually must accept polygamy?
  • How many of you have ancestors that paid tithing to the Church? Does that mean that you paid that money?

Members donated time to build infrastructure

Members donated time to build buildings, help build railroads, canals and other projects. Those with money "invested" knowing they would probably see only a partial return. Often, the stocks held by these investors earned pennies to the dollars invested and quite often were eventually turned over to the church as a gift. They were all doing what they could to build up the kingdom. Heber J. Grant, for example, had an insurance company that was sold for a very low price to the church and then combined with another insurance company to create Beneficial Life. Deseret Telegraph was later sold to Western Union. Even the hospitals and universities were originally church-owned and run ventures because they had to be.

So, that is where the original money came from that was then used to invest in more profitable business ventures and later used for projects like City Creek Mall. Some of these ventures became profitable and were sold as the church divested itself of businesses they felt other companies could run. The banks were sold, the hospitals were sold. The Church had originally been given an enormous amount of Union Pacific stock shares as well as rails and rolling stock to pay Brigham Young and other investors, including the Church, for labor building the road beds, etc., in Utah. Eventually the church sold its railroads, built from materials and money that came from Union Pacific, back to Union Pacific and made a good amount of money. That money was, in turn, reinvested in other ventures for later use.

The Church does not mix sacred money with Church investments

Ultimately, the church goes to great length not to mix sacred money with church investments but is constantly trying to use its investments to further the goals of the Church. City Creek Mall was made not to make money (although that has turned out to be a wonderful side-benefit thus far) but to create a place that would draw people back to downtown Salt Lake City. Church leaders were very concerned that downtown Salt Lake City was slowly dying. Stores were closing and the downtown was becoming blighted and unattractive. Church leaders did not want Temple Square and other church buildings to be surrounded by rundown blocks that few people were going to. Therefore, they felt it was worth the investment to build something beautiful and productive that would draw other businesses, restaurants, etc. and keep the blocks surrounding Temple Square vibrant. They seem to have succeeded, and also have provided an economic boon to the region.