Question: Why were properties in the name of Joseph Smith?

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Question: Why were properties in the name of Joseph Smith?

In the early days of the Church, the finances of Joseph Smith and the institutional Church were enmeshed

This was not unusual, as the idea of religious groups functioning as corporations and holding property was frowned on in Jacksonian America.

In 1836, the Church was centered at Kirtland, and was undergoing substantial growth. The Saints were constructing the Kirtland temple, at considerable cost, as well as financing property and business acquisitions, the immigration of poor members to Ohio, and missionary work.

To finance this explosive growth, loans were sought. Joseph Smith and the Church had extensive loans; some loans were for Joseph, some for Kirtland, and some for the Church. In some instances, Joseph was the only borrower, in other cases he was one among many who were liable for a given debt.

Banks do not loan money to those they consider poor risks, and so to his contemporaries, Joseph clearly appeared to have the ability to meet his obligations. The amount of the loans seems to have been less than the total value of the lands, businesses, and goods which Joseph and the Church owned. However, these assets were difficult to liquefy—the loans were often short-term (from a few weeks to around 180 days) and so cash flow problems beset Joseph continually.[1]


  1. See Marvin S. Hill, Keith C. Rooker and Larry T. Wimmer, "The Kirtland Economy Revisited: A Market Critique of Sectarian Economics," Brigham Young University Studies 17 no. 4 (Summer 1977), 389–471.