Grunt

Financial Whistleblower

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9 hours ago, estradling75 said:

and if they feel they were deceived or fraud was involved that is something they can have the government investigate. 

It seems that this is exactly what happened. 

6 hours ago, Vort said:

What's wrong with $100 billion? What makes that number "too big"?

I'm not sure I understand the evil in "hoarding" money. Saving is no longer allowed?

Nothing wrong with hoarding money, except when you're hoarding it tax-free and telling people it's being used for charity. 

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As long as no laws are being broken, why should any individual or private organization be forced or even expected to give a public accounting for their expenditures?

If the individual or organization is operating under 501c, then proof of compliance is necessary. I feel this way about all charities, btw, not just religious ones. 

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So because people like you don't like it, therefore that means it's bad?

I'm saying it's a bad look from a PR standpoint. 

1 hour ago, Mores said:

Specific purpose?  Please provide the list of "acceptable clear purposes" for a rainy day fund.  Isn't the very definition of a rainy day fund to prepare for the UNKNOWN?  What is YOUR rainy day fund specifically for?

My rainy day fund was taxed. Again, the fact that the church has all of this money saved up is not the issue, it's that it accumulated this money under the pretext of charity. Perhaps further investigation will find that, yes, the church has a documented project that these funds are being earmarked for, as you alluded to earlier. If this is the case, then I will gladly retract my objections. 

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Transparency for whom?  I've given my reasons for wanting to keep things private.  You've given no real alternatives to satisfy my reluctance to share more information.  Alleviate my concerns and we can talk about more public transparency.

Again, I believe that transparency is necessary for ANY organization that collects money tax-free for charitable puposes. I'm sure we're all familiar with the controversy surrounding the Clinton and Trump foundations. I'm not saying that the church is operating under such nefarious conditions, but hopefully it'll shed some light on my fixation on transparency. The fact that there serms to be a widespread public distrust of your church is certainly unfortunate, but I don't see that alone as a reason for not disclosing the purpose for untaxed funds.

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I'd encourage you to take an honest look at what is motivating your comments here.  If I were to project the most positive motivations to these comments, it would seem that your problem has more to do with current laws and your own distrust, rather than anything the Church actually "DID".

See JAG's post above. He nailed it perfectly.

 

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Just whom do you think we're supposed to to satisfy?

If it's the IRS, then I'd encourage you to read the Forbes article I posted earlier.  His conclusion was simply, let the IRS do their job.

Ultimately, that's my view as well. Doesn't mean we can't have this debate while we wait for more information. As I said, I'm prepared for the possibility that the church has a satisfactory explanation. But on the surface, it's not a good look. I look forward to learning more.

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You keep using the word "secret" as if it implies evil.  You keep using the word "transparency" as if it is the standard of good.  I disagree.  In financial matters, PRIVACY is extremely important.  Our goals and plans are kept private because it helps achieve them.

And, yes, it has worked out well for us - or else we wouldn't have $120 Bil saved up.  I actually have zero idea why you're implying otherwise.

Again, I'm 100% okay with whatever an individual or organization chooses to do with money that it has paid taxes on. I don't trust any organization, religious or otherwise, that has accumulated $100B in tax-free revenue without stating its purpose.

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31 minutes ago, Godless said:

It seems that this is exactly what happened.

Prove it.  I am one that pays into this charity.  I do so with the expectation that they will practice what they preach.  That includes helping the poor and needy it also includes running itself and being able to meet future needs and be prepared for unexpected.  I also expect them to do so while obeying the law while maximizing the return. I am not a business guy, and I not finance guy, nor am I a tax guy.  But the people running the accounts in question are and a few here are and many in the various linked articles are. And they do not think the sum of money  is excessive.

Nothing in any article shows that they broke any laws.  There is an accusation, and various analysis that runs from unlikely to not enough data.  Yet you take the stance that it happened. Prove all the articles wrong right now if you truly know that.

If the church purposely broke the law then it should absolutely face the consequences.  If there was simple human error it should pay for that too.  If the church actions were legal and it took advantage of the gray areas and loop holes that everyone does then it should have no consequences for that.  One does not get to change the rules of the game after the play is made just so you can penalize the team you do not like. 

Now you might want to say will this potentially fully legal action should not be legal.  Well that is your right, but that is an act of congress to change the law.  Not the act of a of a whistle blower investigation.

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Guest Mores

I'm going to start with this point because we need to narrow our focus for further discussion.

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<regarding: let the IRS do their job>

Ultimately, that's my view as well. Doesn't mean we can't have this debate while we wait for more information. As I said, I'm prepared for the possibility that the church has a satisfactory explanation. But on the surface, it's not a good look. I look forward to learning more.

As far as law, apparently we agree.  Let the IRS do their job.

When you refer to this debate, we ought to separate the topics into legal vs. moral.  The legal aspects we've discussed is a bunch of "I don't know", "It depends", and "We'll see."  That's really as far as we're going to get without the procedures the IRS may choose to follow.  But from what I know of IRS audits, and the threshold of "accusation" Nielsen has not crossed that line (i.e. he has not shown enough evidence of any wrongdoing).  But again, we'll see.  Technically, the IRS doesn't need "probable cause" to perform an audit.  But my impression is that since the Church has provided all the financial information required by law, then the IRS is already aware of everything Nielsen said.  So, they're not surprised by any of it.

Morally speaking, I don't know where you're coming from.  All I'm getting is that it is somehow your business just because the Church is a tax exempt entity.  Is there more to the argument?

1 hour ago, Godless said:

<regarding: people being deceived>

It seems that this is exactly what happened. 

Decieved how?

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Nothing wrong with hoarding money, except when you're hoarding it tax-free and telling people it's being used for charity. 

Who says it isn't being used for charity?  "Hoarding" can simply be "saving".  The fact you choose that word shows your bias rather than even-handed debate.  The Church's official position seems to be that it is being saved for future purposes for the growth of the Church as declared by prophecy.  Nothing in the Church's actions appears to be otherwise.  I don't see any fat cats getting rich off of this savings account that just sits and grows.

I might remind everyone: As funds "sit and grow", it's not like they're sitting in someone's mattress.  That money grows for a reason.  It is being used in the economy in some way.  And instead of being spent on luxuries for the elite, it is being used to promote business and employment.

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If the individual or organization is operating under 501c, then proof of compliance is necessary. I feel this way about all charities, btw, not just religious ones. 

Per the Church website, they have performed all the disclosures required by the law.  What more are you asking for?  And this kind of goes counter to your agreement that we should just "let the IRS do their job".

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I'm saying it's a bad look from a PR standpoint. 

So, what else is new?

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My rainy day fund was taxed. Again, the fact that the church has all of this money saved up is not the issue, it's that it accumulated this money under the pretext of charity. Perhaps further investigation will find that, yes, the church has a documented project that these funds are being earmarked for, as you alluded to earlier. If this is the case, then I will gladly retract my objections. 

Again with the loaded words.  "Pretext".  You're automatically ascribing ill-intent just because there is a lot of it and because it is the Church.  How do you know that it is NOT being saved for some future charitable work -- according to our belief system?

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Again, I believe that transparency is necessary for ANY organization that collects money tax-free for charitable puposes.

Again, tax free.  Just let the IRS do their job.

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I'm sure we're all familiar with the controversy surrounding the Clinton and Trump foundations.

They got away with it because of political clout, not because they had satisfied all legal obligations.  If anyone audited them at a frequency that would be normal, they would have been found out much earlier. 

If an audit of the Church is performed, I'm confident that the worst they will find is some minor issues with paperwork that can be remedied rather easily.

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I'm not saying that the church is operating under such nefarious conditions, but hopefully it'll shed some light on my fixation on transparency.

Again, what more transparency do you want?  Not some vague statement like "more transparency".  Draw a line and we can discuss the merits of that line.

Please recognize that the IRS has set conditions and rules regarding transparency.  The Church satisfies these laws/regulations.  I don't see the need to open up the books any more than the law requires.  It is a very common rubric that many organizations use to say "they're ok".  And we seem to measure up pretty well. 

So, absent the deference to the IRS, what do you want?

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The fact that there serms to be a widespread public distrust of your church is certainly unfortunate, but I don't see that alone as a reason for not disclosing the purpose for untaxed funds.

Not distrust.  Animus.  And that is a perfect reason to NOT release information.  Do you want the Russians to have access to all the US military spending?

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See JAG's post above. He nailed it perfectly.

I'd point out JAG's statement that these actions should indeed be considered humanitarian.

The primary complaint from Nielsen was that the funds were used for non-humanitarian purposes.  If you agree with JAG on that point, then you disagree with Nielsen.  So, if you disagree with Nielsen's primary point, then why are you still subscribing to his overall position beyond the "tax-exempt and transparency" argument?

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Again, I'm 100% okay with whatever an individual or organization chooses to do with money that it has paid taxes on. I don't trust any organization, religious or otherwise, that has accumulated $100B in tax-free revenue without stating its purpose.

Well, this pretty much confirms that the bottom line is that the Church isn't paying taxes on the money.  That may or may not be true.  If you would like an explanation, let me know.  But this post is long enough as it is.

Bottom line is, I'd really like to know if you have any argument that is not based on

1) Tax exempt -- which we agreed we'd just let the IRS do their job.

2) "I don't trust them."

Edited by Mores

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1 hour ago, Godless said:

It seems that this is exactly what happened.

This seems odd to me.  We’ve long known that the Church saves and invests a portion of its income.  The $32 billion Ensign Peak received in tithing is still there, amongst the $120 billion total.  (And it’s not like the money just sitting in a vault waiting for Russ Nelson to invite his buddy Scrooge McDuck to go swim in it.  It’s invested out in the economy, funding growth and paying salaries.)

If the Church is able to turn every one of my tithing dollars into $3.75, which it still has and can use to further its theological aims (which I know intimately) whenever it deems the time is right, then my only regret is that I haven’t given the Church more.

Edited by Just_A_Guy

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12 hours ago, Mores said:

Sometimes, big plans are in the works.  And for an organization like the Church, with many enemies, they can't go blathering about all the plans they have.  Do you know how many churches and temples had to be postponed because people found out that "The Mormon Church" was the party buying that property?  I know of two stakes that had to postpone new buildings for years (one of them two years, the other for six years) because people kept wanting to back out of a deal once they found out who was buying the property. 

Back out of deals, jerk them around and/or skyrocket the cost of the land too.
Kind of reminds me of how Disney originally went about buying the land for Disney World.

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To avoid a burst of land speculation, Walt Disney World Company used various dummy corporations to acquire 30,500 acres (48 sq mi; 123 km2) of land...  Working strictly in secrecy, real estate agents unaware of their client's identity began making offers to landowners in April 1964 in parts of southwest Orange and northwest Osceola counties. The agents were careful not to reveal the extent of their intentions, and they were able to negotiate numerous land contracts with some including large tracts of land for as little as $100 an acre.

 

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How long does it take for the IRS to begin And complete a full investigation on this? Or how long does it take the IRS to decide this isn’t worth looking into? I am excited to add this to the list of slanders that turned out to be nothing.

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1 hour ago, estradling75 said:

Prove it.  I am one that pays into this charity.  I do so with the expectation that they will practice what they preach.  That includes helping the poor and needy it also includes running itself and being able to meet future needs and be prepared for unexpected.  I also expect them to do so while obeying the law while maximizing the return. I am not a business guy, and I not finance guy, nor am I a tax guy.  But the people running the accounts in question are and a few here are and many in the various linked articles are. And they do not think the sum of money  is excessive.

Your original statement was: "if [contributors] feel they were deceived or fraud was involved that is something they can have the government investigate."

My response was based on the assumption that the whistleblower is a tithe-paying member of the church who feels that he needs some clarification on how his tithing money is being used. 

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Nothing in any article shows that they broke any laws.  There is an accusation, and various analysis that runs from unlikely to not enough data.  Yet you take the stance that it happened. Prove all the articles wrong right now if you truly know that.

I don't know anything. I'm saying let's find out. Maybe this whistleblower got his garments in a bunch over nothing. Or maybe he's on to something. I'll admit that I have a general distrust of religious institutions sitting on large sums of tax-free money. And yes, the statement is also true if you remove the bolded portion. It's nothing personal against your church. I'm an equal-opportunity skeptic. As I said, if everything is kosher, I'm happy to let it go.

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Morally speaking, I don't know where you're coming from.  All I'm getting is that it is somehow your business just because the Church is a tax exempt entity.  Is there more to the argument?

Not really. 

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Who says it isn't being used for charity?  "Hoarding" can simply be "saving".  The fact you choose that word shows your bias rather than even-handed debate.  The Church's official position seems to be that it is being saved for future purposes for the growth of the Church as declared by prophecy.  Nothing in the Church's actions appears to be otherwise.  I don't see any fat cats getting rich off of this savings account that just sits and grows.

I think you can call it hoarding when the number hits twelve digits. And again, my issue isn't that they have that money, it's that they paid no taxes on it and, according to Nielsen, haven't touched it in over 20 years. If the IRS is okay with those circumstances, then I'm willing to accept that. 

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Again with the loaded words.  "Pretext".  You're automatically ascribing ill-intent just because there is a lot of it and because it is the Church.  Do you know that it is NOT being saved for some future charitable work -- according to our belief system?  If you do know that, how?

Wrong choice of words. I meant "premise". I thought that "pretext" was similar in definition, but it turns out I was wrong. It was not my intention to imply ill intent.

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Again, what more transparency do you want?  Not some vague statement like "more transparency".  Draw a line and we can discuss the merits of that line.

Really, any kind of non-vague explanation for why they have that amount of tax-free money saved up. $100B is an insane amount of money for a non-profit organization to be sitting on.

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Bottom line is, I'd really like to know if you have any argument that is not based on

1) Tax exempt -- which we agreed we'd just let the IRS do their job.

2) "I don't trust them."

No, that about sums it up. Yes, ultimately we need to let the IRS do their job. I have a very hard time believing that such an immense amount of money was accumulated within the limits of our 501c tax laws, but as I said, I stand ready to admit that I was wrong.

And yes, I distrust religious institutions. FWIW, I distrust yours slightly less than most.

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3 minutes ago, Godless said:

Your original statement was: "if [contributors] feel they were deceived or fraud was involved that is something they can have the government investigate."

My response was based on the assumption that the whistleblower is a tithe-paying member of the church who feels that he needs some clarification on how his tithing money is being used.

The whisleblower very well might have been....  But you are not.  Nor are you in a position to have an informed opinion on what might be... But you are presuming guilt anyways.  That is morally, ethically and legal wrong.  Before you start throwing stones you should check your glass house.

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Guest Mores
19 minutes ago, Godless said:

Not really. 

Ok.  Thanks for being open about that.

19 minutes ago, Godless said:

I think you can call it hoarding when the number hits twelve digits. And again, my issue isn't that they have that money, it's that they paid no taxes on it and, according to Nielsen, haven't touched it in over 20 years. If the IRS is okay with those circumstances, then I'm willing to accept that. 

As long as all the boxes were checked, the IRS will be fine with it.  Mind you, my experience is more in commercial work, rather than charity.  But generally speaking, the IRS just cares that the law was followed, not about how much you are working with.

19 minutes ago, Godless said:

Wrong choice of words. I meant "premise". I thought that "pretext" was similar in definition, but it turns out I was wrong. It was not my intention to imply ill intent.

Thanks for the clarification.

19 minutes ago, Godless said:

Really, any kind of non-vague explanation for why they have that amount of tax-free money saved up. $100B is an insane amount of money for a non-profit organization to be sitting on.

They've already given that explanation.  But (just as a hypothesis) perhaps you find it too vague because you are not familiar with the prophecies and what the purpose of the Church actually is.  But that's a different discussion.

19 minutes ago, Godless said:

No, that about sums it up. Yes, ultimately we need to let the IRS do their job. I have a very hard time believing that such an immense amount of money was accumulated within the limits of our 501c tax laws, but as I said, I stand ready to admit that I was wrong.

And yes, I distrust religious institutions. FWIW, I distrust yours slightly less than most.

So, again, we agree about the legal portion.

As for the trust... You distrust.  I trust.  There's really no debating this to come to any resolution.

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Guest Mores
1 hour ago, Fether said:

How long does it take for the IRS to begin And complete a full investigation on this? Or how long does it take the IRS to decide this isn’t worth looking into? I am excited to add this to the list of slanders that turned out to be nothing.

That's like asking how long it takes for someone to make a movie.  It depends.  It really proceeds as any investigation would.  They have to determine the merits of the accusation.  One major thing may be that they will have to make a judgment about whether the accusation actually means any violation of Title 26.  As the Tax Attorney stated, it is difficult to decide.  It is kind of in a vague space.  It appears that there is little precedent for what the Church has done or what the mission of the Church actually is.

It is because of that ambiguity that the IRS will have a tremendous responsibility early on, in determining if the alleged actions are actually illegal or not.  

If it proceeds forth, there would be audits, internal to the IRS, then into the Church's full records.

The Church may request a trial so that the courts can decide if what was done actually doesn't satisfy the laws as written.  To be honest, I believe the Church would be on better footing in the courts.

 

 

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16 hours ago, Godless said:

Imagine if the Red Cross collected billions of dollars, tax free, under the premise of charity and just sat on it rather than using it for charitable purposes. Would you be okay with that? 

Absolutely.  It's none of my business what people do with their money.

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17 hours ago, Godless said:

Imagine if the Red Cross collected billions of dollars, tax free, under the premise of charity and just sat on it rather than using it for charitable purposes. Would you be okay with that? 

Yeah, I admit I just do not understand this. So what if the Red Cross collects billions without doing enough (IMO) to justify it? People will quit giving them money. It's self-correcting like that.

As long as faithful Latter-day Saints want to give money to their Church, why is that bad? The Church is not a for-profit corporation. Assuming it complies with all tax law, why should you or anyone else get upset about its high net worth?

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1 hour ago, Grunt said:

Absolutely.  It's none of my business what people do with their money.

Ya, and the Red Cross is a charity and a We are not. 

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1 hour ago, Vort said:

Yeah, I admit I just do not understand this. So what if the Red Cross collects billions without doing enough (IMO) to justify it? People will quit giving them money. It's self-correcting like that.

As long as faithful Latter-day Saints want to give money to their Church, why is that bad? The Church is not a for-profit corporation. Assuming it complies with all tax law, why should you or anyone else get upset about its high net worth?

Weeeeellllll...there are some sticky issues here.

For instance, suppose the Church is building up this massive reserve of value, built on the tithing I pay, and then they never make any expenditures aside from keeping the lights on in the meetinghouses. It was discussed earlier that the Church has $1 Billion left over after paying operational costs, and spends about 4% of that on humanitarian aid. Now I I (hypothetically) take a look at that and say, "it sure doesn't seem like the Church is doing enough good in the world with the money it is collecting. I think I'll quit giving them more money to squander." 

So I stop paying my tithing now, and next thing I know, I'm getting called in to talk to my bishop and stake president. My temple recommend is revoked. My standing in the Church is put into question. And I'm told to repent, and that my eternal well-being--my opportunity to be with my family forever-- is in jeopardy if I don't repent and obey the Law of Tithing.

But if (big if, and hypothetical if) my tithing is being collected and doing nothing more than enriching the Corporation of the First Presidency of the Church--and I'm being spiritually and emotionally manipulated to do it--how is that different from the priestcrafts denounced in the Book of Mormon*. 

Now, I know those are fighting words. And I'm not accusing the Church of priestcraft. But there is a strong vibe from Church leadership of "just trust us" when it comes to how finances are handled. The total opaqueness leaves a lot of questions. Personally, I'm not really content with that.  This is an area where, personally, I don't like how Church leadership has chosen to handle it. I'm a big subscriber to the "trust but verify" model. But I feel like there's no verification path for the membership of the Church**.

What's even more frustrating to someone like me is that the bar for justification is pretty low.  If there were a statement of "Yes, we retain a fund of more than $100 billion against which we are able to self-insure our $300 billion of real estate assets and supplemental health insurance for youth activities." I'd be good with that. That makes complete sense to me. But that isn't what we get.  We get, "we haven't done anything illegal. Trust us. We got this." I don't find that particularly satisfying.

 

* In contrast, when I tell the Red Cross that I won't donate to them anymore because I don't believe that they are spending the money I donate wisely, and that I am donating to the Green Cross instead, they express disappointment and thank me for my time. If I tell the Church that I don't believe they are spending the money wisely and that I am donating to the Episcopal church instead, the calls to repentance start flying.

 

* Are we entitled to it? Legally, no.  We surrendered the money. Theologically, we consider that it is the Lord's (TM) money. So religiously speaking, we don't really have a claim to know what happens to it either. But total opaqueness creates the conditions in which abuse and fraud can occur. I'd like some assurances that this isn't occurring. 

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6 minutes ago, MarginOfError said:

For instance, suppose the Church is building up this massive reserve of value, built on the tithing I pay, and then they never make any expenditures aside from keeping the lights on in the meetinghouses. It was discussed earlier that the Church has $1 Billion left over after paying operational costs, and spends about 4% of that on humanitarian aid. Now I I (hypothetically) take a look at that and say, "it sure doesn't seem like the Church is doing enough good in the world with the money it is collecting. I think I'll quit giving them more money to squander." 

So I stop paying my tithing now, and next thing I know, I'm getting called in to talk to my bishop and stake president. My temple recommend is revoked. My standing in the Church is put into question. And I'm told to repent, and that my eternal well-being--my opportunity to be with my family forever-- is in jeopardy if I don't repent and obey the Law of Tithing.

But if (big if, and hypothetical if) my tithing is being collected and doing nothing more than enriching the Corporation of the First Presidency of the Church--and I'm being spiritually and emotionally manipulated to do it--how is that different from the priestcrafts denounced in the Book of Mormon*.

Again, I don't understand. Either the Restored Church is what it claims to be, or else it is not. This is truly a binary choice. There is no middle ground. An organization cannot sort of be the kingdom of God on earth. It is or it is not.

If the Restored Church is not what it claims to be, then quit giving tithing. So what if you can't go to the temple? it's all nonsense.

If the Restored Church is what it claims to be, then "your" tithing is nothing of the sort. It's not yours. It's God's. You have exactly zero say in how those funds are used. Whether or not you approve of how the tithing expenditures committee does its job is utterly irrelevant.

And even in the latter case, you still have the choice as to whether or not you tithe. You aren't forced.

As far as I can see, the "priestcraft" argument is irrelevant in either case. As long as the Church follows tax law and does not forcibly compel people to give it money. what's to object to, at least on a legal level?

6 minutes ago, MarginOfError said:

* Are we entitled to it? Legally, no.  We surrendered the money. Theologically, we consider that it is the Lord's (TM) money. So religiously speaking, we don't really have a claim to know what happens to it either. But total opaqueness creates the conditions in which abuse and fraud can occur. I'd like some assurances that this isn't occurring. 

In every General Conference that I remember, the Church has always provided testimony from independent accounting services that the tithes and other Church income has been used appropriately. I would think that requiring a more "line-item" accounting than this sort of belies the idea of trusting in one's leaders. Which, of course, one is free to do, but that does run counter to the whole idea of "God's kingdom".

Edited by Vort

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6 minutes ago, MarginOfError said:

Weeeeellllll...there are some sticky issues here.

For instance, suppose the Church is building up this massive reserve of value, built on the tithing I pay, and then they never make any expenditures aside from keeping the lights on in the meetinghouses. It was discussed earlier that the Church has $1 Billion left over after paying operational costs, and spends about 4% of that on humanitarian aid. Now I I (hypothetically) take a look at that and say, "it sure doesn't seem like the Church is doing enough good in the world with the money it is collecting. I think I'll quit giving them more money to squander." 

So I stop paying my tithing now, and next thing I know, I'm getting called in to talk to my bishop and stake president. My temple recommend is revoked. My standing in the Church is put into question. And I'm told to repent, and that my eternal well-being--my opportunity to be with my family forever-- is in jeopardy if I don't repent and obey the Law of Tithing.

But if (big if, and hypothetical if) my tithing is being collected and doing nothing more than enriching the Corporation of the First Presidency of the Church--and I'm being spiritually and emotionally manipulated to do it--how is that different from the priestcrafts denounced in the Book of Mormon*. 

Now, I know those are fighting words. And I'm not accusing the Church of priestcraft. But there is a strong vibe from Church leadership of "just trust us" when it comes to how finances are handled. The total opaqueness leaves a lot of questions. Personally, I'm not really content with that.  This is an area where, personally, I don't like how Church leadership has chosen to handle it. I'm a big subscriber to the "trust but verify" model. But I feel like there's no verification path for the membership of the Church**.

What's even more frustrating to someone like me is that the bar for justification is pretty low.  If there were a statement of "Yes, we retain a fund of more than $100 billion against which we are able to self-insure our $300 billion of real estate assets and supplemental health insurance for youth activities." I'd be good with that. That makes complete sense to me. But that isn't what we get.  We get, "we haven't done anything illegal. Trust us. We got this." I don't find that particularly satisfying.

 

* In contrast, when I tell the Red Cross that I won't donate to them anymore because I don't believe that they are spending the money I donate wisely, and that I am donating to the Green Cross instead, they express disappointment and thank me for my time. If I tell the Church that I don't believe they are spending the money wisely and that I am donating to the Episcopal church instead, the calls to repentance start flying.

 

* Are we entitled to it? Legally, no.  We surrendered the money. Theologically, we consider that it is the Lord's (TM) money. So religiously speaking, we don't really have a claim to know what happens to it either. But total opaqueness creates the conditions in which abuse and fraud can occur. I'd like some assurances that this isn't occurring. 

Opaqueness to who?  You? A Random John Doe off the street?  That is not how most of any business are run.  The books are closed and the finances are hidden from people who do not need to know. 

Now there are legal requirement of disclosure that need to be met, and auditing and financial best practices for checking for errors and fraud that need to be perform. Which require the opening of the books and transparency to certain groups.  This should all be happening, but random street person is not going to see that

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6 hours ago, estradling75 said:

Opaqueness to who?  You? A Random John Doe off the street?  That is not how most of any business are run.  The books are closed and the finances are hidden from people who do not need to know. 

Now there are legal requirement of disclosure that need to be met, and auditing and financial best practices for checking for errors and fraud that need to be perform. Which require the opening of the books and transparency to certain groups.  This should all be happening, but random street person is not going to see that

But members of the Church who pay tithing are not random street people.

M.

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20 hours ago, Godless said:

Nothing wrong with hoarding money, except when you're hoarding it tax-free and telling people it's being used for charity. 

The whole purpose of the church's existence, the primary focus of all of its efforts, is the salvation of every single one of God's children that ever have been, that are now, and that ever will be. This, to me, is a far greater, nobler and more expensive goal than the goals all other charities combined. 

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8 hours ago, Maureen said:

But members of the Church who pay tithing are not random street people.

M.

Ah yes you only show up when you think you have a got ya question.  Totally not worth the time to play your games

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15 hours ago, MarginOfError said:

Weeeeellllll...there are some sticky issues here.

For instance, suppose the Church is building up this massive reserve of value, built on the tithing I pay, and then they never make any expenditures aside from keeping the lights on in the meetinghouses. It was discussed earlier that the Church has $1 Billion left over after paying operational costs, and spends about 4% of that on humanitarian aid. Now I I (hypothetically) take a look at that and say, "it sure doesn't seem like the Church is doing enough good in the world with the money it is collecting. I think I'll quit giving them more money to squander." 

So I stop paying my tithing now, and next thing I know, I'm getting called in to talk to my bishop and stake president. My temple recommend is revoked. My standing in the Church is put into question. And I'm told to repent, and that my eternal well-being--my opportunity to be with my family forever-- is in jeopardy if I don't repent and obey the Law of Tithing.

But if (big if, and hypothetical if) my tithing is being collected and doing nothing more than enriching the Corporation of the First Presidency of the Church--and I'm being spiritually and emotionally manipulated to do it--how is that different from the priestcrafts denounced in the Book of Mormon*. 

Now, I know those are fighting words. And I'm not accusing the Church of priestcraft. But there is a strong vibe from Church leadership of "just trust us" when it comes to how finances are handled. The total opaqueness leaves a lot of questions. Personally, I'm not really content with that.  This is an area where, personally, I don't like how Church leadership has chosen to handle it. I'm a big subscriber to the "trust but verify" model. But I feel like there's no verification path for the membership of the Church**.

What's even more frustrating to someone like me is that the bar for justification is pretty low.  If there were a statement of "Yes, we retain a fund of more than $100 billion against which we are able to self-insure our $300 billion of real estate assets and supplemental health insurance for youth activities." I'd be good with that. That makes complete sense to me. But that isn't what we get.  We get, "we haven't done anything illegal. Trust us. We got this." I don't find that particularly satisfying.

 

* In contrast, when I tell the Red Cross that I won't donate to them anymore because I don't believe that they are spending the money I donate wisely, and that I am donating to the Green Cross instead, they express disappointment and thank me for my time. If I tell the Church that I don't believe they are spending the money wisely and that I am donating to the Episcopal church instead, the calls to repentance start flying.

 

* Are we entitled to it? Legally, no.  We surrendered the money. Theologically, we consider that it is the Lord's (TM) money. So religiously speaking, we don't really have a claim to know what happens to it either. But total opaqueness creates the conditions in which abuse and fraud can occur. I'd like some assurances that this isn't occurring. 

A couple of observations:

—I think people who actually pay tithing generally understand that tithing (as opposed to fast offerings or funds specified to humanitarian aid) go primarily to Church operating expenses, and only secondarily (if at all) to humanitarian aid.  

—There’s kind of an assumption in a lot of these sorts of discussions they “charity” must be one and the same thing as “humanitarian aid”.  When you think about it, though—the DNC and RNC are tax-exempt charities but do relatively little in way of what we would consider “humanitarian aid”.  Ditto for many political think tanks and action committees, and entities like Planned Parenthood and environmental advocacy groups and educational institutions.  There’s nothing wrong with using Church funds to keep the lights on in a meetinghouse, or building that meetinghouse in the first place—particularly when we’re building it on behalf of impoverished third-world Saints who could never do something like that on their own.

—I’ve *had* my temple recommend revoked.  The day-to-day social fallout from this was . . . zero.  (Granted, it would have been more awkward had there been any family members getting sealed during the periods in question.  But the subtext we often see from critics suggesting that the Church is fundamentally and visibly cleft into an upper caste that has been arbitrarily granted temple recommends and a lower caste that has been arbitrarily denied them, is nonsense.)   And the theological and familial adverse effects were essentially zero since I undeniably already wasn’t living the covenants that kept me temple-worthy.

—To anyone who actually believes the Church doctrine and takes their temple covenants seriously, “tithing” isn’t manipulative.  It’s a scriptural precept affiliated with the Law of Consecration, the keeping of which is a temple obligation and which actually shapes our characters and makes better people (not to mention being an essential component of many of the minor miracles Latter-day Saints purport to see in their lives).  Now, yes; all that could theoretically happen if I gave my tithing to some other entity.  But if I take the sort of step that affirmatively signals that I don’t trust the Church leadership’s financial judgment vis a vis my tithing, then that does have spillover effects for how well I trust them in their larger roles of building Zion (both spiritually and, when the time comes, temporally).  And a society that doesn’t operate on a basic level of trust—especially towards its leadership—cannot and will not become a Zion community.  

Ever.  

Granted, the trust goes both ways; and I can imagine plenty of situations where church leaders may be abusing that trust.  But to suggest that the universe of potentially abusive situations includes the real-life scenario in which the Church had the callousness to turn my widow’s mite into 3.75 widow’s mites which they haven’t happened to spend yet . . . strikes me as something of a stretch.

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5 minutes ago, Just_A_Guy said:

Granted, the trust goes both ways; and I can imagine plenty of situations where church leaders may be abusing that trust.  But to suggest that the universe of potentially abusive situations includes the real-life scenario in which the Church had the callousness to turn my widow’s mite into 3.75 widow’s mites which they haven’t happened to spend yet . . . strikes me as something of a stretch.

Exactly....  Now lets look at who has the stewardship over the tithes and offerings.  The First Presidency, The Quorum of 12 and the Presiding Bishopric.  These are the 18 men to whom all church finances should be transparent.  These are the men that set the policies and handles errors, mistakes, corruption etc.  They have pulled in independent auditors, and the church as a whole gets a brief summary of the findings every 6 months.

While there is always going to be human error, to postulate wide spread corruption or abuse requires all 18 men to be in on it/or to be negligent in their God given duties.  Its kind of hard to reconcile the claims being a faithful and true latter-day saint while simultaneously declaring/speculating that all the leadership is corrupt/negligent  

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7 minutes ago, estradling75 said:

Its kind of hard to reconcile the claims being a faithful and true latter-day saint while simultaneously declaring/speculating that all the leadership is corrupt/negligent  

^^^This.
These are two opposing sides that, in reality, can't actually exist together.
You are either a faithful and true latter-day saint
OR
You are declaring/speculating that all the leadership is corrupt/negligent  

...but you are not both at the same time.

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2 hours ago, Scott said:

Thanks for the update.  Some interesting quotes found.

Quote

Storing money is not atypical for a religious entity like the LDS Church. Many charities hold onto money themselves or make use of traditional outside investment funds: Harvard University is known for a $41 billion endowment, for instance, and has been referred to by The Nation as “a hedge fund with a university attached.”

and then there's this...

Quote

"Even if there is something there, there's not a lot of revenue for potentially a lot of work," he said. "This probably isn't something that's going to be on their plate."

Brunson expressed doubts the IRS will take any action at all.

however that appears to be actually a quote from here...

By common consent website thoughts about ensign peak

Which does not seem to be credited as much (though linked to and talked about, the article is almost lifted wholesale from it).  I found it by following links and sources of the article in the SLT.  I don't know much about the website itself, but I did read the origin article.

It has the more relevant information on this to me in this quote from the common consent website...

Quote

And this is potentially a tax problem. Ensign Peak Advisers is a “supporting organization” and an “integrated auxiliary.” To qualify for a tax exemption, it (probably) has to meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3) of the Code independently. And, uncontroversially, managing a securities portfolio isn’t one of the tax-exempt purposes listed in section 501(c)(3).

But. In 1964, the IRS released a ruling[fn2] holding that a corporation whose sole activity was to engage in a noncharitable business could qualify as tax-exempt. In the ruling, the IRS looked at a corporation that earned most of its money from renting out a building it owned and maintained. The corporation was organized for charitable purposes, and executed those charitable purposes by making grants and contributions to other charitable organizations. To qualify, the IRS said, it had to ensure that its grants were “commensurate in scope with its financial resources.”

The IRS also blessed an arrangement where a tax-exempt hospital set up and funded a trust to pay out malpractice claims. Its sole purpose was to hold money and pay out the claims, and if its assets dropped below a certain point, the hospital had to make more contributions in. The IRS determined that, by serving as a repository of funds that the hospital could use to further its exempt mission, the trust qualified for an exemption. In that case, there was no discussion of commensurate-in-scope, and no discussion of the trust actually making payments.[fn3]

 

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4 hours ago, estradling75 said:

Ah yes you only show up when you think you have a got ya question.  Totally not worth the time to play your games

Then why did you spend the time commenting on my post? Explain what you mean by "random street person", since you seem to be accusing @MarginOfError of being that when he is a tithe paying member like yourself.

M.

Edited by Maureen
added additional thoughts

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