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Business magazine probes Mormon church's finances

Published July 10, 2012 3:59 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Mormons often point with pride to the Polynesian Cultural Center, a 42-acre Hawaiian park that features luaus, canoe rides and tours through seven re-created villages.The park, which opened in 1963, is owned by the Utah-based LDS Church and run as a nonprofit organization, exempt from federal taxes. It employs LDS students from the nearby Brigham Young University-Hawaii and is a destination point for many Mormon tourists.But few know that the center's president received a salary of $296,000 in 2010, while the park had "net assets worth $70 million and collected $23 million in ticket sales alone, as well as $36 million in tax-free donations," according to a just-published article about Mormon finances in Businessweek.Information about the church's nonprofit holdings like the center is among the tidbits in the magazine's wide-ranging exploration of LDS money.The article estimated that the church's annual revenues from Deseret Management Corp. alone reached $1.2 billion, a figure company CEO Keith B. McMullin initially confirmed, but later said through a spokesman that figure was "vastly overstated."McMullin is a former counselor in the church's Presiding Bishopric, which oversees the faith's finances and business interests.The problem for any journalist or scholar trying to assess the LDS Church's monetary holdings is that, as a religious organization, it is exempt from making many figures public. But the faith does not deny its interest in using money to support its religious mission."We look to not only the spiritual but also the temporal," McMullin told the magazine, "and we believe that a person who is impoverished temporally cannot blossom spiritually."Peggy Fletcher Stack