Why does a religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, need to build a shopping mall in the heart of Salt Lake City, operate a large insurance company, run a 228,000-acre cattle ranch in Nebraska, grow timber on 650,000 acres of land in Florida, and all the while sock away a cool $100 billion from these and countless other for-profit businesses? Is accumulating wealth the role of religion?

One hundred billion dollars is difficult to comprehend. It’s the numeral one plus 11 zeros. If there were such a thing as a $1 million bill, it would take 100,000 of them to make $100 billion.

The LDS Church reports that it makes charitable donations of $1 billion annually (Tribune, Feb. 8); not so generous, it seems, considering that $100 billion earning interest at an easily obtainable 2 or 3% would generate $2 or $3 billion annually. (It is worth noting that church members are asked to contribute 10% of their income to the church as a condition, among other things, of participation in its temple rituals.)

Imagine what the church could accomplish were it to commit to use just the interest from its $100 billion reserve for humanitarian causes. It would mean $2 or $3 billion instead of $1 billion annually for, say, disaster relief, housing the homeless, and feeding the starving; and the principal would remain intact.

Why the church feels it needs a nest egg of $100 billion, when there is so much suffering on our planet, is a mystery to me, but, whatever the reason, I doubt it has much to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Allan W. Smart, Salt Lake City