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Latest from Mormon Land: The richest Latter-day Saints and whether polygamy is a laughing matter

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(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gail Miller, shown at Vivint Smart Home Arena in 2016, ranks among the wealthiest members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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The richest Latter-day Saints

Stories of the church’s money are legion, but who are the wealthiest members whose substantial tithing may be helping to fuel the faith’s finances?

The Xplorian website recently took a stab at that question — as did Money Inc. — and came up with a tally of the “10 Richest Mormons in the World.” OK, so several of the ones listed have died and some notable names were missing, but it’s still fun fodder. So here, for what it’s worth, is that list of moneyed members (along with their estimated net worth):

1. James L. Sorenson, medical device mogul and philanthropist who died in 2008, $4.5 billion.

2. Sid Bass, who inherited an oil fortune, $2.8 billion.

3. Richard Taylor Peery, Silicon Valley real estate baron, $2.8 billion.

4. Jim Jannard, designer, $2.7 billion.

5. Richard Marriott, hotel tycoon, $2.3 billion.

6. J. Willard Marriott, founder of the worldwide hotel chain who died in 1985, $1.9 billion.

7. Roger W. Sant, international power company magnate, $1.7 billion.

8. Jon M. Huntsman Sr., industrialist and philanthropist who died in 2018, $1 billion.

9. Carlos ‘Wizard’ Martins, Brazilian language company entrepreneur, $1 billion.

10. David Neeleman, airline founder, $400 million.

This list obviously overlooks some living Latter-day Saints with even higher estimated net worths, including Gail Miller, who took over an automobile and entertainment empire after husband Larry’s death. Forbes pegs her net worth at $3.2 billion. She eventually sold the NBA’s Utah Jazz to a fellow church member, Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith, whose net worth Forbes puts at $1.6 billion.

Polygamy: Punchline vs. punching bag

(Tribune file photo) Polygamists incarcerated at the territorial prison in Salt Lake City.

You’ve seen the photos of early Latter-day Saints — even famous church leaders — in prison stripes, jailed for practicing polygamy.

By Common Consent blogger Holly Miller has seen such pictures of her imprisoned ancestors and recalls the laughter they evoked among family members. But Miller sees both good and bad in viewing plural marriage through jokes.

On the positive side:

“Keeping a good sense of humor about the human condition — the quirkiness of humanity — is a wonderful family heritage. Gentle chuckling is different from mocking or derisive laughter,” she writes. “Why shouldn’t we chuckle gently about the foibles, adventures, and sacrifices of humans trying their sincere best to live biblically? Laughing at ourselves is a sign of integration, self-compassion, and self-acceptance.”

On the negative side:

“Laughing about something traumatic, sad, or sexist isn’t the norm in my family, so chuckling about polygamy communicated the message that polygamy was basically no big deal, not traumatic, not sexist, not even that difficult,” Miller explains. “Laughing about polygamy makes light of it.”

In the end, the blogger sees value in being able to giggle about the past without glorying in it in the present.

“Although there were both pros and cons to growing up in a family that chuckled about polygamy, it seems complicated and hurtful for the family to be taking pride in — or chuckle about — our polygamist ancestors,” Miller states. “... It’s possible to honor our ancestors without taking pride in polygamy. Honoring ancestors involves trying to understand their choices and challenges, not laughing them off.”

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