First came a whistleblower’s call for the IRS to punish Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accusing it of stockpiling a reserve fund worth tens of billions of dollars intended for charity but never spent for that purpose.
Then came a federal lawsuit, now on appeal, from a prominent and prosperous former member alleging fraud by the Utah-based faith and seeking the return of his tithing donations.
In recent weeks, that IRS whistleblower called on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee to investigate Ensign Peak for illegally dodging billions in taxes.
And, finally, came word that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Ensign Peak over past investment practices that reportedly concealed the multibillion-dollar portfolio.
Will these unflattering headlines about the church’s wealth ever end? What might be the final outcome? Does this global faith of nearly 17 million members simply have too much money? It reported spending nearly $1 billion on charity in 2021. Could it — and should it — be doing more? How can the church avoid such unflattering attention in the future? Would further fiscal transparency — in essence, “showing us the money” — be a solution? Or if members knew the full financial picture, would they stop paying tithes?
On this week’s show, Sam Brunson, a popular Latter-day Saint blogger and a tax law professor at Loyola University Chicago, discusses these questions and more.