Question: How does the Church decide where to spend money? Shouldn't they use the money instead to feed the poor and help the needy?


Question: How does the Church decide where to spend money? Shouldn't they use the money instead to feed the poor and help the needy?

The Church manages an extensive humanitarian effort

Some have insisted that funds would be better if directed to charitable works such as feeding the poor. The Church does have an extensive humanitarian effort. Critics on this point often overlook the fact that Church funds are best managed not by sitting in a bank account, but through prudent investment. Investment in land and real estate development is often a wise and ultimately profitable investment approach.

It is entirely possible that the City Creek Center Mall will eventually become a money making venture, as the Church collects rent from mall merchants. This investment strategy would allow the Church to, over time, recoup its initial outlay or even make money that could be further dedicated to the Church's religious and humanitarian goals.

Church funds are best managed not by sitting in a bank account, but through prudent investment

Critics also overlook the fact that if money is spent to feed the needy, that money is gone. On the other hand, if the Church reinvests in Salt Lake City's downtown core, this provides jobs and economic stimulus (for example, via construction and then the service-industry jobs which will fill the mall upon its completion). While providing fewer short term gains, this long term "teach a man to fish" strategy could ultimately benefit many more people, by allowing them to "help themselves." Presiding Bishop H. David Burton noted:

Reflecting on City Creek, Bishop Burton said that if he'd known seven or eight years ago that "we'd be facing the second-worst recessionary period in our history, I may have not suggested we proceed this quickly with the City Creek project. But knowing there would be on any given day upwards of 1,700 jobs in the community — and that could bless the lives of a lot of families," the church decided to move forward.

"And when you get the secondary impact of those 1,700 prime jobs and the multiplier effect, it is a substantial contribution to this state and this community and its tax base, Bishop Burton said. "Any parcel of property the church owns that is not used directly for ecclesiastical worship is fully taxed at its market value." [1]

Investment of funds and service efforts are not mutually exclusive

Further, property investment does not preclude the Church from continuing its service efforts with other monies. This is not an "either/or" question.

If Salt Lake can avoid the fate of so many other inner cities--a lapse into disrepair, poverty, and crime--this will likewise benefit all the city's inhabitants. The Church seems to be taking a longer view to preserve the city core for the future. One observer has noted economic and social benefits already:

Natalie Gochnour, the executive vice president of the Salt Lake Chamber, points out that the development will include 524 residential units and is already pumping life into downtown. Over the last two years, more than a dozen new restaurants have opened within a two-block radius of the development. [2]

Notes

  1. "Mormon leaders and Salt Lake City work together to transform land," Deseret News (7 March 2010).
  2. Deseret News (7 March 2010).