Episodes

Radio Free Mormon: 119: Hundred Billion Dollar Baby

Today Radio Free Mormon and Bill Reel work together to discuss the multiple facets of the recent breaking story that the LDS Church has 100 billion dollars stockpiled in Ensign Peak Advisers, and investment arm of the Church.   We listed all the resources of this shared in this podcast below.

RESOURCES:

7 minute synopsis of the issue

PDF “Letter to an IRS Director

Dropbox version

full 1 hour 17 minute video

Original Washington Post breaking this story 

Religion Unplugged breaking the story

Newsweek’s coverage of the Whistle Blower’s motives

President Q12 Boyd K Packer being declined Access to EPA Financials

Website declaring the actual EPA value at 124 Billion

LDS owned KUTV sharing quotes that the Church did something wrong

President Nelson Advice to avoid God’s vengeance on the day of burning

Wayback Machine Elder Anderson’s “We are not a wealthy people”

Thomas Monson as a spokesman for “Beneficial life insurance”

President Nelson promising tithing as a way to get out of poverty

Old Lorenzo Snow video of his tithing visit to St George Utah

Presiding Bishop H. David Burton and City Creek Mall

Church Newsroom Response to this story breaking

“If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing. The Lord will not abandon you.” – Quote 1 to pay tithing before feeding children

One day during those difficult times, I heard my parents discussing whether they should pay tithing or buy food for the children.   On Sunday, I followed my father to see what he was going to do. After our Church meetings, I saw him take an envelope and put his tithing in it. That was only part of the lesson. The question that remained for me was what we were going to eat. – Quote 2 on paying tithing before feeding your children

Among those who do not sacrifice there are two extremes: one is the rich, gluttonous man who won’t and the other is the poor, destitute man who believes he can’t. But how can you ask someone who is starving to eat less? Is there a level of poverty so low that sacrifice should not be expected or a family so destitute that paying tithing should cease to be required? Faith isn’t tested so much when the cupboard is full as when it is bare. In these defining moments, the crisis doesn’t create one’s character—it reveals it. The crisis is the test. – Quote 3 on paying tithing before feeding oneself adequately 

“I repeat that the Church is frequently spoken of as an institution of great wealth. When all is said and done, the Church is wealthy only in the faith of its people. One of the expressions of that faith is the payment of tithing. The Church is spoken of as an institution with great business interests. The income from those business properties would keep the Church going for only a very short time.” – President Gordon B Hinckley – https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/gordon-b-hinckley/widows-mite/

Furthermore, I want to say to you, we may not be able to reach it right away, but we expect to see the day when we will not have to ask you for one dollar of donation for any purpose, except that which you volunteer to give of your own accord, because we will have tithes sufficient in the storehouse of the Lord to pay everything that is needful for the advancement of the kingdom of God. I want to live to see that day, if the Lord will spare my life. It does not make any difference, though, so far as that is concerned, whether I live or not. That is the true policy, the true purpose of the Lord in the management of the affairs of His Church. – Quote on Tithing ending once the Church had sufficient funds

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35 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 119: Hundred Billion Dollar Baby

  1. Either Jesus returned in the lifetime of His original followers ie nearly 2000 years ago or He isn’t Christ. The New Testament fits best if you read it as a Covenant Eschatological study. So no need to be looking for Jesus.
    The tithing wasted on the LDS church is part and parcel to the destructive doctrine and the emotional abuse and hampered growth it causes.
    As a woman I am still surprised more men leave than women. Anyone have an answer? Why are the women more easily duped? Mormon doctrine is absolutely more heinous for women so why are the men leaving? Do men value truth more? Are men more capable of seeing a fraud? More courageous? What is it? If I have to hear the term FEMININE DIVINE one more time I simply turn you off.
    Religion is about power. Mormon doctrine is only about power and the men have it. If you read the NT without a religious filter you can see Jesus cane to put an end to religion. To end the power men have over others invoking God’s Name.
    Here’s hoping that the new year will see women waking up.
    Thanks for all you two do.

    • 1) Are more men leaving? Where did you get that?

      2) Why are women so easily duped? From my observations over 60 years, I would say women are generally more “submissive” to authority figures. Also, women are easily duped by Alpha Males looking just for sex, whereas the women think they are in the love and the Alpha Males are in love with them. So, “duped” they go, head first. Just my observations.

    • I think post Mormon men might be more public in their online posting, but I think there are a LOT of women too. I am in several women only online groups for ex Mormons. There are hundreds in each of them, and in so many cases (including my own), if they are in a marriage, they (the woman) was the one who has left the church while their husbands still cling to the church.

      I really think that the ex Mormon women are just under represented in whatever polling there might be.

  2. To the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.

    I have been watching you lead the church and I have to ask what are you doing? You have preached that the restoration is continuing and all these changes are being directed by Christ himself. Your actions will have consequences.
    Not only will the members of the church, but all the 7.7 billion people that live on the earth will cry out against you because you have access to the mysteries of God concerning the end of time and you have ignored it and have sought to build up YOUR earthly church.
    The time is fast approaching when the people of the world will see the error of the church and their hearts will be turned to building up The Kingdom of God. You can not hide your secret acts any longer. There are many that are waking up to the deceit of the church now, and are deciding to leave. You brand them as a apostate for seeking and sharing the truth. There are some that are hurt so badly by the churches deceit that they start to question the very existence of God and the mission of Jesus Christ. You will be held accountable for the harm that has been done to those people.
    You say you are a family centered church but your vain doctrines and policies have impacted and destroyed countless families and lives. God will hold you accountable for that.
    The restoration of the gospel was to be a marvelous work and a wonder which was to prepare the whole world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Over the last several generations that work has been lost and replaced with the building up of an earthly church that will not stand. If you consider yourselves to be disciples of Christ you need to turn back to your roots and that mission of warning the whole world of the coming of Christ.
    If you continue to build up your earthly church instead of returning to the work that the restoration started, I will be among countless others that will testify against you before God and men.

    https://youtu.be/UEIy35FE1Qo

    • Good points, the members need to take courage and wake up to what’s happening. Unfortunately the instituition has done a good job in conditioning the members to believe that the leaders are actually speaking with and for God.

  3. Church does pay its missionaries (except the Mission Presidents).

    Church swore no tithing money would go to the Mall…outright LIE.

    “Lying for the LORD” and through their teeth. As usual.

    The IRS won’t want to take on Kirton-McConkie and the LDS Church! Too much of a headache.

  4. Great episode!

    I would love to have a complete list of all the times the Church has tried to “cover it’s tracks”, like the incident with the Elder Anderson quote and the way back machine. Starting with Joseph Smith and changes to the BoM, First Vision revisions, etc. til now. I’ll bet it would be an impressive list.

  5. Just a quick note. I think in your show notes you are confusing KUTV with KSL. The former, to my knowledge, is not owned by the church, while the latter is.

  6. Speaking to “K” above, I am a woman who is widowed and remember going to my bishop to ask if I was paying enough?? Many questions at the time if I was to pay gross/net or pay on annuity for me and kids by my deceased husband. I was trying to get us sealed together and would have done anything ..pay anything to have that happen. Oh…and then I find out about ths stone/hat, many visions and polygamy…by then, I had given thousands and thousands of dollars

  7. Seems my first comment was deleted with no response.

    I think you are conflating KUTV, owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, with KSL, owned by the LDS church.

    I really appreciate your show and your approach to detail, so I thought this information would be of interest to you.

  8. Oh…sorry…but btw..my wonderful grandparents were making a stipend of money cleaning our ward and taking care of the grounds. When that was taken away..it was a sad thing for those who needed it. I call bull!!

  9. Please note that David Nielsen said the money invested in CityCreek and Beneficial was “never invested tithing money”, therefore the church could not claim that it was merely interest on tithing, the money given to for profit corps. had never been invested in the market it was virgin cash straight from tithing.
    Do you ever wonder why President Nelson and Wendy always have a big ole mile on their faces since he became president. With a net value of over 200 billion he is the richest man in the world as the sole share holder in a sole Corporation.
    As a member of a 501 c 3, my organization is obliged to spend the money it makes on the purposes stated in its Articles of Incorporation. If we do not spend that money as stated in our Articles of Incorporation there is a mandatory 30% tax on any profit we show. The Articles of Incorporation for Ensign Peak advisors is very specific and they have not met that requirement.
    And lastly the church has not done all that
    outstanding in the market, in fact they are slightly below-average if they make 7% because the market since 97 has returned better than 8% to date. Imagine the situation would be much different if Hillary had gotten elected with her moronic financial advisors
    Like many other large corporations I have been involved with, if you buy and hold , as the church does, with only a 10% actively-managed portion of its portfolio the money comes in just by sitting back and watching the money double every 10 years . As my good friend Jeremy Clarkson says “how hard can it be. “

  10. Let’s imagine that the members of the church follow the church’s example and make very small, less than 1 percent, charitable donations, because just like the church, they find it prudent to save for a rainy day. A dual-income family making 120k a year would it be able to invest $12,000 every year in the stock market and assuming a seven and a half percent return like Ensign Peak advisors, over 30 years that would be an investment return of 1.25 million dollars in that person’s a rainy day account. If the church does it this way, why should any member not follow the church’s example.
    Can you imagine the money a person would have to educate their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren with a Perpetual endowment of this sort if they as well set up a 501 c 3 and pay no taxes on the money earned from Investmenting just like the church does.

    • It is often hard for members to follow the church’s example when they have to give 10% to the church before they can invest their own 10%.

      Using your example, the dual income family must set aside 20% or $24,000 in order to invest 10% for their own retirement.

  11. Nice detective work on the Elder Anderson / Zimbabwe article. How in the world did someone find this?

    I just wanted to add a couple points for transparency sake (I’m all about transparency since lack of transparency is one of my major complaints about the Church):

    The first point is that the WayBack Machine has only recorded one screen capture of the article and it was from 4/29/19

    https://web.archive.org/web/20190429193509/www.mormonnewsroom.co.zw/article/elder-andersen-meets-with-zimbabwes-vice-president-mohadi-pledges-support

    What this means is that it’s impossible to say when the article was removed. That being said, it is probably a pretty good guess that they removed the article once the $100 billion story came out. I bet the Church had a team go through their website looking for key words like “wealth” and remove any articles that reporters might bring to everyone’s attention.

    My second point is that I would guess Elder Andersen had a good idea that the LDS Church had a decent amount of money. Heck, I knew that Ensign Peak Advisors was managing a bunch of money back when I attended BYU about 15 years ago; one of my professors talked about them. So, even if the Quorum of the Twelve doesn’t know exactly how much is managed by Ensign Peak Advisors, I’m sure they have a ballpark idea that it’s in the tens of billions at least. So, in my opinion, Elder Andersen should not be making the statement in 2018 that “We are not a wealthy people…” when talking about the Church.

    Nevertheless, I do appreciate that you give Elder Andersen the benefit of the doubt. You’re probably being too generous, but it’s nice to provide this to him since we don’t have all the facts about what he does or doesn’t know.

    I also want to bring attention to the 2nd part of the quote – “We are not a wealthy people but we are good people, and we share what we have”. In my opinion, the “share what we have” is not very accurate based on the story of Ensign Peak Advisors vs the amount contributed to humanitarian aid. I’ll post a comment later tonight talking more about the numbers.

  12. If you do a Google search in Chrome for “Ensign Peak Advisors”, you’ll see on the right side a Google review score of 1.9 stars and some interesting comments. The reviews started 2 weeks ago, so I’m guessing someone set this up just recently so they could get the bad reviews flowing. The link to the website doesn’t actually take you to their website, but the phone number appears legit. I wonder how long it’ll take for the Church to get Google to take the reviews down.

  13. That’s pretty funny and weirdly satisfying to know that Boyd K Packer wasn’t given the financial details about Ensign Peak Advisors. I imagine he tried to get the information from Pres. Monson first, and was rejected. Would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation.

    • I gotta wonder if he warned the EPA of spiritual crocodiles by not showing him….

  14. Here’s a few last thoughts:

    I’ve learned that when somebody does NOT want to disclose information (ex. Trump and his tax returns), there’s a decent likelihood they’re trying to hide something. So it appears is the case with the LDS Church and their financials. The Church stopped sharing financial information in 1959 because they were doing poorly, and the probable reason they’re not sharing in this era is because they are extremely rich and don’t want to be criticized for how they’re using (or not using) the money. And in that vein, I would like to look at the numbers and share a couple of points that are disconcerting to me:

    The Church is making 7% / year on their investment of approx. $100 Billion; so, they’re making $7 Billion on average / year. And we know that none of this is going to charity based on the published story. We also know that the Church makes humanitarian donations (they seem to be very transparent about these donations and always publish articles about this). According to Lars Nielson, the Church donates $40 million for humanitarian aid / year. So, hypothetically speaking if we compare what they’re making on their investments to how much they’re donating to humanitarian aid, it’s somewhat absurd to think about. Of the $7 billion that is made on their investments, a mere $40 million equates to 0.57% (not even 1% !!). The Church does a lot of talking about their humanitarian aid donations, but when all is said and done, very little of the Church’s money is making it into the hands of people who could use it. People all over the world are dying or in pain because they’re not getting good medical treatment or clean water/food. There’s members right here in the US suffering from medical conditions and could definitely use additional monetary support. It’s time to step it up.

    Here’s another perspective looking at the $7 billion figure. Let’s assume there are 70,000 missionaries. The Church charges each missionary $400/month (soon to be $500 / month). This equates to $336 million / year (70,000 X 400 X 12). This is roughly 5% of $7 billion. In other words, the money the Church makes on their investments could cover the cost to send out 1.4 million missionaries / year! But, let’s assume the cost is higher than $400 / month and that the Church currently subsidizes the cost. If the actual cost is $1000 / month, the Church could completely cover the cost of 583,333 missionaries with that $7 billion. That being said, I think the Church should lower the cost for missionary service, not raise it to $500. I don’t think it should be free; I think there should be some monetary sacrifice to be a missionary, but the Church could definitely make it easier to go on a mission financially. How about $100 or $200 / month?

    The Church leaders need to take some time to re-evaluate how they’re doing things. Look to the four-fold mission of the church and find ways to employ the $7 billion each year – I would recommend a focus on the “Care of the Poor and Needy”. I think this is what Jesus would do. If you just use $4-5 billion / year for humanitarian projects (instead of $40 million), you could do soooo much more to help the poor and the needy (100 X more!!).

    If the Church is finding it difficult to put their money to good use, they should hire some experts in the fields of nutrition, medicine, housing, education, etc. who can do the research and figure out how to best allocate the funds for the biggest impact and to alleviate the most amount of suffering. This is what I think Jesus would do (assuming he lost his healing power). Church leaders, if you’re reading this, it’s time to step up the game and do what Jesus would do and help more people.

    Last thought: I hope the Church learns to be more transparent. I’m tired of being kept in the dark in a church I’m a member of. Maybe if they get their act together I would actually go more often. But at this moment, I don’t see the point of attending Church regularly when they aren’t being transparent and open with their members. There’s a lot of issues and problems that have been uncovered that the Church leaders don’t have answers for.

    Thanks RFM and Bill for your research and addressing many of the questions we have. Also, thanks for letting me put my thoughts out here. I appreciate all you do!

    • Definitely agree with your most recent comment Ryedog3. The church’s $40m annual donation to charity could quite literally be an immaterial rounding error in the church’s total wealth portfolio. Extremely disconcerting.

      Assuming a 7% return in perpetuity is definitely conservative. Thus, going forward the church can have their cake and eat it too in terms of donating massively to charity (only $1b/yr would put them near the top of charitable donors in the USA) and continue to amass their war chest for when Jesus comes again, which as K pointed out, is problematic if their eschatology is wrong.

      Loved this RFM and Bill. If Bill is right with his inside info about the church going to start publicizing their charitable spending, hopefully this whistleblowing episode motivates them to increase their generosity.

  15. There is even Biblical precedence set for the children of Israel regarding tithing. I do not know where, but I am sure it is in the old Testament, that the temple stopped receiving donations because the coffers were full.

    I think our coffers are FULL.

    • The other thing that people fail to teach is that when Malachi gives the “Will a man rob God?” speech, he wasn’t giving it to the lay citizens of the Israelites, he was talking to the priests who were embezzling the tithes for themselves rather than using them to help the poor as was their job.

  16. I was talking about the $100 billion dollars with a colleague at work. He is not affiliated with any particular religion and his response to the massive amount of money was, “That’s good. Now they just need good leadership.” Wise words.

  17. I’ve sent letter to the First Presidency, and half of the Apostles (senior ones), for YEARS, to spend 1 billion dollars a year actually helping people:

    *Orphanges in Africa and India, raise the children LDS.

    *Homeless Centers in major cities where homeless can get clean “used” (donated) clothing, a hot shower, soup and bread, emergency dental work.

    *Starting schools for poor Mormon children in places where the poor can’t go to school because their parents can’t afford the books and school uniforms.

    I don’t think that was “asking too much” of the Church. The Church did not do any of that. Now, the Church is doing to with it did.

  18. It’s almost as though the church has been saving for retirement for the last 20 years.

  19. 1) This is a bit like the massive university endowments at Harvard and Yale. (The recent tax law will actually start taxing university endowments for the first time). The reality is that if the government allows non-profits to accumulate funds like this, they will do so. It’s really that simple. Tax-free investment growth is just too good to pass up. In my opinion, the government should not tax a non-profit’s operational activities and they should be able to have large reserve funds if they want, but they absolutely be taxed on their investment income just like everyone else. The inconsistent tax treatment is just a huge incentive for these orgs to hoard assets and turn into stealth hedge funds.
    2) I just did a quick backtest and a classic 60/40 stock-bond portfolio had a mean return of 7.5% from 1997 to 2019. With an initial $12B plus $1B a year, the current balance would be around $130B. It looks like their returns were actually pretty typical. The stock market did very well this past year and also in 2017. They could have easily made over $30B in just the last three years.
    3) While they may have earned an AVERAGE of 7% over the time period, that does not mean they could actually withdraw $7B every year in perpetuity. The actual interest and dividends are perhaps 3% or less and that would make a better perpetual withdrawal rate. The rest of the return is from appreciation of shares which is highly volatile. Sure, while your future returns are good, you might get away with 7% withdrawal, but you’d have a very high risk of eventually running out of money due to market volatility (like during the financial crisis when the stock market had around a 50% drawdown). But conservatively they should be able to cover half of their operations from investment income with almost no risk of ever running out of money.
    4) I agree with Bill that the church doesn’t need to be so cheap with things like turning the members into unpaid janitors. They treat member time and labor as a free resource and still guilt trip people to do more.

  20. Is this fund and the 7 billion/yr in “tithing” traditional 10% tithing or does it include people leaving their estates to the church?

    I know they get a huge amount of money from people leaving their estates to them.

  21. Great podcast. Well done.

    One thing I would like to expand on is the social pressure, not to mention eternal consequences, of tithing. To have the bishop NOT know how much tithing you pay is actually a difficult feat in the church if not impossible. So, during tithing settlement, the bishop has how much you have paid in tithing for the year in front of him. He also knows what you do for work, where you live, what kind of car you drive, etc. If there is a big discrepancy between how much money he would estimate you make based on your car, job, house, etc. and what he could see you approximately make based on just adding a 0 to the 10% tithing for the year, then he may take away your temple recommend or ask you some further questions about if this is an honest tithe. For example, he may estimate you make 90,000/year, but your tithing of 3,000 would mean that you make only about 30,000/year. The bishop could take away callings or demote you and have an affect on your status in the ward. Your ward status can affect if your kids get invited to play groups and your family is socially accepted. This requirement to pay is not optional. If you do some how manage to pay the church in a way that the bishop can’t see, then some bishops might find that infuriating and still punish you for it by disgracing you.

    When people are giving up music lessons for their kids to pay tithing, and then they find out the church has been hoarding 100 billion dollars, it’s frustrating. When people missed watching their kid’s soccer games and baseball games to clean the church, just to find out the church can easily afford janitors, it feels like a betrayal. I can’t get back those opportunities for my kids. I can’t go back and watch their games I missed. Yet, the church can easily make and will make, as this podcast pointed out, more money. Power, control, manipulation and money seem to be the priorities of the church. Even if the leaders themselves are not getting large payouts, they are feeding and making more powerful this machine of the church that is doing more accumulating than helping.

  22. One thing to note. the “Know your client” or KYC as it’s called accomplishes multiple purposes. Yes it is intended to keep money out of the hands of terrorists but it is also intended to guard against Money Laundering or hiding the source of money through fake businesses and fake financial transactions so the money comes in dirty and goes out clean on the other end.

    I am NOT an accountant but there is a question of taking money from a charitable organization and using it to invest in a for profit venture. Moreso as a “loan” because AR loan balances have effect on tax burdens each year for “for profit” businesses. So it raises the question, did the two loans from EPA result in the church’s FOR profit businesses (Beneficial and the Mall) having a lower tax burden for each year the “loan” was in effect? Is there any legal issue there? Also there is a question because although the money is claimed to have originated from EPA, official tax documents claim the money originated from Deseret Management. IOW were the funds laundered from EPA through Deseret Management to make it appear it was a business loan from one for profit entity to another? Thereby lowering Deseret Management’s tax burden each year as well?

  23. Ohayo gozaimasu RFM choro, gomen kudasai,
    Regarding bishops and tithing settlement, Bishops dont need to know how much a member makes. Very few high net worth members pay tithing in the wart(ward), they send it to SLC, so nosy ward clerks wont ask for money for rent, or for a loan or for a business partner, or just make idiotic comments about a persons wealth and that they should drive a nicer car. Some HYW members don’t even send a personal check, they send a money order to SLC, after all tithing is between a member and the Lord, at least that is what bishops I know say.
    Never send the church moeny for humanitarian or other special requests, because it wont be long before BYU and the church’s investment and endowment people will be calling regularly for additdional donations and even to make BYU or the church the sole beneficiary of a members estate upon their death. This is a first hand experience and it still happens.
    A friend of mine in a YSA ward bishopric gets tithing settlement done by text.
    Last time a bishop asked how much I made I asked him how much he made and how much he paid in total donations, church and otherwise, he dropped the question.

  24. I have a friend with a large true blue Mormon family. Her dad was a mission president and in the council of 70. Nearly all members are active and they of course feel that it was a great success towards heaven. She has served in every possible female calling in the church. Many times as relief society president and several times as stake relief society president Regarding the report on the EPA findings she said that we don’t know all the facts and some of those documents could be falsified. She repeated over many times how the churches use their money always in charitable ways. She gets irritated when I bring up logical issues in the church and I am surprised how blind she is especially since she is an intelligent woman and has just retired from being a corporate lawyer.
    I have not seen anything anywhere discussing if there are motives behind Jana Riess disclosure and a pursuit her for compensation. Could there be any truth in her informing the world about this issue? I would really love an answer or a resource to go to the shows there is no financial gain by the person blowing the whistle. (How quickly people jump to that conclusion because they don’t want to believe the truth.“

  25. Since these funds are very sacred, too sacred to disclose, I’m sure that the prophet, seer, and revelator Nelson called the EPA’s director and told him to liquidate the funds before COVID-19 wiped out all those earnings. Anything shy of that would be a betrayal of the widow’s mite.

    • Good point! I guess we’ll have to wait for the next quarterly report of EPA to find out!

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