SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is responding to next weeks Bloomberg Businessweek magazine cover depicting John the Baptist commanding Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry to "build a shopping mall, own stock in Burger King, and open a Polynesian theme park in Hawaii that shall be largely exempt from the frustrations of tax..."
Church spokesman Michael Purdy responds that, "The Businessweek cover is in such poor taste that it is difficult to even find the words to comment on it. Sadly, the cover is a reflection of the bias and speculative nature of the article itself. It is narrow and incomplete, omitting, for instance, a good deal of information given on how Church resources are used. The article misses the mark and the cover is obviously meant to be offensive to many, including millions of Latter-day Saints."
The article's author, Caroline Winter and a representative from Bloomberg failed to return Noah Bond's calls or email by the time this article was posted online.
The article refers to the Latter-day Saint Church as the "Mormon Empire" in cheap looking words sprawled across the magazine's cover.
It also questions the Church's tax exempt status -- suggesting the Church is more interested in business ventures than helping the poor. Winter writes the Church gave $1.3 billion in humanitarian aid to 178 countries over the last 25 years, and $2 billion to build the City Creek Center near Temple Square over the last several years alone.
These are big accusations from a big magazine. Bloomberg Businessweek reaches a national audience and some Latter-day Saints are questioning the timing of this article.
"The Church is going to get beat up at every corner," said active Latter-day Saint, Dottie Adams. ABC 4's Noah Bond responded, "Is it because of Mitt Romney running for President of the United States?" Adams, "Oh absolutely, absolutely!"
The article raises honest questions, which is why ABC 4 brought them to active members to get their thoughts.
"Should the Church be more open with the way it spends money -- tithing dollars?" Bond asked Gerrit Kruitbosch. "Yeah I think the Church should be more open and transparent," he said.
Kruitboch says more transparency would stop articles like "Inside the Mormon Empire".
The fact remains, the Latter-day Saint Church doesn't openly report profits from its many investments, including its 290,000 acre Deseret Ranch in Florida and its Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii.
"This article is hinting, suggesting the church should be more transparent. What do you think about this article?" Bond asked Adams. "It's just like a business. Should they have to tell everybody everything? I don't think so."
The lack of transparency allows articles like Bloomberg Businessweek to question the tax exempt status of the Church because of its business ventures.
Select portions of Winters article reads:
"Mormons make up only 1.4 percent of the U.S. population, but the Church's holdings are vast. First among its for-profit enterprises is DMC, which reaps estimated annual revenues of $1.4 billion from six subsidiaries, according to the business information and analysis firm Hoover's Company Records."
"…a recent investigation by Reuters in collaboration with sociology professor Cragun estimates that the LDS Church is likely worth $40 billion today and collects up to $8 billion in tithing each year."
Bond asked a Latter-day Saint, "It's hinting the Church should not receive tax exempt status. What do you think about this article?" Dottie replied, "I truly believe in free speech and people need to know what things are all about and make their own judgments."