THE MORMON CORPORATE EMPIRE by John & Anson Shupe Heinerman


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A wide-ranging study of the secular and ecclesiastic aspects of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) whose revelations seem rather less alarming than its authors obviously intend. On the plus side, Heinerman (a Mormon and director of Salt Lake City's Center for Anthropological Research) and Shupe (a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Arlington) have managed to impose an impressive amount of order on the temporal affairs of a secretive religious organization. Using figures from a variety of sources, they calculate LDS assets--real estate, broadcasting properties, portfolio investments, and other holdings--at nearly $8 billion as of year-end 1983. The authors put the church's annual revenues at $2 billion, estimating that roughly three-quarters of this total accrues from tithing and donations, with the balance attributable to earned income. Heinerman and Shupe characterize these amounts as ""staggering."" Perhaps so, but in a purely commercial context, which the authors do not provide, the numbers loom less large. More than 30 for-profit enterprises in the US (including Exxon at $63.3 billion as of year-end 1984) boast assets far exceeding those of the Mormons, and at least a half dozen American corporations will report net earnings greater than $2 billion for 1985. Nor is any systematic attention paid to the fact that sizable sums of money are required to maintain (as well as expand) a denomination with an industrious global membership approaching 4.5 million, plus a physical plant which encompasses over 4,400 meetinghouses, 42 temples, educational institutions (including Brigham Young University), archival libraries, and a host of other properties. Heinerman and Shupe give similarly short shrift to the wealth of rival faiths, asserting that matchups are not feasible, owing to a lack of comparative data and related difficulties. The authors devote only about half their text to the presumptive economic and communications clout of what they label LDS Inc. The rest is given over to insinuative briefings on the presence of Mormons at the highest levels of government as well as in the CIA, FBI, and military. Covered as well in piously apprehensive fashion are the church's theocratic doctrines and hierarchical structure. Accentuating the negative at every opportunity, Heinerman and Shupe also review the ultraconservative church's policies on women (anti-ERA), race (increasingly pragmatic), missionary work (aggressive), dissent (less than tolerant), and like matters, including private welfare programs, which appear more honored in the breach. As a practical matter, the authors seem to overstate the putative threat of Mormonism in a pluralistic society. Taken with the requisite grains of salt, however, the Heinerman/Shupe tract is of interest for the light it sheds on the activities of an essentially unfamiliar religion.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1986
Publisher: Beacon