May 15, 2023 - Economy

Mormon Church responds to whistleblower's financial allegations

Illustration of the Salt Lake Temple with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pushed back Monday on a "60 Minutes" report detailing a whistleblower's allegations of illegal financial practices by the church and its investment company.

Catch up quick: David Nielsen, a former investment adviser for the church, accused the church of hiding billions of dollars and violating its tax-exempt status, in his interview that aired Sunday.

What they're saying: "It’s unfortunate ‘60 Minutes’ sought to elevate a story based on unfounded allegations by a former employee who has a different view on how the Church should manage its resources," church officials wrote in a prepared statement.

  • "The Church believes in being financially responsible by carefully ensuring it has adequate resources available to fulfill its divinely appointed responsibilities," the statement read.

Between the lines: The church's response addressed members specifically, focusing on religious beliefs and proselytizing, rather than humanitarian work alone.

  • "To Church members who support the work of salvation through living the gospel of Jesus Christ, caring for those in need, inviting all to receive the gospel and uniting families for eternity, we’ll continue to move forward consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ which makes this world a better place."

Why it matters: The SEC alleged the church wanted to avoid "negative consequences" of disclosing its value, and the head of its investment company told The Wall Street Journal in 2020 the church didn't want members to know the scale of its wealth because they might stop donating.

  • Latter-day Saint experts and observers told Axios the SEC's findings could discourage members from tithing, which is generally required to remain in good standing and tied to "blessings" that "are sometimes spiritual and sometimes temporal."

Go deeper: Mormon whistleblower calls church investments "a clandestine hedge fund"

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