Dec 17, 2019

WashPost: Mormon Church allegedly stockpiled $100 billion in donations

The Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints allegedly amassed $100 billion in tax-free funds "intended for charitable purposes," a whistleblower claimed in a report to the Internal Revenue Service obtained by the Washington Post Monday.

The allegations: Per WashPost, the Nov. 21 complaint to the IRS alleges church leaders misled congregants "by stockpiling their surplus donations instead of using them for charitable works" and "possibly breaching federal tax rules."

  • The report also "accuses church leaders of using the tax-exempt donations to prop up" two private businesses, the Post notes.
"In a declaration signed under penalty of perjury, [the complainant] urges the IRS to strip the nonprofit of its tax-exempt status and alleges that Ensign could owe billions in taxes. He is seeking a reward from the IRS, which offers whistleblowers a cut of unpaid taxes that it recovers."
— Washington Post

The big picture: The complaint by David A. Nielsen, a 41-year-old Mormon who until September worked at Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment division of the church, offers a glimpse into the finances of the church, which has not publicly disclosed its financial statements in the U.S. since 1959, per the Salt Lake Tribune.

By the numbers: Nielsen's complaint estimates the church collects $7 billion in annual contributions, $6 billion of which covers yearly operations costs, while the remaining $1 billion goes to Ensign Peak Advisors for he church’s investment portfolio.

  • "Based on internal accounting documents from February 2018, the complaint estimates the portfolio has grown in value from $12 billion in 1997, when Ensign was formed, to about $100 billion today," WashPost notes.

What they're saying: Church spokesman Eric Hawkins would only say to the Post, "The Church does not provide information about specific transactions or financial decisions."

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What the Mormon church has in common with Larry Page

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

One place sunlight doesn't shine is a company named Ensign Peak Advisors in Salt Lake City, Utah. According to a whistleblower complaint first reported by the Washington Post, Ensign manages an astonishing $100 billion in assets while paying no taxes.

The big picture: Ensign achieves its tax-exempt status by dint of being an "integrated auxiliary" of the Mormon church. It allegedly receives approximately $1 billion per year from church members' tithes, while disbursing nothing to charitable causes. Between new contributions and investment returns, it has managed to grow to its current gargantuan size.

Go deeperArrowDec 19, 2019

Texas church security volunteer who shot gunman was trained reserve deputy

An FBI agent at West Freeway Church of Christ after a shooting during services on Sunday. Photo: Stewart F. House/Getty Images

The Texas church security volunteer who killed a gunman after he opened fire during a Sunday morning service was identified on Monday as Jack Wilson, a trained reserve deputy, per CNN.

What they're saying: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that Wilson "had significant training, had his own shooting range, had taught other people how to shoot, had taught many people in this church how to be prepared" and "ultimately saved the lives of maybe hundreds of people" with his actions.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Dec 30, 2019

Methodist church proposes plan to split over LGBTQ inclusion

Karen Oliveto, the Methodist church's first openly lesbian bishop, speaks at Iliff School of Theology in April 2017 in Denver, Colorado. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

United Methodist Church leaders announced plans on Friday for a historic split of its 13 million-plus denomination over allowing same-sex marriage within the church and LGBTQ clergy members.

What's next: The church is expected to vote on the measure to implement the division of America's second-largest Protestant domination at the general conference in Minneapolis this May.

Go deeperArrowJan 3, 2020