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Businessweek’s Mormon caricature cover draws fire
The cover is a caricature of a painting that shows John the Baptist blessing Mormon leaders Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
July 13th, 2012
04:57 PM ET

Businessweek’s Mormon caricature cover draws fire

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN)-– Reaction to a recent Businessweek cover was swift and direct, with some bloggers and commentators going as far as to call the magazine exclusive “bigoted” and “out of bounds.”

The article – titled “How the Mormons Make Money,” by Caroline Winter – is an in-depth look into the business side of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with much attention given to the tax benefits the church enjoys and the extent of its holdings of property and stock in multinational corporations.

The magazine cover, the aspect of the article receiving the most criticism, is a caricature of a well-known Mormon painting that shows John the Baptist blessing two Mormon leaders, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

Next to John the Baptist is a thought bubble that reads, “… and thou shalt 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.”

In response, Smith replies, “Hallelujah.”

Michael Purdy, spokesperson for the church, responded to the cover in a statement to CNN, “The Bloomberg Businessweek cover is in such poor taste it is difficult to even find the words to comment on it.”

Purdy’s disapproval extended beyond the cover. He said the article was “biased, inaccurate and speculative” in nature. “The article misses the mark and the cover is obviously meant to be offensive to many, including millions of Latter-day Saints,” Purdy wrote in an e-mail.

Multiple calls and e-mails by CNN to representatives at Bloomberg went unanswered.

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Others reserved their criticism for the magazine's cover. Mormon blogger Joanna Brooks  wrote that while the cover was certain to ruffle some Mormon feathers – it already has – the article was a “generally balanced and straightforward assessment of LDS Church finances and enterprises.”

Even still, Brooks wrote, the shock of the cover image will keep most readers, especially Mormons, from taking the article seriously.

“Today, I’ve been in contact with a few of the sources for the article, and they believe the mocking cover image will lead most Mormons to dismiss the entire article as an anti-Mormon hit piece,” wrote Brooks. “Trying to sell a few magazines, Businessweek destroyed an opportunity for a serious discussion.”

The vastness of the church’s holdings are quite remarkable, especially considering the relative age of the church and the size of its membership, the article says. According to Businessweek, a recent study by Ryan Cragun, a sociology professor at the University of Tampa, estimates the church receives around $8 billion in tithing from members each years and is worth around $40 billion.

Those estimates would be tough to solidify, said Rusty Leonard, CEO of MinistryWatch.com, a site that keeps a database of Christian ministries and nonprofits for donors to use and evaluate.

The IRS does not require churches, which are tax-exempt, to file disclosure forms with the government. Leonard said that makes the totality of church holdings difficult to pinpoint.

“They get tax-free status as a church and they get the freedom to do what they want to do with their money,” Leonard said. This is true, he said, for everything from a local congregation to a large entity like the Catholic Church. But the difference, according to Leonard, is that people can see what is going on in their own congregation, something they can’t necessarily do for an entire religious body.

“When you are talking about an institution, like the Catholic Church or the Mormon Church, if they don’t voluntary disclose, you don’t really know what they are doing,” Leonard said.

When asked about the $40 billion figure provided by Cragun, Doug Anderson, public affairs manager for the Mormon Church, refused to comment.

The idea of Mormon hit pieces has been common in recent months, especially because likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney is a member of the faith, leaving conservatives and Mormons alike to worry that his candidacy will open the door to unfair characterizations of the church.

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Nancy French, a blogger for the website Patheos, spoke to this concern in her column about the cover.

“Can you imagine if they’d made a cover mocking your religion?” French wrote. “It will only get worse between now and November.”

The church-owned and operated Deseret News paper wrote an editorial that not only went after the reporting – “the corners cut in this week's Businessweek story do a disservice,” read the editorial – but also went after the legitimacy of Businessweek itself.

“In an earlier era, Businessweek was known for intelligently introducing its audience to useful conceptual approaches,” the editorial said. “But in this week's edition, Businessweek seemed out of its depth on the very issues it should own.”


soundoff (1,352 Responses)
  1. Ron

    Absolutely brilliant caricature.

    :))))

    July 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  2. svann

    No church should be exempt from taxes except in regards to donations.

    July 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Schmideon

      If your grandma gives you twenty dollars for your birthday? Do you expect to pay taxes on it?

      July 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • svann

      @schmideon
      You didnt understand my post apparently. I said "except in regard to donations". Donations should not be taxable. Businesses should always be, even if it is a business run by a church.

      July 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  3. megan Wilson

    If this was a cover that made fun of muslims, there would be outrage. If this was a cover that made fun of black people there would be an outrage. Business week are a bunch of bigots

    July 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Edwardo

      Since when does honesty = bigotry ??

      July 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • ThouShaltNotWorshipFalseGods

      There were plenty of right wing magazine covers which made fun of President Obama's church and pastor.
      -
      Ironically President Obama would have been barred from the temple in his youth since he is a cursed person of color (from the Book of Mormon).

      July 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • megan Wilson

      that cover wasn't honest. the mormons do more for the poor and afflicted than any other organization. Who is always first at a disaster? All the money they earn is used to help others. I suppose there has never been a natural disaster in your area or you would know where the mormons spend their money

      July 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Edwardo

      I've been in natural disasters (hurricanes in FL). NEVER saw a mormon there. What you talkin' about?? Besides, the only reason they would ever do anything for anyone else, is to recruit them. The $ has a self-centered motive.

      July 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Sloppy J

      "I've been in natural disasters (hurricanes in FL). NEVER saw a mormon there. What you talkin' about?? Besides, the only reason they would ever do anything for anyone else, is to recruit them. The $ has a self-centered motive"

      Eddie, wouldn't any bigot say the same thing? "I'm not a bigot; I'm just telling it like it is." Fact is, making fun of Mormons is considered to be OK, while we tiptoe around many other groups. Whatever; doesn't bother me. Contemplative folk look past the jabs, and who cares about the rest of the rabble? As far as not seeing a Mormon during hurricane clean-up, did you expect them to wear large funny hats with the word "MORMON" on them? You have no idea. Even on my fill-time mission, I did hundreds of hours of service (labor, translation) that had nothing to do with "recruting." Your own selfish world-view ("no-one does anything for anyone else without ulterior motives") is showing.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  4. felix el gato

    Too funny.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  5. ThouShaltNotWorshipFalseGods

    Bishop RoMoney is revered as a Mormon God in the church. He believes he will be a powerful god on the Mormon planet Kolob (Google it).
    -
    Is this who you want for president?

    July 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • megan Wilson

      obama already thinks he is a god

      July 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • G D

      I don't want Romney for President, but not because of his religious beliefs, because of his actual politics and the positions he takes on the issues that concern me. MAtters of faith make for easy targets. Matters of principle should be the focus.

      July 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  6. G D

    I think the article will raise the issue of what is proper and what is not properly exempt from taxation. Religion is a business. Properly run, it is a business that aid the poor and fights for social justice. Poorly run, it is the hand maiden of oppression. Sadly, there are examples of both.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • ThouShaltNotWorshipFalseGods

      But, to which god – Moroni, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Shiva, etc, etc.
      -
      It gets so darned confusing. Maybe we should leave it out of politics.

      July 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  8. mountainmama82

    I live among the Mormons and have for nearly 50 years. Everything DaTruth posted is true except that they think the garden of Eden is in MO not MISS. But also you need to know that every penny theLDS take in ,is spent only on Mormons and NO one else.They will never help the other Americans. They also believe that a take over of our country by their church is imminent and they stockpile food, guns and gold. They believe polygamy will be re-instated as promised and most of the main stream LDS actually practice it now.And Romney ,no matter what he says or swears to, will always obey the President of the LDS church over any laws of the US. That is absolutely true. He cannot take the oath as President of the US because it is against his church laws. He also will use a copy of the Joe Smith book of Mormon to be sworn in .
    And in case you don't know your history Joe Smith had tried to amass an army at Nauvoo,ILL and take over the US then ran for the office of President before he was killed. His own banks had all failed with money from outside investors . If Romney gets elected , you will see the demise of the US as we know it. What a shame to let this lunatic liar ever even come close to becoming our Commander in Cheif.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • ThouShaltNotWorshipFalseGods

      It's a "ME, MYSELF AND I" religion that rewards material wealth. Sound like Scientology...or the GOP party?

      July 14, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • G D

      I fled Utah in 1983. There is much wrong with the LDS, as there is with other "Religions". I think the better point is that it is a good time for some basic reforms. LDS can cite examples of good work and some real misses. In that respect, they are no different than any other religion. Man's track record is pitiful. We can all agree that there is room for improvement across the board.

      July 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Sloppy J

      Let's go after these one by one:

      " . . they think the garden of Eden is in MO not MISS." You know how many times this has been discussed in any of my church meetings? I've been an active member for 40 years and have maybe heard that brought up maybe three times, in passing. Most (I'm guessing, 95%) of Mormon church members assign next to no importance to the location of the Garden of Eden. It's trivia.

      " . . Mormons and NO one else.They will never help the other Americans." Blatantly false. I've personally helped build homes for, taught English to and taken several non-LDS families to the storehouses (basically free grocery stores) to get needed food. You have to talk to a Mormon bishop first (you can't just walk in and start filling a cart), but let's just say you are uninformed.

      "They also believe that a take over of our country by their church is imminent and they stockpile food, guns and gold." Hello, fringe element. Every church has them. Very, very few Mormons believe in the "take over" thing, and certainly I've never heard it brought up in church in 40 years. The fringiest of the fringe might buy into that. And while the food thing is true (it's called "emergency preparedness"), the guns and gold thing is not in any way taught or encouraged by church leadership.

      "They believe polygamy will be re-instated and most of the main stream LDS actually practice it now." Now that's funny stuff. Again, this is something that hardly ever comes up within the LDS church itself; it's always someone outside bringing up the polygamy thing. I'd wager that 99.9% of modern LDS men have absolutely no desire for multiple wives. As far as the mainstream church, you are just wrong, and I think you know it. Anyone practicing polygamy is excommunicated; it's been this way for 100 years. Today's Mormons see polygamists as weirdos, same as you probably do. Times have changed.

      "Romney will always obey the President of the LDS church over any laws of the US. He cannot take the oath as President of the US because it is against his church laws." Read the 12th Mormon Article of Faith (basically, "Obey the laws of the land"). Your assumptions about what Mitt would or wouldn't do come from . . where, exactly? Some orifice? If you believe Kennedy consulted with the Pope on matters of state, then you'll believe the same of Mitt.

      "He also will use a copy of the Joe Smith book of Mormon to be sworn in." Stop. You're killing me. That's truly funny. I believe they swear in governors, don't they? Do you have information that says he did this while being sworn in as gov of MA? Betcha don't.

      "What a shame to let this lunatic liar ever even come close to becoming our Commander in Cheif." Pot, meet kettle. But I don't think you're necessarily a lunatic. You're just a little . . simple.

      July 17, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  9. Judy

    As usual people that write about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, do it in a very negative way. If you don't know what your talking about investigate the church and get the facts. The cover page is offensive to me. Why do other religions and the media spend their time worrying about what we believe in and get a life. The church isn't going away because the bigots out there don't like us. Get a life and leve ours alone.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Toss Pot

      Better still would be if you and yours not bother the rest of us.

      July 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • ThouShaltNotWorshipFalseGods

      Kind of like the way the Mormon Church treated people of color as second class citizens until 1978 – nearly two decades after the Civil Rights Act?

      July 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Edwardo

      Last time I checked Ms. Judy... you voted on my rights. Your church spents 10's of millions of dollars cheating me out of my civil rights! And now you want me to leave you alone? Ain't happenin' babe...

      July 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • peter

      judy–we wouldn't be talking about you if romney wasn't the nom–i voted for santorum and will be sitting out the gen election by the way-Second, in the 1800s we put you people in utah because we don't want you around–It's you people with your missionaries that need to get a life–What you really need to do is reject the book of mormon which is blasphemy

      July 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • okiejoe

      The cover is offensive to you? Tough! It's called "Freedom of the Press." I'm sure you have never found mocking covers or pictures or descriptions of other religions "offensive," have you? I think you and your religion are a bit thin-skinned, or else have a guilty conscience.

      July 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • mountainmama82

      Tell that to the people who live in Snowflake ,AZ . Myself included. Judy you are defending a cult of the worst sort of bigots and liars. Give it up.

      July 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  10. Rev. Carrie

    As a former member of the church, I KNOW for a fact that if everything the Mormon Church owns ever hit the media, there would be more than plenty said by everyone .....including the church members. The reason for this is ALL profits are tax deductable! They own Beneficial Life Insurance, allegator farms in Florida to furnish all of those allegator cowboy boots and purses that so many wealthy people love, they own a few governments around the world in order to put the Mormon missionaries in their countries. Some would call those exchange bribes for entrance into their country to "preach the gospel". This isn't a secret to Mormons. They just chose not to talk about it because the church leaders don't want it talked about. Full disclosure would first will never happen and secondly would knock the socks off any breathing human being!

    July 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • peter

      lol–the mormons don't own any governments

      July 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Allen

      http://www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com

      July 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  11. Slim Jim

    The introduction of the Book of Morman tells how a small group of men met secretly and came out to pronounce the principles of the Morman Church. It is all man-made. Where is God?

    July 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • mountainmama82

      You left out the part that they were all his cousins.

      July 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  12. Mike

    Good for Businessweek! All religions should be mocked and ridiculed. It is not bigotry to hold disdain for religious ideas. They are not a protected class of ideas because their holy book says so.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • ThouShaltNotWorshipFalseGods

      It sure isn't bigotry to them when they attack President Obama's church and pastor. At least President Obama believes that Jesus is God. (Ever wonder why you never see a cross on a Mormon steeple?)

      July 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  13. DidaP

    How is Mormonism a cult akin Scientology? Can someone explain to me? Thanks

    July 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • peter

      modern day prophets -though it is better for hubbard since he didn't claim christ with his invented religion

      July 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • ThouShaltNotWorshipFalseGods

      They worship mammon, not Jesus.

      July 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Rev. Carrie

      There is a great deal of secretcy in the Mormon church and not just in Temples. There are so many things the members are not to discuss with anyone outsie of the bishop's office.

      BTW, I made a misprint in my previous posting. The proceeds of the church business are NOT tax deductable. They are exempted from even a "request for disclosure by the governmnet, IRS or any other government "look see".

      July 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  14. okiejoe

    I don't understand why ANY church has a lot of assets; Every cent they receive, after salaries, taxes and overhead, should be spent on helping the people that Jesus said needed help. Huge churches and businesses are idolatrous and counter to the teachings of Jesus.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • ThouShaltNotWorshipFalseGods

      As late as 1978 the Mormon church was still practicing racism by banning people of color from temple membership and rites. When the IRS threatened their tax-free status the "Prophet" suddenly had a vision from God.
      -
      The power of money is simply amazing in some religions. It trumps God.

      July 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  15. People's beliefs are weird

    I notice a lot of comments are about how weird the Mormons are for their beliefs and how they Prop 8 in California was funded by the Mormons and how wrong that was. But sticking your wee wee in another guys behind isn't weird and is normal? PLEASE!!! It's all about what each person wants to believe.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Edwardo

      Like heteros don't stick their wee wee's in female behinds? Your self-rightous bigotry betrays your "I'm a normal person" persona.

      July 14, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Maggie

      Yes, Tell me it's weird and not normal for a man to see God but it's normal and not weird to be gay. I guess it's about what floats your own boat and ideas!

      July 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • People's beliefs are weird

      Eduardo-I am not trying to be self righteous or say being gay is wrong. I am just sitting back watching both sides of the argument. I think it's funny that each person(gay, hetero, mormon, non-mormon, ex mormon, christian, non-christian, atheist, democrat, republican, etc) it trying to convince everyone else that the way THEY think is normal and the ONLY correct way to think and if you don't think like them then you are a bigot and a hater. Just funny!

      July 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Edwardo

      I guess I missed your point. That's why we have a supreme court. To protect the minority from the whims of the majority. So true "each person believes that everyone who disagrees with them is a bigot". Just that when a certain group of same-believers gang-up on another group, the majority tends to "win".

      July 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  16. mordrud

    Wow. That cover rocks. But Jesus forgot to mention magic underwear....

    July 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  17. Steve

    Mormons believe that when they die, they each become a God of another planet in the solar system.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • ThouShaltNotWorshipFalseGods

      Doesn't the 10 Commandments say something about false gods?

      July 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • peter

      mormons believe that the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ is the word of God–As far as their theology of their book it is neither here nor there–The book itself is blasphemy

      July 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  18. Stevie C

    Heather, good points- let me help you out though.

    just a few of the ways the Mormon Church uses its funds:

    1. to build/maintain churches and temples (to try to reach as many people as possible to convert to mormonism)
    2. worldwide missionary efforts (to try to reach as many people as possible to convert to mormonism)
    3. education (e.g. Brigham Young University) (to try to reach as many people as possible to convert to mormonism)
    4. humanitarian aid (to try to reach as many people as possible to convert to mormonism)
    5. church welfare program (to try to reach as many people as possible to convert to mormonism)
    6. church employees (sheep who've been reached and converted to mormonism)
    7. publications (books, manuals, magazines) (to try to reach as many people as possible to convert to mormonism)
    8. for groups such as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ((to try to reach as many people as possible to convert to mormonism, based on their golden tones)
    8. broadcasting, filming, movies (to try to reach as many people as possible to convert to mormonism)
    9. Perpetual Education Fund (student loans to young adults in 3rd world countries) (to try to reach as many people as possible to convert to mormonism)

    By George I think there's a theme here. None of this is being done without ulterior motives. Please don't insult the public by trying to convince it's all altruistic, 'cause it ain't...

    July 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  19. palintwit

    Sarah Palin is the only one who can heal and re-unify our country. But in order to do so, she must return to her motorhome and resume her cross country tour. She will have to visit cities both large and small, speaking only to "real Americans", dispensing her sage advice and folksy, homespun common sense solutions. We can be a great nation again but we must all follow the "Palin Path".

    July 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • LiberaLIowan

      Good plan as far as it goes. The last step should be for her to convert to mormonism. She isn't quite b@tsh1t crazy enough just yet.

      July 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  20. Richard

    "Bloomberg." Enough said.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
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