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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. Whoa

    I'm pretty sure the person writing these comments is Bobby Boucher's (from The Water Boy's) Mom.
    These comments are pretty funny if you think of her behind the keyboard.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  2. jean

    One thing, the cover DID promote discussion. My thought though, is that they shouldn't have used it. It is an insult and actually distracts from the real and serious message of the article inside the magazine.. The joke wasn't worth it. Seriously, the message of the extreme wealth the church gets from non religious business and hides behind being a tax exempt church is the real issue Not just the Mormon church, but any church that owns non religious businesess should be taxed on that business' profits.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • evolved one

      Insult? I thought that cover was spot-on. These holier than thou LDS types need a good slap in the head to shake them out of their blind worship within a corrupt theocracy.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  3. Amanda Hugginkiss

    Bad taste? Maybe. Hilarious? Definitely!

    July 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  4. Jeff

    Its political satire you twits, its suppose to rile people up.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  5. Unbelievable

    Wow after reading these comments, I would hate to see what you people think about the Amish.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • evolved one

      The Amish don't go around shoving their values down our throats. The Amish do not run major corporations worth billions of dollars. The Amish, like the Due, abide.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • qqqqqjim

      They work and don't worship money at the temple of Mammon like the Mormons do. And they, unlike Romney, who has never worked at a real job in his life that daddy's money didn't get him, actually work with their hands. I doubt Romney has ever got his hands dirty doing meaningful work of any kind. Romney's a total fake and a phony and the more I hear of this fumbler, the dumber he sounds.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  6. Marcos H. Rivera

    Wouldn't it be nice if the Mormon Church could claim the same when it comes to saving Living Souls for Our Lord & God Jesus Christ. But Since they DO NOT Believe Jesus is God... making money will do.

    Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6.19-21

    July 14, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • evolved one

      hahahahahahaaha......and your church is not about making money? Am I ever in the wrong business.....I should start a church.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Jeff

      They believe jesus is "A" god, basically they don't believe the trinity so that means jesus is a completely separate god. So Mormons aren't mono-theists, but Catholics are verging on the same thing by seeming to warship saints, virgin Marry, etc.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Amanda Hugginkiss

      Jesus is God? I thought God was God.... and we were to worship no other God but God??!? Great! Now we're doing the Zeus and multiple god thing again. Let me go get an animal to sacrifice; be right back..

      July 14, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Marcos H. Rivera

      You are right money is needed, but not treasures... and when once is talking about Billions and Billions of dollars... I think you are well pass the mark of making money and more into the turf of having treasures on Earth !

      July 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Marcos H. Rivera

      Amanda you can see that you have a body & from it your persona is projected unto us... at the very least you can see the physical you and the persona you... and in psychology there is the id ego and the super ego... you need to read girl & stop thinking.... hahahaha !!!

      July 14, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • LinSea

      We absolutely believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and that there is no other way to salvation except through Him.

      And I did read the Bloomberg article, and don't think it was too concerned with pointing out that the money that the church raises goes towards new construction, operating the buildings that have been constructed, missionary work, educational programs and universities, worldwide humanitarian services, welfare programs, publishing scriptures, etc. So yes, we ARE concerned with helping living souls.

      July 16, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  7. Mike in SA

    Coming next week a new cover story on Mohammed and ..."BOOM" (oops...)

    July 14, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  8. bassman1965

    I wonder what the response would be if there was an article named "How Jews Make Their Money".

    July 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Whoa

      Now that would be inappropriate!!!

      July 14, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Amanda Hugginkiss

      Well put...

      July 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  9. evolved one

    What is so "bigoted" or "out of bounds" about this cover? Absolutely nothing. It is high time this cult was exposed for what it is - a hotbed of corruption, misogyny and racism. Oh, sorry, I left out the mass delusion stuff......too bad for the mormons and other religious fanatics out there. We will keep pointing out your hypocrisy whether you like it or not.

    Time to get rid of tax exempt status for religious organizations. That separation of church and state is almost non-existent.

    July 14, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      You, as most people, do not understand TJ's "a wall of separation between the church and state" statement. Read both letters, the one from the Danbury Baptists and TJ"s favorable response to them.

      July 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Should and Does matter

      From my experience, being a member of Mormon congregations in 7 different US states, Chile and Brazil, has been a huge benefit to raising well balanced, honest, caring children. The time I put in as a congregation leader is far outweighed by the support the church and doctrine provides in getting thru life's difficult times and challenges raising children and helping them make good choices. This is in addition to the spiritual confirmation that supports my decision to attend, participate, work and accomplish the missions of The Church to improve the world we all live in and prepare for life after death.
      I hope faith becomes a big issue because Romney's faith seems to make people happy and well balanced. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints produces excellent families, service minded youth, dedicated parents and civic leaders all working to make our world a better place. UCLA's study on The Spiritual Life of College Students demonstrates that young members of Romney's faith are committed, caring people who know what they believe and live it as well: http://spirituality.ucla.edu/
      Congratulations to Ann and Mitt Romney for their life examples and for raising an excellent and successful Christ centered family!

      July 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • W Sayeth

      Just goes to show how it is possible to create a "faith" based on complete and utter falsehood. Who in their right mind would vote for a guy who falls for this pile of garbage?

      July 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • GianCarlo

      Ditto...............Well said!!!!!!!!!!!!

      July 14, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • evolved one

      @shouldanddoesmatter - keep religion out of government and while you are at it take your religion and stuff it. Patriarchal claptrap....misogyny, abuse of children......yeah, right....real nice "family values". What a bunch of hooey. The mormon cult is nothing more than a money-making apparatus.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • qqqqqjim

      To Should and Would: Save your religious crap for your Mormon cult you and the likes of Mitt and Ann Romney. If Mitt hadn't been born to a wealthy father, he'd be stacking food at Walmart. I can't stand this phony and fake and his holier than thou wife. Here's a guy, never worked at a real job that daddy's money didn't get him so save your sickening babble for other cult members and don't garbage up these pages with your inane sanctimonious dribble!

      July 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  10. All hail nimrod and jahovah

    Hallelujah.........broken down to read Hail El and Jah.........El being Nimrod and Jah being Jahovah......Do you people always worship ancient Babylonian star gods and their stories.....Yes if you worship using the "Holy" Bible.....PAGANS, every last one of you only you hide your heads in the sand.....

    July 14, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • qqqqqjim

      They're as greedy and crooked as Romney!

      July 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  11. The Pope

    Hey, tax exempt works for me. After all, Haysus didn't pay any taxes!

    July 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • How do you know that?

      How do you know Jesus didn't pay his taxes......Did you check with the IRS? Taxes were usually paid on the spot and in available cash, so to speak.....Also, Jesus said, "give what is Cesars to Cesar, give what is God's to God" In other words he told everyone that they should PAY their taxes!!!!!

      July 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • WrshipWarior

      Actually, Jesus and the disciples did pay taxes in Capernaum. Read Matthew 17:24-27 where Jesus sends Simon Peter down to the sea to catch the first fish which would have a piece of money in its mouth to go make a payment. BUT He also indicates that the children are free from this obligation.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  12. John

    theoretically, some folks CHOOSE to remain with their religions as adults. there is no reason that a guy running for the highest office in the land and still most powerful job in the world shouldn't have to account for his magic underpants and other crazy notions – including how to enjoy the group's tax-free fanciest architecture in the country and butting into politics. thanks to the reporter and thanks to the editors for going with the cover.

    July 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Mo

      Now, how come you can talk about his "magic underpants" but if you started talking about that Jewish guy's "funny hat", you know you'd be called out for being out of line. Mormons are the only religion left where it's sociologically okay to make fun of them.

      July 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  13. Josef Alois

    It's only the truth about mormons and romny...hahahahaha

    July 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  14. chuckie

    I don't have a problem with Romney's religion. I do have a problem with the fact that he used a Mormon mission to France to dodge the Vietnam draft. And how do you have five sons and not one sees fit to serve in the military?

    July 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Mary

      You hit the nail on the head! I wondered the same thing myself and yet no one in the media wants to ask that question.

      July 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • qqqqqjim

      Spot on. I don't have a problem with people who don't serve if they have a legitimate reason, but to run off to France, France of all places, to avoid the draft, is close to being a traitor, just like Deferment Dick Cheney, another traitor.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • LinSea

      There are Mormons who serve both missions and in the military. A mission is not a 'dodge.'

      July 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  15. Disco Jesus

    The truth hurts, it always does when it calls out the hypocrisy of one's beliefs.

    July 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • WrshipWarior

      What is the "hypocrisy" you are referring to?

      July 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  16. bakslider

    I pay a $1,000 god tax every year. That is what I figure my property taxes would be lowered if churches paid their fair share. I paid for the roads, sewers going to their buildings. I pay for educating their kids. If church folk are as patriotic as they claim, they would pay their share. Of course religion is never about being fair.

    July 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  17. floridasandy

    nobody reads bloomberg anymore anyway.

    July 14, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • evolved one

      You obviously did.......well, at least you read the headline and looked at the purty pictures.

      July 14, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • qqqqqjim

      The hell they don't. It's still the world's most widely read business rag. But I don't like it either.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  18. robCM

    Is the Bishop upset also, after all he is one of the biggest MONEY makers!

    July 14, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  19. Cynthia L.

    People responding to this story are NOT sticking to the subject at hand WHICH IS NOT religious beliefs BUT TAX EXEMPT LAWS that allow any church to run side businesses that have NOTHING TO DO WITH RELIGION!! Please spare us personal opinions about your belief in whatever. You should be upset that they are taking advantage of our tax system.

    July 14, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • chuckie

      Good post. Here is a question. If we taxed all churches on revenue and property, how much could we reduce the national debt?

      July 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  20. maestra730

    No magazine, including Businessweek, would dare to make fun of Islam in this way because Muslims would never stand for it. Cowardly, passive-aggressive editors skewer Christian denominations just because they can. I am not a Mormon, so I don't have a dog in this fight, but I find Businessweek to be lame and hypocritical in its attempt to be edgy and enlightening. Push the envelope some other way.

    July 14, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • sam stone

      Apparently, you DO have a dog in the fight. Whether or not you are Mormon, you appear to have your persecution complex in full gear

      July 14, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Erik

      True, but lame satire like this is par for the course with Bloomberg's cover artists to grab article-attention. And the fact of the matter is, the LDS do have business interests (although very few members are fully aware of the scope). And the chance of a couple nice fellows in dress slacks and shirt bicycling in 90-degrees to jihad my house is very remote.

      July 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • GianCarlo

      It's not about religions people. It's about exposing the hypocrisy of the Mormon Religion. It's about them being holier than thou, yet own almost half of Las Vegas.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.