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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. Franklin

    Of course, Romney went to Paris instead of Vietnam, and his kids did not report to their Armed Forces Recruiting Center on September 12, 2001.

    July 16, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  2. NorCalMojo

    I still can't believe Jews hate Mormons so much. What's up with that? It seems the ultimate in hypocrisy.

    July 16, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  3. 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

    The anti-mormon, anti-Romney backlash has begun! Go Obama!!

    July 16, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • SoldierOfConscience

      Fat chance.. as much as I dont like him, I will close my nose and vote for Romney. Enough of the 0bamanation

      July 16, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • NorCalMojo

      I think it's ugly. I can't believe a Jewish publication would attack people based on religion. Hypocritical much?

      July 16, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  4. chuckie

    So if Romney wins, do we all get to have Mormon harems?? Cuz I'm cool with that.

    July 16, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • SoldierOfConscience

      Do we all get to wear magic underwear and baptize dead people?

      July 16, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You're already doing it, SOC. What do you care?

      July 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • SoldierOfConscience

      ??? what do you mean, Tom?

      July 16, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Come off it, SOC. You're a closet queen. Anyone who protests as much as you do is gay, gay, gay.

      July 16, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • SoldierOfConscience

      Im an equal opportunity protester against all these new-agey fads : like open @b 0rt1on, b1rth c0ntrol, easy d1v0rce, etc. not just a one note song. In addition to keeping marriage to one m an + one w oman.

      So there

      July 16, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      As if you matter, you dweeb. You're a dim bulb. You can barely write a sentence.

      The fact is that gays, abortion, and birth control have been around since men walked the earth, you dolt. You're not going to outlaw abortion or bc. Women simply won't stand for it, nimrod. Get it through your thick skull-your little wifey is a throwback to the 50s, dear, and her views are in the minority now. R v W won't be overturned and birth control pills and Plan B will continue to be legal and available. And gay marriage is inevitable.

      You're impotent, and not just in the bedroom.

      July 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      "marriage to one man + one woman."

      They allowed you to marry your blow up doll?

      July 16, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • SoldierOfConscience

      To whomever responded to my posts:

      I sent a link of this forum to my pastor. He gently scolded me saying you dont be rude to people, pull them down or say bad things about mormons to make your point. He's advising me to stop posting on these forums since the christian thing is to explain one's viewpoint and its up to the other person whether he accepts it or not. That I'm doing more damage than good.

      So, if anyone was hurt, sorry. That was not my point. I want to save as many souls as possible by educating people of the truths.

      Peace.

      July 17, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  5. SoldierOfConscience

    I dont like morons

    July 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      I don't think anyone cares. You've already shown that the only people you like are people who agree with your bigoted views.

      July 16, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • SoldierOfConscience

      er. mormons

      July 16, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      I figured that's what you meant, that's what I didn't bother to point it out.

      July 16, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Poor little Soldier. He thinks his vote on gay marriage will matter.

      July 16, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • SoldierOfConscience

      My vote, the missus, her brother, her brother's wife's brother (brother's wife is a hopeless liberal who thinks odumbo is doing a bang up job). That's many votes, Tom

      July 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nah, you're not even close to winning, dude. You and your ding-bat pals and family will be outvoted by the Democrats of MD. Too bad for you, honey. You can't do a thing about it.

      July 16, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • NorCalMojo

      You're just jealous of their hot blonde wives that actually contribute to their marriages. I feel it too, but I don't hate them for it.

      July 16, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  6. Dennis

    The truth hurts and it is fair play. This man wants to be President so all is fair, Great Cover, we need more people to stand up and tell it like it is!!

    July 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Rynomite

      I agree! All churches need to be recognized as tax exempt cults dedicated to business!

      July 16, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • just sayin

      But the Mormon church IS an Empire that makes money hand over fist and uses it's relgious status to claim tax exemption. Is that the kind of person we want running our country? Another dishonest, money grubbing cult leader????

      July 16, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  7. taburere

    I agree that the cover is exceedingly distasteful. I have not read the article to know for myself whether it is fair or balanced. I did find the following article posted at the LDS Church Newsroom's site (an official Church website) regarding Church finances that those of you with a sincere interest might find to be meaningful: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-financial-independence

    July 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      Damn that first amendment...imagine someone freely speaking their mind...

      July 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Foghorn Leghorn

      Classic: looked at the picture but didn't read the story, went to my propaganda source instead.

      Like the Mormon church is going to tell the truth aabout their finances, which they have kept a tightly-guarded secret for over a century.

      July 16, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • The Dude

      They should pay taxes like every other business. Houdini did not get a tax break! And his magic was even better!

      July 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • taburere

      So I've gone back and read the article on Businessweek. It seems to me to be a highly biased article. It focuses a lot of effort on monies coming into church-owned enterprises and little time on explaining the purpose of the enterprises, i.e., what's being done with the money.

      Something that a lot of people are overlooking is that while the Church itself is exempt from paying taxes, its for-profit enterprises such as Deseret and its subsidiaries and the new City Creek Mall, are part of the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and do, in fact pay taxes, just like all other for-profit enterprises. So what's the big deal?

      July 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  8. POLITICALY INCORRECT

    GOOGLE ( MOUNTAIN MEADOWS MASSACRE ) then see what tou think of those wonderful freaks called mormans

    July 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • ME II

      Just google Crusade, Inquisition, etc. to see what you think of those wonderful freaks called Christians.
      (yes, that probably includes Mormons, but not to the OPer)

      July 16, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  9. Josh

    This cover is purely offensive, completely bigoted and should raise red flags for Christians of all faiths. Will good people stand by and tolerate the mockery, hatred and intolerance displayed here? Today it's the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that's being mocked, tomorrow it could be your faith. Stand up for what is right.

    July 16, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • ME II

      @Josh,
      And if you think it is right that all religions be mocked, or that it is a right to mock any religion, what then?
      Were you this upset about the cartoons of Mohammad?

      July 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Happy Jack

      So what do you recommend doing, hunting down those that ridicule your religions and, what, cut off their tongues, or stab them in the middle of the street?

      July 16, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Josh

      Then again, I do recognize that I am programmed as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ (anything BUT!) of Latter-Day Saints to believe that any attack against my church is an attack against civilization itself! How can anyone be bigotted when it's just one religion? It's silly to call someone a bigot just because they don't agree with my cult, I mean church.
      The right thing to do is vote Obama! My church, it's leaders and especially Romney are nothing but corrupt, evil beings.

      July 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • steven harnack

      They need to be mocked. If they actually believed 1/10 of what they say they believe then they are certifiably insane. If they actually believed in anything that Jesus supposedly taught then they would throw the money changers out of their midst. If Christians actually lived the way that they say I should live then they wouldn't be so insufferable. A pox on all of them!

      July 16, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  10. A Different View

    Perhaps people do find the cover offensive. The real question is whether there is truth behind the article concerning investments in "unreported" income into the church coffers. Personally I don't have a problem with a church being tax exempt for the property on which the church facility sits. Once a church commences investing in comporate stock (Bain Capitol?) and starts building amusement parks, they are crossing the line into the realm of a profit oriented organization which should require complete financial disclosure and the paying of appropriate taxes for the income received from these "non-church" sources.

    July 16, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Jason

      There is simply a lot of ignorance about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or LDS Church for abreviation or Mormon church as nicknamed by early persecutors. Much of this ignorance has come about because of anti-mormon propaganda that spreads falsehoods and misconceptions.

      1. Christ gave His followers a command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone. This cannot be done without increasing amounts of money as more people are baptized and require a place to worship Jesus Christ and continue their gospel study. This is not a business, but it is a Christian ministry and it still takes a lot of money to fulfill Christ's directive.

      2. The LDS church does not have paid ministers like most other Christian churches do. Instead, LDS members have a regular career to support themselves and donate some of their remaining time to serve each other and spread the gospel. So, while pastors in some other churches may get rich off of donations from church members or benefit by investing donations wisely, leaders of the LDS Church don't benefit financially by trying to use donations wisely. They are just trying to stretch the "widows mite" and manage donations as best they can.

      3. The LDS Church tries to protect and grow the sacred donations of its members through investing its savings as wisely as possible through the principles of diversification and sound business principles. Jesus taught this very principle in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:15-27. What is wrong with this? I hope my church leaders use the utmost wisdom possible to make my donations stretch as far as possible.

      4. The IRS tax code requires that money earned on investments and from businesses focused on making a profit pay income taxes no matter who the owner or investor is. So, the LDS Church does not receive an exemption from income tax on businesses it owns or has invested in. It just doesn't have to pay income taxes on the donations I make to it.

      5. The LDS Church donates billions of dollars in money, food, and care packages to those in need throughout the world who are in need even though they usually are not members of the LDS Church. It is one of the four main purposes of the LDS Church to seek out and help the poor and needy. It is one of the first organizations to repond in times of crisis to help those in need.

      In summary, the Church of Jesus Christ is seeking to fulfill Christ's command to spread the gospel around the world. This takes a lot of money and resources to accomplish. While no LDS Church leader benefits financially from growing church donations or by investing accrued donations from its members, it would be foolish and irresponsible for Church leaders to not try to protect and invest the widows mite using wise management principles.

      This is my utmost hope and belief regarding the donations I give to the LDS Church that come from my hard earned money and that I hold every bit as sacred as the widows mite spoken of by the Savior.

      July 18, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  11. oldgoat

    Even though I thought the cover in extremely poor taste (seen any caricatures of Mohammad on businessweek lately?) I read the article. Unfortunately I thought the article was in as poor taste as the cover. If the author had bothered to research both sides of the equation it could have been interesting. She didn't bothered to cover the extensive welfare, educational help, employment assistance, housing assistance etc... etc.... that the LDS church spends millions on each year. It seemed to me that she had already written the article prior to doing any research. imho

    July 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Lux

      So good works fall under the umbrella that other churches enjoy. Commercial property development etc. should not.

      July 16, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  12. Pippa's Bucket

    Why does it look like jesus is trying to get oral from the blond one?

    July 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Because you are situationally fixated

      July 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  13. Ray Toon

    And just where in London, can one get hold of a copy of this BLOOMBERG BUSINESS WEEK before it runs out ? Where ? Where ?

    July 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  14. Reality

    AND THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD

    Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

    "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does BO and his family)

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    Added details available:

    July 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  15. Doesn't it just suck when TRUTH is offensive

    MAYBE – just maybe – if the Mormons are so worried about their reputation, they shouldn't get involved in criminal/shady business deals.

    Just sayin'...

    July 16, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  16. Doesn't it just suck when TRUTH is offensive

    Don't live in a glass house if you're afraid of being hit with a rock.

    July 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  17. Who invited me?

    So you spell it with TWO M's....funny... I always use just one

    July 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  18. TrueGrissel

    Now I get it, William Shatner was taking a shot at the mormons in the movie Star Trec- The Voyage Home, when he said Spock took too much LDS.

    July 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  19. davidoff

    Interesting cult this is. Check out their belief structure and THEN make your own assessment. For me, this church is nothing more than a modern abomination and an affront to the Almighty. Romney must NEVER be let in the door.

    July 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Adam

      What cult do you prefer, david? You seemed to sneak one in there.

      July 16, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • just sayin

      They are as much as a cult as Christians are to Judaism.

      July 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  20. Petfriendly1

    What's the big deal? Other religions have been poked fun at on magazine covers. Why not this religion?

    July 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • ME II

      It does seem a bit out of character for Business Week.

      July 16, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • ME II

      IMO, that is.

      July 16, 2012 at 2:46 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.