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. evolved one

    “Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience.”
    - Christopher Hitchens

    July 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Haime52

      So religion should be disorganized?

      July 14, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • evolved one

      It, religion, should just vanish.

      July 14, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Haime52

      Oh, my friend, be careful what you wish for. Hitler wanted to end religion, Marx and Lenon did too. Their world view is not one we, in the west, admire. The chinese are still trying to do away with it, yet no one here wants a society like theirs. To my knowledge, there has been no successful completely atheistic government or society, to date.

      July 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Haime52, Here we go with the Hitler comments again. I swear people skip right over their reasoning conscious minds and go right to the lizard brain.

      For the record, and by record I mean verifiable concrete evidence, Hitler (whether he was or not in reality) was a self-proclaimed christian and used religion to rally the Nazis.

      AND... what exactly did Marx do that was so evil?

      Finally to your last point... "To my knowledge, there has been no successful completely atheistic government or society, to date."

      There has in fact been NO completely successful government system or society religious or otherwise. All social structures have failed and will fail. All government systems have failed or will fail. This is just a product of social entropy. I could argue that the secular Ja.panese govt where I live is still going strong... as is China's, Icelands, Norway's, Canada's and the many other secular governments in the world. However, these too will fail or will need to be upgraded. Even America's founders understood this when they tried to create a living docu.ment that can change with time.

      July 14, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • LinSea

      Mr. Hitchens was hardly the poster child of tolerance.

      July 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • evolved one

      Oh really?

      July 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Prayer changes things


      July 14, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      July 14, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Jesus

      ~Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!:'

      July 15, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  3. Epic Fail

    Nothing but desperate political stance. LAME!

    July 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • oBUMa

      Bloomberg must not do the same to Muhammad or he'll never see sunrise ever again.

      July 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  4. kendallpeak

    CNN, F-– you for editing out responses you don't like. You destroy the ability for an exchange of ideas.

    July 14, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Haime52

      And it you cannot tell why it was not posted!!!!!

      July 14, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  5. chuckie

    I would really like to see Mitt Romney do an hour long interview on the Mormon church and what he believes. And no, Fox News is not an option.

    July 14, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  6. evolved one

    To quote Christopher Hitchens regarding belief in sky fairies and other assorted religious claptrap..... “[E]xceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.”

    July 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  7. John

    Religion does not belong in our politics. However how is it we have six Roman Catholics on the bench and 3 Jewish Justices. Meanwhile mainstream America, if you think in religious terms, Protestants and the religiously uncommitted without strong religious agendas are not represented. This latter group does most of the work in this country and pays most of the bills and, if asked, doesn't want religion influencing political policies.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  8. Mitt Romney

    It's important to keep your magic underwear on at all times, even while showering. That way, you will still make it to Heaven if you slip and fall or have a heart attack. A smart Mormon is well prepared.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • evolved one

      So does magic underwear enhance one's "potential"? LOL

      July 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  9. 2smart4this

    To Chuckie, I have heard from Mormon missionaries that they have 3 levels of heaven. The top level is for Mormons only. The second is for good people, not necessarily Mormons and the third is for the bad. They also have this Hanging by a Thread belief that says when things get bad, Mormons will be heads of the government to straighten things out. This is one prophecy of theirs, I really don't want to see happen. What a nightmare especially for women. If it weren't for what they call the law of the land, the men would still have multiple wives.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  10. Mickey1313

    Churches should not be allowed any business holdings at all, without giving up there npo status. It is theft and fraud, they make billions, um that is a profit. Just like the cathloc nazis holding so many hospitals, they take in tax free monies, and that its some how not a profit.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  11. myklds

    This is nothing compared to persecutions of Prophet Joseph Smith when he decided to run for presidency 1n 1844. He was falsely accused and and was summariy executed.

    Be strong Mitt, you're the country only hope.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • myklds

      *country's, rather

      July 14, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Heaven is Tacos

      The same Joseph Smith who found the magic stones in the woods? Of course, only he could read them. Makes sense. Please procreate and teach your children to be like you. The world is getting better. Thumbs up.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • evolved one

      Please......stop...........you are making me laugh too hard.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Mickey1313

      Smith broke federal laws, and encouraged his cult to do the same. The mormon people in general, may be good folks, but there leadership is out right evil.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • 2smart4this

      Hope for what? Setting women back 50 years?

      July 14, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • W Sayeth

      Joseph Smith was a misogynist, traitor and bigot. Hmm . . . no wonder he created a "religion."

      July 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  12. Kendallpeak

    Any hot guys out there?

    July 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • kendallpeak

      I must have really gotten under your skin. ha ha ha

      July 14, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  13. chuckie

    I hate to tone down the rhetoric, but I have an honest question. What is this planet Kolob I hear Mormons believe in? Is it really Mormon heaven?? answers please.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • IO

      I'm not a Mormon so I can't answer your question as well as they could but my understanding is that Mormons believe the main god of the universe lives on a planet near Kolob. He has many wives and spirit children, including the god of Earth, which is the one Christians worship and the father of Jesus and Satan. Mormons spend their lives building up good deeds and charitable works so that they can become gods in the afterlife and rule over their own personal planet, along with many wives to produce children to populate that planet. They would rule over that planet as a god in the same way their god rules over Earth.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • LinSea

      No, it absolutely is not 'Mormon heaven.' And IO has some details correct, such as that we do believe in God the Father and that all of us are His children spiritually, but IO has also mixed in a few things that are speculative. If you have questions, the church has websites where you can look at the scriptures and other reference materials yourself, or post questions. You could also ask someone who is Mormon in person.

      July 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  14. RandalH

    Oh the irony of the LDS Church being afraid of a mischaracterization when it presents itself in a mischaracterizing fashion every time it knocks at your front door. I'll grant that the magazine cover is in poor taste, but so is continuing to proclaim the LDS Church as "the truth restored."

    July 14, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  15. Messiah

    Utah is the Saudi Arabia of America.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  16. evolved one

    Religion is the opiate of the masses.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • kendallpeak

      Wow, you're really deep, quoting dead communists, wow man. Down with the capitalists. Have another dube. It's really cool living in your mom's basement, isn't it?

      July 14, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • evolved one

      @kendalspeak - you really should not speculate as it makes you look rather foolish. Quoting Marx, who btw was an Economist, makes a helluva lot more sense that quoting "scripture" that was supposedly dictated to some mental case back in the 1800s.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Mickey1313

      Ken, you are quite ignorant, marx was great, and what we do is not capitalism, that would be free market, it its fascism, government controlled cronyism

      July 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @kendallpeak, "doob"... short for doobie. And while I agree that the Marx quote is often overused, it also happens to be true. Just look around at the 45% of drug-addled Americans who are hooked on god so severely that they believe the earth is less than 10k years old or the over 75% who believe in an afterlife despite the fact that there is no evidence of one.

      This is your brain on god.... any questions?

      July 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • kendallpeak

      Mick, read a biography on marx, he was a self centered malicious failure, which of course was why he advocated stealing the products of productive men. I do agree we do not live under capitalism, wish we did, we live under a system of socialism/cronyism that is much closer to marx than smith.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      "we live under a system of socialism/cronyism that is much closer to marx than smith."

      Clearly you don't understand what socialism means. I'm an expat living in a socialist democracy. Trust me, America is nowhere near being socialist. Everyone here has healhcare, pensions and a vibrant middle class. Crime is almost invisible. Trains run everywhere and on time. Education is one of the best in the world.

      I would recommend actually reading Marx instead of reading a book about Marx if you want to understand the philosophy.

      July 14, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • kendallpeak

      God free, Please name this socialist utopia.

      July 14, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • GodFreeNow


      July 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • kendallpeak

      GF, I admit to not being well versed on their current political/economic way of life. But I do know their thousands of years old culture takes the credit for most of their positive attributes. With that said, I would still prefer to live in a society of freemen who are not culturaly conditioned to obedience and conformity.

      July 14, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      "I would still prefer to live in a society of freemen who are not culturaly conditioned to obedience and conformity."
      Ironic choice of words, as 'culturally conditioned to obedience and conformity' sounds a lot like religion to me.

      But yeah, you've done a great job of not only showing your ignorance of socialism, economics and Marx, but now we can add the Ja.panese culture to that list. Anything else you want to share with us?

      July 14, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  17. kendallpeak

    Maybe the next cover will be a satire of the monster muhammed, oh that's right, Bloomberg cowards would be afraid to mock the enemy, they only mock loyal Americans.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • evolved one

      Mormons are not "loyal" Americans.......

      July 14, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Brian Cole

      Kendall: not a chance. If you pulled this trick on Bloomie's Jewish family/friends/cronies, you WOULD NEVER HEAR THE END OF IT. What about that wench Debbie blabbermouth-Shultz. . . . . try going after her Jewish Princess act, and see what venom comes out of the DNC and NBC (same company; redundant terms)!!!

      July 14, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • evolved one

      @Brian Cole - maybe you need to go over to stormfront or some other extremist web page. Doing the conspiracy a-go-go dance must be making you dizzy.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • mary

      um Ken, the prophet muhammed was not a monster

      July 14, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  18. Griffco

    Hey folks...listen up! I was a Mormon once. Trust me...those people are freaks. In reality...Mormonism is a cult that masquerades as a mainstream religion. Case closed.

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

      griff–everyone knows that–those who don't, don't know they have another book of God(testament of christ)

      July 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Mickey1313

      All religion from christianity to scientology, its based on cult behavior. We should allow people to believe what they wish, but remove all npo status from all theistic groups.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  19. Lynne

    Go to work for MARRIOT for a few months and your head will spin. It is a an all consuming culture. And I don't just mean in the business sense.

    July 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  20. Brian Cole

    Get ready. With Romney's streak for the White House, this kind of crap from the Liberal Dogs (Bloomberg and ilk) is only going to get worse. Try doing this to Bloomie's Jewish friend/family, and see what happens.. . . . . it will be a whole lot of Wah Wah Wah. Try it on Debbie Blabbermouth-Schultz. Thugs and Bolsheviks all.

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

      Sounds to me like it is you doing all the whinging.

      July 14, 2012 at 4:34 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.