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. Willie12345

    The bigotry is just dripping from this front page. What so much hate ? It's not just a matter of opinion or disagreement on religion, it's just hate. Well, at least this hate is out in the open.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      Yes, the hatred that Mormons exhibit toward anyone who won't join their cult is evident.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Gary Sumner

      What is more ridiculous than Christianity? Mormons! ALL Religions are simply businesses that front as churches. Bottom line business that is tax-exempt, why wouldnt you want to be a church leader? Think of all the mindless people you can manipulate! And then there is Mormon women who are so ignorant they can be convinced it is OK to have multiple wives,LOL!

      July 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • matt in nw

      The 'hate' as you put it is because its becoming increasingly obvious that the religious will try and slide their BS into washington... and as a result critical medical research will be stomped on (stem cell research).

      our kids are falling further and further behind the rest of the developed world in math and science – partly because the first thing our kids see in some states when they open a science book is a disclamer that Evolution is just a theory- and not the scientific definition of the term....

      The mormons have engaged in a huge PR campaign – that just so happen to coincide with one of their favored sons running for president.

      I and a growing number of people are sick to death of religion and its demanding intrusive BS. Non of it – not one shred of it is real.... you coulkd pray to Mavin Martian and get EXACTLY the same results as you get praying to any of the gods in human history. just devisive crap.

      July 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  2. Liz in Seattle

    I am definitely going to go buy a copy of that magazine and read that article.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • GoAhead


      July 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  3. upset

    The Mormon church is one of service, sacrifice, devotion, order and resourcefulness. The success of the church in largely due to those principles. It is this success that allows the LDS Church to do good in this world. It has a welfair system that is largely self supporting. Annually the Church gives millions in goods and services to assist people in the wake of natural disasters both in the US and across the world. It provides for Humanitarian aid though out the world as well. Life changing service, like digging wells, and building schools in third work countries. The LDS Church is smart to wisely invest. As stewards of the money given to serve God it makes sense use the brains God has given man to make the most of that money so that it can be used to do even more good. Christ himself in the parable of the talents( Matt 25:14-30) established the foundation for being a profitable stewards of the Lords resources. The LDS church should not be ridiculed for it's history of wise and careful money management, but commended for it.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      "The LDS church should not be ridiculed for it's history of wise and careful money management,"

      No thats true, they SHOULD be ridiculed for the rediculous foundations, created by the con-man who suckered a bunch of people into believing this clap-trap....but not because of how they handle money.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      Mormons will only give that aid to other Mormons. Non-Mormons get nothing.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • peter

      Good works of mormons,muslims, and scientologists does not make those religions true. For example the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ is the word of God or it is not-has nothing to do with how good or successful mormons are

      July 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Gary Sumner

      You are a fool to live your life by a book written long ago by people who were less informed than people of today. ALL religions are comprised of people that need assurances that this life is not all there is, but....THIS LIFE IS ALL THERE IS! Deal with it, and quit living your life based on ridiculous fairy tales!

      July 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Not2Blue

      How many millions has the mormon cult spent on bullying the LGBT community? How much money has the mormon cult spent on supporting political candidates and causes? How many taxes has the mormon cult avoided by claiming a religious exemption? The mormon cult is no more or less corrupt than any other tax dodging religious organization in the country.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  4. jimmy

    can you imagine if a mormon publication criticized bloomberg by mocking jews? all the tax-the-church commie-libs would be screaming bloody murder.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      All us "tax the church libs"? Well, thanks for admitting MANY Americans think we need to take a good, hard look at those "churches" that act more like Political Action Committees. I hope President Obama and the Democrats in Congress do just that next year.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Cleetus

      So, "Jimmy," you are a Mormon coocksucker. What proof do you have that your religion is true? What evidence establishes – for a fact – that Joseph Smith was anything more than a man with a desire for money? What proof is there that God or Jesus actually exist[ed]? Imagining that Jesus existed, which is very likely, what proof is there that he was a "messiah"?

      Jimmy, go f*** yourself, you Mormon rightwing numbnut.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Cleetus

      Mormonism is not a religion; it is a profitable cult. It was invented by Joseph Smith, who forged papers supposedly indicating his divinity in order to get rich and have access to power and women (remember polygamy?) ...

      July 16, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • myklds


      Why so angry? Where all those hate came from and what are those all about?

      CHILL, bro.!

      July 16, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  5. American People

    Whatta DESPERATE move!

    Don't they know what the our consti.tution says? Kindly read article 6.

    Few more of LAME political stunts like this would make it safe to call Mitt Romney, MR. PRESIDENT.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      With the LIES he's been caught telling, Willard will NEVER be President, he won't even be able to get SEC approval again to operate another sleazy business like Bain.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Not2Blue

      If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the "muslim" "kenyan" "socialist" "going to take our guns away" kitchen.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  6. Ben

    How do you attack Romney on his faith??? Here you go...

    July 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • MagicUnderpantsRide

      I wish the magazine had put Joe and Ollie in their magic underpants on that cover. Would've made it more accurately silly. I am having a very difficult time believing the Republicans actually put a Mormon – considering how bat-%$#& crazy their beliefs are but they never admit it and always whine about being attacked instead of defending them because they CAN'T – on the presidential ballot. Gotta hand it to them, though, they dish BS like pros.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Not2Blue

      One of the main if not THE main reason Romney wants so desperately to be president is to mainstream and legitimize this mormon crap. That and to cultivate his own fortune.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  7. Patti

    There's nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade. It's a tax exempt cult making millions through businesses.

    July 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Rynomite

      Apt description of the Catholic and Protestant Churches as well.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Liz in Seattle

      I whoelheartedly agree with both of you, Patti and Rynomite.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Patti

      I have to agree with you on that rynomite!

      July 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  8. mr. butters

    Why don't we tax churches with 100% of the money going towards healthcare, the poor and education. Surely most major religions promote helping the sick, feeding the hungry and making sure children have a proper education. (proper = public, this wouldn't be meant to push a religions beliefs)

    July 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  9. Griffco76

    Back in the 1970's I was a memeber of this cult that masquerades as a mainstream religion. When you get your name removed from the member rolls as I did...you are then disassociated and a campaign of smear tactics are used against you. If you aren't for the Mormons...you are against them...and they pounce like a bunch fo rabid dogs on K2.

    July 16, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • peter

      griff–thats how scientologists and cult like religions operate–you are not the first ex mormon to make that claim in the comment section

      July 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  10. Rynomite

    Amusing. The Xtian cultists writing for Businessweek have decided to mock Mormons for doing the exact same things their own cult does.

    July 16, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • kenny

      more ppl drink the xtian coolaid so they figure majority rules... no matter how stupid, ignorant, and mooroonic they are ... all religion is bs.... deep down most of us know its bs but we go along with it cause its easier than confronting the tiny tiny group of die hards that literally will .. die... hard... and make others die... for their fairy tale beliefs... sadly we have to wait til the crazies actually kiiiill someone before we smack them down for their bs beliefs... so if someone is uber serious about their religion.. it makes them uber dangerous, take a look at what GW did during his 8 yrs... if romney is remotely serious... and he becomes pres.... he has the power to end the world if he wanted to... so... yeah...

      July 16, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Peggy Munro

      Great idea.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • keNii

      Show your true self, you COWARD D.U.M.B.A.S.S!

      July 16, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • kenny

      touched a little nerve did i... kenii... does it scare you???

      July 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  11. A theist

    evolve one, chuckie, moby schtiek, et'al sound more a oBUMatards than irreligious.

    July 16, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  12. Demo Joseph


    July 16, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • rememberSeparation?

      All religions are cults and are mostly interested in bilking their sheep out of their money. They are interested in control and greed so those at the top stay rich and powerful, by way of promising things they can in no way produce and by creating fear if they do not obey. Each cult has silly beliefs, one no sillier than another. If you take one cultist and ask him if he truly believes in what his cult teaches (for instance, that snakes really talk, virgin birth, in christianity, or that jews were in north America and their underwear are magic, in mormonism – none are exempted from this silliness), not one of them can say without sounding truly insane that they truly believe. Yet there they all are, saying they believe and offering up billions and billions in the false hopes of some eternal life or for the fear of eternal damnation. From an atheist's point of view, I ask, are you all truly insane? Do you really want to live an eternity with a bunch of whack-jobs who believe in this silliness and who give away their hard-earned money willy-nilly to these con-men? All I can say is, Jesus H. Christ on a stick. Wake the hell up people, you are all delusional, liars, or fools. Whichever, you're ruining America, that's for sure.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  13. Griffco76

    Joe Smith was hardly a so-called "Prophet of God"...more like a delusional half-wit with a wild imagination and way too much time on his hands.

    July 16, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Jr.

      most religions are that way

      July 16, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  14. Demo Joseph

    My mom always told me to be careful what you sew, you may have to riPPPPPPPPPPPP. Rommey played to old boy games long enough and now like all the bully that he is – he wants to cry when he is smacked.

    July 16, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  15. chuckie

    Do a wiki search on Parley P. Pratt, Mitt Romney's great grandfather. See why he was killed by a jealous husband. Oh yeah. He also had 12 wives.

    July 16, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • peter

      I don't trust anything on wiki

      July 16, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  16. Pope on a Rope

    So basically the Mormon church says it's not true. But refuses to say what is true. Excuse me if I'm not convinced.

    July 16, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  17. john316

    For ALL the churches....it is always about the money..... I keep waiting for a religion that says " We don't want your money.......just your love and admiration for our good deeds to help the world without strings attached "...... don't hold your breath.....How are all those Money Changers in the Temples doing these days.....pretty well I think....

    July 16, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  18. Themi Alexis

    How insulting? John the Baptist? Right? The picture clearly induces mental images of Jesus. The image alone is fine, but with the wordings is clearly intended to discredit Jesus and the Mormons. And when did Bloomberg become such an authority on Christianity?

    July 16, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • peter

      The article is not about christianity

      July 16, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • wilson

      Uh... no. The image is of John the Baptist and has nothing to do with Christianity or Jesus. But for the record, the Mormons are big fans of Jesus and would claim to be experts.

      July 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  19. BCW - NYC

    " Where does the $$ Money $$ go? "
    According to the Book of Romney, all money should go to the offshore safe haven bank accouts that US government cannot tax them. Smart move LDS ! I am impressed !

    July 16, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  20. Doc Vestibule

    "Ti.thing is an important test of our personal righteousness. President Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) said: “By this principle it shall be known who is for the kingdom of God and who is against it. … By it it shall be known whether we are faithful or unfaithful” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 276)."
    To make sure congregants are paying up, each year they must go before a Bishop for a Ti.thing Settlement.
    A member is questioned in a one-on-one interview with the Bishop to ensure the member is paying a full 10%.
    Those members who are not paying a full 10% lose their temple recommendations and therefore are in serious jeopardy of losing their Celestial blessings.
    If a member cannot get into the temple, they cannot learn the secret handshake, secret password, secret "new name" and special “sealings”.
    Without these, the member will be unable to pass Joseph Smith and the angels who guard the entrance to the Celestial Kingdom.

    And where does the money go?
    According to the Deseret News Agency, the propaganda arm of the LDS, the Church has spent some $750 million internationally on charitable works since 1984.
    They have also spent 4 times that amount (approx $3 BILLION) in ¼ of the time to build a mall in Salt Lake City.
    Mormons are told: "if a dest.itute family is faced with the decision of paying their ti.thing or eating, they should pay their t.ithing." (Lynn Robbins, General Conference, April 2005).

    July 16, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • .

      We love the Lord and are happy to contribute to his kingdom. There are no paid clergy or ministers in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We serve each other and the Lord out of Love. Mormon bishops do not charge for their service, not even for weddings or blessings or anything. We do not sell the Lord's gospel for money. Mormon missionaries are motivated by love and concern for others. In fact, many of them pay for their missions with their college funds and by selling cars and possessions. They give up girl friends, family, and lucrative sports and entertainment contracts to serve people they don't even know and who are often unpleasant and unkind. These are the hallmarks of the true church, "By their fruits ye shall know them."

      What is it to you, Doc, if we pay our ti thing? You act as though it is your money. It is not, so why should you care?

      July 16, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • wrong side of the bed

      @ . Give it all up for a religion founded by a 19th century con-man.Brilliant !!

      July 16, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • ME II

      When that ti.theing impacts the laws for everyone, e.g. California Prop 8, then it becomes everyone's business, IMO.

      July 16, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      This is a $40 billion enterprise operating without paying its employees (save for those at the top) – a feat they achieve through what amounts to spiritual blackmail.
      Anybody who charges a fee for salvation is running a con.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:09 am |
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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.