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. John-117

    Wow, there are so many things wrong with that cover

    July 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  2. Ka Boom

    To all those who complain abt romneys mormonism, a mormon is bett'r than a muslim any day

    July 24, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  3. Ka Boom

    The libs R using the colorado shooting to take away your guns one small act at a time

    Fight back. vote for romney. He is against "gun control", aka "little by little gun confiscation"

    July 24, 2012 at 7:54 am |
  4. j

    this is hilarious...and sadly...so true!.

    July 23, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  5. Robert

    Religions care about two things and two things only, wealth and power. Everything else is a smokescreen to lead the weak to follow the strong. Mormanism is no better or worse than any other faith in this regard. They're all cults, some are just older than others.

    July 23, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • 512thinker

      ...and the easiest, most straightforward way for this to be refuted would be for the Mormon church to simply share its financial records. Or would this only back up the claims made in this story? Inquiring minds want to know.

      July 23, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Blake Jensen

      Completely and absolutely false. The Mormon Church has donated more than $1 billion in cash and material assistance to 167 different countries in need of humanitarian aid since it started keeping track in 1985. Many of these countries have few to no Mormons, but are also non-Christian.

      August 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  6. Ruffslitch

    Wow. I can see all the anti-bullying propaganda is working. Nothing but sweetness and light on THIS forum! Nothing to see here, move along now...

    July 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  7. TryingToBe


    July 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  8. chuckie

    Will the Mormon messiah denounce the comments of Michelle Bachmann??? Will he denounce the birther movement?? Will he denounce the kooks that call the President of the United States unAmerican?? Seems like that would be the Christian thing to do. Or are Mormons really Christians??

    July 20, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  9. David

    Thanks Businessweek, your offensive cover and article just saved me $30 bucks a year.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  10. .

    Califor nian#1 said:
    This is all very interesting. We have to give the Busi nessweek folks credit for being very creative and clever, in the artifices of man and after the manner of the world.

    Not only did they do thorough research to find the best way to mock someone honored by millions as a prophet, deride an event held sacred by those same multi tudes, and ridicule a Biblical figure that billions of people for two millennia have revered as the herald of Jesus Christ. But they also managed to trivialize the work and the sacrifice, diligence, and faithfulness of a 19th century Saint who left his homeland, crossed an ocean to reach Zion, pulled a handcart 1300 miles, and devoted his talents to glorifying God.

    Way to go Busi nessweek!"

    I have to quote Califo rnian because I am a descendant of CCA (the artist who painted the scene used on the cover) and find it hard to express the outrage and disgust I feel at Busi nessweek's using my ancestor to promote everything he was against. CCA spent his life teaching reverence and respect for God, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and for sacred things. I am certain that He ll has a warm place waiting for the people who did this article and CCA's painting

    July 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • RicoT

      Too bad it didn't mention the massacres that Brigham Young ordered...

      July 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Daioni

      At RicoT: I am astounded by the ignorance you show about MMM, BY never ordered what happened, if you had bothered to do any research at all, you would know that during that time, that community was under the very real posability that they would once again be forced from their homes or killed. that pressure was running high, and that, though a message was sent to BY, the tragedy had already occured before any reply could be sent back, and that those responsable for MMM where brought to justice and punished accordingly, something I might add did not happen when a mob stormed Carthage jail and guned down several innocnet people in cold blood.

      August 29, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  11. Cyric

    Its funny because its true.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  12. chuckie

    it is time to play the Mormon card. America must never elect a magic diaper wearing cult member. Do some research and then warn all your friends. If a Mormon is elected president, Jesus Christ will reach down and wipe America off the face of the earth.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • TryingToBe

      Yes, do some reasearch. Better yet, do LOTS of research. For example go to lds.org or mormon.org and get all the truth about the mormons.

      July 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  13. oBUMa

    More of this to come. My camp is soo so desperate.

    July 19, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  14. Jay G

    Hey religious freak jobs, stop worrying about what people say about your religion. If you're so sure your religion is right, why do you let what others say offend you? Oh wait – it's because you're all cults.

    July 18, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  15. rocketscientist

    Wow, that is definitely an incredibly ugly tasteless cover. It's very surprising that a mainstream magazine would do something so offensive and really, so stupid, like this. I believe everyone involved in the decision for this cover, if not necessarily the article, should be fired. It's Really sad to see. It seems that nowadays that standards of behaviour, mutual respect and consideration for people of other faiths, classes, politics, and religion is long gone. It's stuff lke this that is a black eye to the basic principles and ideals of the United States of America, because it strikes at the core of what we're supposed to be as a country. Another example that bigotry is alive and well in America. 🙁

    July 18, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • chuckie

      How's the weather in Cult Lake City?

      July 18, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Ruffslitch

      Yes, whatever happened to agreeing to disagree? I saw that remark from another post on another forum and it struck me that we as a society have cmpletely forgotten how to do that in a non-offensive manner. Businessweek has lost credibility with this cover. I thought they were above that sort of snarky ridicule.

      July 22, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  16. Gary Watkins

    It never ceases to amaze me, that people are still,180 years later trying to justify their intrusive actions, to a point of extermination orders and vailed (or not) threats against person and property against a people that seeks out freedom to worship. What a shame, BusinessWeek.

    July 17, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Gary Watkins

      What I'm trying to say is that 180 years ago, when the Mormon Church created the Law of Consecration and took all of the belongings of all the members so that it could build up it's merchandise and stores, many people were so brainwashed that their decendents still resent this dishonesty and communism of the original church leaders, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. If you're not familiar with the law of consecration, please look it up and be informed. We don't want a Mormon in the White House!!!

      July 18, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Jason

      Hi Gary, while I understand what you mean about the church trying to practice the Law of Consecration and trying to have all things in common, this is a New Testament teaching that has a drastic example of how seriously God expected people to share their belongings. The New Testament church practiced having all things in common (Acts 2:44 – 45 , Acts 4:34 – 37). When one of the members and his wife sought to not practice this united order, God inspired Peter to understand their deception and God ended the life of the husband and wife (Acts 5:1 – 10). These are clear New Testament teachings and the early LDS Church tried to follow them. If God fully supported the practice as is very clear, what does it say about God's expectations of those who truly folllow Him?

      July 18, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Gary Watkins

      Jason, what you're talking about is Communism. We live in a free country. Nothing should be the same; nobody should have everything THE SAME. So you're telling us that Mormons are Communists?

      July 19, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  17. SoldierOfConscience

    To whomever responded to my posts:

    I sent a link of my posts in ths forum to my pastor. He gently scolded me to stop 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.


    July 17, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Jon

      I tend to check my own closet first.
      It sounds as though you need to work on making sure your immortal trek is secured before you tell me wher mine is heading.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  18. Diana

    Big surprise like every other religion caught being bigots and hypocrites the morons hate the truth being published. What do you think Smith was about when he created this version of that religion? It is always about the $$ people WAKE UP!

    July 17, 2012 at 2:48 am |
  19. Kevin

    Real Classy! Groundbreaking- this is the first we have ever heard that members of the Mormon faith are encouraged to strive for success. Your reporters must be exausted over the endless hours of research. Nice job

    July 16, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • pastmormon13

      Kevin, it hardly takes hours of research to find out how wealthy and corrupt the Mormon church is. Why do you mormons get sarcastic and catty and whiny (like Romney) when someone says something true about your beliefs? I mean...it is a free country. Just because Joseph Smith wanted to declare himself King of the United States of America under a Mormon Theocracy (look it up) doesn't mean that we are going to have our rights taken away from you people. So stop whining!

      July 17, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  20. Frank

    It looks to me like John the Baptist is trying to make them suck it. Lol...Christians are so ridiculous.

    July 16, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • saggyroy

      You are wrong Frank. Christians aren't ridiculous. Believers are ridiculous!

      July 17, 2012 at 6:31 am |
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