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. SmarterThanWriter

    Another journalism failure.

    July 14, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  2. Mike

    Maybe the magazie was just the instrument and God wants the world to know what they are doing is wrong.

    July 14, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • zufree

      They're a business, not a church. WHY are they tax-exempt? There should not be zero tax.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  3. joejeffrey

    Oh get over yourselves, Mormons! So you got mocked - so what? Jews, Catholics, Baptists, Muslims, everybody gets mocked. You've got a goofball theology, an autocratic hierarchy, are generally conservative, proselytize, and are (at least the ones I grew up with) pretty decent folks. A magazine cover is just no big deal. And if what you don't like is having the truth come out about your church's money, well tough.

    July 14, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  4. lloyd roberts

    Of course they're upset. CAUGHT?

    July 14, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Terry Vann

      I'd love to see serious audits of the non-profit hospitals run by the Mormons in Florida, huge operation...and my bet is that millions of dollars go from those hospitals to the Mormon Church, and elders and high ups that have the top positions.
      Just a thought. When you start to see the slipperyness of Romney now, it can't help taint the church somewhat, as he is
      so high in it!

      July 14, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  5. Rob

    Truth, worst enemy of religion.

    July 14, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • classybusiness

      Ditto that, Rob!

      July 14, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Bob


      July 14, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Bob R., Maryalnd

      Well stated Rob!

      July 14, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  6. Bob

    The truth hurts doesn't it? This is your "Godly" church leaders at work
    Mormons. Fully involved with "the world". A bunch of snakes and hypocrites.
    Wake up and follow Jesus, not men.

    July 14, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • My Thoughts

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but Jesus was a Man. I believe your point has just been lost.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Brooke

      As a Mormon we believe that all Faith is good. WE don't criticize or mock other Faith's...so why do that to ours??? We are Children of God! If we just all start truly believing that, this world can be such a better place...Don't mock others! Joseph Smith was just following what was commanded of him he RESTORED (to bring back what WAS LOST) back to the earth... Like I always tell others...Read The Book Of Mormon! Pray About It's writings! If you have not read The Book Of Mormon with an open heart and a contrite spirit than you have not Investigated The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints... God Bless. 🙂

      July 14, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • peter

      brooke–a mormon such as yourself believes that the book of mormon,another testament of jesus christ, published by your false prophet joeseph smith in 1830.
      The b.o.m is blasphemy –repent of the false christ of joeseph smith. Break the chains of mormonism. Get on your knees and renounce the religion of your great great grandfather

      July 14, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • xeno

      Brooke–Your heart is in the right place, and I wish it was true. Perhaps it is true for you, but the missionaries that come to people's doors are some of the most condescending people I have ever met. If one is unable to truly question the leadership of their faith, then their faith is hiding something.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • talli

      @ Brooke

      "WE don't criticize or mock other Faith's"?

      That's a bald faced lie. I grew up surrounded by mormons. My niece came home crying because her classmates called her "evil" and "heathen" for wearing a cross around her neck. They yelled at her, circled around her, and pushed her around. She was 6 at the time.

      These words were taught by adults. In your church. Who are the evil ones?

      Also, EVERY time you perform your baptism of the dead, you are mocking another's belief, or lack thereof.


      July 14, 2012 at 10:42 am |

      It always gets me when people say, that some truth is right for some, and some for others! Do you people realize that there is not many truths when it comes to God. There is only one God, only one truth and if it does not live up to His standards and His revealed world of which the Holy Spirit testifies, then it is no Truth! There are many opinions, and many voices that claim they've got it, but the Word of God, and the Spirit of Truth do not bear witness to them, and they are only man's opinions, worth dime a-dozen!
      There is a disadvantage living in country with people of pluralistic mentality. They have been conditioned to think that there are many truths and many paths to God, but that couldn't be further from the real truth! And what this does, it desensitises the people, numbing their ability to discern true from false, leaving them open to all kinds of lies, making them have false securities. This goes hand in hand with the spirit of secular humanism, which even though it denies God, it has the same effect on people's perception of things...
      But there is something everyone should ponder, especially those who are caught up in false religions: it is not enough to have faith, unless your faith is in the truth of God's Word, and in testimony of His Spirit about who Christ is.
      Mormons say they worship God and are true Christians. But the Jesus Christ they say they worship and put their faith in, is NOT the Christ Jesus of whom the Holy Spirit of God , who is the Spirit of Truth, testifies of! the angel Moroni is no other then the messenger of satan, clothed as an angel of light, and Joseph Smith his minister, as it is written in(2Cor. 13:15). For those who refuse to face this issue, there is only one thing left! They'll find out whom they have served!

      July 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  7. Emax

    John F. Kennedy (surprisingly, a Roman Catholic) said it very well in a commencement address at Yale:

    The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

    This pretty much describes ALL religions.

    July 14, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  8. joe B

    It's about to get much worse for the Mormons, and the worst part of it, for them, is that most of the criticism is true

    July 14, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • obeahman

      what is true? seem you are talking out of your !@#$%^&. I'm not a mormon.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Terry Vann

      OK with me on what most anyone wants to believe. However, when the higher ups in any Church start getting slippery, secretative and in charge of a great amount of money, questions will be asked. The deeper you look the more you hate what you find.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  9. MS

    To be fair to the Mormons, all religions are basically businesses.

    July 14, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  10. morris diehl

    The Catholic Church has its ties to child abuse and the Nazi's so I guess there shouldn't be anything wrong with Mormanism and its magic underwear. I think the troubles in the world can be directly tied to religions. If its not the zealots of Muslim or Jewish religions its the kids on their bikes trying to sell you on Mormanism. You think this election is bad now just wait a couple more weeks, it will make you yearn for the McGovern-Nixon era.

    July 14, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • mklsgl

      Almost morris diehl... just like it's the 'love' of money that is evil; it's the abuse and manipulation of religion that's the problem. 99% of all Jews, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, et al, are regular, tax-paying citizens. It's the 1% who exploit and deceive.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  11. Upstater

    What you wont hear about is that the LDS church gives hundreds of millions of dollars in food aid, donations to the poor and needy, and money to it's members who are struggling financially. Yeah.. we wont hear about that will we. We only look at the bigger number and shake our fingers at them and say how dare they have all that money. Who cares how much money they have. By their fruits ye shall know them. They fight for the cause of their faith. So, yes it is natural that they oppose gay marriage and abortion. If they want to spend money on that, then that is their right as an organization. Welcome to America people!

    July 14, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • jwt

      And when the church opposes civil rights it our duty to criticize said church.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • peter

      scientologists,mormons and muslims do the samthing–does not make their religions true–mormonism is a metal illness that needs to be exposed–People to this day are living in darkness and chains

      July 14, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Pilgrim1

      Notice what @Upstarter said.... "to it's members..." Real followers of Jesus give to all, not just those who are "members!"

      July 14, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Bob

      Yeah but, Mormonism teaches that if you don't give your 10% you can't go
      to heaven. You're effectively "buying your way to heaven". The members are poor, but
      the leaders are rich. Seems I've seen this scenario some place before.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Phillip Allen

      "hundreds of millions of dollars versus $40 billion" Do the math! Jesus says give it all away.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Brooke

      I agree! They don't hear that we will millions of people. Well as Mormons we are able to look pass this criticism! Our Ancestors were great examples of "Endureth To The End" so we to shall Endureth To The End...Just smile courteously and wish them well... 🙂 God Bless those not of our Faith and those who left our Faith.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Will S

      Drop in the bucket.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • EmcK

      Brooke –

      You mean God bless those in other faiths and those who left your faith . . . other than the many, many examples of shunning of ex-Mormons as "apostates" right?

      July 14, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  12. Roger smith

    the -media would of never of mocked islam like this.

    July 14, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • midwest rail

      Your point ?

      July 14, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Rob

      The media does a lot worst than mock Islam...

      July 14, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  13. Pat

    WHY are they tax-exempt? They're a business, not a church.

    July 14, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • germandeli

      No religion should be tax-exempt.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  14. Wildone

    What does the Mormon's "white salamander" and GEICO's gecko have in common? One gives advice on car insurance for millions of drivers and the other gave advice on how to propagate a lie and create millions of believers.

    July 14, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  15. lindaluttrell

    Which one is #2 behind the Cathoic Church in assets? Scientology or Church of Mormon???

    July 14, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Pilgrim1


      But I would wager that in the US the LDS "church" has far more "assets" than the Roman Catholics.... even in terms of real estate!

      July 14, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  16. Roger smith

    the media would of never of mocked islam like this.

    demz da facts.

    July 14, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Pat

      Your post is undecipherable.

      July 14, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Rob

      You of not very of clear.

      July 14, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  17. mary

    The ' Problem ' is the abuse of the tax shelter which is intended to be for spiritual work , schools or hospitals on a NON profit basis .
    The LDS have latched on to a clever way to Dodge paying taxes on corporate activity .
    If that spreads the taxes on the working guy will have to double or triple .

    July 14, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  18. Pilgrim1

    Truth hurts?

    July 14, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  19. Margaret

    "...the shock of the cover image will keep most readers, especially Mormons, from taking the article seriously." Um, well...

    July 14, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  20. Wildone

    Instead of the robed (Jesus??) figure on the cover they should have had a white salamander.

    July 14, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Wildone, we know that Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. KJV

      John 14:6

      John 10:27-30
      27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
      28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
      29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
      30 I and my Father are one. KJV


      July 14, 2012 at 10:16 am |
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