Follow the Profit: A Guide to the LDS Church’s For-Profit Companies

Follow the Profit: A Guide to the LDS Church’s For-Profit Companies

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What does the Laie Hawaii cemetery, three Seattle radio stations, beef cattle, and investment retirement services all have in common? They are all different companies owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Did you know that the church is the leading producer of peanuts and walnuts in the United States? That’s nuts! If you find that fascinating, you’ll be amazed to know that the church owns a catering company, a major TV channel, and an internet marketing company. From my estimations, the church owns and manages at least a hundred or so companies.

Many media outlets have written about church-owned businesses, and paint the church as a large enterprise focused on becoming wealthy and acquiring vast amounts of real estate. Publications that have depicted the church as a wealthy organization trying to hoard money and wealth have missed the mark. When it comes to the church and their for-profit entities, money is simply a means to an end. The church has publicly stated that the businesses have a purpose to “serve the needs of the Church in accomplishing its mission.” The church’s short, yet broad statement indicates that the mission of the church is central to running these large corporate enterprises. However, the church’s short statement on their companies doesn’t shed much light on what I find interesting, which is business. Large organizations that are able to operate profitably and efficiently fascinate me, and based on our ward’s Young Men’s budget, I know the church runs a tight ship.

Since the early pioneer days, the church has operated businesses. Early Mormon pioneers established the Deseret News to communicate what was going on at home and abroad with other Latter-day Saints. Brigham Young founded Zion’s Cooperative Merchantile Institution (ZCMI), which was considered to be the first department store. Early Mormon pioneers were also among the first to start farming and selling sugar beets, which has evolved into one of the church’s most longstanding businesses – farming and agriculture.

The church owns and manages two different types of businesses – non-profit and for-profit. There are different advantages to both, depending on the purpose. Generally, businesses that serve the church or its members directly for religious or service purposes are non-profit companies. For example, Beehive Clothing (the company that makes garments and temple clothing) or Deseret Industries are non-profit organizations. On the other hand, Deseret News and the City Creek shopping center in downtown Salt Lake City are for-profit business – both owned and operated by Corporation of the Presiding Bishop, the business division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The majority of the church’s for-profit companies are run under a holding company called Deseret Management Corporation. The Deseret Management Corporation board of directors is made up of the three members of the First Presidency, three rotating members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Presiding Bishopric. A leadership team that reports directly to the board is appointed to manage and oversee Deseret Management Corporation, as well as its subsidiaries. These subsidiaries can be divided into three primary categories: agriculture, real estate, and broadcasting/publishing, with a handful of other unrelated companies.

Here is a partial list of business from each category, along with its parent company.

Broadcasting/Publishing/Media:

  • Bonneville International – Media holding company
    • Bonneville Communications – Full service marketing firm.
    • Bonneville Broadcasting – Radio stations
      • 97.3 FM KIRO Radio Seattle
      • 710 AM ESPN Seattle
      • 770 AM KTTH Seattle
      • 92.3 FM KTAR News Phoenix
      • 98.7 FM Arizona Sports Phoenix
      • 620 AM ESPN Phoenix
      • 101 FM KOSI Denver
      • 98.5 FM KTGO Denver
      • 104.3 FM KKFN Denver
      • 1600 AM KEPN Denver
      • 102.7 FM & 1160 AM KSL Salt Lake City
      • 103.5 FM KRSP Salt Lake City
      • 100.3 FM KSFI Salt Lake City
    • Bonneville Distribution – Distribution for TV & radio stations that broadcast Mormon Tabernacle Choir and LDS General Conference
    • KSL 5 TV – NBC TV station
    • Deseret Digital Media – Website management company
  • Deseret News Publishing – News publishing company
  • Deseret Book Co. – Religious goods retailer and distributor
    • Covenant Communications
    • Seagull Book & Tape
    • Shadow Mountain Press
    • Excel Entertainment
  • The Pacific Business News – News outlet servicing Hawaii

Agriculture:

Find the rest of the list at LDS Daily.

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