SALT LAKE CITY — In the early 1830s, destitute Mormons flooded into the city of Kirtland, Ohio. Brigham Young himself wore borrowed pants and shoes. Alarmed, local residents warned the Mormons to leave.
That experience and a national recession — the Panic of 1837 — created economic distress for the infant church and many of its members, but leaders derived principles from those painful trials that drive the church and what it teaches its members today, the presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Friday.
For example, 163,000 people around the world completed the LDS Church’s new, highly practical self-reliance courses last year, Bishop Gérald Caussé said. Simultaneously, the faith’s leaders practiced what they preached, storing food and investing a part of the church’s revenues so it could operate if hardship hit.
“Some people occasionally describe today’s church as a powerful and prosperous institution,” he said. “This may be true, but the strength of the church cannot be measured merely by the number or beauty of its buildings or by its financial and real estate holdings.”
Bishop Caussé shared insights into LDS Church finances and the way church programs operate during the keynote address of the final day of a two-day conference, “Financing Faith: The Intersection of Business and Religion” in the Little Theater at the LDS Conference Center.
The church does not disclose how much members donate annually, but it uses tithing funds to translate, produce and distribute church publications and to operate five universities and colleges, 159 temples, thousands of meetinghouses, a worldwide program of seminaries and institutes and more.
The Presiding Bishopric manages these temporal affairs, Bishop Caussé said. Therefore, its daily routine resembles those of executive boards of international firms.
“We define strategies, develop and administer budgets for operations and investments, manage several thousand employees, help grow the church’s financial and real estate assets and develop and operate distribution, information and communication systems,” he said.
Yet, the church is not a financial institution or a commercial corporation, he said, but prudently manages member contributions to provide for spiritual objectives to bless the lives of people.
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