The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in America is reportedly bringing in $7 billion a year from donations alone, an analysis into the church's finances has revealed,. The analysis also reveals that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is one of the top donors.
The Latter-day Saints church owns about $35 billion worth of temples and meeting houses around the world, according to Reuters. However, because the Mormon Church owns farms, ranches, shopping malls and other commercial ventures, its exact fortune is difficult to estimate precisely on a global scale.
The research was conducted by University of Tampa sociologist Ryan Cragun and Reuters, and used data from church records in countries that provide more transparency than the Mormon branch in the United States.
In a commentary, the Reuters report suggests that if the U.S. Church was more transparent, some "would call for less spending on real estate and more on charitable causes to improve membership growth -- the Mormons' return on investment."
"Most of the revenue of the religion is from the U.S., and a large percentage comes from an elite cadre of wealthy donors, like Mitt Romney," added Cragun. "(It) is a religion that appeals to economically successful men by rewarding their financial acuity with respect and positions of prestige within the religion."
GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has reportedly given more than $4.1 million over the past two years, while other wealthy high-profile Mormon individuals include J.W. "Bill" Marriott Jr. whose family owns a chain of hotels, and entertainer Donny Osmond.
The Mormon Church has approximately 14 million members worldwide, most of whom live outside America. As per Church expectations, members are supposed to tithe 10 percent of their income to the Church, but statistics indicate that only about 40 percent of Mormons actually attend church on a weekly basis in Canada and the U.S.
"Other projections are speculative and do not reflect an understanding of how the Church uses its income to bless the lives of people," commented Mormon Church spokesman Michael Purdy, declining to confirm the numbers.