The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon church, is offended – and making it quite clear – by a new Bloomberg Businessweek cover on which is a satirical illustration of John the Baptist ordaining Mormon founder Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, one of the first LDS apostles, to the priesthood and commissioning them to build a diverse financial portfolio.
Although the lengthy story itself is done in all seriousness, the cover mocks the Mormon church's wealth, which includes a $2 billion megamall in Salt Lake City, an insurance business with assets worth $3.3 billion, and reportedly an agricultural company that owns some 1 million acres in the U.S.
The magazine cover depicts John the Baptist, who is wearing a white robe with bright light radiating from him, placing his hands on Smith and Cowdery commissioning them, "…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…" Smith in all solemnity responds, "Hallelujah." The illustration itself is serious, which makes the words in the comic-like speech bubble even more ridiculous and out of place.
In response to the issue, which hit stands on Friday, July 13, Mormon church spokesman Michael Purdy told the LDS-owned Deseret News that the cover is "in such poor taste it is difficult to even find the words to comment on it."
Not only is the Mormon church upset by the satirical magazine cover, but also the insinuation that it is stingy when it comes to charitable donations despite being worth an estimated $40 billion and taking in $8 billion a year from tithes. The article says that the LDS church gives away less than one percent of its annual income to charity.
In response, the Mormon church says in a statement, "The key to understanding Church finances is to understand that they are a means to an end. They allow the Church to carry out its religious mission across the world." Funds are used to build churches for members worldwide, support educational and missionary programs, operate the nearly 140 temples, and support welfare programs, Mormon leaders explain in the statement.
"Does the Church own for-profit businesses? Yes," reads the statement. "In the Church's earlier history as it was establishing itself in the remote Intermountain West, some of those businesses were necessitated by the simple fact that they didn't exist elsewhere in the community."
"Today, the Church's business assets support the Church's mission and principles by serving as a rainy day fund."
Mormons make up about 1.7 percent of the U.S. population, or about 5.3 million people.