The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church, holds a distinctive place in the global religious and financial landscape. With iconic temples, memorable commercials, and even a Broadway parody in "The Book of Mormon," it wields considerable influence, counting 17 million members worldwide, including 200,000 in Canada.
Despite not being the largest faith, it ranks among the wealthiest. This documentary explores the complex relationship between the Mormon Church and its finances, with a focus on Canada, where allegations of tax avoidance and questionable financial practices have surfaced.
The Mormon Church presents itself as a religious entity with a strong focus on financial acumen, sparking debates about whether it operates more as a business than a faith. This discrepancy raises questions about why a religion rooted in faith requires such substantial wealth.
The church's financial practices, particularly regarding taxation, have faced intense scrutiny. Nigel Kennett, an accountant and devout Mormon, questioned the use of tithing money when he examined the church's financial records. His concerns triggered further investigations into the church's financial dealings.
Tithing, a core tenet of Mormonism, mandates members to contribute ten percent of their income to the church, ostensibly for humanitarian and charitable purposes. However, revelations have raised doubts about whether these contributions genuinely align with these principles.
One contentious issue is the substantial transfer of Canadian tithing funds to Brigham Young University (BYU) in the United States, facilitated by legal loopholes. This practice raises concerns about the use of Canadian donations to support an American institution, particularly given BYU's restrictive policies toward LGBTQ+ students.
Whistle-blowers like Ryan McKnight and Josh Biggley have exposed vast financial holdings, including stocks and real estate, valued at billions of dollars. These revelations challenge the church's portrayal of itself as primarily a religious institution with a secondary interest in business.
The accumulation of vast wealth through tax-free donations raises ethical questions about financial transparency. Critics argue that organizations funded primarily by tax-free donations should disclose their finances more openly. The church's financial practices, when compared to its stated values, create a dissonance that requires resolution.
Discrepancies in charitable donations across countries, the limited acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals, and allegations of tax avoidance further compound these controversies. Members like Sue and Trevor, who left the church, demand refunds of their tithing money, viewing it as extorted rather than willingly given.
The Mormon Church faces increasing scrutiny over its financial practices, particularly in Canada. Calls for transparency and ethical financial behavior have intensified, challenging the church to reconcile its actions with its professed values and determine its future direction.
Directed by: Timothy Sawa