Banking Billions On The Book of Mormon

by Ryan Babikian

With all the media attention surrounding Mitt Romney's business background and his religion, you probably already know that Mormonism and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand, as the Church of Latter Day Saints makes billions of dollars a year through various investments.

Religion and corporation are not a likely pair, yet just this year one of the highest ranking figures in the Church of Latter Day Saints hosted the grand opening of a multi-billion dollar mall - owned entirely by the Church itself. Even more unusual than the Magic Underwear Mormons have to wear, is the fact that the executives of Mormon holdings are literally regarded as holy prophets, something many non-Mormon CEO's would kill for.

But these guys aren't messing around: a recent investigation by Reuters revealed that LDS Church is worth $40 billion and collects up to $8 billion in donations each year. Because of the inherent spirit of enterprise, hunger for success, and straight-up weirdness fused within Mormonism, Elite Daily brings you the most established and highest earning assets owned and operated by none other than the Church of Latter Day Saints:

1. MegaMall: City Creek Center

Cost to Build: $2 Billion

Last March, the Mormon Church completed an ambitious project: a megamall. Built for roughly $2 billion, the City Creek Center stands directly across the street from the church’s iconic neo-Gothic temple in Salt Lake City.

The mall includes a retractable glass roof, 5,000 underground parking spots, and nearly 100 stores and restaurants, ranging from Tiffany’s to Forever 21. Walkways link the open-air emporium with the church’s perfectly manicured headquarters on Temple Square.

Macy’s is a stone’s throw from the offices of the church’s president, Thomas S. Monson, whom Mormons believe to be a living prophet.

2. Deseret Management Corp.

Annual Revenue: $1.2 Billion (though its 6 subsidiaries)

Deseret Management Corp, the umbrella company through which the church holds almost all its commercial assets, runs a newspaper, 11 radio stations, a TV station, a publishing and distribution company, a digital media company, a hospitality business, and an insurance business with assets worth $3.3 billion.

To Latter-day Saints, opening megamalls, operating a billion-dollar media and insurance conglomerate, and running a Polynesian theme park are all part of doing God’s work. Influential Mormon leader, Mr. Quinn, recently said:

In the Mormon leadership’s worldview, it’s as spiritual to give alms to the poor, as the old phrase goes in the Biblical sense, as it is to make a million dollars.”

3. AgReserves 

Worth: More than we can imagine

AgReserves, another for-profit Mormon umbrella company, together with other church-run agricultural affiliates, reportedly owns about 1 million acres in the continental U.S., on which the church has farms, hunting preserves, orchards, and ranches.

These include the $1 billion, 290,000-acre Deseret Ranches in Florida, which, in addition to keeping 44,000 cows and 1,300 bulls, also has citrus, sod, and timber operations. Outside the U.S., AgReserves operates in Britain, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil. Its Australian property, valued at $61 million in 1997, has estimated annual sales of $276 million.

4. Real Estate Holdings

The church also runs several for-profit real estate arms that own, develop, and manage malls, parking lots, office parks, residential buildings, and more.

Hawaii Reserves, for example, owns or manages more than 7,000 acres on Oahu, where it maintains commercial and residential buildings, parks, water and sewage infrastructure, and two cemeteries. It is only one part of a $5 billion church-funded revamping of downtown Salt Lake City.

5. Polynesian Cultural Center

Worth: North of $100 million

PCC is a 42-acre tropical theme park on Oahu’s north shore that hosts luaus, canoe rides, and tours through seven simulated Polynesian villages. General-admission adult tickets cost $49.95; VIP tickets cost up to $228.95.

In 2010 the PCC had net assets worth $70 million and collected $23 million in ticket sales alone, as well as $36 million in tax-free donations. The PCC’s president, meanwhile, received a salary of $296,000. The Church tried to say this was a charity company many years ago, before the state of Hawaii dubbed them a for-profit organization.

6. Burger King, Domino's, and More...

Worth: Undisclosed

Mitt Romney, being the good Mormon that he is, donated 10% of the investments made by his company - Bain Capital - to the Church. Out of these deals, the Church of Latter Day Saints obtained $2 million of stock in Burger King and $1 million of stock in Domino's Pizza. This was years ago, so the investments would now be worth considerably more.