A Utah man who formerly helped manage the assets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims the Mormon church has amassed a $100 billion fund instead of using the money for charitable purposes, according to a published report.
The Washington Post report is based upon a whistleblower complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service by David Nielsen, 41, who until September worked for Ensign Peak Advisors, a company that manages the church’s investments. The complaint was shared with The Post by Lars Nielsen of Minnesota, who said he worked with his brother on the complaint.
“Having seen tens of billions in contributions and scores more in investment returns come in, and having seen nothing except two unlawful distributions to for-profit concerns go out, he was dejected beyond words, and so was I,” Lars Nielsen wrote. David Nielsen did not respond to requests by The Post for comment.
The church released a statement saying it had done nothing wrong.
“Claims being currently circulated are based on a narrow perspective and limited information,” the First Presidency, the Mormon church’s top body, said in a statement. “The Church complies with all applicable law governing our donations, investments, taxes, and reserves.
“We continue to welcome the opportunity to work with officials to address questions they may have.”
The First Presidency has released a statement on Church finances in response to recent media stories. https://t.co/8gZG7vH5p4
— The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (@ChurchNewsroom) December 17, 2019
The complaint argues differently, The Post reported, and wants the IRS to strip Ensign, which as an arm of the church has been granted nonprofit status, of that status and pay back taxes, which could amount to billions of dollars.
The complaint said the church gets about $7 billion a year in income, $6 billion of which meets expenses. The remaining $1 billion goes to Ensign to invest.
Over time, the complaint alleges, that has grown to $100 billion.
As the fund has grown, Ensign has not used it for any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years, according to the complaint.
The church said the money was set aside for a rainy day.
“We take seriously the responsibility to care for the tithes and donations received from members,” its statement said. “The vast majority of these funds are used immediately to meet the needs of the growing Church including more meetinghouses, temples, education, humanitarian work and missionary efforts throughout the world.
“Over many years, a portion is methodically safeguarded through wise financial management and the building of a prudent reserve for the future. This is a sound doctrinal and financial principle taught by the Savior in the Parable of the Talents and lived by the Church and its members.
“All Church funds exist for no other reason than to support the Church’s divinely appointed mission.”
The complaint attacks the Mormon church for urging its members to tithe — giving 10 percent of their income — while it has billions of dollars. It further claims that an Ensign executive said the money will be used at the Second Coming of Christ.
“Would you pay tithing instead of water, electricity, or feeding your family if you knew that it would sit around by the billions until the Second Coming of Christ?” David Nielsen wrote, according to The Post.
He said church leaders collect tithes to avoid “losing control over their members’ behavior.”
Nielsen claimed that in recent years, $2 billion from Ensign was used to help fund a church-run insurance company and a Salt Lake City shopping mall.
Nielsen resigned from Ensign, telling the company that he could no longer work after his wife and children left the Mormon church and wanted him to do the same.
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