Friday, July 13, 2012

Holy Crap! (pun intended) This Church Owns a Mall! (and why the Bloomberg cover gets it just right)

Much hullabaloo has been made of Bloomberg Businessweek's recent article and cover about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' multi-billion dollar mall, corporate holdings, zillion dollar stock portfolio, and overall involvement with mammon. Much of it has come to nitpicking about how much it has actually donated to humanitarian aid or how much wealth the Church actual has (a figure that nobody knows and must take on faith because of the Church's failure to follow its own revelations on the matter--it's to help us build faith, right?).

And lost in all of this nitpicking and fact checking is the glaring point and genesis of the article itself, and that point is: HOLY CRAP! THIS CHURCH BUILT AND OWNS A MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR MALL AND HAS ZILLIONS OF DOLLARS INVESTED IN ITS STOCK PORTFOLIOS!

That point can't be emphasized enough. It's a big point. All of the facts and figures and nitpicking and humanitarian aid and tithing and temples and church buildings and manuals and missionaries can't hide from that point.

And so while picking the nits and helping someone get a job at DI or sewing garments or buying a Deseret book, you just have to step back and think about that: A church (forget about who for the moment) built a mall, and not just any mall, but a multi-billion dollar mall with a Tiffany's, retractable glass roof, genetically engineered fish, and a six-figure water fountain that puts Las Vegas to shame. It's a pretty big point.

And it is because of a failure to reflect on that point--that a church owns a multi-billion dollar mall and has zillions invested in its stock portfolios-- that leads to people wanting to declare the article a hit-piece, or accuse the cover designer of having some anti-Mormon sinister motive (Just for a moment and look at all of the Bloomberg Businessweek's covers--that is their style).

Even more so, by not recognizing this point and what it really means, they fail to see how right that cover is.

Take, for example, Alan Hurst at Peculiar People, where he refers to Businessweek's "sacrilegious cover art." The irony of this statement is that he titled his own post with the very cover he is condemning. What do I mean by this?, well if the cover is sacrilegious, then the very apologetic that Hurst and others, particularly the Mormon Newsroom, use to defend the Church's mall and corporate enterprise is sacrilegious as well. His title "Everything is spiritual" is the very supposedly sacrilegious image and claim that the cover depicts.

This is especially clear in the Mormon Newsroom's response to the article, wherein the glaring POINT is never mentioned and instead the Newsroom (the voice of the Church) defends the unmentionable point by repeatedly referring to the Church spiritual/religious historical narrative. Note the second sentence of the Newsroom's reply: "From the very beginning, members of the Church displayed a remarkable ability to set aside material things for spiritual goals." This is crucial to understanding the Bloomberg article and why the magazines cover is absolutely spot on. When someone asks why it is that a church owns a multi-billion dollar mall and has a zillion dollar stock portfolio, the Church's response is "this has been our religious/spiritual narrative from the beginning," or as Hurst puts it "everything is spiritual." It is the Church that implicitly pushed this POINT back onto Joseph Smith. It is the Church and those critical of the article that want to say that the priesthood restoration--the moment that marks the beginning of the Church in the Church's historical narrative--and Church's owning of a mall are one and the same.

You can't argue that the Church's building of a multi-billion dollar mall and its spiritual/religious roles are one and the same, and then complain when Bloomberg creates a cover depicting that very argument.

If the cover is sacrilegious, then the Church's defense of pointing to its spiritual/religious history ("from the very beginning") is sacrilegious. If the image of John the Baptist commanding the building of a mall at the LDS Church's foundational moment (the beginning of its divine authority) seems utterly absurd, then it is because pointing to that religious history as justification of a multi-billion dollar mall is just that.


  1. You forgot to mention that the claim regarding "a Polynesian theme park" is laughable. At the very least, you have to laugh at that description.

  2. Narrator, you're mixing two issues that merit separate consideration. On one hand, I value the article's scrutiny of LDS Church finances, even if it's not perfect. On the other hand, I would probably have found the cover funny if it were presented by South Park, but it wasn't and rather struck me in its context as ridiculously poor taste for esthetic reasons that I associate much with a breech of charity than a breech of reverence.

  3. It is a wonder to me that when the corporate Church first embarked on this foolish venture, no one in the hierarchy seems to have foreseen the fallout. Did it occur to no one in the twelve that "investing" in a multi-billion dollar homage to mammon and worldly materialism might become a public relations nightmare?

    City Creek Mall is not only resulting in the non-member public scratching their heads, but to a growing number of members who have been sacrificing to pay tithing to the Church(TM), this is the last straw. Why continue to pour their hard-earned money into a Church that seems to lavish it on flashy public glitz and high-end stores that many of the members cannot even afford to shop at?

  4. I should add that the charity I'm referencing is not the simple "be nice" kind, but rather the kind in which one should engage so as to authentically portray an antagonist before engaging in a serious criticism.

  5. Blair, I love the PCC. I used to call it the Hawaii. Disneyland a could easily spend 2 full days there. You don't need a roller coater to be a theme park. And if anything is laughable, it's calling Hawaii's most profitable tourist destination charity.

    Lincoln, midway into my post I include a link to all of their covers. That is their consistent aesthetic. Furthermore, any other cover design won't capture the POINT as this one does, especially in a manner that would make sense to their normal reader.

  6. Narrator, thanks for pointing my attention there. Evidently I was wrong.

  7. Note that this post has been nominated for a Brodie Award for "Best Post Title." You can vote for it here.


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