Sep 15, 2009

Sacrificing Principle for Profit: Church Wildlife Enterprises and Hunting Preserves

"To what degree should the principle of 'respect for life" be extended to bird and animal creations? What do the scriptures, Joseph Smith, and other early Church leaders teach about the grand design and purposes of God's non-human creations? Does having "dominion" over the kingdom of creatures mean we are their predators and exploiters or does it suggest a "stewardship" relationship in which we become their caretakers in order to help them "fulfill the full measure of their creation?" If the scriptures teach, "woe be unto man that sheddeth blood or wasteth flesh and have no need," and "the blood of every beast will I require at your hands," what rationale could be used to explain Church-owned, revenue-generating enterprises such as Deseret Land and Livestock and the Westlake Hunting Preserve? Do these operations constitute sacrificing principle for profit?"
-Sacrificing Principle for Profit: Church Wildlife Enterprises and Hunting Preserves, Sunstone Magazine

Yesterday I did a post about tithing and we had a discussion about where it goes and what it's used for. I was appalled to learn about a Church-owned/run/sanctioned hunting preserve where missionaries are called to tend to flocks of birds and other animals so that they can multiply and be hunted down for large profit. You can read about it on Deseret News here.

I found out that the Church owns two hunting preserves: Deseret Land and Livestock, and Westlake Hunting Preserve in Utah County.

Here are just a few of the facts that caught my attention:
  • Making it a "missionary calling" for couples to tend to the preseves so that wildlife numbers are increased, thereby increasing the number of animals killed for profit
  • Archery hunting of animals such as elk, which I regard as being especially cruel
  • Over $11,000 for a weekend getaway to bag a trophy elk
  • 6 year waiting list (at least as of 2000) to hunt
  • Charging thousands of dollars for hunting permits to kill trophy game
  • The response the first brother who spoke in the podcast got to his letter by the presiding bishopric, inquiring of how this operation could be justified
  • The refusal of the Church to publish any financial records of where all these huge profits are going
Please, please, please, I implore you all to listen to the podcast that you can download for free here. There is so much that is worth being made aware of and discussing. I wish I had a transcript of the two talks on it, but I don't. So please listen to it and come back to discuss it. The first few seconds have very bad sound quality, but please be patient and listen to it in its entirety.

I'll be honest. I'm a little more hardcore about this stuff than most of you probably are. Some of you may read this and think to yourself, "Girl, take a pill." I'm a vegetarian, I'm anti-gun, I'm anti-hunting (unless it's needed to save human life), and I'm especially against bow-hunting. Along with humanitarian causes, I donate to animal causes and I've petitioned many times against canned hunting, which I would say this Church enterprise fits the definition of. So, I've donated to causes that fight against what the Church is doing (Hmm... isn't that a temple recommend interview question?). It's one thing to expect this from members of the general public who, as much as I oppose it, have a legal right to hunt. It's another to see it justified, owned, and supported by the LDS Church, whose leaders (at least at one time) had the guts to speak out against the needless slaying of animals for recreation. And on top of that, I'm supposed to continue to give 10% of my income, trusting that it's not going to be used for anything ungodly.

I'm appalled. I'm saddened that, as the second brother in the podcast said, we have to so greatly reduce our expectations about the Church. I think the message that he wanted us to get was that we almost have to expect the Church to engage in such disappointing behaviour because it's a human organization. If we expect the Church to act ethically and to respect all of God's creatures, then we expect too much. If we expect our tithing money to go where we think it goes, we expect too much.

Makes me wonder why I expect anything at all anymore.

All I can say is that I will not give another penny to an organization which knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately supports canned trophy hunting for profit. And I will not give another penny of my money to an organization which is so secretive in its administration of the massive funds it takes in and possesses, that I can't even see where it's supposedly "helping" people.

So, I could wonder whether God would rather that I financially support canned hunting and real estate in Florida, or medications and microloans to the third world, but I think I already know the answer.

If there's something I've learned the past couple of days, it's this: the Church truly is only what you make out of it. It's an incredibly human and fallible organization that we put on way too high a pedestal and it's inevitable that the good faith of members who donate large sums of money, believing it's all going to the poor, is going to be violated. And it saddens me that the organization that I always looked up to -- to have the best expectations of -- cannot live up to those expectations and may even violate them in horribly unethical and hypocritical ways, such as with these hunting preserves.

I should have known.

I apologize if I seem angry, but I am. Of all the huge Church-related disappoinments and disillusionments I've had over the past few years, this probably tops them all because of what it means to me personally. It tops all the uncertainty and conflicting information about Prop 8 and how much money the Church did or did not donate to that cause. It tops all the business about malls and squares in Salt Lake City.

It's a monster pill for me to swallow.


Anonymous said...

Here's an add-on to my comment on your post about tithing. Any contribution you make to the church does not provide any financial support to hunting preserves in Utah or dairy farms in Florida. (That's what the big church owned real estate in Florida is. Most people don't realize that Florida is the biggest dairy producing state in the U.S. and the church owns a very large dairy operation in Florida.) These, and all of the church's other commercial investments, are revenue generating operations that are financially self supporting. No one's tithing provides financial support to any of these investments. You may be opposed to hunting in principle, but that's another issue.

The Faithful Dissident said...

But where did the money come from that originally helped the Church have the capital to start these businesses? It had to come from tithing -- originally. It's true that nowadays, the Church owns so much stuff that its those profits that are keeping the businesses afloat. But while my tithing money may not be going directly to these business enterprises now, at one point the tithing money of someone must have. It's like the chicken or the egg. The Church didn't just one day wake up to millions of dollars in capital. It came from donations and now it's a massive business.

"The income generated by the church's commercial investments goes to the same place that tithing goes - church operations."

OK, but we're talking billions of dollars here. How many operations can the Church have and why can't we see where the money is going? And if it can generate that kind of revenue from its businesses, what's the point of tithing?

We can debate these technicalities and I'm sure the Church has covered its behind and is smart enough to know that it can't funnel tithing money directly towards things like canned hunting without getting into big trouble. But there's a bigger issue here and it's an ethical one, as well as a matter of integrity. Its leaders say one thing (in regards to animal life and being stewards of the earth) and the Church actively promotes something that is out of line. (Not that that would be the first time.) Where is its integrity?

Anonymous said...

" Any contribution you make to the church does not provide any financial support to hunting preserves in Utah or dairy farms in Florida. "

Until the church opens its books and is accountable to its members and contributors, this is just wild speculation. The board of directors...err...Brethren have no credibility unless they open the books.

Anonymous said...

" Any contribution you make to the church does not provide any financial support to hunting preserves in Utah or dairy farms in Florida. "

Until the church opens its books and is accountable to its members and contributors, this is just wild speculation. The board of directors...err...Brethren have no credibility unless they open the books.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Precisely. I mean, if all the Church does is good, then why not open the records so that all the skeptics like me can relax and go back to paying our tithing without worrying about it? When businesses (or churches) want to keep all of their financial records a secret, it's probably not a good sign.

I just posted this on the other thread, but I'll say it again. And as far as the canned hunting is concerned, even if 100% of the profits of that were going to feeding AIDS orphans in Africa, I'd be saddened that we couldn't find a more ethical way of making money as a church. Surely there are better ways to make a buck!

Eddie said...

I lived in Utah for a few years after I joined the church. My understanding is that in the early days of the church in Utah, the church owned/operated just about everything--stores, roads, banks, etc. They also claimed large tracts of land across the "Utah Territory". Over the years as these interests and some tracts of land were sold, the money was invested elsewhere.

But you're right... somewhere along the way tithing was probably used in the initial purchases. But my guess is it was many decades ago.

I've heard of missionaries called to the church farms to help production/management of the farms (many of these produce foods which are then canned/distributed in welfare operations). In a small Wyoming town where my wife's family hails from, the church owned farms are leased to and operated by other companies (i.e., the church is just a landlord collecting rent on property its owned for years).

I found the DesNews article interesting as I've never heard of the hunting grounds. My guess is the church has owned that land since pioneer days and is now trying to make some money off of it? They could probably just sell it, but maybe there are some future plans? I agree it certainly doesn't fit in with the rest of the church's portfolio! And I guarantee you you're not the only one who finds this unsettling.

Eddie said...

Surely there are better ways to make a buck!


The Faithful Dissident said...

Of all the good, honest, ethical ways of making a profit, why choose something so disgusting, something that goes against our principles of respect for life and using animals only to save our lives?

The ironic part is that The Humane Society of the US has a whole webpage dedicated to the LDS Church about how "nice" we are to animals and how ethical our religious teachings are. If they knew that we in fact support canned hunting -- something they are ADAMANTLY opposed to -- it would look very bad on Mormons and frankly, it would be well-deserved.

Eddie, I know we had a welfare fruit farm near where I grew up in Canada. I think those are a good idea, a legitimate and ethically responsible way of earning a profit. And I'm sure there are many other good ways the Church could earn money. I wouldn't be opposed to it if the businesses were ethically and morally defendable, as well as if virtually all of the profits went to the poor. But whether they do or don't is just speculation.

I learned by listening to the podcast that the Westlake preserve was only "recently" purchased. I think it was in the 90's. Not sure about the Deseret one.

Eddie said...

Interesting. I worked at a real-estate title company in Utah county... If I remembered any of my co-workers names, I could have them look up some info for us! :)

I'm with you on the P.R. aspect. Hunting is an issue which brings strong reactions from people on both sides of the issue. It would seem safer for the church to stay out of the business altogether.

I'm certainly no hunter... I think I'd starve if I had to depend on my shaky hands to accurately fire a gun at a moving target.

Anonymous said...

one question - is hunting more or less ethical than modern meat production methods?

Sonia said...

FD, thank you for doing the research on this. I really wish that I was really surprised, but since we do not get any information, I guess I have always wondered what we do not know. I have had a 'thing' in place for a while that if I am unwilling to raise it, I can't eat it. It does narrow down the amount and type of meat we eat. I stopped giving tithing because I noticed too many starving and needy people in my ward who do not get any help. So I donate locally and give time and just try to give an example to others. I feel good about it and I figure more than my 10% still goes back to my ward in this regard. I am not trying to encourage you... I guess I have really found my blessings to pour in this way and service helps me keep my sanity. So there are so many side benefits.

I have never donated outside of local areas, but I have heard of Kiva and if you get together a group to donate, let me know- I have spotty internet access, but I would love to participate!

The Faithful Dissident said...

"one question - is hunting more or less ethical than modern meat production methods?"

That's a good question. In my opinion, I would say that hunting is, for the most part, probably more ethical than meat production, with the exception of bow hunting, which is allowed at this facility. (The Church, by the way, also operates cattle ranches, which I'm guessing are raised for slaughter. I'm not all that happy about that either, but canned hunting is taking it waaaaaay to far.) The problem I have with this is that this isn't hunting in order to sustain life. It's trophy, canned hunting. The animals are "harvested" to be shot.

Sonia, Kiva is great. The great thing about it is that it's not a "donation" in the sense that you never get your money back. When the loans are paid back, you can choose to withdraw it, but most choose to reloan it, so it builds up and helps so many people over time. I've been a Kiva member for a couple of years now and I'm a huge fan. All you need is a Paypal account, which is free. It's really simple. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post on this. So many times I feel like I am asked by God to heave a heavy sigh and forgive the Church another one of its imperfections. This is one of those times, and one of those sighs.

I have to echo the other comments made about the cost of "Church operations." If it really does take billions annually to run the Church, that's fine. All I know is that 1) my ward building is bursting at the seams with people, 2) in our calling as ward missionaries, we have to pay for all materials and costs out of pocket, 3) our missionaries are reportedly self-funded but we are always asked to provide food for them. I don't mind any of these things, but if billions of dollars are being spent in maintenance costs, I ain't seeing it.

The Faithful Dissident said...

There are a lot of Anonymouses here, so maybe you guys can start inserting a name in your comments so we can distinguish between all of you.

Anonymous #1, this is indeed a very heavy sigh.

After doing this post, I went for a run to clear my mind and let off some steam, trying to put this into perspective.

This is one of those things that can make it very tempting to just finally leave. And yet I won't. I do, however, feel compelled to take another step back in order to have some peace in my relationship to the Church (which often seems elusive these days). At first it was callings and meetings, now it's tithing.

I want to perhaps correct a statement of mine in the post that could be misleading. I said:

"So, I could wonder whether God would rather that I financially support canned hunting and real estate in Florida, or medications and microloans to the third world, but I think I already know the answer."

As skeptical and as troubled as I am by all this, I sincerely hope (and believe) that when I transfer money to the Church in the form of tithing, it's not being funnelled directly to canned hunting, Prop 8, or the like. I *think* that the Church knows better than that. I may be wrong, but I will give it that much of the benefit of the doubt. But, as I already said, originally at some point, it must have been tithing money and/or donations that were used to start the Church off on its business ventures. It may have been a long time ago, I don't know. And I don't suppose I ever will know. But I do know this: the Church is sponsoring and supporting canned hunting. It's even considered to be "missionary work" in the sense that missionaries are operating the ranch. That's a fact. Where exactly the money came from can be debated, but frankly I don't really care where it came from. I don't want to financially support ANY organization that supports this, whether or not my donations are going to that activity or not. I think it's unethical, hypocritical, and shows blatant lack of regard for humanity and compassion.

Anonymous said...

"Precisely. I mean, if all the Church does is good, then why not open the records so that all the skeptics like me can relax and go back to paying our tithing without worrying about it? "

Or how about so edifying the unconverted with the church's effectiveness for good that they instantly see what they want to be a part of?

another anonymous

The Faithful Dissident said...

But if I hear next that the Church operates puppy mills, I will DEFINITELY be gone. :D

Anonymous said...

Another thought:

If the church has all these income streams beyond tithing how about actually feeding the missionaries before it raises all these animals for slaughter for profit?

the same another anonymous

The Faithful Dissident said...

"Or how about so edifying the unconverted with the church's effectiveness for good that they instantly see what they want to be a part of?"

That's a good point. And that's why things like Kiva and World Vision are so popular. You have a personal connection and you see where your money is hopefully going. Kiva is especially good at giving short bios and sending updates. And it has virtually no overhead costs, although you can donate a few bucks to their maintenance costs.

Anonymous said...

But if I hear next that the Church operates puppy mills, I will DEFINITELY be gone. :D

Amen to that!

I really think that a lot of this (for me at least) has less to do with "Where are my actual tithing dollars going?" and much more with "Would God ask His church to support politicking, recreational hunting, and consumer consumption?"

Many of these business ventures remind me strongly of the fact that, in the early days, the Mormon church was seen as the literal Kingdom of God. A literal Zion. A theocracy, to await Christ's second coming. Perhaps we aren't too far from these original ideas; the Church already owns more land in Florida than Disney. From a cynical perspective, it would appear that we are headed in that direction.

Interestingly, for a "worldwide church" we sure do have a lot of America-centric things that "God" asks us to do. The whole concept of owning a canned hunting ground seems very American to me (and not in a good way).

Bro. Jones said...

Shoot, I did it again. The Anonymous comment about heaving heavy sighs was from me.

How many Bro. Joneses does it take to operate a simple web interface? [groan]

Unknown said...

I do not know the answers to all the questions you are posting, Faithful. I do know that if I can't trust the Church, then there's nothing left in the world to trust. The Church does a great deal of humanitarian work in the world, considering it is relatively small (13.5 million of whom 60% are not active more or less.) I too am anti-hunting, especially bow and arrow...but that's my choice. Hunting is legal in most countries...I can't change that. I know Ward members who go every November. That's their choice, they will never get me to go with them. Some human beings are cruel, I have just chose to try and live my life as best I can and be square with the Lord. For me, that's best done within the Church. He has been so good to me in my lifetime, I hope I won't ever fail him. No earthy issue is worth me leaving my faith...

Anonymous said...

Madame Curie said:
Interestingly, for a "worldwide church" we sure do have a lot of America-centric things that "God" asks us to do. The whole concept of owning a canned hunting ground seems very American to me (and not in a good way).

This is Anon in Europe here, the one who on the other thread said she was anti hunting and anti guns.I find a huge divide between my views and those of LDS Americans I know, who consider the right to bear arms practically God given, and the right to hunt only less so, It's another example of differences in culture.

I can understand if the church had owned the land for years and needed to find some way to make it profitable, but hunting? and staffed by missionaries? That's a cross-over right there. 'For profit' operations should not be staffed by missionaries. That is a major problem for me, personally.

Anonymous said...

I too am anti-hunting, especially bow and arrow...but that's my choice. Hunting is legal in most countries...I can't change that. I know Ward members who go every November. That's their choice, they will never get me to go with them. Some human beings are cruel, I have just chose to try and live my life as best I can and be square with the Lord.

IMHO, the problem is that the church is not only condoning an action that you see is wrong, but is actually profiting by it. There is a huge gap between giving individuals free agency with respect to hunting, and belonging to a church organization that promotes, and subsidizes, trophy hunting. One is human. The other is (supposedly) headed by God.

No earthy issue is worth me leaving my faith...

In my experience, humanitarian and social issues are not "earthly," they are eternal.

Alex said...

Wow, I'm speechless.

It seems rather clear to me that members' donations are used for these businesses (at least in this instance they certainly are).

Elder Huff from the deseret news article was a full time missionary, along with his wife. Were he and his wife not donating their time, money and resources to this for-profit hunting ranch?

I find that rather appalling.

Not only that but working up to 18 hour days??? My mission rules differed greatly, we had to be in bed every night for a good 8 hours of sleep.

Anonymous said...

And this stuff is why I stopped donating to the church...

jmm1 said...

May I ask why bow hunting is something that you strongly oppose? How is it different from hunting with a gun, especially if you are using a crossbow?

Carol said...

I can understand your concerns about the hunting issues. It is my understanding that the property is used primarily to provide food for those in need and that hunting helps to pay for the maintenance of the property.

I realize that many dislike, even abhor hunting, and I do, too, but many others do not. I would not allow a one piece of property where hunting is allowed to determine whether or not I pay tithing. (And tithing money is not used to maintain property.)

I have many issues with the Church right now, but this is not on the list because so many hungry are helped with the food that the Church provides for them. I don't know of another Church that provides more food for the poor. Our welfare program is amazing!

Fast offerings go to the poor--100% of the them. Humanitarian aid-- again 100% to those in need. Should we give more for the poor? Yes! Most of us could probably do more in that area (and I love Kiva, too.) I donated to two more people last night--even though one of my donors has not paid back her loan, is in default, and may never do it.

Is the Church perfect? No. No institution is and no leader is. I like your blog because it raises our awareness about issues that we sometimes overlook. However, I do believe that Jesus Christ leads the Church and that even though leaders make mistakes, the Church is true and we are blessed--spiritually and often temporally-- when we pay our tithing.

Hans said...

I worked for the church as an intern one summer, and from my itty-bitty exposure to the business internals of the church I can report that they take tithing money very seriously. There were many expenditures that would sit higher on the "appropriate for tithing money" scale in *anyone's* book, that weren't considered appropriate for tithing money. As someone else said, there are other investments that bring in money, and that money is under much less scrutiny.

So although I wasn't an accountant and didn't participate in audits or anything like that, I can confidently extrapolate and say that tithes are definitely not going to this operation or any other. They are self-supporting.

As to the issue of initial capital, I don't know and can't say, but I expect that investments beget investments and at best you'd find that investment X to which you aren't morally opposed was paid for by tithing money many many years ago, and the proceeds somewhere down the line paid for this one to which you are opposed.

So, oppose it yes (I'll admit to not caring as much as you, as I finish chewing my meat-filled meal). But I don't think it's squandered tithes.

Anonymous said...

The Mormon church must publish its budget numbers in Great Britain. There they spend .2% on charitable donations. That's two tenths of one percent, not a particularly large number. This leads me to believe that if you wish to donate to a charitable cause, tithing isn't a particularly good way to do it.
Yes, also anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting that in Britain the church must disclose but in the US they don't.

Mark said...

Hi FD,

Being a vegetarian/vegan for over 4 years now (since coming back from my mission), I feel your pain with the paradox of the hunting preserves.

Although, when I first heard about the preserves my reaction was quite a bit different than yours seems to be (not judging, just observing). I just saw it as another unfortunate problem with the church among many, and just another something to add to the list of things to fix in the Mormon world. It intrigues me why this has been a bigger pill to swallow than others for you. Why is that?

As Dehlin said in the podcast you referenced last week (or was it the week before?), maturity is navigating paradox. Judging by your blog posts I've read and/or skimmed thus far, I'm looking forward to reading more about how you navigate this newfound paradox.

Anonymous said...

This is Badger. I comment occasionally on Mormon Matters, but I can't get Blogger to let me use my name, so I posted anonymous. I just found your blog, and it has been very interesting.

Regarding dairies in Florida (1st comment, 9/16 6:32am): Florida is nowhere near being the biggest dairy producing state. In 2008, it ranked 19th of the 50 states + Puerto Rico, producing 2.06 billion pounds of milk, compared to 41.2 for California, the #1 producer (data from Given the number of dairy farms in Florida, typical farm sizes, and the acreage owned by the largest Florida private landowners (from google), the chuch could own the entire Florida dairy industry and not be anywhere close to the largest landowner in the state, as Mormon Heretic had recently heard (comment on the last post).

I'm less well informed about cattle ranching (which is for meat animals, not dairy), but I would expect much more land to be involved, although it would not be the most valuable land per acre. Possibly ranching could account for the Church's large land holdings in Florida, but I don't think dairy fits.

About canned hunting, aid to the poor, and, above all, financial nondisclosure: Leaving the LDS church aside, as a general proposition failure by a charity to disclose finances and have outside audits is an inherently corrupt practice. It has characterized a sadly long list of fraudulent and near-fraudulent nonprofits. It really is extraordinary conduct for a charity that solicits contributions, and I personally would not contribute to a charity with no financial disclosure.

So, is the LDS church the latest version of Gene Scott or Jim and Tammy Bakker's PTL club? Is it wall-to-wall hunting preserves across Florida? Or is it, as Karen Williams suggested, providing more food to the poor than any other church, and perhaps by implication, directing most of its financial resources to charitable ends? The church is doing little to help anyone answer such questions. In general, the prudent course would be to suspect the worst, but many tithe-paying members do not take that approach to the church even if they might agree it was appropriate for charities in general.

Finally, I do not find the distinction between business revenue and tithing revenue very persuasive. The businesses didn't just appear from thin air; these are assets that have been accumulated over time, and it is hardly possible to believe that tithing revenues have not been an essential part of the financial environment that made their acquisition possible. Now they constitute the church's "savings", and apparently they throw off enough income to allow, for example, the purchase of billion-dollar shopping malls out of business income. What is the proper purpose of that income? Given its origin, is it right to view it as somehow not belonging to the members, and to spend it to build up a self-perpetuating hoard of wealth consisting of shopping malls, hunting preserves, and who knows what else? Is it in fact being spent that way?

I know there are many who choose to contribute financially to the church even without answers to such questions. Nevertheless they are important questions, and deserve some thought from any who do not just take the view that, without limitation, they don't care what the church does with their money.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. It's interesting to get different perspectives.

Mark, you make a very good point about the paradoxes. I guess this is just one that I wasn't expecting. As I admitted, I feel stronger than the average American about guns and hunting for my own personal reasons. I guess what shook and appalled me was that this is Church-sponsored/condoned/sanctioned canned hunting. I joked earlier about what next, maybe the Church is involved in puppy mills. To me, canned hunting amounts to something as horrendous and unethical as puppy mills. But it's not just what I think about it. It's incredibly hypocritical if we look back at our history and how we were taught to treat and regard animals.

I guess this is a huge pill for me to swallow because I'm being asked to support an organization that knowingly and deliberately exterminates animals for a profit. And when questioned about it, the questioners are met with silence (as indicated in the podcast). I was talking last night to my dad about this. I think he respects my views, but in his mind the Church can always be trusted even if it's not perfect. If we can't trust the Church, then we can't trust anyone, basically. We have to put out faith in the Church. But is this really a matter of faith? Do I have to abandon common sense for the sake of faith? Common sense would tell most of us that an organization that does not disclose its financial records and who supports unethical practices (such as canned hunting) does not deserve our trust. And yet so many of us put our infallible trust in it. I honestly think that if we found out the Church was funding a KKK ranch, it wouldn't matter to a lot of people. It would be rationalized away, just like with canned hunting. People would say, "Oh well, the Church isn't perfect but not giving 10% to the Church is stealing from the Lord even if it's using capital from business investments to fund the KKK."

Why on earth are we NOT allowed to expect and demand more of what is supposedly OUR church, too? When concerned members approach the presiding bishopric and ask for an explanation about this, they're met with silence. No one will talk about it. No one will address it. It's the Church, so what's to question, right? This isn't a matter of faith to me. That's side-stepping the issue. It's about what the title of this post says: sacrificing principle for profit. And I just don't get why I have to accept that it's OK. I realize that my opinion seems pretty worthless. I'm just one person. If I stop paying tithing, it changes nothing. The canned hunting will go on. And most will say that I put my eternal salvation in jeopardy. It's a waste, right? I suppose it's a waste in the same way that my going vegetarian changes nothing. Really, in the grand scheme of things, my decisions change nothing. I'm just some average Jane living in the Norwegian boonies and I see all the cows and pigs and sheep being trucked to the slaughterhouse almost daily. I'm not making a difference and neither will my silent protest against the Church. But I have to live with myself and I need to have peace with my own conscience that I'm doing what I can to make the world a better place for people and animals. And supporting canned hunting, even indirectly, goes against my personal ethics and principles. I do my best to not support cruelty. I'm not perfect, but I do what I can. In my mind, the Church is promoting and profiting from cruelty. Where the profit goes is irrelevant to me. Profiting from cruelty is blood money.

But do my personal principles mean anything? Are they worthless in the sense that the Church overrides whatever I think because it is, after all, THE LORD'S CHURCH?

I can't remember who said it, it may have been Gandhi or Martin Luther King, but whoever said it said that all it takes for bad things to happen is for good people to do nothing. As naively idealistic as that may sound, I've tried to make it my personal philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Someone complained about tithing not feeding the members of their ward. Tithing is not used for that; fast offerings are.

Someone else complained that, if the church is generating so much income from its business ventures, why should members pay tithing. The answer to that is that paying tithing is a blessing to the payor. Obviously, God could provide for all Church needs (including feeding the poor) by revealing where to mine for silver, gold, etc.

Someone else complained about the church donating money to Prop 8. I could be wrong, but I thought the money came directly from members who were encouraged to donate.

Someone else complained about having to feed missionaries when the church has so much money. Again, the point is to bless the giver.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous' comment directly above is interesting in a way I suspect he (or possibly she) did not intend; i.e., most of the presumably charitable giving by the Mormon church is actually given by members above and beyond tithing. Tithing is just a big black hole. .2% to charity.

Just another anonymous

Anonymous said...

"But where did the money come from that originally helped the Church have the capital to start these businesses? It had to come from tithing -- originally."

Actually, as a historical matter much of the original capital for church businesses came from the liquidation of pioneer era businesses. Some of these were originally financed with tithing donations -- often in the form of labor -- but many others were financed by grants of land and other rights made to the church in the territorial period. In addition, many early pioneer enterprises were financed on credit. The church borrowed money in New York and San Francisco, used the money to start a business serving local interests in Utah, and then used the revenue from that business to repay the loans.

Also, for those of use who are not morally outraged by hunting, this is simply not a big deal.

Anonymous said...

"When businesses (or churches) want to keep all of their financial records a secret, it's probably not a good sign."

This shows a remarkable naivete about the operation of most businesses. It is entirely unexceptional for a closely held corporation not to publish its financial statements and the like. Those corporations that do publish such data do so because they are publicly traded entities subject to disclosure requirements under SEC rules. This rules, however, do not apply to most corporations. All publicly traded companies in which the Church has a stake do publish their financial statements with the SEC.

Anonymous said...

"I know we had a welfare fruit farm near where I grew up in Canada."

Again there is a bit of confusion here. Welfare farms are not-profit making entities and their operation is different than the for-profit operations of the Church.

Anonymous said...

"I don't mind any of these things, but if billions of dollars are being spent in maintenance costs, I ain't seeing it."

There are something like 20,000 branches and wards in the church. In addition there are well over 100 temples. I think that it is safe to assume that even if your building is not as great and spacious as you might desire, the church has billions of dollars maintenance costs. Business and fiscal illiteracy, however, coupled with ideological paranoia can make for a toxic spiritual cocktail. You have my sympathy.

Anonymous said...

"I suppose it's a waste in the same way that my going vegetarian changes nothing."

Exactly right. Your vegetarianism is an entirely meaningless gesture in terms of effecting the world, although it does provide a nice rhetorical punchline in moments of self-indulgent ideological rage.

Bro. Jones said...

Re: Anonymous comment on buildings.

My building is overcrowded--not "I wish I had a whole pew to myself" overcrowded but "people sitting in Relief Society room because two overflow areas are full." The infrastructure is poorly-maintained. All cleaning is done through volunteer work by members. Really, as far as I can see the only money being spent by Salt Lake on my building is property tax (maybe) and utilities.

I don't doubt that the Church is spending a lot on infrastructure. I just don't know what exactly they're spending it on.

Urban Koda said...

I think 90% of these comments missed the point... While there are financial issues surrounding the Church over which I think concern needs to be raised, this is an entirely separate issue.

Past prophets have specifically spoken out about hunting and yet the Church is now profiting from a hunting enterprise. That's the problem.

Perhaps you condone hunting, or don't see the big deal, but lets consider this from a different perspective. I'm not suggesting the Church operates these businesses, I bring this up so you can view them from a different perspective.

The Church preaches against abortion, and yet actively supports United Way which funds abortion clinics (OK, so this ones true!)

The Church teaches against consumption of Alcohol, Tobacco and Coffee - would it be ethical for them to own breweries, tobacco and coffee farms?

And finally perhaps an extreme example, the Church preaches against pornography and immorality, but would it be ethical for them to profit off the adult film industry? It does turn a pretty nice profit from what I understand...

That's what FD is asking here... If the Church is preaching against something, and classifying it as a sin, should they also be profiting from it, or even if they're not profiting from it, should they be involved at all?

While the Westlake Farm Commercial Hunting Area is no longer staffed by missionaries, I found the Desert News story very disturbing. Elder Huff serves God is a completely different way... Somehow we are to believe that God has called Elder Huff to spend his days planting grains to attract wild birds which can then be shot for sport...

I'm thinking Elder Huff got called by a different God than the one FD and I worship.

Anonymous said...

I'm a new anon.

Someone asked about bow hunting and how it's different than say hunting with a rifle. When hunting a large animal such as deer or elk with a high powered rifle, one well placed shot can kill an animal fairly quickly, if not instantly, a follow up shot may be necessary, but death generally is quick.

With bow hunting, it's totally different. With a bow and arrow you're lucky to get one good shot, and the animal will only be wounded and will run. The hunter then has to follow or track the animal, hope it's bleeding bad enough to slowly weaken until it falls and eventually dies. It's a much longer, cruel, and painful process.

I'm no expert at bow hunting, and I'm sure that modern compound bows can be quite accurate and powerful, but it's hardly comparable to rifle hunting.

Regarding cross bows, in my experience I've never heard of people actually using them to hunt in the US, I'm not sure if they would even be legal.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Urban, thanks for summing up what I've been trying (and failing) to express. I ask those who have no problem with the Church operating canned hunting for profit whether they would feel the same with any of the examples that Urban gave.

As far as bow vs. bullet, I'm no expert on the physics of it all. To me it's pretty simple. Imagine you're to be executed. You can choose between being shot with a bullet or an arrow. Which one do you choose?

The Faithful Dissident said...

My guess is that they allow bow hunting on the preserves because it's more "fun" for those who are paying thousands of dollars. They have to keep the clients satisfied, after all.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Urban, I think your comment got placed in the wrong thread. So I'll paste it here.

From Urban Koda:

"I don't think you failed to express that, sometimes it just helps to see or hear something from a different perspective - the whole "In the mouth of two or three witnesses..." thing ;-)

The justification I've heard for bow vs. rifle hunting is more to do with the skill involved. Bow hunters have to generally get a lot closer to the animal, requiring greater tracking and stealth type skills. They claim it gives the animal more of a chance.

Still doesn't make it right though. And allowing the animal to suffer is inexcusable."

The Faithful Dissident said...

And this isn't about the meat. Who is going to pay $11,000 for a steak?, It's not about a controlled cull. It's about purposely increasing the number of wildlife born to be exterminated for fun. To be a trophy on the wall.

Anonymous said...

Urban Coda:

Well explained.


greenfrog said...

"I suppose it's a waste in the same way that my going vegetarian changes nothing."

FD, no act of compassion or kindness ever goes to waste, no matter what the circumstances in which it occurs. You are a part of the entirety of creation. Your compassion is as much a part of that creation as any other aspect. And it aligns your heart with God, which is the purpose of existence.

SUNN(0)))ofaB.C.Rich said...

it's more of a challenge with a bow... Anyways I don't think your God feels the same way as you do about animals, afterall he had Moses and Abraham and other ancient dudes sacrifice animals for him. As for your money I would definitely check into where that's going....

The Faithful Dissident said...

Greenfrog, thanks for that. I appreciate your comment.

Rich, I'd like to think that we've evolved from that. Early LDS teachings seemed to indicate that we had, but it seems that the opposition has won.

So I did a bit more research last night for an updated post I'm working on for Mormon Matters (will probably be out next Thursday, I'll do an update about it on Twitter when it's out) and I found out a couple things that are worth mentioning:

1.) The Church stopped sending missionaries to tend to Westlake and now (or as of 2001), paid employees operate it.

2.) Because of the protests of animal advocates, they stopped raising birds to be canned hunted. Birds are still hunted, but it's not as easy as it was before when they were being canned hunted.

So, I'll give credit where credit is due. These are a couple of positive steps forward. But the end result is the same: dead animals for a lucrative profit going to the Church.

Mormon Heretic said...


I know this is kind of off topic, but since I know you are such an animal lover, I thought you'd enjoy this story about a turtle missing it's front legs. The vet fashioned some legs for the poor thing.

The Faithful Dissident said...

What a great story, MH. Thanks for sharing. I love to see vets get a little inventive instead of resorting too easily to euthanasia, which I think a lot of them do.

Here is something similar that I've seen before with paralyzed animals. I've seen it used on both dogs and cats.

Anonymous said...

The problem I have with Urban Kuda's comment is that while some prophets have spoken out about the unnecessary killing of animals, I don't think that the Church has ever had a policy or official preference towards hunting. Maybe I'm wrong and if I am please provide a reference showing otherwise. Since the Church is not necessarily opposed to hunting or canned hunting, I don't see an issue between what it preaches and what it practices. Comparing this to the Church owning a brewery is way off. Clearly the current apostles don't have an issue with hunting. I'm not a hunter myself and I don't think I'm biased one way or the other on this issue. I just don't see a ethical dilemma with the Church operating a hunting preserve.

Also, why are people surprised and outraged that more tithing isn't being used for charitible purposes? That's not what it's for. If you've been paying tithing thinking that's going to help the poor and needing, you've been mistaken for a long time. That's just not what it's for. Never has been. Why do people think that it is? It's great that some of it is used for that, but that's not its primary use.

Urban Koda said...

I'm sorry I must be confused...

If I understand you correctly...

Prophets offer statements and speak in General Conference about the unnecessary killing of animals, but we're not required to follow that council because it's not an official policy?

Which then brings up an interesting problem... How do I know when a prophet is speaking on behalf of God, and when is he speaking for himself? Perhaps they could add sub-titles during General Conference.

"True Revelation from God"


"Just his opinion"

Comparing this to the Church owning a brewery isn't really that far off... You do know that the property on which the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake now resides used to be 1 of a number of huge breweries along the Wasatch front, right? All owned and operated by members, and the resulting mild barley beverage was enjoyed by many in the Church, including Brigham Young! Beer wasn't always Satan's beverage of choice in the eyes of the Church, and I have yet to find the official policy statement where it became law. It just kind of faded in over time.

But I think you illustrated the point nicely. For you beer is obviously a hot topic, and you would be rather upset if you found out the Church owned and ran a brewery.

You've just experienced empathy with FD's situation! Well done!

Goldarn said...

I'm wondering if Elder Huff's money, which he uses to support himself on his mission, is tax-deductible in the same way that proselyting missionary funding is?

Anonymous said...

That image of a man kneeling with a dead animal in his lap is just sickening.

Are you saying people who hold themselves up as moral paragons took money for that?

The Faithful Dissident said...

The image is from a random Google search, not from the Church's hunting preserves. But yes, it would be about the same.

Anonymous said...

Urban is right. The Church's current interpretation of the Word of Wisdom has developed over time and is not understood now like it was when it was first revealed to Joseph Smith. At the time it was good advice, now it's strict policy. The Church and the members back in Brigham Young's day followed the Word of Wisdom as it was interpreted then and in accordance with the Church's policy toward the Word of Wisdom at the time. We do the same today. We follow the Word of Wisdom in accordance with our current interpretation and policy. Would the Church owning a brewery back then be counter to its position on the Word of Wisdom? No. Would owning one today be? Yes. Does the Church have an official position today on hunting? No. So, is the Church's owning a hunting preserve today comparable to the Church's owning a brewery today? No. Will the Church's policy on the Word of Wisdom and hunting be the same 100 years from now as it is today? Who knows. Is everything that an Apostle says in General Conference offical Church polity? No. Is everything that an Apostle say in General Conference revelation from God? No.

Urban Koda said...

You know... sometimes I just wish God would make up his mind.

Either that, or the Church needs to have like a prophet or some sort of mouth piece for him here on the earth, who can speak on his behalf.

Sometimes I feel like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed!!

SUNN(0)))ofaB.C.Rich said...

dissident, what do you mean "weve evolved from that" I was talking about your God not you... Does he evolve or does your version of him evolve to suit you? Obviously he's pretty casual about human death let alone animal death, really seems this is a non-issue.

chris goble said...

I'd have to agree with BC Rich on this one. I think we often over-project our own values onto things.

We are all animals of one type or another and I think navigating the paradox of respecting life but frequently taking it (from one evolutionary stage or another) is a valuable tension to balance.

I'm not a absolute rule type of guy. I just think we bring so many contexts and moral weightings to bear on any action that summary judgments are.....well, lets just say not my cup of tea. Even less so when ramped up to an organizational level. I just don't see the wisdom in technocracy for ideological uniformity.

The Faithful Dissident said...

FYI: I have a new post about this topic at Mormon Matters.

Anonymous said...

To be honest with you the law of tithing is a commandment that we give 10% of our increase to the lord. It doesn't matter what its used for, to be honest, its not even our business. And we are not giving "our" money to the church. This money we are giving is not Ours, its the Lord's money. Satan works really hard to get us all to stop paying our tithing. Sounds like he is getting to you. You need to be strong and overcome any temptation not to pay it. You Lord will bless you for doing this and that is the BOTTOM line.

Anonymous said...

Why is this blog so anti-church? Its like you just look for things to bash the church about. How about doing a blog that talks about all the good things the church does? Wouldn't that give people a good feeling to want to come and read it? This blog is so negative, there is nothing positive about it. there are wonderful things the church does. Its always easy to tell someone they are wrong, but it takes a humble person to point out the good things that people do. What ever happened to the saying "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Its a shame that such a simple sentence can be so hard.

Urban Koda said...

Anonymous #1... You obviously missed the point FD made. It's not about not paying tithing, it's about hypocrisy.

Anonymous #2... Speaking of hypocrisy, did you consider the "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" saying, whilst writing your critique? And shouldn't you have been watching General Conference....

Urban Koda said...

Yesterday I taught the 12 & 13 year old's in Sunday School. We used the current curriculum prescribed by the Church - when means it's been approved by the correlation committee and all of that. Ans as such I think would qualify as official Church Doctrine.

The lesson was on Joseph Fielding Smith, and included a full paragraph on his teachings as prophet that killing animals for pleasure was morally wrong.

It would appear the the Church has not changed it's doctrine on hunting. The leadership just appear to have either lost their nerve to stand up to hunters, or are hunters themselves and engaging in self deception that somehow it's OK, or the dollars signs available from running a hunting enterprise speak louder than the words of a prophet.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Very interesting, Urban. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

the entire history of deseret land and livestock can be read on their website which includes among many interesting facts their reasoning for supporting hunting on this land. it is possible that encouraging hunting for animal population control is more financially reasonable for a for-profit enterprise than attempting to introduce other predators. furthermore, the herds are migratory and often find themselves on public land managed by state agencies hence the ranch owners work with these agencies to manage herd population for optimum health.

Unknown said...

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Anonymous said...

I find this story to not only be ATLEAST 75% bull crap but also 100% annoying. How original, let's pick on the LDS church. Do you not have anything better to do with your time and energy?
Are you a member of the church? My guess is no. So please tell me how you know all of these secret details about where this money goes? You yourself said they are keeping it a secret.. how did YOU find out then? Do you run the finances? Are you the president of the church? I didn't think so. Which tells me that this story couldn't possibly be true. It's all your warped opinions and poor research.
And as for the "not opening the records thing".. really? I think it's their own business who they want to share things with. It doesn't mean they are hiding anything. If you were a member, then you would understand that this church is completely based around Jesus Christ. Every move made, down to what chairs to put in the lobby is made through prayer and receiving answers from God.
The hunting issue. Why do people hunt? People hunt for 1. population control and 2. FOOD! Just because you may not agree with people using guns and bows to kill animals doesn't mean that no one is going to do it. Some people just like to eat meat. I'm sorry that you find it so horrible that people do this sort of thing but if you think that your one little article even made a dint then you are being kind of naive. Not everyone believes or even supports your hippy ways.
Now I realize that you probably put a lot of time and effort into writing this so I will give you credit for that. But one thing you may need to learn is that writing can't always be one sided.
And do you know where all of the money you spend goes? You should look into that..

Urban Koda said...

I don't often laugh at span, but for some reason that little comment was actually pretty good!

The Faithful Dissident said...

LOL, yes, that one is a keeper. :D

Seth said...

There's alot of comments on here, So someone may have said this already, but I want to make a point. They say these hunting preserves are not supported by tithing. Let's take a look at how the missionary couples who tend the animals receive their pay. Yes, it's true that missionaries are "encouraged" (demanded, lol) to pay their own way as much as they can. All the money they save goes to a big pot, and the church allots money to each mission here and there. On my mission, I received $143 a month. If they get around that amount, but only save $1500, then OUR TITHING DIRECTLY supports the rest! And since our tithing goes into a big pot and is dispersed according to "need", there's no telling what our tithing is actually used for.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

the lds church is about dont give money you get nothing but snubbed.i have left the church because i have learned it aiant true

A carpenter named Jesus said...

My family back in Galilee are hungry - can I go hunting and feed them?

A game-keeper from Utah said...

Get lost Jesus! There's no place in our church for a bum like you.

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand why the church doesn't publicly disclose their financial records? If the organization is truly led by fifteen men who are apostles, prophets, seers and revelators, then why wouldn't they want to share with everyone how God inspires them to manage money?

It seems like the church is missing a really great missionary opportunity by keeping their books open only to those who manage them.

Karen D. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Wade The Rascal said...

I really appreciate this post. When I found out about this hunting preserve, just a few weeks ago, my heart sank. I cannot justify it in my head.
Consequently, this was the last straw for me. I have too many questions, too many concerns, too many findings about the church that I just can't reconcile with my own moral compass. And it all saddens me.
I can find certain aspects of this hunting preserve to be positive; that they use irrigation run-off and seem to have improved this habitat is one. I think it's great that they're planting trees and making it a more hospitable eco-system for the local flora and fauna. But that they're making huge profits off of the "thrill of the kill" is too much for me. It's not even as if they're making it a way for the poor to feed themselves; they've priced it out of most people's ability to pay. Now it's, as the article says, for the well-heeled who can pay $8500 or so to harvest an elk.
I'm disgusted, but mostly saddened. And I'm angry that I never knew about it before. I'm angry at the obvious moral conflict between what the church is doing now, and what the scriptures say. How is it that it's just being ignored? Oh, that's right; money.
I'm with you and I won't allow my tithing to be used for something like this, or a $2B shopping center, or politics like Prop. 8; and it certainly seems unacceptable while millions of people continue to starve and live on the streets.
Anyway, I've made my point. Again, I really appreciate your post, and I look forward to following your blog.

Aerialrose said...

Faithful dissident, do you think you can please stop calling your church (or perhaps you see it as the church you were raised in) THE church? When Catholics and Mormons call their church THE church, it shows exactly how brainwashed they still are.

I was raised in the LDS church, as was my husband, and we were married in the Dallas temple.

We are both Vegan, as is our Vegan daughter.

I've written quite extensively on the many falsehoods the LDS church is founded on and continues to perpetuate: the ones you mentioned are valid and included in the article I've written and have not published yet.

However, I invite you to read the most recent letter I wrote (which only covers a few topics) to Thomas Monson (NO I will NOT use the middle initial "S"--the middle initial often fools people into thinking a person has more power than they do, and no one needs a middle initial for real power.).

mountain goat hunts said...

When you are hunting getting a gun, there is also a quantity of what exactly you need to keep in mind. The safety round the weapon needs to be on whatsoever occasions, unless of course obviously you are likely to fire place in the quarry. The gun should invariably be pointed from you together with others, instead of in the own foot. Being shot inside the ft is very uncomfortable, in addition to surgery to fix the delicate bones. This precaution needs to be taken regardless of setup safety round the weapon is off or on. When the safety fail, it's much safer to offer the gun misfire where nobody will probably be hit.

Jim G. said...

I think what the church is doing with these hunting preserves is a very hypocritical and unChrist-like action that was taken and it really hit me hard. It sure is different than what our founder Joseph Smith taught and which feelings were strongly supported by Lorenzo Snow up thru George Albert Smith, and even Spencer W. Kimball spoke out against killing innocent animals and birds. The church is so hypocritical when it comes to the Word of Wisdom when it comes to their eating meat very unsparingly. The Church needs to return to the teachings of it's founder in regards to the slaying of innocent blood and devouring of their flesh. According to Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ and God our Father wishes for us to eat meat sparingly and only in times of famine or cold, and then only to save us from starvation. The church has really gone backwards, and at all the church dinners I have attended (even in the summertime) are centered around meat. It really blows me away that the church owns these hunting preserves where the folks with the money can slay what we're supposed to be stewards over. They have, by having these preserves, are doing the opposite than what our earlier prophets have taught. May God forgive them, for it is a cruel and unmerciful road the church has taken in operating and permitting these hunting preserves to exist. Hopefully they wake up and change their ways, for such slaughter is a thing that the adversary would smile at.

Unknown said...

Jim G. here again. This disliking of the whole hunting preserve thing has really grown inside me and I'm really angered at the way the church's leaders have gone astray from living a Christ-like life. When I was a kid going to church, I remember them saying to ask yourself when confronted with a situation: "What would Jesus do?" He certainly wouldn't have organized any facility for blood money for profit, which the church has done with these hunting preserves. I believe a public outcry should be made and a move to force the Brethren to repent of this evil abomination and to change their ways and close these killing grounds for profit down. I find it hard to believe that those at the top are receiving revelations or inspirations if they delight in the dollars that are being made off the slaying of God's innocent creatures. As Pres. Joseph F. Smith said in 1913: "I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food. I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything that possess life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men who I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood, they go off hunting deer, antelope, elk, anything they can find, and what for? Just for the fun of it!" Hyrum Smith said, "...and let them be sparing of the life of animals, it is pleasing, saith the Lord, that flesh be used only in times of winter or famine." But of course, the leaders today say that what they say today is more important than what the earlier leaders stated. They say that to probably ease their own conscience. I call the leaders today who upheld this insane practice to repent, change their views on blood money for profit, and not to walk the road of apostasy, for that is what seems to be happening when they sanction this un-Christlike practice of brutality. Come on members of the Brethren -- wake up and follow Christ's teachings and love His Father's creation, not the money you gain by having them butchered. I hope and pray they can learn to have love for all living things and not let money stand in the way of closing these hunting preserves down. Jim Goldrup, Ben Lomond, Ca.

Unknown said...

My brother Jim used my account to write the above post. I must say that I agree with what he wrote and also the Faithful Dissident at what she wrote here. The church leaders should, pertaining to this hunting atrocity preserve, seek inspiration from the Lord and not mammon (money).

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