Temple Construction Costs vs. Humanitarian Aid?

LDS Humanitarian Services

LDS Humanitarian Services

I received a comment this evening from YouTube user JAMaddict, which stands for Jim and Pam Addict, on my video Inside the LDS (Mormon) Twin Falls Temple.  This is what they said:

It makes me physically ill to think about the “hand selected” granite flooring. What a waste, when so many millions of people need various types of aid.

Before you start going on and on about LDS’s humanitarian efforts, don’t bother! Since LDS refuses to release their financial records, no one knows for sure, but the best guess is that they give 2% of their total income to aid. That’s sickening.1

This was my reply message back to them:

The LDS Church has given over $1.1158 billion dollars in humanitarian aid in 167 countries worldwide since 1985. You can see the breakdown per year here:
http://www.providentliving.org/content/display/0,11666,4606-1-2329-1,00.html

If you want to get more specific, you can see the 2008 Welfare Services Fact Sheet here:
http://www.providentliving.org/welfare/pdf/WelfareFactSheet.pdf

$282.2 million in cash donations
$833.6 million in material assistance

That includes:

  • 61,308 tons of Food
  • 12,829 tons of Medical supplies
  • 84,681 tons of Clothing
  • 5,965 tons of Educational supplies
  • 8.6 million of Hygiene, newborn, and school kits
  • 1,100,059 days of labor donated to welfare facilities

What is sick about that?2

I might have also mentioned that anciently only the very finest materials were used to construct the House of the Lord, including gold, silver, iron, copper, timber, and stone (see this description of Solomon’s temple), and the Lord has revealed that they are to be built to the same standards today.  It is God’s House, not ours, and He will have it built the way He reveals to His prophets.

If we had spent the humanitarian aid money we have since 1985 instead on temple construction, we could easily have over 100-200+ more temples throughout the world than we have now, essentially doubling the number we have taken 179 years to build, and providing the blessings of temple worship to many more of our members3.  But our goal is not to just build temples, but to do what the Lord has commanded, “to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church, or in any other, or in no church at all”4.

Notes:
  1. I’ve removed the moderated comment from the video page. []
  2. Direct message to JAMaddict YouTube user, also known as Jim and Pam Addict. []
  3. Estimate based on Suva Fiji Temple cost, approx. $5 million U.S. dollars (http://www.fletcherconstruction.co.nz/project.php?project_id=66&archived=yes), and Brisbane Australian Temple cost, $11.5 million (http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=4d3619f1707cd010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=7cecc8fe9c88d010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD ) []
  4. The Prophet Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, 15 Mar. 1842, page 732 []

26 Comments

  1. Posted October 16, 2009 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m reading The Lord’s Way by Elder Oaks right now, and on p. 110-1 he directly responds to this issue:

    The Savior taught the preeminence of the spiritual over the temporal. When Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly ointment, Judas asked, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” Jesus’ reply taught a great principle to his followers: “Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.” Thus, while the care of the poor was important, its importance should be seen in a spiritual context. In this instances, there was something more important to do with this ointment than to give its value to the poor. The things of eternity, including what Jesus could teach his followers concern the salvation of their souls and what he could do for them by his death and resurrection, were more important than the temporal care of the poor. Indeed, one reason we have the poor “always . . . with [us]” is to give the rest of us the spiritual testing and growth that come when we minister to their needs.

    The preeminence of the spiritual over the temporal, which Jesus taught, has many applications in our own day. For example, it explains why our church spends great sums preaching the restored gospel and building temples to perform the ordinances of eternity rather than (as some advocate) devoting these same resources to temporal concerns already being pursued by others, such as preserving the environment, researching cures for diseases, or administering to other physical needs that can be accomplished without priesthood power or direction.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    BRAVO, Bryce!!!
    Excellent additional information, Connor.

    Thank you both for bringing up this important topic to be clarified.

  3. Posted October 17, 2009 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    Bryce:

    You gave a beautiful response. Our Church is all about aiding others. An essential component of that aid is prayer, and temples are houses of prayer. Further, temples inspire us Latter-day Saints to work harder in all our humanitarian efforts, whether down the street or across the world.

    Thus, I believe angelic accountants above could show us that temples really pay for themselves by promoting greater goods that would not otherwise exist.

    Our latter-day religion is humble, because our truths are ALL about service to others. Our job is NOT just to get ourselves into heaven, but to help lift up all others (living and dead) as well. Without atonement-enabled temples structured under the priesthood that burden would be impossible.

    A person cannot be saved until fed. The bread of life, however, is more than grain.

  4. Posted October 17, 2009 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    That is an excellent quote from Elder Oaks. Thank you Connor. It is a perfect analogous example from the life of Christ.

    I agree S.Faux. Great thoughts. I think that we do much more good inside the temple for the welfare of society and the salvation of souls than we could do outside of it. It is all service in one form or another.

    I’ve actually written on this topic once before:
    http://www.templestudy.com/2008/07/03/which-is-greater-the-temple-or-service-to-the-poor/

  5. Matt
    Posted October 17, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Well said Bryce and Connor. Some people will never be happy no matter what the church does. Like Judas, they love to tell us how tithing money should be spent, despite their lack of contribution. By the way shouldn’t any amount of aid be praised? Personally I don’t care if it’s 50 million or 50 cents, any and all aid is praisworthy.

  6. Posted October 17, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Well said Bryce. I remember standing in the newly completed Conference Center (it may not have even been dedicated at that point, can’t remember for sure) and hearing this older gentleman grumble about how the Conference Center was “the great and spacious building,” as he looked at a painting of Lehi’s dream. He was upset with the idea that so much money was poured into that building, that could have been used elsewhere.

    My father pulled us aside and talked a little about what he’d said, stating that there are two sides to everything. On one hand, we could see as that man did, or we could see it as something closer to the tree of life, where we gather to partake of the gospel.

    It simply comes down to: if the Lord commands, we obey. But in trying to understand, I believe that building has done much good in inspiring both members and non-members to contribute with time, talents, and money to welfare type causes the world over.

  7. Michael Towns
    Posted October 17, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Another perspective to think about: all of that money that the Church spends to erect temples with the finest materials pumps enormous amount of money into the economy. Furnishing companies, construction companies, transportation companies (to transport granite, marble, etc.). It goes on and on. Just think about all the men and women that those companies employ. The Church has contributed to their economic and temporal well-being as well.

  8. Mark Brown
    Posted October 17, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I will go even further than S. Faux and say that I have seen some pretty convincing evidence that when a new temple is built in an area which didn’t have one before, a substantial number of people who didn’t qualify for recommends before make the decision to become temple worthy. And that step includes the payment of tithes and offerings.

    So, the point is that temples are actually revenue generators for the church. That sounds a little crass, but they really do pay for themselves, and then some. It is naive for somebody to argue that this is all a zero sum game, where temple building can only happen at the expense of the poor and needy. If anything, the building of temples further enables the church to fulfill its obligations to them.

  9. Posted October 17, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Great comments everyone. You bring up a great point that we are probably able to help more in the temporal welfare of those around us because we have temples, not less. Members put their lives in order to pay tithes and offerings to be worthy to go to the temple which enables the Church to give more in humanitarian aid, both on a local and international level, than they could otherwise do.

  10. Posted October 17, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Great stuff. Thanks, all.

  11. jeffrey meek
    Posted October 17, 2009 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    Building a temple is humanitarian aid.

  12. rk
    Posted October 18, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    I’d be interested to know how much JAMaddict contributes of her own money to the poor. Does she put her money where her mouth is, or just want to dictate to others how to spend theirs?

  13. Adam F
    Posted October 18, 2009 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    There is a lot of focus on the temporal aspects of constructing temples. To focus on the quote from Elder Oaks, the construction of temples is one that is focused on “the things of eternity.” In the end, the temple is not just a house of prayer–it is the Lord’s house where ordinances for those who are TRULY poor (in spirit/ordinances they need for eternity) are performed.

  14. Brad Minick
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    In 2009, the United States ALONE contributed $3.2 billion dollars in humanitarian aid. I don’t know the 2009 world total humanitarian aid contribution is; nor, do I know the cumulative world total over the past decades, but it seems to me that to solve the world’s problems of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, war, hunger, famine, etc., it will take more than money. If Christians believe in who Jesus says he is, then ONLY the gospel of Jesus Christ has the redemptive power to to solve the world’s problems. Therefore, I see the church’s greatest humanitarian act is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church carries out that mission by using it’s resources. Ultimately, only by living the gospel will the problems of the world be solved. Paul wrote, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust” and the voice of Christ to the Nephites “will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you”. The final answer to the world’s problem isn’t money but having faith in Christ and living his gospel; for Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”

  15. Brad Minick
    Posted October 21, 2009 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    If the church contributed 100% of her financial resources to humanitarian aid she wouldn’t exist long as a church. She would have no financial capital to pay for her expenses. There are operating cost that must be paid. Also, she is a church and must fulfill the spiritual needs of her members (both living and dead) and a large part of that spiritual need is fulfilled through temple worship. If the church totally ignored the spiritual needs of her members, she would eventually lose all membership and wouldn’t be much of a church. The church is doing it’s best to invite all the “come unto Christ” and receive of His gospel while offering assistance, via humanitarian aid, throughout the world to those who are hungry, sick, and afflicted.

    Also, in temples, priesthood power is administered. And, what is priesthood power? It is God’s power delegated to man for the salvation of His children. God’s power!!!! What greater humanitarian gift can God give, through His church by the form of priesthood ordinances as administered in temples, than God’s (priesthood) power? Temples are humanitarian.

  16. JL
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; . . .” (D&C29:34).

    Whether it is giving aid, educating the poor, or building chapels and temples, it is all spiritual to the the Lord. I loved Matt’s comment about those who complain likely haven’t contributed (to our church or theirs). Personally, I love watching every temple rise from the dirt and every plane loaded with supplies take to the skies knowing my small sacrifice has contributed to it.

  17. Posted October 22, 2009 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    It’s always easy to criticize others for not giving enough of their “excess” to the needy. But for some reason, we are never that critical with ourselves—after all, we “need” our own income and don’t have much, if any “excess”.

    I wonder why JAMaddict didn’t disclose how much of their own personal income they give to charity?

  18. Posted October 23, 2009 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I just came across these words of the Savior:

    16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!
    17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
    18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.
    19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?
    20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.
    21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.
    22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
    23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matt. 23:16–23)

  19. Posted October 23, 2009 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    President Spencer W. Kimball taught:

    The rich man may far outstrip his less fortunate neighbor in giving huge sums of money for charity, but when it comes to giving one’s self, they are on a common level, for each can give freely of himself, but each has only one single self to give. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 251-252).

  20. Posted October 23, 2009 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Great article Bryce, and nice comments to read. I would just add that whenever the church builds a temple and is purchasing those “finest materials”, they are doing so by stimulating the local economies, and keeping many small businesses, craftsmen, and contractors employed. Thus, the physical building of a temple is a huge humanitarian investment. And of course the spiritual humanitarian blessings which come to the people and the land are everlasting and priceless.

  21. Mark
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Let’s not forget what these buildings do for the poor! The poor are lifted and strengthened. I serve in one of our temples weekly and see the poor come from their humble circumstances and sit next to the wealthy in equality, partaking of the saving ordinances of the gospel that are available to everyone who can clean up their lives and enter therein. What a blessing to see some of my fellow workers who come from what I would call a ghetto, to sit beside me and serve faithfully. They are lifted up and edified by this opportunity and I am blessed to be counted with them.

    I also marvel when I hear the names of persons who lived in the Dark Ages echo through the halls of the temple and rejoice as they rejoice in being set free to progress on to their eternal rest in the presence of the Father after having lived through very troubled and difficult times on the earth.

    Could we do such exalting work in a cinderblock warehouse? Yes, but the works of salvation deserve their place that is both beautiful and uplifting. I love the symbolic depiction of the beauty of eternity that comes from using the finest and best materials for the House of the Lord.

    I rejoice in welcoming the poor of the world into the reverent setting of a beautiful temple, no matter their circumstances in the world. We sit as equals in the House of the Lord.

  22. Posted January 13, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    The problem with the humanitarian aid figures is that it does not represent what the enemies of the Church claim it does, but much less.
    If you pay attention this is the dollar value of the aid actually given to people through the humanitarian program. It does not represent the following:
    1-The Church Welfare Program. True, this progam LARGELY assists members, but I know from first hand experience that people who have not been baptized are assited by it. Beyound this, if we are comparing spending on buildings to spending on aid, than we clearly need to put the Welfare Program in the latter.
    2-LDS Family Services costs are not covered.
    3-LDS Employment Services costs are not covered. I went to a career development seminar sponsored by them that had mainly people of other faiths attending.
    4-I am not sure, but I doubt that aid given through the Welfare program to local storehouses is counted.
    5-Providing free use of canneries to soup kitchens and food banks has a value that is not assessed here.
    6-The logistical costs of aid, such as costs of fuel and such are not counted.
    7-Contrary to the claim of some haters, the value of time donated is not counted.
    8-The full answer to this I am not sure of, but if I use a Church chain saw to cut up a tree in someone’s yard, or some other church owned equitment to provide aid, would it count. Considering the wording of the phrases, I think the answer is negative.

  23. Mark Collier
    Posted January 14, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Years ago when I lived in Denver, a local overnight talk show host got fed up with the negative publicity the Church was receiving when the temple was built. He invited an articulate member of the Church to come on his show and for three hours respond to detractors as they vented their feelings. It was remarkable to hear the well spoken responses from the Church spokesman. It was also notable that the detractors were largely gone after the first hour while people with complimentary comments filled the final two hours. The accusers dwindled into obscurity while the truth rang out into the last hour.

    I was reminded of this situation when reading the excellent responses that continue to build upon the truths of the earlier responses. And where have the detractors gone? They continue to dwindle and fade away as a retreating army while the truth continues to build and develop as as does a musical crescendo.

  24. Posted January 14, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Good point, Mark. For the record, I do moderate all comments on this blog, and if there are comments that are not friendly to the church, I simply delete them. This is not the place for enemies of the church to voice their dissonance.

  25. Brian Terrill
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    I think the argument that we spend too much money on temples is flawed. Most people arguing the point don’t do squat for the poor and needy all they do is go online and call Mormons cultist. But for the sake of argument, I know a lot of construction workers looking for work right now. Work, not hand outs, the government and every stinky politician promises them that. They want work. Temple construction offers work for construction workers who need work, and high quality work nonetheless that can add to their resume or reference sheet.

    Besides, no one complains about how much a Wal Mart cost to build, probably the same if not more.

  26. Marcelo Moreira
    Posted March 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    BRAVO! The world doesn’t need the Church’s money: it needs its doctrine.

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