My sister recently sent out an email to the whole family linking to an article about the church's construction projects near the new Philadelphia temple site.
It's not a billion-dollar mall this time, but it is a little peculiar that, in addition to the temple and the chapel, the church is also throwing up a 32-story apartment complex and a row of posh townhouses. The church is going to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars monthly from this complex.
In a reply email, another sister casually asked if anyone knew why the church was putting up an apartment building...but that was the end of the discussion. Nobody answered her question by pointing out that the church is essentially a for-profit organization, but nobody tried to explain that the church was simply trying to increase the quality and safety of the neighborhood surrounding its inner-city temple, either. While I found it a little encouraging that at least one of my sisters felt the need to ask what I feel is a very important question, the fact that the conversation ended without a resolution is kind of depressing. Most of my family legitimately doesn't care what the church is doing. Apparently, since the church can do no wrong, they don't need to concern themselves with its corporate functions.
I wish I'd had the guts (or a strong enough relationship with them) to reply with links about the City Creek Mall, the expensive missionary-run hunting preserve, the huge property buys in Florida and the numerous for-profit businesses that are owned and operated by the church. The problem is that, once I got going, I'd probably pick up so much momentum and be practically screaming at them via email.
I'd used to assume that the church had so many business interests just because it liked making even more money than it already had. But now I'm starting to wonder if the leadership is acutely aware of how membership statistics are flagging and they're working to build the business end of the church specifically so that they'll still have a substantial income once their loyal tithe-payers have dwindled.