"The LDS church is a corporation."
"No it isn't, how dare you say such a thing!"
"Well, look at it. I can't believe they can retain a non-profit status with all of the profit they make."
"But it is a church! It is God's kingdom on earth. All of that 'profit' is used to help the needy and build the kingdom, a corporation would do that."
All caricatured discussions aside, I am starting to see the church as more of a business corporation than as a religious institution. Now, this might be the case with all churches, but my experience happens to be with just this one. Perhaps religion is a basic human desire, and there is a brand of business that thrives by satisfying those needs and wants. That is how most businesses work, anyway.
Now let me put it this way. The church has a high mandatory (Now, whether or not it really is compulsion is an argument in and of itself, but when not paying has such a high social and religious cost, it can hardly be said to be optional.) membership fee - tithing. You pay 10% of all your income to the church, no questions asked. The church doesn't even disclose what happens with this money. They will throw the members a bone every so often at general conference, but nobody really knows what happens with it all. This tithing goes to pay for their biggest source of income: temples. Why are temples the biggest source of income? You have to pay tithing to get in them. The closer temples are, the more likely members will get a temple recommend and attend the temples. The more temple recommend holding members, the more tithing coming in to the church. The more tithing coming in, the more the church can do God knows what.
What other indicators are there that the LDS church is a business? Well, the church has plenty of investments. The recently opened mall is a great example. The church owns tons of land across the world (not all of it has a building on it, or even planned). This isn't even "hidden" knowledge, most members have heard of some investment or another, especially the high-ticket ones (like said mall).
Whatever else the church has done, the biggest kicker is how it promotes itself. I was recently attending some meetings for my workplace where they were discussing best practice for the sales industry. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), all of these best practices would obviously be beneficial to the missionary program. Some of the best practices were taught to me in the MTC or at zone conferences in the mission field. Others were practices that the "best" missionaries were performing without being told to do so. Is it any surprise that the "good" missionaries all are really good at summer sales jobs? I would venture not...
Look at it this way. What is the product that the church offers? The Gospel, eternal happiness, eternal families, peace, forgiveness, these are all product offers that the church is trying to sell. Ultimately trying to sell its specific form of opiates. The church also has plenty of education on these offers, through Sunday meetings, missionary discussions, and other church activities. The church also has membership and loyalty benefits, if you are loyal and follow specific rules, you can be inducted into the "gold membership" club, which offers a better selection and better quality product (this is referencing the temple, if you couldn't tell). The church also has a referral program, if you refer friends and family to the program, you get extra access to the product line. Also, like a business the church has a huge focus on expansion and growth. They are constantly seeking newer and better ways to deliver their product, to an ever expanding market, with the goal of 100% market penetration and market share. In fact, as a member you can hardly go by a couple of weeks without the church trying to push you out to go do their marketing for them.
Now, the devil's advocate in me has to come out for a second. Is this just an overly cynical view on the "way things simply are?" I don't think so, but let me argue that point for a second and then debunk it. Perhaps all experience can be reduced to a "business model." Perhaps I am just viewing the world through a cynical lens, and I could see anything as being this business like, I simply haven't applied the model to everything else in the world.
I don't think that is the right way to look at it. If the church really were everything it claimed to be, it would be more transparent, less exclusive, less tithing hungry, etc. I feel like there are and can be more altruistic organizations. The LDS church simply isn't that organization. I feel like the LDS church does not truly promote Christ-like behavior, but I will write more about that in a future post.