LDS Church could buy ships, islands, skyscrapers, the Yankees, the Beatles, writes Gordon Monson


So, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just bought Mormonism’s first temple and a host of other historic buildings for a cool $192 million.

That’s a good-size chunk of change. But for a faith whose estimated total wealth is climbing toward $300 billion, it’s just that — change. Chump change.

That got me to thinking: What else could the Utah-based church buy if it so desired? We’re briefly blowing past noble stuff here — stuff like eradicating world hunger, housing the homeless, clothing the naked, providing for the poor — and jumping straight to the preposterous.

Yes, in order to size up and illustrate just how much money the church of faith and finances has, a number that is difficult to comprehend, let’s get to the other stuff it could afford, the ridiculously expensive stuff it would never actually purchase but that sits, nonetheless, well within the reach of its reserves.

It could buy, for instance, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The most expensive ship currently in the nation’s fleet is the USS Gerald R. Ford, which was put together for a mere $13 billion. Other aircraft carriers have been built for $7 billion to $9 billion. The church could assemble its own navy. It was Theodore Roosevelt who, as a part of showing strength by way of gunboat diplomacy, referenced this West African proverb: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”

Money can take you there.

Cowboys and Yankees and Bears, oh my

(Adam Hunger | AP) New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole pitches in 2023. The team has been valued at $7 billion.

The church could buy, if Jerry Jones would sell, the Dallas Cowboys for $9 billion; the New York Yankees for $7 billion; the Chicago Bears for $6 billion; Real Madrid for $6 billion; the Los Angeles Dodgers for $4.8 billion; the Utah Jazz for $3 billion.

It could buy a collection of the 10 most valuable worldwide sports franchises for less than $69 billion.

Slap your cash on the barrel, easy peasy.

Your basic skyscraper would cost $300 million to $1 billion, depending on size and location. Some estimates put the worth of the Empire State Building at just above $2 billion. The church then could buy or construct somewhere between 150 and 400 skyscrapers of varying types. It could buy a string of private islands for about a billion dollars. Technology billionaire Larry Ellison bought the Hawaiian island of Lanai a decade or so ago for $300 million.

The International Space Station is valued at $150 billion. If the church wanted to get a possible glimpse of Kolob, the star, its scriptures say, nearest to God’s throne, the Hubble Space Telescope is valued, depending on whom you believe, at a few billion.

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” painting sold for $450 million. At $1 billion to $2 billion, the entire Beatles catalog would be a bargain.

If the church could buy those songs, can you imagine what it would do with “Yesterday” and “Let It Be” and “Come Together” and “A Hard Day’s Night” and “I Am the Walrus” and “Hey Jude” and all the other classics? The Tab Choir does the Fab Four. Blows the mind. I’d pay my own good money to hear the 360-strong choral group belt out a heavenly version of “You Never Give Me Your Money” at General Conference.

A real estate appraiser put the value of London’s Buckingham Palace at $5 billion. No problem there, not for lack of funds, anyway.

The Disney empire is worth around $200 billion, so the church, if it stretched, could afford it. Picture that, if you can: Mormon World, Latter-day Saint Land, other theme parks, networks, studios, stores, a very valuable mouse, all sorts of products and retail sales. Whew.

Cha-ching for charity

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
A mother and child receive nourishment at the Ifo Refugee Camp in Kenya in 2022.

OK, laugh a little here. None of this would happen. That’s not the point. The point is, it could happen. Financially, at least. It really is hard for you and me, for regular folks, to imagine how much wealth the church has accumulated, the towering height of the stack of its assets, the financial firepower of the religion.

With that, back to more serious pursuits and possibilities.

It has been debated what the church should do with its vast resources, what the purpose is for that accumulation. Some say it’s saving for a rainy day, some say it’s worried about an economic downturn, some say it’s preparing for the Second Coming, some say it needs the cash to build its latter-day Zion. Some say it knows exactly what it’s doing and why. Others say, if the faith is, as the church teaches, Jesus’ one true church, he would use his divine power to protect it and take care of it if any apocalypse or calamity ensues.

Until then, though, the church could offer more charitable donations far beyond what it now does — it reported giving more than $1 billion in humanitarian relief in 2022 — to rescue a world in pain by aiding children, the poor, the sick, the afflicted, the thirsty, the downtrodden. It could — if it would.

Global experts say world hunger could be extinguished by 2030 with about $40 billion a year. Can you imagine the impact that kind of contribution would have not just on the inhabitants of God’s green earth but also on the church’s missionary efforts? Even nonreligious folks might show a little interest in learning more about the faith were it willing to accomplish such a wonderful effort. Complicated as the details might be in getting that done, the church quite possibly could do it.

Throwing money all willy-nilly at the planet’s difficulties could result in a lot of waste, of course, but if the church could control its distributions to the needy, what a difference it could, would make.

Or it could sit on its money, continuing to invest it, watching billions turn into trillions, and, in so doing, buy aircraft carriers, skyscrapers, space telescopes, art treasures, royal palaces, sports teams, theme parks, islands and more real estate than it already possesses. It could buy Abbey Road, it could buy the Beatles. It could buy pretty much whatever it desired.

Can it buy a path to heaven? I don’t know. But this much is true: It can buy a whole lot more of what’s on earth — if that’s what it wants to do.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune columnist Gordon Monson.

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