At its grand opening, Utah dignitaries accompanied Monson. He cheered "one, two, three," cut the ceremonial ribbon, and said "let's go shopping!"
"Watching a religious leader celebrate a mall may seem surreal, but (this one) reflects the spirit of enterprise that animates modern-day Mormonism."
"The mall is part of a sprawling church-owned corporate empire that" church leaders say spreads its message, increases economic self-reliance, and builds "the Kingdom of God on earth."
Keith McMullin heads the church holding company. Deseret Management Corporation (DMC) is an umbrella organization for many non-profit church businesses.
"We look to not only the spiritual," he says, "but also the temporal, and we believe that a person who is impoverished temporally cannot blossom spiritually."
Mormonism combines religious fervor with money-making. Non-profit status enhances bottom line priorities. Church holdings are vast. Little is known about them. Financial transparency is absent. Even members required to contribute generously aren't privy to what goes on.
According to historian D. Michael Quinn:
"The Mormon Church is very different than any other church".Traditional Christianity and Judaism make a clear distinction between what is spiritual and what is temporal, while Mormon theology specifically denies that there is such a distinction."
Megamalls and multi-billion dollar enterprise profiteering is doing God's work. Quinn adds:
"In the Mormon's (leadership) worldview, it's as spiritual to give alms to the poor".as it is to make" millions of dollars.
Around six million Americans practice Mormonism. Globally it's around 14 million. Their influence outnumbers their numbers.
The church's business empire and wealth are vast. DMC alone has six subsidiaries. Its estimated annual revenue is around $1.2 billion. It runs a newspaper, 11 radio stations, a TV station, a publishing and distribution company, a digital media operation, a hospitality business, and insurance with assets worth $4.4 billion.
AgReserves is another for-profit Mormon umbrella enterprise. Together with other church-run agricultural affiliates, it owns about one million US acres. They're used for farming, hunting, preserves, orchards and ranches.
They include the $1 billion, 290,000 acre Florida based Deseret Ranches. It has 44,000 cows, 1,300 bulls, citrus, sod, and timber. Foreign based affiliates operate in Britain, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.