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LDS CHURCH REAL-ESTATE HOLDINGS INCLUDE FARMS, RANCHES, BUILDINGS

Published: Tuesday, July 2 1991 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Mormon Church's real-estate empire easily exceeds $1 billion, including farms and ranches in the West and Midwest, buildings and apartments on the West Coast and a huge chunk of land in central Florida, The Arizona Republic reported Tuesday.

Given its enormous income from tithing and business operations, it appears the church is investing several hundred million dollars a year in securities and real estate, the newspaper said in the third installment of a four-part series on the holdings of the Utah-based church."I would say they're probably one of the largest private owners of farmland in the United States," said John Scott, professor of land economics and farm management at the University of Illinois, although he hasn't compiled records to prove that.

Officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refuse to disclose information about real-estate holdings, even to members, saying such information would distract from the church's ecclesiastical mission.

Property records are recorded in the 2,825 counties in the United States. And the church holds title to land under a variety of different names, which it also refuses to disclose. So it is virtually impossible to determine independently how much property the church owns, and where.

But in an attempt to gauge the scope of the church's real-estate holdings, The Republic spent more than a month conducting a nationwide search for clues from corporate documents, property-tax records, federal and state income-tax documents, published reports and even water-rights claims.

From that information, the newspaper focused on 120 counties in 21 states, examining specific land holdings in person, on computer or by phone.

The picture, though far from complete, is impressive.

The church's most valuable land holdings apparently are in Arizona, Utah, California and Florida.

In its home base of Salt Lake County, the church owns $137 million in commercial and industrial properties as valued by taxing authorities. It owns large blocks of downtown real estate around its Salt Lake Temple, including three high-rise office buildings, a shopping mall, the land beneath other key buildings and at least 230 residential parcels.

California records show the church owns $67 million in commercial properties, including $15 million in apartment buildings in Stockton and Glendale, a $10.6 million office building in Anaheim and a $4.5 million retail development in Fresno County.

It also owns at least 13,000 acres of California agricultural land worth $34.6 million and vacant land worth $20.3 million.

In Florida, the church owns what Orlando broker Trevor Hall says "may be the state's largest piece of privately owned undeveloped real estate."

The 315,000-acre Deseret Ranches, bought in the 1950s, is home to orange groves and cattle. But its location, about five miles southeast of booming Orlando, has caused its value to jump. The church is planning to build a community with 5,000 homes and 4,200 apartments, plus schools, offices and stores.

In Arizona, the church owns at least $117 million in commercial and agricultural properties and vacant land, including about 6,000 acres of farmland and orchards in Maricopa County.

These properties produce for the commercial market and are managed by Farm Management Co., based in Salt Lake City, which administers the church's commercial farming and ranching properties.

The church pays taxes on properties that are held for investment purposes, records show. But it is exempt from taxes on about 150 huge farms and ranches, mostly in the West, that are operated by its Welfare Services Department.

The church owns about 500 parcels of land throughout Arizona for direct religious use, such as chapels.

In Utah, the church owns thousands of acres of agricultural land, including nearly 5,000 acres in Salt Lake County alone. Along the Utah-Wyoming line, it owns a 201,000-acre ranch with 3,000 cattle. It also serves as a hunting preserve with a game population of 4,000 deer, 500 antelope and 500 moose.

The church also has enormous holdings in Washington state, including the state's largest irrigated farm, where it grows corn, wheat and potatoes on 34,000 acres along the Columbia and Snake rivers. Church holdings in southeastern Washington exceed 120,000 acres.

The church also has committed huge financial resources to investments in Midwestern farmland.

It has amassed at least 38,540 acres of farmland in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Indiana. Most of the land has been bought since the 1970s, in parcels of 200 or 300 acres.

In 1989, the church paid about $14 million for 70,000 acres of ranchland in Oklahoma and Kansas, where its Sooner Land and Livestock Co. raises beef. Last year, it bought a 38,000-acre Nebraska ranch for $3.8 million.

These ranches are some of the latest additions to a ranching portfolio that includes large holdings across Western states, an 88,000-acre ranch in Alberta, Canada - even ranches in New Zealand and Argentina.

John Creer, who directs the church's Farm Management Co., said the church buys farmland because it is "a good place to put savings-account money." He said most of the land is rented to farmers.

"I think we look at it as any portfolio manager would," Creer said. "You take a portion of your reserve fund and put it in a tangible asset. Among the number of tangible assets that are available to choose from, our leadership is very comfortable with farmland."

Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor to church President Ezra Taft Benson, touched on the philosophy during a speech in January.

"We have felt that good farms, over a long period, represent a safe investment, where the assets of the church may be preserved and enhanced," Hinckley said, "while at the same time they are available as an agricultural resource to feed people, should there come a time of need."

Garth Mangum, an economics professor at the University of Utah, said the church launched a large-scale land-acquisition program after World War II. But Mangum said that well before the war, the church put unemployed members to work on its farms.

"And even today, when they have most of their land leased out, they think of it as a strategic reserve," Mangum said. "If some kind of calamity happened and we needed to go back to the soil, the land would be there."

Mormon scriptures add theological reasons.

In the 1830s, before Mormons were harassed out of Missouri, church founder Joseph Smith wrote that Missouri was the site of the biblical Garden of Eden and church members should "purchase this whole region of country, as soon as time will permit."

A late Mormon theologian and general authority, Bruce McConkie, wrote that Mormon doctrine holds that the "New Jerusalem," from which Christ is to rule the Earth after his second coming, is "to be built in Jackson County, Mo.," by the Mormon Church.

In 1990, the church paid more than $10 million for 3,265 acres of farmland in Jackson County near Independence. The church already had bought at least 11,200 acres in the area.

Over the past 10 years, the church has bought 2,450 acres in Daviess County, Mo., where Mormon doctrine says Christ will appear to receive the "keys of the kingdom" from Mormon authorities.

*****

(Additional information)

CHART

This chart is based on information from hundreds of publicly available sources throughout the nation, including federal, state and local tax documents; corporate and small-business filings; real estate records; government licensing reports; industry journals; directories and almanacs; computerized business databases; publicly circulated church records; personal interviews; books and news accounts.

The Arizona Republic ultimately examined more than 500 businesses in its efforts to identify the ones that are under the control of or are financed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Republic provided church officials with a draft of this chart so they would have an opportunity to correct misinformation. They responded with suggestions about organizational structure and descriptions and a prepared statement:

"The cooperation, interviews and information (the church) has provided . . . should not be construed as an endorsement by the church of the overall accuracy of the series. The church has not verified the financial figures . . . Nor has it verified information . . . obtained from sources other than the church."

*****

ORIGANIZATIONAL CHART:

Ezra Taft Benson, President

Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor

Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor

Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

(Employs: 10,000 worldwide)

Salt Lake City\ CORPORATION OF THE PRESIDING BISHOP\ (holding company for "ecclesiastical" properties)

Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE MACARONI & NOODLE COMPANY

(Worldwide project operated by several stakes)

Nationwide

DESERET GRAIN

(Grain silos & elevators for welfare services)

Garrison, Utah

GARRISON WELFARE FARM

(Farmland near Utah-Nevada line leased to farmer)

Salt Lake City

BEEHIVE CLOTHING

(Makes sacred garments for temple ceremonies)

Employs: 400

Salt Lake City

DESERET GYMNASIUM

(LDS version of the YMCA, open to the public)

Salt Lake City, Utah

DESERET TRANSPORTATION

(Ships products for welfare services)

Oklahoma

BLUESTEM CO.

(Owns Oklahoma farmlands managed by Farm Management Co.)

Salt Lake City

MORTGAGE LOAN SERVICES

(Collects payments on properties sold and financed by church)

National

DESERET INDUSTRIES

(Similar to Goodwill Industries)

Salt Lake City

DESERET MUTUAL INSURANCE CO.

(For church employees)

Employs: 195

Income: $98.9 million

Salt Lake City

DESERET TRUST

($100 million in assets managed in charitable trusts)

Employs: 11

Income: $570,000

Colorado

DESCO & CO.

(Colorado subsidiary)

California

DESCAL & CO.

(California subsidiary)

Salt Lake City

BROWN & CO.

(Utah subsidiary)

Salt Lake City

FOREIGN LANDS CORP.

(Holds title to real estate worldwide)

Employs: 195

Provo, Utah

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY

(27,000 students)

Assets: $699 million

Employs: 9,500

Revenues: $386 million, including $153.7 million from church

Provo, Utah

KBYU-TV

KBYU-FM

(Campus broadcasting stations)

Provo, Utah

BYU-HAWAII

(2,000 students)

Assets: $101.6 million

Revenue: $32.7 million, including $18.3 million from church

Provo, Utah

LDS BUSINESS COLLEGE

(968 students)

Assets: $$2.4 million

Revenue: $2.4 million

Oahu, Hawaii

POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER

(Living-history tourist attraction)

Assets: $23.3 million

Employs: 1,000

Revenue: $34 million

Oahu, Hawaii

ISLANDS FOUNDATION

(Provides scholarships)

Income: $1.6 million

Oahu, Hawaii

CULTURAL CENTERS PROPERTIES, INC.

(Taxable sales entity)

Rexburg, Idaho

RICKS COLLEGE

(7,600 students)

Assets: $103.9 million

Revenue: $42.9 million, including $23 million from church

Rexburg, Idaho

KRIC RADIO

Salt Lake City

LDS SOCIAL SERVICES

(Counseling and adoptive services for members)

Virginia

LDS SOCIAL SERVICES OF VIRGINIA

Massachusetts

LDS SOCIAL SERVICES OF MASS.

New York

LDS SOCIAL SERVICES OF NEW YORK

Nauvoo, Ill.

NAUVOO RESTORATION

(Oversees restoration of church historical site)

Salt Lake City

LDS FOUNDATION

(Contributions from taxable entities to non-LDS charities)

Salt Lake City

CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LDS FOUNDATION

(Raises funds for schools)

Income: $31,000

Nauvoo, Ill.

DESERET INTERNATIONAL CHARITIES

(Distributes funds for international church operations)

Salt Lake City

DESERET MANAGEMENT

(Parent company for most profit-making subsidiaries)

Salt Lake City

BONNEVILLE INTERNATIONAL CORP.

(Parent Co. of Bonneville chain)

Assets: $137,497,000

Employs: 1500

Sales: $164,000,000

Salt Lake City

BONNEVILLE MEDIA COMMUNICATION

(Advertising Agency)

Employs: 15

Sales: $600,000

Salt Lake City

BONNEVILLE ENTERTAINMENT

(Support for productions)

Employs: 5

Salt Lake City

BEC REALTY

(Sells real estate)

Chicago

BONNEVILLE BROADCASTING SYSTEM

(Sells radio formats)

Employs: 20

Sales: $1.1 million

Salt Lake City

APPLIED TECHNOLOGY GROUP

(Develops technology for communications industry)

Seattle

KIRO INC.

(Television station parent company)

Employs: 400

Sales $32 million

Seattle

KIRO-TV

(Television station)

Sales: $114 million

Seattle

KIRO-AM

KSEA-FM

(Radio Stations)

$23.6 million

Seattle

THIRD AVE. PRODUCTIONS

(Television production co.)

Salt Lake City

KSL

(Parent Co.)

Salt Lake City

KSL-TV

(Television station)

Salt Lake City

KSL-AM

(Radio station)

Salt Lake City

VIDEO WEST NETWORK

(Television & film production)

Employs: 65

Salt Lake City

KEYSTONE COMMUNICATIONS

(33% interest, satellite television transmission)

Sales: $25 million

New York City

WNSR-FM

(Radio station)

Employs: 40

Sales: $1.1 million

San Francisco KOIT-AM/FM BROADCASTING

(Radio Station)

Phoenix

KMEO

AM/FM

(Radio stations)

Employs: 30

Sales: $2.3 million

Dallas

KAAM-AM

KZPS-FM

(Radio stations)

Kansas City

KMBZ-AM

KMBR-FM

(Radio stations)

Employs: 20

Sales: $1.1 million

Chicago

WTMX-FM

(Radio station)

Los Angeles

KBIG-FM

(Radio station)

Salt Lake City

PROMISED VALLEY PLAYHOUSE

(930 seat theater, religious & non-religious productions)

Salt Lake City

MORMON TEMPLES

(Oversees the church's 44 temples worldwide)

Salt Lake City

GENEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF UTAH

(Acquires geneaolgy records)

Orlando, Fla.

MAGNOLIA MANAGEMENT CORP.

(Oversees development of Deseret Ranches, Fla.)

Los Angeles

DESERET TRUST OF CALIFORNIA

($17.8 million in assets managed)

National

ZCMI

(52% interest in department-store chain)

Stores: 20

Assets: $124 million

Sales: $205 million

Employs: 4,500

Arizona

PROPERTY RESERVE OF ARIZONA

(Holds title to Arizona properties)

Assets: $117 million

Income: $1.5 million

Salt Lake City

DESERET FARMS

(Provides employee services to companies)

Washington

K2H FARMS INC.

(Holds title to land in southeastern Washington)

Tri-Cities, Wash.

COLUMBIA RIDGE FARMS

(Farm operations)

Assets: $26.7 million

Income: $937,000

Salt Lake City

BONNEVILLE HOLDING COMPANY

(Real estate holding)

Assets: $20.5 million

Income: $3.7 million

Salt Lake City

BENEFICIAL LIFE INSURANCE CO.

($8.6 billion insurance in force)

Assets: $1.1 billion

Employs: 205

Sales: $294 million

W. Des Moines

CONTINENTAL WESTERN LIFE INS.

($5.6 billion insurance in force)

Assets: $215.9 million

Sales: $68.2 million

Salt Lake City

WESTERN AMERICAN LIFE

($27 million insurance in force)

Assets: $6.8 million

Sales: $897,000

Portland, Ore.

PACIFIC HERITAGE LIFE

($326 million insurance in force, 7 states)

Assets: $39.4 million

Sales: $46.2 million

Salt Lake City

UTAH HOME FIRE

(Property and casualty insurance)

Assets: $61.7 million

Employs: 70

Sales: $35.3 million

Salt Lake City

OFFICE MANAGEMENT OF UTAH

(Business service subsidiary of Beneficial Life)

Sales: $600,000

Salt Lake City

BLIC AGENCY

(Special insurance license division)

Salt Lake City

BENEFICIAL DEVELOPMENT CO.

(Property leasing/subsidiary of Deseret Management)

Salt Lake City

HOTEL TEMPLE SQUARE CORP.

(Assets: $11.2 million)

Employs: 300

Sales: $6 million

Salt Lake City

HOTEL UTAH

(Historic hotel being renovated into offices)

INN AT TEMPLE SQUARE

(New 90-room hotel)

CARRIAGE COURT RESTAURANT

(In new hotel)

Salt Lake City

PROPRIETARY HOLDING INC.

(Parent company of farming & ranching)

Assets: $131.4 million

Employs: 650

Salt Lake City

FARM MANAGEMENT CO.

(Oversees farming and ranching)

Assets: $10.1 million

Cody, Wyo.

DESERET RANCHES OF WYO.

California

DESERET FARMS OF CALIF.

Okla., Neb., Kansas

SOONER LAND & LIVESTOCK

(Commercial farming)

Assets: $18 million

Orlando, Fla.

DESERET RANCHES OF FLORIDA

($315,000 acres)

Provo, Utah

ELBERTA FARMS

(Grain farm)

Sales: $100,000

Nephi, Utah

ELEVEN-BAR RANCH

(Leased ranchland)

Utah, Wyoming

DESERET LAND & LIVESTOCK

(21,000-acre ranch)

Washington

AGRI-NORTHWEST

(120,000-acre ranch in Washington)

Washington

GRAIN HANDLING INC.

(Grain elevator in Plymouth Wash.)

Salt Lake City

ZION SECURITIES CORP.

(Commercial real estate/property management)

Employs: 290

Income: $1,500,000

Salt Lake City

EAGLE GATE APARTMENTS

(Luxury apartment building)

Oahu, Hawaii

LAIE RESORTS

(Laniloa Lodge 45-room hotel at Polynesian Cultural Center)

Salt Lake City

DESERET NEWS PUBLISHING

(61,000 circulation)

Employs: 200

Salt Lake City

NEWSPAPER AGENCY CORP.

(Joint operation with Salt Lake Tribune)

Employ: 900

Salt Lake City

DESERET BOOK CO.

(Publishing, wholesale, retail-24 stores)

Employs: 327

Sales: $46 million

Salt Lake City

SHADOW MOUNTAIN PRESS

MORMON HANDICRAFT

Source: The Arizona Republic

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