LDS Church Cuts Back

LDS Church is the No. 1 employer in Utah

Excerpted from the Salt Lake Tribune, December 22, 2002


Utah's dominant force in matters spiritual and cultural also is the state's largest employer.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an estimated 33,355 people on its payroll in Utah. Thousands of workers range from janitors and mailroom clerks to investment and financial chieftains overseeing annual revenues estimated by outside researchers at about $6 billion, mostly from member tithing.

Hard financial numbers on the 11-million member faith or its employees are difficult to come by. The church refused to provide specifics or grant a requested interview with any financial officer or confirm or contest The Salt Lake Tribune's calculations.

Based on employment ranges obtained piecemeal from a Web site operated by Utah's Workforce Services Department, The Tribune estimates the LDS Church tops the state's next biggest employer -- state government -- by more than 10,000 employees, or 33,355 compared to 22,500. Figures show about 29,140 employees working directly for the church in Utah, as distinct from the more than 4,215 working at its for-profit businesses.

The overwhelming majority of employees are required to be church members in good standing, who possess or are eligible for an LDS temple recommend from their local congregation leaders. The LDS employment Web site advises that prospective workers must possess, in addition to skills and motivation, a "desire to help build the Lord's kingdom."

As a nonprofit religious organization, the state's largest employer is exempt from unemployment insurance requirements and anti-discrimination laws. Applicants are informed a church job is a "sacred responsibility" and failure to maintain good standing in the faith is grounds for firing.

The total LDS Church employment estimated here includes its flagship education institution, Brigham Young University. The Provo-based school has a faculty and staff of 18,000, enough to qualify it alone as the state's third-largest employer, tied with the University of Utah.

Only state government and the nonprofit health care giant Intermountain Health Care are larger. IHC, with $2.6 billion in revenue, was owned and operated by the church until 1975.

"People are saying the church's investments have gone down," said a church employee who asked not to be identified, fearing it could jeopardize his career. "There might also be a downturn in tithing as more people are out of work."

One recent retiree, who apparently had enough years of service to leave without any early retirement incentive, was Ronald Knighton, managing director of the church's Curriculum Department.

But most of the hundreds of retirees -- even individuals in powerful management positions -- are unknown outside their own internal church circles. Many are being replaced by unpaid volunteers.

Deseret Book weighs in as the No. 2 LDS for-profit employer in Utah, with an estimated 655 staffers spread throughout its 17 stores and west Salt Lake City warehouse. Other big business payrolls of the church in Utah include Deseret Mutual (medical insurance), Zion Securities (real estate), Beneficial Life (insurance), KSL TV and the Deseret News.

Nearly every department in the church headquarters has church missionaries providing free work for the organization.

Heaps speculated the church could well save money from the combination of greater reliance on such volunteers and the early retirement program.

"The new people they bring in will not be paid the same as the ones who are going out."


Back to Home Page

Page Modified: August 5, 2003