If your kids decide to leave the church, you better change your will so the church gets all your money instead of them. That’s the message of a new video put out by LDS Philanthropies. (Edit: The video has now been removed after it received significant negative attention. Here’s another link to the video someone backed up.)

Now, let me make something clear before we discuss this. I don’t make it my business to find fault with videos the church puts out. I actually think some of them are really beautiful, and any with a strong message of service is something I am totally on board with! But I heard a lot of buzz from exMormons about this one, and I had to know if they were hyping it up as worse than it was, or whether it was genuinely the awful piece of media they claimed. Unfortunately, it was pretty bad.

I want to share the damaging message of this video because I think it’s wrong. Financially blackmailing your children into being Mormon seems unethical by most standards. Not to mention the additional crappy message piled on that if you aren’t Mormon, you will inevitably blow your money on alcohol and sex and drugs and funding abortion clinics. What happened to “you don’t need to be Mormon to be a good person/we don’t take away, only invite people to come to us and be added upon”?

Seemingly disguised as a simple Mormon Message about service, the video begins by emphasizing the importance of serving others, something that apparently can only be done by Latter-day Saints, given what is said further on:

For them to inherit my estate they will have to become what I’m trying to become… If they exercise their agency contrary to my beliefs then the option is that entire inheritance can go to the church.”

And for anyone giving the father the benefit of the doubt thinking he just expects his kids to be charitable and good to others, he explicitly states that becoming what’s he’s trying to become requires a temple recommend. Sorry, tea-drinking children. Wealth will only corrupt you further.

They briefly talk about their “wayward” daughter, who will apparently not be getting any inheritance from her parents and is not mentioned for the rest of the video. I guess she’s not in the family anymore. Or maybe—just maybe—she doesn’t like her father publicizing personal information about her life in a video designed to get people to donate their wealth to the church, while expressing their not-at-all-hidden disappointment in her.

Other far-from-subtle messages given in the video include:

  • Inheriting money will prevent non-Mormon kids from going back to church/”changing their life around”.
  • It’s too risky giving non-Mormon kids money. It’s far safer to give it to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (#CityCreek2.0)
  •  Only Mormon principles are “correct” principles and if you aren’t living them, you can’t handle money.

Of course the video is unlisted and has a deactivated comments section, so there’s no room for variety of thought and opinions here. But I wanted to share mine with you. I don’t think I’d have been ok with this video’s message as a member, and I’m not ok with it now.

What’s the goal here, LDS Philanthropies? Is it to bring families closer together as church teachings promote, or is it to get rich people to pass their big inheritances off to you? Because this video was made by YOU. It wasn’t put out as a Mormon Message. The real message is veiled so thinly by pretenses of service and “raising righteous children”, but let’s call a spade a spade. This is manipulation.

Some of the comments were refreshing, however, as people were quick to call out LDS Philanthropies for its blunder:

“So, you’re saying that if my children go inactive, they won’t get any inheritance? How is that going to help them back into the Church? I don’t think bribery is going to engender love towards me or the gospel.”

“You are holding up this family’s story as some kind of noble way to deal with their children’s inheritance. I am shocked anyone at LDS Philanthropries thought this abusive story was worth sharing.”

“I find it troubling that you created this video with these messages when we have so many mixed faith families now. Especially in light of the fact that you are responsible for philanthropic donations to the church!”

To end on an intellectual note, here’s an article by world-renowned LDS historian, Michael Quinn about the church’s history with tithing. I think it’s pretty fascinating.

Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young would have been a millennial blogger, but she died in 1901. The wife of Brigham Young, and prior to that Joseph Smith, and prior to that Henry Jacobs, who was sent on a mission by Brigham before he married her, Zina loves writing, long walks on the beach, and playing the field.

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