...kinda. This is a bit about the Mormon church, of which I used to be a member (although they think I still am, more on that later). Please don't take this too harshly, anyone. Most of my immediate and extended family are still very active in the Church.
First of all, new members mean more contributions when the collection plate is passed around, no?
To be a full-fledged member of the LDS church you are expected to pay a tithe. This is 10% of your gross earnings. Each year members go to something called "tithing settlement" where your current standing on tithing is discussed with a member of the Bishopric (ranking members in your "ward" or "stake", which consists of the members within a well-defined geographic area). IIRC, you must be current with your tithing to receive a temple "recommend" and participate in the more intense practices that must be done in a temple (baptism for the dead, endowments, marraige). There are a number (100?) of temples located all over the globe.
For a mainstream media researched look at the LDS church, U.S. News and World Report featured them in an issue earlier this year.
The only other form of revenue that is collected from members (again, IIRC) is in the form of "fast offerings." This is done each month on "fast Sunday" where member are supposed to skip two meals and donate to the church the money that would have been spent procuring them. Once a month as a youth aged 12-17, I participated in this practice as a member of the (lesser) Priesthood, with a member of the (major) Priesthood.
What they do with this money is far beyond the realm of this post, but I do remember hearing that they have a policy of never borrowing money for new buildings and temples. All are bought and paid for before they are erected. Food services in 3rd world countries (for members) is something else I recall.
Is evangelism a tenet of the Latter Day Saint branch of Christianity?
Very much so. Males are expected to go on a 2-year "mission" after they have reached their 19th year. This practice is very common and explains all those young men in white shirts with nametags you see walking or riding bikes around your city. The purpose of this mission is very simple, spread the gospel. They are sent out to teach, convert, and baptize as many people as possible. This was where I had to draw the line. My faith in what I had been taught had already suffered a number of blows and the idea of preaching what I didn't believe caused my ultimate disillusion with the church.
I took a bit of social flack for my decision, and still endure some jabs when I attend church with my mother (on those very rare occasion I'm at home, on a Sunday, and don't have a good excuse). My father, mother, and older brother all went on Missions, to Nicarauga, France, and Oregon, respectively.
The idea of spreading the gospel is a foundation of the Faith, which says pretty much straight up "If you don't accept all the principles and ordinances of the gospel, you will burn in hell." Although "Hell" is known as "Outer Darkness" and isn't taught as flames and pain, but as nothingness, sorrow, and regret. So they are teaching you, to save you. This is also the reason for the practice of "baptism for the dead", which is designed so that people who aren't given the chance to accept the gospel on the Earth, will be given a chance to accept it while in a sort of waiting room (kinda like purgatory from Catholicism, but with a different purpose), as they wait for the second coming and the progession to the next level. Those that have "seen the light" and rejected it (like me), are the worst kind of being and can look forward to worst kind of afterlife.
The Church also tried to pracice a bit of censorship a little while back. But the Internet sees that as damage and routes around it.
Ultimately, however, most of the ideals and life practices taught in the LDS Church are very good from a common sense level. It is the extra step that says everyone else is wrong that bothers me (And some of the more obscure beliefs). And I've said as much to both my brother and mother, and they can accept me and what I believe without reservation. I can't say the same for one of my sisters.
As my current sig suggests, I take a rather more pragmatic view of the whole thing. But to answer Mahonri's question, I think you are very wrong to attempt to profit personally and directly from the faith of your brothers. I also think it is wrong for the church to do so. And when a man came to my home this morning, having obtained my address from official church records, I told him simply that I didn't need what he was offering, and we parted ways in good humor.
This got WAY longer than I thought it would be, I hope it adds something to the discussion.
Fail to Obey?
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