Summit County

New report shows LDS Church in 2020 owned more than 12,000 acres in Wasatch, Summit counties

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Flowers bloom in front of the Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pictured in 2014.
Rick Bowmer

The 122 local parcels are part of what the report says was nearly 1.8 million acres the church owned across the country.

The organization that started as MormonLeaks and revealed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had tens of billions of dollars of stock-related assets published a new report Tuesday detailing the church’s landholdings.

The data is a snapshot of holdings from July 2020. It shows that church-related entities at the time owned more than 12,000 acres in Summit and Wasatch counties, and more than 1.7 million acres nationwide.

The organization, now known as Truth and Transparency, said the publication was the result of a two-year investigation. The Salt Lake Tribune also published a report based on the data Tuesday.

Truth and Transparency co-founder Ethan Gregory Dodge said the investigation showed that many church holdings shared one data point.

“We were able to find these almost 16,000 (parcels of land) across the United States because they were all tied to one mailing address that the church uses,” he said.

That address turned out to be tied to 15,963 parcels of land — more than 120 of which are in Wasatch and Summit counties.

The largest grouping appears to be east of Heber near the Timber Lakes gated community. That’s where the largest single piece is in either county, comprising 640 acres.

Truth and Transparency does not claim the list is exhaustive or that it represents the church’s current assets. For example, the data shows 531 Main St., Park City, as a church holding with a $2.6 million assessed value. Summit County records show the church sold that land, the former home of the Park City Family Tree Center, in late 2021.

There are also apparent discrepancies in the data, including a parcel in Wasatch County listed with a $6.5 million market value. County documents show it has a $2.5 million market value.

Dodge said that was the only parcel he’d heard that had a lower value than what was published. He said Truth and Transparency audited its findings manually, checking every listing with a market value of at least $20 million and checking 1,000 other listings at random.

He and the Tribune also said the landholding census almost surely undercounted the church’s true holdings.

“All the properties that we know that they own, for instance, the chapels and the temples that didn't show up there, apparently aren't using that same mailing address or something, we don't really know,” Dodge said. “But I absolutely agree with the Tribune that it is absolutely undercounted. I don't know how much bigger it is, but there is more.”

A representative of Property Reserve, Inc., one of the church’s real estate arms, did not immediately return a request for comment.

According to the data, many — but not all — of the parcels are exempted from taxes or taxed at low rates.

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