Faith-Promoting Rumor

Dedicated to oddments and marginalia in Mormondom and, failing that, deep doctrinal discussion

Saturday, August 20, 2005

God v. Mammon, 2005

Didn't Brigham Young say something to the effect that he knew the Saints could withstand mobbings and lynchings, but he was worried about the effects prosperity would have on [us]?

Well here is my question: Since leaving school and working for a few years, I've been able to put a little money away and now am beginning to invest it. How aware do I need to be of who gets my money? Certainly I'm not going to go out and invest in shares of Phillip Morris or Anheiser Busch or Bally's Casinos... But what about Coca-Cola? What about companies that SELL tobacco and alcohol, like restaurants & convenience stores, What about studios that make good movies, but also make R-rated ones? What about Marriott, for Pete's sake, which has porn available as pay-per-view in all its hotel rooms? If I invest in these companies, am I not also profitting from the vices they promote and exploit?

To take it a step further, what if I don't bother to invest in individual stocks at all, but stick to mutual funds? Am I responsible to monitor each individual company the fund invests in? If I don't, then in theory, my money could be used to do things I would never dream of doing in person, right?

Perhaps I'm neurotic. After all, Phillip Morris also owns "Kraft", I could tell myself that I was investing in Velveeta instead of Marlboro. I can go to the casino just for the buffet, right, and tell myself i'm not helping finance people's addiction to gambling. If I subscribe to HBO, but only watch the PG13 stuff, never mind that i'm also helping produce The Sopranos, right? right?

What's a gospel-conscious investor/consumer to do?

[For the record, when I mentioned this dilemma to a member of my stake presidency, he told me not to worry about it, because you don't have enough time to investigate all the uses your money is put to, and because ANY company might be doing something immoral you don't even know about. I'm not sure I'm satisfied with that answer....]

Philip Morris is a tobacco company that has successfully diversified, and is now a producer of well-known brands of food and beer. (Its 2000 Annual Report noted that "Fifteen of our brands generated $1 billion or more in revenues last year: Marlboro, Kraft, Basic, Miller Lite, Virginia Slims, Parliament, L&M, Oscar Mayer, Post, Philip Morris, Maxwell House, Jacobs, Philadelphia, Merit and our newest addition, the Nabisco trademark.")