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Mormons in Scrooge City

On ‘Giving Tuesday’ in not-so-generous New York, Mormons try to raise money for groups like Catholic Charities via vending machine

Mormons in Scrooge City

Mormon-sponsored giving machines at 125 Columbus Ave. (Handout)

A New York moment: 

It’s Giving Tuesday in New York, and I paid a visit to the Mormon temple down by Lincoln Center. The Latter-day Saints had set up three beautifully designed vending machines on the busy sidewalk, where New Yorkers can “buy” items like a first aid kit for CARE International (a humanitarian organization) or a winter blanket for the local Catholic Charities or a gallon of milk for a neighborhood food pantry.

The vending machine dumps a box with a picture of the item to the bottom, like a normal vending machine. Even though the machines have only been open a couple of days, the bottom bins were piled with gifts—pacifiers, basketballs, children’s boots. Out in the blustery cold, three Mormon missionaries stood helping people make purchases and answer questions. 

“We’ve seen [people purchase] a couple cows,” said Meletupou Vaka, who had a ukulele she was strumming in slow moments. 

The three missionaries emphasized to browsers that none of the donations go to the LDS temple, but that 100 percent of the donation goes to the item you purchase. The LDS organization covers any overhead costs associated with the item. A vending machine in Salt Lake City, Utah, last year raised about half a million dollars, they said, and now there are other machines in London and the Philippines. 

Speaking of Mormons, Utah is much more charitable than New York. Last week I came across this map of charitable giving by county in the United States. The Bible Belt and the Mormon-Belt in Utah come out looking good, while the Northeast and Wisconsin look pretty stingy. Maybe Mormons can get New Yorkers into a charitable mood this Christmas. 

Worth your time:  

Meet the New York City official who makes $1.7 million a year by collecting debts on behalf of predatory lenders. The office of city marshal goes back to Dutch colonial days in New York, and the payment scheme hasn’t changed much since then. The marshals get a cut of whatever debt they collect. 

Most of the debt comes from small-business owners who find themselves in a tight spot and turn to a predatory lender. One month after a plumber had borrowed $6,837, a marshal went after him and got the plumber’s bank to freeze his entire account. The plumber paid the marshal $13,453 to unfreeze his account.  

This week I learned: 

Many Chinese car buyers don’t like the “new car smell” that Americans love, and now Ford is finding a new way to get rid of it. 

A court case you might not know about: 

The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in the dusky gopher frog case today, sending the dispute over the endangered frog’s habitat back to lower courts for further consideration on the definition of “habitat.” The frog hasn’t lived on the land under dispute since 1965, but its legal journey to possibly live on that land some day in the future continues. 

Culture I am consuming: 

We re-watched The Godfather over Thanksgiving. If you’re going to make a movie with a three-hour running time, it’d better be this good. Others in the stellar three-hour category: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; Barry Lyndon; and Amadeus. 

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  • JerryM
    Posted: Tue, 11/27/2018 05:49 pm

    You have to hand it to the Mormons.  A modern day cult that raises money for Catholic Charities.  Of course, the pay off is exposing more people to Mormonism and building their legitimacy.

    Posted: Mon, 12/03/2018 06:11 pm

    Our neighbors are LDS. I had for the longest assumed the mom was divorced. Hubby is just not around that often. He is a long haul freight trucker driving big rigs. I have often wondered if he has a second family in another state. An African American man I knew in the military was at one time so impressed by the calm friendly attitude and kindnesses of another soldier that he undertook a study of the Book of Mormon. It was a prime example of one man seeing first hand something special in another man's life and then wanting to experience that himself. What a profound indictment of all us Christians.

  • andyB
    Posted: Thu, 11/29/2018 10:01 pm


    While I very seriously disagree with the Mormon ideologoy, and beliefs. They are still trying to do what they can to help people that need help. Just because I disagree with someone, doesn't mean I'm not going to let them help people that do need help. 

    Let me put it this way. Suppose you are one of the troops stationed in the middle east. During a skirmish with a group of terrorist guerrilas You get shot in the leg. A medic unit comes along and tries to help you. Would you say "No thanks doc, I know about you, your a mormon, and I believe you're just a cultist, that is trying to legitamatize your religion. Just leave me, and go find someone to populate your planet. Someone else will come along." 

    In a similar way,, a lot of people need help. So why should we critisize those that try to help them? Instead why don't we do something to help them ourselves?

    Posted: Mon, 12/03/2018 06:06 pm

    Nearly all the doctors and dentists I met in the army were Mormons. We can and should point out the error of their "revelation" and the other flawed assumptions they embrace from Smith and Brigham Young. But to be honest, you really won't find a finer group of folks. As a non-Mormon I never experienced any type of pushy proselytizing from any of my on base military neighbors.  I'm not surprised to learn that the "Mormon belt" has a high rating for generosity. But permit an observation about the so-called Bible Belt of the American south.

    Again this is anecdotal and based on my limited observation. If you are "plugged in" any church or fellowship, you can safely assume you will be the recipient of generosity of one type or another: a casserole for the family with a newborn, all manner of support for a recently widowed wife or the mother of a still born child. But those are generally instances of "loving on" folks already in your church. Where we can and must do better is showing that same loving concern to those off our theological radar screen. Since folks outside church are just that, "Outside", we don't get the same chance to exemplify the love of Christ because we flat out don't know who's hurting. 

    Posted: Mon, 12/03/2018 06:15 pm

    I think too often I/ we are guilty of this approach when dealing with the "outsiders":  Yes, Person X has just experienced a really bad life circumstance. He/she is hurting. Maybe just maybe right about now he or she is most receptive to hearing a good testimony, attending a Bible study home group and then eventually going all in and committing to our church after baptism. And for the record I do belleve folks in any type of crisis are often more receptive to the Gospel than at any other time. I wonder if some Mormon bishop somewhere expects LDS folks manning the donation vending machines to have X number of cold call house visits per month?