Commercial and Subsistence Activities. The Mormons are participants in the U.S. economy. Historically, however, the Mormons attempted to develop their own economic System and to achieve economic independence from non-Mormons. The Mormon economic ideal, based on the biblical notion of stewardship, was communal ownership. According to this ideal, church members would consecrate all their property and surplus earnings to the church. The church in turn would distribute to each member household that which it needed to survive. Although this ideal was never fully implemented, the values placed on communalism and Cooperation and the central economic function of the church were influential in Mormon economic activities and experiments. At present, Mormons in good standing give tithes (10 percent of their income) to the church and 2 percent to the ward, but private property is the norm. In the initial phases of settling the Utah territory, the development of irrigation and agriculture were of primary importance. Mormon leaders were also concerned with developing essential small-scale industries. As the U.S. economy has grown and industrialized, so has the economy of Utah. At present, the majority of Mormons work in industry, commerce, and the professions with agriculture remaining an important though secondary source of income.
The church is often reported to be enormously wealthy, although the actual value of church property and investments is unknown. Still, it is no secret that the church owns considerable real estate in the western and southern United States and a variety of businesses such as banks, insurance companies, hotels, newspapers, and radio stations. The church also has large expenses involved in constructing and maintaining church property and in supporting missionary activities around the world.
Division of Labor. Mormons have tended to follow societal norms with men working outside the home and women responsible for most domestic tasks. Since the beginning, Mormons have stressed sexual equality, and though women cannot be priests, they are actively involved in other church organizations. There is also an emphasis on age, as reflected in the power held by older men in the church hierarchy.
Land Tenure. Property rights are seen as a temporary trust held by humans as stewards for the Lord. Individual property ownership is the norm, with a strong value placed on communal effort under church authority.