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Lost Opportunity

I was reading the local news the other day and I saw an interesting article:

In case the link goes dead, I will provide a summary. A few days ago, a local medical school broke ground and started official construction on a new teaching hospital. It had been having contractual disputes with it's teaching hospitals, The Methodist Hospital, and St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, so they decided to build their own hospital. The part of the story that really caught my eye was the price tag: 1 Billion Dollars. Does that amount sound familiar?

Baylor College of Medicine predicts it will cost about a billion dollars to build it's new teaching hospital, complete with faculty office space and out-patient clinics. They have raised about half of the billion dollars already, mostly through several very large donations from philanthropic individuals. Besides the hospital, the money will also fund multidisciplinary strategic initiatives such as genomic and regenerative medicine, faculty recruitment and student programs.

This news article gave me pause to think that the LDS church lost a great opportunity. As many of you know, the LDS church announced several years ago plans to renovate the downtown SLC malls that it owns. The predicted price tag was 1 billion dollars. (Current estimates are now between 2 and 2.5 billion dollars, but what’s a few extra billion among friends?) Why did the church opt to renovate and expand shopping malls when it had the chance to build a state of the art, modern medical center in downtown Salt Lake City?

The article cited above claims it can be done for roughly the same price as the initial cost estimates for the mall renovation. The church could have still included premium office space, since doctors need offices and out-patient clinics, it could have still included the premium residential space, the food courts, and the all-important Deseret Book outlet. The church claims it is doing the renovation to revitalize the downtown area. I think a medical complex would revitalize (literally!) the downtown area more than a couple of malls could. The jobs it would bring in, professional, white and “pink” collar jobs, would do more to diversify and strengthen the economy than several hundred minimum wage retail sales jobs could ever hope for.

Many members of the church in Utah bemoan the fact that BYU does not have a medical school. The church has the money for one, it has a highly rated law school, business school, and even a nursing school, so I’m sure they have the know-how and resources available to start a medical school. Maybe one of the reasons preventing a medical school is a lack of a teaching hospital. Well, a billion dollars can fix that problem.

Some may argue that the University of Utah already has a medical school. Ah, but competition breeds excellence. I think both BYU and the U of U would benefit in the long term if they both had medical schools.

The aging population needs medical care. As the baby boomers retire, the current health infrastructure will become strained, especially in Utah. New hospitals need to be built. The church lost an opportunity to be responsible stewards over it's money. Commercial enterprise will take care of itself, but in many cases, there needs to be a well-funded charitable organization behind the construction of a new hospital.

Also, in times of serious illness, death of loved ones, and at the birth of children, many people reflect on the life issues that religion tries to answer. What a great opportunity for increased numbers of interested Temple Square visitors a medical center across the street could bring in. Think of the missionary opportunities!

Finally, religions and churches have been sponsoring hospitals for ages. It’s one of the things they do. It fits for a church to build and fund a medical center. A mall? Eh, not so much.

Of course, the downside is that Russell M. Nelson, the only current apostle with an M.D., would probably be in charge. Why would that be bad? Apparently, he’s one of the last remaining doctors on the planet who does not understand DNA or evolution, as this quote shows, (found at

Nelson: …. But to think that man evolved from one species to another is, to me, incomprehensible.

Forum: Why is that?

Nelson: Man has always been man. Dogs have always been dogs. Monkeys have always been monkeys. It's just the way genetics works.

I half expected him to add, "My grandpa wasn't a monkey, was yours?"


Nom de Cypher

In a similar vein, the church could have built 1000 clinics in South America or Africa at $1 Million apiece. Or immunize a few million children. Bill and Melinda Gates (and Warren Buffett) are doing this now and all they are getting in return is their name in the press. Seems like a fair trade for their vanity.

Arizona Awakening

This came up with my wife the other night. She told me she had to pay tithing, I reassured her the church would be ok without her $100. Really if they have $2 billion to remodel some malls, they won't miss her (I mean OUR) money. At least she got her monies worth today as she went to the temple to do a session.


Great post, Domo. Of course you are looking at this all wrong. If the church heirarchy were more CHURCH-oriented and less of a corporation, then the hospital idea would be perfect. But of course a corporation stands to gain more from a mall than from a hospital, especially considering the rising cost of healthcare in our country.


I dunno, SML. I think this project is going to ge a major flop. They're essentially closing downtown SLC to retail for five years, then expecting people to flock back to a place they already had abandoned in favor of the Gateway and suburban shopping centers. I also wonder just how many people in Utah are going to want to buy condos that start at around $400K. There are already plenty of pricy condos in downtown SLC, and the church may flood the market. In short, they may have turned a bigger profit with a hospital.

OTOH, hospitals are tricky. State and local governments tend to get involved on issues like excess bed capacity. Hospitals defy the usual logic of supply and demand. It seems that the more beds there are, the higher medical costs go. Also, there would be issues with the current hospitals in SLC.

I think they should have spent the money building a cable channel with HBO-like production values to showcase the talents of aspiring LDS filmmakers. You just know that everybody in the country would be bowled over by the drama and conflict of shows like "Family Home Evening," and "Every Jot and Tittle."


I think they should use the money to build a big theme park sorta like Six Flags or Dollywood. Didn't Jim and Tammy Faye have a big religious themed amusement park? I think they did very well with it, IIRC...


Dollywood, Bel? I love it! The church could name theirs JosephWood.

heh heh heh.


JosephWood. I am LMAO!


I thought Nauvoo was being turned into JosephWood.

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