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"Our whole objective," says Hinckley, "is to make bad men good and good men better, to improve people, to give them an understanding of their godly inheritance and of what they may become." And he intends to do it globally. In what will undoubtedly become the hallmark of his presidency, he is in the process of a grand expansion, the organizational follow-up to the massive missionary work the church has long engaged in overseas. To gather the necessary capital for it, Hinckley has decelerated the growth of Mormon domestic investments: although still on the increase, their pace is far below that of previous decades, and the church has extracted itself from such previously Mormon-heavy fields as banking, hospitals, private schools and sugar. The church authorities have removed the tithe from the authority of local administrators and pulled every penny of it back to Salt Lake City for delegation by a more select and internationally minded group of managers.
No one thinks the push abroad, and the complementary balancing act domestically, will be easy. Says Bradley Bertoch, a venture capitalist (and nonpracticing Mormon) who specializes in attracting money to Utah: "The church needs to recruit adequate labor to drive its business growth beyond the borders of the U.S. But at the same time it has to make sure that it doesn't lose control of the home ground. It's the same problem of resource allocation in new markets faced by any multinational."
Will it succeed? Will the generations of young Mormon men who have so avidly evangelized beyond the borders of their country be followed by a fiscal juggernaut that will make the church as respected a presence in Brazil or the Philippines as it is in Utah, Colorado or, for that matter, America as a whole? Assessing the church's efforts at overseas expansion, author Joel Kotkin has written that "given the scale of the current religious revival combined with the formidable organizational resources of the church, the Mormons could well emerge as the next great global tribe, fulfilling, as they believe, the prophecies of ancient and modern prophets."
Hinckley puts it another way. "We're celebrating this year the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers," he says. "From that pioneer beginning, in this desert valley where a plow had never before broken the soil, to what you see today...this is a story of success." It would be unwise to bet against more of the same.
--Reported by S.C. Gwynne and Richard N. Ostling/Salt Lake City