Mormons, Money and Morals

A Success Story

Basel, Switzerland
February 14, 2002
Basler Zeitung

Mormons are not only successful as missionaries. They also have the golden touch when it comes to business. A shining example: the "Marriott International" hotel giant, number 1 in the hotel industry, is safely and successfully in Mormon hands.

In their capitol, the Olympic Salt Lake City, the Mormons are currently maintaining a "low profile." No active proselytizing, no distribution of the Mormon Bible. The once tiny and despised Utah cult has decided not to be as aggressive as they would otherwise when it comes to obtaining converts. But the long since worldwide operating church will be able to withstand its self-imposed restriction; according to "Newsweek" the organization already has over eleven million members.

Mormons are not only successful as missionaries. They have also had good luck as business people. At the top of 150 major corporations in the USA are, according to Richard and Joan Ostline, authors of "Mormon America," at least "one loyal Mormon." "Mormon News," a private Internet news agency, proudly updates the names of these big bosses in a column called "Mormon Stock Index." In there can be found, for instance, the CEO of "Black & Decker," the vice president of "Dell Computer," and naturally J.W. "Bill" Marriott, CEO and managing president of "Marriott International." According to Hoover's Online, the American business information service, it is number one worldwide in the hotel industry. Behind the name of Marriott is not only the hotel chain of the same name, but also a horizontally diverse network of about 2,500 branches under 19 various brand names. And although they are active mainly in the USA, the giant is gaining ground in 64 other countries year by year.

An American Fairy Tale

The Marriott success story began in 1927. Back then devout Mormons J. Willard and Alice laid the cornerstone of the empire with a lemonade stand in Washington, DC. But it was J.W. "Bill" Marriott, Jr. who started making the business into what it is today just within the last 20 years: an accommodation and service colossus with 19.8 billion dollars in sales and 140,000 employees. And although the consequences of the terrorist attack of last September has also hit "Marriott International" hard, company spokesman Tom Marder continues to be optimistic for the future.

Praise and Blame

"Marriott International" is not all that has expanded in recent decades. The number of its distinctions have also risen dramatically. The "American Customer Service Index" named the empire last time as the "business that best satisfies customers." US business magazine Fortune recently put it for the fifth consecutive time in one of the "best 100 work places" and for the fourth consecutive time in one of the "top 50 businesses for minorities." Finally, Catalyst, a respected US women's research organization, honored Marriott International for its consistent promotion of women at the management level.

But where there is light, there are also shadows. The Mormon empire is not regarded as cooperative by the union. In San Francisco company representatives and the local office of the "Union of Hotel and Restaurant Workers" has been haggling for five years over the right of employees to be represented by the union. "At least we are currently negotiating again," union representative Adelaide Chen told this newspaper.

The hotel Hercules even received a public rebuke at the end of 2000 for its business morals. Media such as the Catholic "World Watch" complained that even though "Marriott International" was managed "by several prominent Mormons," it still offered sinful porno flicks to its guests in their rooms. Marriott itself always has a public answer for that sort of criticism. Mormons have always been regarded as prudish and as resistant to passion. But the successful presence of its accommodations in Las Vegas or on Broadway in New York proves that business is business and morals are morals. Freedom Network, a website on human rights and freedom exhorts, "The Mormons are indeed against smoking and drinking, but in a Marriott Hotel you can do both! You can even have sex with your date, even if he is the same sex as you. The Mormons are as tolerant as they are moral!"

by Rita Schwarzer, Miami

German Scientology News