Renting the Dead: Blackstone and the Mormon Church
How the Mormon church turned their practice of baptizing of the dead into a medical data empire, and managed to amass the world's largest genetic database, which was then sold to Blackstone for billions of dollars.• Dec. 28, 2022
What is Blackstone going to do with the largest archive of print newspapers, human genetic data, and vital records? Let's be honest, it's Blackrock/Blackstone, so it's probably not going to be good. This is a preview, if you like our content and would like to support us, become a patron to get all of our public episodes ad-free.
In the 19th century the early Mormon church was expelled from two different American territories before arriving in Utah, where they remain concentrated to this day. In both cases, stuffing election ballots with overwhelmingly Mormon candidates, intimidation, and land fraud were among the things which got them into violent confrontations with their non-Mormon neighbors. The game was relatively simple: the whole church would move en masse to a small town and as of the next election after their arrival, elect themselves to every single public office.
But Mormon aspirations did not stop at political power, it's wealth that people ultimately want, not redemption. In the early Mormon church's days Mormon doctrine said that the bible's bit about "thou shalt inherit the land of thy enemies" was specifically aimed at them. Non-Mormons in the towns that Mormons moved to in Missouri or Illinois found themselves harassed into selling their property to members of the Mormon church, and those who refused could be dealt with in "other ways" if the Mormons had full political authority in the territory.
Fast forward to the last two decades, and the same Mormon church had not only amassed control of local county deeds and estate records, but also amassed America's largest newspaper archive, and the world's largest genetic data archive. They sold it all to Blackstone in 2018 for four and a half billion dollars, and subsequently, Blackstone was accused of buying apartment blocs in Denmark that were deed restricted against private landlord ownership. That sounds sort of familiar, doesn't it? 1
In the modern Mormon church's case, all of this data is wrapped up in the church doctrine of baptizing the dead. Mormons believe that they can posthumously baptize people who will be offered redemption in the afterlife. It's all very tech savvy and post-COVID, in that people who are dead and buried are baptized "remotely" by stand-in surrogates in Mormon temples. 2
In the US, a charity organization named "Reclaim the Records" is trying to fight back against the practice of hoarding vital records by private companies, by suing government agencies which refuse to honor FOIA requests from individuals, journalists, and non-profits while selling data to for-profit companies. 3
1. Katie Notopoulos. Ancestry.com Is In Cahoots With Public Records Agencies, A Group Suspects. Buzzfeed. October 2018. ⇤
2. Kristofer Rhude. Mormons, Genetics, & Digitized Data. Harvard Divinity School. 2019. ⇤
3. Reclaim the Records. Official Website. 2022. ⇤
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