Why I like Tithing

By: hawkgrrrl
July 16, 2013

Lots of discussion on the ‘nacle centers around issues with tithing.  There are plenty of people with complaints, no surprise given that money is involved, and very few people of any religion pay 10% like we do.  Here are some of the most common criticisms of tithing I hear:

  • Lack of financial transparency in the church.
  • An assumption that tithing should be purely or primarily for humanitarian needs.
  • How the widow’s mite is spent (e.g. lavish malls many members could not afford to shop in).
  • Tithing being a regressive tax on the poor (which it is).
  • Expectation or entitlement for temporal blessings that don’t always come.
  • “Fire insurance” analogy.  Even though Malachi said it first, it does make God sound like a mafia hit man, and it doesn’t exactly bring out the noblest sentiments in our fellow Mormons.  Pay up or die.  Is that who we are?
  • Temple Recommend is contingent.  To some this feels like a “pay to play” approach to religion.

Nice idea, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to accept this as legal tender.

Personally, though, I think paying tithing is one of the best things we do as a church.  Why?

  1. Detachment from wealth.  Most faiths, especially eastern religions, focus on letting go of our need for control and wealth-seeking.  It’s not because money is evil, but because freaking out about money isn’t a very godly trait.  As James Altucher wisely said:  ”Money isn’t the cure for everything, but it solves your money problems.”
  2. Abundance mentality / trust vs. control.  When you let go of the idea that you can control your luck and how much stuff you have, you realize that you have more than you thought you did.  Getting rid of wealth is not the same thing as financial freedom.  Having financial freedom means you have enough.  Trying to become wealthy usually means you never have enough if someone has more.
  3. Investment in the community of saints.  When we moved to Singapore, people asked if we were going to join the American club which has annual dues of $20K.  People said it was a great way to connect with other expats in Singapore and find friends.  Given that we were both working and spending every Sunday and Wednesday at the church, it seemed unnecessary; we were swimming in friends as soon as we got here.
  4. Beats the alternatives.  I am as capable as anyone of blowing a large percentage of my income on frivolous stupid stuff.  Getting rid of some portion of my disposable income through tithing reins that in . . . somewhat. For example, paying tithing is a better investment than alcohol, and friends routinely tell us they spend about 10% of their income on wine or other alcohol.
  5. Investing in the church’s assets.  While I don’t love cleaning the ward building, one good thing is that it teaches us stewardship for the building itself.  Likewise with paying tithing.  That’s my hardwood gym floor you’re scuffing up with your black soled shoes, punk.  Show some respect!
  6. Teaching budgeting skills.  Although tithing hits the rich and poor alike for 10% and the poor have less discretionary income (which is why it is a regressive tax), the practice of paying tithing first helps people to learn to budget if they are not otherwise inclined to do so.  From an early age, we are taught to hold out 10% of our money to donate, which opens the mind to the possibility that we can save up, we can delay gratification, and we need to be charging Mom and Dad at least 10% more for cleaning the car!
  7. Current law of consecration.  We are no longer living in large communes (praise be) that require us to deed over our lands.  Tithing IS the current law of consecration.  We’ve gotten off light, and I for one appreciate it.  In a paperless, chickenless transaction, this is how consecration works.  We are supporting others within the community with our donations (and the interest earned by the corporation church investing our donations).

I realize not everyone agrees with me on tithing and that my view is doubtless skewed by having the abundance we all enjoy as Americans.  Even so, I have seen many on the lower end of income who take great pride in contributing through tithing.  How have your views on tithing changed over time?  Do you like it, hate it, or have mixed feelings?

Discuss.

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42 Responses to Why I like Tithing

  1. nate on July 16, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    Great post! I agree 100%. Would also add that tithing often requires significant faith, and this faith does open the windows of heaven in many cases.

    Would also say that tithing’s lack of transparency is one of its greatest attributes. We truly have to surrender all feelings of entitlement towards the income, and demanding transparency denotes our mistrust and desire to exercise control over something that is no longer ours. It takes more faith, thus the blessings of that faith are greater.

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  2. Shel on July 16, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    We have some family members that have left the church. Actually, they have decided that they are atheists. And they won’t live and let live, either, they have decided that it’s their duty to point out how delusional we are. And they pull out the same arguments that you listed above in regards to tithing..

    I pay tithing because I believe that it is a commandment from the Lord. I had to get a testimony of it, and that is it’s own story. And, it’s not always easy; there have been times that I was sure I couldn’t afford it, but I paid it and it all worked out. It wasn’t always money falling from the sky, although that did happen once (figuratively, of course), but usually we found a way to make it work. Paying tithes and offerings is good for the soul, teaching us to let go of the importance that we place on material things and giving back to the Kingdom of God.
    ,
    When I was the RS President , we had an Area Authority visit our ward for Ward Conference. He was in PEC with us and the discussion started with fast offerings. This is what he explained to us: Tithing goes to build chapels and temples, helps support the church schools, lesson manuals, etc. Fast Offerings support struggling members in our own congregation. Humanitarian aide, which may have started out using some tithes, is now self-sufficient with the money donated for that purpose. The issue came up, because when he visited us, our Stake was “upside down” in fast offerings, meaning we were getting funds from Salt Lake, (where excess fast offerings go) in order to help the people on assistance. Our Stake has many poorer areas, but there is more of the “high rent district”, so I have lots of opinions on that, but I won’t go there. And, he also told us that tithing money, is not used for church investments, which are made from the profits of previous investments.

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  3. Shel on July 16, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    Yes, Nate, I agree. The lack of transparency has never bothered me. I figure that since I know the church is true, the Lord is directing whatever is happening with the funds, and he certainly doesn’t have to answer to me.

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  4. Jack Hughes on July 16, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    The idea of tithing as a regressive tax is interesting. I find it a little perplexing when a struggling family is instructed to pay tithing instead of buy groceries, then go on church welfare to cover their needs. Wouldn’t it be simpler for them to keep/manage their own money, rather than give it to the church just to get it back in another form? Especially when we get frequent reminders from GAs about “the evils of the dole” and such?

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  5. Shel on July 16, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    My Bishop told me that his take on that was that once you stop paying it, it becomes harder to start again. Having been there, I agree. And if they have no income at all, they have nothing to pay tithing on anyway. And, bishops are supposed to give the receivers of ward assistance some meaningful service to do. It’s not usually much, but something so that they are still contributing to the ward’s overall welfare,so it’s not just a “dole”.

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  6. Jack Hughes on July 16, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    I can understand the transparency complaint. As a tithe-payer, I rightfully consider myself a stakeholder in this organization, and its nice to have an occasional reminder that tithe funds are being used to build the Kingdom (new temples, meetinghouses, missionaries, etc.), and not personal fortunes. This is a multi-billion-dollar organization run by mortal men, though, and needs accountability.

    In my hometown, many years ago, a bishop was indicted for embezzling/misappropriating his members’ tithes; it was discovered that he was somehow connected to a mafia money laundering operation.

    Trust, but verify.

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  7. Heber13 on July 16, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    Great post. I do believe tithing is a great indicator of faith, because money is a real thing that hits us hard in life…there is never enough to go around, and so it forces one to choose…therefore the faith is really tested. It is why marriages struggle on finances…it is a real thing, not just for the prideful and gaudy…but we all are impacted on how we make life work with the money we have, and what we value enough to spend on that.

    The church seems to be pretty wealthy because of handling finances in the past, including the requirement to pay tithing (not the option) by prior saints who sacrificed for a great need as the church stumbled along under Joseph Smith’s lack of financial leadership.

    But now that the church has the money, so much it doesn’t know what to do with it all, so isn’t the regressive tax idea harsh for individuals unnecessarily? I mean, so much emphasis is placed on the outward showings of faith in the church like pay tithing, obey word of wisdom, attend church meetings, have a temple recommend.

    For me, I got a degree at BYU, I have a 6 figure job, I travel to Singapore, Australia, Germany for work. For me, tithing is the choice between a nicer car or maybe a boat or am I willing to sacrifice to ONLY have 3 used cars and my teenager drives one, but we still have our iPhones and computers and cable TV. Is it really much of a sacrifice?

    But for the individual struggling with heavy debt and medical bills and a new divorce where finances are turned upside down and life is stressful day to day making it work…tithing is no longer a nice little lesson on faith taught in Sunday School. It becomes a stressful pressure of meeting the church’s standard, or be shunned from callings or seeing weddings and leads to requests for meetings and interviews with leaders on how to have more faith (inducing guilt).

    I wish tithing was more like keeping the Sabbath Holy. Teach correct principles and let people live it as they can, and get the blessings as they do. But it isn’t. It is the litmus test for “truly faithful” to meet a specific requirement and one you must account for yearly with the leaders or you are denied privileges in the church.

    Aren’t there greater commandments we should be living? Most would agree there are. Yet tithing is at the top of the list for the measure of worthiness…because it can be measured.

    I like the IDEA of tithing as a gospel principle…I don’t like the church’s practice and emphasis on it as a standard of worthiness, and think saints would benefit far greater if the wealthy church realized it is a new age now and we now need to allow people to CHOOSE to live it how they can and how they interpret it (like Sabbath Day observance), not be forced through rules and punishments to live it with exactness.

    It is not helping the saints to be compelled to obey.

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  8. ANON on July 16, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    #5 Well that only works if your bishop will help your family out in a bind. I know a few families who were faithful tithe payers and when they needed help due to loss of job the bishop said no and told them to ask their families. This same bishop used fast offerings to pay the rent of a sister who had never come to church who was living with her boyfriend and both whom were chain smokers. I’m not judging her–I visit taught her and she was in need; however, she was also eligible for many government assistance programs (the families I mentioned above were not) but she wouldn’t go apply for them even when I offered to take her and help her through the system.

    I do think that families who pay tithing with the expectation that the bishop will provide financial help if they need it should rethink this emergency plan. My friends would have been better offer saving 10% instead of paying tithing. When the bishop refused to help they had to buy food on a credit card. It seems contradictory to me to encourage people to stay out of debt but then create a situation that encourages debt for people who live paycheck to paycheck.

    Also regarding the amount of fast offerings people give: I have been taught repeatedly in sacrament talks, RS, and Sunday School that you fast for two meals and give the cost of those two meals to the church. For me, that’s about $10-20 (and that’s generous to the actual cost of the meals I’d be skipping). Perhaps fast offerings should not be taught in this manner if we want to encourage people to give more.

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  9. Heber13 on July 16, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    ANON, I agree with you that I think individuals need to take the fiscal responsibility and not rely on bishop’s direction. If there is a time a family is in crisis and can’t pay tithing, then…well, they can’t pay.

    The good thing is, they can always start paying again when they can, and the church doesn’t keep a historical record on tithe status. Right?

    Why is tithing mandated, and fast offerings voluntary and left up to individuals on how to interpret it?

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  10. Llenrad on July 16, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    The Doctrine and Covenants teaches us to pay 10% on our increase. If someone only brings in $2000 a month (pre-tax) and it costs them $1800 on the essentials of life (home, taxes, utilities, etc.) then they really only have an increase of $200. So rather than pay $200 in tithing, they are only required to pay $20.

    If someone spends every dime to truly just stay alive then their requirement for tithing is zero.

    However, this amount of grey area raises the question of what is essential for life and what isn’t, which is why it is easier to just teach people to pay on their pre-tax wage. Then you get cute little ditties in SS like, “would you rather have gross blessings or net blessings from the Lord?”

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  11. jay s on July 16, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    Having newly been called as a financial secretary for our ward, I am very impressed at the generosity of the ward members with fast offerings. Truely the widows mite.

    As to the requirement for tithing as a recommend indicator, I disagree that the emphasis is because it can be measured. Having been to a few tithing settlements, the only thing they do is hand you a sheet of your donations and ask “Are you a full tithe payer?” This is the sole question asked in recommend interviews. No tax records or paystubs required.

    I think the reason it is so important is because it is a sacrifice and a hardship. it requires us to diverge from the pursuit of material things.

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  12. Heber13 on July 16, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Jay, what does the bishop do when the person says they are a full tithe payer, and yet the ward records show nothing. Assuming the option is given that one can pay Salt Lake directly, does the bishop just take the person’s word for it? Or does the bishop have “an impression” that the person may not fully be paying tithes and may not be honest about it?

    If the bishop is the judge in Israel, do they not feel their stewardship is to try to find out if the person is really living the law of tithing and worthy of the blessings (including callings and a temple recommend)?

    I do not think they simply give them a sheet of paper and ask the question and then no questions asked after that. Are bishops really valiant in their testimony when they just hand a sheet and move on?

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  13. IDIAT on July 16, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Llenrad 10 I must belong to a different church. We are to pay tithing on our increase, which is interpreted to mean income. It is not your “net” after taxes, nor is it your net after you’ve paid your house note, house insurance, car note, car insurance, cable bill, cell phone bill, utilities, food, clothes for kids, bowling, movies, 401K contributions and so forth. If we all paid tithing the way you describe the church would have never made it out if the red.

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  14. Shel on July 16, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    Anon; (#8)

    The bishop’s manual does (or did, this was 10 years ago) suggest that families in financial trouble are to turn to families first. If the family is not able to help, the ward should help. I know my bishop didn’t ask us the one time we needed assistance (husband had been out of work for nearly a year and our savings was down to scary levels), but he knew my extended family fairly well, as my parents live here part time. As it turned out, we got groceries twice, I think, then we found a job.

    Bishops have to use their discretion. I know the bishop I worked with required them to come to church and/or come to meet with him every couple of weeks if they were on assistance. He would help them budget, or put them in touch with job or educational opportunities.

    Also, our Stake President said, and I’ve heard GA’s say this also, that we should give “generous” fast offerings, if we can. I am supporting my mother in law and part of two missionaries, so my “generous” isn’t as “generous” as it would be otherwise. But, if we are helping our families, some other ward isn’t doing it, so it all works out and I don’t worry about it. But, it’s a personal thing. If you feel like you are giving enough, then it’s enough.

    #12 Heber13
    Some people do pay directly to SLC, but it isn’t the Bishop’s responsibility to “find out”. We are to be truthful when we answer our recommend questions, and if we aren’t, then the fault is with us, and I’m sure there will be repercussions for that that have nothing to do with the Bishop.

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  15. ANON on July 16, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    #13 This formula doesn’t work if you own your own business. If we paid tithing on what we made pre-taxes and business expenses we would not only have nothing to live on we would have gone bankrupt a long time ago.

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  16. IDIAT on July 16, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    Anon I am self employed. I pay tithing on my net on Schedule C which obviously is my gross revenues minus my business expenses. That leaves me a figure of net income. That’s a far cry from paying tithing on my net “home” income after paying those bills I mentioned. When I was a W-2 employee and made $60,000 a year I paid $6,000 a year in tithing. The math is simple and so is the law of tithing.

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  17. Heber13 on July 16, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    I think IDIAT makes my point…that there is a simple interpretation established by the church, so anyone who interprets it differently like ANON or Llenrad’s formula would not pass for a temple recommend, because bishops will teach what is in the handbook.

    In my experience, the bishop doesn’t just ask a yes/no question and hand you a piece of paper. He starts that way as long as it all looks good to him. But if it looks like the person is not paying 10% of Gross income, my experience is that they take their calling serious enough to ask followup questions. These questions are done lovingly, and not to be intrusive or to “catch” people, but the bishop does want to see adherence to the current interpretation put forth from SLC in order to feel good about their judging responsibility.

    Therefore, while it is up to us to be honest with our answers, I have been asked more detailed questions by 2 different bishops when they saw a donut on the ward clerk’s report. But I have also had them satisfied with my answers that I paid directly to SLC. For one bishop that was enough to satisfy him, for the second bishop, he held off and wanted to get direction from the SP before being OK with my answer.

    I like how IDIAT keeps it simple and straight forward. But that simplicity doesn’t always feel “fair”, if you care about fairness in life. I think most people accept a little unfairness because if it leads to blessings…then the fairness works itself out in God’s timing.

    Which goes back to Hawkgrrl’s OP of some issues around tithing and criticisms. The criticisms of tithing seem to me to come from experiences where the promised blessings don’t seem to come and seeing how the church is using money when I’m being asked to sacrifice. And then the unfairness of it creates a problem to continue to pay it when the realities of life are felt all to clearly.

    It is a faith principle, tied to a very mortal need (money). It’s not always a straightforward and simple connection.

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  18. Llenrad on July 16, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    Rock Waterman at Pure Mormonism goes into great detail on what the scriptures teach on tithing ( puremormonism.blogspot.com/2012/12/are-we-paying-too-much-tithing.html?m=1 ).

    Idiat, I think you are proving my point that there is a big grey area on what is essential for life and would not be considered increase. For example, housing is needed for survival. I know of no one who buys/builds their first house with cash. This means everyone goes into debt for a home. Now a 900 sqft home is much different than a 2900 sqft home. So now the question is what size home/monthly house payment is the bare minimum to survive. I’m not sure there is an answer that fits everyone. So how much can we deduct out of our pay to then be left with our increase?

    The law of tithing is another principal of the gospel that requires us to live by the Spirit. We evaluate our circumstance and pay accordingly.

    As an aside, I find it interesting that we only live part of the law of tithing as Section 119 teaches. Have you ever known anyone that gave 10% of what they had when they were baptized and then 10% of their increase after that?

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  19. IDIAT on July 16, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    Llenrad – you might want to sit down with your bishop or stake president and discuss your thoughts and definition of tithing with them.

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  20. ANON on July 16, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    I have never heard a bishop or stake president, nor have I ever heard any church authority including the prophet state that tithing should be based on gross instead of net. I feel absolutely comfortable paying tithing on what is left after we take out the numerous taxes, fees, and businesses expenses for our business.

    I would also like to add that being self-employed is not the same as owning your own business. Owning your own business means additional expenses such as building space, utilities, employees, supplies, and all the inherent fees and taxes.

    I’ve done freelance work in the past which meant I was self-employed and never paid so many taxes/fees as owning a business.

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  21. Howard on July 16, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    I think this is a complex subject given the way hawkgrrrl framed it. I have a testimony that personal lessons can be learned from paying tithing independent of what the church does with it. I guess this is pretty much inline with the TBM or so called faithful or unquestioning position.

    However I don’t believe a 10% tax teaches the majority how to let go of their need for control and wealth. That is literally lust, craving or psychological control issues and few with these problems will choose to do with 10% less, I think most people will simply find a way to turn the hamster wheel 10% faster or harder in an attempt to keep up.

    I also have a testimony that building $multibillion malls and “let’s go shopping” while third world people are dying from malnutrition, thirst and easily curable disease (including member children according the Liahona Foundation) is not revelation from God, it flys in the face of Jesus’ teaching and the fourth stated mission of the church! Which brings us to financial transparency which is clearly needed to keep the building prophets on track and if demanding that by virtue of being a tithe paying member \is more effective at getting that done I’m all for it.

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  22. Casey on July 16, 2013 at 9:55 PM

    I think people should pay tithing on whatever amount makes them comfortable answering “yes” when asked if they’re a full tithe payer, assuming being a full tithe payer in the eyes of the church is important to them. I pay tithing because…well, I always have, but I’m increasingly less convinced that it’s the church’s business whether I or anyone does or does not, and I can’t accept that how the church uses those funds shouldn’t be my concern. I don’t see giving money away without anyone being held accountable for it as an act of faith, but rather as an abdication of my own responsibility. I get that people feel differently but I just have a hard time accepting it.

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  23. Dog lover on July 16, 2013 at 10:19 PM

    I would like an accounting of where the tithing is going. It keeps the honest honest. The mall is something that does bother me. Regardless I love that we pay tithing and all the help that gives to those in need spiritually and financially.

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  24. IDIAT on July 16, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    Anon – being self employed is the same as owning your own business. Some businesses involve different types of expenses to run, some have high overhead, some don’t. Some people use an LLC, others sole proprietorships, corporations, partnerships. Whether you own a convenience store, rental property, sell widgets, own a McDonald’s franchise, or clean houses for a living, the bottom line is that at some point, you pay yourself after you deduct the legal, allowable business expenses from your revenue stream. That’s your “income” and that’s usually the last figure on your schedule C. I pay tithing on that figure.

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  25. IDIAT on July 17, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    Amon – to be more exact, I pay tithing on line 22 of my form 1040. FWIW, I’ve been intimately associated with 5 bishops and 3 stake presidents and that is what they pay tithing on, also. But what you do is your business.

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  26. hawkgrrrl on July 17, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    I haven’t experienced a bishop who was skeptical of what we paid, and we generally pay direct to COB by converting stocks. Bishops have said they can’t see what we contributed (which we already know), but when we see declare full they don’t probe further. Perhaps they are simply more familiar with these methods of payment.

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  27. Jeff Spector on July 17, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    Any topic like tithing or anything associated with money and the Church always brings out the “anti-mall-builders” and the “give all your money to third world-ers.” As if…

    Never had a problem with the principle of Tithing and many in my family could not understand how we could do it even though other religions extract an equal amount of money and call it something different. We’ve even fortunate not to have issues with money but I not so sure I attribute it to that.

    I also trust that the Church uses my money in a responsible way, Though I am curious about it.

    One of my friends just got back from SLC and told me the mall is completely shut down on Sundays. If the Church was as money-grubbing as some might say, it’s a bad business decision to close it on Sundays.

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  28. Heber13 on July 17, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    #26 Hawkgrrl…my guess is you have earned a level of trust with leaders who know your family well enough, which is smart to bank some social capital in some situations. :)

    There is another good article I recommend from July 9th written by someone smart enough to observe:
    Leadership Roulette: “Beware of power trips”

    As appropriately pointed out…our experiences can vary greatly depending on who is on the other side of the desk in the interview…and their personality, their agenda, and their length of time and experience in their calling plays a role in our experiences, including tithing and how much they probe for specifics.

    But since there is a standard interpretation given for being a full-tithe payer and there is a temple recommend question on it, there is something they can probe and ask questions about if they feel they should. My guess is most don’t like doing that, unless they feel prompted something isn’t right, and they’d like to help the individual be worthy of promised blessings.

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  29. Heber13 on July 17, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    #27, Jeff…do you really think other religions extract “an equal amount of money” from their faithful members as the LDS church does?

    You make a good point about the mall on Sundays…although I was still able to get a slice of cheescake when I was there last…but I agree it is MOSTLY all shut down. :)

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  30. Howard on July 17, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    I don’t think other religions extract an equal amount of money. At a southern CA Christian mega church the Sunday donations I saw from those around me seemed to be mostly $10 to $20 and it wasn’t much more at a Beverly Hills Catholic church on Christmas or Easter. So maybe the typical regularly attending member is giving something like $780 a year.

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  31. Llenrad on July 17, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    BTW, I never got around to mentioning that tithing is a great principle and that I am glad to participate. I just think most people give too much in tithing.

    You can always donate the rest of what you used to give as tithing on one of the other lines on the slip, or seek out people you know personally who could benifit from some extra money. That way if you are one of those who are concerned with how charitable money is spent in the Church you can take it into your own hands and make sure it gets to where you want it.

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  32. Casey on July 17, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    I don’t think it’s an issue of whether the church is “money grubbing.” There are people who make that accusation but I don’t think you can lump all “anti-mall builders” under one umbrella. I see it as the church handling its excess reserves like any business would, by looking for what it perceives to be sound investment opportunities. If I was donating a tenth of my income to an investment capital firm I wouldn’t bat an eye at it building an upscale mall, but call me naive for holding the church to a higher standard! I’m not even bothered by the church purchasing stocks and real estate; you want some reserves and you can’t stuff millions of dollars under Pres. Monson’s mattress. I just would have hoped for something maybe a little less crass and brazenly commercial than an upscale mall from an organization bearing Christ’s name. But hey, that’s just me :)

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  33. rb on July 17, 2013 at 8:17 PM

    I don’t mind paying tithing and I am not the least bit troubled by people interpreting the amount differently. I do wish there was more transparency from the Church, like they used to do. I don’t understand why they are so secretive they would rather pay out millions to settle cases than turn over financial information in discovery as part of what may have been frivolous lawsuits. Once I hit send or turn over the money I lose all control over how it is spent. In fact, none of us even has a voice in how the money is spent.

    Ward and stake budgets are set by SLC. Our ward sends huge tithing sums to SLC every Sunday (except GC and Stake Conference Sundays and the occasional Sunday when everyone who counts money is on vacation.) Our ward budget is a fraction of the money we send to SLC. In fact it is probably less than what we send to SLC in two or three Sundays. Not a big deal, but we have exactly zero input into how our budget is set or how the money is allocated. Furthermore, the GC reports about the Church’s finance are laughably implausible. Those kinds of self serving reports with no underlying supporting data would be meaningless in the real world of money and accountability. If those kinds of report are good enough for the Church at large, then why aren’t an individual members’ similar declarations during tithing settlement that he or she is a full tithe payer w/ no underlying support for such a declaration also not good enough for a bishop?

    Speaking of tithing settlement: is there a bigger waste of time for members among our various Church meetings? I don’t need to take time to declare to my Bishop I am a full tithe payer. I know what I am and so does The Lord. I could not care less if the Church’s records of my tithing contributions are correct or off by a factor of 100. Those records do not prove or disprove my tithing status, at least in my mind. To make matters worse, at least in the US, tithing settlement overlaps with the Holidays. I say give our poor, overworked Bishops some time off during the Holidays! Give them more time with their llongsuffering families during a special time of the year.

    I do trust the Brethren try their level best to be good stewards of tithing money, but that is absolutely no guarantee they make good, sound financial decisions. Many of their backgrounds and professional training suggest they are pretty smart and successful businessmen, but past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future performance. We are all part of this great enterprise, and many of us enthusiastically so, I just wish the Brethren in SLC would treat us more like adults and share more information. We are on the same team.

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  34. Hedgehog on July 18, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    I tend to regard tithing settlement as an opportunity to check the record myself. Mistakes get made. I’ve had my sister’s tithing put on my record in the past, and I’ve had tithing left sitting in an envelope in a jacket pocket of a Bishop for several months (he clearly hadn’t been wearing that suit for a while), just for two examples. I always take a breakdown of what should be listed with me to compare to the statement I’m handed.

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  35. hawkgrrrl on July 18, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    The church simply likes these formal check-ins (temple recommend interview, PPIs and tithing settlement), and there is probably something to be said for them. I guess they have to know who you are if they are meeting with you, so it’s an accountability that goes both ways. I do get (and on some level agree with) the thinking that the most important thing is paying it, not having a meeting to tell someone you paid it.

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  36. Heber13 on July 18, 2013 at 4:38 PM

    Return and report…is that an eternal principle…or now that there are more efficient ways to communicate (email home teaching monthly reports), is a tithing settlement necessary?

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  37. alice on July 18, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    so it’s an accountability that goes both ways.

    If only the accountability in this organization did flow both ways. ::sigh::

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  38. Jeff Spector on July 18, 2013 at 9:55 PM

    “do you really think other religions extract “an equal amount of money” from their faithful members as the LDS church does?’

    Yes, I do. For Jewish congregations, the payment is in the form of yearly dues, When I was just a kid, my parent paid well over a grand a year plus the cost of religious school. In today’s money, that would exceed what I pay in tithing now and I make much more money than my parents ever did.

    And I’ve seen the collections at other churches. They also rival what is collected by an LDS Ward on a typical Sunday and they have multiple meetings on Sunday and other days when the collection plates are passed.

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  39. Rb on July 19, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    I would add that I don’t see it as a problem if the Brethren make bad decisions with tithing money, e.g. buying a parcel of land in Philadelphia to build a temple, announcing thr location to the world, only to later find out it is contaminated and unusable for a temple. Then it takes them 8 years to get a temple built in Philadelphia where there has been zero opposition(amateurs!). So they build a chapel in the wrong place, print too many copies of Gospel Principles in the wrong language, fly first class when they travel, etc.? They’re human like the rest of us. I think members can handle mistakes and even risky decisions from the Brethren in how they administer the Kingdom. Instead what we get is silence and vague promises to trust them. Those of who are believers already trust them. I wish the trust flowed both ways. We can handle the truth and may even, from time to time, be able to contribute additional information or help in building the Kingdom. Mormons are almost infinitely resourceful and hard working. Unfortunately, the vast majority of sincere stakeholders are completely removed from participating in substantive decisionmaking when it comes to resource allocation.

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  40. Jeff Spector on July 19, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Rb,

    Can’t say I disagree with what you written, but on any given Sunday, the Church trusts thousands of members to collect donations, process them and deposit them in a bank without theft and minimal mistakes. The incidences of theft are pretty low from what I can tell.

    Also, I know someone commented on the budget amounts that each unit gets as being rather small. but that does not take into account several factors. The Church allocates money to the Stake based on attendance, number of people attending Church on a regular basis. It is the Stake that allocates the money to the wards/branches based on a formula they concoct. When I was a Stake Finance Clerk, it was complex algebra formula that included Sacrament meeting attendance, YM/YW participation and some element of Primary. Seems like a reasonable way to do it based on who shows up on a regular basis. In its purest sense, that means the money is distributed, not on the amount of money collected in donations, but on the amount of money to support those members who are there, rich or poor.

    It also does not factor in the amount of money spent to run the buildings, maintain them and provide other resources which the Ward does not pay for.

    To contrast, The Boy Scouts charge us $270 a head to go to Boy Scout camp, but the YW only pay $80 for a week of YW camp at a Church-owned facility. The $80 is the cost of food and other specific activities and not a fully loaded cost of running and owning the Camp. That’s a pretty good deal.

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  41. Douglas on July 19, 2013 at 8:54 PM

    I’m with Jeff on groaning about disaffected members complaining about the City Creek Mall or why tithes aren’t sent en masse to feed the worldwide hungry. I’m satisfied that when the Brethren say that the mall isn’t financed out of tithing that it’s a sound business decision by Property Reserve. Do keep in mind that besides the investment potential there is also the objective to keep the area around Temple Square from going “ghetto”..I suppose there could be a monstrous project to move the Salt Lake temple and the Conference Center, but urban renewal is likely a better idea. As for charity we do have both our fast offerings and the Humanitarian fund. This complaint is much like Iscariot griping about using the jar of expensive ointment on the Savior instead of selling it and using the proceeds for charitable purposes. Even then the Adversary and his minions use the canard of the “poor” to oppose what is right.

    I can’t say that I enjoy paying tithing but like going to the gym or eating my vegetables, I enjoy the benefits. After a third of a century I’m still working on the “glad heart”; if I can simply smile through clenched teeth it will have to do.

    I’ll trust those that are or have served as bishops what to do when a family is faithfully paying their tithes and after counseling to improve their finances still can’t make ends meet. I’d rather they continued to tithe. It means they’re exercising faith in obeying this commandment and earning a living; both are habits that should be encouraged! Better to help the family with Church resources, letting them do “workfare” to a reasonable extent, and work with them to improve their financial situation. This, IMO, is still a spiritual matter. It does no good pontificate about the Gospel if a brother and his family lack for the basics of life.

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  42. Utahhiker801 on July 25, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    I think it would be a valid argument to say that the City Creek mall was not build with tithing funds if the Church was in the business of, say, making shoes before it took up religion. However, the only way that the Church has ANY money is from tithing and other donations from members.

    I appreciate that those funds need to be responsibly invested until the time they are needed for the many things that we always tell people tithing funds are used for, but any increase of those “talents” does not suddenly make them no longer tithing. If tithing is invested, then the growth of those funds is also tithing in my book. To attempt to reclassify that money strikes me as an underhanded accounting maneuver.

    Also, in temple recommend interviews, none of the questions should be followed up with more probing questions unless the member is seeking clarification from the leader. If a member tells the leader she obeys the word of wisdom, pays a full tithe or lives the law of chastity, no bishop or stake president has the right or duty to keep asking follow up questions. To do so is an abuse of their position.

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