Sep 14, 2009

10%: Does It Matter Where It Goes?

Something has been on my mind for a long time, but I've never been able to come to any decision about it and the end of the year is quickly approaching.

Let me just start off by saying that even though I can be very frugal, I've always paid a full tithe and have never done so begrudgingly. I'm incredibly fortunate and I have no qualms about giving 10% of my income to helping others in need. So I'm not really questioning whether I should or shouldn't give 10% of my income to others at the end of this year, as I always have. Where I remain undecided, however, is where my 10% should go.

I think that many of us assume that our tithing goes to help the needy. But, if I understand it correctly, it doesn't. That's what fast offerings are for, which most of us probably comes secondary to tithing.

We don't have tithing slips (as pictured) in Europe, which makes it much more efficient. There are no cheques, no way to donate cash, and so there is nothing to count after church. I simply transfer my tithing at the end of each year directly into a Church bank account and then I get a statement that I use when I file my income tax in the spring. The drawback of this system, however, is that because no one ever sees a tithing slip, I don't think that members think very much about the other categories. I was a bit disheartened (and concerned) when in the past couple years after I specified in the transfer a certain amount going to the Humanitarian Fund, the clerk would approach me at church, confused about what I meant. This has happened twice. It seemed rather sad to me that I was apparently the other only donating to the Humanitarian Fund. I assume the money got to where it was intended, but I'm not sure it did. Perhaps it just got lumped in with my tithing.

There seems to be a lot of confusion over what tithing money goes towards. Many accused the Church of using some tithing funds to fund Prop 8 on some technicality. There are similar accusations regarding the Church's involvement with Evergreen International. And then of course the Church is a big business in Utah, which most of us international members are pretty clueless about (you Utahns will have to educate me about this). I still have no idea how many of the accusations are true, partially-true, or completely false. I guess it depends on who you want to believe. There are always technicalities, just like in politics. It would be nice to have a Truth-o-Metre for this kind of stuff.

So, since I have some concerns about where my tithing it going to and what it's being used for, I've felt strongly about just giving my entire 10% lump sum directly to the cause that has always been closest to my heart: humanitarian aid. I came close to doing this last year, but chickened out at the prospect of not being able to call myself a "full tithe payer." I'm also perhaps a bit superstitious in fearing that to lose that title may result in my life spiraling out of control and God throwing financial hardships at us when we've worked hard and really penny-pinched in order to stay out of debt and save up a good downpayment when we bought our house. I realize that if I give my entire 10% to the Humanitarian Fund or as a Fast Offering, I'm not technically going to be able to call myself a "full tithe payer." But does it matter? Does the Lord care more about the 10% than what category it goes into? Or should all these things be secondary to tithing and building up the Church as an organization around the world? Some say that it's important to give without having any expectations or demands about how the money is used. But I feel torn about that.

What do you think?


David Baker-@DB389 said...

I have actually been wondering this same thing recently as I just got my first job and am going through the motions of budgeting everything out. I still don't have a full answer, but in my mind, which would be better? Paying 10% towards tithing, or paying 13% to help fund a missionary?

Urban Koda said...

My personal feeling is that the blessings of tithing come from willingness to part with a portion of your income. Whether that portion goes to a religious organization or a charity, I think the benefits will be the same. has a pretty good analysis on tithing and what it gets used for. The LDS Church does give a lot to humanitarian efforts, but it's a relatively small amount when compared to the money spent on other projects.

I'm planning on giving my 10% to another charity this year... Now comes the quest to find one that doesn't spend a exorbitant portion of donations on administrative costs.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Urban, thanks for that. I'm guessing this was the link you were referring to. First of all, I'm not really familiar with MormonThink and have only quickly browsed it. It claims to be operated by active members who have been to the temple. In their own words:

With both sides of the LDS faith issue being labeled as biased, why should you trust us? The people contributing to this web site are in a unique position. We are members of the LDS church, yet we are fully aware that some of the history taught in the church is radically different from the actual historical record. We value truth above all else whether or not it supports what we have always believed.

Since many of us are still very active in the church, we do not wish to make it look bad and make ourselves look foolish for being members of a church that may not be entirely true. But we believe in total honesty, so we will not sugarcoat anything just to spread the gospel. We think that only the truth is good enough for the members. Whether or not that strengthens a member's testimony or hurts it doesn't matter, truth is truth.

We feel that in order to really make an informed decision, that honest truthseekers should look at all sides of the issues. To that end we generously link to many critics and many true-believer web sites in each section so they can really explore all viewpoints. Currently we have over 300 pro-LDS website links and book references. We are continously updating our references as we find stronger arguments supporting each side.

Anyways, the link paints a pretty dismal picture of tithing, fast offerings, and even gifts to the humanitarian fund in terms of how much of the money is actually going directly to the causes instead of being invested in business ventures or accruing interest. I was aware that the Church refuses to publish its financial records in the US. Like in the UK, I'm pretty sure that the tax laws would require the Church here to publish their records. I wonder if I can find it. In Norway, everyone's yearly income, how much tax they paid, the worth of their assets, etc, is public information. If you guys knew my name, you could go online and find out all that interesting stuff about me. :) Personally, I think that's taking it too far, but Scandinavians are big on transparency, which I think is generally a good thing. Especially where charities are concerned.

I realize that there is no perfect charity. I've sometimes felt that I should donate 10% to Save the Children or World Vision, Doctors Without Borders, or something like that. I'm sure I could find some fault with them as well, as I do with the Church. But as long as the Church is really going to send as much as possible of that 10% of my money to people who need it NOW, then I don't have a problem donating it to the Church despite all my issues with it as an organization. The problem I see with paying straight tithing, is that I'm just paying to fund stuff like manuals I don't feel comfortable with, or perhaps even things like Evergreen and Prop 8, as I stated earlier, and none of that money is going to poor people in Africa or families who are out of work and are running out of food. And since they won't reveal that info, I guess I can't really know whether there's good reason to worry about it or whether it's just wicked rumours.

Who knows.


Sonia said...

I am torn in almost the same way feelings wise. There are so many needy people in my ward who are in need and can not get any help ( my branch is very good at begging you to let them know when you need help... then giving a lecture on the joys and blessings of self sufficiency.)

What I did was put aside my ten percent and gave it to the local food bank. I got receipts and when tithing settlement came around I showed my receipts. One bishop was OK with it and one was not (I currently do not hold a temple recommend for that reason. So there is some risk.

While I regret not having the temple recommend, I also know that I feel uncomfortable that anyones tithing is being used for things such as prop 8 or the electric shock treatments they used to give to homosexuals at BYU. There are so many things that I would feel worse about paying for that I have considered the lack of recommend acceptable for now.

Then again, the temple is more than 5 hours away and I cannot get a babysitter for my son with special needs so my recommend is really just a piece of paper that makes a statement. For someone who is able to use it the decision might not be as easy

The Faithful Dissident said...

Sonia, that's really interesting about how one of your bishops was OK with that. I actually never thought that any bishop would be OK with it, so I'm glad that you shared that.

Keri Brooks said...

I'm inclined to believe that the 10% is more important than the specific location where it goes. The interesting thing is that in Malachi 3:10, it discusses the purpose of tithing as ensuring that there is "meat in [God's] house". This seems to be more about helping the poor and giving fast offerings than it is about what we call tithing today.

With that said, tithing is a personal matter between you and God. Ask Him what He thinks you should do with the money. He'll tell you, and what He tells you may be different from what He tells me or what He tells your neighbor. That's the nature of personal revelation.

Anonymous said...

FD, I sometimes have to wonder if you are reading my mind or something.

This topic also has been on my mind a lot recently. Although I am currently (and have always been) a happy full-tither, recent information that has been brought to my attention about where the money goes to has really made me think twice about tithing. My DH is financial clerk in our ward. One of the interesting points he made to me recently is that our tithing for the year is about the same as the entire ward budget for our ward (!!!) - including everything from utilities and pest control to activities for the ward members. Knowing the two students' tithing can operate an entire ward bothered me ALOT.

Additionally, our ward doesn't provide enough fast offerings to cover itself - most of the welfare assistance provided in our ward is provided by the Stake or SLC. I would much rather my 10% go towards helping my fellow ward members in need than having it be used for temple construction or placed in interest-bearing financial securities.

Anyway, the upshoot of all this is still unclear. However, since I am not currently able to hold a temple recommend anyway because of testimony issues that are highly unlikely to ever be resolved, I probably will end up making the choice of funneling my 10% to fast offerings, humanitarian aid, or breast cancer research (my current charity of choice).

Moniker Challenged said...

I though I was alone in this boat, but there may be enough of you out there that we'll have to charter a cruise ship (it shouldn't be hard if we each gave 1% of our income ;-))
I live in a lower-income ward, and we've been getting plea after plea from the bishop lately to give anything extra we have in fast offerings or foodstuffs to the unemployed in our ward who are on the brink of homelessness and hunger. And I wonder why am I giving money to malls and fenced-in hunting retreats for rich and lazy hunters when I could be giving it to my neighbors who need it now? For me, it's mostly two things I'm afraid of: freaking out my faithful husband, and the lightening strikes. I still haven't quite conquered the peevish God impression I developed early on.

Anonymous said...

I was so interested to see this post. For the first time in my life, I will not be a full tithe payer this year. I am resident in the UK, and having read the last available church returns as recorded by the Charities Commission, I have questions. The last year available is up to the end of 2007: income was £4.6million, expenditure was £1.77 million, of which charitable activities received £1.74million. What happened to the rest? Presumably sent to Salt Lake.
I've seen so many families here struggling yet given very short term help, or none at all. Many stake presidents take pride in not having any 'need' to spend fast offering.

A lifetime of being told 'you should be obedient and not ask questions: it's not your concern where the money goes' is wearing thin. And I'd be grateful if someone could explain to me the difference between Church monies and monies from businesses owned by the Church, really, please. Thanks.

sunlize said...

I struggle with this too. I have not paid a tithe yet because I've been a student (with zero income) the entire time I have been a member. I will be receiving a paycheck for the first time in January, and I'm still not sure what to do. My non-member husband is a student, and so my income will be the only income in our household and I'm not comfortable with claiming that 10% for the church.

I haven't talked to my husband about it yet, but I think we'll probably end up agreeing on an amount that is a "membership fee" like other churches. Because I don't think it's right to enjoy all of the benefits without giving something back. I also think that my fast offering will be a substantial amount, because as I understand it, that stays local. I'm also not thrilled at the prospect of funding something like prop 8 action either with my tithing money. It's a tough call.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Moniker, I've heard of malls, but hunting retreats? Not sure I follow.

"And I'd be grateful if someone could explain to me the difference between Church monies and monies from businesses owned by the Church, really, please."

Anonymous, I'd really like to know as well. I can see the value in making perhaps smaller investments, but it seems to be a larger sum that, at least on the surface, seems troubling. Like you, I want to know where the money goes. And I don't think that's an unreasonable request.

Sunlize, I've never been able to get to the bottom of the whole Prop 8 money scandal. From what I understood, the Church was being scrutinized by CA authorities for a possible breach of the law by funneling money to the Prop 8 campaign, which would put its tax exempt status in jeopardy. It's still unclear to me what the truth is, but my impression was that the Church had given some money to it, but rationalized it on some technicality which may or may not be valid. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know.

I hoping someone can shed some more light on all these issues.

Anonymous said...

my understanding of Prop 8 was that the Church originally declared just over $2000 spent in airfares for flying Elder Clayton to California. However when the full returns were filed, in accordance with Californian law, it showed the church had spent an additional $190,000 in resources- not direct contributions, but on office support and staff time spent by those working out of Church Office building in SLC, working on Prop 8.

I have no idea which source of church income pays the wages of church employees - but their wages were paid by the Church and they were seconded to the Prop 8 activities.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Yes, that $190,000 figure rings a bell. Does anyone know whether the investigation is still ongoing regarding the Church's tax exempt status?

Anonymous said...

The question I have is how the church maintains its tax-free status when it owns for-profit businesses. How does THAT work? Does anyone know?

I know (from my financial clerk spouse) that during the Prop 8 fiasco several members of our ward stopped paying tithing b/c they didn't want their moneys going to support Prop 8. The problem is, with the church not being financially transparent, it is impossible to know whether they are still funneling church resources (man hours, etc.) into similar social issues. I am NOT okay with that. I am very socially liberal, and I do NOT like to think that any drop of my money is going to pay for things like prop 8.

I just wish there was more information out there... If wishes were fishes...

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I'll take the mysterious "Not sure where the tithing goes" over the clear-as-day "Our leaders live in obvious luxury thanks to tithing funds." An old friend of mine used to live in an apartment building where the Prophet and several apostles lived. It was a nice place but not what I'd call fancy or ostentatious.

Honestly, if I saw our leaders driving around in fancy cars and putting fur coats and jewels on their wives, I'd be a lot more suspicious. I'd rather see us do more humanitarian work than investing (or politicking), sure, but I can swallow this.

Bro. Jones said...

Also, regarding CA and Prop 8 issues: my understanding is that the Church's investment in Prop 8 stuff is so miniscule compared to its other expenditures in California (buildings, maintenance, etc.) that while the Church funding of Prop 8 wasn't strictly above-board, it's not illegal. If the Church spent a "substantial" or majority of its funding on Prop 8 or other politics, that'd be a different story. (The law is designed to prevent things like, say, "The Church of Arnold Schwarzenegger" which would be founded only to fund Arnold's re-election campaign rather than serve religious purposes.)

Anonymous said...

It doesn't sound as though a decision has been made yet. Here are links to the story in the New York Times:

and San Franciscan Chronicler:

In addition, the name of the case against the church is Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) Case #08/735.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I don't think the leaders are using it on themselves. They're all already well-to-do anyways. And they put in a lot of hours and work hard on behalf of the Church. I tend to think that the money is being invested or put towards business ventures, building up the Church's wealth (which we know is huge) or perhaps being funneled to social-political activities that we can't see. Like Anonymous, I'd much rather see it go directly towards humanitarian causes.

I think Bro. Jones is probably right that it wasn't illegal. The Church isn't stupid and I'm sure they were well aware of what they were doing to avoid problems with the law. But is it wise to be riding the lines of technicalities? Those of us members abroad who know nothing about Prop 8 (the only reason why I do is because I'm English-speaking and read American news) or any of the Church's businesses can easily assume that everything they give is really going towards building temples, producing Book of Mormons, or feeding the poor. In reality, perhaps only a portion of their donations are doing that.

Moniker Challenged said...

About the hunting preserve- Finally found it. This was published July 10, 2000, in case you have to look it up that way. In short, it seems that there are at least two for-profit preserves owned by the church (Westlake Farm Commercial Hunting Area and Deseret Land and Livestock Co.) at which persons who pay a fee between $1,500 and $8,500 can shoot the resident wildlife. Odd, no?

The Faithful Dissident said...

Moniker, thanks for finding that for me. I have to say, Prop 8 has been enough for me to try to swallow, but as an animal activist that has tried to get rid of exactly what the Church is supporting -- really, it's canned hunting -- I'm shocked and appalled. And on Deseret News, of all places, so I guess I don't need to challenge the legitimacy of the article.

So much for all those old statements by Church leaders to not shoot animals for sport, to not kill animals needlessly. And now the Church is making it all possible.

Sick. That's the nail in the coffin for me, I think. It's going to take a miracle now for me to not give my 10% to a real charitable organization. I'll be damned if I'm going to support canned hunting, I don't care whether it's "tithing money" or not.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Has anyone heard of these hunting reserves? Do they still exist?

Anonymous said...

FD, have you seen the Mormon Matters post today on microloans for disadvantaged countries? I'm curious what your take on those is, since we are discussing tithing and offerings.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I haven't seen that post, Madam. I will check it out. I'm a big fan of Kiva and have funded probably 20 loans by now. I think it's a genius idea.

Anonymous said...

And here is a link to a Sunstone conference talk about the hunting reserves, although I am not sure when the talk was given (i.e., which Sunstone Symposium):

Anonymous said...

(to remove any confusion, there are two anons posting here. I'm the first one, who asked about the with profit businesses and Church!)

Thanks for the link to the desnews. I googled Deseret Land and Livestock. It is run (this is what confuses me) by the Presiding Bishopric as a tax liable/for profit business. But if you click on the links to treks, and then schedules and charges, it says missionaries will make arrangements for you. How do those two worlds collide?

I'm anti guns and anti hunting except in emergencies. This isn't sitting well with me.

The Faithful Dissident said...

The ironic part in all this is that I donate money to animal causes to stop this kind of thing, while my donations to the Church have probably had a part in perpetuating it.

I'm sickened.

Thanks for the Sunstone link, Madam. I'm going to download it and read it now.

The Faithful Dissident said...

"I'm anti guns and anti hunting except in emergencies. This isn't sitting well with me."


You know, it really makes me want to just buy up tons of Kiva loans with my 10%. Since it's repaid and can be reloaned again and again, it's really the most efficient way of helping the largest number of people become self-sufficient.

Anonymous said...

You know, it really makes me want to just buy up tons of Kiva loans with my 10%. Since it's repaid and can be reloaned again and again, it's really the most efficient way of helping the largest number of people become self-sufficient.

What a great suggestion. I am going to have to look into this myself and consider it.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Let's say you bought $5000 worth of Kiva (probably an average amount of tithing for many couples), you could single-handedly fund MANY Kiva loans. Once the money is repaid, you re-loan it and then each year you donate another 10%, just imagine how it would build up and how many people and families in the third-world YOU would personally be helping on the road to self-sufficiency and a better life.

Bro. Jones said...

Oh, I should point out that I'm Anonymous #1. I'm always a tad confused by the Google interface and wind up clicking anonymous instead of putting my secret name.

I'm rather disturbed about the hunting preserves too. I don't have a particular problem with hunting--I have a problem with my tithing funds supporting it as a business venture. What's next, should we have an LDS-sponsored NASCAR team? (Actually, if they didn't have races on Sunday, that would be pretty hilarious.)

The Faithful Dissident said...

NASCAR, LOL. Actually, the Church could probably afford to bring an NFL team to SLC.

Good to be Free said...

Does any one know when tithing became a salvation issue? ie. A temple recommend question?

I have been to Deseret Land and Livestock. It is used primarily as livestock land, but they do take guided tours during the hunting season and offer permits for fishing on the property. I have never and will never hunt, but my father fishes and frequents Deseret Land.


PS. Thanks for commenting on my blog and we're glad to count you as a friend.

Alex said...

The typical "Sunday School" answer for how tithing funds are used is for buildings (church houses, temples), education (BYU, CES?), missionary work, and however else they want to use money to "build the kingdom of God."

Fast offerings are supposed to first go to local members in need. Any surplus is passed to the stake for the needy and then to SLC who should re-distribute out to stakes that are in the red.

The church also owns businesses that generate income. I'm not fully sure what this income does other than pay modest GA stipends and buy more of downtown SLC.

This info comes from my memory of church lessons from CA and UT.

As for the 10%, I believe the current strict reading of church policy is 10% as tithing and whatever else is possible for fast and other offerings.

Personally, I'd go with that it doesn't really matter but I would suppose that most bishops (and the training they get from GAs) wouldn't count that as temple worthy.

Mark said...

I have decided that I'm going to talk to my bishop about donating my 10% to Kiva or another charity this coming Sunday. I've thought of this before. Thanks for moving me to action.

I'll share the results of the meeting, if you'd like.

Mormon Heretic said...

I'm not anti-hunting, nor would I call myself anti-gun. I'm not pro-hunting or pro-gun either. I must say that I'm nor particularly fond of the hunting preserve either. That's a head-scratcher for me. Personally, I would never hunt or own a gun.

To answer Good to be Free, it seems to me that following the drought in 1899, Lorenzo Snow made a big push for tithing, and I believe it became a temple recommend question around that time (early 1900's).

Now, it seems like the church makes a big deal about how the tithing funds are used. I know when they started the downtown mall project in SLC, they made a big deal that no tithing funds would be used for the $3 Billion project. I understand that the church owns many for-profit businesses: Bonneville Communications (which owns KSL radio and TV, as well as at least 30 TV and radio stations), many for-profit farming operations, for profit cattle ranches from Hawaii to Florida to South America.

I had an interesting talk with Sanford at our latest book club. He said that Henry Moyle (I believe--could have the name wrong), suggested the church invest in real estate as opposed to other investments in the 1940's and 1950's, and the church has never been on more solid financial ground. Frankly, if it is true that the church used no tithing funds for the $3 billion mall, I think we'd all be astonished at how large business arm of the church is. I would not be surprised if some of these business units donated to the Prop 8 causes. Of course, these for-profit businesses are not tax-exempt, as mentioned in the DesNews article.

There is a joke where a mathematician and accountant are asked "what's 2+2?" The mathematician answers "4", while the accountant answers "What do you want it to be?" I'm sure the church uses accounting rules to its advantage, but I don't think they would resort to Enron or Lehman Brothers accounting rules. I believe the church is generally truthful to the idea that tithing funds are used for church buildings, BYU, and other religious purposes. Nonetheless, I think the church businesses are much larger than we can imagine.

I recently heard that the LDS church is the largest landowner in Florida--larger than Disney. Now, there are 5 huge Disney themeparks in Florida, and if the church owns more than them, they they own a considerable amount of real estate.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I think it's probably true what you said, MH, but I guess what bothers me is that the Church takes advantage of all these technicalities behind the scenes, which members like me who donate and who are usually clueless about what goes on in UT are oblivious to, to fund and operate businesses that people may have a problem with. The Church just doesn't feel like a "charitable organization" to me. Sure, it does some charity and humanitarian work. But is it a priority? It doesn't seem so. And this hunting business is a BIG deal to me. I was thinking about this all night, trying to figure out some way to justify or rationalize this in my mind. I realize that I'm much more anti-hunting and anti-gun than most of you Americans. But this is Church-owned and Church-sponsored. If I understood that Deseret article correctly, the people who operate it do it as "missionaries." It's their "calling." The thought of "missionaries" tending to nature and animals just to host paying clients to shoot them in a weekend of luxury is, to me, a deal-breaker. (For those who want to read the Deseret article themselves, here is a direct link.)

In the article it says:

"As noxious weeds and brush are controlled and scattered grains are introduced, the wildlife population on the preserve will continue to grow, boosting the number of hunting permits that can be issued to "harvest" the wildlife."

It isn't about culling or wildlife management (which would still bother me anyways). It's about purposely increasing the wildlife so that they can be hunted down for recreation.

So all the early statements by prophets telling members to only kill animals when they are needed to save us from starvation, to "not kill the little birds," as one prophet (I can't remember off-hand which one) penned in a primary song that is no longer sung, has been replaced with a Church-sponsored weekend getaway for the rich to engage in canned hunting, have all been cast aside. Animals being "harvested" to be shot. For fun. For money. And where is that money going? Your guess is as good as mine, but it's probably not going to the poor. It's probably going to buying more of Florida or Salt Lake City, or just generally increasing the wealth of the Church.

Mark, please do share the results of that meeting with us! It'll be interesting to hear what they say. I'm not going to discuss this with anyone at church. The leadership here wouldn't have a clue of what I'm talking about anyways and will think that I've REALLY been tainted by anti-Mormons if I said I'm not going to pay tithing because the Church operates a canned hunting facility in the US. I doubt I'll get any questions for it, but if they ask I'll just said that I gave my 10% to the Lord, but through another channel this year.

I think Kiva may do very well this year because of a potential flood from disgruntled Mormons. :D

Anonymous said...

it's anonymous for this back again!

I've been thinking about this all morning. I thought about when the church started buying property, and I think that to a generation who suffered during the Depression, they probably felt it was better to take the Church money out of banks which could go bust (as we have seen recently) and 'safer' to start buying property. That generation could either remember, or remember their parents telling them about the days when the Church almost went bust due to the anti polygamy fines they had to pay.

I can live with that line of thought. What I do struggle with- more so recently as I have only in the past year been finding out about this stuff- is that as the Church does not publish any accounts, but continues to get further embroiled in political and property issues, no accounts are published, and those of us who question are looked upon with horror by our leaders. I would be gutted if I thought one nth of my tithe went to pay the salary of a church employee seconded to work on Prop 8, or build a shopping mall. Surely now the time has come to sell off the property, and invest the money in schemes to help the poor and needy all around the world- no-one wants the church to run at a loss, but neither do I feel it should have assets worth billions whilst our fellow humans are starving or dying from lack of sanitation or medication.

Anonymous said...

Why would tithing ever support a for-profit business owned by the church? If it's a for-profit business that means that its revenues cover its own operating expenses and some revenue is left over as profit. In other words, it's financially self sustaining. Again, why would tithing be used to susport a self sustaining business? If the church ownes any commercial property or business that isn't making a profit (losing money), it would sell it off or close it down. No one should ever think that their tithing money is being used to support any of the church's commercial investments. It's not much of a commercial investment if it has to be supported by tithing.

The income generated by the church's commercial investments goes to the same place that tithing goes - church operations. Because the church owns commercial investments, and generates an income from them, its operations are not finanically dependent solely on tithing. That means more of your tithing can be used on things like humanitarian relief as well as building, books, etc. I imagine that tithing money and investment money all goes into the same pot which funds church operations.

Eddie said...

Hi FD: You have some great questions, and I wish I had more answers. I don't know if its any consolation, but I do recall a visiting general authority stating that (financially speaking) the tithing from members in most countries other than the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. were used almost exclusively to support church operations within their own countries. So, perhaps you haven't accidentally donated to a hunting reserve in Utah! :) I wish I had a more specific quote/source to give you.

I do recall President Hinckley discussing some of the Church's business ventures, here is a short snippet:

From "Why We Do Some of the Things We Do"

Now, the next question: “Why is the Church in business?”

We have a few business interests. Not many. Most of these were begun in very early days when the Church was the only organization that could provide the capital that was needed to start certain business interests designed to serve the people in this remote area. We have divested ourselves long since of some of these where it was felt there was no longer a need. Included in these divestitures, for instance, was the old Consolidated Wagon and Machine Company, which did well in the days of wagons and horse-drawn farm machinery. The company outlived its usefulness.

The Church sold the banks which it once held. As good banking services developed in the community, there was no longer any need for Church-owned banks.

Some of these business interests directly serve the needs of the Church. For instance, our business is communication. We must speak with people across the world. We must speak at home to let our stand be known, and abroad to acquaint others with our work. And so we own a newspaper, the Deseret News, the oldest business institution in Utah.

We likewise own television and radio stations. These provide a voice in the communities which they serve. I may add that we are sometimes embarrassed by network television presentations. Our people do the best they can to minimize the impact of these.

We have a real estate arm designed primarily to ensure the viability and the attractiveness of properties surrounding Temple Square. The core of many cities has deteriorated terribly. This cannot be said of Salt Lake City, although you may disagree as you try to get to the Tabernacle these days. We have tried to see that this part of the community is kept attractive and viable. With the beautiful grounds of Temple Square and the adjoining block to the east, we maintain gardens the equal of any in the world. This area will become even more attractive when the facility now being constructed on Main Street is completed and the large Conference Center to the north is finished.

Are these businesses operated for profit? Of course they are. They operate in a competitive world. They pay taxes. They are important citizens of this community. And they produce a profit, and from that profit comes the money which is used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation to help with charitable and worthwhile causes in this community and abroad and, more particularly, to assist in the great humanitarian efforts of the Church.

These businesses contribute one-tenth of their profit to the Foundation. The Foundation cannot give to itself or to other Church entities, but it can use its resources to assist other causes, which it does so generously. Millions of dollars have been so distributed. Thousands upon thousands have been fed. They have been supplied with medicine. They have been supplied with clothing and shelter in times of great emergency and terrible distress. How grateful I feel for the beneficence of this great Foundation which derives its resources from the business interests of the Church.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Eddie, thanks for sharing that. My concern with the last paragraph there by President Hinckley is that we have to take their word for it. They claim to use the profits from these businesses on the poor, but they won't publish financial records. So how do we know that what he claims is true? And if that's what's really happening, why all the secrecy?

And as far as the canned hunting is concerned, even if 100% of the profits of that were going to feeding AIDS orphans in Africa, I'd be saddened that we couldn't find a more ethical way of making money as a church. Surely there are better ways to make a buck!

Anonymous said...

An altogether different anonymous here asking if the church can find ways to parse what is for-profit and tax-exempt, I will begin now finding the technicality under which I can contribute my 10% to the for-profit entities and get a little of that growth for my investment.

You have to be gullible in the extreme to accept that it is the proper mandate of churches to funnel money that at some point comes/came from the faithful into profit streams and continue to require not only the donation of additional tithing but all the ancillary monies as well.

I want to belong to a church and not a Ponzi scheme.

Anonymous said...

I think Kiva may do very well this year because of a potential flood from disgruntled Mormons. :D

Yeah, the hunting reserves did it for me, too, FD. Arguing that they have missionaries that man it, but that it isn't funded by tithing dollars, is parsing words. Perhaps the literal dollar bills that I donated don't go there, but the principle of the matter doesn't change: I can't picture Jesus Christ funding a recreational hunting reserve or building a mall.

Kiva will be getting several extra thousands this year from me.

Paul said...

Over the years, I have occasionally had thoughts about my tithing and where it should go. Should I stop paying it and send it to humanitarian causes? Sounds like a good idea from our viewpoint. Then I learned about what would be the result. I would be "very generous with someone else's money." That someone else is the Lord. He's the last guy I would want to steal from. I have faith that the Lord gave us this commandment for a reason. Who am I to know better than he? Then I have thought about how many blessings I have had over the years. I live in a first world country, a roof over my head each day & night, and I have never been in danger of missing a meal (except when I'm fasting.)
I have very few years left on this old earth. God has been way too good to me, depite the challenges I've had over the years. I would never have the guts to cheat the Lord.

Anonymous said...

"Arguing that they have missionaries that man it, but that it isn't funded by tithing dollars, is parsing words. "

But you should consider that at least these may be missionaries who eat well. ;>

Bryan Gee said...


My perception of where my tithing funds go changed drastically in the fall of 2008. When I was called by my HP group leadership to support the Stake Presidents request to have members of the priesthood make phone calls to the residents of California regarding why they should support proposition 8. I was informed during the conversation that the Stake would reimburse me for the long distant charges that I would accrue on my personal phone bill. Since that conversation I am reluctant to give my money if that is where it is going. Over past 10 months I have been torn about where my money is actually going and to what end.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Bryan, that must have been a difficult position to be in. Talk about being put on the spot if you were personally uncomfortable about getting involved in Prop 8. Things may not have gone down so well if you had said no, especially if it was a sort of calling that they had in mind for you.

Mark said...

Back to report on my discussion with my bishop.

I asked him if I would lose my temple recommend if I donated 5% of my increase to kiva and 5% to the church.

Basically, he said that the law of the tithe is to give the full 10% to the church - and quite honestly, that is pretty clear if you read Malachi 3: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house..." Kiva isn't His house, really.

He asked me why I'm so adverse to paying 15%. I laughed. But I realize he has a point.

As he was talking to me about being willing to give 10% as preparation to live the law of consecration (which isn't really an issue for me), I started to look at this from another perspective:

So what if the church doesn't need my 10%? So what if it has an estimated $100 billion in assets? When we're living the law of consecration in full, you can bet its assets will be, well, at least 10 times as much as 100 billion - staggering to think the church could own 1 TRILLION dollars in assets in 50 or 500 years or whenever we make the switch to the full law of consecration.

Additionally, what if right now is a time of preparation for that great and terrible transition? We may need every single freaking penny during that time to fund the programs from scratch. I mean, imagine what living the full law of consecration is going to be like - it will change a LOT of things in the world, not just in Mormondom. Seriously... it kind of puts things in perspective.

And another tangential thought - In my cynicism I've often given into thinking that the church of late has become a frustratingly conservative organization, stifling true reform, open thinking, and the spirit of repentance - er, change - that the gospel of Christ asks us to work in the world. But when you think about something as revolutionary as enacting true consecration worldwide, I quickly realize that this work is revolutionary to the core - waves of conservatism will come and go, but at its root this gospel is out to change the world.

I guess people like us need to see the forest for the trees. Also, I think what an anonymous poster said on your other thread, although a little cheeky, is something to consider - "Business and fiscal illiteracy, however, coupled with ideological paranoia can make for a toxic spiritual cocktail." We're dealing with really big, crazy questions here. We need to be sure we're applying principles rationally, as well as gathering all data points that we need to make judgment. For example, I find it KEY that the church has moved away from calling missionaries to the hunting preserves. This was in reaction to the outcry of people like you and me in the wake of articles and information getting to the public, from what I understand. This data point is key, as it shows that the leadership in our church is at least somewhat responsive.

But this is just one way to look at it, among infinite. I kind of like this view, though.

PS - if you want to listen to a recording of my meeting with my bishop, you can download the file here: < >. He didn't know he was being recorded, but I'm perfectly fine with sharing this conversation. ;) I think he wouldn't ultimately care, either.

Anonymous said...

In my cynicism I've often given into thinking that the church of late has become a frustratingly conservative organization, stifling true reform, open thinking, and the spirit of repentance - er, change - that the gospel of Christ asks us to work in the world. But when you think about something as revolutionary as enacting true consecration worldwide, I quickly realize that this work is revolutionary to the core - waves of conservatism will come and go, but at its root this gospel is out to change the world.

I'm not sure that I really follow. Are you suggesting that by collecting tithing and using it worldwide, the church is revolutionary? I have to disagree with that. Other large, church organizations also collect tithing. For instance, the Roman Catholic Church typically defines "a full tithe" as 7% of one's gross income. That money is used for a variety of things, the largest being for local Catholic schools.

"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house..." Kiva isn't His house, really.

I tend to think that God looks more on the heart than on the outward particulars of how one keeps a commandment. If the church is imperfect, and using funds towards things we do not believe God would support (e.g., Prop 8), how is it wrong to pay that 10% to, say, fast offerings? In that case, we know that the money is going directly to fill that storehouse with fruits, grains, and vegetables for the needy in our wards.

Mark said...

Madam Curie -

Tithing isn't revolutionary, I would agree. Consecration, when enacted for the benefit of millions of people worldwide, will be.

My point was that sooner or later when the prophesied things come to pass - and with a believing leadership it's hard to imagine they won't, given enough time - the church will be doing some pretty revolutionary things...

On the second point, you may argue on principle that kiva is God's house just as much as the church is God's house - and I sympathize with this argument. But from the standpoint of the brethren, you nor I are going to convince them that kiva is God's house just as much as "the only true and living church on the face of the earth," with God's priesthood authority to boot.

I was just trying to offer a different way of looking at it - the church is building something very specific here: a kingdom to prepare us and the earth for the coming of our Lord. Not that kiva's goals conflict with this, but they are different goals.

Mark said...

Sorry, I'll stop posting, I swear -

MC, I didn't ask my bishop about giving 10% to fast offerings. Maybe I should have. Perhaps I'll ask him later.

But this whole issue really comes down to one thing - trust (or lack thereof). If we don't trust the church to use our tithing funds to good ends, then that has ramifications far beyond just paying tithing. What do we trust, then?

If you or I are going to decide to distrust the leadership with tithing funds, then like I said 2 comments previous, we need to make sure we're making this decision with all our facts straight. I know that I don't have enough data points to make a fair decision yet. For all I know the church uses 99.3% of its tithing funds in ways I would feel good about. I would be ok with 99.3%. That would put it above most charitable organizations. But then again, it could also be using 25% of the funds in ways that would be a challenge for me to swallow - I just don't have enough data yet.

Anyway, I'm out - have a good day, all.

Mosiah said...

The underlying issue to me - it has been touched upon in previous comments - is accountability. We can speculate all we like, but at the end of the day, the church takes your tithing, deprives you of religious priviliges if you don't pay up, but refuses to be held accountable.

You might argue that church leaders are ultimately accountable to God - but who speaks with God regarding church-wide issues (such as how tithing is spent)? Exactly, only the church leaders. Circular logic.

To any outsider looking at this system, it is perfectly obvious that this has a high likelyhood of being a scam. Even Latter-Day Saints would recognize it in other institutions that are not really accountable to anyone (banks come to mind).

Just use your mind and don't be afraid.

Mark said...

Mosiah -

Yes, it is curious why the church doesn't release financial records in the US. That much I'll agree with, but I'm not as quick to frame it as the church refusing to be held accountable. Perhaps there are other, very good reasons why in the US they don't release these records. Perhaps those reasons are out there, somewhere amongst all the white noise... perhaps not. I don't know enough to say one way or the other, and it doesn't seem like most people commenting do, either.

Another way to look at the tithing issue is one of belief. If you believe the church is ultimately guided by Christ, then paying 10% is not a problem, even if you realize that human fallibility may derail a portion of the effectiveness of that 10% to bring about good.

If you don't believe the prophet receives divine revelation from God, or that Christ is at the head of the church, then yes - it's going to be hard to convince yourself that giving 10% to the Mormon church is any better than giving to kiva.

Paying tithing, in other words, is really a manifestation of your belief (or lack thereof) in the church as THE restored gospel of Jesus Christ with a modern prophet leading the way. Perhaps the real question that should be asked is, "Do you believe that the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and do you accept the associated implications (that Christ is at the head, that the prophet receives revelation, etc)?"

And maybe your answer is, "yes, but I'd still like to know where the money is going..." lol. I guess this other way of looking at it just changes the tone of the request.

And if your answer is "no, I don't believe," then there are probably some more fundamental issues needing discussion before needing to think about who to sign your 10% check to.

Samuel said...

Indeed, the basic question is whether "the prophet" still receives divine revelation from God. In the Scriptures we can read about divine prophecies, visions, revelations and miracles. How about prophecies, visions, revelations and miracles today, for instance during the past 50 years?

Also, true prophets often were persecuted, and certainly not honored by the world (see Luke 6:22, 26). Today, LDS GA's are recommended for their “worldly” achievements, which are also proudly exposed on official LDS websites (e.g. How does this compare with today?

But all this modern apostasy has been prophesied - even in the Book of Mormon itself; see e.g. 3 Nephi 16:10-16; 3 Nephi 21:11-24; Mormon 8:27-38; Ether 8:20-25; Jacob 5:43-68; D&C 112:23-26.

Therefore, we shouldn't turn away from Christ because of this, since that same Book of Mormon also challenges us, as does the D&C, e.g. Moroni 10:32; Ether 4:7; D&C 45:56-57.

Christ Himself did not live in riches and luxury, but rather He cared for the poor as being One of them. He being our Example, thus taught us how we - and our church, named after Him - should deal with the poor amongst us. Of course, this also applies to how we designate our donations - and to whom. Do we apply the knowledge we receive, or do we rather continue on the long betrodden path of thoughtless obedience?

Jacob and Kalli Hiller said...

I have also wondered about paying 10 % when the majority of Americans are over their heads in debt. Is there an increase when you're already in the negative?