Question: Why should members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pay their tithing to it when the Church already possesses immense resources?

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Question: Why should members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pay their tithing to it when the Church already possesses immense resources?

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Introduction to Question

On December 17, 2019, The Washington Post reported that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds over 100 billion dollars in a tax-exempt investment fund. The information was obtained from a former member of the Church named David A. Nielsen. Nielsen was an investment manager for the Church and filed a complaint with the IRS on November 21, 2019 “[accusing] church leaders of misleading members — and possibly breaching federal tax rules — by stockpiling their surplus donations instead of using them for charitable works. It also accuses church leaders of using the tax-exempt donations to prop up a pair of businesses.”[1]

Several insightful responses were drawn from Latter-day Saints in light of this news and published in online venues. The pieces provide in-depth discussion about the ethics of holding that much money in reserve (and show clearly how the Church may very well be justified in its current financial practices).[2]

This article doesn’t seek to defend the Church on the question of whether or not it is ethically justified to hold that much money in reserve (the author believes it does). Rather, the author wishes to answer a tangential question that has arisen because of this news: Why should a member of the Church give tithing donations to it when it already holds that much money and can accomplish so much with what it already has? Certain Church members have already written that they do not want to donate to the Church when it already holds a lot—feeling that the Church would be better served by donating their money to the poor before the members resume tithing donations.[3]

Notes

  1. Jon Swaine, Douglas MacMillan, and Michelle Boorstein, “Mormon Church has misled members on 100 billion tax-exempt investment fund, whistleblower alleges,” Washington Post, December 17, 2019.
  2. See, for instance, Christian Sagers, "Kathleen Flake: 'Mormonism and Its Money' is a power struggle we've seen before," Deseret News, December 26, 2019; Aaron Miller, "The $100 Billion 'Mormon Church' Story: A Contextual Analysis," Public Square Magazine, December 20, 2019, https://publicsquaremag.org/faith/the-100-billion-mormon-church-story-a-contextual-analysis/; Sam Brunson, "So You Have $100 Billion," By Common Consent, December 29, 2019, https://bycommonconsent.com/2019/12/29/so-you-have-100-billion/.
  3. Jana Riess, “Jana Riess: Why I stopped paying tithing to the LDS Church,” Salt Lake Tribune, December 24, 2020.