Criticism of Mormonism/Websites/MormonThink/Tithing

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Response to MormonThink page "Tithing"



A FAIR Analysis of: MormonThink, a work by author: Anonymous

Response to claims made on MormonThink page "Tithing"


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Response to claim: "We are not called to tithe, but to make an offering to sustain the church"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

The above quote is from a Catholic priest who responded to an ex-Mormon asking about tithing. Perhaps the priest is correct. We are not called to tithe. We are asked to make offerings. When the elderly widow gave her last two mites, it was an offering, not a tithe. That would have been 10% of her last two mites. We are not called to tithe, but to make an offering to sustain the church. Plus, if I were to announce that I had given 10% of my income to a homeless shelter, that would not be acceptable to the church, but it is just what the Bible tells us we should do with our tithes. Please check out Deut. 14 for the Old Testament law on tithing. Christians are no longer under that obligation.

FAIR's Response

Apparently, this criticism is based on a Catholic view. It may well express the position of another faith but it's difficult to determine how a Catholic position could confound the Latter-day Saint view of tithing. The Catholic Church does not claim any jurisdiction over LDS doctrine and the Church does not appeal to Catholicism for its interpretations of scriptures. We are not sure what the attempt to redefine "tithing" as "offerings" is intended to convey.


Response to claim: "It appears that the LDS Church defined tithing differently in the early days of the LDS Church than they do now"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

It appears that the LDS Church defined tithing differently in the early days of the LDS Church than they do now. Regardless of how it may have been defined in the past, the LDS Church expects its current members to pay 10% of their income to the church, in addition to fast offerings and other donations.

FAIR's Response

Fact Check: True, the definition of tithing has changed over time

For a brief review, see Has the definition of tithing changed over time?

Response to claim: "We are tithe payers...When can we see the financial information?"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

We are tithe payers (the ones that Hinckley referred to as making the contributions). When can we see the financial information? The LDS Church does not allow its members to see any financial records. Most churches do publish some financial information and budgets so their members can see what their donations are used for and to assess the needs of the organization that they support with their hard-earned money. Why is the one, true church less open and forth-coming about their finances and how the money is spent than the apostate churches? Intuitively we would think that the 'false' churches would likely be more secretive about how much money they have and how it's spent and that God's one, true church would be very open about how they spend their members' donations.

FAIR's Response

For a brief response, see Why does the Church not provide public disclosure of its financial data?.

Response to claim: "Tithing as the Catholic priest said above should be a gift, but the LDS Church makes it an obligation"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Tithing as the Catholic priest said above should be a gift, but the LDS Church makes it an obligation. Fear is often used as a motivator to get people to pay a full tithing. How many times have you heard the term 'fire insurance' associated with tithing? He who is tithed shall not be burned at Christ's' 2nd coming. Malachi 8:10 is often quoted - "Will a man rob God, yet ye have robbed me".

FAIR's Response

Again, it's baffling to see the Catholic definition of tithing applied to Latter-day Saints practices.

Response to claim: "The guilt placed upon Latter-day Saints can be considerable"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

The guilt placed upon Latter-day Saints can be considerable. We are not considered members in 'good standing' if we're not paying tithing. We cannot attend the temple if we don't pay our tithing. We cannot have temple-related callings or any high-profile positions if we're not full tithe-payers. And if we are full tithe-payers, we're often counseled to then start paying generous fast offerings, contributing to the missionary fund, etc.

FAIR's Response

For a detailed response, see Tithing.

Response to claim: "The church owns many businesses that generate profits...The church has very little expense in relation to its income. The tithing money it receives is all tax-free. The property is exempt from taxes"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

President Hinckley, in a public interview, admitted that the Church is very wealthy. However, he then went on to say that the assets owned by the Church are not income producing but are instead income draining. This is very deceptive. The church owns many businesses that generate profits. The $6 Billion or so is profit that the church takes in from contributions by its members and its businesses every year. The church has very little expense in relation to its income. The tithing money it receives is all tax-free. The property is exempt from taxes. The church owns virtually all of its properties so it doesn't have to pay rent. The utilities on those buildings and the meager funds allotted to the wards for their discretionary budget funds are just a drop in the bucket compared to its income.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The critics are mixing up profits from Church-owned tax paying businesses with Church contributions. The Church owns businesses, and these businesses pay taxes just like any other business.


Response to claim: "Imagine if you had a corporation where the business model was to have your customers give you 10% of their income every year"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Imagine if you had a corporation where the business model was to have your customers give you 10% of their income every year, and all you primarily had to provide in return were the buildings to meet in, a few social programs and some speeches made periodically by the owners. Just how phenomenally profitable would that corporation be?

FAIR's Response

The Church is not a business. Church members are not customers. Members do not donate tithing expecting to make a return on an investment. This criticism demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of sacrifice and consecration. In the earliest scriptures, offerings made to the Lord were simply burnt. Yet we don't infer from this that Adam was a lousy investor who was cheating his family out of their livestock and providing nothing for them in return. The same principle of sacrifice that schooled and uplifted Adam and his family applies to offerings made to the Lord in contemporary times. We pay our tithing for our spiritual benefit more than for any other gift we could hope to receive by paying it.

Response to claim: "The Church hardly spends any of its money on humanitarian aid"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

The Church hardly spends any of its money on humanitarian aid. It appears that less than 1% of its revenues goes to really help the poor and needy. And those funds are usually donated as a high-profile contribution.....However, in more recent times, the Church has loosened its purse strings in some areas that it is often criticized for. The LDS Church did make some sizeable contributions to Haiti after their devastating earthquake. Most of the contributions came in the form of material goods.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

In 2022 the Church spent $1.02 billion for welfare and humanitarian projects.[1] Although there are no definitive financial figures for annual donations to the Church, an analysis in 2012 estimated the Church receives about $7 billion annually.[2] Providing for some increase in donations over the last 10 years, if we assume the Church received $8 billion in donations in 2022, then the Church would have spent 12.5 percent of its donations on welfare and humanitarian projects that year.


Response to claim: "the church has far more than it needs"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

As demonstrated by the Tsunami, the church doesn't always spend the money where the members are told it's going. The church refuses to publish how it spends its money so no one knows for sure what all it spends it's vast wealth on except for some of the things that gets published or leaked out. But it's clear that the church has far more than it needs and some of the things it spends its money on, like The Mall or the Hunting Preserves, are perhaps things Jesus would not spend money on if he was physically running the church.

FAIR's Response

For a detailed response, see Why does the Church need so much money?

Response to claim: "why couldn't the church sell its non-ecclesiastical assets and help the poor?"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Christ taught that one should sell all that one has and give it to the poor. While that's not practical in today's world, why couldn't the church sell its non-ecclesiastical assets and help the poor? Does the church really have need of anything other than chapels, temples, MTCs, family history centers, and visitor centers?

FAIR's Response

This is essentially a repeate of the previous statement. For a detailed response, see Use of Church funds and Why does the Church need so much money?.

Response to claim: "Now they expect members (as if they didn't spend enough time in church service) to clean their own buildings on their days off"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

The church sometimes acts like it's poor and needs money. Around the year 2000, the Church laid off the meetinghouse custodians and other church workers, some of whom had worked in the Church Office Building. The church custodian, although not a high-paying job, was a nice job for at least one person in buildings which house 2-3 wards on average. It was often a nice way for the church to help out someone that really needed a job. Now they expect members (as if they didn't spend enough time in church service) to clean their own buildings on their days off.

FAIR's Response

Cleaning church buildings is a freewill offering of time and energy. It is not used as a standard of worthiness. No one is questioned at temple recommend or other stewardship interviews about his or her participation in church cleaning schedules. Cleaning is usually carried out as a family service project meant to build unity within wards and families, and to teach young people respect and gratitude for the bricks and mortar that have been provided for their use and enjoyment. Building cleaning is done in the spirit of goodwill and that goodwill should not be belittled and reviled. Critics often complain that the Church acts like a "corporation," yet they complain, as is the case here, when the Church does not act like a "corporation."

Response to claim: "probably not really the way Jesus would have intended his church to be run"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

We would recommend that the church give more money to the poor and needy (both inside and outside of the church) without expecting anything in return from the members. Also build enough meetinghouses so the members can use the buildings during reasonably desirable times. The church should raise the ward budgets so the members can actually use more of the money that they donated on a local level and bring back some of the fun activities like 'Road Shows'. The church should employ custodians again and give those jobs to people in the ward that really need them. The church should continue the good work it does with employment offices and expand them as they are able. The humanitarian funds, missionary funds, etc. should all be covered by the tithing receipts which are more than enough to completely cover them many times over. The church should keep enough funds invested to keep it sound, but billions and billions invested into businesses, when it could be helping others, is probably not really the way Jesus would have intended his church to be run, in our opinion.

FAIR's Response

The critics are "speaking for Jesus" again. Faithful Church members do not presume to dictate to Church leadership how they should allocate money and resources that are freely given.

Response to claim: "where did the money come from to buy the businesses, stocks and other investments to generate those profits?"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

During the October 2006 General Conference, Pres. Hinckley told Latter-day Saints, "The church is undertaking a huge development project in the interest of protecting the environment of Temple Square. While the costs will be great, it will not involve the expenditure of tithing funds."

That is a very deceptive statement. Although technically the funds may come from the profits of the church-owned businesses or merely from the interest on its enormous investment capital, where did the money come from to buy the businesses, stocks and other investments to generate those profits? Everything the church owns ultimately came from money donated to the church by its members - past and present.

Of greater significance: since the church can quickly raise $5 billion on merely the interest of its assets, then it doesn't really need any more tithing dollars. The church could very likely function indefinitely if no member ever contributed another dollar to the church. The interest on its $100 billion of assets can likely easily fund the yearly expenses of the church if it is managed right.

FAIR's Response

For a detailed reponse, see Question: Aren't tithing funds from "long ago" ultimately the source of all current Church funds?

Response to claim: "Of all the things Jesus would tell Gordon Hinckley, He told the Prophet to buy a mall?"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Of all the things Jesus would tell Gordon Hinckley, He told the Prophet to buy a mall? For ten years, the only new light and knowledge given to the world by Jesus through His Prophet are the doctrines of "no penny poker," "no multiple earrings," and "no gay rights." And now we are expected to believe that the latest revelation is the need for His church to get in the shopping mall business?

FAIR's Response

The critics are once again "speaking for Jesus."

Response to claim: "It's disgraceful to read some of the propaganda the Church puts out about tithing"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

It's disgraceful to read some of the propaganda the Church puts out about tithing. Read the article 'Tithing Shoes' based on a true story from the Church's magazine Friend, Nov 2007:

LDS.org

The story recounts a destitute mother with a child that did not have any shoes to wear. She had just enough money to buy some shoes for her son. Instead, she feels too guilty if she spends that money on her son instead of giving it to the church as tithing, so she gives it to the church. Of course a 'miracle' happens soon afterwards and a neighbor gives her son some shoes she happened to have.

FAIR's Response

The critics are mocking the beliefs of Church members. "Of course a 'miracle' happens..." To those of us who actually believe in God and miracles, this is an inspirational story. For those that do not believe in God and miracles, they are left only with sarcastic comments about "miracles".

Response to claim: "This absolute devotion of choosing to pay a religious entity that is worth some $100 Billion over feeding her children or paying the mortgage is nothing to be admired"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

This absolute devotion of choosing to pay a religious entity that is worth some $100 Billion over feeding her children or paying the mortgage is nothing to be admired. It is tantamount to child abuse in our opinion. In fact when we read this, we wondered if this article wasn't written by an 'anti-Mormon' in an attempt to show Mormons as cult-like in their total devotion to the church. At any rate, the church chose to publish this article apparently as an example to be followed by its members. We can't help but wonder if Jesus would really want this poor mother to pay her tithing to an organization that doesn't really need the money over feeding her children.

FAIR's Response

The critics love to "speak for Jesus" when it comes to tithing. They are also saying the the Church will let children starve, which is utter nonsense. This claim must ignore a great deal of information. The Church has an extensive welfare program that takes care of members, and extensive resources to assist in disasters across the world which are not limited to members. The critic neglects to mention that the Church will not let this woman or her children go hungry. There is no mention of the Bishop's storehouse, which is specifically for this purpose. Nor do the critics mention that the bishop can and often will help pay the mortgage. Nobody that pays tithing is subsequently abandoned by the Church to starve. That is what fast offerings are specifically used for.

For additional details, see Tithing.

Response to claim: "LDS leaders often hint at promises that tithe payers will receive increased income from paying tithes"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

LDS leaders often hint at promises that tithe payers will receive increased income from paying tithes, yet Utah remains one of the poorest states in the US and ranks among the highest in personal bankruptcies. Utah has led the nation for the last few years in bankruptcy filings. Not only was Utah #1 in 2005, but it also had a record number of (bankruptcy) filings.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Church does not teach that tithe payers will receive increased income from paying tithes. The Church teaches that members who pay their tithing will be blessed as a result. The form of that blessing can vary, but there is no guarantee that it will be in the form of increased income.


Response to claim: "Many former Mormons continue to pay their tithing, but now do so to more traditional charities"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Many former Mormons continue to pay their tithing, but now do so to more traditional charities - where they know how the money will be spent.

FAIR's Response

It is admirable that people are willing to donate money to organizations dedicated to serving others.

Response to claim: "LDS tithes are hardly used for charity, but are used primarily to build the kingdom"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

LDS tithes are hardly used for charity, but are used primarily to build the kingdom. Of course the LDS Church does some good with their money, like helping out with the earthquake in Haiti, but they could really do so much more with their enormous financial empire that's been built from the generous donations of its members over the last century. The church gives so little to the poor and needy in comparison to what it takes in every year. This is causing some members to consider just giving the money to the needy themselves (via Red Cross or other established charities or even to people they know directly that are in need) and know with some surety that their money is actually going to help people and not be used to buy non-ecclesiastical investments?

FAIR's Response

For a detailed response, see Use of Church funds.

Response to claim: "Advice for those who wish to be a member but not pay a full tithing"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Advice for those who wish to be a member but not pay a full tithing Some members wish to remain in the Church but not pay a full tithing but don't want the embarrassment of having the bishop and some others in church know that they no longer pay tithing. Here's one suggestion. The Church has a program set up so members can pay electronically to the church headquarters. This was set up as some wealthy people do not want the bishop to know how much money they make. If pressed by the local bishop, the LDS headquarters will only send an acknowledgement to the local ward that some funds were paid in the year. They do not say how much money you paid to the church. You can donate $5 if you want and declare to the bishop that you were a part-time tithe payer at tithing settlement time and leave it at that. You could say you were a full tithe payer if you want to also, but we don't advocate lying.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The "Donations-in-Kind" department was not set up so that "wealthy people" can avoid telling the bishop "how much money they make." It exists so that people can donate to the church in forms other than cash. For example, one can make donations to the Church in the form of stock. This department is primarily used to transfer assets that cannot be transferred at the ward level. For example, if one wishes to pay tithing using a donation of stock, the ward is not equipped to handle this. The member contacts the "Donations-in-Kind" office in Salt Lake and obtains the number of the Church's brokerage account. The member then initiates a brokerage-to-brokerage transfer, and sends the Church a letter specifying how the donation is to be allocated (percentage to tithing, fast offering, etc.). The Church then sends a tax receipt back to the member, and a copy to the bishop, specifying that a donation was made, the type of stock donated and the number of shares. If the bishop were so inclined, he could deduce the value of the donation by looking up the stock price and multiplying by the number of shares on the receipt, however, it is unlikely that any bishop would ever bother to do this.


Notes

  1. Caring for Those in Need: 2022 Annual Report of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  2. Peter Henderson, "Mormon church earns $7 billion a year from tithing, analysis indicates," NBC News, 13 August 2012.