Part 62: CES Letter Other Concerns/Questions [Section D]
by Sarah Allen
Before we get started, something happened this week that I wanted to address. This particular matter is resolved and I’m not trying to call anyone out, but I wanted to say this in case something similar happens in the future: I know that there is a lot of dishonesty and manipulation in this Letter, and a lot of people have been personally affected in some way by those lies. Feelings are high, I get that. But there is a difference between calling out dishonesty and insulting a fellow child of God. I try very hard not to personally attack Jeremy but rather, his words. If anyone reaches out privately to vent their frustrations with him, I will not allow him to be called names or otherwise insulted in my private messages. He is a child of heavenly parents, like we all are, and he deserves to be treated as such. As frustrating as this Letter can be, Jeremy deserves our prayers, not our condemnation. I do pray for him, and I hope the rest of you will join me in that.
With that said, the CES Letter picks back up with the second topic header of this section, “CHURCH FINANCES.”
I find the following quote in the December 2012 Ensign very disturbing:
“If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing. The Lord will not abandon you.”
I don’t see why that’s disturbing at all. The article goes on to say that even when times were difficult for the family involved, they had enough to get by. They “proved the Lord” in His promises, and He kept them. He didn’t abandon them. Far from being disturbing, I think that’s comforting and inspirational. I personally like knowing that when we keep our promises to the Lord, He keeps His promises to us.
This despicably dangerous idea of tithing before feeding your family was further perpetuated in the April 2017 General Conference by Elder Valeri Cordón:
“One day during those difficult times, I heard my parents discussing whether they should pay tithing or buy food for the children. On Sunday, I followed my father to see what he was going to do. After our church meetings, I saw him take an envelope and put his tithing in it. That was only part of the lesson. The question that remained for me was what we were going to eat.”
“Despicably dangerous”? Really? Because I don’t see Jeremy offering any examples of this backfiring on anyone. In fact, the very next paragraph after the one just cited by Elder Cordón gives the second part of the lesson he learned:
Early Monday morning, some people knocked on our door. When I opened it, they asked for my father. I called for him, and when he arrived, the visitors told him about an urgent sewing order they needed as quickly as possible. They told him that the order was so urgent that they would pay for it in advance. That day I learned the principles of paying tithing and the blessings that follow.
His lesson was that the Lord takes care of people who pay their tithing. They may not be rich, but they will be blessed with enough. I can also attest that this is true. When I was growing up, my family was pretty poor for about ten years. My dad was self-employed and business was slow. We used the Bishop’s storehouse and my parents were also on welfare for a while. They nearly lost our house. But they paid their tithing faithfully the entire time, and we were able to get by. My dad closed his business and found something steady with great benefits, and once we kids were old enough to take care of ourselves after school, my mom got a job as well. They were then able to help provide for others in need in our ward, the way it had been done previously for them. And thirty years later, they still have that house.
Our Father and our Savior don’t promise us an easy time in this life, but They do promise us that They will protect and guide us if we honor our covenants with Them.
Would a loving, kind, and empathic God really place parents in the horrible position of having to choose whether to feed their children or pay what little they have to a multi-billion luxury megamall owning church that receives an estimated $8,000,000,000 in annual tithing receipts?
Jeremy’s snark aside, nobody’s being placed in that position. In one of the articles from the Deseret News that we cited last week, they addressed this very issue:
[Bishop Davies] and the other two bishops said they know it can be difficult for the poorest members to pay tithing, but all church leaders teach that all members should do so. They said no church member has to choose between eating and paying tithing.
Bishop Waddell said some are making an assumption that the church is bleeding the poor by having them pay tithing so it can amass reserves.
“It’s anything but,” he said. “They pay their tithing because it’s a commandment, and they are encouraged to, if they only have enough money to pay tithing or eat, ‘Pay your tithing and we’ll help with food,’ because the blessings that are associated with the payment of tithing will then be theirs, and they won’t go hungry, because we have the ability to assist them now.”
The choice is not between paying your tithing and eating. It’s simply a choice between obeying the commandment to pay your tithing or not. The Church will help you meet your temporal needs if you keep that commandment and don’t have enough left over afterward.
The article further addressed in depth what tithing money is used for, and why that estimated annual tithing amount only stretches so far with all of the myriad things it pays for.
“Well, God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son and besides, the Lord will take care of them through the Bishop’s storehouse.” Yes, the same god who tested Abraham is also the same capricious god who killed innocent babies and endorsed genocide, slavery, and rape. The claims, counsels, and directives of these General Authorities, compensated with annual six figure church salaries, to prioritize money before the needs, health, and well-being of children is hypocritical and morally reprehensible.
When Jeremy updated the Letter the most recent time because he wanted a softer tone, he eliminated an entire section on the scriptures that was full of antagonistic claims just like this one. This particular paragraph was also a little different in its earlier form, in that there were no links and he didn’t take any shots at the General Authorities. I’m not very surprised that he left this portion in, or even that he added digs at the leaders of the Church despite his stated desire for a kinder, gentler tone. When it was first released, one of the hallmarks of the CES Letter that set it apart from other similar attacks was that it was so hostile and angry. That’s what a lot of people liked about it.
So, let’s unpack these statements one at a time. Yes, God did require a heartbreaking sacrifice from Abraham. That Abraham was willing to make that sacrifice meant that he was willing to submit to the Lord in all things. The Lord has taught us that He will prove us the way He did Abraham, because He needs to ensure His people are sufficiently strong enough to endure all of the burdens that come with this life. Sacrifice is one of the main ways in which we learn and grow. It strengthens us. If we can’t survive that refiner’s fire, He has said that we are not worthy of being called His. This includes paying our tithing.
I would not personally make that particular argument to someone who was struggling with their finances, because it’s not very comforting when you’re stressed out. Nevertheless, it is a fact that Heavenly Father tests us occasionally to see if we’ll continue to trust Him when life get hard. It’s not always easy to do that when you’re poor or in pain or going through whatever your personal struggles happen to be. When we do trust Him, though, we are blessed in return.
And yes, the Lord will provide for those who keep His commandments through the Bishop ’s storehouse. No one in this Church is in danger of going hungry when they reach out for assistance, especially when it’s a choice between paying tithing and buying food. Fast offerings and tithing donations from wealthier areas help subsidize poorer areas so that everyone is provided for if they need assistance:
Bishop Caussé called it an act of faith to pay tithing and receive fast offering aid from other members. There is great concern that members all over the world be treated equally and fairly.
“There’s always the church reaching out to those people, making sure that nobody will be set aside and everybody will benefit from the great blessing it is to be a member of the church,” he said.
Church leaders use tithing funds and fast offerings from established areas of the church to help finance less-established areas, the bishops said.
“In these emerging countries of the church, there is no way that the tithing, although members are very faithful … their tithing cannot cover all the expenditure, so it’s very important that members here in the United States and many other countries where the church has been established for a long time will contribute to it,” Bishop Caussé said. “There’s a great transfer of funds that happens, and it will be more and more in the future as the church develops in those countries.”
Bishop Caussé added, “In the center of everything that we do, is to care for those around us and to love our neighbor. And sometimes our neighbor can be in a faraway country.”
The next thing Jeremy stated above was that the God of the Old Testament, Jehovah, was “capricious,” which is another word for “erratic,” or having abrupt, bizarre changes in behavior. Some people may view Him that way. I don’t. I think there is a divine plan that has been in place since before the world began. It may not make absolute sense to us now, while we’re in the midst of it, but I think that when we’re able to look back and see how everything unfolded, we will recognize His decisions for what they are: deliberate steps in that plan.
The wonderful thing about God’s plan is that He lifts us from where we are. The lives of the Old Testament peoples are very different from ours in the modern day, and behavior that might seem barbaric according to our cultural mores was enlightened and progressive according to theirs. It can be difficult for us to fully understand the reasons behind all of His decisions, such as the Egyptian Passover, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t reasons. It doesn’t mean that He was being needlessly cruel. It just means that we don’t know everything yet and we still have unanswered questions.
But blaming Heavenly Father and judging Him by our standards is not the way to resolve those questions, either. His ways are not our ways. We are fallen and mortal, and we cannot fully comprehend the designs of our God. Judging Him by our current societal standards is not correct. He might have different ideas of what is just and fair than we do, and as an eternal, divine being, His ideas are more correct than ours are.
The linked video that is Jeremy’s source for the counsel of General Authorities is pretty obnoxious. I don’t know who made the video, but it’s easy to make things sound bad when you remove them from all context like that. It’s a tactic Jeremy has employed numerous times throughout this Letter, so it’s not surprising he’d update it to include a source like that.
Yes, our General Authorities advise us to obey the commandment of tithing, a commandment they also obey. Some of them do draw a living allowance from the Church, while others do not. That living allowance pays for housing, travel, clothing, groceries, utilities, security, and other maintenance while they serve the Lord full time. It is far less than they would receive in a comparable secular position and, considering all that they do and the fact that they don’t get any time off unless they’re ill, I’m fine with them drawing an allowance like that. If you’re not fine with it, start praying about it and see how you feel in a month. That’s my go-to advice for things like this.
There is nothing hypocritical or “morally reprehensible” about reminding people of the commandment and the blessings promised in return for keeping it. Nobody is encouraging “prioritizing money before the needs, health, and well-being of children.” They are encouraging us to keep a commandment from God the Eternal Father, and are telling us that they and He will help provide for our temporal needs if we prioritize His word.
Besides, whatever happened to self-sufficiency?
What about it? If you simply can’t stretch your budget enough to be entirely self-sufficient, the Church has promised to help make up the difference until you are able to make ends meet.
Begging the Bishop for food when you had the money for food but because you followed the above counsel and gave your food money to the Church you’re now dependent on the Church for food money?
That is one confusing, appallingly worded sentence, I’m just saying.
If you give your food and rent money to the Church, you are not self-reliant…you are Church-reliant.
No, you’re reliant on God, which is exactly how it should be. He’s given us all that we have, and He props us up in ways we can’t even comprehend. There is nothing wrong with being reliant on Him, and that doesn’t mean that you’re not self-sufficient. It means that you understand His role in your life. Moreover, the Church’s welfare program is designed not only to get you off that welfare as soon as possible, but also to teach you greater self-sufficiency for the future.
Also, it’s a little weird that earlier, Jeremy was upset that the Church supposedly wasn’t giving enough aid to those in need, but now, he’s apparently upset that the Church is giving too much and making people dependent. Those two arguments directly contradict one another. They can’t both be true, so which one is it?
DISHONESTLY ALTERING LORENZO SNOW’S WORDS AND TEACHINGS ON TITHING
The Church took the Prophet Lorenzo Snow’s 1899 General Conference Address words and deliberately omitted and replaced key words on tithing with ellipsis in its Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow manual.
This is what Lorenzo Snow said in his 1899 General Conference Address:
“I plead with you in the name of the Lord, and I pray that every man, woman and child who has means shall pay one-tenth of their income as a tithing.”
Compare this to how the Church uses and presents Snow’s exact same quote today in its Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow manual:
“ I plead with you in the name of the Lord, and I pray that every man, woman and child … shall pay one-tenth of their income as a tithing.”
The Church dishonestly alters and completely changes Lorenzo Snow’s words and teaching on tithing by removing “who has means” from his 1899 General Conference quote in its Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow manual.
Okay, two things. First, “means” can refer to an ability, method, or even wealth, but it can also refer simply to income. Under that definition, President Snow was saying the same thing as the cropped quote: that anyone who has an income should pay their tithing. In our manuals, quotes from a century ago are often edited for clarity so that we can better understand them today. This is pretty clearly what happened here. The meaning of the quote did not change at all from its edit. It is not dishonest to crop a quote when you are not intending to alter its meaning by removing extraneous words.
Second, the Church has considerably more money now than it did when President Snow was leading it. That means that the Church is in a much better position to help provide aid to those who can’t afford to pay for both their tithing and their rent or groceries. It is easier today to give welfare assistance to those in need than it ever has been in the entire history of the Church. That means there’s even less excuse for us not to pay our tithing.
In 2012, a Latter-day Saint published an eye-opening blog post that went viral among internet Mormons: Are We Paying Too Much Tithing? The article demonstrates how what is currently taught and practiced is contrary to how it was taught and practiced by the Prophet Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets, including Lorenzo Snow; whose above quote was deceptively altered and manipulated for today’s tithe-paying members.
Two more things. First, random internet bloggers are not prophets, and they do not have the ability to contradict the prophets on the mind and will of God concerning His people. As one of those random internet bloggers myself, I would know our limitations. We are a church with a living canon and ongoing revelation, led by modern-day prophets and apostles. The way something was practiced 180 years ago only applies to us today if the prophets declare it does, and they have not declared that this blogger is correct—especially considering that the blogger in question is Rock Waterman, who was excommunicated in 2015 for preaching apostasy.
And second, the accusation that President Snow’s quote was “deceptively altered and manipulated” is pretty rich coming from Jeremy Runnells, whose own quote manipulation and dishonesty reaches legendary status. Anybody remember “Condemn not the (writing)…an account…the First Book of Nephi…upon the face of the earth…it came to pass…the land…his inheritance and his gold and his silver and…the commandments of the Lord…the foolish imaginations of his heart…large in stature…Jerusalem…because of the wickedness of the people”? I mean, really?
Topic header #3 (which was mistakenly called #2 again), “NAMES OF THE CHURCH,” is a short one, comparatively, with a nice, easy explanation. It begins:
1830: CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST
1838: THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS
After revealing “Church of Jesus Christ” on April 6, 1830, Joseph Smith made the decision on May 3, 1834 to change the name of the Church to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints.”
Nope, not true (link provided by Reddit user WooperSlim). See how Jeremy doesn’t cite any sources for that claim? That’s because he can’t. The official name of the Church was not given by revelation prior to 1838. And what’s more, Jeremy knows that. In earlier versions of the CES Letter, the sentence began, “After deciding “Church of Jesus Christ” on April 6, 1830…”
Joseph is apparently the one who chose “The Church of Christ.” There is no record of it coming from Christ Himself. This would be the obvious choice in names, though, since our church is the true church of Jesus Christ restored to the Earth—except that there were multiple other Churches of Christ out there. It was confusing and, as Brian Hales explains, people started referring to the early Saints as “Mormonites” and later “Mormons” to clarify which Church of Christ to which they were referring.
To avoid derogatory names like that, the name was temporarily altered to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints.” According to David Whitmer, that was Sidney Rigdon’s choice. However, also according to Whitmer, there was a revelation dictating the name of the Church from June 1829, of which there is no record whatsoever. This recollection was published in 1887, 58 years after the claimed revelation, and Whitmer seemed to be using the Book of Mormon text itself as proof that that’s what the Church was supposed to be called. So, it’s not entirely clear whether he was talking about a revelation given to Joseph declaring the name of the Church, or whether he meant the revelation given by Christ in the Book of Mormon text.
Either way, there’s no indication that Joseph ever received an earlier revelation giving the name of the Church. D&C 115:3 is the only revelation we know of declaring its name as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was altered slightly later to include the hyphen, and we adopted the British stylization of the lowercase “d” in “day,” but the title remained the same.
Why did Joseph take the name of “Jesus Christ” out of the very name of His restored Church? The one and only true Church on the face of the earth in which Christ is the Head?
Easy—he didn’t. It was purely a way to legally distinguish the restored church from the other Churches of Christ out there, and the evidence is clear that the name “Church of Christ” continued to be the most common name used until after the revelation now known as D&C 115.
Four years later on April 26, 1838, the Church name was changed to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” and has remained ever since (except the hyphen was added later to be grammatically correct).
Is it reasonable to assume that God would periodically change the name of his Church?
God didn’t periodically change the name of His church. Human beings did that because the original name was already in use and there was general confusion about which Church of Christ was being discussed, which resulted in mocking nicknames.
If Jesus Christ is the central character of God’s religion on earth and all things are to be done in His name, is it reasonable to assume that God would instruct His Church leaders to entirely leave out the name of Jesus Christ from the period of May 3, 1834 – April 26, 1838? What possible reason could there be for the name changes?
There’s no record whatsoever that the Savior directed the name to be changed in 1834. It seems to have been Sidney Rigdon’s suggestion. Meanwhile, the Church was still referred to overwhelmingly by “the Church of Christ” until an actual revelation dictating otherwise was received.
Why would Christ instruct Joseph to name it one thing in 1830 and then change it in 1834 and then change it again in 1838?
There’s no record of Him ever having done that. The only record we have is the one in D&C 115 giving the full name of the Church in 1838.
Why would the name of Christ be dropped from His one and only true Church for 4 whole years?
It wasn’t. “Saint,” by definition, is a follower of Christ, and as shown by Brian Hales’s chart above, the usage of “Church of Christ” was the overwhelming favorite until the official name of the Church was given. It was merely a formality to distinguish it from all of the other churches claiming the same name.
What does this say about a Church that claims to be restored and guided by modern revelation?
It says that, in the absence of revelation, mortal men made a decision that turned out to be somewhat flawed, so they came up with a temporary solution. When revelation came dictating otherwise, they obeyed that revelation without hesitation. I think that’s a pretty fantastic example for the rest of us to follow, personally. That’s exactly what should be expected from a Church with modern prophets and ongoing revelation. This is why the Savior referred to this as the only true and living church, because it is guided by modern revelation from the Godhead and not by ancient, man-made creeds, and sometimes revelation changes prior procedure.
In closing out these two topics—especially with the degree of hostility in this portion of the Letter—I just wanted to quote from one of my favorites of Elder Maxwell’s memorable talks:
The more what is politically correct seeks to replace what God has declared correct, the more ineffective approaches to human problems there will be, all reminding us of C. S. Lewis’s metaphor about those who run around with fire extinguishers in times of flood. … I have no hesitancy, brothers and sisters, in stating that unless checked, permissiveness, by the end of its journey, will cause humanity to stare in mute disbelief at its awful consequences.
… Church members will live in this wheat-and-tares situation until the Millennium. Some real tares even masquerade as wheat, including the few eager individuals who lecture the rest of us about Church doctrines in which they no longer believe. They criticize the use of Church resources to which they no longer contribute. They condescendingly seek to counsel the Brethren whom they no longer sustain. Confrontive, except of themselves, of course, they leave the Church, but they cannot leave the Church alone. Like the throng on the ramparts of the “great and spacious building,” they are intensely and busily preoccupied, pointing fingers of scorn at the steadfast iron-rodders (1 Ne. 8:26–28, 33). Considering their ceaseless preoccupation, one wonders, Is there no diversionary activity available to them, especially in such a large building—like a bowling alley? Perhaps in their mockings and beneath the stir are repressed doubts of their doubts. In any case, given the perils of popularity, Brigham Young advised that this “people must be kept where the finger of scorn can be pointed at them.”
Therefore, brothers and sisters, quiet goodness must persevere, even when, as prophesied, a few actually rage in their anger against that which is good (see 2 Ne. 28:20). Likewise, the arrogance of critics must be met by the meekness and articulateness of believers. If sometimes ringed by resentment, we must still reach out, especially for those whose hands hang down (see D&C 81:5). If our shortcomings as a people are occasionally highlighted, then let us strive to do better.
We’re seeing this kind of thing more and more, and the criticisms of the Church are seemingly never-ending. But I love Elder Maxwell’s beautiful advice in the third paragraph to persevere in goodness, meekness, and articulateness as we defend that which is good.
That’s what I’m trying to do with these posts, though admittedly, my goodness, meekness, and articulateness are debatable. I hope some of you will stand up to join me and everyone else making this effort. The world needs more of us standing up for what we believe and letting our light shine.
Sources in this entry:
Sarah Allen is brand new in her affiliation with FAIR. By profession, she works in mortgage compliance and is a freelance copyeditor. A voracious reader, she loves studying the Gospel and the history of the restored Church. After watching some of her lose their testimonies, she became interested in helping others through their faith crises and began sharing what she learned through her studies. She’s grateful to those at FAIR who have given her the opportunity to share her testimony with a wider audience.