LDS Tithing: Where does the money go?

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Mitt Romney spent a ton of money on charity in 2010. That’s to be expected. Faithful members of the LDS church give 10% of their “increase” to the church. What precisely that means is a matter left to each individual member.

Yes, paying your tithing is a condition for a temple recommend. Without being a full tither payer, you are not allowed to participate in the ordinances that bind families together for eternity. It’s also humorously called “fire insurance”, because of LDS scripture that states that paying your tithing will entitle you to not be burned in the last days.

Members of the church see it as a trial of faith, of putting their trust in God’s ability to provide over their own weak 5 natural senses. I do not know what my life would be like had I not paid tithing. I simply believe that because I paid my tithing, God found me worthy to entrust me with the things he has entrusted me with today.

Where does the money go? We are told that the tithing money is for the church and its administration. That means building churches, temples, and maintaining them, as well as the administrative expense, which is nominal compared to other organizations because the church relies on volunteer work at almost every level. Do some people get paid? Yes, but I wouldn’t think of it as remuneration for services rendered. It is to be considered as a stipend, enough money to survive. For instance, President Spencer W. Kimball, who in his youth was known to be rich and notoriously good at managing his own affairs, near the end of his life asked an apostle to borrow money to replace a worn-out suit. Serving in the church non-stop for the better part of his adult life left him almost completely broke, unable to afford such necessities as clothing.

Even with the extraordinary expense of acquiring property, building and maintaining buildings designed to withstand flood, storm, and earthquake, there is likely a considerable sum left over. The church doesn’t stick that in a mattress. Like any organization with surplus cash, it likely goes into our free market financial system and ends up financing businesses or even the government. I am sure that it is managed by some of the best financiers the world has ever seen.

What about the Fast Offering funds? Church members are asked to donate the expense of two meals once a month as Fast Offering, money intended to help the poor. They can give far more than that, and those with means are asked to do so. This money ends up helping the poor, with 0 administrative overhead. In fact, because church properties maintained by the tithing fund are used to support our welfare program, you could say that we get a better than 100% return. Add in the vast volunteer resources, and we are doing quite well in delivering needed assistance to the poor.

The church welfare program is designed to provide the social net for all of society, and is open to all. Although we do give handouts, the focus is to get people back on their feet and make them successful. Deseret Industries, for instance, is a great place to find things for cheap (which is a service in and of itself), but also is the shell organization that allows the church to train countless thousands for a successful career in the free market. I have personally seen someone earn their license to operate computer-operated milling machines. In the Puget Sound area, you can live quite comfortably on a machinist’s salary.

The doctrine of the church teaches us that the way to progress in all fields is through the human heart. We must get our heart right first, put our trust in God, and move forward through difficult and uncertain times in faith. We believe that when people do this, they can not only find peace and happiness in this life, but eternal joy in the life to come. Nothing is more important than happiness.

If you want to judge whether Mitt Romney should have spent his money on the LDS church or on something else, then judge his donations by their fruits. What is the result of the church in people’s lives? Are they not happy, strong, productive members of your community? I hope all can see what happens when someone changes from fear to faith, despair to hope, and finds the ultimate truth that God really does love us more than anything in the universe.

 

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