Why I finished paying tithing to the LDS Church

It is rare to say that a message changed your life or behavior. But that’s exactly what happened to me a year ago when Religion Unplugged and the Washington Post brought the story that my church, Latter-day Saints Church of Jesus Christ, had amassed over $ 100 billion in nest egg.

Oddly enough, I recently had a column called “I Just Got My Mormon Tithing. Why don’t I feel better about it? “In the article, I discussed the December annual tradition of tithing, in which Church members can sit down with their bishop to discuss their donations and whether they are” full “tithe payers and donate 10% of their income.

I am a fan of the tithe regulation. Regular financial accountability is an important spiritual practice that helps followers of Jesus stay on track to support the sacred work on earth. But it should go both ways, with supporters being responsible for their donations and leaders being responsible for how those donations are spent.

That accountability has not occurred since 1959, when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last pulled the curtain back to show what was coming in and where it was going out. This was a time of deficit spending for the Church, which is why it has likely stopped sharing financial information with members. As I wrote last year:

“However, I suspect the secrecy policy will continue, not because the Church is poor or in debt, but because it has become so rich that revealing the extent of its holdings could be embarrassing and raise undesirable questions.

Would knowing the extent of the fullness of the Church diminish the continued generosity of Latter-day Saints? “

Little did I know, as I wrote this, that less than two weeks later my religious world would be shaken by important revelations about the finances of the Church. Little did I know that the specific line about Latter-day Saints diminishing their generosity, if they knew that the full extent of the wealth of the Church would apply to me personally.

I spent the next two weeks reading the allegations, talking to friends, and praying about what to do. It became clear early on that the news was true, just as it became clear that Church members and ex-members would respond in mostly predictable ways. Orthodox members defended the treasure as exactly what Jesus would ask us to prepare for a rainy day (or “a rainy decade,” as Mitt Romney joked appreciatively). They prided themselves on the fact that the Church had more money than university foundations, most hedge funds, and even some small nations. They saw the hand of the Lord grow the nest egg from just over $ 10 billion at the beginning of this century to more than ten times less than two decades later.

Ex-members ridiculed the church as a fraudulent institution that demands ongoing donations from even its poorest members and does not get rich for any apparent charitable cause.

As always, I was somewhere in the middle. I agree with the critics that the sheer size of the Church’s fortune is not worthy of the values ​​of my Mormon people – the good that could be done to use that money to save lives now! But that’s where the money sits and grows in the long run.

On the other hand, I don’t think there was ever any malicious intent to create this situation. Church leaders do not count their supplies while slapping their fingers in malevolent joy or living extravagant, secret lives in luxury. Rather, they set out to achieve stable financial accounts, and then the Church got rich beyond the wildest dreams because of their discipline in saving a portion of annual tithe donations and the gift of a roaring stock market. Now that the supply is no longer idle out of shameful intent but from layers of bureaucracy and institutional inertia.

In other words, the same systematic shrewdness that has brought the church its unimaginable fortune also accounts for the lack of vision of what to do with it other than a distant idea of ​​waiting for the second coming of Christ.

The irony of the argument about saving for the Second Coming is how passionately it ignores what Christ said when He first came. Things like:

  • “If you were perfect, go sell what you have and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. and come follow me “(Matthew 19:21)
  • “Sell your possessions and give them to those in need. Provide yourself with bags of money that don’t get old, with a treasure in heaven that won’t fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. “(Luke 12:33)

These are hard lessons. I am not young and idealistic enough to say that the church should take them literally and liquidate their fortunes in one immediate, dramatic gesture. But no church that claims to follow the man who uttered these words should be sitting on a fortune that can do so much to alleviate the suffering. The church certainly does humanitarian work. According to the Deseret News (in a February article that had to be a direct response to allegations that the church did nothing at all to help the poor), it has doubled its reach in the past five years and is now giving more than $ 1 billion annually in combined humanitarian and social assistance.

This is a start for a church with a $ 100 billion equity portfolio, not to mention its real estate holdings and other investments. But of course it could do a lot more.

The short version of all of this is that while I’m still a full tithing payer, I didn’t pay the Church a dime in 2020.

This change feels empowering. I love supporting charities that provide humanitarian aid, especially to children around the world. I do research on these organizations through Charity Navigator and prefer those that provide direct assistance and practice financial transparency.

Both factors were missing when I gave something to the LDS Church. Even donation to the Church’s own humanitarian fund has this limitation at the end of every tithe note: “Although reasonable efforts are made worldwide to use donations as intended, all donations become the property of the Church and are made at the sole discretion of the Church Church uses to promote the overall mission of the church. “

That’s not enough for me anymore.

For this year’s tithing regulation, I declared myself the full tithing payer and explained why none of this money went to the church. I don’t know what impact this decision will have, if any. In all honesty, it doesn’t matter whether I continue to follow a temple recommendation or not. What is important to me is that at least some children who have had no food or access to education have food, school and the basics. I should have done this a long time ago.

Related columns:

I just paid my Mormon tithing. Why don’t I feel better about it?

According to the results of the study, Utah is the most generous state

Pay tithing, be happy?

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