The Church's History of Tithing

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Beefster
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The Church's History of Tithing

Post by Beefster » 13 Oct 2017, 20:08

This is probably a repost. I've seen quite a bit of discussion of tithing recently and it sparked looking into the history.

I first started with the one on history.lds.org, which I suspected would be whitewashed. It was, but not as badly as I thought it would be. Then I found this article, which more or less picks up where the official one leaves off.

This in particular really bothered me:
the article wrote:In January 1845 a Quorum of Twelve's epistle reemphasized 'the duty of all saints to tithe themselves one-tenth of all they possess when they enter into the new and everlasting covenant: and then one-tenth of their interest, or income, yearly afterwards.' However, two weeks later the Twelve voted to exempt themselves, the two general bishops Newel K. Whitney and George Miller, and the Nauvoo Temple Committee from any obligation to pay tithing. This was due to their services to the church.
One apostle felt uneasy about the policy. I don't blame him.
the article wrote:Apostle John E. Page's enforcement of the full-tithing requirement for the rank-and-file led to his disaffection from his own quorum. Exempted from tithing himself, Page felt guilty about collecting tithing from others such as one Mormon who gave $4 which was 'the tenth of all' the man and his impoverished family possessed.
Then later, tithing was made a temple recommend requirement. It wasn't until the 50s or 60s when members were paying tithing consistently.

I am not sure what to think about this perpetual moving of the goalposts. I don't know where to go personally because of this. I'm not sure I can trust the church due to their track record and it does not seem like a good personal investment, as I have mentioned elsewhere. Even looking at it as a "membership fee" for temple admittance makes it not seem worth it since I don't really care for the temple experience. My mom sort of expects me to get married in the temple, but I need to do it for me, not for her.

I think Joseph Smith had it right:
history.lds.org wrote:Shortly after Joseph received the revelation in section 119, he assigned Brigham Young to go among the Saints “and find out what surplus property the people had, with which to forward the building of the Temple we were commencing at Far West.” Before setting out, Brigham asked Joseph, “‘Who shall be the judge of what is surplus property?’ Said he, ‘Let them be the judges themselves.’”
Boys are governed by rules. Men are governed by principles.

Often I hear doubt being presented as the opposite of faith but I think certainty does a better job of filling that role. Doubts can help faith grow, certainty almost always makes faith shrink. --nibbler

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dande48
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Re: The Church's History of Tithing

Post by dande48 » 13 Oct 2017, 22:14

That's some interesting research. On the one hand, since most of the Q15 solely get their income from other people's tithing (and they get to determine what that income is), it seems like a meaningless gesture. It's like when CEOs of non-profits (looking at United Way) take an enourmous salary paid for by the donations of others, only to turn around and redonate a small portion for the recognition. From what I understand, certain federal employees don't have to pay any income tax. Congress still does, for appearances; but they've given themselves substancial perks in addition to their exorbitant salary.

On the other hand, it IS a commandment, and it seems a little unfair to exempt certain leaders from a commandment like tithing. If only we had a lay ministry... :problem:
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

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Always Thinking
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Re: The Church's History of Tithing

Post by Always Thinking » 14 Oct 2017, 07:03

@dande I know the GA's say that their income comes from church investments only and make a big point that they are not paid with tithing. However, idk how much that can be trusted, as I'm sure some of the investments have been obtained with some tithing and they could use some tithing when paying themselves since no one would know. Because there is no financial transparency, we have to blindly trust them, which I don't. If it is true though, that all their pay is coming from the church's investments, that seems like it would be reasonable to pay tithing on since they wouldn't be using tithing money to gain money, they would be getting paid from business investments is what it would feel like to me. I wish the church went back to being transparent with how tithing money is used, like they used to. I looked at the old tithing reports back before they stopped, and some of them were very detailed about where all the money went which I think is great.

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dande48
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Re: The Church's History of Tithing

Post by dande48 » 14 Oct 2017, 08:39

@Always Thinking, that could be true; I never heard the GAs make that claim, but it all comes from the same accounts. Any returns on the Church's investments go to their general use fund, same as tithing, which gets alloted to their salaries, Church upkeep, humanitarian work, further investments, etc. In the beginning, all investments the Church has made has come from tithing, and it all goes to the same place for the same purposes. So paying tithing on it would in essence be putting the money back where they took it from.

At least it isn't as bad as under Brigham Young, who in addition to his enourmous salary "borrowed without repaying" over $2mil (which is more like $34 million, if you adjust for inflation).
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
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Always Thinking
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Re: The Church's History of Tithing

Post by Always Thinking » 14 Oct 2017, 08:56

Here's where I'm getting that from: Gordon B Hinckley said that living wages of GA's come from business income, not tithing. This is from GC in 1985

"I should like to add, parenthetically for your information, that the living allowances given the General Authorities, which are very modest in comparison with executive compensation in industry and the professions, come from this business income and not from the tithing of the people." Gordon B Hinckley 1985 General Conference

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/ ... s?lang=eng



I have seen many people make that claim though, that it all comes from the same account so they mix in business venture money and tithing together? Is there a source for that? I've heard people say it a lot but don't know where it comes from

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LookingHard
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Re: The Church's History of Tithing

Post by LookingHard » 14 Oct 2017, 12:29

To me the distinction is not much of a difference to me. So salaries are paid out of dividends from investments made using my grandparents tithing? Unless the church sold the gold plates as seed money for all investments, it is all "tithing and dividends from tithing".

I am much more concerned about (a) the church being up-front about compensation of top leaders (b) just how much the church is spending on investments, especially real estate, vs more charitable expenditures.

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Re: The Church's History of Tithing

Post by Roadrunner » 14 Oct 2017, 14:47

I contend that it's impossible to quantify gross income and that we all chose what net income we tithe. I can name 20 things that philosophically count as income alhough not a single person I know pays tithing on it.

To me that means that if you are comfortable with a certain tithing amount then the Lord is too. Most bishops only ask if you lay a full tithe and they aren't supposed to ask how you calculate that amount.

On a related note Wikipedia lists the the LDS church as the second most wealthy church after the Catholic Church. $40 billion in assets.

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dande48
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Re: The Church's History of Tithing

Post by dande48 » 14 Oct 2017, 15:33

@Always Thinking; To be honest, it's just an assumption. It would make very little sense for the Church to departmentalize its income into tithing and tithing-investment-returns. As with most businesses, the entirity of the income is brought in, and then divided according to their needs. What if a few investments went sour? You can bet the GA's wouldn't adjust their income accordingly. What if there is a surplus? Keeping them seperate makes little sense.

I did find a Church Newsroom article which gave a quick rundown over the Church's financial independance. It was interesting. It brought up multiple times (I'm paraphrasing), "Sometimes people try to determine how much the Church makes, and how much it spends in certain areas (humanitarian, administration, investments, etc). They're entirely missing the point. It's all for God and the salvation of His children." Question dodged.

I agree with LH; I think the Church is very secretive about their finances and where it all goes. GBH's quote makes it sound like they only live off of a modest living stipends. Really, it's full on taxable income (3x the average American's wage). I feel, if you hide something it's because you have something to hide. And if you lie/decieve about what you are hiding, it makes it all the more suspicious. There are members of the Church who truly believe we have a lay ministery, where the GAs live off of their personal business ventures (some of them remain CEOs while serving), and the Q15 lives off of their retirement.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
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LookingHard
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Re: The Church's History of Tithing

Post by LookingHard » 14 Oct 2017, 16:20

Roadrunner wrote:
14 Oct 2017, 14:47
I contend that it's impossible to quantify gross income and that we all chose what net income we tithe. I can name 20 things that philosophically count as income alhough not a single person I know pays tithing on it.

To me that means that if you are comfortable with a certain tithing amount then the Lord is too. Most bishops only ask if you lay a full tithe and they aren't supposed to ask how you calculate that amount.

On a related note Wikipedia lists the the LDS church as the second most wealthy church after the Catholic Church. $40 billion in assets.
I fully agree. My issue is my wife does not agree!

As long as my family and I are participating in the church, I do feel I should be shouldering my portion of costs. The building depreciation, maintenance, and other general costs - and even some overall organizational costs. But my guess is that is still more in the 2% range on the high end.

It is known in management that sometimes to get costs under control, you temporarily "starve" a part of the organization for a bit and the leaches go elsewhere. I have been on the receiving end of those a few times in my career. Since the church has started placing pressure on tithing I think it is a teat they can't wean themselves from. They are not being anywhere close to the greedy executives that I have seen the last few decades. I think only a few people are making much money from their positions (I just wish they would be straightforward and honest about it). But like I already said, it seems that the Q15 has become a bit more of a corporate board (full of lawyers) and they seem to be way to focused on being businessmen than pastoral. They seem to be focusing on buying a ton of properties that have virtually no relation to anything spiritual.

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Re: The Church's History of Tithing

Post by nibbler » 14 Oct 2017, 18:01

I believe that the church has borrowed heavily from the business model. I don't think the Q15 sit around a desk to discuss investments, they have a business unit that does it for them. That said, top leaders do appear to be selected more for business prowess than for their "spirituality," for lack of a better term. We've kicked around that idea before... "what if" the jobs of chief operations officers were decoupled from the jobs of chief spiritual ministers. A nibbler can dream.
dande48 wrote:
14 Oct 2017, 15:33
It would make very little sense for the Church to departmentalize its income into tithing and tithing-investment-returns.
I would be surprised if they ran things differently than any other corporation. Multiple accounts, if nothing more than to drive home the point how each business unit has a budget; things like that. Double-entry accounting where tithing monies go in one end and returns on investments comes out the other. All so someone can sleep better at night after accepting the widows mite with one hand and buying malls with the other. Yeah, I'm in a mood tonight.

For me it's not about the label they attach to money. They can crank the money through the system enough times until the label changes to suit their needs. It's about opportunity cost. Money to buy malls is money that didn't go to the poor, regardless of where it came from.

So why all the investments? I think the leaders imagine the day when tithing money begins to dry up and they want hundreds of profit generating streams of revenue so they can continue to meet operational costs in those days. Perhaps there are no lilies in SLC to consider, IDK.

That's my spiel. Sorry it was dark.

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