How to handle tithing in a split family

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How to handle tithing in a split family

Post by jhp33 » 07 Jan 2014, 09:20

I'm just starting my new spiritual journey. I really can't say where I'm at right now. I have faith that there is a God and that Jesus was real, but beyond that I'm...well...for lack of a better term I'm keeping my options open as I explore "truth." I am, however, still attending church at my wife's request, and doing so willingly and happily. Because that's just what's best for our family right now.

But I'm married to a TBM. She, however, does not work outside the home. Meaning that all the money brought in technically comes from me.

Now, we've never been in the "this is my money, this is your money" kind of marriage. It's always been "our" money. Even when she doesn't bring in the bacon, so to speak.

But, now we seem to be at a crossroads. I have always been the one to take the checkbook to church and pay tithing. So, out of habit this last Sunday as we were leaving for church, she asked me if I wanted the checkbook. I just looked at her and said "I don't know." Which was my way of saying (the kids were around) "We need to have a discussion about what we're doing about tithing, but I'm not ready to write a check today."

Right now, where I stand, I have no desire to pay tithing. In fact, I feel like we could really use that money right now.

She, of course, feels an obligation to pay it. I haven't talked to her about it, but I think her worry is that she won't be TR-worthy if she doesn't pay it.

Anyone else been through this before? Any advice?

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Re: How to handle tithing in a split family

Post by Roadrunner » 07 Jan 2014, 09:55

I know of at least 3 couples in my ward where a non-working spouse declares a full tithe and the money-earning spouse doesn't pay tithing. The non-earning spouses hold a recommend. In my view a spouse who doesn't earn money and who therefore doesn't pay tithing would be able to declare themselves as a full tithe payer. The handbook says those who earn income should pay tithing, implying that those who don't earn income do not have to pay tithing.

So I'd say you're wife could still declare herself a full tithe payer. One caveat - I could see a circumstance where a bishop would give one or both of you a hard time about it. Hopefully you have a decent bishop who will support you both in your decisions.

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Re: How to handle tithing in a split family

Post by nibbler » 07 Jan 2014, 10:03

Yes, my situation isn't too dissimilar. I suspect every couple in our situation comes up with a different way to go forward. I've read a bit on the site and have seen that there's quite a spectrum of what can be considered a full tithe, especially for people in our position.

One train of thought which is more technical, she has no income so she can be considered a full tithe payer while contributing $0. Consider the case where she has an income... if she paid 10% of her income would she cease to be a full tithe payer because of a "shortfall" on your end? Tithing is up to the individual... in tithing settlement they may bring the whole family into the meeting to give an account but there is still one sheet of contributions for each member of the family.

You could take it even further. Like what if you had a child that was working and earning income. Is a full tithe for any particular individual in the family dependent on whether the family as a whole is tithed or can one person be a full tithe payer and another not? Apples and oranges, since husband and wife have to work together in ways that a parent and child do not. Just getting it out there.

I've seen one suggestion that more closely mirrors your shared money approach: all the income gets divided equally between the two of you, she pays 10% on her portion and you pay 0% on yours - resulting in a 5% tithe of your income.

There's also a lot of discussion on this site about gross vs. net vs. increase. Other ways of interpreting the law of tithing. There are some really good threads about tithing on this website.

There are many options, good luck in figuring out what works best for both you and your wife.
Last edited by nibbler on 07 Jan 2014, 10:09, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to handle tithing in a split family

Post by mercyngrace » 07 Jan 2014, 10:08

I'd invite her to read Rock Waterman's take on tithing ( That may open her mind to more flexible approaches regarding tithing. Growing up, I thought that all "righteous" LDS paid 10% or more of the gross on anything they received. I had no concept of nuance. I suspect your wife was taught in the same way about tithing (and probably a good many more principles and practices). Rock's article encouraged me to do my own research and to make tithing a matter of prayer and contemplation.

Interestingly, as the Lord will from time to time, he put others in my path to shape and influence my understanding...

I found out, quite by accident, that a member of the bishopric paid "in kind" with stock options form his employer.

The wife of the ward High Priest Group Leader asked my opinion on tithing while explaining that she paid on her gross and her husband paid on his net.

A trusted friend (and spiritual giant) told me that had he understood the difference between increase and income, his family would not have gone into debt to meet basic needs and voiced his frustration that we teach members to pay the church tithing at the expense of providing for one's family's basic needs, creating a dependency upon the church.

I firmly believe that I was led to my current understanding. That said, it's my current understanding. It doesn't align with the Ensign's or Rock's. Your wife will have to seek her own understanding of the law.

eta: Rock's tithing post is on his ten most popular list (right hand sidebar). It's titled "Are we paying too much tithing?"
Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. ~ Luke 7:47

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Re: How to handle tithing in a split family

Post by On Own Now » 07 Jan 2014, 10:19


The Bishop doesn't ask how you calculate it. It is up to you and your wife. Even so, it's likely that your wife will want to get clarification from the Bishop. I would have if the roles were reversed with my wife, and I suspect the same is true for you. it is a common situation for one spouse to be a full tithe payer and the other not, either because of belief or just plain old non-member-spouse situations. So this shouldn't be uncharted territory for the Bishop.

I don't think that declaring yourself the bread-winner and therefore that you will pay no tithing as a family is the loving approach. That sounds very 1950s. As you said, you and your wife have everything in common. I think it is best not to be divisive about something so important to both of you. Compromise is more expensive, but probably also more appropriate in your present state of things... I suggest sitting down together and coming up with something that you can both agree upon. An obvious starting position is for the two of you to divide the income and let her pay on her half... but I would caution about taking the dividing literally. It doesn't mean that if the two of you go to a movie that she has to pay for her own ticket and buy her own popcorn. In other words, only 'divide' the money for the purpose of calculating tithing.

Another approach is to compromise by paying tithing on 'net' after all reasonable expenses. That is supposed to be valid tithing anyway, as has been discussed many times on these forums, but maybe be even more liberal about how you calculate reasonable expenses, because of your position. Doing that might actually be less of an expense than paying 10% of half of your gross.

No matter what you decide, I would be shocked if the Bishop held her TR hostage over it.
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Re: How to handle tithing in a split family

Post by Curt Sunshine » 07 Jan 2014, 10:28

I think you have two options, if you don't want to pay tithing individually:

1) If you consider the money you earn to belong to both of you, she can pay tithing (however she wants to calculate it) on half of the money both of you earn.

2) She can pay on what she makes - which means a full 10% of zero - which equals $0.

Either way, she is a full-tithe payer - but, frankly, I think it is best to let her decide which way she can accept. Anything else is you insisting on her doing something your way (because, in practical terms, you view it as your money, not hers). If you really do believe the money belongs equally to both of you, she should decide what to do that makes her feel like she is paying a full tithe - and you should support her in her decision.
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Post by ihhi » 07 Jan 2014, 11:27

+1 for the Waterman article on tithing. It was an Eye-opener for me.

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Re: How to handle tithing in a split family

Post by jhp33 » 07 Jan 2014, 12:01

On Own Now wrote:I don't think that declaring yourself the bread-winner and therefore that you will pay no tithing as a family is the loving approach. That sounds very 1950s.
Thanks, everyone. I think the above rings most true to me. I don't want this to be a heavy handed "its my money" thing at all between us, because that's never been the way we've operated.

I think we'll have a discussion about this tonight, and your responses have been very helpful.

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Re: How to handle tithing in a split family

Post by Roy » 07 Jan 2014, 12:53

I will tell you how this evolved in my family.

We were paying once every two years to maximize the charitable tax deduction. DW would only allow this if we paid it in advance. Then when the two years were almost out we had a death in the family, DW entered a prolonged depressive state, and my faith crisis began.

We haven't paid tithing since. For a time this was a major cause of strife and discontent in the marriage. DW felt that our temple marriage and her personal standing before God both hinged on our payment. Several bishops have confirmed to her that, as a stay at home parent, she is considered a full tithe payer if she has intent. One bishop advised her to lay off trying to push me into paying tithing.

We are now in a new state with a new ward and bishop. I have met with the bishop about 6 months back and he asked me what my major impediment is to paying tithing. My main reason is that I had been paying on the premise that God would take care of me and my family in return. The untimely death of the family member was a disillusioning wake up call for me. There are other valid reasons to pay tithing and I am working on building motivation from these other sources. I used to live by "knowledge" and now I am exercising hope and faith.

Bishop gives me all his reasoning for paying. It is a commandment, It is one of the few opportunities to be perfect in compliance, cesation of tithing payment is usually the predictor of other commandment violations, it is important for our kids to see us going to the temple to be examples for them, etc. None of these arguments are particularly persuasive to me - but I realize that to say so or to go into the reasons why would only deepen bishop's concern.

I sense his sincerity and I thank him for taking interest. I agree that it would be heartbreaking to be kept out of my children's temple ordinances. I am open to things changing in the future. I do not make any commitments that I would only end up breaking in the future. I tell bishop that I am willing to serve in the church as long as it doesn't conflict with my work/family schedule.

Tithing settlement a few weeks ago - I went in first to talk to bishop alone. I told him that DW and I are presenting a united tithing front to the children and that we didn't want any awkward conversations in front of them. We have much the same conversation as before. I thank him for his sincerity and his invitation to pay tithing. I tell him that I respect his position and also his efforts on behalf of the ward. I do not make any commitments. I tell him that since the ward meeting times are changing for the new year I will be able to attend SS and P. He smiles and says that they have a calling in mind for DW and I.

Family enters - Bishop teaches tithing to recently baptized daughter on gross. He even tells her that he can reverse calculate how much someone has earned by moving the decimal points. I offered no objection - I only share this to illustrate that my bishop might not be a supporter of alternate tithing methods. DW and I accepted the calling. Bishop asks DD if she is a full tithe payer but forgets to ask DW (DW later confides that this bothered her, If she is to be independent for tithing considerations then she should be able to answer for herself). I assume that it was an oversight

We are glad to serve in the ward in a calling and receive the sense of belonging that it can sometimes bring.

Later when I give the recap of the conversation to DW (complete with some of my reservations about tithing), she tells me that she would consider tithing on net to be a full tithe. This is quite the revelation to me (we had paid on gross) and may open the door to a return to tithing payments in the future.
I realize that this post is entirely egocentric and may not translate well to your circumstances.
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Re: How to handle tithing in a split family

Post by Daeruin » 07 Jan 2014, 13:12

Early in our marriage, I told my wife I did not feel comfortable paying tithing. We talked about it, and her opinion was that it was up to me to decide whether and how much to pay tithing on what I was earning. She had her own job and paid tithing on that. When she quit her job to raise the kids, she had no income to pay tithing on and I continued not to pay on the money I earned. The bishop didn't revoke her recommend. It's been that way for us in five different wards, and so far we haven't had a bishop that felt it was problematic.

Whatever you decide, you definitely need to be on the same page with your wife, as much as possible. I like the idea of splitting the funds. I wish I'd had that suggestion when my wife and I got married. We do all our finances together. We don't spend anything without talking to each other first. I have always considered the money to be ours together, not mine alone. I may be the one whose name is on the paycheck, but I couldn't do it if she weren't at home taking care of the house and kids. I wish I had applied that idea to tithing, too. Maybe it's time for another talk about it with my wife.
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