Where Does Mormon Tithing Go? Read the Fine Print

The short answer is we don’t know. We can’t know where tithing goes for sure because the church doesn’t and won’t share that information. This is despite the fact that church president Gordon B Hinckley stated when asked why the church wasn’t transparent as is required in many countries. He said that that information belongs to those who made the contribution. Though, this shouldn’t be a surprise to those questioning the church because on the tithing slips used when donating to the church and on the church website, they clearly state that once donated all money given to the church is church property and they get to use it how they see fit.

The churches publish all their budgets, to all the public. Why is it impossible for your church? Well, we simply think that the…that information belongs to those who made the contribution, and not to the world. - Gordon B Hinckley
The churches publish all their budgets, to all the public. Why is it impossible for your church? Well, we simply think that the…that information belongs to those who made the contribution, and not to the world. – Gordon B Hinckley
"In 2012 there was an disclaimer added to the LDS tithing slip which reads “Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated, all donations become the Church’s property and will be used at the Church’s sole discretion to further the Church’s overall mission.”

Since 1959 the LDS church has not publicly disclosed its financial statements… even to its tithe payers. -https://missedinsunday.com/memes/finances/2012-tithing-slip-change/
“In 2012 there was a disclaimer added to the LDS tithing slip which reads “Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated, all donations become the Church’s property and will be used at the Church’s sole discretion to further the Church’s overall mission.” Since 1959 the LDS church has not publicly disclosed its financial statements… even to its tithe payers. https://missedinsunday.com/memes/finances/2012-tithing-slip-change/

Tithing Slip Fine Print

A tithing slip is what members write out and include with their donations to the church. This is traditionally done on a Sunday in church. Members would get a slip and envelope from the cubby by the bishop’s office. They would factor in how much “increase” they had that week or month (depending on their personal frequency of payments). They would place the original slip along with the money – cash or check was acceptable. They would keep a carbon copy of the tithing slip for their own records so that at the end of the year they could attend the tithing settlement with their family and the Bishop where they would declare that they had paid a full tithe that year. If not they had one last opportunity to donate the difference on the spot to settle up with the Lord so to speak.

"Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated, all donations become the Church’s property and will be used at the Church’s sole discretion to further the Church’s overall mission." Tithing slip, the fine print. The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints | wasmormon.org
“Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated, all donations become the Church’s property and will be used at the Church’s sole discretion to further the Church’s overall mission.” Tithing slip, the fine print. The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Though many members would fill out this slip regularly, did they take note of the fine print? Is it troubling that a tithing slip has fine print? Is the slip

All donations to the Church’s missionary fund become the property of the Church to be used at the Church’s sole discretion in its missionary program.

Tithing slips fine print in 2001.

Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated, all donations become the Church’s property and will be used at the Church’s sole discretion to further the Church’s overall mission.

Tithing slips fine print in 2012.

All donations to the Church are free-will offerings and become the Church’s property. In furtherance of its overall mission, the church may shift its donations for any designated use to other uses, at its sole discretion.”

Tithing online fine print in 2023.

This is probably missing more changes, knowing that’s how the church works… but we’ll start with this. We can see that over the years the church has “claimed” sole discretion in using the donated money. In 2001, the tithing slip had fine print on it stating that the missionary fund became the property of the church and that it would be used at the sole discretion of the church. They didn’t want anyone telling them how to use the money.

The tithing slips were updated in 2012 with slight word change which would have a significant change in meaning. Now they claim that all donations become the church’s property and will be used at the church’s discretion. They did couch the legal fine print with some comforting platitudes. They sandwiched the fact that all money given to the church becomes church property with the meaningless phrase that they would make reasonable efforts to use the donations as designated and that they would be used to further the church’s mission. Seems like they liked the self-imposed freedoms they arranged with some fine print and wanted more. They expanded from only using their “sole discretion” for missionary funds to all donated funds.

Then they took things a bit further and updated it to state that “all donations to the church are free-will offerings” and become the church’s property. This is likely to head off any demands for refund members may propose, since the offering is a free-will offering, and belongs to the church as property now.

Humanitarian Donations

This strategy includes even the donations the church receives strictly for humanitarian and charitable works. They have a section of the website devoted to humanitarian aid and other philanthropies which accept donations. This site allows users to specifically select any categories from among the 539 distinct funds and donate any amount from credit card payments, e-check or PayPal. There are even options to set up recurring payments, much as you’d expect from an online donation. There is a surprise though for anyone who is not used to the tithing slip verbiage, in that the same fine print exists here!

Though reasonable efforts will be made to use donations as designated, all donations to Church programs become the Church’s property and will be used at the Church’s sole discretion to further the Church’s overall mission.  Donations designated for approved programs at the institutions of higher education will be used for the designated purposes of such donations.

Donate to Philanthropies, a department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‑day Saints
https://donate.churchofjesuschrist.org/donations/church/humanitarian-services/humanitarian-aid-fund.html

In this instance, the carte-blache verbiage is surprising when the site allows a donor to select from so many various charitable organizations (all within the church umbrella of course). This shows that the church really just has one bank account and everything flows into it, and the leadership of the corporation determines how to spend it and where to invest it. There is no accountability, transparency, or checks in place to ensure that the funds go to the proper place and they don’t even pretend that they do. They only claim that “reasonable efforts will be made”. What are reasonable efforts in this case? They won’t even give details on this. The only thing they are open about is that they don’t want anyone telling them how to spend the money and that they have sole discretion in how it is used. Once they receive the money, it’s theirs, end of story. You may say at that point the matter is closed.

The categories available for selection are rather broad and less humanitarian-focused and more just church-focused. Associations like the BYU Alumni Association fund, the BYU student scholarship program, and the general Missionary fund. The disclaimer does indicate that “the donations designated for approved programs at the institutions of higher education will be used for the designated purposes”. But it doesn’t indicate which funds and programs are included in this set. This is likely only included because there is some oversight and required disclosure on such programs for higher education in order to maintain accreditation. In other words, they aren’t doing this because they want to, but because they are required to by law. Though they have been caught skirting the law in cases of finances and have been charged millions by the SEC for misfiling investments.

There is even a fund called the Church General Fund (not for tithing), which states are used “according to the discretion of church leadership where the need is greatest; helping support areas like, but not limited to, Church History, Family History, and The Tabernacle Choir. This fund is NOT to be used to pay tithing.” Not sure what distinguishes this fund from the others when there is the general disclaimer on donating any money that the church will use the funds at the discretion of church leadership too? They really know how to cover all their bases though to keep them legally in the right, no matter what we can say about the morality of the church taking money and doing whatever they please with it.

The financial services side of the Mormon corporate conglomerate is run by Ensign Peak Advisors, a mysterious entity of which little is known. In this company, billions worth of financial assets change hands every day without any form of internal control or external oversight… The last public financial report dates back to April 1959.

The Corporate Structure of the Mormon church: Transparency and accountability
http://www.mormonism101.com/2015/01/the-corporate-structure-of-mormon-church.html

The church will not share how much they have accumulated even when they seem to state that they do. The church has not disclosed any financial information since 1957. The only reason we have any estimations today is that the church has behaved so badly that a faithful insider lost faith in the organization and leaked the amounts as a whistleblower. This along with other dedicated investigations to trace the closely guarded secrets of the extent of the church’s wealth. This prompted an interview on 60 Minutes in which a presiding bishop stated that they will not share the information because it is confidential, not secret, but he did state they have “significant resources”.

60 Minutes interview: "What about, you know, the idea that secrecy builds mistrust Waddell: Well, we don't feel it's being secret, we feel it's being confidential. Sharyn: What's the difference? Waddell: The difference is, uh... I guess it's a point of view." Bishop Waddell, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding Ensign Peak Hundred Billion Dollar Investments | wasmormon.org
“What about the idea that secrecy builds mistrust?” “We don’t feel it’s being secret, we feel it’s being confidential.” “What’s the difference?” “The difference is… uh… I guess it’s a point of view.” Bishop Waddell, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding Ensign Peak Hundred Billion Dollar Investments
Q: What is the value right now of Ensign Peak’s assets? Waddell: Yeah, That’s something I can’t share with you right now. I know there’ve been there been reports on approximates and that kind of thing, and that’s as far as we can go, right? Q: It’s been estimated at 50 billion dollars. Does that sound correct? Waddell: Um, that’s an estimate that some have made. Q: Are we in the ballpark? or no? Waddell: Um, We have significant resources. 60 Minutes Interview, W Christopher Waddell of the LDS Presiding Bishopric | wasmormon.org
Q: What is the value right now of Ensign Peak’s assets? Waddell: Yeah, That’s something I can’t share with you right now. I know there’ve been there been reports on approximates and that kind of thing, and that’s as far as we can go, right? Q: It’s been estimated at 50 billion dollars. Does that sound correct? Waddell: Um, that’s an estimate that some have made. Q: Are we in the ballpark? or no? Waddell: Um, We have significant resources. 60 Minutes Interview, W Christopher Waddell of the LDS Presiding Bishopric
60 Minutes: But don't you agree? This would be a non-issue if there was more transparency. "No, because then everyone will be telling us what they wanted to do with the money." - Bishop Waddell, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding Ensign Peak Hundred Billion Dollar Investments | wasmormon.org
60 Minutes: But don’t you agree? This would be a non-issue if there was more transparency. “No, because then everyone will be telling us what they wanted to do with the money.” – Bishop Waddell, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding Ensign Peak Hundred Billion Dollar Investments

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3 Comments

  1. I find it interesting that the main focus of your criticism has to do with perceived misuse of church funds and your inability to find out how much is in those funds. Somehow you feel this should be a concern for those who faithfully pay their tithing, allowing for the Lord’s direction on how to administer the funds. You haven’t taken into considertion the faith and good works accomplished with these funds, both within the church and the world. Isn’t your criticism based on the fact that you would like to know these details in order to further your efforts to undermine the beliefs of members and win them to your “enlightened” side? Do you have a problem with the charitable works, both at home and abroad, accomplished through church donations? Are you insulted that tithing is used to build temples?
    You are completely entitled to your point of view and i have no problem with that. I just wish you would provide correct information and be honest about your real intentions.

    1. Sara Lay,

      The main focus of the criticism is the actual misuse of church funds and the fine print the corporation of the church requires on the tithing slips so that they can legally do whatever they want with the tax-exempt donations they receive under the guise of doing the Lord’s work. I am happy that the church itself reports that it does some charitable work, but even then, when they have hundreds of billions of dollars at their disposal, they do very little for others. There has been much written about this point of view and links to provide correct information for those brave enough to look:
      https://wasmormon.org/lds-churchs-misstated-filings-to-sec-approved-by-first-presidency/
      https://wasmormon.org/mormon-churchs-meager-humanitarian-efforts/
      https://wasmormon.org/elder-anderson-claims-we-are-not-a-wealthy-people/
      https://wasmormon.org/60-minutes-transcript-whistleblower-david-nielsen-speaks-out-after-reporting-the-mormon-church-to-irs-in-2019/
      https://wasmormon.org/mixing-tithing-and-hedge-funds-is-technically-legal-but-that-doesnt-make-it-right/
      https://wasmormon.org/why-did-the-mormon-church-hide-investments/
      https://wasmormon.org/development-of-mormon-tithing-from-meager-origins-to-ensign-peak-billions/

      Do you have research and documentation to support your personal “point of view,” and what are your intentions? Are you looking for truth or are you looking to reinforce your personal world view despite the evidence?

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