Is tithing a forever part of the Mormon church? Or will there be a day when it will have enough funds in the bank and in the “rainy day fund” that it will direct members that it is no longer required to enter the temple? Will the church go as far as to ask members to donate to other charities with their tithes and offerings? Will the church begin to provide missionaries with funds without requiring them to pay their own way? These are all questions we’ll likely never know because the church does not comment clearly on financial issues unless backed into a corner.
However, there have been church leaders who have said things to allude to a future day when the church doesn’t ask for donations. This is stipulated on the church having enough for its needs, and if we haven’t yet arrived at that day, it is not likely to ever come.
Tithing vs Dividends
Tithing funds have been used to amass a giant fortune of businesses, properties, and investments. The church is the largest landowner in the state of Florida, has many businesses, both non-profit and for-profit businesses, holds (and attempted hiding) at least 150 Billion dollars in investments at Ensign Peak as surplus, and who knows how much more they’ve successfully hidden from the public.
The leaders claim this is not tithing funds, but excess and dividends from church investments. But where did they get the money for investing? From tithing. The church doesn’t seem to understand the difference (or hopes the membership doesn’t understand the difference) between principle and gains… Are tithing funds any different from the increase found when investing surplus tithing funds? The increase could not be made possible without the principle of tithing, these are not distinctions on the totals. Just like in a savings account once you earn interest on your deposit, the interest becomes part of the balance. We don’t get to claim the interest is distinct and separate from the principle balance, at least not when we are honest.
Tithing As Requirement
When tithing was becoming a larger part of practicing the faith, church leader Joseph F Smith made it clear that tithing was to help the church get out of debt, and that it wouldn’t be a requirement forever. He saw a date in the future when there would be tithes sufficient in the storehouse to pay for everything that is needed.
I want to say to my brethren and sisters here this morning, that in my opinion there never was a time when the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were living better lives, were more faithful and more diligent, than they are today. We have various means of judging of this. One very accurate way of knowing is the fact that the law of tithing is being observed. There never has been a time in the history of the Church, I believe, when the law of tithing was observed more universally and more honestly than it has been observed by the Latter-day Saints of late. The tithes of the people during the year 1906, have surpassed the tithing of any other year. This is a good indication that the Latter-day Saints are doing their duty, that they have faith in the Gospel, that they are willing to keep the commandments of God, and that they are working up to the line more faithfully perhaps than ever before.
I want to say another thing to you, and I do so by way of congratulation, and that is, that we have, by the blessing of the Lord and the faithfulness of the Saints in paying their tithing, been able to pay off our bonded indebtedness. Today the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owes not a dollar that it cannot pay at once. At last we are in a position that we can pay as we go. We do not have to borrow any more, and we wont have to if the Latter-day Saints continue to live their religion and observe this law of tithing, It is the law of revenue to the Church.
Furthermore, I want to say to you, we may not be able to reach it right away, but we expect to see the day when we will not have to ask you for one dollar of donation for any purpose, except that which you volunteer to give of your own accord, because we will have tithes sufficient in the storehouse of the Lord to pay everything that is needful for the advancement of the kingdom of God. I want to live to see that day, if the Lord will spare my life. It does not make any difference, though, so far as that is concerned, whether I live or not. That is the true policy, the true purpose of the Lord in the management of the affairs of His Church.
Before I sit down I would like to make another statement. Our enemies have been publishing to the world that the Presidency of the Church and the leading officers are consuming the tithes of the people. Now, I am going to tell you a little secret, and it is this: there is not one of the general authorities in the Church that draws one dollar from the tithes of the people for his own use. Well, you may say, how do they live? I will give you the key: The Church helped to support in its infancy the sugar industry in this country, and it has some means invested in that enterprise. The Church helped to establish Z.C.M.I., and it has a little interest in that, and in some other institutions which pay dividends. In other words, tithing funds were invested in these institutions, which give employment to many, for which the Trustee-in-Trust holds stock certificates, which are worth more today than what was given for them; and the dividends from these investments more than pay for the support of the general authorities of the Church. So we do not use one dollar of your tithing. I thought I would like to tell you that much, so that when you hear men talking about Joseph F. Smith and his associates consuming the tithes of the people you can throw it back into their teeth that they do not use a dollar of the tithing for their support. I would like our “friends,” if I might be permitted to use a vulgar expression, to “put that in their pipe and smoke it.” (Laughter.)President Joseph F Smith, 77th Annual Conference April 1907, General Conference Opening Remarks
Here is the 1907 Joseph F Smith quote in context where he states that the Mormon church will one day have enough that they will not require tithing. It was said in General Conference. Was he speaking as a man or as the prophet of God, because one would think that hundreds of Billions of dollars in a “rainy day fund” is more than enough?
He also notes here that “there is not one of the general authorities in the Church that draws one dollar from the tithes of the people for his own use.” He reasons that it’s not tithing money because they use the dividends from the investments they have made to support the general authorities. But as we discussed earlier, is there a difference? Where did the original funds come from for these investments? They came from tithing! He lists many businesses they the church invested in: ZCMI, the sugar industry, and the list has grown to likely hundreds or thousands of companies today. They church invests surplus tithing money and it grows, and then the church uses the dividends from these investments and claims that “we do not use one dollar of your tithing.” How does this make any sense?
Tithing Narrative Shift
One might think the church would better hide this history of tithing, but Elder Boyd K Packer quoted this in 1990 during a general conference talk. The church has just announced a change in how local budgeting would take place to lessen the local fundraiser events wards were required to hold to pay the bills. It was announced that tithing could cover the majority of these expenses. Some were surprised, but Elder Packer stated that if members had been paying attention, they wouldn’t be surprised.
We have been taught that tithing is not so much a matter of money as a matter of faith. While the change in budgets and assessments and fund-raising may seem at first to be a temporal matter, the effect of it will be spiritual.
To many, the announcement came as a surprise, a very welcome surprise, and yet if you had been listening carefully, you should not have been too surprised.
For years, Presidents of the Church have talked of and prayed for the day when tithes and offerings would qualify members for full participation in the Church.
President Joseph F. Smith, as early as 1907, stated, “We may not be able to reach it right away, but we expect to see the day when we will not have to ask you for one dollar of donation for any purpose, except that which you volunteer to give of your own accord, because we will have tithes sufficient in the storehouse of the Lord to pay everything that is needful for the advancement of the kingdom of God.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1907, p. 7.)
The scriptures speak of tithes and of offerings; they do not speak of assessments or fund-raising. To be an offering, it must be given freely—offered. The way is open now for many more of us to participate in this spiritually refining experience.
For those who can and are willing, there comes the opportunity to make generous offerings. In leaving decisions to you, do you not see the fundamental doctrine of moral agency asserting itself? Do you not see the change from assessment to offering something of the testing which is fundamental to our mortal probation?General Conference, April 1990, Teach Them Correct Principles, By Elder Boyd K. Packer
Whistleblower Claims, Lies, and Settlements
The church has unimaginable wealth today. They hold immense real estate and have invested billions alone in chapels and temples, they have also invested in and created dozens of corporations (some non-profit and some for-profit), and they have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in what they refer to as their “rainy day fund.” If their rainy day fund reserves are at least 9 digits long ( as in $150,000,000.00), it is safe to say they “have tithes sufficient in the storehouse of the Lord to pay everything that is needful for the advancement of the kingdom of God.”
The church has gone to great lengths to hide the amount of wealth they do have, because they assumed that if members knew, they would be less inclined to pay tithing. Why would members think like that? Oh, it’s because previous leaders have said the church would no longer require tithing once it had enough funds. The message was clear, Once we have enough to keep the lights on, we won’t need you to give anymore. We’ve reached that day, but the church, rather than acknowledge this and congratulate the membership that they have sufficient in the storehouse, they kept it secret so they could amass even more into the proverbial storehouse.
It took a whistleblower leaking financial data about the church for this to become known. This whistleblower worked for the investment company of the church called Ensign Peak. He saw what the church was doing and that they were being dishonest to the membership as well as to the government in order to hide the obscene wealth. He was not comfortable with this lack of integrity so he first confronted his management, and when they told him to be quiet, he leaked irrefutable evidence and data. The church issued a statement that these claims were “based on a narrow perspective and limited information” and assured the membership that everything would absolve them in the end as they worked with officials and agencies to clear it up.
We take seriously the responsibility to care for the tithes and donations received from members. The vast majority of these funds are used immediately to meet the needs of the growing Church, including more meetinghouses, temples, education, humanitarian work and missionary efforts throughout the world. Over many years, a portion is methodically safeguarded through wise financial management and the building of a prudent reserve for the future. This is a sound doctrinal and financial principle taught by the Savior in the Parable of the Talents and lived by the Church and its members. All Church funds exist for no other reason than to support the Church’s divinely appointed mission.
Claims being currently circulated are based on a narrow perspective and limited information. The Church complies with all applicable law governing our donations, investments, taxes, and reserves. We continue to welcome the opportunity to work with officials to address questions they may have.First Presidency Statement on Church Finances – Statement provided in response to media stories – 17 December 2019 – Salt Lake City – Official Statement
LDS Church’s Misstated Filings to SEC Approved by First Presidency
What ended up happening? Were they absolved? No, they ended up settling with the SEC and paying Five Million Dollars in fines due to fraud and misrepresenting their investments to the government. They did inform the membership that they had settled things and “this matter is closed,” because surely they didn’t want to talk about their lies and deceptions. They didn’t want to admit that they had so much money from tithing that they didn’t even know what to do with it, so they tried to hide it in illegal shell companies!
After making these claims the church then was forced to settle with the SEC paying $5 Million in fines. If the claims that were circulated were based on “narrow perspective and limited information”, once the SEC investigated, we can plainly see that more information and perspective did not absolve the church of guilt.
This all to say, the church has plenty of funds today. They do not need to ask for a single dollar from the membership. They could fund the church in perpetuity with the interest alone in this “rainy day fund.” Then the church also has many more funds available to them and the for-profit businesses they run. If there is ever a day when the church doesn’t need the constant income from tithing funds, that is today.
The New Tithing Narrative
The narrative around tithing has changed, and now they want to make donors feel that it’s not about the money anymore, it’s about the law of obedience, faith, and sacrifice. It’s not about the money, it’s never been about the money! This changes the narrative. Originally they encouraged members to contribute tithing to help keep the church afloat and that one day, when the church had enough funds in the storehouse, it wouldn’t be needed anymore. Now that there is enough though, they hide this fact (sometimes with little more than an ellipsis). Instead of lifting the demand for money, they have made tithing a requirement for entering the temple and receiving supposed saving ordinances. They are taking advantage of member’s faith so they can grow even more wealthy. It’s nothing more than a corporation with a mind of its own, and bent on growing!
Tithing is a test of faith with eternal blessings… Tithing has been established in these latter days as an essential law for members of the Lord’s restored Church. It is one of the basic ways we witness our faith in Him and our obedience to His laws and commandments. Tithing is one of the commandments that qualifies us, by our faith, to enter the temple—the house of the Lord.Elder Robert D. Hales, Tithing: A Test of Faith with Eternal Blessings, October 2002, General Conference
The law of tithing is a test by which the people as individuals shall be proved. Any man who fails to observe this principle shall be known as a man who is indifferent to the welfare of Zion, who neglects his duty as a member of the Church, and who does nothing toward the accomplishment of the temporal advancement of the kingdom of God. He contributes nothing, either, toward spreading the gospel to the nations of the earth, and he neglects to do that which would entitle him to receive the blessings and ordinances of the gospel.
The observance of the law of tithing is voluntary. I can pay my tithing or not, as I choose. It is a matter of choice with me, whether I will do it or not do it; but, feeling as I do, loyal to the Church, loyal to its interests, believing that it is right and just to observe the law of tithing I do observe it.Teaching of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F Smith, Chapter 31: Obedience to the Law of Tithing
The church would have us pay tithing out of obedience and faith into their machine so they may continue to increase their secret wealth. They abuse the faith and steal the widow’s mite when it is not even needed or used. They hoard the wealth and do little with it (relatively). How did you see tithing in your life? Did you pay it because you felt the church needed it at some level or simply because you wanted to show your willingness to sacrifice and be obedient? Did you pay the church tithes because of the stories leaders shared about paying tithing before buying groceries? Did you buy into the idea that paying a multi-billionaire church tithing is the key to rising out of poverty? Did it ever feel like a pyramid scheme? Share your own story at wasmormon.org.
- 60 Minutes Transcript: Whistleblower David Nielsen Speaks Out After Reporting the Mormon Church to IRS in 2019
- The Tithing … Ellipsis