In Which I Wonder ‘How to Teach my Girls about Tithing.’

I remember going to my first tithing settlement. In fairness, it may not have been my first, but it was the first I remember. I was probably about ten years old, just old enough to have a couple dollars to my name. I had paid tithing on those dollars and was able to confirm that the amount of tithing the bishop had recorded was correct. He also complimented me on my ability to know what ten percent of some amount of money is. 

I was very smart. 

It’s an objectively unremarkable memory, but it’s one I look on with nostalgia. I have described my longing for my childhood Mormonism elsewhere. But looking back on my church I experienced then and the one I live with now reminds me a little of Christmas as a child verses Christmas as an adult. It’s nice, but it was better when I didn’t know where the presents came from. The magic of youth conference with simply never be captured in Elders’ Quorum. And the magic of tithing settlement is long gone. 

I say that having experienced the sort of miracle stories we sometimes share about tithing. Once when I was newly married we were unsure how we were going to pay rent and after paying tithing found a check we had neglected to cash. Maybe it was coincidence. It’s also possible that it’s a coincidence that I’ve given value; one that could still draw me closer to God. Or maybe God was helping us along. 

In the time since that tithing miracle my wife has left the church and we have divorced. To that end, my children’s spiritual education has fallen squarely on my shoulders and I feel this weight frequently. 

And now, I don’t know how to talk to my children about tithing. 

I hate that. 

All things being equal, I want to believe in tithing. I’m an educator. I worry about money daily. I am blessed to have a family who can support me when I come up short, and I fully acknowledge my relative privilege. But still, I could use the blessings tithing is supposed to provide. 

More than that, I want to be a good Latter-day Saint. 

I want to be able to answer the temple recommend questions with fidelity. To use our vernacular, I want to be fully worthy. But I haven’t been able to tithe since the original whistleblower revelations on the church’s wealth. It feels strange to say, but paying tithing hasn’t felt right. 

This isn’t because I’m angry the church is rich. It’s because tithing no longer feels moral. I don’t know how to justify giving money I would otherwise spend on my children to an organization that will seemingly do nothing more than invest that money, for the purpose of making their pot of money bigger. An organization that despite its claims of great humanitarian spending continues to prioritize enriching its coffers over going about doing good. And the more recent revelations concerning the deception surrounding these funds has hit me in a deep and vulnerable place. I feel brokenhearted. 

I feel spiritually used. 

What complicates all of this for me is I continue to love this organization. I wouldn’t be so broken about its deception if I didn’t. Being hurt by someone you love stings more than being hurt by someone you don’t. 

All in all, I feel the institutional church’s deceptions have put its members in a morally dubious situation. Is it right to continue to give money to the institutional church, at the expense of our families, when it doesn’t need the money and it not behaving ethically with the money?

At this time the question of tithing is one each of us members of the church will need to work out for ourselves, with reasonable and well-meaning people coming to differing solutions regarding what God requires of them. It is a question we need to wrestle with, and I believe the church needs to allow us room for spiritual deliberation. 

To that end, I believe it is time for the church to enact a new temple recommend policy, one that can have utility beyond this issue. 

There is no reason that the temple recommend interviews could not simply consist, in their entirety, of the last question: “Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Holy Temple?” Shorting the interview to that question alone would allow each member to do the individual wrestling we all require without losing the temple’s very real blessings. It would signal to members of the church that the institutional church respects the spiritual wrestling of the membership and trusts their ability to work things out with God. At this moment, I believe that is a pastoral imperative. And I would appreciate being treated like an adult; with my own autonomy and gift of discernment.

The benefits of this approach would extend beyond this singular issue. I’ve written a book about how my religious OCD has affected my relationship with the restored church. With the issue of tithing, and all other issues relevant to temple worthiness, broadening this question would have saved me a lot of anxiety driven mental work and unending wondering about my worthiness. I am sure that would be the case for others, especially our young people. Additionally this approach could help us move past the issue of adults asking teenagers the about Law of Chastity which, even with a parent in the room, is still weird and (in my view) inappropriate. 

I still don’t know how I will talk to my daughters about tithing. I hope that I can resolve this issue within myself and, through my own spiritual due diligence, know how to move forward with their spiritual education. I am hopeful that my relationship with my Heavenly Father will get me to that place. But it would be made a little easier if the standard for temple worthiness they could grow up with would be one focused on accepting introspection rather than cosmic checklists. 

And it would be made much, much easier if tithing could truly be their own choice not one upon which the blessings of the temple are dependent. 

I only see benefits for this and many other components of the LDS temple goer’s experience. It’s a theologically easy change that would bring immediate and longterm positive effects. And while I don’t expect this to sway anyone…I do wish it would.


  1. Anonforthis says:

    I have a similar struggle. After years of clawing my way out of poverty and then clawing my way out of the lower middle class, I finally have enough income where I can pay 10% without it really hurting. But is it morally better to pay that 10% to the church, or to the poor? Should I send a few thousand to a charity that works with refugees and a couple of thousand to someone in my ward who has dire needs, or should I just write one big check to the church instead? What would God prefer I do? Judging from what’s in the scriptures, He seems to prioritize caring for the poor more than paying tithing, but the modern church prioritizes tithing. It’s a moral question and not necessarily an easy one.

  2. Also anonymous says:

    I also stopped tithing a few years ago after reading about the church’s wealth. I had been a temple ordinance worker just the year before. I began questioning many things and not getting answers in the temple when speaking with those who supposedly had the answers.
    Since then I have paid off a major hospital bill for someone who did not have health insurance, a legal bill, a college bill and home repair bills for various people.
    And I did it happily because I wanted to.
    It was liberating.
    Generosity is an important concept that you can teach your children or demonstrate.
    For me it was/is easier, than perhaps for you, because I no longer feel the need or desire to attend the temple.
    That’s where I am at now.
    If you asked me about this 10 yrs ago you would have encountered a TBM who said she would never go without a recommend ever.

  3. In a culture that increasingly values individualism and skepticism paying tithing continues to be a vote for a different view of the world. When we become wealthy it’s easy to divorce ourselves from collectivism with our spiritual community. Without getting wrapped around the minutiae, tithing continues to be a wealth transfer to the developing world, a stiff arm to secularism, and at times a tangible offering to God.

  4. heterodoxcl says:

    My wife and I have been full tithe payers for the last 40+ years — we’ve never missed one single month. But January 31, 2023 was probably the last tithing payment we’ll ever make.

    I think I’m aware of nearly all of the troubling historical and doctrinal issues regarding the church, but I thought that “oh well, at least the church is using some of our tithing contributions to help the poor and needy”. But I was absolutely devastated by the November 2019 revelations about Ensign Peak, and the fact that not one dime of the $100-150 billion had ever been spent to help the poor. We then limped along for another three years — still paying a full tithe — until a month or so ago, when the full details of the SEC mess came to light.

    I’m now done with tithing. I believe Jesus when he says that “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”. Now it just feels “icky” to give money to the church / Ensign Peak so that they can dump it into a $150+ billion pot of stocks and bonds (or buy $100-300 million dollar luxury hotels and huge farms and warehouses).

    (It does help, I guess, that I’ve recently retired from teaching at BYU, and so I no longer need to pay money in order to keep a temple recommend, and thus keep my job at BYU.)

    We’ve identified several charities that really do help the poor and needy, and as of February 2023, we’ve changed all of our contributions to them. We’ll be contributing more to them each month than we ever paid in tithing. This change just feels right.

    I’m especially surprised by my wife’s reaction to all of this. She is as orthodox as they come and is still 100% active in terms of meetings and callings. But even she is in favor of shifting our contributions to worthwhile charities, rather than the church / Ensign Peak.

    If the church has lost the trust of people like my wife, then it’s in a world of hurt. Great job, church — as you lose tithing revenue from even the most faithful of members, you will see that your unethical and immoral financial practices are coming back to bite you in ways that you never imagined.

    Karma is a bitch.

  5. Changing tithing practices says:

    With all the stories about minor tithing miracles, there’s a sneaky corollary: that if you are not paying your tithing to the church, you will be financially punished. I sometimes wonder if we’re a bit superstitious about tithing—I know I felt an undue level of apprehension about moving away from giving tithing to the church, and am relieved to report that since I changed the direction of my tithing, I have not yet been struck by lightning. Quite the opposite: in the couple of years since I changed my tithing practices, I’ve been promoted twice, with meaningful raises both times. In an effort to leave my tithing superstition behind, though, I’m trying not to see these two things as related.

    I no longer see the point in giving tithing money to the church, but I still see tremendous spiritual and practical value in organizing my financial life such that I can afford to give away 10% of my income. I love having a greater ability to be generous, and to give either directly to people around me who need money, or to organizations that feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, visit the prisoner, and take care of the Earth we’ve been given. It seems to me that these directions from our Lord are paramount.

    My journey in this regard has involved a lot of introspection about why tithing is spiritually important, and how the Lord wants us to use our resources. I agree with the sentiment here, that people should be able to certify for themselves whether they’re ready to enter the temple. It’s…distasteful at best to hold temple blessings behind a paywall.

  6. I can promise from personal experience and the power of revelation that you are never worse off for paying tithing and striving to faithfully follow the Lord.

    I’ve seen many financial and spiritual miracles that I know are not coincidence.

    I’m not sure how the existence of a savings account would cause me to question whether or not I should continue to pay tithing. And I’m not sure how seeking confidentiality of that savings account through not surprisingly, frustratingly bureaucratic methods, would increase that desire to avoid paying tithing.

    But I can see how a love of money and/or disdain for leaders of the church would cause me to stop paying tithing.

    None of you have been spiritually used. But you are using headlines and financial tickets to confirm your bias against the church.

  7. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I can promise from personal experience and the power of revelation that you are never worse off for giving money directly to those in need and striving to faithfully follow the Lord.

    If i give my 10% contribution to the poor, or to organizations that efficiently and effectively provide meaningful assistance to those in need, do you think God is upset?

  8. Anonforthis says:

    Not to mention the burden placed on local leaders with the paltry budget they are given. Our ward gets less than 1% of all tithing collected for our annual budget. All the tithing is swept to SLC, where it is invested. Local members are paying out of pocket for things, activities and the like have been curtailed. Recently the church swept excess budget funds from stakes—stakes that had some leftover funds from Covid and were planning a good youth conference. Now those funds are gone and, at least one stake I know of, can no longer afford a youth conference they already paid a non-refundable deposit on. Local budget allotments haven’t increased in years, while inflation runs rampant.

  9. What you do with the money under your control is up to you as its steward to decide. It’s not true, however, that the church will “do nothing more than invest that money, for the purpose of making their pot of money bigger.” It will save some of that money – 10%, by the church’s account – in savings and investment. The rest, 90%, goes toward all its other operating expenses and performance of its missions. You are free to decide to spend your money elsewhere, but don’t tell yourself a story about how the church will just use your donation to enrich itself.

    As to some other responses, I’m speechless. You lived from the tithing donations of others for 40 years at BYU, but now you can’t imagine paying tithing to the church? You live in a wealthy area that donates a lot of tithing and you’re tired of seeing it go to wards and stakes where poorer people live?

    Maybe you think the church should save less for the future. Why do you think you know what the percentage should be better than church leaders and the people giving them financial advice?

  10. nobody, really says:

    Sute, I’m so glad you’re better than the rest of us. It’s your profound wisdom, spoken in the best possible “Primary Voice” that instructs and enriches us all.

    Of *course* we’ve never been spiritually used. When I was instructed by a priesthood leader to go cosign a significant loan for a fellow member I’d never met, that was completely appropriate. Of *course* my family understands when I’ve missed birthdays and important events to sit through yet another missionary correlation meeting – they immediately realize that church is way more important. Parents refuse to visit because of unpaid temple work shifts, spent standing in empty corridors and lamenting that yet another endowment session is empty, so there was really no need for them to be there.

    Bless you, again, for your contributions. You truly reflect the Light of Christ so all of us may bask in your reflection.

  11. I recently stopped paying tithing for completely different reasons, ones that have nothing to do with Ensign Peak. Since it was impossible for me to explain my decision in a paragraph or two, I wrote an essay and shared it with my bishop, friends, family, ward members and many others:

    Simultaneously, I surrendered my temple recommend since paying tithing is a prerequisite to having one.

    There was no joy in this decision. But there was peace.

  12. For me the bottom line is what is our plan? When I say “our plan” I am obviously suggesting that the $100 billion plus, hidden from members all these decades and originally based on tithing surplus (which would not have been a reality had we not have been and continue to be collectively frugal), is in fact not the institution’s money. It belongs to members of the Church of Jesus Christ.

    The stewardship of wealth belongs to all of us and “our plan” implies two major things: 1) transparency and 2) a solid strategy to make it do some good in the world rather than just continue to be invested in Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, City Creek Mall, Beneficial Life etc. We can do better.

    I think the Savior would suggest that maybe we have been “hiding our talents” rather than putting our money where our mouth is and lifting up those in need throughout the world. Surely we could make a major impact if this fund were spent done with long-term wisdom.

    So, what is “our plan?”

  13. Sorry, that is, “spent down with long-term wisdom.”

  14. Chadwick says:

    This post is extremely vulnerable and I appreciate the courage it takes to share your story in a manner that allows anonymous people on the internet to comment on your life choices. Thank you for sharing.

    “What complicates all of this for me is I continue to love this organization. I wouldn’t be so broken about its deception if I didn’t. Being hurt by someone you love stings more than being hurt by someone you don’t. ” This. I think it’s easy for some members to dismiss other members by assuming they simply never cared. For me, dissent is work. It means I cared. Thank you for putting this into words.

    My experience both in person and on the internet regarding tithing has been that members that pay tithing, unintentionally or otherwise, hold the opinion that it’s the only option to please God in this regard and will attempt to shame people back into paying tithing. On the other side, I see members who have chosen a different path as simply sharing their truth with no desire to tell other people what to do with their excess. The comments thus far support my observation. Obviously I prefer the latter approach and I sincerely wish those engaged with the former approach could be more kind.

    With regards to kids, when we are ready to make donations, my wife and I make a list of charities and let our kids help us decide how to go about divvying up the funds. The church is always on the list. It’s still an option, even if our kids normally choose other organizations.

  15. Reading these comments, and from my own 50 years of experience in the church, its clear that church members and others do not understand what tithing is, and what it is for. Apparently we’ve long done a poor job of teaching it. From Primary on up.

    Tithing isn’t about helping the poor. That is Fast Offerings, and Humanitarian Offerings. Tithing is about operating the Church. Ward and Stake budgets. Church Facilities budgets. Church Education budgets. Mission and Temple Budgets. Church HQ budgets. And it takes *Billions* every year to fund that.

    Utah and the US contributions from tithing have long supported the Church’s operation in the rest of the world. We should be happy that some of our tithing goes to help wards and branches and missions and temples in less affluent parts of the world operate.

    Transparency in its finances would help the Church better explain that. But then the argument against the church’s priorities would likely just shift to wondering why we are building so many temples instead of helping the poor. But the Church is there to save souls. Even for Jesus, relieving suffering was not the primary mission.

    So to answer the author’s question about how to teach their girls about tithing? Start by teaching correctly what tithing is for.

  16. John Taber says:

    Wards and stakes are generally supposed to return excess funds at the end of every year, per the Handbook. It was only this last year that they really clamped down. (I know this because I was on my way out the door as a stake financial clerk.)

  17. True North says:

    I pay tithing – but to Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity. They do a lot to alleviate hunger and poverty.

  18. From a kid/education standpoint, my first memory about tithing that really sunk in was when the mom of a family in a neighboring ward was diagnosed with cancer. I was a young teenager so I really don’t know the details but I remember fasting and praying for the family and that it was a huge financial struggle in addition to the tragedy of losing a young parent. I remember that near the end of her fight she received hospice and holistic care from a man who believed in tithing but not was not associated with a church and so he donated free care to 1/10th of his clients.

    His tithing was an answer to prayers and I was touched by how he willingly gave 10% to God. Something about giving “in kind” donations really hit home to me how big 10% is, especially since I didn’t really grasp how much money everything cost at that age. I also remember my mom (who was closer to the family and knew more details) talked about the kind of person this man was and that he prayed that God would lead him to people he could give his tithing to and that God always made good use of those prayers. His tithing sounded more like a relationship with God than any other story I had heard before and it really struck me as beautiful. (on a side note from someone who also struggled with scrupulosity growing up in the church – It was refreshing for me to hear a story about how 10% is enough. That you don’t have to learn a trade and then grind yourself into poverty by doing everything for free to become a good person)

    I don’t know how to teach the beauty of that kind of sacrifice to kids, but I do think that there are ways to teach and point out to children the generosity of others and the kind of person that you become when you intentionally look for ways to give to God and set specific amounts to that goal.

  19. Paying tithing, for those of us with a surplus, is easy: one check or a few clicks with the mouse. Done. Our duty finished. Church happy. Church assures us it is used wisely. And, since it is God’s church, God is happy. We’re adjudged “worthy.”

    On the other hand, not paying tithing, but wanting to use our surplus to feed the hungry, etc. is hard work. Researching charities. Separating the wheat from the chaff (looking at you, Operation Underground Railroad) — Charity Navigator helps. Deciding how much surplus should go to which vetted charity: local needs, national needs, worldwide. Then receiving innumerable solicitations for further funds from the charities we’ve so carefully picked.

    Is God happy, though the church assuredly is not? Answering that takes hard work, too.

    Are we up for hard work?

  20. it's a series of tubes says:

    I’m not sure how the existence of a savings account would cause me to question whether or not I should continue to pay tithing. And I’m not sure how seeking confidentiality of that savings account through not surprisingly, frustratingly bureaucratic methods, would increase that desire to avoid paying tithing.

    Sute: TBM, TR holding, raised in Utah, RM, bishopric member here. I pay what I consider a full tithing. I always have, and I plan to do so the rest of my life. No actions by the FP or anyone else can sway my decision, because I view tithing as a personal obligation I owe to God.


    Neither your first sentence above, nor your second sentence, is an accurate representation of the facts regarding Ensign Peak and the SEC. Church leaders lied, and they broke the law. That’s not how the Church of Jesus Christ should operate.

  21. Anon this time says:

    My wife and I used to pay tithing on gross, but now pay on the net (so we can still get our temple recommends). But we donate the difference between the gross and the net to charities that are truly humanitarian efforts. We both still work so the amount is significant. It took days to research and set things up, but we sleep better at night and feel that we are better stewards of what we have to offer.

    We’d still pay tithing on the gross if the Church gave significant amounts to charitable causes, but they don’t… so we do. And no one can accuse us of freeloading from the Church. Bishops don’t look at the amount at tithing settlement and simply ask “Is this a full tithe?” Darn right it is. And it gets to the right places now.

  22. Of course the church needs money to function and our modern tithing is money specifically given to help the church function. I proudly give money to the church. And I think it’s good to teach our children to contribute to the church and feel a sense of ownership and pride in it.
    At the end of each year my husband and I calculate a generous 10% of our income for tithing. From that 10% we allocate some to local humanitarian organizations, some to world wide humanitarian organizations and some to the church.

    Amen to phbrown’s comment

    Giving consistently to our local shelters has been met with so much gratitude. It turns out, 2% of a middle class income, given regularly, is unusual and makes an impact. There is a large and well regarded organization in our area focused on housing and poverty and they have asked us why we give and how they can get other Mormons in the community (Gilbert/Mesa, AZ) to give. Apparently we are very willing to send youth service projects their way and serve in the kitchens but the money is locked up tight within our community. It was very eye opening to hear that.

  23. “My wife and I used to pay tithing on gross, but now pay on the net”

    This is one of my hobbyhorses: nobody pays tithing on gross income. People just choose different nets on which they pay. (I think most people who say they pay on gross mean they pay on pre-tax, not after-tax, income. But that’s different from a measure of gross income.)

    To the point of the post: I’m not a fan of telling people what they should do. I do, however, think that the revelations about the church’s wealth, pursuit of opacity, and lack of spending demands that we approach tithing differently. It’s not something we give so that the church can afford to function. And it’s not something we give in lieu of aid for the poor. Tithing doesn’t represent either of those things (and, in fairness, scripture doesn’t say that it’s supposed to represent either of those things). And maybe that’s the way to approach tithing with your daughters, if you want to approach tithing with your daughters: tithing represents a sacrifice without any clear benefit to anybody. Is that a good thing? a bad thing? at the very least, it’s something the people who choose to pay (or, for that matter, not to pay) have to engage with, in what has become a very real and very salient way.

  24. C.Keen – It’s not true that the church uses tithing funds for operations. The church has well over $100B in financial and real estate investments. Assuming a conservative return of only, say, 8% yields annual income of $8B. The church’s annual expenses are approximately $6B, which means its investment income exceeds its operating expenses. Therefore, its many billions in tithing donations aren’t needed for operations and just go into the investment fund. And don’t try to argue that tithing funds pay for operations first, and it’s the investment income that is reinvested into the fund, because it’s all the same pot. The church’s investment fund is essentially an endowment, like that of a well-endowed university, that generates sufficient income for all its expenses (plus some) such that any contributions simply increase the size of the endowment.

  25. If you’re mad about $100 billion, just wait until you find out how much money God has. Like they taught us in Primary, God doesn’t need the money. We’re fortunate to live at a time when the church doesn’t urgently need it either. It got there by doing the things that people are now angry about, like setting aside savings and investing it.

  26. In 1963, the church produced a film called “Windows of Heaven.” This film tells a story about Lorenzo Snow, who was the president of the church at a time when the church was struggling with enormous debts. The film depicts how heavily President Snow feels the weight of this problem. The elderly and feeble President Snow feels prompted to make the long journey from Salt Lake City to St. George, where the people are suffering from a terrible problem of their own—a severe drought. While he speaks at the St. George Tabernacle, President Snow is inspired to know the solution to both problems. He promises the people that if they will pay tithing, God will attend to their needs. President Snow is certain that this will also resolve the church’s financial problems. As the film ends, rain comes to southern Utah at last.

    The church was still on a somewhat uncertain financial footing when this film was made. The church needed more tithes and offerings in order to remain solvent in the 1960s. Clearly, the film was meant to promise the same blessings to church members in the 1960s that President Snow had promised in the early 1900s. The church kept “Windows of Heaven” in active use at least into the 1980s. That is how I saw it several times.

    For most of the church’s history, the justification for tithing was two-fold: the church needed it in order to function, and members would be blessed for paying it. That rationale has gradually changed as the church’s wealth has grown. We now seem to have moved to the idea that tithing, as Sam writes, “represents a sacrifice without any clear benefit to anybody.”

    I’m not persuaded by this new rationale. We could toss our money into a volcano or burn it on an altar and call it a sacrifice. But that’s not what tithing ever has been. The significance of material sacrifice—going all the way back to ritual sacrifice under the Law of Moses—has always depended in part on its tangible value to the community. I sympathize with people who feel they are being asked to do something unreasonable and wrong in paying tithing to a magnificently wealthy church that is not transparent, and at times is demonstrably dishonest, about its stewardship of the money.

  27. Maybe teach her what President Joseph F Smith taught in General Conference in 1907:

    “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.”

  28. Sorry, teach *them.

  29. Craig Martin says:

    The 1st presidency knowingly hid funds which is illegal. These are not men of God. They are criminals. The mormon church is like Scientology. Lots of money. Lots of empty buildings. Both growing with each passing year.

  30. it's a series of tubes says:

    It got there by doing the things that people are now angry about, like setting aside savings and investing it.

    C. Keen, I’d be willing to bet that not one in ten people upset with the current situation are upset that for some decades the Church has lived within its means, been a prudent steward of the resources it controls, and invested them wisely and thus finds itself in the enviable position of having lots of assets.

    Rather, I suspect most take issue with one or more of: (i) the false public representations made to members of the Church about how the funds were used, (ii) the illegal approaches taken in an attempt to conceal the control of the wealth, or (iii) the great disparity between the size of the portfolio and the amount of resources directed to the fourth mission of the church.

  31. heterodoxcl says:

    C Keen @6:03 am:

    >> As to some other responses, I’m speechless. You lived from the tithing donations of others for 40 years at BYU, but now you can’t imagine paying tithing to the church?

    I never said I taught at BYU for 40 years; just that I retired from there. And I’m not sure if you understand how academia works. But in certain fields, your government grants can provide the university with much more money than they pay you in salary. And then after retirement, you can pay “royalties” to BYU for decades afterwards, for Intellectual Property that was transferred off-campus. Rest assured that when all is said and done, I will have given BYU more than it ever paid me in salary. And then when my “voluntary” tithes are included, it’s not even close.

    >> You live in a wealthy area that donates a lot of tithing and you’re tired of seeing it go to wards and stakes where poorer people live?

    First, as I’m sure you know, only a very small percentage of tithing makes it back to actual wards and stakes; their budgets are minuscule. Second, I have made the choice to try and bless the “poorest of the poor”. $10,000 for basic healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa is going to do a lot more good to alleviate suffering than virtually anything that the church would do via wards and stakes, no matter where in the world those are.

  32. The leaders of the LDS Church lied and hid assets for over 20 years, I have no respect for anything they now ask of me, none.

    We have read about 10 pages of the document that David Nielson submitted to the SEC when he filed his complaint and he said that none of the 120 billion dollars was ever used for charity which put the Churches non-tax status in jeopardy.

    He also said that the leaders in volved were guilty of “personal enumeration” which means they took money from this fund and put it into their own pockets, enriching themselves.

    This investigation of the SEC and the 5 million dollar fine is just the first, there will be more to come.

    This illegal and immoral behavior by high level Church authorities regarding the Ensign Peak fund is just the tip of the iceberg, more is to come.

    Much much more.

    It is going to be very hard to explain a lot of things to our children and grand children before this is over.

  33. Chloe, I’ve written in detail about this, but it’s worth emphasizing that the church’s tax exemption has never been even close to at risk. Nielson’s assertion was that Ensign Peak Advisors acted inconsistently with its exemption by not spending down money. Only he was mistaken about the terms of its exemption, what was required to maintain it, and what EPA did with its money.

    As for the SEC investigation, this particular matter is closed. The SEC imposed a fine, EPA and the church paid it, and EPA has been filing the requisite form for the last three or more years.

    That doesn’t mean that what they did was good—if you read my posts on the topic, you’ll see that I say it was inexcusable—but I’m deeply skeptical that there’s more.

  34. Heterodoxcl: You were at BYU long enough to conduct your research in a lab built with tithing funds located in a building built with tithing funds on a campus built and maintained with tithing funds, and then commercialize that research with the assistance of staff members paid by tithing funds. Your undergrad students and RAs were there with the help of tithing funds. One of the dirty secrets of academic science is that research grants are money-losing propositions for the university as a whole; the difference was made up by tithing funds.

    You and your research benefited for years from tithing-based assistance. Now that research is generating royalties for BYU, and for you too (looks like you get 45%). Congratulations, you went out on top of the game and can look forward to some truly golden years. But you’re the very last person who should be complaining about the unfairness of paying tithing.

  35. Chadwick says:

    C Keen

    A BYU employee provides a service to the university in exchange for compensation. Same arrangement most of us have with our respective employers. It’s an employment agreement and is not charity. Where the employer procures the funds to pay the employee for providing their services is irrelevant. Stop the shaming. It’s inappropriate. It does not produce your desired result. Move on.

  36. heterodoxcl says:

    C Keen:

    >> But you’re the very last person who should be complaining about the unfairness of paying tithing.

    I never claimed that tithing has been unfair to me. I completely and totally realize that I personally have benefitted from tithing. I never said otherwise.

    My point is that — if one is concerned with alleviating suffering worldwide — the money spent on tithing could be spent much better by contributing to organizations that actually help the poor.

    Personally, I would love to see less money spent on BYU. During my time there, I did all that I could to eliminate unnecessary spending, and I even kind of engineered a reduction in my salary towards the end, in spite of the fact that I was perhaps the most productive scholar in the entire college.

    But this doesn’t fit into your narrative, does it?

  37. Heterodoxcl: It seems like your mental accounting of tithing is missing something. Upthread you said that “not one dime of the $100-150 billion had ever been spent to help the poor.” So it seems like you’re putting investments in one pile, and the church’s daily operations in another. Okay, that’s fine. But then why does paying tithing feel “icky”? The church does, in fact, help the poor. Through fast offerings and disaster relief and other ways. The nearly billion dollars in aid given last year had to come from somewhere. If not tithing and not investments, then from where?

    I can’t tell you how to calculate your tithing. If you want to donate to charitable relief organizations, great! I can’t convince myself that donating to a favored charity counts as tithing, but that’s for you to decide, not me. You could do both if you wanted. What I don’t get at all is how after 10 years (or 5, or 20, or whatever it was) of being among the biggest beneficiaries of tithing donations, you can say that giving back to the organization that supported you is suddenly “icky.”

  38. Christine Balderas says:

    I love your interview question. I have long thought that the only question should be, “Do you try to live the first two commandments, love God and love and serve ALL of His God’s children?”

  39. anotheranon says:

    I’ve never quite understood why people get so up in arms about the church investing money. Like, the money is still there, it will eventually go to either operations or charity – and the longer it sits in the spooky investment pot, the more of it there will be. It’s plenty valid to argue that the church should spend more money, but how is simply not spending money “icky” or a scandal? *How* the money is eventually spent seems much more important – if it was being misspent (or the investments mismanaged) that would be one thing, but I haven’t heard any new allegations of that.
    Personally, I’m glad that the church is making the most of tithing by growing it, and as long as they continue to spend that money responsibly I see growing its endowment as a pretty good thing. There’s a lot I wish they’d do with it, but none of those possible uses are foreclosed as long as the money is still there.

  40. I am genuinely unhappy with the church failing to explain the existence and purpose of its large Ensign Peak fund. I am unhappy with what seems to be inconsistent statements from leadership about how much wealth the church has, and how it is being spent or not spent. I am unhappy with the church’s non-apology apology about the SEC fine, which IMO was justified for shady activity that clearly violated the law. I am unhappy with other stories about how the church seems to have evaded tax laws in other countries–or at least taken loopholes to rather absurd extremes. I am hopeful that this General Conference will see some kind of statement about the church’s cash reserves, their purpose, what will be done with it, a better apology, a promise of better accounting, etc…though I suspect that it will not happen or only a subset will happen.

    With that all said, I still pay tithing. I do so because I have a testimony and have had miraculous experiences to back it up, some of them flat out supernatural, and not just about tithing. I have a temple recommend that I struggle to keep and I don’t intend to do anything to blatantly give it up because I believe in the work in the temple. I’ve seen some of the accusations against the church and not found all of them to be accurate either, or to be coming from what seems to be a position of something other than honest concern and criticism in some cases. I also don’t fundamentally believe that it is morally wrong to have such a fund or to invest it. It’s just that it needs to be done so legally and the membership should have some idea about it and what it’s for. I’ve said this in other places and I’ll say it here, but some people seem to be of the disposition that they would have criticized Joseph for having stored seven years worth of grain in Egypt. Maybe, just maybe, we can assume the brethren have good intentions and are in fact receiving revelation about it, otherwise, what is the basis of your testimony that it cracks to pieces as soon as you hear something unexpected and surprising? Please note that it’s an awfully big deal that no leader is living a Joel Olsteen kind of lifestyle despite getting paid by the church and having control over considerably more money. That is, in fact, a very, very big deal and it is being ignored or minimized. Additionally, the church from what I have seen sure seems to be spending money in ways that benefit me directly. I live not in the West, but in the last two years the church just up and purchased a defunct BSA camp and has been renovating it. Some back of the hand calculations suggest to me that even with members’ help, they had to have poured $5-$10m into it…and they seem to have purchased a number of these camps, just so that members have a place to do what the scouts used to do for the church–this will benefit on a year to year basis maybe 2-4 thousand youth in my multi-stake area? That’s an interesting amount of money for that number of people. Now we have dedicated YM/YW camps. And that’s just one thing. So let’s balance some factors. Yes, I have concerns, but I have no doubt this is the Lord’s church, even if some leaders have made some mistakes. I want to see some changes, but I don’t think having such a fund is inherently inappropriate. The presence of such a fund, IMO, is a curious surplus of many of the teachings of the Gospel itself about getting an education, being morally upright, and keeping the Lord’s commandments.

  41. Great post. Since reading the SEC settlement, our church’s response, and the General Conference Church Audit Department attestations for 2014, 2017, 2019, and later I’ve been thinking about and experiencing a lot related to non-financial costs members pay for the crimes of the 1st Presidency and Presiding Bishopric. For Saints with a finance background and ears to hear the matter is far from closed.

    After a rough couple of days thinking and praying about the crimes, my tithes, and family obligations I told my partner I could no longer pay tithes to our church. It never mattered to me how wealthy the church is given tithes are not for the necessity of the organizational. In my mind tithes (like other taxes) are a measure of citizenship and commitment. We repay our debts to God and country to be good and honest citizens.

    The night I explained why I could no longer give tithes to our church my spouse worried to me about how my calling would be lost, how we’d no longer be able to go to the temple together, why am I ‘turning away’ from the gospel? The rest of her concerns were left unsaid, but certainly felt by me. How valid is our sealing? How safe will our kids be in the eternities? What will our families think and say once they notice I can’t wear garments. How do we overcome the shame?

    For my tithes to be valid there needs to be some degree of reasonable belief that I’m paying a debt to God through an ethical and moral representative organization. I still feel affinity for and connection to the larger body of Saints. However, no reasonable person and informed person can read the SEC settlement, the church’s response, and the Church Audit Department attestations made in General Conference, at the direction of the Executive leaders of our church, and conclude those leaders are honest in all (or even just the most important) of their dealings with Saints let alone “their fellow man.”

    I won’t provide a comprehensive list of the SEC findings, but it did find Ensign Peaks Advisors was created to primarily with the objective of obfuscation, and then systematically structured in progressively more deceptive and ultimately criminal ways in pursuit of deception. As internal audits and the SEC highlighted the criminal activity the Executive leaders of the church oversaw they also omitted those material issues in the last remnant of oversight Saints have over the financial management of tithes.

    If I’m not paying tithes to an ethical and moral organizational of God, then I’m paying what amount to little more than very expensive social club dues. If that’s the case, then I’m forced to consider can I pay a share of “my increase” to a mere social club when I have a mortgage, student debt, and other family obligations. For me the answer is a firm no.

    It’s also noteworthy that historians inside the church have restored insight into how Joseph Smith and early Saints calculated tithing. It had more in common with a progressive tax than the regressive tax Saints began paying when the church fell on particularly bad financial times. In those early days most Saints would pay no tithing and remain full tithe-payers based on the spirit of the law. If access to the sealing, endowment, and other ordinances is now dependent on a more onerous calculation of tithes we may want to ask why.

    If God is upset at anyone for not giving money to the two groups that committed Federal Crimes, then maybe just say it was done based on direction from legal counsel…

  42. Maybe the scriptures do not include a “do-because” statement to pay a tithe. However, tithing is a piece of the whole. Jesus taught, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:36-40)

    That last verse is straightforward that all the laws are based on loving God and highly esteeming our neighbor.

    A few chapters later we have Jesus teaching his great sheep and goats parable: “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matt 25:40

    I love that many here are seeking out the least among us to directly benefit with money formerly given to the LDS Church. We are recognizing the real needs of our (close and far) neighbors. They are following Jesus.

  43. Bookish…stop with the “criminal” labeling already. You seem to relish using that word to describe a violation in filing and reporting. The SEC absolutely did not find or allude to any “criminal” type charges.

  44. Kristine says:

    Leo, the Church broke laws. The SEC fines organizations when they break laws. The word for people and organizations who break laws is “criminal.” This wasn’t a clerical error.

  45. How long have tithing teachings within the church been about blessings for ME?

    Could the real blessings of tithing be about helping our neighbor? Hungry people being fed? Justice (visiting a prisoner, many there unjustly). Aiding immigrants seeking refuge from oppression?
    Many, many needs are before us in plain sight.

    When I look at very wealthy families, I see people who always want more. They have means to make a difference where it will be felt.
    Instead they use their time and effort to get more, donate to candidates who will pass policy legislation, shift taxes onto others, sometimes they get statewide laws passed tailored specifically to skirt a local municipalities’ self-determining planning process, and ram an undesirable development onto them, or encroach their development onto a neighboring county’s open space.

  46. Kristine,

    I can’t help but view the SEC as a cop hiding behind a billboard waiting for the next speeding car. On the one hand, I think it’s important that those seemingly insignificant laws are enforced–otherwise people would go crazy and rack up more serious violations. But on the other hand, I think it’s important that we don’t label folks who are guilty of minor traffic violations as criminals.

  47. One of the better quotes attributed to Joseph Smith is “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves”. Unfortunately, that notion went out the window many, many decades ago… as the purpose and application of tithing in the LDS Church has become corrupted.

  48. Kristine says:

    Jack–again, this isn’t a speeding ticket. It’s a pattern of willful lawbreaking over decades. Minimizing the harm is nowhere in the list of the R’s of repentance!

  49. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    The SEC may be hiding behind a billboard, but the Church knows where they are hiding and, because they intend to keep speeding, find alternate routes to avoid detection. Yeah, that’s pretty much how criminals act.

  50. Kristine,

    I like to think of the analogy on a big scale–one that matches the proportion of the church’s funds. And as such, engaging in a financial practice that lasts twenty years where there’s “billions” doesn’t amount to much more than a drive home where there’s “hundreds.”

    Also, I don’t think anyone was harmed. Otherwise the SEC would’ve imposed — perhaps through the courts — a mandate to pay damages (on top of the fine).


    The church was caught “speeding.” To my way of thinking that satisfies the analogy–that is, if we keep it on a scale that matches the size of the church’s portfolio.

  51. Jack, for the thousandths time, the Church asked people to sign forms they could not legally or ethically sign. They asked people to lie for them. Get over yourself already.

  52. I’d leave a comment here, but every time I do, it evaporates into the ether. Something is up on the tech side.

  53. Right on, Jack. You tell ’em. It’s totally okay for the church to lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words…there is no harm in this.

  54. John C. & Brian,

    Let’s not rush to judgment. Give it time.

  55. My ten cents:

    There’s been a lot of heartache expressed here, both by the author of the original post, and by those who have commented. I pray that the Lord will (as he has promised) heal the broken hearted.

    About 15 years ago, there were some things about the church that had frustrated me to the point that I told my wife I couldn’t be a part of it anymore. She didn’t take it well. “Go back to your room and pray about it until you change your mind!” she said. She later recounted that the thoughts she had were along the lines of “I didn’t sign up for this! If he’s recanting his commitment to the church, what about his commitment to me?” She had come from a turbulent, dysfunctional home, and so I understand why she would be worried that our happy marriage was being threatened.

    The marital discord caused by my grievances with the church was bad enough that I agreed to hang in there. I kept my mouth shut and remained “active.” For another couple of years, I think it was. But attending every Sunday was painful.

    The depression I felt was becoming unbearable. So I had the same conversation with my wife again. I couldn’t do it anymore. I told her I had been praying earnestly about leaving, and that the Lord validated my desire to seek truth. I felt that He would rebuke me harshly if I was trying to engage in selfishness or wickedness, but since I was trying to draw nearer to Him, the Lord would not condemn these motivations.

    This time (my wife later recounted) the Spirit reassured her, “Listen to him. Let him go. He’ll either come back, or he won’t, but everything will be okay. He won’t be an unfaithful husband. Don’t be afraid.”

    She said she heard me, and that she would support anything I decided to do as long as I was faithful to her and would stay a decent person.

    I felt such a relief! I was free! Free to really do whatever I felt was right, not to do anything because of compulsion or pressures of any kind. I hopped and skipped to the basement to do my laundry chores.

    As I folded my laundry, I had a remarkable experience: It felt as if I had been in a large house, warmed by a fine, crackling fire. Then I felt I had opened the front door, and stepped onto the porch where a freezing rainstorm was pelting me. In my mind, the clothes I had on were thin and not protective at all. I felt that I was free to step out into that storm but that it would be the most foolish and self-destructive thing to do. I was free to step out there, just as one who hikes the canyons frequently walks along trails without any guardrails, and one is free to step right off the cliff’s edge, if they so choose.

    I dropped the laundry I was folding, and dropped to my knees in prayer. I didn’t get explanations regarding the issues I saw in the church, but I understood the lesson the Father was trying to send me. I knew He wasn’t dismissing my concerns, but he lovingly, without any force, quietly said to me that it would be a big mistake for me to cease my activity in the church. I responded to Him that I understood, and that it would be a joy, an honor, and a privilege to stay, regardless of issues that still needed addressing.

    So I kept hanging in there, only this time I wasn’t “hanging” – or “clinging” as Elder Bednar would say. I held fast. The Lord sent another blessing: Our dishwasher broke and we didn’t have enough money to replace it, so I spent a lot more time hand washing dishes in the evening. I spent that time listening to the scriptures and to conference talks. My concerns didn’t disappear, but the pain they gave me began to be replaced with assurance that all would work out.

    It’s been many years, but since that time I’ve seen with my very eyes some of those issues be addressed and reversed to my great satisfaction. I often recall the scene in The Princess Bride when the kid tells the grandpa, (I’ll paraphrase) “See, I knew the way the plot was going was wrong, I knew something was going to change that.” And the grandpa says, “Yes, you’re very smart. Shut up.” When you know someone really loves you, they can talk to you like that! With great love and compassion, God told me, “Yes, you were able to see some things that needed fixing. Don’t ‘steady the ark’ and destroy yourself because of it.”

    I’ve also seen that some of those issues were really my problems and I wasn’t ready to fix them in myself. Thank God that He didn’t require me to “Hurry up and fix them” faster than I was ready to fix them! Thank God for the freedom to choose what we do with our money, our time, our talents and everything we have! Thank God for an understanding spouse who gave me (and continues to give me) the freedom to do whatever I think is best even when I’m being stupid.

    Now, it’s my personal conviction that I am blessed by paying tithing to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Heck, I’m blessed to consider everything I own already the property of the Corporation of the President of the Church, to be dispensed in whatever way Pres. Nelson with all his imperfections sees fit. Part of being tried as Abraham (as Joseph Smith said we all would be) means being stretched to the limit, and humbled to the dust. Being asked for that thing we sure hope we aren’t asked to give. How could anything less than that be required for Eternal Life? For becoming a joint-heir with Christ?

    BUT – I sincerely pray that everyone reading this who doesn’t feel like it is right to pay their tithing will make sure they DO NOT pay their tithing. Because if they pay it when they don’t think it is actually right, that is indicative of some pressure, some unrighteous dominion influencing their lives. They won’t be able to rejoice in the giving of the gift, and the Lord doesn’t rejoice in their offering either.

    So don’t pay it until you consider it an honor, a privilege and a joy to pay it. But also, don’t disregard the kind voice of the Lord when He asks you to change course.

    There you go, my ten cents. Maybe a penny’s worth in there might be helpful to someone reading this. I do wish there was some way for me to hug anyone reading this who is feeling bad. Find someone who could use a hug and give them one. You’ll look silly, but it will make everyone feel good.

  56. Thanks for sharing, Britain. I’ve been going through a very slow process of sobering up over the last twenty years–after hitting the wall of depression, that is. Even though it’s been painful, on the whole it’s been a wonderfully positive experience to regrow my faith into a more healthy and stable “tree of life.”

  57. Kristine: That’s not remotely what “criminal” means. Criminals violate criminal statutes and are found guilty or plead guilty at trial. None of that applies to a regulatory oversight action that was settled without the church agreeing or disagreeing with the SEC’s description of violations.

    Take a look at all the people and organizations who have ever been fined by a government agency. I doubt you’d be happy referring to all of them as criminals on that basis.

  58. Brian at 10:17 am points out what I am struggling with in all this, Ensign Peak and the Church asking employees to sign forms for them that “they couldn’t legally or ethically sign,” something I could be fired by my company for doing and would have a hard time with in a temple recommend interview. Am I looking at this wrong or taking it out of proportion? Seems like that’s where this matter doesn’t feel closed—legally maybe but in not in the sense of ethics and accountability. I really hope the Church does something more towards that kind of reconciliation.

  59. Britain, your analogy is far better than Elder Renlund’s boat analogy. I think you should share it with him. I am quite sure that the part, beginning with
    “BUT – I sincerely pray that everyone reading this who doesn’t feel like it is right to pay their tithing will make sure they DO NOT pay their tithing. Because if they pay it when they don’t think it is actually right, that is indicative of some pressure, some unrighteous dominion influencing their lives. They won’t be able to rejoice in the giving of the gift, and the Lord doesn’t rejoice in their offering either.” won’t fly.

    I encourage you and your wife to pray about paying your full tithes directly to an organization that provides assistance for “the least of these”.
    If you are undecided, walk among a group of unhoused children of God. I can assure you your heart will ache. Jesus will rejoice.

  60. Peace Bair says:

    I appreciate this conversation. I think it is a start, however, the temple recommend should be about love, not worthiness. We are all worthy. We are loved for just being who we are, for just existing, without having to earn it. For God does not love, God IS Love and God IS infinite. We have been made by LOVE to express LOVE.
    No one can take this LOVE from us. We are created in His image.
    What keeps us from experiencing this LOVE moment to moment?

    I imagine a Bishop asking me these questions to enter the Temple/House of Love
    1. Do you know how much God loves you?
    2. What do you think is blocking you from experiencing the fullness of God’s LOVE?
    3. Is there anyone you need to forgive in order to feel God’s Love?
    4. Do you need to forgive yourself?
    5. How can I help you see the DIVINITY in yourself and others as God does?
    6. Your body is sacred because it houses a Divine Eternal Being. If you listened to your heart, what does it tell you YOUR body needs to do to be healthy?
    7. How can I support you in becoming the healthiest version of you?
    Entering the Temple is a sacred experience. When you listen to the spirit, does it tell you that you are ready for the further light and knowledge that is experienced there?
    8. If not, what do you think you need to do to be ready? You will know when the timing is right, and I will be here for you when you get that impression.

    Planting seeds of love. ❤️

  61. Interesting discussion here. Much of it predictable, though – refreshingly – not all. Several commenters here (or at least the comments themselves) appear to be missing the mark on faith preceding the testimony, as if the witness is supposed to show up before the trial of the faith. But rather than engage some of the comments, I’ll offer the OP my two cents.

    I detected a subtle but pervasive (and personally familiar!) undercurrent throughout the post of, well, a sort of binary interpretation of the Gospel. I know X principle is divinely mandated and encouraged (along with specific interpretations of how obedience to said principle manifests) vs. I don’t know what to think any more – I’m totally crushed. To borrow a favorite phrase of President Monson, I’d suggest an effort to find joy in the journey. And if not joy, then maybe a silver lining. Perhaps this is my reply to your post because I struggle so much with that counsel and wisdom. But it suggests to me a potential middle ground, rooted in faith.

    “Sweetheart, I want to teach you something about faith. The scriptures teach us that ‘faith’ is a sincere belief that moves us to action. And our Heavenly Parents definitely want us to grow our faith (remember that tree-of-life symbol from the very beginning of Nephi?). So the scriptures are filled with God’s promises to us. He asks us to show our faith with our minds, hands and hearts, and in His divine timing he responds with promised blessings and reassurances that we’re on the right path.

    “Heavenly Father asks us to pay tithing [insert standard (and short) explanation of tithing]. I’ll tell you openly that my “tree of faith” in tithing is still growing – more sapling than oak tree. I don’t have a perfect knowledge of this commandment. But I *want* to someday, and I believe God is good and wants the best for His children. So I pay my tithing as directed, trusting that God really does see all things, that he knows the hearts of his servants, and that He will keep his promises to us.”

    One idea, anyway.

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