Within the church, we have a couple of avenues for giving. Our church makes giving within those options very easy. There is a nice little form with different “options” of where you want your money to go, they take checks or cash, they keep track of everything to make it easy to see what you’ve donated for tax purposes, and they even send people right to your house every month.
For most people, there is no issue with paying the required 10% tithe. It is a requirement for receiving a temple recommend. It is money that is used for many things from which they personally benefit. It is insurance that should they ever need financial assistance, that they can receive that from their bishop.
However, we can’t look at tithing and not also acknowledge the flaw that comes with a required 10% by all members, which was highlighted by RJH in a post on By Common Consent. The issue RJH highlights is that for someone making 20k per year, paying a tithing of 2k is near impossible when every cent is required to survive where for someone making 100k, even after paying 10%, they are still way above the poverty line.
It’s hard for me to imagine requiring a monetary contribution from someone who those contributions effect way more than others of better means. Yes, they do also receive assistance, but I feel that the assistance should be given as they give what they can (in any form) to the church.
Beyond paying the required tithing, people can give more money for a fast offering, which is used to benefit the needy. A fast offering is typically equal to the cost of two meals that are being forgone, or whatever the person giving wants to give. These funds are deposited to church headquarters and wards are then given funds according to their needs. Beyond that there are bishops storehouses and Deseret Industries which members in need of assistance can obtain items as authorized by their Bishop or Relief Society President. This is a system similar to a community food pantry where people are given specific items in a number appropriate for their family’s needs.
The great benefit that the church has here is that they have agricultural properties and processing facilities from which they are able to provide their own label of food products.
The whole food arm of the church absolutely astounds me.
The cost savings due to economy of scale of being able to mass produce these items for members instead of relying on donations of food and other products is huge. There is no desire or need to make a profit.
This was an interesting article about a bishop’s storehouse in Washington.
The funds to own run these farms and plants and any other number of the involved processes comes from tithing. That is pretty incredible.
And yet, there is a huge hole that we see as we examine wards in less developed countries.
As we at Rational Faiths have focused more on the Liahona Children’s Foundation, I found it perplexing that there was even an issue with children inthe church, going hungry.
But we have huge ranches and farms! We have our own processing facilities and food label that we provide with no need for profit from the product to sustain it! We ship food and supplies out all over the world in mass quantities when there are emergencies.
How are children in my church starving?
There is so much good that the funds we give to the church do and it only makes sense that there are valuable investments which maximize the earning and giving potential of donated funds. I feel there is significant value in giving funds and paying tithes to the church. They have a team of professionals to whom I give the benefit of the doubt in looking out to make sure the church can be sustainable and meet a wide range of needs.
All of that said, sometimes it can be hard to give to an organization, religious or otherwise, when you don’t necessarily agree with their choices in spending money which you have given them.
I know that there have been issues for many members as the church builds what to them seem like strange and/or frivolous real estate properties (such as the building a high end multi-billion dollar mall, high end residential high rises, and sparing no cost in temples), subsidises church owned universities, runs hunting preserves,backs political agendas or groups, and financial perks that come from serving in more time demanding positions.
Another issue for some is a somewhat recent addition to tithing/fast offering slips which states that the church will use the funds donated to them by you in anyway they see fit. To me, that just means that all of those specific little line items on your tithing slip don’t really matter anymore. That little disclaimer can make it really hard for someone who does not agree with spending billions on a high end mall, but who is passionate about providing what they can for their neighbors in need to write that check.
As there is no financial transparency within the United States where the church is based, there is no way to know of all of the investments and monetary comings and goings of the church. We have clues in financial reports from the church in the UK and Canada which people have used to speculate about the church’s finances in the United States.
When these are broken down, the percentage used for charitable giving seems pretty depressing.
But what about all the humanitarian aid our church provides?
In addition to funding through donations, people also typically donate supplies to this, which is on top of tithing and fast offerings they have already paid. Essentially this is extra giving, if you feel so inclined. There have been many a Relief Society project to make hygiene and school kits or blankets or provide other necessary items. So, not as much tithing and fast offerings are going to humanitarian aid as we may think simply because the members often give more on their own in that area.
The allocation of tithing funds, church holdings, where it all goes, and the enormity of the scale of such is a long and fascinating subject of which I have little interest in writing about. You can read a multi-page article from a business based viewpoint here though.
Boiling it all down, the LDS church is a religious entity AND corporation that receives an enormous amount of money along with other donations of time, skills, and items from both members and non-members on top of that. They have many avenues and arms through which they invest and reduce costs. This church does do a lot of good and I personally like to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are making good choices and doing the best they can to benefit the church and it’s members around with the world.
All of that said, it should still be recognized that some of their investment choices are not ones some members feel comfortable contributing to.
This is an issue that each person who does feel some of that discomfort has to face and decide personally between God and themselves. Tithing is something that has evolved over the years and I highly encourage reading up on the history of how tithing was paid throughout this church’s history.
I want to be clear that I am not discouraging people from paying tithing to the church. I feel this is an important aspect of church membership in any religion.
For some people, it works to just pay the required 10% unquestionably in the manner they choose to subscribe to. However, for others, it does not. I feel that there are ways to remain faithful and pay tithing in a way that one can be comfortable with while still benefiting the church, and still feel honest in declaring themselves a full tithe payer.
You can avoid any sort of mild judgement as to what you “should” be paying, by paying your tithing directly to church headquarters instead of through your individual ward.
I feel that paying tithing in a way that an individual feels comfortable with is an important aspect of maintaining one’s faith and remaining in a church that they may otherwise leave with this issue as a factor of doing so.
In that regard, here are some ideas of different ways that you can disperse the money you give to God and the LDS church in a way that brings you peace and fulfillment and will still directly benefit church members. In the end, you are the person who gets to decide if you are paying a full tithe to the church and to God.
All of the below are also great “above and beyond” ideas, as well as alternative ideas as to how one may typically pay a fast offering.
This list may also be beneficial to those of a lower income who need money to survive, but have skills and time of which they can give as a tithe.
- Contribute to the Liahona Children’s Foundation monthly. Join with Rational Faiths to feed our sponsored stake or get a group of friends and family together to commit to a monthly donation for your own adopted stake. Imagine if returned missionaries got together and adopted stakes where they served their missions!
- Personally sponsor a missionary. Pay for a portion of a ward, family member’s, or friend’s monthly mission expenses. Check to see if this can be done through the bishop.
- Contribute directly to another organization run by the church such as The Perpetual Education Fund, Humanitarian Services, The Tabernacle Choir, CES, Temples, Church History, FamilySearch, and church colleges and universities.
- Talk to your bishop about special needs within the ward that you or a group of ward members can assist with. A donation of time, skills, or means can be just as valuable as a monetary donation.
- Organize regular service projects that benefit ward members in need so as to reduce their financial need on the church.
- Sponsor anonymous Christmas giving a family or several families in the ward. (Yes, tithing can be paid in larger lump sums instead of monthly).
- Invite ward members in need over for dinner or provide a meal to someone several times a month.
- Put together a larger number of humanitarian kits (buying things in bulk could reduce costs) or other items the church is in need of having donated. I’ve always thought this option would be great for someone who does a lot of couponing.
- Donate directly to www.ldscharities.org
- Find an opportunity to serve within the church. Anything from full time missionaries to doing something in your spare time. Seriously, click on the link and check out the spare time stuff.
- A little known way to pay tithing is to donate shares of stock to the church. If you’re looking for an alternative to writing a check out to your ward every month, this is another good one.
The bottom line is this: each person who is making charitable and religious contributions should feel the spirit of such. To give simply out of obligation or requirement, and often in order to get something for yourself, takes the thoughtfulness and selflessness out of the giving.
Even as we do the simple motions of paying tithes and offerings, stop for a minute and think about what you are giving, where it is going, and what good it is doing.
Go the extra measure and make sure to take the time to give to something you believe in and feel good about. That is the beauty of true selfless giving.