Tithing and Rules

My brother-in-law called me last week to get my advice about a tithing question, in part, I think, because I have an accounting degree. He had inherited his parent’s home, and needed to pay tithing on it. But it would take time to sell the home, if he decided to do that, and the value of the home might change between the inheritance and when it sells. How should he decide what the home is worth in order to calculate how much tithing he should pay?

I know that this type of question has been asked a lot—my brother-in-law is far from the first to ask what the rules are. And actually, he isn’t the first to ask ME about what the rules of tithing. And the Bloggernacle is full of post after post addressing tithing and what the rules are.

Many Church members are aware of the Church’s stated policy about what tithing is:

The simplest statement we know of is the statement of the Lord himself, namely, that the members of the Church should pay ‘one-tenth of all their interest annually,’ which is understood to mean income. No one is justified in making any other statement than this.1

And Church practice makes this lack of further explanation clear. There is no equivalent of the US government’s Internal Revenue Service to audit or verify members’ tithing. There is no code of rules published. So if you want to know if you should pay tithing on what you grow in your garden, or your Christmas gifts, or what you inherited from your late relative, there is no stated guidance. You pay what you feel is correct.

Of course, the result is that two equally faithful persons, with exactly the same financial situations, could honestly decide to pay very different amounts of tithing on exactly the same increase.

Should we be ok with this?

Apparently many members aren’t sure. They feel uncomfortable with different treatment—perhaps because our political culture in the United States sees the potential for injustice in different treatment of individuals—and rightly so. This potential injustice also bothers many members when a Bishop treats some members differently than others, or when different Bishops handle the same situation differently (often called “Bishop roulette” or “leadership roulette”)2. A comment I found addresses this to a degree:

In my view, all the concern about what other people are paying sounds a lot like the first hour laborers’ concern that the eleventh hour laborers were getting the same penny. If the Lord is telling me to pay gross, what does it matter if he tells somebody else to pay net? To paraphrase from the New Testament, if I will that he pay net, what is that to thee? 3

The desire that everyone follow the same rules may be what is behind an account from Ernest L. Wilkinson’s diaries:

May 11, 1961, conversation with [First Presidency Member] Henry D. Moyle about the need to provide authoritative definition of what constituted full tithing, particularly that it should be paid before the payment taxes. Moyle agreed, but said as long as President McKay and President Clark were in the First Presidency there was no chance to get any authoritative interpretation.4

It is also likely behind the questions that accounting and tax professionals who are members, bishops, stake presidents and general authorities frequently get about what the rules are. And it is the reason for the Church’s statement above, which basically says that there aren’t any rules except “10% of your increase”.

Seeking specific detailed rules for tithing, or any other doctrine for that matter, has been tried many times by many different groups—I think its actually been common among small and conservative religious groups. As I understand it, its the motivation behind those we know as the Pharisees. And, from what I read, much of the Talmud is very specific rules like this. For that matter, isn’t much of Deuteronomy and Leviticus detailed rules that seem obscure today?

And today our system of laws is built on this kind of thinking — detailed rules made even more specific by formal interpretation, often addressing exceptions to the rule. The detail of the tax laws and regulations reached the point a couple of decades ago that by law the IRS must publish estimates of the amount of time it takes to fill out each form.

This last fact — the requirement that the IRS publish estimates of form preparation time — demonstrates the where this problem leads. What we spend our time thinking about matters. In the case of taxes or of tithing, do we really want thinking about money to take up so much of our lives? Is the gospel really about spending our time thinking about how to follow the rules?

So lets ask ourselves, do we really need rules for every situation?

President Oaks in particular has weighed in on this. He said:

As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. … But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord. 5

And in one of the comments I came across elsewhere, the commentator related hearing President Oaks say in a stake conference:

“In our church we don’t have rules. We have doctrine and we have principles.” 6

Taking President Oaks’ statements is the Church’s view, there seems to be not only a lot of room for different interpretations (and results) of the law of tithing, but also a clear reliance on Joseph Smith’s saying to “teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”

For me this idea flows logically and directly from our teaching that we are spiritual children of heavenly parents. Their goal is our “immortality and eternal life,” which presumably (I believe) includes training us to be successful and moral beings, who know how to reason through making decisions that are correct and moral. Giving us, their children, a detailed and specific rule book can’t possibly help us learn how to make such decisions.

Obedience may be the starting point in learning how to make moral decisions, but it can’t be the whole training program. If we have been put in a place, as we teach, where there are buffers to keep us from the most eternally deleterious effects of mistakes through the atonement, then isn’t the point likely that we should try to make decisions in the absence of specific rules? Aren’t we supposed to be figuring out how to apply the principles we’ve been taught?

In addition, if we are all learning in this life, we should not be surprised that some church members are focused on the rules. Human beings seem designed to learn over their lives, and this focus on rules is, I believe, a feature of various times during our lives. It may be annoying to those who are not focused on the rules, but I think it is so common that almost everyone will remember some point in their lives when they were focused on rules. Why should we be bothered when that is where someone else is in their spiritual development? If we want them to let us grow spiritually, then we have to let them grow spiritually also!

Like every gospel principle and doctrine, tithing contains a lot of elements that allow us to understand and practice the gospel better. Since, as we’re sometimes reminded, it is a “lesser” portion of the law of consecration, it can help us realize how to focus less on money and more on giving. It can help us be more careful about our finances and think clearer about what money means to us. It can even lead us to focus on the economic system we live in and what that system should do for us. And it can help us get away from a “scarcity” mindset.

But perhaps most important of all, we should use this as one example of how the rules and correct practice are less important than the process of working through and understanding the principles of the gospel; as well as the process of finding solutions to the inevitable moral decisions we face in this life, and that I suspect we will also face in the eternities.

Show 6 footnotes

  1. Ensign (December 1986), 14 and many other places, including the Church Handbook of Instructions.
  2. Please note that I am NOT suggesting that the differences in how bishops handle problems is always correct. I’m merely suggesting that some of this is really about how we see rules and comparing ourselves to others when we shouldn’t. I haven’t addressed here everything that needs to be addressed about “leadership roulette”
  3. See: https://bycommonconsent.com/2007/02/28/questions-about-tithing/#comment-68839
  4. D. Michael Quinn’s typed notes of excerpts from Ernest L. Wilkinson diaries, 1952-196, 1 Uncat. WA MS.119, Beinecke Library, Yale University. As cited here: https://bycommonconsent.com/2007/02/28/questions-about-tithing/#comment-68958
  5. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Dating versus Hanging Out. CES Fireside, Oakland, California May 1, 2005. in Ensign, June 2006, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2006/06/dating-versus-hanging-out?lang=eng
  6. https://bycommonconsent.com/2007/02/28/questions-about-tithing/#comment-68871

30 comments for “Tithing and Rules

  1. I really like this. But I have to disagree with Oaks’ comment that we don’t have rules in our church, only principles and doctrine. One of my common examples of this is the prohibition on multiple ear piercings. Can we rightly say that was a fundamental truth or doctrine? It was a rule pronounced by the prophet at the time and readily adopted by the majority of the church’s membership. Since then, adherence to that instruction has, for many, become an outward expression or measurement of righteousness. If that’s not pharaisical, I don’t know what is. Based on my observations, we church members often seek out rules to avoid the weightier issue of how closely we adhere to Christ’s teachings.

  2. Mapinguari, I completely get what you are saying. My interpretation is that many members of the church are looking so hard for certainty that they take any scrap of counsel from our leaders and transform it into a rule that they try to force others to conform to.

    I haven’t looked, but I wonder how many times that “rule” has been repeated in General Conference, whether it was repeated only for a time or continues to be repeated, and how many of the Apostles have also chimed in that they agree.

    This reminds me of the “rule” promulgated by Pres. Kimball in the 1970s. He suggested that church members should never use face cards (playing cards). I do remember it repeated by others in Conference for a few years, but I don’t think it has been repeated in the last 20 years. Is it still a rule? I have no doubt that many members who heard it at the time still remember and don’t use playing cards. But what of those who were less than 10 years of age when it was last mentioned in Conference? Is it still a rule for them?

    It is both a good thing and a bad thing that our culture has an ability to magnify any minor comment the Prophet says into a rule. But I’m not sure that really makes it a rule that church members must follow. They should give it serious consideration, yes, as any counsel coming from the Prophet. But I don’t think its a rule.

  3. The question that your brother-in-law poses is a testament to the high sensitivity that members are conditioned to feel about tithing payment. I keep hearing from church leaders that the church doesn’t actually need the tithing and that it is just a test of faith for the members. If that’s the case, why not just go ahead and make tithing payment an honor system? Why not just put an end to tithing settlement (nothing in writing says it is required for members to attend anyways), which can be a very high-pressure intense meeting for some, especially families where one spouse leaves the church or is seeking to leave it? We could pass around a collection plate, have members pay online or by mailing a check to the COB and statements could be mailed or emailed to each member for tax purposes. Too much bishopric involvement in tithing collection and a sort of enforcement through an annual settlement (conveniently placed right as the Christmas season is kicking off) just seems obtrusive and unnecessary. I have heard cases of tithing settlement and high pressure for high payments trigger divorces. That’s not right. I thought families were supposed to be of primary concern for the church. Sure, have the members declare tithing status for the temple recommend interview, but before a printout in front of family members and an untrained person in your neighborhood who is acquainted with your work, house, livelihood, and lifestyle? No.

    Also, it should be noted that what one considers income and interest for tithing purposes (but far less so for tax purposes) is highly subjective. Church leaders have never explicitly told members to pay on the gross, or even the net for that matter. Heck, you could just look at your end of year surplus (what you actually saved for that year) and pay ten percent of that.

  4. There is a FB group I’m on, called something like Doctrines and Questions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is not a Bloggernacle type environment; there are something like 25,000 participants on it, and they are mostly just average members. Recently, a banner question was posted, something like “Tithing: Gross or Net?” Several people quoted the official position of the Church you give above, but the vast, vast majority went straight to gross, with lots of “Do you want gross blessings or net blessings?” These were not financially sophisticated arguments; a number of people confused wage income with running a business, and insisted a business owner should tithe on gross receipts, which is sheer financial insanity. Despite the Church’s official position, everyone was defaulting to what they assume ed must be the more orthodox position.

    I have a Master of Laws degree in Taxation, and I have always appreciated and agreed with President Hinckley, who used to say it’s a very good thing that we don’t have some sort of Tithing Code with its accompanying Regulations.

  5. Great post Kent. And as you note, the law of tithing is a nice case that is perfectly generalizable: even our most specific commandments (tithing, word of wisdom) get textually complicated and require interpretation—to say nothing of the more vague laws (keep the sabbath, serve actively). I appreciate the two extremes you detail that we can take with regard to this state of things, as well as the discussion of what it means to be children of heavenly parents on a path of exaltation. We need to seek after righteousness, recognizing the law for what it is: a (necessary) help toward that end—as opposed to a measuring stick or tool of justification of any kind.

    One other thing I would note is that the specificity (or perhaps the concrete and unyielding nature) of a commandment can likewise be a blessing, a sort of lifeline that we can hold to in the tremendously difficult circumstances we sometimes find ourselves in. Keeping the sabbath has functioned this way for me personally in recent years, and others have shared similar experiences vis-a-vis other commandments.

  6. Kevin, while you are certainly welcome to post a link to this post there, I also recognize that those on that group may not be in a place where they can understand my point here. Each person has to go through their own spiritual growth and growth in their spiritual understanding. Without having the status of an Apostle, or local church leader, I think it is difficult to get those who want certainty to see the gospel in other terms, even though I think it would bless their lives.

    Likely they think the same about me — that its nearly impossible to get someone like me to see how important having certainty in the orthodox view of the law of tithing is.

  7. I think the principle described in Luke 6:38 is applicable with such questions, and try to err on the side of giving more:

    “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

  8. The mormon church does not have rules?
    What a joke of a statement. the mormon church is full of rules. Here is oaks gaslighting again. What is a mormon mission? rules,rules, and more rules on top of rules.

  9. I find it horrifying that people are paying on their gross income in hopes that they can buy more blessings. Everything is wrong about that. Why not just pay everything you earn and then hope to be translated as you starve to death? I’m a tithing on net income and interest guy–what I pay in taxes was never mine to begin with other than on paper. If my feudal lord forced me to spend one day in seven building roads, I wouldn’t try to pay a tithe on that seventh day of forced labor.

  10. Consecration is the goal, so a 10% tithe, after the Levitical, Aaronic Order, is the bare minimum. Anything over 10% is a step toward consecration—the Melchizedek Order.

    Penny-pinching LDS Pharisees need a concise, greedy definition for tithing. Unfit for Zion. Give more than 10%

  11. That’s a nice thought, Travis, but since we aren’t pooling our resources to support each other, you’re just back to buying indulgences. The law of consecration isn’t about giving all our money to the church, it’s about dedicating all that we do to building up the kingdom of God. While the church runs some great humanitarian programs, there are plenty of things those programs don’t do that are necessary from a charitable standpoint. And giving more of my income to the church is not going to put shoes on my kids’ feet or send them to college, which is also part of building up the kingdom of God. If you have more to give, and you like what the church does with your donations, more power to you, but you can’t buy more holiness by paying an 11% tithe, and the Lord will be just as pleased if you give your extra money to the local rape crisis center.

    What name should we call you to drive you away from Zion as you seem intent on doing to others?

  12. BTW, figuring out your actual (aka “net”) income can be an interesting exercise in discovering what your employer pays you in benefits. Just paying tithing on your nominal (aka “gross”) monetary salary doesn’t capture those other benefits you are being paid, which to me at least constitute an “increase.” When you figure your “increase” based on the cash and benefits you actually receive, an interesting side effect is that you learn how universal health insurance could be paid for in the US without inconveniencing anyone on the consumer side–to wit, if you have employer-based health insurance, your employer is paying you a lot in the form of insurance premiums that you may not notice if you don’t look closely at your pay stub. When someone tries to scare you about the taxes associated with single-payer insurance systems, you can just remember that you and your employer are already paying that same (or larger) amount to private insurance companies’ vulture shareholders.

  13. To Nate GT-I take your point and can see how tithing settlement can go very wrong. In the majority of cases in my experience though, it has felt more like a “this is what our records show. Does it match with your records?”….I saw it more of an attempt to ensure there wasn’t financial impropriety on the part of those collecting the tithes. Perhaps I’m sensitive to that because of the mission president before mine being ex’d for embezzlement of tithing funds. So that’s where my brain has usually gone….to a reconciliation of records more than anything else. Nowadays though, I can get a copy of my end of year donation records right on-line and can compare it with what I show I’ve paid. I pay directly to SLC since I’m not in the US.


  14. Latam Girl, tithing settlement doesn’t have the same pressure effect on everyone. And if you live outside the US, do not attend the temple, don’t have a temple near you, and don’t have believing family members, then going to tithing settlement and declaring that you don’t pay a full amount isn’t going to have much fallout. The bishop can say, “I’m taking away your temple recommend,” and it wouldn’t really matter. Bear in mind that bishops are instructed to meet with each member around Christmas time to not just ask about comparing records, but to ask if you pay a full tithe. If you say that you don’t, they are instructed to consider taking away temple recommends. The comparison of records doesn’t require meeting with a bishop face-to-face every year. Bishops can also embezzle tithing funds and still make printouts for tithing settlement. Your ex-mission president embezzled funds in spite of their being tithing settlement anyways. In fact, embezzlement would be less of an issue if members were just instructed to make online payments directly to the COB (albeit there are members for whom online payments would still be an inconvenience).

    Tithing settlement works to create high pressure on Mormon families in the Mormon belt who could face large social stigma and fallout with family members for not paying a “full” tithe (often understood to be at least on the net, and often on the gross) and not having a temple recommend. This is the environment I live in, and I hear story after story of people paying beyond what they can afford to pay because of high social pressure. Tithing settlement should be done away with. What kind of non-profit organizations asks their donors to meet face to face with a board member and asked if they are paying enough, and if they aren’t then undertake measures to induce shame and stress on families? If any other organization did this, I would be called a shakedown.

  15. I have to say that much of this discussion is a little disappointing. I write a post that seeks to help people not focus on rules for things like tithing and what do some of the comments focus on?

    If you look at the gospel as a collection of rules, and the church as an enforcer of rules, then of course your feelings about things like tithing settlement will be seen as a question of whether or not you obey the rules.

    While you can’t control how your Bishop or your family see things like this, you can control how you see it.

  16. The main purpose of tithing settlement is accountability, where you get to affirm to your priesthood leader whether you pay a full tithe or not. Anyone in a bishopric can see how much tithing the members in their ward or branch pay throughout the year, so they already know what you’re paying in tithing. But they don’t know how much you earn, and would have no way of verifying it without auditing your finances.

    If you tell the bishop you’re a full tithe payer when you’re not, he might believe you, or he might know you’re lying and call you on it, or he might know you’re lying and leave the matter in the Lord’s hands. Honesty is the best policy, of course, and that includes opportunities to be honest with your local common judge in Israel. If you don’t show up to tithing settlement, the bishop will have to guess if you’re a full tithe payer or not, and I don’t think most bishops enjoy guessing about something like that.

    It’s not a financial audit, it’s our chance to show some accountability in one important facet of our lives.

  17. Kent, great point about how extensive tithing rules would draw our personal time and leadership time away from more important things. Attention is a scarce resource.

  18. Eric, “do you pay a full tithe” is already asked at the temple recommend interview. Tithing settlement is superfluous. It functions largely as a pressure system in the Mormon belt to enforce and check loyalty, find leaders (the ones who pay more tend to be more committed), and bring in lots of money (I’m highly skeptical of the claim that the church doesn’t need our tithing payments) from the Mormon belt. It routinely subjects people to shame and embarrassment, and even poverty in some cases. Many families are paying far more than they can afford, not realizing that there are ways to justify being a full tithe payer while paying significantly less.

    The bishop may not know exactly how much money you make, but he has a good idea. It isn’t hard to find out what people do and assess their likely income based on their profession and the house they live in. He can compare what you are paying with what other peopleare paying. And if he “calls you out” for lying (which is not uncommon), then what is your defense? We keep forgetting that the church is a voluntary organization that should function only by persuasion and invitation. Tithing settlement opens itself up to all sorts of power abuse. No church should be using shame and embarrassment tactics to raise money.

  19. Nate GT, that’s an incredibly uninformed take on tithing settlement. Tithing settlement would be an incredibly ineffective tool of coercion because it relies on people signing up for their own “coercion sessions” with no way to make them sign up. It relies on people to answer whether they have been sufficiently “coerced” without any way to check the truth of their answer.

    You say that it’s not uncommon for bishops to call out people who aren’t paying enough, but that’s simply a figment of your imagination. How would you even know? I’ve never heard of it happening. Not even once. Even if a bishop did ask, all someone would have to do is claim business losses somewhere else. Then what’s the bishop going to do – demand an audit?

    You also say that tithing settlement subjects families to shame and embarrassment, but how would you know? If it actually did, no one would sign up, as there are zero consequences for not coming in for tithing settlement. And you say that many families pay far more than they can afford; again, how would you know?

    I’ve lived in places where the percentage of church members was close to 100%, and close to 0%. Tithing settlement seems to serve the same function in both. The bishop gets to meet with entire families at the same time and discuss any number of things, a few of which might have to do with tithing.

    You say the church is a voluntary organization. A voluntary meeting to discuss voluntary contributions sounds pretty…voluntary. I think you’ve gotten wrapped up in an imaginary view of what tithing settlement is. Back on the real world, it’s not like that. Have you ever been to tithing settlement?

  20. Nate GT,

    I have spent most of my life in the “Mormon Belt”. My experience has matched Latam Girl’s. I’ve never felt any pressure. I even once asked a bishop who was an accountant by trade some of the interesting how to calculate tithing questions, and he reiterated that he’s not in a position to get specific as he was going to trust whatever I declared regardless of the amount.

  21. Nate GT, I agree with Jonathan. Did you actually read my post? You seem to be very focused on rules. Don’t you think that your focus on rules is what is driving your view of Tithing settlement?

  22. Jonathan, I have heard countless stories from facebook groups, blogs, and forums of tithing settlement being a pressured meeting. Allow me to share just two stories I heard this week. 1) A bishop emails ward members saying that he wants to get tithing settlement done by a particular date in order to maintain a work-life balance and then in the same email tells ward members that if they do not show up to declare their tithing status, he will cancel their temple recommend. This is but another instance of a bishop using the temple recommend as leverage to get people to pay tithing. If you are in a marriage where regular temple attendance is in the norm with your spouse, not having a recommend could severely strain that marriage. If a family member is having a temple wedding soon, not having a recommend to attend will most likely induce shame. If you have a child who is turning 8, a son who is turning 12 soon, and the social expectation is that you perform the baptism or the ordination but are told that you can’t because you don’t have a temple recommend, it is likely you will feel shame because of the social norms in the Mormon belt.

    2) A man says that he stopped believing in many things about Mormonism in June and stopped paying tithing then. He is concerned about the having a fallout with his wife if he suddenly announces no longer believing, so he continues to go through the motions. However, his wife signs them up for tithing settlement this Sunday (I’m planning on messaging him to see how it went) and he is scarred stiff about the impact this meeting could have on his marriage. He doesn’t know what to tell his wife or the bishop. Having families meet with the bishop to talk about tithing makes it all the more of a high pressure meeting. Meeting with the bishop to talk about tithing is not so voluntary for this man. Failure to attend could cause fallout with his wife as well. He is in a tough bind.

    If you have paid for your entire adult life $2-7K+ annually to the church, then tithing settlement is nothing more than a friendly chat with the bishop. Just as an experiment, maybe trying going into tithing settlement and declaring that you’re not a full tithe payer. Also, maybe try not paying tithing for a while. See how you feel and how tithing settlement makes you feel. The meeting adds that extra bit of pressure on you to get you to pay. It is by design a guilt-inducing meeting and guilt works wonders in raking in money.

    Also, how do I know that people are paying more than they can afford? Because they tell me. They share their stories. In every one of these stories I have found that tithing settlement has created an aura of extra pressure to pay. People worry about what their bishop will think of them if the amount they’re paying is less than it was last year. They worry what the bishop might say if what they’re paying isn’t as as much as what others are paying. Rock Waterman’s 2012 blog post “Are We Paying too Much Tithing” is a wonderful write-up. It was that likely that post, as well as others, that led to his excommunication a couple of years later. It takes a good amount of mental energy and study and courage to pay less that what the social norms dictate. Unfortunately many members feel too guilty to try to justify paying less and end up paying on the gross and forking over more even at expense to their own livelihoods.

    Kent, I read everything you wrote and I’m surprised to find you saying that I’m overly concerned with rules. Quite the contrary. I have strong reason to believe that enforcement mechanisms through tithing settlement have created a culture of hypersensitivity about tithing payments. If we turn tithing into more of an honor system without bishopric involvement, people will stop worrying about the rules and obey the spirit of the law. Of course, that invariably means less in tithing payments, especially from the Mormon belt. I collect and enforce debt payments for a living. I know how subtle meetings, actions, and gestures make a huge difference in collecting debt.

  23. Nate GT,

    Your first story is an anomaly. In your second, why does the wife not know that the husband isn’t paying tithing? Isn’t that the kind of thing (family finances) that shouldn’t require a meeting with a third party to discover?

    You mention temple attendance and revocation of a temple recommend because of tithing settlement. The issue (if there is one) in that case is the temple recommend interview. If someone is not willing to lie in their tithing settlement, then they won’t be willing to lie in their temple recommend interview. In both cases, if they are not living in accordance with having a temple recommend, then they should not be using it any way.

    If tithing settlement is designed to induce guilt, there are much more effective ways of doing it.

  24. Dsc, the first story is representative of bishop roulette. Some bishops don’t push the issue, while others do. Is that bishop overstepping his bounds? Maybe. But maybe not. I have heard many others stories about bishops asking members who told the bishop that they hadn’t been a full tithe payer for several years to pay back-tithing in order to obtain a temple recommend. I have heard stories of bishops asking for W-2 statements at tithing settlement. I have many other stories of bishops engaging in behavior at tithing settlement that is close to harassment. With few vague guidelines for bishops, the higher leaders are placing a lot of trust in the hands of a local volunteer without adequate training to manage very sensitive issues (payment enforcement) that could have huge impacts on families. And some bishops clearly take it upon themselves to go on a virtual campaign to collect and enforce tithing.

    In the second story, should the husband have told his wife beforehand? Maybe. I can see how one might argue that he didn’t have to. A larger point, though, is that the husband should be able to enjoy freedom from undue church intrusion into his life. If he wants to leave the church, that is his choice and it should be respected. He shouldn’t be made to feel that he has to continue paying his dues somehow. He shouldn’t be forced into meetings where the bishop reminds of how he isn’t paying his dues and the wife is made to feel that her eternal family is ruined (shame mechanism). That’s what tithing settlement will likely do.

    You’re largely concerned with the member being honest and want to ensure that he or she is when making a tithing declaration. What about the rights of the church to verify honesty? What if the leaders starting requiring to provide their tax records to the bishop so that he could assess whether or not they were honest in their past years’ declarations? What if the leaders told the bishops to ask members for more detailed explanations if they felt that they weren’t paying enough tithing? What if the leaders defined a full tithe as payment on the gross? Would you support these measures? At some point, enforcement becomes harassment and shows a lack of trust in individuals. Tithing is a voluntary payment. It should be made to feel as such. Church is a voluntary activity and should also be made to feel as much. Leaders shouldn’t be treating members with constant suspicion, they shouldn’t be trusting in them. An honor system for paying tithing should suffice. Tithing settlement is unnecessary and lends itself to all sorts of scenarios where bishops abuse their power and people feel coerced to pay more than they can afford.

    And on full tithe payment being necessary to obtain a recommend, on second thought, I think that it shouldn’t be. I change my mind. Church shouldn’t be made to feel as a pay-to-play system. So, yes, leaders can encourage tithing payments and define it as ten percent of income. But just leave it at that.

  25. Wait, you’re basing all this on stories you’ve heard online? Delete your account. You’re not doing great at separating fact from fiction from sheer fantasy. You don’t seem to have a firm grip on how things work in a typical ward. For one, no temple recommend is required to participate in baptism or ordination. Do you attend regularly?

    A lot of your stories take the form of “people feel pressure over what the bishop will say,” or in other words, self-induced feelings about a hypothetical response that they’re imagining. This is not the church putting pressure on them: This is people creating stress for themselves based on imagination rather than fact. Every tithing settlement I’ve ever been involved with (including as a financial clerk) has been a friendly, pleasant, low-stress experience. So who’s giving people the impression that tithing settlement is a high-pressure, high-stakes event that might result in an audit of their finances, denial of opportunity, and ostracism?

    That’s you, Nate GT. Not the church.

  26. @Nate GT’s stories sound foreign to me, too, although I’ve seen enough in a lifetime in the church to know that what he describes *could* happen, even if it’s rare. But about his attempted reductio ad absurdum RE verifying tithing, I don’t find his suggestions ridiculous at all. While we may not operate that way now, I’m sure my ancestors who lived as part of the United Order wouldn’t have blinked twice about turning over their accounting records. And if the handbook called for a formal audit of my finances, I would go along with it willingly and feel no shame in explaining how I calculate my tithing based on my net plus benefits. And if tomorrow the prophet told me to pay on my gross nominal salary, I’d do that, too. And if he told me to jump, I’d ask how high. We’re talking about people who believe that the Lord Almighty stands at the head of what we’re attempting to do, for heck’s sake. I and my house love tithing settlement. Every bishop we’ve ever had has made it a blessed learning experience for us and our children. If we were behind on our tithing, hopefully the shepherding of our bishop would encourage us to repent. I would hate to see tithing settlement go.

  27. Jonathan, you ask how I know this stuff, then I respond from social media, Facebook groups, and personal stories, and then your response is “don’t trust what they say.” And then you proceed to tell me your story. You’re a guy online. Why should I trust you and your story? I do, by the way. But you need to take into account that there are lots of different stories out there, and many of them negative where they have felt coerced because of tithing settlement. At this point, what can I say. You seem to be burying your head in the sand. Saying, “everything is fine, stop complaining,” and then shutting your eyes and ears to the myriad complaints out there. You even questioned if I’ve ever been to tithing settlement. I comment regularly on my experiences in Mormonism, and somehow it has never occurred to me to attend tithing settlement? I don’t know how you would miss it. It is the time of year that bishops have seemed to want to talk with me more than any other time of the year. Anyhow, I can’t have serious conversations with someone who talks down to others who disagree with him and who is clearly in denial.

    Kent, A Guy’s comment (provided it is serious) seems to be the type of person obsessed with rules, strictures, and enforcement that you are describing in your post. I marvel at how the ultra-Orthodox seemingly blindly obedient members, who should be the foremost defenders of the principle of agency, seem to love legalism, strict enforcement, and other structures of church governance that take away from agency and people’s freedom of choice (Satan’s plan?).

    Overall, what is the point of tithing settlement if it isn’t to pressure Mormons in the Mormon belt to pay more than they likely would were there no tithing settlement? It can’t be just a time to have a friendly chat with the bishop, as Jonathan suggests. After all the meeting is called tithing settlement, and its main purpose is to have the members declare if they consider themselves full tithe payers or not. Furthermore, the LDS Church is the only church that I know of that does this (if there are other churches, please let me know). Other churches have collection plates and offertories. They still generate money. What boggles my mind is how televangelists, including obvious scamsters such as Jesse Duplantis, generate millions (even overtly for private planes) without even having face-to-face meetings with anyone. Tithing settlement is a superfluous pointless meeting that I’m sure many an overly busy bishopric would love to see ended. And if the prophet stood up and announced that tithing settlement was being discontinued, I can only imagine that the reaction from the rank-and-file (even from guys like A Guy) would be the same as the reaction to the end of 3-hour-church: an outburst of jubilation.

  28. Nate,

    I’m just going to be honest with you; I don’t think all the stories you’re hearing are true. In any case, they certainly aren’t representative. And people aren’t being forced into these meetings any more than they are being forced to go to church. The people in your stories have problems with the church that go well beyond tithing settlement.

    Tithing very much is and feels voluntary. I certainly won’t engage in what-if scenarios that aren’t even remotely close to becoming reality.

  29. The first commandment of tithing was a bailout plan for the personal spending of the early executives of Smith & publishers LLC. The board of directors were initially opposed to the initial structure of the zero interest loan, but once the capitalization potential was actualized, there was no turning back. The bylaws were amended from the original CFO, bishop Partridges suggestion of 2% of net, to a mandatory 10% of gross, temple worthiness pending. Rolled into a diverse portfolio of multimedia, real estate, and onshore tax havens, blessings have never been higher. Buy your time share now in sunny Jackson county, Missouri.

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