Thanks to all of those who have commented on my Sunday posts so far; offering encouragement, and to my surprise asking questions about the LDS faith that they would like to see answered. By all means, please continue to ask those questions! I think that sometimes we are afraid to ask questions about each others belief systems because we don’t want to sound ignorant or rude, but I enjoy taking the opportunity to share information about my beliefs with all of you. I don’t know if you will have many questions or insights about this weeks topic, since it is pretty straight forward, but if you have questions about other things, fire away! I’m creating a back-log of Sunday post drafts so if you ask a question that involves enough of an answer to warrant a post in reply, I’ll be sure to answer it publicly at some point. Again, thank you! I get so excited to write these posts every week because of your wonderful words of encouragement and appreciation. It sounds so nerdy, but I just love all of you, my little blog friends!
This weeks topic is one that most of you will be a little more familiar with, tithing. We just went in for what we call “tithing settlement” with our bishop (church leader) a few hours ago so it has been on my mind.
Church members give one-tenth of their income to the Lord, and this is done by paying it to His church. The definition of the word “income” is left up to each individual member, which results in some paying from their gross income, some from their net income, and some using the self-defined word “increase.” It’s a very personal matter that each person must reconcile with the Lord on their own. However they define their personal increase, 1/10th of that money must be paid each year.
Tithing is not something I personally struggle with because I see it as an opportunity to give back to the Lord a small portion of what he provided to me in the first place. I believe that everything we have comes from God, so giving 1/10th of our increase feels very natural to me. The instruction to offer tithing can be found in Malachi:
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).
Something you may not know about our church is that there are no paid clergy within the church. Their are persons employed by the church, working in publication, PR, etc, but they work as employees, not part of the Priesthood or auxiliary organizations. Are there other churches like ours that run purely through the service of its members? [Editors Note: A commenter revealed to me that this paragraph isn’t very clear. We DO have the Priesthood. I wanted to point out that members of the clergy, the Priesthood holders, are not paid for their service.]
I am sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways that tithing money is used. Some of those include the building of meetinghouses and temples, missionary work, relief aid around the world, education, etc. Tuition at Brigham Young University, where That Husband and I went to school and fell in love, is subsidized by tithing, making it cost less than $2000/semester in tuition to attend!
I learned something interesting about tithing in my LDS History class last year. The Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887 disincorporated the church (the Act was primarily aimed at eliminating Polygamy), and allowed the federal government to seize all church properties valued over $50,000. Needless to say, the church was broke. The church began renting everything, tabernacle, temple, meetinghouses, land, paid for with a loan secured by church leader Heber J. Grant for 57% annually.
As you can imagine, the church was deeply in debt. The members of the LDS faith had been living in Utah for less than 40 years at this point, and after traveling there in covered wagons they were nowhere near wealthy enough collectively to buy pay off the properties siezed by the government. Tithing was being paid, but it was going to what was called the Bishops Storehouse in the form of wheat, potatoes, and other items members could produce and contribute instead of cash. The President of the Church at the time, President Lorenzo Snow, began to preach the necessity of paying tithing in cash. According to my professor, it is said (I say it is said because I’m highly skeptical about facets of the stories that sound an awful lot like folklore) that he promised the Saints that paying their tithing in full for the remainder of their lives he will personally escort them into the Celestial kingdom.
From that point on, tithing has primarily been paid in cash, by members all over the world. Their are many beautiful stories told of people paying their tithing instead of buying groceries to feed their family for the week, and the food being provided by a kind friend or stranger who noticed they were in need.
Now that you understand the why, you might be a little more curious about the how. The first Sunday of every month in the Church is considered “Fast Sunday” where all members fast. This is the day that most strive to pay their tithing. I’m horrible at paying on a regular basis and usually end up paying around 3 or 4 times a year. Some people write one big check at the end of the year for all of their income. It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, as long as you pay 10% of your increase each year. A slip is filled out, the check or cash is enclosed, and an envelope is handed to a member of the church leadership. All of these contributions are recorded and then deposited into the bank. From there it is distributed throughout the world, with the distribution being delegated by the President of the Church and his counselors.
The tithing settlement I mentioned earlier in the post happens once a year. It’s an opportunity for families to meet together with their bishop (church leader), finish paying their tithing for the year, and declare whether they are full or partial tithe payers. I loved tithing settlement when I was young because the bishop always had candy sitting on his desk. I would bring all of my pennies and dump them all over his desk. Yes, even small children are encouraged to pay on their increase throughout the year. As my sister and I grew older we enjoyed trying to sneak a look at my dad’s tithing paper to try to figure out what his personal increase is. We still have no idea to this day. 🙂
I believe the law of tithing to be a true and correct principle. I know that it helps His church to run efficiently and spread throughout the world. I believe tithing is not an obligation, but a privilege. I have been blessed throughout my life because I have paid my tithing.
For those reading who are members of other faiths, I am deeply curious to hear more about your own experiences with tithing. How is tithing paid in your church? What are you encouraged to give?
Oh, and Utah readers, please keep in mind that tithing and tipping are not the same thing. As a former Utah waitress I plead with you to remember that tithing is 10%, but tipping is 15%+. Servers in Utah are paid $2/hour!