Fifth Nonstandard Discussion – Tithing

  • Follow up with your investigators about any commitments they have made. Encourage them that they are doing a good job in learning more and striving to follow their moral conscience.

We have talked about how many items in the church’s history seem muddled and confused, and are perhaps painful to consider the implications of. Many people wonder how such sweet old men running the current church could have such a history behind them and still support the church.

We would like to share some of the things we know and have learned about the current church.

It is important to distinguish between a true communication and simply an idea

Brigham Young once said that Adam and God the Father were one and the same (Journal of Discourses, Vol.1, p.50 – p.51,). Bruce R. McConkie later said that this belief was a heresy. Many of the leaders of the church have said things that conflict with other church leaders, as well as with scientifically proven facts. How can one know if a prophet is speaking as a man or as a prophet?

When Joseph Smith started speaking as the voice of God, a pattern was established. That is, when he was not speaking as a man, he would begin with “Thus saith the Lord” and end with “Amen.” This created a clarity and testable foundation for what ideas came from Joseph the man, and what came from God.

  • Question: Why do you think it is important to establish a true communication from deity and a personally held belief put out as coming from God?
  • Story: Tell the following story in your own words:

A man set up a satellite dish at his house. This was the seventies and so the satellite dish was expensive and large. He pointed it towards one satellite and got one station. He pointed it at another and got another station. He then manually adjusted the satellite to get a forbidden station.

He went into his television and got only static. He refused to change the station back because he was determined to see the forbidden material. He wanted the satellites to line up with him.

Later that week, he bragged to all of his friends how he had been watching illegal shows.

  • Question: Why is it important to not simply accept any static as valid communication?

Historical definition of tithing

The Bible defines tithing as an increase.

Deuteronomy 26:12: “When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year…”

Deuteronomy 14:28: “At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates.”

Doctrine and Covenants 119:4 states it is interest that is tithed: “And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.”

In the early days of the church, one paid 1/10 of all one possessed upon joining the church. This is illustrated by a scripture in Alma. “Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed” (Alma 13:15).

After joining the church, new members only paid 1/10 of one’s increase.

The earliest definition of tithing was to support the poor: “Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery initiated implementation of the principle in 1834, when they pledged one-tenth of all the Lord should give them as an offering for the poor” (HC 2:174-75).

The term “tithing” had been used in some revelations before 1838 (e.g., D&C 64:23; 85:3; 97:11-12), but connoted all free-will offerings or contributions, and were understood to be supporting the poor.

  • Source: Orson Hyde’s quote, “The celestial law requires one-tenth part of all a man’s substance which he possesses at the time he comes into the church [See D&C 119:1], and one-tenth part of his annual increase ever after [See D&C 119:4]” (The Millennial Star, 1847).

The Joseph Smith translation of Genesis 14:39 states that Abraham paid tithes from the possessions “which God had given him more than that which he had need” as part of tithing. This agrees with the concept of “interest.”

Current definition of tithing

In the Ensign, various conference talks, and New Era, tithing is defined as ten percent of one’s gross income. Leaders even often say, “10% of one’s interest, which means income.”

  • Question: If you were to ask for a raise from your boss for 10% of your income last year, are you likely to get it? If you are to ask for a raise that is 10% of your increase last year, are you likely to get it? Would the two dollar amounts be equal?

First Presidency letter, “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“[1].

Spencer W. Kimball: “We have uniformly replied that 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”[2].

“After quoting this scripture the First Presidency said: ‘No one is justified in making any other statement than this. We feel that every member of the Church should be entitled to make his own decision as to what he thinks he owes the Lord, and to make payment accordingly.’ They did, however, point out that ‘interest’ is understood to mean ‘income’”[3] (New Era, Dec. 1975, p. 14-15).

Interest was not defined as income in 1964. Howard W. Hunter said, “The law is simply stated as ‘one-tenth of all their interest.’ Interest means profit, compensation, increase. It is the wage of one employed, the profit from the operation of a business, the increase of one who grows or produces, or the income to a person from any other source. The Lord said it is a standing law ‘forever’ as it has been in the past.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 35)

1880s policy is clear on the subject. In 1881 obedience to the law of tithing became a requirement for temple attendance (JD 22:207-208): “I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop.”

  • Ask your investigator to define the word “surplus.” If you need to help them out, a definition is available here.

“The Lord’s Tenth,” by James E. Talmage, was a book specifically written to help members of the church understand tithing. Jeffrey R. Holland[4] spoke to members about tithing rephrasing what was printed about seven decades earlier by Talmage. Holland inserts the word “income,” and alters the definition.


“You have need of many things in this world-food, clothing, and shelter for your family and yourself, the common comforts of life, and the things that shall be conducive to refinement, to development, to righteous enjoyment. You desire material possessions to use for the assistance of others… but remember they are mine, and I require of you the payment of a rental upon that which I give into your hands. However, your life will not be one of uniform increase in substance and possessions; you will have your losses, as well as your gain; you will have your periods of trouble as well as your times of peace. Some years will be years of plenty unto you, and others will be of scarcity.

And, now, instead of doing as mortal landlords do-require you to contract with them to pay in advance, whatever your fortunes or your prospects may be-you shall pay me not in advance but when you have received; and you shall pay me in accordance with what you receive. If it so be that in one year your income is abundant, then you can afford to pay me a little more; and if it be so that the next year is one of distress and your income is not what it was, then you shall pay me less; and should it be that you are reduced to the utmost penury so that you have nothing coming in, you will pay me nothing.”

  • Explain that this is in harmony with paying on the surplus, but paying on income means paying before you know how they year will be, as well as before needs are met. Also point out the contractual nature of the current definition of tithing.

There is no additional revelation or change that altered “interest” to “income” on record. The general authorities seem to have simply slipped the new definition in, and the members pay.

Other branches of mormonism do not pay 10% of their income

No other branch of LDS theology believes that tithing is 10% of income.

Stake Presidents and Bishops used to be paid positions

In 1888 Wilford Woodruff established set salaries for stake presidents and provided that a stake committee would apportion 10 percent of collected tithing between the bishops and the stake tithing clerk. At April 1896 general conference, the First Presidency announced the end of salaries for local officers, in response to the decision of the temple meeting “to not pay Salaries to any one but the Twelve.”

Tithing pays General Authority modest living allowances

General Authorities are reported as making 6 figure incomes. In Canada, where non-profits are required by law to report such things, the regional authorities are shown as making $160,000 – $199,999.

Tithing is used to send children to reformation camps

  • Note: This subject may be difficult for many members. Only share it if you feel it appropriate.

The church owns a part of the West Ridge Academy and Utah’s Boy Ranch. Tithing and fast offerings from members are used to pay significant sums ($3-5,000 U.S.) for tuition at these camps where the children are subjugated. Reparative therapy for gay/homosexual members is practiced.

The Church owns significant land holdings and corporations

General Authorities hold posts on private company boards. Look at the Board of Directors on each of these companies. There is at least one General Authority:

Deseret Management Corporation[5]

Beneficial Financial Group[6]

Bonneville International[7]

Bonneville Communications [8]

Bonneville Interactive Services

Bonneville Satellite[9]

35 Radio Stations

1 Television Station (KSL)

Deseret Book[10]

Excel Entertainment[11]

Deseret Morning News[12]

Hawaii Reserves[13]

Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC)[14]

La’ie Shopping Center

La’ie Park

La’ie Cemetery

Hukilau Beach Park

La’ie Water Company

La’ie Treatment Works (sewer)[15]

Temple Square Hospitality[16]

Hotel Temple Square Corporation[17]

Weddings (JSMB and Lion House)

The Inn at Temple Square[18]

Lion House Pantry[19]

The Roof Restaurant[20]

The Garden Restaurant[21]

Passages Restaurant[22]

Zions Securities Corporation (now Utah Property Management Associates)[23]

Farm Management Corporation (commericial farms and agricultural properties)

Deseret Land and Livestock

200,000 acres of land in Rich, Morgan and Weber counties (Utah)

Sun Ranch (Martin’s Cove)

Deseret Ranches of Florida in Orlando (largest ranch in Florida)

Deseret Farms of California

Rolling Hills (Idaho)

West Hills Orchards (Elberta, Utah)

Cactus Lane Ranch (Arizona)

Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (CPB)

Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Deseret Trust Company

LDS Family Services

Property Reserves Inc. (PRI)

Ensign Peak Advisors[24]

Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators (DMBA)[25]

Brigham Young University (BYU)[26]

BYU – Idaho[27]

BYU – Hawaii[28]

LDS Business College[29]

Land Holdings:

Agreserves Australia LTD Kooba Station, Australia.

Deseret Ranches of Alberta Raymond, AB Canada

Agreserves LTD Cambridge, England

AgroReservas, S.C. Los Mochis, Mexico

Deseret Farms of CA Woodland, CA

Deseret Farms of CA Modesto, CA

Deseret Farms of CA Chico, CA

South valley Farms Bakersfield, CA

Deseret Security Farms Blythe, CA

Naples Farms Naples, FL

Deseret Cattle & Citrus ST. Cloud, FL

Deseret Farms of Ruskin Ruskin, FL

Kewela Plantation O’ahu, HI

Rex Ranch Ashby, NE

Riverbend Farms ST.Paul, OR

Deseret Land & Livestock Woodruff, UT

Wasatch-Dixie Farms Elberta, UT

Agreserves Cottle CO., TX

Agrinorthwest kennewick, WA

Handcart Ranch Alcova, WY

Deseret Ranches of Wyoming Cody, WY

Farmland Reserve – owns over a billion dollars of Florida land–and 0.7% of Florida.

The church finances its private investments via tithing

The church invests the tithing dollars at interest with Babylon, or the banks of the world, for three years before it spends anything on the church itself. It then takes those interest dollars and buys for-profit companies (like the City Creek mall) in order to make the boards of directors wealthy.

The members of the twelve are in the boards of directors of many of these companies. They receive speaking fees, board fees, and wages above and beyond the six figure income granted to them as a modest living allowance.

  • Ask your investigator how he/she feels about tithing and its uses.

Humanitarian aide used to make money over victims

In 2005, UK members of the church contributed $500,000 in addition to regular donations for tsunami victims. UK public records show that none of that money was spent outside of the UK, and only about 6% of it was used for any sort of assistance of individuals. Faithful members believed they were part of the worldwide effort to help tsunami victims, but instead most of that money is still on the balance sheets at the UK church headquarters, and none of it arrived at its destination.

Fast Offering is also used to make money

In the church handbook of instruction, bishops are instructed to send 95% of all fast offering donations to church headquarters, leaving only 5% for local needy families. If the ward needs additional funds, it must be requested, usually with a reminder that a bishop needs to safeguard the “Lord’s money” each time another withdrawal is made.

New Zealand tax records indicate that up to half of tithing is used to pay salaries

Charity Summary

New Zealand Tax Tithing Blog post

We have covered tithing over history and its current uses today. We’d like to ask you to commit to not pay tithing on your gross income. By not paying tithing on your gross income, you’ll save hundreds of thousands of dollars over an average lifetime, as well as help reduce the funds that the organization has for buying up private companies that then donate to political campaigns, building up reformation camps for youth (that have been shown to be harmful), and paying the people at the top, while keeping the common members donating their time and efforts.

Thank you for hearing us out and inviting us back.

  • Set up a time for the 6th discussion.
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Last edited by EmmaHS on January 25, 2013 at 7:17 pm

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