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5 misconceptions about LDS tithing

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Tithing helps pay for temples such as the recently dedicated Gilbert Arizona Temple. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a global faith that receives funds and other donations from a variety of donors. The Church uses these charitable donations to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, to care for the poor, and to strengthen members’ faith and commitment to Jesus Christ.

But the details of exactly how tithing funds are used and how other donations are handled are often misconstrued. Here are five misconceptions about tithing and the truth behind them.

1. Tithing and fast offering are used for the same things.

Tithing funds are disbursed directly to the Church’s educational, missionary, building, humanitarian and welfare programs. Tithing also funds the construction and maintenance of Church meetinghouses, temples and other facilities.

Fast offerings, which consist of at least the amount saved by fasting for two meals each month, go directly to supporting the poor and needy in local congregations.

2. Tithing must be paid in cash.

In the early days of the Church, members often paid their tithing in kind — chickens, eggs and sacks of potatoes were just as welcome as cash donations. As lifestyles have changed since then, so has the typical way of paying tithing. But “donations in kind” are still accepted, generally in the form of stock, real estate or other assets. Some Church members choose to donate this way for tax reasons.

3. Designations members request on donation slips are guaranteed.

Donation slips were changed early in 2012 to improve the handling of tithing and other donations. Members can still specify to which funds their donations go, but the new slips include revised language on the bottom of the slip.

“Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated,” the slip reads, “all donations become the Church’s property and will be used at the Church’s sole discretion to further the Church’s overall mission.”

4. Tithing is the Church’s only source of income.

Tithing and fast offerings make up most of the Church’s income, but the Church also holds commercial business interests. Many of these are related to enterprises that began when Church members were largely isolated in the West. These enterprises bring in relatively small amounts of money compared with tithes and other offerings, but they do bring in some.

5. The Church pays no taxes.

The Church is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, which means tithing funds are not taxed. However, the Church’s commercial, for-profit entities are subject to federal, state and local taxes.

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9 Responses to "5 misconceptions about LDS tithing"

  1. Adrianna says:

    It is interesting to see the categories of spending.

    But is it possible to see a financial report or some summary report of where the tithing goes? It would be interesting to see how much tithing goes to buildings, missionary spending, etc.

    • Dolores says:

      Would it be possible to see a financial report? Short answer: in the US, no!

    • Chris says:

      Adrianna, that’s an interesting question but no, the church refuses to release any summary or report (except where required by law in other countries). I would love to see it as well but I suspect the bretheren don’t want to be questioned as to why they’re building malls and purchasing for-profit land in Florida.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Does the tithes go to pay those federal, state and local taxes?

    • Clay Neves says:

      Federal, state and local taxes due on profits from church owned businesses are paid by the church-owned for-profit entities and not from tithing funds.

  3. Richard says:

    For me, knowing how the church designates the use of my tithing funds has been less important to me than making sure that I pay my tithing. I personally am not concerned where the Church uses my tithing funds. I’m just glad that my tithing is helping the Church to grow. It makes me feel that I am part of the team. I pay my tithing because it is a commandment of God that I do. (Malichi 3:7-11.) I recognize both spiritual and temporal blessings from doing so.

  4. Susan Carroll says:

    Tithes will never go to pay taxes. That is the Lord’s money. Taxes come out of the funds from the for profit entities, because those are the ones that are taxed.

  5. Clay Neves says:

    Richard, great response. One clarification to consider, I’m wondering if there is any such thing as “my tithing funds,” even though I don’t think you meant it literally in the spirit of what you said. That money never was really ours. When we pay tithing as an act of faith, it is no longer (actually never was) any of our business how the Lord directs those funds to be distributed and put to use by those who have been duly given that stewardship. Part of the faith of paying tithing also entails the faith that the Lord is directing his church through prophets and apostles and that his funds are handled accordingly as best as humanly possible.

    A great explanative article:
    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-financial-independence

  6. Richard Willardson says:

    I’m with Adrianna. I’d like to see an accounting of sacred church tithing funds. Where can we see that?

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