Jana Riess nails the reason my full tithe isn't to LDS

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River Morgan2
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Jana Riess nails the reason my full tithe isn't to LDS

Post by River Morgan2 » Thu Dec 24, 2020 12:20 pm

Here's the full Salt Lake Tribune opinion piece in case you don't subscribe. Thoughts?

Jana Riess: Why I stopped paying tithing to the LDS Church
At tithing settlement this year, the Religion News Service columnist declared herself a full-tithe payer and explained why none of that money has gone to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

By Jana Riess | Religion News Service
| Dec. 24, 2020, 7:11 a.m.
It’s rare to say that a news story changed your life or your course of behavior. But that’s what happened to me a year ago, when Religion Unplugged and The Washington Post broke the story that my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had amassed a nest egg in excess of $100 billion.
Weirdly, I had recently written a column called “I just paid my Mormon tithing. Why don’t I feel better about it?” In the article I discussed the annual December tradition of tithing settlement, in which church members can sit down with their bishop to discuss their giving and whether they are “full” tithe payers, donating 10% of their income.
I am a fan of tithing settlement. Regular financial accountability is a vital spiritual practice that helps followers of Jesus stay on track in supporting holy work on Earth. But it should go both ways, with followers being accountable for their giving and leaders being accountable for how those donations are spent.

That accountability has not occurred since 1959, the last time The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pulled back the curtain to show what was coming in and where it was going out. That was a time of deficit spending for the Utah-based faith, which is likely why it stopped sharing financial information with members. As I wrote last year:
“I suspect that the nondisclosure policy continues, however, not because the church is poor or indebted, but because it has grown wealthy enough that exposing the extent of its holdings could cause embarrassment and prompt unwanted questions.

Would knowing the extent of the church’s abundance diminish Latter-day Saints’ ongoing generosity?”
I had no idea when I wrote this that my religious world would be rocked less than two weeks later by major revelations about the church’s financial holdings. I certainly had no inkling that the specific line about Latter-day Saints decreasing their generosity if they knew the full extent of the church’s wealth would apply to me personally.
I spent the next two weeks reading the allegations, talking to friends, and praying about what to do. It became clear early on that the news stories were true, just as it became clear that church members and ex-members would respond in mostly predictable ways. Orthodox members defended the hoard as being exactly what Jesus would have us do to prepare for a rainy day (or “a rainy decade,” as Mitt Romney appreciatively jested). They were proud that the church had more money than university endowments, most hedge funds, and even some small nations. They saw the hand of the Lord in the nest egg’s growth from just over $10 billion at the start of this century to more than 10 times that less than two decades later.

Ex-members derided the church as a fraudulent institution that demands ongoing donations even from its poorest members while enriching itself for no obvious charitable purpose.

I was, as usual, somewhere in the middle. I agree with the detractors that the sheer magnitude of the church’s fortune is unworthy of the values of my Mormon people — the good that could be done to save lives right now with that money! Yet there the money sits, just growing in perpetuity.

On the other hand, I don’t think there was ever malicious intent at work in creating this situation. Church leaders aren’t counting their stockpile while they temple their fingers in evil glee or conduct extravagant secret lives of luxury. Rather, they set out to achieve a stable financial balance sheet and then, because of their discipline at saving a portion of each year’s tithing donations and the gift of a roaring stock market, the church got rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Now that stockpile is sitting idle not so much by nefarious intent as by multiple layers of bureaucracy and institutional inertia.

In other words, the same systematic prudence that earned the church its unimaginable fortune is also responsible for the lack of any vision for what to do with it other than some far-off notion of waiting for the Second Coming of Christ.

The irony of the argument about saving for the Second Coming is how ardently it ignores what Christ said when he came the first time. Things like:

“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matt. 19:21)
“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)

Those are hard teachings. I’m not young and idealistic enough to say the church should take them literally, liquidating its assets in one immediate, dramatic gesture. But no church that claims to follow the man who uttered these words should be sitting on a fortune that could do so much to alleviate suffering. The church does some humanitarian work, certainly. According to the church-owned Deseret News (in a February article that had to be a direct response to allegations that the church was doing nothing at all to help the poor), it has doubled its outreach in the past five years and now gives more than $1 billion annually in combined humanitarian and welfare aid.
That’s a start for a church with a $100 billion stock portfolio, to say nothing of its property holdings and other investments. But it could obviously do far more.

The short version of all this is that while I am still a full-tithe payer, I have not paid a dime of it to the church in 2020.

That change feels empowering. I love supporting charities that offer humanitarian relief, especially to children around the world. I do research on Charity Navigator about these organizations, giving preference to ones that provide direct relief and practice financial transparency.
Both of those factors were lacking when I gave to the LDS Church. Even giving to the church’s own humanitarian fund comes with this caveat at the bottom of every tithing slip: “Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated, all donations become the church’s property and will be used at the church’s sole discretion to further the church’s overall mission.”

That’s not enough for me, not anymore.

At tithing settlement this year, I declared myself a full-tithe payer and explained why none of that money has gone to the church. I don’t know what fallout there will be from this decision, if any. Frankly, it’s not important whether I continue to hold a temple recommend or not. What’s important to me is that at least a few kids who didn’t have food or access to education will have meals, school and the basics. I should have done this a long time ago.
By Jana Riess | Religion News Service
Every time you find humor in a difficult situation, you win. -Snoopy

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Hagoth
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Re: Jana Riess nails the reason my full tithe isn't to LDS

Post by Hagoth » Thu Dec 24, 2020 12:52 pm

What a wonderful article.
I am a fan of tithing settlement. Regular financial accountability is a vital spiritual practice that helps followers of Jesus stay on track in supporting holy work on Earth. But it should go both ways, with followers being accountable for their giving and leaders being accountable for how those donations are spent.
Amen.

Interestingly, my TBMish<>Nomish wife also paid a full tithe this year, but it all went to friends in need and none to the church. I think the revelation of the church's enormous wealth is affecting the less pharisaical members in exactly the way church leaders feared it would.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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Palerider
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Re: Jana Riess nails the reason my full tithe isn't to LDS

Post by Palerider » Thu Dec 24, 2020 1:22 pm

When we left the church, Mrs. Palerider and I set up a scholarship fund at our local town college that specifically targets young impoverished single mothers (or fathers) who have little children at home and are trying to further their education and need assistance.

The school keeps us updated as to how the money is spent. Only a select few administrators know where the money comes from. Accountability..... anonymity.

We feel great about paying our tithing this way. :)

The church has been arrogant about their entitlement to members money.
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily."

"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."

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Cnsl1
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Re: Jana Riess nails the reason my full tithe isn't to LDS

Post by Cnsl1 » Sat Dec 26, 2020 5:20 am

We usually skip on tithing settlement and planned to do the same this year, but when the clerk asked us and we were already in the building and didn't have to wait in line, my wife said we should go.

We've paid online for many years, and haven't, for almost as many years, paid what we used to pay back in the day. When asked, DW reports we're full, rationalizing the years we paid too much more than we probably should have. After the $100bil leak was verified, I decided I didn't want to continue to contribute anything at all, but DW still gives a little because she wants to support a church she grew up with. Ok, she contributes some of her hard earned money, and not my hard earned money, so that's her choice. She has, however, started giving more to other causes. Go fund me, or a person on need, which I totally support. I've asked her to consider donating all the charitable money to those sorts of causes, and not give ANY to the church, but she still wants to give a good amount to church. Ok, again, her call.

But here's the interesting bit... At the settlement, when asked if we're full tithers I said yep, she pays the tithing in the family. And she said yes, we're full but I don't think the church needs our money so some of it I give to other things locally. And the bishop said you're exactly right, the church doesn't need a cent of our money, that's not what tithing is about. I then expected a lecture about how it's the Lord's money and we weren't supposed to decide how to use it, and I felt like kicking my wife for opening up that can of worms, but the bishop didn't say boo about her charity strategy and let it pass and marked us as full. Ok


Neither of us has a current golden ticket and he did talk about getting us to the temple again and I agreed that my recommend expired a bit ago. I didn't say that neither of us really cares to go to the temple, particularly now. DW didn't say anything about it either and we had a nice discussion about other things.

So . Either the bishop doesn't care and is just doing what he's told to do. Or, he didn't catch what she said. Or, he caught it but didn't want any conflict. Maybe he does the same thing? Or, maybe he figured what does it matter anyway since there's no place to use a golden ticket right now and they don't have one anyway. I really don't know. He is a nice guy, IMO.

Reuben
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Re: Jana Riess nails the reason my full tithe isn't to LDS

Post by Reuben » Sat Dec 26, 2020 7:13 am

Palerider wrote:
Thu Dec 24, 2020 1:22 pm
The church has been arrogant about their entitlement to members' _____________.
A lot of words could reasonably fill in that blank.
Learn to doubt the stories you tell about yourselves and your adversaries.

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Exiled
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Re: Jana Riess nails the reason my full tithe isn't to LDS

Post by Exiled » Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:24 am

I hope more members will follow Ms. Riess' example. Only through pressure will the Q15 change course and actually do something worthwhile with the money. Just think of what $100 Billion could do in the area of medical science! Solving covid or cancer would go a long way to rebuilding the damaged image caused by the false narratives about super Joseph supposedly seeing God and angels and his over-zealous love of the ladies. Kids wouldn't need Kwaku like videos any longer, that only muddy the waters, in order to stay in a church that actually did something tangible.

I don't have any faith in the above, though. Taking money from the gullible members in exchange for made-up promises of some future nebulous glory is what churches are about. Why change the model now when the gravy is flowing and $1 Trillion in assets is just around the corner?

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Mormorrisey
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Re: Jana Riess nails the reason my full tithe isn't to LDS

Post by Mormorrisey » Sat Dec 26, 2020 6:42 pm

To me, here's the key sentence from Jana, on when people will stop paying their tithing:

"Frankly, it’s not important whether I continue to hold a temple recommend or not."

Once that Rubicon has been crossed, really, what else are you paying tithing for? It's the people who are stuck paying protection dues to see our kids' weddings and for other family reasons that are kind of screwed. But once you're willing to forgo all that? Game over, and the corporation is going to have to collect its billions somewhere else. Good for Jana, although I predict a council of love in her near future if she keeps this up.
"And I don't need you...or, your homespun philosophies."
"And when you try to break my spirit, it won't work, because there's nothing left to break."

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2bizE
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Re: Jana Riess nails the reason my full tithe isn't to LDS

Post by 2bizE » Sat Dec 26, 2020 8:17 pm

I thought this was an amazing article. She brought the audience along for a ride through her mind and thought process. One of the reasons the church hid the $100 Billion from members was fear that they would choose not to pay tithing. This is exactly what is happening. I predict a strong discourse on the importance of tithing at the next GC.
~2bizE

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Hagoth
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Re: Jana Riess nails the reason my full tithe isn't to LDS

Post by Hagoth » Sun Dec 27, 2020 2:12 pm

Palerider wrote:
Thu Dec 24, 2020 1:22 pm
When we left the church, Mrs. Palerider and I set up a scholarship fund at our local town college that specifically targets young impoverished single mothers (or fathers) who have little children at home and are trying to further their education and need assistance.

The school keeps us updated as to how the money is spent. Only a select few administrators know where the money comes from. Accountability..... anonymity.

We feel great about paying our tithing this way. :)

The church has been arrogant about their entitlement to members money.
Image
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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