There is a movement afoot among some Latter-day Saints to petition the church to fully disclose its finances. I know some of the people involved in this movement, and I think they are good people, but they appear to me to gravely misunderstand the principles behind tithing and Church finances. I would encourage people to read (or re-read) this talk from Pres. Hinckley.
Here are some highlights:
I think I speak for my Brethren when I say that we are constantly aware of the great and sacred trust imposed upon us as officers of the Church, charged with responsibility for husbanding those financial resources which belong to the Lord. We know that the funds are not ours to spend. We know that we are accountable to the Lord for the stewardship given us. We must be prudent. We must be conservative. We must be careful.
I recall that when I was a boy I raised a question with my father, who was my stake president, concerning the expenditure of Church funds. He reminded me that mine is the God-given obligation to pay my tithes and offerings. When I do so, that which I give is no longer mine. It belongs to the Lord to whom I consecrate it. What the authorities of the Church do with it need not concern me. They are answerable to the Lord, who will require an accounting at their hands.
Here is the key: the money for which you are asking an accounting is not yours. It is the Lord’s. Stop questioning the Lord.
Every six months, the Church releases a report during Conference that includes an audit that almost always shows growth in the number of missions, stakes, wards and members. This is the disclosure that the Lord has chosen to make about financial activities. In addition, you probably see in your ward and stake many worthy charitable projects. There are also charitable projects on an international level, most of which should be well-known by Church members.
President Kimball explained that tithing is an act of faith for our benefit:
It is my candid opinion that the Lord does not need the tithes we pay. Certainly he puts them to beneficial use, in the erection of chapels, temples, in missionary work, in educational endeavors, but the Lord could find other ways and means to finance his program with the tithes. It is you and I who are blessed when we pay the tithes. We have obeyed a principle; we have mastered our desires; we have obeyed a commandment without necessarily knowing fully why. (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, page 211).
Tithing and fulfilling our callings are part of our act of consecration. When we pay our tithing, we are fulfilling our covenant of consecration, and, this is crucial, we are placing trust in the Lord’s servants that they will spend the money wisely. Our concern about the money ends then – it is then the responsibility of the Church leadership. By paying our tithing we are putting trust in the Lord’s leadership, which is an act of faith that also demonstrates faith that this is the Lord’s church.
The adversary will act in multiple ways in these latter days to destroy our faith in the Church. One of these ways is to whisper to us that we are wiser than Church leaders and should be able to audit how they spend Church money. Such whisperings destroy the relationship of faith that we have displayed by paying tithing in the first place.
There are multiple warnings from latter-day prophets about believing you are wiser than Church leadership.
Whenever there is a disposition manifested in any of the members of this Church to question the right of the President of the whole Church to direct in all things, you see manifested evidences of apostasy—of a spirit which, if encouraged, will lead to a separation from the Church and to final destruction; wherever there is a disposition to operate against any legally appointed officer of this Kingdom, no matter in what capacity he is called to act, if persisted in, it will be followed by the same results; they will “walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities [see 2 Peter 2:10]” (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p80)
…the very step of apostasy commenced with losing confidence in the leaders of this church and kingdom, and that whenever you discerned that spirit you might know that it would lead the possessor of it on the road to apostasy. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p318)
When a man begins to find fault, inquiring in regard to this, that, and the other, saying, “Does this or that look as though the Lord dictated it?” you may know that that person has more or less of the spirit of apostasy. Every man in this Kingdom, or upon the face of the earth, who is seeking with all his heart to save himself, has as much to do as he can conveniently attend to, without calling in question that which does not belong to him. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, pp80-1)
I encourage all Latter-day Saints to reject projects that question the leadership of the Church.