Please don’t question Church leadership on finances

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.

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

112 thoughts on “Please don’t question Church leadership on finances

  1. EXCELLENT! I second this. Nothing makes me sadder than when members question the Bretheren. It only leads to murmuring, which only leads to apostacy. I have faith that when that statistical report is given it is a correct accounting of the Church money. This was excellent Geoff :)!

  2. I believe that those who “petition” the Brethren are criticizing them. They are saying that they must not be doing something right, and I know how to do it better.

  3. They are probably the same old people who are critical about everything the LDS Church does. Half will no longer be members soon anyway, even if the names remain on the roles.

  4. So I’m not allowed to question why the LDS Church can build a two billion dollar mall, but can’t “afford” to pay janitors to clean meetinghouses? The prophets sure do seem to have an obsession with convincing us that we shouldn’t question what they’re doing. Why might that be?

  5. Good stuff here Geoff. If you want to pay tithing, accept the conditions entailed in the tithing covenant. If you accept the covenant, the money is not yours, nor do you have any say in how it is used. It’s a question entirely of faith, and trust in the priesthood.

  6. Sinner, I think it’s OK to ask questions. But ultimately, God set up the church so that faith would be required. Maybe the brethren sometimes make mistakes with the money. But even if they do, it doesn’t matter. Joseph Smith told everyone God wanted them to invest in the Kirtland Bank, and then it folded. It was a mistake. Heber C. Kimball said at the time, “there were not 20 people at the time who believed Joseph was a prophet of God.” It was the greatest apostasy in the history of the church, and it was all focused on money. But it was also a spiritual trial that many faithful members passed, and were better off for it.

    As the church grew in strength and experience, the leaders became much better at handling and protecting their financial assets. The Creek Mall reflects this wisdom. It is an investment. In the parable of the talents, Jesus praises those who take the master’s talents to the marketplace to double them, rather than letting the money run through their fingers on expenditures or burying it in the bank with little interest.

  7. Sinner, I think it’s OK to ask questions. But ultimately, God set up the church so that faith would be required.

    Nate, and those who might agree with this statement, I’m curious to hear what this means in practice. This post seems to be saying that it’s not okay to question.

  8. To ask questions would be more like the passing, quiet, internal, “What might such expenditures portend? What lack I yet in comprehension?” To question would be vocal, “What right do they have to do that?” Radically different approaches, certainly striking outside observers as existing in different realms of faith and humility.

  9. It reminds me that after the 2004 Tsunami the church asked members to contribute to the Humanitarian Aid Fund of the church to assist. In countries around the world where there is open reporting of church finances(like the UK and Canada) we see the church took in millions of additional dollars. For example in the UK they took in 1.1 million dollars to the fund but only sent out 68 thousand. The trend continued for years and years until finally UK sent all the excess $ to Salt Lake City. Did all these people suddenly stop needing aid? Are all the needy taken care of? Why spend years encouraging donation to the humanitarian aid fund but only use less than 10% to actually help people?

    This is why the financial statements should be public.

  10. Thank you, Faun Brody. ;) You’re right…there is a certain uniformity to nonconformity. Haste among the noncompliant to assert their own judgment declines to take time in laying a foundation for answers, like Laman and Lemuel’s response when asked whether they’d inquired of the Lord.

  11. Well, you should have my full name before engaging in slander which contributes little to the discussion. :)

  12. Insults aimed at commenters or Church leaders will be deleted. If you want to comment here, please review our comment policy.

  13. There are many LDS who have strong testimonies and are perfectly willing to trust in the church leadership to spend their contributions wisely. There are others who lack that degree of faith and would have greater confidence in church leadership and possibly contribute more if church finances were disclosed.

    I assume, however, that the leaders of the church feel that there are downsides to disclosure that outweigh the advantages. The biggest downside I can see is that if relatively large sums are disclosed, members in less well off countries and those who are less well off may be less inclined to donate due to the magnitude of the amounts involved. Others may grumble about specific expenditures, and so on.

    I would rather see full disclosure, and believe it befits a community of saints who are considered part of the body of Christ rather than adjuncts to it, but I can understand the practical issues why that may not be such a great idea in the here and now.

  14. To ask questions would be more like the passing, quiet, internal, “What might such expenditures portend? What lack I yet in comprehension?” To question would be vocal, “What right do they have to do that?” Radically different approaches, certainly striking outside observers as existing in different realms of faith and humility.

    So then what’s wrong with asking the question, “What does the Church spend its money on?”

  15. In a nutshell, because it invariably posits that the answers they regularly see fit to give us are insufficient. One is free to investigate all manner of Church enterprises and review published statements as to what’s been accomplished, but some are perpetually digging for that “aha” corner in which it seems they believe they will find evidence of malfeasance. I concede that there can be genuine curiosity, but I can’t personally conceive of a way of openly telling the Church they should disclose more, which isn’t expressing distrust in how funds are being handled. As I often say, I can understand some “outsider” confusion as to purposes and intents, but it’s not a part of our beliefs to initiate internal audits.

  16. If the brethren have nothing to hide, then why are they hiding? Full disclosure should have nothing to fear. In that article the church published, they say they pay for missionaries…they don’t, they families of missionaries pay for missionaries. Sinner brings up a valid point. Why can’t the church pay for janitors (which they used to) yet build a mall?

    Why do I have to provide my financial budget to the bishop to get only 2 weeks worth or food from the bishop when I have paid over $100,000 into tithing, not including fast offering over 20 years? Why do I have to be open with my financials to the church each year in tithing settlement, but the church doesn’t open up to me? By the churches own numbers, they give only $1 per member per year to humanitarian efforts. Why shouldn’t the members question that?

  17. The church stopped publicly discussing their finances when they overbuilt chapels a few decades ago, and had cash flow problems.

    Excuse me, I meant “The LORD stopped publicly discussing HIS finances when HE overbuilt chapels a few decades ago, and had cash flow problems.”

  18. I think we’re starting to see a departure from the foundational agreement, with questions and comments assuming that critical, unbelieving edge. The article, and my remarks, are largely addressed to the household of faith. We have some ensamples for fellow LDS of where such a course can lead.

    It undermines the notion of tithing as a “freewill” offering if we think of the Church as our piggy bank or another government program. There are many areas in life where we will always be more technically accountable to the Lord than He will be forthcoming and visible to us. Again, faith. If you don’t believe He’s at the helm, of course other things won’t make sense. Contractually speaking, our covenants don’t obligate Him to answer our beck and call.

    For another thing, it’s a well-known fact that “missions cost a standard amount now, no matter where you are sent, and the Church pays the difference.” I can vouch for the fact that plenty of families aren’t shouldering the bulk of that subsidized burden. President Faust was once astonished to see the paucity of offerings from those in whom he’d had greater confidence in his congregation.

  19. A common perception of outsiders is that our Church is secretive.

    I actually highly respect the Brethren, and have great confidence in them as human beings striving to discern and implement the will of the Lord as concerns the expenditure of our contributions. From the bits and pieces of what has been disclosed, I believe that the funds are being spent in an appropriate way. I might disagree with the expenditures here and there, just as I disagree with the expenditures of my employer here and there, but by and large I am comfortable with them. I doubt that complete disclosure would change my mind.

    The fact that I am comfortable, or that many members of the Church are “faith comfortable” with expenditures and with nondisclosure, is not a defense of the nondislosure policy to outsiders. True, the Roman Catholic Church does not disclose finances either, and they have a reputation as being secretive on those matters. But to say we are the same as Roman Catholics is not much of an explanation on why the true Church declines disclosure. I think outsiders view both Catholicism and Mormonism as being cultures encouraging absolute obediences with no questioning of leadership. Which is, of course, part of what energized the division of Christianity in the times of Luther.

    I do not believe there is an eternal principle of nondisclosure of finances because for a number of years the Church did disclose financial information. It is a matter of practice, not a matter of “doctrine.” Unlike the prior practice on race/lineage, I do not think a powerful revelation would be required to revert to the prior practice of disclosure. Which might reduce the Church’s reputation of fostering secrecy and of being a nontransparent organization requiring essentially unquestioning loyalty.

    I do think the Church’s reputation for secrecy makes it less likely for people who value transparency and disclosure to consider investigating or joining our Church. Perhaps that is a good thing. Perhaps it is not a good thing.

    It is what it is. I suspect that many of the Brethren favor greater transparency on finances, but that no change will be made until there is unity in the FP and 12 to do so.

    God moves in mysterious ways. I personally think that the Church is moving in a direction of greater transparency, and eventually there will be unity among the Brethren to make greater disclosure.

  20. Goldarn,

    So you’re accusing the LORD of overbuilding chapels and having cash flow problems? That’s an error, isn’t it? I thought HE was perfect?

    Besides the whole City Creek fiasco, the church insists on using missionaries, which are voluntary and pay their own way, to turn land into a profitable hunting preserve. They fire all the janitors and make the members clean them on a voluntary basis. Yet top execs are complaining that they have to work 70 hour weeks! Boo-hoo.

  21. I find that the majority of those who criticize City Creek didn’t see what an eyesore it was to downtown Salt Lake City before the Church organized investors to improve it, nor have the least clue the efforts the City and State of Utah have made to improve our downtown and other urban and semi-urban areas with highly limited effect, nor have seen the improvement having that building put to good use has made on the municipality, nor have any idea of the amount of touring and sightseeing traffic that the SLC Temple brings, along with all the problems therewith.

    The Church did the city a favor, as well as themselves, when they fixed that place.

    Sure, any ignorant person angry at the Church can use half-truths and angry perspective as weapons. But it does far more to display their own biases than it does to shake the Church from making the wise investment they did.

    It reminds me of the uproar when the city/state sold the street to the LDS Church, mostly by people who have no firsthand experience of downtown Salt Lake nor of the politics in that area.

    You see, as a MEMBER of the Church organization, who has consecrated all that I have to the Church, and who, almost incidentally, has seen the vast good the Church does in the world, even through their for-profit businesses, gladly support them in whatever endeavor they are willing to put me to. As a religion, the gospel of Jesus Christ revealed through Joseph Smith and all subsequent prophets, has my faith.

    As an organization, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has my complete loyalty in addition to and independent from my faith.

    What the Church does with its finances is only “secret” to those who haven’t seen the effects for themselves.

  22. I don’t see that rendering a little bit of my surplus to the kingdom puts the kingdom under any particular obligation to me. If I gave *everything* I had, I’d still be unprofitable. So 10% doesn’t really put me on any kind of high horse.

    Its not really my tithing dollars in any significant sense, because if I thought the tithing remained mine and gave me rights over the church, it wouldn’t be a tithe. Give freely.

    If someone believes that the Church is not an inspired institution that can handle the Lord’s funds wisely, why would they pay tithing in the first place?

    My guess is that all of this is mostly an avenue for the disaffected to express their disaffection.

  23. Great post, Geoff.

    Years ago I was the recipient of charity from the church to help buy food under difficult, unexpected circumstances. Now that I am more financially secure, I show my faith in the Lord and my faith in the organization He has set up to accomplish his work by paying tithing and fast offerings regularly.

    At some point the leaders of the church may decide, under the guidance of the spirit, that more transparency about church finances is needed. Or not. But it will be because it is the will of the Lord, not because of agitation and faithless clamoring.

    Many (but not all) of those here in the comments and elsewhere who agitate for more transparency are already convinced that the church is not administering finances under the direction of the Lord (as determined through their own authority, intelligence, or revelation) and are really just trying to hurt the church in which they no longer truly believe and sow seeds of distrust.

    Those of us who trust the church in this regard are not blind sheep, as has been suggested. Our faith is not blind. We trust the church and her leaders because we have tested it and found them to be trustworthy. Are they perfect? Of course not. Is every cent always administered with absolute efficiency and wisdom? Not likely. But whatever mistakes there are are mistakes, not malice or manipulation. Men though they be, the leaders of this church truly hold the priesthood keys that are capable of binding us to the Lord. We will stand with them. The Spirit of the Lord guides and upholds this work and we happily consecrate our wealth to it.

    Join us in our conviction or take your naysaying and pettifogging elsewhere.

  24. I believe that on this issue many commenters are looking inward. Specifically, do we as members want to see Church finances. I personally do not care. If you can’t trust the Brethren to be good stewards of the wealth we give the Church, who could we trust.

    My concern is the non-members, the people we are trying to convert. Financial secrecy is one more hurdle to overcome when others use it as an effective attack on us. I cannot believe that the Church could not produce a financial statement (with explanation) that would show the tremendous good that we do. In essence turning a liability into a plus.

  25. @Kay actually, the Church pays for many missionaries where their families cannot afford to.

    Tithing is not a monetary investment. This is the main point. In the world you can invest in just about anything and see open books as to the wheretofores, whys, hows, and so forth. But tithing is not an investment. There is no elected board of trustees, and there is no voting (or petitioning). You cannot put in $100,000 into tithings or offerings and expect to get a certain amount out of it. It doesn’t work that way. It’s not a bank account as we commonly think of them. Yes, God has promised the windows of heaven will be opened and blessings poured out upon those who give tithes and offerings, but it will be done in His own way, and in His own time (Malachi 3:10). If you believe that you can get a better rate of return on your money in a secular investment, then that is where you should be put your money. But I’ll save you the trouble and tell you now that you can’t. Those who have tested the Lord herewith know that the blessings that proceed forth from obeying the laws of tithing and consecration far outweigh any return on investment that the world might provide. Seek ye first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33; 3 Nephi 13:33). He that hath eternal life is rich (D&C 6:7; D&C 11:7).

    Since tithing is not an investment, at least in terms of what is commonly understood in financial investments, we should not regard it as such. It is a con-secration, a making sacred of those funds, a turning them over to God. It is a recognition that what is ours is truly His. For all things are the Lord’s (D&C 104:14-15, 55; Mosiah 2:21-25). It’s presumptuous to think that we can demand that God show us His pocketbook. If He chooses to do so, then that is His right. Once consecrated, the funds become His, and any church leader that uses them will be held accountable by God for the disposition of their use. Our leaders are not held accountable to us.

    A prophet of God, President Hinckley, once promised that “if [we] would pay their tithing, [we] would always have food on [our] tables, [we] would always have clothing on [our] backs, and [we] would always have a roof over [our] heads” (Lynn G. Robbins, “Tithing—a Commandment Even for the Destitute,” Ensign, May 2005, 34, April 2005 Conference). This is only a small part of the exalting blessings we receive for consecrating our tithes and offerings to the Lord. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

    I think we should also be aware that the financial functions of the Church’s ecclesiastical organization and its business enterprises are independent of one another. Not a single cent of tithings or offerings money went to build the City Creek Center Mall. That was built with funds from the Church’s business enterprises, as a real estate investment in the beautifying and revitalization of the deteriorating environment of downtown Salt Lake City.

  26. A few thoughts on comments so far.

    –This post has been posted on a ex-Mormon board, and a lot of snarky, anti-Mormon comments are from people who have already left the Church for one reason or another. A few of the comments have been deleted, others have been left so readers can discern for themselves the “quality” of the intellectual capacity of the people on ex-Mormon boards. Why anybody would want to spend time with such people is beyond me, but there you have it.

    –Members who are on the fence can compare the OP, which includes five quotations from four prophets, to the comments from the ex-Mormons. Those who have eyes to see will see.

    I’d like to thank commenters like David H and many, many others for thoughtful, insightful comments.

  27. Seriously, you people who just keep saying it requires “faith” to trust how the money is being spent…wake up. Ask yourself the hard questions. Stop selling out and believing what you’re told because its too hard to change your life and you’re scared to suffer the mental/emotional consequences that go along with realizing you were wrong and changing your life.

  28. Are prophets ALWAYS inspired? Do they not EVER speak as men?

    Church teachings are that the leaders of the church are sometimes wrong. How is it, then, that they are always correct about finances?

    And other readers, who have eyes to see, can easily discern that instead of making arguments, some Mormons commenters (1) preach unquestioning obedience, and (2) insult the intelligence of ex-mormons.

  29. @Mark, that’s the trouble. You believe that we trust on faith because we are believing what we’ve been told, aka blind obedience. In reality, we trust on faith because we know by our own experience and having tested the word of God, and know it to be right. There is a difference.

  30. Goldarn,

    Here’s the thing: That’s their job. They can make their own mistakes. What makes US somehow wiser and better equipped to do the job the Lord has called them to? If He wants my opinion on how to run His kingdom, He can call me to that responsibility. Until then, I’m content to leave it in the hands of the men He has chosen.

  31. @Goldarn, they aren’t always correct about finances. No one said that. But they are guided by God himself, and if they make mistakes, they are held accountable to God, not to us.


  32. A prophet of God, President Hinckley, once promised that “if [we] would pay their tithing, [we] would always have food on [our] tables, [we] would always have clothing on [our] backs, and [we] would always have a roof over [our] heads” (Lynn G. Robbins, “Tithing—a Commandment Even for the Destitute,” Ensign, May 2005, 34, April 2005 Conference).

    Considering this is true for most people (in the USA, at least), it seems like a small benefit for 10% of my gross income.

  33. @Goldarn, for most people in the world that would be a big benefit. It’s also why I said it is only part of the blessings the Lord gives.

  34. Mark,

    Perhaps you are unaware that “WAKE UP PEOPLE” is the most over-used and least-effective argument used in comments on the internets.

    It is pretty silly to assume that because someone doesn’t reach the same conclusions as you have that they must me ignorant, or refusing to face the “hard questions” because they are afraid to change or of the consequences. It boils down to an insult.

    I assure you that most of the believers commenting on this post are as familiar with the hard questions as you are. We’ve sat down face to face with people just like you. We’ve heard it all and thought about it. As I said earlier, we’re not ignorant. Our faith is not blind. It was earned.

    Perhaps you should consider the possibility that people can know everything you know, and understand it just as well as you do, and still believe wholeheartedly in the church.

  35. A reminder to all of our ex-Mormon commenters:

    This is a faithful blog dedicated to building up the Church. If you can’t abide by the comment policy, please don’t leave a comment. Your snarky, negative comment will most likely be deleted anyway, so don’t bother.

  36. A quick testimony: I was raised in a Mormon family but never got baptized. I thought the Church was ridiculous most of my life, but my life changed one fine day, and I got baptized in my 30s. Before I was baptized I read every anti-Mormon book I could, so the assumption that people who are loyal to the Church simply don’t have knowledge is patently ridiculous. I have since been married in the temple and am the happiest I have ever been. Following the Gospel brings great joy. Come back to church, ex-Mormons, there is still a chance for you!

  37. @Stan and others, the Church does produce an annual statement of the tremendous good that we do:
    http://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/welfare/2011-welfare-services-fact-sheet.pdf

    Additionally, you can drill down to any area in the world and see a detailed breakdown of our humanitarian efforts and projects worldwide:
    http://www.providentliving.org/content/display/0,11666,4600-1-2323-1,00.html

    I think for converts, this type of thing is part of what it means to develop faith, a belief in things unseen, which is the first step towards baptism. We must grow to have faith, and a belief, that the Lord’s anointed servants are called by God, and are therefore well-qualified to administer the affairs of the Church, even those unseen.

  38. Two questions to those who want to see how the church spends its money: 1) What do you HOPE to find? Do you hope to find some indiscretion?

    2) What if it is determined that, as the church claims, that all the books are in order and there is nothing questionable? Then what? Will that strengthen your testimony of the Church? Will it silence its critics?

    I have a feeling that if you don’t like the church, its operations, or its doctrines, this issue, will not really change your opinion either way. So, if nothing will change, why even fight it?

  39. DavidH says:
    July 18th 2012 at 11:49 am

    “I actually highly respect the Brethren, and have great confidence in them as human beings striving to discern and implement the will of the Lord as concerns the expenditure of our contributions. From the bits and pieces of what has been disclosed, I believe that the funds are being spent in an appropriate way. I might disagree with the expenditures here and there, just as I disagree with the expenditures of my employer here and there, but by and large I am comfortable with them. I doubt that complete disclosure would change my mind.”

    That’s the problem. You have no real basis for any of these conclusions. The LDS Church releases virtually no information about their finances, so in effect you’re basing your faith on your feelings.

    Bryce Haymond says:
    July 18th 2012 at 1:28 pm

    “@Mark, that’s the trouble. You believe that we trust on faith because we are believing what we’ve been told, aka blind obedience. In reality, we trust on faith because we know by our own experience and having tested the word of God, and know it to be right. There is a difference.”

    Same problem as above. What experience do you have that tells you the leaders are spending the money in an agreeable manner? (This is a serious question, I’d love to know.) Last I checked the LDS Church is EXTREMELY secretive about its finances. You claim that you’re not going on blind faith, and perhaps that’s true in other aspects of your church experience, but you can’t seriously claim that you’ve had sufficient experience with church finances to know they’re spending the money in good ways.

    One last rhetorical question: is there a difference between faith and blind faith? Isn’t faith by definition believing something without any evidence?

  40. That bit about Brigham Young is misinformation, but in any case its apparent that the current leadership of the Church isn’t living in munificence. The demand that it account to ex-Mormons and other disaffecteds for how it spends its funds is based on nothing in particular. Wishful thinking that something can be ceased on.

  41. For those who wish to engage in the conversation, you would be wise to remember that M* is not a place for the disaffected to grind their axes, nor is it a platform for your grievances and petty issues. If you feel it necessary to do any of the aforementioned, start your own blog.

    Here are the rules of engagement for comments:

    http://www.sixteensmallstones.org/bite-the-wax-tadpole-a-manifesto-for-internet-conversation-and-debate

    If you color outside of the lines, we have white out and will use it liberally.

  42. Sinner,

    If you are honestly looking for an answer to your final question, then perhaps you are using the term “rhetorical question” incorrectly?

    The answer is that your definition of faith is incorrect. Faith does not mean believing something without any evidence. Faith is in fact always intertwined with evidence and experience.

    We acquire faith by acting on the assertions of witnesses who testify of principles or ideas from first hand experience and whatever evidence they present. This is similar to when a jury or a judge makes a decision about an individual’s guilt or innocence and applies a punishment based upon the testimony of witnesses and the evidences of things that they were not present to see themselves. They act by faith because they have no personal knowledge of the events at which they were not present.

    Faith means Trust. And like trust it is earned through experience and evidence. When you lose faith you lose confidence or trust. Faith is unavoidable. It is a fundamental algorithm of being human. We all have faith in something or someone because it is impossible for us to have sufficient information to make correct decisions in all things. So we make decisions based on what we have come to trust through experience and evidence. Faith is the act of making correct decisions with insufficient information. When we make correct decisions in this way our faith is strengthened in that which we trusted. Nobody can escape faith. They can only change the object of their faith. So to denigrate people for making decisions based on faith is simply nonsensical.

  43. Actually my question was rhetorical. I was making the point that it’s a fuzzy line between faith and blind faith. I wasn’t expecting anyone to respond.

    Faith: “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.”

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faith

    I disagree with your characterization of faith. I think there is a difference between acting on incomplete information and faith. A jury (hopefully) doesn’t convict someone when there is no proof. Of course, technically, the jury can’t know EVERYTHING and will always be acting on incomplete information. That’s life. However, that doesn’t mean they make the decision without any proof (hence the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard).

    I suppose it’s a matter of semantics. You seem to be saying that any decision made with incomplete information is exercising “faith.” I think of faith as believing something for which there is very little evidence (i.e., no proof). A good example is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. All the “proof” we have are a few stories in some really old books and a bunch of people who think the books accurately state what happened.

  44. @sinner, “What experience do you have that tells you the leaders are spending the money in an agreeable manner?”

    Thank you for asking. There is a third member of the Godhead that is known as the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, or sometimes just the Spirit. The Spirit is who testifies of the truth in all things (Moroni 10:5). He testifies of the truth of the existence of God the Father, and of His Son, Jesus Christ. He witnesses to the truth of the Atonement, and the sacrifice of the Son of God. He tells of the truth of the Church and kingdom of God on the earth today. He teaches through innumerable avenues the truths of the universe itself, even scientific truths. He witnesses of the validity of the Book of Mormon record, that it is another testament of Jesus Christ, and that it contains God’s word. He testifies of the calling and mantle of the living Prophet of God, even Thomas S. Monson, his counselors, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He comforts, he protects, he warns, he strengthens, he calms, he inspires, he heals.

    I have had countless experiences where I have had the Spirit testify to me, in some cases quite directly, of the truth of this Church, of God’s chosen prophets, of the truth of the Book of Mormon, and of the grandeur of the exalted blessings of the temple. I know by all these witnesses that God’s anointed servants are spending the money in an agreeable manner to His will (note: to “His” will, not mine). If they were not, then they would not be God’s prophets, for He would not have it. I don’t believe God would sit back and do nothing with those sacred funds if his chosen servants were being negligent or misusing them. God leads and guides this Church, this I know through multiple witnesses from the Spirit. Thus I know He leads and guides our Church leaders, and that the way they administer the funds of the Church is the way the Lord would have it done. It is a combination of everything I know and believe that leads me to know this.

    If the Spirit is not enough, which it should be, then let me also tell you of the temporal ways I know. I have had very close encounters with the financial dealings of the Church. I spent eight months of my mission in El Salvador as Mission Financial Secretary, and worked closely with the Central America Area to manage and administer the funds of over 185 missionaries, and all the workings of the mission itself. I had the opportunity to personally audit a number of branches of the Church all across the country of El Salvador that were under the authority of the Mission President (branches report to missions, wards report to stakes). Our mission, and my management, were also audited directly from the Central America Area, headquartered in Guatemala City, Guatemala. I went through painstaking efforts, and countless hours of work, to account for pennies. Yes, pennies. It was very tough work. The audits were hundreds of pages long, and took weeks to prepare. I had intricate budgets to work within, and had to account for everything spent. I cannot imagine any business in the world going through such stringent and tight controls, policies and procedures, as I was subject to as Financial Secretary of a mission. Indeed, today I work as a manager of large division of a company, and know very well the financial dealings of it.

    Again, just recently, I had the opportunity to serve as First Counselor in our ward’s bishopric. I was made very well aware of the financial dealings of the ward. I signed many of the checks, and personally took part in the acceptance, accounting, and management of tithings and offerings. Our ward was also regularly audited, and had to account for every penny spent. Indeed, not only did it have to account for every penny spent, but had to give good reasoning for the expenses. Nothing is spent without good reason, in accordance with the established policies and procedures found in the handbooks of the Church, and without the approvals of multiple ward leaders, including the bishop. Any negligence in these responsibilities whatsoever could result in excommunication.

    My father has worked as a controller in the Finance Department of the Church in the Church Office Building for several decades, ever since ever I can remember. I have become acquainted through him with many of the intricate inner workings of the Church’s finances since I was very young. I can testify to you that the Church is spending its consecrated funds in an agreeable manner, and in very good ways. But you’ll have to take it on faith.

    We don’t believe because we are blind. We believe because we can see. It’s not always with our carnal eyes, but sometimes our spiritual eyes too. That is the critical point of faith. Evidences are abundant, and anyone who is humble and sincere may also have those evidences given to them (Moroni 10:3-5).

  45. We have 101 “likes” on Facebook for this post and 1,300 views. These are both the second most of any post on this blog. We must be doing something right.

  46. @sinner, yes, faith is a belief in something without absolute proof, but there are plenty of evidences which lend themselves to a correct and proper belief in that thing.

    The judge was not present when a crime occurred, and neither was the jury. They must go from testimonies of witnesses, physical evidences, use logic and reason, etc. All of these are evidences, not proof. Unless the court itself took place at the exact place and time of the crime, it can’t happen. There is never a decision made in any court room based on absolute proof, because those making the judgements must learn about it second hand, and then make a final decision based on the evidence.

    The Spirit is often enough second hand evidence to know that God lives. He tips the scales in favor of God, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” that He lives. This I believe, and I know.

    Don’t confuse evidence and proof. There will likely never be a proof of God, nor sufficient evidence to prove Him, to the world. But we can come to know Him ourselves through the many evidences He gives to us.

  47. So, are there really only two options: be content with everything the Church leadership does, or get the h*ll out? I stopped going to church despite having gone on a mission and having many positive experiences because I felt absolutely stifled by the culture in which I couldn’t even get something off my chest without having people jump to conclusions about the state of my “faith.” If I see a conflict between the scriptures’ teachings on animal rights and the fact that the Church runs a for-profit hunting preserve staffed in part by volunteer senior missionaries, then I’m not being faithful? What if I feel profoundly uncomfortable, given the scriptures’ warnings about wealth and luxury, that the Church is profiting off of retailers like Coach and Tiffany? What exactly am I doing wrong? You’re saying that there is no space for the “faithful” to feel conflicted?

    Also, your equation of the Church leadership with the Lord (“Stop questioning the Lord”) is really pretty disturbing. I guess if the president of the Church were subjected to discipline in the manner outlined in the D&C, that would be equivalent to disciplining the Lord?

  48. Sinner denies the resurrection. I can see why if you don’t even believe in Christ you’d not want to donate money to his church. But that doesn’t really give you a basis for arguing with believers who obey the commandment to tithe.

  49. Nate H.,
    You aren’t asking for more openness in Church finances, you are asking for veto power over Church-financed activities, including related businesses. Given your intemperate and angry tone, no one who had the good of the Mormon church in mind would want you to have that power.

  50. Full disclosures occurred until 1960. What changed? All faithful members of the church are asking is for that to be the case again so that we can exercise our divinely appointed responsibility to give common consent. The recent official newsroom statement said that the fundamental perspective on church finances and its role in for-profit enterprises is that they are “means to an end.” For a church that generally preaches against such relativistic ideas this was surprising to me. We question because we are called to sustain and give common consent.

  51. Sinner,

    I see your dictionary citation and raise you a more thorough etymological analysis of “faith”.

    I think, Sinner, that you are incorrectly conflating the words “proof” and “evidence”. The fact that someone else testifies that it is so is some kind of evidence. There can be circumstantial evidence. Their can be all kinds of evidence. People rarely act without at least some evidence, but they frequently act without proof. They act upon what they cannot know for sure based on faith (trust born of evidence of things not seen). The vast majority of people accept the declarations of scientists based upon faith. Most do not have the ability to prove it for themselves.

    You say

    A good example is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. All the “proof” we have are a few stories in some really old books and a bunch of people who think the books accurately state what happened.

    This is a conveniently oversimplified statement. You are missing the point. No, we don’t have “proof” that Jesus really was resurrected. If we had proof then nearly everybody would easily believe. But that doesn’t even come close to not having any evidence. We have all kinds of evidence and testimonies from sincere good people who have had personal experiences that confirm to them his resurrection.

    If you don’t even believe in the resurrection, as Adam G. says, then your complaints about church transparency are rather beside the point.

  52. @drrolans, blacks were not allowed to hold the priesthood until 1978. What changed? Perhaps a revelation guided the prophets to make a change. Perhaps they themselves do not know why it changed. Is it really incumbent upon them to explain to us why they made the change? Or to change it back?

    The scriptures do talk about “common consent,” but notice how it is usually also followed by the “prayer of faith,” even “much prayer of faith.” Those that clamor for the Church to make changes because of “common consent” are not usually the same as those who are praying in faith. I’d like to see a full study done on the concept of “common consent,” because I perceive it didn’t mean that the Church is supposed to do whatever the members tell their leaders to do, nor does it mean that the membership has to agree to everything the leadership chooses to do.

  53. Well said J. Max. Indeed, I do not go to work in the morning because I *know* without a doubt I will get there safely. There is no proof of that (especially with the car I drive!!). I trust, based on faith, yes, and even through prayer and trust in God, that I will arrive without injury over those 18 miles of highway. I would wager that most of our actions on a daily basis are the result of faith-based decisions, not proof-based.

  54. “@drrolans, blacks were not allowed to hold the priesthood until 1978. What changed? Perhaps a revelation guided the prophets to make a change. Perhaps they themselves do not know why it changed. Is it really incumbent upon them to explain to us why they made the change? Or to change it back?”

    If it’s not incumbent upon the prophets to argue why THEY made the changes, then whose responsibility is it?

    “The scriptures do talk about “common consent,” but notice how it is usually also followed by the “prayer of faith,” even “much prayer of faith.” Those that clamor for the Church to make changes because of “common consent” are not usually the same as those who are praying in faith. I’d like to see a full study done on the concept of “common consent,” because I perceive it didn’t mean that the Church is supposed to do whatever the members tell their leaders to do, nor does it mean that the membership has to agree to everything the leadership chooses to do.”

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that members should have veto power over leadership decisions or that the membership has to agree with everything the leadership chooses to do. I think the point of fighting for transparency is allowing members to make INFORMED decisions.

  55. I signed the petition because as a tithe paying member of the church I would like to see how my funds are being used. I think that is a reasonable request. By wanting to know, I’m not saying its used dishonestly or questioning our church’s leadership, I’m just saying that it is important information that should be shared with the members.

    My dad always told me “trust but verify.” I don’t think signing the petition means that I don’t support my church leaders, it just means that I think sunshine is the best policy. $8 billion per year (as reported by Business Week) is a lot of money, and I would like to know where it all goes.

  56. @sinner, the point is that they might not even know themselves why the change was made. The reasoning behind revelations is not always so clear cut. Indeed, they have not said why the change was made to the priesthood either.

    I would say it is our responsibility to have faith in God, as we’ve discussed, to know why the change was made. We may not find out definitively either, but having faith is a good start to knowing.

    “I think the point of fighting for transparency is allowing members to make INFORMED decisions.” Informed decisions about what?

  57. In fairness, “full financial disclosure” in a church that believes its president is literally the mouthpiece of deity could be a very dangerous thing for the members. Given some of the truly strident voices in the bloggernacle, I could see some LDS members who would try to make investment decisions based on what financial investments/expenditures they learned the LDS church was making, rather than carefully analyzing the opportunity in light of their own personal situation and portfolio. Even if something is a wise investment for the LDS church organization, it could be a disastrous investment for an individual.

  58. RE: the faith/evidence/proof argument. I used the term proof in quotation marks because I was trying to point out that the evidence supporting the occurrence of the resurrection of Christ is rather weak. Like I said before, the only real evidence is we have are some old books that say it happened. Yes there are plenty of people who say it happened and believe it happened, but what are there beliefs based on? Again, it all comes down to some old books.

    As JMW said: “If we had proof then nearly everybody would easily believe. But that doesn’t even come close to not having any evidence. We have all kinds of evidence and testimonies from sincere good people who have had personal experiences that confirm to them his resurrection.” — Please tell me about all this evidence! As for testimonies, well I think we can safely discount testimonies at this point. I think it’s rather unlikely anyone actually witnessed the resurrection or saw Jesus after he resurrected. That’s great if you have a good feeling that it happened, but that doesn’t seem like good evidence to me.

    Bryce: “@sinner, yes, faith is a belief in something without absolute proof, but there are plenty of evidences which lend themselves to a correct and proper belief in that thing.” … “The Spirit is often enough second hand evidence to know that God lives. He tips the scales in favor of God, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” that He lives. This I believe, and I know.”

    This is pretty speculative. Again, what good evidence do you have that god lives? Perhaps I’m wrong, but my experience in Mormonism tells me you’re basing your belief (or knowledge? which one is it?) on your good feelings (what you call the Spirit) and a number of coincidental occurrences. I don’t think the Spirit is good evidence that god exists. It’s an EXTREMELY subjective thing and furthermore, the only reason you think those good feelings are the spirit telling you the church is true is because that’s what the church tells you. So how do you know that what they’re telling you is accurate? What am I supposed to think of the evangelical christian or muslim who has the same kinds of powerful feelings and believes his denomination or religion is the right one? Who’s correct?

  59. Sinner said

    …the point of fighting for transparency is allowing members to make INFORMED decisions

    The only reason you make that argument is that you think that the decisions they are making now without that information are incorrect because they members do not have sufficient information. You assume that should the information be made available that it would show that members would change their decisions. The assumption behind the challenge is that the church is in fact violating the trust of its members.

    In other words your call for transparency comes from your faith in the idea that the church is misusing funds donated by members. You have no proof. You have very little evidence. You are acting out of faith. And your faith is based on less evidence than those who believe. In the end we have only your words. All you can do is raise questions because you have faith in the church’s wrongdoing. Now who is acting on “blind faith”?

  60. “@sinner, the point is that they might not even know themselves why the change was made. The reasoning behind revelations is not always so clear cut. Indeed, they have not said why the change was made to the priesthood either.

    I would say it is our responsibility to have faith in God, as we’ve discussed, to know why the change was made. We may not find out definitively either, but having faith is a good start to knowing.”

    So we as lowly members (this is a hypo as I’m no longer a member) are supposed to pray and know why the change was made when the PROPHET (WHO SPEAKS TO GOD) doesn’t know why? What?

    ““I think the point of fighting for transparency is allowing members to make INFORMED decisions.” Informed decisions about what?”

    Informed decisions about the organization to which they donate 10% of their income. People want to know where the money they donate goes. I realize the retort here will be: “but you need to have faith that the leaders are using it correctly. Trust the Lord and stop questioning him.” To this I would respond, I’m not questioning the Lord. I’m questioning the MEN who are fallible. As a previous commenter pointed out, there have been many financial problems in the church’s past. Why should we think it’s any different now?

  61. Asking for transparency of finances does not, under any circumstance, alter the stewardship, or faith in leaders to use it wisely. It does not mean someone is questioning the leaders ability to oversee the funds.

    It simply means “transparency”.

    The argument used to avoid this transparency centers around “Don’t question the Lord, or leaders of the church.” It’s a red herring… It’s a distraction… If you want to avoid transparency in finances, just say: “It’s the church’s money, we’ll do with it as we please (as printed on the fast offerings), and if you don’t like it, see you in the fiery pits of Mordor! Eventually that’s where all the prophet quotes end up at anyway, when you boil them all down.

  62. Non-religious charitable organizations are generally required by law to disclose their finances. Churches are generally not.

    Nevertheless, a large (probably larger than most Mormons realize) number of churches do disclose their finances publicly, in the interests of transparency, accountability, openness and honesty. It is generally considered good pratice by a church to do so. It has nothing to do with veto power, or donors acting like they have made an investment or a bank deposit, but everything to do with good stewardship and accountability.

  63. Sinner, the conversation has drifted sufficiently far from the topic that I suggest you retire from the conversation. We aren’t going to resolve age-old philosophical and religious questions in the comments of a blog post in one afternoon. Your concerns with the church’s finances are part of a much larger framework of assumptions and ideas. I appreciate that you have remained relatively civil during this discussion.

    The church is true. Jesus was actually resurrected. I don’t expect you to believe that. You have too much faith in your doubts. You may be interested in my post here: http://www.sixteensmallstones.org/apostasy-as-conspiracy-theory-reason-logic-insanity-and-mormon-intellectualism

    Go in peace.

  64. “The only reason you make that argument is that you think that the decisions they are making now without that information are incorrect because they members do not have sufficient information.”

    Sorry, I should have said “better informed” decision. On that note, how do you know that members have sufficient information for their decisions?

    “You assume that should the information be made available that it would show that members would change their decisions. The assumption behind the challenge is that the church is in fact violating the trust of its members.”

    How do you know it wouldn’t change their decisions? How do you know the church isn’t violating the members’ trust? (I know you’ll invoke the spirit argument here and I’ll simply say that isn’t good enough evidence for me. To me the spirit is simply your subjective experience that has no bearing on whether the church is using its money in an agreeable way.)

    “In other words your call for transparency comes from your faith in the idea that the church is misusing funds donated by members. You have no proof. You have very little evidence. You are acting out of faith. And your faith is based on less evidence than those who believe. In the end we have only your words. All you can do is raise questions because you have faith in the church’s wrongdoing. Now who is acting on “blind faith”?”

    I don’t have faith the church is misusing funds. I simply DON’T KNOW!! And that’s why I want to know and that’s why I argue for transparency. I have very little information about how the church actually uses its money.

    I guess the point of my argument is why is transparency such a bad thing? If you think the church is using its money so well, then why does transparency even matter?

  65. “Sinner, the conversation has drifted sufficiently far from the topic that I suggest you retire from the conversation.”

    So I’ve remained civil, but you’re “suggesting” I retire from the conversation? Is that like the church “inviting” members in Provo to accept the new MTC building plan?

    I’m enjoying the discussion. Yes we obviously come from very different viewpoints, but I find I learn a lot through discussion. I hope you’ll continue.

  66. I think that transparency can be a very good thing. I would like to see more transparency in civil government. But transparency can also be manipulated by malcontents to construe things in ways meant to hurt the church. Why do you think Obama wont make his college transcripts public? Because they could be construed in a way that would hurt him even if he really didn’t do anything wrong. In a world of soundbites and entertainment news you never know how your actions and words will be manipulated. Sometimes it is better to simply say nothing.

  67. Mormons have all the information they need already: the commandment to tithe.

    People who don’t believe in God, Christ, the church, or the sacraments also have all the information they need not to tithe.

    No one here is seriously considering paying tithing depending on what kinds of financial controls are in place for chapel-building contracts.

  68. Folks, real life has intervened in our ability to participate actively in this conversation for the time being. We are turning on the switch so that all new comments will go into moderation for the time being until we have the ability to respond and participate.

    New comments will be approved as time permits. Thanks for your participation!

  69. “Sometimes it is better to simply say nothing.”

    I agree with that and it’s a reasonable justification, but that’s not the reasoning/rhetoric that typically comes from church members (see, e.g., this blog post). It’s typically more along the lines of “you lack faith and need to stop questioning the Lord.” If the church simply wants to avoid criticism of how it spends money, then fine.

    I will say I think that’s a cop out from an organization that has some pretty lofty claims. It claims to be god’s one and only true church. That’s an astounding claim when you think about it. I think an organization that claims to be a loving god’s kingdom on earth should do everything in its power to promote good values, which in my mind includes openness and transparency with its finances. Reasonable minds may differ.

  70. @Porter,

    “I signed the petition because as a tithe paying member of the church I would like to see how my funds are being used.”

    Did you not consecrate those funds to the Lord? Or do you still have some ownership interest in them even after you handed the envelope to the Bishop? I can tell you exactly how your funds are being used: You gave them to the Bishop. After that, they’re no longer yours.

    I also hope that those whom the Lord has appointed stewards over His funds are using them wisely and according to His spirit. But regardless of whether they are or not, I have no claim to them still being mine. They are His.

    @Kullervo,
    Comment:

    “Nevertheless, a large (probably larger than most Mormons realize) number of churches do disclose their finances publicly, in the interests of transparency, accountability, openness and honesty.”

    Yes, and a large number of churches do not claim to be God’s approved organization on the Earth, led by those who have the priesthood authority to direct His work throughout the earth (and even fewer of them are). There is considerable overlap between those churches and those which use majority vote to determine church doctrine and practice. Forgive me if I don’t see their example as being instructive when discussing how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should be governed; this is simply not a church built on precedent by other Christian bodies — in fact, just the opposite.

  71. It’s not that transparency is a bad thing. I think if the Church decided to grant more transparency, all of us here would be behind it. What we see as an unfortunate thing is the elevation of the principle of transparency above that of paying tithes.

    I have seen enough transparency to satisfy me, as I clarified here.

  72. I know this will make many people unhappy, but in cursory consideration, every immediate sense I see in which Joseph Smith applied “common consent” described yielding with alacrity, as in when he said “have them decide by vote whether they were willing to accept us as spiritual teachers or not.” In defining this law, which means leaders are to be known (and, at initial offering, accepted) of the Church (which also means I don’t care what Jim Bob in Montana thinks ought to be done in the disposition of tithes), President Harold B. Lee twice appeared to confine the “vote” to the time of sustaining, further qualifying that the Church is not a democracy and that individuals “may reject, but they do not nominate and they do not release. That is done by a higher authority.” I don’t know that I have a harsh sliding scale whereby someone’s discomfiture over some aspect in church governance immediately constitutes apostasy, but I am certain that (a) it will never be their calling to displace or reprove those whom the Lord has called, and (b) their own possession of inspiration, discernment, judgment, and wisdom is more than suspect in these phases of selective obedience. I am, however, absolute in affirming that, while Joseph Fielding Smith acknowledged that “no man can preside in this Church in any capacity without the consent of the people. . . . [Y]et it is not the right of the people to nominate, to choose, for that is the right of the priesthood,” our little votes of no confidence are tantamount to that very grasping at the reins of power.

    It has everything to do with Webster’s 1828 defining tone to consent of “more generally, to agree in mind and will; to yield to what one has the power, the right, or the disposition to withhold, or refuse to grant.” The scriptures cannot be bent to make this mean the will of the people (or, as John Taylor often said, the Kingdom of God operates Vox Dei, Vox Populi, not vice versa) instead of cheerfully partaking of the mind and will of the Lord, being of one heart and one mind. One critic blasted us with a verse from D&C describing the United Order—and who wouldn’t expect a higher stake with a correspondingly higher level of consecration not currently operative?—and still missing the point that at all times stewards were scrupulously appointed for administration, demanding whether we believed in our scriptures or not. You mean, like that pesky verse in which God says the designated prophet’s word is to be received “as if from [His] own mouth” (21:5; see 132:7; comp. Ex. 4:16)?

    To excerpt from a February 1978 Ensign explanation: “As President Harold B. Lee stated, ‘When you vote affirmatively you make a solemn covenant with the Lord that you will sustain, that is, give your full loyalty and support, without equivocation or reservation, to the officer for whom you vote.’ (Conference Reports, April 1970, p. 103). This places the responsibility upon us.

    “The practice of the law of common consent allows us, as members of the Church, to evaluate our position and to bring our thinking and commitment in tune with that of the Lord. President Charles W. Penrose beautifully stated it this way: ‘It was designed by the Almighty in the organization of this Church, that the voice of the people should respond to the voice of the Lord. It is the voice of the Lord and the voice of the people together in this Church that sanctions all things therein.’ (Journal of Discourses, 21:45.)”

    We are blessed for deciding to be in harmony with God’s will. We cannot divest the leaders of their divine appointment. We consent to sustain and uphold, not critique and overrule, God’s designated actors. Someone must be in charge, someone must handle a great variety of weighty decisions, some of which might be exceedingly private, even sacred—and that someone isn’t us. We shouldn’t pretend to some sort of reverse micromanagement whereby we have it our way or withdraw our portion. That will only harm us. We consent to learn our duty and act in our own office, to trust them to act in theirs, to believe that they will fill and answer for their own stewardship.

    Said Orson F. Whitney of the nascent common consent: “But the query arises, Suppose they had not been sustained? Suppose that little flock had voted against, instead of for, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, what would have been the consequence? Would it have taken from those two elders the priesthood which God had conferred upon them? Would it have taken away the gifts which He had given them? Would it have blotted out the fact that the dispensation of the fullness of times had been opened by the personal appearing of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith? Would it have re-consigned that sacred record to the Hill Cumorah? Would the work have gone backward from that hour? Not at all. It would have had this effect, and this only: that little congregation would have been without the gifts and powers that God had conferred upon those men. It could not have been the Church of God. It would have been a body without a head.” Nowadays, more like little shriveled toes amputating themselves.

    The question here is whether you consent to participate in the glorious work of the church, by lending your time, means, and substance–and many, if not most or all, who demand to inspect church finances have already opted out. We’re certainly getting glimpses that other key components of prayer and faith have fallen by the wayside. If the clamoring critics seriously think they can disturb the work of the Lord, let them take note of Joseph F. Smith’s iteration once in presenting officers of the Church for sustaining vote: “Of course, we are not asking apostates or non-members of the Church to vote on the authorities of the Church. We are only asking for members of the Church in good standing to vote on the propositions that shall be put before you [again, at an appointed place and hour], and we would like all to vote as they feel, whether for or against.” For those of us whose hearts still glow with the warmth of harmonious testimony, Elder Condie’s 1995 reminder resonates true: “The voting was unanimous in the affirmative. We call this the law of common consent. This was not a majority vote as part of a democratic political process, but rather a physical manifestation signified by the raised hand that each and every member of that congregation believed ‘that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and to administer in the ordinances thereof’ . . . . The law of common consent is part of the invisible glue which binds members of the Church to their leaders. . . . We may well be the brightest person in the bishopric or Young Women Presidency or high council, but unless and until we subordinate our will to the law of common consent and are willing to receive counsel as well as to give counsel, and are willing to concede and compromise and obtain consensus, then our potential influence for good will be greatly limited.” Those in the highest councils of the Church are sufficiently receptive to THEIR leaders (directly to the Savior); may we be so humble.

  73. The money belongs to God. We are children of God charged with becoming God. To the extent we live up to that charge, the money belongs to us.

  74. Hey, I’m an ex-Mormon, and I’m the guy who submitted this to the ex-Mormon board (Reddit’s /r/exmormon) and I just want to point out that it was also posted to the pro-LDS subreddit:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/lds/comments/wrfye/millennial_star_please_dont_question_church/

    There was some great, respectful discussion. I think faithful members can disagree with you on this and call for increased transparency, and I think they’ve made some very valid points over there.

    Personally, I think there’s a little bit of a double standard being employed here. The church is led by people. When these people make mistakes when teaching in general conference, it’s okay, because they’re just mortal men and sometimes they’re just teaching their own opinion and not God’s will. Yet, when they approve an expenditure, that’s the Lord choosing how to spend his money and you’d better not question it. It seems to me that, if the church is admittedly led by fallible men, there’s no problem asking for an accounting from those men.

    I don’t think this is a black and white issue. I think there’s plenty of room for discussion and disagreement here.

  75. Kay, #24: Your statements don’t paint the full picture:

    “In that article the church published, they say they pay for missionaries…they don’t, they families of missionaries pay for missionaries. “

    1) the majority of missionaries from outside the USA/Canada only pay a small fraction, or nothing at all. The church pays the majority of their monthly expenses, and for some missionaries, like most of those from Africa, all of it.

    Yes, missionaries and their families are _asked_ to contribute a standard flat amount, but if the family can’t afford it, the ward kicks in. And if the ward can’t make up the difference, the stake kicks in. And if the stake can’t make up the diffence, the church kicks in. NO worthy missionary is denied the opportunity to serve if they or their ward/stake can’t pay for their mission. The church pays for whatever they can’t.

    2) Even for missionaries from the USA/Canada, those from poor families/wards/stakes get a sizeable subsidy, up to 100%. And even for those missionaries (and their families) who pay 100% of what the church asks them to, the church still kicks in to make up the difference between what they are asked to pay ($400/month last I heard) and the true costs/expenses.

    “Sinner brings up a valid point. Why can’t the church pay for janitors (which they used to) yet build a mall?”

    The church could pay for chapel janitors, but chooses not to. No member is above vaccuming, dusting, mopping floors and cleaning toilets. Well-to-do members could chip in and hire outside janitors for their ward, but are not supposed to. Asking members to do it themselves cultivates humility. And lots of us need to work on our humility. It’s a good chore for the youth, and it’s good for the youth to see the adults clean as an example, so the youth don’t grow up too proud.

    “Why do I have to provide my financial budget to the bishop to get only 2 weeks worth or food from the bishop when I have paid over $100,000 into tithing, not including fast offering over 20 years? “

    Others already answered this better than I, it’s not a bank account from which you can withdraw.

    “Why do I have to be open with my financials to the church each year in tithing settlement, …”

    No, you don’t have to be open with your financials in tithing settlement. No one is asked to provide financials, or any details about money earned, gross versus net, or where or how you spend it, at tithing settlement. All you are asked in tithing settlement is a simple yes/no question, “Are you a full tithe-payer?”

    The bishop may infer what your gross (or net) may be if you answer “yes”, (he could easily multiply the tithing amount by 10) but he’s not supposed to ask if you tithe on gross or net.

    And no financial statements are requested during temple-rec interviews when people are asked “Are you a tithe-payer”, a simple yes or no suffices.

    Moreover, you juxtapose this with the church providing information on how it _spends_ money, implying that the church expects you to provide information on how you spend your money. That is not true.

    However, if one wishes to place a request _upon_ the church to provide food or monetary assistance, then the church does have a right to stick its nose in your financial affairs before providing assistance. That’s called stewardship, and you’d complain even more loudly if people were receiving church assistance who didn’t really need it.

    “… but the church doesn’t open up to me? By the churches own numbers, they give only $1 per member per year to humanitarian efforts. “

    That is twisting the truth. The $1/member/year (if that’s even correct) is for outside or non-member humanitarian aid, individuals and organizations. The church spends hundreds of millions annually on humanitarian aid on members in the form of church welfare, food, monetary aid for rent/utilities, and medical bills.

    Moreover, there is more to charitable spending than merely what’s classified as humanitarian aid. All the core missions/purposes of the church are charitable, from chapels, temples, mission expenses, administration, education (BYU, seminaries, institutes).

    So pointing to the $1/member/year, and giving the impression that that is all the church does is very deceptive.

  76. @Sinner, I perceive you are picking and choosing your evidence. It seems you are only able to accept evidence that comes to you through your eyes, this you call the “only real evidence,” and even that you doubt when it comes from second hand sources. On the other hand, often the evidences of God do not come to us through our eyes, but through the Spirit, through experience, and through testing the word of God, i.e. keeping the commandments.

    Let me ask you a question. Why did you wake up today? Did you believe you might get something done that is worthwhile? But how did you know? You didn’t. It was a decision based on faith, evidences of past days that were worthwhile that made you believe that today would also be worthwhile, and worth getting out of your bed. No real evidences. Your day could have turned out quite bad, with all kinds of horrible nasty things happening in your life, yet you trusted that they would not, so you got out of bed. This is faith. No proofs, only evidences of past experience.

    I have not seen Christ, so I do not know by visual evidence that He is a resurrected being. Even if I saw Him would I really be sure? No, I’d have to touch Him. Would I be sure then? No, the nerve endings in my fingers could be tricking my mind into believing something was there when it really isn’t. I could ask Him, but of course He’d tell me that He was. Maybe He could eat some fish and honeycomb to show us He was mortal. But what if those fish and honeycomb weren’t real? What if they were holograms, or virtual reality? How do we come to KNOW, even by first-hand vision and sensory perception?

    I have many other evidences that attest to that fact, such as all of recorded history that tells of a resurrected Lord, living prophets that are witnesses of the Lord and testify of his resurrection (who I believe to be true prophets), even reason and logic tell me that Christ has resurrected, the scriptures that testify of a risen Lord (including the Book of Mormon), and the Spirit has witnessed to me that He lives.

    If you believe that the Spirit is only a “feeling,” even one that you can produce inside yourself voluntarily, then there is good reason to believe that you have not felt the Spirit, or you have forgotten what it feels like. I have had the Spirit witness to me many, many times, and it is not only a simple feeling. It is much more than that. A feeling is only ONE way that the Spirit can testify to us. It can also come to us as a voice, yes a real voice, or a thought in our mind, or by way of new knowledge that appears into our consciousness, or by suddenly being given talents or gifts which we did not possess before, or by being reminded of something just at the right moment, or having the sense to move to a different location when something bad ends up happening. There are many, many ways.

    It’s true that the Spirit is a subjective thing. If it was objective, then God could be proven, could He not? God does not want to be proven. He wants us to grow and learn and experience by faith. It is for these reasons that we are here.

    It appears that you believe that if the Church disclosed its finances that members could then make informed decisions that they are unable to make right now. Again, what decisions can’t they make now without that information? Please explain.

    Sinner said, “I don’t have faith the church is misusing funds. I simply DON’T KNOW!! And that’s why I want to know…” Christ once said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17). If you become a member of the Church, and have faith in God’s chosen prophets, you will know that the Church is not misusing funds, just as I know, and many others know. This knowledge will come to you, perhaps gradually, and line upon line, but you will come to know, because you’ll have faith and trust in the living Prophet of God, and the Spirit will speak to you again, and testify to you that all is well. I encourage you to do so. Make that leap of faith!

    The call for “transparency” in the Church is picking up on modern trend in secular society and trying to apply it to religion. Everything has to be wide open, open source, open government, open door, open school, open everything. God doesn’t function like that. Everything is not perfectly transparent with God. In fact, that’s precisely what the veil prevents from happening. The veil is a semi-opaque barrier between us and God. Is God being transparent? No. He would have to take away the veil for there to be complete transparency between us and Him. That will not happen in our mortal life, unless we have sufficient faith to warrant it. So this call for transparency in the Church is really perpetuating this notion that we need to have all information about all things available all the time in order to do anything worthwhile. It’s untrue. “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness…” (D&C 58:26-27).

    If the Church disclosed its full financial records, the faithful members of the Church would likely say, “Ok, there it is,” and move on. So I don’t think that’s the issue. The critics and detractors of the Church, however, would pour through it with a fine-toothed comb to try to pick out anything and everything they could possibly use as ammunition against the Church. The Church has enough persecution already. So perhaps they keep them closed to not have to deal with the deluge of questions they would get about how they handle finances. It’s a distraction to their primary mission as witnesses of Christ. Why does any private institution have private books? There are real reasons to not disclose everything to everybody, beyond wanting to be “secretive” or “hiding” things. Why is the temple not open to the public? There are sacred things that happen there that are not meant for the general public.

    I see this trend towards demanding transparency along the same lines as the trend of declining reverence for the sacred in society. Is nothing sacred anymore? Must we profane everything to feel good about our lives? No, you cannot walk into my home whenever you want to. It is a sacred place to me and my family, and I won’t allow you to do it. No, you cannot look into my bank account just because you want to, because it not your concern. No, you cannot delve into my private journal anytime you choose, and say it is your right, because it is not. It is my right to keep my life private if I choose. These are some of the things that are sacred to me, off limits to everyone else. Do you see my reasons for not being transparent?

  77. @bendmorris, no one is saying that Church leaders don’t make mistakes in expenditures. I’m sure it happens. I would be very surprised if it does not! Yes, we’re talking about fallible men and women. What we are saying is that as long as the Lord’s prophet and apostles do not believe it necessary to disclose such expenditures in fine details, then that is their right by their divinely appointed callings and authority.

    Would we ask God to do something that He has explicitly not allowed? It brings to mind the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon. Joseph inquired many times of the Lord if it was right to lend these pages to Martin Harris, and the Lord said no. Martin Harris continued to pester him, and Joseph inquired again. This time the Lord acquiesced. What happened? The pages were lost. This was perhaps some of the darkest days for Joseph, the Prophet. He feared he had lost his very calling as a prophet for not following the will of the Lord. D&C 3 and D&C 10 might be good reads.

    What if we continued to pester the prophet for full financial disclosure, and it is not the will of the Lord? What might happen to us, to its members, to the Church? Let’s not be Martin Harris.

  78. J. Max: Good description of proof versus evidence. Different people can examine the same evidence and come away with different conclusions of what it means.

    The proof-versus-evidence conflation is a typical tactic of the critics. Apologists point to evidence, such as evidence of plausibility, and critics shout “That doesn’t prove anything!” Well, they weren’t trying to prove anything, merely demonstrate plausibility, or room for faith.

    I also agree with you that the church’s critics have already come to their conclusions and made up their minds. Countering their points may help those unknown observers who are sincerely and silently seeking answers or even room for faith. So I think apologetics still has its place. Keep up the good work.

  79. @Kristopher, this is a truly beautiful summary of “common consent.” Thank you!! Indeed, “common consent” is meant for us to publicly show our agreement with and sustaining of the divinely chosen servants of God, rather than for us to tell them what to do, or to repeal what they have chosen to do. How wildly can the scriptures be twisted? We thank thee, O God, for a prophet!

  80. Heber J. Grant: “I can pledge to you the best that is in me to fulfil the high and holy calling that has come to me, to exercise in righteousness the power of the Priesthood of the living God, which centers in me, and to administer my office as the Trustee-in-Trust, holding your property, to expend it and use it to the very best of the ability with which God shall endow me. I expect to counsel with my counselors, with the Twelve Apostles and with the Presiding Bishopric of the Church–the men to whom the Lord refers in the revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, naming the men who are to expend the funds of this Church; although I realize and know that legally and technically, I have the right to handle your funds personally, because of your vote, just as my predecessors have had that right. Yet I know that in a multitude of counsel there is safety, and I expect to have that counsel.” There’s his reassurance to members while not soliciting one iota of unauthorized input.

    Besides, as Adam G. wrote, “If someone believes that the Church is not an inspired institution that can handle the Lord’s funds wisely, why would they pay tithing in the first place? My guess is that all of this is mostly an avenue for the disaffected to express their disaffection.” The disaffected have enough to worry about, without losing sleep over the Church’s use of the faithful’s money. Again, President Faust stated, “A testimony of tithing comes by paying tithing.”

    On this hand, though, with the continued presumption that dissident voices can and will find mistakes which they can and are qualified to rectify, I see an awful lot of what Joseph F. Smith described: “Why, bless your souls, there are people among us that are worrying and fretting over things that have never been revealed to the children of men, and these very people do not even keep the word of wisdom, do not even pay their tithing, and as a rule, the man that does not pay his tithing and does not keep the word of wisdom is the man that is everlastingly quizzing and asking questions about things he does not understand. If they would pay their tithing, if they would keep the word of wisdom, if they would say their prayers, if they would devote their lives to works of righteousness in the earth and study the gospel for themselves and obey it, they would have less necessity for asking questions, and don’t forget the fact that they would know things better than they do.”

  81. @Sinner, you said, “If the church simply wants to avoid criticism of how it spends money, then fine.”

    What if that is the reason? What then? Do you agree they have the right to not disclose their finances, if that is the reason? Then it seems that the real issue to you is that they do not adequately explain their reasoning for keeping the books shut. I’ve already put forth some possible explanations, but asking them for their reasoning is about the same as asking for the books themselves. They are under no obligation to tell us, and they may have their own very private reasons for doing so, that are not outside their divine prerogatives.

    You have the right to believe what you choose to regarding the Church, just as the Church has the right to keep its finances private. As I already mentioned about transparency, reasonable minds do differ.

  82. I was not raised in the Church, i.e., my father wasn’t a member, my mother was totally inactive my whole life. I grew up in the Church’s culture, accepted the gospel, was baptized, served a mission, am temple married in excess of forty years still going strong, have paid a full tithing for my whole adult life. Nonetheless, I’ve always questioned. I always will. How could I not when, for instance, I’ve been assured by members that I have a HM? Seriously, if my biological mother were absent like HM is, I would’ve questioned and continued to question that too. Ask, seek, and question. It’s the gospel to do so. Questioning rests at foundation of the restoration. So I question. How Church funds I’ve humbly given are used is as viable and important a question for me as it may be for the disaffected or for nonmembers. We are taught to know God by seeking him. We cannot do that if we don’t ask. I sense a certain smugness or selfrighteousness in arguments employed against those who ask.

  83. Geoff, you commented that you hope to persuade some fence sitters or petition signers. So I bring good cheer and some friendly suggestions :)

    I think you misunderstand the motives at least some of the petition signers hold. They don’t feel like they’re questioning God at all, or impugning the integrity of the leadership. In fact, one could make the argument that asking for financial transparency is rooted in a desire to help ensure sacred funds are handled properly.

    Many Mormons (I’m not sure if the M* crowd fits this description) see a distinct and important difference between the Gospel and the Church, or between the Lord and the Church. Your argument here generally treats these entities as one-and-the-same, which is probably one reason there are differences of opinion on financial transparency.

  84. In my reading I’m seeing some tautology from those who are adamantly against the Church moving toward more transparency in regard to its finances. The reasoning seems to go: ‘I trust the leaders of the Church to do the right thing with the Church’s money. How do I know it’s the right thing? Because the leaders of the Church are the ones making the decision.’ In other words, even though the arguments are sure to include the concession that the leaders are fallible, the definition of a correct decision seems to be one that the Church leadership makes. If they are in fact infallible as we know them to be, how do we know that the decision to be opaque regarding the Church’s finances is the correct one?

  85. “What we see as an unfortunate thing is the elevation of the principle of transparency above that of paying tithes.”

    I also think some of it boils down to something as simple as this from the Book of Mormon:

    This was after Moroni, a prophet of God, expressed his concerns to the Lord about how people might criticize him for his weakness.

    the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;

    27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

    28 Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.

    Even IF there was a time or situation when funds were not “used perfectly,” (whatever that might mean to some people) the Lord covers such weakness and error of judgment by His atonement. To take that into our own hands would, in how I see this and other scriptures, only risk keeping His mercy and grace at bay in our own lives.

    To me, this isn’t really about finances at all. It’s about the fundamental purpose of the Church — to bring us to Christ. Even human weakness within the organization can bring us to Him if we trust Him to be the one who is really in charge…which, ironically, means that He lets us learn from experience and do our best and then He covers the rest.

    Our leaders have to account to God (just as we each must in our own stewardships). That is the ultimate transparency, imo.

  86. Trevor, #95, could you provide any quotation from any modern-day prophet supporting your position?

    Nate H, this was addressed higher up, but I will say it in a different way. Either the Church is true or it is not. You have to make your own decision on that. If it is true, then it is led by modern-day prophets who answer to the Lord and it is the Lord’s church. I don’t question the Lord. You can make up your own mind on that issue, which is why you are given free agency. The entire project called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one where you are willing to place your faith in modern-day human beings as representatives of Jesus Christ. I had real problems accepting that before I was baptized, but I am at peace with it now. So your tautology turns out not to be a tautology at all.

  87. Geoff, could you provide any quotation from any modern-day prophet supporting your position?

    If you don’t see the difference between the Church and the Lord, this probably isn’t the post to get into it, and I doubt I’ll persuade you anyway. Plus, when you stake out dichotomous either/or categories that I reject anyway, there’s too big of a gap between us. Even supposing the Church is “true”, why does this mean that God rubber stamps every single decision made by a leader? I doubt you agree he does, because they obviously make mistakes (including, presumably, financial mistakes). Now, wouldn’t it be great to have more controls in place to help minimize those financial mistakes? Heck, they even have an internal audit to help accomplish this goal, so apparently someone thinks it isn’t such a nefarious thing.

    (Is the internal audit an admission that someone thinks the Lord’s servants can’t be trusted?)

  88. Err, Trevor, I just wrote a post with five quotations from prophets supporting my position. I will note you did not provide even one.

    Yes, there is too big of a gap between us. That is the point. The Church is either true or it is not. You can make your own choice, but believing in the Church means believing in modern-day revelation, modern-day prophets and the fact that the Lord is directing the Church.

    God gives Church leaders freedom to make their own decisions. They seek guidance from the Lord regularly and sincerely. They are fallible. Prophets have made it clear that when they are not acting as prophets (ie, in their personal lives, when they discuss politics, etc) they are just as fallible as you and I. It is when they make important decisions for the Church (such as decisions on financial disclosures) that they are acting as prophets and are guided by the Lord.

    There are an incredible array of controls in place already, much more than in any business and probably more than in any other church. I participated in auditing the financial results of several wards when I was on the high council. We spent hours and hours determining whether every dollar was spent correctly or not (and we are talking about less than $1000 per month in expenditures), looking at receipts, etc. The controls are definitely in place. The issue is, should they be made public or not? And, for a myriad of reasons, the answer is no.

  89. Pingback: A follow-up on tithing transparency. « NATHAN SHUMATE

  90. Trevor, I can maybe address explanation of the difference between Church and the Lord.

    I, for one, know there is a huge difference between the fallible men who run the Church, the Church itself, and the Lord Jesus Christ who is the head.

    As I have experienced the influence of deity in my own life, I have had ample opportunity to learn understanding of how the Lord operates in the lives of His disciples and humble servants. It’s not intuitive to our modern American mores, but it can be understood.

    You see, God’s purpose is the immortality and eternal life of men. It is clear from the story of Adam and Eve that we are here to experience imperfection: our own and others’. I have been directly injured by the imperfections and misunderstandings, and even malicious intent of priesthood leaders in my life. I know how that feels.

    In coming to understand the Lord’s purpose, His methods, His Atonement, and the power of forgiveness we learn to allow ourselves and others the space to make mistakes without immediate condemnation. Even if it came out that any part of the tithing funds were being grossly misused, it wouldn’t make the least bit of difference to my paying of tithing. Not out of blind obedience to the Church, but out of open-eyed and open-hearted obedience to my Savior.

    It is difficult to understand this, when one is steeped in the importance of money, and commercial flow of power. It isn’t that I trust the Church to be perfect in disseminating funds. I don’t. It isn’t that I even trust them to do a mostly good job (though my experiences indicate that they do.) It is that EVEN IF THEY AREN’T, I am still willing to give them the space to make their mistakes.

    Why? For two reasons.

    Because I have experienced the Lord giving ME space to make MY mistakes, and because He has told me that paying my tithing is what He wants.

    Tithing isn’t between me and the Church. It is between me and the Lord, and the Lord and the Church. Do you see? There is nothing which makes the Church accountable to me. If the leaders of the Church misuse those sacred funds, they are directly accountable to God, and for those of us who know God is real and are familiar with His power, that is much more intimidating than being accountable to me.

    That is enough. That is why I have no desire to question, no need for transparency. It is nice to know that the Church is spending tithing money in positive ways, but it isn’t necessary.

    You don’t have to feel that same way about it. Obviously, you don’t, and obviously, other tithe-paying members of the Church don’t. But I say from my own experience that they are missing the full purpose and power of paying tithes, which is to teach us about the Atonement and to give us understanding of the blessings of eternal life.

  91. There was a counselor in one of my wards at BYU who worked for the Church. He said that the brethrens’ biggest source of frustration was experts who were afraid to share their opinions with them because it would imply that they, the experts, knew better than the brethren… which they did. They were experts. It’s unreasonable to think that, just because of their calling, they suddenly gain knowledge and judgment in areas that they haven’t worked to gain. Joseph Smith apparently understood this principle as he took the time to learn Hebrew to help in his translations. I don’t have God making any decisions for me, even important ones. I receive guidance when I ask for it, but I’m still the one charting my own course for life. I don’t see any reason, especially given Joseph Smith’s example, why that pattern would come to an end once one reaches a certain level of church leadership. Wouldn’t that kind of undermine their progression?

    Because of this, I think it’s a) not disrespectful or unfaithful to ask for transparency and b) probably a good thing to add mechanisms that will help keep the Church focused and honest with their resources.

  92. They already have experts to advise them on financial matters, they already have mechanisms. What does that have to do with opening the barn doors to the masses?

    And I would submit that it is very disrespectful and unfaithful to ask for transparency when it is from people who disrespect and do not believe in the Church. For the others, I find it unwise, but not disrespectful to ask. But it begs the question of what will they do when or if they are refused their request.

  93. I’d just like to point out the inherent accusation of the Brethren in pushing for mechanisms to “keep the Church focused and honest with their resources.” For anyone listening, they’ve emphasized repeatedly, humbly how much they don’t want to rely on their own wisdom–again, a hallmark feature absent from so many pushing their own advice or suspicions–in administration of the Lord’s church. SilverRain responded perfectly above about the manner in which they do reach out for assistance in these matters. Don’t be so upset that they’re not inclusive of every applicant with an ax to grind, especially those who violate the counsel to “not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church” (D&C 28:6), counsel issued, incidentally, to someone who still had far more authority than any of these dissident voices.

  94. SmallAxe said: “So then what’s wrong with asking the question, “What does the Church spend its money on?””

    SmallAxe, I’ve noticed that you have a certain ‘approach’ to online discussion that basically involves asking questions that, from a certain point of view, seem really innocent, but are likely loaded questions. I think the above is a great example of this.

    The thing that is difficult is that you never actually seem to stick your neck out and actually suggest what you think the correct answer is.

    Of course I’d agree that there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to ask “What does the Church spend its money on?” And frankly, if I had a chance to find out, I’d be interested and I’d want to know.

    The problem is that the Church must balance those that would innocently want to know (like myself, and maybe even yourself) against a slew of other issues that include:

    1. As Nick said, those that over interpret and try to find doctrine in what is spent. Heck, the Church can’t even have caffeine on the BYU campus for fear that it will be viewed by some as endorsement of Coke. they can’t even own funds that own Coke for fear that it will become an endorsement of Coke. I am sure most members or better than this, but they need to adapt tot he weakest of the Saints.

    2. The church has considerable media enemies. I has people wanting to destroy it from the outside (say, anti-Mormons) and people that want to rewrite it’s narrative to be non-literal (say, John Dehlin and even some of your website.) It also has news organizations that want to help those that want to rewrite the narrative. (As per making John Dehlin a media darling while failing to mention he doesn’t even believe in the LDS church.) The fact is that these people are quite savvy and will not hesitate to use anything they come across as a means of rewriting the gospel to their liking. To have the Church’s finances out there would be more than just an invitation.

    3. Member of the LDS Church, as with all religions, come in various strengths of testimony and even with various levels of belief. The LDS church leaders — who define doctrine for the LDS church — might have legitimate concerns about a full disclosure of the Church finances turning the Church from a source of revelation to the adherents into a consumer model approach to religion to determine how the money is spent. And — I have no doubt that a John Dehlin would really really like that. (In his publically available view, the Church is either something like the communist party or it’s a consumer oriented model. The idea that it’s actually a means of revelation from God is not something he is open to.)

    Given these realistic concerns, I am personally willing to forego what to me would be a fairly innocent curiosity to see what the Church’s finances look like so that no one can see them. I, of course, do this in party because I entirely trust the Brethren to do their job and have virtually no trust for myself to make equivalently good decisions. (This is not to say that the Brethren don’t make mistakes in finances and maybe even big mistakes.)

    The above argument I just made seems very reasonable to me, but I’d love to see you actually suggest an alternative so that we can compare.
    If you are arguing for open disclosure of Church finances (you did not say you were, so I don’t know where you are coming from), then stop asking vaguish questions that seem innocent but require considerable writing to respond to and – here’s an idea — state your own position and take the time to explain it so that we can compare two well thought out points of view. (And I have no doubt any point of view you espouse will be well thought out.)
    If you are not in favor of open disclosure, then state that and let’s have some real dialogue on the topic about why you feel that way. (And how your reasoning might differ from the OP even if you ultimately agree with the conclusion.)

  95. @ Silverrain, you are missing a fundamental point. The church is an organization the selects its leaders from within. Any organization that does so, must prepare its members to assume authority. THis is done in the military by showing every echelon how decisions are made, and why. The church is robbing the membership of valuable experience by not opening up its books. I don’t understand the need for secrecy. Only good can come from opening the books.

  96. Army of 1,

    Just about anyone called into general leadership of the Church will have had plenty of experience conducting or overseeing finances in wards and stakes. (And I note that, for some reason, no one is clamoring that bishops need to release figures on tithing collected or fast offerings spent. I wonder why that is.) I don’t think your reasoning holds water.

    And in regard to your assertion that “only good can come from opening the books”… Really? Is that what you’re honestly saying? ONLY good can come? There are NO conceivable negatives? I posit that you really haven’t thought the situation through if you can see no way in which the release of that information could possibly have less desirable consequences.

  97. I address the point that plenty of bad things can come from “opening the books” in the thread on the practical problems related to this issue. Army of 1, if you think only good things can come from full disclosure, I encourage you to disclose your name, post your tax returns (including social security number) and school transcripts on the internet and give us a link to all of this full disclosure. Only good things can happen, right?

  98. I am coming very late to this party, but wanted to point out a couple of things that have not been addressed.

    The City Creek Center investment from the Church was taken from the coffers of for-profit companies the church owns. It had nothing to do with tithing. The church didn’t touch tithing or fast offerings with that money. So a large portion of conversation here has actually been based on a false assumption.

    In reality, almost all of the business-like or business-related investments and expenditures the Church participates in come from the for-profit companies the church owns. In fact, I can’t think of a business-type expense or investment the Church has made with tithing funds. They make a lot of investments and purchases and other business-related activity, to be sure, but all of them are through the for-profit companies the Church owns.

    For those who can’t buy the argument that the Brethren are acting for the Lord, consider this: the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency NEVER make significant/important decisions without them being unanimous. I have heard and read several stories about policy or other matters they discuss in their weekly meeting. Sometimes there is one, as in only 1, member of that 15 person body, who is uncomfortable with the decision. They will table the issue and return to it later.

    Go back and read the firsthand accounts of the revelation on the priesthood from the brethren who were there. It was a unanimous decision and a unified experience. ALL important decisions made by that governing body of the church are unanimous.

    So, when you call the wisdom of the leadership of the church into question, you are talking not just about 1 apostle or the prophet, you are questioning the entire First Presidency as well as the entire Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Hopefully this can help indicate the seriousness of the action and put it into perspective.

  99. Brad, a familiarity of sound financial practice would lead one to believe that the church does put a portion of tithing funds into reserves.

    Those reserves would be tapped or replenished, tapped or grown, as income and expenses fluctuate. Otherwise , the church’s programs would have to be constantly cut back and expanded to exactly match income/outgo.

    The church is also self-insured. It is big enough for that. There needs to be reserves for that purpose, just like an insurance company.

    Reserves are normally kept in various kinds of income-producing investments. Short term, long term, various degrees of liquidity, etc. Stocks, bonds, money market, commercial paper, real estate, and even wholly owned businesses.

    The presently owned commercial assets of the church had to be originally purchased with some form of donated money, either tithing or some other form of gifts or bequeaths.

    I used to work for an insurance company, and later for a company that wrote software for non-profits. I don’t have a degree in finance or non-profits, but I have enough experience and connections to know that it is very reasonable to assume that the church has been “setting aside” (to use a very non technical term) a portion of tithing income ever since the church got out of debt in the early 1900′s. And it is very reasonable to assume that the money being set aside is invested in the manner that I generally descrie above.

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