Today’s friendly reminder of the importance of tithing

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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.

28 thoughts on “Today’s friendly reminder of the importance of tithing

  1. What? No pictures of Lavell Edwards Stadium?

    Just trying to beat all of the uptight people to the punch. The BYU athletic programs are not funded by tithing, but rather through private donations and revenues from the events and conferences that they participate in. But it seems to me that people always get worked up about it anyway.

    Also, while I agree with the sentiment of how much good tithing can be used for, that is not why I pay my tithing. I do not care how it is used. They could convert all of my tithing to cash and burn it every year for all I care. Why? Because once I pay it, it is no longer mine. I have given it over to be used however the Lord may direct through His chosen representatives. I do not view it as an investment. I do not require a prospectus. I pay it to be obedient, to show gratitude, to try not to rob God in spite of not being as profitable of a servant as I should be. Any good that it does is just a nice side benefit.

  2. Good points Mike. I have pretty much the same attitude. However, I must say that it is great to know that the tithing money I give is used to actually help people get on their feet rather than keep them in an endless cycle of dependency and torpor.

  3. Neat poster and obviously true.

    As to BYU sports, sorry Mike you are wrong or were wrong as late as 2010. As of 2010 every single D-I athletic program operated at a loss. Every.single.one. including BYU. That means the athletic department had to tap into general university funds to cover its expenses. That means tithing funds were, indeed, used to support the athletic department. This was before the recent TV deal and it may have changed since then, especially if a non-sports inclined GA read the NCAA report and blew his stack!

    Just read the first few paragraphs of this article for evidence.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=easterbrook/101207_tuesday_morning_quarterback

  4. rb – That does not necessarily mean that they have to use general university funds that come from tithing. It is my understanding that any shortfalls in athletic revenues are made up through private donations (Cougar Club and other donations), not through tithing funds. If you can show me specific information where BYU does use tithing funds instead I would be happy to see them.

    There is already precedence of BYU receiving private donations that are specifically earmarked for specific programs or purposes outside of the athletic program, not for the general fund. Not everything at BYU comes from tithing.

    All that being said, the Church can do whatever they feel directed to do with tithing. Once paid, it no longer belongs to us. That is how I see it, at least.

  5. Geoff – I agree that it is nice to know that the Church does do a great deal of good with their resources. It does help one feel better about tithing. I guess that it I just wanted to raise the awareness that if we truly give tithing, a part of that process is that we no longer claim any hold of those funds if it is truly given. Therefore, it does not matter how they are used. But it seems to me that a lot of people out there seem to really worry about how it is used. The widow was called blessed because she gave all she could, small though it might have seemed. It is about the spirit in which it is given, not how much or for what purpose it was given.

  6. Mike, use whatever mental gymnastics you need to believe no tithing money was or is used for the athletic department. BYU told the NCAA its athletic department operated at a loss and had to tap into general university funds to cover the deficit. Beyond that, we are left to speculate. BYU is heavily subsidized by tithing, so any general funds diverted to the athletic department for the benefit of a vanishingly small number of Mormons-usually solidly middle class as well-probably come with some tithing dollars included. Perhaps not. Nobody in the general world of Mormons really knows, but there is more than a rebuttable presumption that as of 2010 some tithing money was being used to cover athletic department expenses and their deficit spending. That is besides the point of the OP.

    Suffice to say the Church does tremendously good work with its tithes, or the Lord’s tithes. While I am no BYU sports fan, I think an argument can be made their sports teams do add to the overall work of spreading the gospel, particularly when they travel and hold firesides. They set a tremendous example to other LDS and non-Mormon kids for whom athletes are role models.

  7. Thanks for the link rb – interesting reading, and why I have a tough time contributing money to my non-BYU university. I also feel tithing isn’t mine to worry about. The only head scratcher is that I’ve seen our local unit numbers for tithing. With only a roughly 30 percent activity rate, and a bit less for full tithers, the amount of money is still very high. High enough to easily buy land, build a chapel or stake center, maintain it, etc. In other words, even with relatively small units, there is plenty of money to be self sustaining at a local level. I’m not sure why, back in the old days, members had to raise money to contribute towards building chapels, etc. Maybe inflation or some other market factors have changed. The big struggle I see in our area is fast offering. We are definitely in the red. As much as I would like to say it is easy to help someone in need become self reliant, it just isn’t. It’s the rare case where full time blue or white collar member loses job, needs a couple months worth of help, then is back on his feet with a new job. Instead, it is the chronic needy who not only get government assistance, but also get it from the church. Almost all welfare recipients are single women/mothers with children. There are a few intact families thrown in, but not much. As much as we preach self reliance, the economic reality is that for many, the church is just another place to get money. The problems run deep. Many who can’t find a job are underskilled. Many can’t hold a job because they are mentally ill. Some are just plain lazy. Some want to keep up with the Jones’ but aren’t willing to sacrifice their time to better their employment. Others were raised in a household where assistance was the norm, and they don’t see a need to break the cycle. It is a problem for which I have no easy answer.

  8. IDIAT, I am not sure how this fits into your comment above, but it is worth considering that the Church sends a huge amount of money from the north to the south. We don’t know exactly how much, but I can tell you that in Brazil (where I lived for four years) there is not nearly enough money from local tithing and fast offerings to pay for temples, chapels and the literally hundreds of thousands of Brazilians who need some kind of assistance. I was in the bishopric in our local ward, and the amount of money needed for assistance was massively higher than what we received in fast offerings. I find this very reassuring personally because we in the US and Europe are much better off, on average, than the average Saint in the south, and the Church is doing marvelous work to help truly needy people get assistance.

  9. Very few people know why or how the tithing money is spent. I suppose I am okay with that. I am amused how some members take great pride and comfort in the annual financial disclosures made at GC. Those reports are worthless in the real world without also supplying the underlying data. In fact, to professionals who deal with financial disclosures and reporting, the GC reports are almost insulting and foolish. They amount to the Brethren saying “trust us” and we already do! No company reporting to its shareholders or regulatory authority would get away with what the Church purports to do for its members in their GC audit report.

    I trust the Brethren do their absolute level best with the monies they oversee. That is not the same as saying all of their decisions will be the correct decisions from a fiduciary standpoint, but I trust their hearts and minds are in the right place. So, they occasionally bet on the wrong horse (see the original site for the Philadelphia temple which was found to be contaminated AFTER it was purchased and announced as the site!) but that does not trouble me. This whole enterprise from tithing monies to mistakes has a heavenly safety net built into it.

  10. “I am amused how some members take great pride and comfort in the annual financial disclosures made at GC.”

    Rb, I am not aware that members take any pride or comfort from the GC disclosures, but I can tell you that as a member of the high council I audited several wards, and as a member of a bishopric I was involved with finances on a ward level. And I do take pride and comfort from the processes that take place on a local level. There are several layers of checking and double-checking expenses on a local level. You are correct that we know almost nothing about what the Church does with its funding on a macro level, and I suppose that applies to BYU, and I personally am OK with that.

  11. I’m not sure I completely agree RB.

    The auditing reports are, “We have had accountants provide us an accounting report. The results are that funds are being used as we have specified.” Sure trust us is part of it, but there’s also the “We are doing our due dilligence to ensure the money is being used as we’ve directed…” To quote someone else from the internet… “We’re still waiting for that news report about tithing money being used incorrectly…” Some people assume it’s being misused without evidence….Others of us assume it’s being used correctly until we’re given evidence to the contrary.

  12. Geoff B – thanks for the insight. My stake president occasionally has said the south supports the north, which I have always doubted. I think it started as a Mormon myth that got perpetuated somehow, but the idea that members living in economies less than the USA are supporting the welfare needs of members in the USA? Highly unlikely. I’ve served in three bishoprics and as bishop, and by far, figuring out welfare needs was the most rewarding and frustrating thing I ever did.

  13. IDIAT, if the average yearly income in Latin America is $3,000 to $7,000 (depending on the country) and the average yearly income in the U.S. is somewhere around $36k (slightly less in Europe on average), then how could it possibly be that people in the south have enough tithing money to send any money north? To give you one idea, in my ward in Brazil, we got about $200/month in fast offerings and we were doing better than most wards. We had people who gave $1 in fast offerings and it was a huge sacrifice for them. There is simply no scenario where people in Brazil could have enough money to build temples, chapels and still help with tithing, etc., and still send any money north.

  14. I consider myself a committed member of the Church and to me what hnu quoted is empty, even vacuous, rhetoric parading as an auditing statement. If that is the auditing statement from GC it is almost worthy of parody. That statement is borderline meaningless. For example, if I am a Seventy and direct tithing monies to be invested in [insert conservative boogeyman like Solyndra] and the investment predictably loses money, the auditing statement as quoted above is still true. I suppose for some that kind of statement is comforting to others it has a “heads I win, tails you lose” quality.

    In the end, however, I believe the Brethren are faithful stewards of tithing. That does not mean they are good money men or even good businessmen and I see nothing wrong with that. They’re, to a person, honest and if they do make mistakes with the money they have a pretty good insurance policy and safety net. I believe they absolutely try their best and act in faith.

  15. rb – I may be completely wrong in my perspective on tithing used for athletics. I am willing to look into it further. I had heard that complaints against the athletic department were similar to those that complain that the highest paid public employees in most states were the football coach for one of the state run universities. Generally those salaries are not paid out of the state coffers, but rather they come from funds raised from the boosters. That being said, had that money not gone there, where else could it have gone, assuming it would still have been raised. Perhaps I had only heard that it was the BYU coaches that were not paid from the general fund. But, I am pretty sure that the reason the new baseball and softball complex are Larry and Gail Miller field respectively is because they were paid for by the Millers. Is there some crossover? Could be. I wonder what the author’s definition of “self sustaining” is, though. Is it only looking at revenues, or are donations included, as well? The article did not seem to clarify, or I missed it. Regardless, I apologize for even opening my post with this subject as it detracts from Geoff’s theme and is largely irrelevant to my overall theme.

    I agree with rb that I find the accounting statement read in GC to be relatively worthless. But mainly it is because, as I stated before, I do not care how tithing is spent, as I have no hold on those funds once paid. Now it may be that I do not care in part because I also agree with rb in that I believe the GA’s to be faithful stewards. And though mistakes may be made on occasion, they truly do try to be responsible with consecrated funds. I really do not disagree with rb at all it seems.

    IDAT – maybe your stake president meant that Utah County supports Salt Lake County? Probably not. But I have to agree with Geoff’s take on that, as well. Perhaps the SP just misspoke and had his directions crossed.

  16. rb – by the way, from the BYU Athletic Department FAQ:

    http://byucougars.com/athletics/athletics-faqs

    “Most of the funding used for BYU’s athletic programs comes from football and men’s basketball ticket sales. Additional funds are obtained through corporate sponsors, the fundraising efforts of the Cougar Club, and private donations. The university does provide a small amount of funding, but no tithing dollars from members of the LDS Church are used to run the athletic programs.”

    Not sure how they specify what funds come from where, but this is what they say.

  17. Wonder if the athletic department press release was prepared by the same person who said caffeinated products are not sold on BYU b/c there’s no demand. We are beating a dead horse here. There is no way for you or I to answer the question with the information to which we have access. Besides, it isn’t really important. But the BYU athletic department, no matter its sources of funds, needs to learn to live within its means! Same is true for every other athletic department in the country. I have a friend whose son was recruited by Clemson for football. During their campus visit, the father asked the recruiter what the football budget at Clemson was. The recruiter had a confused look on his face and responded “We don’t have a budget, if we want something we get it.” I suspect BYU football has similar latitude, but don’t know and don’t really care. As long they keep losing to PAC-12 teams, I am happy no matter their budget.

  18. Just on a local level, each unit in the church is audited every 6 months. The auditor and financial clerk go thru the books line by line…so yes, tithing is accounted for. And once it leaves your hands, it’s no longer yours. I am really at a loss as to why some of you are arguing about BYU athletics.

  19. Ward finances are regularly audited and spending is carefully scrutinized. Heck, CHI book 1 threatens church discipline for mishandling tithing funds. Do records dealing with actual covenant making human beings get half as much scrutiny and oversight? Not by a long shot. There are no threats or warning for having incomplete or out-of-date records of actual children of God. Membership clerks have it easy. No spiritual sword of Damocles hanging over their heads and their records are barely audited if at all. We do keep a much closer eye on our money. Probably more of a nod towards human nature than anything, but it is kind of incongruent to see the disparity in enforcement and oversight between records dealing with money records dealing with human beings.

  20. Much as some may hate them, public roads and schools are a costly endeavor that the church makes no attempt to replace. I mostly like the ones I drive on and my children attend.

  21. Rb, I definitely prefer the Liberal Police Department, you know the one that gets $100k per year pensions after 20 years on the force and loves no-knock raids on the wrong people and harassing innocent drivers just for kicks. Unfortunately, we actually have a Liberal Police Dept.

  22. Don’t forget cops who “retire” in one jurisdiction with their fat pension and then go to work in a neighboring jurisdiction for full pay and a full pension. Don’t forget the cops who massage minor office related “injuries” into worker’s comp claims for years and cops who loot crime scenes including, but by no means limited to, the World Trade Center ruins. Firefighters suffer from the same greed and union mentality.

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