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Why do Mormons Pay Tithing? How Tithes and Offerings Work in the LDS Church

Updated on March 17, 2018
kbdressman profile image

Katie has been a member of the LDS Church since her baptism at age 8. She graduated from Seminary, the Institute of Religion, and BYU.

What is Tithing and How is it Used?

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as Mormons) are asked to donate 10% of their annual income to the Church as tithing. According to mormon.org, a website officially maintained by the Church, this money is used to pay for:

  • Constructing temples, chapels, and other buildings
  • Providing operating funds for the church
  • Funding the missionary program (not including individual missionary expenses)
  • Preparing materials used in Church classes and organizations
  • Temple work and family history work
  • Education

Tithing Pays For Temples

This is a photo of my husband and I on our wedding day in front of the Provo LDS temple.
This is a photo of my husband and I on our wedding day in front of the Provo LDS temple.

Why Do Mormons Pay Tithing?

While tithing funds are used to cover church expenses, that is not the main purpose of tithing.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that all blessings come from the Lord. Tithing is the opportunity to give 10% of one's increase back to the Lord to show Him that they remember where their blessings come from and that they trust that He will continue to take care of them. It's an opportunity to prevent selfishness with their material means and to consecrate part of their income to building the Kingdom of God.

Mormon Tithes and Offerings-Made Simple

How is Tithing Paid?

Collection tins will not be found in LDS chapels. Tithes and Offerings are taken care of privately between a member and his or her church leaders.

Tithing is either paid with an echeck online or by giving an envelope, which includes a tithing slip and either cash, check or money order, to a member of the local congregation's branch or ward leaders. Smaller units are known as branches and are presided over by Branch Presidencies. Larger units, called wards, usually have between 350-450 people, and are presided over by Bishoprics. Tithing that is not paid directly online is given directly to either a member of the Branch Presidency or the Bishopric.

At the end of every year, each member is given an opportunity to sit down with his or her branch or ward leader, as a representative of Jesus Christ Himself, to declare his or her tithing status. Each person declares whether or not he or she is a full, part or not a tithe payer.

Paying Tithing Via Cash, Check or Money Order

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can fill out this form by hand and enclose a personal check, money order or cash in the envelope to pay their tithing to their local leaders.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can fill out this form by hand and enclose a personal check, money order or cash in the envelope to pay their tithing to their local leaders. | Source

Paying Online

Members can fill this online form out and pay via e-check as well.  (My personal membership record, ward & stake designations have been removed for privacy reasons.) Under the drop down menu is the word "Total."
Members can fill this online form out and pay via e-check as well. (My personal membership record, ward & stake designations have been removed for privacy reasons.) Under the drop down menu is the word "Total."

What Happens to Members Who Don't Pay Tithing?

In order to maintain a temple recommend and enter the church's dedicated temples, members must pay 10% of their income as tithing.

Members, or non-members, who do not pay tithing are still welcome to attend all other church activities and are welcome in LDS congregations.

According to LDS beliefs, only those who are spiritually mature, worthy and sufficiently prepared should enter the temple and participate in the sacred ordinances that occur there.

Members who are not paying tithing are asked to wait until their faith is sufficient and they are a full tithe payer again to prevent someone who is not spiritually prepared to enter from entering and making promises with God that he or she is not ready to keep.

Members who are not full tithe payers are asked to wait to participate in the temple until they are full tithe payers in order to protect them and to protect the sanctity of the temple, not in an effort to punish them.

Temple Recommend

This is a drawing of an LDS temple recommend.
This is a drawing of an LDS temple recommend. | Source

Other Donations to the Church

In addition to tithing, mormons are also encouraged to refrain from eating for a 24 hour period on the first Sunday of each month. The money that would have been spent on the two meals skipped is to be donated to the Church's Fast Offering program. That money is first used to help poor members in the area. Excess funds are sent to church headquarters, where it is sent to areas where needs cannot be met by local fast offering donations and in response to natural or national disasters as needed.

Donations can also be made towards supporting individual missionaries, helping pay travel expenses for families to visit a temple to receive ordinances of eternal importance, translating the Book of Mormon into the various languages of the world, and helping someone finance their education through the perpetual education fund. (Those who receive money are expected to pay-it-forward when they finish their schooling and have a sustainable lifestyle and job.)

While these other donations are required, no penalties are inflicted for not making these donations. And, should a member fall on hard times, he or she can work with his or her bishop to receive temporary aid as needed on a case-by-case basis.

Is Tithing a Church Tax?

Tithing is not a tax as it is paid to a church, a private organization, and not a governmental organization like taxes are.

While members of the LDS Church get to choose whether or not to pay their tithing to their local ward or branch leaders, all United States Citizens are legally required to pay taxes to the government. Usually a portion of each paycheck is withheld and sent to the local, state and federal governments. In addition, taxes are also paid at the point of sale and on all properties they own.

By April 15 of every year, every person is required to file their taxes with the IRS. This is an opportunity for each citizen, business or married couple, to give an accounting of their income for the year and any other special circumstances that affect how much tax they owe. At this time they either pay additional taxes they owe or request that they receive a tax return if too much was withheld from their taxes as well.

Taxes pay for services such as:

  • Government operation
  • Schools
  • Teachers
  • Roads
  • National Defense
  • Fire and Emergency Services
  • Retirement benefits
  • Medicare/Medicaid
  • Police Officers
  • Education Benefits

Example Tax Form

This is part of a 1040EZ, the form my husband and I will get to fill out sometime in the next 2 months.
This is part of a 1040EZ, the form my husband and I will get to fill out sometime in the next 2 months.

What are the Similarities Between Tithing and Taxes?

  1. As taxes pay for services provided by the government, tithing pays for services offered by the church.
  2. Both organizations have an annual accountability program.

That's about where the Similarities between the two programs end.

What are the Differences Between Taxes and Tithing?

  1. In developed countries, taxes are a much higher percent of a citizen's income than tithing is.
  2. Unlike Taxes, tithing doesn't pay for any of the welfare programs. (Fast Offerings are collected to pay for the welfare programs of the church.)
  3. Unlike many governments of the world, the Church isn't in debt. Tithing is collected to pay for future church endeavors, not to pay debts.
  4. Members of the Church believe tithing to have a spiritual benefit as well as temporal benefits.
  5. Taxes are required by law.
  6. Documentation is required to prove one is being honest about his or her taxes each year. Bishops and Branch Presidents speak with the member without requiring proof.
  7. Calculating one's tithing is MUCH simpler than calculating one's taxes. (Members of the Church don't have to hire anyone or use special software to figure out how much to pay in tithing!)
  8. Not paying taxes can result in interest, fines and jail time. Back taxes are legally required when someone gets behind. Tithing results in a loss of one's temple recommend until the issue is resolved. Back tithing is usually not required.

Words from a General Authority of the LDS Church on Tithes and Offerings

Comments

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    • kbdressman profile image
      Author

      kbdressman 18 months ago from Harlem, New York

      Steve, we see it as something that helps us remember that everything we have comes from God and if we're willing to give part of it back to him, He'll give us enough for our needs.

      If you visit https://www.mormon.org/worship you can type in your address to locate the nearest church, meeting times and the bishop of the ward and misionaries' contact information. You can show up to church and enjoy it quietly if you'd like, or you can call the missionaries and they can either arrange for someone to sit with you and explain what's going on or meet with you before you attend to explain more about what we believe! I'm also happy to answer any questions you have. :)

    • steve-bc-ca profile image

      steve-bc-ca 18 months ago from West Kelowna, BC, Canada

      Tithing was something for the levities who looked after the temple and shouldn’t be imposed in todays churches. Giving offerings is one thing, the church needs to pay its bills, but encouraging the congregation to give 10% of their income is just greedy. I would tell the preacher to get a job if he tried to tell me to give him 10% of my income. I remember attending a church once that devoted a whole sermon on the subject and how its necessary and biblical. I really like the idea of the Fast Offering program. I’d like to learn more about the LDS church as I’ve recently been attending the Kingdom Hall, but don’t believe in many of their doctrines. Before that I was attending an SDA church and before that a Baptist. I’m actually surprised Ive never attended a Mormon church as I’m always church shopping.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Tithing began as a tribal necessity. It was both governmental and religious because the Hebrew elders in the temple were the tribal government until the Romans came along. After the governments in various countries were established as non-religious entities, the church still demanded its tithe. If congregationalists believe that they are robbing "God" when they don't pay tithes to the religious organization to which they belong, then that is their prerogative. I believe that when a person belongs to an organization, they should pay dues for the privilege, but I don't think they should be propagandized into believing they are robbing a deity if they don't pay a certain proportion of their income to the organization. My husband was an LDS member until the bishop got so demanding that he felt like he was being coerced and had little free will to give to God.

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