Mormon Church Finances: Church Treasuries & Church Finance

Todd Noall

Todd Noall

Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Kevin Prince

If we jump down to around verse 57 of Doctrine and Covenants Section 104, we learn more about the council regarding Mormon Church Finances. The Lord gives them a couple specific charges. “I’ve appointed you stewards to be over my house, stewards indeed. And for this purpose, I’ve commanded you to organize yourselves to print my words, the fullness of my scriptures, and the revelations which I’ve given unto you and which I shall hereafter, from time to time, give unto you.”

So, one important charge given to the church was to print the scriptures to help people obtain the word of God and know what God’s will was through reading and understanding the words that he’s given to prophets. To that end, the Lord commands them to organize two treasuries, as you can see as you go through the verses down below.

Verse 60: “Appoint unto yourselves a treasury,” and the Lord gives the purpose for this treasury, which we’re going to call just basically here, the sacred treasury.

LDS Finances: Sacred Treasury and Second Treasury 

The sacred treasury, as the Savior sets out here, is intended specifically to do the following. He says, “To make use of the stewardship (this is verse 63) which I’ve appointed unto you, exclusive of the sacred things, for the purpose of printing the sacred things that I’ve said and to the avails of the sacred things that are had in the treasury.” So, this sacred treasury is intended to get the word of God out there. In Joseph Smith’s day, it meant the revelations they’re getting ready to publish—the Doctrine and Covenants for the first time after their printing establishment in Missouri was destroyed. He also asked them to use it to carry out the work of the Lord. And he says this in verse 59, “To prepare my people for the time which I shall dwell among them, which is nigh at hand.” This treasury, like the Savior says, has a seal placed upon it and is used to perpetuate and help with sacred things.

But the Savior also talks about a second treasury. This is down in verse 67 where he says, “There shall be another treasury prepared.” Which I don’t know if that’s the best name to give it, we’ll just label it another treasury. Sometimes when I look at this, I think of it as the secular treasury, but I don’t like that line between sacred and secular because this really isn’t a secular act. But he says, “All the monies (this is verse 68) that you receive in your stewardships, by improving upon the properties which I’ve appointed unto you in houses, in lands, or in cattle, or in all things save it be the holy and sacred writings which I’ve reserved unto myself for holy and sacred purposes, shall be cast in the treasury as fast as you receive moneys.” So, they take the benefit from these other stewardships that they have, from the lands, the properties, the buildings the church owns, and they use it to set up another treasury that’s used to improve the communities and the places that they live around them.

What Are Donations to the LDS Church Used For?

Now, using this as a governing principle of church finance, let’s ask a couple of questions. The church spends a significant amount of money every year on different projects. For instance, a lot of you are watching this on a mobile device, and on a mobile device, you’ve got Gospel Library, which is this comprehensive source that has almost everything that a prophet has ever said, ever, and is updated continually, and has a light and a dark mode and a lot of neat accruements. Would you say that that comes from the sacred treasury or this or the other treasury? In 2021, that’s what it looks like to get the words of God into someone’s hand. In 1834, it meant that you build the printing press and you print and you bind and put a book together. In 2021, it means that you develop an app and you put the app on as many stores as possible so that as many people as possible can download it. It’s literally possible for you to talk to somebody on a different continent and say, “Just download a copy of the Book of Mormon or download Gospel Library,” and they can read and see and view almost anything that the church has produced. So, that would probably be an item that comes from the sacred treasury.

Mormon Church Finances: City Creek Center and the Polynesian Cultural Center

Now, a few years ago, in Salt Lake City, there was some controversy because the church built a mall, the City Creek Center. That was built, President Hinckley specified, not from the tithing or sacred funds of the church but from the church’s secular investments. We would say this would be an example of using items from the other treasury to make communities a little bit better. President Hinckley outlined the reasons for building that structure was because downtown Salt Lake was starting to falter, so the church made an investment in the community that it was in using its secular funds.

One of the things that’s always been unique about our church is this fusion between what other people see as the spiritual and the secular. In fact, an interesting story problem I sometimes present to my students is the church owns the biggest theme park in the Hawaiian Islands. They own a theme park called the Polynesian Cultural Center. Maybe some of you have been there. Is that something that comes from the sacred treasury or the secular treasury? Well, this is a place where the two things might mix. The reason why the Polynesian Cultural Center exists is because BYU Hawaii is right next door. They’re just separated by a fence, and the students that come to BYU Hawaii come from all over the Pacific and Asia. A lot of them come from places where it’s really difficult for them to have enough money to attend school, so they need to work in the little town where BYU Hawaii was located—that’s Laie. There weren’t enough jobs to provide for all the students, so the Polynesian Cultural Center was built in order to give them jobs, in order to assist them to pay for their schooling. That’s helping them understand the word of God, that’s a sacred treasury responsibility, but it’s also beautifying and helping the community that they’re in—that’s another treasury item.

I visited the Polynesian Cultural Center a couple of years ago, and I walked up to this young lady who was weaving a palm frond hat, and I walked up to her and said, “Do you feel like you’re being exploited for your labor?” And she said, “I used to make these for free back home; now we charge 10 bucks for each one. I feel like I’m exploiting you.” And I said, “I don’t mind being exploited.” Then they handed me a little smoothie inside of a hollowed-out pineapple, and I was like, “Being exploited feels great, frankly.” It’s a case where the secular or what the world would call the secular and the spiritual are mingled together in order to accomplish the purposes of the kingdom of God.

And one thing that Section 104 really brings out is this idea that a person like me who teaches the gospel for a living isn’t making any greater contribution than a person that’s really good at accounting can towards the kingdom. That everybody has these different gifts and abilities, and the Savior is able to use them to accomplish what he needs to accomplish. You might not think about it, but when you’re out there punching in the numbers and doing the job that you’re doing, the Savior is thinking of ways to use your gifts to help the church or help a church member, maybe in a completely different country. 

But one last principle that the Savior puts in here, and this is around verse 78 because this is a fairly long revelation. He says this concerning your debts: “It’s my will that you should pay all your debts.” Built into the Doctrine and Covenants, and you can see this as early as section 19 where the Savior’s telling them to pay off the printing for the Book of Mormon, is this idea that we do what we can to get ourselves free from debt. He refers to it, down in verse 83 as “bondage”, and the idea is if you’re in debt to someone else, then you’re less likely to be able to use your talents, your gifts, and the blessings the Lord has given you to help other people as well.

By Todd Noall, Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Mr. Kevin Prince, Source Expert

Kevin Prince is a religious scholar and host of the Gospel Learning Youtube channel. His channel has garnered over 41,000 subscribers and accumulated over 4.5 million views. Mr. Prince also created the Gospel Learning App, a reliable platform where individuals seeking truth can access trustworthy answers to religious questions from top educators worldwide.

About Mormonism Explained

Mormonism Explained is a resource that was designed to provide objective and factual information about Mormonism, its history, doctrines, and policies. Our team of researchers consults experts and primary sources to present factual information on a variety of topics relevant to the Mormon Church.