The Nitty-Gritty of LDS Tithing

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

Image from LDS.org

Let’s Start With Definitions

Mormon Church Tithing is defined as 10% of an individual’s “increase.” For those whose earnings are paid by salary, this traditionally means 10% of gross income, or monies received before deductions associated with state and federal taxes. Obviously the things taxes pay for–roads, police, armed forces–are considered “increase.” 

Some will balk at the idea of paying tithing on funds collected through taxation. Individuals may question whether taxes assessed by the government can be defined as part of our “increase.” They justify this position by expressing deep moral, ethical, or political disagreement with how local or national taxes are spent. An argument can certainly be made that large portions of our taxes are misappropriated and dispensed to undeserving or corrupt causes. However, most Latter-day Saints dismiss this perspective, believing roads, bridges, police forces, and standing armies represent an “increase” in quality of life for a nation’s citizens.   

Mormons and Tithing

Tithing is not unique to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The principle is encouraged among many other Churches, including Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Jews, as well as many Islamic congregations. Definitions may vary for individual institutions. For example, some define tithing as 10% of net (earnings minus funds paid to taxes) and others define tithing as 10% of their “flexible income,” or 10% of monies left over after paying monthly bills, such as rent or utilities. 

Most Latter-day Saints accept a very conservative definition of tithing as 10% of a member’s gross salary as well as 10% of any “increase” from other sources, such as inheritance or investment. In general, Mormons don’t consider the payment of tithing as a burden, but as a privilege with spiritual implications and blessings. A common verse highlighted in LDS teachings is found in the Old Testament book of Malachi: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

The principal is reaffirmed in the collection of modern-day revelations Mormons call the Doctrine and Covenants: “Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming” (D&C 64:23) and “And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.

And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord” (D&C 119: 3-4).

The payment of tithing is voluntary and a personal matter for individual members. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to meet once per year with local leaders ( bishops) to make an accounting of their payment of tithing. In order for a Church member to be considered “worthy” to participate in the ordinances of the Holy Temple, they are expected to be current and full tithe-payers. Some might be surprised to learn that a discussion of such matters is rather informal. For instance, members are not required to provide financial documentation or otherwise “prove” that they pay a full tithing. Nor are members grilled by their leaders to verify whether their interpretation of a “full tithing” is perfectly identical with that of another Church member. It is considered a matter of personal moral rectitude. 

A Temple in the LDS faith is very different from a chapel or meeting house for Sunday worship. In this special building Mormons perform ordinances they consider very sacred, such as “proxy” baptisms for people who have passed away (see 1 Corinthians 15:29). Receiving a “Temple recommend” allowing a member to enter the Temple is accomplished in two phases. First, an individual member is interviewed by their bishop or Branch President. Second, the individual is interviewed by a member of their Stake Presidency. A Stake President is an LDS leader who oversees multiple wards (congregations). A Temple recommend is given to Church members who answer appropriately a number of questions affirming their “worthiness” for Temple attendance, including the payment of a full tithe. The recommend itself is usually a credit card-sized document signed by a bishop, Stake President, and the individual member. This recommend is renewed every two years.

“Until the Coming of the Son of Man”

Some might ask: what are donations to the LDS Church used for? The distribution of tithes is determined by the Presiding Bishopric of the LDS Church under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. These funds pay for meeting houses (chapels), Temples, and other buildings wherein Church members gather and worship. Such funds also support Church-owned institutions of higher education, such as Brigham Young University, with campuses in Utah, Idaho, and Hawaii. The Church also relies upon tithes and other financial donations to support various Church programs, such as welfare and counseling services for families and individuals. The Church also donates generously to charitable and humanitarian causes locally and internationally, providing aid to people suffering from natural disaster, disease, hunger, poverty, and other challenges. In 2023 Church donations to humanitarian causes exceeded one billion dollars.The Church also invests in commercial enterprises, agriculture, and real estate to insure its long term financial stability. For further information about LDS Finances, visit here.

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.

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