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In a recent article highlighting Mitt Romney’s charitable giving, the New York Times shared a graph that outlines the amount of giving major religions in America contribute.  The LDS, or Mormon Church’s members give nearly twice as much as the denomonation in the number two spot.

Here’s the breakdown of the average percentage of giving per member of each denomonation:

  1. Mormon: 5.6%
  2. Assemblies of God: 2.9%
  3. Nondenominational Evangelical: 2.6%
  4. Baptist: 2%
  5. Lutheran: 1.5%
  6. Jewish: 1.4%
  7. Orthodox: 1.3%
  8. Methodist: 1.2 %
  9. Episcopalian: 1.2%
  10. Presbyterian: 1.2%
  11. Catholic: .7%
  12. Muslim/Buddhist: .6%

Since paying tithing is a requirement for Mormons to attend the temple, I can understand how they could have a relatively high percentage.  Also, regular church attendance for Mormons is usually around 50% and since the tithing requirement is 10%, I can see how the Mormon church members are at around 5%.

For other Christian faiths, I’m actually pretty amazed how low the charitable giving is.  My understanding was that tithing is a law for all Christian faiths, but evidently I’m wrong about that.  Also, I’m amazed that giving isn’t up for Christians merely based on the fact that Jesus taught about giving to those in need.

Recently our Bishop (Pastor) got up in church and said there were many in the congregation who were suffering financially due to a loss of a job or other circumstances.  He asked us to pray for them and also to give extra money in our fast offerings that upcoming Sunday to help some of them pay for their housing expenses.

I will outline the principle of paying tithing and fast offerings for those not familiar with the LDS faith.  Members of the LDS congregations are asked to pay both tithing and fast offerings. 

The most direct definition I’ve found on what tithing is comes from a statement from the First Presidency (the LDS prophet and his counselors) which states:

The simplest statement we know of is the statement of the Lord himself, namely, that the members of the Church should pay ‘one tenth of all their interest annually,’ which is understood to mean income. No one is justified in making any other statement than this. (First Presidency letter, 19 March 1970.)

Other LDS apostles, such as  Robert D Hales have stated that paying tithing is “part of a celestial law which we must live if we are to attain eternal life and exaltation in the celestial kingdom.”

Clearly, paying tithing is something taken seriously by the LDS church and ultimately the Lord as outlined in the scriptures.  From what I understand, the money given to the church in the form of tithing goes to building up churches and temples and keeping the church operational throughout the world.  It is important to note that the LDS church operates with a lay ministery and therefore, there are no paid clergy.

In addition to paying tithing, LDS members are also asked to fast from two meals once a month on the first Sunday of the month.  This is called Fast Sunday.  The funds given to through fast offerings are the ones that are given to help the poor and needy within the congregation.  The description of this and definition according to the LDS Handbook of Instructions is as follows:

The Lord has established the law of the fast and fast offerings to bless His people and to provide a way for them to serve those in need (see Isaiah 58:6–12; Malachi 3:8–12). When members fast, they are asked to give to the Church a fast offering at least equal to the value of the food they would have eaten. If possible, they should be generous and give more. Blessings associated with the law of the fast include closeness to the Lord, increased spiritual strength, temporal well-being, greater compassion, and a stronger desire to serve.

Understanding the definitions of both tithing and fast offerings, I mentioned to my wife that perhaps this month we could put all of the money we would normally pay for tithing towards the fast offering fund in order to help more people, rather than sending it to the general tithing fund, which is used to build churches, etc.  I figured that since the Bishop got up and requested more funds that it would be o.k. for that month. 

She didn’t like that idea and also when I asked my home teachers what they thought about doing that, one of them told me I was on a “slippery slope” if I did that.  We went ahead and paid both tithing and then more than we normally would for the fast offerings.

A week or so later, I was talking with a close family member who had a similar situation happen in their congregation.  He had opted to not pay tithing for that month.

It got me curious, so I did some more research and came across an interesting story, which I’ll share below. 

President George Albert Smith taught a very important lesson on the disposition of tithes. He told of inviting a boyhood friend, whom he had not seen for some time, to accompany him to a stake conference. This friend had achieved success in the financial world. As they were driving home from the conference, he told President Smith about his method of paying tithing. He said that if he made ten thousand dollars, he would put one thousand dollars in the bank for tithing. Then, he said, when someone needed money for a worthwhile cause, he would write them a check. “Little by little I exhaust the thousand dollars,” he said, “and every dollar of it has gone where I know it has done good.” Then he asked President Smith what he thought of that plan.

President Smith replied: “I think you are a very generous man with someone else’s property. You have not paid any tithing. You have told me what you have done with the Lord’s money, but you have not told me that you have given anyone a penny of your own. He is the best partner you have in the world. He gives you everything you have, even the air you breathe. He has said you should take one-tenth of what comes to you and give it to the Church as directed by the Lord. You haven’t done that; you have taken your best partner’s money, and have given it away.”

About a month later, the two men met on the street, and President Smith was happy to learn that his friend was paying his tithing as the Lord has directed. (See Improvement Era, June 1947, p. 357.)

After reading this, I can understand why people including my hometeachers and wife were emphatic about paying tithing over fast offerings.  It is a commandment to pay that money and it isn’t up to us to decide how to use the Lord’s money.  I can also understand why someone would still decide to do whay I had proposed since tithing (according to the aforementioned definition) is “annual” income and not monthly income.

What are your thoughts?

Recently, I read an article that discussed a survey of American people and their finances they set aside for emergencies.  In the survey, 1/2 of Americans would not be able to come up with $2,000 in case of an emergency.  This puts the United States amoung the most fragile financial countries in the Western world (according to the article).

As I thought about how LDS church leaders repeat over and over again the importance of “saving for a rainy day” (as Gordon B Hinckley used to repeat), I also thought about some things I have heard members of the LDS and Christian communities say about dealing with finances.

In our Christian churches, we hear the importance of putting God first and hear the parable of the rich man who wouldn’t give everything up and follow Jesus.  We also hear the importance of paying tithing and not putting our heart on riches of the world.  I’ve heard people state that if they pay their tithing, everything else will take care of itself financially.  I’ve also heard from other Christians (not so much from LDS Christians) that Jesus is coming soon so there is no need to save money because it will all be destroyed at His coming anyways.

While I agree that we should pay tithing and not set our heart on riches, and if asked, be willing to turn everything over to the Lord, I do not agree with just paying tithing, or deciding not to save and hoping that things will “work themselves out”.  I definitely do not agree with sitting around and waiting for Jesus to come and not saving any money either!  I feel that we should do all in our power to save for a rainy day, as the prophets have taught, along with paying tithing and giving to the poor.

I’m not a financial wizard, but I have read quite a few Christian and LDS books on saving, getting out of debt, and living within our means.  By following these principles along with praying and guidance from the Lord, we have been able to reduce all of our debt (except our house payment) and also save for nearly a year’s worth of living expenses in case of an emergency. 

I believe there are three parts to being financially stable.  Paying tithing is only part of being financially responsible.  Getting and staying out of debt and saving for a rainy day are the other parts.

If someone reading this is struggling with all three of these areas, or just a couple, may I offer some suggestions:

First, if you are not paying tithing or giving to the poor, start doing so.  I firmly believe that this practice helps us keep our hearts where they should be in relation to God.  It also benefits others who are less fortunate.  If you can pay tithing when you have little, when you make more money, it is easier to not get your heart “set on riches” because you are already in the habit of giving back.

Second, if you are paying tithing, but are not paying yourself, start giving yourself a little money each month to prepare for the rainy days ahead.  If you don’t have much, just put a few dollars into a savings account each month.  Shoot for paying yourself at least 10% though.  Have it automatically withdrawn into a savings or money market account and do not stop until you reach at least 6 months of savings you may need should you lose your job.

Finally, pay off debts.  Some may argue that this should be second, before saving money for an emergency.  I believe that it is important to do both at the same time.  The reasoning behind this is that if an emergency hits and you haven’t been saving money, but paying debts down, there will be no where to go but further in debt.  Plus, saving money is a good habit to develop.  A very good talk that describes a strategy on getting out of debt that helped me is by Marvin J Ashton, an LDS Apostle, entitled “One for the Money“.

In conclusion, I know that it is important to pay God first, and I do know that He will bless us mostly spiritually when we do pay our tithing.  However, that is only the first step and by incorporating the other two steps of paying our debts off and staying out of debt and saving money for a rainy day, we can become financially stable in our lives, which allows us to reduce our stress and focus on helping and loving those around us as God would have us do.

I was reading an excerpt from the book “Will a Man Rob God?” in the chapter called “For where your Treasure is” by Milton R Hunter and came across an interesting quote.  He quoted President Anthon H Lund (a former LDS Apostle) who said in part:

…as a rule the Latter-day Saints who are the best tithepayers are the most prosperous men, financially…

Lund went on in his quote to say the following:

what I count as real prosperity, as the one thing of all others that is of great value to every man and woman living, is the growth in the knowledge of God, and in a testimony, and in the power to live the gospel and to inspire our families to do the same thing. This is prosperity of the truest kind.

From my personal experience as a Latter-day Saint I think many times people read the first quote and then stop there, thinking that if they pay tithing God will give them financial abundance.  People who think this, I feel are missing the boat when it comes to the law of tithing and the law of abundance.  Merely paying one’s tithing doesn’t necessarily result in financial gain.  There are many other factors involved for those who are prosperous in worldly terms.  This includes financial planning and managing our money, along with paying tithing.

I have three sources primarily that have helped our family with financial planning and managing our money. 

The first one is a talk given quite a few years ago by Marvin J Ashton, an Apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is called “One for the Money“.  I encourage all to read this talk.  In the talk, he outlines a debt-reduction plan.  As we’ve applied this to our lives we’ve seen our debt reduce drastically.

The second resource is by a Christian author named Howard Dayton.  The book is called “Your Money Map“.  I like this resource because it provides a visual resource on how to plan debt-reduction and gain financial freedom and apply Biblical principles while you’re doing it.

Finally, another Christian author, Mary Hunt, has an excellent book called “Debt-Proof your Marriage.”  She applies similar guidance as the other two resources on getting out of debt and planning.  However, in addition to this, she provides guidance on being prepared for unexpected expenses and also working together with your spouse on tracking and managing finances.  This book has been very helpful for us in our family.  She also has a book called “Debt Proof Your Kids” for parents trying to teach children how to manage money.  Very good book.

We’re (my wife and I) not experts by any means, but we’ve been able to see significant results by applying principles learned in these books and paying our tithing.  In the past two years that we’ve been applying these principles we’ve been able to pay off a car, pay off our credit cards, pay off most of my student loans, pay an extra $700/month on our mortgage, save for 6 months worth of income, save for and make a down payment on a new home, and my salary has increased significantly as well. 

Do I attribute this soley to me paying my tithing?  No.  I attribute it to a combination of learning how to manage money and keep a budget together with my wife along with paying tithing.  I feel that paying tithing is most critical to spiritual strength rather than monetary gain.  Paying tithes helps us detach ourselves from our money and realize that it isn’t our money, but God’s to give.  It also helps us bless the lives of others less fortunate.

I’m sure many of you out there have suggestions, advice and success stories to share as well.  Please share your comments to help others and add to anything I’ve said. 

What are your thoughts?

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