As general conference approaches, members across the world will once again convene in front of TV sets, internet connections and in other meeting houses far and wide to hear counsel from church leaders.  Every spring general conference these same members are treated to the report from the Church Auditing Department on the financial status of the Church ™.  These reports are generally banal beyond description, with no specifics given as to the findings of the Audit.  The most recent statement says this:

To the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Dear Brethren: As prescribed by revelation in section 120 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Council on the Disposition of the Tithes authorizes the expenditure of Church funds. This council is composed of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Presiding Bishopric. This council approves budgets for Church departments and operations. Church departments expend funds consistent with approved budgets and in accordance with Church policies and procedures.

The Church Auditing Department has been granted access to all records and systems necessary to evaluate the adequacy of controls over receipts of funds, expenditures, and safeguarding of Church assets. The Church Auditing Department is independent of all other Church departments and operations, and the staff consists of certified public accountants, certified internal auditors, certified information systems auditors, and other credentialed professionals.

Based upon audits performed, the Church Auditing Department is of the opinion that, in all material respects, contributions received, expenditures made, and assets of the Church for the year 2009 have been recorded and administered in accordance with appropriate accounting practices, approved budgets, and Church policies and procedures.

Respectfully submitted,
Church Auditing Department
Robert W. Cantwell
Managing Director

This particular report is word-for-word identical with each of the previous five years reports, accounting for the change in the year.  Otherwise, it’s 99.5% identical (203 out of 204 words).  These auditing reports use D&C 120 to justify their existence.  In reading over D&C 120, though, I’m struck by the inherent differences between what Section 120 is actually saying, and what the auditing report sets forth as the authorization of the “expenditure of Church funds.”  Section 120 reads:

Revelation, given July 8, 1838, making known the disposition of the properties tithed as named in the preceding revelation:  Verily, thus saith the Lord, the time is now come, that ait shall be bdisposed of by a council, composed of the First Presidency of my Church, and of the bishop and his council, and by my high council; and by mine own voice unto them, saith the Lord. Even so. Amen. (See also History of the Church, Volume 3:44.)[1]

As the heading for that section indicates, section 120 is a revelation in direct response to the issue of the disposition of tithed properties named in section 119.  Section 119 is generally referred to as the section in the D&C on tithing in general and is the source of many a disputation regarding exactly what it means.  Mainstream members, and church leadership in general, adhere to the belief system that Section 119 is where we read of a 10% tithing on all income, wherein “interest” has been redefined as income.  Section 119 defines tithing as,

“Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion, For the building of mine ahouse, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church. And this shall be the beginning of the atithing of my people. And after that, those who have thus been atithed 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. Verily I say unto you, it shall come to pass that all those who gather unto the land of aZion shall be tithed of their surplus properties, and shall observe this law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you. And I say unto you, if my people observe not this law, to keep it holy, and by this law sanctify the land of Zion unto me, that my statutes and my judgments may be kept thereon, that it may be most holy, behold, verily I say unto you, it shall not be a land of aZion unto you. And this shall be an ensample unto all the astakes of Zion. Even so. Amen.” (Emphasis is mine.)

Surplus.  Tithing.  Payment of one-tenth of our “interest” annually.  Zion.

Where in life do we interpret “interest” as synonymous with “income”?  The jargon of the day, back when this was written, would define these two terms as follows:

Interest:  Premium paid for the use of money; the profit per cent derived from money lent.  … share; portion; etc.[2]

Income:  The gain which proceeds from labor, business or property of any kind; the produce of a farm; the rent of houses; the proceeds of professional business; the profits of commerce or of occupation, …[3]

Now, admittedly, I’m not well versed in how the lexicon underwent a change to fully become synonymous, but one such quote comes from Howard Hunter, former president of the LDS Church:

“The law is simply stated as ‘one-tenth of all their interest.’ Interest means profit, compensation, increase. It is the wage of one employed, the profit from the operation of a business, the increase of one who grows or produces, or the income to a person from any other source. The Lord said it is a standing law ‘forever’ as it has been in the past.”[4]

I’d agree with the part where he states that interest means “the increase,” but not where he defines it as “the wage of one employed, the profit … or the income … from any other source.”  Logically speaking, I have a hard time imagining how we interpret “interest” and “income” to be synonymous.  So would most people not of the LDS faith.  Gordon Hinckley, also a former president of the church, offered this insightful comment as to how these two terms coalesce into one:

“The Brethren have interpreted the word interest to mean income. Beyond that they have not given interpretation.”[5]

The new Church Handbook of Instructions, published this year (2010), defines tithing by hearkening back to a letter issued by the First Presidency back in 1970.  This letter reads:

“The simplest statement we know off 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.”[6]

There’s that statement by the “Brethren,” those who take it upon themselves to re-define and, dare I say, transfigure the word of God.  Here’s a valid question (valid to me, at least):  how can anyone define “interest” as “income”?  What am I really missing here?  Is it some archaic definition that I haven’t yet stumbled upon, or something philosophically out of my reach?  Honestly…if any of you that read this know, please shed some light for me.  If we contrast it with the way it was practiced in Alma’s time, or 4th Nephi, we’re left with a starkly different picture:

And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, aevery one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given.

So, let me get this straight:  the rich paid “more abundantly” while the poor that “had not should be given”?  Hmmm.  Instead, we have a flat tax tithing.  Ten percent for all parties involved.  Fast offerings when you feel generous.  As Boyd Packer allegedly said in a recent conference, “tithing is equitable for everyone: 10%. If you have nothing, then it’s 10% of practically nothing. Pay your tithing, do what you’re supposed to do.”  Right.  But then that gets back to the whole “interest” and “income” synonimization thing, something clearly way over my head.

Next we see that Utopian society in 4th Nephi discuss their way of donating:

And they had aall things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly bgift.

And yet, here we believe that the stratification of incomes, tithes and offerings a good and hallowed thing.  But then, according to many, even asking those questions or bringing them up is mere pride.  Blind obedience is a requirement of the church, for those interested.  Don’t believe me?  Ever hear why so many Mormons are enrolled in the hallowed halls of Harvard?  One author suggested that it had to do with this:

“… He is surprised at the large presence of earnest Mormons and unimaginative former-military men in this cauldron of capitalism. But gradually this begins to make sense, for HBS is pervaded with an oppressive atmosphere of unquestioning obedience and creepy religiosity. … For all its vast reputation, power and pomposity, you feel that HBS neither understands the complexity nor acknowledges the chaotic unpredictability of the world economy any better than anyone else. More conclusively, it encourages its little alumni to major in hypocrisy. You go there for one simple reason: to make shedloads of money. Fine, so it’s no crime in itself to want to be absurdly and pointlessly rich, although it’s certainly no virtue. What sticks in the gullet is graduates’ self-flattering delusion that they’re on some kind of crusade, their “very American” insistence, as Delves Broughton puts it, on being not only “the most powerful, the richest and most successful”, but also “the most morally good”. At the same time as learning how to manipulate billions in order to profit, say, from ordinary people’s fretful indebtedness during a recession, you can believe that you are a philanthropic leader of men.”

Manipulating billions of dollars?  Sounds sort of like our recent spending sprees and rationalizations.

Thrift, Prudence and Conservatism in Action

Hinckley, in the same talk he gave which referenced the divine word that flows from the “Brethren” informs us, “I deplore waste.  I deplore extravagance.  I value thrift.  I believe in prudence and conservatism.”[7] Most people who grew up through the Great Depression could likewise echo such sentiments, and most truly believed and practiced such thrift.  That is, practiced such thrift with their own money.

A mere six years after making this statement, the church (with Hinckley now in charge as President of the Church) announced that it would build a new “Conference Center” to replace the worn and tattered Tabernacle on Temple Square.  Hinckley then, later, went on to describe the Conference Center as “a unique and remarkable building.”  He also went on to describe the “planning” of the building, stating, “we were not concerned with building the largest house of worship to be found anywhere.  We were concerned with a plan to accommodate the needs of our people.”[8] Actually, that notion may not have concerned those involved in the planning process, but it certainly didn’t stop them either. is careful to point out that the Conference Center is, “the largest religious indoor auditorium in the world.”  Could it be aptly described as a “great and spacious building”?

Hinckley then recounts his announcing the building of the Conference Center back in 1996.

“About a year ago [1995] I suggested to the Brethren that perhaps the time has come when we should study the feasibility of constructing another house of worship on a much larger scale that would accommodate three or four times the number who can be seated in [the tabernacle].”[9]

In describing the building, Hinckley then tells the audience that it was to be built “of the finest materials by the ablest craftsmen … a magnificent center.  It is not a museum piece, although the architecture is superb.”  And, the main justification was to replace the 3,500 seat capacity tabernacle with something “three or four times” larger.  For those keeping track, the LDS church originally sought to build something that could seat 26,000 people, before settling on the “prudent” number of 21,000 and change.   That’s a mere 6x larger than the old tabernacle.  So much for sticking with the “three to four times” figure.

During this same time (1999) the Nauvoo temple rebuild was announced.  Hinckley noted, on more than one occasion, how “…large contributions of money and skills were offered. Again, no expense was spared.”  It’s not like the precedent hadn’t already been set elsewhere – the church has a reputation for the “no expense” mentality, whether it’s on a temple, the Joseph Smith memorial building or this conference center.  So much for thrift, prudence and conservatism.

Then, in reading Isaiah 2:2-3, 5, Hinckley informs us that the Conference Center, in conjunction with the SLC Temple, is how that prophecy should be applied (as fulfilled).  Isaiah 2:2-3, 5, for those interested, reads:

“And it shall come to pass in the alast days, that the bmountain of the Lord’s chouse shall be destablished in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all enations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us ago up to the bmountain of the Lord, to the chouse of the God of Jacob; and he will dteach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of eZion shall go forth the flaw, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  … O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us awalk in the blight of the Lord.”

Am I reading that correct?  The SLC Temple + the Conference Center fulfills this particular prophecy by Isaiah?  Hmmm.  So now we build buildings unto ourselves so that we can say a prophecy is satisfied?

During the dedicatory prayer for the Conference Center, Hinckley led the Hosanna Shout.  The Dedicatory prayer of this edifice contains this language:

“Together they [Church Office Building, the Administration Building, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the Lion House, the Beehive House, the Tabernacle, the Assembly Hall and the SLC Temple] become a testimony of the strength and vitality of Thy work, the headquarters of Thy Church, and the fountain from which truth rolls forth to fill the earth. … We dedicate this magnificent hall, unique in its design and size, constructed to house the thousands who through the years will gather here to worship Thee and to be entertained in a wholesome and wonderful way. … May all who pass this way … look upon this structure with respect and admiration.  We dedicate the great organ, the beautiful halls and other rooms … May it be a thing of beauty to the beholder both inside and out.  … May it give expression to the declaration … that “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”  … We also dedicate the theater … it is a beautiful structure.  … May the desire of the people of Thy Church to improve and beautify this area be appreciated by all who pass this way.  We pray that favorable expressions may prevail and grow until there is universal acceptance and appreciation for what has been done.   … This is the area to which Thy people came seeking asylum from the oppression they had known. Now this has become a great cosmopolitan society to which people from all over the nation and the entire world have gathered. …”[10]

I’m caught by the humble nature this dedicatory prayer rolls off his tongue.  The buildings erected by man – the COB, the Administration Building, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, etc. – testify of the strength and vitality of “THY work”?  Really?  The Lord needs buildings and monuments built by men to testify of His work?  And, am I reading that right to suggest that this Church is “the fountain from which truth rolls forth to fill the earth”?  All from the Conference Center.  Like this past weekend, where the truthfulness of “Follow the Prophet” was rammed into our heads every 10 minutes or thereabouts?  Even my mother, a true blue member if there ever were one, remarked how something must be “amiss” with the members to have such a message shared so frequently in one conference weekend.  Man, if that’s the fountain of truth, maybe someone might want to look at putting a new filter or two in the water system.  After all, we’re not talking about natural fountains, but man-made fountains as the testimony of His work.

And, lest these details get lost on us, Hinckley – the man who proclaimed to value “thrift,” “prudence,” and “conservatism,” all while deploring “waste,” and “extravagance” – states (in a dedicatory prayer nonetheless) that the building is “magnificent,” that the building itself demands to be looked upon with “respect and admiration,” that it is a veritable “thing of beauty to the beholder both inside and out,” and, lest we forget, a “beautiful structure.”

Thomas Monson, the current president of the Church ™ and successor to Gordon Hinckley, preceded this hubris (if only in time and space) by saying,

“Thanks be to God for our noble prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, who, with the foresight of a seer, recognized the need for this magnificent facility and, with the help of many others, “went to work.” The result is before us today and will be dedicated this morning.”[11]

Yes, the Church ™ fully believes that the foresight needed to build such an expansive and expensive building could only be done by a Seer.  Really?  The gifts of seership are in use, and we didn’t even know it.  Ammon, in teaching the people of Limhi (thanks be to Bruce for those handy chapter headings), described a seer in the following terms:

“…a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God. But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.”[12]

Would it be presumptuous of me to borrow from Isaiah wherein he stated, “…the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, ye have closed your aeyes, and ye have brejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity.”  Or, perhaps from Micah wherein he stated, “Then shall the seers be aashamed, and the bdiviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is cno answer of God.”?  Otherwise, can we really deem the building of the conference center as evidence that a seer is among us, using the gifts of seership?

Ah, the hubris of me.  But, I digress.

And, perhaps with sarcasm dripping from his mouth, Monson, in this same talk, continued on to say,

“As we view the disillusionment that engulfs countless thousands today, we are learning the hard way what an ancient prophet wrote out for us 3,000 years ago: “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase.” [Eccl. 5:10.]

Sarcasm, over the pulpit in general conference?  We’d only be so lucky.  Instead, he (and we) fully believed this statement.  It simply can’t apply to us, the Chosen Ones, but rather to other churches, other people, other nations, other whoremongers and other idolaters.  But, certainly not the LDS Church ™.  We just dedicated a $300 million building[13] towards which we could look with “respect and admiration,” surely we’re exempt from these vices of clinging to our silver.  Then again, maybe we don’t love our silver, just our buildings and our money.  And our cash.  Cash is the denomination of choice.  “You can buy anything in this world with cash.”

The subsequent Church News likewise glowed with optimism:

“While the new Conference Center was the focus of much attention during the 170th Annual General Conference, it could not overshadow other indicators of spiritual growth and progress in the Church. Two members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy were sustained to the First Quorum, two other men were called and sustained to that quorum, and five Brethren were sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. In addition, 39 new Area Authority Seventies were sustained, and plans were announced for six new temples.”[14]

As the above indicate, the Conference Center is not only a “magnificent” building, but also an “indicator” of our “spiritual growth and progress in the Church.”  Sounds sort of like my financial life.  If I live with my parents, I’m necessarily delegated to “destitute” status.  But, if I buy that house that’s 8000 square feet too big for my needs – then it’s an indicator of my growth and progress in the world.  Only then can I attest to my growth and progress.  The bigger, the better.

The Channeling of H. David Burton

It seems as though the writers of these blurbs were channeling the same thinking that H. David Burton has used to build (and publicize) the building of the City Creek Center.  Recently, Burton provided an update to the Salt Lake Tribune and offered these glowing thoughts:

“Salt Lake City is a dynamic, wonderful place to live, work and visit. We want to do our part to keep it that way.  For the church, our world headquarters and some of our most sacred and historic sites and grounds are located right across the street from City Creek. It’s important for us to protect what we consider sacred space. City Creek’s design and the overall environment it creates will help us do that. … This is a huge project that has taken years of planning and work, and I personally feel a great sense of satisfaction seeing it come to fruition.”

Well, I’m glad someone is feeling the satisfaction at spending billions of dollars redeveloping downtown SLC.  D&C 101 has an interesting parable that I thought of in re-reading this quote.  In that parable (verses 43 through 57 or thereabouts) a nobleman had a “very choice” spot of land.  In that “choice” location, the nobleman commands his servants to go into his vineyard and (a) plant 12 olive trees, (b) set watchmen “round about” the olive trees, (c) build a tower in order to look over the land “round about” such that the nobleman’s land might not be broken down “when the enemy” comes to steal the fruit of his vineyard and (d) an hedge for protection purposes[15].  Simple instructions, or so it seemed.

Then, as they’re building the foundation of the tower they stop (they had dutifully fulfilled the other requests), start to argue and rationalize not building the tower by suggesting that the money might be used for other, more profitable ventures.  Then – surprise – the enemy comes and wrecks the whole scene.  While the servants were arguing about the tower, they became “slothful” and forgot about the enemy.  Interestingly, the first thing the enemy did was to break down that hedge, which caused the servants to flee in fear.  Then, though the account doesn’t contain the particulars, sometime while the nobleman is chastising his slothful servants, the enemy built a (a) wall, (b) tower and (c) set up his own watchmen.

Where the nobleman used “natural” (i.e. hedge) protection, the enemy used “manmade” (i.e. wall) protection.

As I read Burton’s comments – both in the above quote and elsewhere, it’s been a running theme of the City Creek project – I can’t help but note how he is justifying the billions of dollars of money on the project as a way to “protect” sacred land and sacred sites.  It’s the same logic that ruined the Black Mesa for the Hopis.[16]

Investment Income

But, at least they aren’t building such extravagant “walls” (i.e. City Creek) with tithing funds.  Right?  Right?  Well, we, as members of the Church ™ have been told that tithing is used for “the construction of temples, the financing of the worldwide missionary effort, the building and maintenance of meetinghouses, and other worthy purposes.”[17] And, we’ve been told ad nauseum the City Creek project isn’t using any tithing funds.  But, perhaps we should dissect how exactly tithing funds are spent.  Denver Snuffer made an instructive comment on the process in which tithing funds are used, and how, several months back.  It is worth the time to read, so I’m including it here for our collective reading pleasure:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a three-year system for collecting and spending tithes.

In the first year the funds are collected.

In the second year the funds remain invested while a budget is prepared for spending the tithing.

In the third year the funds are spent.

During the time when the funds are collected (first year), they are put to use in investments or deposits which yield a return.  Similarly, while they remain invested during the second year, they also yield a return.  When the third year arrives, and the funds are being spent on budgeted expenses, until the day they are spent they continue to collect interest or a return.

The amount of tithing collected in the first year is the amount designated “tithing” contributions.  This is the amount that is budgeted and spent in the third year.  All of the return on tithing yielded in the form of interest or return on investments is treated as “investment income” not tithing.

When the church spends “tithing” on temples, chapels, publications, etc. those monies are confined to the original amount collected as “tithing” only.

When the church spends “investment money” those include the interest, return, etc. collected on the tithing money during the three year cycle from when originally collected until the time it is spent.  It also includes the returns on the returns as they accumulate over the years.

Therefore, when the church announces that a project (like the large reconstruction of downtown Salt Lake City) is not “tithing” but is “investment income” of the church, this is the distinction which is being made.”[18]

The Difference Between Shrewd and Dishonest

So, they invest tithing funds in interest bearing accounts (stocks, bonds, hedge funds, etc).  The tithing they use “official” projects, but the income they earn on our tithing money is used on projects like City Creek.  Sort of reminds me of how Ernest Wilkinson used to hold firesides to instruct people on the difference between being “shrewd” and “dishonest.”

Hugh Nibley recounts these stories in Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints and writes:

I got to know [Ernest L. Wilkinson] quite well, beginning with our clash at the very first faculty meeting. He had given a degree to a friend in Washington, and some of the faculty protested that degrees should be bestowed or at least approved by colleges, such being the immemorial practice of universities. Well, a paper was circulated to that effect, and some people signed it. Wilkinson stormed into that first faculty meeting in a towering rage: This has nothing to do with right or wrong, whether it was moral or immoral is irrelevant. The only question is, was it legal? Who would dare question him on a point of law? Who signed this protest? I had signed it, so I stood up, and I was the only one. “Come and see me in my office!” I did, and we became good friends—being a lawyer, he was not at all upset by adversarial confrontation; in fact, he enjoyed it. I was his home teacher at the time, and he started out at the “Y” by familiarizing himself with the students with a fireside at his house, followed by other such firesides, some of which I attended. The theme of his discussion in all of these was, “What is the difference between being dishonest and being shrewd?” He illustrated each time by his own case. When he was in Washington fresh out of law school, he was looking for a job, and so found himself in Senator King’s office. The senator was not there, but the secretary allowed him to use the phone for what he said was an urgent call. It was urgent indeed, for he called up the office of Justice Charles Evans Hughes and said, “This is Senator King’s office speaking. I would like to recommend a certain young man, etc., of high qualifications to work for the Justice.” And so he became a clerk to the celebrated Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes—not dishonest, just shrewd.

At the second faculty meeting we got another shocker. The family that owned the farm on Temple Hill where President Wilkinson wanted the land for expansion refused to sell. President W. would appeal to eminent domain, but it was his introductory remark that rocked us: “I never yet saw a contract I couldn’t break,” he boasted.[19]

So, perhaps the church is only being shrewd in suggesting that our tithing funds aren’t funding projects like City Creek Center.  Not dishonest.  Just shrewd.  Maybe I should use that logic on my wife and see how she takes it.  I’d be willing to bet that distinction isn’t recognizable in my household, but then I don’t have billions of dollars burning a hole in my pocket.

In thinking on this, I did a few calculations, just to see what kind of tithing funds would be needed in order to produce enough investment income to pay for a $3 billion project.  Here is the math.  For ease in calculations, I assumed that the church held the tithing funds in an interest bearing account earning a relatively conservative 10% interest per annum for three full years.  This will necessarily underestimate the total tithing funds in play, but will give the reader a glimpse of the figures we’re looking at coming into the general tithing fund.  And, likewise, this helps out on the back end where the full $3 billion wouldn’t be spent all at once, but rather over the life of the project.

So, in order for the church to generate a $3 billion fund at the end of three years, at 10% annual interest, compounded monthly (see, that Babylonian education does provide dividends – pun intended), the church would need to set aside no less than $861,6xx,xxx each of those three years.  Now, according to what the church tells us, 100% of these funds are entirely devoid of any tithing.  That means that the church is generating at least $860 million per year in investment income, for this project alone.  Think on that for a minute.  This analysis assumes that 100% of the investment income for that 3 year time period was being dumped into one account, that the church had no other “for profit” needs at the time.  (Yes, that’s a ludicrous proposition.  If the church is generating that kind of investment income, one would do well to ponder where else the money is going.)

If we continue this cat and mouse game, that would mean that the church was generating somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion per year in tithing income.  And, that’s assuming that no other money was going to any other project of any kind for any reason.  And, it’s not like transparency is a big deal over at the COB, so we have no idea what projects they have going on.  City Creek just happens to be one of the more (if not the most) prolific projects the church has done in sometime.

***To be continued…***

[1] See:  Retrieved 09/30/2010.



[4] Hunter, Howard W.  In Conference Report, April 1964, p. 35.

[5] Hinckley, Gordon B.  “Rise to a Larger Vision of the Work,” Ensign, May 1990, p. 95.

[6] First Presidency Letter, March 19,1970.

[7] Hinckley.  “Rise to a Larger Vision of the Work.”

[8] Ibid.

[9] Hinckley.  “This Glorious Easter Morn,” Ensign, May 1996, 65.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Monson, Thomas S.  “Dedication Day,Ensign, May 1996, 64.

[12] See Mosiah 8:13, 15-17.

[13] It’s semi-hard to peg down the actual cost of the Conference Center.  Some have the final cost at $240 million, some have it at $300 million, some have it at $350 million.  So take that for what you will.  I’d actually venture to guess it’s at the higher end of those figures, if not more.  Just a guess.

[14] “News of the Church,” Ensign, May 2000, 102-12.

[15] See D&C 101:53.

[16] See this write-up for more detail on the Black Mesa, including how I think it relates to H. David Burton:  The Hopi, Mormons and Mother Earth.

[17] Johnson, Daniel L.  “The Law of Tithing,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, p. 35-36.

[18] Snuffer, Denver.  “Tithing.”  Apr. 1, 2010.  Retrieved 10/2/2010.

[19] Nibley, Hugh.  Brother Brigham Challenges The Saints.  Pages 87-90.

  1. We can’t see enough of pieces like this. It’s clear the Corporation is first and foremost concerned with perpetuating its financial empire. Well done, as usual!

    I also welcome your analysis of what “Increase” means. The Church is fudging, of course, and making up definitions out of whole cloth in order to make members believe that 10 percent of everything they bring in belongs to it.

    Say Abraham has a thousand sheep, and throughout the year several of those sheep have baby lambs. Total new sheep at the end of the year, let’s say is 100 new sheep. That’s his increase. He doesn’t give Melchizedek ten percent of all of his sheep, just ten percent of the new ones. So he gives 10 sheep tithing.

    Same with an apple farmer. However many bushels of apples his trees produce over the previous year, that’s the increase. He doesn’t count all his possessions, all his trees and subtract 10 percent from that.

    There’s a reason tithing settlement was set at the end of the year. Only then can you do your totals for the year. Today, tithing settlement has turned into a shakedown.

    I still tithe, but I don’t give it to the Magisterium. I give it directly to the Lord. How do I find Him? As defined by Matthew 25: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

    The Lord intended tithing to be so painless that it is barely noticeable. It is not intended as a sacrifice. A “sacrifice” usually hurts, and the age of sacrifice is over. Jesus ushered in the age of service.

    I quoted you in my latest entry at Pure Mormonism yesterday. After I get tired of kicking around the Brethren, I plan to do a piece called “Are You Paying Too Much Tithing?”

    They haven’t kicked me out of the Corporate Church for ragging on Packer yet, but I’ll bet when I attack the source of their funding, that one’ll get their attention.

  2. TuNeCedeMalis says:

    “They haven’t kicked me out of the Corporate Church for ragging on Packer yet”

    Yeah, I’ve done my fair share of Packer ragging but last month at a huge combined area conference I saw just how old he is getting. At that point I realized that my days or disliking much of what Packer has done are just about coming to an end considering I can’t imaging him being around all that much longer.

    I even had the thought that perhaps he was calming down in his old age, then I listened to his conference talk=).

    It’s true though Rock. While the church tends to have very thin skin when it comes to most things, finance is even thinner than usual. If your post on tithing gets too many eyeballs it is very possible that you will have some official explaining to do. I don’t recommend that you make the post unless you are 100% committed to possible results.

    Its a lot easier for those of us that hide behind anonymous handles online to not mince words since it would be harder to find out who we are.

  3. TuNeCedeMalis says:

    “2. The name and contact information of the member who is responsible for the Web site should be included.”

    I guess the church only believes in anonymity when it is regarding anonymous GA’s intimidating local stake presidents to initiate church courts against people that the corporate church finds unappealing.

    The best way to get around this is just put the wrong name on the blog. Preferable the name of some pharisee in your local stake leadership.

  4. berb says:

    i have often questioned the same thing about tithing. it almost appears recently that there is a big push, almost an irrational anger or threat to the members to pay their tithing. the tone of the leaders of the bretheren is not friendly or humble. it’s like asking my old man about nibley or skousen…he angrily remarks to follow the brethern and not question.

    two thoughts came to me as i was reading this post.

    First, Bishop Burton. It’s almost as if he is urging members to visit and shop at city creek to spend and protect the sacred area by supporting those businesses. i am not sure if that makes sense or not.

    Second, it seems that recently, on doctrinal matter, the bretheren often cite church handbooks for doctrine, or previous leaders of the church but won’t dare to explain or elaborate or even declare new revelation.

    To me, the church is breeding or developing its members to be blind, strictly obedient to the word of the leaders, non critical or subjective, dull, judgemental, and lost just as they are.

    Last week, one of brothers asked me an interesting question, “where do i see the church in 5 years?” and commented on how the church that Christ first established survived only 187 years and the church in 4thnephi only 183.

    I am still thinking about that question but am not pleased with what i am seeing and often confused on what or how to live.

  5. Excellent question. Where do I see the church in 5 years. Um, I don’t. I give it two years before the break up begins. The very scriptures we have all been reading the last few Sundays in the Old Testament are telling us something. Have you noticed?

  6. zo-ma-rah says:

    Is it just me or did that quote from Denver Snuffer pretty much confirm the parable in section 101?

  7. need2know says:

    Most interesting is your quotes from the 2010 handbook. How about submitting the new handbook of instruction to wikileaks or the like? Or is it already available somewhere? Nice job on snagging an early copy.

  8. Aron says:

    I’ve looked into the Wikileaks thing, but their website has been down for sometime. It’s been down since at least early October:

    By the way, the site has been closed for some time, and the notice on the home page says that “WikiLeaks is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance. We will be back online as soon as possible.”

    What strikes one most in the whole story surrounding WikiLeaks and its founder, is that media coverage concentrates on the procedure, never, or very seldom, asking whether this or that accusation posed by Assange, or against him, is true or false.

    I’ll keep you posted. I just may do something crazy like that.

  9. […] Church Finance – Part I […]

  10. need2know says:

    Wikileaks is back up as of yesterday, fyi. Thanks for your posts btw.

  11. Frank says:

    Very interesting article. You provided some very interesting quotes and excerpts. Unfortunately, I have to take issue with a few of the points you made. You use the point about the rich giving more abundantly than the poor to discount the idea of a flat 10% tithing. This does not make any sense. Giving 10% of a million dollars is giving FAR more abundantly than 10% of 100 dollars.

    More abundantly does not mean a higher percentage. It means a greater amount, and that is exactly what a flat 10% tithing entails.

    The second point I have to disagree with is your issue with the church spending lots of money on the conference center and how that somehow is wrong. If you’re truly a Christian and believe in the bible you would know that this has been how God’s people have always built buildings unto the Lord. Take Solomon’s temple, for example. That was built and dedicated to the Lord. If you read the description of the building it is very obvious that it was an incredibly expensive building.

    If you believe that the cost of the conference center makes it not a building of God, then you would have to also believe that Solomon’s temple was not an appropriate use of money and was therefore not a temple of God. You would have to believe that this temple that was dedicated solely to the purpose of worshiping God was also a sinful use of money and expense.

    The third point I have to disagree with is the problem you have with the church’s description of the conference center being the fountain of truth to the world. This title is obviously meant to describe the source from which the truth is sent out to the world. The only point you could argue here is what is considered “truth.” Every man is welcome to come to their own conclusions on this matter. You cannot argue the purpose of the conference center (which you seem to be trying to do). The purpose of the conference center is to allow the words of the prophet of God to be heard throughout the entire world. If we will assume for a moment that this prophet is indeed inspired of God, then the conference center is exactly the fountain of truth to the world. Now if you do not agree about this man’s inspiration and the legitimacy of this “truth” then you can argue that point, but you cannot argue the right the church has to call their conference center the fountain of truth. They consider their message the truth and thus it is the fountain of truth.

    At this point I stopped reading your article, not because I disagreed with your points. Rather, I stopped reading because you took no time to address the opposing argument and to refute what people on the other side of the argument would believe about it. This article sounded more like you were just complaining about how things are presented and not making a sound, logical argument.

    I do have to say, for someone who seems to be very opposed to the church, you seem to waste a lot of time and energy on it. I never will understand why people feel compelled to do that.

    Thanks for the interesting take on things.

  12. Tu Ne Cede Malis says:


    Let me respond to some of the comments for you.

    You said that the cost of the conference center is justified because Soloman’s temple was costly…

    Do you understand the difference between a temple of the Lord and a conference center for his people? Temples have always been built with the highest quality material and practices (when available and practical) because it is in honor to the Lord. A conference center is nothing more then a building to meet in. Frugal and un-extravagant would probably be a little more in line with the Savior in that respect.

    “I do have to say, for someone who seems to be very opposed to the church, you seem to waste a lot of time and energy on it. I never will understand why people feel compelled to do that.”

    For someone opposed to this article you do seem to waste a lot of time and and energy critiquing it=). Perhaps the author of the article (not me) cares greatly for the church and the gospel but is brokenhearted at the direction the church is going and is simply trying to point out to others the ways he feels the church is heading in the wrong direction.

  13. Nobody says:

    Here are my responses:

    Point 1: You are correct, the wealthy are giving more abundantly. However, to assume that the effect/result of giving 10% for he who is a millionaire is equal to the widow living on $10k/year ignores a much larger issue that’s overlooked in your comment. To me, if I have “little”, 10% is still going to feel like a heck of a lot more than a “little” whereas if I have millions sitting around. Percentages are equal, but the net result (i.e. felt in the home) is much different. But, perhaps my “opinion” is unfounded.

    Point 2: I would agree with Troy on this. The center is merely a meeting hall + theatrical hall, or whatever you want to call it. It is not a temple, nor is it used for any purpose remotely resembling a temple. Now, I can’t say why Hinckley approved the jump from “three or four” times bigger than the tabernacle to an even 6x bigger, but I do personally question spending one third of a billion on a meeting hall (let alone a temple) just so people can meet together. I do wonder whether producing the largest “indoor” religious building wasn’t an actual goal. I’ve also seen others advance the argument that the church is justified in spending gobs of money on its buildings (including the Joseph Smith building). I don’t much agree with it, but I’ve seen it. I think we’re far too quick to grind the faces of the poor while we build incredibly expensive buildings, allow higher ups in the church to drive fancier cars than lesser church employees, use better paper and otherwise. I personally think the money would be of much better use actually helping the poor and needy in some other, more constructive, way. Do we really need to spend upwards of $5 million on stake centers when we could be meeting in the open air, or as families together in each others homes? But again, that’s just me and I recognize that I may err in my reasonings. Perhaps this is worth a read:

    2 Nephi 28: 13:

    “They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.”

    You must keep the prior verse in mind as you read this one. They are a continuation of thought.

    It is an interesting thought to equate “fine sanctuaries” with “robbing the poor.” Why do you suppose Nephi would make that equation? Does it give us any pause?

    What “duty” would be owed to the poor that entitles them to come before a “fine sanctuary?”

    Is there a duty to care for the poor that comes before the right of someone to wear “fine clothing?”

    What does it mean to “persecute the meek?” Can you “persecute the meek” just by ignoring them? By neglecting them? Does any religion owe some duty to the meek? What obligation is owed to the meek by people of faith?

    Who is “poor in heart?” What obligation do we all owe to the poor in heart?

    Now look at the last phrase. It begins with “because.” Isn’t Nephi saying that our defects are all due to “our pride.” That is, “because of their pride they are puffed up” and this is the reason we “rob the poor.” This is the reason we “persecute the meek.” This is the reason we “persecute the poor in heart.” Or, in other words, we are proud and puffed up and therefore we cannot help but cause these other offenses.

    We necessarily ignore our obligations to the poor and meek because we are filled with pride. We don’t give a second thought to what we’re doing with resources entrusted to us to bless and benefit others, because we believe we are entitled to have “fine sanctuaries.” We just presume we are justified in our “fine clothing” without regard to what we may owe others.

    There is a moment in film that helps illustrate this verse. It is in the closing of the movie Schindler’s List. The Allies had overrun the area and the Nazi rule had ended. As Schindler was receiving the gratitude of those who had been saved by his efforts, he was struck by what more he could have done. He was less interested in receiving gratitude than he was guilt ridden by how many more lives could have been saved had he parted with a ring. Had he parted with a car it would have secured other lives. The thought filled him with guilt. He had done some, it was undoubtedly true. But his conscious was filled with remorse because he could have done more. And in that setting, doing more was saving lives. He preferred a ring to another man’s life. He preferred a car to a family’s lives. It tormented him. If you can harrow up your mind to remember this scene, then think of what we might have done with the great resources we have been given in place of some of the monuments we have built.

    Why do we need chapels at all? Why not meet in homes? What good could be done with the money we have invested in the chapels we have built? Joseph Smith built temples; he did not build chapels. General Conference was held in an outdoor bowery. Do we have anything to apologize for in how we use our resources? Were or are there poor toward whom the Lord would have preferred us to show mercy, and do more? There are families who have supplied church leadership from their large construction companies who have built projects for the church. I am told these relationships are natural. They call who they know and associate with, after all. I suppose that is true.

    Nephi seems troubled by his view of us. We seem untroubled by his words. At least we don’t seem to change our behavior much because of Nephi’s counsel. We deflect it, and point to others as his real target.

    Well, Nephi is nothing if not relevant to almost everything going on today.

    Point 3: (fountain of truth) No church, in my opinion, can ever be a “fountain” of truth. Truth is eternal and comes from only one source, and that source is not a “church.” The church may facilitate the spreading of the truth, or the dissemination of the same, but to suggest that the church is the very fountain is incredibly pompous and arrogant. The Conference Center, meanwhile, might indeed facilitate the spreading, but I fail to see how one could mistake the only real source of truth without making an incredible leap of logic.

    And, lastly, I apologize for not rebutting those comments ahead of time. That is not how I write and largely because that’s not how I think (my fault). There are sometimes when I anticipate the right “issues” someone may have with my writings, but other times I either do not anticipate said issues or do not think much of those anticipatory comments. That is what I thought of the 3rd point – i.e. there is only One fountain of truth, and that fountain is neither a church nor a building – but I apologize in advance for my shortsightedness.

    And, I’m not opposed to the church. I have issues with the church and some of its nefarious teachings which have had a great effect on my personal life (especially recently), but that does not mean that I’m opposed to it. Nor am I “compelled” to do it. I choose to do it because these things ought to be shared, discussed and resolved where possible. Church finance, of all things, is the miscreant of church issues that gets locked in the back room and never discussed because there is so little information out there.

    If I can advance the discussion, if only slightly, then I’m OK with that. Even if I don’t, I’m OK with that. In fact, I’m OK either way.

  14. Wow it never ceases to amaze me how words spoken in the spirit so quickly and completely dispel (De-Spell) “darkness”. Speak on it Brother.

    The Divine in Me recognizes The Divine in You.

  15. Averei says:

    Here is what then President of the LDS Church Gordon B Hinckley said in thge Ensign Dec. 1989:
    Tithing is so simple and straightforward a thing. The principle, as it applies to us, is actually set forth in one verse of section 119 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
    “And after that [after the Saints offered their ‘surplus property’ to the bishop in 1838], 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 119:4]
    For many years, presidents of the Church have interpreted “interest” as “income.” Beyond that, they have not elaborated.
    End quote.

    It is fascinating what he didn’t say. He did not say that prophets have have interpreted “interest” as “income.” He said “presidents of the Church” which we now understand is the title of the head of a corporation. He also did not say Joseph Smith said interest is income. He did not say that the Lord says tithing is one tenth of your income.
    The Websters 1820 dictionary has the same meaning for interest and income as stated above which is to say they are not the same.
    Money received from giving your labor is not an increase. You traded your time, something God gave you and which you will never get back, for money. You had no increase in that transaction. If you gained a payment from money you lent then it is interest and you should be giving 10% of that to the Lord.
    The difference is that the money you lent was surplus. If it wasn’t you would not have been able to lend it, you would need it to pay your bills and buy your food.
    So what are we doing paying 10% of the money we need to live off of to the LDS corporation? I don’t see where Joseph Smith ever taught that. I don’t see where the Lord has commanded it.
    Don’t misunderstand I did it for many years. only recently have I seen that the Lord never commanded it. Shame on those who lead us to believe that the Lord did command it. I think running the corporation has clouded their judgment.

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