Posts Tagged ‘Gordon B. Hinckley’


Wealth, Tithing and My View of “The Lord’s Financial System”

It is often said, among LDS faithful, that tithing is the “Lord’s Financial System,” or something that conveys the same meaning.  It’s seen as the way we build chapels and temples, finance the administrative functions in the Church (i.e. all that goes on inside the Church Office Building) and pay the bills required to keep all of it running.  There is, it goes without saying, a litany of things required to keep something with 14,000,000 members (approximately) running.

Further, it is argued that the church would simply cease to function if tithing – at least according to the official interpretation – ceased to roll into the church’s financial coffers.  Gordon Hinckley said as much when he argued that the income from the Church’s™ business interests would “keep the Church going for only a very short time.”[1] In this same speech, Hinckley stated that tithing was none other than the “Lord’s law of finance” and the epitome of “simplicity.”  Hinckley further contrasted the simplicity of the “law” of tithing with the “complexity” of our current income tax structure.  Men, Hinckley argues, derive unfathomably complex “laws of finance” while the Lord operates in simplicity.  I actually tend to agree with his argument regarding simplicity, though not for the reasons he asserts.  But, perhaps one should wonder whether our modern day interpretation of tithing is accurate.  I’ll get to that later.

Elsewhere, other church leaders affectionately refer to tithing as “the best investment,” arguing that “if you always pay an honest tithing, the Lord will bless you.  It will be the best investment you will ever make.”[2] Ignore that grammar, focus on the conclusion you draw from that statement.  An investment is nothing more than money laid out with the expectation of profit.  If we apply that logic to the gospel, then we’re left with the conclusion that we invest tithing [money] with the expectation that the “windows of heaven”[3] will be open and we’ll be blessed [profit].

The Promised Land that Isn’t

In a commencement address to BYU graduates this past summer, Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy stated the following:

“You who graduate today stand on your own riverbank or your own ocean shore, on the edge of your futures. You look off into the distant years before you, searching the horizon for your own promised land that flows with milk and honey. In a sense, we all do, every day.  … unemployment is higher than it has been in many years. Unresolved wars and stifling deficits obscure our view of tomorrow. … One could lose heart, seeing a future that awaits but doesn’t entice. It could look like a land of promise without much promise. But the Lord always offers each of us a promised land. You can be sure of that. The promised land—your promised land—really is there. If you follow the admonition of the Lord, you really will inhabit that rich land and harvest its blessings—milk, honey, and all. Everything you have learned at BYU points toward a land laden with promise, luxuriant in opportunity, and waiting with wonder. … the promised land today is not likely to be a place like it was in Old Testament times or even for the pioneers. Instead, the promised land is a way of life.”[4]

Later, Clayton argues that the generation has no equal in terms of training and preparation.

“Today you cross a modern Red Sea or River Jordan as you graduate from BYU and move on. No generation has been better trained or more richly prepared for its future.”[5]

This is merely one example where we’re taught, today, the idea that the doctrine of gathering is no longer.  Today we’re instructed that the promised land is merely a way of life that comes about when we take advantage of our training and preparation.  Then, as we take advantage of those things we’re promised a rich land and harvest – “milk, honey, and all.”  I’ll leave the meaning of that verbiage to the reader.  It seems to me, though, that Clayton is suggesting that wealth, among other things, is waiting for those who use the preparation and training the church gives.

When I read that this past summer I was taken aback, unsure of the logic of relating the promised land with a way of life.  Granted, for a people who’ve been toiling in Babylon for 180+ years, perhaps it’s to be expected.  After so many years have ticked away on the calendar of life, at what point to we start forgetting about Zion.  Approaching Zion, a collection of a number of Hugh Nibley essays, was published over 20 years ago.  It’d be hard to argue that those 20 years have produced a better understanding of Zion and/or a Church™ that is closer to Zion.

And yet, on one hand, Clayton is correct.  The way we live our lives is the start of something and it necessarily begins with us.  No one else can lead our lives for us.  No one else can dictate what we do, choose or are.  That lies – and necessarily so – with us.  It’s a matter that is strictly between us and Christ.  And yet, that is merely a starting point.  Whereas Clayton (and many others) imply that this way of life is an end all and represents Zion – after all, Zion is the pure in heart and can be found wherever we are.  Zion, it is correct, is the pure in heart.  However, to suggest that Zion is found wherever we are ignores an integral part of Zion.  Namely, retuning to Approaching Zion, Nibley argues the following:

“[Zion] is not a society or religion of forms and observances, it is strictly a condition of the heart.  Above all, Zion is pure, which means “not mixed with any impurities, unalloyed”; it is all Zion and nothing else.  It is not achieved wherever a heart is pure or where two or three are pure, because it is all pure – it is a society, a community, and an environment into which no unclean thing can enter. … It is not even pure people in a dirty environment, or pure people with a few impure ones among them; it is the perfectly pure in a perfectly pure environment.”[6]

It should be said that I tend to agree with Nibley on this.  It’s one thing to say that Zion begins with the pure in heart, and an entirely different thing to suggest that Zion ends at that point without discussing the doctrine of gathering, which just happens to be one of those “lost” doctrines.  Lost in the sense that, today, it’s largely ignored and when it is taught it’s taught in a way that disavows any real communal gathering, instead focusing on such gatherings as take place in church buildings on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  This would be all well and good, were it merely described and labeled as a precursor, but with teachings like what Clayton shared to BYU graduates, it seems that the idea of a precursor is nowhere in sight.  And that, to me, is most unfortunate.

“Money … Should Be Used as a Means of Achieving Eternal Happiness”

Previously, I shared a portion of a transcript which related the idea that the promised land, today, is one which gives us material blessings – food, money and wealth.  This, however, isn’t a new idea or teaching.  It’s been around for eons or, at the very least, centuries.  The goal of our existence, it would seem, is to create, engender and facilitate the growth of wealth.  Just now, as I opened up Yahoo.com, the lead article was little other then how we can go from “mowing laws to building multi-million-dollar businesses.”[7] The subject of that article recounted how he “was always motivated by making money” – from selling night crawlers as a kid, to mowing lawns, to selling multi-million dollar businesses.  The first comment to the story reinforced this idea:  “…oh how I wish I could replicate what you did,” while others laud him for his hard work.  The interview retold in that article isn’t actually that bad, and I can see myself in a lot of the things this man shared.  After all, all too often we’re told that our hard work is what is needed in this economy – stop siphoning off all that is the welfare state and get to work, you lazy bum!

Indeed, it has been said:

“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known.  All around you is competition.  You need all the education you can get.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world.  That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you can education and proficiency in your chosen field.”[8]

Others have reiterated the idea that we must “complete as much formal, full-time education as possible” and that any funds we use on such education is “money well invested.”[9]

While Hinckley compares our true worth with education and monetary value, Ashton tells us that we must “repent” in order improve our “money-management skills.”  In this same talk, Ashton reiterates that we simply must “teach family members early the importance of working and earning” money (emphasis is mine), not to mention the importance of “involv[ing] yourself in a [life] insurance program,” while also counseling us to “cope with existing inflation.”[10]

But, ironically, this is not all.  Ashton concludes his thoughts on money with this beauty:

“Money in the lives of Latter-day Saints should be used as a means of achieving eternal happiness. … God will open the windows of heaven to use in these matters if we will but live close to Him … .”[11]

Hugh Nibley once related the following story on this topic:

In my latest class a graduating honors student in business management wrote this–the assignment was to compare oneself with some character in the Pearl of Great Price, and he quite seriously chose Cain:

Many times I wonder if many of my desires are too self-centered. Cain was after personal gain. He knew the impact of his decision to kill Abel. Now, I do not ignore God and make murderous pacts with Satan; however, I desire to get gain. Unfortunately, my desire to succeed in business is not necessarily to help the Lord’s kingdom grow [a refreshing bit of honesty]. Maybe I am pessimistic, but I feel that few businessmen have actually dedicated themselves to the furthering of the church without first desiring personal gratification. As a business major, I wonder about the ethics of business–“charge as much as possible for a product which was made by someone else who was paid as little as possible. You live on the difference.” As a businessman will I be living on someone’s industry and not my own? Will I be contributing to society, or will I receive something for nothing, as did Cain? While being honest, these are difficult questions for me.

They have been made difficult by the rhetoric of our times. The Church was full of men in Paul’s day “supposing that gain is godliness” (1 Timothy 6:5) and making others believe it.  (Leaders and Managers.)

Not only, are the “windows of heaven” assumed to mean financial prosperity, as shown in Ashton’s last quote, but we’re also instructed that whatever money we earn here on this earth should be used to achieve “eternal happiness.”  It’s as if money could, indeed, buy happiness.  It is true that it’s all too easy to pick and choose statements from Church™ leaders on these subjects, but I’m specifically not trying to do this.  Statements like these are everywhere and can be found in virtually any general conference – I found the above quotes within less than two minutes on LDS.org.  The Church™, it would seem, is merely reflecting the world we live in.  Given how easily the lost-doctrine of gathering was abdicated during the Great Depression, members across the world were forced to live and adapt to the Babylonian society around them.  Now, approximately 80 years later, there’s nary a blip on the radar when we link money to the “windows of heaven” and suggest that wealth and prosperity are not only necessary, but recommended courses of action for all of us.

Wealth Can’t Possibly Be All That Bad, Can It?

That’s a good question.  I’ve long thought that there wasn’t anything wrong with being wealthy, of having more than was needed.  Nearly every American is likely viewed as “wealthy” by those living in Africa, where per capita GDP is somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 annually.  True, their “expenses” are likely less, but if you thrust an average citizen of Liberia[12] into an average American neighborhood odds are they’d be shocked at the bounty they’re confronted with – that is until they acclimate to their surroundings.

Avoiding those nuances, the scriptures decry wealth, riches and everything in between.  Nephi, for example, states, “”wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world.  For because they are rich they despise the poor.[13] In other words, the very fact that you (or I or anyone) are wealthy demonstrates your sinfulness.  In order to become wealthy, you have to despise the poor.  Or, at least that’s how Nephi phrases it.  Paul[14] seems to suggest that anything beyond food and clothing is more than we need.  Jacob tells us that we should be share all of our substance with those in order that there are no poor among us.[15] In other words, we’re supposed to give away all of our excess wealth until all are equal.  Excess wealth, by definition, is anything above and beyond our basic needs.  Joseph Smith was told that the entire world is in sin because we’ve allowed people to possess more than others.[16] Further, the Lord himself stated that when we fail to impart our portion to others, we assure ourselves of being counted among the wicked and experiencing the torment of hell.[17] Elsewhere Christ reiterated that we’re not to lay up any treasures at all while here on earth.[18] The love of money is the root of all evil[19], but what exactly is this love?  Strong’s Concordance suggests the Greek word used in this instance is Philarguria and derives from what we know today as avarice[20] and greed.  Others, still, have defined this “love of money” as little more than “the desire to have money in the bank.”

Elsewhere, again, Christ deplored the mentality we have to set aside those things which ensure our bounteous living.  In giving this, perhaps one of His most poignant parable, Christ responds to a fellow who was hoping Christ could convince his brother to share an inheritance with him:

“And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?  And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of acovetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.  And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:  And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to abestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, aSoul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, beat, drink, and be merry.  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy asoul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?  So is he that layeth up atreasure for bhimself, and is not rich toward God.”[21]

Later on in that same chapter, Christ reminds us to sell what we have and give alms.[22] But, before continuing on, it might be instructive to pause and re-read that last bit of Luke 12.  The parable is of a rich man who was, once again, richly blessed – so much so that he found himself with no room to store his goods.  So, like any normal human, he decided that it was in his best interests to build bigger and better storehouses (yes, plural) for his goods.  Then, after laying up his goods in his newly built retirement account, he can say to himself, “Soul, thou has much goods laid up …,” it’s now time to rest and enjoy.

Perhaps it’s also instructive that the Lord’s prayer reminds us that we’re to pray for our “daily bread[23],” an oft overlooked reminder that we’re truly dependent on the Lord and no one else.

Moroni, similarly, condemned our day, practices and churches – especially with regard to our use of money.  In ripping us up and down for our selfish ways, he stated:

“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.  And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.  For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.  O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?  Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?”[24]

In other words, we think we’re pretty special, wear what we consider to be special clothes, our churches (yes, all of them) are polluted because of this pride and, unfortunately, we love our money, material possessions, nice clothes and our fancy chapels/churches more than we love the poor, needy, sick and afflicted.  And, because of these behaviors, we’re considered both polluted and hypocritical.  No mincing of words there.

A similar article on this subject suggests that there’s a rather simple test to decide whether our hearts are set on riches:  do you possess or desire costly apparel?[25] I think it’s a bit more complicated than that, but it’s a significant indicator.  I’d also expand that question to include imparting our substance to the poor and needy, among others[26].  The original author also suggests that “for each excess penny (i.e. the smallest unit of monetary measure) one has to decide whether he will accumulate it, or give it away.”  Likewise, it’s impossible to simultaneously accumulate excess and give it away to the poor, hence the Lord’s injunction that we can’t serve two masters.  Either we’re serving Him, or we’re serving ourselves (via riches and money).  Indeed, serving the Lord implies that we’re focused on the present and our present needs.   When we concern ourselves with future needs and obligations – from a monetary perspective – we’re forgetting these teachings and, unfortunately, despising the poor.

So Just How Does This Relate to Tithing?

Thought you’d never ask.

As discussed previously, tithing is synonymous with the “Lord’s law of finance” or the “Lord’s monetary system,” or even the “Lord’s revenue system.”[27] Paying your tithing, per our current interpretation of Malachi 3:10, will result in the “windows of heaven” unlatching themselves and dumping material blessings down on you and your loved ones.  In fact, James E. Talmage went so far as to say that the blessings of tithing are “beyond estimate, as gaged by the coin of the realm, [and] are assured unto him who strictly conforms to the law of the tithe because the Lord has so commanded.”[28] When it comes time to paying your bills or paying your tithing, tithing comes first.  When it comes to feeding your family or paying your tithing, tithing comes first.  Why?  Simply because we’re promised blessings in the form of the “coin of the realm” (i.e. our currency).  Tithing is, after all, fire insurance.  In fact, Marion G. Romney, as a member of the first presidency, once stated that “tithing is worthwhile as fire insurance.”[29] Indeed, Romney continues, “tithing is, in a very real sense, a form of fire insurance – insurance against burning, both in this life and in the life to come.”

That’s the logic these days.  And it’s the same logic that’s been around for decades, if not longer.  It’s the way I was raised and the way I thought for many, many years.  Only recently have I began to see a movement afoot, if only a cyber-movement which is beginning to challenge the status quo.  More and more, various blogs and writings have started to call into question both the way and the method with which we pay our tithes – and rightfully so, I believe.

WeepingForZion, after sitting through a Sacrament meeting where the speaker reiterated that we pay our 10% tithing no matter how hard it may be for us, discussed D&C 119 and stated, “…there is no tithing without consecration, as consecration is the beginning of the tithing of the people.  However, we have left that law out and made tithing a law to itself.”  One of the comments to this entry replied with an interesting analysis on 3 Nephi 24:7-12 and 4 Nephi, following which that author replied:  “… the true principle of tithing is only made possible by consecration.”[30] Zo-ma-rah, in discussing the differences between D&C 119 and the “law” we preach today, responded, “if there is a contradiction between the Lord’s Word and what a prophets speaks then the Lord’s Word trumps everything.”[31] PureMormonism likewise has discussed tithing frequently in recent months, shedding light on Daymon Smith’s book (The Book of Mammon), wherein he points out, “When instituted by Joseph Smith in the 1830’s tithing wrought a very small revenue stream, and it was designed to be small in order to prevent just the sort of dominating ‘Church’ that now governs and patrols, steals the very name, and surveys and takes and gives what it believes best to congregations.”[32] It should go without saying that others[33] have discussed tithing in past years, but the frequency with which the topic is being discussed in recent months has given me some food for thought.

What I would like to focus on, though, is the point emphasized in Daymon Smith’s book – shared by PureMormonims – namely, that tithing was meant to produce a very small revenue stream.  When Lorenzo Snow gave his talk on tithing back in 1899 the impetus for his talk was to help alleviate the financial struggles of the church – not enough tithing was flowing in to cover the obligations the institution was taking on.  A CES manual suggests that members simply stopped paying tithing because they feared the federalistas would confiscate whatever property they gave as a tithe.  This same manual further states that “the Lord revealed to President Snow” that the church needed to pay a “full and honest tithe” in order to rid the church of its debts.

LeRoi Snow, Lorenzo’s son, reported to the Deseret News (the church owned newspaper):

“…the law of tithing had been neglected by the people, also that the Saints, themselves, were heavily in debt, as well as the Church, and now through strict obedience to this law – the paying of a full and honest tithing – not only would the Church be relieved of its great indebtedness, but through the blessings of the Lord this would also be the means of freeing the Latter-day Saints from their individual obligations, and they would become a prosperous people.”[34]

Lorenzo’s exact words, as reported in the Millenial Star, were:

“The word of the Lord to you is not anything new; it is simply this:  the time has now come for every Latter-day Saint, who calculates to be prepared for the future and to hold his feet strong upon a proper foundation, to do the will of the Lord and to pay his tithing in full.  That is the word of the Lord to you, and it will be the word of the Lord to every settlement throughout the land of Zion.”[35]

The CES manual concludes by reminding readers that:

“…the saints obedience to that call eventually brought the Church out of debt … and established a firm temporal foundation for the kingdom of God.  Much of today’s growth in temples, chapels and other buildings and Church programs around the world is the direct result of the temporal prosperity of the Church that came, and still comes, as the result of Saints living the law of tithing.”

To me, these statements raise several questions that should probably be answered.  Namely, (a) Lorenzo Snow reminded members in “every settlement throughout the land of Zion” to pay a full and honest tithe, but what does that mean, especially if he’s referring to the “land of Zion” and, (b) is tithing supposed to be used to fund the vast construction projects of the church – chapels, temples, other buildings, etc.?

As discussed previously, D&C 119 specifically notes that there is no tithing absent consecration.  Likewise, Snow himself declared that his statement was “the word of the Lord” on this issue.  If that is the case, then I find it unfortunate that there is no mention of consecration outside the settlements of Zion and, further, it should be noted that shortly following this statement the church morphed from an “in-kind” donation form of tithing to a cash based system.  Based on the last question, this statement by Snow is essentially asking individual members to pay off the loans the church took out to buy many of the businesses Joseph F. Smith[36] discussed in the Reed Smoot hearings in the early 1900s, among other things.

Biblical Comparison

In order to better understand the purposes for tithing, I turned to the bible to see if it said anything on how it should be used.  In doing so, I came across an interesting article that gives an entirely different viewpoint I thought needed to be brought up.

In responding to Malachi 3:10 (the “robbing God” scripture), the author of this article suggests that the context of that scripture is often lost on us.  He reminds us that Malachi 3:7 tells us how everyone had “gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them.”  But, what were those ordinances and how were they not being kept?  Further, turning to Deuteronomy 14:22-23, Deuteronomy 14:24-26, and Deuteronomy 12:17-19, we read, in each instance, how there was a commandment to “EAT” the tithes.  In each instance the Israelites were instructed to eat their tithes, in a spirit of rejoicing, together with their families, their servants and the Levites.  Or, as the author notes it, “to have fun.”  At no point in these verses did the Israelites leave any portion of their tithes at any appointed place, instead the tithes were to be consumed in “an atmosphere of celebration, sharing, and communion with God.”

Before continuing on, it might be worth reading the entirety of the following verses:

And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.  At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the atithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:  And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the awidow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.[37]

Based on this scripture (as well as Deuteronomy 26:12), the Levite is allocated a tithe every third year, or, on average, not 10% every year as we currently understand the practice.  Placing this “tithe” “within thy gates” was a way of placing the tithing in a storehouse – indeed, the same storehouse referenced in Malachi 3:10.  But, as referenced above in Leviticus 14, the Levites (the “ministry”) weren’t the only ones with access to the storehouse:  so were the poor AND the fatherless AND the widowed.  This every-third-year tithe was specifically given to bless the widows, the fatherless and those in church ministry.

The original author further states,

“Levites were allocated cities within each tribal land (“within your gates”) in which they were to live with their families and, apart from houses, they were allocated “pasture land”. This pasture land was a part of the storehouse in which the tithes were deposited: some of the tithes were in the form of grain, seed, wine, oil and other farm produce, and some were actually live domestic animals, rather than killed meat. These animals which were received as a tithe were to be pastured till they were taken and killed for food, either by the Levites, or by those in need. Therefore, the storehouse mentioned in Malachi 3 is not the place of worship, but rather a place within each tribal land, easily accessible to the local Levites, the poor and the strangers on their journey.”

Later, in discussing the issue of “increase” as it relates to tithing, an interesting scenario is presented:

“If we check Numbers, chapters 1-3, we will find that there were approximately 30 to 33 Israelites to one Levite. Now, assume 32 Israelites with an ‘increase’ of 100 sheep a year each. If each Israelite would give his tithe of 10 sheep to the Levite, the Levite’s total income would be 320 sheep, of which he would have to give a tithe of 32 sheep to the priests, as per Num.18:26. Each Israelite would be left with 90 sheep out of his ‘increase’. Let’s assume, that was what was needed to feed an average family for a year. On the other hand, each Levite would end up with 288 sheep. If we add the tithe of every third year, the year of tithing, the balance in favour of the Levite would swing even further.

What would the Levite do with all these sheep? If he would use the whole lot to feed his family, the tribe of Levy would become extinct in few generations: they would be dying from overeating at a much higher rate than the rest of Israelites. The second possibility would be that there were so many poor people and strangers, who would consume about two-thirds of tithes, that is, God planned that two-thirds of tithes belong to the poor and strangers.

The third possibility could be that the Levite would consume about 90 sheep, give some to the poor, and be left with a healthy surplus. This surplus sheep would breed and very soon the Levites would have income of their own. By continuing with collection of tithes, they would very soon run out of the pasture land and would be forced to exchange some flock for land. Continuing with this practice for fifty years would probably result in Levites owning all the land in Israel! And then the Jubilee year would come and they would have to return the land to their original owners – back to square one! Would this make sense?

And, of course, there is a fourth possibility: the Levites would consume as much of the tithes as they needed, give some to the poor and the strangers, and sell the rest, get the money into their hands and go and proselyte (evangelise) the world. A real possibility, however, the Word of God makes no mention of it. … The conclusion is obvious: Tithes were not supposed to be used to proselyte (evangelise) the world.

Now imagine, as I concluded from the Scripture, that Israelites give 10% of their income to the Levites every third year only. 32 Israelites with an annual increase of 100 sheep each, would have 300 sheep of increase each in three years. Each one would give 10 sheep (a tithe of the third year) to the Levite, and be left with 290 sheep (for three years) as his increase. The Levite would receive 320 sheep, of which he would have to give his tithe of 32 sheep to the priests, and be left with 288 sheep as his after-tithe income over three years – nearly an EXACT number with which each Israelite would be left. THIS does make sense – this is the principle of equality! … ”

It should be noted that I don’t agree with all of the author’s arguments, but the information is compelling enough that it should be shared.  Returning to Deuteronomy 26:12, this scripture suggests that those tithes (“the THIRD year”) provide the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow with enough to “be filled.”  Paying it every 3 years is somehow enough to satiate their needs.  This suggests that what is given every third year fully provides for each group – none would be left wanting, none would be left poor and, perhaps more importantly, none would be left with gobs and gobs of money to invest for three years and then spend on lavish building programs (which seem to receive funds that were never intended to be used in such a way).

In concluding the article, the author offers the following as the most important points of tithing:

“First of all, it is obedience to God: there is no need to elaborate on this any further.

The second important point is that, through tithing, Israelites expressed their thankfulness to God Who provided for them all those earthly goods that they needed to sustain their lives. Tithe was a token of that appreciation.

The third and important point is that tithing was a vehicle of sharing. This sharing was demonstrated at two levels. Firstly, sharing between the Israelites who received their inheritance from God (the life sustaining land) and those who did not posses such inheritance, the Levites, the strangers and the poor. If we examine the figures, the number of Israelites versus the number of Levites and the percentage that the Israelites were to give to the Levites (one third of 10%) we will find that each would end up with an equal share. This is the principle that was observed in the distribution of manna: one who gathered much had nothing left over and the one who gathered little had no lack.

The second level of sharing was the community sharing, where people would come together with their families and neighbours and share in the atmosphere of joy and celebration before the Lord.

It is worth observing that tithing was not a vehicle to ‘build the kingdom’ or to ‘save the souls’ or to support some other ‘godly’ project.”[38]

When the scriptures discuss the principle of giving and sharing, it speaks of giving and sharing to the poor and needy; taking care of those who have less than we do; alleviating their burdens, their struggles, their perceived injustices.  I’m still looking for a reference on how tithing funds are obligated to be spent on building programs, by the way.

Returning to the previous points, we rob the poor when we focus on wealth; we rob the poor when we insist that we need to build beautiful churches and temples around the world; we rob the poor when we focus more on our clothing than on sharing our abundance with them; we rob the poor when we think of tithing as solely a mechanism whereby we enrich ourselves, as a means of “fire insurance,” all while non-tithe payers become more impoverished.

The True Purposes of Tithing

Deuteronomy 27:19 provides a thoughtful rejoinder on the true purposes of tithing:

“Cursed be he that aperverteth the bjudgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow…”

Christ, likewise, reminds us:

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give TO THE POOR, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”[39]

And:

“Sell what you have and give alms … for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[40]

Among many, many others.

In the past, I’ve frequently misjudged the evils of Sodom and Gomorrah, focusing largely (solely, in fact) on their sexual trespasses.  Ezekial 16:49, though, gives us some much needed insight, going so far as to suggest that the following was the iniquity”:

“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister aSodombpride, fulness of bread, and abundance of cidleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”

They had plentiful food, were filled with pride (nice clothing tends to do that) but, perhaps most importantly, they forgot about the poor and the needy.  Much like us today, we focus on our own balance sheets, we review our annual financial condition,[41] and then we give token appreciation for the poor and needy on major holidays (i.e. Thanksgiving or Christmas) while largely forgetting them during the other 363 days of the year.

Daymon Smith noted in his Book of Mammon this same tendency among the Church™:

“Rarely does your money feed the hungry, clothe the poor, or provide for other non-religious forms not published by the Church Office Building or sent forth from the COB.”

“By the time the money comes back from the COB, the Church has generously tithed to the needy from its multibillion dollar revenue stream something on the order of one percent, often in used, tattered clothing and rice and wheat and so on…For all its bluster and public relations about humanitarian aid, The Corporation, in other words doesn’t follow its own rule of tithing.”

Perhaps it’s no wonder why people the likes of Heber J. Grant have lamented that the “heavens are as brass” to them.  When we forget the poor, the needy and the widowed while pillaging church coffers in order to run myriads of businesses we shouldn’t expect anything else.  And, on a personal level, when we reject the poor, needy and widowed while funding our 401(k)’s we shouldn’t be surprised when the Lord looks the other way in our time of need.

It should, perhaps, be noted that almost one year ago, today, the Church™ announced it was adding “caring for the poor and needy” as an “official” purpose of the church.  One can argue the timing of the announcement, but at least it’s there.  Whether that translates into giving away more than 1% of annual tithing revenue remains to be seen – i.e. whether it’s just lip service to quell the feelings many have about the exorbitant investment in things like City Creek Center and other odd investments for a “church.”  Until we refocus our teachings on tithing to discuss giving the majority of that money to the poor, needy and widowed, I’ll continue to have my doubts.  LDSA recently stated that, “Charity is an over-whelming desire and willingness to share all that you have with everyone else.”  I whole heartedly agree and, it would seem, this is the underlying motive behind tithing and giving all of our abundance to help the poor, the needy, the fatherless and the widowed.

Returning to the discussion on one of the reasons why we should be more focused on giving of our substance to the poor, Isaiah penned these words:

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:… Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him… And if thou draw out thy soul to the ahungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light brise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the Lord shall aguide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in bdrought, and cmake fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a dspring of water, whose waters fail not.  the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord shall answer…”[42]

I discussed these verses elsewhere and would direct you there for further discussion on those.

To me, tithing used to be about doing something measureable, about purchasing “fire insurance,” about making sure I was doing everything I could to unlatch those windows in heaven, sure of the bounteous monetary blessings that would follow.  To me, tithing used to be about doing something that allowed me to get a temple recommend, about “not robbing” God and about doing my part to fund the massive church building, curriculum and administrative programs.  That is what it used to be about.

No longer is tithing about funding a system that takes that money and siphons it directly into interest bearing accounts that toil in Babylon; no longer is it about financing large real estate ventures; no longer is it about using money to achieve happiness.  Those are misdirected motives.

Now, tithing is in the process of being redefined.  And rightfully so.  Hopefully it’s more than just lip service on my end, too.

“But it is not given that one man should apossess that which is above another, wherefore the bworld lieth in csin.” – D&C 49:20.


[1] Hinckley, Gordon B.  The Widow’s Mite.  17 September 1985.

[2] Child, Sheldon F.  The Best Investment.  April 2008 General Conference.

[3] See 3 Ne. 24:10; Malachi 3:10.

[4] Clayton, Whitney L.  Promised Lands.  12 August 2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Nibley, Hugh.  Approaching Zion: What is Zion?  A Distant View.  1989.

[8] Hinckley, Gordon B.  New Era.  April 2009.  Page 17.

[9] Ashton, Marvin J.  One for the Money.  July 1975 Ensign.  Page 73.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12]Liberia at a Glance.”  GDP for Liberia is actually $170US per year.

[13] See 2 Ne. 9:30.

[14] See 1 Tim. 6:8.

[15] See Jacob 2:17.

[16] See D&C 49:20.

[17] See D&C 104:16, 18.

[18] See Matthew 6:19, 21.

[19] See 1 Timothy 6:10-11.

[21] See Luke 12:13-40 for a more in-depth discussion on this and subsequent teachings on this same issue.

[22] Alms are little more than money or goods contributed to the poor.  See this to begin your study on alms.

[23] See Luke 11:3, Matthew 6:11, among others.

[24] See Mormon 8:35-39 for a good old fashioned lecture.

[25] See SearchingforZion.com for this (entitled:  Wealth and the Gospel), and other articles.

[26] See Alma 1:27, 30 for a good idea on where to start.

[27] Talmage, James E.  The Articles of Faith, 12th edition.  Pages 526, 528-529.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Romney, Marion G.  The Blessings of an Honest Tithe.  Jan-Feb 1982 New Era, page 45.

[30] See What Have We Done to the Poor? for more detail.

[33] See The Law of Tithing (4 Part Series) over at LDS Anarchy for more detail, among others.

[34] Snow, LeRoi C.  “The Lord’s Way out of Bondage Was Not the Way of Men,” Improvement Era, July 1938, 439.  It is interesting to note that this report was given some 40 years after the fact.

[35] Snow, Lorenzo.  Millenial Star, 24 Aug. 1899, 533.  See also this CES Manual, pages 86-88.

[36] An entire transcript of the Reed Smoot hearings and Joseph F. Smith’s responses can be found here.

[37] See Leviticus 14:27-29.  Emphasis is mine.

[38] See The Truth About Tithing – Old Testament Perpective by George Potkonyak to read his entire article on this subject.  In fact, I’d recommend it to just about everyone.

[39] See Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21 and Luke 18:22.

[40] See Luke 12:33-34.

[41] Marsha, daughter of Russell M. Nelson, was once quoted as saying the only time she remembers her father watching television was on New Year’s Day when he would spread out papers and review the family’s annual financial condition while watching football games.

[42] See Isaiah 58:6-12.


We left off the previous discussion on church finance with a discussion on how the church derives investment income from tithing, and then uses that investment income to invest in projects small and large, fat and skinny, the named and nameless.  And, lest the wondering minds of inquiring members get concerned, the church uses this “investment income” and is careful to point out that they are not using “tithing” funds for such projects.  Not tithing funds – just the income earned by investing tithing in largely Babylonian investments over a couple of years.

The Church is The Kingdom

So, now we get to the original reason why I started looking into this stuff in the first place, though it’s a circuitous route and has more than a few twists and turns I didn’t originally anticipate.  Not the most exciting stuff, mind you, but certainly bizarre.  Just what else does the Church ™ invest in?  What other projects do they control with their “investment income”?

One of the top items on the list of strange things a tax-exempt Church ™ owns, just so happens to be a couple of private hunting reserves.  Not your typical run of the mill religious item – after all I’m admittedly not sure how killing animals for sport/pleasure persuades people to believe in Christ – but at least it’s a potentially profitable one.  In Daymon Smith’s book, The Book of Mammon (a good read, mind you)[1], he talks how the church went from providing paid positions to unpaid, volunteer positions masquerading as “missions” within the organization in order to save money and increase profit.  The public perception of these “missions” doesn’t come off that way, but that was, and is, the net result.  Instead of a “money saving” idea, it’s billed as an opportunity to work for God’s Kingdom here on the earth.  After all, what better way to serve God than to volunteer your time building the “Kingdom”?  And, when the “church” and “kingdom” have become conflated to such an extent as to where the two are used simultaneously from pulpits far and wide, why not pimp the idea that you’re working to build the kingdom?  Interestingly, how often do we take note of this conflation and realize that never were the two to be considered twain?

Many talks over the pulpit have increased this propensity to fail to see the differentiation between the church and the Kingdom of God.  Gordon Hinckley did it several times:

“What I say of myself concerning this matter is equally applicable to all who hold office in this the Church and kingdom of God.”[2]

Ezra Taft Benson likewise asserted as much in his famous talk, I Testify:

“The church and kingdom of God was restored in these latter days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…”[3]

LeGrand Richards likewise helped conflate the issue when he stated:

“When I was president of the Southern States Mission, one of our missionaries preached on that dream of Nebuchadnezzar in one of our meetings where we had some investigators, and I stood at the door to greet them as they went out. A man came up and introduced himself as a minister, and he said, “You don’t mean to tell me that you think that the Mormon Church is that kingdom, do you?”

And I said, “Yes, sir, why not?”

He said, “It couldn’t be.”

I said, “Why couldn’t it?”

He said, “You can’t have a kingdom without a king, and you don’t have a king, so you don’t have a kingdom.”

“Oh,” I said, “my friend, you didn’t read far enough. You just read the seventh chapter of Daniel, where Daniel saw one like the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, ‘and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.’ (Dan. 7:14.)

“Now,” I said, “my friend, tell me how can the kingdom be given to him when he comes in the clouds of heaven if there is no kingdom prepared for him? That is what we Latter-day Saints are doing.”[4]

Now, it should probably be noted that there is a difference between working to establish the Kingdom (as Richards noted in that last sentence) and professing that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints™ is that kingdom.  This belief is perhaps best witnessed by hearkening back the Ronald Poelman’s talk, given in 1984, on the differences between the “Gospel” and the “Church.”[5] In the original talk, Poelman made the following astute observations:

“Of equal importance is understanding the essential relationship between the gospel and the Church.  Failure to distinguish between the two and to comprehend their proper relationship may lead to confusion and misplaced priorities … when we understand the difference between the gospel and the Church and the appropriate function of each in our daily lives, we are much more likely to do the right things for the right reasons … .”

In commenting on Poleman’s talk, and the reasons why it was re-recorded, Denver Snuffer noted the following:

“Right now testimonies within the church recite the mantra “I know the church is true.”  The correlation process has made the church into god.  People’s testimonies of the “church” have supplanted their testimonies of Christ.  Read any Ensign issue of any conference held within ten years after the correlation process, and consider how many talks focus upon the church and the church’s processes and goodness, in contrast with how many of the talks focus upon Jesus Christ and His doctrines.  Christ’s role has been diminished by the emphasis upon the correlated church.”[6]

A peculiar people, indeed.

Volunteer Missions

The Church™ was never intended to be the Kingdom, nor the Kingdom the Church.  Complementary, certainly, but never the same thing.  Now, members reaching retirement age and with sufficient financial reserves to devote a year or three of their lives are encouraged to serve a “mission” for the church.  Some of these very “missions” are served in mission homes, some as service missions and some, yay verily, are working for “for-profit” industries.  And, no matter the call, these missions are viewed as the next best thing since sliced bread.  Generations will be affected, for the better, or so the reasoning goes.  Kim Clark, now president of BYU-Idaho, offers us a glimpse into this mindset.  If you remember, Clark was the president of the Harvard Business School for nearly a decade before leaving to become president of BYU-Idaho in 2005.  Clark received a good amount of flak for his decision to leave from member and non-member alike, and rationalized his decision thusly:

“We believe that that man, Gordon B. Hinckley, is a prophet of God,” Clark told television host Charlie Rose in an interview in July, explaining his decision to leave Harvard. “And Moses says—the man who is acting like Moses says—he would like you to do something. Now, in this case, of course you`d say yes…”[7]

So, the effort becomes threefold:  (a) you label the call to serve wherever in the church a “mission,” (b) you have those missionaries convinced that they need to pay their own way as a way to build up the “kingdom” of God and (c) you belabor the idea that the “Kingdom of God” and the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ™” is that very kingdom and (d) each “mission call” is signed, sealed and delivered with the “Prophet’s” very name and signature on each call.  And, following these four steps you reach a point where virtually any position, in any corporation within the Church can be staffed by “volunteers” more than willing to pay their way to build up the Kingdom, errrr, Church.

Private Hunting Preserves

Take, for example, Clair Huff, and his wife.  Huff spent his entire career as a wildlife biologist, including working as the Director of Operations for the Division of Wildlife Resources.  As retirement age approached, Huff and his wife began contemplating serving a mission for the Church™.  Huff had an interesting skill set, honed over years of work within the Division of Wildlife Resources.  And, the Church with its varied needs and interests, is quick to match people up with positions that match their skill set.  A mission, as is taught throughout the church system, was the most logical outlet wherein he and his wife could use their talents to “build the kingdom.”

Well Clair Huff and his wife did just that when they worked for a “private hunting preserve” along the “southwest shores of Utah Lake.”[8] Yessiree, full-time “missionaries” employed for the Church ™, working on a “private hunting preserve” that covers approximately 11,000 acres just outside of Elberta, Utah.  That “private hunting preserve” is owned, part and parcel, by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  That “preserve” is a profit making venture, or at least that’s the goal.  And, according to an article written in 2000[9], when hunting permits were running upwards of $1,500 per person, it wasn’t yet churning out a profit, though Huff could see the silver lining on the horizon.

And, lest you think the permit is only a one-time benefit, it seems as though there are lasting benefits many people would do well to acknowledge:

“Only a few pheasant and goose-hunting permits are sold each year, with hunting aficionados paying as much as $1,500 for the opportunity to hunt what is fast becoming an exclusive “club” for “members only.”

Once a hunter ponies up the cash to secure a permit, he’s not only guaranteed a permit for the following year, but his chance to draw the prime target areas on the preserve improve along with his seniority in the exclusive group.

“All of our hunters are from Utah, many of them doctors, dentists and attorneys from Payson north to Ogden, including Park City,” Elder Huff said. The flatlands also provide an additional advantage for the well-heeled hunting crowd — a 2,600-foot landing strip where private aircraft can whisk hunters in and out of the remote preserve, saving them the long and lonely drive. … “Just like the farm derives revenue from harvesting crops, the preserve is designed to produce revenue when hunters harvest the wildlife here,” Elder Huff said. … ”

As these words suggest, it’s a “private hunting preserve” that is geared toward the affluent.  Heck, how many people do you know would fly into a “private hunting preserve” in order to avoid a “long and lonely drive”?

But, this is not all. According to this same Deseret News article, the church owns at least one other preserve in Utah:

“The church owns thousands of acres of farm and ranch land throughout the West, including the Deseret Land and Livestock Co., a private big-game hunting preserve scattered over 200,000 acres in northern Utah. Hunters from around the country vie for a limited number of elk and moose permits there that cost as much as $8,500 each.”

Complete with a formal hunting lodge for housing and meals, the hunts are guided by a local outfitter in search of their “trophy” elk or buck. And while there’s no guarantee that a hunter’s bullet will find its mark, hunting on the preserve is so popular that there’s a six-year waiting list to buy a permit.

“Elder” Huff was optimistic that the operation will turn a profit for the first time in 2000, but I was unable to find any financial information on the reserve, but the track record of the church is fairly good at turning a profit, so I’m assuming that they do. Huff continued, “This is a very viable habitat, and if they continue to invest the profits back in and find an innovative manager to run it, there’s the potential to boost the number of permits we issue up to a maximum of about 250 someday.”

And as the habitat, and consequently, the number and variety of wildlife improves, the price of the permits would logically go up as well, he said.

“Imagine if we got to the point that we could boost the price (of each permit) to $2,000 or $2,500. Times that by 250, and it doesn’t take a lot to understand that this could be a very profitable operation.” (emphasis is mine.)

Count that among the things I likely will never experience in my life, what with permits ranging from $2,000 to $8,500 (and likely more, today), with their own private hunting lodges and airstrips.  Seems like the good ole boys’ club has come to roost in Utah.

The Deseret Land and Livestock, located in northern Utah, states,

“The LDS Church ownership era has been marked by conscientious business practices including strategic planning, cost control, increased production, and accountability. Emphasis on holistic management has brought a uniqueness to the ranch that is attractive to visitors from many walks of life.”  At the ranch, “hunting is a key means of generating ranch revenue.”[10] (emphasis is mine.)

So, one “preserve” just south of Utah Lake leaves us with a statement that it could be a “very profitable” venture, while another preserve up north states that hunting is a “key means of generating ranch revenue.”  Is there any real question that the church – the owner of both preserves – is operating these preserves with little other interest other than to turn a buck (pun intended)?

Not only can you hunt on these lands, but one can also experience guided fly-fishing tours.  One guide, linked to the official website of the reserve, offers one-on-one tours for “Trophy Elk” on Deseret Land and Livestock land for an insignificant sum of $17,500.[11] Or, should that be slightly out of reach of your discretionary income budget, you could just stick to hunting antelope for only $4,250 (that’s the lowest priced permit offered through this outfitter).  It’s no wonder that Huff mentioned that these preserves cater to a very specific, very affluent crowd.

As of 2005, the church owned Deseret Ranch, a different cattle ranch in central Florida, was the largest working cattle ranch in the United States.  That ranch, valued at an estimated $500 million when purchased back in the 1950s, covers approximately 300,000 acres of Florida swamp and pasture land.  It includes 1,000 miles of canals, 250 miles of roads and 1,400 miles of fencing.  The ranch employs approximately 75 full-time employees (and their families), most of which live in houses across the ranch.  On-site amenities for the employees that stay on the ranch include a swimming hole, campgrounds and a rodeo arena.  As of 2005, the ranch maintained a herd of 44,000 heifers and purebred cows.  One article estimated annual income to be in the neighborhood of at least $16 million just from the calves they sell each year at cattle auctions.[12]

Cynthia Barnett, in an article entitled, The Church’s Ranch, discussed what she called “ecclesiastical entrepreneurism” and the church and wrote:

“While the church is committed to stewardship of the land, it is just as committed to squeezing profits out of its private companies. …

And eventually, those two missions; are sure to clash on this prime central Florida property. Real estate sources estimate Deseret’s spread is worth some $900 million, though the assessed agricultural value is far lower than that. For decades, the family cattle ranches that once made up Osceola and outlying Orange counties have been gobbled up by housing developments – a pattern that’s repeating itself throughout Florida and the nation. But because the church is so rich, it has not yet buckled to pressure to sell any of its Florida land to developers. Ten years ago, the church backed off a plan to develop 7,000 acres near the Bee Line Expressway under sharp criticism from environmentalists.

Often at odds in other parts of the country over issues such as animal waste and grazing, the tree-huggers and the cowpokes in central Florida have for now become allies. For example, environmentalists helped Deseret fight a huge landfill Brevard County wanted to put adjacent to the ranch. That area is also home to one of the largest bird rookeries in the state.

Squires says the church’s long-term plans for the majority of Deseret Ranch are to keep it agricultural. But he acknowledges the business-savvy church will develop the fringes – particularly its property outside Orlando – as the land becomes more valuable. “The pressure is here,” Squires says. “But we want to be responsible and be good neighbors.” It’s in his church’s ecclesiastical and entrepreneurial missions to do so, he says.”[13]

Interesting, I wasn’t aware of an “entrepreneurial” mission to the church.  At least not an official one, but it should be noted that while outsiders view the church as “business-savvy” and striving to “squeeze” as much profit out of whatever private business their running these days, members are largely clueless as to the holdings the church has on its books.

As part of the Deseret Wildlife plan, some 45 hunt clubs lease portions of the ranch to hunt (the favored politically correct term of these articles seems to be “harvest.”  It sounds much more humane when you say we’re “harvesting” animals versus “hunting”) animals.  The ranch also harvests timber and leases TV and radio towers as a way to increase revenue.[14]

Sunstone Magazine[15] posed a thoughtful question on the matter, as well as an interesting mp3 listen, of these for-profit “hunting preserves” sometime back:

“To what degree should the principle of ‘respect for life” be extended to bird and animal creations? What do the scriptures, Joseph Smith, and other early Church leaders teach about the grand design and purposes of God’s non-human creations? Does having “dominion” over the kingdom of creatures mean we are their predators and exploiters or does it suggest a “stewardship” relationship in which we become their caretakers in order to help them “fulfill the full measure of their creation?”

If the scriptures teach, “woe be unto man that sheddeth blood or wasteth flesh and have no need,” and “the blood of every beast will I require at your hands,” what rationale could be used to explain Church-owned, revenue-generating enterprises such as Deseret Land and Livestock and the Westlake Hunting Preserve? Do these operations constitute sacrificing principle for profit?”

Aside:  The mp3 (see footnote below) has an interesting discussion on some Mormon leader (a Regional Representative) who went on several safari’s while on a church trip to visit some congregations in Africa.  While on this trip, the regional representative later related  killing both a lion and a “rare Roman antelope,” and yet had the moral strength to turn down an alcoholic beverage at a dinner that same evening.  “What peculiar priorities,” indeed.

Mormon Matters[16] and The Faithful Dissident[17] both discussed these preserves sometime ago, and in good depth.  Both touched on the aspects of hunting, or canned hunting[18] as happens at these LDS preserves, as it relates to a gospel principle and what part hunting for sport has amongst the church.  This particular article has nothing to do with the hunting aspect, but rather is to focus and touch on the financial aspect owning such enterprises – as in, why the hell is the church investing in a for-profit “hunting preserve” or “cattle ranch” or whatever the investment du jour is?  But, even with that said, one would do well to consider the ramifications of canned hunting.  Even some of the more correlated church curriculum manuals state,

“We may also eat the flesh of animals and of fowls of the air and use the skin of animals for clothing (see D&C 89:12–13; 49:18–19); however, we are not to kill animals for mere sport or pleasure and waste the meat (see D&C 49:21).”

But, with that being said, I fully admit I’m not sure just how these animals spend their dead hours.  Do all the canned hunters save the meat to eat, do some, do none?  I think, generally, your average run-of-the-mill hunter is as conscientious about what they are doing, but I wonder whether the more affluent of the bunch – those who have access to the church owned preserves through their expensive permits – have the same conscientiousness.

My guess is that it may be lacking in some areas.  For example, on the “referral” page of some of “approved” outfitters one can read the following accounts:

Whether you want a trophy deer or elk, or just want to catch some large trout, these guys can take you to the right spot. I’m already looking forward to next season. Thanks for the wall hangers!!” – Robert H. (emphasis is mine.)

“I can honestly say that they have One of the best hunting experiences you can imagine. They have a very knowledgable guides , great packers and great food. Their quantity and Quality of game can’t be matched. You will see more Elk , deer, moose in one day than you will see on most places in a season. I tell my friends that It is the Disneyland of Elk hunting because you can”t believe the quality experience that you will have.” – Matt T. (emphasis is mine.)

“We looked at close to a hundred bulls, maybe more. He never pressured me to shoot any of them, and I’m sure many hunters would have been happy to take several of them. I would recommend you to anyone that wanted a first class elk hunt. I took a heavy bull that I am very happy with. I know several people were involved in putting me on that bull.” – Ed G.

“I’ve never had an opportunity that paralleled what we were able to experience.  Fishing water that I suspect never has been fished in recorded history, not seeing a boot track, another human being, or any sign of human habitation for two days, and I personally having caught probably over 500 fish.  What an experience!!” – Lynn W.

Take those accounts for what they’re worth.  Regaling over catching a couple hundred fish, smarting about the most recent piece to the collection hanging on your wall or visiting the most beautiful of “God’s creations” while “harvesting” some of His other creations.  Canned hunting or not, in spite of it all, we’re shown time-and-again that the very “missions” the church claims as being a means to establish the “kingdom” of God have very little to do with anything resembling Christ, but rather with making money.  Profiting from animals, the land and virtually everything on this God-given earth.  No wonder the church plucked Clark from HBS to serve as the new president of BYU-Idaho in 2005: one attends HBS to make “shedloads of money,” which somehow attests that those who make the most money, are the “most morally good.”[19]

Peculiar, indeed.

***To be continued …***


[2] Hinckley, Gordon B.  “God is at the Helm.”  April 1994.

[3] Benson, Ezra Taft.  “I Testify.”  October 1988.

[4] Richards, LeGrand.  “Prophets and Prophecy.”  October 1975.

[6] Snuffer, Denver.  “The Traditions of Men, Pt. 3”  Retrieved 10/10/2010.

[7] Hemel, Daniel J.  “Summers Visits Idaho Mormon College,” The Crimson.  October 12, 2005.  Retrieved 10/10/2010.

[8]Couple Serve Wildlife Mission in Utah.”  Church in the News.  July 8, 2000.

[9]Tending the Flock,” Deseret News, July 10, 2000.  Retrieved Oct 3, 2010.

[10] See http://www.dlandl.com/pages/hunting/index.html for more details.  Retrieved 10/4/2010.

[11] See http://www.wildcountryoutfitters.com/ for the entire fee schedule.

[12] Barnett, Cynthia.  “The Church’s Ranch,” AllBusiness.com.  Dec. 1, 2001.  Retrieved 10/4/2010.

[13] Ibid.

[14] See “Discovering the Deseret Ranch” news article for more information.  May 23, 2005.  Retrieved 10/4/2010.

[15] Madson, Mac and Watts, Prestwich.  “Sacrificing Principle for Profit:  Church Wildlife Enterprises and Hunting Preserves,” Sunstone Magazine.  08/10/2001.  Retrieved 10/4/2010.

[18] Per Wikipedia:  “A canned hunt is essentially a trophy hunt in which the animal is kept in a more confined area, such as in a fenced-in area, increasing the likelihood of the hunter obtaining a kill. According to the dictionary definition a canned hunt is a “hunt for animals that have been raised on game ranches until they are mature enough to be killed for trophy collections.”

Whether you want a trophy deer or elk, or just want to catch some large trout, these guys can take you to the right spot. I’m already looking forward to next season. Thanks for the wall hangers!!

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.  LDS.org 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:  http://www.boap.org/LDS/History/History_of_the_Church/Vol_III.  Retrieved 09/30/2010.

[2] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,interest

[3] http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,income

[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.  http://denversnuffer.blogspot.com/2010/04/tithing.html.  Retrieved 10/2/2010.

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


My actions are my only true belongings.  I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.  My actions are the ground upon which I stand.  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s been a wee bit of a delay since I was last here (**cheers from the crowd heard in the background**).  And, I’ve been thinking on this issue of Karma, but that will only briefly cover what this article discusses.  What is it, where does it hail from (originally), where does it belong in today’s society and, truly , do I believe in it?  Those seem to be the questions mulling around my brain.

My first experience with the word Karma probably came from Jim Rome, king of the “jungle karma” which stated, more or less, if you take time out for the jungle and the clones, then the sports gods will smile down on you and you’ll be successful.  It’s probably even more superstitious than that, but you get the gist.

A simple google search for the term “karma” will yield some 64 million results.  According to one of the top search results, Basic Buddishm (and, really, who’s in need of a more basic approach to Buddhism than yours truly?  After all, I’ve been schooled in some of the worst schools in the western hemisphere and taught anything and everything which promotes a lifestyle entirely contrary to Buddhism), Karma is simply, or not, the law of “moral causation.”[1] As I read further on through this passage on Karma, I found myself half believing what was being said, and half disagreeing.  In the end, though, I was left further from my goal of understanding Karma.  More times than not, I’m looking for simple answers.  That may be because I’m little more than a simpleton, but I also hope it’s because simpleness contains its fair share of truth.  Albert Einstein, after all, said that “when the solution is simple, God is answering.”

There is a destiny that makes us brothers: none goes his way alone,
All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.
~Edwin Markham

And so I trudged on for a more simplistic view of Karma.  Further down my list of results I found a site that translated Karma, at its simplest, as “you get what you give.”[2] This perhaps will resonate with some as being truthful, as it’s been echoed throughout time, and is generally what I believe Karma to be.  Part of the trouble I was having with the first discussion on Karma was the discussion of the role it played in previous lives, and the role that it will play in future lives.  It’s not that I doubt that previous or future lives yet exist, as I think there’s ample evidence to suggest that there’s more than just one “mortality” in this great go round called life, but rather the fatalistic and meritocratic view it seems to take on.  Fatalistic in that we seem forever stuck in some sort of Karmic circle, continually suffering for what we do wrong or continually reaping what we do right, and meritocratic because it seems that we, as a people, are all too often attracted to the fruits and pleasures that attend merit based reward systems.  That is the tyranny of the favor line, after all, and perhaps our most favorite Despot.

Without going in to great detail, I think it’s safe to say that scriptures discuss Karma in numerous locations.  What I’d like to discuss has likely been discussed elsewhere (and indeed I’ll provide one link to one source), but perhaps bears further pondering.  Prior to continuing, though, I’d suggest we establish the “Golden Rule” (i.e. do unto others what you’d have done unto you) as our initial Karmic starting point.

Scripture 1:

“And many more such things did [Korihor] say unto them … but every man afared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and bwhatsoever a man did was cno crime.”[3]

Scripture 2:

“And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature? O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again aevil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.  Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal ajustly, bjudge righteously, and do cgood continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your dreward; yea, ye shall have emercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again. For that which ye do asend out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.”[4]

At first blush these two scriptures don’t entirely seem to provide equal comparisons.  One is clearly talking about a “to each his own” philosophy, while the second is discussing the law of restoration or karma, depending on what set of binoculars you’re looking through.  For the purposes of this article, I’m using macro binoculars, looking at the wider perspective and less on individuals, though certainly I think individuality applies here as well.


Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.  ~Edwin Hubbel Chapin

From the macro perspective, I think most people, especially most church members, wholeheartedly believe in Scripture #1, while more or less giving tacit approval to Scripture #2.  The general rule of thumb is to follow #2 while striving for #1.  How, you might ask, is this the case?  It should go without saying that the LDS Church teaches its members that the essence of scripture #1 is our imperative duty in a society such as ours.  The ranks of church leadership are largely filled with successful businessmen, doctors, lawyers and professors.  The ranks of church leadership stand before us bi-annually and instruct us to get as much education as we can.  Education which, mind you, will lead you to bigger and better jobs.  Don’t believe me?

Gordon Hinckley, while serving as President of the Church and as the man most members look to as God’s only spokesman on earth, told us, “You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known.  All around you is competition.  You need all the education you can get.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world.  That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you can education and proficiency in your chosen field.”[5]

Let’s recap:  (a)  we need all the education we can get, (b) we should sacrifice “anything” to get said education, (c) we’re paid what people think we’re worth, and (d) our worth increases with more education and proficiency.  Sounds just like Korihor if you ask me – everyone prospers according to his or her own knowledge, strength and genius.  Perhaps we should make a mental note of this.

With this in mind, let’s turn to a recent CNBC snippet on Mormon missionaries in their “business” news section.  The snippet is about Mormons and success, and we’d do well to realize what the result of our Korihorian teachings are (as exemplified in this video):

Mormon Mission Biz

For some reason I couldn’t get that to embed in here, so you’ll have to follow that link.  What’s incredibly telling – to me at least – is how every church member and missionary in that video references the sharing of the gospel as either “selling religion” or “selling the church” … each time the statement was made, “selling” was/is the operative word.  It may be a minor faux pas, but to me it suggests this Korihorian doctrine that we’re to prosper according to the “management of our creature” based on our own genius, strength and courage.  These missionaries are only too glad to prosper financially and monetarily off their language skills, content to use their “talents” for profitable enterprises.  Ah, how not too long ago I was in a similar vessel voyaging into an abyss somewhere far away.  Now?  I may have changed vessels and directions, but don’t take that to signal that I have any idea what the hell I’m doing.  🙂

Many of my great mentors have taught me such lessons – work hard, go to the right schools, get the right degrees and you’ll prosper financially.  If you work hard enough and have enough brains, you are almost guaranteed to prosper.  Or so I was sold.  Sold up, down and across the river.  Each of my last two Branch Presidents have owned multi-million dollar homes, vacation homes that approached the million dollar level and more cars than they had kids.  They are truly great people – generous, down to earth, and as good a people as I could hope to find, yet here they are profiting from their own genius.  I cannot affirmatively say I wouldn’t do the same if I were in their shoes, though perhaps the following words of Nibley will bring me to my own senses and indict me of some things I’ve been needing.  And, disclaimer be raised, these are my senses.  What is mine is not yours.

Excerpts from Hugh Nibley’s “Approaching Zion”

“Today the beautiful word Zion, with all its emotional and historical associations, is used as the name Christian was formerly used, to put the stamp of sanctity on whatever men chose to do. The Hebrew word for financial activity of any kind is mamonut, and the financier is a mamonai; that is, financing is, quite frankly, in that honest language, the business of Mammon. From the very first there were Latter-day Saints who thought to promote the cause of Zion by using the methods of Babylon. Indeed, once the Saints were told to make friends with the Mammon of unrighteousness (D&C 82:22), but that was only to save their lives in an emergency. We have the word of the Prophet Joseph that Zion is not to be built up by using the methods of Babylon. He says,

‘Here are those who begin to spread out buying up all the land they are able to do, to the exclusion of the poorer ones who are not so much blessed with this worlds goods, thinking to lay foundations for themselves only, looking to their own individual families and those who are to follow them….Now I want to tell you that Zion cannot be built up in any such way.”

“Brigham Young explains: “I am sorry that this people are worldly-minded…Their affections are upon…their farms, upon their property, their houses and possessions, and in the same ratio that this is the case, the Holy Spirit of God – the spirit of their calling – forsakes them, and they are overcome with the spirit of the evil one.”

Every step in the direction of increasing one’s personal holdings is a step away from Zion…one cannot serve two masters…so it is with God and business, for mammon is simply the standard Hebrew word for any kind of financial dealing.

“So money is the name of the game by which the devil cleverly decoys the minds of the Saints from God’s work to his.  “What does the Lord want us up here in the tops of these mountains?” Brigham asked twenty years after the first settling of the Valley. “He wishes us to build up Zion. What are the people doing? They are merchandizing, trafficking and trading.”…”Instead of reflecting upon and searching for hidden things of the greatest value to them, [the Latter-day Saints] rather wish to learn how to secure their way through this world as easily and as comfortably as possible. The reflections, what they are here for, who produced them, and where they are from, far too seldom enter their minds.”…”Are their eyes single to the building up of the Kingdom of God? No; they are single to the building up of themselves.” “Does this congregation understand what idolatry is? The New Testament says that covetousness is idolatry; therefore, a covetous people is an idolatrous people.” “Man is made in the image of God, but what do we know of him or of ourselves, when we suffer ourselves to love and worship the god of this world-riches?” Had the Latter-day Saints gone so far? They had, from the beginning; when the Church was only a year old, the Prophet Joseph observed that “God has often sealed up the heavens because of covetousness in the Church.” Three years later, God revoked that “united order” by which along Zion could exist on earth (D&C 104:52-53) – in their desire for wealth, the Saints had tried to embrace both Babylon and Zion by smooth double-talk…

It has been necessary to circumvent the inconvenient barriers of scripture and conscience by the use of the tried and true device of rhetoric, defined by Plato as the art of making true things seem false and false things seem true by the use of words…This invaluable art has, since the time of Cain, invested the ways of Babylon with an air of high purpose, solid virtue, and impeccable respectability…

“[Examples of using the rhetoric of wealth, i.e. free enterprise or capitalism, etc…]: …the work ethic…this is one of those neat magician’s tricks in which all our attention is focused on one hand while the other hand does the manipulating…Implicit in the work ethic are the ideas…1.) that because one must work to acquire wealth, work equals wealth, and 2.) that that is the whole equation. With these go the corollaries that anyone who has wealth must have earned it by hard work and is, therefore, beyond criticism; that any one who doesn’t have it deserves to suffer – thus penalizing any who do not work for money; and (since you have a right to all your earn) that the only real work is for one’s self; and finally, that any limit set to the amount of wealth an individual may acquire is a satanic device to deprive men of their free agency – thus making a mockery of the Council of Heaven. These editorial syllogisms we have heard a thousand times, but you will not find them in the scriptures. Even the cornerstone of virtue, “He that is idle shall not eat the bread…of the laborer” (D&C 42:42), hailed as the franchise of unbridled capitalism, is rather a rebuke to that system [capitalism, where the wealthy don’t have to work] which has allowed idlers to live in luxury and laborers in want throughout the whole course of history. The whole emphasis in the holy writ is not whether one works or not, but what one works for: “The laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish” (2 Nephi 26:31). “The people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches,…precious things, which they had obtained by their industry” (Alma 4:6) and which proved their undoing, for all their hard work.

In Zion you labor, to be sure, but not for money, and not for yourself, which is the exact opposite of our present version of the work ethic”The non-producer must live on the products of those who labor. There is no other way,” says Brigham, and he gives the solution: “If we all labor a few hours a day, we could then spend the remainder of our time in rest and the improvement of our minds.” That is the real work we are called to do and the real wealth we are to accumulate individually. “Work less, wear less, eat less, and we shall be a great deal wiser, healthier, and wealthier people than by taking the course we do now.” Work does not sanctify wealth: “I know that there is no man on this earth who can call around him property,…and dicker and work, and take advantage here and there – no such man ever can magnify the priesthood nor enter the celestial kingdom. Now, remember, they will not enter that Kingdom.” He gives a concrete illustration: “When the Twelve Apostles were chosen in this dispensation, they were told not to labor with their hands, but to preach the Gospel to the nations of the earth. Some of them before a year had elapsed were engaged in trade; they became merchants, and they apostasized.” “If we lust…for the riches of the world, and spare no pains [hard work] to obtain and retain them, and feel ‘these are mine,’ then the spirit of the anti-Christ comes upon us. This is the danger…[we] are in.”

“In Zion, all are “of one heart and one mind,…and there [are] no poor among them” (Moses 7:18), thus showing that equality extends into all fields, as it must also be in the preparation for Zion: “For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things. For if you will that I give you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves” (D&C 78:6-7). “And you are to be equal,…to have equal claims,…every man according to his wants and his needs,…every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 82:17,19).  Well, there is a great deal of this. In the words of the Prophet Joseph, “The greatest temporal and spiritual blessings which always come from faithfulness and concerted effort, never attended individual exertion or enterprise” (a statement I do not recall having heard from the stand for some time).

The haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearance. The full-fledged citizen of Babylon is an organization map: Daniel was thrown to the lions before he would give up his private devotions offensive to the administration to which he belonged; his three friends preferred being cast into a fiery furnace to the simple act of facing and saluting the image [of the beast?] of the king of Babylon who had given them wealth, power, and position in his kingdom, to whom the owed all allegiance, when the band played in the Plain of Dura…” [end of Hugh Nibley excerpt from Approaching Zion]

President Kimball taught:

“Saints must keep the covenant of consecration. The Lord has blessed us as a people with a prosperity unequaled in times past.  The resources that have been placed in our power are good, and necessary to our work here on the earth.  But I am afraid that many of us have been surfeited with flocks and herds and acres and barns and wealth and have begun to worship them as false gods, and they have power over us.  Do we have more of these good things than our faith can stand?  Many people spend most of their time working in the service of a self-image that includes sufficient money, stocks, bonds, investment portfolios, property, credit cards, furnishings, automobiles, and the like to guarantee carnal security throughout, it is hoped, a long and happy life.  Forgotten is the fact that our assignment is to use these many resources in our families and quorums to build up the kingdom of God—to further the missionary effort and the genealogical and temple work; to raise our children up as fruitful servants unto the Lord; to bless others in every way, that they may also be fruitful.  Instead, we expend these blessings on our own desires, and as Moroni said, “Ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not.” (Mormon 8:39.)  (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball,  p.357)

In the end, returning to Karma, perhaps we have what’s coming for us.  We’re mostly a selfish people, too attached to our personal holdings to ever hope for a Zion like society.  I know I am.  I don’t yet know how to trust some being I’ve never seen, only read about and not even sure if he’s really directed my paths.  I want to trust that I can let go of my desires for “security” and “stability” and trust in Him to get me to where I need to be, but that’s a tough thing to do.  I hope Karma brings me to Him and releases me from this pit I’m in.

One thing is for certain, though.  My genius will never prosper the management of my creature, so perhaps me hoping for a shortcut to Zion isn’t so misguided.  🙂


As the blazing fire reduces wood to ashes, similarly, the fire of Self-knowledge reduces all Karma to ashes.  ~Bhagavad Gita


[1] http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/karma.htm

[2] http://viewonbuddhism.org/karma.html

[3] http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/30/17#17

[4] http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/41/15#15

[5] Gordon Hinckley, April 2009 New Era, page 17.  Originally from New Era Jan. 2001, page 8.