Tithing Settlement

December 7, 2003 | 12 comments
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It’s that time of year when the signup list for tithing settlement goes up on the Bishop’s door. My wife and I always try to get the first appointment, mainly because we usually live some distance from the chapel and we don’t want to make the trek back once we are home. So we had our session right after church today. Every year, as we go through this ritual, I wonder: what is the purpose of tithing settlement?

I don’t think it is for the benefit of the bishop (information gathering) because he has the records and asks during the temple recommend interview whether we pay a full tithe. I guess I have always assumed that this is a mechanism for applying pressure to pay tithing. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think it makes good sense to establish structures that encourage the keeping of commandments.

If this is true, however, then why do we single out this commandment for special treatment? Why not have “member missionary settlement”? Or “food storage settlement”? We do, of course, have the temple recommend interview that covers certain commandments, but that does not tell us anything about the motivation for tithing settlement.

Here’s my hunch: tithing settlement probably started in an earlier day, when compliance with this commandment was low. If true, this suggests to me that the primary purpose of tithing settlement has more to do with the needs of the Church than with the needs of the individual members.

Anticipating the counterpoint: I admit the possibility that the Church is trying to make special efforts to encourage compliance with this commandment because tithing has special relevance to our eternal salvation. While I believe that this is true of tithing, I do not believe that this explains tithing settlement. Lots of commandments that do not merit a special session with the bishop have special relevance to our eternal salvation.

In the end, I will confess that I like tithing settlement. It’s a short meeting, and I enjoy talking to my Bishop. Also, now that I have children, I view it is a great opportunity to reinforce our teachings about tithing. Our Bishop today made a special point of speaking to each of my five children about tithing, and I appreciated that. So, if we are taking a vote, count me in favor.

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12 Responses to Tithing Settlement

  1. Adam Greenwood on December 7, 2003 at 9:48 pm

    I don’t know that the financial records suffice to indicate who’s a full payer and who’s partial (though it probably usually indicates who’s paying nothing at all).

    Tithing settlement offers advantages over temple recommend interviews in that it is less voluntary and less self-initiated.

    Finally, you may be right that there’s no good reason to have a tithing settlement but not a family home evening settlement or whatever. Still, like you, I like tithing settlement and so do lots of people. It’s grown out of being an expedient and has become a custom. God bless it.

  2. Nate on December 7, 2003 at 10:01 pm

    I am interested in Gordon’s theory of how tithing settlement began. First, I wonder if there it rests on some passage of scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants. More Church administrative practices that you might suspect do. Second, it would be interesting to see if it arose when tithing shifted from primarily being in kind to being in cash. The check in the envelope surriptitiously slipped to a member of the bishopric is very private. On the other hand, putting a tenth of your harvest into a wagon and taking it down to the Bishop’s Storehouse has more of the feeling of a public ritual. It would be fun to nail down the history on this.

  3. Nate on December 7, 2003 at 10:04 pm

    BTW, it is my understanding that there are old copies of the general handbook of instructions in the special collections at the BYU library going back to the first decades of the twentieth century. (I have copies of the forms printed in the teens or twenties that were used to initiate a church suit against your neighbor.) An enterprising BYU readers of this blog could look up the earliest available edition and see if it speaks of tithing settlements.

  4. Greg on December 7, 2003 at 10:16 pm

    When my branch president pitched tithing settlement last week, it was “Come in and make sure that our records are accurate if you’ve given anything in the past year; you can pick up receipts for tax purposes.”

    This soft-sell approach may be necessitated by the demographic of our branch (probably similar to Kaimi’s ward), but perhaps that’s how the Bishop sees it to some extent. Of course, I’ll have to see if he asks THE question.

  5. Times and Seasons » Tithing Settlement on December 13, 2004 at 6:55 am

    […] by Gordon Smith

    Last year at this time I posted on the topic of “Tithing Settlement.” Although I strive to avoid repetitive posting, I trust that most of […]

  6. L. Brown on December 14, 2004 at 7:13 pm

    Back when I was a child during the great depression, Tithing Settlement for the Baptist church that I was raised in was done in the fall at the harvest of the crops, and we would give of the crops that we had grown through the season. No one had any money then, so I always assumed that we gave of our crops because of this lack of funds, but I never knew for certain.

  7. Scott on February 9, 2005 at 10:40 pm

    I have never quite been able to understand why an individual who was excommunicated from the church was sent a letter explaining that they could not wear the garment, participate in sacrament ( partake or talk etc.) could not participate in class discussions; but, if they wanted to pay tithing they could give it to a family memeber and the family member could give the tithing for them. I would think that being “cut off” from the church and the spirit through non participation would include the pocket book! Anyone have any idea why one excommunicated could be allowed to pay tithing through a family member?

  8. David King Landrith on February 10, 2005 at 12:06 am

    The church is quite clear that (a) excommunicated members cannot pay tithes and offerings, and (b) only the bishop and his counselors may receive tithes and other offerings. What exactly did the letter say and who was it from?

  9. David Rodger on February 10, 2005 at 2:15 am

    I believe the injunction against paying tithing is based on the fact that the individual should not be able to claim that he has any standing in the Church. Therefore, he is not allowed to pray, comment or speak in Church. In the case of apostate members, this is very wise.

    However, members who have been excommunicated and are very desirous of coming back to the Church, may pay tithing through a family member as an indication of that desire, although there is no re

  10. David Rodger on February 10, 2005 at 2:17 am

    Sorry…hit the wrong button.

    Although there is no requirement that they do so.

  11. annegb on February 10, 2005 at 10:36 am

    We had a small famly crisis over tithing settlement this year. Last year I was sick and didn’t go, which upset my husband, he thought it was just sort of sacreligious. I used to think it was important when my kids were small because it taught them of the importance of tithing. But last year, I didn’t feel good, and I had done all the work anyway. I thought it wouldn’t kill the bishop and my husband to handle this small detail.

    This year, I signed up early (I always forget to do it), and was all scheduled and my to-do list included figuring things out. But I had my grandchildren, and then the ward clerk called to ask if we could come another day. I said, “no way, I am too busy.” The bishop wanted to go to a ball game. I said, “oh well.”

    I told my husband and he got annoyed and said, “the bishop needs to get his priorities straight.” It didn’t really matter to me, but I acquiesed (however you spell it). Then the bishop called, and begged me, because of the ball game. And he didn’t want to do it the week before the 1st. Oh, for pete’s sake. He was just going to do it over the phone. But I said, “I need to check the figures.”

    Then he just came over in the morning, we sat on the piano bench, and I said, “it’s correct, here’s the other check” and he signed it. And that was tithing settlement. My husband was disgusted.

    But really, how important is it? I didn’t care. Although, it did seem like the bishop was whacked out about the ball game. I think his wife threatened to divorce him if he wasn’t there.

    Next year, I will just figure things out and mail in my settlement. Now that I realize I can do with one less meeting and so can the church.

  12. annegb on February 10, 2005 at 10:37 am

    PS, thanks you guys for picking some simple topics that don’t completely lose me. That was nice of you. :)