Fast Offerings: Are Mormons Stingy?

January 4, 2005 | 48 comments
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People have been talking a lot about stinginess lately. With tithing settlement still fresh in my mind, I have been pondering the issue of Mormon generosity.

Let’s start with a story. When I was first practicing law, a senior associate came to my office to solicit my contribution for some good cause. For reasons unknown to me, he felt entitled to lecture me on the topic of generosity, and he suggested that anyone who was making the kind of money that we were making should be embarrassed if he didn’t give two or three percent of it to charity. Being an inveterate smart aleck, I wanted to respond, “You’re preaching to the choir, David. I take ten percent right off the top and give it to my Church. Of course, that doesn’t include fast offerings and other contributions. And don’t even get me started on Boy Scouts, Young Women’s fundraisers, school fundraisers, etc.” But I didn’t.

Nevertheless, this story has always provided a baseline against which to measure my own generosity. As long as I am a full tithe-payer, I have reasoned, I am a generous person by the world’s standards. But the Church expects more from us than tithing. We are also expected to contribute to fast offerings. According to the Church’s publication “True to the Faith, Fasting and Fast Offerings“: “Proper observance of fast Sunday includes going without food and drink for two consecutive meals, attending fast and testimony meeting, and giving a fast offering to help care for those in need.” (Thanks to Kaimi for the link.)

Most wards that I have attended have, from time to time, experienced a shortage of fast offering funds. That is, the funds supplied by the ward have not been sufficient to meet the welfare needs of the ward. Even wards that I considered relatively wealthy have experienced this. In my conversations with bishops over this issue, I have been surprised by two facts: (1) the small number of families in any given ward that contribute to fast offerings; and (2) how little most families that do contribute actually give. As for the amount of fast offerings, the Church’s position is stated thus (again, from the aforelinked publication): “Your fast offering should be at least the value of the two meals you do not eat. When possible, be generous and give much more than this amount.” Having never been a bishop myself, I don’t have anything other than vague impressions here, but my impression is that most members who contribute fast offerings must be skipping meals comprised of Ramen noodles, not steak. Why are we so reluctant to fund the welfare program of the Church?

Here are some possible explanations:

1. Mormons are stingy. My story above was intended to refute this as a general explanation. In my experience, Mormons as a whole are very giving compared to non-Mormons as a whole. The narrower issue is the more interesting one: why does our generosity seem to stop short of a generous fast offering?

2. Bishops are profligate spenders of fast offerings. Perhaps my last question is misplaced and bishops are spending too freely the generous fast offerings of their ward members. Obviously, the disbursement of Church funds is a judgment call, and I have in some instances disagreed with my bishop’s judgment, but I have never felt that one of my bishops was profligate. At a minimum, I do not think that the entire problem of fund shortages can be laid at the feet of proflicate bishops.

3. We don’t really believe in Church welfare. In virtually every instance where Church welfare assistance is discussed, we also examine alternative means of support, including extended family support and support from government programs. Perhaps we feel that we have done our duty by paying taxes, and if someone is truly in need, surely they qualify for some form of government assistance.

4. Even if we believe in Church welfare, we cannot sustain it. The Church welfare system is funded (primarily?) from fast offerings, which are made from a residual amount (disposable income) that is increasingly consumed by the taxes required to support the government welfare system and higher costs of living for ourselves. Perhaps Church welfare is just too expensive. (Just wondering: Do members in Sweden or other higher-tax countries contribute to fast offerings in the same manner as members in the United States?)

Whatever the root cause of fast offering shortages, there are some fairly conventional ways to address them. One is to ask for more fast offerings from the pulpit. This is usually good for a short-term fix, but it does not result in sustained increases. In my experience, the most effective way to increase fast offerings is to have deacons (or other Aaronic Priesthood holders) visit families each month for fast offering collections. While this activity almost always suffers from inconsistency, I have witnessed its effectiveness at increasing fast offerings in several wards. But this raises another question: Do we really need to be shamed by the Aaronic Priesthood before we will contribute a generous fast offering?

So many questions. So few answers.

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48 Responses to Fast Offerings: Are Mormons Stingy?

  1. John Mansfield on January 4, 2005 at 3:56 pm

    One nice thing about the Aaronic Priesthood holders collecting fast offerings is that the generosity of inactive members is a resource. I remember as a youth that so many that I called on would stop and write a check or pull out a wallet. In some cases, the envelope would be taken back into a bedroom and come back stuffed with coins. I look back on that duty in other fond ways as well.

  2. Rosalynde Welch on January 4, 2005 at 4:08 pm

    Yes, I’m stingy. There it is. And it doesn’t help that, for accounting purposes, we generally pay our tithing and offerings in one lump sum at the end of the year: after writing out such a big check for tithing, it’s hard (psychologically, not necessarily financially) to write another big check for offerings. However, we do pay, and we try to be generous.

    This year at tithing settlement the bishop gave us a little pep talk (formulated generally, not aimed at us specifically) about increasing fast offerings. He probably looked at our final statement disapprovingly: our tithing sum was disproportionately large this year because of some investments that paid out, but we re-invested the money immediately (after subtracting tithing), so that money was not part of the monthly budget from which we pay the fast offerings. I almost felt like explaining the situation to our bishop (we just moved, so he doesn’t know us well yet) so he wouldn’t think we were, well stingy–but I decided not to.

  3. Matt Jacobsen on January 4, 2005 at 4:32 pm

    I once heard someone recommend that if we want to give a little extra to the Lord that we don’t do it via tithing, but rather through fast or other offerings. I think the theory is that an extra $50 in a small pool makes a more substantial difference than in a larger one.

    I used to round my tithing up to a nice figure whenever I paid it, just in case I forgot to account for something. Now I try to keep my tithing at exactly 10% and do the rounding so that fast offerings will increase. If I really did honestly forget to pay tithing on something, I don’t think the Lord will care if I put the buffer money into fast offerings.

    During our tithing settlement I asked my bishop how the cash flow for fast offerings was going. He said we are usually in the red which surprised me because I live in a relatively affluent (but mixed) ward. He then said that rather than pay into the other categories on the tithing slip, he only contributes to fast offerings and local missionaries. Seems like a good idea until we have a pretty good surplus of fast offerings.

  4. Last_lemming on January 4, 2005 at 4:32 pm

    In our ward, the Aaronic Priesthood does not “collect” fast offerings, it “gathers” fast offerings. I guess “collecting” smacks too much of taxes and protection money. Whatever you call it, it works for me. I give them at least double what I would otherwise get around to contributing.

    As for profligate bishops, I was in a stake where one bishop got tired of people ward-shopping for welfare and drew up some guidelines for all the bishops in the stake to follow. I don’t know by what authority he did that, but the Stake Presidency knew about it and the other bishop’s signed on. They were actually quite helpful, leading to a big drop in our ward’s outlays when, in conformance with the guidelines, we quit paying one unemployed member’s mortgage.

  5. Kim Siever on January 4, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    “Are Mormons Stingy?”

    Without a doubt.

  6. Kim Siever on January 4, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    I’m Scottish and Dutch. I don’t know what everyone else’s excuse is.

  7. David H. Sundwall on January 4, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    I live in a semi-affluent area of suburban DC and I have heard several times that there are stakes in South America that far outpace us in fast offering donations in comparison. While they have a net surplus we routinely have a deficit.

    I have no idea if this is accurate. But if it is I wonder if that says something about how much demand there is for fast offerings here as opposed to internationally. I would have thought the opposite. So it’s probably true then :-)

  8. Kristine on January 4, 2005 at 5:00 pm

    I think the problem is largely tied to housing prices in the U.S.–if you live in an affluent area, people are most likely to need assistance when the family’s primary earner is out of work for some time. And the assistance they would need would likely be help with a mortgage payment for a couple of months–that is equivalent to a *lot* of meals. Even if everyone in the ward is giving 4 or 5 times the cost of a couple of meals, that’s all going to be eaten up by a single mortgage payment. If more than one family in the ward is out of work for a short time (as in our California ward when the tech bubble burst), you’re going to have a huge fast offering deficit very quickly. In a poor South American ward, nobody’s likely to have a multi-thousand dollar lump sum payment due *every month,* and so a few times the cost of 2 meals can go a lot farther.

  9. Ken on January 4, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    Many of my friends who’ve waited tables for tips in Salt Lake and Utah County would agree that, yes, Mormons are verifiably stingier than our “friends of other faiths.”

  10. Jim Richins on January 4, 2005 at 5:06 pm

    Each stake has a welfare committee, comprised of the Bishops and RS Presidents (and others) from each ward. One of the Bishops is designated for a period of time as the Chairman. One of the purposes of the committee is to communicate across wards what is happening with welfare resources, so that the “welfare shopper” problem can be addressed. Also, guidelines for welfare assistance are reviewed, so the “profligate Bishop” problem is addressed. Their are also multi-stake and regional welfare cttes that address issues across larger geographic domains.

    This last Fast Sunday was very good for our ward – as far as Fast Offering gathering is concerned (I like the distinction between “collecting” and “gathering”). This is no doubt due in part to the FP letter that was read regarding the tsunami. I don’t think it will be too unseemly for me to say that three or four faithful households contributed $500+ for FO, and many others contributed 3 figure amounts under “Humanitarian Aid.”

    I wonder (I’m sure we’ll never know) what kinds of figures the Church saw worldwide? Of course, the generous bump in January likely will not happen again next month…

    I don’t think Mormons are stingy by nature, but probably are insulated from the plight of their neighbors, or self-absorbed by their own problems. Members may not realize how the FO money is spent, and how great the need is. On the other hand, knowing that FO donations are spent first locally, maybe some members are stingy because they find it easier to judge a neighbor who is unemployed and hasn’t moved that broken-down, gray-primer Bronco from off his lawn.

  11. Charles on January 4, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    There are several factors involved. Without a doubt there is a stinginess. But I imagine some people assume thier tithing will help cover what the fast offerings don’t. We shouldn’t forget that there are other programs both in the church and out that tithing and fast offerings don’t contribute to as well. With us being directed or commanded to participate in tithing and F.O. its what we give above and beyond that, that plays into our charitable nature.

    We just had a Ward Welfare training program. Our area happens to be a welfare deficit. We spend more than is coming in. Many of the areas in underdeveloped countries are contributors. They are putting in more than is being spent.

    I think some of this is because we are stingy but there needs to be a clear division between our needs and wants. Many people may be using the system to get thier wants covered rather than needs.

  12. Mark B on January 4, 2005 at 5:18 pm

    Sure, Mormons are stingy. Haven’t you heard the expression: “He wanted $75 for the suit, but I Mormoned him down to $55″?

  13. Rusty on January 4, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    I guess this is a good example of my ignorance. I had always just assumed that anyone that pays tithing is paying fast offerings as well. I was kind of surprised in our tithing settlement when I started to appologize that our fast offerings didn’t always come in on fast Sunday and the bishop interrupted me and just said he doesn’t care, he’s just grateful we pay them.

    As a former server/waiter in Provo, I can testify that Mormons are much stingier than those who drink the fermented grape. Either that or just the Jack Mormons tip well. Of course, tipping is a social contract, not a spiritual one, so I would generally expect members to be more generous with the FO than tips.

  14. Geoff Johnston on January 4, 2005 at 5:34 pm

    Why are we so reluctant to fund the welfare program of the Church?

    The prophets have made this answer very clear. Try these:

    Moroni
    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.
    Mormon 8:37

    Samuel the Lamanite
    Ye do not remember the Lord your God in the things with which he hath blessed you, but ye do always remember your riches…
    Helaman 13:22

    Spencer W. Kimball
    But when I review the performance of this people in comparison with what is expected, I am appalled and frightened.

    …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?

    …”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.â€? (Morm. 8:39.)

    As the Lord himself said in our day, “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.� (D&C 1:16; italics added.)

    In spite of our delight in defining ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had—in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people—a condition most repugnant to the Lord.
    Landmark First Presidency Message, 1976

    (Of course that 1976 message isn’t much more popular than Samuel’s message to the Nephites was – it’s never fun to be reminded of how wicked, selfish, and greedy we are.)

    It should be noted that Malachi accuses Israel of robbing the Lord in tithes and offerings.

    Our ward’s Gospel Doctrine instructor is fond of reminding us that sins of Israel are the same sins of Israel in every dispensation… I think he’s right. I know I seem to resist being as generous as the Lord wants me to be…

  15. Steve Evans on January 4, 2005 at 6:02 pm

    Mormons are stingy people. I’m surprised the question need be raised, actually — I thought that everybody just knew this already.

  16. Gordon Smith on January 4, 2005 at 7:58 pm

    Steve and others who think that Mormons are obviously stingy: isn’t this just a canard? As you can see from my story above, it seems to me that it fails to account for tithing.

    Geoff, that was excellent. And I fear that you are right.

  17. Julie in Austin on January 4, 2005 at 8:09 pm

    John Mansfield–

    Tell us why else you look back fondly on collecting fast offerings.

    Gordon–

    We aren’t wealthy by American standards, but . . . I would feel extremely stingy giving a fast offering equal to the value of the missed meals (‘let’s see . . . that’s one bowl of store brand cheerios and soy milk at 46 cents, and . . . ‘). As a baseline, my husband and I decided to make an offering equivalent to the two most expensive meals (i.e., restaurant meals) that we would eat in a month. That has been a good policy for us.

    Rosalynde–

    Not that it is any of my business, but I am wondering why you pay your tithing yearly. (Is this common?)

    As to the larger question of Mormon stinginess, I have noticed that people in and out of the Church have a hard time, if they are the frugal type, knowing when to turn it off. Most mormons are frugal, by necessity or by cultural training.

  18. Matt Jacobsen on January 4, 2005 at 8:21 pm

    Gordon, yes tithe-paying Mormons give more to charity than your average person. In that regard they are not stingy. But tithing is such a large chunk of one’s income, it can easily convince Mormons not to give in other ways, or to cut expenses by small tips, dickering, or finding the cheapest of deals.

    Lessons on tithing frequently mention that one of the blessings of paying a full tithe is an increased desire/ability to carefully budget one’s money. Squeazing the budget means taking money from somewhere, and if I’m already giving 10% to charity, SO much more than the average, it’s pretty easy to not give to any other charity and feel no guilt.

    I had one acquaitance affiliated with a United Way funded charity in Utah and she claimed that compared to other states, her chapter had a very hard time raising sufficient funds. This is just one case from my blurry memory, maybe not representative at all. Would it be possible to find statistics related to charitable giving that didn’t include religious institutions?

  19. Greg on January 4, 2005 at 8:37 pm

    It’s only stands to reason that where someone has donated 15-20% of their net pay to the Church, they will have less discretionary income to spend on other things. I’m with Gordon that it is only by using a very strange definition of “stingy” do Mormons fall under that label. Though I do agree with Rusty that Utah County has some terrible tippers. (If you ate at the Chili’s in Orem circa 96-97 and had a nice, baby-faced guy with a bad haircut and a stained polo shirt serving you your Awesome Blossom, I’m talking about YOU!)

  20. Name withheld on January 4, 2005 at 8:51 pm

    Julie,

    Having been in bishoprics, I can confirm that it is not uncommon for saints to pay all tithing in one lump sum. I have seen checks come in that were larger than the annual income of the average American family. This is often a route taken by those who are self employed, or who own corporations, or otherwise don’t really know their income until the end of the year.

    All,

    The question of how much to give in fast offerings to the poor is a good one. Generous is the operative word. What does generous mean? Well the only commendations I can think of in the scriptures were either those who gave all to follow Christ or the widow with her mite. So the upshot is that generous is probably a lot more generous than most of us want to admit.

    Again, from experience, I can say that different saints have very different ideas on this. Some affluent members apparently give the same amount in fast offerings that they did when they were poor college students. Other members offer as much or more than their tithing to the poor (eg more than 10%).

    I am not suggesting that such generosity is a good idea for all today. In fact, President Hinckley has explicitly told us to pay off our debts as a top priority (but also live modestly so our debts do not become exorbitant). But what will we do when we pay off our debts? Will we really obey the counsel to give generously? If not, how on earth can we believe we will ever actually keep our temple covenants and thus receive the promised blessings of the temple?

  21. Ethesis (Stephen M) on January 4, 2005 at 8:57 pm

    the most effective way to increase fast offerings is to have deacons (or other Aaronic Priesthood holders) visit families each month for fast offering collections. While this activity almost always suffers from inconsistency, I have witnessed its effectiveness at increasing fast offerings in several wards. But this raises another question: Do we really need to be shamed by the Aaronic Priesthood before we will contribute a generous fast offering?

    Do many people need reminded (not shamed) — yes.

    Do we have a great deal more need than many realize — yes.

    Do we start with people who are donating 10% rather than 1% or less? — yes.

    It is an interesting issue, much of it colored by the feeling of struggle that many members have.

  22. Kevin Barney on January 4, 2005 at 9:06 pm

    There is such a thing as compassion fatique, or in this case, offering fatique. Do we have any apprreciation of how much tithing really is? That is a huge, huge contribution. If the church is able to squeeze anything more than that out of its people, it’s gravy. (And I agree with Julie’s comment that many Mormons are of necessity very frugal, and can’t “turn it off” on a whim when it’s time to write the FO check.)

    I tip well, but only because I learned to do so as a Chicago lawyer spending the firm’s money at business lunches. And we pay a generous FO, but it’s not my doing, but my wife’s. I never had a problem with tithing until I got my first job after law school in 1985. All of a sudden I was writing checks that were more than we had been living on a short time before. I got physically ill trying to write those checks. So we reconfigured how we did things, and my wife took over the checkbook, so I wouldn’t have to see the size of those checks. And that has worked well for me. Ignorance s bliss. Luckily for me I’m married to a generous woman.

  23. a random John on January 4, 2005 at 9:13 pm

    The United Way often complains that they get less money in Utah than in other states. They acknowledge that this is because the church receives so much money from Utahns. This doesn’t completely offset the need for charity in Utah though, since much of the majority of the money given to the church in by Utahns is not spent in Utah.

    On the issue of paying tithing in a lump sum, if you have appreciated stock, it may be a good idea to use it to pay tithing in kind. There are tax benefits (no capital gains tax and you get to deduct the appreciated value). Check with your accountant and then call the church. There is a number on lds.org that will get you in touch with someone who can tell you exactly how to do it.

    Matt Jacobsen,

    You seem to get this, and I have said it before, but I don’t mind repeating myself. Tithing is 10%, no more, no less. As you say, if you want to give more, there are plenty of other funds on the tithing slip.

    Ken,

    There are some interesting effects in play when discussing Mormons and waiting tables. At many restaurants w (especially nicer ones where a glass of wine is the norm) I notice an involuntary frown when I order a non-alcoholic drink. I then notice that our table get less frequent service than those around us. I think there is a vicious cycle that is then established. I don’t drink, get poor service, and then am less apt to tip well (not personally, but in general) and the waiter’s opinion is reinforced.

    I tend to think of myself as a reasonably good tipper, especially when I have our baby in tow (the mess he leaves makes me very giving) or am on an expense account.

  24. Wilfried on January 4, 2005 at 9:24 pm

    I need to add my “international” voice here. In many countries of the world tithing is not tax deductible. Moreover, regular taxes are often (much) higher than in the U.S. That means that Mormons in the international Church often pay, relatively seen, much higher tithing, especially if they pay on gross income. It also explains that tithing is one of the largest stumbling blocks for potential converts. Devout Church members who do pay a full tithing need to sacrifice a lot, and do so with deep conviction and faithfulness. Stingy? The remark has been made a few times that paying tithing is already proof of significant generosity, but leaving little for other gifts. That is certainly true for many Mormons outside the U.S. Finally, as a former Catholic I can also compare with what an average Catholic gives to his Church – which would be a couple of dollars a month. Tithing makes Mormons among the most generous people in the world.

  25. danithew on January 4, 2005 at 9:24 pm

    I think that tithing is a wonderful blessing and at the same time I’m quite aware that it eats up much of what discretionary funds Mormons would use to contribute to a charitable cause, a political cause, etc. Of course wealthier LDS folks have a greater capability to be generous.

    I know very little about how generous or stingy people are with fast offerings. I know that my wife and I tend to pay a certain static amount out of every paycheck, rather than simply paying once on Fast Sunday. It’s just easier that way or we’ve at least developed that as our habit.

    Tipping is a whole different issue but since its come up I’ll just say that I feel a lot of sympathy for people who work as waiters and waitresses. It’s not a job I’ve ever held but it seems like a very difficult thing to have to do to earn a living. Unless a waiter/waitress does an atrocious job of serving or is incredibly rude, I’m likely to leave a generous tip.

    What I don’t like are the tip jars that simply sit there at many service counters in stores. I’m never going to tip a person just because they stand behind a counter when I go in to pay for gas or for a soft drink.

  26. KB on January 4, 2005 at 10:52 pm

    How far can money for two meals go? I like this from President Kimball:

    “I think that when we are affluent, as many of us are, that we ought to be very, very generous…. I think we should…give, instead of the amount we saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps much, much more-ten times more where we are in a position to do it” (CR [Apr. 1974], p. 184).

  27. Rusty on January 4, 2005 at 10:56 pm

    It’s interesting how in this discussion we are suggesting that we are so generous because we give so much money (to our own Church). I understand that it’s voluntary, but if you’re a faithful member of the Church, it’s really not. We’ve made covenants and we keep our promises.

    Besides, it’s going to the building of the Church, in the which we have a vested interest, we are still profiting. We’re building buildings, paying electricity so that we can have a place to worship. To me it would seem more generous if we gave it to a cause that would benefit us in no way.

  28. KB on January 4, 2005 at 11:01 pm

    I like this commandment because it’s really between you, (your spouse) and the Lord. It’s hard to know how much you contribute compared to others around you. It’s easy for me to sometimes evaluate myself as to where I am spiritually, by comparing to others, which I think is unfortunate. A similar area is temple worship, and what you personally get out of that. It’s a very personal thing to know if you’re ‘measuring up.’
    By the way, I probably gave more than the rest of you last Sunday.

  29. Dion on January 4, 2005 at 11:05 pm

    A couple points. As to generosity, one approach is to copy the pattern reportedly used by early mormons in paying tithing in kind. They reportedly would give their best as an offering; for example, the best cow, the best eggs, etc. Maybe we should give the value of the two most expensive meals we had that month.

    The other point is that the US and State governments tremendously subsidize tithing so 10% can be effectively 5% or 6%. This results in the government subsidizing churches with rich members more than those with poor members (which seems unconstitutional to me). Despite this I have never heard of anyone grossing up their tithing.

  30. lyle on January 5, 2005 at 12:05 am

    Dion: I really lke your “two most expensive” meals idea. simply fab.

    What is all this talk of discretionary income? Como se dice [censored]!

    Rusty is on the money, pun quasi-intended. What happened to the majority of us here at T&S that have made covenants re: _ALL_ of our time, talents, wealth, etc. So much for discretionary, unless that is a pseudo word for agency. Tithing is only the bare minimum. While you can’t tithe more than 10%, theoretically, covenantly speaking…the rest is not discretionary.

    If you are going to give at the end of year…how about at least 2 weeks before Christmas, with a small lump sum before Thanksgiving. That is when the Ward/Branch really need an extra influx of cash to help out.

  31. Nic on January 5, 2005 at 2:23 am

    The other point is that the US and State governments tremendously subsidize tithing so 10% can be effectively 5% or 6%. This results in the government subsidizing churches with rich members more than those with poor members (which seems unconstitutional to me). Despite this I have never heard of anyone grossing up their tithing.< \I>

    It’s even worse than that. Imagine that a member who is in the top income bracket in the U.S. donates stock that she bought for $1 but is now worth $101. Let’s also assume she lives in a state with an income tax percentage of 5%.

    Then by donating the stock, her tax savings are:

    $39 in savings from her federal income tax deduction
    $5 in savings from her state income tax deduction
    $28 in savings because she doesn’t pay capital gains.

    Total savings: $72.

    When this member pays $101 in tithing, she really only loses $29 dollars, which means her effective tithing rate is 2.9%, while poorer members pay the whole 10%. I haven’t heard of people grossing up their tithing either, but perhaps we could earmark the tax savings related to tithing for other charitable giving.

  32. Nic on January 5, 2005 at 2:25 am

    Oops, I tried to italicize the first paragraph of my comment above because it is a quote from Dion above, but with my bad html skills, I italicized the whole comment.

  33. x on January 5, 2005 at 2:26 am
  34. John Mansfield on January 5, 2005 at 7:40 am

    Julie in Austin, my fondness is mainly a remembrance of learning to serve in a priesthood duty. I remember the first time I performed this task, with Brother Jepsen, a high priest accompanying me. After our first visit, he instructed me that we were “receiving” fast offerings, not “collecting” them. (See comments above.) As a priest a few years later, I had my assignment for a small part of the ward and attended to it independently, setting aside that part of the Fast Sunday that I thought would work best. It was a plainly purposeful task and explicitly priestly to come as an agent of the ward to help the members and the bishop fulfill a duty to the poor.

    Another part of the fondness is that for several years I didn’t care for the task but still attended to it. Character building is nice to look back on. And it did grow on me to become a time I liked. I think of the sounds of wind chimes on porches and big dogs woofing and little dogs yapping and the occasional fighter jet taking off.

    Also it was a nice interaction with members who never attend the Church’s meetings but are still part of it or at least allies. It was so much easier than home teaching because there were no appointments to arrange or lessons to prepare, and the visits were briefer and to the point. Maybe I should try doing my home teaching that way: just show up, don’t sit down, say what I’ve come to say in 30 seconds, pray and leave. All involved would probably like it better.

  35. a random John on January 5, 2005 at 8:35 am

    Closing italics, or at least trying to. Editors, please feel free to fix italics in #31 and delete this.

  36. a random John on January 5, 2005 at 8:35 am

    didn’t work. too bad.

  37. Frank McIntyre on January 5, 2005 at 11:01 am

    Nic,

    Why do you treat capital gains as 28%? I did a quick web search and it appears that right now, long term capital gains are taxed at 15%. There is a tax bracket. for 28% but it applies to only a few kinds of capital gains. I am not a tax guy, though. Do you know something different?

  38. cooper on January 5, 2005 at 4:24 pm

    Evidently not all of us are stingy. Greta VanSustern, last night, proudly announced that an anonymous donor paid a $40 million fast offering donation at the Mormon church last Sunday.

    Any guesses? I think I know but won’t add to the speculation. I will say I love the anonymity of it. Why do celebrities have to make sure the world knows what they donate? Conscience I guess.

  39. nic on January 5, 2005 at 8:10 pm


    Frank,

    You’re right. I was using pre-Bush tax cut rates (it’s been awhile since my tax classes at byu). It looks like the top federal bracket now is 35%. Short-term gains (for stock held less than a year) are taxed at 35% (the same as ordinary income) and long term gains are taxed at 15%.

    So in my scenario above, your effective tithing rate is 2.5% if the stock had been held for less than a year and 4.5% if it had been held for more than a year.

  40. greenfrog on January 5, 2005 at 10:41 pm

    http://www.wkbn.com/Global/story.asp?S=2764403&nav=2QEr81Al

    Based on the above, I think that the $40M was to the Community of Christ, not the LDS Church.

  41. ed on January 5, 2005 at 11:16 pm

    I expect most home production escapes tithing altogether. For example, if you spend a lot of time remodelling your house, you create wealth for yourself, but most people probably don’t pay tithing on this “income,” (except perhaps eventually when the house is sold). Or if you spend your time cooking and cleaning, rather than paying someone else to do it while you work for pay, the value you create doesn’t get taxed or tithed.

    Maybe that’s another reason why active mormon women work less outside the home…

  42. Kim Siever on January 6, 2005 at 12:54 am

    As a ward clerk I can attest that it is common for ward members to pay tithing and yet not pay fast offering.

    I also agree with others who say that tithing really isn’t a charitable donation. Many people pay it so they can go to the temple or because it is a commandment, not because they think it fulfils some humanitarian purpose. From a comparative standpoint, tithing is more like taxes than charitable donations. Fast offerings would be closer to charitable donations than tithing.

    We pay taxes to receive highways, health care, education, security, and so on. We pay tithing to keep our buildings maintained, pay for commercials, provide broadcast systems for conference, maintain the Church’s website, keep prices of videos at 4-6$ and so on.

  43. Jason Johnson on January 6, 2005 at 9:05 pm

    I am not sure that I have ever lived in a ward (except for university wards) that ran a fast offering surpluss. So I have to assume that my tithing has some charitable component to it.

    I certainly didn’t see one in my time in South America. My wife and I decided to double our fast offerings after a plea from the Bishop. Imagine my suprise when I found out a few months later that the average monthly contribution for the ward totalled only about double what my wife and I donated out of our Peace Corps stipend. This was in a ward where Elders quorum activites often consisted of mixing and pouring concrete so that some family could move up from a dirt floor in their one-room house.

    We love the new Perpetual Education Fund, by the way. Maybe someday our old ward in Bolivia will run a fast offering surplus. So many bright young men and women in our area came off their missions, married as they should have, and found themselves financially unable to continue in school.

  44. Sheri Lynn on January 8, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    Right now my generosity is limited to not taking charity for which we qualify. Our fast offering is minimal–literally the cost of four basic meals, because our grocery budget is $200/month for five people–we’re living on our food storage until my husband finishes graduate school.

    I don’t feel bad about that. I was offered free turkeys and food baskets during the holidays, and our branch president gave me an order form for food from the storehouse. I did not use it. I can manage without, so I am; we have what we need, though some days I remember steak dinners and feel very sorry for myself. Oh well! When I have more than I need, I will continue to remember those who do not have what they need. I think there are billions of people in the world who have far less than I do. I won’t take what could go to some of them, and as long as I can put a meal on the table from our own resources, that is going to be true. I note I have an internet connection and cell phones. I’d be ungrateful to consider myself needy.

    I hope as my business takes off, I will become a giver. I have fantasies of writing six figure tithing checks. I hope in the meantime that the Lord sees my not taking as giving. It’s the best I can do. Sometimes I wonder how in the world a family so rich as we are could qualify for food stamps, welfare help of any kind. Most American households waste more than they need (though there is genuine need out there.)

  45. Jon on January 9, 2005 at 12:18 am

    I am a ward clerk in a semi-affluent ward in Texas. I guess my ward is not “normal”, because we run a huge FO surplus. About 80 percent of my ward pays a full tithe, and about 90 percent pay fast offerings. (And I’m talking about total ward membership, not just the active membership, which is about 80 percent.) I cut less than a dozen FO checks each year, mostly for psychological counselling. The only weird thing about FO in my ward is that there seems to be no correlation between relative prosperity (as measured by tithing donations) and FO amount. Many familes pay $100 FO per month, some only $5. The generous FO payers don’t necessarily pay more in tithing than those who pay a small FO. I know it’s not my place to judge, but I wonder why some people who make more than $100k per year pay $10 in FO, while some who make $50-60k will pay $100. But I was impressed last week, when in addition to the regular amounts collected for FO, our ward collected about $3,000 for humanitarian aid. I suspect that by the end of this month, additional humanitarian aid will total at least that much again, probably more.

    I think the stingyness is a Utah/Idaho thing, or maybe even a social class thing. I just don’t see it in upper-middle-class Texas. (Not trying to bash on Utah, I grew up there. I still consider myself a Utahn, not a Texan, but that’s changing.)

  46. another N. Oman on January 9, 2005 at 9:37 am

    I worked restruants for years in the Utah Valley and Salt Lake City, I would all but have fights by wait staff not to have to work on fast Sundays, and Genral Confrence weekends as the standard tips at those time’s was a book of Mormon, or a testimony written extolling the sin of working on sunday,

  47. lyle on January 9, 2005 at 10:00 am

    Ed: would you pay tithing when you remodel your home (perhaps on funds that you took out a 2nd mortgage for)? or would you pay tithing when you sell your home, or whenever it is sold. profit, at least per the tax code, is figured when you ‘realize’ the profit. most folks probably wait to tithe on home improvements until the property is sold.

  48. sg on December 1, 2005 at 2:56 am

    Why in the world would you pay tithing on a loan from the bank?

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