The Feast of Saint Tithing Settlement

December 13, 2007 | 53 comments
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If Mormons had a liturgical year, the distinctively Mormon part of December would be tithing settlement, not a limp dutifulness like Joseph Smith’s birthday.

For me, at least, tithing settlement is part of the sweetness of Mormon life. Our oldest living daughter earned a little money this year and paid her tithing on it, so before we went we practiced what Bishop would ask her and what she should answer. When he did get down to her print-out, he asked her if it was a “full tithe.” She shook her head no and giggled. Then she caught our eyes and remembered what she was supposed to do. She sighed, took a deep breath, stood on her tiptoes, closed her eyes, and yelled “Yes!” That wasn’t precisely what we’d practiced, but close enough.

Earlier, one of our good friends who is a poorer sister in late-middle age was signing up with us on the paper outside Bishop’s office. “I haven’t paid a full tithe this year,” she said wryly, ” do you think Bishop will chew me out?” He’s not averse to chewing people out, but he won’t chew her out, we know. Still, I was struck by the thought that while paying tithing requires faith and commitment, her going to take her lumps showed a kind of faith and commitment too. It was the most moving part of tithing settlement this year. Her spirit is willing and we pray next year her flesh, or her finances, will not be as weak.

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53 Responses to The Feast of Saint Tithing Settlement

  1. Ardis Parshall on December 13, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Your Feast even has a standard decoration, Adam — garlands of appointment sign-up sheets festooning the walls from the door of the bishop’s office on down the hall (or up the stairs, in the case of our elegant old chapel).

  2. Frank McIntyre on December 13, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    very nice.

  3. Ray on December 13, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    I have so much respect for those who do not pay a full tithe but attend tithing settlement, anyway.

  4. California Condor on December 13, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Thanks for this. But why is tithing settlement necessary? We are already asked if we pay tithing in the temple recommend interview. Is tithing settlement a relic of the past?

  5. Jacob M on December 13, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    California Condor – Its helpful for year end stuff for the ward clerks, and it gives members a chance to look at their tithing and offerings for the year to see if they had missed anything. Often it’s combined with the membership data that the member can review and correct if there’s anything wrong.

  6. jrl on December 13, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    I don’t think it is a relic. Or, if it is, I think it is one worth keeping. I love tithing settlement. It is the one time I know of when the whole family can come in to the Bishop’s office together and declare their faithfulness in something. Especially with Temple recommends now being good for two years, I appreciate the chance to declare to another mortal that I really have done something right. I may struggle with everything else, but this is one thing that I can do and I want to be able to sit down and tell someone else that.

  7. Lon on December 13, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Yup. It\’s a great bookkeeping time. In my time in the trenches we never had a single Tithing Settlement go by that did not uncover at least one financial bookkeeping error and multiple record keeping errors.

  8. Y Stephenson on December 13, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Everyone is asked to attend tithing settlement regardless of their status because it is necessary to declare it on reports sent to Church headquarters. If you don’t go the Bishop has to guess. It might not be fair to assume that anyone who doesn’t go is not a full tithe payer. There are also people who may not be fully temple worthy who do pay a full tithe. I think it is a form of the original concept of a stewardship interview. And, as already stated it might be the only time during the year one can be sure of an interview with the Bishop.

  9. Mark B. on December 13, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    In some respects it’s an anachronism–especially the name.

    When my great-great-great grandfather recorded in his journal “Worked tithing at the temple today”, he was talking about a transaction that doesn’t exist in today’s church. And, it would make sense for the church and him to “settle” accounts at the end of the year. The only settling now is my own internal accounting, and making sure my numbers agree with the church’s.

    Despite that, I think it’s a wonderful practice, and can be a sweet season for bishops and members alike.

    Regarding Cal Condor’s question about temple recommends: the tithing settlement question is different from the TR question:

    TS: Is this a full tithe for 2007?
    TR: Are you a full tithe-payer?

  10. Jim Cobabe on December 13, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    I would prefer to assume that we transcend any comparison to Catholic tradition. Tithing settlement is too good a concept to compare with any corrupt practices of apostate churches. The concept rests in stewardship and accountability. It is one of the ways we will eventually progress toward more perfect consecration — dedicating everything the Lord has blessed us with to further His purposes.

  11. BrianJ on December 13, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    I have nothing against tithing settlement except the time of year it happens. I wish my family could just meet with the bishop in March to declare my tithes.

    Adam Greenwood: why did you have your daughter practice (something close to) that response?

  12. California Condor on December 13, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Why not have tithing settlement in January? The year is not over yet.

    Corporations don’t release annual reports until fiscal years are over.

    And tithing should be paid on lds.org, in my opinion. Think of the manpower it would free up in the form of ward clerks not having to count pennies after church. They could get their home teaching done. Plus, it would allow a member’s income to be private.

  13. WillF on December 13, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    I say keep tithing settlement for the social value, but I’d love it if we could look up and maybe even make our donations online.

    Does anyone else feel a little insincere (or worried they might be seen that way) when handing a tithing envelope to a bishopric member in view of others? On the other hand, maybe it is good to see people physically giving tithes because it acts as psychological modeling.

  14. Ivan A. Wolfe on December 13, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    Good post, Adam Greenwood.

    I had a fun tithing settlement this year. We had a new bishop called over the summer, and we were the first to sign up for settlement this year.

    We sat down in the bishop’s office, he looked at us and said “I have no idea what to do. I’ve never done a tithing settlement from this side of the desk before.”

  15. Ardis Parshall on December 13, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    CC, if you postpone tithing settlement until January and there is an error in the records, you’re going to be too late to get a correct receipt dated in 2007 for your taxes. Not that I care about your taxes any more than your ward clerk cares about your income.

  16. California Condor on December 13, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    @ Ardis (14),

    They could get receipts out before April 15.

  17. Janet on December 13, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    You’re not the ward clerk are you, Adam? When my hubby was clerk, the sweetness of TS eluded him. He just wanted to “chew out” the people who signed up hours after everyone else, or who consistently altered their sign-up time. Now we enjoy hanging out with the other people waiting around in the foyer, though.

    Your daughter sounds cute. My parents never took us; I assume they just vouched that we paid our tithes like good little mathematicians (“tithing times two”remains the only reason I can correctly calculate a tip).

  18. Ardis Parshall on December 13, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    15. They could get receipts out before April 15.

    Uh huh. And if you discover that you goofed and still need to pay a little more, your 2008 receipt is going to show a 2008 payment date, too late for your 2007 taxes, unless you ask your clerk to lie and backdate the payment.

    It all evens out over time, of course — my only point is to show, pardon me, that like so many magical ‘naccle “improvements,” moving tithing settlement to January is a dumb idea that creates as many problems as it fixes. Forgive me, please, it’s nothing personal, but sometimes comment threads weary me and I snap. /Snap/

  19. Darrell on December 13, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    As a Bishop I love tithing settlement. I have never-ending respect for those who, though not full tithe payers, come in anyway. I love the little children who come in and pay their pennies. I love those on limited income who, without fail, sacrifice their widow’s mite.

    The most moving moment in a tithing settlement came last year when I asked the children in a family why the Lord asks us to pay tithing. Their response was typical–so that missionary work could be done, so chapels and temples could be built. I then asked, “Why doesn’t the Lord simply tell Pres. Hinckley where all the gold in the world is then we could use that to build the temples and do missionary work?” One of the young men in the family, an eight-year old, put his hands on his hips, looked at me like “Bishop, you should know better,” and said, “Bishop, the reason Heavenly Father asks us to pay tithing is that He is trying to turn us into gold.” The best answer I have ever heard.

  20. East Coast on December 13, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    #4 “But why is tithing settlement necessary?…Is tithing settlement a relic of the past?”

    Several years ago I was tapped as the treasurer of a small non-profit organization. The previous board had not found it necessary to watch over the finances including requiring regular reports and audits and filing of 990s. It was immediately obvious that those in charge of money had taken advantage of this fact. The effort to identify and clear up the probable embezzlement of thousands of dollars was still going on when we moved out of state.

    After this fairly brief eye-opening experience, it’s nice to know that a tithing clerk would have a very difficult time pocketing any of the funds due to the use of receipts, tithing settlements, audits, etc.

  21. BrianJ on December 13, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Darrell, 18: nice story.

  22. professionalmom on December 13, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    This is an interesting post as I am one of those who attends tithing settlement each year but can count on one hand (in my adult years) the times when I have been a “full tithe payer” for the entire year. I obviously struggle with living this principle fully and I know it impacts my spiritual growth and development. I would love to hear stories of how folks on this site have gained a testimony of tithing. I must admit that I almost pay a full tithe year after year but many times, obviously, haven’t quite made it. As a single mother of three boys who lives on a moderate income, our needs many time outpace our income. I know that I should “have more faith” in this area. Has anyone else struggled with this? And how did you overcome this struggle and become a full tithe payer on a consistent basis?

  23. Hans on December 13, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Why not make tithing settlement a part of Festivus?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festivus

  24. Bob on December 13, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Yea..and why do the sisters need TWO sets of people to check up on them!? (HT &VT)

  25. California Condor on December 13, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    @Ardis (17),

    Well, you succeeded in nailing me this time… but don’t get used to it. I wasn’t thinking about writing a check at tithing settlement to reconcile things.

  26. Ray on December 13, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    #18 – Sweet, Darrell. Thanks for sharing it.

    #21 – professionalmom, Personally, I think the Lord sees your “almost tithing” year after year as you struggle to provide for your family as the widow’s mite compared to the standard 10% from those for whom it is not a financial struggle. “Have more faith” is easy to preach from the comfort of relative wealth; I for one think your “almost tithing” is a greater show of faith than it might appear to you – since it is MUCH closer to a true consecration than 10% is for many others.

  27. Adam Greenwood on December 13, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    Ray, we can extend every sympathy, but we have no right and no authority to excuse people from full compliance with the law. I know that’s not your intent, but lets be careful.

  28. Bruce H. on December 13, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    >> … how did you … become a full tithe payer on a consistent basis?

    What worked for me was to pay tithing first. Every payday I wrote a check, subtracted the amount from my check register, and mailed the check to the bishop that day.

  29. professionalmom on December 13, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    Ok…let me be more specific. And I understand that each situation needs to be discussed with one’s individual’s priesthood authority. I am not looking for justification or counsel here. I am just seeking a philosophical discussion. How would you reconcile tithing if the only way to pay a full tithe would be to go to the church for food assistance? Perhaps it is personal pride…but I have had a very hard time sorting that out in my mind. Thanks Ray for the kind thoughts and thanks Bruce for the comment–when I get in a pattern of paying my tithing as soon as possible–it has led to a more successful outcome….I just have had a hard time keeping that up for a full year. And I don’t want to threadjack this discussion if the original intent was to discuss tithing settlement as an annual tradition. It has just been on my mind and heart a lot lately and this post caused those thoughts to “bubble up”.

  30. Ray on December 14, 2007 at 12:24 am

    Adam, I agree that the ideal is to pay tithing first and figure out everything else later. I do that, myself, even in times of financial stress. However, in my own experience, I would FAR rather counsel with someone who is struggling to pay a full tithe (struggling to “find the faith”) but tries anyway than to have those for whom it is not a struggle at all look down their noses and tell that person all they need is a little more faith – when, in reality, that “almost tithing” represents every bit as much faith as the others person’s full tithing. (I am not aiming that at you, in any way, whatsoever. It is a reaction based on what I have seen too often in my life.)

    pm, I do agree with both Adam and Bruce completely, and I hope there was no “it’s ok to not pay tithing” connotation taken in my comment. (I certainly can see that message as I re-read it.) I personally have been out of work twice in my life and had to rely on Church assistance for longer than I wanted to do so. I paid tithing during that time, mostly because, as an active member, it was the only way I felt like I could accept the assistance in good conscience – that and, of course, paying a generous fast offering when I was fully employed and independent.

    My only additional point: Every one of us has something with which we struggle – where it could be said that we “need more faith” by someone else. I wish we would stop saying that. My reaction is influenced greatly by the fact that tithing is a much more obvious and, to a small degree, public something. Even if the rest of the ward shouldn’t know about it, the Bishop does – and the financial counselor and clerk very well might. Also, since this affects temple attendance, there is relatively more pressure involved. I’m just concerned whenever the advice we would give for something like this (“Just do it”) – even though doctrinally sound – is different than the advice we would give to people who are trying to stop yelling at their kids (“I SO understand the pressure” – or “Everyone loses their temper occasionally” – or “I know this is very difficult; seek counseling” – or “Don’t let it make you feel unworthy; it’s hereditary, so just keep trying” – or, the worst, “At least you are paying your tithing.”) Each is a violation of at least the spirit of the temple recommend interview, but we tend to sympathize with the yeller over the partial-tithe payer – even though the yelling is FAR more damaging to others than the tithing struggles. We should react the same to each (with kindness and understanding and encouragement and love).

    Bottom line – pay the tithing and ask for assistance, it necessary. Attend tithing settlement and pour out your frustrations and desires to your bishop. It’s a great opportunity to start the process of casting that particular burden upon the Lord.

  31. Adam Greenwood on December 14, 2007 at 12:45 am

    How would you reconcile tithing if the only way to pay a full tithe would be to go to the church for food assistance? Perhaps it is personal pride…but I have had a very hard time sorting that out in my mind.

    We had a bad point in our life when we were overwhelmed with medical bills. We paid tithing on what income we had and we received some church help for our rent. Dunno if that would be right for you or even if it was the right thing for us. Ray’s bottom line is the right one, I think.

  32. Ray on December 14, 2007 at 12:57 am

    Threadjack alert: professionalmom, I just posted a comment on your blog. Didn’t know if you check it regularly, so I thought I should let you know here. No response necessary here.

  33. Floyd the Wonderdog on December 14, 2007 at 8:32 am

    At one TS I looked at the statement and realized that it was quite short compared to what I had paid. I told the bishop that they were missing payments from as early as March. He and his councilors checked and found dozens of tithing envelopes in various suit coats at home. I wasn’t the only one who’s tithing hadn’t been processed. But I was the only one who caught it.

    Moral: Check all your pockets before processing the tithing, bishop.

  34. JWL on December 14, 2007 at 10:56 am

    If we were doing a proper job of imitating the liturgical year of the “apostate” churches, we would have a patron saint of tithing and name the festival after him/her. Who would be our patron saint of tithing? Lorenzo Snow? Does tradtion give a name to the widow of the widow’s mite? Other suggestions?

  35. BJohnson on December 14, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    “Why not make tithing settlement a part of Festivus?”

    Sorry, but I can’t imagine very many Bishops being overly enthused about including Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength to the usual TS meeting.

  36. JC on December 14, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    I\’m a bishop for the second time and am currently conducting tithing settlement for the seventh time. Both wards that I\’ve presided over have been in the lower- to middle-range of the financial spectrum, but I have been so inspired by the many members who, when leaving the bishop\’s office after tithing settlement, quietly slip me an extra check (made out to me) or a $100 bill (or more), asking me to see that it gets put to good use. They could just pay more fast offerings, but they want it to be used to brighten someone\’s Christmas in a way that fast offerings could not be used. And, they trust that I will not keep the money nor use it inappropriately. I will never violate that trust. Just last night one father said to me, \”Please let me know if I can help pay for one of our ward\’s missionaries, or anything else.\” I\’ve received many such offers. I know these people and I know their financial circumstances, and they are not wealthy—they are just good.

  37. JAT on December 14, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    JC
    Beautiful example, thanks for sharing. Very touching and a wonderful example of the true spirit of charity, tithing AND Christmas.

    I have questions. Why do you think they aren’t going through fast offerings? Do you think that as we are more involved with community service (Red Cross, local charities, etc.) we feel less inclined to use our own traditional structure? Or, do people perceive FO as more of a ‘necessities’ thing* and not used for Christmas? Or, do you think that they have more trust in a known local friend than in the ‘united order’ type general church $ system? (Can’t Bishops use a little of the funds to spread a little Christmas cheer? Dunno, just asking.)

  38. Ross Geddes on December 14, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    One problem with this suggestion is that it assumes a worldwide uniformity that isn’t there. In Australia, for example, tithing settlement is held in June (many wards start it in May) because the Australian financial year runs from July to June.

  39. Ray on December 14, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    #38 – That kind of tidbit, Ross, is one reason I love T&S so much.

  40. Hans on December 14, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    #35. “Sorry, but I can’t imagine very many Bishops being overly enthused about including Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength to the usual TS meeting.”

    Ah, but think how entertaining it would be. I’m a bigger guy than the Bishop and could probably pin him!. Remember, “Festivus Yes!/Bagels No!”

  41. tithepayer on December 14, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    #12 and 13: You can pay a full tithe and still keep your income private by using a charitable gift fund. You transfer your tithing (and fast offering, if you want) into the fund, then direct the fund to pay the money to church headquarters, so it bypasses the ward altogether. Then you show up at tithing settlement, with your statement from the clerk showing you paid $0 in tithing, and declare that you are a full tithepayer. (That seemed a little weird at first, but the bishop assured us that we were not the only ones in the ward to use a charitable gift fund.)

  42. California Condor on December 15, 2007 at 1:12 am

    tithepayer (41),

    That is interesting. How do you set that up?

  43. Tatiana on December 15, 2007 at 1:43 am

    I do mine with an automatic check set up in my bank account for every 2 weeks when I get paid. Then if I get any extra money, bonuses, etc. I pay on those as soon as they come in.

    I really want all of this to be online, though. Y’all let me know when they get it set up so you can pay it all online, okay?

  44. PnGrata on December 15, 2007 at 4:13 am

    As a ward clerk, I\’m mulling over online payments as I type. I\’m in a single\’s ward, and it very hard to get people to show up – even though we do it right after the block and after FHE, which seem plenty convenient times to me. My last ward (covering SVU in Virginia), we would actually go up on campus and lie in wait to ambush ward members to cajole them into coming. It\’s alot of work, and the Bishop still winds up making a declaration for over half the membership – little hint, the default is \”non-tithe\” if you\’ve got \”0\”s, and \”part-tithe\” if you don\’t. I think TS is about stewardship and accountability, as mentioned above. It\’s so the Bishop knows how his ward is doing in living the commandments, kind of like how home teachers are supposed to ask if their teachees are saying their prayers and reading their scriptures and report it in PPI (not that that gets done either…). If you pay online, would you feel like discussing it with the Bishop? Would you respond to a boiler-plate email from Church HQ asking if you\’re a full tithe payer?

  45. Belle on December 15, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    #44 – Some those students may prefer like to attend and declare their tithing status in their home wards. When I was a student at BYU, this was my practice.

  46. PnGrata on December 17, 2007 at 3:39 am

    45 – We’re asked to declare wherever our membership records are. Furthermore, your home ward doesn’t have any of the donation information, so the bookkeeping aspect fails entirely.

  47. Jonovitch on December 18, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    1. My brother-in-law-in-law who lives in Germany pays his tithing and fast offerings online, using the Church’s bank’s routing number and the ward’s account number.

    I don’t know how that is processed and recorded in MLS, but it would definitely help me to stay on top of paying tithing. I generally try to pay at the beginning of the month, together with a fast offering, but often find myself sitting in church smacking my head because I forgot the checkbook again. Doh!

    2. End-of-year tax implications aside, December is a terrible month to do tithing settlement. It’s the most calendar- and budget-straining time of the year. I hate having to squeeze in Yet Another Meeting (and making the bishop/clerks do the same) while trying to pinch pennies to make sure we are up to the full ten percent. (This year is especially difficult, since we just moved, causing all sorts of havoc in our tithing tracking and payment.)

    Much better would be February and March. Nothing big going on then, and I’d have had time to pay off bills and credit cards from the annual Santaday splurge-a-thon and possibly receive my tax refund. (I’m not really out of control — I can actually tell you at the end of each month, down to the penny, what our family’s net worth is. It just happens to be a very large negative number right now.)

    Jon

  48. Talon on December 18, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    #37

    I was in our ward counsel a couple of weeks ago when one of the counselors handed our Bishop a $100 bill from a donor that wished to remain anonymous. Our Bishop commented (after we had made some good hearted jokes about his “slush fund”) that these kind of donations were welcome at this time of year because they could be distributed at the Bishopric’s discretion without having to go through the red tape involved if it had to come out of the fast offering fund. For instance, if he knew of a family with children that couldn’t buy presents he could simply give them the money, either directly, or pass it on anonymously for a second time.

  49. Martha on January 11, 2008 at 2:09 am

    My husband went to tithing settlement without me at the end of the year. He reported to the Bishop that we had not paid a full tithe. The Bishop encouraged my husband to pay a full tithe, gave him a copy of a talk about tithing, and then inferred he should not attend the Temple until he had paid tithing for three months in a row.

    I was horrified at our transgression. I felt heartbroken for many days and resolved to be a full tithe payer in the new year.

    This week we were called back into to speak with the Bishop again. He asked for both of us to come in, which we did (this is now in January). He asked what our plan was for tithing this year. We told him our intention was to repent and to be full tithe payers. He was pleased with our answer and then asked for our Temple Recommends. He said he wanted to \”hold onto them for awhile\”

    Mine had expired but my husbands was current. When he told the Bishop he did not have it with him the Bishop said he would come to the house to pick it up.

    Is this normal? I am in tears and was not even able to speak after the Bishop asked for the recommends. He never offered a word of prayer before or after the meeting. I simply felt like a loan was being called in.

    If someone, preferably a Bishop or someone who has served as a Bishop could shed some light I would be grateful. I am having very bad feelings about our Bishop right now and I want to be able to understand if this is normal.

  50. Ray on January 11, 2008 at 2:32 am

    Martha, I can’t address the way the Bishop handled it, since I wasn’t there to observe it, since I only am getting one perspective on the situation and since I have no stewardship or authority to judge that type of thing for someone else. (For example, while I like to begin any meeting with a member with a short prayer, there is no requirement to do so – and I have held short and focused meetings without doing so. With only what you have provided, I can’t even say for sure if I would have felt like the “meeting” needed to being and/or end with a prayer.)

    However, I can tell you that paying a full tithe is a requirement to hold an active temple recommend and attend the temple. Having qualified in the past is not a guarantee of the right to attend for the “normal duration” (now 2 years) of a recommend. From a strictly technical standpoint, the Bishop was well within his rights to ask for your recommends until you could honestly declare to be paying a full tithe.

    Fwiw, I would take a hard look at why you are feeling this way and try hard not to direct your disappointment at the Bishop – assuming you did not have prior bad feelings. If you already ahd hard feelings, this situation is not the root – and you need to get to the heart of that root.

  51. Ray on January 11, 2008 at 2:33 am

    Typing mistakes = fatigue. Sorry.

  52. Martha on January 11, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Ray – We understand that a full tithe is a requirement for a Temple recommend. My husband understood his inference that we should not attend the Temple until it was not an issue. That is actually why my recommend was expired, I knew I could not say we had paid a full tithe.

    My concern is this. Why, after my husband had already spoken to the Bishop regarding this matter, were we called in a second time? I thought once tithing settlement was over it was over.

    There have been other times (not that I am proud of this) that we have not been full tithe payers and have never been called back to be chastised a second time.

    No, I did not have hard feelings towards the Bishop previously although I do feel that he is an arrogant man in general.

  53. Ray on January 11, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Martha, perhaps so he could talk with both of you, since you hadn’t been able to attend the previous tithing settlement meeting? Again, I don’t know the situation, but what you have provided seems fairly innocuous to someone who has had to make similar arrangements concerning various issues.