How Should LDS Christians Give to Charity?

It’s a heart wrenching decision.  A beggar asks you for money.  You remember the words of King Benjamin: “Ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain.”[1]  You also remember Christ’s commandment to feed the hungry, take in the stranger, and clothe the naked.[2]

At the same time, you have practical concerns about how the money would be used.  A 2002 questionnaire of 54 panhandlers in Toronto found that the median monthly budget of panhandlers was $200 for food, $112 for tobacco, $80 for alcohol and other illicit drugs and $120 for all other items.[3]  In the last twelve months, 93% reported tobacco use, 37% reporting cocaine use, 9% reporting heroin use, and 80% reporting alcohol use.[4]  Of those that reported alcohol use, 26% reporting daily alcohol consumption, 28% reporting alcohol consumption 1-6 times per week.[5]

When you see these statistics, you may feel justified if you refuse a beggar.  You might say, “there are better ways to help the less fortunate.”  That may be true, but that excuse only works if you find and a better alternative.  If not, you are simply justifying yourself in sin (unless you do not have the means).[6]  So what are the alternatives?  Should you ever give to panhandlers?  How well are LDS Christians fulfilling their obligations to the poor?

Fast Offerings and Humanitarian Aid

For LDS Christians, the obvious place to start is by donating a generous fast offering and perhaps to the church’s humanitarian aid program.  According to a 2014 study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, the average active, U.S. Latter-day Saint donated around $650 to social causes through the church (excluding tithing) annually. [7]

We have been commanded to fast regularly and give a generous fast offering.  According to President Kimball, “Each member should contribute a generous fast offering for the care of the poor and the needy. This offering should at least be the value of the two meals not eaten while fasting.”[8]

President Kimball also counseled that well-off members should give more.  “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 saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps much, much more—ten times more when we are in a position to do it.”[9]

Still, we might wonder how fast offering and LDS humanitarian aid compares to other possible charitable donations.  According to the church, “every dollar given to the Bishop as a fast offering goes to assist the poor.”[10]  The church also states that “100% of every dollar donated” to Latter-day Saint Charities (which excludes fast offerings) “is used to help those in need — without regard to race, religion or national origin.”[11]  Presumably, the overhead is paid for by tithing.

However, even if 100% of funds are used to “assist the poor,” that does not necessarily mean those funds are used most effectively.  I can find no studies on the effectiveness of either program compared to potential alternatives.  Very few charitable organizations have any studies analyzing their effectiveness, so this is not very surprising.  Still, we can evaluate the structure of these programs to deduce their effectiveness.

Fast Offerings

Distributions of fast offerings are administered by Bishops, who meet with and determine the needs of members and then either pay for needs directly (such as paying rent to a landlord) or give members a form for the Bishop’s storehouse, where they can receive food and other essential items.[12]  With over 12,000 wards in the United States alone, this is a very decentralized system.  It relies on personal relationships to both determine need and prevent abuse.

In theory, the decentralized system could also be its downfall.  If a local Bishop is parsimonious, then the poor might not get the help they need.  According to anecdotal evidence, the more common problem is that Bishops spend more than their ward brings in in fast offerings, leading to deficits even in relatively affluent wards.[13]  Another potential criticism is that a goal to make wards, stakes or areas self-sufficient may not be ideal in a global church where members in some areas experience extreme poverty.

But overall, the model seems remarkably stable.  I could find no negative stories about the experience and a number of positive ones.  The church paid three months rent for a woman to help her leave an abusive relationship.[14]  A family with three kids got food from the Bishop’s storehouse when the father lost his construction job.[15]  Other church members saying that “the no-strings-attached funds carried them through circumstances that could have spiraled into disaster and poverty.”[16]  Fast offerings may not be effective at saving lives as certain anti-malarial programs (discussed in the non-church charities section, below), but it’s a solid program.

Humanitarian Aid

As with fast offerings, there aren’t any public studies demonstrating the effectiveness of the Church’s humanitarian aid fund.  Any study would not be particularly useful anyway, since the fund often changes programs.  As of March 2020, the fund’s programs are wheelchairs, clean water, food initiative, vision care, maternal and newborn care, immunization and emergency response,[17] but programs can be added or removed.

The church doesn’t allow you to donate to a specific fund (i.e. just wheelchairs).  The reasoning is that if funds are earmarked for a specific purpose, and if the purpose for that fund is then accomplished, then the funds will sit unused for long periods of time when they could be immediately used in another area where there is a pressing need.

Intuitively, that approach makes sense.  One of the criticisms of humanitarian aid generally is that it has become massive industry — 37,000 organizations competing for $160 billion annually[18] — and that it is, to some extent, dependent on continuing the very conditions it seeks to ameliorate.  Some critics have gone so far as to criticize humanitarian organizations for perpetuating crises.[19]  By maintaining flexibility to close completed programs, LDS humanitarian aid is probably better suited to avoid the more common pitfalls of secular humanitarian programs.

As with fast offerings, there aren’t any publicly available studies demonstrating the effectiveness of the church’s humanitarian aid.  However, the church’s approach seems intuitively sound, and there are no indications of any problems with the program.

Giving to Non-Church Charities

Should Latter-day Saints also give to secular charities?  In the same 2014 University of Pennsylvania survey, church-going U.S. Latter-day Saints reported donating an average of $1,173 per year “worthy non-religious causes.”[20]  The study did not indicate which secular causes received the support of Latter-day Saints.

If American LDS secular giving parallels the non-religious giving of Americans generally, then donations would be split between educational (21.3%), human services (18.1%), foundations (16.6%), health (13.8%), public society benefit (10.7%), international (8.3%), arts, culture and humanities (7.0%) and environment/animals (4.3%).[21]

Avoiding Certain Charities

What should be the guiding principles when giving to secular organizations?  From an analytical perspective, there are two dominant approaches.  The first and older approach, used by Charity Navigator and charitywatch.org, is to look at statistics such as the organization’s transparency and how it uses its funds.  For instance, organizations that spend a large percentage of donations on advertising and overhead will be ranked lower by Charity Navigator.[22]

This approach can be useful for avoiding particularly problematic charities.  For instance, “Kars4Kids” with its catchy jingle[23] is rated 1 out of 4 stars by Charity Navigator on financial metrics[24] because of its large overhead costs.  Charity Watch has blasted the organization for concealing its true purpose: 99.9% of Kars4Kids’ $90 million raised from 2012-2014 was spent on its sister organization Oorah, which specializes in Orthodox outreach programs for children of Jewish faith.[25]  Many would be surprised to learn that their donated cars fund a Jewish-only evangelical outreach program.

Another well known but less extreme example is the Susan G Komen for the Cure, the largest and best funded breast cancer organization in the United States.[26]  You might know them for their “race for the cure” and signature pink ribbons, which the organization has attempted to trademark and prevent other cancer charities from using.[27]  The organization gets 2 out of 4 stars by Charity Navigator on financial metrics because of its relatively large administrative and fundraising expenses and the high pay to its CEO, who made $684,717 in the fiscal year of 2012, causing blowback from donors.[28]

The best way to avoid problematic charities is to do some preliminary research, by googling, using Charity Navigator, charitywatch.org and other Charity watchdog sites.  This is especially good practice before giving to a charity based on an advertisement or as part of a large, public event.

Most Effective Charities

Avoiding bad charities can only take you so far.  A charity can spend very little on overhead but still be ineffective.  If you are interested in short-term interventions that maximizes lives saved or improved per dollar, then GiveWell.org is a great resource.  It tends to focus on short-term, internationally focused organizations such as the Against Malaria Foundation, Hellen Keller International’s Vitamin A Supplementation Program, the SCI Foundation and GiveDirectly.  You can read detailed reports on why GiveWell has recommended each of these charities.

The main downsides with an evidenced based approach is that (1) it will almost always focus on short term results as those are the easiest to analyze and (2) there may be positive interventions that are not prioritized because their impact is difficult to quantify.  Even with these caveats, however, there is a compelling case for supporting these charities.  The Against Malaria Foundation, for instance, can purchase and distribute life-saving malaria nets for $4.59 each, and the organization conducts post-distribution surveys to ensure that the nets are being used as intended.[29]

Another charity worth mentioning is the Bountiful Children’s Foundation (originally called the Liahona Foundation before the church asked it to change its name).  It was founded in 2008 by Latter-day Saints when a young boy of a Latter-day Saint family passed away from malnutrition after their family was only able to afford giving him banana water.  At the beginning, the founders focused on malnourished LDS children who may not have gotten the support they need because they were living in a poorer country.   There are no studies on its effectiveness, but I have anecdotally heard good things.  If you are interested in international relief run by members of the church but not affiliated with the church, it is worth checking out.

Local Charities and Ad Hoc Giving

How many of us have stood on the doorstep as a boy tries to get you to contribute to help his baseball program?  Or been asked to contribute for a local food bank drive?  Or to chip in to help with a girl scout troop?  Almost everyone agrees that this is not as effective on a dollar for dollar basis as, say, well designed international charities.  But does that mean we should never contribute to these causes?

The purpose of local giving isn’t really to bring about the most effective change.  More often, its purpose is to strengthen social bonds and make the giver feel good.  A study by the National Institutes of Health indicated that giving – and especially voluntary giving – led to greater pleasure activation in the brain.[30]  It seems likely that this effect is even greater when you interact personally with the recipient, although I could find no publicly available studies to confirm this point.

Even if local charitable giving isn’t the most effective form and giving in and of itself, it may have a number of positive externalities.  Besides increased happiness and stronger community bonds, it may also increase your propensity to contribute and volunteer in other ways.

Giving Directly to Other Members

Another form of giving that may not be the most effective on a per dollar basis, but may have positive externalities, giving directly to other church members.  Growing up, my family would perform a charitable ding-dong-ditch where we would leave items for a needy family in the ward around Christmas.

Similar to the section on “local charities,” the point of this for of giving isn’t necessarily to be the most effective on a dollar basis.  When you give to someone you know personally and who you know is deserving, it gives usually gives you a strong sense of joy.  It also provides a valuable teaching opportunity to your children, provided that they can responsibly participate.

We should also remember that the Gospel does not require us to be stern utilitarians.  If the Spirit prompts us to help another member in our ward, then we should obey.  If we find happiness in helping someone, even better.  That doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to the effectiveness of our giving, only that effectiveness is not the only criteria that Latter-day Saints use when deciding whether and how to give.

Giving to Beggars

Giving to beggars is an especially difficult problem.  In an April 1988 version of the Ensign, John F. O’Donnal, then President of the Guatemala City Temple, Guatemala advised as follows:

“Based on the scriptures and on my experiences, I have determined that giving is a personal matter to be decided by each individual as guided by the Spirit. What makes the decision so difficult is that it is impossible for us to help all the needy with whom we are confronted. Most travelers have had the experience of being surrounded by so many beggars that it would be impossible to give even a pittance to each. In such situations, daily prayer for wisdom in all that we do can guide us to know in our hearts by the whisperings of the Spirit when and to whom we might give.[31]

O’Donnal’s advice is essentially to follow the Spirit.  I would add that you may consider the external effects of giving.  Would giving to this beggar make you more likely to be kind to others?  Would it make you more likely to contribute to other causes?  Would it make you feel joy?  All of these factors may be taken into account.

Another factor to take into account is how you should accept or reject a panhandlers’ offer.  The Homeless Hub — which primarily focuses on Canadian homelessness — recommends that either way, you should “have the decency to look someone in the eye and acknowledge them.  That sounds simple, but the fact is, many people who are panhandling are routinely ignored, sworn at, harassed, robbed and assaulted. Having someone look them in the eye and recognize them as a person can be very affirming.”[32]  Of course, you should always follow the promptings of the Spirit and stay safe, but to the extent you are able to do so, this seems like good advice.

Do Latter-day Saints Give Effectively?  Do We Give Enough?

If charitable giving were a matter of keeping up with the Joneses, active Latter-day Saints would be doing well.  Even without counting tithing, LDS outperform the average American, where individual donations make up a larger percentage of national GDP than any other country.[33]  But spiritual progression is not graded on a curve.  The question isn’t whether active LDS Chrisitans are giving more than the average.  The question is whether we are doing enough to fulfill the covenants that we have made.

In 2014, the University of Pennsylvania published a study on LDS giving and volunteering.[34]  2,664 church-going Latter-day Saints in four stakes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey (19.6%), Michigan (13.7%), California (35.6%) and Utah (31.1%) were polled on their volunteer work and charitable giving.  Outside of tithing, 69.9% of respondents gave to social causes through the church such as fast offerings, and the average Latter-day Saint gave $650 annually (including those that did not donate at all).

In addition, 48.3% of respondents gave to “worthy non-religious causes,” with an average donation of $1,173 (including those that did not donate at all).  Combined with other forms of giving (such as in kind donations), the average respondent donated $2,024 in addition to being a full tithe payer.  Importantly, the study asked often polled the husband and wife from the same household and asked that they not double count, so $2,024 represents an underestimate of the respondents’ household giving.

A 2016 Pew Study found $50,000 was around the median household income of U.S. Latter-day Saints, with 47% making below that figure and 53% making above that.[35]  Adding everything together, active American Latter-day Saints probably give around 4% of their household income to non-tithing charity.

In 2017, all U.S. individuals gave $286.65 billion to religious and charitable causes,[36] or around $2,271 per household.  Donations to churches compromised 31% of all donations (including donations made by foundations and corporations).[37]  Assuming 31% of individual donations also went to churches,[38] the average U.S. household donated around $1,567 to non-church causes in 2017.  With a U.S. median household income of $61,372 in 2017, this represents around 2.6% of household income.

Even without counting tithing, it appears that church going U.S. Latter-day Saints probably pay a bit more than the American average.  I will not attempt to determine whether Latter-day Saint giving is sufficient given the covenants that we have made.

Latter-day Saints could probably do a more effective job at discussing charitable giving with each other.  Although we must be careful not to do our “alms before men,”[39] it would not hurt to compare notes and get ideas from each other.

Conclusion

When the Savior spoke to his disciples on the Mount of Olives for the final time, he foretold the ending of the world.  “When the Son of Man shall come again in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth up his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.”

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was an hungered and you gave me drink: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and ye took me in: naked and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. … Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”[40]

Our acts of service and our giving is one of the most reliable indicators of our true conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We should follow the Spirit’s promptings on where and how much to give.  The Lord’s counsel to Oliver Cowdrey seems appropriate here: “you must study out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore you shall feel that it is right.”[41]  I hope we are as purposeful about our charitable giving.

What do you think?  What is the best way for Latter-day Saints to evaluate their giving options?

[1] Mosiah 4:16

[2] Matthew 25:34-40

[3] Rohit Bose and Stephen W. Hwang, Income and Spending Patterns Among Panhandlers, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC121964/

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] See Mosiah 4:17-18

[7] Ram Cnaan, Van Evans, Daniel W. Curtis, Called to Serve: the Prosocial Behavior of Active Latter-day Saintshttps://www.sp2.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/cnaan_lds_giving.pdf

[8] Spencer W. Kimball, Welfare Services (1977) https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1977/10/welfare-services-the-gospel-in-action?lang=eng

[9] Ibid.

[10] Joseph B. Wirthlin, The Law of the Fast (April 2001) https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2001/04/the-law-of-the-fast?lang=eng

[11] https://www.ldsphilanthropies.org/humanitarian-services

[12] https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/new-era/2008/05/where-do-fast-offerings-go?lang=eng

[13] Gordon Smith, Fast Offerings: Are Mormons Stingy?  https://www.timesandseasons.org/harchive/2005/01/are-mormons-stingy/

[14] The Guardian, Salt Lake City offers glimpse of socialism, Mormon style https://www.theguardian.com/global/2019/jul/02/salt-lake-city-socialism-mormon-style-utah

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] https://www.ldsphilanthropies.org/humanitarian-services/funds/wheelchair-distribution

[18] Linda Polman, The Crisis Caravan

[19] See generally Linda Polman, The Crisis Caravan.  Polman is particularly critical of certain humanitarian aid in warzones, especially where aid organizations allow local military forces to steal aid in exchange for access.  According to Polman, the end result may be a perpetuation of the crisis, making things worse than if no aid had been given at all.

[20] Ram Cnaan, Van Evans, Daniel W. Curtis, Called to Serve: the Prosocial Behavior of Active Latter-day Saintshttps://www.sp2.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/cnaan_lds_giving.pdf

[21] Giving USA 2018, the Annual Report on Philanthropy.  A free summary of key findings can be found on the Charity Navigator website here: https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=42

[22] https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=48

[23] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8UV7SAhvG4

[24] Charity Navigator, Kars4Kids, https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=11555

[25] Charity Watch,  Costly and Continuous Kars4Kids Ads Disguise Charity’s Real Purpose, https://www.charitywatch.org/charity-donating-articles/costly-and-continuous-kars4kids-ads-disguise-charity39s-real-purpose

[26] Gayle A. Sulik (2010). Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health. United States of America: Oxford University Press. pp. 146–150. ISBN 978-0-19-974045-1. OCLC 535493589.

[27] Marks, Clifford M. (August 5, 2010). “Charity Brawl: Nonprofits Aren’t So Generous When a Name’s at Stake”. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 1, 2010. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703700904575390950178142586?mod=WSJ_WSJ_US_News_6#articleTabs%3Darticle

[28]  Hall, Cheryl (May 3, 2013). “Nancy Brinker gets big pay raise”. Dallas News. Archived from the original on May 3, 2013, https://web.archive.org/web/20130503143633/http://bizbeatblog.dallasnews.com/2013/05/nancy-brinker-gets-big-pay-raise.html/

[29] https://www.givewell.org/charities/amf

[30] William T. Harbaugh, Ulrich Mayr, Daniel R. Murghart, Neural Responses to Taxation and Voluntary Giving Reveal Motives for Charitable Donations (Science, June 15, 2007).  A free summary can be found here: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/brain-imaging-reveals-joys-giving

[31] John F. O’Donnal, When is it appropriate to give to beggars?  https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1988/04/i-have-a-question/when-is-it-appropriate-to-give-to-beggars?lang=eng

[32] Homeless Hub, Should I Give Money to Panhandlers?  https://www.homelesshub.ca/resource/should-i-give-money-panhandlers

[33] Charities Aid Foundation, Gross Domestic Philanthropy:  An International Analysis of GDP, tax and giving,  https://www.cafonline.org/docs/default-source/about-us-policy-and-campaigns/gross-domestic-philanthropy-feb-2016.pdf

[34] Ram Cnaan, Van Evans, Daniel W. Curtis, Called to Serve: the Prosocial Behavior of Active Latter-day Saintshttps://www.sp2.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/cnaan_lds_giving.pdf

[35] Pew Research Center, How Income Varies Among U.S. Religious Groups (2016) https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/11/how-income-varies-among-u-s-religious-groups/

[36] Giving USA 2018, the Annual Report on Philanthropy.  A free summary of key findings can be found on the Charity Navigator website here: https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=42

[37] Ibid.

[38] This is probably an underestimate.  Intuitively, corporations and foundations would probably be less inclined to donate to churches vis a vis individuals, though the free summary of the Giving USA 2018 report does not include any statistics on this point.

[39] Matthew 6:1

[40] Matthew 25: 31-40

[41] Doctrine & Covenants 9:8

25 comments for “How Should LDS Christians Give to Charity?

  1. Dr Cocoa
    March 4, 2020 at 8:27 pm

    Thank you for the list of resources. I have been looking for a new charity, and the resources you cite will help.

    When I lived in Houston, I would keep granola bars and trail mix in my car. That way I could give freely to the homeless who stand at stop lights, without worrying about how they would use my donation.

  2. Just sayin'
    March 4, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    With respect to LDS charities – I would be surprised if tithing pays for the overhead. I would not be surprised if overhead is covered by Church-owned for profits.

  3. ReTx
    March 4, 2020 at 9:35 pm

    My brother was homeless with all kinds of issues. After years of trying to help him, one of the things that I (and the rest of the family) had to accept was that we could not solve his problems. And that was not from lack of trying (trying everything we could come up with including just supporting him financially in the hopes he’d use the help as a jumping off spot – it didn’t work.). At the end of the day, the only thing that did work was being ready and willing when he wanted to make changes himself. Now that he’s gone, I support a local church that helps the homeless along with our community pantry and homeless shelter.

    And that’s kind of my feeling about charitable giving when it comes to dealing with US poverty and such. However, outside of this situation (the panhandlers and addicts and such), there is so much need in the world that I also support 1 LDS (Liahona’s Children) and 1 non-LDS international organization.

  4. queuno
    March 4, 2020 at 9:37 pm

    Good stuff. I’m working on a talk on charity and service in a couple of weeks.

  5. March 4, 2020 at 11:52 pm

    Those are some interesting thoughts. I am of the opinion that the average LDS could do better with giving alms, especially if our leaders were doing more to drive home the point that a middle-class American is part of the global very rich.

    As for my own habits:

    When a beggar confronts me on the street, I always give him something, usually one or two dollars. I don’t want to end up having “great cause to repent.”

    When I am a guest at somebody else’s church service, I put money into the collection plate, but never more than five dollars.

    When I see that a friend has put up a fundraiser on Facebook, I’ll give ten dollars if the cause seems worthy.

    I give money to several pro-life groups, and I also give money to Samaritan’s Purse, out of respect for my father as it was his favorite charity. I think it is rather sad that its CEO, Franklin Graham, takes a $600k salary and will “have no reward” from his Father in heaven, but they still seem to do a lot of good in the world.

    Then I also give money to AbleChild – http://www.ablechild.org – an organization dedicated to spreading information about the dangers of putting children on psychoactive drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, something which our society, fixated as it is on quick fixes and short-term thinking, doesn’t talk about nearly enough.

  6. GEOFF -AUS
    March 5, 2020 at 1:09 am

    In Australia I don’t see beggars. I understand there are homeless people, and give to Salvation Army, and Red Cross
    When in America carry bunches of $20 notes for those begging at intersections etc. Feels bad to not help. Many seem to be vets.

    Have a problem with charities l gave to in the past following up for more donations.

    Believing Joseph, We do not have pro life groups here that I know of, why do they need money, and what do you think would happen if the pro life groups got their way? If abortion became illegal do you think the number of abortions would reduce or increase?

  7. March 5, 2020 at 1:31 am

    I think that if the pro-life groups got there way, there would be fewer abortions.

    I don’t really know how much fewer, but even if it was as little as 10% it would be worth it – from my point of view, it’s just an equal rights thing.

  8. C. Keen
    March 5, 2020 at 8:43 am

    Via Wikipedia: “Begging for alms is illegal in Victoria, South Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland and Tasmania.” That would explain the invisibility of beggars, although their needs would still be there.

    Here’s the website for Pro Life Victoria: http://www.prolife.org.au/

  9. William Barlow
    March 5, 2020 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for that! I’ve sometimes done something similar, though I often forget to bring the food.

  10. William Barlow
    March 5, 2020 at 10:42 am

    Thanks! I’ll see if I can add that as an edit at the bottom. Do you have any source that discusses this perchance?

  11. William Barlow
    March 5, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Thanks ReTx for sharing your story. I think one of the hardest things about seeing someone we love suffer is realizing that there’s often little we can do to fix the underlying problem, be it extreme physical illness or mental illness.
    I like your feelings about charitable giving. It seems like a good mix of different options. That might be the best we can do.

  12. William Barlow
    March 5, 2020 at 10:46 am

    Hope this helps! I was thinking of doing a follow up article on service, though I have less experience in that area. I take the approach of letting people know the milieu of options and letting them use the Spirit to decide for themselves.

  13. William Barlow
    March 5, 2020 at 10:48 am

    I tend to agree. I wonder what would be a good way to get affluent Latter-day Saints (including the middle class, which is affluent by global standards) into the habit of giving more? We’re doing an OK job, but I think we tend to fall into the same consumerist trap as many of our fellow Americans. Is there a good way of saying that without being preachy?

  14. William Barlow
    March 5, 2020 at 10:51 am

    I wonder what the rationale for the anti-begging laws are. I wonder if they’ve done any studies on its impact on the people that would be panhandlers (i.e. if that income stream dries up are they unable to find help elsewhere)?

  15. afunai
    March 5, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    Our family really likes using the charities through givewell as I think they have the greatest global impact. Our biggest impediments to giving more is tithing and saving for the future. It is often hard for me to know how much I can truly afford to give to charity without sacrificing my families future (mainly retirement, but also college savings). I would love to give 10% of our salary to charity. I was very impressed with the book “The Life you Can Save” and motivated. But I find it hard to save 15-20% for retirement, 10% tithing, and then save for college and rainy days on top of that and still fund our family of soon-to-be 5 boys. I do try to set aside at least 3% of our salary for additional charitable donations, but it doesn’t seem enough for our comfortable lifestyle. I don’t want to hoard, but I do want to be prepared and I also want to give. It’s often tricky for me to find the right balance.

  16. William Barlow
    March 5, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    That’s a difficult one. I think the only thing you can do is try to be balanced and follow the Spirit. Keep in mind that if excess is left over (i.e. you retire and find that you have more than enough) you can give then. It is tricky because charity today will probably do more than in 20 years as extreme poverty (hopefully) continues to abate, but that’s the probably the best I can offer.

  17. GEOFF -AUS
    March 5, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    Believing Joseph, It is my understanding that the factors that reduce the number of abortions are sex education, and availability/affordability of birth control. 75% of abortions in US women below poverty line(can’t afford birth control). Number of abortions reduces when dems in power because they fund womens services including birth control. Universal healthcare would produce a 40 to 50% reduction in abortion.
    Countries like Germany have 5 abortions/10,000 women 20 to 30% of US. It is not illegal in Germany.

    There are lots of myths about abortion believed by the right in America.

    Begging is illegal in America too.

  18. March 5, 2020 at 6:28 pm

    Geoff-Aus,

    I obviously don’t believe the leftist talking points on abortion; if I did I would not be giving money to pro-life groups. None of the people who make the arguments you’re making actually believe that an unborn baby ought to have the same right to life as you or I.

    Obviously, abortion rates vary among countries where it is legal. Also, it’s just plain common sense that if you legalize something, you get more of it, whether it’s a lot more or a little more will vary, but again, since I believe in equal rights, I think that any change is worth it. I don’t believe that sex education and birth control will make the situation better and not worse; since those were introduced in the 1960s, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has shot up from less than 10% to around 40%. Nobody really knows what the abortion rate was before the 1970s but I expect it was also a lot lower.

    I don’t buy the argument about Democratic presidents reducing the abortion rate (and for that matter, I don’t think the partisan affiliation of the president has much influence on economic growth, or foreign policy, or pretty-much anything else that presidents are usually credit/blamed for.) The abortion rate has in the United States has gone down steadily since the 1980s, no matter who was president. I think the main cause is that young people are having less sex due largely to social isolation and pornography addiction.

    Once again, the arguments that you’re making about what does and doesn’t reduce abortion are arguments that, in my experience, are always made insincerely by people who don’t really want legal rights for the unborn.

  19. ji
    March 5, 2020 at 10:09 pm

    Q. How Should LDS Christians Give to Charity?

    A. However they individually decide.

  20. GEOFF -AUS
    March 5, 2020 at 11:39 pm

    Believing Joseph, As I undebrstand pro life organizations are trying to get abortion made illegal. That will not reduce the number of abortions. What has proven to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/reducing-abortion-rates-policy_n_589b8ea5e4b09bd304bfd920?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAFM0qdTKv0QblYCR11JidSKTTPGhHM3E8dvMFIbXBBRf7pLBL3OzrBS-SPrE-ZpUV_7n3rN5bTSvvOVn4UXV43IJUZcgB14UgNnYHcYa6MSnLlmeVTF_CApbo0ft9KvroWcF4q8jz_Ymd9947mDi_94zqHxEdxsuuBWSxmnziozd
    An interesting statistic is that 75% of abortions in America are for women below the poverty line. They can’t afford birth control.
    When democrats have power they fund womens services, and the number of abortions goes down, republicans cut that funding.
    America funds NGOs in africa that provide womens services including birth control and abortions. When republicans get in they cut funding and the result is 4million more abortions and 10,000 maternal deaths.
    http://theconversation.com/will-trumps-global-family-planning-cuts-cause-side-effects-75813

    Your contributions to pro life groups is increasing the number of abortions not reducing it. Parhaps you might considder redirecting it?

  21. GEOFF -AUS
    March 5, 2020 at 11:43 pm

    Sorry had not realised my previous comment had come through and wrote another before I saw Joseph comment. But he might look at it anyway.
    Some of the talking points are facts.

  22. Sute
    March 6, 2020 at 2:19 am

    Geoff,
    You care way too much about what happens in America. I’m sorry we are so hegemonic we occupy so much of your brain space. Imagine if you knew as much about Brazilian, Chinese, or Swiss politics as much as you do about the USA. You’d have no time for life. Seriously, I hope you and others can learn to ignore our political battles. It’s a waste of time, mostly for us even. It’s a shame so many others outside our nation get sucked into the wake of them.

    Abortion is a tragedy like unto murder. If I discovered that giving people the right to drive increased murders, I wouldn’t be in favor of banning driving. If reducing sex education class that promote abortions cause people to make terrible decisions, let’s have the courage to teach them those decisions are wrong, full stop.

  23. GEOFF -AUS
    March 6, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    Sute, and Joseph. There are facts. They are different from talking points.
    Sute claims if banning driving would reduce the number of murders he would be banning driving.
    The facts are that sex education and affordable (to the poor) birth control, are the things that reduce the number of abortions. They do not happen when abortion is illegal, because that is part of the culture that does not respect women enough to give them the resources to control their lives.

    If we only want to support those that actually believe that an unborn baby ought to have the same right to life as you or I, there will still be more abortions than necessary. If you can get past your ideology to what actually works, you might acomplish something.

    Sute because I am a member, and many members in Australia think being a republican is part of being a member I am forced to deal with American politics/culture. If we could remove the conservative politics from the gospel, it might go forth to fill the earth again.

    If we could remove the politics from abortion America could reduce the number of abortions to a quarter the present.

  24. Taiwan Missionary
    March 6, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    A few thoughts in response to a wonderful post and comment string:

    1. While I lived in Okinawa, Howard W. Hunter presided over our District Conference. This was in 1976. He mentioned in conference that when he had left his hotel that morning to go to the LDS chapel, he encountered a beggar on the street. He said he gave the beggar some money, and hoped that we would have done the same.

    2. As to people “agonizing” over whether to give to beggars, because they fear that the money given will be spent poorly. I lived in Bangkok 1991-1995, and child beggars were on many pedestrian overpasses. Some well-meaning ladies from the English Branch of the Church once decided to prepare nice fresh orange slices for the children, who were out sitting in the hot sun all day. When the women approached the children, they were violently intercepted by the beggars’ handler, a grown Thai man. He knocked the orange slices to the ground. mashed them with his feet, and yelled in English that if the women didn’t give the kids money, he would beat them, that night. Good enough reason to give to beggars, I think! BTW, police in Thailand are generally corrupt, and generally get their percentage of the take in such begging operations. I think we need to hold judgment in abeyance. Either we give or we don’t.

    3. As to LDS propensities for charitable giving. I have served twice as financial clerk, once as ward clerk, and as First Counselor in a Bishopric. Did a lot of processing donations, prepared a lot of checks for the Bishop to sign, as he helped members from the F.O. Fund. I learned a few things:

    a. In the 1980s and 1990s, the North America NE Area spent three times more in FO assistance, than it received in FO donations. The Church’s FO operations were massively subsidized by the Wasatch Front. Suspect this is true today.

    b. Bishopric service 2009-2013. About half the people the Bishop helped were so grateful that they quickly got their lives back on even keel, and did even more than the Bishop asked for in compensatory labor. The other half became dependent. When the Bishop was sometimes reluctant to keep repeating assistance after multiple times, he had to factor in underage children in the situation, who would very possibly go hungry or become homeless, without the Bishop’s help. The children almost always tipped the scales toward more assistance.

    c. Some affluent members are generous with their offerings; some just don’t give, period. Some members Of limited means are generous; some are not. I had my own opinions about some situations, but had to work hard to try to not pass judgment.

    4. To whom we give charitable donations, and how much, is an intensely personal decision. I try to live by John Wesley’s maxim: make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.

    There are many opportunities within the Church for unofficial, private help. Sometimes, we let our emphasis on tithings and offerings blind us to that fact, and the fact that our larger community needs our help.

  25. William Barlow
    March 7, 2020 at 8:02 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and added information! On your second point, the problem is whether you’ll increase the abuse of children long term by giving them money (even if that helps them not to be beaten in the short term).

    The problem is actually not too dissimilar to that explored by Linda Polman in The Crisis Caravan. There, Polman argues that humanitarian aid groups who paid off warlords in order to deliver at least some humanitarian aid actually ended up prolonging the conflict. Worth a read if you’re interested.

    Thanks again!

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