Recent change to Mormon tithing slips…
Until recent times, tithing slips had a statement at the bottom which read:
“All donations to the Church’s missionary fund become the property of the Church to be used at the Church’s sole discretion in its missionary program.”
This statement not only confirmed what all Mormons already knew but it also distanced members from funds they provided to support their own children whilst on their missions. As tax relief is allowable on ‘donations’ (at least in the UK) this distancing provides a vehicle to protect the tax relief. When parents (including myself) previously paid money directly to children on missions, tax relief was not allowable. No tax relief is legally available even if parents first pay the money into Church coffers and subsequently it gets paid out to their own children. So, the Church invented this surreptitious circular route which also incorporated ‘averaging’ of mission costs per month worldwide. Parents pay the same for their children on missions no matter where they serve. Thus the amounts paid in are different to those paid out to individual missionaries, which may be higher or lower than the ‘donations’. The money is pooled and payment to individual missionaries is distanced from specific donors. We sent one son and a friend on missions under the old system obtaining no tax relief and another son and a daughter on missions under the carefully crafted new system. Whilst we were happy to get the tax relief which was paid to the Church and offset against tithing donations, it has to be said that we were indeed supporting our own children utilising this roundabout method. Whilst it was not an illegal move by the Church, and this ‘tax avoidance’ system of manipulating funds could not quite be described as ‘tax evasion’ which of course is entirely illegal, it does appear to be a morally wrong method of avoiding tax which would be payable if it could be shown that parents were in fact actually supporting their own children. The system was rationalised into place but is certainly not an entirely honest process and flies in the face of the proclaimed integrity implied in Articles of Faith 12 and 13.
- We believe in … obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
- We believe in being honest, true…
The Mormon Church mantra about avoiding the very appearance of evil also comes to mind.
Honouring and sustaining the law means not trying to circumvent legal requirements in order to avoid tax. Being ‘honest’ has a unique definition within Mormonism which often appears to create its own dictionary in order to accommodate its practices.
The old tithing slip statement has now been removed and replaced with the following which gives rise to even greater issues.
“Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated, all donations become the Church’s property and will be used at the Church’s sole discretion to further the Church’s overall mission.”
Options for ‘General missionary’, ‘Ward missionary’ and ‘Humanitarian aid’ donations remain on the new tithing slips but ‘Book of Mormon’, ‘Temple construction’ and ‘Perpetual education’ – the latter once a huge initiative to help youngsters in deprived countries to further their education – have all disappeared.
In TMD Vol. 2, Chapter 17, I was able to analyse Church income and expenditure in each category for the United Kingdom, as by law in the UK the Church has to disclose all financial details. This was long before the Church decided it could do what it liked regardless of donation ‘category’.
There were distinct transfers from one category to another without reference to members and most of the Humanitarian aid – which British Mormons generally believe gets used immediately for most dire overseas needs, was retained for local use. In fact, most of it was not dispersed at all in the year I inspected (2005). In the following details, £1 (GBP) is currently worth about $1.57 (USD). Out of £509,000 humanitarian aid donated in that year, only £34,000 was used and a total balance of £675,000 was carried forward. So, just £34,000 got used (locally) while millions of children died in the third world and the Church banked member donations for some supposed ‘greater’ future local use.
They also moved £500,000 out of the Fast Offering fund (supposedly used to feed the poor and needy) and put it into the Welfare fund, using it to build chapels etc.
“The ‘Fast Offering Fund’ is listed as “contributed by members of the Church to be used in the relief of the poor and needy”. Yes, that is the relief of the poor and needy. The perception is that the relief is given immediately to those who are in most need. The £500,000 ‘expenditure’ was actually transferred to the ‘Welfare Fund’ which has broader scope for use than members may imagine for their fast offerings.
The Welfare Fund does far more than provide food and necessities to those who desperately need immediate help to survive (the poor and needy); its full range and scope of expenditure, specified to achieve the goal of helping the poor and needy, includes the following: “Invests in farms which it rents out to subsidiary companies”, profits from which are returned to the charity of course, “acquires land and builds purpose built meeting houses, for a fellow subsidiary, in which members of the Church and members of the public can meet together for religious instruction and worship” and “assists individuals suffering through hardship, sickness and distress as needed” and “provides advice and guidance to Church members on the Church’s worldwide welfare and humanitarian aid programmes”. So, the fund that actually runs farms and pays for the construction of chapels is somewhat supported from funds donated by members who think ‘fast offering’ donations go to feed the poor and needy.” (TMD Vol. 2:341).
The Church does not disclose any financial information other than in countries where the law requires it. When he was questioned why, in an interview, the prophet Gordon B. Hinckley responded that they do not make the financial position known to the world as it is private and reserved for those inside the Church who make the donations. In stating that the information was available for members to see, Hinckley was not exactly being truthful, once again employing the unique Mormon take on being ‘honest’. The general membership has no more idea concerning what happens to their donations or how much money or other assets the Church has than anyone else. The Mormon Church hides everything from everyone.
Helmut Nemetchek of German ZFT Television: “In my country we say the people’s churches, the Protestants, the Catholics. They publish all their budgets annually to all the public. Why is not this possible for your church?”
Gordon B. Hinckley: “Well, we simply think that information belongs to those who make the contributions, not to the world. That’s the only thing. Yes.” (Gordon B. Hinckley Interview – ZDF German Television, Salt Lake City, Utah, 29 January 2002, conducted by Helmut Nemetschek at 47 East South Temple – Church Administration Building).
With the recent change in wording on tithing slips, it is clear the Mormon Church is giving itself carte blanche regarding all member donations.
Far from the latest statement representing the promise of a more honest future, the Mormon Church is simply rationalizing and justifying past misappropriation of funds.