The recent court summons of Thomas S Monson on charges of fraud have brought the issue of tithing to the forefront. The charge of fraud hinges upon the accusation that Church leaders, of which Monson is the corporation sole, induced the plaintiffs to pay annual tithes by intentionally misrepresenting certain factual claims.
How could someone be induced to pay tithes in this manner?
A Cheerful Giver
Many churches treat the giving of donation or tithes as something with should be done without compulsion from a cheerful heart, as described in 2 Corinthians 9:7:
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
- 2 Corinthians 9:7
In these religions, donations are encouraged and may be frequently requested, or even required for certain status within the actual structure of the organization, but no condemnation or punishment of the eternal prospects of the individual is espoused.
As we will see below – in Mormonism tithing takes on a whole different aura of import.
The Celestial Ticket
First, according to Mormon theology tithing is absolutely required in order to receive all that God has promised in the highest degree of Glory in the celestial kingdom (the highest heaven according to Mormons). If you are not a full and current tithe payer, then you cannot pass your temple recommend interview to receive your endowment (temple ceremony) which is required in order to obtain that kingdom. See the Church publication, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism regarding temple recommends:
“Only members of the Church who have a current identification card, called a temple recommend, may enter. …The bishop, who is responsible as a “judge in Israel,” conducts the initial interview. He seeks to discern personal worthiness…
…Worthiness requirements include being honest, keeping the commandments, such as chastity-sexual continence before marriage and fidelity within marriage obeying the laws of tithing and the Word of Wisdom, fulfilling family responsibilities and avoiding affiliation with dissident groups. ” (“Temple Recommend” Encyclopedia of Mormonism)
The full promise of God’s Salvation and Exaltation is only available to those people who pay a full tithe so that they may enter the Temple and receive ordinances therein.
Eternal Family Held Hostage
Second, you only have the promise of eternal family relationships in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. See the following from LDS.org:
“From another revelation to the Prophet Joseph, we learn that there are three degrees within the celestial kingdom. To be exalted in the highest degree and continue eternally in family relationships, we must enter into “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage” and be true to that covenant.” (LDS.org)
By making your eternal family relationships dependent upon temple marriage ceremony, which is in turn dependent upon full tithe payment – the church is holding your eternal family hostage for a ransom of 10% of your income for life.
The Fire Insurance Shake Down
Third, modern Mormon revelation teaches that at the second coming of Christ, people who have not paid their tithing in full will be burnt as stubble. Marion G. Romney, 2nd counsellor in the first presidency taught that the payment of tithing is a form of “fire insurance” in a 1982 Ensign article:
“Now, second, the payment of tithing is worthwhile as fire insurance. Through his prophets the Lord has told us that incident to his second coming, which we are now anticipating, there will be a great conflagration. Malachi thus refers to it in connection with his pronouncement about tithes and offerings. He said: “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” (Marion G. Romney “The Blessings of an Honest Tithe” Lds.org)
He goes on to quote a revelation which Joseph Smith claimed to receive from God as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants:
“Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming. For after today cometh the burning … for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon. Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called today.” (D&C 64:23–25.)
The modern mafia would call this fear tactic a “shake down.” Pay up – or else you will burn.
Other than the threats of burning at Christ’s return, the inability to reach the highest heaven or the potential loss of family in the eternities, the church has provided some very practical guidance for priorities in the payment of tithes. In a December 2012 article in the Ensign the following was advised to a new convert regarding the payment of tithing:
“If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing.” (Aaron L West “Sacred Transformations” Dec 2012 Ensign)
Here we see the priorities that the Church instills in members from the beginning.
Death and Taxes. (And Tithing?)
Some members might exclaim that they pay tithing because they like the programs that the church offers and want to help build the Kingdom of God – not because they are afraid of consequences if they don’t pay. Indeed, many tax payers would say that they pay taxes because they like the programs and institutions that the government provides. In truth, they pay taxes because if they don’t, men with guns will show up at their doorstep. (see this excellent video). You can test if this is true when/if taxes are lowered and then see if people continue to pay the higher rate. If the threats of being burned at Christ’s return were not meant to induce people into paying tithing, they would never be brought up in the first place.
The Mormon Mindset
To be clear, most Mormons today would say that the pay their tithing out of a desire to please God and demonstrate humility and obedience. This is a testament to the sincere character of their devotion. Mormons are good people who want to draw near to God. The leaders and theology that they exist under depend upon this.
How Fraud Has Power to Induce
As I have previously written in “The Lies That Bind” The Mormon Shaman, or spiritual leader, can only acquire and hold his followers enthralled if he has bound them through a truth myth which incorporates the ego of the members themselves. This can only be done by providing misinformation which establishes the leader as possessing a mystical nature. This may take the form of an exclusive divine authority, heavenly powers or prophetic ability.
House of Cards
The seven claims that are cited in the fraud claim against Monson speak directly to the basis upon which the Mormon Prophet derives the authority to endorse the truthfulness of the above mentioned inducements to the payment of tithes.
- 1) The Book of Abraham is a literal translation of Egyptian papyri by Joseph Smith.
- 2) The Book of Mormon was translated from ancient gold plates by Joseph Smith is the most correct book on earth and is an ancient historical record.
- 3) Native Americans are descended from an Israelite family which left Jerusalem in 600 B.C.
- 4) Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed as martyrs in 1844 because they would not deny their testimony of the Book of Mormon.
- 5) The Illinois newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor had to be destroyed because it printed lies about Joseph Smith.
- 6) There was no death on this planet prior to 6,000 years ago
- 7) All humans alive today are descended from just two people who lived approximately 6,000 years ago
Points 1 & 2 speak to the powers, ability and divine calling of Joseph Smith. His ability to translate the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham were testaments to his power. Since the Priesthood keys and authority which give the Prophet his position originated with Joseph – if you disprove these texts as factual – then you discredit Joseph’s claims to power. If Joseph’s power and authority was fraudulent, then none of the subsequent prophets have any legitimate power or authority either.
This is the Mormon House of Cards which hinges upon Joseph Smiths credibility and reaches all the way to the current Prophet, who ever that may be.
Points 3, 6 & 7 all speak to the authenticity of Mormon Scripture, which was brought forth by translation or revelation by Joseph Smith. If you demonstrate these to be false, then you discredit Joseph Smith and the House of Cards falls.
Points 4 & 5 speak to the personal character of Joseph Smith. If he destroyed the Expositor for publishing truths about his practice of polygamy and ambitions for theocracy then his imprisonment at Carthage was justified (though his murder was not). If Joseph lied to church members about his practice of polygamy, he would be using the means of Satan, the father of all lies, to disguise what he claims to be God’s commandment of plural marriage. Since God would not use the tools of Satan to establish his Law, the character of Joseph as a Prophet is discredited and House of Cards goes down.
One can see why these points would be kept out of plain view of the church members. Making them evident would not be faith promoting. Once the House of Cards falls in the mind of a member who sees these connections, the fraud is exposed - and the captive is set free.
It is informative to see the differences between the way that Mormons are taught that God calls upon them to give in comparison to the general Christian view. In one instance you are induced to pay for fear of being burned, and in the other you are taught to be a cheerful giver without penalty if you decline.
I personally choose cheer over fear.
I mistakenly attributed the “Fire Insurance” quote to Neal A Maxwell rather than Marion G Romney. The linked reference had the correct author. Thanks to Robert Upshaw for noticing. I updated the post.
Commenter Derek posted:
Interestingly, I asked my bishop one time if I may choose the worthy organizations to which I could donate my tithe…. the clear answer was NO… I must give 100% of the 10% to the LDS church to be considered a “full” tithe payer.
Is only valid if paid to the Church? Could they not count as tithing money donated to charities that do the sort of work the Savior advised – healing the sick, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. The instructions from the brethren are crystal clear in this regard:
“We do not pay tithing by contributing to our favorite charities. The contributions we should make to charities come from our own funds, not from the tithes we are commanded to pay to the storehouse of the Lord.” (Apostle Dallin H Oaks “Tithing” April 1994 General Conference)
Over a century prior, the Prophet John Taylor taught in 1881
“There were two men; one paid $100 in tithing, the other paid $25 in tithing. Both of them owned about the same amount of property; but the first paid his tithing, the other did not. The second, however, paid some $75 in donations; but he did not pay his tithing, he only paid a quarter of it. That now may have arisen from ignorance with regard to the law. The last paid out as much money as the first; and he may have been wrongly taught.”
(“Tithing and Other Matters” John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 22:13)
To be clear, the Church is the only legitimate target for donations which hold bearing on one’s eternal exaltation. Tithes are also clearly distinct from charities in this statement and one should not consider that they have donated to charity by paying tithes to the church.
It is interesting to note that tithing being a requisite for passing a temple recommend interview is the only thing which ties it to one’s eternal salvation. It would seem that things which determine ones justification before God wouldn’t change through the ages, but tithing was not always tied to temple admission. It was first formally announced as a requisite for temple recommend approval by John Taylor in January of 1881, a full 43 years after the law was first revealed. In a stake conference the prophet described a young man who applied for a temple recommend to marry and confessed to not paying tithing.
“Unless this young man could convince me, if I were a Bishop, that he was sincere in his heart and made some satisfactory attempt at fulfilling this law, I would not give him a recommend. What? … should we take a man, a man whom this Book says, shall not be worthy to abide amongst you, should we, I say, take him through the House of the Lord and confer and seal upon him blessings and lives eternal, and thrones and principalities and powers and dominions, and introduce him into the society of the highest intelligences that exist in the eternal worlds? I forbid you to do it in the name of the Lord. We cannot do it, we are not at liberty to do it, neither are we at liberty to use our judgment in regard to it either. ”
(“Tithing and Other Matters” John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 22:13)
This instruction was repeated in the following general conference. Prior to this, the payment of tithing was not necessarily an obstacle to joining company with the “highest intelligences that exist in the eternal worlds.”
The title and header graphic were unnecessarily ominous. They have been updated