LDS Tithing: Cheer vs Fear

LDS Tithing: Cheer vs Fear

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

“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.” (

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”

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.

"It would be a shame if something were to happen to that nice body of yours..."

“It would be a shame if something were to happen to that nice body of yours…”


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

Remember this guy?

Remember this guy?

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.

Update 2:

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.”

Update 3:

The title and header graphic were unnecessarily ominous. They have been updated

  • Vicente de la Paz

    I personally choose truth over misrepresentations…

    • Thinker of Thoughts

      Could you point out a misrepresentation here so that I could correct it?

      It is one thing to say that I misrepresent things, and another to actually point it out.

      • Don

        The points you bring up have been answered again and again ad nauseum – so what good would it do him or me or anyone else to point out AGAIN why you are off base? Your mind and heart are set. You’re closed to any counterpoint we might bring up. So why should he point out anything?

        • Thinker of Thoughts

          You claim that my heart and mind are set. Could the same be said of you?

          I have at least laid out my reasoning on the matter, open for people to bring up counterpoints, which some have done. As I hope you see, I am happy to reasonably respond. If you can point out a misrepresentation you could advance the discussion.

          Even if you believe that my points have been countered ad nauseum on other sites, some of your fellow Mormons may not have seen those sites and the arguments may be different than my own there. If you could provide your reasonable counterpoints to this article here, you may help out other Mormons who read this article and have not seen the ad nauseum arguments

        • Jennifer

          Translation of Don’s comment: “I have nothing to counter what you have written, so I will just attack you as a person.” Ad hominem – the only thing people have left when they’ve clearly lost.

      • Vicente de la Paz

        You blog above is typical ANTI-MORMON rhetoric that has been addressed time and again. If you can’t see your own misrepresentations, you are blind, plain and simple.

        • Thinker of Thoughts

          I take umbrage at your statement. I have been hoping that my blog has fresh and unusual anti-mormon rhetoric.

          Just Kidding.

          Using the term anti-mormon is a “thought stopping technique.” It gives yourself permission to not critically evaluate any of my statements or references, because you have pre-determined them to be false. Even when they are simply references to the Church’s own history.

          Many people thought that accusations of Joseph Smith using peep stones in a hat was typical “anti-mormon rhetoric” and have had to reconsider that when the church published an essay acknowledging it.

          I encourage you to keep and open mind and critically evaluate anything that I write. If you can write a cogent explanation for why I have misrepresented something, I would be happy to respond and modify my post if your rationale has merit. You might take the opportunity to do your fellow Mormons a service in this regard.

        • Jennifer

          Translation of Big Face Guy’s post: “I’ve got nothing as well. So, I’ll be vague and attack you personally.” More ad hominem – the refuge of those with nothing to say.

        • Jennifer

          If the above post’s content has been addressed time and again perhaps you could enlighten the rest of us with an actual rebuttal to it since there are, according to you, numerous resources which you may draw upon.

  • Robert Upshaw

    Neal A Maxwell was never the 2nd counselor in the first presidency – therefore your research is fraudulent and your article deceptive. You must not be inspired. I can’t believe a word you say. You must be a fraud :-)

    • dbundy


    • Thinker of Thoughts

      Doh! Thanks for the catch – I mistakenly attributed it to Maxwell rather than Romney. The reference was still correct though and the link reflected the correct author. I updated the post.

      I know your comment was in jest, but to be clear – I don’t claim to be inspired, have any special power, authority or anything other than a lame sense of humor which is fairly embarrassing to my family. So when I boff something = I can correct it without having to be fearful that people will see through anything (read this to see what I mean)

  • colleendown

    This is perhaps the best explanation of the many, many I have read in the past 48 hours. Thank you for you thoughtful blog!

  • dbundy

    What I wonder is why you don’t seem to notice the revelation of the Father to Malachi, which curses his people for not paying tithing and offerings? Have you not read Malachi 3:7-12?

    How is tithing any different than other laws and commandments of the God of Israel? Obey the law and receive the blessing. Disobey the law and receive the cursing.

    What am I missing here?

    • Thinker of Thoughts

      Many Christians see the instruction of tithing you refer to as part of the old testament system of the Law and the Prophets. Just as circumcision is a law that is no longer part of the new testament, the tithe is not continued as well. This does not mean that there is no role for giving or charity – just that it should be done without compulsion with a cheerful or hilarious heart.

      As the priestly class was done away with and the church considered a body of believers rather than a formal hierarchical organization, the focus on giving is to be directed by each member as they see fit. Some may give to individuals, others to churches or charities and others may give in kind or in time and talent. The important thing is that since giving is not mandated under threat of punishment, but rather promise of blessing – it is done from a heart of cheer rather than a heart of fear.

      That is my take on it.

    • Jennifer

      Malachi is admonishing the Hebrew temple priests for misusing the offerings given to them by the people in the name of the Lord. It’s a condemnation of leadership – not the rank and file.

  • Joella

    remember the lds church follows alot of it beliefs from the old testment , so paying 10% having prophet it was all there

  • Derek

    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. My views on tithing have never been the same. Thanks for this interesting viewpoint.

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  • Rock Waterman

    I just recently discovered your blog, and must say I’m impressed. I notice you receive the same type of response as I do on my blog “Pure Mormonism” when I ask a commenter to point out the errors they see in my writing: silence.

    It seems many are willing to criticize in the most general way, but when asked to point out a specific error, they never return.

    By the way, if you want to get a full-on attack, simply suggest that the Lord doesn’t require one’s tithes and offerings be paid directly to the LDS Church. That hit’s ’em where it hurts.

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  • Doc Holliday

    You are buying into a mormon myth–that Joseph Smith, Jr. was murdered in Carthage Jail. Smith fired first and started a gunfight that he, ultimately, lost. This is not murder. Smith did not die a martyr, nor did he go accepting his fate.

    “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.”

    This is entirely irrelevant to the subject at hand. If Monson’s lying and committing fraud, then so is every other religion that has a ‘truth myth’ that they use to get tithing. All religions involve magical thinking.

    “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.”

    They could, but they don’t. What’s your point? The case doesn’t even concern this.

    My basic problem with all this is I find it hard to believe any rational person would accept any of this as ‘truth,’ much less act upon it.

    • Rock Waterman

      Doc Holliday,
      Joseph Smith was entirely within his rights to fire at the armed mob that was busting through the door to get at him. It was indeed a gunfight, but he was acting in self defense.

      You are correct, however, that Joseph did not die a martyr having anything to do with a refusal to deny the Book of Mormon. Religion had almost nothing to do with his murder; it’s doubtful any in the mob cared a whit about the Book of Mormon.

      The authors of “Junius And Joseph: Presidential Politics and the assassination of the First Mormon Prophet” show that those in the mob were upset over the political divide the presence of the Mormons had brought to the area and the perceived danger brought on by Mormon mobs and threats by men like Sidney Rigdon who threatened to exterminate their enemies. But the thing that seemed to have lit the fire under most of these men was over Masonry. Most of the mobocrats were seriously dedicated Masons, and they considered the Nauvoo lodge unauthorized and illegitimate, John Bennett and others having set up that lodge without going through the proper channels and getting permission.

      19th century Masons took their oaths very seriously (ask William Morgan), and when the Mormons set up their own Masonic lodge that was not authorized by real Masons, neighboring Masons saw red. It was Masons that killed Joseph Smith, and they killed him primarily because he was participating in their secret Masonic ceremonies without authorization. The penalty for that usurpation was death.

      Although the real villain here was John C. Bennett, the con artist whose idea it was to bring a Masonic lodge to Nauvoo without getting permission from the real Masons, the mob took their anger out on Joseph Smith because Bennett had skipped town.

      • Archduke Franz Ferdinand

        This is very interesting posit. In reviewing the history of Masonry and Mormonism, I have to say I don’t see any involvement of Bennett, other founding the lodge, proselytizing and as a type of historian. The legitimacy of the Nauvoo lodge went unchallenged until 1842, when it was suspended for ‘a short time.’ (None of the sources I can find, off hand, say how long ‘a short time” was.)

        The suspension by the Illinois grand lodge was then lifted. Finally, in 1844, the grand lodge instructed the 5 lodges founded by mormons to “cease work.” They continued as “clandestine lodges” after 1844. My sources, (again, off hand) don’t indicate whether the ‘cease work’ order came before or after JS’s death in June of 1844..

        Upon review, the only motivations I can ascribe to the mob was destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor’s press and JS’s continued polygyny. However, I am more prone to believe Smith’s death was caused by mob that had, in truth, no legitimate gripe with the mormons or Smith. Mob violence, carried out without due process, was fairly common at the period in our history. As Governor Ford said, “some people expect more protections from the law than the laws are able to furnish in the face of popular excitement.”

        (Start with, referenced 18FEB2014, and work out.)

        So, no I don’t seen where the masons where involved in JS’s death, at all…

        • Archduke Franz Ferdinand

          Sorry this was so long. I am just being a pedant…

          • Rock Waterman

            I didn’t mean to imply that the mob was any sort of organized Masonic attempt at payback. As you suggest, mobs at that time could form at the drop of a hat for any reason or no reason at all, as they often consisted of the lowest forms of life on the frontier -Mormons commonly referred to the lowlife Missourians as “Pukes.”

            But the authors of “Junius and Joseph” make a convincing case that angry Masons seeking revenge for what they considered the usurpation of their rituals were certainly included in the crowd that sought Joseph’s life.

            It didn’t take much for some folks in that area to get stirred up over nothing; some just loved a good brawl. But others felt they had a good reason, whether it was destruction of a printing press or “stealing” secret ceremonies.

            Or just political differences. Look at the fights that broke out on voting day at Gallatin.

            I’m not trying to convince you, Archduke, of any particular cause; I’m just saying that “Junius and Joseph” opened my own eyes to possibilities beyond what I had previously been taught.

            My apologies also for being so lengthy and pedantic.

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  • Elder Delaney

    Dearest member,

    Many of our dearest Latter-day Saints have gravely misunderstood the eternal importance of the principle of tithing. Please see my remarks that you may come to a clearer understanding of this inspired law of heaven:

    Elder Delaney

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  • EG

    A female relative of mine is Catholic. She divorced her first husband. She remarried a divorced man who was not Catholic. The Catholic church would not allow them to be married in the Catholic church by a Catholic priest there by denying the female relative of the blessings of the Catholic church. So her husband converted to Catholicism and still they could not marry in the Catholic church. They ended up getting married in city hall.
    Because divorce is a sin, to the Catholic church, as long as both ex spouses were alive my female relative could not get the Catholic church blessings. So when both ex spouses died they were then married in the Catholic church.
    It is not just the Mormon church that has requirements. The Mormon church is accused of many things. And the critics make it appear that the Mormon church is the only religion to do this or that, as if other religions do not do it also. Hypocrisy.

    • Thinker of Thoughts

      I was not raised catholic. I was raised Mormon. That is what I know and that is what I write about. Your story is not a defense of Mormonism. It is a further condemnation of organized man-made and led authoritarian religion. I agree that both examples are atrocious.

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