Law of Tithing in Mormonism
The word tithe means a “tenth,” in this case, a tenth part of something that is contributed voluntarily. Mormons continue in the practice of paying tithing (ten percent of one’s increase) like faithful believers of old.
The first recorded account we have of tithing deals with Abraham giving tithe offerings to the priest Melchizedek, in Genesis, chapter 14. Jacob promised that he would pay tithing, as recorded in Genesis 28. Enforced by the Law of Moses, tithing was what supported priests and sacred buildings. Malachi gave the following prophetic counsel regarding tithing, speaking for the Lord: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me.in tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed, for ye have robbed me.. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse.and prove me, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:8-10).
Herein we find both a commandment and a promise. Mormons believe that all commandments come with subsequent blessings that can be obtained through obedience to those commandments. The law of tithing is a strict code that mandates we return ten percent of our annual earnings to the Lord—the word return should be stressed because, as Mormons understand it, all that we gain or possess in this life has been given us by God anyway. Yet as we show our willingness to acknowledge His generous hand in our lives and pay our tithing, He then is able and very willing to give us even more blessings, be they increased health or employment, extra peace in our homes, or special gifts of food or money or other care that often come just when we need them most.
The paying of tithing is something that can pose difficulty for new members of the Mormon Church, but for those who exercise faith and just do it, soon what appears to be a burden becomes a great blessing and privilege; people find that somehow, miraculously, they get by on 90 percent income better than they did on 100 percent, and it gives them great pleasure to regularly and gratefully pay their tithing dues to their Heavenly Father.
In the Mormon Church, members discretely pay their tithing to the bishop of their ward (local congregation) or to one of his two counselors. In other words, these offerings are made confidentially and not in front of other members of the congregation. Records of amounts paid are kept, and at year’s end each Mormon can review the records and make a formal declaration to the bishop as to whether a full ten percent was paid, or a partial tithe, or none at all. This information is held in confidence, but members realize that they are held accountable to the bishop and to the Lord and should exercise full obedience and integrity or else eventually fall under divine condemnation.
Some people wonder whether the ten percent of their income should be calculated before taxes (gross), or after (net). The Mormon Church does not say which is more correct, but rather leaves it up to each individual member to personally decide which method constitutes the payment of an honest tenth.
Whenever tithing is collected by the bishop, he forwards it on to Church Headquarters, where General Authorities of the Church allocate the funds to various purposes, including the construction and upkeep of chapels (Sunday worship service meetinghouses), Mormon temples, and other buildings; and the partial support of welfare, missionary, and educational programs of the Church.
Mormon tithing funds are not given to the poor and needy. Instead, separate donations are collected from members in the form of fast offerings, which are sums of money that Mormons have saved by not eating food during periods of religious fasting. There are also other voluntary donations that can be made to the Church, such as for the support of missionaries, support of a temple-building fund, contributions to humanitarian aid, or to a special fund to provide education for returned missionaries in poor countries.
Tithing is a principle akin to the law of sacrifice, and the law of consecration, which basically require a person to be ready and willing to eventually offer all that he possesses to further the work of the Lord and His Church, with an understanding that everything actually belongs to the Lord and that He will bless and protect him who acknowledges that fact.