Monday, August 31, 2015

Who's declaration is it?

My wife and I attended tithing settlement last December, 2014.  Some things were definitely settled. Before going into that here is what the Church teaches (or taught at one point) regarding tithing.  This is from LDS.org.

On March 19, 1970, the First Presidency sent the following letter to presidents of stakes and missions, bishops of wards, and presidents of branches in answer to the question, “What is a proper tithe?”

For your guidance in this matter, please be advised that we have uniformly replied that the simplest statement we know of is that statement of the Lord himself that the members of the Church should pay one-tenth of all their interest annually, which is understood to mean income. No one is justified in making any other statement than this. We feel that every member of the Church should be entitled to make his own decision as to what he thinks he owes the Lord, and to make payment accordingly.

The Church's teachings on tithing form LDS.org go on to say: 

"At the close of each year, each member of the Church has the responsibility of attending tithing settlement with his bishop. At this time, each member has the opportunity to declare whether he is a full, part, or non-tithe payer. The payment of tithing is a matter between the individual and the Lord. The bishop is merely the Lord’s servant who receives and accounts for the contribution."

The payment of tithing is between the individual and the Lord.  The member has the opportunity to declare their status.  The temple recommend question doesn't ask who you pay it to, because it's understood it's all to the Lord.  The First Presidency stated every Church member should be entitled to make his own decision as to what he thinks he owes the Lord, and make payment accordingly.  Some take issue with the quantity, whether gross or net.  That however was never an issue for me.

But nevertheless one thing that got settled during the settlement is that tithing is only "tithing" if the Corporation of the President is the sole recipient of all donations.  My wife and I both consider and declare ourselves full tithe payers, however upon discovery that 100% of our donations don't always go directly to the Corporate Church, but go directly to the poor, or those in need, the bishop overrode the declaration and recorded "partial".  What was supposed to be between us and the Lord, had an authority wedge inserted between the parties.  Which wedge delivered it's own overriding declaration.  The declaration, as I understand it was and is to be made by the giver.  

Christ at one point taught: "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40).  King Benjamin taught "17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17).  Now days that is rendered: "In as much as ye have not paid tithing to the Corp of the Pres, ye have not done it unto me." That current rendering is found in real life policy.

We "made payment accordingly" as per the statement made by the First Presidency and made our declaration.  But that doesn't satisfy current policy, it's not enough.  It was then made clear that when tithing is not paid through "the proper channels" we are no longer in harmony with the requirements to enter the Temple. Giving to the poor mind you, takes you out of harmony with temple requirements.

The corporation takes full custody of all donations and uses them at it's sole discretion with a corporate charter relieving them of any obligation to provide financial transparency to the giver (see here).  The corporate charter is available online.  The lawyers made sure that the organization has no obligation to provide any transparency, and that everything is church property.  As a concept I get why tithing is paid to the Church.  I've done it my entire life.  I know where they claim the money goes.  And I'm sure a lot of the money does go to those things.  But the percentage of the total, and how it's used is upsetting.  Why don't they publish the revenue numbers?  No one knows exactly what is brought in, or where it goes. Why keep that hidden? Why require mission presidents, and high up church leaders to never reveal the revenue perks they receive?  There is zero transparency.  All is secret, and done in the dark.

D&C says all things are to be done by common consent of the Church.  This is not practiced in our day by any stretch of the imagination.  Instead it has become "if you support the leaders, then you by default give your consent and obedience to whatever they do".  And if you ask about it or question it you will be in danger and be viewed as on some sort of wayward path.  Which brings up some interesting current events.  Another of the temple recommend questions asks if the person affiliates with or agrees with any person or group who's teachings and practices are not in harmony with the Church's teachings.  Recently the LDS Church has announced that the Boy Scouts of America now have standards and practices which are contrary to church teachings and doctrine.  In spite of that, they have chosen to remain aligned and affiliated with that organization.  So they themselves no longer meet the temple recommend standards they have set for others.  I don't know how the Church itself would now answer that recommend question.  However thankfully I have no authority over anyone, and am not the judge.    

I think we'd all agree Christ did not come and present a Gospel that included building places of commerce as on the agenda. And warned against compromising ones standards, and becoming corrupt.  He came to serve, and redeem, and spent time with the poor, because they were willing to listen to him.  We not only build places of commerce like Citi Creek Shopping Center, we build the nicest ones money can buy.  And build them using interest gained from investing the members tithing money.  We not only align with groups and organizations who's practices and policies are contrary to those of the Church but we financially support them, and promote awards that recognize our current Church President.  

I could go on but won't.  The Lord defines "The Church" in D&C 10:67.   You could give your tithing to "the church" as the Lord defines it and yet be told, as we were, that your donation is not considered tithing.  But scripture is not used all that much anymore... so it's quite possible you have never heard how the Lord defines His church.  Even though it's right there, and the next verse has a warning about "declaring more or less".  

At the end of the tithing settlement, it became apparent how much the Church values money.  Faithfulness to the Corporation and the brethren has taken the church by storm, and has replaced faithfulness to the Lord.  Many cannot bear the idea that there might be a difference between the Lord's words, and the highest church leader's words or policies.  But there is a marked difference.  

I appealed the tithing declaration "overrule" to the stake president, saying that it's my declaration of tithing status, not the Bishop's.  He agreed.  But then said that a Bishop is a judge in Israel and has the authority to judge the matter.  And that he agreed with the judgement.  I tried to persuade him otherwise but wasn't successful, he told me to go back and express my concerns with the Bishop.  Which I did and was told that his hands are tied.  Odd that he who has authority to judge the matter also has his hands tied.  Tied by whom I often ask myself?  The corporate leaders of course.   

Today is the day my recommend ends.  It's a sad day for many reasons.  My heart has not been weighed, my motives not examined, God hasn't even been asked about the matter.  Policy has has been contradicted, and has replaced the Spirit.  I have acted consistently with what personal promptings and revelation I have received.  I pay and have always paid an honest tithe.  But yet I find myself no longer allowed to enter the Temple by those who control entrance.    

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