Sunday, December 16, 2018

"Self"-Reliance Doctrine

Below is a snapshot taken from the Church's Self-Reliance program and website.  Link to the actual site.  I did some investigating and research and have organized the sources and scriptures below for a reference for myself and anyone interested.  Something about this program never sat right with me so I decided to delve in and see what I could find.  Below are some personal thoughts and discoveries.  

Lately (see previous posts) I've been looking at how the LDS church publicly utilizes scripture.  The results have not been very encouraging.  Proof texting and terribly out of context quotes are common practice across General Conference talks.  Below is another very interesting example of the Church using partial scriptures to promote and teach something quite different from what the scripture they quote actually said when you read it.   

Who's this Self-Reliance program for anyway?  

I'm hard pressed to say or conclude this program is for the rich, since they are already relying on themselves. So, that leaves either the middle class or the folks towards the poor end of the spectrum as the primary audience of this program. The program's scriptural backing as you can read above purports that the revelation (D&C section 104) is a promise that the Lord will provide temporal blessings and open the door to self-reliance.  That clears up who the program is directed at.  But lets see if the scriptures cited support the premise.

The citation from section 104 hardly quotes even 1 complete sentience.  It cuts off mid sentience and omits critical parts of the thought.  Verses aren't very long in the LDS cannon so when official sources deliberately exclude part of a solitary verse it raises questions for me.  I'll go through some evidence and you can decide for yourself what your own conclusions are.  But hopefully there's some useful information and background regardless of your conclusion.

Here is the context for the first scriptural citation.  I start at verse 13 of section 104 so we actually have some surrounding context. 

Below in blue font are the snippet parts quoted by the Church.  In orange are the chopped up parts of the verse that are vital to understanding the blue part but which were not included in the Church's citation.  And the black font shows relevant surrounding verses that help with context which neither got cited nor chopped up but were just never cited at all. 
13 For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.14 I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.15 And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.16 But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.18 Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.
The introduction to Self-Reliance took only parts of parts of sentences, lifted them out of context, and then changed the meaning to point to to the program itself as if the prgram was the "Lord's way".  Curious use of scripture. 

The actual verses themselves explain how the poor are to be cared for.  (Spoiler, it wasn't by relying on themselves as the Self Reliance Program portrays).  Section 104 is about the United Firm (not to be confused with the United Order).  The United Firm was not something you live, it was an organization with members called by revelation.  It only lasted a few years. From describing the United Firm.
The United Firm was an administrative organization that oversaw the expenditure of Church funds between 1832 and 1834. In March 1832, the Lord commanded Joseph Smith to establish this organization in order to coordinate “the Literary and Merchantile establishments” of the Church in both Ohio and Missouri.1 Joseph convened a council of high priests in April 1832 in Missouri for this purpose. At the council, Joseph received another revelation indicating that he, Sidney Rigdon, Newel K. Whitney, Edward Partridge, Sidney Gilbert, John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, and Martin Harris would be part of the organization. The revelation further explained that these men could use a portion of the collected funds for their own necessities, and any remaining funds would be used for Church purposes. They were responsible for the firm’s debts. 
The nine men appointed to the United Firm each had a specific stewardship. Six were “stewards over the revelations” (a group that became known as the “Literary Firm”) and oversaw the Church’s publishing operations. Partridge and Whitney were the two bishops in the Church, and Gilbert was an agent to Partridge. Together, these three managed Church storehouses in Ohio and Missouri. In 1833, two additional members—Frederick G. Williams and John Johnson—were added to the firm, both by revelation. Williams, a member of the Church’s governing presidency, had large landholdings in Ohio, as did Johnson. Their holdings became resources of the United Firm.
For two years, much of the Church’s business was done through the United Firm, including the purchase of property on which the House of the Lord in Kirtland would be constructed. When the Saints were driven from Jackson County, Missouri, in fall 1833, the Church lost two vital components of the firm: Phelps’s printing office and Gilbert’s storehouse. In addition, the United Firm had debts from the purchase of goods for the storehouses, a new printing press in Kirtland, and land for Kirtland’s development. On April 10, 1834, members of the United Firm in Kirtland decided to dissolve the organization and a few weeks later the United Firm ceased to function. The Kirtland high council, formed in February 1834, assumed the role of governing the Church’s mercantile and publishing efforts.
The United Firm was dissolved and the covenant associated with it was broken due to covetousness and feigned words, see section 104.  The law of consecration (United Order) was not an organization but was a system for the support of the poor and to ensure that all members would be "equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs" (D&C 42:30; 51:3.).  During these years the Law of Consecration was what you as a member living at the time would have been familiar with.  The United Firm and the United Order are two are different things but related.  And you need to keep both in mind.

Participants of the United Order were asked to voluntarily consecrate their property to the church and the church then would assign to each member a "stewardship" of property "as much as is sufficient for himself and family" (Doctrine and Covenants 42:32).  If consecrated property became more than was sufficient for the assigned steward, the surplus or "residue" was "to be consecrated unto the bishop" and kept for the benefit of "those who have not, from time to time, that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants (Doctrine and Covenants 42:33).

Does that sound anything like Self-Reliance?  The Lord said in section 104 that it must be done in his own way.  In the same sentence he tells the reader what his way was.  But that portion of the verse got excluded, and in it's place the Self-Reliance program was inserted.  The original meaning is now totally obscured and replaced by something else.  Also obscured is what a relevant model of us to follow right now in 2019 might be.

The Lord providing for His saints was to be done in "His" way.  But when only that tiny snippet was quoted as the backing for the program it's as if to imply that whatever else the Self Reliance program has to say, it's categorized as the "Lord's way".  This is in direct conflict with the scripture.  It's totally at odds.  The Lord's way got coopted and swapped out for something completely different.  I wonder if someone at Headquarters just used a search engine to find phrases that appeared to support an agenda and then didn't bother to even look up what the phrases were referring to.

So far this program is at complete odds with the verses cited for it's existence.  But moving on.  Here's the video going along with the Self-Reliance program so you get a sense for what it's all about from the leaders themselves.  :

Both Sides of the Table

Before going any further I wanted to mention some scriptures that teach about how all are required to labor and not be idle.  These scriptures below dovetail similar meaning as was found in section 104 above.  My point with this tangent is that everyone has God given responsibilities regardless of being rich or poor.  The rich are to assist the poor.  These are a few scriptures that address both sides of the table.

D&C 56:16-17
16 Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved! 17 Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!
D&C 42:38-42
38 For inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do it unto me. 39 For it shall come to pass, that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled; for I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel. 40 And again, thou shalt not be proud in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands; 41 And let all things be done in cleanliness before me. 42 Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.
Personal responsibility is a true principle.  It applies to the rich and poor. "Self-Reliance" on the other hand only applies to....well you can figure that out if you think for a second.  As long as the Church is into name changes these days, I think a better construct for a program would be "God Dependent, Personally Responsible" or something along those lines.  First because it's true, and second because it addresses the fact that everyone carries personal responsibilities.  And that we are all wholly dependent on God. 

But back to the research on the self reliance program.  But what about the rest of the program?

12 Steps for not asking the Church for help. 

The program presents 12 principles to receive the blessings of Self Reliance.  The principles themselves are fairly common and in essence they are good.  If you strip away the LDS flavor what's left are principles that extend beyond religion and culture.  Working together, integrity, good management of money, individual responsibility, problem solving, perseverance, not misusing your time, not being lazy.  These are good things not unique to Mormonism or Christianity.

However good these things are, what did section 104 say was the Lord's way?  He said it "must needs" be done His way so we'd better be sure what that is. Because if we're not doing it the Lord's way how can we claim the associated blessings?  The Lord's way was what you can read above.  To recap: The rich are made low and the poor exalted (vs 16).  And how are the poor going to be exalted in that the rich get made low?  As mentioned above The United Order was intended to solve that by creating equality for the participants.  It leveled the playing field.  The rich were made low by giving, and the poor got lifted upwards by receiving.  Equality and having no poor among them are things that describe Zion and the saints during that day were attempting to go in that direction.

Vs 17 (still talking about section 104) says there is enough and to spare. No one need hoard or be unequal.  God says there's enough for everyone if we'd obey God.  Verse 18 needs to be read as part of the overall context because it's God that gives us our abundance, that's where it comes from. People are stewards.  And those who have received from God are supposed to give the portion that ought to be given to the poor according to the law of the Gospel.  This is how the Lord describes His way of providing.  The goal was equality.  Rich give, poor receive. Still with me?

Now we turn to this self reliance program of 2018.  The "Lord's way" of providing for the poor mentioned back in 1840 takes a crazy U turn in 2018.  Now instead of the poor getting some of the consecrated wealth of the rich, there's a new program for the poor that shifts the (entire) burden back onto the poor themselves.  They got robbed in the name of  "self-reliance".  We're not practicing the United Order in 2018, however the Church does still ask for and collect tithing.  They require it if you want to get baptized or go to the Temple.  The message to the poor now is "rely on yourself" "get your money elsewhere" and "don't ask us until you've already asked other soruces first, such as your family or the government" and this is all implied as if it was "The Lord's way".  I can't help but notice how different that is from the scriptures used as the backbone for this program.

Where are the rich made low in any part of this Self-Reliance program?  They aren't.  The responsibilities of the rich towards the poor are not even mentioned.

So what of these 12 principles the program teaches?  Some of the scriptures they cite for them are way out of context, but others are good.  The first principle of the program, Faith in Jesus Christ, seems like a solid one right?  But then I start thinking about it.  I'm not sure how you can have saving faith in Jesus Christ and yet still think you are reliant on yourself.  We depend on God for every breath so how exactly are we self-reliant?  Perhaps others can reconcile the two.  I take the side that we are all wholly dependent on God and only our pride prevents us from realizing how God dependent we are.  Should we be personally responsible?  Of course.  But Self-Reliance sounds a bit like Korihor who taught that a person fared in this life according to their genius and the management of the creature (Verse 13 from section 104 also uses the term "creature').
Alma 30:17 And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.

Money First, Food Second.  

Principle number 4 of the program is about managing money well.  Which in scriptural terms often goes alongside talk of being a good steward.  Being a good steward would have special relevance for you if your allotment of property or goods was given to you according to the United Order.  Good stewardship is a solid principle and something we all ought to be intelligent about.  But how is the principle taught as part of the self reliance program?  The first principle according to the church about managing money well is to pay (them) tithing.  There is a whole lot more to be said about tithing than what I hope to contribute here.  I'll try to keep in context of Self-Reliance.  The video accompanying this section of the program has 2 little children as actors portraying an adult couple conversing about money.   Link here to watch the video.  Here's a transcript:

I'm home, dear.
Welcome home.
Oh my, you look tired.
You do too. You work very hard, don't you?
Well, we're supposed to, aren't we?
I earned 10 today.
Oh, what a blessing. First things first. Let's pay our tithing.
But what if we don't have enough?
That's where faith comes in.
So what's next?
Let's buy our food and bus fare and pay rent. And then it would be nice to buy a chair.
But we can't, see? We don't have enough money.
Well, we can borrow some.
They say debt is dangerous. We don't want to get in trouble.
OK. You're right. So what do we do with this?
We'll save it. We never know what will happen.
That feels right. But there's nothing left for fun.
We have each other, and I'll try to earn more.
I'll try to spend less.
That way we can be happy and self-reliant.
That wasn't so difficult. Why do grown-ups make it so hard?
Oh, you know. That's how grown-ups are.

At least one message is clear form this video.  Pony up tithing before buying food! The little kid actors combined with happy-go-lucky background music helps the bad tasting medicine go down easier. Paying the Lord (read Church) first is a consistent teaching across other church publications.  According to this video when you come up short with money your supposed to just spend less or save more and then "have faith".  How does that make the rich low and exalt the poor?  Because that was what section 104 said.  This video does the opposite. The poor are left with little to put faith in other than insubstantial promises taught to them by the rich.  They are definitely not taught that the Lord's way is for the rich to be made low.  Cause how popular is that philosophy for the rich? 

The rich pay tithing and offerings too, but they have a lot of perks, like being able to put food on the table in addition to their tithes.  There are even more perks if you are a top Church leader.  Top LDS church leaders according to various sources have exempted themselves from paying tithing due to their Church service, and there are living stipends, and reimbursals for education and various other perks that are beyond the scope here. 

All this being said, I believe God can recognize someone's faith and respond to their sincere efforts no matter how corrupt the teachings they inhale from the leaders.  We've all heard those stories of someone paying tithing first, having nothing left, and then suddenly an envelope shows up or some unusual situation occurs that gives the person just enough food or money to get by.  Each time we hear these stories the audience is emotionally moved to pay tithing first.  We forget about the overwhelming stress those people endured, and will likely endure again if this situation happens to not be a one off event.  Those happy endings don't happen to everyone, but everyone at Church gets to hear about those people for whom it does happen.  And I think those stoires of faith are awesome.  But what about the non happy ending stories?  Did those people lack faith?  How dreadful an assumption.

It would seem logical that the Church to whom you paid tithing in such a dire straits would turn around and help you out.  But that isn't what the self reliance program teaches people to expect.  The poor are taught subtly and indirectly NOT to expect any help from the Church but instead to have faith.  Often in these stories of God's providence it's a generous neighbor, or some random person, or some anonymous situation that fills the person's need.  God apparently doesn't want them to get help from the Church to whom they paid the tithe until God himself has exhausted his other resources. 

I know the Church gives aid to LOTS of people, I'm not overlooking that.  I just can't help but see a self-reliance program as possibly attempting to limit and ultimately reduce the aid the Church has to give yet still allowing the Church to continue to collect.

Moving on.  One thing I want to know is where the teaching came from that tithing was based on your income and is to be paid before basic necessities of life.  Is that practice congruent with scripture?  Is it possible we have misunderstood tithing?

Consecration vs Tithing

So where exactly is the cutoff between consecration and tithing?
D&C 119 given in 1838 is the section of D&C most directly describing many aspects of tithing.  It came as a result of Joseph Smith asking “O Lord! Show unto thy servants how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people for a tithing.”  There must have been some disagreements or confusion on the matter or Joseph wouldn't have asked this.  The Lord responded:
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion, 2 For the building of mine house, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church. 3 And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people. 4 And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.
Vs 1 uses the word surplus.  Vs 4 uses the word interest.  Both words denote substance beyond what one needs to subsist.  And that is how both the dictionary and the early saints understood it.  This puts more money in the pocket of the people and less in the hands of the Church.  Interesting.  So what happened between then and now?  Why did the obvious definition of interest and surplus change?  Maybe the Church's essays and articles can answer this.  Link here.  Relevant excerpts below.
Shortly after Joseph received the revelation in section 119, he assigned Brigham Young to go among the Saints “and find out what surplus property the people had, with which to forward the building of the Temple we were commencing at Far West.” Before setting out, Brigham asked Joseph, “‘Who shall be the judge of what is surplus property?’ Said he, ‘Let them be the judges themselves.’”18 
Sadly, during the autumn of 1838, the Saints were driven from Missouri, their Zion-building project apparently on temporary hold and the temple marked out by only a few stones. Exiled from Missouri, the Saints regrouped in Illinois, joined by thousands of converts from the British Isles, the eastern states, and Canada. There Joseph led them as he always had—revealing the way forward line upon line—until they understood and paid, as tithing, a tenth of their overall increase, together with other freewill offerings of time, talent, and surplus property.25 When the Apostles invited the Saints to offer all they could toward the construction of a temple in Nauvoo, many responded, offering tools, land, furniture, and money.26 John and Sally Canfield consecrated all they had, including themselves and their two children, “to the God of He[a]ven and for the Good of his Cause.” In a note to Brigham Young, Brother Canfield wrote, “All I possess I freely give to the Lord and into thy hands.”27
Some Things Definitely Shifted

That second paragraph describes the shift as viewed by the LDS Church. There's no scriptural or revelatory reference for the transition from "interest" to "increase" to "income" as it pertains to tithing. It was just a change in understanding for the saints according to this "Revelations in Context" article.  Who I ask stands to benefit from this change in understanding?

We know there were different laws being attempted during early Church years at different points. Consecration as we saw was attempted but failed.  The Lord ended consecration through Joseph in 1840 and the people were supposed to desist from trying to keep it. Joseph said if they persisted it would produce a perfect abortion (link).  Spelling as in original.
He said that the Law of consecration could not be kept here, & that it was the will of the Lord that we should desist from trying to keep it, & if persisted in it would produce a perfect abortion, & that he assumed the whole responsibility of not keeping it untill prosposed by himself.
God never gave a command to start up consecration again.  Whether that abortion Joseph talked about took place or not is not for me to say.  There's a link to 20 affidavits of consecration from 1842 found here if you want to see them.  The piece itself is available on the BYU website.  (Mitchell K. Schaefer and Sherilyn Farnes, “‘Myself … I Consecrate to the God of Heaven’: Twenty Affidavits of Consecration in Nauvoo, June–July 1842,” BYU Studies,vol. 50, no. 3 (2011), 101–32.)

Tithing as mentioned in section 119 was in 1838 and the Lord used the word "interest" and "surplus" and called it a "standing" law "forever" in that revelation.  So, it's safe to say this one was intended to last. What didn't last however was the common and still common definition today of the words interest and surplus.  The members were taught about tithing early on and expected to help out with the Church's debts and I don't take issue with that.  It's there in section 119.

Webster defines "surplus" as "that which remains when use is satisfied; excess beyond what is prescribed or wanted." The pertinent definitions of "interest" provided by Webster's 1828 dictionary inform us that it is a "share; portion; part; any surplus advantage."  The word surplus shows up again and is almost synonymous with interest. Gain is like profit and interest and refer to what you have left of your wages after providing for your needs (or operating expenses if you were a business).  That's "increase".  If you break even or come up short, has there been an increase?

These shifts in understanding appear to have happened while the saints were regrouping in Illinois.  I'm not a historian, and don't have unlimited time to research.  But I tried to read the original source material itself, without reading anything into it.  So why did this shift in understanding happen? One possibility that seems likely, is this shift was simply a mixture of consecration and tithing depending on who the leaders were and how they taught the people to interpret the words.  The more dire the economic situation, the more pressure to define the words in an advantageous way.  While consecration ultimately failed, some of the elements lived on in people's psyche as they were no doubt repeated from the pulpit for years.

The shift to paying before providing things like food seems to date back to this same time period when words like "surplus" changed to "income".  Tithing is usually viewed as the "lesser" law and still includes donations to the Church.  There were never provision for if/when the Church had no more debt and became wealthy since that wasn't the goal of tithing.  The ultimate plan was for Zion, equality, and not having any poor.  Are we closer to that goal in 2018 than a century ago?  Is this self reliance program doing things the Lord's way?  The goal of tithing wasn't to create a multi billion dollar Church institution with members in many countries than cannot provide basic necessities.

It seems reasonable back in the early days of the Church for people of faith to give/consecrate to the Church with understanding you would receive an allotment sufficient for your needs in return. That takes some faith but there's logic to it.  With tithing it also seems reasonable to pay tithing after your basic needs are met.  By contrast in today's manual the poor still give first but then they are taught to rely on themselves and their faith for even basics.  Wait a minute.....for the poor that's even harder than the law of consecration. There's no substance for them to put faith in. The Church to whom the poor are asked to donate as a top priority curiously puts itself as a third resort for giving back to the donors. See handbook quote below.  Is this the Lord's way where the rich are made low and the poor exalted?

After Joseph Smith's death and the resulting succession crisis, various factions of the Latter-Day Saint movement developed their own tithing practices. Brigham Young defined tithing as 10 percent of one's property upon conversion and then 10 percent of one's annual income. He also instituted an "immigration tithe" requiring 10 percent of one's net gross upon arrival in the then State of Deseret.  But even Brigham struggled with that.  Lots of people (everyone) did.  Historian Michael Quinn has a paper on early Church finances.  Relevant part cited below.  His full paper is available here:
Otherwise faithful Mormons withered before an overwhelming tithing obligation. Young told the October 1875 general conference that neither he nor anyone else "had ever paid their tithing as it was revealed and understood by him in the Doctrine and Covenants."
Tithing was a terrible sacrifice under Brigham Young and consequences were severe, sometimes being threatened with excommunication for not being a full tithe payer.  The rules and definition of tithing have eased over the years but adherence is required to be baptized and posses a temple recommend.  So tithing has never been totally consistent and had various faces involving differing amounts, differing levels of public disclosure of Church finances, and differing levels of enforcement.  Tithing as a temple recommend requirement began being enforced around 1910.  The leaders dictate how words from revelation are defined and enforced by way of their claim of possessing Priesthood keys.  So they change.

100%  2%  10% 

Where did the 10% come from?  Early on, like December of 1836, Bishop Edward Partridge and his counselors officially defined tithing as 2 percent of the net worth of each member of the church, after deducting debts (link). This money was put to covering the operating expenses of the Church.  It appears the percent was just a decision by the leadership. So where did the 10% come from?  Didn't Abraham pay Melchizedek 10% of everything he owned?

In Joseph Smith's newer translation we find that "Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need. (JST Genesis 14:39). See now this sounds a lot more like section 119. It wasn't a tenth of of everything. Abram gave only a tenth of his surplus. God's law have always been extremely fair and doable. It's that men have a tendency to tweak God's law for advantage and to get gain.  Book of Mormon uses the term "gainsaying" if you want to look that up.  The scriptures show consistencies which I believe help us reach the right conclusion.

The fine print in our day on the donation slip informs everyone that the donation is now Church property and going to be used at their sole discretion.  Which if you read section 104 (the section we've been dealing with all post because it introduced the program) it has  been flipped upside down.  See vs 71 for example.  Compare vs 71 to the fine print on the tithing slip.  What used to required the voice and common consent is now legally something you are not allowed to even see. 
D&C 104:71 And there shall not any part of it be used, or taken out of the treasury, only by the voice and common consent of the order.

God does not ask what we cannot do.  But what if we do what God never asked?  

So, what does the Church do with the donations?  If the donations back in early days were used to help create equality what are they used for now?  By 2018 enough Church practices have been leaked and enough of those who know the details have spoken up that we know the following.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints follows a three year plan for tithing.

Year 1 tithing funds are collected.
Year 2 The funds are invested while a budget is made for how to spend it.  
Year 3 The (original) funds are spent.

The members do not have any say in this.  Nor are they allowed to view it or see details of it.  During years 1-3 since the funds were invested and not spent, they earn a yield right up until they are spent. The income from the investment is "investment income".  The original money still gets called tithing.  Investment income is used for any business venture, whether Church related or not.  The increase/yield on invested tithing and who owns those funds is a post for another day.  But a few facts to break up this post.

Business Week reported the following in this July 2012 article:
According to an official church Welfare Services fact sheet, the church gave $1.3 billion in humanitarian aid in over 178 countries and territories during the 25 years between 1985 and 2010. A fact sheet from the previous year indicates that less than one-third of the sum was monetary assistance, while the rest was in the form of "material assistance." All in all, if one were to evenly distribute that $1.3 billion over a quarter century, it would mean that the church gave $52 million annually. A recently published article co-written by Cragun estimates that the Mormon Church donates only about 0.7 percent of its annual income to charity; the United Methodist Church gives about 29 percent.
0.7 percent.  I'm aware of the humanitarian efforts of the Church.  In talking about this it should be noted that the Church, like other Church's does humanitarian work.  I'm not overlooking that or only focusing on the bad.  Nor am I trying to be negative.  I'm just looking at this reliance program and what it entails.  And asking myself why it has occupied special meeting at church over the past few months.  Yes, the Church does lots of humanitarian work. Yes, they build excessive meetinghouses all across Utah and publish manuals take care of Church properties and programs.  Lots of the Church's humanitarian work is likely not even public. I want to recognize and look at both sides.

The facts are readily available. The Church is much more heavily involved in business.  The religion is just one of many products offered by the central corporation.  Some of the other products offered are media services, real estate, communications, hunting preserves, hotels etc. etc.   I've lost track of how many for profit companies the Church owns and runs.  I think it's over 65.  They legitimately have a giant empire to manage.

Nephi has a troubling comment that fits here.  This is from 2 Nephi 28.  The context is Nephi speaking to those who read his book about Churches in the last day:
11 Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.  12 Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. 13 They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, speaking in factual terms, has enormous wealth, is very powerful, owning billions in stock, even more billions in real estate, spending billions on high end building projects, shopping malls, and exerts substantial power in politics.  The poor have this especially in their face in the cities where they have to gaze at the Church's skyscrapers.  Is the Church building the city of Zion?  Last I heard the answer was definitely no, since they are building some other city in Florida that will take decades and bring a trillion dollar return.  Maybe it's a trial run for Zion?  Meanwhile the assistance the poor were to receive as part of the Lord's way described in scripture has been replaced by a do-it-yourself program.  The poor thus seem to remain poor and the Church grows its money to the point it has stopped offering any financial disclosures to the public.  But rest assured, this is the Lord's way apparently. 

There is a whole lot more than can be said about tithing. I've already gotten off track from the Self-Reliance program so will point you to other resources if you want to read more about tithing.  One place is here: Link.  I discovered I had independently arrived at many of the same conclusions. 

Back to Self-Reliance.  We've been talking only economic poverty so far.  What about spiritual poverty?  This Self-Reliance initiative says we're also supposed to be spiritually self-reliant.  The Church does publish scriptures so that's a big win in the camp of helping people be spiritually self-reliant.  But the Church owns, controls, and exercises authority over saving ordinances.  Which you cannot receive without paying them your tithing.  That seems more like Church reliance.  I fail to see how this program teaches Self Reliance.  If you were to rely on your own spiritual promptings, should those ever differ from what the Church teaches and says, guess how Self-Reliant they would want you to keep being?

Auto-Help the Poor

In 2018 caring for the poor is something the Church handles.  Members can just stick their tithing on Auto Pay, and just forget about it.  The Church in many people's minds will handle the rest. I personally cannot accept that. I see my responsibility towards the poor in scripture and the Church is not meeting it.

On the note of giving tithing only to the "Church".  How is "Church" defined in scripture?  Is it a corporation?  Or is it the people who repent and come unto Christ as the scriptures say (D&C 10:67-69)?  At present, your donations are not considered tithing if the donation goes to anyone other than The Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It's still a Christian charitable donation, but not deemed "tithing".  Or so says the organization who requires your money be given to only them. I've verified this at a personal cost with a handful of Church leaders.  But the actual Church are the people.  And technically you could still give tithing to the "Church" in this regard.


To sum up. I fully support personal responsibility. Being smart with time, money, gaining education and gaining intelligence through true principles and effort. Other organizations and even the government will also teach helpful principles to improve your life and finances. Often for free. So, what’s personally troubling with this “doctrine” of self-reliance is it teaches or implies the Lord will provide for the poor (curiously by a preferred means not involving the Church) if they will just follow these 12 principles, which include paying the Church first.  The Church is a hidden beneficiary, because the poor are pointed away from the Church for God's promised temporal providence. Isn't that interesting? It's kinda sorta backwards from section 104.  I'm not saying consecration should be the next initiative.  I'm just questioning in which direction are we even headed.

Whether intentional or not, the program seems calculated to limit the poor from asking the Church for help.  Because after all, the poor need to learn to be self reliant and manage the creature better right? My Institute teacher in college at the UofU taught me that the portion of Korihor's message dealing with how we fare in life was the true part of Korihor's message.

I don't know who developed the program or who approved it.  The motives are likely good.  The program just doesn't sit right.   

Hand Book 2

The handbook's first 2 paragraphs don't offer any insight into our dependence on God for everything, even our breath.  It doesn't even acknowledge it.  It speaks to personal responsibility but something about it just feels empty.  It mixes truth with error and omits the entire overall picture of the scriptures used to support it.  There is no talk of people being equal. Only partial verses are cited while ignoring the context, and plainly stated teachings from the Lord relevant to the topic.  Like this:
D&C 70: 14 Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.
Have the manifestations of the Spirit been withheld from the largest sect of saints claiming Joseph as their founder?  We all need to labor.  Truth.  And personal responsibility can't be delegated. Also, true. The word Self Reliance however is just not accurate.  Nor does it seem right to extract unscriptural amounts from the poor, use that to become rich, and then from that position of wealth teach the poor to rely on themselves.

A bit of my conclusion

I honestly wonder why the Church choose section 104 to introduce the Self-Reliance program. If you've read this far (or read section 104 yourself) it's uniquely contradictory in ways few other D&C sections could compete with for being more contradictory.  In looking further at the monetary aspect (because that's what it's really about) I conclude tithing was never intended to accumulate wealth.  The law has been abused.  If early saints had difficulty and failed with the administration aspect of the law of consecration, then have we fared any better with the administration of the law of tithing?  It was intended as a fair and practical method for assisting the early Church with debts and for the assistance of the poor.  To help people be less selfish. Not to be taken from the necessities people need to live on, but from the excess so that there is enough for people to subsist and also begin to help those in need.  That is the conclusion I'm led to. 

So, while the Self Reliance program includes some redeeming principles, it is at odds with the scripture it is based on.  The poor must rely on themselves meanwhile the Church collects their money, amasses and displays towering luxurious wealth all over the city and country.  This can't possibly be the Lord's way.  It has brought anything but equality.

True principles can still be taught to help everyone improve their lives while not divorcing the teachings from scripture!  Scriptures themselves thankfully remind both rich and poor of their duty toward each other and helps us not forget that in this life we are never truly self-reliant.

So what's a good model to follow if the Church's is misleading? 

I don't have all the answers, but have given this a lot of both thought and meditation as well as practical trial and error.   Some overall beginning ideas:

-Scriptures, not Church programs run by the rich should be the foundation.   Scriptures teach about helping the poor in many many places.  They show how it's an obligation for Christ's followers.  They also teach that each person is responsible and accountable. 
-Don't centralize tithing as part of a religion.  Let each person and group of believers or fellowships organize themselves and distribute donations through common consent.  This prevents a disconnect between giver and recipient.  If you disconnect those two parties, I believe power is lost.
-Caring for the poor isn't just economic.  It requires the mind and heart.  It requires sensitivity to situations, sensitivity to what's needed. 
-Knowledge and Wisdom are needed to get it right.  Not just throwing money at people and problems.
-Not everyone is financially mature.  Perhaps they had horrible examples growing up of mis-prioritizing spending.  Donations + some key education might change the thinking and patterns that have existed for generations.  Maybe education in some cases is more important.
-The poor in 30 years will likely be different people than the poor right now.  What responsibility do parents and believers in Christ have to live intelligent principles and be an example of wisdom with finances? 
-Sacrifice.  Getting principles right always seems to involve sacrifice.  Some sacrifice money, some sacrifice pride, could be anything.

This is just the beginning of some thoughts on this. 


  1. During tithing settlement a few years ago, I declared being a full tithe-payer, but voluntarily handed the bishop my temple recommend. I stated that in addition to what I gave the church, I gave substantially more directly to the poor and organizations helping the poor. I introduced the bishop to "Liahona Children's Foundation" and said our home ward can adopt a sister-ward in a poverty stricken nation and could become deeply and emotionally invested in each other. He hardly said a word.

    Yesterday I learned the "Liahona Children's Foundation" is changing its name at the behest of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. (owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a/k/a The Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). I'm told the Liahona Children's Foundation is no longer allowed to provide nutrition and medicine to mostly LDS children (and their non-Mormon friends) on LDS Church owned property.

    No question I was guided by the Holy Spirit to end tithes to The Church (TM) years ago.

    Roy Moore

    1. I’ve donated to the Liahona Children’s foundation before and from what I understood of them their mission was very good. How tragic if Intellectual Reserve is up to the shenanigans you mentioned.

      I went to their site just now and noticed the below disclaimer. I always wonder what event or situation prompts these.

      Isn’t it so freeing to not have to play by corporate rules and just live the gospel how it was intended?

      Disclaimer: The services and products offered by Liahona Children’s Foundation are neither made, provided, approved nor endorsed by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Any content or opinions expressed, implied or included in or with the services or products offered by LCF are solely those of LCF and not those of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

      It’s clear the Church wants nothing to do with this organization and wants absolute clarity that they are not affiliated.

  2. Yes, Taylor, you would think The Church (TM) would want to absorb LCF and effectively take credit for the amazing humanitarian services LCF provides "LDS children". Instead, they strong arm LCF into submission and "push them out of the synagogue" (Alma 32).

    Roy Moore