Increased exposure of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints due to the Romney campaign and the church’s own marketing has led to a continuing onslaught of curiosity and news stories. Many of the stories are good and most are well intentioned. However, even some of the good and well intentioned articles are filled with inaccuracies and stereotypes. Most recently, several “news” agencies have published articles relating to the church’s finances. Again, I think some of these journalists are well intentioned, while others have maliciously misrepresented the faith. There are just a few points I would like to make to help clarify the many lies and half-truths that are circulating concerning this matter.
1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints follows the law of tithing as set forth in the Old and New Testaments. This is the same law that Abraham and the Levites followed (Heb 7) and the same law for which Malachi condemned the Israelites (Mal 3:8). Mormons believe that this law has been restored and that as followers of Christ, we can freely choose to follow this commandment by paying one tenth of our income to the Lord (Doctrine and Covenants 119:3).
2. Tithing funds are used for the operations of the church. This means they are used to construct and maintain thousands of meeting houses around the world. The funds are also used to support education around the world through the perpetual education fund, seminary programs and the church run universities. Other areas tithing funds are used are the worldwide missionary program, the building and maintenance of temples, and of course worldwide humanitarian aid.
3. The church additionally owns for profit businesses. Most of these businesses were started out of necessity when the Mormons were isolated in Utah. They started schools, hospitals and commercial stores to meet the needs of the saints who were gathered in the western desert. Many of the businesses, like the hospitals, were sold when it was expedient, while others have been kept to further the work. Enterprises like Deseret Book further communication needs of the church while at the same time subsidize humanitarian efforts. The land and ranches are all part of the vast welfare system the church runs while at the same time they help the church prepare for a rainy day, or better put, for the coming of the Lord.
4. All of the money the church makes is put to humanitarian work. 100%. Articles by misinformed or malicious “journalists” would have you believe that only small percentages are given as aid. This is blatantly false. That’s like saying the Red Cross gave zero of its money to charity. The Red Cross does not give its money to charity, it is a charity. The church, being a charity itself, uses its money for operating cost of the church and its welfare program and still gives money to other denominations and charities. For example, much of the money is spent by helping people in local communities pay bills and rent or by letting them shop for free at the local bishop’s storehouse (a grocery store with no register). Because this money never leaves the church, those “investigating” the charitable donations don’t count this.
5. Mormons believe “in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (12th Article of Faith). There is no shady tax evasion going on in the church. The for-profit organizations are run openly as businesses and file all appropriate taxes and paperwork. The not-for-profit organizations follow all the laws that govern them. Those that wish to be upset at the way churches are taxed or not taxed must have that issue with all churches and it’s an issue they must resolve by talking to their legislator. One cannot single out The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for following tax law as it exists.
In conclusion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does great good with the sacred funds it receives through tithing. I have seen, first hand, how these generous offerings have blessed the lives of people in third world countries and people down the street. I have seen members of the church who have been helped and members of other faiths who have had their Christmas taken care of. Most of what is done is done quietly, with no want for recognition. Those that criticize and mischaracterize the Mormons for how they gain and use money have little knowledge of the mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of the church who give, have full faith that those administering the funds do so wisely with an eye single to the glory of God. In the end, we know that all the ventures of the church are for the building of His kingdom and for His glory and to further His work.
You can view the church's official response here.