A recent article by Caroline Winters in Businessweek has reenergized the issue of LDS Church finances. Most commenters on the article–those critical of the church–make two important points: (1) the LDS Church needs full disclosure on how much money it collects and how it spends its money and (2) LDS Church funding for global humanitarian activities is woefully below where it could and should be.
I personally agree with both points. The official church response to the article was pretty much smoke-and-mirrors, and added no facts or hard numbers to the argument. Until the church leadership comes clean on finances, it will continue to look like a cult, like we have something to hide. The only excuse that I have heard for not having full disclosure is that the leadership is leary of being second guessed.
The Businessweek article estimated that LDS Church global humanitarian aid is approximately .7% of income. Mormon apologists suggest that the number is considerably higher when the church’s welfare program is considered. A post in timesandseasons.org suggested that the number should be .7% + x, with x being the unknowns. Unfortunately, official information provided by the LDS Church doesn’t allow for a reasonable estimation of x.
Some on the boggernacle have questioned whether the church’s welfare activities should be included in a humanitarian aid estimation because most of the welfare activities are limited to Mormons. Several bloggers mentionned that the Bishop’s Handbook encourages using “fast offerings” to help members.
One way to encourage the LDS Church leadership to put more money into humanitarian assistance is to allocate more monies on your tithing slips to: humanitarian aid, perpetual education, and fast offering. But unfortunately the LDS Church has changed the wording on its tithing slips:
Though reasonable efforts will be made globally to use donations as designated, all donations become the Church’s property and will be used at the Church’s sole discretion to further the Church’s overall mission.”
So even then you are not guaranteed that your contribution will go where you want it to go.
It is my understanding that one of the early motivators behind the LDS Church’s humanitarian efforts was a special fast/collection that members were asked to make for a famine that was occurring in Ethiopia. So much money was collected, that church leaders had to organize a more sophisticated humanitarian effort. Thus, members can have a serious impact on the direction church leaders go.
So, please consider giving more of the money you allocate to the LDS Church to the three areas listed above. The “perpetual education” fund is no longer listed on the tithing form, so you will have to write it in under “other.”
According to Brent L. Top, writing in the recent Deseret Book No Weapon Shall Prosper (2011):
. . . Christian service and compassion is not restricted to members of the [LDS] Church; it has no regard to race, religion, or nationality. Latter-day Saints seek to follow the admonition of the Prophet Joseph Smith to “feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church or any other, or in no church at all.”