For Latter-day Saints (Mormons), tithing is a natural and integrated aspect of their religious belief and practice. By the biblical definition, tithing is one-tenth, and Church members interpret this as a tenth of their “increase,” or income, annually. It is paid on the honor system. No one asks to see income statements or pay slips.
Tithes and other charitable donations help the Church carry out its mission of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, caring for the poor, and strengthening members’ faith and commitment to Jesus Christ.
Tithing donations are most usually remitted through the local congregational leader, or bishop, and from there to Church headquarters, where they are allocated and disbursed directly to the Church’s many worldwide programs, including its educational, missionary, building, humanitarian and welfare efforts.
Additionally, tithing funds the construction and maintenance of Church facilities. These buildings provide the infrastructure for delivering both physical and spiritual relief to community members. In addition to helping the Church care for the well-being of the less fortunate, Latter-day Saints make charitable donations because they believe in fulfilling God’s commandment to tithe and give to the poor.
All funds given to the Church by its members are considered sacred. They are voluntary offerings that represent the faith and dedication of members and are used with careful oversight and discretion. They are audited regularly by independent, certified auditors.
Tithing has long been recognized as a scripturally based teaching. Bible prophets Abraham and Jacob described payment of tithes to the high priest Melchizedek, while early leaders in the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, counseled members of the growing Church to embrace the practice. Though actual money was often scarce, early members donated garden produce, livestock or even time to the tithing house, which often provided necessities for the poor and needy members of the community.
In addition to tithing, most faithful members donate fast offerings, which consist of at least the money saved by fasting for two meals each month. These proceeds go directly to supporting each local congregation’s poor and needy. Again, funds are allocated confidentially by the local bishop or congregational leader, who is close enough to his members’ circumstances to understand needs. A member’s sense of dignity and a goal of self-reliance underscore all such local efforts to help the poor.
Church President Thomas S. Monson has described the Church’s welfare program as “inspired.” In a recent interview he described learning the importance of the welfare program as a young bishop in Salt Lake City with more than 1,000 Church members in his congregation.
“I felt it was my responsibility as a bishop to find out who needed help, to make certain that it was handled in the way the Lord wanted us to handle it," he said. “I could see that if it weren't for the Church welfare program there would be many a night when children would go hungry.”
Unlike the welfare program, which serves mostly Church members, the Church’s humanitarian program serves mostly those outside the Mormon faith who face disasters or acute needs throughout the world. Supplies are dedicated to feeding, clothing and housing the needy, while more than 9,251 welfare and humanitarian missionaries volunteer their time and money to administer this aid every day. During times of disaster, Church facilities such as Church buildings are used as places of refuge, and local Church members assist humanitarian missionaries and the more than 50,000 proselytizing missionaries in providing immediate relief.