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Benjamin Seeker

Tithing & Coercion

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I’ve seen the debate happening over at https://bycommonconsent.com/2018/06/02/tithing-and-coercion/ on whether the church’s stance on tithing is coercive. Let’s debate it (cause what else are we going to do?)!

I don’t feel that tithing can be judged or seen as coercive except in some circumstances. For example, when a dad has a faith crisis and comes away believing differently than before there can be a certain feeling of coercion. If there are strong family ties to Mormonism, and if he values his own ties to Mormonism, he may feel pressured or even coerced to pay tithing in order to fully participate in family events like the baptisms and ordinations and other rites of passage involving his children. 

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But that is just normal family dynamics and is more about his relationship with his family than the Church.

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I'm waiting for the black-clad, assault-rifle-toting, jack-booted thugs from the Latter-day Danite Hit Squads to perform an aerial insertion by zip-lining from the black helicopters through an open window into my house. :unsure:

Edited by Kenngo1969
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We've not felt pressure for a couple of years, my husband went to lunch with our old bishop and explained his reasoning for not paying, and that kept them from calling and scheduling us for tithing settlement. My husband quit when he found out some inheritance was going to the church, and he felt he should get compensation for working in his father's business and told not to go out on his own, and he'd be compensated later for staying in, but that's probably not happening. 

I think if his mom finds out, he'll definitely not receive a dime, she'll be so upset. But he doesn't care. 

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52 minutes ago, Calm said:

But that is just normal family dynamics and is more about his relationship with his family than the Church.

So, full disclosure, the dad is me.  I think my Mormon upbringing has served me well spiritually and morally, and I feel that spiritual and religious practice is generally beneficial for me and for my family. I want to keep my kids in the church, though I certainly temper or counter the teachings I don’t agree with and add in others that I feel are missing. I no longer believe that tithing is a divine mandate (along with a long list of other things), but I do want to participate fully in my family’s upbringing. I have a child that will be getting baptized soon. I’ve got lots of kids, and I’d like to participate in everything.

Coercive probably isn’t the right word here. Exclusionary is perhaps a better term, and I know from a believing perspective it doesn’t seem like it, but from my perspective, born in the church and having began to raise my family in the church, it does.

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Another situation where the current tithing policy doesn’t feel appropriate to me is in the case of families that require welfare assistance. Taking away a significant part of a family’s income and making them even more dependent on welfare (state, church, family, etc.) seems the opposite of working towards financial independence. 

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25 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

We've not felt pressure for a couple of years, my husband went to lunch with our old bishop and explained his reasoning for not paying, and that kept them from calling and scheduling us for tithing settlement. My husband quit when he found out some inheritance was going to the church, and he felt he should get compensation for working in his father's business and told not to go out on his own, and he'd be compensated later for staying in, but that's probably not happening. 

I think if his mom finds out, he'll definitely not receive a dime, she'll be so upset. But he doesn't care. 

That’s a pretty tricky situation. The worst part is that most of us are trying to make the best decisions for ourselves and families based on our beliefs and moral consciences, and there just isn’t a clean solution in sight.

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18 minutes ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

Another situation where the current tithing policy doesn’t feel appropriate to me is in the case of families that require welfare assistance. Taking away a significant part of a family’s income and making them even more dependent on welfare (state, church, family, etc.) seems the opposite of working towards financial independence. 

I don't know about others (probably some feel the way I do and others don't), but I think I would find it easier to ask for help from my ward family as well as FOs through the bishop if I knew I had contributed what I could.

I can understand why it would be a tough call if it meant you didn't have to ask at all.

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I don't have a problem with tithing. I am not a huge fan though of people giving all their money to the Church though when they die. I don't pretend to be able to comment on every situation but a lot of the time that I've seen people talking about how they're giving all their money to the Church when they die instead of to their kids they do it in a way that makes me think that they don't understand that the family is a more important unit than the Church and sometimes they also convey this impression that giving all their money to the Church when they die is some grand virtue that, as far as I know, has never been mentioned by the Church as any sort of obligation.

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3 hours ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

I’ve seen the debate happening over at https://bycommonconsent.com/2018/06/02/tithing-and-coercion/ on whether the church’s stance on tithing is coercive. Let’s debate it (cause what else are we going to do?)!

I don’t feel that tithing can be judged or seen as coercive except in some circumstances. For example, when a dad has a faith crisis and comes away believing differently than before there can be a certain feeling of coercion. If there are strong family ties to Mormonism, and if he values his own ties to Mormonism, he may feel pressured or even coerced to pay tithing in order to fully participate in family events like the baptisms and ordinations and other rites of passage involving his children. 

Yeh.  I feel coerced into staying in a family cell phone plan, and paying the fee each month, even though I am dissatisfied with that particular plan and would like to go to a different company.  I'm trapped.

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1 hour ago, CMZ said:

I don't have a problem with tithing. I am not a huge fan though of people giving all their money to the Church though when they die. I don't pretend to be able to comment on every situation but a lot of the time that I've seen people talking about how they're giving all their money to the Church when they die instead of to their kids they do it in a way that makes me think that they don't understand that the family is a more important unit than the Church and sometimes they also convey this impression that giving all their money to the Church when they die is some grand virtue that, as far as I know, has never been mentioned by the Church as any sort of obligation.

Warren Buffett plans to give his money to charity when he dies, rather than to his kids.  He reasons that they have been provided an excellent education at his expense, and that they should pull their own weight in life.  There have been many wealthy people who plan to give all or just part of their holdings to charity when they pass on.  Some are in the form of bequests, and are highly prized by non-profits.

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14 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Yeh.  I feel coerced into staying in a family cell phone plan, and paying the fee each month, even though I am dissatisfied with that particular plan and would like to go to a different company.  I'm trapped.

The analogy needs a little more nuance. My wife feels like the current plan is the way to go. I don’t necessarily see any great alternatives. Switching plans would severely affect my kids world view, disrupt their development, and affect their social lives strongly (a recent big change of a different nature already sent two or three of my children into bouts of depression). Then there are also the consequences that would come from changing the relationship with both my parents and in-laws. They expect us to be on the same cell plan and will fear for our eternal salvation if we’re not, and I’ll be vilinaized to some small or larger degree.

Switching cell phone plans is a big deal. Did I mention that I don’t have a better alternative also?

Edited by Benjamin Seeker
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30 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Warren Buffett plans to give his money to charity when he dies, rather than to his kids.  He reasons that they have been provided an excellent education at his expense, and that they should pull their own weight in life.  There have been many wealthy people who plan to give all or just part of their holdings to charity when they pass on.  Some are in the form of bequests, and are highly prized by non-profits.

Oh, I understand some of the thinking behind it and I understand that some children should maybe not be given money as an inheritance. I also think charitable giving is important and I also think educating your children on money matters is important and I also think giving some money to the Church beyond standard offerings could be a very worthy cause. I just sometimes get the vibe from some people that doing so is some final grand gesture of commitment to the Church when it's not even being asked of them (and, yes, I realize we are not supposed to be commanded in all things, but I'm getting at a different point here). Kinda like, "Hey, you saw that I donated all my money to the Church and not to my kids, right? You saw that, right?" And I think a lot of thinking stems from the incorrect mindset that the temporal church is more important than eternal family. I think it also stems somewhat from a misunderstanding of money in general. Even the Church itself says that when you are having financial trouble to first try to use your own resources, then go to your family, then go to the Church as the last resort. So the Church itself is putting family above the Church. But you get some people who could render financial assistance to their family who basically say, "Please, Church, take my money."

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53 minutes ago, CMZ said:

Oh, I understand some of the thinking behind it and I understand that some children should maybe not be given money as an inheritance. I also think charitable giving is important and I also think educating your children on money matters is important and I also think giving some money to the Church beyond standard offerings could be a very worthy cause. I just sometimes get the vibe from some people that doing so is some final grand gesture of commitment to the Church when it's not even being asked of them (and, yes, I realize we are not supposed to be commanded in all things, but I'm getting at a different point here). Kinda like, "Hey, you saw that I donated all my money to the Church and not to my kids, right? You saw that, right?" And I think a lot of thinking stems from the incorrect mindset that the temporal church is more important than eternal family. I think it also stems somewhat from a misunderstanding of money in general. Even the Church itself says that when you are having financial trouble to first try to use your own resources, then go to your family, then go to the Church as the last resort. So the Church itself is putting family above the Church. But you get some people who could render financial assistance to their family who basically say, "Please, Church, take my money."

Aside from the hypocrisy of wanting to be seen of men giving money to the Church -- they have their reward (here and now) -- the family comes first in the LDS Church:

LDS Church Handbook 2, § 17.2.1, titled “Family Circumstances”:

Quote

“ . . strong families are vital to the Church, and members should not be asked to make excessive family sacrifices to serve or to support programs or activities.”
--online at https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/worldwide-leadership-training/2010/11/selected-principles-from-the-new-handbooks?lang=eng&query=family+priority .

Dallin Oaks, LDS Conference, Oct 2007, online at https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/good-better-best?lang=eng#6-

Quote

“The First Presidency has declared that ‘however worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform’.”--First Presidency letter, Feb. 11, 1999; printed in Church News, Feb. 27, 1999, 3.“Church programs should focus on what is best (most effective) in achieving their assigned purposes without unduly infringing on the time families need for their ‘divinely appointed duties’.”

Duncan quoted this on this board, July 15, 2015,
Elder Gene R. Cook's experience, from Gene R. Cook, Raising Up a Family to the Lord, pg. 279, 

Quote

“When we arrived home in Utah, we returned to a very active ward. In fact, in our first three months, we counted thirty-nine activities to which we were invited as a family or as individuals—Young Women’s activities, the annual Relief Society anniversary, the high priests’ ice-cream social, Scouting affairs, and on and on. If I’m not mistaken, we went to about three of those activities as a family, and some of the children attended a few more.
Soon after that, our good bishop told me he was worried about my family. I said, “If you know something I don’t, I’d be very anxious to know. Please tell me.”
“Well,” he said, “I have a feeling that your family isn’t as supportive of the Church as they ought to be. For example, last Sunday night we had a Scouting meeting for all the Scouts and their families in the stake. At the meeting, they counted the number of people in each ward. The ward having the most people present won a prize. Because your large family was not there, we didn’t feel you were supporting the Church as much as you should.” (He said all of that very carefully, lovingly, and with good spirit.)
I said to him, “Well, I might be mistaken, Bishop, but my understanding is that the Church is supposed to support the family. If we had been to that social meeting that night, we would have missed the tremendous family devotional we had in our home.” I asked him if he’d ever seen our children miss priesthood meeting, sacrament meeting, Sunday School, or Mutual. He said he had not. I continued, “I understood that all those other things were electives, that they were optional, and that we could choose which ones we wanted to attend. Is that not true?” He wasn’t too sure.
Then I said to this good bishop, “Do you know what my biggest problem has been since I returned home from Latin America?”
He said, “No, what is it, Brother Cook?”
I said, “It’s been the Church itself, and perhaps the school here to some extent.”
He said, “What do you mean?”
I said, “Because I travel a lot on the weekends, the week nights are very important to me, as are Saturday and Sunday if I’m home. I must have that time with my own family. In Latin America we had family home evening almost every night. I don’t mean a lesson; I mean just a fun time.
“Sometimes we carved things. Sometimes we built things. Sometimes we took walks around the block. Sometimes we helped the widows or ministered to others in need. Sometimes we had lots of fun with other families. But since I’ve come home it’s been difficult because some group has my children on Tuesday night, another group on Wednesday, and somebody else on Thursday, and they are with their friends on Friday night. My biggest challenge has been all of these activities going on outside the home.”
This faithful bishop was quite shocked at my response but I’m sure he understood. I suggested there might be wisdom in having the family heads in the ward determine how many activities there ought to be, and then in helping parents understand that they—not the Church or the school—were primarily in charge of the activities in their family.
In the following months, with the planning and involvement of parents, this good bishop greatly reduced the number of activities in our ward. He also retaught the principle that parents were to hold activities with their own children, and that in its support role the Church would sponsor some group activities as well. (It should also be mentioned that he knew, as did we, that he had to provide more activities than “the ideal” to help families who had greater needs than we did.)

President Harold B. Lee said: “It seems clear to me that the Church has no choice—and never has had—but to do more to assist the family in carrying out its divine mission . . . to help improve the quality of life in the Latter-day Saint homes. As important as our many programs and organizational efforts are, these should not supplant the home; they should support the home” (“Preparing Our Youth,” Ensign, March 1971, p. 3).”

 

Edited by Robert F. Smith
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I don't think of tithing as mine or as money.    It helps to understand that I am neither responsible for nor in charge of the Lord's share of what I am blessed with.   Nobody has to pay tithing.   And in every ward there are plenty who do not.   IME, whether or not someone pays tithing and how much is not widely known (unless there are clerks with loose lips doing tithing accounting).  And members are not treated differently if they don't, other than they don't have a temple recommend.    After Pres. Hinckley's instructions that fathers should be allowed to participate in their children's ordinances even if they don't meet the standard expectations of worthiness, I don't see how not paying tithing keeps one from baptizing or other ordinances (except in locations where leadership didn't absorb Pres. Hinckley's counsel).

If members are paying tithing under coercion, it probably isn't doing the binding to Heavenly Father that is the real blessing of tithing.   Tithing is sacrificial and in freely making the sacrifice, that is what brings the blessings of heaven, not the money.

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11 hours ago, Calm said:

But that is just normal family dynamics and is more about his relationship with his family than the Church.

Most churches don't put their members into a situation where they must pay money or miss out on important family milestones. But the LDS structure is so different, with lay people participating in priesthood ordinances all the time.

Edited by Gray
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12 hours ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

I’ve seen the debate happening over at https://bycommonconsent.com/2018/06/02/tithing-and-coercion/ on whether the church’s stance on tithing is coercive. Let’s debate it (cause what else are we going to do?)!

I don’t feel that tithing can be judged or seen as coercive except in some circumstances. For example, when a dad has a faith crisis and comes away believing differently than before there can be a certain feeling of coercion. If there are strong family ties to Mormonism, and if he values his own ties to Mormonism, he may feel pressured or even coerced to pay tithing in order to fully participate in family events like the baptisms and ordinations and other rites of passage involving his children. 

For me, the challenging thing is that there are many assumptions that church members and church leaders bring along with the tithing conversation.  Two key things that I would like to discuss.  

  • God expects 10% of your annual income (Gross, Net or surplus) 
  • God expects tithing to be paid to a specific institution 

Does God really care about the way people calculate what they can give?  Are there cosmic accountants in heaven keeping track to make sure everyone is paying the right amount?  Or should gifts and offerings be given freely and from the heart?  Doesn't the gospel talk about free will giving vs. people feeling obligated to give out of duty?  Which is better and how should we evaluate these things. 

Would God only honor gifts to specific organizations like the church?  Is giving to the church the only way to pay tithing?  What about giving to other causes and why wouldn't these be just as important of gifts and just as worthy to be considered tithes?  Is God more concerned about an institution receiving funds or the good that is done through those donations.  Are those heavenly accountants keeping track of which organizations people give money too, and do they have a list of approved organizations?  Can I get a copy of that list of approved ones?  

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3 hours ago, rpn said:

I don't think of tithing as mine or as money.    It helps to understand that I am neither responsible for nor in charge of the Lord's share of what I am blessed with.   Nobody has to pay tithing.   And in every ward there are plenty who do not.   IME, whether or not someone pays tithing and how much is not widely known (unless there are clerks with loose lips doing tithing accounting).  And members are not treated differently if they don't, other than they don't have a temple recommend.    After Pres. Hinckley's instructions that fathers should be allowed to participate in their children's ordinances even if they don't meet the standard expectations of worthiness, I don't see how not paying tithing keeps one from baptizing or other ordinances (except in locations where leadership didn't absorb Pres. Hinckley's counsel).

If members are paying tithing under coercion, it probably isn't doing the binding to Heavenly Father that is the real blessing of tithing.   Tithing is sacrificial and in freely making the sacrifice, that is what brings the blessings of heaven, not the money.

Very interesting. Could you link to pres. Hinkley’s talk or letter?

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In my opinion the only members who feel it is coercion are the ones who probably shouldn't consider themselves worthy to attend the temple in the first place. Their hearts and attitudes are not right. 

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13 hours ago, Glenn101 said:

Tithing is no more coercive than the "If ye love me keep my commandments" mantra from Jesus the Christ. It is a matter of perspective, in a way, I guess. I just do not think about it any longer. Others may, for one reason or another. I just do not feel any type of pressure. Even more so or maybe less so since I can pay it on line.

Glenn

There are some in my ward who are even less involved than going online to do it. They have their bank automatically send a check to the Bishop each month so they don't have to even think about it or remember to do it.
 

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14 hours ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

Another situation where the current tithing policy doesn’t feel appropriate to me is in the case of families that require welfare assistance. Taking away a significant part of a family’s income and making them even more dependent on welfare (state, church, family, etc.) seems the opposite of working towards financial independence. 

Yeah, doing it that way makes it more like living the law of consecration that the law of tithing.  I prefer it that way, myself, though, and have been living that way for about a year now.  I pay tithing and whatever I lack, monetarily, is made up by the bishop each month so that I can pay all of my monthly bills.  If I ever make enough money to pay all of my bills with my own income without any Church support I suppose I'll then go back to living the law of tithing as most people do, I figure.

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.I have to applaud your husband in his reasoning.  A great element of courage this is to stand up to this.  I can only imagine what he has endured..you, too. Let him know that I admire him with great understanding. IMO..there is coercion in tithing..there is not one blessing you can obtain without the dime.  And yet..monetary giving has really nothing to do with the heart of giving and reaping of hard work and service. 

 

Edited by Jeanne

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16 hours ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

I’ve seen the debate happening over at https://bycommonconsent.com/2018/06/02/tithing-and-coercion/ on whether the church’s stance on tithing is coercive. Let’s debate it (cause what else are we going to do?)!

I don’t feel that tithing can be judged or seen as coercive except in some circumstances. For example, when a dad has a faith crisis and comes away believing differently than before there can be a certain feeling of coercion. If there are strong family ties to Mormonism, and if he values his own ties to Mormonism, he may feel pressured or even coerced to pay tithing in order to fully participate in family events like the baptisms and ordinations and other rites of passage involving his children. 

It's a tough conversation to have, because I don't think anyone has provided an agreed-upon definition of "coercion."  And since it's a loaded term (almost always considered to be bad), no one who supports the concept of tithing is going to readily admit that it is "coercive."  It's like trying to get the members of a group to admit they're in a "cult."

So here's how I look at it.

First, I don't think a person's willingness (or lack thereof) plays into whether or not something is coercive.  So I'm not convinced by those who say that tithing isn't coercive because they willingly pay it (and by implication, they would still pay it even if it wasn't coercive).  The better way to look at whether or not something is coercive it to look at what happens if they don't do it, not whether or not they willingly do it without the coercion.

Second, there are many ways someone can be coerced besides absolute physical force. So the lack of a Danite squad or gestapo force forcing people to pay tithing is irrelevant.

Third, even if something is based purely on a religious belief, metaphysical belief, or superstition, it can still be coercive to that person.  For example, I personally don't spend my time and money on Scientology auditing sessions, and I don't fee that I have experienced any ill effects from that choice.  But that doesn't mean that people within Scientology can't feel coercion to pay for auditing sessions.   The fact that I am outside of their influence doesn't mean they don't have the power to coerce those within their circle.  In other words, belief and membership in a group make you more susceptible to coercion, not less.  Yes, it might only be coercive if you believe, but that is still being coercive.

And fourth, people have a tendency to strongly overestimate the principle of "natural consequences" as a way to avoid acknowledging coercion.  If I tell my son that he can't drive the family car until he gets his Eagle Scout award, and then he delays getting his Eagle and complains about being coerced and not being able to drive the car, I can't avoid the issue by appealing to the consequence being some sort of "natural law" and ultimately his choice ("It's not my fault you can't drive the car.  The deal is that you have to have your Eagle, and since you don't have your Eagle, it's your choice, not mine.")  While he may have made the choice not to get his Eagle, the "game" and its rules have been entirely constructed by me.

Also, an appeal to tradition doesn't make something non-coercive.  Even if my father, and his father before him, wouldn't let their sons drive the family car until they got their Eagle scout, that just makes it a tradition of coercion.  It doesn't make my implementation of the rule non-coercive.

 

So with those principles in mind, from where I stand the way the Church has implemented tithing is "coercive."  It's not coercive to non-believers, and it may be based on a tradition of coercion related to tithing.  But that's still "coercion" in my book.  I'm open to the argument that it isn't a bad thing for the Church to be coercive about tithing because the spiritual danger (and financial danger to the Church) is so great. 

But the idea that it isn't coercive at all seems a little fatuous. 

 

 

Edited by cinepro
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When I went from non-tithe payer to tithe payer, my income increased 400%. This happened twice, same amount of increase.

As a teenager, worked at McD's. Wages were low so i didn't pay tithing.  Eventualyl figured the only way for me to escape that job was via tithing/miracle. Started paying tithing. Got full time as opposed to part time job.  The new job paid double what McD's did.

During the recession of 2008-09 I worked odd jobs to pay the bills, each time I recieved a check, I paid tithing as quickly as possible via the envelopes, even though this led to multiple envelopes per month being given to the bishopric.

After about 9 months, was offered a job paying at least 400% more (if we include benefits, more like 600% more).

So, you can call tithing coercive if you'd like (ignoring the fact that temple ordinances are mostly for the dead and only one of each ordiancne is needed/required for the living), but I'll keep following the 400% increase trend.

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