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Article Re: Payment of Tithing


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11 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

It was a transparently childish piece.  He said nothing substantive. 

With respect, I disagree.  I think he makes some solid points.

11 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

I was very disappointed that he took the matter so lightly. 

I think that's more a matter of tone.  He is treating the subject matter seriously.

11 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

I like the opposite approach, as for example Pres Nelson expecting LDS Church members to show initiative --- instead of the "nanny" approach of unquestioning obedience to your file leader. 

I have never advocated or endorsed "unquestioning obedience to your file leader."

11 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

That's not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I agree.  

Thanks,

-Smac

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If Jana wrote about how happy she was with the church no one would read her and she'd be out of a job.  Personally, I find it a great privilege to be able to pay tithing and take part in building

No, society does not have that right. It is not a fundamental right like life or liberty and it is not a legislated right either. You take tax deductions and that is a government subsidy so I have a r

With respect, I disagree.  You say "the calls will continue until..."  I submit that the the calls will continue regardless of whether the Church is more transparent. I think the underlying motiv

7 minutes ago, pogi said:

 

My parents sacrificed a year and a half of their lives to serve in a temple visitor's center for free.   I am sure it wouldn't be hard to find volunteers. 

 

There are more worthwhile uses of volunteers’ time, energy and dedication than preparing documents to assuage idle curiosity and, perhaps, facilitate malevolent voyeurism. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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45 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Absent any authoritative indication otherwise, you have no authority to dismiss it

If others teach it is a test of faith, I don't need authority to dismiss that teaching as non-authoritative.

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45 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

There are more worthwhile uses of volunteers’ time, energy and dedication than preparing documents to assuage idle curiosity and, perhaps, facilitate malevolent voyeurism. 

You seem to be confident that changes will not happen in terms of financial transparency (I am not so confident).  

"Idle curiosity" and "malevolent voyeurism", seriously?  Is that what financial transparency is all about?  I hope for your sake that the church never becomes transparent because I would hate to know how Scott Lloyd really feels about the decisions of our prophet...

Edited by pogi
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38 minutes ago, pogi said:

If others teach it is a test of faith, I don't need authority to dismiss that teaching as non-authoritative.

Am I missing simething? When did it become a controversial teaching in the Church that tithe paying is a test of faith? 
 

Here, for example, is the late Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve basing a general conference sermon in that teaching:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2002/10/tithing-a-test-of-faith-with-eternal-blessings?lang=eng

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11 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Am I missing simething? When did it become a controversial teaching in the Church that tithe paying is a test of faith? 

By drawing attention to red herring, yes you are missing something.  This is not about tithing in general, we are talking about financial transparency specifically and how that is or is not intended to be a test of faith in relation to paying tithing. 

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3 hours ago, Amulek said:

Whereas, I thought the piece came off with the kind of authentic exasperation that one can only get from a tax accountant who has spent much of his career explaining things to people who clearly don't understand what they are talking about. 

As is the case with many of those who have been pining (whining?) for increased transparency from the church. The overwhelming majority of them are not accountants, and they don't even understand the simple fact that what they are asking for won't actually get them what they are asking for. 

Oh, and speaking of substantive comments, I encourage you to go back and read his comments about materiality - because, again, his commentary here is spot on.

The church is a multibillion dollar organization, and real auditors don't operate like the high counselor who has been tasked with reviewing your ward and who is going to want you to cut a check to Sister So-and-so for one penny because the clerk keyed in the wrong amount when printing her original check. No, a real auditor won't even bother to look at a number if it isn't material. And, as he points out, "[m]ateriality for a 7 billion dollar company would be AT LEAST $10 million dollars, if not more. So as long as you seal less than $10 million in a not totally obvious way, it won't even hit the auditing radar." 

And his comments about cost are also pretty substantive. Preparing financials for public release isn't a cost free enterprise. And as he says in the article, "(b)ased on the many audit bills I’ve seen, though I would expect a full audit to publicly release the LDS Church’s financial statements to cost at least $1 million more than whatever services the LDS Church is already paying for right now. That’s $1 million to, at best, scratch a bit of curiosity. There’s no way you’ll convince me that can’t be better spent elsewhere."

I agree. Why waste the money to prepare and publish reports that aren't going to do anything substantive for anyone? Do the Saints in England sit around on 5th Sundays opining about how much better they sleep at night because the church publishes financials over there? I doubt it.  

Again, the reduction ad absurdum which negates his entire case is the notion that the unwashed masses don't need no stinkin transparency.  The comparison with other multibillion dollar, worldwide corporations is, of course, fair enough, but entirely irrelevant.  Multinational corporations all have fixed administrative costs which cannot be avoided.  Having built-in transparency isn't going to break the bank, and could even be a healthy control mechanism with a de facto feedback loop which leads to improvements.  The Brethren are the board of directors of a massive operation, the internal workings of which gain nothing proper from being made secret.  The Brethren are not children who must be protected from Monday-morning quarterbacking, and the LDS Church is not some fragile institution which will collapse just because some key internal data has been released to public appraisal (I am, of course, interested in professional appraisals).

Why the unreasoning fear?  Why give in to the constant tendency of most governmental groups to refuse to allow open records.  Indeed, without open-records laws, we already know that the general public would never be allowed access to anything.  Such is the nature of society and of organizational behavior.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ thrives best in an open society, but the open society has powerful enemies.  The totalitarian temptation is ever with us.

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1 hour ago, pogi said:

You seem to be confident that changes will not happen in terms of financial transparency (I am not so confident).  

"Idle curiosity" and "malevolent voyeurism", seriously?  Is that what financial transparency is all about?  I hope for your sake that the church never becomes transparent because I would hate to know how Scott Lloyd really feels about the decisions of our prophet...

You seem to have a penchant for fanciful speculation with little or nothing to go on. 
 

One General Authority’s son spouts off publicly about being gay and you leap to the implausible conclusion that this puts the father at odds with others in the Quorum of the Twelve.  
 

Now, with no apparent basis in fact, you’ve taken it into your head that the Church is on the verge of publicizing it’s financials. You’re going so far as to speak of it as though it had already happened and to imply it is I, not you, who is doing the ark steadying. If you have something to go on with this, some inside information or what not, come clean in providing a source.  Otherwise, spare us the wishful thinking/rumor mongering. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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4 minutes ago, pogi said:

By drawing attention to red herring, yes you are missing something.  This is not about tithing in general, we are talking about financial transparency specifically and how that is or is not intended to be a test of faith in relation to paying tithing. 

I see your point and I like it.  I believe it may be a test of our faith to see how well we can handle not knowing every detail about how our Lord's church officials spend the money we give to the Lord through his Church.

I realize there are a LOT of things that our Church officials do that I am not aware of, and I don't feel a need to be aware of every little thing they do with or without the money we give them to use to build up the kingdom of God.

So obviously I have no problem with our Church financial records NOT being transparent, and if they were transparent I doubt I would want to spend much if any time reviewing the financial records to see what they have done with the money we give them.

And I am an accountant, if that makes any difference at all.

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54 minutes ago, pogi said:

The Saints in England and Scotland are as blind as we are as to overall Church financials. 

So it isn't enough for the Saints in Great Britain to see the Church's financials for the entire country - they need to see financials for the entire world?

Audited financial statements in every country in which we operate, annually, forever? Is that what it takes to be adequately "transparent?" That seems like a monstrously wasteful endeavor if you ask me. 

 

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I know that the lack of transparency is a stumbling block for some very close to me, for them it could nurture their faith.

Their faith in what? In the church? How would that even work? I mean, it isn't like there is some verse in the old testament which reads, 'And in the last days, the mountain of the Lord's house will be built in the top of the mountains and whose renovation depreciation rates will never exceed 20% in any given year.' 

The church is either true or not, regardless of how it manages its finances. And let's be honest: if the church was true back when Joseph Smith was making wildly bad financial decisions with regard to church finances (e.g., Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Corporation), then it's definitely true today.

 

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For those who have total faith in our leadership, it wont do much. 

For the record, I don't have "total faith" in our leadership. I do, however, have total faith in Christ, and I trust that he will hold people accountable for any mistakes they may make with sacred funds.

 

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I don't believe our church is guilty of any such scandal, but without transparency how do you know that nothing is going on?

I don't believe you grasp how much information you would need (and how much it would cost) in order to know that "nothing" is going on with an organization this large. 

 

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My parents sacrificed a year and a half of their lives to serve in a temple visitor's center for free.   I am sure it wouldn't be hard to find volunteers. 

Audited financial statements have to be prepared and reviewed by an independent third party. If that is what is wanted, there is simply no way around getting that without paying (heavily) for it.

 

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10 minutes ago, pogi said:

By drawing attention to red herring, yes you are missing something.  This is not about tithing in general, we are talking about financial transparency specifically and how that is or is not intended to be a test of faith in relation to paying tithing. 

It is a reasonable (not “strange”) conclusion that one of the things that might make it a test of faith (for some, not all) is that the Church does not provide on demand, as a condition for paying tithing, a financial ledger. 
 

Again, it’s all about obeying a law of God by making a free-will offering with NO STRINGS ATTACHED. (No shouting intended here; I cannot easily make emphasis when typing on my phone without using ALL CAPS.)
 

 

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12 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Now, With no apparent basis in fact, you’ve taken it into your head that the Church is on the verge of publicizing it’s financials. You’re going so far as to speak of it of it as though it had already happened and to imply it is I, not you, who is doing the ark steadying. If you have something to go on with this, some inside information or what not, come clean in providing a source.  Otherwise, spare us the wishful thinking/rumor mongering. 

I don't think it is bad to presume that the Church will do the right thing.

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7 minutes ago, Analytics said:

I don't think it is bad to presume that the Church will do the right thing.

Which is why I don’t get spun up over the Church not providing its ledgers in demand. 
 

And I don’t concede that the Church is doing the <wrong> thing here. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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3 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

I don’t see that assertion as being in any degree self evident, yet you declare it as though it were. 

Of course it is, imho, and you cannot show that it is not.

Edited by Jake Starkey
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32 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

You seem to have a penchant for fanciful speculation with little or nothing to go on. 

All I said was, "I wouldn't be surprised."  You apparently would be. How is that any less speculation?

32 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

One General Authority’s son spouts off publicly about being gay and you leap to the implausible conclusion that this puts the father at odds with others in the Quorum of the Twelve.  

And you have a penchant for twisting my words and making me appear as an enemy to the church - comparing me to "hostile critics".  Go re-read what I ACTUALLY said that you went off the handle about.  It was pretty benign with absolutely no "implausible conclusion", in fact no conclusion at all...  After you have done that...swallow it...because it doesn't belong in this thread.

32 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Now, with no apparent basis in fact, you’ve taken it into your head that the Church is on the verge of publicizing it’s financials. You’re going so far as to speak of it as though it had already happened and to imply it is I, not you, who is doing the ark steadying. If you have something to go on with this, some inside information or what not, come clean in providing a source.  Otherwise, spare us the wishful thinking/rumor mongering. 

Again, I simply said, "I wouldn't be surprised..."  Do you see the twisting going on here?  I do.

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16 minutes ago, pogi said:

All I said was, "I wouldn't be surprised."  You apparently would be. How is that any less speculation?

And you have a penchant for twisting my words and making me appear as an enemy to the church - comparing me to "hostile critics".  Go re-read what I ACTUALLY said that you went off the handle about.  It was pretty benign with absolutely no "implausible conclusion", in fact no conclusion at all...  After you have done that...swallow it...because it doesn't belong in this thread.

Again, I simply said, "I wouldn't be surprised..."  Do you see the twisting going on here?  I do.

If the Church were to announce a change in policy tomorrow, I would be fine with it. You, apparently, will not be fine UNLESS they do. 

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38 minutes ago, Amulek said:

So it isn't enough for the Saints in Great Britain to see the Church's financials for the entire country - they need to see financials for the entire world?

If tithing income and expenditures was entirely localized, that might help, but the way I understand tithing to work, the information available says little about how the church uses their tithing.  Scholars agree that it is not enough data to grasp what is really going on overall. 

42 minutes ago, Amulek said:

I don't believe you grasp how much information you would need (and how much it would cost) in order to know that "nothing" is going on with an organization this large. 

Maybe, but doesn't that prove my point here? 

 

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21 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Again, the reduction ad absurdum which negates his entire case is the notion that the unwashed masses don't need no stinkin transparency. 

No, what he is (accurately) pointing out is that financial statements only give you a very high level overview of the financial status of an organization.

They won't help you detect or prevent fraud (unless it's really huge and really obvious), and they won't provide any of the detailed information that critics and most of those seeking to obtain them are actually wanting to know. 

 

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The comparison with other multibillion dollar, worldwide corporations is, of course, fair enough, but entirely irrelevant.

Not when it comes to producing financial statements and what they contain. Or do you think the church needs to go beyond what publicly held multi-national organizations are required to do in terms of reporting?

 

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Having built-in transparency isn't going to break the bank, and could even be a healthy control mechanism with a de facto feedback loop which leads to improvements. 

Again, this isn't a matter of 'breaking the bank.' It's a matter of cost / benefit analysis. The church could do lots of things that wouldn't bankrupt us, but that doesn't mean it should be doing all those things - especially when there is no meaningful benefit to be had.

The church has already created internal controls, and we regularly retain auditors to review our internal workings. Why spend additional money just to have those same auditors prepare public reports when that money could be better spent actually fulfilling the church's primary purposes?

 

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The Brethren are the board of directors of a massive operation, the internal workings of which gain nothing proper from being made secret. 

Just because something isn't public knowledge doesn't mean that it's secret. 

Trust me - there are enough financial experts working for the church and enough ways for whistle-blowers to anonymously convey information nowadays that the likelihood of there being any sort of significant malfeasance going on with respect to church funds is functionally zero. 

 

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Why the unreasoning fear? 

Unreasoning fear? What on earth are you referring to here? 

If the church were to start producing it's financials for public consumption tomorrow I wouldn't lose a wink of sleep over it.

I still think it would be a waste of money, but I'm pragmatic like that. And pragmatism is anything but unreasonable. 

 

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Why give in to the constant tendency of most governmental groups to refuse to allow open records.  Indeed, without open-records laws, we already know that the general public would never be allowed access to anything.  Such is the nature of society and of organizational behavior.

This is maybe getting a bit far afield, so I'll just say this: there are some pretty meaningful differences between "government" and the church. The government has the power to tax, imprison, and kill me. The church has the power to...say I'm not really a Mormon. Those aren't exactly in the same ballpark, so it kind of makes sense that there doesn't need to be the same ability to access information about them either.

 

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13 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

If the Church were to announce a change in policy tomorrow, I would be fine with it. 

Really?  After reducing it down to a "strings-attached attitude" to paying tithing, and wasteful way to spend time/energy to prepare documents "to assuage idle curiosity and, perhaps facilitate malevolent voyeurism", that really surprises me to hear you say that!

16 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

You, apparently, will not be fine UNLESS they do. 

I will be just fine thanks.  My faith is unwavering in this regard.  Perhaps you are confusing me for some "hostile critic" again.  I am simply communicating that I think it would be a good idea and beneficial overall to improve appearances and PR.  Those things do matter, I think. 

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40 minutes ago, pogi said:

Really?  After reducing it down to a "strings-attached attitude" to paying tithing, and wasteful way to spend time/energy to prepare documents "to assuage idle curiosity and, perhaps facilitate malevolent voyeurism", that really surprises me to hear you say that!

I will be just fine thanks.  My faith is unwavering in this regard.  Perhaps you are confusing me for some "hostile critic" again.  I am simply communicating that I think it would be a good idea and beneficial overall to improve appearances and PR.  Those things do matter, I think. 

If any such change happens, I trust the change will be well considered and driven by divine inspiration, not grumbling, outside fault finding or some misguided “perception-is-reality” group think.  

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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1 hour ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Well, that’s the thing about any baseless, a priori expression of opinion. It can’t be falsified. 

That is an excellent description of your opinionated reply.  Why the grumbling or the implied fault finding?

Let people make their decisions without opinionated dominionism.

The ark is steady.

Edited by Jake Starkey
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16 minutes ago, Jake Starkey said:

That is an excellent description of your opinionated reply.  Why the grumbling or the implied fault finding?

Let people make their decisions without opinionated dominionism.

The ark is steady.

For one thing, you didn’t phrase it as an opinion — more like a maxim. 
 

On this board, most anything is apt to be challenged, especially sophistry such as “transparency nurtures faith.”

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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31 minutes ago, Amulek said:

No, what he is (accurately) pointing out is that financial statements only give you a very high level overview of the financial status of an organization.

They won't help you detect or prevent fraud (unless it's really huge and really obvious), and they won't provide any of the detailed information that critics and most of those seeking to obtain them are actually wanting to know. 

Not when it comes to producing financial statements and what they contain. Or do you think the church needs to go beyond what publicly held multi-national organizations are required to do in terms of reporting?

Again, this isn't a matter of 'breaking the bank.' It's a matter of cost / benefit analysis. The church could do lots of things that wouldn't bankrupt us, but that doesn't mean it should be doing all those things - especially when there is no meaningful benefit to be had.

The church has already created internal controls, and we regularly retain auditors to review our internal workings. Why spend additional money just to have those same auditors prepare public reports when that money could be better spent actually fulfilling the church's primary purposes?

Just because something isn't public knowledge doesn't mean that it's secret. 

Trust me - there are enough financial experts working for the church and enough ways for whistle-blowers to anonymously convey information nowadays that the likelihood of there being any sort of significant malfeasance going on with respect to church funds is functionally zero. 

Unreasoning fear? What on earth are you referring to here? 

If the church were to start producing it's financials for public consumption tomorrow I wouldn't lose a wink of sleep over it.

I still think it would be a waste of money, but I'm pragmatic like that. And pragmatism is anything but unreasonable. 

This is maybe getting a bit far afield, so I'll just say this: there are some pretty meaningful differences between "government" and the church. The government has the power to tax, imprison, and kill me. The church has the power to...say I'm not really a Mormon. Those aren't exactly in the same ballpark, so it kind of makes sense that there doesn't need to be the same ability to access information about them either.

The article already said most of that, and now you are repeating yourself ad nauseam, Amulek. I even think that you are entirely sincere, just as sincere as you are wrong in each instance.  Some of what you say is merely semantic gameplaying, as when you lecture me on the definition of "government," which you clearly do not understand -- as though the Church is not a government, and that only civil gov't is real government.  And therein perhaps we find your major blindspot:  No need whatsoever for a religious government, since all that is required is for sonorious commands to be given from the mountaintop.  In your world.  "All is well in Zion," no matter what, despite 2 Ne 28:21-25,

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And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. * * *  Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!

 

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