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Wall Street Journal Feb 8 2020 Article on Church Investment Funds


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11 hours ago, Thinking said:

Do you really believe that there are 7,000,000 adult active members?

If the church starts handing out free money to active baptized members, there'll be twice that overnight.

Ask any finance clerk or bishop about the activity level of everyone who shows up needing church support.  Want to hear my half-dozen stories or so?

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5 hours ago, LoudmouthMormon said:

Ask any finance clerk or bishop about the activity level of everyone who shows up needing church support.  Want to hear my half-dozen stories or so?

This kind of comment could backfire if there are sincere, devoted members reading it who need help,  but are less active due to circumstances beyond their control, such as health issues or having to work on Sunday. Plus it can lead to devout members who ask for help wondering if this is how they are perceived by other members and feeling shamed and perhaps dropping activity because of discomfort or deciding not to ask for help when they need it. 

Edited by Calm
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Well, let me clarify then.

I've been finance clerk for half a decade.  It's my honor to, month after month, pay this or that utilities bill, or medical bill, rent, storage, car payment, counselor bill, etc.  I get to be a living, breathing part of Christ's church taking care of the poor and needy.  It's humbling, and it fills me with joy to have a small hand in this important part of the work.  I'm blessed with a horrible memory for names, so I honestly don't remember 98% of the people helped by church fast offering funds.  There are a lot of them.  I see the church safety net in operation, it's deeply touching sometimes.

I've also witnessed attempts at fraud.  I've seen entitled mentalities get offended when the bishop wouldn't pay both their new car bills.  I've seen people lie to get church aid, and then not follow through on promises made.  I've watched bishops agonize and pray for God to help them know if they're helping a needy person, or enabling bad behavior.  I've seen them be trusting and give the benefit of the doubt, only to have following events prove their trust was misplaced.  

It is a fact of the human condition, that a percentage of humanity will lie to get free stuff.  Bishops have common sense and the spirit to help them sort through.  If the church became known for being freer with their fast offerings funds, those bishops would have an increase in newly "active" people, who are coming, not to avail themselves of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, not to put their shoulder to the wheel and do their part to forward the Kingdom of the Lord, but because there's money to be had.

Does this help?

Edited by LoudmouthMormon
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22 hours ago, CA Steve said:

There are a lot of ways to minimize the size of this fund. Divide by total number of members and you get roughly $7000.00 per. Which does not appear to be much. You could divide by total number of people in the world and just get $12.50, chump change. On the other hand we could divide by the number of endangered species in the world (41,000) which would give us 2.4 million to spend protecting each species. What a dent that would make. Or maybe build 125 500 bed hospitals throughout the world.  Or maybe just a whole bunch of cheap medical clinics at 200 K each.We could fund the Red Coss in perpetuity just off the interest of 100 Billion and still have a sizable emergency fund.

Yes you can take a really large number like membership and divide it into that $100B and make it look small, or you can look at what some of the options are to do with it and see how much good could be accomplished. 

Yeh, you could buy a lot of fish to feed people for a day, or you could teach people how to fish and feed them for life.  Which is the wiser strategy?

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8 hours ago, Calm said:

This kind of comment could backfire if there are sincere, devoted members reading it who need help,  but are less active due to circumstances beyond their control, such as health issues or having to work on Sunday. Plus it can lead to devout members who ask for help wondering if this is how they are perceived by other members and feeling shamed and perhaps dropping activity because of discomfort or deciding not to ask for help when they need it. 

WWJD -- What would Jesus do?

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2 hours ago, LoudmouthMormon said:

Well, let me clarify then.

I've been finance clerk for half a decade.  It's my honor to, month after month, pay this or that utilities bill, or medical bill, rent, storage, car payment, counselor bill, etc.  I get to be a living, breathing part of Christ's church taking care of the poor and needy.  It's humbling, and it fills me with joy to have a small hand in this important part of the work.  I'm blessed with a horrible memory for names, so I honestly don't remember 98% of the people helped by church fast offering funds.  There are a lot of them.  I see the church safety net in operation, it's deeply touching sometimes.

I've also witnessed attempts at fraud.  I've seen entitled mentalities get offended when the bishop wouldn't pay both their new car bills.  I've seen people lie to get church aid, and then not follow through on promises made.  I've watched bishops agonize and pray for God to help them know if they're helping a needy person, or enabling bad behavior.  I've seen them be trusting and give the benefit of the doubt, only to have following events prove their trust was misplaced.  

It is a fact of the human condition, that a percentage of humanity will lie to get free stuff.  Bishops have common sense and the spirit to help them sort through.  If the church became known for being freer with their fast offerings funds, those bishops would have an increase in newly "active" people, who are coming, not to avail themselves of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, not to put their shoulder to the wheel and do their part to forward the Kingdom of the Lord, but because there's money to be had.

Does this help?

I have no problem with the way you said the above and assumed that is what you meant in the original post. However, the way you wrote it ("everyone who shows up needing Church support") could be interpreted that you saw everyone applying for help as only attending church to get it.  I know members who hate asking for help because they see it as the Lord's or a failure on their part or taking it from someone else who needs it more, so when people are already feeling awkward about asking, I think it is important to be careful in how we phrase things to not contribute to making it harder for them.

That does not mean we should get careless about ensuring the funds get to those who need them.  In Calgary there were three chapels along the main highway through the city and off to parts east and west where the buses and trucks drove through and the bishops kept in close communication with each other because some transients would hit up each chapel as they went through the city.  We had three wards meeting in our building and they would rotate so that only one bishop would handle the transients each year (iirc, it was linked to the time slot where most would show up on Sunday).  I see such practices as prudent, but I wouldn't be making those the focus of a talk on welfare, both giving and receiving, in order not to give the appearance that I viewed those asking, including transients, as taking advantage.

Edited by Calm
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53 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Yeh, you could buy a lot of fish to feed people for a day, or you could teach people how to fish and feed them for life.  Which is the wiser strategy?

That argument doesn't really work in this case though since the money at EPA isn't currently being used to teach self suffiency or anything else (though it is invested and working in that sense).

Just to be clear, I have no issues with the way the Church is doing it; I just don't see the argument being applicable.

Edited by Calm
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In my opinion, the Trib headline is not an accurate paraphrase of the comment Clarke made...at least what they quoted.

The quote from the Trib is this:

Quote

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,tithing — donating 10% of one’s income to the faith — “is more of a sense of commitment than it is the church needing the money,” Roger Clarke, head of Ensign Peak Advisors, which manages the denomination’s investing holdings, told The Wall Street Journal.

“So they never wanted to be in a position where people felt like, you know, they shouldn’t make a contribution,” Clarke said.

It says nothing about the Church leadership fearing tithing receipts would drop (though that would more than likely be one of the results of people choosing to pay less tithing) or that it would slow the corporation growth.  

It sounds more like they are concerned with a lower sense of commitment to the Church and/or the Gospel if members talk themselves out of donating because the Church currently doesn't appear to need it.  There are studies that show commitment to something goes up when people sacrifice or invest more in it, which is both good and bad in that it can increase a sense of belonging and desire to be involved which is healthy, but might cause a person to hang on to something that isn't helping as much over something that might help more because of effort or resources already invested.  Since church leaders undoubtedly see the Church as a great community and as a vehicle for teaching the Gospel and doing God's work and therefore it is a blessing in people's lives, tithing would be seen as a positive in helping people feel stronger commitment to the Church.

Edited by Calm
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3 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Yeh, you could buy a lot of fish to feed people for a day, or you could teach people how to fish and feed them for life.  Which is the wiser strategy?

Or you maybe could buy 5000 fish and some loaves of bread  and feed the people while you are teaching them. Why does it have to be one or the other?

 

Look at it this way Bob. With operating costs of $5B a year and a return of 7% yearly on the $100B, the church could operate indefinitely  on just the interest and still have  an extra $2B to spend on both physical and spiritual needs through out the world without even touching the $100B. That is if no more tithing were received at all. Take into account future tithing and a whole world of possible good opens up. Why not build both temples and hospitals in Africa if that is our focus?

 

Let me expand a bit here. I think we are fast approaching the time where proselytizing missions are simply a very ineffective way of converting people long term to Mormonism. Let's change the missions so that the bulk of the time is spent in service projects in Mormon communities in developing countries. That way an Elder or Sister who spends two years in a particular country can not only look back at the opportunities they may have had to teach someone in the evenings after work but also will be able to see a school, water treatment plant , medical clinic Ward house or Temple that was not there when they arrived. It's a win win.

Edited by CA Steve
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35 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

but also will be able to see a school, water treatment plant , medical clinic Ward house or Temple that was not there when they arrived. 

I am all for volunteer work and think there are likely great opportunities to serve for many (for example, for those going into medical fields, a few years of training before going on a mission would be a great idea, imo, as I have a few friends that went on medical service missions as part of their regular mission way back, they gave a lot of injections and instruction), but I think using unskilled construction labor might cost more in supervision costs than saved by their grunt work in many cases.  (Been reading up on effective charities lately and how generous, but unskilled workers don't always make sense and often is better to hire locals familiar with the local methods and requirements)

Edited by Calm
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10 minutes ago, Calm said:

I am all for volunteer work and think there are likely great opportunities to serve for many (for example, for those going into medical fields, a few years of training before going on a mission would be a great idea, imo, as I have a few friends that went on medical service missions as part of their regular mission way back, they gave a lot of injections and instruction), but I think using unskilled construction labor might cost more in supervision costs than saved by their grunt work in many cases.  (Been reading up on effective charities lately and how generous, but unskilled workers don't always make sense and often is better to hire locals familiar with the local methods and requirements)

Yes it  may be a  more expensive way but that unskilled labor goes home from their mission with more skills than they had when they arrived.  Maybe spend some time in training them for a couple of months before sending them out to the field. Teach them the basics of the language and which end of the hammer to use. Another win win.

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25 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

Yes it  may be a  more expensive way but that unskilled labor goes home from their mission with more skills than they had when they arrived.  Maybe spend some time in training them for a couple of months before sending them out to the field. Teach them the basics of the language and which end of the hammer to use. Another win win.

I think part of me is also worried that if missionary work is presented as a particular type of gratifying labour or being able to leave behind something concrete as a sign that they have been there, that could end up leading to disappointment if one's expectations aren't meant.  Sometimes what might be needed are volunteers that are willing to help clean the dirty restrooms of a school rather than build it.  Or help with patients filing insurance claims in a medical office rather than assisting the doctor.

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14 hours ago, CA Steve said:

Or you maybe could buy 5000 fish and some loaves of bread  and feed the people while you are teaching them. Why does it have to be one or the other?

The larger point is a matter of which strategy is the most cost-effective.  Direct welfare is generally a failure, and only generates contempt in the recipients.  U.S. Aid programs elicited that kind of response generally in the past.  The better strategy is always to help people help themselves.  Lets them keep their self-respect.

Quote

Look at it this way Bob. With operating costs of $5B a year and a return of 7% yearly on the $100B, the church could operate indefinitely  on just the interest and still have  an extra $2B to spend on both physical and spiritual needs through out the world without even touching the $100B. That is if no more tithing were received at all. Take into account future tithing and a whole world of possible good opens up. Why not build both temples and hospitals in Africa if that is our focus?

Let me expand a bit here. I think we are fast approaching the time where proselytizing missions are simply a very ineffective way of converting people long term to Mormonism. Let's change the missions so that the bulk of the time is spent in service projects in Mormon communities in developing countries. That way an Elder or Sister who spends two years in a particular country can not only look back at the opportunities they may have had to teach someone in the evenings after work but also will be able to see a school, water treatment plant , medical clinic Ward house or Temple that was not there when they arrived. It's a win win.

Good points.  We're talking economies of scale here, in which we assist in massive change, and this involves many other eleemosynary institutions.  The LDS Church is actually a very small institution, and does not have unlimited funds.  However, it does help to target funds in clever ways so as to act as a catalyst for change.  We (the LDS Church) just shipped a lot of medical equipment to China with the assistance of Operation Hope in order to control the coronavirus.

LDS missionaries have already been moving into service on a wider scale, and LDS-sponsored international educational programs are of tremendous importance.  The Church has been sponsoring rural development programs in foreign countries (such as Africa) now for decades -- including water well drilling, water-purification, electrical production, etc.  It was a Mormon who founded the original Peace Corps back in the 1950s, although Sargent Shriver gets all the credit now.  That same Mormon (a fluent speaker of German) was the officer in charge of helping the Germans put together a new constitution and govt after WW II, for which he required an audience with the Pope.  Few people realize just how effective the Saints have been in the birthing of the modern world.

I have been strongly recommending that the LDS Church pay all costs of a four-year college education for RMs.  The payoff would be no debt,  timely marriages and children, and securely employed Mormons who then pay tithing and offerings at a much higher rate.  The economic advantage is tremendous, as we learned from the G.I. Bill after WW II.  We can do a lot, but just throwing money at something is not always the cleverest way to go about it.

Edited by Robert F. Smith
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6 hours ago, Calm said:

That argument doesn't really work in this case though since the money at EPA isn't currently being used to teach self suffiency or anything else (though it is invested and working in that sense).

Just to be clear, I have no issues with the way the Church is doing it; I just don't see the argument being applicable.

The large question is simply which strategy gets the biggest bang for the buck -- over time.  I was talking about the well-known LDS Church-wide strategy for expenditure of funds.  My comparison is not new, and has been voiced by Church leaders on many occasions.  Church funds are fungible, and the existence of some individual investment account is beside the point.  I was not addressing that individual account, but instead the notion that it should be expended on immediate welfare needs worldwide without regard to the wiser strategy.  We need to articulate that wiser strategy, and not get sucked into the childish demands for immediate gratification.

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I read the article and I think it was well written. Two things stood out to me:

1) The speed at which the money was amassed. Who wouldn't love to have these guys managing their portfolios? From a certain point of view one could also say this speed was the result of blessings.

2) The unusual secrecy even toward other investment firms/banks/investors, and eventually even toward employees. 

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10 hours ago, CA Steve said:

With operating costs of $5B a year and a return of 7% yearly on the $100B, the church could operate indefinitely  on just the interest and still have  an extra $2B to spend on both physical and spiritual needs through out the world without even touching the $100B.

That assumes both that (1) the church's operating costs and (2) our return on investment are never going to change. Neither of those are realistic assumptions. 

 

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13 hours ago, Calm said:

In my opinion, the Trib headline is not an accurate paraphrase of the comment Clarke made...at least what they quoted.

The quote from the Trib is this:

It says nothing about the Church leadership fearing tithing receipts would drop (though that would more than likely be one of the results of people choosing to pay less tithing) or that it would slow the corporation growth.  

It sounds more like they are concerned with a lower sense of commitment to the Church and/or the Gospel if members talk themselves out of donating because the Church currently doesn't appear to need it.  

Seems like you're pointing out a distinction without a difference.  They are the same issue.  If the Church made known vastness of its  corporate empire and wealth, apparently, members, it was suggested by Clarke, might consider contributing less.   If a member gives less it is also possible he/she remains faithful to his/her calling and yet is still dedicated to the gospel.  If he's saying when people give less money then they too will stop believing, well, then he's making a really stupid comment, it seems to me.  

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11 hours ago, CA Steve said:

Look at it this way Bob. With operating costs of $5B a year and a return of 7% yearly on the $100B, the church could operate indefinitely  on just the interest and still have  an extra $2B to spend on both physical and spiritual needs through out the world without even touching the $100B. That is if no more tithing were received at all. Take into account future tithing and a whole world of possible good opens up. 

That sort of math is similar to what happened with the Perpetual Education Fund.  It has become self-sustaining, and is now closed to further contributions.   Tithing, however, has more purposes than just forwarding the work of the church with money.  Tithing is also a commandment given to observant saints, with promises and blessings attached.  

God gets to tinker with definitions and clarifications and emphases around the wording in scripture, I suppose, but the whole "we've got enough so you don't need to tithe any more" notion goes against some pretty clear scripture. 

Because again, if you don't figure the Lord is running His church, why are you tithing in the first place?

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On 2/10/2020 at 5:33 PM, Robert F. Smith said:

WWJD -- What would Jesus do?

I'm not making a specific point about the fund or the posts on this thread. I just wanted to say that I really dislike WWJD. It seems to actually boil down to: What Do I Think Jesus Would Do? (let's make WDITJWD bracelets).

While I have my opinions and thoughts and ideas, if pressed to it I must say that I'm not really sure what Jesus would do in any given situation. He has been so surprising, so unexpected, so contradictory, as recorded in the Bible and in my personal experiences. God's ways are higher than our ways and we see through a glass darkly. It's hard to claim to know what God would do...

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12 hours ago, stemelbow said:

If he's saying when people give less money then they too will stop believing, well, then he's making a really stupid comment, it seems to me.  

Lecture on Faith 6: 'Any religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, does not have the power to produce the faith necessary for life and salvation. Those who have not sacrificed all things will not be able to know that their lives are pleasing to God and will therefore not be able to have the faith to overcome the tribulations that stand in the way of becoming joint heirs with Christ in God's Kingdom'.

The way that this has worked in my life and in the lives of many around me is that sacrifice often puts people in positions where, if they are wrong regarding what they believe in, it's unavoidably going to end in disaster. But if they are right, they will obtain certain knowledge as a result.

Tithing alone may be less effective at creating this situation amongst the comfortably affluent. For many of us, it has been key to our knowledge that God is real and really does keep His promises.

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Faithful members could care less if the church amasses a $100B fund, even knowing that the fund may sit growing and never be used. Heck the church could announce full transparency and say actually we burn all excess tithing funds in a huge furniss to heat the COB and  faithful members would still pay 10% of their gross income to the church.  Why? Because 1. It’s a commandment 2. To get a temple recommend 3. To avoid being burned alive at Christ’s coming and 4. (And probably last) for the perceived blessings from paying tithing. 

Clearly the church no longer needs tithing funds and has enough money to fund the churches needs from just the return earned annually from the fund.  So tithing is really about being obedient for the sake of being obedient.

Edited by Fair Dinkum
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14 hours ago, MiserereNobis said:

I'm not making a specific point about the fund or the posts on this thread. I just wanted to say that I really dislike WWJD. It seems to actually boil down to: What Do I Think Jesus Would Do? (let's make WDITJWD bracelets).

While I have my opinions and thoughts and ideas, if pressed to it I must say that I'm not really sure what Jesus would do in any given situation. He has been so surprising, so unexpected, so contradictory, as recorded in the Bible and in my personal experiences. God's ways are higher than our ways and we see through a glass darkly. It's hard to claim to know what God would do...

You are quite right, and that is why I left the answer open-ended, as opposed to all the self-assured advice which well-meaning people tend to give.  Not simply the rich young man, but even his own disciples were often taken aback at Jesus' actions.  Recall the position taken by Calm, to which I directed my reply:

Quote

Calm said:

This kind of comment could backfire if there are sincere, devoted members reading it who need help,  but are less active due to circumstances beyond their control, such as health issues or having to work on Sunday. Plus it can lead to devout members who ask for help wondering if this is how they are perceived by other members and feeling shamed and perhaps dropping activity because of discomfort or deciding not to ask for help when they need it. 

So, WWJD?  Would he take the mundane, even careless approach which official aid agencies often take?  He told us that we would always have the poor to be with us.  What does he know that we apparently don't know, or don't want to know?  Is there something wrong with us that we cannot overcome even the simplest of problems?

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On 2/12/2020 at 9:45 AM, Robert F. Smith said:

So, WWJD?  Would he take the mundane, even careless approach which official aid agencies often take?  He told us that we would always have the poor to be with us.  What does he know that we apparently don't know, or don't want to know?  Is there something wrong with us that we cannot overcome even the simplest of problems?

I could not help thinking about the homeless situation in LA county- in the county now we have - by official count which everyone knows is a low estimate- how do you count people who are always on the move?- over 50,000.   That's 25% roughly of the population of Salt Lake City.

In LA City there are over 30,000.   Camps are everywhere and all the government has done has not really made a dent in the issue.

The mayor of LA was elected on the promise to solve the problem, and there has not even a dent in the numbers.   One of my nephews works full time for the County trying to help the homeless but even he seems to think all efforts are futile

It is such a complex problem!

We just keep throwing money at it, with no results.

Terrible situation- camps are everywhere, those poor folks!

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Another odd quote from the article:

 

Quote

“We don’t know when the next 2008 is going to take place,” said Christopher Waddell, a member of the ecclesiastical arm that oversees Ensign Peak known as the presiding bishopric. Referring to the economic crash 12 years ago, he added, “If something like that were to happen again, we won’t have to stop missionary work.”

During the last financial crisis, they didn’t touch the reserves Ensign Peak had amassed, church officials said. Instead, the church cut the budget.

So, he used 2008 as an example of why they might need the fund, but they didn't actually use the fund in 2008?  Instead, they "cut the budget"?

Would it be too much to ask for them to explain to us under what conditions they will "break the glass" and actually use the money?  Because as far as I can tell, the cost of serving missions has been going up, not down, and the Church has been laying off workers (the facilities coordinators) and outsourcing that work.

So if 2008 wasn't it, what will it take for the Church to actually dip in to the fund?  

As for tithing, I think the big problem is that the Church has backed themselves into a corner by pretending tithing is something that it isn't.  The idea that all Church members must pay 10% of their gross income is a policy based on tradition, not a doctrine.   And, like the priesthood ban, we've seen what happens when this happens.  Instead of being open to changes in policy, leaders get entrenched in a certain mindset and "it's always been this way so it can't change" until finally something happens to make them look at it closer and realize it hasn't always been this way, so it can change.  And then it does.

So maybe this "revelation" to the world about the fund will be the impetus for the leaders to re-evaluate their assumptions about tithing and we'll see Tithing 4.0 implemented within the next few years.

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7 minutes ago, cinepro said:

Another odd quote from the article:

 

So, he used 2008 as an example of why they might need the fund, but they didn't actually use the fund in 2008?  Instead, they "cut the budget"?

Would it be too much to ask for them to explain to us under what conditions they will "break the glass" and actually use the money?  Because as far as I can tell, the cost of serving missions has been going up, not down, and the Church has been laying off workers (the facilities coordinators) and outsourcing that work.

So if 2008 wasn't it, what will it take for the Church to actually dip in to the fund?  

As for tithing, I think the big problem is that the Church has backed themselves into a corner by pretending tithing is something that it isn't.  The idea that all Church members must pay 10% of their gross income is a policy based on tradition, not a doctrine.   And, like the priesthood ban, we've seen what happens when this happens.  Instead of being open to changes in policy, leaders get entrenched in a certain mindset and "it's always been this way so it can't change" until finally something happens to make them look at it closer and realize it hasn't always been this way, so it can change.  And then it does.

So maybe this "revelation" to the world about the fund will be the impetus for the leaders to re-evaluate their assumptions about tithing and we'll see Tithing 4.0 implemented within the next few years.

It's not even a policy.  I know so many members who do not pay on gross but on net.  And I know members who pay on what's left over after bills not the entire paycheck.  All of those ways are considered to be paying a full tithe by the church.  

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