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Financial and economic challenges to Church activity


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27 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

I know you are not in the US, but those kinds of thing are deducible from your amount of income upon which you pay tax.  That is a little help.

But our ward is only 7 or 8 miles in diameter so we never have those kinds of distances to travel.

Since tithing is based on your "increase", I would deduct those expenses from the amount on which you Tithe . But that's me.

I would still talk to the SP about it.

I can't imagine him not understanding if it is a burden 

 

My ward is only a few blocks wide. The stake only a few miles wide.

But girls camp or high adventure camps or Trek could be 3+ hours away, one way. That can be a hardship for some families.

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49 minutes ago, Rain said:

In my experience reimbursement usually comes from having a calling.  So say I had to drive 3 hours to the temple to go as a patron - I wouldn't think of asking to be reimbursed.  But if I was a youth leader taking the youth as part of my calling and it was enough of a hardship that I considered not going or not accepting a calling because it entailed doing that I might ask to be reimbursed.  

Exactly.  Only ever for a calling (and not even always for that), but for some families it might be the only way they could serve in such a calling. 

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This should go to the travel section in the handbook. If it doesn’t, see section 20.6.24

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/general-handbook/20-activities?lang=eng#title_number42

There is a form for nonemployee travel reimbursement. I assume that is the one you would use, but I am guessing many leaders who do submit expenses just hand in the receipt for fuel and don’t do the calculations which should cover wear and tear. 

Edited by Calm
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1 hour ago, mfbukowski said:

I know you are not in the US, but those kinds of thing are deducible from your amount of income upon which you pay tax.  That is a little help.

Only if you itemize though.  

1 hour ago, mfbukowski said:

But our ward is only 7 or 8 miles in diameter so we never have those kinds of distances to travel.

Since tithing is based on your "increase", I would deduct those expenses from the amount on which you Tithe . But that's me.

I would still talk to the SP about it.

I can't imagine him not understanding if it is a burden 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Calm said:

This should go to the travel section in the handbook. If it doesn’t, see section 20.6.24

Section 20.6.24 is in the chapter titled 'Activities'. It talks specifically about ward and stake activities that 'bring Church members together'. The specific subsection discusses when members travel 'in Church-sponsored groups' and notes that 'If long-distance travel for an activity is approved, members should not provide it at their own expense' (emphasis added).

I get this. But conducting stake business in one of our congregations is not a Church 'activity' such as a priests quorum camp, and my driving to and from that congregation does not consist of travelling as a Church-sponsored group.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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On 1/18/2021 at 3:19 PM, mfbukowski said:

But our ward is only 7 or 8 miles in diameter so we never have those kinds of distances to travel.

 

On 1/18/2021 at 3:48 PM, bluebell said:

My ward is only a few blocks wide. The stake only a few miles wide.

My stake is nearly 500km from north to south, a bit narrower than that from east to west. Thankfully most of our membership is concentrated in one city, but we have members who drive more than two hours to attend sacrament meeting each Sunday. One member who lives approximately two hours from the nearest chapel listens to sacrament meeting on her telephone, and then her assigned ministers take her the sacrament once a month. In addition, our faithful members in outlying areas happily travel hundreds of kilometres to attend stake conferences, including getting accommodation and buying meals, and until just a few years ago, they did the same for General Conference. I can't imagine deciding that visiting them once or twice a year on stake assignment is a hardship that someone needs to pay me for.

On 1/18/2021 at 3:19 PM, mfbukowski said:

Since tithing is based on your "increase", I would deduct those expenses from the amount on which you Tithe . But that's me.

No, thanks. To each his own, I reckon. I had a branch president in Indonesia who told me once that, after paying ten per cent of his income as tithing, he then spent another one-quarter getting his family to and from church each Sunday. 

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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8 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

 

My stake is nearly 500km from north to south, a bit narrower than that from east to west. Thankfully most of our membership is concentrated in one city, but we have members who drive more than two hours to attend sacrament meeting each Sunday. One member who lives approximately two hours from the nearest chapel listens to sacrament meeting on her telephone, and then her assigned ministers take her the sacrament once a month. In addition, our faithful members in outlying areas happily travel hundreds of kilometres to attend stake conferences, including getting accommodation and buying meals, and until just a few years ago, they did the same for General Conference. I can't imagine deciding that visiting them once or twice a year on stake assignment is a hardship that someone needs to pay me for.

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes your posts sound a bit self righteous and judgmental.

I’m glad that reimbursement is an option the church offers and allows. 

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When the Church budget system was overhauled in 1990, there were a series of meetings and broadcasts for then-regional representative and stake presidents. It was emphasized that there should be no monetary cost for church activity, and that time and money costs on members should be reduced in favor of the home. It was also emphasized that they knew that leaders and members would try to find ways around this, so leaders would need to stay on top of things to prevent "mission creep" and going back to the old way. 

One thing that struck me was the discussion about how our teachings on thrift and self-reliance can ironically work against us with regard to cost. We emphasize thrift and self-reliance, and then sometimes impose time and monetary costs on members that they can't meet --- or can only meet at the expense of their family or work. "These," Elder Packer said, "are not good feelings for Latter-day Saints to have." There are members who would rather die than have people know they needed a reimbursement for a big activity (if others are stressing that they aren't going to submit for reimbursement), or if the ward/stake is saying that it won't be reimbursing for travel, activities, etc., that member will simply not participate rather than admit to themselves and others that they can't meet the "assessment." This is what the Brethren were trying to stamp out by tying ward budgets to attendance in an equalized fashion. 

Still, outside of North America, there remains a heavy unreported cost (for example, with travel, as @Hamba Tuhan pointed out). The units aren't really in a position to be able to reimburse like the units in North America, because of size, attendance, and sheer distance. Mission couples have to pay much more above and beyond their monthly mission cost for supplies for activities, running branches, etc., and these are not reimbursed, even though everything is reimbursed for the mission president (and they are paid a salary, or "parsonage"). Often, mission couples have to buy groceries out of pocket to help branch members, because they are essentially the only ones paying fast offerings, and outside of North America, leaders are not as cavalier about passing on fast offering deficits to the stake/district or even other countries (Bishop Burton told us that North America is consistently a net fast offering consumer, while Africa is consistently a net fast offering provider, even though their living conditions often are no comparison to those in North America seeking assistance). Yet, in the U.S., the mindset I've often seen is, "Hey, if our need exceeds what our ward has, we can eat into the stake surplus. If the stake doesn't have a surplus, then it can eat into the area surplus . . . etc. 

It's a fine needle to thread --- taking what the Church provides and allows, while also striving (admirably, I think, and often exemplary to us North Americans) to regard sacrifice for the Church as consecration. As I reminded a stake presidency member once, when discussing the principles in the 1990 broadcasts, Elder Packer said, "Enforcing the Law of Consecration is the Lord's duty, not ours." 

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11 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

 

My stake is nearly 500km from north to south, a bit narrower than that from east to west. Thankfully most of our membership is concentrated in one city, but we have members who drive more than two hours to attend sacrament meeting each Sunday. One member who lives approximately two hours from the nearest chapel listens to sacrament meeting on her telephone, and then her assigned ministers take her the sacrament once a month. In addition, our faithful members in outlying areas happily travel hundreds of kilometres to attend stake conferences, including getting accommodation and buying meals, and until just a few years ago, they did the same for General Conference. I can't imagine deciding that visiting them once or twice a year on stake assignment is a hardship that someone needs to pay me for.

What if it were reversed? What if they needed to come visit you for their calling, but in doing so they were choosing to skip meals for their children?  

What if people bought primary or Sunday school manuals as part of their calling?  Would you expect them to cover it all or be reimbursed?  What is the difference in getting reimbursed for doing your calling that necessitates lots of driving long distances?

I'm not saying we should ask to be reimbursed for every little thing.  I do think there is a much given much required component.  But I would absolutely hate if my neighbor couldn't have some callings because he couldn't afford the gas required. What a loss that might be for him and those he might have visited.

11 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

No, thanks. To each his own, I reckon. I had a branch president in Indonesia who told me once that, after paying ten per cent of his income as tithing, he then spent another one-quarter getting his family to and from church each Sunday. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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16 hours ago, Rain said:

Only if you itemize though.  

 

Of course. You have to figure out which is in your best interest, but we don't answer personal tax questions here. 

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16 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

 

My stake is nearly 500km from north to south, a bit narrower than that from east to west. Thankfully most of our membership is concentrated in one city, but we have members who drive more than two hours to attend sacrament meeting each Sunday. One member who lives approximately two hours from the nearest chapel listens to sacrament meeting on her telephone, and then her assigned ministers take her the sacrament once a month. In addition, our faithful members in outlying areas happily travel hundreds of kilometres to attend stake conferences, including getting accommodation and buying meals, and until just a few years ago, they did the same for General Conference. I can't imagine deciding that visiting them once or twice a year on stake assignment is a hardship that someone needs to pay me for.

No, thanks. To each his own, I reckon. I had a branch president in Indonesia who told me once that, after paying ten per cent of his income as tithing, he then spent another one-quarter getting his family to and from church each Sunday. 

 

 

 

 

 

That's different. He decides to go to church, his church attendance is not performing a public service for anyone but his family.  You are providing a service to your community/nation by comforting others, proving them with counsel etc.

Those functions are actually why tax exempt foundations exist-  They provide services that theoretically  the government would be required to perform.

Bill Gates foundations help people, theoretically, and so they are tax exempt.

When we buy meals in the temple cafeteria, as temple workers, we get receipts which are furnished exactly for the purpose of adding them all up at year end as legitimate deductible expenses necessary for our volunteer work at a tax exempt institution.

 I can see why your calling would be a financial burden,  So I am offering advice..

 If it is not a burden than forget about it. I just was trying to help to get you to talk to your stake president.

 

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32 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

Of course. You have to figure out which is in your best interest, but we don't answer personal tax questions here. 

Right.  It's just with an estimated 13-14% of people itemizing it isn't something many members of the church would be able to take advantage of and I wanted to put that out there for those who read your post and decided they wanted to look into it.

Full tithe payers are more likely to do it since they give more to "charity", but with the changes in the standard deduction a couple of years ago that probably cut even a lot of them.

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10 hours ago, bluebell said:

Sometimes your posts sound a bit self righteous and judgmental.

Yuck! Sorry. That certainly wasn't my intention. I was just hoping to provide context to my comments. I sometimes feel like I live in a parallel universe to Saints whose stakes are only a few miles wide.

6 hours ago, rongo said:

When the Church budget system was overhauled in 1990, there were a series of meetings and broadcasts for then-regional representative and stake presidents. It was emphasized that there should be no monetary cost for church activity ...

Is that 'Church activity' or 'Church activities'? Outside of occasionally asking for a potluck contribution to a ward/stake party, we make sure that there is no monetary cost for activities. When I was Young Men president, the ward covered the full cost of temple trips (minus individual meals), camps, weekly quorum activities, etc. for the boys -- which typically involved reimbursing me, another quorum adviser, or a member of the bishopric. But I have no clue how to eliminate any monetary cost of being active in the Church. I realise that people with welfare needs might receive assistance to get themselves to and from church each Sunday, but that's not standard operating procedure, is it? And the simple reality is that everyday travel costs (and travel times) for members who live in geographically large units are much larger than for those who live in compact units.

I have never in my life been told to submit a reimbursement request for having driven my companion and me to a ministering visit. Some whose wards could be comfortably walked seem to be implying that if a ministering visit requires more than a few minutes' travel, it should be reimbursed, but what's the threshold for that? 10km? 50? Having thrice served in our stake presidency, I feel confident that if every member who travelled more than 50km to visit an assigned ministering family submitted a reimbursement request, the stake budget would be exhausted in a single month. (I have a ministering visit lined up for this Saturday evening; it will require 70km of travel and, depending on traffic, approximately an hour of travel time.)

In short, there absolutely is a monetary (and time!)* cost to Church activity, which I think was the entire point of this thread?

6 hours ago, Rain said:

But I would absolutely hate if my neighbor couldn't have some callings because he couldn't afford the gas required. What a loss that might be for him and those he might have visited.

I agree!

1 hour ago, mfbukowski said:

When we buy meals in the temple cafeteria, as temple workers, we get receipts which are furnished exactly for the purpose of adding them all up at year end as legitimate deductible expenses necessary for our volunteer work at a tax exempt institution.

Wow, the American tax regime is very different to ours. Approved monetary donations to registered charities reduce taxable income, but we are certainly not granted any credit for costs accrued as volunteers. (Your post led me to check the website to verify.) By the way, when you advised me to deduct my expenses from my tithing, I now realise that you meant to write that I should deduct them from my taxes. Thanks.

-----

* As Elder Packer noted when budgeting changes were introduced into the US and Canada in 1990, they were designed to reduce demands on both money and time.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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1 hour ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

Yuck! Sorry. That certainly wasn't my intention. I was just hoping to provide context to my comments. I sometimes feel like I live in a parallel universe to Saints whose stakes are only a few miles wide.

Is that 'Church activity' or 'Church activities'? Outside of occasionally asking for a potluck contribution to a ward/stake party, we make sure that there is no monetary cost for activities. When I was Young Men president, the ward covered the full cost of temple trips (minus individual meals), camps, weekly quorum activities, etc. for the boys -- which typically involved reimbursing me, another quorum adviser, or a member of the bishopric. But I have no clue how to eliminate any monetary cost of being active in the Church. I realise that people with welfare needs might receive assistance to get themselves to and from church each Sunday, but that's not standard operating procedure, is it? And the simple reality is that everyday travel costs (and travel times) for members who live in geographically large units are much larger than for those who live in compact units.

I have never in my life been told to submit a reimbursement request for having driven my companion and me to a ministering visit. Some whose wards could be comfortably walked seem to be implying that if a ministering visit requires more than a few minutes' travel, it should be reimbursed, but what's the threshold for that? 10km? 50? Having thrice served in our stake presidency, I feel confident that if every member who travelled more than 50km to visit an assigned ministering family submitted a reimbursement request, the stake budget would be exhausted in a single month. (I have a ministering visit lined up for this Saturday evening; it will require 70km of travel and, depending on traffic, approximately an hour of travel time.)

Maybe I missed it, but I didn't get the impression that people were talking about ministering though that is a concern some may need to look at as leaders.  I thought most/all of us were talking about your assignment to go visit another ward.

1 hour ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

In short, there absolutely is a monetary (and time!)* cost to Church activity, which I think was the entire point of this thread?

I agree!

Wow, the American tax regime is very different to ours. Approved monetary donations to registered charities reduce taxable income, but we are certainly not granted any credit for costs accrued as volunteers. (Your post led me to check the website to verify.) By the way, when you advised me to deduct my expenses from my tithing, I now realise that you meant to write that I should deduct them from my taxes. Thanks.

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* As Elder Packer noted when budgeting changes were introduced into the US and Canada in 1990, they were designed to reduce demands on both money and time.

 

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19 minutes ago, Rain said:

Maybe I missed it, but I didn't get the impression that people were talking about ministering though that is a concern some may need to look at as leaders.  I thought most/all of us were talking about your assignment to go visit another ward.

Thanks. I honestly don't know how to untangle it all. Needing to travel 30km to/from church on Sunday, needing to travel 50km to/from the stake centre for stake and high council meetings on Thursday evenings, needing to travel 70km to visit one of my ministering families this weekend, and needing to travel 100s of kilometres to visit outlying congregations are all on the same continuum to me. Especially since I know that we have members in the stake whose Sunday travel to church each week approaches 400km return. Multiply that by four Sundays per month and you get a number far greater than I will drive in the performance of my stake calling.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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33 minutes ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

Thanks. I honestly don't know how to untangle it all. Needing to travel 30km to/from church on Sunday, needing to travel 50km to/from the stake centre for stake and high council meetings on Thursday evenings, needing to travel 70km to visit one of my ministering families this weekend, and needing to travel 100s of kilometres to visit outlying congregations are all on the same continuum to me. Especially since I know that we have members in the stake whose Sunday travel to church each week approaches 400km return. Multiply that by four Sundays per month and you get a number far greater than I will drive in the performance of my stake calling.

But this really isn't about you.  It's about the people you mentioned who don't have the resources you do and who wouldn't be able to serve in the capacity of your calling because of finances. I know it's kind of tied all together.

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6 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

Yuck! Sorry. That certainly wasn't my intention. I was just hoping to provide context to my comments. I sometimes feel like I live in a parallel universe to Saints whose stakes are only a few miles wide.

Is that 'Church activity' or 'Church activities'? Outside of occasionally asking for a potluck contribution to a ward/stake party, we make sure that there is no monetary cost for activities. When I was Young Men president, the ward covered the full cost of temple trips (minus individual meals), camps, weekly quorum activities, etc. for the boys -- which typically involved reimbursing me, another quorum adviser, or a member of the bishopric. But I have no clue how to eliminate any monetary cost of being active in the Church. I realise that people with welfare needs might receive assistance to get themselves to and from church each Sunday, but that's not standard operating procedure, is it? And the simple reality is that everyday travel costs (and travel times) for members who live in geographically large units are much larger than for those who live in compact units.

I have never in my life been told to submit a reimbursement request for having driven my companion and me to a ministering visit. Some whose wards could be comfortably walked seem to be implying that if a ministering visit requires more than a few minutes' travel, it should be reimbursed, but what's the threshold for that? 10km? 50? Having thrice served in our stake presidency, I feel confident that if every member who travelled more than 50km to visit an assigned ministering family submitted a reimbursement request, the stake budget would be exhausted in a single month. (I have a ministering visit lined up for this Saturday evening; it will require 70km of travel and, depending on traffic, approximately an hour of travel time.)

In short, there absolutely is a monetary (and time!)* cost to Church activity, which I think was the entire point of this thread?

I agree!

Wow, the American tax regime is very different to ours. Approved monetary donations to registered charities reduce taxable income, but we are certainly not granted any credit for costs accrued as volunteers. (Your post led me to check the website to verify.) By the way, when you advised me to deduct my expenses from my tithing, I now realise that you meant to write that I should deduct them from my taxes. Thanks.

-----

* As Elder Packer noted when budgeting changes were introduced into the US and Canada in 1990, they were designed to reduce demands on both money and time.

Yes you are right about that  what I meant was taxes

 But something else now pops up.

 The requirements for ministering visits now also include text Messages, Emails phone calls etc. 

 Perhaps you have hit on the actual reason for the change.

 The church is growing more sensitive to the needs of members who live outside of the US,  And physical  visits are no longer the expected norm.

 And also I remember what @rongobrought up regarding the expenses involved in being a member and I agree with him that the intention was that members should not be burdened with extra expenses.

 

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12 hours ago, rongo said:

One thing that struck me was the discussion about how our teachings on thrift and self-reliance can ironically work against us with regard to cost. We emphasize thrift and self-reliance, and then sometimes impose time and monetary costs on members that they can't meet --- or can only meet at the expense of their family or work. "These," Elder Packer said, "are not good feelings for Latter-day Saints to have." There are members who would rather die than have people know they needed a reimbursement for a big activity (if others are stressing that they aren't going to submit for reimbursement), or if the ward/stake is saying that it won't be reimbursing for travel, activities, etc., that member will simply not participate rather than admit to themselves and others that they can't meet the "assessment." This is what the Brethren were trying to stamp out by tying ward budgets to attendance in an equalized fashion. 

Agree completely 

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12 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

I think you may be misremembering the direction we were given by Elder Holland when the revamped ministering program was introduced in General Conference:

In my case, the family I'm visiting this weekend consists of husband in his 70s, who suffers from a neurological disorder that has left him partially crippled, and his wife, a mail-order bride from Russia about ten years his junior. They have many needs, but the two most prominent would be for company and for manual labour. Regarding the latter, they let me know what the specific needs are, and I arrange to take care of them. For example, my young companion and I spent several months installing nearly 150m of wire mesh fence around their property to keep out the predators that had been killing and eating their chickens. We have also spread mulch and helped assemble a small hothouse. Regarding the former, they thrive on social visits. The wife will cook a fantastic multicourse meal, often vegetarian, and then we play cards, accompanied by much laughter.

He's a non-member, and though she is an endowed member, she now labels herself an 'apostate'. Regardless, they loyally pay fast offerings, pray over meals, listen to spiritual messages, and always ask me or my companion to leave a blessing on the home. None of this can happen via text or telephone, though he and I text regularly, and she and I share things on Facebook semi-regularly. And this was the sole contact we enjoyed for about six months of last year when Coronavirus closed the border between us.

I look forward to the day when she returns to faith and activity and brings her husband with her! :D

Your efforts are profound and memorable and a great example to all of us!

On the other hand, quoting Elder Holland..

12 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

We will continue to visit homes as possible, but local circumstances such as large numbers, long distances, personal safety, and other challenging conditions may preclude a visit to every home every month.

.... AND you have said that your efforts understandably, considering the fact that they are impressive, are becoming a trial for you financially and in other ways.

Every suggestion I make seems to be countered with a reason not to follow my advice.  I think you have made your decision which clearly is very admirable!

My last suggestion is the same as my first suggestion, which is in a few words,  "Talk to your Stake President".

Edited by mfbukowski
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1 hour ago, mfbukowski said:

.... AND you have said that your efforts understandably, considering the fact that they are impressive, are becoming a trial for you financially and in other ways.

Mate, I genuinely appreciate the concern, but you've repeatedly misread me. The OP asked us to list possible 'financial impediments to activity/progress in the Church'. Rongo specifically wrote that he and his wife haven't viewed the three he listed as genuine impediments but noted that others may perceive them that way. I feel the same way about the possible financial impediments that I have listed based on my own experiences. I am deeply grateful for what the Lord has taught me and continues to teach me as I exercise faith in the performance of my duties and callings despite their demands on my time and/or income.

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