Oh, man, I wanted a Slurpee this morning. Not so much because I crave the icy coolness, but because I can no longer drink carbonated beverages. But the thought of having to pay $5 to the Morg--well, that's just not going to happen.
My mind is all over the place right now. I want to do multiple posts every day, but I'm going to try and spread it out a little bit more. So now we're going to talk about debts & tithing.
The church has given talk after talk after talk in recent years about the necessity of getting out of debt, if you have it, and staying out of debt, if you don't. Yet they simultaneously require 10% of your income (I've never seen a church leader come out and state whether it should be on your gross or net income, but it's definitely implied it should be on your gross). I know that personally when I actually managed to pay tithing (I always had a hard time with that one), I felt guilty if I paid on anything less than the gross amount.
I've been reading that Utah is top in the nation in bankruptcy filings. From 2000-2004, Utah is #4 on the list (bcsalliance.com). According to another site (bankruptcyaction.com), the four states with the highest bankruptcy filings are Tennessee, Utah, Georgia, and Alabama. Mormonlawyers.com disputes this, stating that the true reason Utah ranks so high in bankruptcy filings is because state law allows for garnishment of wages, not because of out-of-control spending.
Is the mormonlawyer website correct? I haven't read anything indicating that the Utah bankruptcy rate is due to out-of-control spending. I honestly think it has much more to do with the stringent tithing requirements. Okay, tithing isn't "required," per se, but to be in the inner circle and allowed to participate in the temple ceremonies, it definitely is required. Add to that fast offerings, ward missionary, general missionary, book of mormon, humanitarian aid, temple construction, and other (which permits the donor to specify where those funds are to go), a significant portion of the family's income is going out the door as soon as it has come in.
Add to that the incessant barrage about how couples are to marry young and start their families right away, without waiting to finish college or get established in their careers, and you have a recipe for financial disaster. Furthermore, parents are discouraged from limiting the sizes of their families, and mothers are strongly discouraged from having careers outside of their parenting. I'm not criticising that--if I'd been fortunate enough to have children, I would have been a stay-at-home parent and loved it--but I do say that it only contributes to the serious financial strain placed on the family.
Does the mormon church really need to be a multi-billion-dollar corporation? If all of those billions of dollars were going toward real need, perhaps the answer might be different. If they were feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, instead of lining their pockets, buying malls and streets, building hundreds of temples that end up being empty most of the time, then that would be a worthy cause. But they take the food out of the mouths of their faithful members (if you only have enough money to either pay tithing or put food on your table, you are told to pay tithing). Instead of feeding the hungry, they're starving the faithful. That I have a problem with.
I agree that it's important to make charitable donations, whether it be to one's faith or to other worthy causes. But I would far rather make a donation to Medecins sans frontiers (http://www.msf.org/), a local food bank, or other organisations that genuinely give everything to serve others.
Ironically, if you do a search for humanitarian aid, the lds church will be prominent on the very first page. The funds they donate to humanitarian aid are very small in proportion to the funds they receive in the form of tithes and offerings. There are plenty of members who are out there, serving in their communities, making donations, doing everything in their power to serve God according to the dictates of their consciences, and I respect and admire them.
I do say, however, that they would be better served in making smaller donations to the mormon church and serving their own families by putting food on the tables. Yes, the mormon church would have less money, but their members would be healthier, and the economy as a whole would be healthier as fewer people would be forced into bankruptcy and poverty by the faith they profess. And following the counsel of church leaders to get out of debt and stay out of debt might actually become possible.