Having heard that if tithing is left out of the equation then Utah is the least charitable state, I thought this letter to the Salt Lake Tribune made an interesting point –
LDS relief efforts – Public Forum Letter – 10/07/2009
Peggy Fletcher Stack’s story “This mission’s focus: save lives, not souls” ( Tribune , Oct. 3) reports that since 1985, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has “provided $1.1 billion in cash and goods to 167 countries.”
Let’s take a closer look at these numbers: $1.1 billion divided by 24 years comes out to an average of $45.8 million per year. By the LDS Church’s own numbers, it had approximately 6.2 million members in 1985 and 13.6 million in 2008, for an average membership of 9.9 million members over the last 24 years. Therefore, the church has donated, on average, $4.63 per member per year to its relief efforts.
Instead of being proud of this accomplishment, Latter-day Saints should be ashamed.
Michael Mirabile, West Jordan
My thoughts –
By way of contrast – in 1993 the average American gave $880 that year (2.1% of average income – which included religious donations). If we look just at charitable giving a group like the Lutherans still give 6.7 times as much as Latter-day Saints on average. That certainly does seem like it would have King Benjamin turning in his grave.
It is hard to say what the figure of $1.1 billion includes, as the Church reported much lower humanitarian aid expenditures of $30.7 million in total from 1984 to 1997 (Mormon America, p. 128), so the larger figure may include its own welfare program for its own members. Interestingly, the smaller Salvation Army gives that much every single year.
Even at $1 billion some claim that the LDS Church may have given is less than 1% of its presumed income during that time period. Thats less than Walmart, Ford or UPS. Its almost a quarter of what Avon, the cosmetics company gives.
It is noticable that a study shows that the poor (under $10k p.y.) pay more to charity than the rich (twice as much as those on $50k). See http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-welfarecharity.htm
As for where the tithing goes – see http://mormoninquiry.typepad.com/mormon_inquiry/2004/10/lds_revenues_an.html
The way I read the scriptures it seems that the majority of the tithe was intended for the poor. (However, the LDS Church in England used only 0.214% of the tithing towards that purpose)
At least a third was set aside specifically for that:
At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)
& http://www.geocities.com/hotsprings/3658/tithing.html for some other interesting info