Sunday, October 20, 2013

Stories from my Mission: "I know you want some money."

In my last area in the city of Barranqueras one day we were clapping houses on a random street when we got to a house where there were an unusual number of dogs. After we clapped at the front gate a man came to the door and greeted us (along with all his dogs). We quickly explained who we were and said that we were sharing a message about Jesus Christ. He noticed the Book of Mormon that I had in my hand and asked if that was the book that we were selling. I informed him that we were not selling the book but if he would like to read it then we would let him have it for free.

He continued on as if I had not said anything and explained that he could not buy our book today because he didn't have any money right then (he explained that he had spent all his money on food for the dogs, apparently he had taken it upon himself to take care of all the strays in the neighborhood). I again told him that we were not selling anything and that he could have a book or a pamphlet for free and that we would never demand payment. He looked at us and said, "I know you want some money. I know how this works."

I again protested and said that we were not selling anything and we would not ask for money. We only wanted to talk to him about Jesus Christ and tell him about the Book of Mormon. He responded by saying, "I know you have your quota to fill and you have to sell a certain number of books. That is just what you do."

My companion asked him if he was getting us confused with the Jehovah's Witnesses and he said that he knew we were not the same people and that he had seen us pass by several times. We tried to explain a little more about what we did and our basic message, but he again insisted that he would not buy our book. We again told him that we were not trying to sell anything and that we were giving the Book of Mormon away for free.

He looked at us and with a slightly exasperated tone in his voice he again told us that he wouldn't buy our book and that he knew that we were just here talking to him because we were getting paid to do it. At this point my companion was also getting a little frustrated and he told him quite bluntly that we would never ask him to pay for anything, nor are we getting paid to do what we do. He interrupted my companion to ask him how much we were getting paid, to which my companion said that WE were PAYING to be here, we did not receive any money for our work.

The man responded by saying, "Oh you may not be paid right now but when you go home you will be given a position in your church where you will be paid. That is how it works, I know."

I told him that we did not get paid for our work and we would never be paid for our work and that the leaders in our church do not receive any money for their work. The man looked at us like we were stupid and said, "You have to get paid or have some guarantee of a future position where you are paid or you would never do what you do."

My companion looked at the man and said, "How can we explain to you that we do this because we want to and not because we are paid? We will give you a book for free and not ask for any money. We will talk to you and explain to you our message, and we will never ask for money."

To which the man responded, "You are planning on getting paid or of having some position in your church because of what you are doing. There is always money involved. It's always about money. I know you want some money for that book."

My companion, now thoroughly fed up with the man said, "If you really want to pay us for the book then you can give us 2 pesos [about $0.70] but we will give it to you for free."

At that point the man said, "See I knew you would ask for money! It's always about money."

We said goodbye and wished him and his 37 dogs a good day and continued on. We walked down the street and at the corner we paused to marvel at the man that we had just talked to. We concluded that he was just really off his rocker.

As I thought about that man I realized that I had actually met many more people like him. They may not have been as extreme in their view that it is always about money, but there were many people who for them everything was about money. They may not have been as fixated on money as that man was but still there was always this undercurrent in all they said and did that everything in life was about money. Everything.

There were people who were members of the Church who always seemed to find fault with the branch president or with other church leaders. When I asked them what was wrong and why they had problems with the church leaders they were always slightly evasive, but at some point in the conversation it would always boil down to money. Basically they would look for anything in the actions or manners of the branch president or bishop to complain about because he got to hold the tithing money and he got to disperse the tithing funds and fast offerings. They hungered after money, even if they only got to hold it. For them money was the purpose of existence and because it was their motivation in all things they assumed that it was the same for everyone.

For those who were fixated on money (let's call them money fixers) they could not conceive that anyone else would be motivated by anything other than money. To the money fixers it didn't make sense that we would give a book away for free or that we would not only not be paid as missionaries but that we would pay to be there. We may as well as told him that we were fish swimming in the ocean.

The reason why I thought of this experience is because I recently came across a blog of someone who has recently been excommunicated from the Church. In his blog he spends an inordinate amount of time discussing the scriptures and gospel topics. Based on what he has written it may be hard to understand why he was excommunicated. Several people have expressed disbelief that such a "spiritual man" would be excommunicated. But in a recent blog post of his I noticed a major red flag that makes me suspect that he is fixated on money.

He stated that the only reason why the Church was building temples was to increase tithing revenue. He said that the church leaders were taking a business approach to everything and were planning all temple construction around maximizing tithing revenue. For him it was all about money. There could be no other explanation, for why else would we build temples if not to drive tithing revenue? Like the man I met in Argentina because he assumed that everything the church leaders did was about money there is no argument, statement or fact that could convince him otherwise. Just like the line from the Simon and Garfunkel song The Boxer "Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."


Anonymous said...

You think it isn't about the money. I'm gonna give you a test and it is very simple.

Don't tithe to Salt Lake City. You can pay tithing with a clear conscience giving just to undocumented fast-offerings that will keep your donations local, or tithe to Doctors without Borders or some other super-efficient human helping charity. Heck, anonymously directly pay 10% of your increase to the local utilities of local chapels. When You do, see how long it takes to lose your Temple Recommend.

Don't give me any business about blessing or whatever. You think GOD cares that you pay to SLC? Keep it local and tell me how long your recommend lasts. When tithing settlement comes around and you show $0 paid in actual tithing, even though you truly did pay an honest tithe, you'll see wether it's about the money.

You also did not tell the truth about paid church leaders. You should have said LOCAL leaders are not paid to be honest with the man. The FP and QO12 typically are placed on the boards of church held businesses and get paid quite handsomely.

Jared said...

I love how Anonymous (he/she is everywhere! Sometimes attacking and sometimes supporting the Church) demonstrates Quantumleap's point so wonderfully and ironically.

Yes, the First Presidency, Quorum of the 12, and some other general church leaders are paid if they need money to support themselves and their families (spouse and any children still dependent upon them) but generally, they did quite well before their full-time callings and many do not require any stipend. In a passing discussion with a random person in Argentina, getting into a discussion of who is and isn't paid in the church is like refusing to teach classical mechanics because it's not how the world always works (e.g., classical mechanics breaks down as velocities approach the speed of light and size < 1 nanometer).

I'd love for you to give evidence of them getting "paid quite handsomely." That's a tall statement to make that certainly requires proof (like IRS-quality proof). So show us the money (pun intended). All live comfortably but none lives extravagantly.

Stopping paying your tithing will result in the loss of a temple recommend but a person will never be excommunicated from the Church for not paying tithing. Those who do not pay tithing are welcome to go to church and serve in many callings. No one is ever forced to pay.

Guess what? A person can lose a temple recommend for murdering someone, or committing adultery, or being overtly dishonest, or being abusive, or doing any number of other things. Paying a full tithe is just one of the requirements. People are welcome to sin however they want to sin (and we all do sin).

Quantumleap42 said...


To be quite honest I really don't know if anything I say will make any difference in how you think about tithing, but for those who may read this I will offer this comment.

In the book of Samuel in the Old Testament there is a story about Saul the king. He was commanded by Samuel the prophet to utterly destroy the Amalekites, but after the battle Saul took the best of the sheep and the oxen and brought them to Samuel so that they could be offered as a sacrifice to the Lord. But when Samuel arrived at where Saul was he rebuked Saul for failing to fulfill what he had been commanded to do.

In 1 Samuel 15:22 it reads:

22 And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

In this case Saul thought that he knew better than God what would be an acceptable sacrifice so he disregarded the commandment that he had been given. Because of this he was rejected as the king and lost his favored position.

This concept has carried through and is applicable to how we pay tithing. When it comes to tithing, or any other offerings in the Church there is a standing law that all members are commanded to follow. The key is that we do not set the terms of our covenant with God. The terms of our offerings and of our covenants are set by God. If we take it upon ourselves to pay our tithing however and whenever we see fit then that will result in anarchy and disorder. But God's house is a house of order, and those who are ordained and called to administer His tithes are given the stewardship of caring for the things of God. If they misuse them then that is an issue between them and God. They will be judged by God on how they use His tithes and not by us (if we choose to give our "tithing" to some other charity such as Doctors without Borders rather than to the Church, then we are judging those who have been called and set apart to preside over the Church. We are in effect judging His servants.)

If we do not pay our tithing then we cannot consider ourselves to be part of his covenants and numbered among his people.

A while back I wrote a related post entitled "The Error of Cain". In that post I was focusing on priesthood ordinances and the priesthood in general but the same concept can apply to the topic of tithing.

Anonymous said...

Quantum, I hope You're reading this.

"Jared"… your name is no more identifying than "anonymous". Since You are so interested, my name is Doug, I was born in the church, served a mission in Seville Spain and was an AP. I was married in the Temple and have been married 20+ years. I'm a Firefighter in the Seattle area. I like reptiles, Stand-Up Paddleboarding and Rock Climbing. You probably can find me on facebook with that info.

Hearing it from a Shotgun Anti-Mormon like me won't convince you. Hearing facts from someone who holds an opposing view makes people more dogmatic and radicalized in their views. Just like I left the church because of information I found for myself, so must you. So go look up the various businesses owned by the For-Profit portion of the Corporation of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Look for high ranking church leaders on the governing boards of those businesses.

Regardless, Quantum's claim was that the leaders were not paid. That is not true. Local Leaders are not paid. If you give someone a stipend for living expenses, then they are paid. It doesn't matter if it is a modest salary.

Tithing: The point of the experiment is that the church will withhold the Temple Recommend. You have to pay to Salt Lake City to get your endowments or get married in the temple. You could pay an honest tithe locally or towards humanity in general and be denied witnessing your own son or daughter's wedding. Salt Lake City gets your tithing, or you are denied the Celestial Kingdom. To say you are not forced is disingenuous.

Your point on murder and adultery is an irrelevant red-herring.

Anonymous said...


Are you seriously going to defend tithing by using a story that God commanded Saul to commit genocide, but Saul thought that taking a bribe was better?

Rebuked for not committing Genocide?

I'm astounded that I'm talking to an astrophysicist who is defending paying tribute to a god that commands GENOCIDE through his prophets.

Quantumleap42 said...

Anonymous (Doug),

If you are reading this I hope you realize that you continue to prove my point. Those who are fixated on money can see no other motive than money. It must all be about money no matter how small and trivial the amount. Like the man I met in Argentina when he heard that we were willing to sell him the Book of Mormon for 2 pesos he took it as confirmation of his accusation that everything we did was about money.

In the case of the stipends for general authorities, perhaps you misunderstood the point that I was trying to make. I recognize that some general authorities receive stipends, but my point to the man in Argentina, and to you, is that we do not do what we do in order to be paid. We do not do unpaid missionary work in order to guarantee a paid position in the church later on. No one is guaranteed a paid position, or any position for that matter, based on previous work that they have done.

Also I find it interesting that you implicitly assume that I am not aware of any of this. You mention that you left the church because of information that you have found, and encouraged me to do the same. I am well aware of Deseret Management Corporation, Bonneville International, AgReserves Inc., Farmland Reserve Inc., Hawaii Reserves Inc., and The Deseret News. To every person who breathlessly asks, “Did you know the church owns things!? Like businesses?!?!” I say, “Yes. Yes I did. They do it as part of fulfilling their mission. Did you expect the church to print scriptures and not own a printing press? Did you expect the church to provide food and clothing to the poor and the needy and not own a farm or a ranch? Did you expect the church to provide free education to Polynesians and not have some way of paying for it? Did you expect the church to broadcast General Conference, Music and the Spoken Word, and create Bible videos and not own a camera, or video processing equipment? Did you expect all this to be done by volunteers? Imagine the high turnover rate of ward and stake callings and then extrapolate that to all the other things the church does. The church would be a mess, fragmented, disunified, slow, ignorant, and blind.”

Without all these “money grubbing corporations” that the church has it would not work. It would fragment, fall apart, and cease to exist in direct opposition to the statement from the Lord that it would never be thrown down so long as we keep our covenants. The church leaders have been given the charge to be stewards over the church and to build it up and I say they are doing a phenomenal job, partly because of the corporate structure that they are using under the direction and structure of the priesthood. It works, it makes sense.

As for your complaint about tithing. If you do not like the fact that in order to be a member of the church you actually have to be a member of the church and participate (gasp!) and keep your covenants. Like I mentioned previously we do not set the terms of the covenant. Unlike Cain we cannot pick and choose what our offerings to the Lord will be, or in what manner they should be offered (see "The Error of Cain"). We cannot say, “I will be a good person in the way that I see fit, and God will accept it because he has to accept my offering, even if I don’t do it in the way that He wants.” That is the seed of pride that leads you out of the church.

Doug (no longer anonymous) said...


Since you seem to be willing to conduct a dialogue, of which I'm really thankful, let's continue this quite civil and fun discussion.

No comment on God commanding the utter Genocide of the Amalakites?

You can stop the straw-man arguments. I make no claims that the church does not spend money on some good projects and aims and the self-promoting ventures.

Your claim to the man in Barranqeras was that the leaders of the church do not get paid. This is NOT about money, it's about HONESTY. The leaders of the church get paid. Plain and simple. How much is irrelevant. It was about money to him and according to your story, you presented a false representation of the churches leadership (except local).

As you have shown, you know that it almost certainly goes beyond a stipend with the holdings maintained by the church and the board membership. If the church is going to take tithing and use it in legal profit making ventures, well frankly, that's all fine and good.

The problem with tithing is this: it is compulsory and you have no idea how they use it. They can keep you out of the Celestial Kingdom because you prefer to know that your money is spent wisely on maintenance and care for others.

If a prophet can order genocide, then you have every right to question his commandments. Do you really think that Free Agency means the ability to blindly obey or choose damnation? Pay your tithing, Kill the Amalakites and if you question the leaders, You question God Himself?

Now I didn't leave the church because of money or tithing. We can leave that for another day. However the complete inability to see how the church spent my donated offerings makes me certain I made the right choice to stop giving it to them.

Again, I'm still amazed I'm discussing paying tribute to an organization whose prophets can say to go commit genocide, with an astrophysicist.

Quantumleap42 said...

Speaking of a red herring. At no point has any church leader endorsed genocide, nor will they nor is there any justification for it that can be drawn from either the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants or the Pearl of Great Price. In some places is expressly forbids any semblance of it and foretells grave curses for those who seek to use killing to uphold Zion. So the fact that you conflate genocide with paying tithing and demand that that issue be resolved before any intelligent discourse can be had regarding faithfulness to the church is the very definition of a red herring fallacy.

But as you will not let any further thoughts be put forth regarding this matter until you hear my piece on the “genocide” of the Amalekites I guess I will mention a thought here.

First, the book of Samuel was in all likelihood not written by Samuel, and even if it originally was it went through several hundred years of editorial processes before settling into the form that we have now. It has been influenced by historical political forces to tell a story and to make certain points that are completely irrelevant to us today. First we have to dig down into the context. For the Israelites the Amalekites were to them then what the Nazis are to the Jews today. As a matter of fact the Nazis are referred to as Amalekites by some Jews and in some cases this idea has been enshrined in WWII/Holocaust memorials, so suffice it to say that the people who wrote the book of Samuel had a very dim view of Amalekites.

We do know that the Israelites and the Amalekites fought for many years and had many wars. They had what we would call a blood feud. This war between the Amalekites and the Israelites as recorded in the book of Samuel is the last major confrontation between the two groups (think several wars and low level fighting lasting about 300 years). The text that we have for the book of Samuel was most likely written during the reign of king David. As you will recall David and Saul had a complicated relationship. So there was a strong political incentive to downplay or disparage the accomplishments of king Saul, and to make him to look like a slightly unstable ruler who was constantly doing things that he should not have done.

But Saul was credited with winning the final war between the Israelites and the Amalekites so in the history they had to find some way of making him look bad and his very public rift with Samuel may have provided just the fodder. Whether the confrontation between Saul and Samuel was reported correctly we most likely will not know until we can interview them ourselves.

Also keep in mind that Samuel himself was not without political controversy and his story may have been whitewashed or tweaked to conform with political “realities” (i.e. propaganda).

So we have a story that was written by people who had a great incentive to report things in a certain way. (Try going to Israel today and ask someone to give you an unbiased version of WWII. You will never find one.) So the political situation at the time the book of Samuel was written was a time when the official historians were promoting king David and establishing his credibility while trying to downplay king Saul. Also there was an unrelated interest in promoting Samuel as the “Man who gets it done” and makes the “correct” decisions since he anointed both Saul and David as king (i.e. they felt it important to make him the “get it done man” since there was a question of priesthood authority between the north and the south in Israel).

Quantumleap42 said...

So what actually happened? Hard to tell. We know that Saul lead the Israelites in one final war against the Amalekites, and that the Amalekites were not known for being good people, and that Samuel particularly did not like the king of the Amalekites. We know that Samuel had a very public dispute with Saul (perhaps more than one, see chapter 8) and that he was rejected as the king for not obeying the Lord. Whether or not Samuel actually commanded Saul to do all the killing is debatable. If this story were the only one we had to gauge God’s opinion of war and the eradication of a group of people then we must conclude that God can command His people to commit genocide but this is not the only story in the Bible, nor is it the only case we have where God has spoken about war.

So to take this one case and say that the church is an organization whose prophets can say “to go commit genocide” is disingenuous. There is nothing in the Law that governs the church that allows for genocide.

In the case of the stipends for general authorities, perhaps you misunderstood the point that I was trying to make. I recognize that some general authorities receive stipends, but my point to the man in Argentina, and to you, is that we do not do what we do in order to be paid. We do not do unpaid missionary work in order to guarantee a paid position in the church later on. No one is guaranteed a paid position, or any position for that matter, based on previous work that they have done.

You state that tithing “is compulsory”. It is not compulsory in the same way that taxes are. If you don’t want to pay it, you are not forced to. If you want to participate fully in the church then you have to pay.

You also say “you have no idea how they use it”. I know more about what is done with tithing money than I know what my bank does with my money. Do I know how each dollar is spent? No. Do I care? No. It is not my stewardship. I know that it is not being misspent or used for immoral purposes. That does not mean that I blindly accept what ever a church leader tells me, but I have learned to be charitable towards them in their stewardships. The way you present it we are given two options, blindly accept it or receive damnation. You do not allow for understanding and willingness to work with church leaders, and treating them as I would like to be treated if I were in the same situation. There is no blindness in my choice to do what I do and to pay tithing. I know what it is used for and how it blesses peoples’ lives.

Anonymous said...

First and foremost….To say that tithing is not compulsory is totally disingenuous. The list of eternal punishments when one does not pay tithing, along with several temporal punishments, are severe.

You have to promise to pay honest tithing to be baptized. You have to pay tithing to receive the priesthood, hold callings, receive your endowments, Be married in the temple, Go to the marriage of any family members. All of these things are necessary to achieve the Celestial Kingdom and the highest levels of glory.

A thug holds a gun to your head and demands your wallet and if you give your wallet to him, he will let you live. The church holds a gun to your Eternal Progression and says give 10% and you can get the ordinances necessary for Celestial Glory…. neither is compulsory. That's how the mafia works man. You get to choose whether or not you get what's coming.

YOU brought up Samuel and Saul, along with the Genocide of the Amalakites in the justification of tithing. So if I'm serving you a red herring, it's because you handed it to me and asked me to prepare it for you on a plate. I'm rather confused with the defense of tithing by referring to 1Samuel, then later seeming to discount the veracity or importance of the same book when the genocide in the same story is mentioned.

You also erroneously accused me of conflating genocide and tithing. Genocide and Tithing are not equals except in that God can command both through his prophets. That modern prophets have not commanded it is a really really good thing. The point that you seemed to miss is that the scriptures show that God will, through his prophets, command things that we consider evil now.

Banks use of money Vs. Church's use of money: As a minor shareholder in a couple banks over the years, I can state with 100% certainty, I know far more how my bank spends, loses and gains money than what the LDS church provides to those who tithe. I know exactly how much the salaries are of the major leaders of the bank are and what their stock options are. I know how much they give to charities and what those charities are. I get an actual real proportional vote in the future of the bank if I don't like it. I know the cost of the buildings and maintenance. You also could know what the bank is doing with your money by looking at it's quarterly reports.

I will accept I was incorrect when stating "You have no idea how they use it". Outward evidence of purchased chapels and temples and the utilities they would need, financial support of needy members, purchases of malls, media and other profit seeking ventures, all provide evidence of some of the things they spend your money on. So yes, you do have an idea on how it is spent. Like my bank which by law must disclose how it uses my money, the church works within the law by NOT disclosing how your money is spent.

We can continue if you want on the topic. Truth is, I didn't leave the church because of money. I paid tithing until the Sunday I quit and accepted the same arguments you present until I was able to view it from outside the bubble. Although counter intuitive, paying tithing makes a member MORE likely to remain active even though it is expensive to the member. We all are loss-averse and when we invest a lot in something, we put more personal value into that thing, regardless of its actual value. We'll hold onto a stock that is losing value or keep reading a book after 100 not-that-good pages. The church is no different.

You believe that by paying tithing, you are obeying a commandment given to you through the prophets by God himself. You probably also believe that those who pay tithing and offerings to mega-churches and their charismatic leaders are being duped by leaders who can't back up the promises they say God is making through them. If you ever make it out of the bubble, you will see they are the same.