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January 24th, 2012
04:50 PM ET

Romney tax returns shine light on Mormon tithing

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Although many Americans may have wondered just how much money Mitt Romney makes and how much he pays in taxes in the lead-up to the release Tuesday of his tax documents, there was little suspense around how much he gives to his church.

That's because all Mormons in good standing with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are required to give 10% of their salaries as a tithe.

"Mormon children are expected to begin tithing from their very first allowance," says Terryl Givens, an expert on Mormonism at the University of Richmond. "And there's never any variation on the 10%, whether you're on welfare or you're a millionaire."

Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, gave even more to their church last year. Tax documents released Tuesday show they gave $2.6 million, more than 12% of the roughly $21 million they earned. The Romneys also gave $1.4 million last year in cash and stock to their family foundation, which heavily supports the LDS Church.

In 2010, the other year for which the Romneys released a federal tax return, they gave $1.5 million to the LDS church, 7% of their earnings, plus $900,000 to their family foundation, called the Tyler Foundation.

The Tyler Foundation gave $145,000 to the LDS church in 2010, so the Romneys' church donations average out to 10% over the last two years.

Unlike in most Christian traditions, in which the decision about whether to tithe is made individually by each church member, giving to the LDS Church is enforced. Participation in important ceremonies at Mormon temples is contingent on being paid up.

"For Mormons, tithing is an article of faith, not an economic principal," said Givens, who is Mormon. "Some critics see it as tying worthiness to an economic contribution."

He calls it "an important differentiator between devout Mormons and nominal Mormons."

A survey of American Mormons released earlier this month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that eight in 10 say they tithe to the church.

Tithing dates back to the earliest Mormons, with the LDS Church's 19th century founder, Joseph Smith, drawing on the Bible's Old Testament as precedent for 10% church support. Smith also wrote about tithing in the Doctrine and Covenants, a Mormon holy book comprising Smith's revelations from God.

For early Mormons, tithing was as much practical as theological. As the early Mormon community journeyed from state to state across America, often on the run from persecution, tithing was an important way for the community to sustain itself.

"Early Mormons were outcasts from society and suffered extreme deprivation and they needed to take care of themselves and take care of the church on a day-to-day basis," Givens said. "To this day, Mormons are known for taking care of their own."

Today, tithing finances the administration of the Salt Lake City, Utah-based LDS Church, the construction of Mormon temples - which are rapidly proliferating as Mormonism grows worldwide - and the church-owned Brigham Young University.

Mormons are also encouraged to give separately to their local congregations and to a church humanitarian fund that goes to international relief projects. The church urges Mormons to fast on the first Sunday of each month and to donate the cost of the food they would typically eat to the humanitarian fund.

An informal 2011 survey by the National Association of Evangelicals found that most evangelical leaders on its 100-person board of directors don't believe the Bible requires tithing. Just 42% of the board members said that is true.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Mitt Romney • Money & Faith • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (1,579 Responses)
  1. Shalanqua

    Haha I didnt know they let special people write comments on here, good for CNN!

    January 24, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
  2. Morman4Life

    Wow, all you haters are clearly JEALOUS. You are jealous that the Mormon church produces successful people who actually work for a living and are good citizens. Nazi Germany hated the Jews for that same reason, because of their affluence and success in society. Atheist haters hate because they hate all religion, but look at what atheism has done for the world in the 20th century (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot–mass murderers). And to all you evangelical haters who claim that Mormons are not Christian, do you think Jesus would hate other people because of their differences in beliefs? No, he forgave the same people who killed him. Like you would ever do that. Now go back to your trailers and don't let that beer gut hang too low.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • go4it

      I'll pipe in for the atheists here:
      Saying Stalin, etc... were mass murderers because of Atheism is like saying they were mass murderers because they had blue eyes. There is no connection between someone's non-belief in God and their actions. They did these things for other reasons that you could easily research.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  3. TJeff1776

    MBoy705.......Bishops are temporary positions...probably actively engaged for about five years. They receive no salary whatever and after that period of times generally revert back to being regular members. NONE of the State or local officers receive any salary whatever; and yet the whole thing hums along like a swiss watch.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Happy Jack

      So what are their responsibilities?

      January 24, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Bboy705

      It's a goofy cult anyway... I don't want a Mormon as President! Or any other religious wacko!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • Me... Me... I know... I know

      I found one responsibility of the Bishops online:

      I could never stand to wear it [a bra] over and felt bad that I wore it under. After about 20 years I finally asked my Bishop what the rule was and he said it didn't matter one way or the other and if it was more comfortable to wear it under that it was fine.
      If your Bishop says differently, you just have to ask around until you find one that agrees"

      http://mormondiscussions.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=12289

      January 24, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • Me... Me... I know... I know

      p.s. refers to the "garment" - the Mormon's special underwear.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Abinadi

      They lead a ward of about 3 or 400 people. They and their 2 counselors plan Sunday services, call teachers and leaders of organizations. They counsel people with marital, moral, and financial problems. They attend lots and lots of meetings. They fill in wherever they are needed. They provide love and a shoulder to cry on. They issue food orders and pay bills for the downtrodden and unemployed. They are unpaid so they work a full time job or two and take care of their families.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  4. Jim

    Its kind of funny how people are so quick to judge Romney's value system is being scrutinized but people are very cautious and don't really seem to care about Gingrich's. I mean through the media we know that he is very dedicated to his family and his religion. Yet Gingrich claims to be everything Romney is, but he has been divorced twice. And the second divorce ended because he was having an affair on his wife who, at the time, was recently diagnosed with MS.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Newt Gingrich

      b.itches are disposable.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  5. brunette_barbie_SC

    YOU WANT TO REALLY DEBATE THIS OUT – CALL MY BUSINESS LINE AND LEAVE A MESSAGE WITH YOUR NUMBER AND I WILL CALL YOU BACK 949 683 3086

    January 24, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Newt Gingrich

      This # is my favorite p0rn line –

      January 25, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  6. John

    Glad Mitt is known to contribute financially and so generously to a good cause – something most politicians believe they are exempt from because they justify to themselves that they are doing so much already.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  7. Romney Un-Electible

    FOOLS!

    January 24, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Bob

      We'll see...

      January 24, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  8. TJeff1776

    BanReligion has obviously never read the first page in the Book of Mormon and comments out of ignorance.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • BAN RELIGION HARD

      I BET YOU IGNORE FACTS AND CHOOSE MORMONISM OVER REALITY.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  9. RONALD REAGAN IS SATAN

    republican:
    Buildup of skin and other crud found between the foreskin and penis
    repuglican:
    Foul cheese like buildup that comes from not washing or properly maintaining equipment.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Jill

      Thats who Newt Gingrich claims to be!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Newt Gingrich

      I spread it on cra.ckers.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  10. Bboy705

    Here is a valid question. If a Catholic Bishop or a Jewish Rabbi or perhaps a Muslim Imam was running for the Presidency of the United States of America would that be acceptable or would you have a problem with someone who holds a high station in a religion (presumably being a man of his religion rather than an American first) being elected? Separation of church and state?

    The reason I ask is Mitt Romney is a Bishop in the Mormon church.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • Abinadi

      So, in order to run for president, must you be an atheist in your opinion?

      January 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • brunette_barbie_SC

      Mitt WAS Mormon bishop – keyword is "WAS". Second, Mormon clergy DO NOT GET PAID – it is strictly service. Trust me, I know. And duh, with executive, judicial, and legislative branches, there will ALWAYS be SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, you idiot

      January 24, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Abinadi

      A large percentage of Mormon men have been bishops. They usually serve for 5 years and then another is called.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Bboy705

      Ah yeah Abinadi I would prefer it if all Presidential candidates were atheists, I'm sick right up to here with pompous religious jerks trying to tell everyone who does not believe in some g0d being that were wrong, have no morals or ethics and don't know what we're talking about. The last person I want as President is someone who believes in a religion as wacky as the Mormon religion!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
  11. brunette_barbie_SC

    Romney represents the ULTIMATE MAN – a man of honor, dignity, integrity, virtue, stalwart man of God,,,,All you jealous, envious, uneducated do-whatever-feels-good-without-being-humble-before-God type selfish liberals can take a lesson from a true gentleman!

    January 24, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • go4it

      Here we go again.. Another one equating atheism with liberalism. Please, each of these words has its own meaning.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Bill92395

      Totally agree!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • John

      Mitt is great, thank you brunette_barbie_SC!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • Jim Jones

      So was I. Until my cult was exposed. Worship the Sun, it has a more believable origin.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  12. RONALD REAGAN IS so DEAD

    thank god RONALD REAGAN IS DEAD

    January 24, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  13. Jimmy

    Wow! It sounds like people are acting very mature in this comments section, as always. Hate and prejudice comes from a lack of understanding. That is why when I see some people's uneducated comments I feel like I am reading an immature teenager's note. If you are going to comment, write an educated, well thought out comment with facts!

    January 24, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Don't be a b!tch

      Wish we were all as perfect as you.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • BAN RELIGION HARD

      The book of mormon was written by a scammer named Joseph Smith. FACT.

      You're welcome.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Usurpers and false prophets are always alone when they have their "visions". That is why the scriptures call for witnesses because the Lord knew that these things would occur. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13, "1 In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." That is why we have witnesses to Jesus Christ's resurrection. That is why there were witnesses to all that Joseph Smith said, "Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. "

      Three men saw an angel and the plates were laid before them!!!! Later, 8 more men saw the plates and handled them. This is the difference between Joseph Smith and the false teachers of the day. JOSEPH SMITH HAD WITNESSES!

      For more information, go to mormon.org.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Jill

      I too have tried to write a few more well thought out posts that don't get posted for some reason, but I have seen the stupidest comments on here, by the way BANReligionHard Im very glad we got your unbiased well thought out research with that fact! I so believe that you just didnt grab that from your butt!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      Jill, There is an automatic word filter here.

      Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ---
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
      co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      cu-nt.....as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      nip-ple
      o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      p-orn… as in p-ornography
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      que-er
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sl-ut
      sn-atch
      sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      sp-oon
      sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
      strip-per
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
      wt-f....also!!!!!!!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • BAN RELIGION HARD

      Jill, you want me to repeat everything that's already been said here that proves mormonism to be the trash it is? Jesus christ. Read a few more comments, do some research and get back to us when you've got some facts of your own.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Try googling "Lost 116 pages of book or mormon." I'll bet you find that a very interesting tale.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Jill

      Like I am going to read random webpages to find about Mormons, Jews or whosawatchamacallits, they will just give me their "unbiased opinions" just like you. No that is why it is smart to study both sides of the argument or just loose faith in the whole world altogether whichever is easiest!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
  14. Mark

    Did they expect something different? I mean, duh...he's a Mormon, they always do this.

    Not surprised by the hate. The article is discussing a Republican and Religion on the same page. That always brings out the haters.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Critics are not always 'haters'. Are all Republicans and believers actually hating those they criticize?

      January 24, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  15. strangebuttrue

    I had to work my way thru college with no financial help from anyone except for my small amount of GI bill money because of putting my life at risk for the sake of my country. I resent mitt romney saying he is a "self made man" when his parents helped pay his way thru Harvard Law School. Also, he grew up in a very affluent family in the very affluent suburb of Bloomfields Hills, a suburb of Detroit, MI. He's about as close to being a "self made man" as my little sister is.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Jas

      I sounds like you just resent not growing up in a rich family, so you worked are and you feel like you haven't received much recognition.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Don't be a b!tch

      Jas...you ignorant s!ut.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • BAN RELIGION HARD

      Jas, no stupid, he's just pointing out the hypocrisy of another mormon ass hole

      January 24, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Mulehead

      strangebuttrue –
      Thank you for your service to our country – people like you make this country great.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Jas

      No Michael you got me confused with Dwight, funny line though!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Sparkle

      Wow StrangeButTrue you just received a very nice complement from Mulehead. Maybe Barney will sing you a song as well! We love you!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • Mulehead

      Sparkle – why would that be a surprise that I would say such a thing? Even though i hate religion, i don't hate people...just want to see them thinking for themselves. I have many friends in uniform and thank them at every opportunity. Education, education, education. Obama 2012

      January 24, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Patty

      @ Mulehead When you say you hate religion you don't realize that you are hating on the majority of people in the world when you say that right?

      January 25, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Mulehead

      Hi Patty – No not at all. For example, I don't hate my Mormon neighbors of 10 years, but I do hate that the Mormon organization has effectively brainwashed these good people into believing something not based in reality. Similarly, it's not the 'Muslim' child or 'Jewish' child or 'Catholic' child that I hate, rather the dogmatic bodies that manipulate their parents to raise their children in a specific ‘belief’. My 4 year old son has Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Atheist friends…..but he doesn’t know it, nor does he care, nor should it matter. They are all children – it takes religion and bigotry to poison one’s mind. Think for a moment about that and then try to defend any religion.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • HotAirAce

      As in, hate the belief (religion) not the believer, similar to hate the sin, not the sinner.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • Mulehead

      HotAirAce
      Correctamundo!

      January 25, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  16. Mark

    I'll save you for the low, low price of only 9%.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  17. edvhou812

    Want to make lots of money? Start a religion.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Fred Provoncha

      Starting Mormonism certainly didn't make Joseph Smith rich...

      January 24, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Fred Provoncha
      But it probably made him richer than he was before. The man's life prior to founding Mormonism seems to have been dedicated to get rich quick schemes like using seer stones to find treasure. In another age he would likely have been burned for witchcraft.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  18. 'Merica Joe

    Being "equired" to give sounds a lot more like a cult than a religion. So what happens if you dont give? do they kick you out and take away your memership card. In a word, 'yes'

    January 24, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Fred Provoncha

      In a word, no. You're still a member, can still attend church and still participate fully, except that you just can't enter the temples. That's the only restriction.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • ACHarmon

      NO. It is not a requirement. I am a.Mormon convert. No one is ever kicked out for failure to pay. It is a.suggestion, we are encouraged to do it, but no one is ever audited, etc. The only thing it affects ones LEVEL of membership, again, a private matter, is IF said member desires to obtain a ”Temple Reccomend” that highest level of church membership. But even then, and speaking from experience, you are NOT audited, etc, you are intetviewed and trusted to answer honestly, should you take your membership to that level. It is inaccurate, ignorant, and uninformed of you to make such a ”cult” blanket statement without doing just a little fact checking.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Bob

      I second Fred's comment.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  19. VegasBaby

    Mormon is fake.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Bob

      Mormon is true.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • SaltLakeCityBaby

      Mormon was a man.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  20. Gary

    Four things I learned by visitng this article and reading the discussions.

    1) Romney is a good man, and donates WAY more of his income that either Obama or Newt.

    2) Romney is not required at all to release his taxes, but he did so even when there were snarling dragons waiting to attack every little detail. He is to be commended for releasing his PERSONAL taxes.

    3) Romney makes a heck of a lot of money, which means he is intelligent, and has lived the American dream. Anyone who thinks otherwise is just jealous of his success.

    4) There are quite a few athiests and anti-Mormons that frequent CNN, unless it's all from the same person, and they keep re-posting and changing their name (could be). LOL.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Dennis

      donating to your club is not a donation

      January 24, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Steve

      So you didn't learn anything from reading the discussions or article.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Mulehead

      Dennis – Excellent analogy! I don't believe I can deduct my mandatory purchases at the clubhouse bar and grill either!. Probably the best eight words written on this issue tonight.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Sue

      making a heck of a lot of money equals intelligence? Hollywood must be full of geniuses . . .

      January 24, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • LP

      1) Donating lot sof money does not make you a "good man", particularly when 10 out of the 12 percent you donated was not optional.

      2) Releasing personal taxes when running for high office has been happening for a long time. There is nothing remarkable about Mitt having released his . . . reluctantly.

      3) Wealth and intelligence are not synonymous. Even if Mitt is fairly bright (and I wager he is), many of the tactics by which he acquired his wealth are less than stellar and are not to be admired.

      4) Yes, there are atheists out here, and I am one of them. There are a lot of religious people too, but I didn't see you comment on their presence.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.