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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. For Liberty

    Who cares about his religion! Romney is just another BIG GOVERNMENT Bush/Obama that will prolong endless foreign wars and be influenced by the lobbyists, big Wallstreet banks, and corporate interests that fund his campaign. He's not different from Gingrich or Santorum. A vote for Romney is a vote for more of the same 2012.

    January 25, 2012 at 1:36 am |
  2. Greg

    Why was Newt Gingrich investigated by the FBI in 1999? This is a story that is going to blow up big time.

    January 25, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      They all just wanted my c0ck.

      January 25, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • ONE TIME

      Becuase he is faulty he is a man of little morals....

      January 25, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      Maybe my morals are little...but my c0ck is huuuuge.

      January 25, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  3. migeli

    When a political party states that their sole objective is to make the peoples choice a one-term presidentthen that party does not have our country's interests at heart.A bunch of one-percenter stooges of the wealthy who keep their money in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and create no jobs for Americans.Sick of Republican liars!

    January 25, 2012 at 1:33 am |
  4. CompassionForTheLost/LDS

    Ok, it doesn't do any good to ridicule Mormons. Rather, people should look at the facts, and use them as their guide. Among those facts are that since the inception of this new religion (only 100 some years ago), there has been great distrust of Mormons. This is still evident today in recent Gallop polling showing that 1 in 4 Americans do not trust, nor will they vote for a Mormon. If Mitt Romney were a Christian, he would not only have gotten the nomination last time around, but he very well may have won the election.

    January 25, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • dirkK

      Romney is Christian.

      January 25, 2012 at 1:24 am |
    • ONE TIME

      True christian means follower of christ....mormons do believe in jesus...

      January 25, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • CompassionForTheLost/LDS

      Friends... My heart goes out to all Mormons. Most truly believe they are followers of Christ. Most mormons are nice people and do many good things. However, upon indepth comparison of doctrines between Christianity and Mormons, they are clearly not the same. Sadly, many have been deceived. It might be worth watching what several former Mormons, who were high ranking in the church, have to say about it...

      Watch some of this....http://youtu.be/aGQsYCBXqLQ

      January 25, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • dinabq

      I didn't know Jesus required a temple recommend, knowing secret handshakes and wearing special underwear.

      January 25, 2012 at 2:34 am |
  5. CompassionForTheLost/LDS

    .

    January 25, 2012 at 1:11 am |
  6. Larry

    The anti-christ (Mitt)

    I love you white people. Where would I be today if I didn’t bankrupt your companies for profit, putting you out of work.

    I’ll tell you where. I would probably be like you, an average citizens living off $46,000 a year and paying over 30% in taxes.

    January 25, 2012 at 1:09 am |
    • sam

      What?? Who's making that much money??

      January 25, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • ONE TIME

      Everyone looks to make a profit...why are you hating romneys hustle...oh i know why u dont have the skill or the brains to make your own money.....

      January 25, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      One Time can't make sense even one time...

      January 25, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • ONE TIME

      Ok newt you look like piggy from lord of the flies....you know the movie....he was a fat retarded f..k too as for the d-bag above he is just upset becuase mitt romney has an ability to make money like a smart person ok re-re....

      January 25, 2012 at 1:18 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      One Time, are you a good Mormon? 949 683 3086

      January 25, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • greg

      Nobody making $46k is paying 3% in taxes. Probably 10% or less. I made $51k last year and not only did I not pay taxes, I got additional money back because of credits.

      January 25, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • ONE TIME

      Im catholic.....so no im not a gud morman....

      January 25, 2012 at 1:24 am |
    • greg

      I meant 30%.

      January 25, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      What are you 'gud' at, one time? Being a one timer?

      January 25, 2012 at 1:36 am |
  7. Matt

    Wow,

    there are a ton of bigots out there.

    I have never felt more hated for being a member of a religion.

    I hope some of you guys can get over your hatred and look past the religion and see Romney as a Businessman and a patriot.

    The guy has enough money, I doubt he is running for president for the salary, or the power, they guy just wants to do some good for the country he loves.

    January 25, 2012 at 1:09 am |
    • Andy

      Guess it doesn't take much to be a patriot all you have to do is deport jobs out of America and constantly lie to its people.
      THE MAN IS A LIAR FACT CHECK IT OUT.

      January 25, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • fowez

      Patriots usually serve their country not hide out in France during a time of war.

      January 25, 2012 at 1:28 am |
  8. Josh

    Well as long as he doesn't give my taxes to his church....

    January 25, 2012 at 1:04 am |
  9. ONE TIME

    ROMNEY,ROMNEY,ROMNEY!!!!!! ALL THE WAY HE IS THE ONLY ONE WHO STANDS A CHANCE AGAINST OBAMA.NEWT HAS DONE NOTHING BUT LIE WHEN I GOT MARRIED I STOOD BEFORE GOD AND PROMISED TO HIM AND HER THAT I WOULD HONOR HER AND BE FAITHFUL TO HER THREW SICKNESS AND HEALTH TELL DEATH DO US PART AND I TAKE A PROMISE TO GOD VERY SERIOUSLY AND NEWT LIED TO 2 WIVES AS FOR HIS NEW WIFE WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT A WOMAN WHO SLEEPS WITH A MARRIED MAN KNOWING HE IS MARRIED...ILL GIVE YOU A HINT IT STARTS WITH A "W" NOT ONLY DID HE LIE TO HIS FIRST 2 WIVES BUT HE LIED TO CONGRESS AND HIS FELLOW REPUBLICANS HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A CURRUPT POLITICIAN WHY WOULD HE CHANGE NOW HE ALSO TALKS ABOUT ALL THE GOOD STUFF HE HAS DONE WITH OLD RONALD ALL I HEAR IS HIM TALK ABOUT HOW HE JUST ROAD RONNYS COAT TAILS.....HE ALSO TALKS OF BEING ANTI ESTABLISHMENT A MAN WHO HAS SPENT THIRTY YEARS IN THE ESTABLISHMENT HELPING TO BUILD IT AND SIX YEARS LOBBYING FOR A COMPANY THAT WAS A LARGE PART OF THE FININCIAL CRISIS WE ARE IN TODAY I SAY IM TIRED OF WASHINGTON INSIDERS RUNNING WASHINGTON ILL VOTE FOR ROMNEY.......

    January 25, 2012 at 1:03 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      Starts with 'w'...hmm...this is like pictionary but harder....(that's what she said).

      When you can find your capslock key, and figure out what it's for, I'll already be president and will be telling you to drop the soap. You feel me, son?

      January 25, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW, BOY?

      January 25, 2012 at 1:09 am |
    • ONE TIME

      Negative sweetheart i do well in violent enviroments as for u prolly not piggy just like lord of the flies...

      January 25, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      ...I don't get it. English is your first language, right? Can you back off the crack long enough to respond in a way that makes sense?

      January 25, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • Andy

      We got a real genius here so Romney has the same contributors as Obama so how is he gonna be different moron?

      January 25, 2012 at 1:25 am |
  10. Linda

    This Newt Gingrich guys is really gross but says the Truth.

    January 25, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      Baby, by the time I'm done, you will see gross as Truth. Because that's how I roll.

      January 25, 2012 at 1:00 am |
  11. Ann

    Malachi 3:10 It's not just Mormons.It's in my Bible too.

    January 25, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      I'm in your bible too. If by bible you mean 'every hole I can find'.

      January 25, 2012 at 1:01 am |
  12. Red

    I think Mormons are generally great people, but so many of them are ignorant of their church's history.

    For example, it is well doc-umented that Joseph Smith secretly married about 40 women, including a number of women who were already married to other men (see Zina Huntington Jacobs and Mary Rollins Lightner) and several teenagers (see Helen Mar Kimball and Fannie Alger). He kept most of these marriages secret from his wife Emma and completely denied publicly that he was practicing polygamy. This is common knowledge to anyone well-versed in Mormon history.

    January 25, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • Ian

      Lol, Yeah "RED" we Mormons know that in the old days the leaders practiced polygamy. Not like we get told that every time we ever mention we're Mormons or anything!!

      January 25, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • Red

      Most Mormons think Emma was Joseph's only wife.

      January 25, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • wayne

      I'm an ex mormon. I think it is all wack, but they all know Joe had many wives. But they all (or most) continue to be good sheep. But the world is full of different sheep, they are just another breed. The south park episode says it best about them, watch it. But its funny when I meet christians that think they are nuts...I really think they are all nuts. But I see how christians are total bigots towards them. Even atheists too, everyone needs to learn to just get along already. I have accepted there will always be people out there that will believe in super silly things and be stupid. there is nothing we can do about it but hope and not pray. educate more maybe?

      January 25, 2012 at 2:23 am |
  13. LDS=Cult=Deceivers

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGQsYCBXqLQ&w=420&h=315]

    January 25, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  14. Jovani

    I do not get it: people question Mitt Romney who has earned everything because of his hard work and wits, only because he has certain religion beliefs!!! Really??? Do you guys really know Romney's work history? Well, try to educate yourself some. He is the only qualified candidate who can turn over this economic disaster in the USA.
    But as they say: Every people deserves their own government! I think you deserve Obama too!
    Time to move out of the US has come...

    January 25, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      Mittens is not the answer. Unless the question is 'where should I stick my huge d!ck next'? Then he's the answer.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Andy

      He earned the fortune he inherited from his father for sure and all that cwock sucking at baine to kill american jobs

      January 25, 2012 at 1:28 am |
  15. LDS=Cult=Deceivers

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGQsYCBXqLQ&w=640&h=360]

    January 25, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  16. Sam

    Ill respect Christians, gays, LGBT, atheist's(etc) decisions. I just dont get it when gays are like "we were born this way," then some are like "well I was born this way but I what I really want to say is I want to be a woman(or visa-versa)". That does not make sense!

    January 25, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • sam

      No one was talking about gays you idiot. Wrong article.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Sam

      Sorry sometimes I like to write comments instead of think for myself in private. Here are more of my thoughts:
      Gay=Commenters=blacks=Mormons=christians

      January 25, 2012 at 12:54 am |
  17. revolting peasant

    Mormonism is a bit kooky as far as religions go, but I like that they put their money where their mouths are. Mormons hold true to their values of hard work, contribution back to community, commitment to education, etc. I don't really understand the bit about the special underpants, but it strikes me as a minor issue.

    January 25, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • sam

      idk, it seems like every religion has special garments...over, under, whatever. Not defending anything, just pondering. And yeah, scientology is much scarier.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  18. grinder

    mormons are idiots

    January 25, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • JJ

      Then so are Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  19. ThinkAgain

    The Mormon church was made up by a guy with a huge libido and who thinks God is an accountant. I just don't see the spirituality in it.

    January 25, 2012 at 12:36 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      Well, all I know is that Mittens calls out for 'God' a lot when I fck him.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  20. Newt Gingrich

    Stop talking about this pu$$y Romney and call my new p0rn line @ 949 683 3086. Only b!tches without cancer or MS can call.

    January 25, 2012 at 12:35 am |
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About this blog

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.