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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. david hurst

    More than ten percent is asked for. Charitable contributions that not only find their way back in many ways, but are used to fund political drives out of state. The temples are really set up as testament to material success, a magnet for new contributors. Simply a business, and organization, a political force, religion for wealth.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:27 am |
    • Adam

      *facepalm*

      January 25, 2012 at 4:36 am |
    • Kev

      Have you actually been to and seen the outside of most LDS temples? There are some that stand out among the landscape, but most are no bigger than a standard LDS chapel. Even for the ones that do stand out, how is it that they are considered monuments to a "corporation" compared to say the two temples that were once in Jerusalem? Jesus was not known for ever teaching that the grand temple in Jerusalem was a monument to wealth, in fact he even threw out the money changers out of the temple grounds for descrating his father's house.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  2. txwoodworker

    The Romney side needs to compare his support for charity with Newt's. There is a stark difference.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:26 am |
  3. cigarsmoker

    I googled "Book of Mormon" and was not impressed with what was found. For those worried about Newt you really need to research and read up on the LDS before making up your mind.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:02 am |
    • nice...

      Google the Bible or the Koran and it is also very easy to "not be impressed...." How about if you try reading the book and talking the the tenants of its precepts. I have been impressed with most of the Mormons I have met.... if they are a reflection of the book they believe in... there must be at least some good in it.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:05 am |
    • cigarsmoker

      @nice... At the very least there are historical artifacts to backup some of the Bible and Koran. As for the Book of Mormon show me something. Post a link point to the archaeological site. Give something other than "he said she said".

      January 25, 2012 at 4:13 am |
    • Adam

      Hah – so you're going to base your political decision off of a Google search?

      There is so much misinformation about Mormonism in these comments and others, it makes me sick. Besides, a man's faith is his own business. It really shows how ignorant some people really are.

      Aren't we, as a civilization and race, past this line of thinking? I mean seriously, the 1800 century called and wants their values back.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:15 am |
    • snookers

      Ditto here with the Mormons I have met. When I was in Salt Lake City one time, I visited their complex. Very impressive. Had to see the place where they record the wonderful Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I have never seen a run down Mormon Church. They are all big with multiple functionalities . And yes , they do have the bucks.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:22 am |
    • cigarsmoker

      @Adam – I base my political view on research. I've discovered long ago that to blindly follow someone just because they say it's so isn't always the best path to follow.
      -
      "Trust, but verify" Ronald Reagan

      January 25, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • Wesley

      cigarsmoker

      I guess...if you consider a Google search to be true research. The web never lies or stretches the truth, right?

      I tend to go to the source, or as close to it as I can, if I want answers or do any research as important as voting for country's political leader. Then again, I usually don't base my opinion of a political leader based on their religion.

      And no, I don't define a Google search as the source for any true or unbiased information/facts. What a perfect example of how dumbed-down America is really getting. People basing their facts and information off Google search =)

      Yikes.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:34 am |
    • cigarsmoker

      @Wesley – I hold a google search in the same light as something you might say. "Trust, but verify".

      Google offers thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of links to view and read. Some of the top links are to lds.org. I read what they had to say. I strongly encourage others to read what lds.org has to say along with other links to the "Book of Mormon" .

      If you use google, bing, yahoo, or whatever online search engine so what! If you want to discount them because they are "online" fine. While your waiting for the sales man to come knocking on your door with the latest Encyclopedia Britannica or your local library to update their "Funk & Wagnalls" you'll be left behind way in the past.

      So, yes! Google, bing, yahoo, etc... is current and relevant means of research. Are the results biased, yes. But they are biased for and against whatever the search topic. It is up to the user to read the information provided and form their own opinion.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:07 am |
  4. mike

    Obama gives 1%. Mitt 10%. Just because republicans are against Government charity does not mean we are against charity. The real meaning of community living is voluntarily helping those in need, not forced aid. The way Mormons take care of their community should be a format of how things can be done when people are taught to voluntarily help others, not forced to help via a tax rate. Surprising how difficult it is to understand for the liberal crowd.

    January 25, 2012 at 3:54 am |
  5. blackirish911

    Where's Jim Jones or Reverend Moon.... When you need then?????

    January 25, 2012 at 3:44 am |
  6. dinabq

    The LDS church does not pay bills for the unemployed and downtrodden. Just try going into a LDS church and ask for help. This is a LIE. The money goes to Salt Lake City and members (and non-members) are never given an accounting of what happens to the money. The church puts out stories about people they helped, and make certain members never hear about the people who were not helped. http://www.exmormon.org

    January 25, 2012 at 2:58 am |
    • Kodiac

      That is a lie dinabq. I have gone to the Mormon church for help on several occasions and I received the help I needed. While I was there at the Bishops Storehouse to get the groceries, there were other families there getting food that were not members of the Mormon faith. Bearing false witness is not a good thing you know?

      January 25, 2012 at 3:09 am |
    • Sam

      All church records are audited by an independent auditor. Do you know what that means big guy? http://www.exmoron.org for you.

      January 25, 2012 at 3:12 am |
    • kevin

      They give a lot, to both member and non-member. Electric bills, groceries, you name it, they've helped.

      January 25, 2012 at 3:44 am |
    • dinabq

      I know mormons and non mormons that did NOT get help when they needed it. Especially if they don't live in Utah!! To say ALL people will get help from the LDS church is a lie. You got help, great. Many don't!! The local officials get to pick and choose who they will help.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:02 am |
    • Josh Olsen

      Sure they are given an accounting of what happens to the money. The "accounting" is on semi-public display in almost every major city in America (and possibly many around the world). Ever seen a Mormon Temple? But its super secret since you can't go inside after the dedication unless you are carrying your "Mormon card," and say the magic password, or so I have been told.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:04 am |
    • Finance Clerk

      I am an "Assistant Finance Clerk" in my Ward. I can assure you I regularly write checks for rent, utilities and other needs of both members and non members.

      The Lord would not have us deny our brothers and sisters in need.

      Many people are also helped with groceries at the "Bishop's Storehouse" and employment training and even family or mental health counseling at the local "LDS Social Services" centers. Again, members and non-members alike are helped.

      "By thier fruits ye shall know them" my friends... charity is an eternal principle.

      God Bless You and Yours!

      January 25, 2012 at 4:13 am |
    • Wesley

      Wow dinabq, just wow. You're probably one of those people that still thinks Mormons practice polygamy and worship seagulls, right? Get your facts straight.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:18 am |
  7. Eric of Reseda

    And I thought Scientology was bad! REQUIRED to give 10% for their whole lives?!? To a church that is MONSTROUSLY wealthy?!? And they're tax-exempt a that?!? Folks, it's time to end tax-exempt status for churches. It's a MAJOR sham. These are little one-room churches struggling to pay the electric bill anymore.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:53 am |
  8. Barry Soetoro

    Romney doesn't stand a chance. He needs to drop out.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:48 am |
  9. wayne

    Mormons are just another breed of sheep. Funny how Christians love to hate on Mormons though. They are so insulted there is a big group of people that think they are right and changed around the bible and added their own garbage to it and became more prosperous of a people that other christian groups....haha. But seriously, all religious people are kinda dumb in a way to really buy into this stuff. Its all fake. Story of Jesus was told many times before he ever came around (and that's if he was real anyway). No historians talked about him at all, and NO the bible is not a good reference for that...especially not the new testament. People are so dumb and really are lacking something in their brain to survive religious brainwashing.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:29 am |
    • snookers

      Fundamentally Mormons are not that much different from other Christian religions. Even Muslims are not that much different in the final analysis. They all pray to the same God of Abraham....
      Romney does not appear to be a religious fanatic. That is more reserved for Santorum. That character really scares the dickens out of me.

      January 25, 2012 at 2:42 am |
    • billtouch

      The LDS Church did not change the Bible. They use the Standard King James Version that has been around since 1611. There are two other main books, the book that records all revelations given Joseph Smith by God in his role as prophet, and the Book of Mormon that was translated from plates left by a former civilization.

      January 25, 2012 at 2:57 am |
    • Sam

      The fact you are online at 2:49 am degrading people that try I make the world a better place goes to show that you a different bread my friend.

      January 25, 2012 at 2:58 am |
  10. dinabq

    Can someone please tell me who gives Romney is temple recommend? I would have questions about a US president that must answer to a religious leader in order to get a piece of paper saying the person is in good standing and to enter a religious building.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:28 am |
  11. george in texas

    it is beyond unfair to single out one cadidate for his religion and subject him to so much scrutiny every other day while giving a free pass to the competing candidates on it. it does not feel like we are in america when media do it; it feels like we live in some intolerant islamic country. pls stop it.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:27 am |
  12. Jonathan Michael Brouillette

    An action of small value performed with much love of God is far more excellent than one of a higher virtue, done with less love of God.

    - St Francis de Sales

    January 25, 2012 at 2:18 am |
  13. Nick

    So the more you pay the better the connection to god?Last I knew he didnt need the money.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:17 am |
    • ONE TIME

      The money is to help gods people....

      January 25, 2012 at 2:26 am |
  14. GOP 2012

    TRUTH ABOUT MORMONISM....

    http://youtu.be/aGQsYCBXqLQ

    January 25, 2012 at 2:14 am |
    • Cameron

      To really find the Truth about Mormonism go to LDS.org and find out why this is one of the fastest growing religions and more importantly why it makes sense to so many influential people across both party lines. "By their fruits you shall know them"

      January 25, 2012 at 4:15 am |
    • Dangerous

      Sure, go to LDS.org. They will be very objective...(wink, wink) Their billions of dollars spent to cover up inconvenient truths of their past will not easily be found, and certainly not on that website.

      January 26, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  15. Bullet

    If polygamy is o.k. how does that square with the "Thou shall not commit adultery" part of the Ten Commandments?

    January 25, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • Libmo

      Mormons don't practice polygamy anymore. Besides, what about Bible prophets who had multiple wives (i.e. Jacob) Were they committing adultery?

      January 25, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • snookers

      Polygamy was prohibited by LSD since 1890 and was not common anymore even prior to that date. Infant/child mortality plus mother's death by child birth was quite high in earlier days..

      January 25, 2012 at 2:26 am |
    • HellBent

      Well, if you're married to multiple spouses, it isn't technically adultery. Plus, there's TONS of major figures in the bible that had multiple wives. I don't know where you xtians got the idea that your god is against it.

      January 25, 2012 at 3:18 am |
    • Bizarre

      Romney's grandfather fled to a Mormon colony in Mexico to escape anti-polygamy laws in the U.S. His father, George, was born down there in 1905.

      January 25, 2012 at 3:36 am |
    • Bizarre

      oops, make that... *born in 1907

      January 25, 2012 at 3:37 am |
    • snookers

      Who cares what his grandfather did. Different times, different norms/customs. What matters is that Romney has only one wife. And as far as I know no mistress or out of wedlock kids somewhere. Not even a divorce. I am not religious but I will never hold somebody's religion against them. Only pick on them if I do not like their political views.
      Mormons are not some kind of outlandish cult like Scientology or Moonies but a rather mainstream Christian religion.Their BY University is highly rated. And if you ever want to dig into your ancestry, their genealogy database is awesome and free..

      January 25, 2012 at 4:09 am |
    • Pilgrim1

      @snookers Looks like you've been snookered! All one has to do is read the LDS texts themselves to see that Mormons aren't mainstream Christians, or Christians of any flavor for that matter!

      January 30, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  16. Jonathan Michael Brouillette

    Almsgiving proceeds from a merciful heart and is more useful for the one who practices it than for the one who recieves it, for the man who makes a practice of almsgiving draws out a spiritual profit from his acts, whilst those who recieve his alms recieve only a temporal benefit.

    - St. Thomas Aquinas

    Read more: http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/inspiration.asp#ixzz1kS4DKvNX

    January 25, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • keith

      Thomas Aquinas, don't make me laugh. All of these so called saints were in fact pig ignorant they had no more idea what they were talking about than my daughters pet dog. No I am wrong the dog is much more intelligent. Why in the name of sanity do we give any credence to these moronic saints who were so stupid they thought that the world was flat for christ sake.

      January 25, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • Daniel

      @keith You realize of course the majority of the world believed the world was flat at the time including many brilliant scientists and philosophers. It was just commonly excepted knowledge at the time. I realize your probably just trolling but tone it down. It's people like you that give atheists a bad name...

      January 25, 2012 at 3:46 am |
  17. migeli

    All we need to watch out for is Republican lies that further the interests of the wealthy the corporations the insurance companies and corrupt congressmen.Throw the bums and Tea partiers out and TAX THE RICH!

    January 25, 2012 at 2:09 am |
    • Sam

      Why tax the rich more? Dont they use the state/government services just as much as you and I do? What makes us think we can charge them more money? Tax them so we can invest in more companies like Solandra? What's your idea?

      January 25, 2012 at 3:17 am |
  18. migeli

    Lets keep all the religious nonsense out of politics and government.Separation of church and state.All the lies and allthe trouble starts with religious fanatics,Jews,Christians,Muslims,whatever,just watch it will start in approximatly 5 minutes.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  19. snookers

    I have worked with LDS folks and found them very pleasant/normal. When they are young adults, they generally go on a humanitarian mission, for a year or two. Similar to the peace corps.
    They are teetotalers , no coffee or tea either, nor cigarettes. And they do adhere to that minimum of 10% contribution.
    It is a male dominated church, however,like the Roman Catholic Church. And have only allowed blacks in since 1978.
    The only thing I have against Romney is that he is a Republican with a typical republican agenda. His religion is his private business. And I could not care less about his religion whatsoever.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:00 am |
    • teapot

      To classify Mormon missions as "similar to the peace corps" is way off base. There may be humanitarian side quests going on, but the main goal of those missions is conversion. Door to door religion salesmen.

      January 25, 2012 at 2:28 am |
    • snookers

      I dunno teapot. Most of the kids I talked to were not very successful in conversion. They spent most of their time doing manual labor, like building houses etc. Guess it depends on the area. Romney went to France for his mission(nice safe area). Roman Catholic is dominant there so doubt if he had many conversions.

      January 25, 2012 at 2:59 am |
  20. Jonathan Michael Brouillette

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St. Luke 9:49-50

    49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

    50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

    January 25, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • keith

      Just more mindless claptrap. There is no such thing as a demon, those idiots driving out the "DEMONS" were probably thrashing some poor SOB who was acting strangely. Today we would recognize such behaviour as a mental problem and instead of thrashing them would treat them and get them therapy. Remember all of those people were so dumb they thought the world was flat.

      January 25, 2012 at 3:17 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.