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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. Kenny

    Andrew-you said that the Bible is filled with unproven, extraordinary myths...can you show me some?

    January 25, 2012 at 7:50 am |
  2. Kebos

    Well, I don't know about occultist but I know for sure that Joseph Smith was a class A whack job killed by law enforcement as he tried to escape jail.

    And here we have the religion he founded, purely on a footing of fiction, to survive to this day. Why? Becasue religion is oike a virus. Very difficult to eradicate. Compound that with the chances that Mitt, who believes in all of its science-fiction and fantasy-history doctrine, could become the President of the USA.

    Doesn't that give anyone sober second thought.

    January 25, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • JimW

      Joseph Smith was not killed by "law enforcement" while trying to escape. He was killed inside the jail by a mob after voluntarily turning himself in and while awaiting trial under the promised protection of Governor Thomas Ford. You don't have to like Joseph Smith, but at least do a little research.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  3. ILoveJesus

    Joseph Smith, who "founded" the Mormon church, was an occultist. This is historical fact.

    January 25, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • Pilgrim1

      Well at least he was a h orny teenager who had a revelation that it was ok to have multiple wives, and he lost gold tablets!

      January 25, 2012 at 7:16 am |
  4. Anthony

    So he's ok with giving more to his church but not willing to give more to the IRS. Think about that for a minute.

    January 25, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • Kev

      Isn't that what right-wing conservatives in general believe? More religion less government?

      January 25, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  5. Pilgrim1

    Finally.... Proof he's been paying off the devil! Mormon is to Christian as Pork is to Islam!

    January 25, 2012 at 6:44 am |
  6. __________

    Bigoted CNN hates Mormons. That's why they keep dredging up Mitt's religion. I have never heard an whimper out of anyone in the GOP about it. It seems the only people who seem to be concerned are left wing bigots like CNN.

    CNN: They report. You decide not to watch.

    January 25, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • Anthony

      We have a guy running for president who gives more to this church than he gives back to his country. If he gets into office where do you think his priorities will lie?

      January 25, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • Kev

      How does giving 10% to a church more than giving 14% to the government?

      January 25, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Mike from CT

      Ant

      From NPR

      $42.6 million over the past two years and because most of it came from capital gains, he paid $6.2 million in taxes.

      From CNN ($2.1+1.5) or 3.6 almost half of what his taxes were

      January 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Dave

      Anthony – If you really understood taxes you would realize that Mitt Romney's actual tax rate is about 45%. He has already paid about 35% on his income. Now, he is paying 15% on his investment income.

      January 28, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  7. Em

    Mormon.org

    January 25, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Allow time for prayer

    January 25, 2012 at 6:26 am |
    • Thor

      Oh boy... but those Hugenots and Calvanists and such who murdered Catholics in the 1500's produced such a better philosophy for them... and the raping of little boys in churches, .... and the TV evangelists who absconded with so much, .... and the persecution of Mormons by Protestants...... all that is SOOOOO much better?

      January 25, 2012 at 6:32 am |
    • __________

      Sad they stopped before they caught up with your creepy ancestors, Thor....

      January 25, 2012 at 6:44 am |
    • bringoutyourdead

      demons try to confuse prayer with crime because they are terrified of prayer

      January 25, 2012 at 6:51 am |
  9. SCAtheist

    Tax deductable contributions to the LDS Corporation.

    January 25, 2012 at 5:44 am |
    • Thor

      ...if he can donate that much money and still have millions left over.... hmmm..... I wanna know how to do THAT. Better yet: maybe he knows how to really make things shake and move... Perhaps, just perhaps, he IS doing the right things to be successful. Maybe.... just maybe he can get us out of this mess? Maybe we can make him a deal?..... Frankly, we are pretty screwed anyway, so, what's the risk?

      January 25, 2012 at 6:35 am |
  10. RightCoast

    He practices what his church teaches....Novel concept.

    January 25, 2012 at 5:40 am |
    • Thor

      I wonder if that is why so many are condemning his religion and such? I wonder if those, who have researched him and his religion, have actually found that he is following a very predictable path throughout his life. Frankly, I have never known a Mormon to not be kind, helpful, friendly, .... and intelligent. All of these, and more, are included in virtuous action as dictated by his church. If you want to know what you are going to get, read the Book of Mormon. Being Catholic, it is no further a stretch than to believe that a woman rose up into heaven.... but, who cares about that.... I think they, who control the media and the politicians, are very afraid to see Mitt in the Whitehouse: He isn't for sale!

      January 25, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • Pilgrim1

      You're absolutely right he isn't for sale! He's already owned..... by the Devil and the "Prophet!"

      January 25, 2012 at 6:54 am |
  11. Kris in AL

    PS.....while you are working on proving those points, please prove there is now god/God.

    January 25, 2012 at 5:40 am |
    • Thor

      "Nous sommes tout les rois!" We are all kings in our own right.... we are all of "god" within us, as we empower ourselves, we are .... this "God" think is within you, and not some magical being floating "in the heavens"....

      January 25, 2012 at 6:43 am |
  12. aqa

    thats nice,now go open up a can of pork n beans and watch walker texas ranger Bill.

    January 25, 2012 at 5:37 am |
  13. Change

    Yea, all that dough can buy him a whole lot of Mormon pus*sy. Pevert!

    January 25, 2012 at 5:23 am |
    • Kris in AL

      Who is the pervert "Change?"

      January 25, 2012 at 5:29 am |
  14. aqa

    I long for a time when politician will distance themselves from religion to get ellected.

    January 25, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • Kris in AL

      Romney isn't the one "not distancing" himself from his Church or religion, it's the result of his releasing his tax returns and the media, like CNN, reporting on the contents of that return.

      Romney has not worn his religion on his sleeve like others have.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:28 am |
  15. Angie

    Sure, religion is weird, but this should be an example of what people dedicated to their community can do. For example, think of the community you belong to (geographic, religious or otherwise), and then ask yourself what percent you voluntarily gave to that community... Despite its flaws, i think Mormons are an excellent example of how caring for your own people should be done; voluntarily and generously.
    If only more of us gave as much in a like fashion, imagine the good. I'm supposed to donate to my church but i don't. Maybe after reading this I will do more.

    January 25, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • aqa

      so naive!the whole premiss of their(any religious group so to speak) philanthropy is to support themselves!sure there are some good hearted people , but they are being scammed off by priest who wear guccis, rolex and drive around in their lincolns like a pimp.this is all bussiness!!

      January 25, 2012 at 5:27 am |
    • Aqa -

      Away – it is a lay ministry. There's no glitz or glamour found in church leadership. It would argue against our very core beliefs of ministerial service.

      January 25, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • Thor

      Aqa: of course "church" is a buisness! Duh! This Christ guy didn't work as a carpenter for the entire time he was on this earth: His disciples collected money as do all modern day bible thumpers! It is evidentary when he scolded them for getting mad at an old woman who only put 2 copper coins in the plate. (oops! was I suppossed to mention that?) He said something like that was a lot of money to her, it was all she had... Well, preaching for money has never been a separate part of the "christian" religion and when someone preaches "the word" they expect money in return; therefore, it is a buisness. (duh again!)

      January 25, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • Dave

      Angie – just to clarify. Mormons help their own AND anyone else in need. Millions are spent each year on charity and humanitarian assistance. Also, hundreds of thousands of hours are spent on serving our communities.

      January 28, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  16. Joe

    Read about the Kingdoms of Glory in the Mormon Church if you are interested in becoming a God.

    January 25, 2012 at 5:02 am |
    • Kris in AL

      Try Matthew 5:48 (KJV) "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

      Mormons don't talk or preach about becomming gods/Gods.......we wimply follow Jesus command.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • Kris in AL

      SIMPLY.......maybe Freudian "wimply?"...haha

      January 25, 2012 at 5:35 am |
    • Dave

      Joe – Also read 1 Corinthians 15 and Psalms 82:6 and many other scriptures in the Bible. It is surprising what is actually in that book if you read it.

      January 28, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  17. Bill

    More religious bashing from the left! I can’t believe this crap is even a news story. Bashing because he contributes 10% of his income to his faith, really? Blind ignorance and hypocrisy surely is not lacking in the Democratic Party. They echo the rhetoric of fair share while stealing from those who work to give to give to many who refuse to work. They wish not to pay their fair nor work for their fair share but wish only to take from those who do have them ambition and drive to work. Clearly their policies are failing America and so they are left to try and divert attention away with this class warfare.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:59 am |
    • Cory Thatcher

      Does the left really belive that driving religion, morality, a work ethic from society will make things better? I can't wait for the election, Obama one and done.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:48 am |
    • SCAtheist

      The class warfare is coming from the people destroying the middle class. Learn to think for yourself, stop watching fake news, an give up the fairy tales.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • Thor

      Sorry, Obama is not going to be more successful just because he gets re-elected. Do you think the Republicans are going to give up and let him have it easy just because he gets elected? Sure, Obama has been President when some good stuff has been done, but; taking federal money and paying for short term fixes is NOT the answer. None of the stimulus money is being used today in ongoing and lasting projects that have concrete assets. "Programs" have no assets. Once the congress votes to stop the "program" the money goes away, and the assets are ... just not there. Congress and the President HAVE to agree on somethings (note plural for emphasis) in order to get some permanent changes made. Buisnesses MUST be forced to do buisness: ie hire new workers, expand into the American economy vice offshore, and WORKERS must be forced to stop raping buisnesses... unless you want Detroit to never recover. Unions need a relief valve to be forced to back off on taking so much from companies.

      January 25, 2012 at 6:56 am |
  18. rick

    Obama gave $10,772 of the $1.2 million they earned from 2000 through 2004 to charities, or less than 1%.
    Mitt gave $6,980,000 in '10 and '11 for a rate of 15%.
    Even ignoring raw dollar figures, the percentage that each individual CHOSE to give away is staggering. What you do with you money tells a lot about who you are.
    Obama can sure give a good speech about community living, but Romney has actually shown he lives it. If only more people were as dedicated to their respective community, whatever community that might be.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:59 am |
    • SCAtheist

      Your figures are wrong and most of it went to the lDS Corporation.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:59 am |
    • AM

      Mitt was "required" to give at least 10% to the LDS Corporation. Plus, remember, his income is taxed less than the Obama's because most of his income is investments (taxed at a very low rate), not actually from hard work. Not only does he have more to give because he makes more money, but his tax rate is significantly less.

      January 25, 2012 at 6:14 am |
  19. Joe

    the purpose of all the books in religion is to tame the hard wired wild beast in all of humanity. whether the words are inspired by a real god is another issue. nevertheless, if society lived by the t0 commandments and the Jesus Sermon on the Mount we would be all better for it. I am sure the atheists would agree.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:51 am |
  20. aqa

    i seriously cant beleive that this is the 21st century America after reading most of the comments here!come on people ..angel,demon...prophet... really?cant u people see that religion is the biggest hoax and scam since we started walking upright!!

    January 25, 2012 at 4:47 am |
    • Bill

      And all the walking "upright" without religion as produced the perfected specimens you find in “Occupy” Movements that have been running around raping, stealing, and leaving a hazmat area in their wake. I think I’ll avoid your clearly superior “upright” walking intellects (note sarcasm) and stick to association with people of faith.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:07 am |
    • Kris in AL

      Please explain the origin of matter (Big Bang result)........Thenn try explaining who life formed her on Earth.....the formation of the first single cell........DNA........gender.........egg or live birth........ trees which produce "winged" seeds..........

      You explain the force, chemical process, etc behind evolution (mutation). You explain how species which "evolved" with defensive or offensive traits SURVIVED during the thousands or millions of years those very unique, specific and necessesary traits "evolved."

      January 25, 2012 at 5:39 am |
    • Kris in AL

      PS......while you proving that, please prove there is no god/God.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:43 am |
    • aqa

      burden is on you Kris in Al! I Am not the one claiming that I Walked on water and rose the dead!!!extraordinary claims needs extrordinary proof... kido. stay in school

      January 25, 2012 at 6:12 am |
    • Andrew

      Have to agree with aqa here – the Bible is filled with unproven, extraordinary myths.

      January 25, 2012 at 6:18 am |
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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.