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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. Deb

    We aren't paid to do anything...we care enough about our beliefs to defend them against those that spread lies and mislead others.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  2. Deb

    I am having a difficult time with those claiming that the bible contains all there is to know.. Do you know how many times it has been translated and copied and changed? Do you think that God put all his knowledge into one book? Why did Michelangelo sculpt Moses with horns.. because the bible was translated incorrectly stating the Moses had horns instead of an aura around his head. I guess that is one they found and corrected eventually, but obviously they believed it. How many other mistakes are in there? Why can't you believe that God would provide another testament of Jesus Christ? It is really funny to me when people say that you cannot add to the Bible because it says so in Revelation..well then why were the other books added that were written after Revelations? http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/response/qa/adding_bible.htm

    February 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  3. Deb

    Please go to LDS.org or Mormon.org to find your answers. A lot of you have been mislead.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  4. JomJom Liliquick

    Joseph Smith didn't found the Church. go to http://www.mormon.org

    February 6, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  5. lared

    J.Willard Marriott....well known Mormon...presides over Marriott hotels and restaurants which serve coffee and alcohol. The church gets ten percent of the profits of substances they condemn. Sort of like one of Jehovah's Witnesses running a blood bank. I don't get it.......None the less......cha ching.

    February 5, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • kdf

      you say Cha Ching... but do you know what the money is used for? It does not go to pay those who searve in positions in the church as this is a services, not a paid job.
      The money is used for building new churches, updating old ones, helping members who are struggling, building homes for the homeless, purchasing meals for those in need, helping to pay bills, home and medical. It may be Cha Ching, but atleast they are using it to help those in need of it.

      February 6, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  6. CheeseSteak

    Mormons are cool. They get chicks and keep them. Lots of sister wives, Don't have to cheat on your wife to get some variety.

    February 5, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Melissa

      That isn't true and I don't even think it's funny. Mormons are excommunicated if they have more than one spouse.

      February 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  7. Antonio Moraza

    Guys:
    If this people like to give their 10% of their income, it is their business, if they want to believe in golden books and the special glasses to read those, it is their problem also.
    If they believe in polygamy well what can I say about it?, I just say, let it go guys!!!!

    February 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • CheeseSteak

      Doesn't bother me one iota. I got one wife and that's as much as I can handle, but if you're up for it dude, get five or ten. That's up to you and your source of cheap Viagra

      February 5, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  8. CoCoDol52

    Scott, well the History speaks for itself, Deut.28v68, slave ships, prophecy fulfilled. And TJ1776, This is not my saying take it up with the Heavenly Creator YHWH of host, for He is saying do no images, picture, statues, of jeus,mary, none, etc. in Deut.4, and in Deut.32v17, He had Moses to warn the people of the (newly) raised strange gods that their future generations will go into in the latter days. So, what do you want from me. See YHWH is the spirituality of righteousness, and peace of all mankind no matter the skin, no indifference, no greed, no poverty, its definitely not a religion, religions divide folk for gain. YHWH is our Life, common sense should explain that He's our Creator YHWH, so wouldn't He know what is good for us?, and He ask us to do the Law of Life, in Deut. 32v45-47 for our own good to live right by, and eat right by. Not these GMOs what you should be freaking out about. Scross just what I mean the controlling of the masses.

    February 5, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • CheeseSteak

      Did you actually read what you wrote? It was like having a five-year old explain Quantum Mechanics. You made no sense whatsoever. I hope most Mormons are brighter that you.

      February 5, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  9. JC

    MAGIC UNDERWEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 5, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • kdf

      and there have been many saved by them

      February 6, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  10. cindy

    It is true...you MUST pay the 10% or you cannot go into the temple. It's like having to pay to go to heaven. No thank you!

    February 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • DAVE

      YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PAY IF YOU HAVE A NICE BUTT

      February 5, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  11. BigJohn4USA

    Not reading the article and not being Mormon either.
    I was just wondering if CNN wold do a story
    "HOW DOES THIS MUSLIM HONOR KILLING THINGY WORK?"

    February 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  12. GRS62

    "And there's never any variation on the 10%, whether you're on welfare or you're a millionaire."
    Good to know our tax dollars are funding yet another religion.

    February 5, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • c4k3

      What's wrong with donating to a church that gives charity worldwide? It's great to know that some money goes out to helping the hungry, the sick, and survivors of natural disasters and stuff like that. Overlooking that and assuming that this is money going to just "another religion" is a mistake.

      February 5, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • lds

      not true the ten percent must be somthing you have earned.and i only have one wife thats all i can affored.lol

      February 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  13. 21k

    how's it work? you give 10% of your income to the church, and they keep you supplied with stories about magic gold plates and special long underwear to keep you soul in.

    February 5, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • CheeseSteak

      Pretty much it

      February 5, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  14. Mike

    I recently switched churches and the registration form at the new one actually mentioned 10%.
    I laughed and I laughed !

    February 3, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  15. CoCoDol52

    CoCoDol52

    TO THE PALESTINIANS FOR 60 YEARS THE ENEMY HAS BEEN PERSECUTING YOU, BUT ALSO, YOU HAVE BEEN PRAYING TO A STONE. THIS WAS PROPHESIED THAT WE WOULD BE FOR OUR INIQUITIES. BUT HEAR THIS NOW, YOU ARE HATING ISRAEL, BUT WHO THEY ARE IS EDOMITE JEWS NOT ISRAEL, YOU ARE THE ISRAELITE HEBREW ISRAELIS CHILDREN OF YHWH WHO WERE CUT OFF FROM THE CREATOR YHWH FOR YOUR WRONG DOINGS AS YOU ARE DOING NOW YOU ARE PRAYING TO A STONE, FOR 60 YEARS IT HAS NOT PROTECTED YOU AND YOU MUST STOP THIS, THIS IS IDOLATRY NOT YWHW NOT YOUR CREATOR. AND THIS IS WHY IT SAYS IN THE KJV SO CALLED BIBLE, WHICH IS TRULY THE BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE IN MALACHI 3V16, FROM YHWH TO US IN HOSEA 9V13, THAT YOU WILL DELIVER YOUR CHILDREN TO THE MURDERERS BEING BOMB BY NOT PRAYING TO YOUR TRUE CREATOR YHWH. GET OUT OF THAT IDOLATRY ISLAM AND ALL RELIGIONS, THEY ARE NOT FROM, YHWH, THE STRONG ONE. TAKE HEED, WAKE UP TO THE TRUTH AND RETURN TO YHWH IN MALACHI 3V7.

    February 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Scot H. Nichols

      Freak- stop with the all CAPS and take your crazy elsewhere. Only children believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. Grow up.

      February 5, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • CoCoDol52

      According to YHWH the Creator in His good book people in the book of remembrance in Malachi 3v16, the so called OT, it says in Jeremiah 10, that the brutish, foolish men who wrote of the golden plates of doctrines are of lies, and vanities, and this too mormon, is idolatry, it is of man as most religions are, and not of YHWH the Almighty who created it all, and son of man, of spirituality, and righteousness for peace. This is why we the world is in a tumult today, misleading flocks, GMos, greed, etc.etc....

      February 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • CheeseSteak

      Goofball

      February 5, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  16. TJeff1776

    Anyone, REPEAT..anyone publicly finding fault with anothers religion is plainly STUPID. Nor does praising them in other areas excuse the stupidity. It overshadows anything else they say OR DO.

    February 3, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • govspy

      What if we publicly find fault with ALL organized religion?

      February 4, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • c4k3

      @govspy It's pretty sad if you find fault with ALL organized groups that encourage people to live good lives by being kind to others and working hard to improve their societies. What kind of person are you?

      February 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Scot H. Nichols

      Yes- it's fine to believe whatever brand of crazy religion you want, but why should I subsidize it through their tax exempt status? Tax ALL religions. The Catholic Church for example is the single largest land owner in the United States, and they don't contribute a dime towards the roads, bridges and other infrastructure that allows their congregations to attend their churches. As a non-believer, I'm sick of subsidizing these cults and their money making schemes. Tax them all. And by the way, anyone who gives 10% of their income if they are on welfare is an insult to those of us who pay the tax that provides their welfare income.

      February 5, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • CheeseSteak

      All religion is man-made BS.

      Amen

      February 5, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  17. govspy

    And this is how you know the Mormon religion is a scam.

    February 3, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Sross

      Sweetie: they are ALL scams! Just some religions are deemed the status quo while less popular ones are cults. The Catholics sell plenty of crazy every day. They sure do think that they have a right to decide how me and my daughter use our uteruses. They expect their members to pony up plenty to keep their scammer in chief in gorgeous stupid had and plenty of jewlery too.

      February 5, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • govspy

      I know they are all scams. But since we deal with a lot of Christians on here, I start with baby steps. If you can convince a Christian that Mormonism is a scam, it's not that far of a stretch for them to realize their own "faith" is a scam as well.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  18. Dave

    Forced???? Wrong, it is up to the individual and always has been. This is pure bunk.

    February 3, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  19. ljm

    If you want to know what Mormons believe perhaps you should go to their website lds.org.

    I for one will welcome my vewwy scewwy Mormon overlords.

    "Ronald Reagan truly admired the Latter-day Saints. His administration included more members of the Church than any other American president, ever. Three of us, David Fischer, Gregory Newell and I, served on his personal White House staff. Richard Wirthlin was his chief strategist. Ted Bell served as Secretary of Education, Angela Buchanan was Treasurer, Rex Lee was Solicitor General. His White House included Roger Porter, Brent Scowcroft, Richard Beal, Blake Parish, Jon Huntsman Jr., Dodie Borup and Rocky Kuonen, and there were many other Latter-day Saints throughout his Administration. President Thomas S. Monson served on a Presidential Commission on Volunteerism. Others were ambassadors. LDS senators and representatives were held in special regard, and the Tabernacle Choir was his special inaugural guest." -Stephen M. Studdert, Special Assistant to President Reagan
    Source: "President Reagan respected Church," Church News

    February 3, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • c

      Nobody is saying the Mormans aren't good smart patriotic people; it's the blantant lies and plagarisms in the religion that are troubling to Bible and non Bible believing people.

      February 3, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • abinadi

      c, what are you talking about? What lies, what plagiarisms? Our doctrines agree exactly with the Bible. Have you even read the Bible?

      February 3, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • ljm

      c said:Nobody is saying the Mormans aren't good smart patriotic people; it's the blantant lies and plagarisms in the religion that are troubling to Bible and non Bible believing people.

      Then don't vote for the Mormon religion.

      February 3, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • c4k3

      @c and anybody that claims the mormon religion to be full of blatant lies and plagarism is either a blatant liar or uninformed. Go read the Bible – it might inform you more about mormon beliefs. After you do that, go read the book of mormon – you'll learn the same basic things from a different point of view.

      February 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Scot H. Nichols

      OK- this message board is populated with Mormon speech police. They are paid to try and make their point that Mormonism isn't just another cult like Scientology. We call these people trolls. Anytime there is a story about Mormonism, these paid posters flock to the comment section. Pitiful.

      February 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Ikua

      @ Scot: Scot, that is not true. The church does not pay individuals to defend Mormonism. If one were to into a public area and spread comments about you that were untrue, would you not feel to defend yourself? Or would you need to be paid? Mormons are simply responding in defense to what we know to be right and true. You are welcome to learn more directly about us if you feel you have misunderstood anything @ http://www.mormon.org.

      February 6, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  20. finergilr

    Repubs are such hypocrites! When a REAL christian like Obama shows his love thru actions, its hard for them to understand.....thats why I will NEVER vote Republican again!

    February 3, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • CheeseSteak

      Most excellent

      February 5, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Ikua

      I respect your views and opinion, but republicans and democrats are PEOPLE just like any other person. Vote for PEOPLE, not parties

      February 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • whosyourdaddy

      finergilr, you are an idiot!!! "Obama shows his love thru his actions"...Really? Obama hasnt shown anything except greater economic debt and that he has put more people on welfare...the democratic view is to keep the poor on welfare and otherwise dependent on the govt, so the democrats can continue to win these people's votes. Let's give illegals all the welfare they need and a vote, too. Republicans want to see America as a free market economy and make people work for a iving, not encourage people to stay on welfare because it is easier than working. Why not teach people to get off welfare? I dont see current admin's programs doing this.

      February 6, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
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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.