home
RSS
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. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    I notice that this so-called evil cult of Mormons seems to produce some pretty good communities, families, and citizens. Matthew 7:16.

    January 24, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Whatever

      Duh, evil people do good things to throw you off the fact that they're evil. Whereas good people do evil things to demonstrate their goodness...

      January 24, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      I don't think they are evil. (I don't actually believe in good and evil) but I do think they are completely loony tunes and it is a terrible shame that they indoctrinate children into a make believe world of lies and deceit and start taking their allowance when they are little kids. Freaky and Greedy.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Whatever

      Obviously someone indoctrinated you with irrational hatred for Mormons. We may not agree with them, but expecting everyone to embrace your worldview isn't any less ridiculous.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Well, you don't know my "world view" so you can't really comment on it but whatever. I feel strongly that NO child should be indoctrinated into ANY religion until they are educated, critical thinkers and mature enough to make their own decisions. The reason religion is so quick to get those kids brain-washed in money. Money money money.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  2. tony

    There should not be tax deductions for contributions that will only be charitable to their own church members. Or to missionaries for the same church.

    January 24, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • copo

      Missionaries pay for their own missions. I served one, I know.

      January 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  3. Jake

    Of course, the gullible ones really believe that God spoke directly to their founder. The mental wards throughout the country are populated by many who claim God speaks to them too. They also were abducted by aliens too, so they claim.

    January 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Laurie

      I don't think there are enough rooms around the globe.... to put people away that think they have a direct relationship with their creator.... and receive personal communication. Mmmm... Nothing new from the dawn of time on your comment.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  4. Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

    Obama 2012

    January 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  5. drew

    I find the mere creation of this "news story" as bigotry – i think mormons are crazy but i also could care less how a candidate decides to donate his money as long as he can manage whats important – the affairs of the nation.. i expected this from fox news, not cnn

    January 24, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Laurie

      Thank you Drew.... Very well said!

      January 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • RL

      Then you haven't been around cnn.com for very long as this is the very type of story that they write...

      January 24, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  6. Not the Phist

    The Phist is a known scam artist. There is plenty of historical evidence that proves this statement to be accurate.

    January 24, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  7. Jake

    Bogus religion invented by some clown in the 1800s, using Christianity in their polygamy scheme. Then demand 10% of your money. Not different from the mob of the 1930s who demanded a percentage for providing "protection". Why are people so gullible is beyond me. Nothing but a money making machine. And please let's not call it charity, it isn't. Not with the millions they have invested in Bain finding it's way to the Cayman Islands.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  8. Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

    Do you want a Mormon president who believes this, or do you think maybe he should see a doctor...

    Multiple Worlds and Multiple Gods

    This deserves some explanation. Mormons believe that God created multiple worlds and each world has people living on it. They also believe that multiple Gods exist but each has their own universe. We are only subject to our God and if we obtain the highest level of heaven we can become gods ourselves.
    D&C 76: 24
    24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

    D&C 93: 10
    10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.

    Moses 1: 33
    33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.

    D&C 76: 108
    108 Then shall he be crowned with the crown of his glory, to sit on the throne of his power to reign forever and ever.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Laurie

      Go talk to one of those cute 19 year old boys... That go on missions. That is something they would love to answer for you. They can direct it into the correct context for you too...

      If you think Newt.... as a GOP candidate exemplifies the moral high standing of the right... Go vote for him. That guy, has already has his turn up to bat and shown his true colors. If the GOP puts him up.... Obama's got my vote!

      January 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Edwin

      How is that goofier than what other christians believe, or what jews or muslims believe? For that matter, add every other religion to that group. Even atheists sound goofy when talking about the origins of the universe.

      Basic rule of thumb: everybody's views on the universe tend to sound stupid, to the non-believer.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Whatever

      Yes, it certainly is horrible that their beliefs (which have nothing to do with real issues and their positions on them) contrast with your irrational beliefs (which should have nothing to do with real issues).

      January 24, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      I would NEVER vote for a Republican. Obama 2012

      January 24, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Shot the horse with the tongue sticking out

      Nah. We just want to elect some holy roller supported by people like you who have a real talent for taking quotations out of context and creating "split-rail" arguments.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      You shot me? YOU SHOT ME? W T F??

      January 24, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  9. sonofgadfly

    Giving money to a church or religion should not count as a charitable donation or as a tax deduction. Without that, Romney hasn't given s### away.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Laurie

      But.... the law says that it is... And all the people that give contributions to their church or community would disagree with you. I bet he gave more in taxes and contributions than say... .You! What did you give in taxes? In any type of contribution?

      January 24, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Geld

      Too right! Except his money helped fund scholarships at a few colleges..... and funded humanitarian efforts in the US and around the globe....(his church spent more than $100 million in humanitarian efforts (i.e. non-member charity efforts)......other than that, you are right. This is a good juncture for us to belittle his contributions, I’m sure your own charity efforts far outstripped his and had more of an impact in your community (as well as Africa and the like).

      January 24, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Calvin

      The Church was not Mitt's only contributions to charity. He gave millions more to other charities, mostly in the Boston area, that have nothing to do with the LDS church.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  10. Weston

    Do mormons just ignore the fact that Joseph Smith made the outrageous claims he did at a time in history when many people were starting their own religions and making similar claims? Joseph Smith was a business man, in the words of L. Ron Hubbard "The best way to make a million dollars is start your own religion"

    January 24, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • The Phist

      Joseph Smith was a known scam artist. There is plenty of historical evidence that proves this statement to be accurate.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • BFin

      your being ignored, because you do not make any sense!

      January 24, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Tano

      @Weston and @The Phist, ...I think you two should get together and form your own religion. After all, gays can now get married in NY and other states. You guys would be a very special couple, I can see that. I've seen you post some comments in favor of gays and gay marriage. I don't fault you for that, it's your prerogative! 😉 I think people should be free to do whatever it is that floats their boat, don't you? ..... Don't you just hate it when people tell lies about you? 😉

      January 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Laurie

      Who are you to say how God works in another person's heart? As my pastor says... who went to BYU on a football scholarship... Who is anyone to say God is not working in the LDS church? Answer.... Only God!

      January 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Sure

      And none of it ever presented, despite how many times this statement is made.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • The Phist

      @Tano

      Actually, I support gay marriage. Why? Because it has nothing to do with anyone except for the couples that do it. On the other other hand, useless, judgmental religions like to bury their noses where they don't belong. For example, the mormons dumped a lot of money into prop 8. Why? Because the church stupidly believes that marriage belongs to them when in fact marriage and/or civil unions have existed outside of religion, long before these cults were started.

      What I've said about the mormon cult is not a lie. The information is out there, and you don't even have to search for it. It's readily available. I recommend you get your facts straight before making yourself look like an ass again.

      And for the tools that ignore the history of Joseph Smith, please do your research somewhere that isn't biased. You'd be amazed at how much you can actually learn from an organization that doesn't get funding from the church. It is a known fact that smith was a scam artist. One such "translation" he performed was on something that was planted just to see if he was telling the truth about his ability to peer into his hat with a seer stone in it and perform these miracles. By "translating," he was proven to be a con artist. Joseph Smith got what he deserved.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Sara

      I'm pretty sure Joseph Smith never made it to a million dollars...or anywhere near it. Check the facts, but I think he lived poor and died poor. I've read that he gave everything he had to those who followed him. I don't making money was ever on his "to do" list.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • copo

      Phist, if you haven't noticed, Joseph smith died for his religion (at the age of 38), along with his brother and a lot of others who truly believed. He spent most of his life running from persecution. Doesn't sound like he made millions to me. So before you go spouting of your "facts." Maybe you should go check some other ones. There aren't any unbiased sources out there about the mormons. So maybe what you should do is go out and meet some real mormons. get to know them a bit and your hatred might cease.

      January 28, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  11. Iamamormon

    Excelent posts Tano and Mike

    January 24, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  12. Sarah

    How is it that we now require a candidate to be of one or the other faith. I don't agree with his faith, but I agree with his loyalty to his family. I do not think his faith disqualifies him as long as he is not trying to require that others are of his faith.Why are we so focused on this.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • The Phist

      No, but his decisions will be made based on his faith which in some ways forces his views on the rest of us.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • TRH

      What if a candidate chose to follow NO "faith?"....as in atheist?

      January 24, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • The Phist

      Then the odds are his or her decisions would be based in logic. That would be nice for a change.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Because it is the sad sad state of our country. Where what a person "believes" is true is more desireable that whether he can solve the issues of his day, be cooperative, and think of the country as a whole, rather than in party lines.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • phillip

      Thanks!

      January 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Whatever

      Because if the atheists on these boards are any indication, atheists are always logical and definitely aren't ever irrational and emotional. And atheists certainly don't develop their own beliefs and morals independent of religion that other atheists may disagree with. Seriously, do you even know what logic is?

      January 24, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Genghis Khan

      read about Hitler and Nazism and so-called "rational" thinking and where it can lead one to.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  13. Sue J.

    Very Christian of them to insist that even people struggling on a pension should have to hand over 10%. I take it they don't believe in progressive tax rates – in putting the tax burden on the people who can actually afford it, and sparing the people at the bottom?

    January 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • BFin

      @ Sue It is never insisted, It is between the person and God. nobody knows who pays and who doesn't . Maybe you all need to stop worring so much, If you have that much hate for someone that is different than you, don't vote for Him,

      January 24, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Laurie

      @Sue.... Everyone should contribute... no matter what they can. This problem was not created by the rich...they pay their way and are not a burden on society. I don't fault them.... I am grateful they contribute. After all, where would we be if they didn't? For someone who pays nothing in taxes to demand others pay to cover their share.... is selfish and wrong. You are a hypocrite if you tell them to pay more....

      January 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • phillip

      BF is right, this is not a "tax", but a commandment from god.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • RB

      Sorry Sue. It is not the LDS church that requires it but God Himself. If you have a complaint, please take it up with Him.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  14. jkw.back@U

    Not sure how I will vote, but would not fault a man for his generous donations, wealth, or his convictions.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  15. DoNotWorry

    Polygamy was banned when Utah joined the U.S. and polygamy became illegal. LDS members are required to obey the law. Let Caesar have what is Caesar's.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • j

      Im confused... so US law is considered a higher authority then Joseph Smith's vision from god commanding him to take multiple wives?

      January 24, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Yes, you see J, Joseph Smith didn't have a vision from God. He lied. There, now do you understand?

      January 24, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • j

      Wait, you mean he didn't find golden tablets in his back yard written in hieroglyphics that he was able to decipher using a magical rock?

      January 24, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Sadly J, no. And like you, I have to keep a stiff upper lip and move forward, forlorn as I might be.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  16. Laurie

    Interesting how multiple Presidents of the United States have actually looked at the welfare system of the LDS church.... because it works.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      It does work. I have never received financial help; however, I took a bad fall and received weekly help with lawn mowing, grocery shopping, even changing light bulbs (ceiling fixtures). I have also helped others.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  17. TownC

    What Mitt does with his money is his business. As long as he is obeying the law. He believes his the church so he contributes money to it. I'm sure Mr. Obama contributes or at least did contribute money to a church and I am sure many atheists contribute money to atheist organizations.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Genghis Khan

      atheists don't believe in charity and helping others at one's own expense. they believe humans are just like any other animal. see Hitler and nazi ideology for example of atheism in practice.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  18. Weston

    Mormons also have changed doctrine (which they provide "reasons" for but its all pretty obvious) concerning polygamy and racism. It seems as soon as something is no longer socially acceptable, they change doctrine to keep it PC

    January 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • To rob

      I don't think you really know what you are talking about. You should do your homework befire you start something.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • The Phist

      Oh, like when they had to change the part about their bloodline after DNA testing proved they were completely wrong and off the wall?

      January 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • HawHaw

      All religions do that. Christmas was once banned by several "christian" religions.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Mike

      Anyone that has read the Bible and believes in it knows that our Heavenly Father changes the way things are done when seen fit, usually through his prophet. Why don't we still sacrifice animals like in the Old Testament? Can God not change the way things need to be done?

      January 24, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Mike

      @The Phist, care to provide a link or something about what you're talking about...would like to read it thanks

      January 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • The Phist

      Yep, just need to do a quick google search:

      http://www.google.com/#sclient=psy-ab&hl=en&source=hp&q=mormon+genealogy+dna+testing&pbx=1&oq=mormon+genealogy+dna+testing&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=e&gs_upl=8046l13830l0l14079l8l8l0l0l0l4l356l1983l0.1.6.1l8l0&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=27b98cc0e6ed9254&biw=1600&bih=1136

      January 24, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • The Phist

      By the way, Mike, no. The bible is allegedly the "word of god" which does not change, or isn't supposed to.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Really

      @Mike
      We all know God was so perfect in the first place he has to change his ways when men change their ways. Even thiugh the bible says he knew everything that was going to happen since he created this world.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  19. Gordon

    It is a sad day when a man is criticized for giving 10% of his earnings to a charity or a church of his choosing. I wish more people would give 10% to a church or charity of their choosing. This country and our world would be better off if everyone was as generous as Mr. Romney is. Instead, we throw stones at him for being faithful to his beliefs. Let's honor the good instead of tearing down the good.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • jkw.back@U

      Agree!

      January 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Cllgestdnt

      Thank you for a smart and polite comment. There need to be more people like you on here.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Laurie

      Bottom line... Most people are green with envy. So if they can tear people like Romney down.. it makes them feel better about themselves. Our society is really messed up.... And our country is paying for it.... We have yet to hit bottom!

      January 24, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • The Phist

      Envy? For what? I would never want to be a mormon. Or follow any other religion for that matter.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Really

      It's a good thing to give to charity but what charities does he give to, the RNC (just asking). Giving to any religious place of worship is just a scam. Any money given to any church would be better off given to a soup kitchen or to the salvation army. A lot of money given to any place of worship is usually used to keep building more places if worship or sending missionaries around the world. Let's send some Mormons to Africa to teach those starving people in war torn villages that they need to follow a religion instead of giving them food or helping them with securing their villages from terrorist monsters. Also explain to them when they die they will be slaves in an afterlife. Just like in the musical "Book of Mormon" on broadway it's a joke, both the religion and followers giving to the church of LDS.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • copo

      Once again missionaries pay for their own missions, and missionaries do community service in addition to preaching. In what other church can you find 50,000 19 year olds who would give up 2 years of their lives to serve? Jesus is the living bread and water, and until you can understand that you'll never understand why we do missionary work.

      January 28, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  20. Tano

    ...Do you know which Church does not have any debt? yep, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the LDS Church (a.k.a Mormon Church). Do you know who takes care of LDS members(and non-members) who fall on hard times? yep, the LDS Church, do you know who is usually first to help people who are affected by natural disasters? yep, the LDS Church, do you know why nobody gets paid to act as a pastor, teacher, bishop, stake president, etc, etc.? because we all volunteer. What the Church receives, it gives back 10 fold, do you know why? because that's the way it's supposed to be. Our leaders don't go out and buy themselves BMWs, Merecedez, Rolls, and don't live in mansions costing millions of dollars. Nope, nothing like that. God forbids I might lose my job, but if I do, I know that if I can't find something and I'm on my last dime, I know I can turn to my family, and if my family can't help, I know The Church will, because that's what it is there for, to help spiritually and temporarily, if needed. ... Stop bashing the LDS Church simply because you're ignorant about it, and yes go ahead and vote, if you don't like Romney, that's OK, pick your candidate... but you all know that he's the best choice, even if you hate to admit it, it's true.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Mike

      Also, the LDS Church does not pay it's ministers, we all still have our own jobs or businesses or whatever. I'm not saying that other churches that "employee" their clergy are bad, just that that's not how it's done in our church.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Maggie

      Tano – Although I am not a Mormon many of my family members on my dad's side are Mormons. I'm going to post some of your comments on my Facebook page for other people to read. It's time that people stop complaing about Mitt Romney. Enough is enough. I campaigned for him during the last election and I will continue campaigning for him this year.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Mulehead

      So Tano – What happens to an LDS member once they figure out it's all a scam...that 'god' doesn't live on planet Kolob...that the 'prophet' Joseph Smith was a scam artist...that it really may be a bad thing to have your daughters married off at the first opportunity....what happens if someone leaves the church?

      January 24, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • The Phist

      Tano, so, Romney doesn't own nice things with his $27M income?

      January 24, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Rose

      You are right, I'm not an LDs but your church helped me.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • copo

      Phist, that was the stupidest comment I've ever read. He is saying that they don't go buying those thing with the church's money. I'm sure Romney owns nice things that he bought with his OWN money. There are not paid ministers in the church, but they do have jobs bro.

      January 28, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Advertisement
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.