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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. Carrie

    Under the Banner of Heaven is NOT about the actual, LDS MORMON church. If it has the word FUNDAMENTALIST attached to it, or FLDS, or REFORMED LDS church, it's the 'cult' that broke off from the original Mormon church & started claiming their own stuff, kept up the polygamy (think Warren Jeffs), and keep their little pioneer polygamist territories up through today. That's like putting down Catholics for their Lutheran beliefs... uhhh... no.... Lutherans broke off from Catholics & have their own thing going on. They're SEPARATE. Make sure YOU'RE learning facts, and aren't reading ANTI MORMON literature that likes to twist things like that.

    January 24, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • The Phist

      Please review the history of the mormon church. Thanks.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  2. pastmorm

    Romney made a HUGE mistake running for president and the mormon church made an even bigger one by buying out so many commercial spots. Now everything is going to be brought out. All of their secret rituals, avenging angels, treatment of women, domestic and drug abuse stats (not really the fuzzy warm familes they try to sell you on), the fact that their church is really a business....not a church...real history of Joseph Smith, how blacks are viewed as the children of Cain, how they "baptized" many of the Jews that died in the Holocaust (look up baptism for the dead...creepy and wrong) etc....
    Oops!

    January 24, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Carrie

      It's fine if it all comes out. That's kinda the point. It's not as scary or creepy as some people have been led to believe, which is why everything is coming out more in the media, so your comment (secret rituals, oh my!- you know, there were temples in the Bible, too, with sacred ordinances going on- why is it a bad thing?). You're free to know as much as you want, just make sure you're learning what's actually taught by the religion, instead of rumors or anti-mormon 'twisting' of the facts to make things seem bad. If you don't like or agree with something you hear, learn more about it instead of just taking one-liners twisting it to sound so 'crazy'.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  3. TOS

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

    January 24, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • LDS=Cult=Deceivers

      how did you post the video?

      January 25, 2012 at 12:53 am |
  4. JT

    It's so amusing to see one cult ridicule another cult's crazy beliefs.

    January 24, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Tim

      You mean the atheist cult ridiculing the Mormon cult's beliefs, or some other cult?

      January 24, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Bee

      The atheist cult is always busy deriding some body else. How else can they account for all that time they have in life?

      January 24, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  5. Duh

    Who cares about how much money he gave the church. Why aren't we reading about how Mormon's are required to wear special underwear, think they will become gods if good enough, get special levels of heaven's where they can live with their wives (who have no choice on where they end up). Do we really want a wacko to run the country that has crazy beliefs? Why not elect Tom Cruise?

    January 24, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Name*name

      We fear that which we do not know, and I don't know about any of this stuff but, these random attempts to debate some ones religious beliefs that show no signs of harm toward you, seem rather fickle.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  6. Dumb

    Dumb! We should stop this religion for worshiping God,Christ, the Holy Ghost! And using 10% of their income to do so and giving help to those in need that equals 10 times more than the red cross and American aid. This is a horrible idea to let this go any farther! Oh, I also heard that they are promoters of a strong healthy family and to be trustworthy leaders in their community and to give service to anyone in their religion or not. I for one don't want this cult to continue on! What next? They may even believe that anyone can believe what they want too, but continue to serve them and give them clothing,food, and even pay some of their bills! Crap I'm told the already do that too!

    January 24, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  7. pastmorm

    Hey everyone, I am a return mormon missionary that left the chuch years ago. Next time you get together with your Mormon friend ask him or her about their "secret" temple name. The husband needs it to call the wife to heaven if he still wants her after death. Mine was Boaz. Seriously! Boaz! The day I got it, I heard everyone in front of me and behind me get named the exact same thing. Bummer!

    January 24, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • potpotsie

      You're a retard.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Aron Martinez

      Hi my name is Aron Martinez im a mormon and i served an LDS mission about 2 years ago. I respect your decision to leave the church because that depends on you but that does not give you the right to disclose sacred information. I know sometimes things happen in life that can make you angry but that's part of life. Number one: God is not responsible for other peoples' actions, number two: God is not responsible for any failure in anybodies life.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Mulehead

      Aron....Sacred information? what, that you're all bat s88t crazy?.....sorry to burst your bubble, but that information is already out there....

      January 24, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  8. augustghost

    Religion is the root of most evils

    January 24, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  9. Richard Cheese

    So exactly who's dick is Giligoff sucking to get all these Belief blog articles posted?

    January 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • JT

      The Pope's

      January 24, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  10. AustinITguy

    These people are idiots, read about their non-sense for yourself

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormons

    January 24, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • SunsArchitect

      Why??? When did we ever call you out for being different, as if it was a bad thing?

      January 24, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • The Phist

      Sun, have you researched the history of the mormon cult?

      January 24, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • JT

      They're almost as crazy as evangelical christians.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Will

      Have you ever researched the cult known as Christianity? The whole "virgin birth" thing cracks me up.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  11. LDSguy

    Hey Phist, why R U so bitter at life? And who do you believe in? Probably just yourself. I hope that works out for you. I challenge you to support any of the facts you've posted. Please respond, and don't be a coward.

    January 24, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • The Phist

      Have you not read the history of your religion? Please respond. Don't be stupid. And by all means, why is it that of all the religious dolts here, mormons tend to be the most aggressive and spiteful when they claim to be the most loving and generous?

      January 24, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • The Phist

      Here's some information:

      http://www.exmormon.org/whyileft.htm
      http://listverse.com/2007/08/30/top-10-famous-hoaxes/
      http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/

      There is plenty of information available. Afraid to do a little of your own research are ya? And you assume I'm a coward? Talk about irony.

      I challenge you to figure out a way to cover up for all of the mistakes in the doctrine of the mormon cult.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Mulehead

      The Phist – I'll wait with you for a response........................................but won't hold my breath.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • The Phist

      Ask one of these morons about the Kinderhook plates next time one of them rings your doorbell.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      To be honest with you phist, once we learn that you care less to learn Jesus' wisdom, we are not suppose to throw His pearls to swines. I think all of us have gone the extra mile.

      Amen.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Mulehead

      LDSguy ..... still waiting.......................don't be shy.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • BigRed

      All LDS are irrelevant anachronisms of fanaticism and the first to stand in line to raise their arms to fascism.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • The Phist

      HeavenSent, we all know how psychotic you are. Pearls are worthless and don't really serve much of a purpose. Pigs can have them. By the way, jesus is dead. The pigs can have him too.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • pastmorm

      UGH! The typical trained mormon response...."I challenge you." Seriously enough with the empty rhetoric. We, as Americans have a right to call any religion a cult. But I challenge you to say that you don't really believe that you'll become a god or that you baptized and marry people that have been dead for centuries or that you used to have a blood oath in your temple ritual. I CHALLENGE YOU!

      January 24, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Name*name

      Who gives a rats ace what religion someone is, I have met many mormons in my life and they all have been wonderful people......key word people.... Not horrible terrorist or aliens, just generally good folks trying to do their best... What if we all tried this concept. Oh wait then we couldn't conspire hate towards one another.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Mulehead

      ......................................................still waiting......................................................

      January 24, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Adam

      Phist –

      You're going to read up on your so called history from anti-mormon websites? That's where you're claiming you get your true history from? Nice...

      January 25, 2012 at 4:44 am |
  12. Joe Smith

    Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know I'm back. I finally got those bullets removed. Been in recovery. It's been hell! Ha! Just kidding. I've got my own planet now. I'm a god. I've got a lot of kids. And my underwear glistens like edward the vampire.

    So, how are all of my followers doing? Good I hope. Yeah, I know, I didn't do a very good job of propheteering or whatever you call it. I have to be honest about some things for a change.

    First off, the book of Abraham. I sorta, kinda made that one up. Yeah. I bought this Egyptian papyri in 1835 from a traveling show and "translated" it. Did a horrible job, but people were stupid enough to believe in it. It was actually nothing more than funerary texts that describe events in the afterlife of deceased Egyptians. Hell, I can't even remember what the book of Abraham was about! Made it up on the spot.

    Second, the whole book of mormon... I'll let you all in on a little secret. I made that one up too. Do you REALLY think I had two gold tablets from the spirit world and then I translated them? If I'd known people would be so gullible I'd have stuck around instead of getting shot.

    Man, I'm dead. When are people going to learn that I just wanted money? That's how this all started. I used my seer stones for finding treasure, but didn't have much luck. So I started a religion. Mormons are REALLY dumb. Face facts, there are so many holes in this faith that I conjured that it is so obviously fake. Why do so many downs people keep believing in it?

    January 24, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • pastmorm

      Hey Joe, don't forget the fact that even though you were already married to Emma, God commanded you to marry a 14 year old girl and you did! Oh and then all those women that were already married...you had to talk to their husbands about that, but it all worked out cause they were as crazy as you were!

      January 24, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Aron Martinez

      Wow you surprise me. I would like to introduce myself i was a missionary for the Mormon church for two years in Mexico City and i changed dozens of peoples lives' for the better. First of all Mr. your WRONG get your facts strait the golden plates didn't come from the spiritual world. Second, people have all ways doubted the prophets and made fun of them. Noe was mocked for warning the people about the flood, Steven was stoned to death for preaching about Jesus Christ, Peter was rejected by many and was killed as well; even Jesus was rejected. It is no surprise that people reject the prophets of today either.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  13. billl

    no good

    January 24, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  14. Dave

    Go to mormon.org and find the truth for yourself...Please

    January 24, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Robert

      supplying a propaganda website is not the way to help people find the truth. might recommend the book Under the Banner of Heaven instead.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Mulehead

      Go to richarddawkins.net or project-reason.org and find the truth for yourself...please

      January 24, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Mulehead, when are you going to learn to stop viewing other miserable sites that only make you more spiritually depleted. You folks are so busy bashing Jesus, you never take time to learn His wisdom as you pick and choose what scriptures you want to rank on while never learning the lessons He teaches by cross referencing the books of the Bible.

      Amen.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • CptPolitics

      @robert: I am a huge Krakauer fan, but all you have done is refute a source of information that is published by the organization which is in question, with a source of information that was written by a fantastic writer about a group of FLDS boys. See the difference there FLDS.....LDS once again.....F L D S and then there is L D S. Even my five yr old son could tell me those are not the same,

      January 24, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Mulehead

      HeavenSent – Well I’m glad you ask – I actually attend a Baptist University, and will soon graduate Magna. Ironically, it was here that I became an Atheist. Several reasons – mainly the study of biology and the miracle of evolution, the study of the bible and its man-made origins, the study of western civilization and the progression of mankind throughout history, and the plague of all religions upon societies all across the planet. There are good people out there that may believe in a ‘god’. However, the vast majority of organized religions, with very few exceptions, have done more damage than good. I was once a Jehovah’s Witness, and if I was still one, my daughter would not be living as she needed heart surgery (and several blood transfusions – forbidden by the JW’s) at 9 months of age. It wasn’t god operating on her, but a skilled, educated surgeon at Duke University hospital. That is where my ‘faith’ is…in the power of education and reason, the genuine beauty of nature, the appreciation of ALL races of people. Maybe Jesus did exist, but probably not. Certainly none of the ‘miracles’ are believable. Faith in a god or deity is nothing more than a circular argument with no conclusion. I love my kids, care about people and believe that morality does not come a book. Hope that clears up a thing or two. Have a great week.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Baptists, atheists, and mormons will all equally burn in hell.

      Amen.

      January 25, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Mulehead

      HeavenSent
      wow...that's your response? Just curious, what religion are you?

      January 25, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  15. david valentien

    Now dig into what the Mormons did with the Humanitatian and other

    Oh wait, you can't they don't provide their tax returns.

    So how can we confirm that Romney paid what he said he paid. Does the IRS do a data validation on what people say they contribute, and what the charities get with their tax returns?

    January 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  16. jamie cox

    Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, gave a 1 Billion gift to charity and is a HERO.. Romney adheres to a Biblical principal and is vilified. http://www.tedturner.com/pages/STaylorGloverstatementRET1billiongift621102.pdf

    January 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Yes, it must have been the remnants lingering from his Christian upbringing. I'm sure if he was raised as an ape, things would have turned out differently.

      Amen.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  17. billl

    good example mitt!

    January 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  18. chopchop

    I'm sick of religon and politics. Who cares what church you go to. I would vote for a atheist if one would run.

    January 24, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      That's because atheists are to busy with the should of, would of, could of, while bashing every thing!

      Just my observation/

      Amen.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  19. billl

    why doesn't the fed charge us all a flat 10%. fair for everyone just like our churches preach?

    January 24, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Dave

      Amen to that!

      January 24, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  20. mfr

    Who cares. He can give whatever he wants to whatever church he wants. CNN wants you to think that is bad?

    January 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
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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.