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. mcineri

    God needs money. and lots of it apparently. funny how that works

    January 24, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  2. Okay, so I went to mormon.org...

    A lot of the Mormons on this board suggested that I go to mormon.org to learn the facts about Mormonism, so I did. I was particularly interested in how Joseph Smith translated the golden plates to write the Book of Mormom, and I stumbled upon an artists depiction of a young man sitting at a chair sudding the plates with his scribe close by. You can see it here:


    But when I rearched how the actual translation occurred from Joseph Smith's primary scribes Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdrey, both men went on record stating Joseph Smith put stones into his hat, burried his face into the hat, and spoke the phrases that would become the Book of Mormom.

    Emma Smith, Joseph's wife even stated:

    "In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us."

    David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormom said:

    "I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine."

    Given these first hand accounts, why doesn't mormon.org show the actual translation process with Joseph Smith's face buried in his hat with stones in the bottom?

    January 24, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Red

      Obviously, the church is embarrassed of the stone in the hat story.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Abinadi

      I think some misguided people might ridicule something like that and what would that add exactly? If you have read the Book of Mormon, you know that a simple farm boy with no education could not possibly have written that amazing book! It has changed the lives of millions and given them purpose and hope. Joseph Smith did something that all the best and wisest men that have lived for 2000 years could not do – he restored the Church of Jesus Christ with the same organization and doctrine that existed in the primitive church that Christ organized!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Usurpers and false prophets are always alone when they have their "visions". That is why the scriptures call for witnesses because the Lord knew that these things would occur. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13, "1 In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." That is why we have witnesses to Jesus Christ's resurrection. That is why there were witnesses to all that Joseph Smith said, "Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. "

      Three men saw an angel and the plates were laid before them!!!! Later, 8 more men saw the plates and handled them. This is the difference between Joseph Smith and the false teachers of the day. JOSEPH SMITH HAD WITNESSES!

      January 24, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Blinded By The Light

      Your post does not add one iota of what any reasonable person would consider evidence, that any of this is true.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  3. Bill

    The Mormon church is a cult honoring Joseph Smith who was proved to be many bricks shy of a full load.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  4. Jim

    That is why Romney is not going to even be the GOP nominee, we just scrutinize every little thing that he and the Mormon church do. While in the meantime, Gingrich is so relieved that people are afraid of even bringing up the question of what horrible things he has done to his past wife. If morals, family, values and religion matters in the political process evaluate both candidates. If they do not matter when choosing a candidate leave it alone!

    January 24, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  5. Spencer

    A lot of churches believe in order to be considered a true Christian, you have to accept the doctrine of the Trinity. The one thing I would say to that is, no where in the New Testament is it written a correct understanding of the Trinity is 100% mandatory for salvation. The word "believeth" is used many times like in John 3:16, but the Bible never says a correct understanding of the Godhead is necessary for a person to be saved. So to say someone doesn't believe in the "correct" Jesus, and isn't Christian because they have a different understanding, is not right in my opinion.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Blinded By The Light

      But it doesn't really matter since there is no evidence anything supernatural exists 🙂

      January 24, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  6. Blessed Geek

    More than a mormon, more than a mormon to me ...
    More than a mormon, more than a mormon to me ...
    More than a mormon ...

    Suddenly you're in my life
    Part of everything I do
    You've got me working day and nite
    Just tryin to keep a hold on you
    (back to refrain)

    Night fever night fever
    We know how to do it
    Gimme that night fever, night fever
    We know how to show it
    (back to refrain)

    January 24, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  7. Jimmy

    Oh yeah I remember why I never read the belief. The comments section eventually ends up not being an educated conversation, but agnostics or atheists bashing on religion.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Steve

      Maybe it's because you *believe* that agnostics and atheists aren't educated.

      Beliefs and facts aren't the same things.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Don't be a b!tch

      Stop being a b!tch, Jimmy.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  8. uisignorant

    Religious bigots still alive and well. The Missouri mobs would be proud.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Red

      I suppose you define "bigotry" as anything that doesn't agree with your narrow religious view.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • uisignorant

      No, it is the childish behavior and mocking.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Red

      Have you ever heard the term "troll"? Ignore them and engage with serious posters. I am an atheist who believes that most Mormons are good, decent people. I don't agree with Mormon truth claims, but that doesn't mean that I hate Mormons or any other religious people for that matter.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  9. Red

    At the end of the year members of the Mormon church are called in by their leaders to account for whether or not they paid a full 10% of their income to the church that year. I personally know people who have been put on payment plans to catch up. If they fail to pay, they are not allowed to attend family weddings held at the Mormon temple.

    The full disclosure goes only one way however. Unlike many other churches, the finances of the Mormon church (and most importantly the budget) are kept completely secret from the members and the public. This is a huge red flag for me.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:37 pm |

      mormons are such idiots. You'd think they'd figure out they believe in a lie sooner or later, but they're just so god damnmned stupid!

      January 24, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Ru

      @BAN RELIGION HARD, WOW! by your good use of the English language you have persuaded to me that you are not an idiot and that I should listen to what you say!

      January 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Jeremy

      As a libertarian I'm very much in support of Freedom of Religion. Mormons are free to follow their faith. In that vein I'm also a supporter of...Freedom of Religion which combined with Freedom of Speech I would say Mormonism is a near cult-like religion of space-loonies (I mean they believe Native Americans are outcast Hebrews and they wear magic undies) only a small step above FBI monitored cults and a certain "faith" popular among the rich that is known to sue people for libel (I think we know which one I mean).

      January 24, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  10. Religion is dumb

    Religion should be banned. It is the cancer of human society. More people have been murdered throughout history in the name if god, Allah, or some other fairy tale then for any other reason. Religion should be banned and possession if a bible should be a 10 year prison term. 911 would have never happened if it wasn't for this cancer

    January 24, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Marie

      OR, people should just follow their religion. Most religions teach love, acceptance, peace, family, loyalty....just imagine if everyone practiced as they preached. Wow, the world would be awesome.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • Blinded By The Light

      Some people do follow their religions, and their religions say to eliminate all infedels (non-believers). What do you do about these people? Give them a break because they are just "following their religion"?

      January 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm |

      No marie, no OR. Get rid of religion because it is cancer and every single believer deserves a trip to a north korean prison camp.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Religion is dumb

      No Marie. You need look no further than the old testament to see how loving this god fairy tale thing is.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Michelle Mormon

      I understand your frustration and surely it seems easy to see things that way. But remember one thing. It is not religion itself but the exploitation of it by power hungry radicals that generally lead to the hate crimes et cetera you describe. Christianity, as outlined in the Bible, is not a hateful concept. Those who have been in power and corrupt have used it to injure others for the sake of power. But it is not religion itself that does so.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Red

      Who the hell still takes the Old Testament seriously?

      January 24, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  11. go4it

    From G.C. on religion and god:
    ...But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullsh!t story. Holy Sh!t!

    January 24, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  12. Religion is dumb

    Ban religion.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  13. The Book of Moron

    All mormons follow it

    January 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  14. Annette Todd

    The Mormon church is often the first responder and one of the largest helpers after disasters and they have a fabulous Perpetual Education Fund to help educate people in third world countries.
    One person, quoted in a paper after the Haiti earthquake said that the two biggest helpers after the quake were "the Mormons" and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • The Phist

      It's called PR.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Marie

      Phist... PR? You think they gives millions and millions for relief victims, etc. for PR? Lol, they could BUY PR for less. It's called true CHRISTIANITY.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • Mormons and Scientonogists

      Mormons and scientologists share alot in common. Both gotta pay to join and have some coocoo ideas. Both go to third world countries and take advanted of the needy to spread their nonsense. Both take advantage of disasters as a pr stunt.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Glenn

      Why yes. The Mormons do all this "good will" without any expectation that they'll be baptizing more converts. It is much easier to convert for kindness than trying to get people to believe that the Mormon God lives on his own planet named Kolob, that the Native Americans are genetically connected to the Lost Tribe of Israel (jews who floated over the ocean in an air tight submarine). Or how about this polygamy colony in Mexico – where, I might add, MItt's dad was born.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • The Phist

      Incorrect. The cult of mormonism does not equate to christianity. The book of mormon goes against what the bible says. You've heard of the bible, haven't ya? It's the book christianity is based on. You know what it says? It says don't add to it. Ya know what joseph smith did? He added to it with the book of mormom, and all the other crap such as the book of abraham. There is no such thing as a christian in the LDS cult, period. If you think otherwise, man you're stupid.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • Marie

      Well, I'm actually a woman. And you're wrong. Period.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Mike

      and let us not forget the millions and millions of dollars they spent to try to tear loving families apart in california.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:45 pm |

      You are wrong Marie, period. We've got all the proof. You ain't got sh!t.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • 'Merica Joe

      That Marie chick sounds like a girl I knew in Colorado once...

      January 26, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  15. Freedomlover

    That worries me...that "Mormons are known for taking care of their own". It's true. I've seen it here where businesses owned by Mormons ONLY hire other Mormons. That's prejudiced.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Jimmy

      I think that they are referring to their welfare program. It also said that they have their own university. I also know that they are always giving food or helping build houses for their members after natural disasters.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • JohnS

      Talk of Mormon prejudice is farfetched. A close Army buddy was the epitome of honesty and compassion. Also, Brigham Young University is highly regarded academically and its students represent many different faiths.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • Michelle Mormon

      Interesting interpretation. I assure you that in spirit and in practice it means that we seek to look out for each other that all within our reach of influence may be aided as needed. For example we have a system called home teaching in which people visit each other by assignment every month, get to know each other, ensure that the family is doing well emotionally, financially, spiritually and the like. We also seek to reach out to others not of our faith in times of need. We have emergency supplies ready to ship out to victims of natural disasters at all times, regardless of religion or creed.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  16. Jim

    Its kind of funny how people are so quick to judge Romney's value system is being scrutinized but people are very cautious and don't really seem to care about Gingrich's. I mean through the media we know that he is very dedicated to his family and his religion. Yet Gingrich claims to be everything Romney is, but he has been divorced twice. And the second divorce ended because he was having an affair on his wife who, at the time, was recently diagnosed with MS.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  17. NYC

    #1 I support Ron Paul
    #2 Romney is running for President of United States of American..NOT the United States of Baptist, Mormon, or whatever
    #3 Everyone knows that many Christian religions dislike each other...born agains hate baptist, baptist hate Catholics... Not to mention Buddhist, Muslims, Sikhs, You people are lame
    #4 whatever happened to America being the capital of Freedom of Religion.... Loving thy neighbor, The story of the good Samaritan You all hate each other...grow up.
    #5 People should be measured by their merits, and ability to do the required job. I'm sure our men and women of the armed forces don't cry about having the serve with a capable Mormon or Catholic or atheist.
    #6 yeah Mormons were against prop 8... SO WERE MANY OTHER CHRISTIAN AND NON CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS... No one seems to be talking about that or burning down baptist churches.
    #6 Romney makes money (what a terrible thing in american) and he gives some of it to his charity of choice (again what a terrible thing).

    Vote for Ron Paul if your truly want someone who isn't having his strings pulled by political and special interest groups

    Vote for who you think is the best and most capable... And stop cry and mud slinging about religion

    January 24, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Freedomlover

      Look at Ron Paul's view on Martin Luther King Jr. day. Ron Paul is another bigot like most Republicans.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Jamez

      AMEN NYC. Thanks for a clear, cogent post.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Michelle Mormon

      I very much appreciate your fair and logical rundown. I admire Ron Paul in many aspects and wish him the best. You are quite right in just about everything you said. I would like to point out that it is part of Mormon doctrine to "Worship according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilege – let them worship how, when, or what they may." I respect your decision to vote as you do.

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

      Do they teach loyalty? You must not of been paying attention.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • NYC

      @Freedomlover. Unfortunately I don't believe everything that I hear or read on the Internet. I choose to do my due diligence before formulating an opinion. The media and government are full of disinformation in an effort to sway our ideas and opinions.... CNN and others are a prime example of disinformation and irresponsible reporting.

      @ Freedomlover and Others... Ok I get it, you hate republicans (and think they are bigots... I don't agree) and it seems that a lot of Mormons appear to be conservative... I don't "hate" liberals... I hate that our country is on the brink of a crisis and no one gets it!! We should be working together. It's like the mortgage crisis of 2007-2008 all over again.... Everyone thinks that home prices are going to continue to climb and big banks think people will continue to pay their mortgages... We all need to change our way of doing things. We are foolish to think that a new president will change the country. We The People need to change first.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  18. Man created God in his image

    Doesn't the Mormon church qualify as a hate group?

    January 24, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • noolibs

      Where did you hear that? you sound like you are from the liberal terrorist organization a real hate group.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Eric

      With a comment like that, maybe you and your family are the hate group.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • kayneo

      You are an idiot...lol, clearly you don't know any Mormons

      January 24, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Bugs Cauldron

      Yes. Of course it does.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Michelle Mormon

      I will take your question in good faith. No, Mormons do not qualify as a hate group. There are a great many rumors that have no truth. When natural disasters hit the Church is there to help anyone, no matter what creed, color, gender, convictions or the like. We love all people and seek the best in all people as well. We seek after that which is uplifting and try to share it with others. We try to do the best we can to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ from the New Testament.I trust that yours was an honest question and I hope you understand this sincere answer.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  19. Atheist


    January 24, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • noolibs

      Lets see now it seems like your education is lacking like your faith...where did you learn to spell..Mormon is the right way to spell the word and if you tax the LDS church you tax all church's but only s c u m like you wouldn't know that.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • PallasAthene

      Poor noolibs. You are casting the first stone, so to speak. If you are going to call someone out on spelling, you need to look in the mirror and make sure yours is correct too. It's churches, not church's.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Marie

      And then you'd have to tax every other religion, nonprofit, etc. Then who would do the volunteer work? Give me a break. Charities and many churches provide so much relief and help that the government couldn't begin to do. That's exactly why the government gives a tax break for charitable donations.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • 'Merica Joe

      The above girl sounds like someone I knew in Colorado once

      January 26, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  20. Fred

    'Taking care of their own' is usually a fancy way to say bigot.

    January 24, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • noolibs

      Taking care of their own means that they don't depend on the government for hand outs for losers like you who are nothing more than a parasite to society and you love your god Dopey...

      January 24, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Jamez

      Fred, your unusual definition does not apply here. They, Mormons, also donate millions is cash and "in kind" donations to people around the world, regardless of faith or lack there of. Ask the people of Joplin, MO, Haiti, those affected by Katrina etc. They can do this because they teach the principle of charity, the pure love of Christ, whose name they proclaim in the name of their church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Michelle Mormon

      Oh, usually. But not in this particular case. Take care of their own simply means that the members of the church seek to uplift each other, see that needs are met and render service to each other. We also take great delight in serving others outside our faith. It makes a person happy to help others and Mormons seek to be helpful as best we can.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:01 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.