Mormon Beliefs: Tithes and Fast Offerings
Mormon doctrine teaches that all members should pay a tithe to the Lord. A tithe is defined as 10 percent of one’s increase. This was an ancient law, which is referenced in the Old Testament when Abraham went to pay his tithing to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18–20). The law of tithing was restored when the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants 119).
The law of tithing is a serious enough commandment that it is a requirement for one to be worthy to enter the temple of God. The funds from tithing do not go to the clergy of the Church. All Mormon clergy serve on a volunteer-type basis. All time and services are donated, and no funds are received in compensation. Tithing funds are used to help build and maintain church meetinghouses, temples, and other facilities. Tithing is also used in part for missionary support and for the educational and welfare programs of the Mormon Church.
There is no type of audit to make sure one is a full tithe payer. At the end of each year, one has the opportunity to meet with the bishop of the congregation. If you declare yourself a full tithe payer, the bishop simply notes that and that goes on Church records.
Fast offerings go hand-in-hand with tithes, yet they are separate. While funds from tithing go directly to Mormon Church headquarters, fast offerings stay within one’s congregation (unless there is no need for the money; then excess will also be sent to Church headquarters). The first Sunday of every month is set aside as a fast Sunday. All members whose health permits are invited to fast from food and drink for two consecutive meals. They are then invited to donate the funds they would have spent on those two meals to the ward (or congregation). All tithing and fast offering funds go through the bishop. He will then assess the need of ward members and allocate fast offering funds as necessary. If a ward is doing well enough they do not need these funds, the excess are sent to Church headquarters to be redistributed as necessary.
Observing both the law of tithing and the fast bring enormous blessings to Latter-day Saints. When one donates money to the fast offering, he or she does not know to whom that money will go. It is a pure form of charity and love. By paying an honest (or full) tithe, one is showing gratitude to God for all he or she has received and is willing to share those blessings with others.