My brother-in-law called me last week to get my advice about a tithing question, in part, I think, because I have an accounting degree. He had inherited his parent’s home, and needed to pay tithing on it. But it would take time to sell the home, if he decided to do that, and the value of the home might change between the inheritance and when it sells. How should he decide what the home is worth in order to calculate how much tithing he should pay? I know that this type of question has been asked a lot—my brother-in-law is far from the first to ask what the rules are. And actually, he isn’t the first to ask ME about what the rules of tithing. And the Bloggernacle is full of post after post addressing tithing and what the rules are.
Why does the act of charity, in this case, the transaction initiated by a beggar or panhandler, feel so uncomfortable to me? Mental recriminations if I give, guilt if I don’t. Perhaps it is because I don’t know the protocol, the expectations, and so I’m worried about an inadvertent transgression. But it isn’t that hard to act, to find a way to overcome my anxiety and hesitation to do something small.
A friend of mine suggested a few months ago that ward Elder’s Quorums should stop helping members move. Why, he asks, should we be competing with businesses in our area?
For the past decade, I’ve suggested that Deseret Book is one of the significant impediments to the growth of Mormon culture outside those elements involving worship. LDS books, music, film, art and other cultural products, especially innovative ones, are hampered by Deseret Book’s size, focus and control of the market for LDS materials. What can we do about it?
This past week I received a card in the mail from the BYU Alumni Association, asking for my help in “editing” my biographical information in an “Alumni Directory” in preparation. While I’ve certainly given the Alumni Association biographical information in the past, for some reason this time I started asking myself “is this worth my time?” and, in the Mormon context, “is this worth anyone’s time?”
There’s always an owner, of course — there are few concepts more disfavored in the law than real property without an owner. But when it comes to chapels and church buildings, the question of just who owns them can get messy. The latest example: a congregation in Orange County that is trying to leave the Episcopal fold and take its building with it. The congregation just lost the latest round in a fight with the national Episcopal Church and its Los Angeles Diocese over who owns the congregation’s building. [Hat tip: the Religion Clause; see also the Orange County Register story or, for all the legal details, the full appellate court decision.] This story raises a couple of interesting questions for Mormon readers.
About a year or so ago our stake made a move to improve fast offering receipts. The bishop supported this and urged everyone to donate to fast offerings and, in addition to the general admonition, he reinstituted Aaronic priesthood collection of fast offerings after church.
As a young missionary, the Lord saw fit to inflict on me one the greatest trials that can afflict a Latter-day Saint: He forced me to become educated about Church financial controls and auditing procedures.
The Saints are pretty good at spotting blatant attacks on the family. But, recently, I realized that I had been completely unaware of a subtle yet profound attack on marriage and family.
One of my most prized worldly possessions is a complete set of the Journal of Discourses. I love these books. I love the way that they look. It probably has something to do with my fascination with law books, which they closely resemble. I also love the sermons. They are a wonderful mass of exhortation, speculation, advice, brow beating, and occasionally sublime testimony. They also have a wonderful ability to surprise you. A couple of Sundays ago, I pulled down a volume at random and started reading a sermon. (I do this from time to time.) While I was doing this, I came across the following attack by Brigham Young on New Testament religious communism. No joke:
A recent story in Deseret News discusses yet another recent financial scam that victimized thousands of church members. (Link via Dave). This one, according to the news, was a classic Ponzi scheme. Church members are, in my observation, unusually susceptible to Ponzi schemes, multi-level marketing, Amway and similar programs, and other get-rich-quick devices. (I know, there are differences between Ponzi schemes and some types of legal multi-level marketing. As far as I am concerned, they are all dubious devices for removing money from the gullible.) I have wondered over the years why church members are more likely to be deceived. A few possible factors come to mind.
We have been interviewing candidates for a position as tax professor, but here is a question that I haven’t dared to ask any of them: So, how do you feel about reforming the tax code to accord with moral principles of Judeo-Christian ethics? If you haven’t heard, this is the premise of Professor Susan Pace Hamill’s still-controversial proposal, published last year in the Alabama Law Review.
It’s that time of year when the signup list for tithing settlement goes up on the Bishop’s door. My wife and I always try to get the first appointment, mainly because we usually live some distance from the chapel and we don’t want to make the trek back once we are home. So we had our session right after church today. Every year, as we go through this ritual, I wonder: what is the purpose of tithing settlement?
Utah has the dubious honor of leading the nation in personal bankruptcy rates. According to the Salt Lake Tribune 1 in 37 households in Utah is insolvent. I suspect that this high level of bankruptcy filings may be what has been behind some recent words on debt in general conference. In 1998, President Hinckley counseled: I urge you, brethren, to look to the condition of your finances. I urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt to the extent possible. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage. More recently, he said: We have been counseled again and again concerning self-reliance, concerning debt, concerning thrift. So many of our people are heavily in debt for things that are not entirely necessary. When I was a young man, my father counseled me to build a modest home, sufficient for the needs of my family, and make it beautiful and attractive and pleasant and secure. He counseled me to pay off the mortgage as quickly as I could so that, come what may, there would be a roof over the heads of my wife and children. I was reared on that kind of doctrine. I urge you as members of this Church to get free of debt where possible and to have a little laid aside against a rainy day. Obviously, there is a great deal of truth to…