If you aren’t a member of the Mormon Church (officially The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), you may not be familiar with tithes and offerings. A tithe is a tenth of your income and Mormons are to pay that amount to the Church. If you aren’t a member, that may seem strange to you. Why would anyone give up that much money voluntarily and get nothing for it in return?
First, the money goes to projects that help the entire Church and all members. Clergy aren’t paid in the Mormon Church. Church leaders are expected to support themselves by other means; all service is voluntary. The money goes to building Church meetinghouses and Mormon temples around the world, to fund translating and publishing the scriptures in many different languages. Family history (finding your ancestors, sometimes up to hundreds of years in the past) is also funded by tithing, as are the printing and distribution of Church materials to members and others. Tithing also funds some Mormon missionary work and instruction courses like Seminary and Institute for young adults.
So, tithing funds a great deal within the Church, and that’s one reason to pay it. Tithing benefits the whole Church, but that’s not the only benefit.
Mormons believe that everything belongs to God and that everything we have we owe to Him. In returning 10 percent of our income to Him, we not only give Him the little He asks for in return, but we show our gratitude for everything He has done for us. Tithing should always be paid in the spirit of gratitude. It represents that far larger 90 percent we keep along with all our other blessings.
When we pay tithing, the Lord blesses us more, so we’re really not losing anything. There are many stories of people paying their tithing when they didn’t think they could afford to who receive far more money that month than they expected, or who have other people come to their aid, or who get a new job when they need one. Not all blessings from paying tithing are material. Blessings can come in the form of having a new and better understanding of something or someone, or simply of coming closer to God through obedience. Obedience always, always leads to blessings.
Offerings are slightly different than tithing. The most common offering is the fast offering. One Sunday a month, members refrain from eating for two meals. These fasts are given for a purpose—they begin and end with a prayer asking for help with a specific need. Mormons often fast for the sick or struggling among their family and friends (or for themselves if they’re sick or struggling). They might fast to understand something that they don’t understand or to have a quesiton answered. In any case, fasting with purpose brings the faster closer to God.
After the fast, a fast offering is made. While tithing is for the building up of the Church, fast offerings are for the building up of the poor in one’s own congregation. A fast offering is supposed to represent the amount of money one would have spent on food (although it can be far more generous than that).