Tithing.

The Bible commands that the people give a tithe of their increase. In the good ol’ days, this meant part of your fields, your flocks, your substance. In the Mormon church, it’s commanded that we give 10% of our increase to the church. We are told that everything we are given is from God, this was our way to give back to him- by giving it to the church. If we fail to do so, we are “unworthy” to receive the blessings of the temple.  I’ve paid tithing pretty faithfully since I was 12. It was tough, but I was taught over and over and over again three important things:

1. That we will be blessed temporally (financially) and spiritually for doing so, and

2.  The money was spent by the church to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless.

At the end of the year, you sit down with your Bishop (or “pastor”) and talk about what you’ve given in tithes. You are then asked if you are a “full tithe  payer.” You say “yes” and then everyone pats each others backs and you all feel super good about yourself. For three consecutive years an interesting thing happened. We’d get our slip for the amount that we had paid, and it was almost exactly what we were in debt on our credit cards. Times were tough. We were paying for therapies upon therapies.  Those THOUSANDS of dollars really could have helped us.

But it’s the #2 that really gets me. I only discovered that things aren’t what they seem with the Church when my stomach clenched all up at seeing the Prophet, my prophet, grand opening of a 2 BILLION dollar MALL in Salt Lake City that included such high end stores as Tiffany’s.  I’ve seen starving children. I’ve watched as children with special needs DIE in orphanages and mental institutions all over the world, not because there aren’t people that want them, but that there isn’t money to pay for the adoptions.  But there IS money to pay for a Macy’s and a Tiffany’s right across the street from the temple of God.

It reminds me of the money changers in the New Testament. They might as well had this on a banner above the ceremony, (from the Book of Mormon):

“Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish. ”           Alma, 31:28

The prophet could have read this quote right before he yelled, “Lets go shopping!”

In my search for ANY reason that this mall made sense to me, I came across this article:  How Mormon’s Make Money on Newsweek. Part of it says,

According to an official church Welfare Services fact sheet, the church gave $1.3 billion in humanitarian aid in more than 178 countries and territories during the 25 years between 1985 and 2010. A fact sheet from the previous year indicates that less than one-third of the sum was monetary assistance, while the rest was in the form of “material assistance.” All in all, if one were to evenly distribute that $1.3 billion over a quarter-century, it would mean that the church gave $52 million annually. A study co-written by Cragun and recently published in Free Inquiry estimates that the Mormon Church donates only about 0.7 percent of its annual income to charity; the United Methodist Church gives about 29 percent.

The church, that requires it’s members to pay 10% of it’s earnings to charity (i.e. the church) does not itself give 10% to charities. A CHURCH. I was not baptized into a corporation, at least that’s not what I thought I was doing.

The church gave 1.3 Billion dollars over 25 years. It spent 2 billion on a MALL.

Unless I can get some good answers to this, I’m DONE paying tithing TO THE CHURCH. I’m happy giving my money to charity because I believe that makes me a good person and there’s a LOT of good that can be done with it. That the church IS NOT doing with it.

 

The “Offended Out of the Church” Myth

The lesson in Relief Society and Priesthood today was on Forgiveness. This lesson always goes to a place that makes me cringe. A hand is raised…

“Most often, people leave the church because of something someone said or did that offended them…”

That is verbatim from my lesson today. Another hand raised…

“I pity them. How SAD it is that their testimony isn’t strong enough for them overcome what someone said. They are missing out on an eternity of blessings because they just could not forgive.”

Double cringe.

A survey was done of over 3,000  “Mormons who, having once held firm belief in the Church, subsequently lose that belief in part or whole.” Of this study only 4% said that being offended was their strongest reason for leaving the church. The majority of people who leave, this survey found, was for doctrinal issues. The entire survey can be found here: http://www.whymormonsquestion.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Survey-Results_Understanding-Mormon-Disbelief-Mar20121.pdf

Did you get that? FOUR PER CENT. Four.

People want to believe that people who leave only do it because their testimonies aren’t strong enough to handle the occasional jerk who says or does something offensive. Why? Because it scares people to know that there are issues with the doctrine that could be big enough to claim even the best of saints. It’s easier to believe that people who leave are bitter, hateful and angry.

Losing faith, losing testimony, falling away, whatever you want to call it is found across religions. I’m not sure though, if the stigma is as harsh other places as it is within the church. You hear it  A LOT: “Molly’s son FELL AWAY. It’s so sad!”  Members don’t understand how terrible this sounds. It makes the person who left sound like they are less. It makes them feel like they are less. That there’s something wrong with them because they couldn’t just stay true to the church. This is not true!

For me personally, the people of the church are the reason I still go. The members, for the most part (including the people who said the things above, they just don’t know better…)are wonderful people. They are caring. They are charitable. I love the members of the church.  I have had horrific things said to me on my other blog by members of the church. These things STUNG even more than you could imagine. But people are people.

I believe in forgiveness, too.

Who Am I?

For my entire life, I’ve framed who I am within the contexts of the Mormon Church. I come from a long line of faithful Mormons. Those who crossed the plains as pioneers. Who were sent by prophets to settle areas of Utah and Arizona.  My grandfather has many close personal friends within the quorum of the twelve. When my grandmother was sick, one of the apostles came to their home to administer to her.

At 8, I was baptized by my father. I had been taught right from wrong and now I was accountable. From here on out, my sins were on my own head. I had learned how to repent and was taught that it was the only way to truly be happy. The only way to be with my family forever. This was important to me especially, because at eight, my father had already been diagnosed with cancer. He would die shortly after I became a teenager.

I remember thinking that everything would change after I was baptized. That, like in Jesus’ time, the Holy Ghost would decend on me. I’d FEEL differently. I was confused when I didn’t. I remember my aunt asking me how it felt to be so clean. I answered, “good!” That was the first time I’d ever just said what I knew I was supposed to.  I knew I was supposed to feel different than I did. But I didn’t.

I feared that if I told anyone that, they’d think that for whatever reason I wasn’t worthy to be a member of the church. That my family would hate me. I was afraid that maybe the devil had his hold on me, and that’s why my baptism didn’t make me feel clean.

I felt normal. I felt like me.

I’ve spent the last 22 years fighting the feeling of just feeling the way I do. Afraid that people would view me as lesser, as a child of the devil, as anything than just ME if I didn’t say what I thought I had to say, do as I thought I should do. I’ve always been afraid that people of the church would hate me for asking the questions that have burned within me for so long.

Honestly, I’m still afraid of that. That’s why I’m writing this on an anonymous blog, and not my personal blog. A blog that is frequented by those I love most in this world. The same people I’m the most afraid to say these things to.

I’m not sure where this will go. I only know that I’m better in writing than I am in any other form. I need to write this all out. I need a place to collect what I am feeling, and then judge from there as to how to move on.