Attentive members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will note the traditional statistical and financial reports of the church are no longer reported in General Conference.
While those reports have stopped, the church has not stopped applying its own financial advice as given to members including paying tithing, being self-reliant, and living providently.
Bishop Gerald Causse spoke at the 2018 Church History Symposium on March 1-2. His speech was entitled, “Financing Faith: The Intersection of Business and Religion.”
On Tuesday, he added more clarification and information to that speech.
“We are not a financial institution or a commercial corporation. We are the Church of Jesus Christ, and this Church has no other objective than that which the Lord Himself assigned to it; namely, to invite all to ‘come unto Christ, and be perfected in him,’” Causse said.
Causse noted that by following sound financial principles over an extended period of time, the church has grown from meager beginnings into a worldwide organization able to support its mission.
The law of tithing, donating 10 percent of one’s increase to the church, is an essential practice of Latter-day Saints, regardless of where they live, their social standing, or their material circumstances. It is also the foundation of the financial stability of the church.
“The Church’s Council on the Disposition of the Tithes is composed of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Presiding Bishopric,” Causse explained. “Every first Friday of December, they meet together to examine and approve the allocation of the Church’s sacred funds from estimated tithes and offerings for the following year. Holding such a council ensures that decisions are made in a spirit of counseling together, revelation, and unanimity. Together, they establish and administer the specific policies and budgets guiding the use of Church resources.”
Budgeting and investments
Budgets for the church’s efforts are specifically approved and funds are appropriated by the church’s Budget and Appropriations Committee, a subcommittee of the Council on the Disposition of the Tithes. Additionally, the Church Auditing Department, which is independent from all other church departments, employs credentialed professionals to ensure that church funds are administered and recorded in accordance with church policies and standard accounting practices, Causse said.
LDS Church members are taught to gradually build a financial reserve by regularly saving a portion of their income. The church functions in the same fashion.
“The Church applies this same principle in its own savings and investments,” Causse said. “In addition to food and emergency supplies, the church also sets aside funds each year for future needs.”
Causse added, “These funds are added to Church reserves, which include stocks and bonds, taxable businesses, agricultural interests and commercial and residential property.”
Investments can be accessed in times of hardship or to meet the emerging needs of a growing, global faith, Causse noted.
Some investments serve a dual purpose. For example, former church President Gordon B. Hinckley said “we have felt that good farms, over a long period, represent a safe investment where the assets of the Church may be preserved and enhanced, while at the same time they are available as an agricultural resource to feed people should there come a time of need.”
Causse said the church’s participation in the development of downtown Salt Lake City is another example.
“With its investment in the City Creek Center (a mixed-use development that includes retail space, residential units, office space and parking), the Church enhanced the environs of Temple Square and underscored a commitment to Salt Lake City, Utah, where it is headquartered,” Causse said.
Causse explained that paying taxes was part of the church’s financial responsibilities when worldwide governments require it.
“The Church and its affiliated entities pay taxes and other governmental levies as required by the laws of each country in which the church functions,” Causse said. “In the United States, where churches and other nonprofit organizations are generally exempt from federal and state income tax, the Church pays taxes on any income it derives from revenue-producing activities that are regularly carried on and are not substantially related to its tax-exempt purposes.”
Causse explained that church-affiliated entities that are organized as for-profit corporations pay regular federal and state corporate income taxes on their net income.
The church and its affiliated entities also pay property taxes on property that is not used for religious, educational, or charitable purposes, including taxes on undeveloped land and properties held for investment or commercial purposes. Government fees, levies and assessments are paid in connection with the development of church property.
“The Church also pays federal and state employer taxes and withholds and remits employee payroll taxes. Where applicable, the church and its affiliated entities pay state and local sales and use taxes,” Causse said.
Some people occasionally describe the church as a powerful and prosperous institution. This may be true, but the strength of the church cannot be measured merely by the number or beauty of its buildings or by its financial and real estate holdings, Causse noted.
“The key to understanding the Church is to see it not as a worldwide corporation, but as millions of faithful members in thousands of congregations across the world following Christ and caring for each other and their neighbors,” Causse said.