The bishop of my Latter-day Saint ward wants to see me next week. It’s that time of year when all of Mormonism is taxed — otherwise known as tithing settlement.
Note: It’s not really a tax, though some phrase it that way. For those of us unwilling/incapable of feeling social pressure, tithing is a voluntary contribution of 10% of our annual income.
Ideally, tithing is paid directly to the church, which in turn uses it to ... well, I have no idea. It could be anything really — helping the poor, building more ostentatious temples, political campaigning against the LGBTQ community, or covertly buying arms for rebel armies.
Anyway, the Rose Summit Ward’s executive secretary — whose identity I shall protect by referring to him only as Eldon Hatch — said Bishop Tom Geertsen wants me to sign up for tithing settlement.
I don’t mind meeting with Bishop Geertsen. If I’m going to be part of the congregation, it naturally follows that I willingly subject myself to a certain amount of summoning.
It helps that I have considerable experience in being summoned and already have my responses prepared. In no particular order, they are, “yes, maybe, no and hell no.”
That said, being asked to sign up for tithing settlement is a new one for me. Before this, the end-of-the-year accounting has always been voluntary.
It’s up to the person doing the paying to decide what the 10% is based upon — gross or net. Personally, I don’t think paying tithing on money I never actually got to see is fair.
Since the government will put me in jail if I don’t pay taxes, then I don’t believe taxes should be counted as tithe-able income. If a mugger hits you in the head and takes your money, should you pay tithing on that?
People tend to see tithing in different ways, typically the one most advantageous to them.
I like the idea of imparting some of what I make to the less fortunate — especially since it’s a flat tax (or offering) that is intended for everyone equally. It’s 10% whether you’re a Wall Street player or a low-level meth dealer.
Granted, 10% tends to mean less to the rich than it does to the poor. It’s the difference between putting in a new tennis court or putting in overtime at a grueling job.
I pay tithing. If that offends you, tough. It’s my money; I pay tithing my way. Living in a split-faith marriage, my wife and I have decided to choose who will get our 10 percent. Rather than argue it along church lines, we contribute to various nondenominational charities.
Detractors will argue that this doesn’t constitute an honest tithing.
Them • “It’s the Lord’s money, not yours.”
Me • “Not until I give it to him it isn’t.”
In any case, I’m paying tithing this year. It will be in-kind tithing. The way I see it, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has all the cash it needs. If we can build all those shockingly expensive temples, surely we don’t have a revenue problem.
Let me just check my list one more time.
Fifteen pounds of lead wheel weights, most of a cow, two chickens, assorted loose rifle cartridges, some cheese, eight bowling balls, four dozen eggs, a cat and a bunch of taco coupons. That should do it.
Tithing can be a serious burden. I hope Bishop Geertsen has a place to put it.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.