Latest from Mormon Land: A new way to pay ‘tithing’ without giving a cent to the church

Also: A campaign to make holy underwear (i.e., temple garments] more enjoyable to wear.

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

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Giving 10% to charity

Latter-day Saints see tithing as a scriptural command. They also view charity as a virtue that “never faileth.

Now, Douglas Stilgoe is proposing a new way to combine the two: Let members pay tithing by donating money to “local and international charities” instead of church coffers.

His Change.org petition urges church leaders to put such a system in place. Nearly 1,200 people have signed on so far.

Not surprisingly, Stilgoe’s push points to the billions the Utah-based faith has accumulated in its Ensign Peak Advisors reserve fund as evidence the church can afford to let tithes funnel directly to charities.

“The amount of money the church has amassed, off the back of our donations, does not sit well” with some Latter-day Saints, he asserts. “... The church could replace the tithing income with the profits from Ensign Peak and continue to function exactly as it does now.”

And members could “strengthen communities, serve God by serving others, and build Zion where they live” with a new wave of contributions (in the form of tithing) to charities near and far.

In the wake of the media revelations about the church’s vast assets, other members say they already have begun following this practice.

Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess, for one, reported that she steered her 2020 tithes to humanitarian relief, especially organizations that help kids around the world.

“At tithing settlement this year, I declared myself a full-tithe payer and explained why none of that money has gone to the church,” she wrote. “... At least a few kids who didn’t have food or access to education will have meals, school and the basics.”

For their part, church officials consistently have stated that they use tithing appropriately. They have called the reserves a “rainy day” fund to help pay for, among other things, operations in poorer parts of the world — such as Africa, where the church is booming — and where member donations can’t keep up.

The money, they say, is less about stashing cash for the Second Coming, as was initially reported, and more about providing safeguards against more common events — like credit crunches, stock slides and recessions.

Most devout members appear to be fine with the faith’s fiscal approach. A January 2020 poll for The Salt Lake Tribune, for example, showed that nearly 6 in 10 “very active” Utah Latter-day Saints are against requiring churches to disclose their finances.

Meanwhile, Latter-day Saint Charities, the faith’s humanitarian arm, has provided more than $2.5 billion worth of assistance in 199 countries and territories since its 1985 founding.

A campaign for comfy garments

(Screenshot) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published photos of temple garments, which faithful members wear beneath their clothes. A member is lobbying for comfier garments.

The New York Times did an “undercover” story, of sorts, this week on, well, underwear.

Namely, Latter-day Saint temple garments.The piece focused on Idaho Falls member Sasha Piton, who is lobbying the church to produce softer, more comfortable and breathable garments, which the faithful wear as a private and personal reminder of their religious commitments.

So what does Piton mention as preferred for her holy unmentionables?

“Buttery soft, seamless, thick waistband that’s not cutting into my spleen, breathable fabric,” she told her more than 17,000 followers in an Instagram video under her moniker themormonhippie.

Her posts apparently resonated in Latter-day Saint circles, drawing thousands of comments and private messages.

Read the full Times story here.

More and more, the church has been drawing back the curtain on its temple ceremonies and the underclothing donned by devout members. It released separate YouTube videos in 2018 on the temple endowment and the often mocked, maligned and misunderstood garments.

Many Latter-day Saints “wear religious clothing, but underneath their regular clothes,” the narrator says, while the garments are shown. “Similar to ordinary modest underclothing, it comes in two pieces and is usually referred to as the temple garment. … They serve as a private and personal reminder of our relationship to God and our commitment to live good, honorable lives.”

The video has logged about 143,000 views.

Historic stake makes a move

The historic Salt Lake Stake will move out of its building northwest of the Conference Center next year, and a private, faith-based school will move in.

American Heritage School will lease the meetinghouse at 142 W. 200 North from the church. The building will be repurposed for its new use.

It’s unknown at this point, stake leaders say, whether the chapel’s distinctive stained-glass window depicting church founder Joseph Smith’s “First Vision” will remain or be moved (as it was once before).

The wards, or congregations, that had been assembling there — along with the stake offices — will relocate to other buildings.

The 14th Ward, for instance, will shift to an office tower the church is building downtown at the corner 100 South and State Street. The 25-story high-rise is designed with meetinghouse space inside.

Organized in 1847, the Salt Lake Stake is the oldest continuous stake in the worldwide church.

American Heritage School has a campus near the church’s Mount Timpanogos Temple in American Fork. Its Salt Lake City campus is scheduled to open in August 2022, according to its website.

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