Latest from Mormon Land: Should ‘tithing’ be the same percentage for all?

Also: Supreme Court sides with LDS Church in two major rulings; new video offers mental health help; NAACP ally calls for Black reparations.

The Mormon Land newsletter is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Support us on Patreon and get the full newsletter, exclusive access to Tribune subscriber-only religion content and podcast transcripts.

Graduated tithing

Tithing. All members across the board are taught to pay 10% of their income to the church. On the surface it seems equitable, fair, a sort of flat tax on the faithful.

But is it?

“It is hugely regressive,” argues blogger Bishop Bill in a Wheat & Tares post. “A single parent with three jobs to make ends meet feels the pain of paying 10% much more than [wealthy Utah Sen.] Mitt Romney. In fact, it does NOT hurt Mitt at all to pay $1 million of tithing on a $10 million gain in a given year.”

Christ himself seemed to recognize that fact when he singled out for praise the sacrifice of a “poor widow” who had donated “two mites” versus the “rich” people who had contributed much more.

“This poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury,” Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark. “For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”

The blogger asks whether a “progressive tithing system” would be better and suggests a graduated payment scale. Those earning $25,000 a year would pay, say, 1%, members making $50,000 to $100,000 would chip in 4%, while Latter-day Saints pocketing above $500,000 would give 12% or more (topping out at 20% for members raking in more than $10 million a year).

Yes, tithing, by definition, means “a tenth,” but should it be more equitable? Would varying rates help do that? And would such an approach make tithing truly a “day of sacrifice” — as outlined in Latter-day Saint scripture — for the faith’s more moneyed members?

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Preventing abuse

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The London Temple. The faith has adopted a new policy requiring Latter-day Saints working with children in the United Kingdom to undergo background checks.

How British Latter-day Saint activists persuaded church leaders to change policy and require background checks of all members who work with children and vulnerable adults in the United Kingdom. Listen to the podcast.

Religion vs. nondiscrimination: The word from on high

(Andrew Harnik | AP) Lorie Smith, a Christian graphic artist and website designer in Colorado, right, accompanied by her lawyer, Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, second from left, speaks outside the Supreme Court in Washington in December 2022, after her case was heard before the Supreme Court. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filed an amicus brief in support of Smith's refusal to design wedding websites for same-sex couples.

The church notched two Supreme Court victories on the religious freedom front last week.

The justices unanimously sided with an evangelical Christian who objected to having to deliver packages on his Sabbath and ruled 6-3 that a Christian graphic artist can refuse to design wedding websites for same-sex couples.

The Utah-based faith joined with other religious groups in filing amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs in support of both workers.

“We and our members seek to live out our lives according to our religious beliefs and identities,” the church argued in the web designer’s case. “That requires the freedom to express our faith and to avoid affirming beliefs we do not hold.”

While the church no doubt celebrated the high court decisions, apostle Dallin Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency, has repeatedly argued that disputes over religious freedom and nondiscrimination are best settled through compromise and legislation, not litigation.

Mental health help

The church has produced a video to help members learn how to respond to others contemplating taking their own lives. The model is based on the three-step acronym: A.C.T., for ask, care and tell.

“Always,” the webpage says, “take seriously the warning signs of suicide and any threats to attempt suicide.”

Remember, if you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, you can call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, or chat at 988Lifeline.org.

From The Tribune

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The NAACP's Amos C. Brown, left, and President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the announcement of new joint initiatives in Salt Lake City in June 2021. Brown is the vice chair of California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.

The Wall Street Journal reveals how the church’s headline-grabbing wealth is paying for all these new temples. President Russell Nelson can announce temples anywhere he believes is essential — without worrying about costs — “because he knows,” Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé says, “that there are reserves to maintain these temples for a long time.”

• The Rev. Amos C. Brown, a key NAACP partner of the church, is calling for reparations for African Americans — now. “We’ve got to act,” he tells Religion News Service. “We got to execute [a] plan.”

• Tribune guest columnist Natalie Brown notes that many former Latter-day Saints signal their new identities through alcohol. She explores what science says about drinking.