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LDS Greed?

I have said before and believed for years that money was the god of Utah Valley, and more generally, to too many Church members. Today I was taught a lesson that not only confirmed what I believed, but expressed a situation far worse than I imagined.

Our stake president spoke at our ward conference, to the Sunday school class (and this is in Rexburg), and told us some startling facts. He said that in the United States, college-age members contribute more per capita towards fast offerings than older adults. He suggests that this is because too many members are buying houses and vehicles far beyond their needs and money that could be going towards fast offerings and charitable contributions are instead making payments against totally unnecessary items of luxury.

So while I'm thinking about all the implications of that statement, he surprised us again. He said that on the Wasatch front, only 19% of all Church members are full tithe payers. Nineteen percent. Even if in Utah the activity rate is only 50% (anyone got stats on that?), that means that among active members only 2 of every 5 members are paying a full tithe.

We've had a number of discussions here on ProvoPulse about capitalism, welfare, etc. There seem to be two opposing viewpoints: those with money are greedy, and those without are lazy. Today's talk certainly confirmed the former. How is it that such a wealthy people cannot even pay the 10% the Lord asks for? How many members on the Wasatch front are struggling to keep their home warm, or feed their children, or provide adequate medical care? 81%? The whole talk was kinda disturbing. It is definitely worth thinking about.

B.S.

Let me be the first one to either say your Stake President is full of B.S. or you are smoking way to many doobies.

Why would a stake president in Rexberg have tithing statistics about all the people in Wasatch County.

Let me preface my next comment by saying that I am not from Utah... You people need to stop hating on Utah and finding any false statistic you can to show that somehow Utah Mormons are worst than the rest of the world.

Your comment is decieving at best. But hey, atleast we have a new article on Provo Pulse for the first time in over a week.

Evidence?

What evidence do we have from you? All we have is you word supposedly passed on from your Stake President. Who did he get the information from? Probably from the Relief Society President.

I know the church does statistics and when I see an official statistic released from the church about the Wasatch Front I will believe it. But coming from you...

But coming from you... Ouch.

But coming from you...

Ouch. I don't remember being one to make crap up before. But like I said, I'll check it out.

What do you find so unbelievable about it anyway?

Actually

I don't like siding with Mormon criticizers, but in fact Brigham Young spoke on his fears on this issue. He predicted that the fall of Utah would be love of riches.

At this point, I'm not validating Farker's statistics. Not doubting Farker's word necessarily, but even stake presidents can sucumb to the tentation of giving rumors as de facto information.

One thing though:

I have said before and believed for years that money was the god of Utah Valley

I think you're overacting that part a bit.

"There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." - Hamlet, Shakespeare

ha. NO!

"they" do NOT give the tithing statistics for utah valley to stake presidents in rexburg idaho.
knock knock farker...got a brain in there?
furthermore, greedy landowners that you as a student dealt with do not represent the vast majority of family households in provo so your first hand experience is at best biased bunk.
plus you sound like a fool.

I'm guessing that the stake

I'm guessing that the stake president who spoke was Phil Wightman. And he has the information because one of his sons is in a stake presidency in Utah, and the 19% number was from his particular stake, not the entire Wasatch front. I'm guessing this because President Wightman was my mission president and gave a similar talk at our mission reunion last month. He added some information that of all the wards in his son's stake, only 1 or 2 of them were self-sustained as far as their welfare needs, and the rest were subsidized by the general church welfare funds to stay in the black.

It's a bad situation. It's no secret that Utah Mormons are plagued by materialism, but there are a number of other factors involved. The economy here kind of sucks; there used to be a joke that to make a million dollars in Provo you had to work a million hours. And like you mention, we're not sure what the numbers mean --is the 2 out of 5 full-tithe payers number counting children as active members? Who knows.

But I think things are getting better. Bankruptcy filings in Utah have been on the decline for two years, mostly credited to the economy getting better. I'd like to think that people are starting to wake up to the apostolic warnings about debt, such as President Monson laying the smack down on home equity loans last conference.

question:

why is an attack on utah mormon culture always equated to an attack on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? this article is about mormons and their culture in utah valley, not about the LDS church or its doctrines. why is farker labled as someone who is bashing the church for this?

my bishop back home told me to get my degree and get out of utah as soon as possible when i left home. more and more i tend to agree with him.

Kopite is not a Mormon

kopite, you're a terrible example of what an LDS member ought to be. Is that how you preach the Gospel? By insulting and name-calling? Happy use of the priesthood there.

I don't want my dear religion associated to your childish attacks. Please pretend you're some of other religion, at least until you act like an LDS member.

"There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." - Hamlet, Shakespeare

Just to weigh in

I don't think anyone should be too surprised when we see Mormons emulating real-world behavior. The notion of greed is not unique to the LDS church, and Mormons do, in fact, give more to their church than nearly any other religion out there. Incidentally, several sources neutral or somewhat unfriendly to the Mormons have confirmed this; you can look

here:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week427/cover.html
for a PBS story on it

The book "Mormon America," by the Ostlings, also covers the same territory with much greater depth.

I would also suspect that the low rate of fast offering donations elsewhere in the valley as compared to college students might have something to do with the fast-offering guy coming around to collect from the college students, whereas in a regular ward you're just expected to pay it alongside the regular tithe. Per capita, I'd say college students might also pay less because they don't have family; in per-capita terms, a family of five giving a fast offering of fifty dollars (not likely) is equivalent to a single college adult giving ten dollars (much more likely).

Last of all, Utah is, overall, a donor state to the church's tithing fund, and the US is one of only two countries that give more tithing than they expend (Japan is the other one). While I realize this info is second-hand, the last church accountant I spoke to (as in, works in SLC, not a ward or stake fellow) told me that the intermountain west and northeast tend to be the donor states in the US; states which receive more tithing than they give include the southern states and parts of the midwest.

And lastly, I don't think people in Utah County (at least the ones I've dealt with) are inherently greedy (at least, not any more so than your average joe). I just find a lot of them to be financially naive, possibly a byproduct of the more beneficial aspects of Utah culture-- a trusting environment and parents who help their children financially. But that's just my theory.

I would agree that many in

I would agree that many in the Church are more obsessed with money and material possessions than we ought to be. However, I don't think this phenomenon is restricted to Utah Mormons, nor do I think that Mormons are any more money-obsessed than the rest of society. If anything, I think Mormons are probably less materialistic, on average, than those outside of the Church.

That having been said, I still think that it's accurate to say that there is a coveting problem among some members. Not all members, but enough to raise some eyebrows. In the past few months, tithes and offerings have been frequently addressed in my current ward. We've been encouraged to give to the missionary fund. The last TWO WEEKS' sacrament meeting talks have been about fast offerings, including one by a high councilman this past week, in which we were encouraged to give far more than we are currently giving, "even ten times more" in some cases. And this is in a student married ward. Even though we can't give as much as those in a more mature ward, apparently we're not up to par yet either.

What happened?

It seems the Mormon church of my youth was tied very closely with self-reliance, thrift, education, and taking care of their brothers and sisters. I still see alot of that. But I think times have changed. Every report I have seen in the past few years lists Utah in the upper echelon of bankruptcies and debt. Don't believe me? Here is a 2006 report that lists Utah as number 3 for bankruptcy rates.

In my view the thrifty, industrious, humble folks of Utah's not so distant past are going the way of the dodo. Look no further than your local church parking lot...usually a shining sea of giant SUVs. Something tells me that not everyone is paying cash for those things. Our benches are full of McMansions. Meanwhile church leaders continue to warn against going into unreasonable debt.

Are the spending habbits of Americans (LDS or not) what you think of when you hear "wise stewardship"?

I am not reccomending socialism. I am not saying that "all mormons are greedy capitalist slobs". I am saying that a church that prides itself on having living prophets that give direction for our day, should pay better attention to what they are saying.

President Hinckley had this to say from a conference talk in 1998:
"In December of 1997, 55 to 60 million households in the United States carried credit card balances. These balances averaged more than $7,000 and cost $1,000 per year in interest and fees. Consumer debt as a percentage of disposable income rose from 16.3 percent in 1993 to 19.3 percent in 1996.

Everyone knows that every dollar borrowed carries with it the penalty of paying interest. When money cannot be repaid, then bankruptcy follows. There were 1,350,118 bankruptcies in the United States last year. This represented a 50 percent increase from 1992. In the second quarter of this year, nearly 362,000 persons filed for bankruptcy, a record number for a three-month period.

We are beguiled by seductive advertising. Television carries the enticing invitation to borrow up to 125 percent of the value of one’s home. But no mention is made of interest."

Since that talk in 1998 the personal debt situation in Utah and in America has only gotten worse. The church leadership knows this and their website now includes a section on resource management.

That's it for me....I'm heading back to the Mosque.

Materialism

Sorry to join late to this exciting discussion.

It has been my experience that LDS people are generally more apt to try the "get rich quick" schemes. (Therefore, more bankruptcies) I think it may be a desire to get ahead/keep up with their perception of others.

There is also a PERCEPTION that material success comes as blessings. So, those who are more financially successful are so because they are blessed because they are more righteous.

Just my observations.

But hey, atleast we have a

But hey, atleast we have a new article on Provo Pulse for the first time in over a week.

ouch =)

I'm sure it's easy for you

I'm sure it's easy for you to dismiss the article by saying it's not true without providing any evidence to the contrary. Why would my stake president lie? Why would I make it up?

The Church gathers information like this all the time. I don't think it's such a far stretch to say that my stake president got a hold of it. But, if it makes you feel better, I'll see if I can find out where he got his information from.

I think you're overacting

I think you're overacting that part a bit.

Look through my past posts and articles. I have commented dozens of times on landlords, booters, and local people/businesses doing whatever possible for an extra few dollars. Maybe my experience is unique. If you knew me, you'd know I'm a pretty fair guy. I tip well, I'm a good tenant, I fix my own mistakes. I could not believe how many times I had to consult with an attorney (and ultimately won) because of the horrific practices that go on in Utah Valley. I'm not sure Rexburg is that much better (yet) but at least as a manager I have some control over that kind of crap now.

I'd hardly call myself a "Mormon criticizer." Unless, of course, you'd call apostles "Mormon criticizers." As you pointed out, they've said the same kinds of things.

Who did he get the

Who did he get the information from? Probably from the Relief Society President.

Please.

Utah's god of money

I wouldn't be surprised at all if Farker's stats were close to the truth. I guess it's a well kept secret that Pres. Kimball in the June 1976 Ensign first pres. message said that he is "appalled and frightened," when he sees where we are now and compares it with where we ought to be. He says that we are too covetous and calls us on the whole an "idolatrous people!" Given these sorts of comments by a prophet, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that money is the god of Utah. You're right that Brigham Young voiced his concerns on this issue. He said something to the effect that he is more afraid of covetousness in the church than all the hordes of hell, saying that it was this greed that would bring the saints down faster than outside destructive forces. Joseph Smith even lamented in his day the practices he saw of price gouging in real estate among the saints.
The Book of Mormon, a book for our day supposedly, more than anything else, warns us against covetousness. I once did a study of the Book of Mormon's warnings and the warning against covetousness came out more than the warning against pride (closely related to covetousness) and the warning to repent (2nd and 3rd places respectively). If the Book of Mormon is a book for our day, then it has those warnings against covetousness among the supposedly righteous Nephites for a reason.

If anyone doubts that we have a serious problem with covetousness in the Church, I'd highly recommend Hugh Nibley's, "Approaching Zion." He has very good documentation of money problems among the saints. It's a little outdated now, but I seriously doubt we have gotten better since he wrote it 20 or 30 years ago.

Yes, it was President

Yes, it was President Wightman. Sunday was my first visit to that ward, and so I couldn't remember his name. I also found out that he's a retired religion instructor here. Where did you serve?

It was his words (the 19% statistic on the Wasatch front) that I was quoting. I suppose that you could say that it only applies to his stake, and not the whole area, but I would be pretty surprised if the surrounding stakes were all that different.

Hey kopite, Shouldn't you be

Hey kopite,

Shouldn't you be sitting on your porch chewing on some straw or something, telling youngen's to get off your lawn?

Here's my message to your self-righteous childishness: suck it. I may sound like a fool; you're just a jerk.

answer:

Public forums are inherently filled with narrow-minded children who get off by insulting anyone they disagree with. As you can see, this is evident in most political discussions, from just a very few provopulse users.

By the way, I love the gospel.

Mormons should know better

It's probably accurate to think that Mormons are less materialistic than the the general public in general. However, we should also know better. You know, don't seek for riches, seek for the Kingdom of God... You can't serve God and Mammon kind of stuff. I think that's why Pres. Kimball said he was "apppalled and frightened," when he considered where we in the church are, compared to where we should be.

Anecdotal

I have been a Ward Clerk in 4 different wards and siblings are in bishoprics in other parts of the country. The statistics that he gives are generally applicable to the Church in any "Western" country. There are alot of people who like pretending to be what they are not in the church and unfortunately this carries through to tithing as well.

In my experience it is the "middle class" people that have the greatest difficulty in paying tithing. The so called wealthy can afford it easily and I have often seen these people paying greater than 10% in tithing, plus they fork out for lost of stuff that you wouldn't see from the general population of the church. The "poor" pay because they believe that the cannot afford not to.
For the remainder the difference between paying a full and a part tithe is the difference between breaking even and living comfortably, sad but true.

This is an observation not a statistic, but 10 people in any given "normal" (not student) ward will pay about 90% of the tithing take. The top 2-3 payers will pay enough to cover the ward budget and physical facilities. Of the remaining 10% over half will be paid but poorest 10% of the active members, with the remainder being paid by everyone else. In most families, unless the children have jobs, all the tithing will be paid in one persons name.

From the posts to date I think that the Stake President's comments were valid, he just could have used some tact and not mention the location where the stats come from.

For the record the Stake President gets all the tithing payment summary for all members in his stake from church headquarters at the financial year. It would be a simple exercise to create statistics from that list.

kimball

i bet j. reuben clark concurred with kimball's statements from beyond the grave too...right?
seriously curtis, is there anything you like about mormonism or america?
move to iran and join your muslim friends in the mosque and just shut up.
ALLAHU AL ACKBAR!!!!!

Manchester, England. And

Manchester, England. And yes, he's a retired religion professor. He knows everything.

Yeah, I remember him saying the 19% number, but I thought it was only regarding to his son's stake, which is in Draper. But seeing as how I heard it a month and a half ago, and your meeting was Sunday, I'm probably wrong.

farker

you a fool, me a jerk
i'll drink to that

i'm still at a loss as to why you and curtis only ever complain about 1) republicans (and democrats who act like republicans) 2) mormons (especially in utah) and 3) happy valley dwellers. fact is i think you're two bitter and jealous little self-righteous punkass wieners. "suck it"

(btw, you cannot peg me for self-righteousness ...i've admitted to being a class-A jerk)

go find a real cause...and bitch about that to people who care beyond obscene internet posts

Oh, I totally agree. Unlike

Oh, I totally agree. Unlike the general public, Mormons are covenant-bound to "think of [their] brethren like unto [themselves], and be familiar with all and free with [their] substance" (Jacob 2:17). We should be more generous and less materialistic. I think President Kimball was totally justified in his appraisal.

I like this statement, made by Elder Wirthlin in April 2001:

"As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I have traveled the world testifying of Him. I come before you today to bear another witness—a witness to the suffering and need of millions of our Heavenly Father’s children. Far too many in the world today—thousands upon thousands of families—experience want each day. They hunger. They ache with cold. They suffer from sickness. They grieve for their children. They mourn for the safety of their families. These people are not strangers and foreigners but children of our Heavenly Father. They are our brothers and our sisters. They are 'fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.' Their fervent prayers ascend to heaven pleading for respite, for relief from suffering. At this very hour on this very day, some members even in our Church are praying for the miracle that would allow them to surmount the suffering that surrounds them. If, while we have the means to do so, we do not have compassion for them and spring to their aid, we are in danger of being among those the prophet Moroni spoke of when he said, 'Behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel … more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.'"

Very reactionary Kopite.

Very reactionary Kopite. Have you ever thought about sitting down and looking at the facts? It's funny you acuse me of not liking mormonism as I'm about the biggest mormon fanatic I know. I suppose you would have similar comments towards prophets who chastise the church for their sins.

Why the hostility?

I know Curtis is overly critical of the Church, but don't be a newbie.

"There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." - Hamlet, Shakespeare

kopi

You're at a loss because you don't think things through. What is your real cause? Getting on your red pedestal shouting about how you're right about everything and everyone who disagrees is stupid?

huh?

i'm actually quite alright with prophets doing it.
it pisses me off when people like you and farker do though.
fact is, you're a self-proclaimed radical socialist who has posted comments in the past that directly supported satan's plans for the world.
righteous judge my ASS.
the church DOES NOT give out personal facts like that EVER.
and being a reactionary is not a bad thing--see WINSTON CHURCHILL fagsy.