Friday, December 1, 2017

Where does my LDS Tithing Money Go?

It's that time of year again, tithing settlement, when all church members are asked to meet with their Bishop and declare themselves as full tithe payers or not. I always wondered, where does my tithing money go? So I decided to do some research and answer that question as best as I can.

It has been decades since the LDS Church has opened up their books to the public, so instead I'm using information based on membership numbers and any disclosed amounts that the church spends. Church statistical numbers come from the April 2017 Statistical Report.

Total Church Membership 15, 882,417
Stakes 3,266
Missions 421
Districts 556
Wards and Branches 30,304
Full-time missionaries 70,946
Church-service missionaries 33,695
New Temples: 6
Temples in Operation: 155

Because the total church membership includes inactive members, we will assume a 25% tithe paying rate, or 3,970,604 tithe paying members.


The Church donates an average of $40 million per year in humanitarian aid (citation). Critics point out that the Church includes an hourly rate for hours of time donated in volunteer work in this figure as well, but we will not be including that in our estimate. Each tithe paying member contributed approximately $10.07 to humanitarian aid. 


New Temple Costs: The Philadelphia Temple, dedicated in 2016, cost 77.5 million dollars (citation).  While temple costs vary based on location, this is a good estimate for all temples built in 2016, as the Provo City Center was also dedicated then which is estimated to be much more expensive. Six new temples for the year is approximately 465 million dollars. Each tithe paying member contributed approximately $117.11 to the building of temples.

It is estimated that temples cost approximately $500,000 per year to maintain and operate. With 155 temples in operation, that equates to $77,500,000. Each tithe paying member contributed approximately $19.52 to the maintenance and operation of temples.


According to the Deseret News, General Authorities receive a living stipend of $120,000 per year, as of 2014. While that number has most likely increased due to inflation, we will use that number in our estimates.

Apostles: 15 
Presidency of the Seventy: 7 
General Authority Seventies: 88 
Presiding Bishopric: 3 
Sunday School General Presidency: 3 
Young Men's General Presidency: 3 
***Note, we do not need to count any of the women serving in presidencies because they are not paid
Main Leadership Total: 119 
Approximate stipend: $120,000 per year 
Total yearly stipends for the main leadership: $14,280,000
Emeritus General Authorities still receive a stipend and do so for the remainder of their lives. There are currently 59 Emeritus General Authorities which totals $7,080,000

It is unknown whether the other Quorums of the Seventy receive a stipend. I like to assume that they do since they perform the same amount and level of work. There are 285 other members of the Quorums of the Seventy which equates to $34,200,000

The total amount of stipends equals $55,560,000. Each tithe paying member contributed approximately $13.99 to General Authority Stipends. 

NOTES: There are 418 Mission Presidents and 157 Temple Presidents and their councilors who receive reimbursement for all living expenses, including furniture, clothing, food, travel for themselves and family members, housing, cars, insurance, and more. These 889 individuals are not included in the total, however, their stipend would be worth an approximate 90,000 per year which would total a yearly expense of $80,010,000, bringing the total yearly amount of stipend payments to $135,570,000. Each tithe paying member would have then contributed approximately an additional $20.15 to Mission President and Temple President reimbursements. 


The LDS Church has approximately 29,000 individuals on its payroll in Utah (citation). This number DOES NOT include employees of the for-profit ventures, or employees outside of Utah. The annual mean wage in Utah is $45,490 (citation). This puts the payroll somewhere in the range of 1,319,210,000. Each tithe paying member contributed approximately $332.24 to the Church Employee payroll. 


Ward budgets are determined by sacrament meeting attendance and key age demographics (citation). An average US ward has a total budget of approximately $5,000, some having far more, and some having far less. Outside of the US there are wards with far more and far less, depending on local economic indicators so we will let the $5,000 stand as a fair estimate. With 30,304 ward and branches this puts the total somewhere near 151,520,000. Each tithe paying member contributed approximately $38.16 to ward budgets. 

We are not including an estimate of Stake budgets as they vary a far greater amount based on properties owned or assigned to stakes for maintenance and operations.


Where does my tithing money go? This chart is a great reference. The most surprising element to me is how little of my personal money goes towards Humanitarian aid. It's always been very easy for me to assume that my tithes were going to charity, or at least a large portion was. This research has helped me realize that I need to be sure to fulfill my Christian obligation to donating to the poor and needy with additional charitable contributions of my time and money. "Because I have been given much I too must give."

Analysis indicates the LDS Church takes in somewhere around $7billion per year in tithing funds (citation). We can use this number to create a pie chart with our previous estimates.