My church recently leader told me I had to pay my tithing to “him.” He told me to put it in an envelope and mail it to his home. I don’t feel comfortable about this. I used to pay it directly to the church, but recently, I have also been wondering if what I sacrifice of my family’s financial resources really even goes to the Lord. It seems like a lot of tithing goes to pay salaries for those who work in the church office building and at the different BYUs. Many of these church employees get generous compensation and some of the best employer insurance out there on the market for their families, while my wife can’t even get coverage, because we are below the poverty line and fall through a crack in the Obamacare system. I contacted both the federal and state government about the issue and they said nothing can be done unless she gets pregnant and has another baby, but even then the insurance will only last until she has a baby. I know the church won’t help my wife get coverage that’s fair and affordable either, yet they use our “widow’s mite” for their own employees. Can I go dig a hole and bury my tithing up to the Lord like Moroni did the golden plates, so I, at least, have some peace of mind who it’s going to?
If you mean your Bishop when you say ‘Church Leader’ then he’s actually correct. The Bishop is accountable for all tithes paid by members of his congregation. Mailing the tithing to the Bishop’s house is actually not uncommon at all in the church.
For the rest of your question, let me gently offer to you some of the items tithing funds are used for;
-Building and maintaining meetinghouses, stake centers, and temples as well as other Church facilities that are focused on the religious teachings and actions of the Church and its members.
-Printing lesson manuals used on Sunday, including the ‘Teachings of the Prophets’ series that has been ongoing for some years now. This also includes all the manuals for Gospel Doctrine, Gospel Principles, the Primary and Youth programs, etc. The reason all of these are provided to the members at no cost is because the money to print them came from tithing. In effect, we already paid for them.
Tithing funds are sacred funds, and not a penny of them is spent lining anyone’s pockets, let alone the Bishop. In fact, none of the leaders of the Church are paid until you get to the general level of authority such as a Seventy, Apostle or First Presidency. Even at that, their stipends are very modest, and are provided from other sources of income besides tithing.
What might interest you is that the Church owns a sizeable array of profitable businesses that have little if anything to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These businesses must support themselves, pay for themselves, and pay their employees. An example would be KSL Radio in Salt Lake City.
Now, regarding the Church office building and those who work there, I can assure you that your tithing funds are not given to them, or used for any of their benefit packages. Once again, the Church owns other profitable businesses that they can morally and legally be used to pay for such expenses outside of tithing funds.
Look at your tithing slip and notice the different categories that people can select when filling it out. Any funds that are directed to specific areas must be used there and nowhere else. For instance, if I were to put, say, $120 in tithing, $40 in fast offering, and another $40 in the missionary fund, then that’s where the money must go. Nobody in the church has the authority to move the money from one category to another.
Every year, the Church conducts a very thorough financial audit on itself. The Church Auditing Department is an autonomous group of financial experts such as bankers and accountants. The only people they must answer to are the First Presidency. They have open access to all the financial records of the Church for the purpose of their audit. During General Conference, they present their report to the Church as a whole regarding the financial status of the Church.
Now, having said all that, let me tell you something in a different light.
When you pay your tithing, even if someone should misuse the money, or outright steal it, the blessings of paying your tithing in faith and obedience to the laws of God are still yours. You cannot be held accountable for what someone else may or may not do with your tithing money.
I’m not saying it never happens. We are, all of us, weak and mortal. Money can be a very tempting thing to steal in any situation. What I am saying is that you should not feel that you are in any danger should your tithing be stolen or misused.
I can assure you that if and when abuse of tithing funds is discovered, the problem is remedied quickly and completely. For instance, suppose a Bishop pockets tithing to help pay for his car. As soon as it is discovered, the Church would immediately remove him from the calling, suspend his membership and report the crime to legal authorities. Once the law has had its say, the Church will evaluate the outcome and determine if further actions are needed, up to and including excommunication.
Such an action on the part of a Bishop could be seen as fraud, theft, and maybe even other serious breaches of law.
While I said earlier that it certainly could happen, I feel impressed to tell you it is likely a very very rare thing to have happen. If you are still concerned, speaking with your Stake President might help. Certainly I advise you to pray about it. Heavenly Father will lead you to the answers and peace of mind you are seeking as soon as He sees that the time is right. I pray you will learn and grow even stronger in your faith in Christ as well.
May God be with you always.
*note to add* While this Q&A was posted in 2014, it still contains some relevant information pertaining to financial funds donated. However, most members now choose to pay their tithes and offerings online instead of handing an envelope to a member of the Bishopric.