By Akanimo Sampson
In the light of recent attack of some Christian churches in Nigeria, and seeming misrepresentation about church funds, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has come out boldly in the open to explain how it uses the sacred tithes and generous donations of its members in worldwide efforts to love God and neighbour.
The church President, Russell M. Nelson, who spoke recently about some of their efforts, said the church is committed to helping the poor and needy. ‘’Latter-day Saint Charities is a global programme that primarily benefits those who are not Latter-day Saints. In times of need and during other emergencies, we partner with many global organisations like the Red Cross to provide assistance.
‘’And this represents only a small portion of what the church spends to care for those in need. The most recent annual report shows that the church’s humanitarian arm has given more than $2.2 billion in aid in 197 countries since it was created in 1985.
‘’In addition, through the church’s welfare programme, leaders of the faith’s 30,000-plus congregations regularly help men, women and children with food, housing and other temporal needs, totaling billions more dollars in assistance.’’
The rest of their testimony goes thus: The Church builds temples and connects families through family history. The church is heavily focused on the doctrinal principle of connecting families across generations. This spiritual work is done in 217 announced or operating temples, an effort supported by the faith’s nonprofit family history organization, FamilySearch, which also freely offers its genealogical resources to anyone.
The Church provides worship and gathering space for its members. The church must fund facilities, education and activity programs for its 30,500 congregations. Meetinghouses also serve as spaces for community education, family history research and emergency response.
The Church supports a global missionary programme. Currently, more than 65,000 Latter-day Saint missionaries around the world are preaching the good news of Jesus Christ — an effort that requires significant financial support from the church beyond the missionaries’ personal or family contributions. The faith’s approximately 400 missions include mission homes, apartments, offices and automobiles — all funded by the church.
The Church invests in education. The church believes that both secular and spiritual learning are eternal, and it invests significant financial resources in education. The church’s Seminaries and Institutes program provides daily religious instruction to some 400,000 high school students and 300,000 university students each year.
The church provides higher education opportunities globally through its expansive PathwayConnect program, which paves the way to a university degree for those with limited opportunities or resources. And the Church operates several universities and a business college serving a combined 93,000 students.
The fact that the Church of Jesus Christ has been able to fund the operation of meetinghouses, temples, educational institutions and missionary work — while also building up reservoirs of resources for the difficult days that eventually come — is a model that should be celebrated and emulated by governments and other institutions around the world, one opinion editor writes.
The church follows the same sound financial principles it teaches its membership. It avoids debt, lives within its budget and prepares for the future. Little wonder the pages of the Wall Street Journal recently praised Utah’s strong economy, in part because of the state’s “predominant (Latter-day Saint) culture that encourages out-of-fashion virtues such as thrift, delayed gratification and stable families.’’
D. Michael Quinn, a scholar who published a 600-page history of Church finances in 2017, summed up his findings as “an enormously faith-promoting story.” He told a newspaper reporter that if Latter-day Saints could see “the larger picture,” they would “breathe a sigh of relief and see the church is not a profit-making business.”
“Yes, the church saves and invests its surplus pennies,” a Deseret News op-ed concludes, “but it also helps vastly reduce the debt of college students, gives to the poor regardless of background and supports one of the largest non-governmental welfare programs in the country. Most importantly, it does all this without enriching those at the top.”The sacred funds donated by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are an expression of faith, devotion and obedience to the biblical law of tithing and a desire to build Christ’s Church through living the two great commandments to love God and neighbour.