The Church Wants You to Contribute

I was really surprised by this post over at Nine Moons.

It’s understandable to me that a church would suggest to its congregants that they pay attention to a particular political issue or even be involved in the political process. But it starts raising flags with me (and perhaps many other people) when official church representatives, acting in their capacity for the church, show up at members homes and tell them, to the dollar, how much they should contribute to a political campaign. Even more surprising that the church may be using tithing record to determine what each member can afford.

I can’t imagine this is going to work out well for the LDS church. Particularly if the mainstream press catches wind of it. I’d be interested to know how high up the chain this idea goes in the Mormon hierarchy. If it’s just a Stake President who got a little over ambitious with the suggestion that members participate in the passing of Proposition 8, it will raise some eyebrows. But if it’s discovered that this “game plan” came from Salt Lake City it will not mean good news for the LDS church.

On the one hand, the LDS church is taking a definite side on perhaps the most controversial issue in the country right now. I can’t really blame them for that and churches will always take their lumps on moral issues that may be unpopular in the rest of the culture. But it heightens the press for the second issue. Church leaders making individual appointments to tell members how much they should give to a political issue is outside the church experience most people are familiar with (even if it is voluntary). It will come off as way too aggressive and way too controlling to most people.

I expect some bad press for the LDS church on this one. If you know an LDS missionary you might be able to guess what they’ll be discussing with contacts in the coming months.

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10 thoughts on “The Church Wants You to Contribute

  1. Overreaching on political issues pops up in a lot of American churches.

    If the IRS ever raided one of those largely black Baptist congregations… Well, you can probably guess.

    I’m hoping this is just a case of local members and leadership letting their zeal and enthusiasm get the best of them.

  2. I doubt the news will make many waves inside or outside the church. I think the practice is definately outside the handbook.

    I am a little bit surprised by the practice.

  3. I do hope that (assuming the article accuately portrays what happened) this is a case of overzealousness on the local level. And if they are indeed using tithing records, I would find that a serious breach of trust.

    Otherwise, though, I don’t see anything inherently wrong in asking people to contribute, even suggesting an amount. But there’s a right way ( “We are asking you to contribute $X because we feel that is a reasonable share of the $Y needed to run this campaign” ) and a wrong way ( “We are asking you to contribute $X to demonstrate your righteousness” ) to do that.

    I have very much mixed thoughts on the church’s involvement in the issue. The short version is that I am concerned about its effect on our mission effort, which I believe in fully. Saying I am concerned, though, is not the same as being in opposition, although certainly there those who would view it that way (and that would be their problem, not mine).

    If I were in California and were asked to donate, I would pray about it. I have no inkling of what the answer would be. I can see reasons why God would give me either answer.

    If I were in California, I would probably vote in favor of the proposition — not so much because I think it’s a necessary thing (philosophically, I tend to think the state shouldn’t be in the marriage business at all, although I recognize overturning centures of legal tradition would create problems), but because I think the the California Supreme Court abused its authority (indeed, one dissenter on the court who is a supporter of gay marriage said the same thing) and needs to be put in its place.

    I wouldn’t naturally be inclined to donate significant sums of money simply to put in their place some people whose names I don’t even know. But, like I said, I would pray about it.

  4. I don’t think it would surprise anyone that there is a mountain of political discourse coming from a great many pulpits. And I agree that there are a number of Protestant churches overstepping their bounds and the IRS could cause a lot of trouble for them.

    I don’t think what the LDS church is doing here is illegal or beyond their non-profit mandate. But it reeks of control and manipulation.

    I think it’s pretty much in-bounds to make a general statement like “you should get behind this cause financially, any donation would help. Maybe you should consider giving $100, $500, or $1000.” But to show up at individual houses and say you specifically need to give X doesn’t help the LDS church overcome the “cult” complex.

    Particularly given this line from the post
    (the worst part about being asked by the Church to do something is you really can’t say no– and if you do, you just don’t get it).

  5. Tim, a high level of church control is not unprecedented.

    At least we don’t smite the shirkers dead like St. Peter did.

  6. Mormons dedicate all they possess to building the kingdom of God. Being asked to donate a certain some is not a big deal really, I just object to the proposition itself, that is what bugs me…
    I don’t really think its manipulative or really either, the Church and its leaders are not benefiting at all from the money. Its not like the hundreds of Evangelical preachers that beg and manipulate emotions for donations for themselves on TBN. Its hard to think that this sort of practice is at all “culty” compared to what goes on within the Evangelical community.

    I can’t imagine those that don’t donate being ostracized by leaders or other members.

  7. Considering that ProtectMarriage.com has decided NOT to appeal the ballot language, what chance do you really see for Prop 8 to pass? I just don’t see a majority of Californians voting YES on a proposition titled ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME-SEX COUPLES TO MARRY.

    Once the churches realize that Prop 8 is an almost guaranteed loser, are they going to do the right thing and let their members know?

    If not, what happens after Prop 8 loses 40-60 (or worse), and then the members find out that the church leadership was privy all along to internal polling that predicted a crushing defeat? Do the members get their money back?

    Or do they get stuck paying for ads that were run by a campaign that knew it was going to lose but ran them anyway!

  8. Chino, if I believed in this campaign (which I don’t), I would contribute my money regardless of whether I knew it was a losing battle.

    I doubt the LDS membership is ignorant of the possibility of losing. My experience is that a lot of my fellow members have a bit of cynicism about the broader culture and always consider themselves to be “persevering in a long, but losing struggle.”

    I doubt any donors are going to be much upset by what you are talking about.

    Nice try though.

  9. Using the church’s tithing records was done in our area for prop 22. I have not been contacted this time around and have not heard of others being asked to contribute a specific amount.

    It may happen but so far, there have only been announcements of the need to contribute. My guess is that contributions will fall behind the need and more aggressive means will be used.

  10. Prop 8 supporters – I’d love to see your response to the points listed below.
    Prop 8 opponents – I suggest that everyone copy the following statements onto small slips of paper and put them under the windshield wiper of every car in the church parking lot. This will embolden those who oppose the church’s position and spark discussions in Elder’s Quorum and other orgs. maybe we can get people to actually think.

    ********************************************************
    Promoting Proposition 8 Is Contrary To The Scriptures

    1. LDS scripture (D&C 134:4) says we can’t use our religious opinions to justify infringing upon the rights and liberties of others. (see also 1 Cor. 10:29).
    2. Gays in CA currently have the right and/or liberty to marry.
    3. We are attempting to infringe upon this right/liberty in contradiction to scripture, because our religious opinions regarding marriage and homosexuality prompted the prophet to oppose this.
    4. However, the prophets have all stated that their own words are subserviant to the scriptures and that we are to ignore anyone’s teachings, including their own if those teachings contradict scripture.
    5. Only by sustaining prophetic statements by following the procedure (Common Consent of the 12 and of the entire Church) we’ve always used for sustaining a revelation, can the scriptures be superseded. That has not been done nor even discussed as far as anyone can tell. No mention of any revelation has been heard of as is required to sustain statements controverting scripture. (Abandoning Plural Marriage and giving the Priesthood to all worthy men both came via revelation, sustained by the 12, then approved by the Church. Doing this superseded previous established doctrine)
    6. Since D&C 134:4 is superior to contradicting statements made by ANYONE, even the prophets, according to the prophets, and since it hasn’t been overturned nor any efforts to do so via historic guidelines of Common Consent have been discussed, the validity of 134:4 stands.
    7. Since it stands, our efforts to infringe upon the rights and/or liberties of gays are wrong.

    My House is a house of order. All things are to be done in order.

    Vote NO on Proposition 8

    ********************************************************

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