Public Offerings

The woman looked at me with smug satisfaction and said, “At my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we never pass a collection plate. It’s such a prideful thing to put your tithes and offerings on display for everyone to see. We do our giving in private.”

It’s likely that those who have spent much time around Mormons will have heard comments similar to this one – maybe multiple times. I’ve heard it quite often. The first few times the issue came up I was surprised and confused. Surprised at the depth of passion Mormons seem to have for this topic, and confused that they understand the passing of a collection plate in a worship service to be utterly inappropriate.

I suppose it’s true that no good thing on earth is beyond being corrupted by man’s sinfulness. I’m certain that throughout the Christian church’s history some people in some places in some periods of time have placed their offerings in the offering plate pridefully. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn of some folks in Christian church congregations watching who did what when the plate came by. Nevertheless, I think many Mormons don’t understand the historic Christian concept of collecting the offering.

The Bible portrays the giving of tithes and offerings as an act of worship. As such, it is appropriate for the giving to be done during a worship service. When Christians gather together on the Lord’s Day in corporate worship, several things comprise the service including the preaching and hearing of the Word of God, praying, singing, sharing the Lord’s Supper, and giving.

Prideful giving is wrong. Giving to be seen of men is wrong. Judging others by what they give is wrong. But collecting the gifts of worshippers during a public, corporate worship service is not wrong. Giving to God as a demonstration of trust in Him, and as a declaration that we know our true treasure is in heaven, is pleasing to Him and is accepted by Him as worship.

I don’t think the mechanics of how we give matters much to God. Whether it’s placing a gift in an offering plate, dropping it in a box at the back of the church, or sending it through the mail, the important things are that we give and that we have a right heart attitude as we give. Yet having said that, another interesting aspect of the Mormon viewpoint on traditional Christian giving during the worship service is worth mentioning.

As an alleged restoration of the early Christian church, it’s surprising that LDS Church members find fault with the traditional passing of a collection plate in other churches. Christian apologist Justin Martyr (100AD-165AD) wrote a detailed description of early Christian worship services in his First Apology, addressed to Emperor Antonius Pius:

“On the day called Sunday there is a gathering together… The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read… the president in a discourse admonishes and urges the imitation of these good things. Next we all rise together and send up prayers.

“When we cease from our prayer, bread is presented with wine and water… A distribution and participation of the elements for which thanks have been given is made to each person…

“Those who have means and are willing, each according to his own choice, gives what he wills, and what is collected is deposited with the president… in a word he becomes the protector of all who are in need.”

In the early Christian church, like now, offerings were collected publicly during the Sunday worship service. Nevertheless, this detail really isn’t that important. It would be much better for us to focus instead on 2 Corinthians 9:7:

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Early Christianity, Mormon Culture. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Public Offerings

  1. lillym says:

    The Chinese churches I’ve been to actually just do the drop-box in the lobby – they don’t usually pass a plate, although I think it’s becoming more common. I never really thought of this as being a prideful thing.

    The way you describe the Mormons looking down on this practice though, sounds exactly like the Pharisees standing on the street corner. “I’m so much better than those losers – look how righteous I am.”

    Whatever. It all seems to come back to the Mormons priding themselves on perfect behavior (works vs faith again).

  2. subgenius says:

    i must contradict the notion of “prideful” giving by mormons. i am mormon, convert, and have experience with mormon, protestant, catholic, and even atheistic practices. i have found that the emphasis on “tithing” has often been, at times, uncomfortable across all “denominations”. i do not believe that any church is free from the inevitable necessity of tithing, especially in modern america. however, though i do appreciate the relative anonymity of tithing to the bishopric with a mafia-like passing of the envelope, i am perhaps not so keen on the idea of a financial report being bishopric-reviewed once a year. i believe that ultimately God and i should be the ones who determine the “faithfullness” of my tithing…..well, that is my 2 cents on this subject.

  3. Rick B says:

    My Church does not pass a plate, we do the Box in the back method also.

    Yet it is funny that some mormons have this pride issue of we do not tithe, yet they must give an account for their temple review and will be denied it if they do not pay up. So this means they might be kept out of the highest heaven and cannot attain godhood because they did not pay.

    So be prideful you do not pass the plate, I will be humble in my private, no one around looking when I drop in my money, and know I will not be kept out of heaven because I did not pay up with cash, and God knows if you pay or not since you must give an account to some mere man, who himself might be lying as to if he pays up or not. Rick b

  4. amanda says:

    Sharon, and others

    I’m not sure why “mormons” are being branded as prideful on the instance of ONE account with a mormon. Maybe there are more…it’s not like any religion is free of these folks who lack spiritual maturity.

    If indeed that woman said those things in that way, I feel sorry for her, and hope that you can forgive the manner in which she dealt with you.

    I think only the Lord knows who is giving for the right reasons. I would never assume that because someone is giving to a plate in a worship service that they want to be seen of men. In fact, I’m glad to see anyone giving tithes and offerings- it is indeed a commandment- and I like to think the best of that person.

    I would appreciate if many of you wouldn’t place all mormons in this category- that wouldn’t be accurate or fair, it certainly isn’t how we are taught to act or treat our fellow man.

  5. Michael P says:

    And Amanda, I’d appreciate it if you stopped accusing us of hateful speech.

    It goes two ways.

    As to this post, I won’t pretend to know how widespread, but I will say that I hav heard similar sentiments on the topic and on other topics as well.

    More than once, Mormons have claimed to have the better way, a definite sign of pride and superiority.

  6. amanda says:

    Michael,

    At times, as a minority–however insecure you are at the reality of this— I have felt the language and tone of many posters has indeed been hateful. I’m not sure how my comment was hateful? I thought it was quite fair. Then you go on to paint all LDS as hateful, prideful people- You are only illustrating more clearly what you deny to be the truth.

  7. Jacob5 says:

    I find it interesting that on the part of some people in this blog describe the act of baptism as a prideful act even though there are several accounts in the new testament of that practice. Yet members of the LDS faith are apposed because we believe in tithing being given on a personal level.
    I was told that tithing is a very personal matter and not to be boasted of. Although it is setteled by the bishop and is brought up during interviews it is still only between you and the bishop, and is not broadcast to members of the church. It is still private.

  8. Ralph says:

    It’s always the 1 – 5 percent of the population that gives everyone a bad name. The sentiments given by the lady mentioned in the above article are probably held by that small amount of the LDS church.

    To put it bluntly, most American tourists are seen as being loud, arrogant and obnoxious here in Australia and place Americans on the hate list. But in reality, its only the 1 – 5 percent of American tourists that are like this. Should I say that all Americans are that way and just ignore you all and hate you all? No, I should take each situation as it comes.

    So lumping all LDS under the banner in the article above is being unrealistic and an unfair representation of the LDS church.

  9. Ed says:

    Sorry LDS posters, but I don’t see where Sharon accused *ALL* LDS of feeling this way as you are claiming she does. Her entry simply never states this. I have read her post several times and find the following statements (emphases are obviously mine):

    “It’s *LIKELY* that those who have spent much time around Mormons will have heard comments similar to this one – maybe multiple times” (likely is not the same as 100%. BTW, I will testify that as a Mormon for 11 years, I did hear this same sort of sentiment very frequently from many, though certainly not all, Mormons)

    “Nevertheless, I think *MANY* Mormons don’t understand the historic Christian concept of collecting the offering.” (Many is not the same as all either, there is nothing here that implies that Sharon accuses ALL Mormons of feeling this way).

    I am elated that the LDS posters here seem to univerally condemn the statements of the LDS woman that Sharon met. That you understand that Christians outisde of Mormonism really can and do give offerings in their congregations out of sheer love and devotion regardless of the mechanics involved says quite a bit and we defintely appreciate that.

    But, please, let’s not get offended with each other after only 8 posts when offense was never intended.

    Now, can we get back to the OT? :)

  10. Michael P says:

    Amanda, where did I say all? I never said or implied all. If that is what you see it is because that is what you want to see, not because it is real. Same in Sharon’s post. If you could quote me where she says all, it would help your position.

  11. traveler says:

    This is a touchy point and I can well understand why many might feel ‘judged’ not only by offerings on a plate, in a box or by the perceptions of others at this site.
    I don’t think that anyone here has ever stated “all X are this or that” (or if someone HAS done that – I didn’t notice it yet)- but I can see the differences between putting some cash in a box/bowl vs being audited by a church -
    hey – that is what it looks like to people outside the LDS…or at least to me.

    Amanda, you seem very nice, (internet perceptions can be so tricky, based on such limited interactions – for all I know, we live on the same street and walk past each other every day…) I hope your children are well, and I think that it’s wonderful of you to visit this site and to defend your faith, but please don’t let it get to you too much.

    Pax
    T

  12. JamesN says:

    First of all, I disagree with anyone looking down on how others give, and I take some exception to Sharons’ account because it is really an attempt to exploit the weakness of a single person in a way to make it seem this is how LDS are in general. I don’t believe there is a hard and fast doctrine within the LDS church with regards to how someone may or may not give, but in the LDS Church as a policy this is done privately, and for some very good reasons. First of all, public giving although not necessarily is it done to be boastful or seen, but it does lend it self to that purpose. The same gift could be given to the Lord in a private way. So the LDS church chooses as a matter of policy to handle tithes and offerings in this way instead of passing a plate.

    Furthermore, the so called accounting or audit by the Bishop is nothing of the sort. The yearly Bishops’ interview and temple interviews are not audits. No one is going to take a look at your bank statements and go over your finances to see if you are paying a full tithe. The Bishop simply asks the question if you feel your paying on honest tithe. It’s totally up to you to decide if you are paying an honest tithe to the Lord. And the settlement interview with a Bishop at the end of each year.. This is a voluntarily review with the member about the year’s contributions. It actually works both ways .. The Church has a record of what they have received and this interview is a time to make sure that is correct for non spiritual reasons as well. There is a matter of honest and accurate reporting to the IRS especially if contributions exceed $500.00.

  13. oceancoast says:

    That brings up an interesting Thought.. I wonder how many people give something like $50.00 in the plate as it’s passed around and then tell the IRS they gave $500.00.

  14. Apollo says:

    Just to add another two widow’s mites to the pile.

    The LDS church does make available the opportunity for members to use direct deposits for tithing thus taking the whole fill-out-the-tithing-slip-and-hand-it-to-the-bishop process. In this way, you are “more” anonymous in paying your tithing in the sense that the bishop does not know if and how much you paid. Fast offerings, on the other hand, should still be given to the Bishop as the ward uses those fund in the ward.

  15. JamesN says:

    No talk about giving can go with out mentioning about who is doing the collecting. In the LDS church the ministry is not a paid ministry. The Bishop who collects the offerings has no personal financial interest in the contributions, unlike some churches where that minister receives a salary. Now just because a minister receives a salary doesn’t mean that he isn’t devoted to God, but for some ministers the pulpit becomes a means to financial gain. By eliminating a paid ministry, the LDS church eliminates the very possibility that Gospel message might get tainted by a personal quest for financial gain. Furthermore it also lends some greater assurance to the giver that all of the offerings go to where they are intended, and none are being siphoned off by the collector.

  16. jackg says:

    This is always a touchy subject. First of all, I want to commend the LDS Church for not being afraid to teach their members to pay a full tithe. I know the arguments against this stand will be that they need to pay tithing in order to get a temple recommend, which is the equivalent of a ticket to heaven. But, they do pay faithfully, and it would be great to see more Christians pay a full tithe. My brother swears by tithing and the blessings he receives because of it. Who am I to begrudge him that? As for method, I do agree that the prevalent attitude in the LDS Church with regard to “passing the plate” is generally consistent with that expressed by the woman that Sharon mentioned in the article. It’s just a matter of degree of vehemence expressed by individual LDS members. I used to believe the same way, but now I see giving tithes and offerings as a part of corporate worship. In response to James’ comments, there is validity that some ministers become preoccupied with the offering because their livelihoods depend on it; nevertheless, most pastors live on salaries equivalent to that of the local school teacher or less. I used to brag about the LDS Church and how ministry was administered through a lay clergy. But, do you know what? None of this defines a Church as true or untrue. This topic falls under the theological heading of opinion. How one believes on this issue is not vital to being a Christian or to salvation as there is liberty in the nonessentials.

  17. jer1414 says:

    I agree with subgenious above, that the matter is ultimately between an indivudual and God.
    Maybe it’s changed, but I thought financial giving was tied to temple worthiness? And is the Mormon church accountable to members for it’s financial records? Are they accessable by members?

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