Bishop Gérald Caussé Explains the Spiritual Foundations of Church Financial Self-Reliance
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News assistant editor
In a detailed, multi-pronged article published Tuesday on LDS.org, Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé affirmed that providence and principles of self-reliance define and direct the Church’s finances.
“We rejoice in the fact that the Church has achieved complete financial independence and is able to accomplish its mission without any type of debt.”
The Church’s policies of financial management, he added, are being guided by two “simple and clear” principles:
- First, total expenditures will not exceed forecasted revenue.
- And second, the budget for operating expenses will not increase year to year at a more rapid rate than the anticipated growth in tithing contributions.
Bishop Caussé’s recent visit to historic Kirtland, Ohio, afforded opportunities to consider the early Saints who sacrificed everything to follow Jesus Christ and the Prophet Joseph Smith. Despite their devotion, most were extremely poor.
“As I walked these sacred grounds, I could not help but reflect on the dramatic contrast that exists between the original poverty of Kirtland and the current relative prosperity of the Church and many of its multigenerational members,” he wrote. “The Lord has blessed His Church and the Latter-day Saints in a remarkable fashion.”
The Church’s temporal blessings are anchored to the Lord’s promise to bless all who keep His commandments.
“Temporal prosperity originates in the faithful observance of a few guiding principles that were revealed by the Lord through His prophets and have become part of the daily life and culture of Latter-day Saints,” he wrote.
Such principles include the law of tithing, the law of the fast, and the need for education, employment, and self-reliance. Members are also counseled to live within their means, avoid unnecessary debt, and set aside reserves for future needs.
“As these temporal principles have been taught to members, Church leaders have also implemented them on a larger scale for the entire Church. In its finance and investment policies, the Church as an entity simply practices the doctrine and precepts that it teaches to its members.”
Four guiding temporal principles
In his article, titled “The Spiritual Foundations of Church Financial Self-Reliance,” Bishop Caussé highlighted four guiding temporal principles.
1. The law of tithing
Joseph Smith received the law of tithing—the commandment to pay one-tenth of one’s income to the Church—via revelation on July 8, 1838.
“It was a sign of the covenant made by the Lord with His people—that if they remained faithful to it, He would bless them both spiritually and temporally,” Bishop Caussé wrote. “Today, the law of tithing continues to be an essential practice of Latter-day Saints, regardless of where they live, their social standing, or their material circumstances. It is also the foundation of the financial stability of the Church.”
The Prophet Joseph also received divine clarification, found in Doctrine and Covenants 120, on how tithing is approved and administered by the Church’s governing priesthood leadership.
Every first Friday of December, the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Presiding Bishopric meet to examine and approve allocations of the Church’s sacred funds from estimated tithes and offerings for the following year, he wrote.
“Holding such a council ensures that decisions are made in a spirit of counseling together, revelation, and unanimity.”
The Church is not a financial institution or a commercial corporation. It is the Church of Jesus Christ, established to invite all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32).
Tithing funds are approved and appropriated to support the spiritual and religious mission of the Church, he wrote, spent in support of six major areas:
- Providing and maintaining places of worship for more than 30,000 congregations around the world.
- Administering the Church’s welfare and humanitarian aid programs, including more than 2,700 projects in 2017.
- Providing education programs, including Church schools, universities, and seminary and institute programs.
- Supporting worldwide missionary operations, including 420 missions and approximately 70,000 missionaries.
- Building and operating nearly 160 temples around the world, with many more to come, and administering an expansive family history and records preservation program.
- Supporting the general administration of the Church.
2. Self-reliance and independence
Spiritual and temporal self-reliance allows God’s children to progress and realize their full potential, wrote Bishop Caussé. It’s a principle that has been taught unceasingly by latter-day prophets.
“Just as wise budgeting at home enables individual members and families to maintain independence, prudent financial management is key to the Church’s ability to act independently.”
Policies of financial management have been determined by Church leaders and are carefully applied in building the annual budget and allocating expenditures.
Again, total expenditures will not exceed forecasted revenue. And the budget for operating expenses will not increase at a more rapid rate than the anticipated growth in tithing contributions.
3. Provident living
Church leaders have often counseled members to practice provident living and take steps to prepare for calamities and the foreseen perils of the last days. Temporal preparation has also been applied at the general Church level.
“For example, grain silos and warehouses filled with basic emergency necessities have been established throughout North America,” wrote Bishop Caussé. “In many other countries, basic commodities are stored and can be made available in case of natural disasters. The Church also methodically follows the practice of setting aside a portion of its revenues each year to prepare for any possible future needs.”
Moneys set aside are then added to the Church’s investment reserves—including investments in stocks and bonds; majority interests in taxable businesses and commercial, industrial, and residential property; and agricultural interests.
“The Church’s reserves are managed by a professional group of employees and outside advisers. Risks are diversified, consistent with wise and prudent stewardship and modern investment management principles.”
The Church’s financial reserves are not left idle in nonproductive bank accounts, but rather are employed where they can produce a return, he added.
“These invested funds can be accessed in times of hardship to ensure the ongoing, uninterrupted work of the Church’s mission, programs, and operations and to meet emergency financial needs. The funds are needed to provide additional financial resources to support the Church’s mission to prepare for the Lord’s Second Coming.”
It’s anticipated that “a large part” of the Church’s growth will take place in highly populated developing nations.
“Ever-increasing financial means will be required to provide thousands of meetinghouses, additional temples, and other essential resources to bless members’ lives wherever they are.”
4. In the Lord’s own way
The Church’s finances are managed and directed in the spirit of prayer and through constant revelation, wrote Bishop Caussé.
“While we consider such things as macroeconomic indicators and financial analyses, our ultimate goal is to fulfill our responsibilities in a manner that will carry out the designs of the Lord and sacred mission of the Church ‘to invite all to come unto Christ.’
“This goal can only be achieved and implemented through inspiration and the power of His priesthood.”
Some may describe today’s Church as a “powerful and prosperous” institution. Perhaps that’s true—but the strength of the Church isn’t measured by buildings or finances.
As President Gordon B. Hinckley once said: “When all is said and done, the only real wealth of the Church is in the faith of its people.”
The Church is defined by individual members bound together by common beliefs and covenants.
“They are its strength and its future,” concluded Bishop Caussé. “I am deeply grateful for the revelations given by the Lord during the early days of the Restoration concerning the law of tithing, self-reliance and independence, provident living, and providing for the Saints in the Lord’s own way.”