Should tithing subsidize BYU?

Malcolm Gladwell recently ranked America’s best law schools when taking into account value for the dollar. Perhaps unsurprisingly, under this new rubric BYU ranked number two.  In the past, I’ve often noted BYU’s value with a sense of pride and admiration.  But this time, perhaps because I’m currently paying for another school, I began asking why: “Why is the tithing I pay subsidizing the costs of education for a small subset of Mormons?”

On a narrow level, we could begin by asking what purpose BYU serves.  The unique role that BYU appears to play is to serve as a center for perpetuating Mormon culture, both through exposure to a set of beliefs and social norms and as a match-making institution.  And, reasonable people could conclude that this purpose is worth subsidizing.

But if we conclude this model is outdated, but do believe that it is still helpful to provide low-cost education, then tithing could still help achieve that goal.  Rather than subsidizing a particular university through tithing, it is possible to imagine that the Church “rebating” tithing to those in school, maybe via bishops or church welfare, allowing them to have a tithing-subsidized education at the institution that best serves their needs.  Such an alternative system could benefit broader, more global groups of Mormons.  Additional money could be invested in building up an LDS presence at other universities, allowing Mormons around the world to have places to meet each other.

But thinking about the purpose of BYU leads to a larger question that Mormons rarely discuss.  What precisely are appropriate uses of tithing?  Should tithing be spent only on welfare and direct church needs?  Or would it be appropriate to spend it on larger social goals such as education or preservation of the environment?

Additionally, what are appropriate ways to administer tithing once we identify proper goals?  Must tithing be administered through church organizations?  Could the church make grants to unaffiliated organizations?  Would it be appropriate to give money directly to members to finance causes like education or microcredit loans? Is there any historical or scriptural guidance on this topic?



  1. Would as many people go to BYU law school if it were not for the cost?

  2. not sure what to make about that ranking as it offers nothing in terms of statistical numbers on why the rankings are what they are. It seems, just from how it is presented, that the ranking is subjective more than objective.

    But on to the tithing issue, you ask

    “Why is the tithing I pay subsidizing the costs of education for a small subset of Mormons?”

    Generally speaking, we have little say or control on what the church does with tithing because, based on what tithing is, it is not our money anymore. What the church does with tithing matters not. At least that’s what I’ve been taught. My payment of tithing to the Lord is not preconditioned on that tithe going to this place or to that place. The end of my concern over tithing is when I hand the money to the bishop.

    I think, however, your idea, subsidizing education for members at other schools, has merit that the church should consider.

  3. I might be more inclined to agree with Daniel @ comment #2 if I were handing the check to the Lord himself, and not a fallible representative. Maybe that’s why paying tithing is an act of faith.

  4. porter Rockwell says:

    I never worry about where my tithing is going.. if someone is not using it wisely (or worse) they are going to face judgement at a later time.. I just get my blessings for paying it.

  5. Natalie B. says:

    #1: I know that cost has been a factor for several of my friends. I remember feeling pressure to attend BYU undergrad because of the cost savings even though I ultimately concluded it wasn’t right for me.

    #2-4: The issue of whether we should worry about where tithing goes is a vexing one for me and part of what I hope we explore in the comments. Let me be clear: I feel that I have a faith-based obligation to pay it and support decisions about how to use it.

    But I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to being very curious about how (and who) decides where it goes. Partly, I just think it would help members in understanding what tithing means. But, I’d also be interested in whether we could identify ways to effectively use it.

  6. Julie M. Smith says:

    I’m not sure what to think about this issue, but one challenge to be reckoned with is that, as the church grows, the percentage of LDS youth than is admitted decreases, which means that BYU becomes less of a “Mormon State U” and more of a “Mormon Harvard” as time goes on. That complicates the tithing question and the cultural question, I think. I have no idea what the solution to these challenges should be.

  7. I’m not sure what the reasons are for the church’s support of BYU, but whatever they are, it has to be something other than personal benefit to the individual students who go there. Really, what claim do young adults have to be subsidized in their education? Is their right or need greater than that of elderly Mormons for nursing home care? middle-aged Mormons for mortgage subsidies? very young Mormons in third world countries for nutritional and medical support to, you know, save their lives?

    So whatever the reasons, it isn’t for the personal benefit of the students — and if it isn’t, then providing a subsidized education for Mormon kids at other schools is no better.

    As for appropriate ways to administer tithing, the only appropriate way is to leave it up to the Committee on Disposition of the Tithes. Once a member pays tithing, she no longer has (nor should have) a voice in how it is used. Unlike a government where we have some voice in the use of taxes, church leaders aren’t us, aren’t representing us, in financial matters; they’re acting for the Lord, not us.

  8. I think BYU’s undergraduate education is still worth subsidizing (though maybe tuition could be more structured according to financial need?). But I really don’t know why we subsidize business or law education. Is it really that different from any other law/business school experience? And if it is, being a religious institution, that’s a bad idea for a professional degree. Plus, IMO, it’s better for the church, the students, and even the other professional schools to get LDS students out of Provo and into the “real world.”

  9. Nataile, Because of the low tuition do you think that it draws non-LDS people to the school?

  10. I have a friend that this was one of the reasons she left the Church, the idea that someone in Africa was paying tithing to send some kid in Moroni, Utah to go BYU. It isn’t a fair system, why not have someone in Florida give tithing to BYU the worst that would happen is that someone would go hungry in Florida as opposed to Africa-her thinking. I also wonder how many kids could be helped with all the money that goes to BYU-my thinking. I don’t like it at all. I would have loved to have been helped out by the Church for my university education.

  11. In addition to tithing, there is the Perpetual Education fund. It is my understanding that educational and vocational loans are made in countries outside of the United States.
    It saddens me to hear that someone used this as an excuse to leave the church. You can assume that your money is being sent half-way around the world; or you can count how much money is being spent in your own area and think of how blessed you were in able to participate.

  12. I love that BYU is subsidized. I love that my wife went there, and had the opportunity to be surrounded by a group of some of the most wonderful LDS people in the world. I look forward, in 13 or so years to sending my own children there, if they want to go there. I am grateful that the Youth have such an opportunity to take college classes back to back with some really good religion classes (no institute is not the same.) I am grateful the church defrays the cost for those who are sending their children great distances to go. I am grateful the church subsidizes the cost so that those sending their children great distances would even consider it.

  13. Well in my area alone, a Bishop spent $1500 on dog surgery, another got a TV out of a pawnshop, and was paying one family’s bills, food, rent while they saved for a trip to France, so I don’t know what to tell her. We say that all this money goes to buildings, books, missionaries and I know it does but it also gets involved in abuses sometimes and yes she really left the Church and again don’t know what to tell her.

  14. Last Lemming says:

    Charge everybody market tuition, then use tithing funds for scholarships for needy students. Others could attend by implementing a perpetual education fund concept.

  15. Does a person have to pay back the subsidized tuition they got from the Church that they have to do in the PEF system? Why does one have to pay back one and not the other?

  16. Full disclosure: I work at BYU. (So, I guess thanks are in order). I was talking about this very topic with a colleague from a different university just yesterday. I think that this is actually a very progressive thing that the Church does. I like to think that the Church recognizes that education is a common good worthy of supporting and thus subsidize it with tithing dollars. Of course, I have no idea the real reason.

  17. This bothered me when I was a teenager because I didn’t think I would go to BYU, but now that I’ve attended I see value in the church’s investment (hopefully not because I benefited by the contributions, but because I saw the money in action).
    Some reasons for the subsidy might include the state school comparison (by paying tithing in the past you and your family were contributing to the pot), that the professors are sometimes used as a resource for church leaders, and that the BYU experience helps develop leaders for the church who go all over the world. (Clearly the last reason is more persuasive than the others if it is believed.) Also, insofar as the experience helps the students remain faithful in the church while providing them with skills to eventually make money, the program invests in the future tithing funds.
    Match-making is a desirable side-effect, but hopefully not the goal of the institution.
    Those who didn’t attend BYU might want to know that professors frequently reminded us of the obligation we had to work hard and not waste the church’s funds. On one occasion I recall being in a large auditorium for a general education course when the professor noticed a student asleep in the back with headphones on. The professor stopped everything and laid into him about a widow in South America’s tithing being used to subsidize his education. I’m sure that not everyone “got it,” but many undoubtedly did.

  18. I didn’t go to BYU, but many of my friends did – and lots of them wouldn’t have gone to a four-year college if it hadn’t been for the cost at BYU.

    I work in college admissions now, and I know LOTS of kids who don’t go – and don’t even consider going – to a four-year college strictly for financial reasons. I know very bright students who don’t attend their first choice because they simply can’t afford it. I know students who attend colleges that don’t offer the major they really want to study strictly for financial reasons.

    I say we should count our blessings with this one – then recount them – then maybe do it again.

  19. Oh, and Cameron, if your stories are true, tell your friend she left over something that almost never happens in the Church. Also, tell her those examples have nothing to do with tithing. Simple.

  20. I like BYU and was in the music department for a few years.

    It seemed to me that BYU was having an identity crisis at that time. The School of Music mission statement stated that: “our purpose is to teach students to understand, perform, and teach music well.” It bothered some of the faculty that our mission statement did not include striving for “excellence,” and that “well” was good enough. Other faculty resisted the idea of making our school competitive with other great music schools, and that we should cater more to the average LDS music student, and the more talented ones should go elsewhere to seek a more “excellent” education.

    At the time, I resented what I perceived to be mediocre aspirations at BYU. But as I’ve matured, I’ve seen how BYU’s ultimate identity, as a tithing subsidized school, is to serve the needs of the most church members possible. The School of Music was doing a great service by pumping out hundreds of LDS graduates who would go on to teach their own children and people in their own schools and communities, even if few of them ever became great “stars.”

    As the church continues to grow, and BYU becomes more and more exclusive, I think finding the balance between striving for educational excellence, and serving the general membership of the church will become much more difficult to achieve.

  21. porter Rockwell says:

    Wow, cameron is REALLY plugged into the gossip circles in his or her ward. Your Bishop or Relief Society President must break their comittment to keep matters such as this private, and you are plugged in. Thats some good work.

  22. I heard about stuff like this because I know the families invovled and they tell me how much they got and from where. Abuses take place all the time I’m sure shouldn’t we do something about it? or should we just say that where tithing goes is an abyss that if you ask too many questions…

    some further interesting discussions!

  23. i think it is great that the church wants to subsidize education, but it should be open to ALL students and not just those that attend BYU.

    BYU does NOT excel in all fields of study….hence, once of the reasons students like me go to different schools for undergrad and graduate work. the subsidy should be extended to students that attend other universities/colleges/trade schools. we pay our tithing too. is it our fault that BYU doesn’t meet our needs?

    and as someone else mentioned, as BYU becomes more and more selective (mormon harvard, i believe was the term) then fewer and fewer students are unable to benefit from it.

    i recently told my bishop that all my tithing was going into humanitarian aid or perpetual education funds….church programs i support….unlike BYU. now whether the money actually makes it there is another matter.

  24. Cameron, you’re talking about fast offerings on a thread about tithing. I’m still not convinced your stories are accurate, but even if they are – find the right thread for them. This isn’t it.

  25. Fast offerings then, whatever. They are abuses there too. I can give you names if you so desire and the Bishops involved. How many kids could be helped or how many Janitors could be hired if the Church scrapped BYU football if they just said to Kids, pay your own way or get a loan, the Church isn’t subsidizing you anymore.

  26. a random John says:

    The Perpetual Education Fund generally does not fund college educations. It tends to favor shorter term types of education such as trade schools. I tried to help someone get into the PEF program and he was denied because he was getting an actual college degree rather than becoming a plumber. So the PEF isn’t the answer to the fairness question.

    I’m all for cutting BYU (all the BYUs) loose and letting them sink or swim on their own merits. Then give all LDS students who qualify scholarships that they can use where they choose.

    BYU students are getting a $25k a year subsidy from tithe payers. Let’s see how many want to spend Harvard money to go to BYU rather than Harvard, all things being equal. :)

  27. I haven’t read the post yet, or any of the comments, but I feel the spirit prompting me to respond to the title.

    Yes. For at least two more years*. After that, meh, probably not.

    *I’ll be starting Business School at BYU this fall.

  28. Harvard (and many other private schools with large endowments) subsidize their students even more. When I was an undergrad I was told that my school (Caltech) spent about $60K on my education, while I (my parents) paid more like $18-20.

    Education is something I care about, so it doesn’t bother me to have tithes going toward a church school, particularly because BYU manages to be relatively secular. It doesn’t have great science programs (which is why I didn’t even consider going there) but I don’t get the impression people come out of BYU with substandard, dogmatically-tainted degrees. So that part doesn’t bother me.

    I would like to see more direct charity work from the church, particularly in regard to helping people in third-world nations who are struggling with basic needs. I honestly think taking care of the basics of life should be a higher priority than a lot of the things the church does, including providing an education to people who will probably be okay even if the church isn’t there to subsidize their education. That said, I also recognize that if I want to see something like more aid to third-world children I should probably find a charity to donate to and quit expecting the church to do what I want.

  29. Velikiye Kniaz says:

    Cameron, #10, et al;
    Personally, I think that former sister snookered you on her reason(s) for leaving the Church. If her faith had become that thin of a vineer, I feel that there were other underlying reasons for her departure. From my understanding, and granted it is far from complete, most tithing funds stay in their country of origin. The one major exception is the tithing coming from the U.S., Canadian and other equally materially blessed Saints. Our tithing goes out into all the world for the construction of meetinghouses, Temples, seminary buildings and where there is sufficient membership to support it, Bishop’s Storehouses. Bishops are overseers of their wards and given the charge and responsibility for their spiritual and temporal welfare. If he, (the Bishop), abuses the sacred trust given him, he will most assuredly be held fully accountable ‘to the uttermost farthing’. Ultimately, no one in the human family will ever get away with anything. God Almighty ‘neither slumbers nor does He sleep’. Brigham once addressed this in one of his talks where he spoke of receiving a substantial number of letters from all over Zion regarding the shenanigans of other Saints or Church leaders. He went on to say that he was aware that there were such goings on, and that there likely similar goings on that none of the Saints have yet discovered or might ever discover. He stated that he leaves the judgement, and if necessary, punishment of these closet sinners up to our Father in Heaven. I concur
    with Brigham, while knowing full well that he did his best to see that the Church assets and programs were not exploited or abused.
    Now as for that kid from Moroni, when I attended the “Y” he most often was the guy that was doing the night custodial work in the university buildings. And if he isn’t doing it today, that’s okay with me. I’m happy to subsidize any brother or sister from Ft. Bridger, Wyo., Bluebell, Ut., Lund, Nv. or any other small town or village all across the whole diaspora of Zion. That includes any in Central or South America, Africa,Asia, Eastern Europe, etc. I will feel well compensated for my contribution if they will raise their children to be strong and faithful believers in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness, as young men and women of honor and integrity, and as loyal Latter-day Saints who are anxious to serve and slow to whine or complain. I just hope that after all of those lawyers pass the bar in their respective states that they pay their tithing to help the generations coming up behind them.
    I am on the downhill side of life and I pay my tithing because it is a commandment, and it is one that I can gratefully keep. God blesses me richly and I enjoy showing my appreciation for His kindnesses to me. Besides, as my German grandmother used to remind me, “A shroud has no pockets!”.

  30. the idea that someone in Africa was paying tithing to send some kid in Moroni, Utah to go BYU

    This is the wildest of fictions. Church operations in third world countries (especially newly opened third world countries) have a very heavy subsidy from contributions in the United States and Canada, and possibly one or two other countries. With the possible exception of special purpose humanitarian donations, I seriously doubt any tithing from members in most these areas ever leaves the country – the needs are simply too great where they are.

    If you want to worry about something worry about someone in Moroni paying for someone from Palo Alto to go to BYU. Ultimately though the member in Moroni has to have faith in the inspiration of the leaders of the church as to where those funds might best be spent.

  31. By the way, while we are speaking of subsidies, couldn’t the same argument be applied to all state schools? I know I would have studied harder in college if I knew how much my education really cost.

    All these hidden and invisible subsidies just hide the truth. In the case of a state school, even if you want to subsidize everyone exactly the same amount as is done now, raise the sticker price up to the actual cost, and then show the state contribution so that the students at least understand what is really going on.

  32. MikeInWeHo says:

    “This is the wildest of fictions. ”
    How can you possible know that when there is no financial disclosure?

    All of Natalie’s well-intentioned questions in this post seem a bit off the mark, from my perspective. The first question that must be answered is “Should the Church open its books?” If you conclude the answer to that is no, there is nothing more to discuss.

    Question: Does BYU disclose its financial statements?

  33. BYU’s undergraduate tuition is very similar to the University of Utah’s undergraduate tuition (which is very cheap when compared to similar universities in other states). I think tuition should be considerably higher, with many more need-based scholarships offered. I knew some multi-millionaires in California who were sending their kids to BYU instead of a state school, and getting a huge discount for doing so, and even though I know these families are paying their tithing, for some reason the heavily-subsidized tuition for the ultra-rich never seemed quite fair to me.

    The fact that law school tuition is so low at BYU is especially irritating to me, partly because I’m a law student at a different school who doesn’t get subsidized by the church (and I’m paying a lot more for my education, even with a decent scholarship at a public law school). I’m contributing more time and effort to the church out here than I would have at BYU, but meanwhile my hard-earned law clerk tithing dollars are going to subsidize the tuition for law school students elsewhere.

    Plus, why do business and law students at BYU, who will most likely be making big money once they get out of school, need heavily-subsidized tuition?

  34. I agree with the position stated above that if the church is going to subsidize education it should do so on a much broader scale and not just focus on a small Mormon elite at BYU.

  35. I agree with Tim that grad schools ought not to be subsidized. Let grad schools sink or swim on their own merits. Undergrad, however, I have no problem subsidizing.

  36. Natalie B. says:

    32: Should the Church open its books? I am no expert in this area, but at a glance, it seems to me that US taxpayers also subsidize the church and tithing donations through things like the tax deduction. That being the case, I think the answer should be yes–it should open its books.

    Now, obviously that is not the course that we’ve taken, so I’d love to know from someone who is an expert in this area why we don’t require disclosure.

  37. I’m from the UK, we recently underwent a huge debate on a subject similar to this. Up until the late 90’s UK Universities were completely subsidized by the Tax payer, Until this year $4800 was the max yearly tuition required. The debate of whether the tax payer should subsidize universities started due to the recession, the argument for is: on average a graduate will earn $162,000.00 more over the course of there life. therefore repaying the cost of subsidized tuition through taxes, graduates contribute much to society, it increases social mobility etc. The arguments against are similar to what has been commented thus far, with one additional point “We Can’t Afford It”

    Socialism has its limits,I think the limit is UNIVERSAL but I do find it interesting that BYU seems to have found a way to get a form of Socialism to work.

  38. Natalie B. says:

    I wonder to what extent the tithing-subsidy for BYU also has a disproportionate impact on women when making decisions about where to attend school.

    Based on my experiences talking with LDS law students considering a more-expensive but better ranked law school, female students seemed more likely to pick the cheaper school than males. Many explained that because they intended to have a family in the future, they couldn’t justify the higher costs.

    Their reasoning seems quite sound to me. But, if tithing helped students at a broader range of schools, maybe we’d reap the benefits of seeing more Mormon women at the country’s best schools where they could be good ambassadors for the Church.

  39. Kevin Barney says:

    Natalie no. 36, the Church used to publish summary financial reports, but when it started deficit spending due to the out of control building program in the late 1950s, it stopped. After it righted the financial ship (due largely to N. Eldon Tanner), there really was no incentive to resume the reports, and so it never did.

    I personally believe the Church should publish financial reports, but for some odd reason no one has asked me.

  40. Mr Q&A touches on an interesting point: in a way, the church gets something of a “return” on their subsidy by educating future-tithe payers who thus help to pay for the school and other Church initiatives. I’m not trying to be cynical about it, but that is something to keep in mind, if we’re going to look at it from a financial/economic standpoint.

    Again, I’m with Tim: subsidize the undergrads, but not the MBAs/JDs.

  41. I bet that an analysis of ROI shows that BYU and non-BYU educated groups (controling for school ranking, grades, major, etc.) differ enough in long term tithing contributions that BYU is a good long term financial investment for the church. I think spending those critical years in a churchy environment keep a larger portion active.

  42. I also bet that if it weren’t profitable in the long run it would get shut down.

  43. Natalie B. says:

    #41: If we were to invest more resources in keeping students active outside of BYU, do you think that the difference (if it in fact exists–seems plausible that it does) would be minimized? It would be really interesting to know the data.

  44. I doubt it. A campus can do things that snazzier institute programs can’t, like show people what faithful academics are like. It can control for the most part the dating pool and regulate housing arrangements and rules. I think it’s unique contributions are hard to replicate outside a campus. CES can’ t compete.

  45. Natalie, I agree, I would like to see all the relevant information. I hope my kids get to go there. Active Mormon density here is 1 out of 10000 people.

  46. kentslarsen says:

    Perhaps the question asked should be changed. Since most universities subsidize tuition in one way or another, its one thing to ask whether education should be subsidized, and another to ask if the price BYU charges should be lower than other comparable Universities.

    Natalie’s reference to the Gladwell ranking is really not about subsidies, but about relative prices.

    But, even there it seems like BYU’s prices are too low, given its quality. When my son at BYU is paying 1/3rd what he would pay had he chosen the other option for college that he had coming out of High School, the pricing seems extremely generous.

  47. How can you possible know that when there is no financial disclosure?

    I don’t know any actual numbers, as to the direction of the subsidies, from numerous discussions with people in a position to know, because it affects how fast the church can expand into new areas, and so on.

  48. John Mansfield says:

    Religions sponsoring universities is as old as universities. Their universities are part of the religions’ presence in the world.

  49. Raising tuition a bit wouldn’t lessen the number of people going to BYU–it would only lower the average quality (grades, test scores, etc.) Frankly, I think the main reason the law school is ranked as highly as it is in most rankings is its extremely low tuition attracts students who could easily get into better (but more expensive) schools. Double the tuition and you’d still have just as many students. I think the same would apply to to undergrads to a limited degree–a 30% or 50% tuition hike would send average GPA and ACT/SAT scores down a bit, but enrollment would remain the same. I really don’t think it would have much of an effect on how many members remain active later in life.

  50. I don’t want my money going to BYU because the place does not uphold basic values such as freedom of speech among its students, faculty, staff, and invited guests, as well as academic freedoms. I would rather my tithing money go to addressing the material and spiritual needs of individuals. Every night millions of people go to bed hungry in America, I think changing that (or other such projeects in other parts of the world) would be worth forgoing projects such as funding BYU or building shopping malls, etc.

    ” I seriously doubt any tithing from members in most these areas ever leaves the country – the needs are simply too great where they are.”

    I know from my time as a ward clerk here in the U.S. that ALL tithing money was sent to Salt Lake. The only money that stayed in the local area was fast offerings, or in some cases funds donated in the “other” category. I don’t remember if fast offerings were sent to SLC and then returned to the local area or if they just stayed in the local area. Are you saying that the system for tithing is different in the US than it is for other countries? That folks who pay tithing in England for instence, don’t send their tithing to SLC. That would be interesting.

    Yes, the church should disclose financial statements.

    I would like to see a far more conserative approach to tithing and its uses. That focused on more narrow religiously driven goals. Despite conventional wisdom in the church, the institution is and should be accountable for its use of funds to its members. The way things are done now in unethical, period. In financial matters (and others) it is inexcuseable for the leadership of the church to be able to engage in such a wide range of financial dealings with NO accountability at all to the people who make it possible. No ethical organization can function this way.

    On a different topic, as long as the church invests tithing money, and does significant secular capital projects, and has significant political involvement, and runs for profit businesses, its hard to see why the church should get 501(c)3 protection.

    We need:
    – Accountability.
    – Full financial disclosure.
    – a more conservative and spiritually grounded tithing program.
    – To pay fair taxes.

  51. Historically, the Brethren have had very different opinions on the Church’s role in education. David O. McKay very much favored a strong role. Under Heber J. Grant (and J. Reuben Clark) the Church closed lots of Church schools, over the opposition of second counselor David O. McKay. When McKay became president, the Church’s resources devoted to education grew enormously. BYU grew from a few thousand to almost 25,000. Church schools were built in Mexico and many other countries. The Church College of Hawaii (now BYU-Hawaii) was established, and the Church College of New Zealand was completed.

    A few years after McKay’s death, most of the Church schools in Mexico were closed, and I believe that was true in many other countries as well. The official explanation is that the Church withdraws from providing education when the public education available reaches a certain level. The recent closure of the Church College of New Zealand against this backdrop is discussed in detail in the most recent issue of Journal of Mormon History.

    I think Gordon B. Hinckley also favored a strong role of the Church is assisting or providing education. However, I think there are others who do not. Thus, I see the PEF and the conversion of Ricks into BYU-I as a sort of compromise. The cost of making BYU-I a 4 year institution was kept lower by ending intercollegiate sports there, and by designating it as a teaching, rather than a research institution. And the PEF is subsidized by tithing only to the extent of administration costs–the corpus comes from voluntary designated contributions, and the loans are made from the earnings. Thus, the PEF as established differs from the kind of PEF proposed in a letter to Sunstone a decade or so earlier, under which the Sunstone-letter proposal would have used tithing funds to lend to those overseas,, in the same way tithing is used to subsidize the BYUs and LDS Business College.

  52. BYU gets gobs of money from alumni and friends donations. So they could still subsidize things out of an endowment, like all other private schools, even if the church cut them off from annual cash funding out of tithing. If there was an announcement that the church was cutting them off, so they would be in extra need of being added to people’s wills and such, there would be an outpouring.

  53. “I don’t want my money going to BYU because the place does not uphold basic values such as freedom of speech among its students, faculty, staff, and invited guests, as well as academic freedoms.”


    Since you gave no examples I will give you one:
    When White House journalist Helen Thomas was INVITED by the Comms Department, to address a forum at BYU? BYU students jeered her? Meanwhile, President Samuelson (a General Authority, BTW) an other faculty and staff members sat on the stand and listened what she had to say. Not all may have agreed with what she said, but the leaders were not RUDE.

    The problem isn’t BYU. It’s uneducated, uninformed, immature STUDENTS. Which is why they need to be EDUCATED. They could have also used a lesson in common courtesy or a review of the Golden Rule.

    Let’s see. Let’s tear down BYU so we can feed those in Africa! It does no good in the world. Let’s home school our kids through college because obviously we already have all the answers. Or let’s send them to great schools across the country because are have prepared to increase our personal debt loads to $40K per child for an undergrad degree. Do you KNOW the research that being pursued at BYU? Do you REALIZE the number of jobs that are provided there?

    Meanwhile in addition to sustaining BYU in Utah, Idaho and Hawaii, the church is FEEDING, IMMUNIZING and BETTERING the lives of others around the WORLD, not just Africa. The phrase “Give a man a fish and you feed him for one day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” not only applies in Africa, it applies to the students, faculty and staff at BYU — across the WORLD.

  54. Leslie, you are evidently not aware of this, but on the Internet, it is widely considered rude to use ALL CAPS everywhere. It is also widely considered to make the user of all caps sound unhinged. Just so you know.

    Also, to the substance of your comment: yes, really. BYU absolutely does not uphold basic freedom of speech and academic freedom among its students, faculty and staff. First off, I’m not sure how your example demonstrates otherwise. Secondly, do you think if an LDS BYU Professor wrote an essay saying the church isn’t true, that that Professor would have a job anymore? Case closed.

  55. Leslie, I am not saying thatBYU shouldn’t cease to exist but I think the Church should cut off funds because I really do believe that a child in a 3rd world nation needs help more then some kid from Utah who could go to BYU or some other school, no big deal wherever but a kid needs food and clothing because that is a bigger deal

  56. So Cynthia, how much would you be willing to outpour?

    I agree BYU has a lot of donation in some departments, but overall, active fundraising is still necessary.

    Has anyone followed the endowment debates at some of the Ivy league school recently? (I believe the last one I read concerned Yale) They were being criticized for not spending enough of their endowment. BYU has never had an endowment of comparable size. But a US president was elected on the basis of $25 contributions. How many church members would be willing to donate a hundred times that annually, as well as pay tuition at an increased rate?

    May I remind you “cheap” is a world often used to describe those living in Utah.

  57. Leslie, are you saying that tithing money should help someone who could find a way to afford afford college (be it loans or whatever), but chooses to forgo it simply because they are “cheap”? I don’t understand your argument.

  58. I don’t have the numbers to back this up, obviously, but it seems to me that the Church must derive enough benefit from subsidizing BYU tuition to make it viable. Just think of the monetary benefits alone of the increased visibility of the Church, early training of future leaders, stronger commitment of members, and so on. I have loads of medical school debt, but I don’t have a cent of undergraduate or graduate debt thanks to the tithing payers of the Church. That allows me to make professional and financial choices that lead me to contribute more money and time to the Church.

    Take all that and add the spiritual benefits of a subsidized BYU education, and it seems like Church members are getting a fantastic return on their investment, so to speak.

  59. Nobody answered my previous question: Does BYU disclose its financial statements? Is the amount of financial support from the Church public knowledge?

  60. If the church cut off funds to BYU, it WOULD cease to exist. THE CHURCH is the main benefactor of it’s schools. Other private schools have endowments. Standford has been lowering it’s tuition lately because they felt their endowment was getting too big. Other Ivy League school have been criticized for not spending more of theirs.

    Is it not just as important to train members of the church to be contributing member of a global society as it is to feed a child elsewhere in the world? Educate someone and then not only do you continue to feed, immunize and teach those in other countries, but now you have educated others to do the same.

    I think the main problem is that you view THE CHURCH as a building with 15 men in it that are located in SLC. THE CHURCH is MEMBERS all over the world.

    BYU presents opportunities for the Church to be a global influence. Take away one and you take away the other.

    As far as freedoms…

    Go teach at a state school and find out WHAT YOU CANNOT DISCUSS in class. You may not discuss God. You may not discuss moral behavior. You may not discuss your beliefs in any way. You may find yourself personally distracted by the facial and body piercings of the students, but if you comment in any way about their appearance, lack of or inappropriateness of attire, you may find yourself slapped with a lawsuit.

    BYU enables more freedoms than you realize.

  61. “BYU absolutely does not uphold basic freedom of speech and academic freedom among its students, faculty and staff.”

    Several of my professors who had taught elsewhere would disagree with this statement. When I taught there, I was also given a surprisingly free hand. But I suppose some of this argument hinges on the nature of religious schools and what qualifies as “basic” freedom of speech versus… extra freedom of speech? Upgraded freedom of speech?

  62. Mike, I don’t know, but I would assume not unless they are compelled to by some legal requirement.

  63. Leslie, this is your last warning. If you can’t figure out how to communicate without rampant all caps and general combativeness, your comments will be moderated.

  64. So many comments about education at BYU and yet not a single mention of the Jimmer.

  65. What! A challenge to basic free speech!

  66. #66: heh! BCC has no freedom of speech for all-caps abusers, it is true. :-)

  67. Ok, my grin indicating joviality was cut off in that last comment.

  68. re: 61
    “Go teach at a state school and find out WHAT YOU CANNOT DISCUSS in class. You may not discuss God…”

    Wow, things have sure changed since I was at The University of Michigan. We discussed all that stuff the whole time I was there. There were endless debates both in- and outside of class between the perspectives of religious and non-religious people.

  69. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    Two things:

    I can understand the perception of elitism as the church contributes to it’s own campuses at a much higher rate than it does towards students elsewhere. However, in the big picture, the money spent on BYU has a tremendously leveling effect on the (US) church population as a whole. With preference towards out-of-state students and a low financial barrier, access is primarily determined by academic proficiency — which I think we can all agree is appropriate for an educational facility.

    While many schools produce elite graduates, most private schools do so by admitting students from the upper financial and cultural layers of society. The way BYU is able to produce graduates that are competitive with anyone else in the country and do so with students who basicly got by with a part-time job, Pell Grants and a baby, is remarkable. I’m with Ray, I think this is a very clear example of something to celebrate and recognize.

    On a related note, as the church’s revenues continue to increase, but the need for physical facilities becomes relatively lessened (I know it is still challenging), I suspect that education and humanitarian aid will be the budget areas that soak up the dollars that have been going to brick and mortar in the past.

  70. You may find yourself personally distracted by the facial and body piercings of the students,

    This happens to me all the time. I wish somebody would stand up for my constitutional right to not be distracted.

  71. Cheap meaning, Utah citizens are not known for paying top dollar for something they perceive that can be homemade, whether or not they have the skill or the inclination to make such products themselves.

    I’m also saying that if the BYU student body had to pay every aspect of education at BYU, they could not afford it. Tuition would be the highest in the world.

    Public education funding in Utah is, I believe, 47th in the US. The state, clearly, cannot support another University, particularly another one in Utah County.

    If the church didn’t support BYU, then it would also lose it’s influence. It would be turned it over to those who would fund the endowment. Who would that be? In a free-market economy, it would be those willing to pay the highest price.

    If the church no longer supported BYU, you think it could remain a private university? Do you think it could be absorbed into the state educational system? How long would it take to turn over the church-owned system to a private endowment system.

    Now, would it be worth it?

  72. I am definitely unhinged, but since I wasn’t posting in all caps, I didn’t think it was the same thing. Sorry.

    When hired by BYU, you agree to support the doctrine of the Church. If you do not believe the doctrine of the Church, or do not support the department curriculum, then why would you want to teach at BYU?

    Life is too short. Excel where you are wanted and do what you believe.

  73. Yes, I think the church should continue to fund/subsidize BYU. (And BYU-I, BYU-H & LDS Business College seem like good ideas too)

  74. I had the same thought as MikeInWeHo: discussion of these kind of questions is kind of pointless without some idea of the Church’s overall finances. And that information is only disclosed to the chosen few.

    (I’ve often wondered why more info doesn’t leak out about church finances. Are people not interested? Doesn’t the SL Trib have sources? Does the church make that strong an attempt to make sure nobody talks? Or have there been lots of tidbits of info that I’ve just missed?)

  75. Some others have hinted at this, but it changes the debate (and I think is more realistic and accurate) if we stop calling them subsidies and instead call them investments. And that justifies the elitist nature of the distribution: the church grooms its “high-potential” members by paying for their education at an institution it controls.

    So I don’t think this is an ethical question. The question is what the metrics are about smart kids who attend BYU vs. smart LDS kids who attend school elsewhere. Earning and tithing potential might not be affected, but we have to consider rates of inactivity (over 4 years and over lifetime), rates of temple marriage (and how that correlates with lifetime activity/tithing of spouse and kids), and likelihood to wear BYU apparel.

    I won’t hazard a guess at what those metrics might be, but it’s not hard to believe that the church’s investment in BYU pays enormous dividends.

    Jimmer is all gravy.

  76. Also, two Friday Firestorms in one day! BEST WEEKEND EVAR!

    Sorry for the all-caps, Cynthia.

  77. There’s lots of reasons for the church not subsidizing education outside of BYU.

    Number 1 is, the church tithing is not an entitlement program. They can’t choose how other universities spend the money that they are given and can’t therefore have any influence on the quality of education the student is receiving. It could be a giant waste of money and most likely would be.

    Number 2, I’m sure that the church has academic goals that they are striving to achieve such as old world studies, archeology of book of Mormon historical sites, and all sorts of other things that relate to church beliefs and culture.

    Number 3, How could they ever give an accounting for how people’s tithing was spent if they were handing it out to other organizations for use? The church could give a bunch of money to the red cross or something similar but that would go toward a bunch of administrative fees (ie people’s salary) and things of that nature. Isn’t it easier to give a good accounting when they can say that everyone working in the effort are volunteers and the money is going directly toward the goods that are needed?

    I’m sure there are a host of other reasons but I think you get my point.

  78. My understanding is that academics aren’t the only or even major decider of who gets into BYU. I believe that there’s also an attempt to favor out of state people as well. (Since people in Utah already have a lot of LDS connections and can go to other Utah colleges with high LDS concentrations) Given that I have a hard time seeing a problem with tithing subsidizing BYU. It clearly serves a public good for a lot of LDS – especially those in places with few LDS peers. (Frankly that was why I originally came to BYU)

    As for grad school, I’m mixed. I think one big problem with BYU is the lack of good grad programs which limits the kinds of work that professors can do and also people to teach or TA classes. I just wish BYU emphasized more programs beyond business, management, law and accounting.

    Kristine, why do you think BYU is so bad for science? I can only talk about physics but it seemed it was a very good undergraduate program for that. Yes it wasn’t as hard as say MIT or Yale (I had friends go to both) but many of the people who graduated with me went on to top schools without trouble. It was also pretty easy to get a physics internship if the people knew I was coming from BYU.

    I obviously can’t speak to other departments nor how the physics department has evolved since I graduated.

    Oh, regarding football. I’m pretty sure it brings in more money than it costs. Both via media rights, ticket sales, booster donations and so forth. With the new independence I suspect we’ll make even more money.

  79. Natalie B. says:

    78: There are definitely valid reasons to think that we should subsidize BYU, but I’m not sure I agree that we need a church university as a platform for specifically Mormon scholarly pursuits. My general sense is that studies on, for example, Book of Mormon sites will never be taken seriously by non-Mormon academics. If anything, those pursuit make BYU look less legitimate in the eyes of other universities (for better or for worse). Given that, wouldn’t it be easier to just fund research by Mormon scholars outside of a university setting?

    79: Is BYU bad for science? It seems that we should ask this question from the perspective of both undergrads and faculty. From an undergrad perspective, it seems just fine. Students get a solid education and get into good grad schools. It seems that from a faculty perspective there might be more issues: It’s anxiety-producing to do research in a “censored” environment, and research is hard, period, without a strong grad program.

  80. Are you saying that the system for tithing is different in the US than it is for other countries?

    To some degree, yes. The church has administrative offices in different countries. Some of those administrative offices may cover more than one country, but my understanding is that tithing funds are sent to the local administrative office. The administrative office for the United States just happens to coincide with church headquarters.

    Procedural details aside, the local administrative office then sends each unit an amount for ‘ward’ budget expenditures. Building construction / maintenance costs are provided for separately.

    Fast offering funds are usually sent directly to the local administrative office, not held in some sort of unit specific account. In the US fast offering expenditures are directly paid for out of a general level account. There is a substantial cross subsidy of fast offering expenditures from tithing funds, although I understand that has reduced lately.

    In some areas units have local bank accounts, but I believe the procedure is the same – send tithing and fast offerings to the local administrative office, receive back ward budget allocations and amounts for fast offering expenditures.

    Ward missionary funds and a handful of “other” balances are unit specific. The biggest visible expenditure besides ward budget is building construction, which is generally handled at the administrative office level.

  81. What science areas are “censored”?
    I know BYU has prominent evolutionary biologists. I can’t think of any other science area that might conceivably generate problems.

  82. I totally agree with Mark D. I served my mission in Africa and the few tithe payers amongst the active members in Africa are heavily subsidized by Western tithe payers. Like a $100 or $1000 subsidy for every $1 in tithing paid for by an African member. Its not unusual for entire congregations to have state of the art buildings with just a very small number of people (like 1 or 2 families) actually paying any tithes.

    I do support subsidizing BYU with tithing funds.

  83. Public education funding in Utah is, I believe, 47th in the US

    In absolute per pupil terms, for primary and secondary school students, yes. In terms of public education funding as a percentage of personal income, it ranks somewhere around the middle. See here (pdf).

    In Utah (as of 2011) 49.7% of the state budget is public education, and 15.1% is higher education. Those are higher ratios than most states.

    When considering absolute numbers, it is important to recognize that living costs vary from state to state, as do per capita incomes, and so on. Utah generally ranks somewhat above average in education performance metrics.

    The state, clearly, cannot support another University, particularly another one in Utah County.

    Such as Utah Valley University? Don’t forget University of Utah, Utah State University, Weber State University, and Southern Utah University. Dixie State College (in St. George) is also under consideration for promotion to university status.

  84. Such as Utah Valley University?

    Sorry I wasn’t clear. Would Utah support absorbing BYU into the public university system in addition to UVU in Utah county? No.

    In addition to the universities and colleges there are the trade schools and community colleges like SLCC (Salt Lake Community College, MATC (Mountainland Applied Technology College).

    I just cut my checks and let greater minds decide where it falls.

    In looking at about the MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella program) those funds are paid through the humanitarian fund anyway.

  85. Hey, does anybody know whether Leslie is in favor of supporting BYU with Church funds? If only s/he would let us know …

  86. I have little doubt that BYU could survive as a private institution without funding from the church. Enrollment would probably be a third of its present level, however, and Utah Valley University would expand significantly to compensate.

    As a matter of fairness, however, I don’t think that it is right that the state subsidizes education only for those who attend public universities. Those who attend private schools will be paying taxes to support higher education for the rest of their lives too. Public universities and private universities ought to be placed on a level playing field.

  87. I think it’s fine that the Church funds BYU. It serves its purposes. One purpose that seems to be overlooked is the fact that BYU is a culture-generator. I know that Mormons aren’t really admired for their “culture” so much, but one of the strengths of Mormonism is that it’s almost an ethnic group of its own, with a strong culture. BYU is really a focal point for that culture, quirky as it is.

    Of course, I’m probably a hypocrite for saying that. My two semesters at BYU-Idaho (the first time I’d ever really lived around other Mormons) taught me that I don’t like other Mormons and I definitely don’t want to live around them.

  88. Left Field says:

    For several decades, BYU has had an excellent biology program (both graduate and undergraduate), particularly in evolutionary biology. Can you find something better? Well, sure. But any implication that BYU is somehow substandard, is nonsense.

  89. If only the tithing slip included boxes for us to mark off what we wanted to contribute to with our tithing.

    But this is from someone who didn’t go to BYU and has no desire for my children, their children, their children’s childrens and so forth to attend BYU.

    (I have nothing against having the church support BYU with tithing funds. I just wish the tithing of those who actually attended, or have children attending were the only ones being used for it.)

  90. *edit any spelling/grammar errors Stephine Meyer might notice

  91. Ardis, I know you were joking, but in my limited capacity to follow arguments, I REALLY HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO PIN DOWN HER POSITION!!!1!!

    And that is what 6 years of subsidized education at BYU bought you all. Thank you. And you are welcome.

  92. Newly Housewife, I have it on good authority your tithing just went to Africa while Bob Brown’s went to BYU. A lot of people think it all goes into a big pile but I’m personally convinced that they sort people by where their tithing dollar goes.

  93. #90: “(I have nothing against having the church support BYU with tithing funds. I just wish the tithing of those who actually attended, or have children attending were the only ones being used for it.)”

    I’m pretty sure that the church can pay for BYU without your particular tithing contributions, so if it makes you feel better, just imagine that your funds aren’t going to BYU.

  94. I have no problem with a subsidy. I do think that the church could probably use non-tithing funds to support its universities though. Look at the City Creek project. Estimates for this project are somewhere between $1.5 billion to $3 billion and being adjusted all the time. The killer is that the buildings alone are only going to be valued at approximately $500 million. THAT is money that could have been spent in a very different way!

  95. Maybe if they ever sell City Creek project for a profit, they can use the windfall to hand BYU a lump-sum endowment, then cut it off from ongoing tithing support.

  96. I think everyone is missing a main “benefit” of having BYU subsidized by tithing, which is being able to threaten Honor Code violators and other scofflaws with the guilt factor, “Don’t you know tithing is subsidizing your education?! And that’s how you behave?!”

  97. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    The real question is, could the church survive without the BYU Police Beat. This alone is worth the tithing subsidy.

  98. Indeed, Larry. Indeed.

  99. Mark Brown says:

    “Someone called the campus police department to report that a suspicious, hispanic-looking man with California tags on his car was hanging around in the parking area of the Wilkinson Center. When police arrived, he told them he had misplaced his tithing subsidy. He was told to go to his dorm and look for it there.”

  100. “What precisely are appropriate uses of tithing?”

    1. The construction of a Mormon Gold Base.
    2. A museum dedicated to comparing and contrasting the the artistic styles of President Packer and Matsby.
    3. The publication of a pamphlet discussing 2 above and titled “Mormon Miltons and Shakespeares”.
    4. Living stipends for BCC permas.
    5. Purchasing and then destroying the entire run of Men on a Mission calendars.

  101. Natalie B. says:

    #101: All of those are surely good uses!

  102. Matthew, the church already does #4. Haven’t you noticed how much time we spend on this site? You can’t hold down a job wasting this much time!

    PS: thanks, everybody!

  103. Re 61 & 73 – I’m not hot on BYU as a tithing subsidized enterprise for many reasons mentioned in this thread, but I could not let this particular “there is nothing wrong with BYU and academic freedom” notion go on.

    While it is true that all universities do, at some level, put limits on academic freedoms (some overtly under some banner of safety, most passively by steering hiring decisions over years towards certain ideologies although this often happens more at the departmental level than at the university level), it is well documented that BYU is one of the worst. BYU has been censured since 1998 by AAUP precisely because of this.

    Leslie can claim that a professor knows what you are getting when you go, but that isn’t always true. You can be a true believing LDS Mormon when you begin teaching at BYU but then find your research trajectory on a path that questions the party (SLC) line as the years go on. Never mind that you have dedicated 15-30 years of your life to the institution. Never mind you your research has lead to legitimate concerns (say baseball/soccer baptisms in other countries). Doesn’t matter. You either support hook, line, and sinker or you find (if that is even possible at that point in your career – it often is not) another job.

    Many of us go through questioning periods in our lives. Heaven forbid a BYU professor questions and works through their own issues with the church (and yes, we all have them). If it isn’t done completely privately (because, quite frankly even making your bishop aware of these issues could put your job in jeopardy), you may lose your job.

    This way of dealing with individual doubts and institutional criticism is terrible for the individual professor and can, in my view, tear down reasonable avenues for appropriate reform within the church. Not to mention it alienates the professor involved to the point that they withdraw from the church completely.

  104. Oh a topic I know something about. I must say that I don’t care either way if BYU is subsidized or not. Quite frankly what I care about is the noose around openly debating questions. We should be able to have a sincere discussion on sincere questions. I have taken now to writing because I can’t express myself any way else (actually I have been writing enough). I attend BYU-Idaho. if you think BYU is censored, oh just go up north a bit, and you will find a campus devoid of any real meaningful political discussion. At least BYU has that.

  105. Typo: (actually I have been writing for years now)…oops. Excuse the college student for not editing before posting.

  106. The thread has perhaps reached the point of redundancy. But let me add one additional thought on that.

    As documented in various books that most regular members of the Bloggneracle have read (Alexander, Prince, et al.) the Church made a decision last century to stop isolating itself from the world, but to instead try to have our members engage it (albeit in our own unique way).

    There are some drawbacks to the approach. But there are also benefits. Let’s face it–it’s no accident that we have favorable tax status, or that we get our missionaries into countries that might otherwise be hostile, or any number of examples. Having prominent members who are Senators and CEOs and judges and whatever has a lot to do with that.

    That access, in turn, helps us do a large number of good in the world. It helps us spread the gospel. And having good relations with governments helps us effectively manage a charitable organization that sends large, large amounts of direct aid to impoverished countries around the world (including Africa, Cameron).

    BYU helps cultivate that on any number of levels. Having a low-cost, high quality undergraduate program helps a lot of LDS undergrads get into prominent grad schools, which then helps increase their prominence in the world. And having its own quality grad schools in a number of areas (law, business) does the same thing as well.

    So sure, if you’re only looking at what an individual tithing dollar can do TODAY (hat tip to Leslie), feeding the poor person in Africa is the best thing to do.

    But if you agree that the Church will actively try to help that same person tomorrow (which I think any objective observer would agree that we are), then BYU clearly helps out a long-term level as well.

  107. I have nothing against BYU being subsidised by the Church, I think huge requirements are placed on the saints, 1. Save for a mission, 2. Sacrifice upto two years earnings, 3. Marriage ASAP & 4 Kids ASAP.

    It is only right that the institution that require such sacrifice gives a leg up to those in need.

  108. MikeInWeHo says:

    Forget BYU. You guys need to get a cruise ship!

  109. Natalie B. says:

    #90: Occasionally, I have thought about flagging where I want my tithing to go. But then I always conclude there is no point: Money is fungible, so I suspect that if I contribute to one box that extra money from that box will just be shifted to another.

  110. Nicole- I disagree, but there is a lot of vagueness in what constitutes “questioning.”

    Particularly with a private religious University, I don’t see anything wrong with requiring particular doctrinal requirements, and perhaps you don’t either. The real sticky wicket is how those are implemented in policy and practice.

    I wouldn’t send my kids to BYU if I knew the people teaching Book of Mormon didn’t believe in the Book of Mormon. President McKay felt the same way. He defended Stirling McMurrin’s right to his heretical (and firmly-held) opinions, but drew a clear line between one’s right to hold and argue those opinions *and* work for the Church. “President McKay [said] there was all the difference in the world between whether a man should be excommunicated because he may not accept all the views of the Church, and whether he should still be employed on the faculty of BYU. He told me that I would have his complete support in refusing to renew the contracts of any teachers who did not teach the doctrines as they were interpreted by the leaders of the Church.” Link

    It’s not just BYU with those issues. Google around for Peter Enns’ story with Westminster Theological Seminary, a prominent religious institution.

  111. Natalie B. says:

    112: If we assume that at some level BYU professors are expected to tow an orthodox line (regardless of whether this is a positive or negative thing), then to what extent does the body of people at BYU–professors and administrators–help produce what orthodoxy means in the church?

  112. Oh, I think they have a large role.

    There’s a serious doctrinal trickle-down effect. BYU produces most of the material read by CES, and that’s your Seminary and Institute system all over the world. I suspect (without any basis) that BYU professors are also consulted on occasion by GA’s for doctrinal research and/or things like the Curriculum or Correlation committees.

    Plus, much of the doctrinal material published by Deseret Book (which is often perceived as having some kind of imprimatur) is written by BYU professors.

  113. I’m finally reading through the comments, and I had some thoughts that I wanted to express, but it looks like Syphax (88) and RT (107) already nailed them.

    I’ll add my two cents to their comments.

    I went to a private, religious, non-LDS university for my undergraduate degree. The cost of attending was around $40,000 a year. Almost every cent of that was paid for by in-house grants and scholarships paid by alumni of the university.

    BYU also gets large donations from its alumni, but I have to assume (not having any inside knowledge on the subject) that it pales in comparison to most top-notch schools for one reason: LDS members already donate 10% of their money elsewhere. Once taxes and tithing has been paid, I don’t care how much you earn, most of your money is gone, and its harder to make donations to worthy cuases such as education through alumni programs.

    Perhaps we could just start having “tithing exemptions” – I only have to pay $8,000 in tithing on my $100,000 income because I donated $2,000 to BYU through the alumni program – that’s the ticket! (sarcasm)

    While I was going to college, the two centers of academia just down the street from us also received large subsidies – UCLA and USC – from state funds. Cost of going to UCLA was around $16,000 a year for residents (FTR, for you Utahns for whom this seems high, $16k is very low for a top level school). Having a low tuition (compared to $50,000 for Harvard or similar) allows Californians to keep their best and brightest from going East where the more established schools are. Similarly without some form of subsidy, BYU would never be able to operate at a prestigious level without serious financial help of some sort.

    As has been stated several times, the caliber of student would drop significantly if the tuition was raised to sustainable levels. If the caliber of student were to drop, the caliber of professors would follow, and BYU would lose any and all cultural/scientific/academic relevance.

    To answer Natalie’s question about a benefit of sending great LDS minds into the world’s universities, in large part I’m sure that already happens. I know plenty of genius-level LDS students who opt to take on heavier financial burdens and attend ivy league universities. But I don’t think this is the main reason for BYU’s existence. I think it is a center for Mormon Culture, a center where mormon academic pursuits can be undertaken, and there is a large benefit in presenting such a cultural center to the world and having it considered relevant and prestigious academically. In other words, its not about elitism in my opinion, its about presenting our best and brightest to the world, and having them taken seriously. I think BYU goes a long way (ironic as it is, given how weird Provoans can be) to de-mystifying Mormons, and creating an image of an intelligent rational people.

    I don’t love BYU, and there are a number of issues that I have with it. But I do think that the church has some very compelling reasons to have an academic institution that it oversees (and subsidizes).

  114. Ben, I agree. Somebody needs to write a paper on the role of BYU in the church’s doctrinal development.

    I also think that people at the JRC law school have done a lot of behind-the-scenes work with our approach to family and gender issues, including the Proclamation.

  115. Mike, 109,

    Re: cruises, check these out:

    If you ever want to go on one of those just let me know, I’ll pay your way. I will pay double for you to go on the couples “enhancing intimacy” cruise.

  116. re: 116
    They’d make me walk the plank before the first port call.

  117. The BoM cruise intrigues me. There are scheduled visits at the site of three ruins: Lamanai, Chaccoben, and Tulum.

    The first one is very obviously named after the brother of Nephi. The second one clearly shows us that the Nephite language was of semitic origin with the _ben_ suffix (cf. Abou ben Adam, Ben-Hur), and Tulum points to the pure Adamic language. Note the similarity to the word _Kolob_.

  118. BYU also gets large donations from its alumni, but I have to assume…that it pales in comparison to most top-notch schools for one reason: LDS members already donate 10% of their money elsewhere. Once taxes and tithing has been paid, I don’t care how much you earn, most of your money is gone

    This is the best argument I have seen yet. If BYU is worthwhile as a religiously oriented institution, and if the people who go there are likely (if not more likely) to remain active and pay tithing, then the church has ample ground to consider part of their contributions as in support of the institution that educated them.

    The University of Utah solicits alumni donations too. But I doubt they raise very much that way either, because 15% of the money the state collects in taxes goes to support higher education.

  119. Isn’t the only useful response to the headline question: “Why should I have an opinion on God’s business?” As a principle of law, and as a principle of faith (no matter one’s religious affiliation), the lawful distribution of tithing contributions are of concern only to God and the accountants. If contributions are misused, the recipients go to hell. Problem solved.

  120. I’ve been to Tulum. Should we tell them it’s not on Cozumel?

  121. kristine N- when were you at Caltech? Both of my brothers went there.

  122. B. Russ,

    I take offense at your suggestion that UCLA is the reason excellent CA students stay in state.

    Mark D.,

    It is a wild fiction to suggest that the funding of BYU with tithing dollars has nothing to do with how other tithing dollars are spent. The fact that UT, CA, ID, and AZ fund pretty much the entire church doesn’t change this.

  123. To the question of whether or not the financials of the church should be made public: The answer (to me) is an unequivocal yes.

    I don’t think we necessarily should have a “say” or a “vote” in what happens to the money. That isn’t our stewardship.

    But we are, as a church, the body of Christ. Every one of us. And the right hand should know what the left hand does. Transparency and disclosure go a long way toward reducing corruption. Its easy to say that the stewards of tithing money will have their reward should they use the funds incorrectly, but it still wouldn’t make me very happy to find out that the church’s funds are being used to buy ferris wheels and cotton candy when greater good could come from the money. Regardless of having a “say” in what happens to tithing funds, there really isn’t a compelling argument that I can see as to why there isn’t transparency to the members.

  124. I absolutely think good education is a proper use of tithing funds. I think the reason the church doesn’t publicly file reports on use of funds, net worth, etc. is that there would be as many opinions on how to spend the money as there are Mormons, and it’s not in our stewardship.

    That said, when I’m prophet I’ll fund schooling all over the world for all LDS members with tithing funds. Education is a great investment, and the church and all its members reap the benefits of that investment. Even more important, though, is basic nutrition and education for LDS kids in resource poor settings.

    I do agree that accountability is important, and I’d like to see a report with general categories and the amounts invested or spent on each category.

    I quit paying tithing because of Prop 8. I now pay my tithe in charities selected by me. What happened is that I decided to join a boycott of Target because they support anti-gay politicians. Then I realized it was sort of hypocritical of me to support the church, which definitely supports anti-gay legislation, and boycott Target. I wish someone would give me some information about tithing funds that would reassure me and let me pay a tithe to the church again. It feels wrong not to do it, and wrong to do it, so I’m torn.

  125. Natalie B. says:

    Here’s another question that a lot of our comments implicitly raise: Who actually decides where tithing goes? Given the sums at stake, I’d assume that the First Pres is delegating to someone and just giving general directives. Are these people “called” to administer the church’s funds? Or are they employees?

  126. According to Preach My Gospel,”A council comprised of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twellve, and the Presiding Bishopric determines specific ways to use the sacred tithing funds. They may direct the money to other persons for the discharge of these purposes, but I do not believe anyone outside this group has less than defined and limited ability to use this money.

  127. Curse it, the ” was supposed to end with “funds” and “twelve” has only one “l”. Blast it, I despise making those mistakes, pardon me.

  128. As far as deciding whether or not tithing funds are being appropriately used in general, it doesn’t appear that there is much a person outside the church’s financial loop can do to determine that. That said, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to pray to know whether the money is being spent in accordance with God’s will. In fact, I would say that we may know specifically through prayer whether or not it is appropriate to allocate funds for the subsidizing of BYU. God has all knowledge, and since we have made a more than a meager investment, I think He’s alright with us asking, especially in this scenario where we don’t necessarily have access to fund information, or which individuals specifically are involved.

  129. It’s occurred to me that whether or not the investment is meager may have little relevance, if any, at all to this. Pardon me.

  130. Perhaps the law school is cheaper.

    For undergraduate education, I guess it depends on where you live and what other scholarships have been offered. If my daughter goes to BYU, it will be something like five times more expensive than other universities where she has been accepted.

  131. What Ardis said. BYU tuition should be subsidized not for the benefit of individual students, but for serving a greater purpose for the church and kingdom, and for the world in general. Same goes for tithing money being used to support the high costs of the institution in general. The subsidy should not exist to benefit individual students, nor should a subsidy from tithes be available to members for college education. There are other ways of funding an education, and many, many needs within the church that are greater than keeping tuition low for the very narrow select group of young people who attend BYU. Again, it’s not for their individual benefit, but for the benefit of building the kingdom in some way. I am an academic at a west coast public university, and my four kids all went to public universities in-state that cost a dear amount more than BYU. Same for me. I have little patience for the students who attend BYU and can’t stand it. I understand some parents pressure their kids to go there, but leave those spots open for youths who really want to be there. I would love for the church to keep a certain percentage of slots at BYU available for non-US citizen members of the church, even if some are not quite as high ranked academically, and subsidize tuition even more heavily for those who are poorer. I went to public universities and graduate schools, but I don’t begrudge my tithing going to BYU, providing it builds the kingdom worldwide.

  132. B.Russ,

    The body of Christ is ill-tempered, jealous, petty and uncharitable. Introducing transparency into the equation is likely to only exacerbate these character flaws.

  133. Sorry if i missed it in all the comments, but the main thing that bothers me about the BYU tithing subsidy is that it means my tithing dollars are helping fund a big-time intercollegiate sports empire. As a pointy-headed social science professor, this does not make me happy.

    Also, the church used to give very detailed financial statements—if you listen to general conferences from back in the 1930s, you find not just expenses and income to the penny in a mind-numbing array of separate categories, but details like the highest and lowest per capita fast offering contributions by mission and stake (one year, the highest was the Czechoslovakian Mission, if i recall correctly).

    Disclosure: I never attended any of the church colleges, but i was faculty at the flagship BYU for a few years, and much to my surprise found it a pleasant place to work.

  134. Natalie B. says:

    #133: I seriously doubt that many people would look at the books if they were disclosed. How many of us bother to read the statements that come with funds and stocks? But, I do think that having them public would encourage whoever is making decisions to take a hard look at whether the money is being well spent.

    Another question: Does the Church have an endowment, or does it typically spend all funds received quickly?

  135. The body of Christ is ill-tempered, jealous, petty and uncharitable. Introducing transparency into the equation is likely to only exacerbate these character flaws.

    1) I wish I were in your ward you charitable loving person you.

    2) Considering that those making tithing spending decisions are also the body of Christ, I believe you just made my point for me. Thank you.

  136. Should tithing subsidize BYU?

    he!! no

  137. I’m thinking rather than subsidizing BYU as we do now, use an approach akin to the Perpetual Education Fund. Kids with financial needs going to BYU (or other schools even) could apply for financial loans from the Church, which must be paid back after graduation. In this way, our tithes help kids attend college, but only those requiring assistance and allows for the funds to come back to the Church to assist others in the future.

  138. Sorry if i missed it in all the comments, but the main thing that bothers me about the BYU tithing subsidy is that it means my tithing dollars are helping fund a big-time intercollegiate sports empire. As a pointy-headed social science professor, this does not make me happy.

    Football pays for itself. According to KSL

    Of all the sports that make up BYU’s athletic budget, football by far exceeds all others in turning a profit. In fact, except for men’s basketball, all other sports lose money.

    In 2009, football made a 53 percent profit and men’s basketball made 8 percent. Everything else was in the red.

    Even with the unprofitable sports, BYU Athletics still made $5.5 million in profit, according to data obtained from the U.S. Department of Education. The reason the other sports survive is because all the sports’ revenues and expenses come from the athletic budget as a whole, said Dallan Moody, BYU’s associate athletics director over finance.

    That profit center will undoubtedly improve more with the new independent status of BYU (and potentially still going in with Texas in the Big 10 in the future)

  139. MikeInWeHo says:

    College football makes a lot of money for the major universities, not just BYU:

  140. One side effect of the books not being open means that I don’t entirely trust claims of BYU sports programs’ profitability. A number of investigations of intercollegiate sports accounting practices have shown that, while there are some profitable programs (and BYU is in a position where it may well be one of those), many of the profits that are claimed from those programs actually come at the expense of academic funding, via tricks that would be called money laundering if criminality was involved. (The Chronicle of Higher Education has done a good bit of reporting on this, but unfortunately all of the good stuff is behind a paywall.)

    There’s also the problem of the ability to solicit donations for academics. If someone writes a check for $100,000 to the athletics department, they’re less likely to write a check for anything to the academic side. Now, many claim that that donor wouldn’t have donated if they couldn’t donate to sports, and that may be true for some, but i can’t believe that that’s the case for all athletics-only donors.

    Of course, if a primary purpose of a BYU education is actually to create Mormon endogamy (and specifically high-earnings-potential religiously endogamous families), then this is moot—entertaining the students then becomes not just a nice add-on and recruiting tool, but a central part of the mission of the university.

  141. Oh—and one semi-unrelated other thing. The books at BYU aren’t only not open, they’re less open than at almost any other institution of higher learning in the United States. BYU is one of a very small handful of colleges and universities that claims a religious exemption to the filing of the barest of financial disclosures with the IRS. This is why you can’t find even the minimal information most places report on an IRS form 990 when you look for information on BYU.

  142. B. Russ,

    I don’t see how I made your point but in addition to being uncharitable and tending towards a dim view of human nature, I’m also often slow so if you can lay it out for me that would be helpful.

    Much of the scripture discussing the church as the body of Christ does so in terms of specialization which at the least suggests there is no reason that decisions regarding the purse need to be transparent. It seems clear that the distribution of money in ways perceived to be unequitable are one of two things guaranteed to get the body of Christ worked up in (self-?) righteous indignation–to wit, this thread. I’m even less excited about listening to my fellow body parts rail against money being spent on say, illegal immigrants, than I am about listening to a different sub-set whine about BYU and the SLC downtown Gold Base–er shopping mall. Willfully introducing such a canker on the church easily outweigh any benefits transparency might provide.

  143. @Mathew:

    Wait a minute—did you just say that questioning the need for financial non-transparency is equivalent to “[w]illfully introducing…a canker on the church”? ’Cause if that’s not what you meant, it certainly reads like you were at least implying it really, really strongly.

  144. A bit dated but here’s a 2002 Des News story.

    Sponsorship by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t translate into deep pockets for BYU sports. Monies instead come from the LDS Foundation, Cougar Club, endowed scholarships and season tickets.

    “No tithing dollars go toward funding our program, so the reality is that we have to earn our own keep,” said BYU associate A.D. Duff Tittle. “Over half our operating budget comes from season ticket sales in football and basketball. . . . The health and success of our program depends on full stadiums.”

    There are always accounting games one can play. Sometimes things are a little more complex than it appears. (Especially for dual use items in college athletics)

  145. BTW – it probably deserves a thread of its own but I suspect the reason the Church doesn’t release financials anymore even after the overbuilding in the 60’s is because of second guessing by so many people.

  146. David B,

    Just curious–how did you do on the reading comprehension portion of the ACT?

  147. S.P. Bailey says:

    This thread apparently jumped the shark a long time ago, but for some reason I can’t stop myself. My vote: the church should subsidize higher education, including graduate/professional programs at BYU.

    1. Of course, this is largely an argument about a book none of us has read. We don’t know the extent of the subsidy. I’m fine with the level of “transparency” here. Likewise, I do not believe that I have a “right to free speech” in my neighbor’s house or church. I don’t have to go there. You don’t have to give money to the church, and you don’t have to go to BYU.

    2. I generally believe in higher education funding, and I don’t resent the fact that I have (and will for the rest of my tax-paying life) support various state-run schools. Apparently the irony is lost on the students/alumni of state schools who resent tithing dollars going to BYU.

    3. The low cost of BYU is not entirely a function of tithing subsidies. BYU is generally a well-run, frugal place. The costs of running a school are lower in Provo than in Palo Alto. BYU has a growing endowment from alumni donations. BYU faculty and staff willingly get paid less than their counterparts at comparable schools because they want to be a part of BYU.

    4. BYU’s low cost makes sense because a BYU education is worth less than some elite educations. Value is BYU’s primary competitive tool to attract talent. Also, considering debt loads and job opportunities, many universities (and particularly law schools) look like sleazy ponzi schemes that enrich the institutions/professors at the expense of students. BYU does not do this. Instead, BYU’s value gives its graduates the freedom to live balanced lives, reproduce, serve in the church, etc., etc.

    5. BYU is a center of Mormon culture. BYU directly serves the church. BYU also represents the church. BYU communicates Mormon identity to the world in a way that individual Mormons at other schools can’t. The church would be poorer—it would lose its public face to a degree—without BYU. BYU athletics is a significant part of this. This fact hurts the feelings of University of Utah fans everywhere, but it is true. As others have noted, the BYU athletics department pays for itself and then some. And Jimmer Fredette may be the church’s best PR rep ever.

    6. Church ownership/subsidy gives the church control of all of the little details of the BYU experience. And American college campuses can be hedonistic hell-holes. Mormon kids can thrive in those places, but only despite the prevailing culture. As a parent, I like that my kids (and Mormon kids all over the world) will eventually have the BYU option. Certain kids would be lost forever without the safe-haven from decadent American culture that BYU offers.

    7. I believe BYU graduates have high degrees of loyalty to the church, high rates of church service, high tithing and other charitable contribution rates, and on and on. I have no way of proving it, but BYU likely pays for itself over time.

  148. 143 – Given the fact that the finances were disclosed for well over a century without being a “canker”, and only stopped being disclosed when the church outspent its income in the late 1950s (which I think is probably safe to say a thing of the past.) I don’t see much evidence for your claims.

    For as much of a “canker” as divulging the finances might be, I can guarantee that secrecy tends to be a larger canker among us ill-tempered, jealous, petty and uncharitable types.
    Three of the largest complaints (among us uncharitable types):
    1) whitewashing our history (secrecy)
    2) the CHI not being made public (secrecy)
    3) the church finances not being made public (secrecy)

    There are other complaints, but there does seem to be a trend among these, doesn’t there?

    I don’t see how I made your point but in addition to being uncharitable and tending towards a dim view of human nature, I’m also often slow so if you can lay it out for me that would be helpful.

    You said that the “body of Christ is ill-tempered, jealous, petty and uncharitable”, given that those who decide what to do with tithing funds are part of the body of Christ, it logically follows that those who are making financial decisions are “ill-tempered, jealous, petty and uncharitable”, no?
    To any reasonable person, it would seem that people with such glaring character flaws should have oversight in financial decisions, no?
    It then logically follows that church finances should be made public, no?

    Glad to be of help.

  149. 148:
    “You don’t have to give money to the church, and you don’t have to go to BYU. ”

    In order to get your temple recommend you do.

  150. #148 and 150: I have been thinking about the fact that I could simply stop paying tithing or go to a new church if I don’t like the lack of transparency.

    But that is not a real option to me: Heritage, family commitments, personal faith and social pressure all remove it. Given that I don’t think there is a functioning religious marketplace–we don’t shop for religion like we do for cars–we might have all the more reason to desire transparency.

  151. @Mathew (147):

    Not sure what my college testing scores have to do with it, but the literal answer to your question is: N/A.

    That is, i grew up on the east coast and applied only to east coast schools, so the ACT was a non-issue for me—my college entrance exam was the SAT. I’d have to go searching for my precise scores (i reserve the right to forget unimportant details like that from nearly a quarter century ago), but i do remember that my SAT-verbal scores were somewhere above 700, and that’s from the era before recentering raised the scores.

    Anyway, your point? It certainly sounds like you’re implying i misinterpreted your implication in 143, but without anything direct and specific on your part it’s hard to respond to your intent.

  152. I’m late to this party. I disagree with the suggested remedy outlined in the original post. My counter point might be found in reading a recent talk by Elder Bednar on the Spirit of Gathering. (I think that’s the title)

    He actually points out the uncomfortable-ness the Apostles have with “how little we do for so many and how much we do for so few”. And basically says if the students keep up the murmuring they’ll have a 300% tuition increase to accompany their 300 yard walk from the remote parking lot they complain about. Well, he sorta says that when you read between the lines.

    But I think his overall talk on the purposes of gathering speaks exactly to the strength the Apostles see in BYU. And your proposed solution would seem to undermine that strength.

  153. Certain kids would be lost forever without the safe-haven from decadent American culture that BYU offers.

    Hmmm. I think you might be shocked at the kind of stuff that goes on around Provo.

  154. It’s encouraging to see various new LDS endowed chairs and studies programs (whatnot) at non-LDS universities. Wonderful. Still, there’s a place for LDS studies in the church (BoM, ancient civ, science, etc.) which wouldn’t exist in the outside world of academe. (Seriously, few places would have given Hugh Nibley the academic freedom to do what he did.)

    Sadly, the church is just too $@#% big and let’s face it, we believe in elitism. Each graduation ceremony at the Y is pretty much the same. A GA gets up and says basically the same thing that is said every year, ‘you are the chosen, the entitled, the tutored, the few, the select- even among LDS . . . you will be church leaders and captians of industry and careers . . . go now to serve the world you wonderfully better people you’.

    I hate to say it, but it takes a heck-uv-a lotta pride swallowing to admit that your tithing dollars are going to subsidize the education of elite and your predetermined superiors.

    So, I’m torn as to whether I think tithing should or shouldn’t be used. I’d really want to know why the Y isn’t self sufficient YET, even with all these swanky accolades. Is it because we can’t accept federal and state subsidies without relinquishing religious control? It seems it would only be fair to ask the Y what it can do to live within its means.

    Also don’t forget that GAs kids receive automatic admission and free tuition to the Y and there is a high number of legacy admits tied often to the vast network of relatives-only scholarships.

  155. S.P. Bailey says:

    Not at all, Clark. But the stuff BYU controls is undeniably squeaky clean, stone-cold sober, and so forth.

  156. Regarding intellectual freedom at BYU, as a senior at BYU with somewhat not so traditional views I find that BYU definitely limits intellectual freedom. It seems like college is a time when you should be using your studies and experiences to develop your world view. I think that is a pretty agreeable statement. However, at BYU it seems like you have the “freedom” to develop yourself as long as you stay within a narrowly defined box. I honestly do not feel like I have the freedom to not only follow the convictions that I have gained in the past couple of years, but I can’t even be open about many of the views that I developed. I guess I have the freedom to leave, but common, transferring to another university with 30 credit hours left is just ridiculous.

    Sorry, I know this doesn’t really have to do with subsidizing tuition with tithing.

  157. Ah… here’s the link to that talk by Elder Bednar, which address the “why BYU” and somewhat by implication “why tithing dollars”

  158. I didn’t read through all the comments, but I did read through many of them. And, I found it mildly surprising that very few people went to the scriptures to suggest the proper uses for tithing and how that might apply to this discussion.

    I might recommend the following articles which do discuss tithing in terms of what the scriptures say:

    (a) <a href=""Old Testament look at tithing
    (b) D&C 119

    Start there and work your way through it. Tithing (a) doesn’t begin until you start living the law of consecration and (b) tithing was never meant to be put in the hands of an abyss where no one ever sees it – and the notion that we’re “not allowed” to know where it goes is as ridiculous as the day is long.

    Tithing, as a “program”, is not a monetary self-enriching program, it is not an “investment,” it is not something you do to get “coin of the realm.” It is not to be used to fund massive building programs. It is not to be used as an investment tool, stored in interest bearing accounts for 3 years, whereby the church siphons off the interest and then throws that money at multi-billion dollar City Creek projects. Tithing was not a vehicle to ‘build the kingdom’ or to ‘save the souls’ or to support some other ‘godly’ project.

    Tithing is something you pay to (a) help the poor, (b) help the widows, (c) fund, via a small income stream, some ministerial costs.

    Tithing, and the reporting of the same, was standard operating procedure until Henry Moyle ran up HUGE budget deficits with his building programs. The church stopped publishing those financial reports at general conference because of fears that the membership would stop paying tithing to a corporation that was financially insolvent (insolvent enough that Chase bank and a few others – those that held the mortgages for the SLC Temple + Tabernacle – were calling SLC telling them to shape up their financial ways). Since then (early 1960s), we’ve developed a “we don’t need to know” attitude and blindly pay what we pay and march along our merry old way. Now that the church is in financially good condition (presumably, but with a multi-billion project going on downtown SLC, and a several hundred million project getting started in Hawaii, who really knows), they don’t (and won’t) go back to publishing their reports because the membership simply doesn’t care.

  159. Nobody – I agree with you, but I’m trying to understand your scriptural references. Your link didn’t work, so I don’t know what you’re referring to in the OT. But D&C 119 is pretty short, and only really talks about the commandment to pay the tithing. No real information about how the tithes should be used.

  160. My apologies – I tried to hyperlink it, but it obviously didn’t work:

    That’s the article that approaches tithing from a non-mormon, but definitely scriptural view. If that still doesn’t work, head over to google and type this in the search: “old testament tithing” – the first result should be the article in question. I included D&C 119 because that adds a little further understanding to it. Read D&C 119 after that article, it should then make a little more sense.

  161. B. Russ,

    Even a cursory reading of Mormon history reveals that church finances were a serious source of friction among the membership. This despite the fact that they were a much smaller, more homogenous group of people than today. However, exhibit A in support of my argument remains the carping about the known allocation of tithing dollars among the saints today. That competition for limited resources is a source of envy and dissatisfaction should surprise no one. In the OP Natalie B. acknowledges with admirable candor the genesis of her own concern: “perhaps because I’m currently paying for another school, I began asking why: “Why is the tithing I pay subsidizing the costs of education for a small subset of Mormons?”” It seems almost certain that the church’s resources will not keep pace with its financial commitments so we can expect this competition to become more acute over time. I’m suggesting that all things considered, introducing an easy way of comparing who gets what may not be the boon to the membership and the mission of the church that you think it is.

    If I thought that lobbying for redistribution of tithing dollars was likely to end among left-leaning Mormons, then I could potentially get comfortable with the idea of imposing greater accountability on the leadership in the hopes that the money would go to places where I thought it best spent. Since I find my views to be a distinct minority in the church, further democratization strikes me as something likely to be counterproductive to my ideals. If you follow Utah politics at all, you know there is no level to which church members won’t stoop if they think they are being unfairly disadvantaged by folks who haven’t, in their view, sufficiently paid into the system.

    Several commenters on this thread have managed to weigh the costs and benefits of disassociating themselves from the church or not ceasing to attend BYU, but the idea that the organization ought to consider the cost/benefit analysis of full disclosure seems anathema to the general tenor here. I don’t understand why that would be.

    I tend to agree with you that the leadership of the church has whitewashed our history to the detriment of the membership. I just don’t come out at the same place when it comes to its finances. I also don’t view secrecy as bad per se so I don’t share your view that the simple condition of not knowing something is a bad thing.

    Regarding those who are currently responsible for the distribution of tithing funds, I tend to hold them in higher esteem than I do the general membership. Lots of people disagree with me on this point though.

    David B,

    My 147 was never meant to see the light of day but I hit publish when I meant to erase it. Rather than explain this at the time, I took my kids sledding. All things considered, however, it seems a fair-if catty-response to your mangled reading of my 143 since my remark re a canker on the church was clearly not in reference to raising the mere question of transparency (as you would have it) but the actual introduction of full financial transparency.

  162. J.A.T (155) wrote:

    Also don’t forget that GAs kids receive automatic admission and free tuition to the Y and there is a high number of legacy admits tied often to the vast network of relatives-only scholarships.

    Call for references on both of these. (Not necessarily doubting you, just figuring these are big-deal enough claims that they should be cited.) Also, given the demographics of general authorities (as opposed to area authorities), how many would actually take advantage of that?

  163. Some random thoughts:

    – I have both an undergrad science and an undergrad humanities degree from BYU. Both were top-notch (although like with all things, I could quibble with a class or a professor here or there).

    – I didn’t see *any* limits on academic freedom — from the STUDENT perspective — in my humanities program (the college, not the specific major). We were free to speak about some fairly controversial topics in a couple of my seminar classes.

    – I have a sibling on the faculty (in the sciences) who hasn’t suffered, per se, from the funding restrictions. He just had to go get funding from other sources, and from all accounts, he hasn’t suffered.

    – Regarding BYU football not being supported by tithing — the more money that football takes in from alumni, that’s less money that can be donated to academic programs.

    – I can’t find the link, but it’s widely been reported most athletic programs run in the red.

  164. The scriptural issue here is simple. Should all things be done by common consent (per D&C 26:2, 28:13) or should they be managed by leaders in private?

    It is hard to imagine “all things” having any meaning here when no one is allowed to know what they are. You could simply say that modern revelation has repealed those two passages from the D&C, and that is fine, but financial and innumerable other forms of non-disclosure and non-participation are far removed from the plan when the church was restored.

  165. Mark D.,

    You know as well as I do that Joseph had many secrets that he kept from both the public and the larger body of the church that were at the very heart of the restoration as he understood it and which would be central to Mormon theology long after his death. Church leadership has taken special perogatives (including financial) from the very beginning. A couple of verses in the D&C are too slender a reed on which to hang your thesis, attractive as it may be, in the face of so many stubborn facts.

  166. Mathew, I think you are making two fundamental mistakes. First, discretion about theological concepts that were not ready to be revealed to the church but soon would be hardly falls into the same category as the activities of the church itself. In addition, a failure to follow this precept – even by its very transcriber – does not automatically make it meaningless.

    How many printing presses should we destroy as public nuisances today? Or how many already married people should we secretly espouse to others? How disingenuous shall we be about our theology of marriage and family? If “Joseph Smith did it” (even when and where completely justified in God’s eyes) is our sole criterion, where shall be the end? Policies ultimately have to be based on principles, not precedents, or they engender more contempt than respect. Exceptions must be considered regrettable necessities not standard bearers for belief.

  167. Mark D.,

    As usual, I like your arguments very much, especially the way you have preserved the unique role of the leadership as revelators for the church while maintaining the body’s right of consent.

  168. I attended BYU for undergrad, but not law school. I grew up in a place where my generation was raised by converts. I cannot express how great it was to go to a school where drinking, sex and drugs were not pervasive. I also cannot express how much I grew spiritually.

    Going to law school elsewhere made me more appreciative of BYU. While I loved my undergrad experience, I didn’t feel that BYU was the place for me for law school. But the contrast made me greatly appreciate what I had there. I wholeheartedly support my tithing being used for places like BYU. It does more good that we can possibly realize. It does much more than “perpetuate mormon culture”. (I get so annoyed at endless discussions about mormon culture.)

  169. Quite frankly I think tithing-subsidized education should be much less controversial than tax-subsidized education. Let’s also not forget that the practice of using member donations to pay for and operate schools is not unique to our church.

  170. Regarding intellectual freedom at BYU, as a senior at BYU with somewhat not so traditional views I find that BYU definitely limits intellectual freedom. It seems like college is a time when you should be using your studies and experiences to develop your world view. I think that is a pretty agreeable statement. However, at BYU it seems like you have the “freedom” to develop yourself as long as you stay within a narrowly defined box. I honestly do not feel like I have the freedom to not only follow the convictions that I have gained in the past couple of years, but I can’t even be open about many of the views that I developed. I guess I have the freedom to leave, but common, transferring to another university with 30 credit hours left is just ridiculous.

    Certainly there are some topics that will get you looked at askance. However as someone who transferred to BYU from an other college I think you’ll discover that’s true of all colleges. Frankly a lot of the stuff you were free to discuss at BYU you’d be under quite a bit of pressure over at other schools. Despite the purported pure freedom there are all sorts of pressures at all schools to conform to a certain box. It’s just that at BYU the box is different. And for some of us being able to work within that box for a while was very liberating.

  171. Regarding those who are currently responsible for the distribution of tithing funds, I tend to hold them in higher esteem than I do the general membership.

    Mathew, I don’t mean any disrespect nor judgment in saying the following (honestly), but I view this as idolatry. Unless of course you personally know those responsible for disbursing tithing funds (I personally don’t even know who they are, it wouldn’t surprise me if it were the First Presidency directly controlling every cent; it wouldn’t surprise me if it were church bureaucrats at headquarters) then you are making the assumption that due to a calling (or career) in the church, that these people are less likely to do harm or evil. You are raising them up above the general population of the church and holding them to a higher expectation without having any personal contact or reason to judge them as more righteous.
    You probably have a different view of this, and thats fine, but this is a large part of the reason that I feel secrecy is, by necessity, wrong in this context.

  172. It does much more than “perpetuate mormon culture”. (I get so annoyed at endless discussions about mormon culture.)

    Chantal, I believe that for most people on this thread, perpetuating mormon culture is seen as a good thing.

  173. To add I’m also not sure those donating to football would suddenly slap their foreheads and donate to say the English department were football to mysteriously disappear. I might say that if anything football keeps us alumni still interested in BYU.

  174. Man I am struggling with my blockquotes lately . . . (172 should have only blockquoted the first paragraph)

  175. I attended both Utah State and a Big Ten University. I am aware though of the environment at BYU. My opinion is that Utah State is the least oppressive of the three schools. (High Five to fellow Aggies!) My Big Ten university was a horribly oppressive place as far as the freedom to exchange ideas. Certain common political opinions if expressed in class would result in school discipline or lower grades. I essentially believe that BYU is more free for the exchange of ideas at least political ideas than the typical US public university. I think though that BYU is not free in the exchange of religious ideas and I am OK with that.

    I am trying hard to think of a environment that is less free as far as exchanging ideas than a Public University and I can’t think of a place in contemporary America.

  176. bbell (176) write:

    I am trying hard to think of a environment that is less free as far as exchanging ideas than a Public University and I can’t think of a place in contemporary America.

    Okay, as someone who’s been on the faculty at BYU and at a couple different public universities, i just want to express my annoyance at this recurrent meme.

    In any social situation, including higher education, there are certain social norms. Some of these are explicit, some are implicit. The problem is that we tend to only see those norms as problematic when they conflict with our own.

    I will say that at BYU i found the general assumption that everyone there was somewhere to the right of the John Birch Society to be pretty non-freeing for exchanging political ideas, and at one of the public universities i worked at i found the assumption that everyone there was somewhere to the left of Dennis Kucinich to be pretty non-freeing for exchanging political ideas. This, however, is life. And at both places the exchange of intellectual ideas generally was a wonderful thing—and that’s the sine qua non of a university, i’d think, not whether one can feel like one fits in politically, or even morally.

  177. I’ll quote from the article I linked to a few posts back…
    “If the day ever were to come that intellectual arrogance, a lack of appreciation, and a spirit of demanding entitlement take root on this campus—among the students, the faculty, the employees, the administration, or within the community of Rexburg—then in that day the Spirit of Ricks will be well on the way to being extinguished—and the heavenly influence and blessings that have prospered this institution and the people associated with it will be withdrawn.”

    I appreciate and agree with the concept of the “free exchange of ideas” or other intellectual pursuits. But it’s clear the Apostles, and presumably the Lord, does not see it important to fund BYU for these reasons. Elder Bednar outlined a few reasons he, and presumably other Apostles, see as important enough for BYU to be funded by tithing – Edification, Preservation, Strength. There is more to it in that talk. I’m not point this out to beat people over the head and say “you’re wrong, here’s what the prophets say”.

    But rather to point out what the people currently responsible for the subsidizing of BYU believe (or hope) they are actually “buying” with tithing money. Hint – it does not appear they (or the Lord by extension) are funding intellectual pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. It would appear from what he said, the money is being spent to provide places for the Saints to gather during formative educational years immediately prior to “entering the world” that offer spiritual education, preservation, and strengthening.

  178. Academic freedom:

    A few frank discussion with current and past BYU faculty suggest that these foks were / are self censoring, there are things they can not say because it creates too much risk and they don’t want to be professionally threatened. Also a number of former BYU profs have described their experiences and lack of academic freedom is a consistent theme in their discussions.

    A few years back I was an invted guest of a department at BYU and there was significant resistance to my being brought in because of the topic I was going to discus. Very specific guidelines were put in place about the presentation not being recorded, or advertised, there was to be no contact with the media, etc. I was glad to have the opportunity to speak there and I think it was a good event but these restirctions as wel as the questioning of my personal integrity were nonesense and it took a lot of effort on a few individuals part to overcome the assumption that my ideas should not be brought to campus.

    I am sure that there are a variety of experiences out there regarding academic freedom at BYU. Its not the average that matters, its how the institutions treats those at the margins that matters when it comes to freedom of expression.

  179. Regarding those who are currently responsible for the distribution of tithing funds, I tend to hold them in higher esteem than I do the general membership. Lots of people disagree with me on this point though.

    That’s a fairly ridiculous statement. Personally, I have no issue whatsoever for a called body of individuals (the Council on the Disposition of Tithes) to make the decisions to spend the money wherever they like, as they see fit. However, where I differentiate from others is in our ability to at least see where those funds are going and how they’re being spent. I don’t care for any group to “oversee” them, per se, but the church is not an autocracy, nor a plutocracy or any other system that puts the power of billions of dollars into the hands of 5 or 6 individuals.

    The whole thing started with Brigham Young and his displeasure with the Presiding Bishop. Originally, there’s a compelling case that could be made which suggests that neither the President nor the Apostles should be involved in the “day-to-day” financial operations of the church. That was the responsibility of the presiding bishop. But when BY didn’t like his “business” acumen, BY took that power over and it’s never really returned. Burton, today, seems to have a lot of sway – though how much is uncertain – and has been more than upfront about how he sees his role in the City Creek project as being a “defining” moment for him, personally.

    And, in truth, when you have billions of dollars annually to spend at your discretion, there are going to be power struggles and plenty of “hands” asking for their piece of the pie.

    The current structure, however, is one where the membership – those who pay a “Mormon indulgence” in order to be “worthy” – is not only not allowed to see where the “body of Christ’s” money is being spent, but they’re told it’s “none of their business.” There are a more than a few issues I have with that mindset. If we are a “body of Christ”, and if that body needs all parts to operate, function and continue, then there should be a certain degree of equality where all parties can at least know what’s going on. That doesn’t mean we make the decisions, or decide, for the Council, but it does mean that we aren’t treated as 3rd rate citizens who “can’t handle the truth” or whatever the excuse du jour is.

    I generally think the issue is just how much the church brings in (some leaders are probably afraid to show that figure), and where exactly that money is being spent. Without any knowledge or insight from the body, then the odds of financial mismanagement, shady deals and the like rise exponentially.

  180. I am wondering if the Saints living in the late 50’s or early 60’s knew that the Church was in financial straits cue (Pres. Moyle) and that necessitated calling Pres. Tanner to the First Pres, I am just wondering what their reaction was or would have been like. We know about some of it today of what when on back then but I only know about it through Prince’s book about Pres. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism

  181. My Big Ten university was a horribly oppressive place as far as the freedom to exchange ideas.

    I rec’d my undergrad degree from the Univ. of Wisconsin (Madison), and it wasn’t “horribly oppressive.” It was quite liberal, and non-liberals were generally frowned upon, but I can’t say mine was any more oppressive than any other school that has a “typical” mindset. I can imagine BYU would be oppressive to liberals, but I don’t think that’s on purpose – it’s just a reflection of the larger culture.

    I then went to a very liberal school up in the northeast, and actually found it more open and inviting than UW. I’m not sure what made the difference – perhaps because it was 1/10th the size of UW and you got to know pretty much everyone in your class, but I’m not totally sure what the reason was. I think it’s more a result of the “circles” you run with. Some are more inviting and open than others.

  182. Cameron:

    One of Quinn’s books has a really good discussion on the financial issues going on with Moyle at the time, and what Tanner brought to the table (corporate finance).

  183. David B. #163
    GA’s kids receive free and open admission to the Y—-

    Source: Dr. Ted Lyon (Son of T. Edgar Lyon), a retired employee at the Y, Former temple president in Chile. I saw a link to a podcast from ‘Mormon Stories’ where they did a series of interviews with him and he spoke about it. The rationale revolved around compensation for serving FT in the church and not being able to spend that time in the working world ecrewing college funds for your kids. Of course not all GA’s kids take the offer, but it’s there for them nonetheless.

    As to the legacy admits . . .
    Let’s put one and two together here.
    The Y is heavily funded through its endowment. More scholarships are given for ‘descendants of/the family of’ at the Y than nearly anywhere else I know of. Funding, legacy and family names run stong at the Y.

    The Y is a private university and if it operates in even a slightly similar way to its selective peers, it would absolutely include legacy admits. However, legacy admits aren’t the most popular thing to talk about. You’ll likely not see an article in the alumni mag extolling their benefits. Past Harvard University President Lawrence Summers has stated, “Legacy admissions are integral to the kind of community that any private educational institution is.” Don’t we look to Harvard as our East coast twin???

    It is estimated that 10-15% of Ivy League schools are legacy admits, and scandals hit the headlines when we start hearing of 35%+ at the nation’s most selective schools.

    The Chronicle did an interesting bit on legacy admits here debunking myths and arguing that indeed this is not financially, politically, legally, academically or otherwise best practice. The authors wouldn’t be writing about some of these points were they not commonly held and accepted and practiced in academia!!!

    So no, I’ve not been on the admissions committee and I do not work in the office. I can only say that after working in academia for several years, I would be willing to bet that there ARE indeed legacy admits at the Y, just as there are in every other traditional private institution. (And yes, I’ve heard a *few* anecdotal stories of big name kids not getting into the Y after they increased their admin criteria a while back. I’ve also seen a few kids that have been admitted who really make me stop and question.)

  184. I have not been affiliated with BYU to much an extent, so I can’t comment on the intellectual exchange of ideas climate there. But being a faculty member at a very liberal PAC-10 university for the past 10 years, and at a very liberal BIG-10 school before that, I agree with the assertions that open exchange of ideas at these places is more restrictive than one might think. If a faculty member were to speak out publicy regarding something like same-sex marriage, reproductive rights, premarital cohabitation, etc., they would be ostracized or worse. I’m a middle of the road lefty, so I haven’t experienced it for myself, but I see conservative faculty getting nailed on a regular basis, which of course feeds their sense of persecution. And I agree with the Aggie who said Utah State University had a climate very conducive to open exchange of ideas. I worked there early in my career, and the subsequent two more prestigious places I went to didn’t come close to that environment.

  185. Because the lawyers will make enough to pay in tithing back what they cost in tuition?
    To foster a place where “mormon style law” can be taught more easily?

  186. I’ve never had any second thoughts over how the tihing money was spent, until Dick Cheney was given the honour to give the commencement speach at BYU – and to defy all logic – was given an honorary degree. A person who a majority of the members across the globe considers to be a war criminal of the worst kind.

  187. “A person who a majority of the members across the globe considers to be a war criminal of the worst kind.”

    I love me some good hyperbole.

  188. Left Field says:

    There is no doubt that there are some areas of inquiry that are somewhat constrained at BYU. Of course, the same is true at the Catholic university where I teach. But the fields of study that might cause problems are quite a bit narrower than one might think. Funding, research, and publications in evolution are regularly touted in the alumni magazine and in university press releases. If there are any biology or geology faculty who have any problem with evolution or an ancient earth, they are deep in the closet. So I guess if there is any academic restrictions in the sciences, it would be against faculty who might promote creationism, not those who accept evolution.

    When I was a student there in the ’80s, I never felt particularly oppressed because of my leftish political views. I was a minority to be sure, but perhaps my perceptions were influenced by who I chose to hang out with, and my general inclination to swim against the current at times. I took a Political Science class from David Magleby, I think the first semester he was there. He was very good at steering a neutral course in the classroom, but I did sense a Democratic vibe–perhaps just because he steered a middle course, rather than veering off to the right as some might expect of BYU faculty. A year or two later, I read an article in the Universe about him “coming out” as a Dem. No surprise to me, but I guess he’d never actually said one way or the other. I just checked, and saw that he’s now the dean of the college. I guess it’s possible that he’s gone all GOP on us sometime in the last three decades, but if he can stick around for 30 years as a Democrat and get appointed dean, I don’t think things can be all that bad for political discourse.

    It does seem to me that with regard to academic freedom at BYU, there is a doughnut as well as a hole. I think we would do well to acknowledge both. It seems a lot of these sorts of discussions consist of people reminding each other of either the doughnut or the hole. Things at BYU are not as rosy as some might suggest, nor are they as universally oppressive as others might say. I think it’s okay to remind each other about the topology of a torus, but perhaps we can at least all agree that it is a torus we’re dealing with.

  189. Mathew (186), no sarcasm necessary. You have a most conventional view of the matter, and it is certainly current policy. I believe a true Zion society would operate on a rather more transparent and participative basis, and there are dozens of scriptures to back that proposition up.

    At the very best the argument could be made that the Law of Consecration (aka the United Order) would operate on an open and transparent basis, as was the case during the 1870s, but under our fallen condition the narrower activities and operations of the church (in the absence of that law) cannot be.

    Read about standard procedure in the nineteenth century United Order in Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation among the Mormons by Leonard Arrington some time.

  190. Mark D.

    I was completely serious–not sure how to convince you of that other than to state it. I will check the book out.

  191. Mathew, thanks for saying that. I think you will like Arrington’s book on the subject. Most informative and interesting book on Mormon history I have ever read, about cooperative efforts few even know existed. Cheers my soul.

  192. Sorry Ray, it’s pure statistics.

  193. I don’t think you quite understand the way Cheney are viewed outside the US.

    Have a quick peek at what Ronan said at the time:

  194. Hey Marcus says:

    I think the hyperbole comment refers to the ‘war criminal of the worst kind’ bit. You really think most Mormons outside the US have Cheney in the same bracket as the likes of Slobadan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic?

  195. I get it, Marcus. I just disagree with your actual statement.

    I never said he is beloved by most members world-wide, but I don’t think he’s viewed as a modern day Hitler by the majority of the LDS membership “across the Globe”. Your actual statment includes the membership in Utah and the Intermountain West – and we just disagree if you think the majorty of the membership views Cheney and Stalin in the same light.

  196. “…until Dick Cheney was given the honour to give the commencement speach at BYU – and to defy all logic – was given an honorary degree. A person who a majority of the members across the globe considers to be a war criminal of the worst kind.”

    I think you’re underestimating the power of the conservative LDS culture. For many Cheney is what you present him to be. However, for most LDS that I know, they really have no clue just how questionable the guy is. Most LDS are too blinded by the Republican platform to really question a “true” Republican like Cheney, Bush, Romney, Hatch, etc. Yes, there are movements afoot that might change that, but I think the culture is way to strong at the moment to really assert what you’re saying.

    Honestly, if you walked into your average HP or EQ or RS and asked them if they thought Bush (the latter) was a good president, the vote would be overwhelmingly to the affirmative.

    To back my point up, I’ll go back to Bush’s recent trip to Utah to promote his book. The Deseret News (and others) had news stories about the event – “Former President George W. Bush kissed, hugged, flirted and shook hands Friday with an adoring crowd of supporters who’d waited hours — even overnight — for a chance to meet him” – and here are a few of the peanut gallery’s comments:

    “God Bless George Bush! He will go down as one of our finer presidents.”

    “Bush is a stud. Not perfect, but 100X preferable to the current clown in the White House. Thanks President Bush for your service.”

    “A good man, an honest man, and a good President, with a good book. Far better than his predecessor or successor in every respect.”

    “God bless George W. Bush. He is sorely missed.”

    LDS are still firmly entrenched in the duality of R v. L, and will continue to support people like Bush and Cheney so long as they have a (R) after their name on the ballot – and so long as their favorite talk show hosts keep pimping the party line. That’s probably the case throughout most of the U.S. (though not everywhere), but the international scene is another story entirely.

  197. Not at all, Clark. But the stuff BYU controls is undeniably squeaky clean, stone-cold sober, and so forth.

    Yes. But I think some parents send kids up here as if it were some kind of reform school. All that happens is all the wild kids sent to Provo to be good get wild together. Often bringing down a lot of kids around them.

  198. Yes, BYU should be funded by the Church, because it is the Lord’s University. No brainer.

  199. Oh, and because BYU football rules.

  200. [Insert obligatory foam-flecked response to trolling posts here.]

  201. Trolling?? I’m hurt. More a smile and a wink.

  202. “Ray” and “Hey Marcus” :)

    In the light of Stalin and Hitler I have to admit “war criminal of the worst kind” would definetely be considered hyperbole.

    Though, here in Europe, or South America and Africa for that matter (where I feel I have good connections) the mere mentioning of Dick Cheneys name is a sure way of recieving all kinds of “colourful” comments, even at church. In fact, politics over here is practically never mentioned at church, with one exception – the previous US administration – which seems legitimate to use as a decadent and recent example of unchristlike behaviour.

    I have a feeling that the “individuals” responsible for arranging the Cheney visit to BYU has momentarely forgot, or perhaps has never understood, the diverse culture of the church these days, and how the majority of the members actually live in countries where warfare (with particular the Iraq war as a fresh reminder) is considered one of the most hideous acts human can be engage in, let alone start.

    It’s … weird, how we can have such different views on things and still be members of the same faith …

    To tie this back to the tithing discussion – in the light of how I, the culture in which I live in, and how 95% of the members around me view Cheney – to then see how BYU, a tithing sponsored university not only invites Dick Cheney, but also honors him like some a hero and person to look up to, is very, very, very … strange, and very, very, very hurtful.

    But, I try to keep this away from my feelings of tithing. And I think (and know) that many members do, and has to. It’s up to me to do what I think is right, and if others choose to use the Lords funds to hail war criminals, they will have to answer for that some day. Like we all have to answer for our individual actions.

    – M

  203. [Insert admission of poor phrasing, with obligatory passive-aggressive twist at the end.]

  204. “Yes, BYU should be funded by the Church, because it is the Lord’s University. No brainer.”

    That’s funny, I thought it was Brigham Young University. Strange how those names are seemingly synonymous for each other. Does the same logic follow that if I don’t choose to go to BYU (or don’t get accepted into BYU), that I’m not the Lord’s student, or the Lord’s pupil?

    “To tie this back to the tithing discussion – in the light of how I, the culture in which I live in, and how 95% of the members around me view Cheney – to then see how BYU, a tithing sponsored university not only invites Dick Cheney, but also honors him like some a hero and person to look up to, is very, very, very … strange, and very, very, very hurtful.”

    Agreed. But, it’s not only Cheney. There are a number of people brought to BYU (or the Church) and hailed as heroes and honored in various ways – be they Condoleezza Rice, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Armand Hammer or someone else. It’s not a “one time” thing with Cheney.

  205. #205–

    “That’s funny.” Good. It was meant to be funny. Evidently, it wasn’t.

    Everyone gets their cover back. Drinks on the house.

  206. 205–it wasn’t just bringing him in to speak. I don’t think having him as a forum speaker would’ve been such a big deal. It was the honorary award and, more importantly, the bringing him in to be the graduation speaker. Thousands of students, most of who would probably have preferred to have a prominent general authority speak, listened to this guy instead. I had friends who were graduating at that time who didn’t go to their own graduation because Cheney was there. Definitely one of the dumbest moves BYU has made in the last decade.

  207. Adding a very belated comment to this… my husband and I both went to BYU- me for undergrad, him for a master’s and then for law school. Contrary to what some posters have said about lawyers making big bucks after so the law school shouldn’t be subsidized, we don’t. He works as a prosecutor in a district attorney’s office in a job he loves that provides a service in our community. I think if we had the kind of debt other law students have after 7 years (8 in my husband’s case with the master’s) of higher education we never could afford for him to work as a public servant. One of the advantages of a Church-owned/operated school we frequently discussed during his time in law school was the gospel perspective applied to the law that would NEVER be taught, voiced, discussed at most other law schools. This is a valuable contribution to the formation, enforcement, etc. of law in the world today I believe. My husband got to go to the United Nations as a law student and spoke to influence policy there to be more in harmony with the gospel on the rights of the disabled. Without BYU Law there would still be conservative voices in law, but it definitely adds to the discussion. I think it is the same for many other disciplines at BYU. I know I saw it especially in the research done by the social sciences school in studying for my minor in family life.

    As a previous poster mentioned I think Church leaders use BYU as a resource for scientific research, thought, discussion, etc. They use BYU as a missionary tool/showpiece in promoting the Church. Many dignitaries are brought to campus to be wowed by the “Church” academics, artists, etc. Athletics and other programs are used to reach those that could otherwise care less about a couple of young men in shirts and ties knocking on the door. Having “worldly” credentials that measure up in rankings, polls, etc. adds prestige and respect to what many still perceive as a backwoods Church or cult.

    I think if tithing dollars were being spent solely for the purpose of benefiting some kids going to BYU it wouldn’t be used for such. While educating some of the LDS youth is an admirable goal, there are also other reasons for maintaining a Church university (BYU Idaho/Ricks, BYU Hawaii).

  208. Andrew Teasdale says:


    I’m not addressing the larger questions – but just the specific on on your tithing going to BYU.

    First, don’t despair. Here’s why…

    12 years or so ago, a couple of BYU professors asked the question, “Does BYU make a difference?” To answer the question, they sent a survey to 10 years’ students. For each year, the 1500 who just made it in BYU and the 1500 who just didn’t make it (I think the # was 1500 – close to that). They asked them questions like: do you pray daily, read your scriptures, go to church, pay your tithing.

    They found, that people who did attend BYU were more likely to pay their tithing. They then took that information about tithing, the cost/student, and calculated that the Church recovered it’s investment – BYU paid for itself through tithing garnered over the life of the individuals who attended. So, yes, the Church funds BYU through tithing funds. But really, think of it as an investment.

    That might help you rest easier. : )

    P.S. I didn’t read any of the comments. If this is a dup, sorry.

  209. ” Many dignitaries are brought to campus to be wowed by the “Church” academics, artists, etc. Athletics and other programs are used to reach those that could otherwise care less about a couple of young men in shirts and ties knocking on the door. Having “worldly” credentials that measure up in rankings, polls, etc. adds prestige and respect to what many still perceive as a backwoods Church or cult.”

    Is that the goal (or “a” goal) of Zion? To “wow” dignitaries, to have “worldly” credentials? To add “prestige” and “respect”?

  210. Andrew Teasdale,

    Do you have a reference to that study?

    The big downside to BYU, in my opinion, is the lack of opportunity for people in their early 20’s to do member missionary work–most of the strong converts I know were converted between the ages of 16 and 25. So concentrating so many members in one place may cut down on member missionary work–no way to introduce the gospel to roommates or friends when they’re all LDS anyway. Wonder how that would factor into the “investment” idea.

  211. Andrew Teasdale says:


    Sorry, I don’t remember the names of the guys that did the study – and I’m not sure it was published. If you have any contacts in the BYU religion dept., that might be a good place to check.

  212. @Nobody (211): As i read canon, yes, that is a goal of Zion. Not the main one, certainly, but still one of the things that’s there to be done.

  213. Michael Udall says:

    I think to open up the entire BYU experience to more people, the church restrict admission to freshman/sophomores and encourage students to complete an associate degree before being admitted to BYU. BYU could expand the number of BYU graduates without adding new capacity (buildings, teachers, etc). Some freshman/sophomores would be needed for the intercollegiate athletes, but that’s about it.

  214. What about athletics? I can’t justify in my mind subsidizing the BYU Cougars with tithing money.

    Also, some young adults are much more spiritually-minded, intelligent, and righteous than some of the kids who go to BYU, and would therefore make better priesthood leaders down the road, and yet, because they can’t afford to go, they will get denied those callings because they didn’t go to BYU.

    Joseph Smith said the time would come in the Church when people who be hoisted because of their money and education, while the TRUE followers of Christ would be put down because of their poverty and lack of education (see Mosiah Hancock’s autobiography for exact quote). I think his prophecy is fulfulled.

  215. JohnC, I don’t think one has to look far for wards or branches desperate for leadership. They honestly don’t care whether you went to BYU or not. I think the idea some were mentioning was that BYU can help train many people to be better leaders and improve their talents.

    Also the whole argument regarding BYU is that it is so heavily subsidized. Honestly, if you are poor and want to go to college it’s not that hard to get into BYU. You just need to do some extra-curricular volunteer work which you can submit as part of your application, tell the administration about your needs, and then study really hard. You’ll have an excellent, some might say better than excellent chance of getting in. Even if you don’t get accepted as a Freshman go to a cheaper college and transfer in. It’s much easier to transfer into BYU than to get accepted as a Freshman. And folks from outside Utah typically have a much better chance of getting in as well.

    As for athletics, while there’s some dispute about certain ways finances get fudged by athletic departments, in general most see football and to a lesser extent basketball as bringing in more money than they spend. One can argue about the general place of athletic scholarship in an academic environment. And I’d probably largely agree. That certainly is de-facto tithing money. I’m not sure it’s enough to overwhelm the money BYU football brings in though. Further BYU seems to give a lot of de-facto tithing money out as scholarship plus a ton of make-work projects that seemed designed to do little else than give students jobs to help them pay for college.