It’s that glorious time of year: Warm Christmas greetings, reflecting on the birth of the Savior, good will abounding, music filling the air, gifts from the heart, parties with family and friends, happy children, and my favorite holiday tradition of all…tithing settlement.
This isn’t a post so much about the merits of tithing settlement, but rather the timing of it; although, if I’m being really honest I have never been a fan of tithing settlement at all. I find it to be really awkward to sit in a formal setting with my bishop and talk about something so personal as money. If there wasn’t a paper sitting there with a number on it I might feel a little different, but I always half expect the bishop to say, “Really, that’s all you made this year after working 4 jobs between you?”
With other worthiness issues, we don’t schedule a specific meeting to make a settlement. Can you imagine the sign up for our yearly “Law of Chastity” settlement or the “Family Relations” settlement? I’m still a little unsure why we can’t account for our tithing worthiness in a temple recommend interview, for example. But I digress…back to the issue of the timing of tithing settlement.
This year as I was standing at “THE LIST” to sign up for tithing settlement and finding almost nothing that would work for us, the ward clerk and I started having a little discussion about the timing of tithing settlement. He told me that they received a letter saying they were not to start tithing settlement before November 15, and must be finished by December 31. I told him that I have never understood why they choose what is the busiest time of the year (anyone else here a music person? December is crazy!) for many people to make an accounting of something that isn’t even completed yet for the year. He told me, “it isn’t about the accounting, it’s about the intent.”
So, I decided to do a little investigating, and I have come to the belief that it is about the accounting, based on the fact that they do have tithing settlement at a different time of year in parts of the world with a different tax date. I am assuming the purpose of a December settlement is so that everyone can make sure their tithing has been recorded accurately while they still have a chance to do something about it in the tax year. There is an easy solution to that, which I’ll cover in a moment.
Which leads me to this: In my mind it’s either about the accounting, or it is about the accountability (i.e. worthiness, intent, etc.), or both.
If it’s about accounting, why not give each member their printout at the first part of December (or even better, make it accessible to members online so they can check it through the year to make sure it is accurate.) Then, in January when the tax year is actually over and the world has slowed down, we can sit down with our bishop and truly say that we were or were not full tithe payers that year. Hey, he could even give us our final tax statement at that meeting instead of the ward clerk handing them out at church or mailing them.
If it’s about accountability, could that not take place any time of year? Again, I think January is a fantastic time for an accountability interview if the church wants to have a formal tithing settlement. January is so long, cold, and boring. Most of us have ample free time that we did not have in December. Besides, most of us are making resolutions at this time of year. Thus, the perfect time to meet with our bishop about our commitment to live the law of tithing.
If voting were allowed in the church, I would vote for January tithing settlement.
Until then, I’m just glad that my bishop opened up December 31 this year!