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The LDS Church has embraced modern financial tools and will now allow members in the United States and those outside who bank with American institutions to pay their tithing and other donations online.
The faith's expectation is that devout Mormons give 10 percent of their income known as tithing to the Utah-based church.
Until now, most tithe payers in the 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints paid their charitable donations with cash or handwritten checks, tucked in envelopes and given to the lay leaders of their local congregations.
In the future, members can continue this practice, but they also can choose to pay through the church's online donation system.
This approach "will be rolled out to congregations in the U.S. throughout 2015," the faith announced in a Wednesday news release, "and the church will notify local leaders when it is available in their area."
Initial tests of this system "not only demonstrated a simplified donation process for members, but also showed that this new approach reduced the load on local leaders and clerks charged with processing donations."
Online payments also will allow friends and family of missionaries, whether LDS or not, the release said, "to donate to help financially support that missionary."
Mormons give tithing great emphasis. In fact, some of their most sacred rites including eternal marriage are reserved for those who pay a full tithe and meet other requirements for entrance into an LDS temple.
The funds are "paid on the honor system," the release said. "No one asks to see income statements or pay slips."
At the end of every year, however, Mormons report to their local leaders whether their donations represent a full tithe.
In the past, individual members set up online donations in a "bill-pay system" directly to church headquarters, where the information about contributions remained confidential. Such members or others who may be interested can continue following those procedures.
With the new system, local leaders will be notified electronically of their congregants' contributions.
"The new online donations process does not replace previous methods for paying tithes and offerings," LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins wrote Thursday in an email. "If someone has been using the online "bill-pay" option in the past, that will still be available. If someone still wants to pay with an envelope, that is still fine. This is simply another option."
Hawkins further explained that the new system "requires the use of a U.S. bank account."
However, if a member "lives in another country, but has an account in the U.S." American expatriates, for example, he said, "it may be available to them."
In summer 2012, the LDS Church redesigned the slips members use to note their tithing and other donations, eliminating several of the line items. Until then, Mormons could check a box in front of, say, the Perpetual Education Fund (which helps LDS students in less-developed nations), the Book of Mormon (to pay for publication of the faith's signature scripture), or temple construction in addition to tithing, fast offerings (for the poor), general and ward missionary funds and humanitarian aid. The current form now has spaces only for tithing, fast offering, humanitarian aid and general and ward missionary fund.
Tithing helps pay for LDS chapels, temples, universities, welfare operations and more. The faith's ruling councils the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Presiding Bishopric oversee how the funds are spent.
Peggy Fletcher Stack