Every time a new temple is announced, especially when it is to be built in the developing world, it’s not very long before discussions begin to arise about the priority the LDS Church puts on building temples. Soon after that, some will begin to ask about these (expensive) buildings and if that money used to build and operate them longterm might not be better put toward feeding people and alleviating poverty or seeking to end other social ills. And, finally, the question of tithing will inevitably then arise: Is tithing, as practiced in Mormonism, fair? Is it right to require people who live in dire (by most North American standards) circumstances to pay tithing—sometimes, it will be argued, meaning they will make the choice to be obedient to that law even if it means not eating as well or paying for medicine?
In this episode, the wonderful Laurie Lee Hall and Jim Smithson join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a goodly wrestle with these questions. Without pre-conceived answers nor the thought that there is only one way to respond to these competing priorities, the two panelists share their experiences within the Church’s Temple Department and its Research Division, respectively, as well as perspectives they gained through their extensive travels around the world on behalf of the church. Laurie Lee shares an overview of temple building in the past half-century and what she has gathered through the years as the factors that are considered before they are announced and as leaders determine their size and the costs of building and maintaining them, as well as improving and protecting the area immediately adjacent to them. Jim speaks to his experiences interviewing and interacting with Saints around the world as he spoke with them about various church programs and policies and how they affect their religious lives. And it all gets complicated and more personally affecting as Dan inserts aspects of the issues spoken of above. Do these international Saints, especially those in the developing world, share the same concerns that many here do about temple costs and how the law of tithing may affect them differently? Are we who might make these arguments projecting our feelings and sensibilities about the tragedies of their lives onto them? Is it proper to question, from our perspectives, Church priorities? Are their aspects of temple work and tithing that might lie beyond that which is quantifiable by counting dollars and cents? What good fruits can come into our lives as we wrestle in these areas?
Please listen and then share your ideas in the comments section below!