According to official policy, what happens to members of the LDS church who do not pay their tithing? Specifically, what happens to those who:

  1. Forget to pay tithing for an extended period of time, or

  2. Openly refuse to pay tithing.

Background: I am a Mormon, and I frequently see people online saying that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are forced to pay tithing by various enforcement methods. I would like there to be a canonical answer on this site to point people towards. I will offer my anecdotal experiences in the comments.

  • 3
    I have been a ward clerk who counted tithing, and in my experience, tithing is completely self reported. Members are asked if they are full tithe payers. Being a full tithe payer is a requirement for entering the temples. In my personal experience, those who don't pay tithing are generally uninterested in attending the temple. One major exception is during a wedding for a family member held in the temple. I have never seen this happen to someone I know, but I imagine this would be difficult. Feb 21, 2014 at 1:40

2 Answers 2


All quotes in this post are taken from "A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings" by Elder M. Russell Ballard (an LDS apostle) in the September 1990 Ensign, an official LDS publication.

There are two levels of discipline in the Church: informal discipline (at a Bishop's discretion) and formal discipline (which is recorded). Formal discipline requires a disciplinary council.

Informal discipline:

When a bishop learns of a transgression, usually through the confession of the member involved, he first counsels with the member. When the sin is not grievous, the bishop may decide, through inspiration, that no disciplinary action is needed. He may continue to give counsel and caution, helping the member resist temptation and avoid further transgression.

Another option the bishop has is to place the member on informal probation, temporarily restricting his privileges as a Church member—such as the right to partake of the sacrament, hold a Church position, or enter the temple. The bishop may ask the member to surrender his temple recommend temporarily. In addition, he may require the member to make specific positive changes in attitude or behavior. No official record is made or kept of informal probation. The bishop maintains close contact with the member and may terminate the probation period when he is prompted to do so.

Formal discipline:

Decisions of [a disciplinary council] are to be made with inspiration. A council can reach one of four decisions: (1) no action, (2) formal probation, (3) disfellowshipment, or (4) excommunication.

Non-payment of tithing only merits informal discipline:

Disciplinary councils are not held for such things as failure to pay tithing, to obey the Word of Wisdom, to attend church, or to receive home teachers.

When are such councils held?

The First Presidency has instructed that disciplinary councils must be held in cases of murder, incest, or apostasy. A disciplinary council must also be held when a prominent Church leader commits a serious transgression, when the transgressor is a predator who may be a threat to other persons, when the person shows a pattern of repeated serious transgressions, when a serious transgression is widely known, and when the transgressor is guilty of serious deceptive practices and false representations or other terms of fraud or dishonesty in business transactions.

Disciplinary councils may also be convened to consider a member’s standing in the Church following serious transgression such as abortion, transsexual operation, attempted murder, rape, forcible sexual abuse, intentionally inflicting serious physical injuries on others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations, child abuse (sexual or physical), spouse abuse, deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary, embezzlement, theft, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, or false swearing.

Thus, according to official LDS policy, members can only receive informal discipline (such as loss of a recommend) for not paying tithing.

  • 2
    So formal probation, disfellowshipment or excommunication is not an action taken when tithe is not paid nor anything of the disciplinary council explination takes place if you dont pay tithe either, correct???
    – rob
    Feb 24, 2014 at 15:49
  • Yes, that's what I saw. Feb 24, 2014 at 16:05
  • Ok I was just wanting to make sure I understood. Im new in SE and I was to underdstand that the answers were to be for the question and yours answer seemed mainly to reflect on the reasons for formal and informal discipline, not specifically the action taken for not paying tithe.
    – rob
    Feb 24, 2014 at 16:42
  • @rob That's probably why your answer has more upvotes, which is an important part of the system to help people find good answers. Feb 24, 2014 at 17:00
  • Yes I am definately learning the SE"game". I got tore up on one answer just because I did not format it proper, not because it was wrong. Oiy. So I am trying to learn from everything. Thx for the help. (0:
    – rob
    Feb 24, 2014 at 17:05

This is an old question, and Brian Rushton's answer does a great job of describing the various kinds of discipline the Church can take, but let me move this a bit further.

The "Informal Discipline" mentioned by Brian is 99.9% of the time the action the Church takes. However, it shouldn't be made to sound like a punishment. We don't "whip" people for not coming to services, paying their tithing, paying offerings for the poor, or anything so minor. Our goal is to help people become better followers of Christ, not punish them for failing to follow Christ.

As a consequence, the only factual consequence to not paying your tithing (i.e., taking your commitment to the Church seriously) is that you would be refused authorization (a "recommend") to enter our temples.

If there are readers who think this is in some way unfair, let me give you a "real life" example: The consequence to not studying for your college degree (i.e., not taking your committment to your degree seriously) is that you will not be awarded that degree.

Joseph Smith once famously said,

...a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation... (*Lectures on Faith [1985], p. 69; quoted here)

Said in the reverse, a church that requires nothing of its adherents can do nothing for them.

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