Jesus taught to give alms to the poor anonymously:
Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven. Therefore, when ye shall do your alms do not sound a trumpet before you, as will hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; that thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.” (3 Nephi 13:1-4)
Let’s compare the two paths of giving that Jesus outlined above:
The gift is given “before men to be seen of them.” In other words, the giver is known. Men both know what the gift is and who gave the gift. The expected benefit is to “have glory of men.” The reward for giving comes from men (the “glory of men.”) Heavenly Father does not reward such a giver (“ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven.”)
The gift is given “in secret,” thus no one knows who gave the gift. Only Heavenly Father sees who the giver actually was. The expected reward is from Heavenly Father, not from men. Heavenly Father himself rewards the secret giver “openly.”
Current practice in the LDS church
Click this link to see a picture of a tithing slip. You’ll notice that it has a place to put the Date, the Ward or Branch, the Name of the donor, the Full Address of the donor, as well as places to indicate what amounts of money are going to what funds: Tithing Fund, Fast Offering Fund, Ward Missionary Fund, General Missionary Fund, Book of Mormon Fund, Humanitarian Aid Fund, Temple Construction Fund, Perpetual Education Fund, or Other (specify) Fund. There is also a place to write the total amount donated and the totals for checks, currency and coin.
An LDS will fill this form out completely and indicate what Funds will receive of the donated money. At the end of the year he or she will then meet with the bishop and declare whether she or he is a full tithe payer, a partial tithe payer or exempt of tithe paying. Although a meeting with the bishop is not necessary, as every member can merely write a letter to the bishop making such a declaration, most people do make such an appointment with the bishop, who then goes over the record the church has of the member’s donations with the member and gives them a copy of said donations which the member can then use for tax deduction purposes.
How I give charity to the church funds
I use the same tithing slip, but do not fill out my name or address. If the funds are going to local funds, I will fill out the Ward or Branch. If the funds are only going to general church funds, such as tithing, I will not fill out the Ward or Branch. I never pay by check, only by cash or anonymous money order. I never hand the donation directly, but will either mail it or get it into the hands of a member of the bishopric via some other secret way. When it comes time to declare my tithing status, I always write a letter making such a declaration, but never declaring the amount I have donated. Sometimes I will give my donations to bishops of other wards or branches, so that no one knows who gave that amount of money, nor how much I have given (or not given.) The only person who sees me give a gift is Heavenly Father. No man, in or out of the church knows what I give. Come tax time, I do not list my gifts as donations, as I have no evidence of it, and thus I receive no earthly benefit (from the state.)
So, of the two paths of giving that Jesus has spoken of, which path do I fall into, and which does the LDS customary practice fall into? Or, are we both on the same path?
Next Tithes and Offerings article: The law of tithing (part one)